Tag Archives: mental health

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.

 

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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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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Enjoying the Holidays without Overcharging the Senses

When I wrote the blog post “How I Became an Early Christmas Shopper”, I suggested that the reason why I felt more inclined to shop earlier and avoid the mayhem of malls in December, was perhaps a question of becoming more sensitive.

One year later, after a series of discussions with a therapist, I realize it may not be a question of “becoming” more sensitive. In all likelihood, I always was.

Even though I stand right on the line between introvert and extrovert, with one foot well into extrovert territory, it is still easy for me to get overwhelmed. There is no shortage of events in the month of December to overcharge one’s senses:

– Faster pace: The office often gets busier with a surge of activity in trying to tie up loose ends on projects and produce the last status reports of the year, before everyone takes vacation time.

– More activity: The social calendar tends to fill with holiday parties and lunches with family, friends and co-workers.

– Sensory stimulation: Shopping malls with lights and decorations hanging from every nook and cranny, with the aroma of hundreds of perfumes hanging in the air, as music blares from shops like they are nightclubs, while kids scream from being hungry, too warm, too tired or all of the above.

– And on an empathetic level, as much as people romanticize it as being “the most wonderful time of the year”, there is no shortage of negative energy in the air to soak up through people’s rushing, their impatience, their aggressive driving and their temper tantrums in stores. Continue reading

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How Doing Nothing Takes Work and Discipline

Not too long ago, I booked off a day in the middle of the week, with my mind racing as to all the things I could get accomplished and how much I could get ahead in my to-do list.

Weekends can get pretty busy between social engagements and with the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the laundry and trying to find a few minutes to recharge for the week ahead.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing about my routine. It’s just that after a busy work week with all of its trappings and weekends that are bustling with activity, the prospect of a day off in the middle of the week is an offer with limitless possibilities.

But the question is: do I really NEED to do anything?

As much as I can be an extrovert who likes to be around people, if my environment delivers a steady stream of stimulating activities (even fun ones), I know that I need a break to balance things out to not get overwhelmed.

It is probably no accident that my hobbies have leaned toward quieter, more introspective moments, like writing, reading, nature photography, painting and running. The trick is to ensure I spend enough time on those recharging activities, to build up the energy reserves for the more extroverted side of me to come through in busier times.

But I think part of the problem is that I have been programmed for productivity. Having been brought up in a climate of “make hay while the sun shines”, “the early bird catches the worm” and “idle hands are the devil’s tools”, sitting still does not come naturally. As I hinted in my blog post “Being Bored Was Not an Option”, when I was young, if I ever thought to myself that I was bored, somehow, magically, my dad would show up with a broom or a rake in hand and a list of chores. That being the case, I never allowed myself to get bored. 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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