Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Am I Too Sensitive?

I’d like to think that I treat people with kindness, class, respect and dignity. The only thing is that being consistent in that regard can become difficult when that treatment is not reciprocated.  Similarly, it is hard to be gracious when I am met with negativity and judgement.

As I found out, I seem to be quite sensitive to the energy around me. Negative energy can be pretty contagious.

That being the case, I often found myself stepping back from certain situations and wondering to myself, “Am I being too sensitive”?

Intuitively, to survive in our sometimes not-so-kind world, I managed to develop a thick skin and just enough armour to make my way through life without getting trampled or taken advantage of… most times. And those who did cross the line remained on my “naughty” list for years to follow. Some might call it a grudge, but I prefer to call it a defense mechanism to prevent it from happening again.

As I head into the second half of my life, I realize that being empathetic, kind-hearted and sensitive is my natural way of being, and that’s OK. My challenge is that I tend to be overly sensitive to others’ feelings, and that I worry about it… a lot. And then my resilience pays the price.

Most time, it is not a horrible problem in itself. What a wonderful world it would be if people actually did take a moment to care a little more about others rather than taking people down a peg, giving people a piece of their mind, and losing sight of the fact that we are all human beings.

But it becomes a problem when my sensitivity toward others’ feelings becomes a higher priority than my own.

In recent years, I’ve had my sensitivities overwhelmed by a number of external factors at the same time. During that time, I often felt pushed beyond my limits yet was still determined to be the nice guy, to not make waves, and to make sure everyone was happy… except me.

But then I finally got the memo! To return to the guy known for his positive energy, sunny outlook and “relentless cheerfulness”, I needed to strengthen my boundaries and my boundary-setting skills to maintain my energy for my family, my friends, for my work and for my favourite activities.

A recalibration was necessary. I made a few changes to eliminate (or at least moderate) those situations that pose a challenge to my sensitivities, and a drain on my energy:

1-I have moderated my intake of news. When checking out the news online, I have stopped reading the comments.

2-I don’t discuss politics.

3-I have accepted that I cannot be in more than one place at once. I am not Samantha Stephens.

4-When people start stirring up drama, my response is usually flat and without encouragement. I don’t play along. It’s exhausting.

5-I don’t read social media feeds during live events anymore.

6-The musical playlist for my commuting is usually very calming and soothing.

7-I have accepted that I don’t have to be right and I don’t have to agree with my counterpart with whom I am debating. It just means “agree to disagree” and to walk away.

8-I have accepted that I don’t have to fix things for everyone.

9-I have accepted that I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness. I am solely responsible for my own happiness.

10-I try not to be as hard on myself. It’s about moderating expectations and seeing beauty in life’s imperfections.

11-Even though I am a planner by nature, I try to remain open to life’s occasional randomness.

12-I try to reserve a little buffer time between potentially stressful or challenging situations to regain my footing again.

13-When given the choice, I may need to opt out of a situation that I know will be overwhelming and stressful to me.

14-When facing adversity, I try to remember to take deep breaths and to take the steps necessary to relax and ground myself along the way.

15-And the most challenging change: Getting better at saying “No, I’m sorry”.

In doing so and in asserting myself, my limited supply of energy is reserved for what energizes me, rather than things that overwhelm my sensitivities and tap my energy.

I think the key to being “successfully sensitive”, if that’s a thing, is to care less about the things that shouldn’t matter and that exhaust me personally.

By channeling my energy mindfully and selectively into joyful priorities that matter more, I can keep the good vibes circulating, and continue to treat people with kindness, class, respect and dignity.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

Ruminating, Racing Thoughts and Overthinking

… or does “Overthinking, Racing Thoughts and Ruminating” sound better?

… or should I say, “Racing Thoughts, Ruminating and Overthinking”?

… or perhaps “Ruminating, Overthinking and Racing Thoughts?”

As someone who considers himself a proactive person, it is well within my nature to think things through before acting.

Not only do I want to avoid making mistakes, but when I make a decision, I’d like to think that I have been responsible, thoughtful, balanced, sensitive and kind.

I admit it, I don’t deal well with surprises. Getting blindsided sends steam shooting out of my ears. Getting pressed for quick decisions and reactions without the proper time to process the situation sends my blood pressure through the roof.

While I think others have more confidence in my handling of things than I do myself, perhaps it is a sense of not wanting to let people down by appearing unprepared, that I try to eradicate surprises before they happen.

But that’s exhausting. Anticipating every possible outcome is next to impossible and developing an action plan for every negative scenario is hard on the mind, body and spirit.
This is not to say I can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. I have a pretty good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. Over 52 years, my gut has rarely steered me wrong. I just need to trust that instinct. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

When Door-To-Door Sales Were Banned

On March 1st, a province-wide ban went into effect in Ontario, effectively putting a stop to high pressure sales of heating, air conditioning and water services at our front doors. What a relief!

While I feel bad for the folks who were trying to make an honest living in the business of door-to-door sales, the sad reality is that in recent years, a few rotten apples spoiled it for everyone. Some sales people were becoming pushy, confrontational and some were downright creepy.

I remember one young lady who looked like Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch, who was selling a locked-in price plan for natural gas. After I politely declined the offer and started gently shutting the door, she wrapped up the conversation saying “you’ll beeee soooorryyyyy” with the same tone and inflection as a dire warning from a horror movie. That was a little creepy!

I also remember an argumentative type that got my blood boiling when I innocently thought this might be a good time to ask questions and to get more information. As I started asking very genuine questions about the service he was offering, he kept asking me why I needed to know that, as his tone got increasingly defensive with every passing question. When he started raising his voice and I started feeling rattled, I decided it was time to end the conversation. He kept talking after I closed the door.

It was the pushy people who wanted to get into the house and check out my water heater that pushed me over the edge, when challenging my own authority to say “no, thank you”. Holy invasion of privacy, Batman! Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, Humour, mental health, Misc blogs

When Things Are Oversealed for Your Protection

A couple of months ago, I was home from work with a bad case of bronchitis. Not only was my breathing affected, but the body aches and the rapid swings between feeling hot and cold had me running through wardrobe changes faster than Cher at her Farewell Tour.

At one point, I was feeling so crummy, I was taking the maximum daily dosage of pain reliever. In doing so, I quickly depleted my supply and needed to open a new bottle. Little did I know the ordeal that was lying ahead:

The box was “sealed for my protection”. I understood why. I believe many of us can remember the events of 1982 that led to the reason why medication packages are designed and secured in the way that they are.
Check out this link for a refresher: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/tylenol-murders-1982

But despite the multiple attempts, with the “brute force” I was putting into it – maybe it was my weakened state – I just couldn’t tear through the simple plastic seal on the cardboard box, no matter how hard I tried. The packaging was visibly mangled, but I just couldn’t break in. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour, Misc blogs

Bell Let’s Talk: How Therapy Helped Me

A few months ago, I published a blog post about my anxiety and the signs that it was time to reach out for help. I knew that by speaking with a therapist, someone outside of my immediate circle, I wouldn’t feel like I was dumping or oversharing. In addition, I thought that a professional might be better able to suggest solutions to problems that seemed to come back again and again.

Little did I know how much better I would feel one year later:

I always knew I was a sensitive guy, but I didn’t quite understand to what extent. I learned to strike a happy medium in allowing myself to be the sensitive guy that I am without feeling that I was out of sync with everyone else.

As much as my triggers for anxiety seemed random and unrelated, they really do stem from a few specific events in the distant past. With the help of my therapist, I am working through those and trying to curb the anxiety response.

A pattern of lack of assertiveness emerged. Now that I know, I have been gently nudging myself into being more assertive in specific circumstances.

I learned that saying no (politely, firmly and without getting emotional) was a valid response that should not be feared when I really want to say no.

I learned that setting boundaries and calmly enforcing boundaries that were not respected, are an essential part of living and survival.

Even in the last few weeks, I find myself proactively drawing lines in the sand because once the boundaries are articulated, out in the open and agreed upon, life is a lot easier when uncertainty is removed from the equation. Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health

When a Colleague Has Food Allergies

A couple of months ago, I overheard a young lady and her colleague on the elevator, in a conversation that went something like this:

“Are you going to the pizza lunch?”

“Yes, I guess we have to. It’s mandatory.”

“Except for those people who asked for gluten-free.” She started shaking her head and continued, “Come on, it’s a free lunch.”

Ever since that conversation I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could say something so unenlightened. Whether a person has an allergy, an intolerance, a medical condition, a dietary restriction or a preference, people’s food choices need to be respected. Period!

I suspect that the young lady in question probably does not have a family member with a food allergy or intolerance, for her to say that a lunch being free is a good reason to eat something that could pose an allergy risk.

In my case, wheat can turn my world completely upside down for about 24 hours. Imagine if you will, your absolute worst stomach flu, resulting in frequent, persistent, urgent and (please excuse the vulgarity) “explosive” trips to the washroom. Then add the sensation of something sharp painfully working its way through the digestive system. Continue reading

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness, Misc blogs

Journey: Dodging the “C” bullet… twice

I don’t think there was ever a handbook written on knowing when the “good things come to those who wait” approach to life was more appropriate than the “no time like the present” philosophy, but I think we generally make it up on our own, based on what life throws at us.

One of my cousins has been very encouraging over the last several years that when it comes to writing, there really is no time like the present. When he first started making that suggestion to me, I was perhaps not far along enough in my career journey to fully appreciate the advice, especially since I was still finding my voice in the corporate world, eager to please and eager to make a name for myself. But add a few more years into the mix and some life-changing experiences and Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, Inspiring, Writing