3 Ways to Manage Anxiety in the Morning.

One Saturday morning, I woke to memories of a bad dream I had. Feelings of worry and anxiousness lingered. As the morning continued, I felt worse and worse. I couldn’t sit still. I almost made the decision to get up from where I was sitting to distract myself – either clean the lounge, tidy the bedroom or sort out the laundry. But I didn’t. I felt paralysed.

Plans I had that afternoon were cancelled. I was relieved. I had this strange feeling that something bad might happen if I left the house.

Looking back, there was a cycle that was occurring: I had worrisome thoughts, which set-off anxiousness that fed into fear. Thoughts>anxiousness>fear. My thoughts reinforced my emotions. I’m learning that to shift my emotions, I must be aware of my thoughts. I know, waking up anxious can leave us feeling like the day is doomed, but different approaches can help turn it around! 

What was my approach this time? YouTube. Yep. Good old social media.  I’ve found that in times of need, watching educational videos or listening to podcasts about what I’m feeling/going through really helps. So I typed into the YouTube search bar something like, “waking up anxious”. I found a channel called The Anxiety Guy (Dennis Simsek) and decided to let the video play in the background while I sat still and breathed. I quietly reminded myself that I was safe and that things would be okay; I’ve gone through this before, I’ll get through it again.

The Anxiety Guy’s 3 Steps: 

1. Negativity journal. The first point he made was to write into a negativity journal in the first 2 minutes in the morning. This immediately inspired me to write this post. So I typed out the worry and fear. Releasing how I felt  helped. Maybe a journal and pen by your bed would be handy, or a private blog if you’d prefer to type it out. No matter the method, expressing how you feel can be a source of catharsis and relief. 

2. Gratitude/stretch. The Anxiety Guy then shared how gratitude can shift our focus. In the past, lists have helped me to arrange my thoughts and gain clarity. I do my best at the end of every night, to list things I’m grateful for. On this particular morning however, I admit, instead of focusing on what I was grateful for, I tried to find reasons for the anxiousness. Shifting your focus from fear to gratitude can be a powerful tool. I will do my best to try this in the future.

As for stretching/yoga, I haven’t done that in a while. When I used to practice yoga, it helped me feel grounded; I would definitely recommend it if you feel inclined. Even walking with a friend around the city/neighbourhood is a form of exercise. So ask a friend to join you!

3. Magic mirror exercise. Now, imagine you are looking at your future self in the mirror, and think of 3 questions to ask. E.g. Instead of asking, “Why me?” flip it and ask, “How did you overcome your fears?”. Switch the negativity into positivity!

“Life is about the questions you ask yourself.” 

The Anxiety Guy

I often speak about my future self having overcome my current fears/worries. I am hopeful that once I’ve worked through unresolved situations, my fears/worries will fade.

An important thing to note, is that we all have personality traits which predispose us to certain emotions. For instance, I have scored high in neuroticism (which include emotions related to anxiety, worry, anger etc) and I am learning how to manage it. Personality traits tend to remain stable throughout our lives, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to manage it if it affects us greatly. That has been a key learning point for me: there is always a way to manage life’s struggles and that’s what matters!

So, if you wake up anxious, try and take a few minutes to yourself to firstly write down/type out your fears. Second, remind yourself of the things you’re grateful for – shift your focus from fear to gratitude. Lastly, reframe negative questions into positive ones. Change can be difficult but it is totally possible. I believe in you!

I hope this post has helped you today and given you a few ways to manage anxiousness in the morning.

Remember, you’re not alone. Thank you for being here. 

Stay well friends! x

Image by Lena Bell.



 

Psychology Sessions | “I’m not good enough.”

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I wanted to start a series of “Psychology Sessions”, where you can have a glimpse into what I have gone through with my psychologist/past counsellors.

I want to use this platform to be open and honest about how self-improvement happens. It’s not just waking up one day and feeling different. It’s difficult, emotionally-laboured work that takes time and dedication everyday. If anything resonates with you, please let me know in the comments.

*Be aware that there may be distressing/triggering content.*


Let’s begin The Session.

What is a belief? A belief is something considered to be fact.

Where do beliefs come from? Beliefs come from the environment around us (external). It can also be formed by our own thoughts and sensory experience (internal).

The thought, “I’m not good enough” can be experienced by most of us at some point in our lives. For some, it is more prevalent if we have had past experiences that ingrain this kind of thinking. It can affect our self-esteem, confidence and progress in self-improvement.

The good news is, beliefs can be changed!

My psychologist drew up a table of two lists on her whiteboard. She asked me to list evidence for why I was good enough and why I wasn’t.

Listing evidence for why I wasn’t good enough was easy. My psychologist and I then spent about five minutes expanding each piece of evidence – what was the circumstance? How did that lead to the belief? Was this evidence substantial enough? I realised: instead of moving forward, I forced myself to take fear with me from my childhood and adolescence and used the events of my past as justification.

Listing evidence for being good enough was not as easy. Slowly though, achievements came to the surface. It affirmed that there were positive things I have accomplished. For example, I moved out at 18, I learned how to save money and I learned how to budget. I realised that many things I have done in the past, required skills and sometimes, strategic thinking!

What I learned.

I learned that if I didn’t achieve things to a ‘perfect standard’ or made a mistake, I was automatically ‘not good’. As well as an avalanche of other negative thoughts/beliefs toward myself.

Some may wonder, “Well Angela, if it did you harm, why couldn’t you just forget this belief?” Let’s go back to the beginning. There’s this thing called egocentrism. As children, we are unable to process situations or events from another person’s perspective. As a result, we attribute another’s hurtful actions to ourselves, thinking, “I must be bad/stupid/dumb” (which is what happened to me).

So, how can we change our beliefs?

1. First, we need to know what our beliefs are. 
Self-work is not an easy journey but it is absolutely worth it.  To know what beliefs we have, we could take inventory of thoughts that come up. Whether it’s a positive one like “I can do anything I set my mind to!” or “I never do anything good…” – it could be worth identifying and changing if it does not serve you.

2. Make a list of accomplishments.
I love utilising lists to get a clear sense of tasks, goals or ideas. My strategy for changing this belief will be writing a list of all my life’s achievements. As time goes on, my list will evolve and grow. So whenever this belief creeps back in (which I have been guaranteed that it will) I can look at this list and remind myself, “You know what? Yes, I have made mistakes but I am good enough!”.

3. Remember that we all make mistakes.
There is a difference between taking responsibility and acknowledging a mistake and punishing ourselves over everything. Sometimes, we are our own worst critic! You don’t necessarily have to experience disturbing trauma to be hard on yourself. We all have a drive that pushes us forward. Just remind yourself of positive motivators too!

4. Be patient with yourself. 
Changing a belief is not easy. Same goes for mastering a talent, technique or academic topic. All of these have something in common: TIME. It takes time to change or learn something new. It takes time to improve a skill. So be patient.

Beliefs once formed, are ingrained and can be difficult/confronting to change – as you saw with my struggle. However, with support, patience and strategies, it is possible to live a life based on positive truth rather than self-deprecating lies.

That concludes our session today.
Thank you for being here.
Stay well! x

Image by Thu.

Avène Face + Body Moisturiser for Sensitive Skin

 

Avene
Avène – Trixera+ Emollient Cream for Face and Body

Humidity is the friend I didn’t know I needed.

While I was overseas in Malaysia, my skin thrived in the humid weather. Besides the sweating, I loved it! However, it soon dawned on me that returning to Australia would involve dry, merciless heat…  It was my mission to invest in a good quality moisturiser that I could bring back!

I was at a mall in Kuala Lumpur, browsing through a local pharmacy when I came across this brand, Avène. I’d heard of it, but never thought much about it. The pharmacy assistant explained this moisturiser was good for dry, sensitive skin. Now, I’ve experienced the horrors of all kinds of ‘suitable’ creams that didn’t hydrate my skin but made it dryer/sting/tingle or made no difference at all. This Avène cream was said to be appropriate for eczema and very dry, sensitive skin. It had no fragrance. Despite my hesitation, I decided it was time to give this product a go.

My review.

When I arrived back in Australia, as expected, my skin started to break out with dry patches around my face and arms. My eczema-prone skin started to itch. Flying on multiple planes probably didn’t help out, either. I immediately started using this Avène cream. Within the next few days or so, my skin started to feel smooth, hydrated and dewy without feeling ‘heavy’.

It has been about four weeks since using this cream, and the dry patches on my face are no where to be seen! Besides my nose, from wiping it all the time – thanks to an unwelcome cold/flu.

The Benefits of Avène:

  • Fast-absorbing. I’ve found this moisturiser to be relatively fast-absorbing so when I’m rushing to get ready for work, I can moisturise, dress and go!
  • Fragrance free. Although I am a sucker for pretty-smelling perfumes, soaps and lotions, this fragrance-free cream adds to the sensitive skin suitability. There’s no risk of reactions to a fragrance or feeling my nose itch every time I breathe in.
  • Slightly dewy. I find when I use this on my face, it does give a slightly dewy feel. I have been digging this look, especially whilst in this transitioning spring-summer weather! If you’re not a fan of this, then perhaps this product is not for you. However, I will say I use a little more than the amount of surface area I have. Maybe if I used less, my face would feel more matte, than dewy.
  • Clinical studies included. On the Avène website, there are 2 results of small clinical studies indicating hydration increase after 6-7 days of use. My psychology-based brain finds this inclusion quite intriguing.

How I use this moisturiser.

I use Avène once or twice daily. And powdered makeup over the top, if I feel like it.

For a few months now, I’ve steered clear of foundations/BB creams to give my skin some freedom. These days, I only use blush, bronzer and a brow pencil. The less I use on my face, the better my skin looks and feels. I make an effort to stay hydrated too. If my lips start drying out, I use this as an indication that I need more fluids! Thanks to this new Avène cream, I feel confident that my skin is being taken care of while I go about my daily routine.

I’ve always wanted to find ways to embrace my youthful 20s! And you should too. Regardless of your age, enjoy the beauty that your body + skin is. True, no one is perfect but it doesn’t take perfection to ‘radiate beauty’. Take time to look after you. Whether it’s a new skincare product or taking a break from a strict routine… Enjoy it.

When we are honest with ourselves and our flaws, confidence grows!

Stay well friends! x

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

Today, I want to break the stigma of seeing a mental health professional. Yes, it is more accepted in today’s society but there are still negative thoughts out there. This post is for those people who are afraid to be judged. This post is for those who have earned their degree, honours and masters. This post is for those who are curious as to how a professional can help them.

My experience

During high school, I saw a counsellor for the first time. I was losing motivation as each week passed and my teacher was concerned. Unfortunately, I had trust issues with most adults – the school counsellor included.  I could barely muster up words to describe how I was feeling. Albeit I was conditioned to ignore my emotions… I was so afraid that he would judge me or “turn against me” somehow. I saw this counsellor once and never returned.

Throughout the next 5 years, I struggled with negative thoughts and had trouble sleeping. I saw a few counsellors which helped to a point. Even though I got along with these people, still, I felt the same: I had a heavy chest and a sadness that wouldn’t go away. Eventually, I scraped up the courage to see a psychologist. It was the best decision I ever made. Although it was very costly (as I am a student and work casually), it was worth it. My boyfriend would always remind me, “Your mental health is more important” – this finally clicked. I couldn’t push my needs to the side any longer. I longed to move forward with my life. I made it my mission to allow for psychology sessions in my budget. If I didn’t have enough to pay for it, I’d either borrow money from someone and pay it back or reschedule the appointment until I could afford it. It became a worthwhile priority in my life!

Counsellor or psychologist?

First, let’s define these occupations. Both counsellors and psychologists can help with mental health issues and personal problems. However, the main distinction is that a psychologist has a protected title that only those who are specifically qualified can use. This involves more than six years of tertiary studies.

As I mentioned before, I have seen both counsellors and psychologists. I found that a counsellor’s fee was more affordable than a psychology session. To this day, I assume it’s because of the difference in education and a psychologists protected title.

What’s important however, is whether or not you get along with the professional. The first couple counsellors I saw, didn’t seem like people I could ‘click’ with. Eventually, I met a counsellor who was amazing and really helped me through some harrowing times. She was kind, genuine and encouraging – qualities that I was lacking in myself/around my immediate social circle at that time in my life.

Steps to seeing a mental health professional.

  1.  Do your research. Read about each counsellor/psychologists profile if that’s available. Find their website and read, read, read! Once you’re certain about having the first initial consult, send an email.
  2. Attend the consultation. The mental health professional should then contact you and organise a consultation. This is usually a orientation session to talk about what your goals are, medical history and emergency contacts.
  3. First session. This can be nerve-racking even though you’ve already had the initial consultation. But remember – this is the first step to overcoming the hurdles you’ve been experiencing. It’s okay to be nervous. It’s normal. Being vulnerable is difficult. It may not seem like it, but it will be worth it.
  4. Self-reflection. You’ve completed your first session. Well done. Now, you can take the next 7-14 days to think whether or not you would like to continue with this counsellor/psychologist. Do they respond to you in a way that makes you feel supported? Do you feel safe being vulnerable with them? Do you feel you could learn a lot from them? Expression is hugely cathartic but it’s also important that you are able to openly learn, and improve your life. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable, let the counsellor know that you won’t be continuing. Go back to Step 1 and do your research. Maybe ask friends/family you trust about professionals they may have seen.
  5. Continue counselling sessions. You’ve now made the next decision to either continue or find another professional. Remember, healing isn’t linear. You may have a breakthrough and another hurdle comes along. It’s okay. Like Dory says, “Just keep swimming!”.

Seeing a professional can be daunting and even terrifying. But if talking to friends or trusted adults aren’t improving your situation, take that step to seek help. Don’t wait. Waiting may exacerbate your symptoms.

Mental illness can be so isolating. Reach out. And if you know someone who is struggling, send them a message. Give them a call. Visit them. You never know what battle someone may be facing. Don’t wait until it’s too late to show your kindness. Don’t wait to spread love to those closest.

It’s okay to ask for help. We are stronger together.

Image from last years trip to New Zealand.

5 Ways to Function through a Depressive Slump

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Taking notice.

Nothing in particular has been overwhelming. Yet strangely, I have noticed a decline in my motivation, I’ve been struggling to sleep at night and I haven’t been able to concentrate during the day. As I type this, exhaustion is ensuing. All I want to do, is sleep. I’ve felt like this for the last month or so.

But, hope is not lost!

Over the years, I have found outlets for the days when depression is all I see.

I have listed these below:

1. Create a private blog.

I have been blogging privately for years. I use Tumblr, as it is password protected. The motion of posting allows me to express my concerns, without worrying about what words I use or how I say it. Even though there is no audience, I am satisfied by letting those feelings go.

Documenting day-to-day how I’m feeling, helps me process my emotions. Whether it’s online or in a notebook you can keep in a safe place… try it out. Expression may be hugely cathartic for you.

2. Watch YouTube videos.

This may sound weird. But for me, YouTube allows me to connect with people around the world who who have a motivating mindset. These days, mental health awareness is in abundance. Topics on depression, anxiety, personality disorders, trauma… many topics are available to us thanks to the internet and the world of YouTube. There are also videos to help with business, finance, emotional intelligence and even videos about day-to-day lives of others.

What are you usually interested in?

I know it can be difficult to do anything in a depressive slump. However, if you decide to stay home and don’t want to be with other people – YouTube is the next best thing. Humans need connection. If you can find helpful, connecting videos online, it’s better than going the road alone.

3. Make a comforting meal for yourself.

I know that it can be draining to even think of cooking when you’re in a slump. At times, I barely have the energy or even hunger to eat. However, improving your diet (even taking one step) may improve your mood. According to a study based on diet and risk of depression, red meat, processed meat as well as high-fat dairy products were found to increase risk of depression. High-sugar intake also increased risk of depression as it effected endorphin levels.

So, try to eat a good meal at least once a day. Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals! If you’re on a budget like I am (student life), buy frozen produce. I make fruit/vegetable smoothies or a simple pasta dish with broccoli/carrot/zucchini – whatever veggies I have on hand.

Small efforts to look after ourselves are stepping stones to successfully treating our mental health issues.

4. Focus on urgent tasks.

If you are a student like me, then you probably have assignments and due-dates coming up. Or, you may work full-time/part-time/casually and have your own responsibilities.

Advice: try to focus on the tasks that are most important, FIRST.

This might mean:

  • Lectures taking the back-burner until you’re at least up to date on an assignment.
  • Laundry being done on Sunday instead of doing it on Friday.
  • Not making your bed in the morning so you can catch up on sleep before you leave for university or work.
  • Asking for help from those around you: take out bins, wash the dishes and so on. 4 hands are better than 2!

Think about steps you can take to make your daily life more manageable during this time.

5. Find someone to talk to.

I kept this tip for last, because I know how hard it can be to gain the courage to speak up about struggling. When I do speak up however, I find it to be so healing. I have mentioned this a few times now, because speaking up is another form of expression and has been proven to aid in successfully treating depression.

This may not work for everyone, but if you do find value in talking with someone you trust, let them know you’re not travelling so well. In this age of technology, we can set up phone calls, video calls, voice messages and Messenger calls. We have the opportunity to open up to support and advice.

 

If you have a friend or family member who struggles with a mental health issue, please reach out to them. Call and ask how they’re doing, make plans to get out of the house or even plan a visit.

 

Thank you for being here. The world wouldn’t be the same without you.

 

Beautiful image by Dani @_bydanimae
Thank you so much for letting me use your art!