Monday, April 03, 2017

April Showers

I'm now in my fourth month of The Mighty's Year of Self-Care. This month's theme is kindness, and though The Mighty provides you with guidelines for how to honor this theme of self-care, I've decided to forgo their prompts and do two specific acts of kindness to myself:

1. Stay off Facebook for the month 
2. Participate in NaJoWriMo.

Facebook: A Catch-22

The reason why staying off Facebook is an act of kindness (at least for me) is the same reason why almost everyone I know periodically de-activates their accounts. And, it's the same reason why I've advised countless students and clients of mine to take a social media break.

Social Comparison Bias. Or, in laymen's terms, playing the who's-better-than-me/who's-worse-than-me game. Playing the game...and failing every time.

No matter what kind of Jack Handy bullshit I tell myself, I wind up feeling less than when I read other people's posts. Not all the time, but if I'm in a particularly vulnerable space in my life, I tend to "compare up" which leaves me feeling very down. If so-and-so is on a vacation to the Islands, suddenly I'm a loser who can't afford to take trips. If another so-and-so has an article published in a medium that I've failed to be published in, I'm the wannabe-writer-loser who should give up.

Now here is the Catch-22, despite the above reality, when I am in a calm and peaceful place within myself, Facebook is like the local watering hole where I connect with old friends, plan a high school reunion, brainstorm ideas for a new story, or post cute pics of my cats and kids and "like" other people's posts of the same kind. Also, this is the place where I can share links to this blog, and it is the place to market my work for free!

Despite this conundrum, I will not delete my Facebook because the good and positive outweigh the bad and the negative.

However, for this month, I'm on a "face-cation".


I love committing to journaling because journaling always makes me feel better, yet, like eating avocados or drinking green tea, I don't necessarily do it. Actually, bad analogy. I hate avocados and green tea tastes like dirt to me. And, it's not that I don't journal or hate journaling...Actually, journaling is like yoga...which I do every day...but for about ten minutes. So it's not that I don't journal or do yoga, it's that I could do it more, and doing it more would be very beneficial.

Usually when anything about NaNoWriMo or its derivatives (NaBloPoMo) comes across my virtual path, I walk quickly in the other direction like I'm at the supermarket avoiding anyone I know because I'm dressed in pjs and a baseball hat and in my no-talking mode. When I saw it on Twitter last week, I hooked my fingertips right into the keyboard and committed myself for the month. The reason I typically avoid these long term commitment gigs for writing is because they can start to feel like a burden instead of a source of inspiration; the goal for NaNo and NaBlo is publication, whereas this commitment for NaJo is a commitment to yourself. There is no seeking external validation.  

Which brings me back to staying off Facebook, celebrating the theme of kindness for the month of April, and journaling.

So, I will post on here as I feel inspired to do so, but at the same time, this month's goal is to be kind to myself and to not put any undo pressure on my writing or journaling.

Happy Month of Self Kindness!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Walking Towards Your Values

I’m now over halfway through the third month of participating in The Mighty’s Monthly challenges for 2017.

Me and my oldest.  About to go for one of our walks.
The Mighty declared March to host the Self Confidence challenge, and the first task in week one was to identify your character strengths by taking the VIA (Values in Action) Survey of Character Strengths. The second part of this challenged was to write examples of those traits, which I did in this postThis week is the third part of the Self Confidence challenge and that is to write a list of activities to do that support these character strengths. For me, this has been a lot harder than the first two parts of the exercise.

First, putting expectations on myself is something I’ve overdone in the past and has led to tremendous anxiety. So, for me, I need to set realistic expectations, or this whole exercise won’t be an act of self-care but an act of self-destruction. Second, when I looked at my list of character strengths, I felt like I needed to figure out which of my personal values these strengths were connected to….and that the activity I chose for each strength needed to be in line with one of those values.

Why are values so important? For me, self-confidence and mental health have always been connected to the idea of walking through my life in the direction of my personal values; if I have the focus in mind that whatever I’m doing, I’m doing because it matters to me, deep in my heart, then there is peace and contentment in what I’m doing.

Long ago, when I began to really work on dealing with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I used a workbook called Get out of Your Mind and into Your Life. The basic premise of the book was that if you figured out what you cared about in your life, what you valued and how you wanted your life to be, then your anxiety would eventually decrease because you would be doing behaviors that supported those values. Most of us who have suffered from anxiety and depression develop avoidance behaviors to help us cope with the overwhelming physical sensations that come with our illnesses, so we tend to miss out on a lot of things we value. That’s where the concept of walking towards your values comes into play.

This premise of walking towards your values really connected with me during my recovery because it helped me tolerate my anxiety symptoms. I understood, for example, that, though I felt very anxious driving my car while having a racing heart or depersonalization or scary thoughts, the value I had for getting to the place I needed to be helped me to tolerate the discomfort. At one point in my recovery, driving to therapy was anxiety-producing, but the value I had for both the therapy itself and my therapist’s time, made me continue on, even while my anxiety increased. It helped me with avoidance behaviors, like social isolation, because, for example, I disliked crowded rooms, but I valued my children, so I had to show up to their dance recital or student of the month assembly and tolerate the crowd. The bonus was that once I arrived at therapy or was engrossed in my children’s performances, I became lost in those moments and my anxiety went away.
Date night with my hubby.

           Getting our steps in. Me and my youngest. 

With the idea in mind of knowing my values from all the work I’ve done in recovery, knowing my strengths because of the recent survey, and knowing my ability to over-do in my expectations, I came up with the following list of activities that are designed to boost my confidence through boosting my values:

According to the VIA (Values in Action) Survey of Character Strengths, these are my strengths: “zest, enthusiasm, energy; curiosity and interest in the world; self-control and self-regulation; industry, diligence, and perseverance. See my chart below for how I put various values and activities that go with those strengths:

Zest, enthusiasm, energy
Writing and community
Support another writer through social media shares every day.
Curiosity and interest in the world/ Social intelligence
Being social/having fun
Go out with another couple for a double-date night.
Self-control and self-regulation
Hit 10,000 steps a day and exercise daily.

Industry, diligence, and perseverance
Write a blog post about my experience with this exercise

So far, I’ve been pretty successful in these endeavors, and I know it’s because I set realistic standards for myself AND because I’m playing on my strengths. Together, that has boosted my confidence.