Judge Not lest ye be Judged

I have often wondered about the root causes of my anxiety. It is, of course, a very personal thing; it is difficult to explain to anyone why you feel worried or agitated. Sometimes I don’t even know the answer myself. For the past few weeks, I have been trying to reflect on my anxious moments to the best of my ability. I ask myself what I feel anxious about and also why. I am starting to identify a common denominator:   

I am afraid of being judged in a negative manner. 

I can’t really blame other people for my own issues. If I am hyper-sensitive or anxious, it’s not up to every person I meet to treat me with kid-gloves. I can’t exactly wear a sandwich-board declaring my problems with anxiety. It would be wonderful though if we could all reflect on the power of our words and actions and their capacity to cause harm, as well as good. It’s something I’m trying to work on myself because I would hate to think my actions would cause anyone undue stress. 

I think it’s fair to say that much of th lie problem lies with our predisposition as a society to be incredibly judgemental. This  absolutely doesn’t help anyone who is very sensitive to criticism or who is more prone to anxiety. 

Being judgemental is natural human behaviour. It’s second nature to us. Just because we might have an opinion about something or someone, however, doesn’t mean we have to express it. Say you don’t like a co-worker’s blouse. Is there really a need to verbalise your disdain for it to your friends over lunch? It seems utterly pointless, doesn’t it? Perhaps the only purpose this kind of idle gossip serves is to bond you and your friends closer to one another. And that’s the thing; a lot of friendships are formed that way. Hey, I’m not saying I’m innocent here either! Who doesn’t like a good bitching session every now and then? But I realise the potential harm these things can do. After all, if I were to find out that I was the butt of the joke or the topic of office gossip, I would be very upset. 

And that’s the thing; I am only too aware of how judgemental people can be because it’s a trait in myself that I need to work on. I also need to work on overcoming my fear of negative judgement. I know one can’t live life planning everything they do based on the opinions of others. That would be insane. Yet I often find those doubtful thoughts creeping in throughout the day: 

That’s too much makeup; they’ll think you love yourself. 

You can’t wear that; they’ll think you’re unprofessional. 

You can’t say that; they’ll think you’re weird! 

You should go to that event or they’ll think you’re being antisocial. 

For someone with anxiety, the fear that this way of thinking causes is seemingly insurmountable.

 I’m trying my best to overcome this fear. I tell myself that people will always be judgemental. It is as natural to us as breathing. And if someone does express something negative about me, I can’t control that. I cannot control the thoughts or opinions of others to that extent. I don’t want to. I have to be the best me and if someone doesn’t like it, that doesn’t mean I’ve done anything wrong. I’m learning that criticism is okay. My co-workers or friends might not like my hair, my clothes, my voice…whatever. It’s normal to harbour at least some negative opinions about those around us. I’m just trying to not be so afraid of these. 

I’m trying to teach my students to express negative judgement less often. Why do we seem to express negative judgement more than positive judgement? Is it so entertaining to us? And if so, what does that say about us? Why do we bitch and gossip and what’s worse, take pleasure in it? I guess I’ll never really be able to fully understand it myself. All I can do is be a better person by trying my best not to verbalise unnecessary negative opinions about others and to also refrain from letting these same opinions from others cause me stress. 

Piece of cake, right? 🙂

A Love Letter to Anxiety 

Dear Anxiety, 

Should I name you something? Maybe it would make you a little less intimidating and a little more human. I used to picture you as a fuzzy black shapeless entity that I couldn’t quite make sense of, clinging to my body and pulling me back from moving forward. I’m seeing you more clearly now, though. I’m getting to know your idiosyncrasies day by day. You seem to know me very well. You know my weaknesses, my doubts, my fears and always the perfect time to strike. 

I should hate you, but I don’t. I fear you. I resent you sometimes. I regret you. But I don’t hate you. 

You see, you’ve taught me so much. Because of you, I truly know myself. I feel liberated because I can finally accept myself for who I really am. I am flawed. I make mistakes. Not everyone likes me. When I mess up, you’re there to remind me. You make me feel it. I cannot escape you. Your grip is too strong, your voice too loud inside my head. In those moments, I have to confront my reality. Instead of running away, blocking out all negative thoughts, you force me to accept. Of course, many of the thoughts you throw my way are completely irrational. That’s kinda your modus operandi, isn’t it? There was a time when I ran from them and from you. I denied negativity, I denied sadness, I denied you. I pretended that I was okay, all of the time. Of course, you lurked in the background, waiting for me to let my carefully constructed guard down. And when I did, boy did you hit me with everything you had. It was terrible; the worst experience of my life.  But at least it was real. It was my truth.  And you gave that to me, so I owe you thanks. Thank you for finally forcing me to confront and accept the person I really am: imperfect but actually quite resilient.  

You are now an integral part of my person, a part of me that I will never fully be free from. You will be there, for better or worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, ’till death do us part. I could try to pretend that you won’t be, but ignoring you seems to make you stronger, angrier and more determined. So I will embrace you. If we work together, we might just be able to live together in relative harmony. 
So what do I see you as now? Well, now I see you as a cat. You play with me sometimes, but most of the time you get bored and fall asleep. And then I get to feed you fried chicken, so everyone’s happy. 

I’m sure I’ll see you soon. I’ll be ready.

Love, 

Jane x

7 Ways to Combat Stress

We all get a little stressed every now and then. A little stress is perfectly normal but if you find yourself getting stressed quite frequently, then you need to consider the impact this can have on your health. Excessive stress can cause numerous problems for your physical and mental health. For those of you familiar with my blog, you might know that I have issues with anxiety myself. I’ve made a concerted effort over the last year to try and manage my stress more effectively so I thought I would share my tips and tricks with you all. 

                 

1. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the process of learning to live in the now instead of fixating on the past or the future. It involves focusing deeply on your actions and surroundings in the present moment. We often worry about things we cannot change and things that are beyond our control. Practicing mindfulness has really helped me, despite the fact that I was initially a little sceptical about something so seemingly simplistic. Even taking five minutes out of your day to disengage your mind from negativity and pressure and instead focusing it on a simple breathing exercise can make a big difference to your life. Why not start by simply downloading an app, like this one, which will guide you through a medication? Enjoy!

2. Exercise

I know, I know. Some days I would prefer to eat pineapple (I REALLY HATE PINEAPPLE) than exercise. There is, however, a veritable mountain of evidence pointing to the link between exercise and a reduction in stress. This doesn’t mean you have to massively exert yourself (unless that’s your thing!) but even a little light exercise can really lift your mood as well as expelling tension from your body. Personally, a enjoy a little jive around the kitchen while I’m cooking and a stroll with my dogs. Find what works for you! 

3. Play!

Being an adult is hard; there are so many pressures and responsibilities that seem to pile up all around us day in, day out. That’s why it’s so important to try and recall the exuberant and carefree nature of childhood from time to time. When I was a child, my only worries were whether I had fed my tamagotchi properly or which Backstreet Boy I would inevitably marry. My happiest memories revolve around playing and having fun with my friends. As we mature, we seem to lose so much of that childhood sense of playfulness. Every so often, I take time out of my day to just be a little silly. I have great friends who indulge in this with me, be it through games or just clowning around. Don’t be ashamed to embrace your inner child; they need to be let out to play once in a while! 

4. Find your relaxation

Everyone unwinds differently. We all have something that we find relaxing: be it listening to Norah Jones or death metal music. You just have to find what works for you! I love listening to playlists that I can compile on Spotify to help me chill out. I colour, I blog, I run a bath, I light candles, I watch trash TV, I play with my pets or I sit under the tree in my garden. You will have your own thing and if it helps you to unwind, go for it!

5. Love your space

Many of us will occupy the same spaces day after day, be it in the home or at work. It’s important that we feel comfortable in these spaces. I personally get a little stressed by clutter or mess so I try to ensure that my surroundings at home and at work are clutter-free. I like clean, organised and open spaces. I also love soft-lighting and candles, so I use them where I can to lighten my mood (although adorning your work desk with fairy lights and candles might look a little odd). Add some peace and calm to the spaces you use most frequently by adorning them with whatever makes you happy: pictures, plants, quirky ornaments, there are endless possibilities! Keeping them neat and tidy will also help you to feel organised so that’s a bonus!

6. Plan and organise 

I often find myself getting stressed by things I haven’t yet done. A lot of my insomnia in the past has sprung from a feeling of disorganisation. As a result, if I have a big stack of essays to correct, I will jot down a quick marking scheme or I might give myself a target of ten to do in two hours. Big jobs can be compartmentalised and planning is the easiest way to do it. I keep a little notepad on my coffee table at all times, where I jot down my short lists or plans for the day. I don’t put pressure on myself to actually abide by or achieve them (see next point!) but it is nice to have a little outline to guide me through those bigger tasks. Also, conceiving these is a little mini-task in its own right so you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something before you’ve even started, yay! 

7. Don’t pressure yourself 

Personally, I think this is the most important point of all. So much of our stress comes from a fear of disappointing not only other people, but also ourselves. Although I try to be organised and I like a good plan as much as the next person, I try not to get stressed when things don’t go according to plan. I ask myself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” Most of the time, this little question puts my concerns into context. We can all be far too hard on ourselves. You won’t always finish your task by the end of the workday, you won’t always look polished and perfect, you won’t always get to the gym, you won’t always make everyone else happy. You WILL make mistakes. This is as inevitable as a Kardashian divorce. You can keep the bar raised high if that’s what motivates you, but don’t beat yourself up when you don’t pole-vault over it! 

Have you any stress-busting tips you would like to share? Comment below! 

Jane 1 Epilepsy 0

I
Feel
Amazing!

Today I went on a hike with my dogs

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I took this only about three miles from my house. Beautiful isn’t it?

When I came home, I cleaned the entire house from top to bottom. I even did chores that I despise.

I did grocery shopping and made all our meals from scratch today, with organic produce.

I put a hair mask in and pampered myself with a lovely bubble bath and fancy moisturiser.

I did so much washing (laundry for my American readers) that the washing machine is still going.

I drank peppermint tea and caught up with all my friends back home.

Why, might you ask, am I bragging about my productive day?

Because I had kind of given up. When my seizures came back, I got lazy. I felt frightened to do anything, to live. Today, I lived my life. And I didn’t have one seizure. Not one.

I feel relaxed. Hell, I even feel happy.

I can’t let this get the better of me.
I’m not going to let it. There are people out there with much bigger problems who are coping much better than me. I need to get off my ass and live.

And by the way epilepsy, if you were a person I would totally be sticking my tongue out at you right now. Ner ner!

How do you combat stress?

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Source
A while back, I asked you What do you do when you feel like crap? and I had some great responses. So now, I would like you guys to answer: what do you do when you feel stressed?
The same thing, you might point out. Well, today I have a head cold and I don’t feel too peachy, but I don’t feel stressed. Stress is a whole other kind of problem. Here are the ways I deal with it:

-I have a cup of tea/coffee. It’s simple but effective.

-I try to laugh it out. Anyone who knows me knows that I try to see the funny side of most things, even the time I broke my ankle on a mountain (you had to be there).

-I talk to someone about the reasons for my stress. Usually, the reasons are trivial and the other person can help me to realise this.

-I pet my animals. My dogs and my cat are great outlets for me; I just sit in silence with them and stroke their fur (which is not as creepy as it sounds).

-I cry. There is no greater stress release.

-I write. It sometimes never sees the light of day but the relief afterwards is indescribable.

-I listen to music: something peaceful and relaxing. Although I hear heavy metal works too.

-I go for a walk or I wail on my punching bag (I mean that literally, I am not referring to Jack).

-I go for a drive alone. I drive slowly down a country road and just have a good think. Sometimes I pull the car in.

-I listen to myself. There’s two Janes: the Jane who gets stressed and panics about the little things and the rational, calm Jane. When stressed Jane tries to take over, calm Jane will always point out “this feeling will pass. The situation isn’t as bad as you think it is right now. There’s always a solution and you’ve got plenty of people to help you find it.”

-I do some paperwork. I know this sounds crazy, but the root of my stress is often my belief that I don’t work hard enough. So I take out some school-related work and I spend a few hours getting myself better organised. Afterwards, I can relax in the knowledge that I’ve done something productive.

How do you combat stress?