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. ūüôā

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?

Exercise and Eating Well: This Week’s Yoga Homework

The focus for my yoga teacher training is now on taking care of the body by exercising and eating well. A great thing for me to work on as it matches my goals.

Ironically, though I’ve meant to do more in terms of healthy eating and fitness, I’ve struggled a lot more than in the few weeks prior. I’ve gone to a few yoga classes, but I have yet to make it to the gym. I want to start long distance running again, but that’s a little hard of you don’t actually get out and jog.

I’m not sure what is keeping me from doing these things. Rather than the fruit and vegetables I’ve been meaning to eat, I went for Haagen Dazs and chips for the first time in a long time. And I ate the whole tub all in one sitting! Definitely not eating well.

Today I slept in really late, but I was in a good mood and went to a yoga class. I’m glad I did, because I want and need the exercise, but I’m also upset that I went to that class in particular. I have never been so close to crying in a class in my life!

It was an instructor I had never had before and he had a different style of doing things than most classes I go to. At first I really liked the class because he sang a lot of chants and we did energizing breath work and sun salutations. But then it went all downhill. First, because my legs were shaking in a raised position, I was trying too hard and not doing myself any good. Then, “Can I pick on you again?” Without waiting for an answer he starts telling me how I’m doing another pose wrong. Even child’s pose – “I want you to stretch your back and do the version with your hands beside you.” Fine. I can’t do that variation without props so I got a block under my forehead and did the version he wanted. Then shoulder stand, which I just didn’t want to do. I don’t enjoy it and it’s hard to do until I lose weight. So I did a supported waterfall instead. Same benefits, being inverted with my legs in the air. But no, he couldn’t leave me be. “I don’t like that variation.” He centers me out again to do something else against the wall instead. It was an interesting approach, but I just didn’t want to do it. Why was he pushing so much?! Then there was a squat pose which was okay for a while but then it started to hurt my recovering ankle so I stopped, especially as it was leading to another pose I wasn’t in the mood for today, arm balancing in crow. But no rest for me. “If you can’t do a squat then do a tree pose so that you are still balancing” was the pointed remark to the class but really just for me. By then I was glad I didn’t have contacts or glasses on because I would have been glaring. Much better to just keep him a blur. We moved on to the pose I had requested at the beginning, but it wasn’t the pose I wanted. I forgot the keyword “supported”. Instead we did three non-supported versions, each one harder than the next, because I had requested the pose. I couldn’t do two of three versions. Then there was another pose that doesn’t work for my body, so I did the other option. “It looks to me like you are sloping backwards, maybe you need to do this instead [make it even easier]. Do you feel the twist more?” No. “Yes” just to get him to go away. By the time we reached final relaxation, I almost cried. I was looking to the side for my blanket (I’d forgotten it) – “Relax and stay inside your body…” I was just looking for a bloody blanket to get comfortable! My eyes were watering so I had to keep opening them during savasana (corpse pose) as I didn’t want to humiliate myself by crying in class. No relaxation for me. I couldn’t leave fast enough. Forget about the music questions I had wanted to ask him. I was so pissed and close to tears I just left, without even saying goodbye to a friend I’d run into in the class.

Now that I’m home and writing this, I am crying. I don’t know why. I know I was letting my ego get in the way, but it just felt like repetitive nitpicking for the whole class. Like I couldn’t do anything right.

I guess the class triggered my feelings of insecurity and not being good enough. A mentality that’s really not helpful right now. I need to work on the longer yoga class that I will have to teach next weekend. I feel like such a failure I don’t even know if I’ll be able to centre myself and get back to yoga homework with so many mixed feelings swirling around my head.

I’m just so tired of feeling like this. Why can’t I stop crying about a stupid yoga class?

All-or-nothing, or the self-saboteur

This weekend I struggled with my old friend “all-or-nothing”.

I’m grateful for the support you gave on Saturday when I complained about my day being a 3/4 failure. But I still feel annoyed with myself and I want to explain why.

This weekend I had two key tasks: prepare for a test on Wednesday and practice the short yoga routine I’m to teach my class on Saturday.

In true form I felt stressed and procrastinated and I froze, unable to start either project.

I know that I was definitely overdue for a break after several weeks with no days off, but my issue is this:

– Why can’t I enjoy a break but also do other things too? Sleep in until lunch but then either start my “to do” list or scrap it to enjoy the nice sunny day? Or take Saturday off, but still do a few things on Sunday?

– Why does the act of not doing my assigned tasks mean that I can’t do anything?

– So the studying wasn’t going to happen. Why did that mean that I also couldn’t do refreshing things like yoga, or simply go outside for a walk? Why couldn’t I go out to the coffee shop for a latte and see where the day went from there? Why did I have to cancel on a get together with my friend?

Now it is Monday and after sleeping all weekend, all I have accomplished is watching a foreign film on Saturday to get ready for the language test and, at lunch today, putting together the skeleton of a yoga plan I still haven’t even tried.

I think that I sabotage myself. Why do I keep doing this?
– If I don’t put effort forward, then I have an excuse if I fail.
– I get attached to what I think I “should” be doing and if I don’t do that, I feel guilty and need to punish myself by doing nothing.
– I think I’m procrastinating on the yoga routine because either (a) I want it to be perfect, or (b) I’m really nervous presenting in front of a crowd and so I don’t want to think about how I will actually do it. Likely it’s a little of both.

Another yoga task this week is to practice non-attachment. I think the practice fits with this situation. I seem to get too attached to my plans. So I’d like to try this instead: I can still make plans as it is good to have some priorities. But I need to balance my plans with where I am at the moment. If I’m not in a place to do anything on the list, then scrap it. Start afresh and just think of the day hour by hour, minute by minute. What can I do? What would I like to do.

For now, I’ll just have to practice acceptance. The weekend has come and gone and nothing will change it. All I can do is hope that I learned something so that I stop the “all-or-nothing” pattern from continuously repeating.

Do you also struggle with “all-or-nothing” patterns? Have you found any strategies to help you break the pattern?

Self-Perception

I was at a networking social gathering this morning and was quite shocked: someone described me as bubbly and actually switched spots at the long table just to come listen to me and all the interesting things I had to say. There were other people we were also chatting with, but the individual said repeatedly that they had come over so they could talk with me.

Bubbly? If only you knew how anxious and depressed I’ve been for most of my life. Moments like that stick out and make me stop to think. How is it that some stranger can immediately form an opinion that I have a bubbly and exciting personality, when I myself think that I am dull, apathetic and tired? Is it that I’m someone with brief bright moments amongst the darkness? Or am I overly self-critical and unable to really see myself?

Even online here, a few of you have mentioned that I am so positive…. But I think that I am negative.

I do struggle a lot with self esteem. Particularly when it comes to relationships. I can’t see how any guy would be interested in me, let alone love me. I am so often alone because I think that I am not good enough for other people, that I have a recurring mental illness and who wants to put up with that? I’m also overweight, so I feel ashamed, to the point that I even avoid friends. I think I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, fit enough, etc., etc.

I find it difficult to fit these impressions together. But I’m so tired of being lonely. I need to stop pushing people away because I judge myself to be unworthy.

How do I find a healthy self image? How far along do I need to heal first? They say that you are in a bad place to start a relationship when you are depressed. But how do I know that I’m well enough? Because my perfectionist tendencies think that is such a long long way off. I’m so pessimistic that I think I’ll never be able to find that special someone.

Have you struggled with self image? What have you found to help you build a positive self image?