My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “mindfulness”

A different perspective

In my last post I wrote about how I cut my leg on my screen door and had to get six stitches. I was pretty upset both because I was in pain and because the doctor OK’d me to walk and do light stretches, but nothing else. Plus for the first 48 hours I was to keep it elevated as much as possible. I was not looking forward to being bored on the couch at home.

When I called my vice principal to tell her I needed a day off to recover, she said something that stuck with me; “Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling you to slow down.” So I did slow down.

I read these:

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And I watched these:

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I hung out with my husband and the cats. I chatted with my mom on the phone. I took naps. It was actually quite nice. I’m looking forward to getting the stitches out but I’m having a relaxing time until then.

Ramping Up

So I’ve now completed half of the On-Ramp program at West London Crossfit. I’m really glad I arranged to retake this class as a way to return to Crossfit training. I’m trying to get back to my best habits and I know it’s better if I do it in small steps like the ones provided by On-Ramp. I’m getting a refresher in all the basics, (warm up, lifting, mobility, etc.) and now my form will be much better when I join the regular classes again. I’m sore from class but I feel good. I’m slowly starting to feel stronger and more confident.

I’ve gotten a pretty universal reaction from the coaches and Crossfit regulars. They look at me quizzically for a minute and then say something like, “You still train here?” I smile and tell them that I took a break but that I’m back now. Everyone is welcoming. Two more weeks of On-Ramp to go and then I’ll be back to CrossFit training. I’m looking forward to it.

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Things I’ve learned meditating at home

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate. I’ve meditated sitting, lying down, standing and even walking. I don’t have a set time or place for meditating either. It’s easier for me to meditate when and where I want. I find or make a spot when I need it, rather than needing to move to a specific location before I can meditate.

You can move and open your eyes. I know I’ve been in meditations where I’ve locked my body down so I can CONCENTRATE. Then I get an itch, a twitch. I need to scratch my nose or adjust my hips. I’m uncomfortable but I can’t move or I have to start over, right? Actually, it’s fine to move a bit as you meditate. The goal is to move less and less as you get more relaxed.

Sometimes it’s not going to work. No matter how often I meditate, there are days where I just can’t get my brain to slow down. I keep at the meditation but I may come away feeling frustrated. At these times, it’s important to go through the process even if my results are not as satisfactory as usual. Over time, I hope I will experience fewer of these times.

It gets better as you practice. Meditation definitely gets more satisfying as I work at it. In fact, I’m starting to move from meditation feeling like work to meditating because I enjoy it. I think I could meditate for many years and still never consider myself an expert, but it is fun to try.

Trying the Stop, Breathe & Think App

So I’ve been using the Stop, Breathe & Think app for a couple of weeks now and I’m really enjoying it. It’s a really simple app to use.

First I check in about how I feel mentally and physically. Then I can choose up to five emotions to add in. Based on that the app suggests a list of meditations that are suited to how I’m feeling. I do the meditation and then check in again to see if it changed my mood. Alternatively, I can just go to the full list of meditations and choose any track I like.

I like these meditations. They are straightforward and good for beginners as well as experienced folks. This app is really helping me make meditation a part of my weekly routine. It’s so easy to pop on my headphones and meditate for a few minutes. I especially like using this app when I’m trying to relax after a long day. My favourite meditation so far has to be “Falling Asleep”. It’s so calming and always helps me drift off. I really recommend this free app if you have any interest in learning how to meditate or in practicing meditation regularly.

Contentment, not joy

I think I can now safely say my recovery is going well. Like any good teacher, I’m going to give myself a bit of a report card on my mental health.

My process:

  • Taking my antidepressants every day.
  • Going to therapy bi-weekly or weekly as needed.
  • Working out more.
  • Eating less sugar and fewer grains, (both of which make my anxiety worse.)
  • Spending more time with friends and family.
  • Giving myself more downtime.
  • Meditating a few times a week.

Results:

  • I feel stronger each day. I feel anxious less often.
  • I feel more confident.
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • I’m laughing more.
  • I’m not fully joyful yet but I feel contented. I think I’m on my way to joy.

Stop, Breathe & Think

Recently at an educator’s conference, a colleague told me she’s been using an app called Stop, Breathe & Think in her class to help her students self-soothe and meditate. I thought this might work for me and for my students with anxiety so I downloaded it on my phone. Get your copy at Stop, Breathe & Think.

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The app is made by a not-for-profit called Tools for Peace. According to the company’s mission statement, “TFP has partnered with over 20 organizations, universities and schools, and continues to strengthen and support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success,” (http://www.stopbreathethink.org/about.html)

The app itself is free and comes with a list of fifteen free meditations, as well as articles that teach the user how to meditate and a progress tracker. Extra meditations are available in packs of three for a few dollars each. The proceeds from the app are then used to foster more programs through Tools for Peace.

Well, this app looks like a great fit for me. I’m going to try it myself for a month and if I like it, I’ll try it with my students next. I’ll keep you updated as I work away at this. Feel free to grab the app and follow along. Happy meditating!

Fake Anxiety

So on my path back to health things are often bumpy. As I’ve mentioned, I have generalized anxiety disorder. One of the ways I combat my anxiety is to look at the cause and then try to step back from the emotion a bit. I try to be really logical about it. For example, if I’m upset about something that happened at work I might meditate or do some yoga and then talk it out with Nick. He helps me decide when I’m falling prey to my anxiety and he tries to help me get a grip on how I’m feeling. This is usually a pretty effective strategy.

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Right now, the difficulty is that I’m getting what I call ‘fake anxiety’. This is when my body goes into fight or flight mode for no obvious reason. My heart races, I get short of breath and my skin crawls, but nothing is causing it. Sometimes it happens when I’m actually having a really good day. The other day, I got an attack when I was making dinner and chatting with Nick about taking a hike. There was no reason for me to be upset and I was feeling pretty good right up until I had a panic attack.

The only thing that works when this happens is for me to sit down or lay down and breathe through it. Because this anxiety has no root cause, all I can do is calm my body and wait for it to pass. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, sometimes as much as an hour. I’m going to just keep chipping away at this problem. If any of you have a good technique, let me know and I’ll give it a try.

Moodscope Update

So I used Moodscope for a couple of weeks and I have to say, it’s a useful tool. Overall, I would recommend Moodscope. If you are concerned about your mental health or you’re seeking treatment for a mood disorder, this website might help you track how you’re feeling.

The Positives:

  • The daily email reminders kept me coming back and it is possible to turn them off once you’re in the habit to take the survey once a day.
  • It uses cards that you flip and rotate to rank your current emotions. Using these cards instead of a traditional ranking line means I wasn’t tempted to try to keep my results the same or force an improvement. The cards are randomized so you can’t memorize patterns. The idea is that this allows you to give more honest answers because it’s difficult to remember your past rankings.
  • The survey only takes about 5-10 minutes so it’s easy to fit into a busy schedule.

Drawbacks:

  • I wish there was a way to annotate my results with factors from my day, (e.g. if I have a migraine one day, my results will be more negative because I’m in pain.)
  • There are a set number (twenty) emotions. They cover most things but sometimes I feel like a strong emotion I’m experiencing isn’t on there.
  • After a while, the reports start sounding a bit repetitive. Although it didn’t stop me from coming back, it did make me feel like I was reading many of the same sentences over and over.

Below I have included some of my reports so you can get a sense of what they’re like. If you’re interested, head over to Moodscope and sign up for free.

Right Jennifer.

Monday


Right then Jennifer. Here’s how it looks. Today’s score for you is 41%, which is 28% below your all-time maximum of 69%. You are likely to feel that things have picked up a fair bit for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 24%.

Whilst you probably wouldn’t claim to be feeling at your absolute best today, you are definitely doing better than you had been. You’re making great progress and if you can make even more, it won’t be long before you are back at full strength once again. See if you can identify the cause of this improvement and try to keep it coming.

Although you’ve scored below your average of 46.0% today, you’ve moved in the right direction since last time. Your score is a good bit higher than you all-time minimum of 24%. You have traveled quite a way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.

Tuesday


Admirable achievement Jennifer. You have a score today of 71%, which is the best result you’ve ever had on Moodscope. You’ll be feeling that things have picked up a lot for you since the most recent time you took the test and scored 41%.

It is evident that matters are looking notably better, placing you in a much better position. You weren’t significantly down, but it’s clear that you’re feeling a lot more positive today. It is an ideal opportunity to pin down the cause of this improvement so you’ll be able to repeat it should things be not so great in the future.

Not only have you got a better score today than you had last time, you’re also flying higher than your average of 49.1%. Today’s score is above your lowest ever result of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Pretty good Jennifer.

Wednesday


Very acceptable Jennifer. The score for you today is 59%, which is 12% less than your all-time high of 71%. You’re likely to feel that things aren’t as good as they seemed when you took the test last time and got 71%.

Your mood appears to be sound again, in spite of your score having dropped a little. There’s likely nothing to worry about, but remember that you’ve got the power to regulate your state of mind. Take good care of yourself and make sure there’s no further slippage.

Although your result today is not quite as good as the last time, you are doing well compared to your average of 50.2%. Your score is above your all-time minimum of 24%. You’ve come a long way since then.

Respectable work Jennifer.

Thursday


Respectable work Jennifer. You have a score today of 75%, which is your highest ever result on Moodscope. It appears as though things have picked up for you a fair bit since you took the test last time and got 59%.

Life has got better for you. You had been feeling okay but you’re now in a stronger position. Pat yourself on the back and take a little time to see if you can identify exactly what’s been going right, so you carry on having a great time.

Not only has your score gone up today, you are also doing well compared to your average of 52.7%. You are higher than your lowest ever score of 24%. You’ve travelled a long way since then.

Moodscope

One of my readers, (bethanycross,) suggested I try Moodscope to track my mood. It’s a free website that allows you to use an online set of cards to track how you’re feeling. The cards let you rank positive attributes, (e.g. active, inspired,) and negative attributes, (e.g. afraid, irritable,) out of a score of four. Each time you do it, you get a report on your emotional well-being. It sounded interesting so I signed up.

So each day I get a reminder email to take the survey. The survey itself is twenty cards so it only takes a few minutes. I’ve included my first four reports below so you can see what this service is like. Obviously in the beginning the reports are a bit vague. They get more specific as you continue to take the survey once or more per day. The idea is that over time you can see patterns in your moods, thereby identifying triggers for positive and negative moods.

It’s easy to use so far so I’m going to keep at it and report back in another week or so. Feel free to try it with me.

Your first Moodscope score Jennifer

Tuesday


Your score today is 69% Jennifer. Once you’ve used Moodscope for three days you’ll start to get much more detailed feedback. First of all though we need to get a feel for how your mood changes from day to day.

As this is the first time you’ve used the system you’ll probably be keen to get an idea of how it might help you. For now though, please be patient. Promise it’ll be worth it. If you record your mood every day, you’ll only have to wait until the day after tomorrow.

It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Your score today Jennifer

Wednesday


Jennifer, you’ve scored 39% today. As we explained last time you used Moodscope, you’ll begin to get detailed feedback from the system once you’ve taken the test at least three times. You’ve now racked up two scores, which means you’ll start getting more from us tomorrow.

The short delay allows us to start learning how your mood changes from day to day. In fact, the more you use Moodscope, the better it will get to know you, and the more accurate and helpful its feedback should be. See you tomorrow.

It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Right Jennifer.

Thursday


Right Jennifer. Here’s the way it is. Today you have a score of 48%, which is 21% below your all-time maximum of 69%. You’re probably feeling that things have picked up since you last took the test and scored 39%.

Although you might not consider yourself to be feeling totally great today, you are definitely doing better than you had been. You are doing really well and if you can keep up this progress, you will soon be back at the top of your game again. Do your best to track down the reason for this progress and try to maintain it.

Even though you’re below your average of 52.0%, your results are headed upwards, in the right direction. However you are scoring above your all-time lowest score of 39%. You have progressed since then.

You last took the test yesterday, and that’s very good. Try and come back here every day to obtain the full benefits of Moodscope.

You’ve now registered your score 3 times with Moodscope. It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Good score Jennifer.

Friday


Good score Jennifer. Today you have a score of 68%, which is only 1% less than your highest result to date of 69%. Things have picked up for you a lot since the last time you took the test with a score of 48%.

It looks as though matters have taken a significant upward swing, putting you in a much better place. You weren’t having an especially bad time, but it would seem that things are looking much more positive at the moment. Now is a great time to pin down the cause of your turnaround so you could make it happen again if things are not as good some time in the future.

Not only is today’s score better than it was last time, you’ve also got a result higher than your average of 56.0%. You’re higher than your lowest ever result of 39%. You’ve journeyed a long way from there.

Your last score was for yesterday, and that is excellent. It’s best to use it every day to get the most from Moodscope.

To date you’ve captured your score 4 times here at Moodscope. It’s the first time you’ve taken the test today, so your score has been recorded and plotted on your graph.

Celebrate

So I think I’m through the worst of my depression. It took a lot of counseling and support and self-care to start feeling like myself again but I’m getting there.

Now that I’m coping better, it’s time to start cleaning up the fallout from my depression. First on my list is reconnecting with my family and friends. When I’m depressed I’m not myself and I know they feel that. I’m going to block off some one on one time for the people I love and let them know how much I appreciate them. This is especially important in my relationship with my husband because he provides so much support for me.

Next I need to take care of myself. I need to make sure I get enough sleep and down time to stay healthy. I’d like a haircut and a pedicure. I’ve also gained some weight so it’s back to healthy eating and more trips to the gym.

Finally, I need to get to the chores that have piled up. My house looks like a small hurricane passed through it. My car needs a wash. My garden is ready for some spring cleaning too. Although these aren’t my favourite chores, have a clean house does make me happier.

The real sign of my wellness is that I feel ready and even excited to tackle these tasks. I’m going to end this post here and get started!

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