Thursday, 27 September 2018

Do it for YOU!

Image result for make changes for youWe all have habits that we want to change, goals that we wish to achieve, and dreams that our hearts are set on.

I've personally struggled with understanding my reasons for certain goals and changes I have wanted to make. WHY am I trying to achieve XXX? Is it for ME? Because I want to be happy, healthy, and feel successful? Or is it because of OTHERS? Or am I doing this because I want others to leave me alone, to praise me, to think highly of me, or to talk about me in a certain way?

In all honesty, working through these feelings and thoughts are tough. Because let's be real: if we are not setting goals or changing habits for OURSELVES, we will never achieve them fully, nor will we ever feel satisfied or happy. Why?

When you set a goal or dream - and you are imvested in it because you truly believe that it will be helpful or useful, will make you feel more confident/happy/proud, you realize just how much you want this thing. For YOU. And so whatever challenges you may face, you set yourself firm. You have your eye on the prize and you will do this regardless of whatever happens.

Image result for brene brown story quoteBut if you do something because you want others to praise you (or to get off your back), you will not be fully motivated. Because people will never be satisfied. And because in the end of the day, others don't really matter. What if you were all alone? And no one was around you? Would you still quit smoking completely, even if your wife did not nag you each day to stop that cigarette? Would you do it because you don't want complications like lung cancer? Would you still go to work each day on time, even if your colleagues didn't praise you? Would you do it because it makes you feel proud that you overcame your laziness and did it, despite feeling down?

Thinking about goals, dreams, habit changes, etc. in this way is really helpful. Please note - sometimes, we need others to motivate us. We need them as a reason. For example, you might decide to stop using alcohol because it bothers your family and friends, and it makes you neglect them. But you should also be deciding to stop drinking because for YOUR health, it is not pleasant. And for YOU to be happy, you cannot drink and enjoy time with loved ones. As another example, you may decide to get a new job because your family needs money. This is motivating for you. But you are also doing it because YOU want to feel productive, successful. See the difference?

Image result for change is scaryGoals and habit changes can be better achieved when we have the support and motivation from others. But in the end of the day, you have to do it for YOU. When you are fully invested and motivated in a goal, you are more likely to achieve it. When YOU take full responsibility for this, you are more likely to do it regardless of whatever obstacles you face.

You can do this. I believe in you.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

'You don't always have to be busy'

Image result for you don't have to be busyI am the type of person who loves getting my work done. If I have a to-do list, I hate when things pile up on it. So, to avoid this, I try to get things done right away. This is super helpful and important - I mean, who wants to procrastinate and leave it all to the last minute? That only creates additional stress, rushing, and anxiety.

But at the same time, I am learning that it is OKAY to not always be busy. What do I mean by this? There are times (not many, but still...) where I have finished the work I planned on doing. Do I have NOTHING to do? No, of course not. But the 'most important things' on my checklist are done.

At these times, you may think that I deserve a long break. And I likely do, seeing as how hard I have worked. But taking a break feels so...wrong. I mean, why spend time doing NOTHING (or fun things) when I could do MORE work and get that done, too?

This is a difficult cycle to stop, and I am training myself to try to stop and take time to do 'fun things' or 'nothing'. I have so many hobbies and things I enjoy (SHOPPING!!!!), and this does not make me 'lazy'. In fact, when we take a REAL break and do things we like - rather than always work - we refresh our bodies and minds, and we become BETTER able to work later.

Image result for take time to relaxThe feeling of 'laziness' always enters my mind when I allow myself to do 'nothing'. But I am learning to sit with this and remind myself that I have been productive, and part of being kind to myself is not working. It is relaxing, doing something fun, and not being 'busy' with work. It is being busy with myself, my hobbies, my self-care.

We all struggle with this - certainly more when we are overworked or stressed. Remind yourself that it is okay to take a break when you need to recharge. It is alright to take some time for yourself, to step into quietness, and to do something fun. As long as you are able to manage your duties and responsibilities, taking breaks and 'not being busy' is not only helpful - it is necessary.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Living According to Your Values - Part Two

Image result for life align values Last time, we talked about why and how our values influence our decisions and choices. We know that our values - what is really important to us - shape our priorities. This helps us make decisions for ourselves.

But sometimes, we are unable to live according to our values fully. This can happen for many reasons: life may not give us many choices, we might feel unwell or stressed, we have conflicting thoughts and emotions, etc.

For example, let's say you value spending time with friends and family. But life is really busy with constant work duties, long hours, and things to do. You begin feeling stressed, you are not relaxing or sleeping enough, and you feel 'down'. Because you have so much to do - and the fact that you feel kind of 'down in the dumps', makes you either go to work, or come home and 'crash'. As a result, you have not spent much time with your loved ones, nor have you relaxed in a while.

Of course, this makes you feel frustrated and even more stressed. You are unable to do other things that are meaningful to you. Your values of family-time and relaxation are being bypassed. This is a terrible feeling! Being unable to live out these values produces anger, resentment, and sadness.

Now, how do we change this? How do we help make your life more aligned with your values? Of course, you might not be able to take time away from work to be with your family. You cannot simply 'not work' because you don't feel like it. But that is not what I am implying.

Image result for life align valuesTo truly align your life with your values, you need to be creative. You might not be able to skip work, but can you, for example, take 2 hours one night a week to be with your loved ones? Can you get extra work done in the office so that you need not bring it home? Perhaps you can schedule a weekend to relax, away from work? Or maybe you can talk to your boss and ask for an extension?

We know that life doesn't always work our way. And that is what makes it challenging. To live according to your values requires us to focus on what is meaningful, edifying, and satisfying to us. It means understanding that we don't always 'get our way' in life, but regardless, we can do our best to prioritize our values.

It is helpful, in difficult moments, to consider your values, why they are important to you (ex. why is XXX valuable? What does it do for you in life? For your mood, health, etc?), and what you can do to make them an active part of your experiences. The more you practice this, the more you will notice yourself becoming more resilient, happy, patient, and calm.
Image result for your values quotes

Friday, 29 June 2018

Living According to Your Values - Part One

Image result for live to your valuesA value is something - a concept - that is important to us. Many of us value our friends, family members, etc. But we also value things like honesty, respect, professionalism, love, relaxation, and so forth. This is Part One in a series about VALUES.

Why are values important, and how do they impact the lives we lead? Simply put, we organize our priorities and activities around our values. For example, if you value working and feeling as though you are contributing to society, you will try very hard to land a job that allows you to do so. Similarly, if you value spirituality, you will make efforts to seek out experiences that bring you closer to God.

When we don't live our lives in keeping with our values, we become distressed, dissatisfied, and feel unfulfilled. This is because we realize that things we cherish or enjoy are not being projected and enhanced in our daily experiences.
Image result for live tvalues quote
This article talks about how we can use our values to focus or redirect our lives. I recommend you take a read of it!

The first step is to identify a few of your values. Make a list! I value....
-God and spirituality
-mental, emotional, and physical wellness
-friends and family
-my work and studies
-positive thinking
-enjoyable hobbies (reading, colouring, sports, etc)

...And so forth. Making a list like this is super helpful, as it allows us reflect on the things we like - and want - out of our lives.

In order to align our lives with our values, we need to try to seek out activities and experiences that allow us to live out these concepts. Of course, this is not always 100% possible. For example, I may value - or prefer - a job that allows me to sleep in every morning. But this may not be feasible. As well, it is important to separate preferences from values. I would LOVE to sleep in each day, but this not a value. A value could be relaxation and balance. To align this, I can try to get a job that allows me to work and help others, but also has somewhat flexible times that permits me to relax and take breaks.

Image result for live your values quoteSomething else to remember is that life does not always allow us to 100% get our way. For example, you might value mental health, but situations occur that make you feel depressed, anxious, frustrated. etc. This can cause you to feel even more distressed, as something you value is not being realized in your life. What do you do then? Remember: you cannot always control situations around you. When this happens, it is important to reflect on how you can use your values to cope with life. For example, if you value mental wellness and you feel distressed, think about how you can enhance or live your values out - despite the situation. Perhaps you can take a walk, call a friend, make your favourite food, etc. Does living out your value in this can change your situation? No - you are still dealing with a stressful time. BUT choosing actions and experiences (within your control) permits you to navigate the ups and downs life throws at you.

I encourage you to take time to reflect on what you truly value in life. Next time, we'll discuss what happens when your values are not reflected in your life - and how to handle those situations. Stay tuned for Part Two!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Feeling 'bad' can be 'good'...?! Part Two

Image result for worrying today robsLast time, we talked about how feeling 'bad' can actually be GOOD for us. If you need a refresher, take a look here.

Feeling our emotions can be challenging, especially in intense moments. We might, for example, feel anxious because we are worried about the results of a test. We might be angry because we have a coworker who is trying to outshine us. We could be frustrated and hopeless because nothing seems to be going right at the present moment.

How on earth can these emotions be useful? What can we gleam from these moments and feelings?

Let's start with feelings in general. Feelings tell you that you are human. You are a living being, capable of emotions! The feelings may not always be comfortable or fully appropriate to the situation, but you should not judge yourself for the way you feel. Rather, take time to explore how and why you are feeling that way.

Image result for you have survivedWhy? When you observe your feelings and tolerate them, you are practicing distress tolerance and acceptance.You might not enjoy feeling worried about the test results, but sitting with the worry is teaching you that you are ABLE to survive this difficult time. It also helps you catch your thoughts - are you telling yourself that something terrible is going to happen? Are you imaging a bad outcome or scenario? If so, think about this: worrying is normal. But jumping ahead to the worst case is not helping you, nor will it change the outcome. Instead, recognize and accept the worry. And then do something else. Yes, the anxiety is there. But you are coping with it. And this situation, although uncomfortable, is showing you how strong you are. You are enduring intense emotions - and you are surviving. This leads to perseverance and resilience! 

The same goes with anger, or frustration.Yes, it is so incredibly difficult when you feel that things are unfair. Or when you truly feel trapped - that life is simply not cooperating with you. Things seem a mess, and you feel caught in it all. You feel hopeless. How can that be useful? Well, consider this: experiencing several mishaps is not fun, so don't deny yourself the opportunity to mourn. However, realize that this period of your life, along with these emotions, shall pass. By embracing your emotions now and being compassionate on yourself, you will notice that the intensity of the feelings will slowly decrease. Today, you are at your end. But you somehow push through because deep inside (really deep down!), you know that you are able to get past this. Things WILL get better. The next day, you still may feel hopeless. But it is less intense as yesterday. And each day, it will be less frustrating. It might not go away completely, but allowing yourself to understand that emotions are healthy - and that you can still have these feelings but function nonetheless - indicates your fighting spirit. You can regulate your feelings, and you can handle these tough circumstances. You are strong. You are capable. You are a fighter.

Image result for don't judge your feelingsPerhaps, then, rather than labeling emotions as 'good or bad', we just take them for what they are - our feelings in response to life events that are shaped by our thoughts, genetics, environment, circumstances, and more. Let's not judge our feelings; instead, let's try to acknowledge them, accept them, and carry on. In doing this, we will stop blaming ourselves for feeling a certain way. We will also train our bodies and brains to tolerate hard emotions, and this will decrease their intensity. We will learn to appreciate how resilient we are, and with each experience, we will become wiser, more resilient, and more confident in our ability to adapt and cope.

This is nor easy, but it comes with practice. Today, focus on one feeling you are experiencing. Don't label it - just accept that you are feeling this way. And know that if it is a challenging time, you are okay. You will be okay. You are not defined by your circumstances - and you will not only thrive, you will survive.

Image result for be patient in tribulation

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Feeling 'bad' can be 'good'...?! Part One

Image result for negative emotions are key to well-beingI'm sure the title of this post sounds rather contradictory, if not outright 'wrong'. How can feeling BAD possibly be GOOD? Usually, feeling 'bad' means we are frustrated, sad, stressed, angry, lonely, bored, etc. All of these emotions are unpleasant. So, how can this ever be a good thing?

Please note that this is Part One is a series about Negative Emotions. This is a HUGE topic and I would like to try my best to delve a bit deeper into this! Let's start this journey!

This article does a fabulous job of explaining why negative emotions are important for us to experience. Firstly, we need to understand that all feelings - even the 'bad' ones - serve a purpose. We FEEL them because we have experienced some sort of event or trigger that prompted these emotions in us. Now, of course, our emotional responses may not always be appropriate to the situation we are dealing with. For example, one event may be stressful, but for one person, it might be so overwhelming that they completely crash and break down (whereas others might be dismayed but recover quite quickly).

Image result for feel negative feelingsOne important point to remember, however, is that emotions are only ONE part of the picture. That is to say, they cannot be viewed or accepted in isolation. With every emotion comes a thought. These thoughts are also very important. Let's look at an example: your boss yells at you because you have not completed an assignment to his or her standards. You feel hopeless, frustrated, and sad. Then, you begin to think 'oh no. What if I lose my job? I'm no good at anything. I'm a failure. I always try so hard but it never pays off'. See how the emotions led to thoughts of hopelessness, decreased confidence, and self-rejection?

Sometimes, it is rather difficult to stop our thoughts and emotions from expanding this way, especially when we are 'deep' into the tough circumstance and feelings. But, there is another way to look at these 'bad' emotions. What if, instead of judging yourself for feeling sad and hopeless, you acknowledge your emotions? Instead of blaming yourself for feeling sad and trying to 'get over it' (for example, because you need to work on the next assignment), allow yourself a moment to UNDERSTAND that you are feeling this way because xxx happened. This does NOT mean that all of your emotions are appropriate. But it does mean that you are being kind to yourself in the moment.

Then, take a moment to assess the THOUGHTS that are accompanying your negative emotions. You feel sad. You now think that you are a failure. Think about this again. Does not doing so great on one test mean that you never do anything right? No. And if you cannot believe this, ask yourself how you would respond to someone else in your situation, who was saying the same thing about themselves: if my daughter or brother or spouse or best friend did not do well on a test, would I tell them that they are no good? Would I tell them that they always fail and will never be successful at anything? Likely not. So, why are you being so hard on yourself?

Related imagePractice self-compassion and kindness. You are the only one who can truly change your thoughts and accept your emotions. And remember, accepting your emotions DOES NOT mean that they are true. We just saw that in the example of analyzing your emotions and the thoughts they trigger. Accepting your negative emotions means understanding that even if you feel a certain way, this doesn't mean that your subsequent thoughts about yourself are TRUE.

We cannot change our emotions 'right away'. The way you feel is shaped by the situation around you, your development, values, temperament, mindset, environment, and so much more. I think this is really important to understand: you may not be able to alter your emotions to an event. But you CAN evaluate how appropriate your emotions - and the thoughts that come with them - are. If the emotions and thoughts are 'too strong' or 'blown out of proportion' to the situation, it may be time to think about how you can make your views more 'in line' with the facts. This, dear readers, is critical in order to build resilience, patience, self-compassion, and perseverance.

Keep an eye open for Part Two in this series, where we will be looking at some reasons WHY allowing yourself to FEEL negative emotions is important to our growth, mindset, and resilience! 

Related image

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Distress Tolerance - Not Easy, But Powerful!

Image result for distress tolerance
Distress. What does that word mean to you? We may feel distressed when we are overwhelmed, sad, angry, or frustrated. This can be caused by external events, but we can also feel distressed from our emotions or thoughts.

When we are distressed, we find it extremely difficult to think clearly, relax, or calm down. Our thoughts may be racing, and our bodies may get tense. But unfortunately, distress is inevitable. We will all have to deal with distress at some time in our lives.

What is important to realize is that we cannot avoid distress. In fact, trying to do so or denying it will just make us feel worse. What we CAN do is try to learn how to cope with it. This is called 'distress tolerance'. 

This link has a lot of good information on how we can learn to handle distress. One very useful strategy is to remember the ACCEPT acronym. When faced with a difficult emotion, thought, or event, some helpful things to do are to try to engage in activities that you like. Although this is hard to do when you feel down, it can help you get your mind off the situation.

Image result for distress tolerance accept
Something else to try is to push away the thoughts and try to talk yourself into understanding WHY you are distressed - and whether or not your response is 'appropriate' and helpful. For example, you may feel frustrated and angry that you scored poorly on an exam, that you argued with your friend, etc. This may make you feel bad about yourself. You may begin to criticize yourself, feel hopeless, or turn to ineffective coping skills (this can be substances, self-harm, spending excessive money, eating too much/too little, yelling, isolating yourself, etc). Instead of doing this, stop and think: how will using these 'coping skills' help or harm you and the situation? If you use the substance, you may feel temporarily better, but this will not last long. And, you will likely feel guilty afterwards as well. Crying and yelling can help release emotions - and can be normal responses; however, after releasing the emotion, you ought to deep breath, and realize that you can handle this. You have done it before, and you WILL survive.

Image result for distress tolerance quotesDealing with distress is, ironically, distressing. It is not fun or easy to sit through negative emotions, thoughts, or temptations - and actively try to resist them or cope with them. Doing so takes a lot of practice. Being mindful that when we are frustrated and emotional, it is difficult to think clearly is helpful. When we feel distressed and try to tolerate it, we will feel highly uncomfortable. Because trying to handle distress is hard work! However, over time, it does become slightly easier. We each find strategies that work for us. 

Image result for weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morningKeep on practicing how to handle distress - it cultivates inner peace, resilience, and strength. It can help you persevere through challenging times, break ineffective coping activities, and learn to be kind to yourself. Remember: every difficult circumstance, emotion or thought you have will not last forever. You WILL get through this. You alone can choose to use strategies to get through these moments. It will be hard, but you CAN.