Q.O.M. – Do you have an emotional trigger word?

We all have words that we like – or dislike – more than others. Recently, though, I discovered that I have at least one emotional trigger word – a term that, when used, tends to elicit emotion:

 

WEAK

Ugh… yeah… I don’t hate a lot of things, but I hate that word. Depending on how it’s used, it seems to trigger a sense of shame or rage coinciding with my characteristic anxiety.

 

To me, it’s unfair as well; weak compared to what? The word itself implies a judgement on a person’s integrity, character, or work using an unstable basis of comparison. Sure, I’m not claiming to be as physically strong as a pro wrestler, but should that really matter?

 

On the other hand, being an over-thinker, I could be reading way too much into that word. It could be connected to something in my past that made me feel down on myself or afraid. Whatever the reason, and no matter my awareness of it, it’s definitely a trigger word for me.

 

So what about you? Anything that really burns your biscuits or makes your lettuce soggy? Leave a comment below and get some conversation going!
Just remember that this is a supportive place. So, if you don’t have something nice to say, well…. 🙂

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Word Vomit –  How journaling might help

“Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.”

Mitch Albom

 

If you took a peek at last week’s posting, you might recall the mention of the three most common responses to stress: flight, fight, or freeze. The thing is, there are a variety of stressful situations, and not all of them are life-threatening. A lot of them happen in social situations as well – especially when talking is involved.

 

Some people get really quiet (aka. freeze):

 

Socially Comfortable Person:

“Hey! I’m Anna. Nice to meet you.”

 

Socially Awkward Person:

**smiles in what they hope is a genuine way – but they kind of look like they have to poop instead.**

 

Other people try to talk, but they lack confidence, so they tend to ‘backpedal’ a lot of what they say (aka. flight):

 

“So I was thinking that it’s because of the weather…Well, maybe not entirely because of the weather… I don’t know… What do you think?”

 

Other people feel this urge to keep talking, whether what they have to say is relevant/interesting or not (aka. fight):

 

“So the light bulb went out in my refrigerator…”

 

If you read last week’s post, you might remember which one of these I am…

 

Yep, I’m a fighter.

 

Want me to join in on a social gathering? Or take part in a personal conflict?

 

You can count on me!

 

– to not. EVER. shut. up.

 

The thing is, I clearly know that I do this…. You’d think I’d be able to just stop.

 

Nope.

 

It’s always done with good intention. Usually, I end up rambling for one of a few reasons:

 

  • I’m excited or happy about something, and I want to share that joy with someone I care about.

 

I’m all for sharing joy, but sometimes, I just don’t bother to think about whether or not they will think whatever I’m talking about is as interesting as I do. Then, when they don’t respond like I was hoping, I just keep rambling, hoping to suddenly gain their interest.

 

  • If I’m in a conflict with someone, I tend to expect certain responses – or at least hope for them.

 

When a person responds negatively, or with silence, I tend to want to ramble then too, in the hopes that “maybe I just need to clarify some of my points”, then they won’t be upset. Or “maybe, if I keep talking, they’ll eventually tell me what they’re thinking.”

 

  • If I’m in a typical social situation… I HATE awkward silences.

 

Awkward silences are evil. They almost always initiate my rambling sequence. It’s probably because, the moment that silence begins, I jump to the worst possible conclusions:

 

“…Oh, that’s it, they hate me.”

“Whatever I just said has offended them.”

 

“I’m just so boring!”

 

…. cue the nervous blabbering!

 

And to make matters worse…

Because I’m aware that I do this, but can’t seem to stop myself, I tend to obsess about these conversations later:

 

“Remember that thing that you said? That was stupid, huh?”

 

“No one is ever going to invite you to anything again, because you’re so boring.”

 

“That girl was laughing at you. Great work.”

 

Strategy time!

Eventually, I just couldn’t handle the stress of these situations, but I was determined not to avoid social situations altogether because, you know, it’s not healthy….

 

I tried being silent first.

 

Any social situation I entered, I tried not to speak unless someone spoke directly to me.

 

But then, I noticed that I wasn’t really helping the conversation along with that approach. People who knew me well enough assumed that I was angry or ill or unwilling to talk. Then, they would find a way to exit the conversation, or phase me out of it out of politeness – which was the exact opposite of what I wanted.

 

I wanted to be included.

 

But I didn’t want to bombard people with my thoughts and feelings either.

 

I decided to take a different approach…

On days that I knew I would be interacting with people, I would be sure to journal beforehand. I would put my pen to paper (yes, a pen and paper), and just start writing out my immediate thoughts. At least once per week – sometimes as much as every day – I would pour my dramatic little heart out.

 

I used to journal as a kid, when writing out your angst was all the rage. Every girl in every kid/teen sitcom used to do it. But as a kid, had found that it wasn’t just fun, it made me feel better. I wasn’t old enough to really understand why yet. I’m not even sure I entirely understand now. But now, I don’t really care why it works, only that it does.

 

In fact, the result was more than I had hoped for.

On days that I journaled, I noticed that I didn’t feel the need to tell people every little aspect of my life, or express every single feeling of stress or sadness. In fact, I felt less stress, less sadness.

 

Now, journaling has become almost like a meditative practice for me. I write whatever comes to mind. Sometimes, I’m surprised at what comes out, usually because I wasn’t even aware that a certain thing was bothering me until it  comes out on paper.

 

And the great thing is, I never get anxious about what I write. I don’t ever have to get anxious about someone judging my thoughts and feelings, because only I will ever see them. That thought is an absolute relief.

 

“But I don’t have the time”…

 

Since I’ve begun journaling again, I’ve mentioned it to a few people, and I’ve been surprised at how many do the same thing. Others said they would like to, but didn’t have the time. To me though, it was worth finding the time.

 

And there are so many options!

Some people I talked to hated hand-writing, so they would record an audio journal, or type it out on a computer.

 

Some people preferred to write in simple bullet points – basic thoughts and feelings – while others liked the eloquence of writing out long paragraphs.

 

Even the reasons that people journal vary:

 

Some want to organize their thoughts, such as for a project or speech. Or bounce around ideas for a new creative endeavor – like a “mind map”.

 

Some want to organize their life. So they’ll write out their goals or tasks for their day. I know one friend that says she can’t go to sleep until she’s done this, or she lies awake thinking about everything she needs to do that day.

 

One married couple I know has an “adventure journal” – where they write out their individual accomplishments and new experiences throughout the year, then share it together every New Year’s Eve.

 

The Possibilities are endless!

Let’s face it: we’re all just trying to find ways to manage our crazy. Journaling is one of mine. It’s either that, or I word vomit on everyone I meet.

 

Q.O.M – Fight, Flight, or Freeze?

I’ve met a lot of interesting people over the years, and one thing that I’ve noticed is that anxiety disorders don’t always predispose a person to react a certain way to stress. Each of us seem to be different in that regard. Personally, I’m a fighter. When I am faced with a particularly stressful situation, I have to do something.

So what about you? When faced with a bad situation, do you run, act, or panic? 

Pay-it-Forward: May

“At the end of life, what really matters is not what we bought, but what we built; not what we got, but what we shared; not our competence, but our character; and not our success, but our significance. Live a life that matters. Live a life of love.”

Anonymous

 

Well, another month has gone by, and it’s time to take a minute to send out a big basket of LOVE! Whether you’re an author, speaker, or an artist – if you bring joy and constructive thinking to others, I think you’re amazing!

 

Need to add a little more joy to your life? Check these awesome people out:

1. BohoBeautiful

 

For many people, exercise in particular – and yoga in general – is a huge help in taming their anxiety. There are a lot of wonderful teachers out there, and I may reference others in the future, but I want to give a particular shout-out to BohoBeautiful. You can find them on their website and also on YouTube. This couple not only provides free yoga classes to people all around the world (with AMAZING scenery to boot), they also have guided meditations, and vlogs/blogs about current charities and movements they’re a part of. As an added bonus, if you’re vegan (or just like eating vegan food once in a while), they sometimes post restaurant recommendations and recipes to try.

 

2. Paper Kawaii

 

This one isn’t as common in the U.S., but another great medium for managing anxiety is origami. This relaxing craft requires patience, diligence, and steady pace – encouraging the crafter to focus on the task at hand. This is one of many talented folders out there, but what I like in particular about her tutorials is the image quality and clarity of her instructions. Try it out! You might enjoy it. 🙂

 

3. Doctor Mike

It’s important for us to remember that, while mental health is often an anxious person’s main focus, physical health is essential for all areas of life. This popular vlogger maintains an objective, practical view on health. My favorite part? He is strongly against advocating for or selling a product without truly believing in its effectiveness. That’s a winner in my book.

 

By the way…

 

If you are a writer and you’d like your book or blog featured on one of my monthly posts, visit the Contact page to make an inquiry. Also, if you know of a blogger that you think I should mention, I want to know that too!

 

Let’s spread the joy, people!

Tricky Beasts – Anxiety and Self-esteem

“Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

 

Anxiety is a tricky creature; there is no one-size-fits-all trick for improving anxiety, just like – as we discussed in last week’s post – each of us have different trigger words and situations that can intensify what we’re feeling. However, one quality that I have found can affect anxiety for every person I have encountered (to varying degrees) is self-esteem.

 

Self-esteem is tricky as well; if you don’t have enough, your comfort and confidence can be negatively affected in a variety of situations. Alternatively, if you have too much, you become “that person” that no one can stand to be around for more than a few minutes.

 

We can’t all be Chimamanda.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not like once you have a healthy self-esteem, you’re set for life. I wish it were like that. What many people seem to forget is that self-esteem – like many other things – requires maintenance. A balanced person can let themselves become over or under-confident in a very short period of time. 

 

So, what does that have to do with anxiety?

 

We are all different people. For some – like me – self-esteem issues can be a direct contributor to anxiety. For others, it may not matter at all. For the purposes of this post, though, I’ll give some examples of how it might affect an anxious person:

 

Example 1…

 

Let’s start with the easier one: low self-esteem. This issue can affect how confident a person is in social situations, increasing their anxiety when interacting with others. They may find that they are less confident to speak their mind or present an idea in a professional environment. They may even find that they do not seek to better their financial/professional situation because they’re not sure that they can  – or even that they deserve such a change.

 

And of course, how much fun would romantic relationships or friendships be then? They might become that person that never pursues another – and if they are pursued for friendship or romance, they may refuse simply because they do not feel confident enough to participate. They may find that they accept poor treatment because they don’t feel they deserve any better – or aren’t sure if they could get it. They might even become that dreaded “needy” person that is constantly seeking your assurance of their stance and stability in the relationship… Trust me, as frustrating as that can be for you… they don’t like it either.

 

Example 2…

One may think that higher self-esteem would be less of an issue for anxiety, but that’s not necessarily true. The internet is filled with misinformation – some accidental and some (horridly) purposeful – and many people (either for lack for time or lack of interest) don’t bother to confirm the information they share. The problem with an overconfident person is they are not always receptive to corrections no matter what sort of proof you give them. Have you ever had to give feedback to someone who – instead of taking your thoughts as an opportunity to grow – immediately became personally offended? Have you ever tried to correct someone’s misinformation, only to be met with anger? Have you ever tried to give someone a simple opinion or perspective, only to be met with unbending opposition?

 

I can’t see what’s inside the minds of those people, but I can venture a pretty strong guess at the true motivation behind their reaction:

 

Fear

 

Anyone can get overconfident with how they see the world, and challenges to those ideas can shake the very foundation of how that person lives their life. In a way, your alternative perspective is threatening their entire existence… In looking at it that way, wouldn’t you get a little upset too?

 

So, what can we do about it?

 

Like many things in life, we can only jump so far ahead. We cannot always predict what will trigger us in the future, or how we will change as our lives progress. The most we can do is keep a healthy self- awareness. Remember that we are all imperfect beings that are prone to extremes on both sides of the spectrum. And when those times come, there are two, simple things that we can do to improve our situation:

 

Forgive and endure.

 

Maybe someday we will be as confident as we hope, but even then, we’ll have to work to keep it that way. Give yourself some time and understanding, and never, EVER give up.

Think Before You Speak – “That’s not so bad.”

“Friendship is not about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life and said ‘I’m here for you’ and proved it.”

Anonymous

 

Let’s face it: we could all probably use some practice with empathy from time to time. There are many ways to do that, but one of my favorites is actually a very simple exercise: think before you speak.

 

When someone approaches a friend or loved one with a complaint or concern, I’ve heard far too many respond with one of the following:

 

“That’s not so bad.”

 

or

 

“It’ll be fine.”

 

or even

 

“You think THAT’S bad? Check out what happened to me.”

 

People often say these things without thinking about the impression they might leave on the other person. To them, it makes sense: downplay what they’re going through, or show them how bad it could be.

 

Of course, for some people in some situations, this may help. There have been times when I’ve literally told my best friend: “I need you to tell me how much worse it could be; give me some perspective.”

 

Yes, we may all need that kind of approach from time to time. But before you say something like that, make sure you know that’s what the person needs.

 

Because if they don’t, this is what you could convey to them:

 

“Your feelings aren’t valid.” (that’s a stupid reason to be upset)

 

“You’re weak.” (if you were stronger, you’d get over it faster and/or you’d realize that this is temporary)

 

“You are selfish.” (other people are going through much worse things than you)

 

…Ouch.

 

Most of the time, when someone comes to me with a problem, the first thing I do is listen. A lot of times, that’s really what people need. All they want is to be heard and understood.

 

In fact, this was a strategy I used a lot when I worked in customer service. I could almost always get angry or upset customers to leave happy – or at least calm – simply by making sure that they felt like I was listening. Even if I could not to anything for them, I would always make sure to convey empathy. Often, that would be enough. It’s often enough with others too.

 

And on the times when it isn’t?

 

You’ll know. When dealing with someone who is upset, I always employ the simple listening strategy first. Then, if appropriate, I just ask a simple question:

 

“What can I do to help?”

Pay-it-Forward: April

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Eden Ahbez

 

Well, another month has gone by, and it’s time to take a minute to send out a big basket of LOVE to my fellow writers out there!

 

In the past, I’ve kept my monthly pay-it-forward posts solely focused on writers who followed or liked my own blog….

 

To be honest, I was feeling lazy

 

Hey, we’ve all been there from time-to-time. 😉

 

I was just thinking about how much more work (cue whining noises) it would be to actually look for other writers to talk about instead of just letting them find me.

 

Then I gave myself a kick in the pants!

 

I said, “Girl, you are being WAY too limiting! There are so many amazing authors out there writing all kinds of awesome stuff. If you are really serious about your blog, you’ll know that it’s worth it to do a little extra work!”

 

So here you go! The list might be a bit small, but quality is much more important than quantity:

 

1. Cake Wrecks

 

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine. In this case, it’s also the tastiest. 😉

 

Humor can be a fantastic tool for anxiety management. Personally, I feel amazing after I’ve had a good laugh.

 

If you haven’t visited Jen’s blog yet, you are surely missing out.

 

2. Prince Ea

 

Good writers are not restricted to written mediums. This guy writes some beautiful poems and speeches and posts them on his YouTube channel. He also writes some really thought-provoking ideas on his blog. When you’re in the mood to get your mind rolling, check him out!

 

3. Juggling the Jenkins

I first discovered this awesome blogger through YouTube, where she posts some hilarious – yet accurate – videos about what it’s like to live with mental health issues. Check out her fantastic blog for more great content – and take a peek at that home page; she’s got a book coming out too!

 

By the way…

 

If you are a writer and you’d like your book or blog featured on one of my monthly posts, visit the Contact page to make an inquiry.

 

Let’s spread the joy, people!