Tag Archives: kindness

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

How I Die a Little Each Time Someone Says “For Your Age”

I always appreciate the kindness and generosity of spirit when someone sends a compliment my way or I get a good news from a medical check-up. But there is no faster way to turn my smile upside down than to pause and conclude the statement with “… for a guy your age.”

“You look great… for a guy your age.”

“Your test results are great… for a guy your age.”

“Your eyesight is good… for a guy your age.”

What does “for your age” mean exactly? “For your age bracket you are doing well, but when compared to the overall population, you suck?” Well that’s certainly a feel-good moment, isn’t it?

When exactly did I get old enough to earn the qualifier “for your age” and why do I hear a roar of horror movie sound effects whenever someone says it?

I know that I will probably never have the same constitution as I did when I was 20. Back then, I burned up calories faster than I could consume them. I could work out every day and rarely feel the burn the next day. When I wasn’t so kind to my body, I could get by on 4 hours sleep, I smoked, and my diet rarely included leafy greens. Yet somehow, I still functioned reasonably well.

Things are different now for this quinquagenarian. One salty meal and I puff up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and “feeling the burn” the next day is often the result of something as challenging as opening a jar with a tight lid. Significant adjustments were needed out of necessity. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour

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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Filed under 50+, How to, Inspiring, mental health, Misc blogs

The Coin Conundrum

With every passing day, the use of debit cards, credit cards and online banking seem to become the norm as we inch closer to a cashless society. Given that certain vending machines and self-checkouts are only accepting cards now, are coins falling out of favour?

When we also consider that Canada phased out the penny four years ago and inflation has greatly diminished the purchasing power of low denomination coins, how is it that I became a magnet for people who need to unload some precious “doubloons” because their purse or pocket is getting heavy?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely sympathize and have been on the opposite side of the coin on a few occasions myself.

Given some underlying disc issues in my back that flare up from time to time, I am very much aware of the need to keep the contents of my messenger bag to a manageable weight for my travels to and from the office. If I don’t, and my spine compensates for a few extra contents by shifting a little more to the left, it could lead to neck, back or shoulder issues, which leads to an added visit or two to the chiropractor. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour, Misc blogs

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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Filed under 50+, Inspiring

Christmas Traditions, Past and Present

What is it about the holiday season that has us so deeply entrenched in tradition?

Is it the reminder of the eager anticipation we felt on Christmas morning, waking up to see what Santa brought? Is it the feast for the senses throughout the month of December? Is it the reminder of a simpler, gentler time?

Or is the totality of the experience, combining the recreation of old familiar traditions with the new experiences that get woven in as the fabric of our lives changes?

Here are ten such traditions that have formed an important part of the holidays for me over the years:

10. Shopping
I recently blogged about how shopping in December is so much fun, I now shop in November. But in all seriousness, I do have very fond memories of being a store clerk in my high school and university years and how much I enjoyed helping last minute shoppers find the perfect holiday gifts. In those last days leading up to the big day, there was magic and electricity in the air that made time fly, helping customer after customer ring through with their purchases and hurry out the door to their family, friends and festivities. I enjoyed that role of a sort of Christmas Elf so much, things may come full circle as something I might reconsider in my retirement years.

9. Christmas cards
Ever since I was a child, I enjoyed sending and receiving Christmas cards through the mail. As I got older I realized that it was impossible to see everyone over the holidays unless I had my own magic sleigh, 8 reindeer and unlimited time. Sending cards is that opportunity to tell someone that I am thinking of them, even if we don’t see each other that often, as well as the chance to convey my best wishes for the new year. True enough, electronic cards, email and texts can still convey the message so much more efficiently, but I still like the ritual of the mailbox and the “Aww!” moment of opening a card, reading a nice greeting and the joy of the ongoing connection with the sender. Plus, when I find a perfect card that captures an inside joke, makes someone laugh, or strikes the right chord in one way or another, it can be a beautiful thing.

8. Baking
Is there anything that helps to stir up the memories of Christmas past than the sweet smell of baking favourite holiday treats? In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I do find myself puttering in the kitchen more than usual, reviving old favourites to bring to potlucks, parties or to give as gifts. When that sweet smell gently fills the house, it really does whisper “Christmas is coming”. Date squares, pecan squares, butter cookies and rum balls, are just some of the traditional indulgences that I revive annually. Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Christmas, Humour, Top 10

How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper

A couple of years ago, in the blog post “The Christmas Trees of August”, I poked fun at the retail sector and how stores seem to be putting out seasonal merchandise earlier and earlier each year.

It is funny how times change.

Here we are, two short years later, and I am finding myself seriously venturing out to Christmas shop earlier and earlier with each passing year.

At the best of times throughout the year, I rarely shop on Saturday afternoons. But in the last weeks approaching Christmas, I also avoid shopping on Saturday mornings as the stores and parking lots get far too busy for me. Then a week later, I will drop Sunday as a possible shopping day. Then a week later, Friday evenings are off the list. A week after that, Thursday evenings are eliminated.

When I only have Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to get my shopping done, there are only so many hours to accomplish that.

Then add to the mix the wildcard of snowstorms or freezing rain that can strike at any moment. If they do, some of those prime shopping days can unexpectedly disappear.

What does one do in light of this weird Christmas shopping algorithm?… I started shopping earlier.

Why?

I seem to have a romantic notion of Christmas shopping being a fun activity. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour