Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Ideal Typical Day

I mentioned before that I'm doing an in-app coaching plan. The most recent task in this plan was to write 500 words about your ideal typical day. I thought that this went well with my happiness exercises, and so I decided to share my own. I took some liberties here, because this particular coaching plan is about achieving your goals, and assumed that the ideal typical day was a weekday, aka a work day, and that I wasn't a rockstar millionaire or something like that, but actually living out the day to day in a career that I enjoyed but that was something I reasonably aspire to. (If you have the capabilities of being a rockstar, then perhaps that would be reasonable. For me, it's far outside of my talent zone).  

As I've discussed previously my ideas for creating a nonprofit in the mental health field, I hope that my readers can get the general idea that I used in creating this ideal typical day. Of course there are some personal details in here too, because I certainly don't aspire to be a working robot. I'm happy to answer any questions in the comments if there are any gaps that you'd like to know more about. So without further adieu.... my ideal typical day. 

I get up early - as the sun is coming up if not before. I get to the gym for a workout for about an hour. When I get home, I write my three pages, like I do every morning. My thoughts, musings, concerns, questions I have for the universe. Today, the three pages ends too quickly - I have so many thoughts and creative ideas, but I can use some brainstorming time for that later. I eat breakfast with the family before settling into the work day.

I’m starting the work day off with an all-team meeting. They’re fun and informative, and I like to have them once a month just to catch each team up with where the others are. The Family Fun Day planning is coming along nicely - the goal for this year is to get 150 people. Then we have the Mentor Meet Up event, in which mentors and mentees are going to meet in person for a community fun day. It’s the first time we’re doing this, but so far it’s looking popular with both groups. The magazine is going well, up to bi-monthly now, and with plenty of fresh writers of all ages. For the finance team, I just need to check in on the sponsorships to make sure we’re on track as we have been. And finally, we have the writing classes. I’ve been getting more and more requests for private lessons, which I love. It’s so wonderful to see the kids develop as they become more comfortable and confident in their writing and in themselves. The classes are booming too. In fact, I’ve set aside time later this week to finalize plans for the upcoming class.

After the staff meeting, I’m sitting in on a meeting of our community events team. I absolutely love having the kids help to develop the fundraising events - they come up with such creative ideas, and the enjoyment they get out of helping to develop these events is so rewarding. We try to do one every quarter to keep them engaged and keep our name “out there” with the public. And of course it helps raise additional funds for the charities and our organization.

I’m done meetings for the morning, and now I’m off to help with Suspended Coffee day. This isn’t a program that makes any money for me whatsoever, but I just love it. We work with a different local coffee shop each time, though some rotate in rather regularly. I dont have to do anything special here per se, but I like to be there to see how it’s going, offer suggestions if a new employee gets stuck with something, and just enjoy the positive atmosphere.

After a quick lunch at the coffee shop, the last official order of business is a private writing lesson with one of my favorite students. She’s come such a long way, and I feel like more of a mentor to her in a way. We write, but we also just talk about life, and I’ve seen her blossom emotionally before my eyes.

I’ll end the work day with some writing of my own. A post on my personal blog and draft for the magazine, Expressive Minds, though that will definitely need some editing later.

To wind down the day, I do some yin yoga. It’s the short class, but it’s something, and it’s the perfect relaxation after a busy yet enjoyable day. I head home to help with dinner. It’s taco night - my personal favorite. 

It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I can definitely say I love what I do and I have the best team of people. I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.

I can honestly say that writing this ideal typical day not only energized me, but it made it seem possible somehow. How, I've yet to fully determine. But the idea of looking at your typical day, of breaking it down into the day to day so that it seems like just your normal day, is very motivating inspiring.

What would your ideal typical day look like? Could you write it down? It doesn't have to be 500 words (or it could be more). It just helps to give it some thought. But don't think too hard - what comes to us naturally tends to be the most authentic, the most intuitive into our hearts and souls. I'd love to hear what you come up with, even if you just want to share a few lines!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cool Girl

I'm writing this post from a pretty raw, emotional position. It's not something I usually do, because I realize that sometimes I don't make a ton of sense when I'm in such a state. But right now I'm not angry or pissed off or even hurt. I'm just sad and emotional because of a realization that I finally stated (ok wept) out loud to myself today. It's something that I've touched on before, but have done so in a humorous manner, when I'm feeling good about myself and enjoying my quirks and the like. Today, that is not particularly the case, and therefore the cold hard truth is exactly that. The realization is this: I will never be cool girl.

Cool girl is calm and collected. She's relaxed and things don't frazzle her. She's happy and positive but not overly so. Not excessively talking about anything she can think of because there's some internal feeling of urgency to get it all out, like I do in a hypomanic state. No, her thoughts and words are always interesting, fascinating. People hang on them.  Cool girl doesn't have to make notes and alarms about every tiny thing for fear she won't remember, and the worry of not remembering will eat away at her. Her world doesn't revolve around calendar alerts and sticky notes. And if it does, they're notes for important meetings at her important job. Not "make sure to pack your chapstick when you go to the gym because you know you get super frustrated when you're working out and your lips dry out."

Speaking of jobs, cool girl has an important, well-respected job. She's not trying start a non-profit to help kids with mental health conditions, because cool girl doesn't have a mental health condition, and that kind of stuff probably doesn't make a lot of money. And cool girl is too logical to hope for a career and life path that doesn't make a decent amount of money just because it's where her heart lies. So she has a position that people are proud to talk about. Something people don't say "oh that's interesting, good for you"  but don't really have an interest in.

Cool girl participates in all of those sports that it's cool for girls to do like surfing and snowboarding. Because cool girl doesn't have an irrational fear of drowning or death via crashing into a tree. She probably drives a cool car. Maybe she rides a motorcycle or does something equally as daring that everyone thinks is cool. She's in great shape and of course attractive. She can be one of the guys but is feminine enough to clearly be one of the girls too.

Cool girl has a lot of friends. Because cool girl isn't always having anxiety attacks or feeling depressed or lonely; she isn't always worried about this or that; she doesn't think these worries aloud, annoying people around her with her constant worry. Cool girl was born with tons of confidence and self-esteem. It draws everyone to her but she doesn't need it to because she's perfectly happy with who she is with or without them. But she'll never have to test that theory because she'll never be alone. Unless she wants to, in which case it will suddenly be cool somehow to be alone because it's her choice. Cool girl is never jealous or envious because her confidence prevents her being doing so. And because of this, she probably doesn't have much to be jealous or envious of anyways. Unlike uncool girl over here, who is envious of the fact that people can even have that kind of confidence and feeling of self-worth, because I seem to have been born without that particular trait and have never gained it no matter how hard I try.

I'm not saying cool girl's perfect. I realize that nobody's perfect and I wouldn't aspire to that because I do, even in my most emotional state, I think perfect would be incredibly boring, and I'd rather be uncool then boring. So cool girl might not be quite as smart as me, or as creative. Her heart might not be as big as mine. But she can hold her own in a conversation and her conversations are interesting enough. Because her conversations aren't fraught with worry or filled with her overly loud voice, or excessive talking to the point where even she's embarrassed of herself. They're not deep conversations pondering life questions. They're fun, happy conversations about things that other people actually like to talk about.

The realization that I never will, and never could, be cool girl made me sad. Not because I want per se to be cool. I've never been cool and never particularly cared. I have generally liked my quirks and thought they made me unique. And I thought that this made people want to be around me, because people aways say they like someone who's not like everyone else. But because in the end, I realize that most people want to be around cool girl. Even if they say they don't. Most people don't like weird. They don't understand drastically different perspectives on life. They want people who they are proud to associate with, and no body is proud to hear "oh you hang around with her? She's weird".

To be clear, this post isn't directed at, or about, anyone in particular.  It's not based on a particular incident, or situation. It's just a realization that I came to when really thinking about myself and who I am... and by virtue of that, who I am not.  I also not aiming to hurt anyone's feelings. If share similar traits to the ones I've described in myself, I'm certainly not calling you uncool. It's the combination of all of these traits in me, plus my condition and my general personality, that makes me such. I have also realized that, as sad as it makes me to know that I won't ever be this cool person, there's some relief too. I can stop trying. I can stop attempting to attain the unattainable. It might be for others. It is not for me. I am me - for better and for worse. I do have some traits that I'm very proud of. I don't want to come off all woah is me. They're just not traits others particularly jump up and down about. But I have to accept that, and stop trying to hope they will. There is some inner peace in that.

I'm sure some people are going to "yell" at me, disagree with me and say I'm generalizing about society, that they don't want to be cool girl or to be around cool girl and all of that. And maybe they don't. And maybe I am generalizing. But I'm speaking with my personal experience and perspective here. It's how I feel, and feelings, by virtue of the fact that they are every person's own emotions about life, can't be wrong. They can be different than others', but they can't be wrong. I'm also not writing this for anyone's sympathy. Trust me, even eternally uncool girl knows that's not cool. I'm writing it because it's how I feel, and because I suspect there are others out there who have felt the same way and perhaps it's nice for them to know they aren't alone.

Finally, I want to say that I do have people in my life that are amazing, and I do feel so lucky to have them. It's because of them that I can manage through a lifetime of uncool. I love them from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Giving Yourself A Little Credit

It's blog number two of positivity exercises! In the last exercise we looked at those people and things in our lives that we are most grateful for. While it's possible that there were some internal gratitudes in there, for instance being thankful for possessing a particular personality trait, when asked to give thanks we generally look at those people and situations around us. If you did focus a bit internally, congratulations! You're a step ahead on this next exercise. It means that you recognize your own value and fabulous qualities, which is pretty amazing.

I believe there are two sides to adopting, and maintaining, a positive mindset. The first is to be able to show love to others. Not love in the traditional romantic sense, but an overall kind of human love. The love that says "I appreciate you. I know how you've helped me and/or others. I value who you are as a person. I know you're doing the best you can, even if you falter." While there are numerous ways to extend this love, offering up thanks, as we did in the previous exercise, is a good start. The second side is extending that love to yourself. Appreciating and valuing who you are, flaws and all. It doesn't mean ignoring those flaws, but simply understanding that they exist, and being able to continue to value yourself just the same. Sometimes it might even be figuring out how to look at those flaws in a more positive light (an exercise we'll do later on). So in this second exercise, we're going to give ourselves a little credit because, quite frankly, we deserve it.

Here, I ask you to list ten (or more!) things that you appreciate and value about yourself. It can be something small and simple, or something deep and particularly meaningful to you. We're commonly our own worst critics, so this is an opportunity to convince yourself of those attributes others already see in you, perhaps without your even knowing. Use these points to describe yourself as if you were describing your best friends or closest family members. It may feel like bragging a little, but that's ok - often we're so unused to giving ourselves credit that the slightest compliment or acknowledgement of our values feels over-indulgent. And remember, it doesn't matter what others think of these traits, it's how you feel about them. If something comes to mind, don't fight it, jot it down. Sometimes it's those things that float into our heads that we're least expecting that make the most impact. Here's my list:
  • My big heart
  • My sense of humor
  • My smile
  • My loyalty 
  • My love of helping others
  • My energy 
  • My quirkiness
  • My creativity and imagination
  • My belief in following dreams
  • My openness
Was it easy or difficult for you to make this list? Could you have come up with more than 10? Did anything pop into your head when you were creating your list that surprised you? If you'd like to share your favorite attributes, go right ahead! I'd love to hear. It might inspire others too! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Most Obvious Reminder In The World

I have a new favorite iphone app. It's called Lift, and it truly helps me every day. And.... it's FREE! To sum very generally, it allows you to set goals that you would like to achieve, in a wide range of categories, that ideally you'd like to work towards on a daily basis. You can choose from goals that others have already created, or you can make your own. There are also "coaching" plans, which span a certain period of time and set a series of preset goals along the way. To give you an idea of the options, some of my goals (both self-creative and "stolen" off of others) include:
  • Strength training
  • Cut down on caffeine
  • Focus on one project at a time (by far the hardest)
  • Yoga or Stretching
  • Achieve your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) coahcing plan
  • Wake up by 6:30 AM
  • Be grateful for something or someone
There are more, but I think that gives you an idea. One of the cool features of the app is that you can set alarms for those goals that you particularly want to be reminded of, and these alarms can be set daily or for certain days of the week. This is where the most obvious reminder in the world comes in. 

One of the goals I have set up, and to me the most important one, is "stop and enjoy life" (it was pre-created, so I can't take credit there).  It's so important that I set a reminder for every day of the week. What really struck me is that when the alarm goes off each day, I actually have to stop and think, "oh I have to do that today." Oddly, I remember "strength trainin" and "cut down on caffeine" most days. Even "wake up by 6:30" much of the time. And the kicker is, I don't have alarms set for those. Well, technically I have my alarm clock set for 6:30, but I do so without an additional reminder the night before. Yet not only did I have to set a reminder to stop and enjoy life, but when it goes off it takes me by surprise and I try to find a time to fit it in. 

It's ironic to me that this most important goal, and this one in particular, is the one that I can't remember to do without that alert. Luckily, after a couple weeks of using this app, I'm starting to put "stop and enjoy life" time into my calendar more often. I wish that I didn't have to schedule it in. I wish it was my main priority, to enjoy and appreciate life, and that the rest was just frosting. But it seems that's not our human, or our human-influenced-by-society, nature. So I encourage you, if you're like me and could use this reminder, to check out Lift or any other similar app.  Hopefully, eventually, it can be a regular part of life without a daily alert to instruct us to do so.

PS: I have no affiliation with the app for which I'd need to write this... I just really like it and it's made a big impact in my day to day life. :-) 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

9 Things I've Learned About My Mood Disorder

A mood cycling disorder is, by nature, a roller coaster. You never quite know how you're going to feel when you wake up... or eat lunch... or get ready for bed.  Because of the cyclical pattern, you can't be sure exactly what's going to affect you and how. Should I work out this morning, or is that going to completely mess me up? Can I have that second cup of coffee, or is that a terrible idea? Do I want to go out with friends, or should I really just be alone tonight? Life is, for the most part, a continual question mark.

I have, however, learned a few things about my condition and it's affect on me over the years that help make the day to day a little smoother. Nobody's perfect, and so despite these insights, I don't always take my own advice, but I have realized the that the closer I stick to these "rules", the better I feel.  I thought I'd share them for others who may perhaps be struggling with a mood cycling disorder or who feel they might be. I also thought that it might help our friends and loved ones, to perhaps explain a bit of why those of us that battle these conditions have the patterns and behaviors that we do.

1. I must get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Any less, and I'm not only exhausted, but my moods are much more likely to cycle. Sleep is a huge contributor to mood instability in humans in general, but especially to those with mood cycling. Oddly, I find if I get much more than this (unless I'm really making up for lost time), the effect isn't great either, though better than a sufficient deficit.

2. I need routine. This doesn't mean I can't be spontaneous, but it means that my general patterns need to be relatively stable. It's ideal for me to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day. If I work out (which I try to), I try to keep it at a consistent time of day. Ideally, meals are around the same time. Because so many things can affect my cycling, the more consistency the better. Otherwise, things get thrown off balance, and off balance for someone with a mood disorder is never a positive. My brain is already all over the place. If my outside world is as well, my brain really has no stable point of reference.

3. Too much caffeine makes me hypomanic. Two to three caffeinated drinks is generally the max. It's slightly different if I'm getting water-downed refills of diet soda at a restaurant, but I can't do nonstop Venti coffees all day. Perhaps it's ok when I'm especially exhausted or in a depressive episode, but I generally avoid too much.

4. Anxiety/stress/fear makes me cycle badly. It's not so much of a "physical" fear /anxiety that affects me (ie I'm afraid of public speaking) but an emotional stress that gets me. For instance, if I get in a fight with someone I'm close to, feel like I've disappointed someone etc, I get beside myself, and I cycle, usually quite rapidly. I'm not sure why it speeds up the frequency of cycling, but it seems to.

5.  I need to eat healthy, and certain foods do affect my moods. Too much dairy, sweets, or fatty foods can help put me into a depressive cycle. I have no scientific evidence of this, and I didn't set out to prove any theories about it, it's just a pattern I've noticed for myself.

6.  I need time alone with my brain, heart, and soul. I love my friends, and I'm very social person, but there are times when being social seems like too much pressure. I need to reflect, relax, or even just zone out and do as little as possible. Perhaps engross myself in a good book so that my brain doesn't have to focus so hard on the stressors in my life. So please, don't be hurt if I turn down an invitation. Trust me, it'd be worse if I was there and started to cycle. I'm slowly learning my limits and when to say no.

7. I need to feed my creative and imaginative side, and I need to do so often. This is the part of my cyclothymic brain that actually thrives! It is when I truly feel most "at home" within myself. If I don't have this opportunity, I start feeling stuck, to the point where I feel I'm losing my sense of self. It feels like there's something welled up inside of me, sitting there, waiting to burst out. The more I feed it, the more relaxed I feel, and relaxation seems to lead to less cycling.

8. I need to be true to myself. Yes, I'm emotional and sensitive, and I get stressed out more easily, and wish I had more self confidence and could be that "cool girl" who is laid back and just goes with the flow. But I'm not. Well at least not all of the time.  I've accepted it.  I do not do well trying to be like others and fit in with their rules and ways. It stresses me out and I cycle.

9. I need to take every single dose of my meds, every day, at the right time. This is the most important of all. Yes, I can miss a dose and not immediately cycle. But meds build up in your system, and if you miss a dose this day, and that day, and next week, eventually, you have a lower amount of meds in your system than you should. My meds are a life-saver. Do I like pulling out a bunch of pill bottles in public like someone's great-grandma? No. But the alternative is much less desirable. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Starting With Some Thanks

I recently made a vow to myself - and on my blog here - to become more positive. I'd been dealing with a lot of negativity, both in my own brain and from some people in my life, and, as the popular internet meme goes, "ain't nobody got time for that!".

With November being the month of thanks, I thought it was the perfect time to not only start working on my own positivity, but helping others looking to be more positive as well. I was inspired by a new app I'm using called Lift, in which you can sign up for "coaching" for various goals - which basically means each day they send you a new step to help you reach that larger goal. I realized that, while I have been letting things get me down the past couple of months, I'm a pretty positive personal naturally, and I really enjoy encouraging others. So I thought I'd start a series of positivity exercises via my blog.  I hate to use the word coaching, as I feel it's become a bit over-used and therefore diluted, but my blogs aim to be along those lines. A series of suggestions and exercises, relatively quick and hopefully pretty painless, that people can do to start to influence a more positive outlook.

Since it was the month of Thanksgiving that inspired me in the first place, I decided to start with giving some thanks. Exercise 1: write down 10 people/things in your life that you are grateful for. If you so feel the urge, perhaps reach out to the people on your list and tell them - it just might make their day more positive as well. Without further adieu, here is my list:

1. My family
2. My boyfriend
3. My tried and true friends
4. My dogs
5. My health
6. My mood disorders support group - they are truly amazing people!
7. The life and circumstances into which I was born
8. My meds and my therapist (I combined as one, since they both work with my condition)
9. Love - it truly is what makes my world go round.
10. Laughter  - it can get you through so much

I could probably go on and on here. These were ten that jumped immediately to my mind. The last two are more "abstract", but they are so much higher up on my list than my possessions and such so I wanted to add them.

I'd love to hear some of yours in the comments (or in a private message if they're more personal than you'd like to share with everyone). I hope you enjoy the part of my positivity exercises! Stay tuned for the next one soon!