The reality of Phone Addiction

My husband and I got back from an exciting and much-needed vacation. We ended up going to one of our favourite countries, Mexico and ended up staying one week in an all-inclusive. Usually, when I go away, I try to limit my phone use, since I rarely have my husband all to myself I try to bask in each moment. Since I’m also a freelancer, I know that I do need to check my professional e-mails for potential clients – I will log in each morning, but no longer than half an hour. The rest of the day I lock it away and spend quality time with my husband.

As we walked around our resort, I was astonished to see that the majority of vacationers were glued to their phones. People who are trying to get away and spend time with their loved ones are doing the exact opposite. Reading articles, listening to music, even face timing someone back home was amongst the things that I observed. I also witnessed one woman grab her caseless IPad into the party pool to snap a picture. (I kept thinking in my head, why not enjoy the moment?) I can understand that it might be tough to put down your phone, but I never felt that we as a society were THAT addicted to them! Unfortunately, this vacation just proved that we are.

I notice when I limit my phone usage, I’m less anxious. I’m not worrying about the perfect instragramable photo, the witty Facebook post or liking that political tweet. I know that I need this break in my life so that I can recharge and live in the moment. I’m glad that I did, I was more sociable with my husband, and we met another incredible couple from Ireland (Gemma, we’ll be there I promise!)

I think a lot more people would be happier and less stressed if they put their phone down. Look up and notice what’s happening around you. I urge you all to try – especially on vacation when you want to soak in all of those moments with your loved ones.

‘Tis the Season to be Anxious

With Halloween parties almost at an end, the dreaded holiday anxiety is right around the corner. Busy schedules are bombarded with travelling, decorating, cooking, wrapping, and parties. It’s easy to get overwhelmed during this time of year and attending an office party in most cases doesn’t alleviate the stress.

Work parties can feel different for others, instead of excitement you feel stuck out of obligation. The social expectations that you should feel joy clouds with over-thinking:

Who would want to talk to me anyway?
Will there be enough seating for everyone?
Should I eat beforehand, so I don’t look like a goblin?
Will they judge me for having more than one drink?
Where do I put my hands?

One of the ways that I combat work party anxiety is by making a plan ahead of time. Being in control of any situation will decrease your anxiety. There are several ways in how you can prepare:

  1. Set a Goal for yourself
    Take the pressure off your expectations and give yourself a timeline. If you’re not comfortable with forcing yourself through a full night then why do it? Give yourself an allotted time frame, and check in with yourself to see how you’re doing. You can then base your decision off of that. No one will judge you for bowing out early
  2. Find your exits
    If your office party is at a different venue, I recommend scoping out the area to gain familiarity. I always need to know where my exits are, in case I need to go outside for a quick breath. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you need them, too. Realigning yourself after any symptom of anxiety is always better with fresh air.
  3. Confide in someone
    If you’re lucky, you can bring a plus-one with you but what happens when you don’t have that safe person? If you’re on friendly terms with anyone at work, it’s best to let them know that you find these parties challenging. This way, they’ll be able to check in on you and keep an eye out for any symptoms that you may experience. Just knowing that there is someone there for you can be a lifesaver
  4. Prepare Questions
    In my experience, I know people love talking about themselves. I try to bring up specific personal questions to avoid the common workplace talk: Where they’re from, pets/children, vacation, bubble gum preference, etc. Asking questions is a great way to take the spotlight off of you and find out interesting things about your co-workers you wouldn’t generally know.
  5. Go
    Some people with anxiety would think its best to stay home and avoid the office party altogether. This is probably the worst thing that you can do – it’s important to acknowledge and understand your anxiety but avoiding situations will only cripple you. Even if your anxiety does make an appearance, at least you’ll be prepared and in control. Know that It’s best to push through your comfort zones so you can grow as a person.

I wish everyone luck in the forthcoming hustle & bustle!

Inside an Anxious Mind

When my husband and I started dating, he didn’t understand what anxiety was. I tried my best to communicate with him what exactly was going on in my head, but even that thought alone would cause me to stay silent. No one ever understood what I was going through and whenever I did try to open my mouth, I was shot down by several people. It was exhausting, so, I just stopped engaging. I kept that fake smile on for so long that even when an intimate partner wanted to break me free, I immediately couldn’t. It was frustrating on both of our parts.

Over the years, I have tried to jot down my ideas on my anxiety – hoping that others could take away at least some knowledge of an anxious mind.

  • Anxiety & worrying are entirely different from one another.
    It’s normal for people to worry from time to time about finances, health, etc. but with GAD these worries are constant. It feels as if your suffocating within yourself, others call it drowning.
  • Even though I look normal or OK on the outside, my anxiety is wreaking havoc. I can’t just stop or turn it off; this is not a choice. Anxiety is an illness, and you can’t get over mental illness
  • I’m not overreacting. I’m not dramatic. I’m not ridiculous. I’m reacting to something that is attacking me from the inside, and I cannot escape from it. All the logic in the world cannot deter an attack.
  • I don’t always know why I get anxious and even a simple task can be overwhelming for me at times. I don’t need you to look at me like I’m crazy and say I’m irrational – I need someone to be compassionate.
  • I will always need to recharge after a long work week, an extroverted night out or an unexpected confrontation. This has nothing to do with you but everything to do with me. I will not be myself unless I’m 100%

Always in an emergency state

I’m sure that I’ll be adding to my list as the years go on but are there any points that YOU would like others to know about your anxiety?

Add them in the comments below!

Trigger Warning: Tickling

It seems I cannot turn on the TV without seeing another brave soul come forward with her sexual assault or harassment story. It’s disheartening, depressing and unfortunate that females are STILL put in a position of not being believed by others. It seems impossible for men these days to wrap their heads around the issue. However, I am happy to say I’ve had several of my male friends come up to me asking how they can better themselves and the situation.

Even though I’m not brave enough to come forward with my specific memories (+ details), I would like to relay a story of my ex and I so other males can understand the toxicity of certain situations and why we do not feel safe coming forward to report you.

I hate being tickled.

I have relayed this to every boyfriend that I’ve ever had, but for some reason, my Ex didn’t listen or care. I kept laughing whenever I was being tickled, that was his indication that I was enjoying it. Even though, through my rasped breaths, I would vocalize “Stop!” “No!”
I would reiterate, after each time, that I do not like it and wish he would stop.
The tickling continued as did our relationship, and my aggression started to come out more. My body went into full fight mode at each attempt, and the kicking started.

The first time I kicked him, it was his face. I got him square in the jaw, and my body immediately froze. He stopped what he was doing, almost in shock that I would kick him. I profusely apologized for kicking him, but his response was to punch me in the thigh instead. He walked out of the room as if he were disgusted with me, leaving me with feelings of guilt, embarrassment and my thoughts:

But you DO Enjoy it if you laugh, right?
He had every reason to punch me since I kicked him, so we’re even?
What can I do to make the situation better for him?

I never came forward about that punch because he taught me that this was all my fault. Why would I open up to someone about my stupidity at this situation? Especially if I DID enjoy it. It’s MY fault, and no one would believe me otherwise. I endured tickling for several years, even though I knew deep down how much I despised it. I would cry, at times, not at the excessive laughing, but at the fact that I felt powerless in this situation.

Laughter is a response to tickling, but if the stimulus is unwanted, then it completely changes the context.

He never could stop, he never would WANT to, either. It was all about him, and how he felt and if I did not play to his rules then he would make me feel like shit. He was an expert at twisting things around and making me feel guilty – I’m SO incredibly thankful that I’m no longer in that situation but imagine how other women feel in worse cases than mine.

I made a pact with myself never to let that happen again. I knew that I had to communicate boundaries and consent with my partner – I told my husband immediately never to tickle me, and after seven years of being together, I can honestly count on one hand how many “tickle fights” we had (because we’ve set boundaries). There are days when I joke around with my husband, and I’ll tickle him to get his attention – but when he tells me to stop, I do. I do not make him feel guilty or tell him how he feels.

My one piece of advice that I can offer is listening & understanding what your partner/friend is telling you. Repeat it back if you don’t understand so that they can give more clarity. The male mind needs a radical switch, and it’s time to make the change.

It’s my birthday and i’ll cry if I want to

Last year for my birthday, I won a solo round trip to Yellowknife. I was pretty scared to go alone, but I knew that this was something that I had to do: to experience something new and scary for the first time by myself. I’m so glad that I did push myself because I ended up falling in love with the city, not to mention that travelling alone now seemed less scary to me.

With this in the back of my mind, I decided to make a pact with myself, for each birthday leading up until my 40th I plan on doing something that scares me. This year I decided to be literal – a month before my birthday I sent my husband tickets to Legends of Horror without mentioning my experience to him until after he secured the plans for the night.

The last haunted house I went to was in Niagara Falls; I must have been about ten at the time. My cousin, who was 8, was insisting that we go through it together. I don’t recall why I agreed, but my adoptive father already paid for the ticket, so I HAD to go. I started okay, strolling – letting my cousin walk ahead for anything to jump out at us. Then, one of the actors brushed up against my leg – I didn’t even recognize someone was standing there, so he got me pretty good. I froze on the spot and cried my eyes out. My cousin was trying to tell me to continue, but I told him to find someone to let me out. He saw the manager and I was escorted out of [probably] the smallest haunted house that ever existed. I was embarrassed and ashamed – both my cousin and adoptive father didn’t let it go for the remainder of the day. It was that day that I decided “I can’t do this.”

Fast forward to October 7th at 7 pm, and we’re waiting outside of Casa Loma about to go into an hour excursion. My heart was racing, I knew I would undoubtedly encounter some other fears inside, but I took joy in the fact that no actors would be touching me (It’s labelled on the events page). A family was walking in front of us, and they brought their daughter, who I swear was the same age as me when I went through the Niagara haunted house. She held both of her parent’s hands and was walking at a glacier pace while saying “I can’t do this – I can’t do this.” At one point I got down to her level and explained that I use to do this sort of makeup for people all the time and there’s no need to worry. It’s just people like you and me. Proud of myself and that moment I continued. However, I had no idea what was waiting for me in the next room: clowns.

I dropped to the floor so fast and started to bawl my eyes out like a ten-year-old girl. Yes, after giving fantastic advice on how not to be scared… I was scared shitless. I closed my eyes as my husband brought me back up to move on. He said “Yeah, you have every reason to be scared here. Let’s go on”. Having my husband there with me made the event more manageable. I even broke one actress’s wall by asking how she was doing and she responded. At the end of it all, I had such an adrenaline rush that I almost wanted to do it again. ALMOST. Instead, I curled up at the side of the wall telling myself “You did it. Never again”IMG_5061

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s the first of October, and that usually means that I need to prepare myself for the upcoming winter months. Autumn is my favorite season, and even though I plan to live in its present, the foreboding season of winter still lingers in the back of my head. I never understood or could quite express how I felt during these months until one of my aunts mentioned that she was “Seasonally Affected.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder (or, the most spot-on acronym: SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to a change in season and usually shows up around autumn and continues into the long, cold winter months. It can drain your energy and make you moody, but other symptoms can pop up as winter progresses:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day
  • Losing interest in any activities you once enjoyed
  • Having extremely low energy to do simple tasks
  • Experiencing problems falling or staying asleep/oversleeping
  • Noticing changes in your appetite or weight (swaying in either direction)
  • Feeling agitated and sluggish
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling: Hopeless, guilty, worthless, unloved
  • Social withdrawal from family/friends
  • Frequent thoughts of suicide or death

My doctor did not diagnose me with SAD, but I do take it seriously. Seasonal Affective Disorder is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and due to my family’s history of depression, I make sure that my symptoms don’t get worse or lead to problems.

If you feel you may have one or more of these symptoms in the following months, don’t let it go unnoticed. It’s normal to have a few days when you’re not feeling 100%, but if you experience any symptom for weeks at a time and undoubtedly cannot get motivated to do any of the normal activities you usually do, I highly suggest you see a doctor.

Click here If you would like to read more on Seasonal Affective Disorder or wondering about diagnosis and treatment

How to overcome Financial Anxiety

One of the biggest hurdles that most people get anxious about is their finances. Just the stress alone could be debilitating, and it might even feel impossible to overcome.  I have struggled with finances for a good chunk of my life, and for the longest time I blamed my guardians for not teaching me the right way – but now as I look back I realize that they too did not have the best grasp on it as well.

So, how can we cope will financial anxiety?

  • Set a budget and check in with yourself regularly
    A budget is one of the hardest things that you’ll have to do because you cannot lie to yourself here. You need to make sure that all coffees, muffins, hair appointments, etc. are captured. Once you have an understanding of your wants/needs, you will be able to prioritize what is important to you.
  • Assess how you react to spending
    Start paying attention to how you react whenever you (or your family) is spending money. Do you overspend to compensate for the discomfort? If you start to become aware of how you feel during each financial situation, you’ll be able to make better and logical decisions.
  • Saving
    Most people feel as if they cannot save any money due to their debt. It doesn’t matter how big your debt is; people will still stress and over think about it because it’s a constant worry that you’re not saving enough or putting enough down. As long as you’re putting money down towards your debt, it’s not lost money.
  • Reward Yourself
    I’m not saying to go out and spend a frivolous amount of money on yourself at the end of each month, but don’t punish yourself either! One of the rewards that I give myself is coffee – even though I make it every day at home, I still like to frequent a local coffee shop to sit and enjoy their brew.
  • Power of Touch
    You would be surprised how much physical touch can help anyone. Even a small exchange of a hug can help reduce stress by up to 30%. My husband and I like to offer each other massages a few times a month to alleviate any type of stress that we might have, and I highly encourage getting a hug from a loved one whenever things get too overwhelming. If for some reason you cannot find anyone to exchange a hug with, sweat it out!

If you still find that you’re anxious about your situation, there is no shame in seeking out a financial advisor. There is no purpose to staying up at night and worrying about your finances – nothing will magically appear or disappear. You need to learn how to calm your mind and gain more confidence!