We often think of growth as happening one direction. Growing things expand and get older, they don’t shrink or get younger. If something is not moving forward, then it’s not growing.
But maybe that’s not always the case, especially when we’re talking about personal growth journeys. Growth like this doesn’t happen all at once or in a steady direction. Sometimes, a thing that you thought you dealt with will come back and needs to be worked through again. You often have to keep going back over the same ground in order to make progress.
This isn’t failure to grow. But it might look like it depending on our perspective. If we’re the type of person who wants to get everything right the first time, then it can be discouraging when we find ourselves having to deal with something we thought we’d already worked through. We might even decided that since we failed once there’s no point in trying again. But that isn’t really a healthy or helpful perspective.
New “Thought Paths” Take Time
Last year, I wrote a post about changing thought patterns related to anxiety. In that post, I talked about my counselor’s analogy of our minds as a big open field. As we live and grow, our thoughts travel over this field and we start to wear-down paths as we think along the same lines over and over. When we identify “thought paths” that aren’t doing us any good we need to create new pathways in our mind by learning to think in a different way. To do that, you have to keep going over the new paths again and again. Read more →
How much time do you spend taking care of yourself? I’m starting to realize self-care really is important. In fact, one might argue it’s vital if you want to keep functioning. Of course you don’t want to develop a self-centered attitude, but meeting your own needs isn’t selfish. In fact, it’s kind of a prerequisite for being unselfish because you can’t be there for other people if you’re worn so thin there’s nothing left to give.
I backed a Kickstarter last week called “Own Your Stigma – A Pin Series.” The creator lives with anxiety, depression, and ADHD and wanted to make a series of enamel pins for other people with an invisible illness. The Kickstarter is closed now, but they’ll be opening up for other pre-orders within a few days if you’re interested. I’m not quite sure which ones I’m going to order yet, but I’m strongly leaning toward this one after the week I’ve had:
I talk about my anxiety pretty openly now. But I have a much harder time talking about my depression. For some reason, admitting I struggle with that washes me in a sense of shame that I don’t really feel anymore in connection with anxiety. So it’s not all that easy for me to write that for the past six days I’ve been barely functioning because even though nothing happened that would explain me feeling depressed I just emotionally “crashed.”
I probably won’t be ordering this particular pin style, but this past week climbing out of bed or talking with people did feel like something I might deserve a ribbon for.
It’s amazing how “little things” that seem so easy when you’re not walking around in an apathetic fog or feeling like you could fall asleep any moment suddenly become well-nigh impossible Writing, cooking, eating, driving, interacting with people — they’ve all felt incredibly difficult. But there are some things I’ve just had to keep doing, like meeting certain work deadlines, eating food, and going to church. I know that if I miss those things I’ll feel worse and/or it will have long-term negative effects on things that are important to me when I do care. So I made myself get them done.
Still, even though there are some things you just have to keep doing when you’re down, I don’t think it’s good to push yourself to do all things you’d be doing if you felt fine. It’s okay to crawl back in bed for a while when you feel like you can’t sit upright a moment longer. It’s okay to feel sad, guilty, confused, anxious, etc. even if it’s for no reason that you can identify. Which brings us to one pin I definitely want to get from this series:
The text on this pin reads “feel everything.” I’m becoming a firm believer in this. I certainly don’t mean you should let your emotions control you or that your feelings are always going to tell you something that’s good for you. But I do think it’s vital that we let ourselves feel what we’re feeling and learn to process those emotions in a healthy way. Bottling things up and refusing to address them doesn’t usually make them go away. It just lets them build up until you’re forced to deal with a whole messy jumble of emotions farther down the road.
So let’s all make the time to take care of ourselves and give ourselves permission to feel everything. And maybe we can all learn together how to process the tough things and help each other when we’re struggling.
The theater where my sister and I hold season tickets is getting the touring Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen for its 2019/2020 season. Pretty exciting, right? Actually, I’m excited about the entire upcoming season. It’s packed full of musicals, and they’re all such good titles that I can’t say there’s one that I’m least exited to see.
I can, however, tell you that Dear Evan Hansen is one I’m most excited about. Two years ago, this musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won six, including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Actor in a Musical for Ben Platt. And it more than earned those accolades with brilliant scrip, music, characters, and acting all coming together to tell a story that contributes to an important conversation about mental illness. Read more →
One of the things I’ve discovered in learning how to better handle my anxiety is that breathing helps.
I was kind of hoping when I started counseling I’d learn about a semi-magical secret trick to avoiding panic attacks and working through anxiety. And what did I find? Deep breathing. Turns out that it’s important to breath when you’re panicking. Who knew?
Different people who struggle with anxiety find different ways of managing it (EFT tapping, grounding techniques, deep breathing, etc). For me, grounding and breathing seem to work best, which I find interesting since I’ve been doing both for years through my yoga practice. I just needed to start using those tools more effectively in the rest of my life, not just for 15-45 minutes every morning.
It’s amazing what a difference focusing on the present moment, grounding yourself in the physical world, and forcing yourself to breath deep can make. And I’m assuming this would help whether you’re dealing with every-day anxieties or with having more long-term anxiety. The techniques seem almost too simple, but they work and if you’re starting to feel panicky the last thing you need is to try and remember some complicated method of calming down.
You don’t need to figure everything out, or get cured of anxiety, or conquer whatever mountain you’re climbing before you can start to feel better. Sometimes, all we need is to stop, breath, and tune-in to the present moment. To give ourselves permission to feel however it is we’re feeling rather than keep burying it or pressing on through.
Hopefully, taking the time to ground yourself and just breath will help cultivate a sense of peace. But if not, don’t beat yourself up over it. Treat yourself with the same kindness I’m sure you’d show someone you love who’s struggling. Self-care isn’t selfish — it’s essential (another thing I’m learning that now seems like it should have been obvious).
I’m not sure who needed this post (other than me), but I hope you’ll take some time for yourself today. Breath, tune-in, and take care of yourself. Be well my dear readers 🙂
Last week, I listened to a JP Sears podcast titled “You’re Weirder Than You Can Think,” which is all about discovering and expressing your weirdness. Now, maybe you think your weirdness is a bad/scary thing that you need to hide from others. Or maybe you think you’re normal and not weird at all. Why on earth would you want to discover and express your weirdness?
JP defines “weirdness” as the things that make you uniquely you. In other words, “weirdness” is the traits of your authentic self. It’s your personality, your quirks, your passions, your defining features, the things you love to talk about, and so much more. What makes you “weird” is what makes you “you,” and figuring out what that is can be a great step in your personal growth journey. With that framework, he challenged everyone to do a 4-step exercise:
Write down three things that make you weird.
Thank each of these things for making you uniquely you.
Find a way to express each of those weird traits in your life today.
Check-in at the end of the day to assess how you did on completing Step 3.
And then you do that each day for seven days in a row.
Journeying Into My Weirdness
I’m sharing this post on the last day of my weirdness journey. I thought for sure I’d have no problem coming up with 21 examples of my weirdness, but it was actually more challenging than I’d anticipated.
It’s not that I don’t have unique traits or perspectives. Rather, I was getting hung-up on Step 3 before I wrote anything down for Step 1. I didn’t want to write something in the first step that would end up being hard, uncomfortable, or impossible to express that day.
Of course, avoiding an aspect of my weirdness because I find it uncomfortable probably misses the point of this whole exercise. Read more →
We tend to think of our memories as pretty reliable things. We might joke about how forgetful we are, but when we do remember something we assume that it’s accurate.
I was 12 years old on September 11, 2001 and I vividly remember hearing about the terrorist attack. I was in our family minivan with my mother, sister, and little brother when the news came over the radio. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened, and was more worried that my mother was going to drive into another car on the crowded in-town roads because she was so upset. We continued on to the roller skating rink where we’d been heading, skated for a while, and then stopped when the announcement went out over the loudspeaker. Several people gathered together to pray, but we stayed off to one side praying just as a family. I felt scared, confused, and very alone.
That’s probably not what actually happened, though. Another thing I remember is starting a diary because I was sure that this was such a pivotal turning point in our nation’s history that decades from now some historian would care about what I wrote. I can’t find that diary anywhere, so I have no way to compare my memories now against what I recorded back then. But if I’m anything like other people, then only a little over 50% of these details I remember are accurate. Read more →