How To Beat Negative Thoughts For A More Positive Outlook

How To Beat Negative Thoughts For A More Positive Outlook

If you feel emotionally tired, angry or unmotivated; you keep overthinking your past mistakes or misfortunes; you want to change yourself, but don’t know where to start; you already tried changing, but got back to older habits; you feel disappointed; you struggle with low confidence: There are ways to beat negative thinking and emerge from it – stronger, brighter and wiser than before.

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How Decluttering My Closet Reduced My Anxiety

Hello lovely,

Let's have an open and honest chat about anxiety, shall we? Since last year, a lot has happened and I feel like I'm just playing catch-up. I've been taking time off periodically just to clear my head but nothing seemed to be working. I was falling behind at work, in my professional life outside of work and I was just always tired. The thought of doing anything creative or remotely productive left me crippled with anxiety and I just couldn't progress. It wasn't until a recent tweet made me realise at least one of the sources of my anxiety.

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So while I was home sick with the flu, I took a really long look at my closet. Over the span of several days I completed the most intense purge of my life. Anything that I hadn't worn in months, anything that couldn't fit and never would again went into the bag. I went strictly on impulse. If I got a bad feeling when I touched it, I got rid of it. Sure there were some pieces I really liked, but I couldn't tell you the last time I wore them or when I'd ever wear them again. I knew I had to toss them. And as I did, with each piece, I slowly felt a weight lift off me. Slowly I was able to find the energy (and the space) to put away my clean laundry instead of leaving it on the couch for a week until the new laundry came and that laundry just got tossed on the chair in my room (everyone has that chair; get rid of it). It was a vicious cycle.

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And even worse, I can't even tell you what's in these bags. This was the most cleansing purge ever! I think it was symbolic of all of the toxic things I've gotten rid of in my life over the past year and a few things I still wish I could get rid of. It's also symbolic of my growth emotionally and professionally. My personal style hasn't changed drastically, rather subtly. Don't worry I still have a closet FULL of clothes and options so I don't miss these clothes at all.

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I now feel better about doing laundry and putting them away immediately. My room is still relatively clean with a few more things that can be moved into storage but I'm still working on it. How are you spring cleaning this year? What are you looking forward to getting rid of and how are you getting organised?

6 Ways To Practice Self Care During Chaotic Times Of The Year

Hello Lovely,

As much as I love the holidays, if I’m completely honest, they also bring pangs of anxiety. Not only are you forced to spend time with family members you're not exactly fond off, or stuck in traffic or an airport somewhere you may or may not be interested in going, this past holiday season was particularly difficult for my family. On December 16, 2017 my step dad died. Even though he was sick and I had seen the warning signs that he would not make it to the New Year, it still felt like I had the rug pulled from under my feet. So to say that this holiday season was chaotic is a HUGE understatement. Family dynamics got crazier and we spent time we should have spent rejoicing and decorating, planning a funeral. It's enough to cause the deepest depression spell but I got through it all smiling and laughing. Which may leave you wondering:

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How can practice self-care during the holidays or other chaotic times of the year?

Check In Mentally & Physically

This requires you to be aware of your triggers and methods for recovery. Take particular note if your mood always drops after talking with a specific friend, or if you have anxiety around a specific task. On the flip side, don’t forget to do a scan of the positive things as well. Like if you feel a little extra warm and fuzzy after watching movies with your family. The more awareness you can bring to the things that both deplete you and fill you with joy, the more you can do these next steps effectively.

Setting Boundaries With People

I love my family but sometimes something as simple as calling me the wrong name ticks me off. Setting boundaries is going to look different depending on the person and situation. As an introvert, being around large groups of people for long periods of time can feel like my worst nightmare. There have been times I simply chose not to go to family events just to avoid the noise.

I was particularly inspired to work on this when the night before my step dad's funeral I had to sneak away to my bedroom just to be alone and work in silence. I still wanted the TV on (on something I actually enjoyed watching) but I couldn't take the back and forth conversation of my mum, grandmother and uncle over the noise of the TV while I was trying to work. I already had a brunch with my best friend's earlier that day so I had pretty much met my social quota for the day and just couldn't do it any more.

After dealing with my anxiety for over a decade my mum knows when to not take things personally but still checks me when she feels I'm getting worked up and taking it out on her. Make sure the people closest to you understand your triggers and respect your boundaries that you have in place or any effort you make in self-care can result in offended family members or friends.

Respect Your Budget

This is the time of the year where it is easy to over-indulge. For those of us who only get paid once a month, you know that after that early pay day in December, it's a LONG way to January. Once you figure out what you can spend on extras like holiday gifts, events, and other holiday things, honour that. If you splurge now, you pay even more later. And later comes sooner than you think. The list of things that seem to trap us in extravagance may differ from person to person, however, it is common to be swept up into excessive behavior. Aristotle wisely stated, “all things in moderation.” 

Forgive

Forgiveness isn't something that's one and done. Forgiveness happens again and again, often for the same offence. Because no one is perfect, someone will always do something you don't like. It takes a strong person to forgive someone, no matter what they've done or how long ago it happened. It’s not too late. Your forgiveness will not only heal their hearts, it will heal yours. Forgiveness simply means, I value myself (or our relationship) more than being right. Who do you need to forgive? Maybe you owe yourself some forgiveness. P.S. You don’t need an apology to forgive someone.

Give up expectations

I expected my step dad to die before the New Year but. no matter how sure of this I was, I still wasn't prepared when it happened. The holidays, particularly Christmas, can set us up for unrealistic expectations. It's supposed to be a “magical” time of year as we dream of the perfect holiday. Past experiences, the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job or financial difficulty all seems to heighten during this time of year.  One of the best ways to take care of yourself during this emotionally trying time, is to give up your expectations of the perfect family with the perfect tree while hosting the perfect parties with the perfect gifts.  This type of thinking is extremely damaging to you.  As you relinquish these ideas, you are able to open yourself up to experiencing greater joy in the reality of the moment.  Let go of false illusions and celebrate the moment.  

Don’t get caught in the hustle and bustle of the season

Plan ahead and designate specific time frames for the tasks that you need to complete or the functions that you will attend. This will give you time for mental preparation, allowing you to not be overwhelmed.  The malls and stores are extremely active at certain times of the day and week.  If possible, plan your shopping time during quieter hours, such as weekday mornings.  Shop online in the privacy of your home to avoid crowds all together.  When you do plan to be out in the crowds, calm your mind and body before going.  Realise that you don’t have to rush.  Take your time and enjoy the shopping process.  Often times, by changing our perspective of the situation, we can approach things with calmness.  We do not need to become part of the holiday frenzy.  Create a sense of peace and joy, true holiday feelings, inside your mind and spirit.

Take care of yourself over the holidays. It’s the best gift you can give yourself and everyone you love. May peace, joy, love and happiness be yours today and throughout the year!

How to Make the Most of Your Mental Health Day

How to Make the Most of Your Mental Health Day

Some people think taking a mental health day means staying at home doing nothing. If you’re feeling burned out, it can be tempting to use the day to stay in bed and catch up on shows and movies. But lounging around all day is more likely to leave you feeling lethargic than rejuvenated. So if you're looking for new ways to take a break, here's a few suggestions for how to make your next mental health day count. 

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DIY Bullet Journal: The Ultimate Way to Track Your Goals

Hello Lovely,

I may be a blogger, and a former poet/story writer, but I hate journalling. Nevermind the fact that journalling is how I got interested in all forms of creative writing; that was kid me. Adult me just cannot find the time for something like this. I even tried it during my personal therapy sessions but just could not be bothered to keep up with me. Despite being so bad at this, I still understand the importance of tracking emotions and personal growth. So I decided to try the Bullet Journal style of journalling. You've probably never heard of this, so here's the 411.

The System

The Bullet Journal is a customizable and forgiving organization system. It can be your to-do list, sketchbook, notebook, and diary, but most likely, it will be all of the above. It will teach you to do more with less.

Rapid Logging

Note-taking and traditional journaling take time; the more complex the entry, the more effort is expended. The more effort expended, the more of a chore it becomes, the more likely you’ll underutilize or abandon your journal. Rapid Logging is the solution. Rapid Logging is the language in which the Bullet Journal is written. It consists of four components: topics, page numbers, short sentences, and bullets.

Bullets

Rapid Logging relies on the use of short-form notation paired with Bullets. Every bulleted item should be entered as short objective sentences. The Bullets will help organize your entries into three categories: Tasks, Events, and Notes.

You can read more on how to do traditional bullet journalling here, but that's not exactly what we're doing here. I originally got the idea to try this from Margot over at A Hearty Home. I thought this was a great way to track my emotional progress and would also be great to use with clients, especially couples going through hardship. Using the wheel charts, each chart represents a goal that you want to work on over the span of 3 months. So each wheel is sectioned off for three months. Then they're colour coded. So using a colour pencil, crayon, paint, anything you'd like, colour each segment for each week of that month. Red obviously means it was a bad week for that goal, yellow means you did something towards it, but it could use improvement, and green symbolises that you knocked it out of the park for that week. Over time, your weeks should start to be green more often.

As a couple, goals can be increasing physical intimacy, or increasing quality time together. Each week, you would look at overall, how well did you succeed with these attempts. I've attached a note sheet for each wheel chart for you to note in bullet form any particulars on why your week went the way it did. It's very important to pay attention to the thought processes that led to each decision you made over the week that either pushed you closer or further away from your goals. By having a tangible record of this, it will be easier to track any maladpative thought patterns and correct them.

How Going to St. Croix Changed My Life

Hello Lovely,

I'm back from vacation, but my brain is still in vacation mode, so I'm not quite there yet. Last week I put on the coffee maker to make 12 cups of coffee for myself and a co-worker and waited patiently until it was all done, only to find out that I never actually put coffee into the machine, and all I did was boil water. I’ll get there eventually, I promise. But can you blame me? I spent almost three hours on a plane to get to St. Croix from Miami, so the flight alone has me drained. Then in the first two days of being there, we drove around the entire island! Every day we were doing something or going somewhere so relaxing wasn’t really an option. I wasn’t even allowed to sleep past nine without someone waking me. Even when we went to the beach, we probably only stayed for about an hour before moving on to the next spot. Of course as a group we couldn’t decide on which activities to do when (like whether or not to go out to dinner, or whether we should continue sightseeing or not). It was crazy! That’s definitely not the way I vacation, but it was such a learning experience.

I had never seen mountains before, so the views were absolutely breath-taking and my camera does it no justice. I loved how they preserved their historic buildings so everything felt authentic. Sure not everyone was polite, but you can’t expect everyone to be. My boyfriend’s family was more than accommodating and I really felt welcomed. They made sure that I really saw the sights and made me feel like a native. His mother loved me even though she didn’t always understand my sense of humour, and his brother went out of his way to bond with me, including showing me how to catch their pet chicken (yes people, they have a pet chicken). I was beginning to be hopeful. Until one day when we were at Big Dock…

Something I didn’t understand was the lack of PDA or the apparent forbiddance of it. While we were there I wasn’t allowed to hold my boyfriend’s hand; not because of a law or because his family is strict. It was really because no one else does it, so we weren’t allowed to do it for fear of sticking out. There was a lot of emphasis on blending in, which I don’t believe in. It felt hard to be myself, with his family’s needs and beliefs coming first. I felt like nothing I did was right or good enough. His sister often called out my drinking, like I should be ashamed for having a drink with lunch from a restaurant while on vacation. There were moments where I was genuinely miserable, especially because I thought I would feel at home in another Caribbean nation.  After taking time to reflect on everything I experienced, I realised that St. Croix could never be home for me.

Now this is not meant to say the country is terrible; that is far from the truth. But something changed in me while I was there. With all of the tension and stress from travelling, my boyfriend and I had a HUGE fight; the kind that could really break a couple up. Even after making up, I was still doubtful about a few things, and these fears carried over to our return to Miami. I had officially met his mother. We were official. I mean we were official before, but now it’s really official. Officially official. You know? There’s so much pressure added now from outside forces, on when we’re getting married and when I’m moving. I don’t want to think about any of it. Though the situation is resolved, I was left feeling depressed about so many other things. One thing in particular was an issue in my own family.

While we were there, I received the news I feared the most. My aunt has now been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I am a very practical person, not always realistic, but practical. Pancreatic cancer is the most deadly with no hope, no cure. So I immediately began the grieving process. I asked the age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I tortured myself with memories of our moments together, and chastised myself for getting inpatient or angry with her whenever she made demands of my time. So after learning this, I wanted to make the most of my trip; of my time on earth. I wanted to see everything there was to see and complain less about things not going according to schedule. But the sadness didn’t go away.

Once we left St. Croix, I thought about all of the topics I wanted to discuss on my blog but couldn’t focus on any of them. For days I stared at a blank screen and no words would come to me. Every now and then, something would pop in my head, but I couldn’t make the connection. I had writer’s block and it was absolutely depressing. My boyfriend did his best to be supportive, with foot massages and even buying the water I like (inside joke because I hate the water he drinks). I spent the days watching marathons of Law and Order SVU and Mythbusters but I just couldn’t shake the depression.

Who gets depressed on vacation? Isn’t the point of vacation to unwind to refresh? I was able to recognise the trigger, but not the reason why I was stuck. I felt so worthless when I got back and even worse, I couldn’t talk to my mum about it because she’s with my aunt in Tennessee while she gets her first round of chemo. And that’s when I realised why I was stuck. No matter what, my mum is always there for me. We have a very close relationship. I call her while at work just to give her jokes, or tell her how my day is going, even though I’m going to see her at home. But I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t call her during the day at work and I wasn’t going to see her at home. That’s what changed. Once I was able to recognise this, I started to feel better. I don’t like being depressed. I don’t like feeling trapped inside my own mind. I knew that I was way too old to be sitting at home crying because I missed my mommy. And just like that I snapped out of it. I wrote a post last week on my favourite sunglasses and began to feel hopeful again. I even dressed up on Friday to keep myself in a good mood, went to happy hour and did a little shopping on Saturday that I can't wait to tell you about. And here I am finally writing about my trip.

But yesterday my mum came back with my aunt and we found out it was stage four and aggressive. Just like that, everything I did to feel better didn't matter any more. The amazing message I received in church, my funky new sunglasses, even my newest ice cream that I made to keep everyone's spirits up did nothing to ease my mind once I got that news. I couldn't sleep because I was angry. I ended up crying for about thirty minutes uncontrollably before I finally fell asleep. I wanted to be ready to move on. I thought I was. She's still alive and here I am grieving like she's already dead. I promise I'll find a way to pull myself together, so forgive me for posting less regularly.

It's weird. I went into my vacation with my biggest fear being that my future mother-in-law would hate me. She loved me. But now I'm grieving someone I love. 

At the risk of this post ending on a sour note, I'll leave you with this hilarious video of myself trying to catch a chicken. Enjoy!

XoX,

How a Trip to the Salon Nearly Ruined My Life

Hello Lovely,

It's funny how one day before I was supposed to do something to cheer up my soon-to-be step-sister, I was in desperate need of cheering up myself. Wait, what? You're probably wondering what happened and who this soon-to-be-step-sister is. Calm down! Let's back-track shall we?

So I work in a school as a secretary. Not glamorous but it pays the bills. My dad's girlfriend, now fiance, has two daughters who both go to this school. They're only a little over a year apart with the youngest daughter being 13. Ouch! I know! Very difficult years to navigate! Well on Friday the youngest came into the office to call her mum because she had a bad day. After she hung up, I pulled her to the side to talk. Now I know it would be very easy to ignore this situation as we are nothing to each other. But I'm the bigger (older) person and I have to set the tone for how our 'relationship' will be, i.e. whether or not we'll even have one. I should mention that before this, we had never spoken. Even during the photo shoot, I just took their pictures and communicated through my dad. I didn't expect her to say much of anything to me (she's a teen, they're tough to talk to). But as soon as we were alone, she immediately opened up and began crying. Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm awkward around tears (despite also being an MFT Intern). I either start crying too, or completely ignore you. I listened to her, shared some of my own relevant experience and in a last minute effort to win her over, I offered to come by on Sunday after church to do some craft projects with her. This really got her excited and we even hugged on it!

I was really proud of myself for answering God's call to lend a helping hand to someone in need. But this joy didn't last long. On Saturday, I went to my mum's hairdresser for a wash and TRIM. I emphasize the word trim, because it seemed simple enough, yet I walked out of there with more than three inches less, than what I walked in with. As angry as I was with her, I was angrier with myself. I knew that she tends to cut instead of trim, but I still went to her because the service was being paid for by my mum. I had a feeling that she was cutting off more than she should have, but I didn't stop her. I didn't demand that she turn me around so that I could see in the mirror exactly how much she was cutting off. I didn't speak up.

And trust me, I have watched enough episodes of Law and Order SVU and read enough textbooks to know that the victim always blames herself even though it's never the victims fault, but I couldn't help it. I cried all night. Even when I thought I was over it, I cried again. My mother, dad, brother, boyfriend, best friends, even my boss (when I ran into her after the incident) tried to console me and shared in my anger. I think what made this even more difficult was that back in 2009, after getting my heart broken by my first real boyfriend, one of my best friends helped me to dye my hair at home, and then like an idiot only one month later, tried to perm it at home. You're probably thinking it couldn't have been that bad, could it? Oh it was bad trust me! The bottom right side of my head was bald and the rest of my hair was thinning out. I had no choice but to cut it in one of the ugliest haircuts I have ever seen (a little on the top, practically nothing at the back). That was definitely in my top 5 traumatic experiences ever! So when my hair got cut again, it definitely brought back flashbacks and major PTSD. I was ready to skip out on Church and the crafts on Sunday, but I made a promise to her and at her age, broken promises make you good as dead to them.

So on Sunday, I wrapped my head in a scarf, ready to hide my shame, gathered my craft supplies and headed out the door for church. I wasn't crying any more over the haircut, but a dark cloud still loomed over me. But get this. When I stepped outside, I noticed that the Hibiscus tree was in bloom. And so were my mother's Lilies. Fresh flowers that weren't there the day before! It was a miracle. I knew instantly that, that was God's way of smiling down on me and letting me know that everything would be okay. Imagine. While my world was in chaos, the outside world was still functioning and better yet, BLOOMING! My mother's lilies hadn't been in bloom in about a year. I was struggling with my outer beauty, when there was so much beauty around me.

Sure I still had an anxiety attack at church and practically ran out of the room before crying again, but that was the last of it. Having dinner with my step-family and bonding over painting mugs and bowls was really therapeutic as it allowed me to get to know them better and create something beautiful. 

Now I am not an expert artist. Painting is not my forte. Nor my step-sisters. But we had a blast fudging our way through it. I think my mug turned out pretty decent and I'm proud I was able to produce a bowl to match. Sure the bowl looks a little tribal, while the mug is more like a cow skipping through an asymmetrical garden. But everyone loved the design and I think my grandmother will love it as a Mother's Day present! (I was originally going to give it to my mother but she reads my blog so that would totally ruin the surprise).

This is the beauty of healing through art therapy. In art therapy, words are not always necessary. A mere lump of clay or a blank canvas can be far less threatening than giving voice to painful feelings, words, or images. The simple act of a scribble on paper can likely bring light to darkness, ignite conversation, or be a release for a depressing thought. I leave you with this verse to encourage you throughout your week:

Isaiah 41:10

10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.