Tag Archives: compassion

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.

There have been circumstances that in being a people-pleaser, I have been more considerate of others than I was of myself, and then paid the price later in feeling short-changed.

I also learned that as much as I like to think of myself as a good communicator, my reflex for tact and diplomacy to spare others’ feelings can sometimes obscure the clarity in the messaging when setting boundaries. I am working on that too.

The irony is that I really don’t care what people think about me. They can judge and criticize and it bounces off me like I’m Teflon coated. But for some strange reason, I still feel responsible for the happiness of others.

I recognized a pattern of self-inflicted guilt trips after asserting myself even when I was justified in stating my position.

I learned that worry, racing thoughts and rumination are a call to action. Letting things fester contributed to the escalation of my anxiety responses.

It’s a little late, but better late than never: I learned exactly why some work assignments over the span of my career were ideally suited for me, and why some others were not. In a nutshell, a proactive guy in a highly reactive job is not a good fit.

I learned that my decision-making process is dependent on a harmonious connection between mind, body and spirit. Even if intellectually, I believe something is right, if it doesn’t feel right in my gut, I either need to give it time to sink in or re-evaluate the decision. Otherwise, I will likely be stressing about the decision long after it was taken.

I was able to connect the dots (metaphorically speaking) between the events that pushed me to the limit, stressed me to the max, and my body fought back when presenting me with a bad case of shingles in 2014. Clearly I didn’t deal well with my stress.

With the help of the therapist, I revisited past scenarios that triggered anxiety responses and developed ideas for what I would have done differently to deal with those situations better.

I also learned that despite having the best tool kit for dealing with boundary issues, assertiveness issues, stress and anxiety, situations don’t always get resolved as neatly as we would like them to. Sometimes, I just need to let go and move on rather than channeling huge amounts of energy into something that might not be meant to be.

In doing so, I find myself gradually returning to the calm, cool and collected dude I always was deep inside, but that got lost in the shuffle of unfortunate circumstances, people who were toxic in my world and the hunt for the right tools to deal with them.

With less time spent ruminating or stewing over issues, I am finding more head space for more fun, more creativity, and the opportunity to be more present and in the moment.

As I find my natural positive energy returning, therapy helped me get in touch with the authentic me again.

 

Did you enjoy this post?  If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from!  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 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

New Year’s Resolution 2018: Inner Peace (Again!)

When I look back on last year’s blog post “Resolution: Inner Peace”, I remember how tired I was with the status quo at that time. For someone who is usually seen as positive, upbeat and generally calm, cool and collected, something just wasn’t right. Even in life’s quietest moments, I found my core jumping into “fight or flight” mode and didn’t know why. Little stressors were sparking up stronger reactions within me and anxiety was starting to take over.

I also found myself having a hard time letting go of chapters that were seemingly concluded. This wasn’t me! As this prolonged over time, I found my energy was heading downhill.

Despite having a huge tool kit of stress management techniques that I had accumulated over the years, I just couldn’t keep these stressors in check and to get past them. Negative emotions were festering and growing. I couldn’t get the upper hand on the situation and I didn’t know why.

I felt like I was headed the wrong way down a one-way street and getting farther away from the more serene self that I aspire to be. My 2017 resolution for seeking out inner peace was probably the best declaration I ever made. I was prepared for change.

Three anxiety attacks into 2017, I had hit my limit. It was time to seek help. My referral to a psychotherapist was the catalyst that helped me begin to break the cycle of anxiety.

But it wasn’t easy. I would say this was one of the toughest projects I had ever undertaken, having to recall and relive many of the stressors throughout my lifetime to find out what they had in common. Continue reading

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Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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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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How the Cat Opened My Heart

I think it would be fair to say that I have always been a sensitive guy. Some might even say that is a bit of an understatement given that I have been known to cry at previews at the movies. It might be a bit inconvenient and a tad embarrassing, but I am quite comfortable being the guy for whom sympathy, empathy, compassion and joy run close to the surface.

To me, feelings remind us that we have blood coursing through our veins and that we are part of the human experience. It’s a wonderful thing.

But is it possible to become even more sensitive than that? You bet! And I have the cat to thank.

When I was planning and preparing for the adoption of my cat Ivy, almost two years ago, no one mentioned the many ways a pet can alter one’s range of emotions. What an unexpected epiphany!

I have accepted the fact that when she is waiting for me at the door when I get home from work, it’s likely not because she missed me, it is because it is feeding time. No delusions there.

But after she has filled her belly with her favourite catch of the day and starts following me around as I prepare dinner, that’s when I start sensing that she missed me. And of course, the feeling is mutual.

On a cognitive level, I have always understood the attachment between pets and their owners. Now, as a new pet owner, I also understand it with every fibre of my being.

It’s not like my heart needed much melting to begin with, but with Miss Ivy, it melts a little more each day with everything she “says” and does. She is a ten pound bundle of cuteness. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Cats, Inspiring

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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