It’s been an isolating time for this introvert. Due to another lockdown & some other stressors, I’ve been completely overwhelmed with everything, and I can feel my anxiety palpitating.

I tend to distract myself with other projects during these times, but this is only considered a band-aid solution. It is highly suggested that relaxation is the way to help anxiety (or depression, insomnia, pain, etc.). Everyone is different in how they relax, but I did want to share two useful techniques that have helped me over the years.

Box Breathing

This is the simplest one that I continuously use and have shared videos of throughout the years. Whenever I am stressed, I tend to breathe fast and shallow from my upper chest. It’s not hyperventilation, but it is considered close and could increase my anxiety if not fixed immediately.

Box breathing has four equal parts: inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds and pause for four seconds

Practising this breathing resets your respiratory system and promotes feelings of relaxation and calm. It’s helped me from various panic attacks, sleepless nights and painful procedures.

If you’ve never done this before, I highly recommend trying it in a seated position, feet flat against the floor, with one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. From where is your breathing coming? Shift your breathing so that the hand on your stomach is moving more than the hand on your chest. Meaning you’re breathing more from your diaphragm. Notice how your belly moves as you inhale deeply: does it feel jagged or smooth? Keep repeating the breathing exercise until your hand moves in a fluid motion

If you find yourself dizzy or short of breath, stop the exercise. Don’t get frustrated; you can restart in a minute. This does take time to achieve, but you can do this almost anywhere once you get the hang of it.

PMR: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

PMR is a series of exercises when you tense and relax specific muscles. This exercise will help you lower your overall tension and stress levels and help you relax when you feel anxious.

If you’ve never done this before, you’ll need a script to get started. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed, and set aside around 15-20 minutes to complete.

There are many scripts available online, but here’s a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihO02wUzgkc

You’ll initially start with a large group of muscles, but eventually, you can break it down into four sections. To find a full list on how to get started, you can visit Anxiety Canada

 For each group, tense your muscle for five seconds while breathing in, and then release for five seconds while breathing out. Repeat this two to three times. It’s important to FEEL the tension and release as you do this. Notice the difference between tension and relaxation. If you feel an area cramping or hurting, don’t repeat and move on to the next.

This is a little harder to achieve, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do this immediately. You may tense other surrounding muscles, and that’s ok! It took me almost a month to get it down because I felt uncomfortable focusing on my body. Sometimes I still use a script if it feels like my head is too cloudy; there’s no shame!

I hope that these two techniques can help you as they’ve helped me over the years.
If you have any other techniques that you would like to share with others, please leave them in the comments below!

I first learned about intrusive thoughts when I took a postpartum class a month after giving birth. It’s a common issue that many women can have intrusive thoughts about their baby, like: “What if I threw my baby down the stairs?”. It’s terrifying to think of something awful happening to your child, and these thoughts can be disturbing and isolating.

These thoughts can materialize out of nowhere, banging down the door to the party and cause such an uproar that it can induce more anxiety. Most of these thoughts focus on sexual, violent or socially unacceptable images. The people who experience these are afraid that they might commit these specific acts. It’s terrifying and confusing.

Your thoughts don’t equate to actionable items

The thing is, unwanted intrusive thoughts don’t just fall under pregnancy-related mood disorders. It can affect most people with Anxiety, OCD or PTSD. It’s estimated that 6 million Americans experience these thoughts. Still, most are ashamed and worried about them and therefore keep it a secret. They believe that something is deeply wrong with them, which causes them to fixate, blame and criticize themselves (Which causes more anxiety). This is not true; none of these are red flags, signals or warnings, despite how they feel.

Here are some other examples:

  • Dropping an excessive amount of money out of your wallet
  • Yelling obscenities in a Church/Mosque/Temple
  • Shouting RAPE/FIRE in a crowd with no imminent danger
  • Switching lanes and driving into oncoming traffic
  • Hitting, causing harm or murdering someone you love
  • Having a sexual encounter (violent or non) with a stranger, co-worker or family member.

There are so many more that I can layout, but I think you can get an idea.

Why do they feel so threatening and debilitating? Anxious thinking takes hold of them and twists them into something they are not. The harder you try to get rid of these thoughts fuels their intensity.
If you have a hidden desire to do ANY of these things, this is a different story. What you need to know is that these thoughts are standard. If you are bothered by these thoughts, you need to learn a new relationship with them to make it irrelevant and unimportant. Even though you can’t control when an intrusive thought pops into your head, you CAN control how you react to them.

How to Deal with Intrusive Thoughts

  • Acknowledge the thought as being intrusive
  • Remind yourself: the thought can’t hurt you and is not actionable
  • Do not engage or fixate on it; accept it and allow it to flow through.  
  • Continue doing what you were presently doing before this thought appeared and focus on that task. If you cannot, try to ground yourself.
  • Know that you are in control, and this thought is just a curiosity.
  • If these thoughts persist and you feel like you aren’t in control or you can’t discern between an idea or an action, talk to your doctor immediately.

This approach will be difficult to apply since you’re trying to react to automatic thoughts. If you continue to do so, you may see a chance that they will decrease in frequency and intensity. If you need help in this approach, CBT is the answer.
As always, I highly suggest meditation and regularly exercising to keep yourself calm, present and centre.

The AADA suggests viewing these thoughts as if they’re clouds. As quickly as one will come, it’ll also float away.

For more information/resources, please find the following:
a free e-newsletter that answers questions about intrusive thoughts
Check out this video by professional graphic designer and animator J. Nordby on how he overcame his struggles with intrusive thoughts. 
This article from Martin Seif Ph.D. ABPP & Sally Winston Psy.D.

It’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog, and a part of me hates that. I had every intention to keep on writing when my daughter entered the world, but my priorities have drastically switched.

I’m finding it hard these days to take those moments for myself and continue with my passion for writing. I’ve been stretching myself thin by working two jobs and trying to get a piece together for the CBC Literary Contest. Most days, I only have three hours to spend with my daughter, so I try to compound everything between 7 AM and 4 PM. Which also includes cleaning, on top of everything else!

Why am I doing this?

Well, the thing is, my love & passion for writing is still in its infancy stage, so I know that I need to keep my primary source of income AND my side hustle intact until I can branch off. I’d LOVE for my writing to be my main hustle, but I’m also a realist, and I’m trying to do everything that I possibly can to get to that goal. That, unfortunately, means stretching myself thin at present.

Most of you ask if my husband helps, and he does. We are great partners and try to split everything 50/50, but I want to be 100% some days. When he is back at work in the next few weeks, everything will fall on me. I knew this day would come, and I’ve tried to prepare for it as much as I could. Working two jobs isn’t ideal, but I need to get to where I want to be.

How is this affecting my anxiety?

It’s been tough to navigate, but I know that I have the necessary tools and support to follow through. Since my last post, I mentioned how much of a struggle it’s been. I think it’s been like this for all of us. I’m taking it day by day and trying my hardest not to stress overly (…I said trying!)

Will I continue to do this? Probably!
As much as I preach on self-care, I have tunnel vision at the moment. I’m trying to secure my family’s future, and this is the only way I know how. The Home Edit isn’t hiring any Canadian Organizers, so… 😉

In all seriousness, I’m not overly worried about my mental health. Stretching myself thin is one thing, but I would never intentionally damage my well being. Thank you all for the continuous support, and hopefully, I can come back next month with some great news!

Do you ever get such a high that your low feels incredibly LOW?

That’s where I’ve been sitting the last couple of weeks

When I look back on my last post, I think to myself, “man, I thought I had it all figured out.” As always, though, life likes to show up and say, hold my beer.

It’s hard for me to put into words what I’m going through, so, unfortunately, I’m not going to divulge entirely. What I can say, though, is that I am badly stressing out, and my body is fighting back.
Even though I stopped working out 25 days ago, I lost 5 pounds.  
My TMJ has been acting up so badly that I’ve been unable to open my mouth wide enough to eat specific foods.
My IBS has been bothering me over foods that don’t normally upset it.
Stress has won.

The whole house got a common cold recently, and I went into full panic mode over us having COVID-19. Luckily, I had friends to calm me down, and my husband recently took training on symptoms to realize that we’re fine. We cooped ourselves up in our house yet again anyways to avoid spreading it to others. I can’t even tell you the last time I left this house.

I’ve lost all my energy and motivation to do the things that I usually love. All excess of my energy is funnelling into my daughter. I feel as if being a secondary thought to myself is OK even though I know it’s not. I’m doing the best that I can with what I have.

It’s been hard.
It’s been a struggle.
It’s been depleting.

I’m trying to remain hopeful that things will turn around because I feel that’s all that I have left.

So, this blog post is for all of you who are also feeling stressed out, finding it difficult to get past uncertainty, and trying to adjust to a new normal.
I feel like we’re all struggling with something now, and I hope that we can all find the strength to talk about it out loud with others. You’re not alone

If you know me personally, you would call me a Monica. I want to think that my husband has grounded me into a more laid-back person; Still, my Monica tendencies like to poke through. Back in June, I mentioned our whole house needed to follow a balanced lifestyle. I’m happy to report that due to my love of lists, schedules and planning, we’re doing it!

Since I’ve been working from home, I’ve been finding it hard to stay healthy & active. I knew I had to change it but honestly had no idea where to start.

The first thing that I started doing more of was Meal Prepping.
Before I had a baby, I was so good at doing this, and then after she came around, I found I was only doing HER meal prepping, which caused a lot of junk food to land in my mouth.
When my husband comes home from grocery shopping, I take this opportunity to wash/cut up our fruits and veggies. It makes it easy for me to grab a quick and healthy alternative, and I don’t have to ‘think’ of what to make. We also started planning our dinners each week to cut down on unnecessary spending and arguing over what to do for dinner. You’d be surprised how much time you save

Here’s what our current week looks like:

We try to use as many leftovers as we can to incorporate new meals & not every night has to be fancy either. Deluxe grilled cheeses mean you’re winning as an adult 😉

The second thing that I started to do was figuring out how to get more “me” time, either during the week or on the weekends. As a new mom, I’m finding myself bogged down with so much cleaning on the weekends that I said, “Fuck this shit!” I wanted my weekends back and started a Weekly Cleaning Schedule.

I don’t do anything on Wednesdays because we have no daycare options for our daughter – less stress = happy andrea

Granted, this works for ME and doesn’t even include the monthly cleaning that I do (like washing floors, clearing out the fridge, etc.). Still, I found that chopping it up evenly throughout the week meant that I had maybe 20 minutes of cleaning to do a day instead of killing my back for hours each weekend. You may chuckle at putting away my clean laundry on Mondays or decluttering our never-used dining room table, but hey, we’re all human, and sometimes laziness wins!

The third thing that I also started to do was making sure that I am actual MOVING. Since the majority of my job consists of me sitting, I know that I need to be more conscious of getting my daily exercise. This can be hard when you’re glued to a desk, but I made a mini workout schedule for myself that I try to adhere to every morning.

I generally work from 7-3, so around 10, I’ll go downstairs and do my 5-minute workout, grab a bowl of fruit, fill up my water bottle and head back to the grind. I’ve noticed that taking those 5 minutes has elevated my mood. Once I get into a better groove, I’ll be doing more repetitions instead of one.
I used to sit at my desk and eat as I would work, but since I’m now at home, I try to walk around the block before lunch. Gaining those extra steps in a day and getting some sunshine is so beneficial to my mental health.
If I have to take a phone call that doesn’t require video, I tend to walk around the house. I probably drive my husband bonkers doing this. Still, I remind myself that all of these small things do accumulate into something. I’ve been hitting my steps for the last week!

There are so many other things that you can do to get your balance, everyone is different, and not everything I do will apply or work for you. I’m sharing what works for me because I know what it’s like to have zero motivation even to fathom doing a ‘plan.’

How have you been surviving?  

I remember my first group therapy session quite well. It was more of a social gathering at a local community centre with other families who lost an immediate family member. They split us into two groups; all the adults went to a separate room while the ‘kids’ stayed behind. I say ‘kids’ because there was no specific age range, I was roughly twelve years old at the time, yet there were both older and younger people surrounding me.
We all gathered in a circle, and each took turns speaking about our loved ones. The thought of me talking in front of strangers was making me anxious. Still, as we went through the different stories, my anxiety lessened. Knowing that others went through something similar seemed to make my grief manageable. When it came time for me to speak, I wasn’t as ‘squeaky’ as I usually was in situations – I still cried as I reminisced about my mother, but it was a lot softer than usual.

I made a friend that day, who turned out to be so much more. Her name was Jennifer, and she lost her father. We were able to talk openly, and it was welcomed. I was still unable to open up to my adoptive father fully. Little to our surprise, both of our parents hit it off and started dating. When that relationship failed, we lost contact almost immediately. It was a hard blow, especially since I was beginning to consider her like a sister and I never fully understood what happened. Of course, thanks to social media, we recently reconnected, and it was if we never stopped talking. I can’t wait for her to meet my little one once we’re out of this pandemic.

When I look back on the group therapy sessions, she’s the first thing that comes to mind. Of course, the therapy aspect was helpful, but finding someone else who was going through the same thing was priceless.

I’m honoured to say that over the last few weeks, I’ve partnered with Pay What You Can Group Therapy.
Their mission is almost identical to mine, to support others seeking mental health care. The concept is simple – it’s free group therapy that is monitored by licensed professionals. If you enjoyed and/or found value in any of the sessions, they ask you pay what you can!
It’s been a pleasure working with the team, and I hope that you all can take advantage of FREE group therapy starting tonight, July 21st.

 

Have you ever whispered to yourself, “I never thought I would be that parent” when facing certain situations? In the last couple of weeks, I’ve caught myself saying this, especially when my husband set up the play tent we acquired for our ten-month-old. Our ‘never spoil’ mission being thrown out the window almost immediately.

What caught me off guard was going back to work. For months I’ve been battling the notion that I will not be my daughters sole caretaker anymore, and it’s been daunting. I’ve weighed the pros and cons numerous times, going back to work ticked off boxes in all categories, so why do I feel guilty?

Due to COVID-19, my entire team is working from home with no real date as to when we will be physically back in the office. Since I am home, I have taken over the dual office I share with my husband and am revamping my station to support my workload’s technical aspects.
My husband, who’s been off work for months now, has taken full reign over our Daughters schedule with her grandmother taking her twice a week.

My first day back, my daughter wasn’t here, and I wasn’t able to login to anything, it almost felt like a ‘day off’ from everything. I didn’t feel bad or guilty; I thought I had it under control. It was only the second day when both my husband and daughter were downstairs, and I heard her giggle that the waterworks showed up. I am glad I didn’t have a virtual meeting for others to see how much I missed my daughter.

She’s right downstairs though, how can you miss her?!

There is so much that I miss.
I miss being the first person that she sees whenever she wakes up.
I miss talking to her about our day and what I had planned.
I miss our daily walks.
I miss teaching her how to climb stairs, cruise and/or walk.
I miss being the one making her giggle like an idiot.

I went from undivided attention to a working mom, thinking my daughter would have an issue with it, but it’s only me. I never thought that I would miss every aspect of being a stay-at-home parent, but I do (ok, not ALL aspects, I can do without the constant cleaning!)

My anxiety has been flaring up on top of this new adjustment, and I am overthinking the moments and milestones that I will miss. I’ve already missed her initial crawling, and it seems like any day now she’ll start cruising between our furniture without our help. I know that it’s impossible to be there for everything, and it seems silly to get upset over things that haven’t happened yet. What can I say? Having anxiety is a full-time gig, and I am the CEO.

Now that we’re adjusting to our new normal, I know that I can do a better job of managing my anxiety. First and foremost, I need to maintain a balanced lifestyle. We’re all currently working on this as a family, but I know I need a better diet & exercise. With the 1 pound I lost this week, it’s motivation to continue with the crap I’ve cut out while figuring out how to get moving.

It might take some time to adjust to not being with my daughter constantly, but I know she is in good hands with her Dad/Grandmother, and I’m thankful for that.

Some of you have noticed my absence on here, and I just wanted to touch base.

As I mentioned in a few posts before, I’ve been in isolation months before this quarantine took effect. I would say that I’ve been a homebody for almost 6 months now. Being home has been a challenge on my mental health, and it’s also taken a toll on my relationship with others.

When things are too much, I generally back away, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying my best to tread in the shallow water while observing the catastrophes surrounding me.

My husband has been unemployed for 10 months now, and the stress of that has been eating away. With no real start date on when things will turn around for the film industry, it’s been a struggle for us to stay positive. My maternity leave will end soon, and I am shrouded with uncertainty even though I am excited to get back to my old routine. It’s hard for me to fall asleep most nights now because my mind is racing with what-ifs. I am exhausted in more ways than one.

My health isn’t any better, and I am entirely to blame for the majority of it.
I’ve gained back all of the weight that I lost months after giving birth. I am not as active as I once was, and that’s given me a slew of secondary issues that make it hard to find the motivation to get up and go. Walking up and down the stairs with my daughter is leaving me breathless, and I’m on the verge of tears, thinking I won’t be able to catch up to her soon.

I’ve also been dealing with jaw problems and perimenopause symptoms, which are the icing on top of everything else.

I can hear people getting annoyed whenever I bring some of these things up, so I’ve just stopped. I preach about opening up and talking, yet here I am doing the opposite. In the grand scheme of things, complaining seems trivial. Who has time to complain about my relationship with my husband, my extreme exhaustion, or the severe daily hot flashes when there are more significant issues? From my perspective, everyone is going through their own shit, so mine seems mundane.

My heart is heavy for the world.
It’s been a challenge to be an empath during these unprecedented times. I’ve tried to limit my social media or news outlets to get a breather, but that is only good for maybe a day or two.

When I watch my daughter play, my chest gets heavy. My anxiety-ridden mind wonders why I would bring a tiny human into a broken world. Her slobbery kisses generally ground me back, but those thoughts can jump back at any moment.

I’m trying to stay hopeful that things will get better soon, but some days it’s hard to be positive. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this, so for those who are also struggling: I feel you.

Today is Mother’s Day, and I am currently hiding from my family upstairs. I told my husband the day previous that what I wanted was an anti mother’s day. All of the things that I usually do on a day-to-day basis were to fall on his shoulders and not bother me.
That includes:
No waking up at 6:15 am
Not feeding/changing my daughter.
No cleaning or maintaining the house
Not to be interrupted from my shower
No planning activities or schedules

When I laid this out, I felt a tinge of guilt. I love my family, and I want to be around my child, but I am just so tired of everything falling on my shoulders. I’m not asking for much – I’m only asking for my husband to be the mother on this day while I carve out time for writing, catching up on shows I usually can’t and just having some quiet time that I desperately miss.

When I woke up at 8:30 this morning, I jumped into a long, hot shower. I was able to sit and blow dry my long hair, put on some minimal makeup and dressed up. I can’t even tell you the last time I had the morning to myself, it was lovely. I went downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee, only to be greeted with a hot meal and slobbery kisses from my daughter. I wasn’t expecting the hot meal and graciously ate it all up. I kissed my daughter on her forehead, leaving a small trace of the lipstick I applied. I then grabbed my laptop, a book and parked myself in our spare room.

Some mothers love flowers, chocolate, brunch, etc. I wouldn’t complain if I were to receive them, but I much prefer having to do nothing today. Eventually, I will be leaving this room to spend some much quality time with them both, but I am thankful to get this “me” time.

Wishing all mothers, conventional or not, a happy mother’s day!

The last few weeks have been challenging and bittersweet. My daughter has been reaching new milestones, and it’s been amazing to watch her grow as a person. Even though I am beaming with pride, I find myself shrouded with guilt and grief.

When I left my toxic family home at the age of eighteen, there wasn’t much that I could bring with me. Things that I never thought I would need were left behind, which held a lot of meaning. For instance, my ‘baby book’ that my adoptive mother curated. It contained all of my milestones and a golden lock from my first hair cut. Now that I have a child of my own, I am longing for these connections and comparisons.

Over the years, I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t have roots, as many other people do. Although at times it can be painful, I know that I cannot blame myself for what happened. I cannot blame myself for not taking that baby book when the only thing surging through my body was flight mode.

Whenever I get into this mind-frame, I think about my adoptive mother. I think of all the love that we shared in the short amount of time that we had together. I’m so glad that those memories of happiness can still burst through the dark times.

Grief has a funny way of showing up, and I think it’s amplified now due to our quarantine. We grieve for the loss of our freedom, jobs, and normalcy. It’s only natural for the loss of someone important to us to jump in. It doesn’t matter when we lost said person; it could be days, months, or twenty-two years.
I try my best to push through the guilt and grief… but it’s hard.
We need to remind ourselves that we can’t be perfect every day, and some days will be harder than others. I just so happen to be going through a harder day today, but I know tomorrow won’t be the same.

I do wish my mother was still here, and I think on some spiritual level she is. As each day passes with my daughter, I realize that I am my mother. I am everything I ever wanted her to be, and for that, I am thankful.