My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “Think by Design”

The really good belly laughs

When was the last time you had the really good belly laughs? I’m talking about the laughs that snowball, getting louder and wilder, the laughs that leave your abs and cheeks aching as you wipe tears from your eyes. It happened to me not long ago at a Leadership camp I attended with my students. We were at the final talent show on the last night of camp. Each act was funnier than the last, filled with jokes from our week together. Unfortunately, I can’t share the photos or videos due to student privacy concerns. However, I’m hoping I can offer you something else for a chuckle.

This video starts out pretty slow but keep watching until 1:27 in. That’s when the magic begins. Nick showed me this video and I could not stop laughing. To make matters worse, he kept bringing the video back to 1:27 and letting it play over and over until I was gasping for air. I just watched it again as I’m writing this and I’m still laughing. That is one of the best feelings in the world.


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.

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.

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,” (

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.

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.


Trying to recover from a time of high anxiety is very difficult. I still have times each day when I’m quite anxious. I can feel my body trying to revert to a state of fight or flight. Trying to work against it is exhausting. I’m to the point where I can make it pretty successfully through my work day but I don’t yet have much energy after work for myself. It’s frustrating.

I’m getting sick a lot too. I’ve had a few colds and a bout of walking pneumonia. The stress has weakened my immune system. I’m trying to get back to my healthier habits but the progress is slow.

I know it will get better and a big part of that is trying to be patient. I need to give my antidepressants time to work. I need keep working hard in therapy. I need to keep the lines of communication open with my family and friends. With time and effort I know I’ll start to see my energy return. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there.


A Moment

I had a moment a few days ago, a flicker. For a short time I felt happy. Nothing in particular was happening. I think I was just puttering around the house, tidying up a few things. I felt happy.

I hope it comes again soon.

Art Assignment 45: Copy a Copy a Copy

For this assignment, I chose the novel JPod by Douglas Coupland.

Part of the reason I chose it is because it’s Canadian and I like to bring a little Can-Con (Canadian Content,) to my work. However, the main reason I chose this novel is because Coupland is both a writer and a visual artist and I love the visual ways he plays with text within his novels. See the gallery below for some examples from JPod.

I used a page of random letters and this photocopier to create my art.


I kept making the copies darker and smaller, until the page of the book disappeared. I think I’ll call it Evaporated.

The blurriness in the last few shots is not because of the camera work; the photocopier could not long focus on such small text. I took a few close up to show just how distorted the image became. #theartassignment

IMG_2255     IMG_2260



Art Assignment 44: Caption Contest

So I watched this video on my lunch at work and I thought I’d download the image to print it later. However, for some reason when I tried to open the file, my work computer defaulted to Word. It opened the file but converted it to a series of symbols and text, most of which I’ve never seen before. The entire document was 39 pages long. I find it interesting that a one page image broken down so a computer can understand it takes up so much room! You can view the Word doc by clicking on the link below if you’re so inclined. I’ve also included a photo of one page of the document.



I decided to transfer some of this random text onto the image. I like the idea of the image becoming bits of text and then superimposing itself back onto the art. Rathman’s original is the image as we see it and the text is how a computer reads the image. Word also automatically titled the file ‘unspecified’ so I am going to call my final piece Unspecified. #theartassignment



Time Limits

Right now I feel like there is a time limit on how long I can be around other people. When I’m done work, I’m ready to go home, put on some comfy pants and relax. Let me explain; usually I describe myself as an extrovert. I am very comfortable around groups and I love the company of others. However, I have learned that one of the ways to overcome my anxiety is to become introverted when I am especially anxious. Confused? Check out the comic below for an explanation of how extroverts and introverts recharge differently:

Image courtesy of

So extroverts generally get their energy from spending time with people and introverts get their energy by spending time alone. One of the quirks of my anxiety is that I switch from extrovert to introvert. Actually, one of the ways I can tell if I’m becoming too anxious is when my time with people saps my energy. If I come out of a meeting or a social engagement feeling sluggish and cranky, I know I’m struggling with my anxiety. When I can’t wait to get home after a long day and enjoy the quiet of my house, I know I’ve had a high-stress day or week… or month. In these situations recharging alone is exactly what I need. I need that time to rest and reflect.

I used to see this need to be alone as a weakness. I tied any introverted tendencies I had to my anxiety and made it part of my illness. I thought I had to be extroverted to be happy. I’m starting to discover that this just isn’t true. I actually kind of like being alone. I can do whatever I want. No one is putting demands on me. My time by myself feels like a decadent treat. Plus I’m married to an introvert, so he really digs this time where we can enjoy our time without constantly having to “do something” together.

Image courtesy of

This approach may not be for everyone but it’s working for me. Hey extroverts, we get tired too! Maybe try letting your brain do its own thing for a little while. Try not being “on” for a change. You might just like it.

Art Assignment 43: Constructed Landscape

Pet Fish


My constructed landscape contains:

  • Black craft stones from Michael’s,
  • 4 larger stones from the river near my house,
  • One trimmed branch from my bonsai tree,
  • 3 fish made of craft paper,
  • 3 bamboo skewers and 3 pieces of thread to elevate the fish.

I like the juxtaposition of items from nature with items I purchased and made. I chose my favourite photo to display but I’ve included all the shots I took below so you can see this landscape from all angles.




Post Navigation