What is the one word that most anxious people hate? Change. Fear of Change is quite common to most people, but it thrives when you struggle with mental health. Any sort of change, big or small, seems terrifying; you don’t want to end up ‘stuck’ living a life that doesn’t bring you joy.
Our society is on an upward path now that a vaccine is readily available to some. I’m pleased to see how our lives will change once the state of emergencies and curfews lift. I’ve been using these last few weeks to honestly evaluate and assess what I need to personally change to find those moments of joy that seem so few and far between these days.
I am taking into account my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Still, I know that many old routines and regimes I had in place are not cutting it for me anymore. One major issue I’ve been battling for a few years (yes, YEARS!) is my current career. My passion for it has been sizzling out, but my anxiety has convinced me to stay. When I initially got hired, I was happy to have a job but told myself that I would keep looking. Nothing came from the abundance of resumes that I sent out for over a year, so I stopped. Life happened, and I made excuses all over again: “I’m recovering from my car accident,” “I’m planning for a trip,” “I’m pregnant.” Now, I’m saying: “I’m a mother and need to save for retirement, so staying in a dead-end career is preferable to the risk of starting something new.”
When I said that to myself after coming back from Maternity Leave, I felt gutted. Why am I settling for something that I no longer enjoy? I’ve decided to challenge myself to overcome this fear. It’s gradual and at my own pace, but it’s a start in a new direction. The mere thought of it makes the days a little bit bearable.
With that being said, Anxious Andrea will most likely be phased out by the end of this year. This is nothing to be sad about; writing still brings me joy, and it’s been such a privilege to share my personal experiences with you. As we grow and shift through life, we notice that our energy and time need to be placed elsewhere, and that’s what’s happening!
Are there any topics that you want me to write on? Are there any questions that you have in regards to mental health? Do you want to scream at me for inciting change?
Generally, around this time of year, I write out my reflections and reminisce on all the good that came my way. I’m not going to lie; writing out this post has been a bit of a struggle for me. When I look back on the past 12 months, I am shrouded with disappointment. I wish I could pinpoint the exact reason for feeling this way. The frustration lies with others, our society, and (surprise!) myself. My anxiety has been through the washer many times this year, and the frays are starting to unravel.
2020 has been challenging, and my mental health has been slowly deteriorating. I’ve been withdrawing due to having zero energy to be social, even over video calls. It’s been difficult, it’s been intense, and that’s OK. So many others have gone through significant losses this year: the loss of family, loss of friends, loss of jobs, loss of oneself. We cannot deny the surge of grievance that has presented itself, and we need to appreciate that everyone deals with things differently. Please be understanding if others aren’t present right now, there’s so much that we don’t discuss online, and withdrawals are just a way to recharge. Please keep checking in on those you care about; it will make all the difference in the world in the long run.
All aspects of society have been hit by this pandemic somehow, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and now causing lockdown burnout. It’s hard not to be angry right now; we’re just about to start another lockdown, thanks to those who believe they’re superior to the pandemic. The condescending tones regarding wearing a mask, refusal to keep 6 feet apart and continuous parties over the maximum allowance of individuals… It’s enough to drive one mad. It’s not cute to deny what’s happening because it’s inconvenient for you or doesn’t fit your lifestyle. My perception of many people (including some that I considered ‘friends’) has drastically changed forever. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic to open up my eyes, but I am thankful on some level.
I was still considered on Maternity leave up till the end of June. When I initially booked off my 12-month leave, I was ecstatic to have a full summer with my daughter, galivanting around. I had a lot of activities and visits planned, but none of them came to fruition. We tried to make the best of the situation, but it wasn’t the same. Trying to navigate this pandemic landscape with a toddler is frustrating because you cannot communicate with one another. I feel as if my first summer off was robbed and that my daughter is not getting the social aspects she needs for development. I wish I knew how to fix this, but I don’t think I can. This has caused me to overthink (a LOT), which has not been helpful. When I went back to work, I was excited to get my old routine/schedule, but even those normalcies didn’t tend to my anxieties. It was challenging to find my groove again in the corporate world, and there were some days where I ended up crying. Even though I was working from home and close to my daughter as I could be, I was still disconnected. It took a month to get back into the swing of things, and I’m still trying to balance my home and work life – which is quite trying when you’re under one roof for all.
My usual stress relievers/coping strategies have been unattainable. I’m not a huge social butterfly, but I enjoy going to a local coffee shop to people watch or have the option. When things seem to be too much, I run to the gym to lash it out for an hour on several machines. Having these removed from my life doesn’t seem like it would cause a huge difference, but it does feel like my issues are worsening because of it. I think the key here is to have a routine and stick to it. I’ve fallen off my wagon a couple of times, and it’s hard to find the motivation to stick to a routine when the only person seeing results is you. Remember that it’s OK, and try to jump back on when you can. After all, we’re trying to get better for ourselves and not others.
During all of this, my husband was still waiting to hear back from the film industry when he could officially start again. It didn’t happen until October, meaning that he was unemployed from August 2019 till October 2020. It caused a severe strain on our finances and relationship – I still tear up just thinking of how much stress we were both under during this unprecedented time. On the one hand, I was elated to have a full-time Dad during my daughter’s milestone year. On the other hand, both of us were going through the motions, not communicating and not fully present. There’s so much more that I want to say on this subject, but I’m going to end it with one thought: If the both of you continue to show up/be present, no matter what was done or said, that’s unconditional love. Unconditional love is bittersweet to me; the last time I ever honestly had that in my life was with my adoptive mother, who passed on in 1998. It’s nice to have that feeling back regardless of the stressors that come with it. It’s hard to fight for a relationship when it’s just one person putting in all the effort; I feel thankful that he was willing to fight for us, too.
With this prolonged quarantine, I’m not surprised that it’s affected me both physically and mentally. Knowing that I tend to hibernate come winter, I decided to be proactive and start therapy once again. It’s been a slow crawl, but I think I have some pretty tangible and attainable goals. Even though I’ve been in therapy multiple times before, I’m still going and treating it like a ‘booster shot.’ I know that my feelings of disappointment can and will dissipate, but it’s been taking too long to do it myself.
So, this year has come and gone, and what do I have to show for it?
Not much, aside from a sassy daughter who is keeping me on my toes, and that’s OK.
Not every year can be great, and I feel that everyone has been through the wringer more than once this year. Nothing is normal about what we’re going through right now, and I don’t think that we will ever get back to where we were before this all happened. I, for one, accept and welcome this.
If we could stop for one moment during this holiday time and be thankful for the little things, I think that could give us the glimmer of hope that we all need to continue to 2021. I am grateful for the roof over my head, the food in my belly, and the copious amounts of coffee that gets me through the day.
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.
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.
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 quicklyas 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
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.
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.’
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.