Category Archives: mental health

A Calm Mind

There are no words to describe the feeling of waking up in the morning with no worries. At first, it started to worry me… how can my mind be without worry… I must be forgetting something. But I caught myself falling into the old habit, and actively decided to just let it go, and enjoy the moment.

Waking up to a calm mind that is not racing, ruminating or over-processing things is new to me. What a wonderful feeling it is!

It’s not because I won the lottery. It’s not because stress has magically disappeared from my life. It’s not because certain people have suddenly found the exit door from my life.

Do I have things to worry about? Yes I do, but I don’t let them linger like they used to.

I remember being taken to the doctor’s office when I was 12 because I frequently suffered from stomach aches. After an abdominal exam and not finding anything, the doctor’s advice was to stop worrying so much otherwise I’d develop an ulcer.

But there was so much to worry about: Getting good grades, pleasing my parents, getting my homework done on time, fitting in at my new school, being the “husky” kid, being the shortest boy in my class.

And as the years went on, my worries changed, but worry was a constant: maintaining a good average in high school to get into university, choosing a major in university, completing university to get a good job, the first work assignment, the first apartment, money management, the first car, paying my dues at work, health, relationships, the second apartment, noisy neighbours, the third apartment, car repairs, illness in the family, the first house purchase, home renovations, dog poo in my yard (and I don’t own a dog)… you get the picture.

At any point, I had a stack of worries circulating through my mind, but that seemed normal to me.

Along the way, I had read several self-help books and taken stress management courses to develop a tool kit to help keep my cool and to keep me grounded. Things seemed to be in check, but worry still followed me around even in the quietest, most relaxed moments. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

The Irony of Black Friday Shopping

This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.

I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.

On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.

Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.

I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, mental health

Why Am I Walking So Fast?

I was walking down the street one evening after work, when I caught myself. I was walking at a brisk pace.

What’s wrong with walking at a brisk pace? Nothing if you are running late or have a long list of things to do and only a little time to accomplish them.

But I wasn’t late nor did I have a long list of things to do. But I was still on autopilot, at a pace more typical of “The Busy People’s Walk”. The brisk pace seems to be the norm these days, even when there’s no reason for it.

While it might be great for my cardio, it’s not exactly conducive to stopping and smelling the roses along the way.

I laughed to myself and thought, “Slow down! Enjoy the moment!” At the same time, it evoked childhood memories from when my Dad used to tell me (in French) “T’es pas au feu”, meaning “You’re not on fire”, whenever I was unnecessarily rushing through something.

Funny enough, even after consciously slowing myself down, somehow my walking speed started creeping up again and I had to remind myself that I am, in fact, not on fire and could enjoy a more leisurely pace. I slowed myself down again.

The question is… why? Has my auto-pilot always been stuck in rush mode? Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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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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

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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