Tag Archives: adversity

Anxiety: When it was Time to Seek Help

As I get older, I like to think that I have things pretty well figured out and that it takes a lot to surprise me. I have become more accepting of my quirks and foibles and my reactions to situations are generally consistent, coming from a place of authenticity and self-awareness.

Through the years, I have also conquered some minor fears and sources of internal struggle that definitely kept me on my toes.

For me, the trick to remaining calm, cool and collected through life has been to gradually widen my comfort zone. It took guts, perseverance and hard work, but when taken in baby steps, it served me well. With a wider comfort zone, I could trust in my own skills, knowledge and resourcefulness in the face of adversity and stress.

And to cope with stress, I had in my back pocket a huge tool kit of stress management techniques, breathing exercises, mellow music, meditation techniques, grounding techniques and relaxing hobbies, not to mention lavender bath salts, scented candles and massage therapists on speed dial.

With things seemingly so neat and tidy, why is it that at the same time I felt I was becoming older and wiser, anxiety was suddenly creeping up on me as well?

“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you now?'” – Oprah Winfrey

To read more: http://www.oprah.com/own-master-class/oprah-winfreys-master-class-quotes/all

To me, those whispers were showing up in the form of reactions to situations that seemed out of character. Beneath my usual calm and cool exterior, I was starting to experience more moments of nervousness, an increasing intensity of nervousness, longer spans of ruminating over issues and needing more time to bounce back from dealing with life’s issues. I was also having a much harder time letting go, no matter how many times I heard that Idina Menzel song. Continue reading

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The Pitfalls of Nature Photography

Now that I have been out and about, enjoying the spring weather, indulging in a little quiet time, communing with nature and taking photos, I could not help but notice that my hobby does have its share of pitfalls.

In trying to capture the perfect shot, I often feel like a secret agent, trying to move in on a subject in stealth mode, intensely looking at the world through a viewfinder.

But in doing so, and in being so focused, I have occasionally lost track of the intricacies of the physical world around me, including time and space. From a health and safety perspective, it concerns me a little, given my tendency to occasionally be a bit of a klutz.

Yet even when faced with these challenges, I don’t seem deterred. The rewards of capturing a great nature shot are worth every bump and bruise.

Also, Mother Nature has a way of keeping photographers on their toes by changing the perfect conditions with little advance notice. It can get a little frustrating but I’d like to think that this is part of the thrill of the hunt when perseverance leads you to that shot that made it all worth it.

Here they are, my top 10 pitfalls of nature photography:

10. Losing track of time
It has happened that in the process of evaluating the composition and the lighting, taking a test shot, evaluating the result, making adjustments, taking another test shot and repeating until I think I have captured the best photo possible, before I know it, an hour has passed. It’s delightful to lose myself in the creative process when I have unlimited time on my hands, but it is quite another matter, when I am on my lunch hour and due back for a meeting at 1:00 sharp.

9. Wearing the wrong shoes
A subset of #10, sometimes I get so enthralled in my photo shoot, not only do I lose track of time, but I lose track of space and distance and find myself farther away than I originally planned. It is on the long walk back and dealing with a blister that I realize that I was not wearing the right shoes for such an undertaking. Continue reading

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Resolution: Inner Peace

relaxingA few years ago, I published a blog post about New Year’s resolutions and my admission that I generally don’t make them. Even though traditionally the 1st of January is believed to be a great time for a fresh start, I would like to think that improvements to one’s life can be made anytime that it makes sense.

However I might be inclined to make an exception in 2017. My resolution seems to be more of an overarching goal than a single activity. It is a collective of several activities that need to be orchestrated to work together to be effective. My resolution for 2017 is the protection of my inner peace.

On the journey of life, we face adversity stemming from things over which we have little to no control. But for those things that are within our control, why shouldn’t we protect ourselves from factors that undermine our happiness? Why should we take on more adversity than we really need to when the choice is offered to us? In other words, why shouldn’t we pick our battles?

Through life’s natural ebb and flow, we go through busy times, we go through quieter times and we have the times in-between. I don’t know if it is because I am getting older or just the fact that challenging times have followed me around like my shadow in the last couple of years, but I now seem to find myself uncharacteristically overprotective of my free time and my free thought.

I would like to think it is just a normal reflex, in trying to heal from the turbulence and to restore balance to my energy flow. Continue reading

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It Was Sooo Cold…

Leave it to Ottawa to be a city of extremes when it comes to weather. As I am writing this, we are digging out from a fresh snowfall of 46 cm (18 inches) of snow in a 15 hour period… and still counting. And this is two days after a weekend that wasn’t just chilly… It wasn’t just cold… It was spine-tingling, bone chillingly frigid at -28 degrees Celsius, but with the wind, was said to feel like -42.

Having grown up in Ottawa, one of the coldest world capitals, I will admit that weather events like these are not much of a shock to the system anymore, but it warms my heart to think of the possibilities of ways that we can joke about it.

This past weekend, it was sooo cold…

– Even teenagers were wearing long pants.
– My chattering teeth destroyed my night guard.
– I vacuum just to warm up.
– My Microsoft Windows are frosted.
– I sweat icicles.
– My long underwear needs long underwear.
– Popsicles aren’t that cool anymore.
– Every birthday cake is an ice cream cake.
– My windows are shivering.
– I have to factor in an extra 10 minutes before any departure, for all the extra layers of clothing.
– Even my prayer plant is rubbing its hands. Continue reading

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Top 10 Solutions for “Literary Constipation”

When I launched the blog in October 2013, I admit there was a bit of apprehension in terms of putting my works in the public domain. The apprehension did not come from the content itself, I was proud of my work and really looking forward to rolling my sleeves up and starting my work as a blogger. What concerned me was the ability to keep at it and to keep posting consistently without sacrificing quality.

How’s that for a little pressure for a new blogger?

But I was lucky in never really suffering from writer’s block in the 18 months since the launch. The more I wrote for the blog, the more I tapped into the inspiration I drew from the events around me, and in turn, the more I was trying to keep up with the flood of ideas that kept coming to me. And they still do.

However I have been experiencing a little bit of “irregularity” of words: the words are still coming, the ideas for stories keep coming and my inventory of blog posts in “first draft” is still growing. My challenge lately seems to be in taking a post and finding the right words to finish it and nail it like a gymnast dismounting from the balance beam for a “10.0”.

The passion is still there; the fire is still there; I still need to write as much as I need to eat, sleep and breathe. It is perhaps just a minor case of “literary constipation”. I just need to dig into my arsenal of solutions to keep it fresh, keep the momentum going and to keep coming back to my passion for writing with a fresh pair of eyes.

Here are my top 10 solutions for literary constipation:

10. Are you physically comfortable?
Are you hungry? Are you dehydrated? Are you too warm? Are you too cold? Is your chair comfortable? Distractions in our physical world can also create distractions in our creative world. Take a moment to take stock and adjust accordingly.

9. Switch your background music/silence
In some cases, I found that just changing my background music can help bring on a creative spurt. Sometimes, turning the music off and just writing to ambient noises (birds chirping, falling rain) or writing in complete silence can help the creative process. Switch it up. Continue reading

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Ten Years Gluten-Free

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that the nutritionist said, “I think we found our culprit: it’s the wheat product family”. At first, the news brought instant relief in that we finally knew what the problem was. A moment later, the relief turned to panic in terms of “How the heck will I live without wheat products? Wheat is in everything! Where do I begin?”

Ten years does not seem that long ago, but in the wheat-free/gluten-free world it was a lifetime ago. The awareness and popularity of the products over the years have paved the way for greater competition and for companies to try to outdo each other and to have clients reaching for their pocketbooks.

However, back in 2005, some of the first gluten-free cookies I tried were… well… bad. Frankly, the packaging they came in might have been tastier. It wasn’t easy, but I survived on a lot of salad, grilled chicken and home-made shepherd’s pie in that first year. I am so thankful that times have changed.

What led me to the doctor and nutritionist’s office in the first place was a series of digestive issues that were seemingly getting more intense as time went on. In the months that preceded those visits, my stomach was often bloated, distended and often so noisy when it came to post-lunch digestion, to the point that I was embarrassed to attend afternoon meetings. I tried to drink as much water as I could to help drown the sound, but then I just had an orchestra of digestion noises AND gurgly, bubbly noises.

It was the month I turned 40 that things took a turn for the worst. At first, I thought it was just a little overindulgence Continue reading

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Video blog: How NOT To Cheer Someone Up

I am very proud to present the video version of last month’s blog post, “How NOT To Cheer Someone Up”:

We hear these words of encouragement all the time.. but is it cliché and idiom overload?


If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.net. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.

Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.

Sincere thanks for watching!

André

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