A mini breakdown and recovery

Today I had an important test I knew I could ace, and yet I mismanaged my time and wasn’t able to finish. I was so frustrated and angry with myself, and I had a mini breakdown.

I cracked. I cancelled everything planned later in the day and buried myself in bed. I wanted to cry, I wanted to hide, I wanted the relief of sleep. I slept for hours. Constructive, I know.

But then I woke up. And I felt a bit more compassionate towards myself. Yes, I didn’t do as well as I could have, but I had been exhausted from lack of sleep. Also, it is still good practice for other tests and maybe I will do better than I thought. Nothing I can do about it now. Just learn for next time.

And I had a surge of energy and started to tackle a lot of things I’d left half done. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit, purged clutter in my room and completely organized my closet. It felt so nice as these were things I’d been wanting to do for quite a while and the clutter always weighed on me.

So at the end of the day, I’m feeling more neutral — not upset over the test as that is finished and there is nothing to do but wait for the results, and satisfied with my decluttering progress. I was triggered for the potential of crashing, but managed a bit of compassion to reenergize and inspire myself in other ways.

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A new year, mantras and compassion

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post! My WordPress 2014 Year in Review report shows a definite drop in activity, from posting nearly daily last winter and spring to once month or so in the fall. I’ve missed blogging and this great community so I will try to be more active again. 🙂

With the new year, it is of course time for resolutions. But instead, I heard about another idea that I would like to try: making new year mantras. I like the idea because it’s not so absolute as a resolution — I will always do this or never do that. Instead it’s like regularly reaffirming an intention — much better for my perfectionist self, who avoids anything with the potential for failure. (And who sees the first small mistake as failure…)

I have yet to create my mantras, but it’s something I intend to put my mind to this week. A year or two ago my therapist recommended I do the same, so I think it will be a good step.

Speaking of perfectionism, I’ve been listening to an interesting e-book while doing some boring tasks. It’s called The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. I’ll write more on this once I’ve finished it, but it looks at the following:

  • the evolution of the human brain
  • how our brains and bodies are programmed to work and their discord with modern life
  • perfectionism and criticism and how they contribute to anxiety and depression
  • what compassion is and how it can be used in daily life
  • how a compassionate approach can help those with depression and anxiety, anger and other issues.

The section on criticism, perfectionism and anxiety made me realize that I focus a lot on my depression, but not so much on the anxiety that (I think) causes it. Most of what he says really resonates and I’m interested in trying out some of the compassion exercises he recommends in order to develop compassion skills. He says it’s all about practice and exercise, just like with building physical fitness. We’ll see if I can teach this old brain some new tricks!

Have any of you read some interesting thoughts on compassion? Do you have a mantra that really works for you?

Physically sick

I’m sick with a cold, which I think played a big part in my crash this week. It is good to feel a little more level-headed, but what I’ve noticed a lot today is this: my relief at having obvious physical proof of being sick.

With my never-ending kleenexes, congestion and coughing, everyone was so sympathetic as I returned to the office. Throughout the day people wished me well, hoped I would feel better soon, etc. It was very nice and left a warm feeling.

What a difference from whenever I’ve returned to work after days off due to depression or anxiety! First off, I didn’t feel shamed once I realized I was physically sick. I didn’t come back to the office ducking my head and trying to just do my job without getting anyone’s attention. Secondly, I didn’t have people looking at me with spoken or unspoken judgement: She doesn’t look sick. Must be nice to just take time off when you want. I looked sick. People could plainly see and accept that.

I’m not sure where I was going with this, because I am congested and tired. 😉 But I think it was something along these lines: Isn’t it interesting how much sympathy and support there is for a common cold in contrast to the avoidance, downcast eyes, embarrassment or antagonism encountered when missing work due to mental or invisible illnesses? I mean, really, one has me down for a few days whereas the other has had me down for the better part of five years. Which merits and requires more compassion?

Just a thought.

Holding the frayed ends of my rope

I am exhausted today. Bone deep tired. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes open.

There are so many things I “need” to do today. A full day of training. Finish my exam. Refresh and recharge so that I can make it through a busy week that will likely have lots of overtime and pressure.

I can’t do it.

I’m am okay with admitting that. So I’ve made some choices today. I need to take care of me. I will of course finish the final bits of my exam. I will go to training and I will be present and learn. But today I’m leaving all the physical practice aside. I know how I’ve been the past few yoga weekends. I’ve been sick with exhaustion. My most important priority this week is finishing my work project and not dropping the ball just before the goal line.

I still feel exhausted. But I feel a little bit empowered by this decision too. I am listening to the current state of my body. I know from experience what pushing more will lead to – burnout. So today is all about satisfying my minimum objectives and taking care of me. Because I will probably have to go the extra mile all week, and that’s just not possible if I burn myself out today.

Sunny Day!

I’m sitting outside in the sun! And it’s warm enough not to need my jacket! We are finally nearing +20 C! Can it be that spring is arriving?

I’m making a point of soaking up the sun as it is so overdue! And just being outside is part of my stress management plan. 🙂

Today is a little calmer in the office. And I came in to find a thank you note from my supervisor. I guess she appreciated my efforts to be calming yesterday. 🙂

The days fly by now as I have so much to do, but I’ll be sure to keep taking these outdoor lunch breaks. It’s so wonderful to feel the warming sun and a slight breeze.

I meant to do homework now. But I will see this as my “other” yoga homework. Taking time for me to feel balanced and at peace.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to close my eyes for a bit. xx

Self-Reflection

Another one of my yoga homework tasks is self-reflection. Ironically, I have so much yoga homework that I’ve done a lot less self-reflection than normal. (Another reason is also that I still have a house guest.)

But tonight I will blog and self-reflect. 🙂

Today was a chaotic day at work. My supervisor was really, really stressed. So much so that I felt I needed to keep reassuring her that things would be okay.

I have general anxiety disorder, but the thing is that I think I generally perform well in a “real” crisis. It’s like there is no time to worry, I just have to do things to get stuff done. Here is where perhaps my procrastination gave me good training. By leaving everything to the last minute (a habit I had long before it was worry-driven), I’m used to performing under fire. So I’m generally ok in crisis mode. Though I do usually crash afterwards.

But I can’t this time! Because not only is this project nearing the end, so is my yoga teacher training and I need to be fresh to start a new job too.

So I think that for my self-reflection homework over the next few days, I’ll periodically assess how I am doing. Am I running myself to the limit? Am I taking a daily walk at lunch for fresh air and space to keep myself centered? Can I keep my focus on things I can control? Can I keep my composure and generate a calming presence?

I’d like reflect on how I handle this stressful week. And I want to do periodic checkins with myself where I assess if I am becoming stressed and if I can take an action to help with that. Take deep breaths, go for a walk, whatever. I need to work hard but I also need to be compassionate to myself so that I’m not burnt out in time for my next challenge.

That’s the plan, anyway! We’ll see how it goes! 🙂

Everything Zen

I feel much better today. Although I woke up tired, it was mostly because I had a nap and then went to bed late. I got caught up in The Walking Dead!

I went in to work and was only a few minutes late. I had a good meeting and then I was set to go for the day. I wonder if part of my stress Monday and Tuesday was related to me feeling at a deadlock at work. Today I sorted out the issue so I was able to be productive again. It’s something to be curious about. In retrospect I think I’ve often dreaded work when I was lacking direction and purpose.

I decided today that I need to do one thing a day that relaxes me. I don’t think I can avoid stress until my job situation is sorted, but I need to do something to manage it. So today I made a point of going outside at lunch. It was still cold, but it was really sunny so I walked outside running errands then sat in a sunny courtyard for about ten minutes just to absorb some vitamin D.

I think leaving my desk and getting fresh air and sun (and more coffee) were very helpful and I had a very nice afternoon. I was even inspired to go to yoga after work, which was a bonus. It was a great class, half workout and half relaxation, just what I needed.

It’s a four-day weekend this weekend, so I need to prepare myself so that I don’t repeat last weekend’s mistakes. So I will be creating a very doable challenge to get me doing the key things to a good day: get out of bed, go outside, and get moving. I also need to set short periods of homework time as I have a lot of things due next weekend and procrastinating will only make me more stressed. So I think I’ll bribe myself to do it by taking my work to a coffee shop that has yummy lattes.

For now, it’s time to relax in an Epsom salt bath. 🙂