Anxiety

Feelings During a Pandemic

I have tried several times over the course of being home during the pandemic to sit down and write about how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been thinking, and what I’ve been doing, but I can never seem to get the words right.

Luckily, my friend Cory has a blog called The Davis Daily and he wrote three compelling posts about how life and work has changed during the pandemic and where it will go from here. I encourage you to check it out here.

I am of the numerous people out of work as a result of covid-19. I have gone through a rollercoaster of feelings that I would like to briefly touch upon:

Fear

Prior to the closing of my workplace, the feelings of fear of the unknown were quite strong. I watched as surrounding areas closed their clinics and wondered why we weren’t doing the same. When we finally did decide to close, fear of the unknown was not only limited to the unknown of the virus but the unknown of when I would be able to go back to work again. Fear grew to include possibly contracting the virus, being asymptomatic, and passing it on to my mom who works with vulnerable populations. As an older woman with some health issues of her own, passing it onto her was terrifying. It still is, despite being in a bit more contact now with grocery deliveries than before.

I still feel fearful about going out. As time goes on, and the weather gets nicer, it looks like less people are following protocols. I fear that there will be another increase in numbers and this will last longer.

Calm

I finished my coursework in the first few days of being home. I didn’t have work to keep busy. And I have waves of a satisfying “calm” that I don’t have these two things pressing on me. I also feel calm because I feel grounded, and not in the “I’ve been bad and have to stay home” kind of way. I feel at peace (mostly) with myself and that is a wonderful feeling.

Anxiety

Naturally, the calm comes and goes and I found myself anxious of not having things to do. I am the type of person who likes to keep busy. I usually have a packed schedule. The flexibility in my day made me anxious – as if I had to be doing more. I started studying for my exam. I got into an exercise regime. I started Couch to 5K. And somehow that made me less anxious. I was filling my days with meaningful activities.

Extreme Joy

A few weeks into creating this wonderful new schedule, it was turned upside down when my boyfriend and I became parents…dog parents. We had been on the list for adopting a puppy for months so our desire to get a dog stems far longer than the pandemic. We adopted a beautiful cockapoo pup named Briggs (who has his own instagram account if you’d like to follow him! @thebestofbriggs). He has brought such joy to our lives and has kept me incredibly busy during this time with training, playing, and making sure he’s on his best behaviour. He is now 15 weeks old and sleeps through the night, can remain in his crate/playpen for 3.5 hours at a time, is potty-trained, and can follow basic commands. We’re working on some fun ones but would rather get him reliably doing the important ones such as: sit, down, up, look at me, leave it, drop it, go to your place, shake a paw (he can do both paws!), and stay. He loves playing fetch and playing with the dog next door.

Briggs has also brought positive changes to my mental health. He’s a great companion and has a calming presence (most of the time).

Briggs the Cockapoo

Guilt

I’ve wrestled with this emotion a lot over the course of being home, as well. And I’ve felt it for different reasons: guilt of not doing more, guilt of not wanting to do work, or study for my exams, or enjoying my alone time. Guilt that I have all the time in the world right now and I can’t keep the house clean or commit to my exercise regime.

I have also felt guilt with Briggs. Guilt that I’m not doing a good enough job training him is a big one. I have been reading online something about this being the “puppy blues.”

Final Thoughts

It will soon be time to take the pup out of his play pen so I’ll leave with this: however you’ve chosen to spend your time during this pandemic is okay. However you feel during this pandemic is okay. Your feelings are valid. These are not normal circumstances. Life is not normal right now and it is uncertain when we will ever be “normal” again. Make use of the time we do have. Chat with your friends, spend some time alone, check on your family members, write letters to seniors in nursing homes, donate to the food bank, binge Netflix, or do whatever it is you want to do. We’re in this together, even from 6 feet apart.

Reflecting on 2019 and Looking Forward to 2020

Well here we are… we made it to the first Friday of 2020 and it feels like a Tuesday somehow. I have been meaning to post for quite some time now. I have 14 incomplete blog posts in my drafts folder. From topics like burnout, the Ontario Autism Program chaos, food ideas, and most prominently – posts about my mental health, they were abandoned.

A couple months ago, I had an uncomfortable discussion (to say the least) about some of my posts and the personal content I was posting. So I stopped. Cold turkey. I couldn’t bring myself to write anymore, despite it being a large outlet for me. Maybe in 2020 I will again share things about my mental health journey but until then, the feelings I share may come across as vague.

Reflecting on 2019

Wow, 2019 was a shit show. There, I said it. I went through phases of not knowing whether or not I would have a job, the fate of my clients and other children with ASD, and I started the unraveling of repressed emotions through therapy.

But let’s start with my old “resolutions.” My 2019 resolutions were something along the lines of this:

  • Do (at least) one thing a week for me and just me. This may include saying no to an added responsibility or an act of self-care.
    I did great at this! I did a lot of saying no and taking time for me. I went to therapy at least once a month. I had baths, I did yoga, I laid on the couch and binge-watched Grey’s. This is something I want to continue to do in 2020. Self-care is essential for the soul.
  • Do (at least) one thing a week that improves my relationships with others. Maybe this is texting a friend I haven’t talked to in a while to see how they are doing.
    I feel like this was not my strong-suit in 2019. Especially when the Ford government blew up my career field, I said no a lot to things my friends wanted to do because I was unsure of what the future held. I didn’t go to my Master’s graduation. I kept in contact with my closest friends. But otherwise, I was not good at staying in touch with others, and for that, I am sorry. I will try to be better in 2020.
  • Take better care of my mental health, especially due to the toll it has taken on my physical health in the past year.
    This time last year, I had shingles and that was one of the worst experiences of my life. This past year, I did prioritize my mental health more. Going back to therapy was a very positive step forward for me and I look forward to continuing this going forward. My physical health was MUCH better this year! I battled some recurring stomach problems where going to the doctor made me feel frustrated and helpless. For now, taking probiotics seem to be keeping the pain and discomfort under control and I have otherwise (knock on wood) felt fine.

Looking Forward to 2020

I don’t really have any “resolutions” for 2020 outside of the items listed above. I feel so proud of the progress I am making and the person I am becoming.

May you all have a blessed new year!

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Going Back to Therapy

In light of today being World Mental Health Day, I thought I would use this day to be open about my journey thus far and something I have not talked about too much. In June of this year, after extensive research, I decided to go back to therapy.

I don’t mean to say it as if it’s this big thing. It’s not. It’s a step for myself in the right direction, and it took a lot of courage to go back after some less than ideal experiences, previously.

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My Previous Experiences with Therapy

The first time I went to therapy was during my time in my undergrad when I was first diagnosed. I believe he was a psychiatrist and he was amazing. Maybe because I was vulnerable opening up about my symptoms, I felt comfortable telling him more about my life. He was the person I went to go see after my dad passed away. He was the person who helped me through three difficult years of living with a new diagnosis and all of the stresses I was dealing with at the time.

When I graduated, I was unable to continue to see him since he was at the school’s Wellness Centre. It’s awful. I can’t even remember his name. My nurse practitioner referred me to a free service through my family doctor if I wanted to continue seeking therapy. That lady ruined therapy for me. In just three sessions, I hated it. I felt so judged – a feeling I don’t think one should ever really feel during therapy. Not when you’re at your most vulnerable. I immediately shut down after my third session with her and stopped going for three years.

Why I Wanted to Go Back to Therapy

I decided to go back to therapy because my anxiety and depression were not in a good spot. My moods were all over the place. My thoughts were all over the place. Mood swings were wild. My physical health was suffering. I knew I couldn’t continue in the same routine. I needed something to change.

How I Found A Therapist 

The resource I used to find a therapist was Psychology Today. You can use the site to search for local mental health professionals in your area and read their bios to see what they specialize in, what kind of techniques they tend to use, and how much they charge. Many can be covered if you have insurance, but if you don’t have insurance, some charge on what is called a sliding scale – I tend to look for ones that have this as an option. I was interested in ones that specialized in areas such as anxiety, depression, and grief. I was also interested in developing more of a mind-body connection since I somaticize psychological symptoms into physical symptoms. I have found an excellent choice for me, which might not be best for you. We all may need different forms of help based on our needs.

What Sessions Are Like So Far

Since June, I have had 5 sessions. For my first session, my therapist did a hybrid of an “intake session” and an actual session so I could see if her methods fit with my expectations before going back to see her.

No one ever really tells you this but your first session feels like crap. I mean, I obviously found it valuable and have gone back since my first session. But for me, the first session was terrifying. I had to go to a new place, meet a new person, come in wearing my “people-person” smile and greetings, sit on a couch, and re-open wounds I thought I had healed but had really just patched with a band-aid. Although I’m not ready to disclose some of the things I talked about, I will say I cried so much in the first session. I cried happy tears, sad tears, and mad tears. I was all over the place yet again. But you know what? I left feeling so much lighter than when I had arrived. And every time I go, I feel a little bit lighter. She gives me strategies for getting through the days when I feel awful. She is an outlet to talk to things I have repressed from a very young age. I am listening to my body more. I am motivated to become a better version of myself.

The Stigma Around Therapy

Juan Pablo Galavis once said, “There’s a stigma on the word ‘therapy.’ People relate it to big problems. That’s something we have to change. Going to therapy can be very healthy. It can change the way you see things and treat others.”

Going to therapy shouldn’t be seen as this “big deal.” Just because you go to therapy, it doesn’t mean you’re mentally unstable. Sure, I may have a mental illness I’m living with, but you don’t NEED one to go to therapy. Therapy can be for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re weak either. I am so strong for wanting to feel better. I’m proud of that. Psychology Today offers an article about The Stigma of Therapy that is worth reading.

If you are thinking about seeking help, know that you’re not alone. There are some excellent resources available through easy Google searches. We live in a world where there are e-counselling options. This is fantastic! You are not “crazy” for wanting to talk to someone. If you could be the best version of yourself, wouldn’t you want that? On World Mental Health Day, may we be reminded to continue to break the silence and fight the stigma.

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Wellness Wednesday: March Check-In

There has been so much I have wanted to say in the past month but the words don’t come as freely to me as they did before. It has been quite the month to say the least but what I can say is I’m exhausted, I’m worried, and I’ve been fighting the fight since day one.

But before I get into that, let’s check in with my February goals and see how that’s going:

Goal #1: Be more physically active

I am so happy to say I have actually done well in this area! I am continuing to do yoga every day when I wake up, and am doing another form of exercise (usually HIIT or another more intense yoga video) three times a week.

While I haven’t been following Yoga with Adriene’s March calendar, I have been selecting videos based on my mood or muscle groups to target and have still maintained this habit.

I feel lighter, taller, my posture is better, and I’m overall feeling more awake in the morning.

Goal #2: Eat better 

So far so good for this one too! Woohoo! I am still keeping track of the meals I eat. Rather than strictly counting calories, I am also being more mindful of eating more vegetables and meal prepping more. I am not skipping breakfast (for the most part) and with my Hidrate Spark water bottle, I am also drinking more water and reaching my water intake goals for the day. Although they are a little more on the pricey side, the glowing reminders and the graph tracking my progress throughout the day has been very reinforcing.

 Goal #3: Keep Going

With this mindset, I am feeling proud of the work I have put towards improving myself. I have lost about 8 lbs since February 2nd but even more importantly are the non-scale victories I have been achieving:

  • my clothes fit better
  • my energy levels are much higher
  • I have continued sticking to a routine
  • I am more mindful of what I eat, do, and how much I sleep

Other Events in My Life:

I may have mentioned this in the past but I work as an instructor therapist with children with autism and other developmental disabilities. If you aren’t a resident of Ontario (or even if you are), you may not have heard that the provincial government has changed its autism program in terms of funding.

To quickly summarize: children were previously assessed on need and several children were on a waitlist to access services such as IBI (which is work I do – Intensive Behavioural Interventions). This plan claims to clear the waitlist and provide families with more choice.

While on the surface, it looks to be more fair and equitable, it isn’t. The only way it IS fair and equitable is that NO children will be able to access the treatment they need for success. Here are Mike Moffat’s 10 short reasons the new Autism Program should be scrapped. (I could honestly write like, 10 more blog posts on this subject ALONE)

For a more detailed look at what the Ontario PC government has claimed and the truth behind those claims, check out this article.

Here’s how it affects me:

  1. I am so worried for the children and families. I have worked in adult services and that is no walk in the park (honestly, I could also write a few blog posts about this as well). I have so much hope for these children, especially those I have worked with and I want the best for them and their futures. Families are being put in a difficult position financially, emotionally, and mentally. They have a hard enough time with day-to-day activities but are now forced to spend what little spare time they have to fight against the government on social media, through emails, meetings, and other efforts. Being an empathetic person by nature, it is impossible not to take these feelings to heart and feel what they feel. I continue to fight with them for a better solution.
  2. Job security – Families pay for services which then pays us. Lack of access to services due to insufficient funds means lack of work. It is very uncertain in the field of ABA how companies will be able to stay strong financially throughout this crisis. This is widespread across the province with layoffs beginning in companies already. While I have faith in my organization and the strong, dedicated leaders, the uncertainty is not something I am good at handling as someone with a diagnosed anxiety disorder. I am a planner. I like to know what lies ahead. I don’t have that. I am nervous. I am trying to remain positive.

That is just scratching the surface of all of the thoughts and feelings I have about this today. I will be releasing an infographic I created talking more about the Ontario Autism Program for those interested.

I’m off to do a night yoga routine before going to sleep. I need it tonight, especially.

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Monday Morning Rambles

A new week is upon us and there are so many things to look forward to (and be anxious about).

This week, starting tomorrow, I will be attending the annual Canadian Psychological Association conference in conjunction with the International Congress of Applied Psychology. I am both excited and nervous about this opportunity.

Here are my racing thoughts:

  1. It is not my first conference. I have done this before. This year is not much different.
  2. It’s in a new city.
  3. It’s a city I’m familiar with – a city I visited multiple times a year from birth until the age of 12. I can handle this.
  4. I have to say a speech in front of a lot of people on opening day.
  5. Public speaking is a strength. I can do this.
  6. I feel very unprepared for my presentation.
  7. But I won’t be alone in my presentation and I have presented on it before. It’s on a topic I live and breathe.
  8. I’m missing a week of work – that’s a lot of money to make up.
  9. I’ve worked a lot of long days to make up for the week – it will be fine.
  10. I have to navigate the public transit system completely on my own (AKA without my mother being here for support).
  11. I did not need to use Google Maps to find my way from the bus station to the metro. I got on the right subway track. I got off at the right stop. The rest of it will be fine as well.
  12. I have plenty of friends and family here in the city who will be here to help me through this week. 5b7d7fec914146e9e1124eb18dd643c9.jpg

Mid-Month Checkup: March Goals

Here we are at another Monday. January seemed to drag on so slowly and now here we are more half-way through March.

Let’s reflect on how my March Focus goals have been doing so far:

Focus on my work and school work:

  • I downloaded an app called HabitBull to track my good habits. I love it because I’m very data driven and it creates graphs based on your performance!
  • I’ve started breaking down more of my tasks into smaller parts to make them easier to complete. I have completed quite a bit of work on my dissertation so far because I’m made it seem more manageable.
  • I have tried to take on more of an active role at work while also trying not to spread myself too thin. I know when to say no and how to prioritize things a little better.
  • To keep myself engaged in what I’m doing, when I do work at home (school or otherwise), I set a timer for about 30-45 minutes. I work on one task for that time, take a break, and then switch gears to something else. It seems to be working so far.

Focus on my health:

  • Well, if you asked me how my immune system is doing, I’d say not great. But judging by the last three months, I’ve started seeing a pattern of when I start getting sick: the week leading up to my menstrual cycle. In the past few days, I’ve started taking supplements daily to help kick my immune system and overall health into gear: probiotics, Omega 3’s, Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, iron, and a multivitamin.
  • I got a gym membership at a new gym this month and have been twice already and have created a fitness journal and written down workout ideas. I am hoping to start going 2-3 times a week (perhaps more).
  • I started stretching every morning!
  • My skin care routine is great! Feels like a normal part of my morning and evening and it feels so soft.
  • I have written in my Five Minute Journal every day this month so far! Haven’t missed a day. It has been a great, positive way to start and end the day and it has become more of a habit than it was in the past.
  • My anxiety has been up and down this month with a few more down times than I was expecting. Meditating and remembering to stay grounded has helped and I have been looking up other strategies to get through tough moments of panic.

Focus on my relationships with others:

  • I have taken more of an active effort in my friendships – spending more time answering texts, talking to them on the phone, and making plans to see them.
  • I continue to reflect on these friendships and welcome new ones into my life.
  • I am appreciating times with my mom more. She has always been my best friend and my number one support system in my life and as I grow up, I want to return the favour and support her in any way that I can.
  • During this incredibly busy time of year, my boyfriend and I despite distance and responsibilities manage to appreciate the time we do get to talk and spend together even if it’s working on things together, sharing things about our day at the end of the day on the phone, and support one another with all that we do and I am so grateful to have him in my life in such a positive and loving way.

I still have some work to do this month in each of these three aspects, but there is still time to “focus” on them.

Happy Monday, everyone and have a great week!

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Making a List & Checking it Twice

It’s Wellness Wednesday of March Break! I am working today so not entirely a break but it isn’t so bad when you love what you do.

To help break down all the thoughts in my head and all the things I feel like I have to do, I like to make lists: grocery lists, to-do lists, pros/cons lists, and lists about lists. I contain most of them in a notebook purely dedicated for making lists.

This is what the first page of my lists book looks like:

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There are several benefits for list making.

  1. For one, it reduces anxiety. I find that getting things out of my head and onto paper makes me feel almost instantly better.
  2. It holds you accountable. Just like I decided to post every day about my Whole 30 journey to hold me accountable, writing down your task and goals allows you to be accountable to yourself.
  3. It helps you organize your thoughts in one place. It reduces clutter and I like to break my big thoughts and tasks into smaller subsequent parts.
  4. …which leads me to this point: it feels damn good crossing something off your list. You get feelings of higher productivity and higher self-esteem.
  5. Lists help keep your priorities in check. Today I made a list of all the things I have to do from sorting my laundry and cleaning my room and writing my dissertation. Having it written down allows you to see them all and figure out what should be done first, and create strategies for getting them done.

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I have two to do lists on the go right now. There is one with ~50 things on it that I need to get done (a larger list). I have another that I like in my agenda that is on the side that I fill out weekly, which is more short term goals.

Here is a link to an interesting article I read entitled “How Making Lists Can Quell Anxiety and Breed Creativity” by Carrie Barron, M.D.

Happy Wellness Wednesday!

“Every day’s to-do list.
1.) Listen
2.) Trust
3.) Do”
― A.D. Posey

One Brave Night

Last year, I participated in CAMH’s event One Brave Night. CAMH One Brave Night for Mental Health™ is a Canada-wide challenge to inspire hope for those affected by mental illness. It starts now and continues through to Friday, April 6.

For those who are unfamiliar with CAMH, it is the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It is the largest mental health and addictions teaching hospital. Their One Brave Night campaign has had the following impact for mental health initiatives:

  • Create three new youth clinics to help address the gap in mental health treatment.
  • Inspire hope through discovery by testing new treatment options for people with severe and treatment-resistant depression.
  • Publish over 500 journal articles, sharing the incredible discoveries made at CAMH.
  • Continue to redevelop CAMH facilities to build treatment, education and research spaces that reflect respect for patients and hope for recovery.
  • Expand effective and timely access to mental health services in remote and underserved communities around the country through technology and access to telepsychiatry.

I am proud to say that I am taking part in it again this year and have set my fundraising goal at $250.

If you are interested in supporting my fundraising efforts, you can donate at this link. If you are interested in joining my fundraising team, you may do so at this link. My Team Name is Stomp Out Stigma.

Happy Motivation Monday!

Whole 30 Day 22

How I’m Feeling

First, I want to mention how I’m feeling outside of the Whole 30 experience since this is also a blog to share my anxiety experiences. If you read yesterday’s post, you would have seen that maybe yesterday was not exactly a great day. Today, I will say, is much better for the most part. I went to the hospital to visit my friend. Although he was not awake, I enjoyed speaking with his wife and family members there. Praying for his lovely family and friends.

Whole 30 wise, I feel pretty good. My energy levels continue to be high. I managed to stay full from lunch until a late dinner at 8pm tonight. I appear less bloated in the mirror and I am beginning to regret not taking before and after pics for my Whole 30 Journey.

What I Ate

Breakfast: egg muffins! I forgot I froze some. So glad I found them.

Lunch: White chicken chilli. Also forgot I froze some of this as well.

Dinner: roasted bacon brussel sprouts with buffalo chicken tots from one of my new favourite recipe books: The Keto Diet by Leanne Vogel. So easy and so tasty!