How Hard Should I Push Myself?

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Where’s the line between pushing yourself too hard and giving yourself a needed kick in the ass?

Between self-indulgence and allowing yourself a needed rest?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Or rather, I am in the process of answering them. I do know that compared to most people, I feel wimpy. Weak-willed. Underachieving.

I watch people whose lives are full of activity, responsibility, duty, and I cringe. How? How do they possibly manage it all? Sure, I have responsibilities, but I’ve intentionally limited them for the sake of my mental wellness. Experience has taught me time and time again that if I stretch myself too thin, I’ll pay the price for it.

On the other hand, if I laze around and do nothing, I get depressed.

Hence my conundrum: when to rest, and when to push myself to achieve?

They say “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I have yet to experience that sort of feeling. Things that I love still require work. My home. My relationships. My writing. All still require some elbow grease, not all of which is enjoyable.

I do think some “work”–time in which we’re exerting real effort–is inevitable. And during that period of exerting effort, I experience some discomfort. I think wistfully of being on the couch with my cat and a cup of tea. These all seem to be features of “work.”

I’ve written in the past about Opposite Action, a technique I’ve found essential to healing from depression. Essentially, we do what we don’t want to do, for a limited period of time, because we find the outcome valuable. And I guess this principle is what I have to return to. Work = Effort + Value. A similar principle would apply to rest: Rest = Lack of Effort + Value. The question is, which do we value more in the moment.

I don’t have to use other people as my barometer for how much I should or shouldn’t be working, how much I should or shouldn’t be resting. It’s about what I value. It goes back to the whole idea of comparison. Comparing ourselves to others usually makes us feel miserable. That’s how I feel when I look at other people’s ratios of work and rest. But I need to just focus on myself and what I value most in each moment. Neither rest nor work is “right” or “wrong.” We just need to be honest with ourselves about which is more valuable in that moment.

Have you experienced conflict over allowing yourself to rest versus forcing yourself to be productive? Where do you draw the line? Share in the comments!

Wishing you peace of mind…☮🌟💙

Jenna


Image Credit: cat-rest-tired-kitten by MonikaDesigns, CC0 Public Domain

Have Wellness Kit, Will Travel

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Recently it occurred to me to pack a travel wellness kit. Mostly it’s because I’m scared about surviving work and the coming winter with my mental health intact. Techniques such as breathing and mindfulness are great tools, but sometimes we want a physical reminder that everything is going to be okay. We want something to hold on to, a symbol of the wellness we carry inside even if we don’t feel it right now. So I started packing.

Here are the contents of my travel wellness kit:

•    adult coloring book w/ markers
•    copy of my WRAP plan
•    journal & pens
•    affirmation cards
•    extra meds
•    emergency snacks
•    tea
•    tissues
•    gum

Just bringing the kit to work makes me feel stronger. Prepared. Like I could use the wellness kit on my lunch break at work and get through the day. Knowing I’m prepared makes me feel less anxious, which in turn decreases the likelihood that I’ll have a panic attack (or a depression bottom-out). It doesn’t replace the meds I take. It doesn’t eliminate the possibility that I might have to cancel plans or call out of work if I have a mental health crisis. But I think it may really help.

So far I’ve used the journal, emergency snacks, extra meds, and tea. But I’m sure I’ll use everything at some point.

What would you add to your travel wellness kit? Where would you be the most likely to use it? I’d love to hear. Share in the comments!

Wishing you a prepared and calm week to come,

Jenna 🌟💙


Image Credit: Backpack-female-hiker-outdoors by Pexels, CC0 Public Domain

Do The Easy Questions First

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My anxiety has been a doozy lately. When I’m in the thick of it, every nerve ending feels like a frayed wire. My brain works so hard to process what’s happening around me. I want to flee, but my legs are shaking. And all the while, my brain is asking itself big questions: “What if everything goes wrong?” “Why am I doing this?” “How am I going to get through this?” “What will my life look like in a year?” “What will my like look like in ten years?”

Someone very wise told me to pretend like life is a tough exam. When you sit down to take that test, you do the easy questions first, and skip over the hard ones. You know you’ll answer the hard questions later.

I have no business trying to answer those hard questions now, especially when I’m having anxiety. Good problem solving doesn’t happen in a fear-based anxiety state. And the answers to those hard questions will come when they’re supposed to. For now, my job is to be present, and answer the easy questions: “What am I doing in this moment?” “What are my options now?” “Am I breathing?” “What do I see, hear, and feel now?” The rest will take care of itself.

Wishing you well,

Jenna 🌟💙

P.S. Follow me on Instagram @wishingwellblogger 😊

My Brain Needs To Breathe Too

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Has your brain ever felt choked, flat, or foggy? Mine sure has. I experience this feeling when I’m overwhelmed, which I admit happens rather easily. But recently, I realized I can prevent being overwhelmed by giving my brain room to breathe.

Every person is different. Some people are introverts. Some people are extroverts. Some people are highly sensitive, and some people lack sensitivity. Some people are eloquent speakers. Some people struggle to form words. Some people are writers. Some people are artists. Some people are empathic, and some people are highly logical. You get the drift.

Each brain needs its own form of “oxygen.” This is true in a literal sense, but it is also a helpful metaphor. An extrovert’s oxygen is people-time. An introvert’s oxygen is alone-time. A highly sensitive person’s airflow is cut off by too much sensory stimulation. And so on and so forth.

Depriving your brain of “oxygen” can lead to anxiety and depression. Trust me, I know from experience. When I engage in activities or environments that aren’t a good fit for me, my brain starts to “choke.” This is what brain “choking” feels like:

•    Can’t think straight (or at all)
•    Dizzy/lightheaded
•    Feel trapped
•    Difficulty interacting with others

When I let this choked feeling go on to long, my mental health goes downhill.

I started the process of recovery when I found my “oxygen”:

•    Creativity
•    Meditation
•    Alone time
•    Writing
•    Blogging
•    Nature
•    Healthy eating

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We still need to pause and exhale in between breaths. I’m starting to think of “exhaling” as other necessary parts of life that don’t give us “oxygen.” For example, as an introvert, I still need time with people. But after time with people, I need to recharge. Work involves a lot of necessary activity that isn’t exactly life-giving. And yet most people find it necessary to work. There are always going to be parts of life that are difficult for us. But we must have a balance. We must give ourselves time to inhale and recharge. Otherwise, we risk our mental health.

So let me ask you: what is your oxygen?

Wishing you breaths of fresh air…

Jenna 🌳🌟💙


Image Credits:

Featured image created on Piktochart.

fog-forest-mist-mysterious by MonicaVolpin, CC0 Public Domain

A Tip For Adding Focus To Your Daily Life

A couple weeks ago I had a heart-to-heart with an old friend. I sat in the passenger seat of her rusty red truck, on the way to help her move furniture. She knows I’ve been struggling with employment and asked how it was going.

“I’m having such a hard time,” I confided. “I feel so helpless.”

She listened patiently as I described the tough process of finding my ideal job. I’ve had many false starts, dead ends, and obstacles to face along the way. I admitted I admired people like her, who have worked the same job for years on end.

She paused for a moment, then said, “You need to find you drishti.”

“My what?”

“Your drishti. It’s a yoga thing. When you’re doing a pose where it’s hard to balance, you have to focus on something to keep you centered.”

“You mean like if you’re standing on one leg, and you pick something in the room to stare at?”

“Exactly.”

I thought about this for a moment. In yoga, a drishti could be a physical thing, like a lamp, that you stare at to keep your balance. But in a broader sense, a drishti could be anything that helps you stay balanced.

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What if your drishti was a goal, or an practice, that served your highest purpose? So even on days when depression, anxiety, or other symptoms arise, you have a point on the horizon that keeps you going?

I think there are two types of drishti: ones that help you focus moment to moment, and ones that help you in the long run.

Moment-to-moment drishtis:

  • Focus on breath
  • Mindfulness (I see, I hear, I feel)
  • Affirmations
  • Move your body
  • Count something
  • Sing something

Big picture dristis:

  • Stay healthy & well
  • Be a dedicated friend/family member
  • Fulfill the dream to (insert creative dream here).
  • Stay connected with your community
  • Be of service to others

I’ve already found this idea to be helpful in my day-to-day life. How about you? What keeps you focused in the moment and in the big picture? Share in the comments!

Wishing you well…🌟☮

Jenna


Image Credit: balance-yoga-beach-relax-sunset by LibelSanRo, CC0 Public Domain

What Peace Means to Me

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Recently I was invited by the Serenity bloggers to write about “why peace is important to me.” And this week, after the results of the American election, is perfect timing.

Before I get into the election, I’d like to talk about what peace means to me in general.

The way I see it, there are two types of peace:
1. Inner peace
2. Outer peace

Inner peace is peace within an individual’s consciousness. It’s a feeling of acceptance, contentment, and sometimes even joy.

Outer peace is peace in the world. A world in which we put into practice love, acceptance, and universal human rights.

My blog is dedicated (mostly) to inner peace. To finding calm within the storm of mental illness and recognizing that the self and the mind are separate things. And recognizing one’s own feelings and needs as valid in the face of mental health stigma.

But here’s the secret: outer peace cannot exist without inner peace. We can, however, have inner peace within outer chaos.

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We are experiencing a heartbreaking lack of outer peace in our world today. Innocent people are dying in war, by murder, and from preventable causes like starvation. Refugees flee war-torn countries every day and a staggering number live in squalor. In my home country, the United States, 12,755 people have died by gun violence so far in 2016, excluding suicides. We have the resources to eradicate poverty, yet the bulk of our world’s wealth is owned by a tiny percentage of people. Watching the news can be a traumatic experience, let alone being a part of any of these events.

And then there are less direct forms of violence: institutional racism, generational poverty, and rape culture, just to name a few. The form of violence I blog most about is mental health stigma. This is the mindset that dictates that people are to blame for their mental health problems. That we are doing it “for attention.” That we should be able to just “snap out of it.” Mental health stigma at minimum invalidates each individual’s human needs and experiences. At its worst, it is a factor in suicide.

When this is the reality of our outer world, how can we experience inner peace?

Eckhart Tolle says “if you cannot accept what is outside, accept what is inside.” He calls this the “second chance at surrender.” So we accept what we’re feeling, rather than trying to fight it. Then we can take steps to help ourselves feel better.

I find myself having to cultivate inner peace right now. My country is divided, and the tensions are hostile. A sleeping giant of racism, misogyny, and other equally problematic forms of discrimination has come to light. Before this election, these forms of violence weren’t something people could be publicly proud of. Now, that has changed. As a fellow blogger put it, “when the KKK has a celebration because someone won the presidency, it’s time to take a deep, hard look at what happened.”

I believe a solution to this violence will come from finding common ground, not from dividing further apart. People in Camp Hillary, Camp Trump, and Camp Third Party need to find a way to work together. People who hold violent beliefs must be challenged, but we must do so in a nonviolent way. Otherwise, we risk only fueling the fire.

The philosophy of Nonviolence comes to mind right now. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” How do we agree on a definition of justice? One way to come to an agreement is Nonviolent Communication.

Nonviolent communication was developed by Marshall Rosenberg as the ultimate tool for conflict resolution. It has four basic components:

  1. Observations
  2. Feelings
  3. Needs
  4. Requests

We observe, being mindful not to introduce judgment. We state how we feel about these observations. We recognize the human needs connected to our feelings. And finally, we form requests based on those needs.

I don’t have all the answers. But I do believe in ending violence. I believe we can reach a solution with nonviolence. And this, in short, is what peace means to me.

Thank you to the bloggers at Serenity for nominating me for the Serenity Blog Award and inviting me to write on this topic! Your writing continues to inspire us all 🌟

Wishing you inner peace,

Jenna ☮


Image Credits:

light-christmas-candles by Pexels,  CC0 Public Domain

Umbrella-rain-silhouette-shadow by IvicaM90, CC0 Public Domain

 

Let People Judge You

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I discovered this statement in Meiji Zapico’s blog post, “The Sentence That Changed Me and My Shy Personality.” I’m so grateful to her for sharing this story. She talks about fearing being judged by classmates, and her mother gave her this wise advice: let others judge you. This statement rocked my world.

All my life, I have felt like there was a giant spotlight trained on me. This is what social anxiety feels like. Social anxiety means I’m constantly scrutinizing my every move in my brain. I’m incessantly analyzing how I appear to other people. How I sound, how I look, how I act. All this over a steady background of fear and dread of what people will do or think if they don’t “like” what I do.

Why am I like this? I truly have no idea. I think I was born with it. But I live with it every single day, and let me tell you: it’s beyond exhausting. Nothing turns it off. Not breathing, not meds, not anything. The only thing that has really helped me has been affirmations. 

Affirmations give me my power back. They don’t turn off the incessant stream of self-criticism in my brain; instead, they give me a way to talk back to it. They ground me when I feel like I could drown in negativity. And they especially help me when I’m in public/with people, and I’m not able to de-stress myself on my own.

For the record, here are some of my favorite affirmations (a lot of them are from Louise L. Hay):

  • I am the power and the authority in my life
  • I am no longer afraid of other people
  • I  no longer apologize for reality
  • It is safe to be powerful
  • I am totally adequate for all situations
  • It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed

I now have another affirmation to add to my arsenal: let people judge you.

Welcoming judgement does not mean welcoming disrespect. But it does mean accepting that what other people think of you is none of your business. It means claiming your inner authority. It means that ultimately, what they think of you doesn’t really matter.

Now, obviously some of what others think and feel about you does matter. It’s important to be a part of a community (and by the way, you get to choose what community you want to be part of). But 99.99% of what I worry about isn’t about major stuff like “am I being violent,” because I’m not a violent person. It’s stuff like how I look, sound, or act. Do they think I look weird? Sound weird? Make weird facial expressions?  I’ve always felt slightly out of place and quirky. But I’m sincere. And I think that should be all that matters.

People might think I’m weird: so what? Ultimately, if I’m living according to my values and the values of my chosen community, it shouldn’t matter if I’m “weird.” Whatever that means. Now I welcome other people to think those things if they want to, and it’s okay–it doesn’t reflect on who I really am.