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?

Lost and Self-Absorbed

I’m going home for Christmas tomorrow. I’m sort of looking forward to it, not because it is Christmas, but to get out of my head.

With the end of my job, my schedule has opened up again and I’m lost in the emptiness. I’ve done nothing this weekend. Not even Christmas shop because I just wasn’t feeling into it.

If nothing else, for the week that I am home I will not be able to stay in bed and isolate myself.

I’m sad because I feel like I have lost most of my friends. I think they must be angry that I didn’t go to the Christmas party, the second gathering in two months that I missed. I sent an email explaining and sending everyone Christmas wishes, but only one person acknowledged the email.

I had all these good intentions of reaching out to friends this month, opening up to some about my depression so that they weren’t left wondering why I was suddenly so flakey. But I didn’t ever get around to Christmas cards. I didn’t even decorate this year, let alone make cookies or otherwise engage. So it is good that I am going home so that I have no choice but to engage.

I worry about New Years though. I wasn’t invited to my friend’s annual party… I don’t know if that means they aren’t having it this year or that they didn’t invite me because I ended up cancelling the past two years.

Anyway, all this to say that while I was doing so much better while working, as soon as I didn’t have that anymore I went off the tracks. What happened to the bubbly person of four days ago? The effects of isolation definitely hit me quickly.

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but I feel like I need to this year. I’m at a turning point, much better overall, but I keep tripping up because I don’t know how to deal with the fallout of extended depression: how to rebuild the friendships I’ve damaged or regain the active lifestyle I dropped.

I think it is all about attitude. Months ago my therapist suggested that I develop some personal mantras. Maybe that is what I will do: develop mantras rather than resolutions for the year ahead.

Running Around

The past few days involved a lot of running around. Not in the sense of jogging down a path (one day!) but in the sense of going here and there about town running errands.

The two biggest appointments were with my psychiatrist (yesterday) and my therapist (today). I’m getting a little annoyed that I keep having to return to the medical centre two days in a row. Luckily the next two will be a week apart. It’s a bit tiring rehashing the same things two days in a row!

My psychiatrist and I are happy with my progress and next week I’ll be able to completely drop the Pristiq from my cocktail of medications. Hurray! One down, two to go! 😉

My counselling session also went well. There were lots of successes to note and my therapist was very pleased that rather than stumbling when my original goal of walking daily proved too ambitious, I instead broke it down into smaller steps. By modifying the goal to simply going outside daily I was able to meet the goal, going outside every day for three weeks straight. I think the only other time I’ve done that in the past few years was while travelling!

Of course, now I have more homework.

      Come up with two mantras to get me out of bed each day. (The homework I didn’t finish for this session!) I need to stop being a perfectionist and just come up with two phrases that work for me.
      Move on to phase two in my “get out and walk” plan. Now I will walk at least 4 blocks each day. (And hopefully continue for more, but that is my “doable” baseline.) It can be at any time of day for this stage.
      Explore the idea of joining a local walking club to start me down the path of eventually running again. (I still keep dreaming of another half-marathon…)
      Commit to a plan for bad days, because they will happen. If I have a day where I struggle to get out of bed due to depression, insomnia or whatever, I will do the following: After feeding the cat, rather than crawling back into bed, I will go to the living room, open the curtains to let in the light, and rest on the couch. It is okay to nap there if I really need it. But I cannot return to bed until nightfall.
      Continue to blog at least once per week.

So, that is the plan. I’m feeling good today, so I’m somewhat confident that I can do it. I hope so! It is feels nice to have accomplished so much these past few weeks! 🙂

Celebrating the Little Things

Today, I feel like I had a bit of a breakthrough. Because after little sleep and a lot of opportunities to cancel, I did all I set out to do and more.

  • I went through with an interview despite having only a few hours of sleep. And I think it went well.
  • I met up with a friend despite her offering me an opportunity to bail.
  • I also got ready to meet up with another friend and when she cancelled I decided on the spur of the moment to go to yoga rather than taking the opportunity to sleep some more.

Little things, but they are progress. I’ve also made it outside at least once daily for the past two weeks and have been blogging a lot. So that just leaves my mantras as homework before I meet with my therapist later this week.

Hmmmm. Mantras to help one get out of bed each morning. Any ideas?

The Morning Challenge

Another day spent in bed. I really need to find a new strategy to get things going in the morning.

Today wasn’t so much a depressive mood issue, more like anxiety over my job situation and continuing insomnia.

I’ve managed to walk outside each day, although at least one was the bare minimum of walking from the car to pick up take out late in the evening. The main feat of getting out of bed and house were met, saving me from feeling completely let down by myself.

But I think I need to prioritize the walk and ensure it happens first thing in the morning. Sort of set the pattern for the day with an early success, fresh air and hopefully energy.

So, here is the plan for the next few days. When the cat wakes me for breakfast, I will feed her then go for a walk right away rather than returning to bed to try to make up for the insomnia of the night before. I think that one of my mantras will need to help me get through the day after a night of insomnia, so that I don’t perpetuate the problem with daytime sleeping.

There, I’ve said it, so hopefully that will help me do it.

We’ll see tomorrow!

Finding a Mantra or Two

What helps get you going in the morning? Do you have a mantra that you could share?

As I mentioned the other day, one thing I need to do over the coming weeks is to come up with a few mantras to stick on my headboard to try to help me with that sometimes insurmountable goal of getting out of bed (and then out the door!).

Having met some fellow bloggers who struggle with many of the same issues, I was wondering if any of you have come up with little sayings that help you through the day.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated! 🙂