Tagged: anxiety

I need a dang haircut

- by Alyson Shane


Y'know when you've been putting something off for so long and you just keep procrastinating even though you know you need to just deal with it? That's me and this haircut.

Here's why:

I have my wavy hair keratin straightened about once a year and I'm trying to time it so I get my hair treated right before we go to Belize since I don't want to be dealing with some frizzy, annoying hair situation while we're down there. So it makes sense to get a haircut and the treatment done at the same time, right?

Total sense.

Except all these weird little things have popped up that have prevented me from booking it. I remember at the wrong hours; the line is busy when I call and I forget to call back; dumb shit like that.

You know how it is. We've all done this little song and dance before.

I'm not much for new year's resolutions but I've decided to commit to not procrastinating so much moving forward. Putting off dumb stuff just causes stress to pile up and if there's one thing I want to be in 2018 it's

more calm.

Earlier we were watching the final episode of BSG and I found myself doing my usual mental gymnastics where I hop from one worry to the next like a frog jumping from one big lily pad to another. I was trying to pay attention to all the flashbacks and emotional moments in the show and instead I kept getting lost in whatever I was worrying about, and I thought to myself:

stop, this is stupid.

I'm not thinking about how nice it is to relax with my partner. Not reflecting on the great night I had last night. I'm worrying about a bunch of stuff, none of which I can do anything about on New Year's Day, and letting it get in the way of actually enjoying my downtime.

I think I had one of those moments of clarity where it's like someone mentally bitchslapped you and things suddenly seem clear and make sense.

Because I realized that one of the reasons I've been feeling to tense and worrying so much is that I have all these small to-dos floating around that don't have a time, place, or action assigned to it in order to resolve them.

The more stuff piles up, the more overwhelmed I feel by all of it, and it gets to the point where I can't even focus on one of the best science fiction shows out there because I'm having a silent stress-out over on the couch over who knows what. My business. My clients. My personal life. Whatever.

So tomorrow I'm calling to book the dang haircut.

Cheers to the new year.


 

The Catharsis of Crying

- by Alyson Shane

How many times did you cry this week?

I cried 4 times.

  • On Tuesday: I felt overwhelmed with my workload for the week (short weeks are hard.)
  • On Wednesday: I was thinking about my Grandma, and was excited about seeing her this Christmas.
  • On Thursday: In therapy (obviously.)
  • Today: Watching this interview with Gord Downie and realizing how short my time with the person I love might be.

This used to be something that I was embarrassed about, but over the past few years I've come to accept that crying is just part of my existence. I used to fight it, and try to hold the tears back whenever they came, but these days I just let it out.

It's the best thing I've done for my mental health, if I'm being honest.

A Cryin' Shame(ing)

When I was growing up, my family members made fun of me for crying so much. I've always been moved to tears easily; the second something tugs at my heartstrings - good or bad - my eyes well up. My aunt once told me that she "worried that I was depressed" as a teenager because I cried at the drop of a hat.

In our household, crying was seen as a sign of weakness and something to be ashamed of. Allowing other people to see real manifestations of your feelings wasn't appropriate, and we were regularly warned against the dangers of sharing our thoughts and feelings with other people.

I remember, once, after a breakup in high school, I was crying in my room and my mother popped her head in to see what was wrong. I said "I'm so sad" and she replied by saying "I hope you don't act this way in front of your friends, or they'll start to get tired of hearing about it and stop being friends with you."

My family, which is of British descent, subscribes to the "suck it up" mentality: publicly displaying emotions of heartbreak, sorrow, or anything other than the status quo was always strongly discouraged, and my brothers and I were shamed and often belittled whenever we allowed our emotions to "get the better of us."

But in the last few months and years I've allowed myself to start getting over those fears. When I feel overwhelmed (which is often, running a business is a scary and often stressful undertaking) I just allow the few tears to come, and then wipe them on and move on with my day.


Anxiety and Crying

I have anxiety.

Anyone who has ever felt anxious knows that the plethora of negative emotions that come with it can often feel completely overwhelming, and for a long time I felt guilty because I used crying (secretly) as a coping mechanism. I cried in bathroom stalls and in my apartment when nobody else was home. When I was a kid I would go for long, extended walks through my neighbourhood because I didn't want my family to see or hear me crying.

For years, whenever I cried, or felt like I was going to cry, I would shame myself and feel guilty for not being able to prevent it.

I can't control my emotions.

I'm immature because I need to cry.

I'm not a good person because I cry easily.

However, in therapy (and with some supports from my friends and partner) I've come to realize that crying is just a part of life, and is a normal part of being in touch with my emotions. I used to feel guilty and get upset whenever I cried because I was trying to hide from my own thoughts and feelings, and I am so done with feeling guilty over crying.

Crying and Coming Together

The thing that's changed the most for me, and what led me to write this post, is that crying in front of other people has had the opposite effect from what my family told me it would: it's brought me closer to them.

John and I cry in front of each other regularly. Often, when we talk about our lives, our families, or our feelings for each other, one or both of us will start tearing up. Sometimes, when I talk to my friends about my anxiety, or things that are challenging me, I shed a few tears. And you know what? They don't hate me for it, and it doesn't make them want to be my friend any less.

In fact, knowing that I can be open with the people in my life in such a deeply personal way has been illuminating and life-changing. I can be myself; my sometimes-sad, anxious, messed-up self, and I can cry about it and be honest about it and it's the healthiest change that I've made in a long time.

Benefits of Crying

In fact, crying is actually good for you. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Tears remove toxins. Tears actually remove toxins from our bodies. Tears help humans remove chemicals that build up during emotional stress.
  • Crying relieves stress. Ongoing levels of stress can increase your risk of a heart attack and can damage your brain, and crying can help alleviate those stressful feelings.
  • Crying lowers your blood pressure. Crying has been found to lower blood pressure and pulse rate immediately after a "big cry."
  • It reduces manganese in the body. Crying reduces the body's manganese level. Manganese is a mineral which affects our moods, and is found in up to 30 times greater concentration in tears than in blood serum.
  • Crying means you're human. All mammals' eyes are moistened and soothed by tears, but humans are the only mammals who express tears as a response to emotional stress or stimuli. Tears (and showing emotions) motivate us to empathize with each other, which encourages us to work together and survive.

So you know what? The next time you're feeling overwhelmed, or really happy... just cry it out. Hell, ugly cry if you must. There's no shame in it (as I'm slowly learning), and it's actually really good for you to cry it out sometimes.

Here's to a good cry!



 

How Social Media & Blogging Helped Me Discover Who I Am

- by Alyson Shane

**Trigger warning** For some of you who come from abusive relationships, some of the content in this post may act as a trigger. Please read responsibly.

The other day Meg Athavale of LUMO shared a terrific article on Facebook called "The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship" and one of the sections of the article really stood out for me:

Rather than showing vulnerability, business leaders have practiced what social psychiatrists call impression management--also known as "fake it till you make it."

This really struck a chord with me because as someone who makes their living online, keeping my personal brand as authentic as possible is one of my biggest priorities. Sure, I may not blog or tweet about every tough therapy session or anxiety that pops up, but as a business owner with an audience I believe that I have a responsibility to be transparent about the challenges in my life as well as my successes. I am a human being, after all.

With that in mind, I wanted to discuss the struggle that I've faced with reconciling my "authentic self" (aka, the one you see here, on social media, and in person) with the person that I was raised to believe that I was.



Some backstory

For those of you who don't know me personally, I haven't spoken to my parents or the majority of my family since early 2015 (you can read more about that here). Recently my brother had a baby, and I had to make the decision to not reach out or be involved. This wasn't a decision that I made lightly, but it was the right one for me and my mental health, and I stand by it.

This decision prompted my mother to leave a comment on my blog. Some of her statements (minus the attempts at gaslighting) included:

  • For some reason Alyson, which I have to confess, escapes me, you seem to be under the impression that you are far superior to the rest of us.
  • Maybe because you are a, 'writer', and can use, 'big', words, you think it gives you an advantage that we don't have.
  • I think you need to get down off that pedestal you've erected for yourself and get rid of your overblown ego.
  • You are so focused on living up to your superficial, 'queen of the Internet', alter ego, that you no longer know how to be a decent human being.
  • Could it be that there is a wee bit of human in you after all?

The reason that I'm sharing these personal details is because I don't believe that vague descriptions adequately convey the narrative I grew up with. The comments you see above (which thankfully aren't a part of my life anymore beyond being a very helpful example for the sake of this article) were the things that were told to me on a daily basis.

Needless to say I entered adulthood as a pretty unhappy, insecure, and confused individual.

Discovering myself online

When I first started blogging back in 2003 I couldn't have predicted the multitude of ways that it would eventually come to change my life. I've always gravitated towards writing as my favourite form of self-expression, and blogging has always seemed like a natural and easy way to do it.

My blog is a reflection of who I am and the things that I feel are valuable and important to share, and from day one it caused issues between myself and my family. As illustrated in my mother's comments above, my ability to articulate and share my thoughts, and my willingness to do so, was seen as attempts at being superior and were frequently thwarted with threats of getting "cut out" of the family.

Despite this resistance from my home life I soon realized that I had found a community of like-minded individuals who wrote, shared, and published with the same authenticity that I wanted to be doing. In the late 2000's I started reading Raymi the Minx, the busblog, oceanaria, and a plethora of now-defunct but wonderful blogs who inspired me to be myself, no matter what. I'd always grown up believing that "nobody cared" about my thoughts or feelings, and the blogging community taught me that it wasn't true.

Around 2009 I also began discovering social networks. In particular I gravitated towards Twitter, which helped me express myself and connect with people whom I likely wouldn't have met otherwise. I doubt that I would have met Stef, Colin, Adrian, LJT, Kevin, and a variety of other wonderful people whom I now count among my dearest friends if it hadn't been for Twitter, and being active on this social network helped me expand my reach and connect with colleagues, clients, and a support system that I had never imagined was possible.

Around 2011 my active presence online as well as my obsession with internet culture and memes led to some of my Twitter followers (jokingly) dubbing me the "Queen of the Internet". As odd as it sounds, this nickname, however in jest, helped me start to develop a confidence that I had never experienced before. Suddenly people were turning to me to ask questions about social media and blogging on a regular basis. I started speaking at Red River College's Creative Communications program, at the MBlog conference, and my work was published in the local paper.

Contrasting these successes against the person that I had always believed myself to be (the selfish, superficial person who didn't care about anyone but herself) became harder and harder. Not only were my friends, colleagues, and peers informing a narrative which challenged my previous thoughts and feelings about myself, but I was starting to slowly stop believing those things, as well.

The catalyst

In retrospect the biggest change in perspective came when I published my post Living with the Mean Reds, which detailed how it felt to live with anxiety and feelings of low self-worth every day. At the time I was terrified of hitting "publish", and I was overwhelmed and surprised at the outpouring of support and kind words that I received as a result.

Social media and blogging provided me with a supportive community where over time I was able to learn to shed the negative self-image that I'd grown up believing. By having a space that was completely free from my family's influence I was able to start growing, learning, and not being so afraid all the damn time. I started a business, I started therapy, and I started investing my time and energy into the things that really mattered instead of indulging in drama because I felt obligated to participate


Support from these communities help me finally realize that refusing to make room for the negative things in my life doesn't make me a bad person. It means I have a deep enough understanding of my needs to make hard (and sometimes unpopular) decisions.

Why does this matter?

Social media and blogging are extremely powerful tools which can connect us with people all over the world. They allow us to find communities and support systems online we can start to explore parts of ourselves that scare us, or that we don't feel we can express to the people in our day-to-day lives.

By finding ways to express myself online I was able to discover things about myself, make connections, and find opportunities that simply wouldn't have been available to me otherwise. The encouragement I received from my followers, readers, friends, and my very supportive partner led me to where I am today, and though I'm not perfect I'm working hard at building the life I want and deserve.

Sharing this stuff isn't easy. It's doesn't feel great to admit that my mother is the way that she is, or that my family doesn't understand who I am, but it's the reality that I'm in and I'm thankful to be able to have a platform through which I can share these thoughts and experiences as I work through them.

Through blogging and on social media I was able to find a place for myself and connect with communities of supportive and like-minded individuals who helped me start making a place for myself in the real world and, most importantly, in my own eyes.

Most of the bloggers I've followed over the years don't know how much they helped me, and there's a good chance that if my words help someone that I may never know, either. But if reading about the challenges that I've faced helps someone else seek out the supports they need to start healing and being happy, then that matters a great deal, and I'm happy to share my stories and be a part of that process and thankful to be able to help.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for being here with me while I figure this stuff out.

(If anything I've described in this post re: family expectations, relationships, or narratives imposed upon you by your family sounds familiar, I strongly encourage you to check out /r/raisedbynarcissists, a wonderfully supportive Reddit community that has helped me a lot.)


 

How to deal with "Impostor Syndrome"

- by Alyson Shane


I'm a fraud and eventually everyone is going to figure it out.

Do you ever feel that way? I do. I've felt that way a lot in the last year since I started really putting effort into my business. I frequently feel like one day everyone is just going to open their eyes, rub the sleep out of them and say oh hey you're actually just a giant impostor! and then chase me out of town.

This feeling -which isn't uncommon, by the way - people from Tina Fey to Neil Gaiman and Seth Godin have discussed their struggles with it- is characterized by behaviours like:
  • Acting dismissing when praised
  • Putting peers up on a pedestal
  • Feeling reluctant about accepting new responsibilities or challenges
  • Fear of failure
  • Worrying that others will "discover" their shortcomings and condemn them for it
“The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome, something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.” – Neil Gaiman

While I think that this feeling has always persisted in some people (maybe all of us, who knows?) it seems to be that much more pronounced now that we have to project airs of confidence and sell ourselves not just in person, but online as well.

There's a pressure to sell yourself and your abilities, while also remaining "authentic" (something I've talked about a lot.) We feel the pressure to be perfect, but we also have to be as open about our lives and our struggles as we can. We feel the need to be perfect, but we also have to be free to fail and to be open and transparent about those failures.


Trying to walk this tightrope can feel exhausting, and it practically sets you up to feel like a fraud.

As someone who also deals with anxiety on a regular basis (super awesome!... not) this can compound feelings of fakery and throw a huge wrench in my productivity, confidence, and my overall quality of life.

Here's how I deal (and how you can, too!)

Accept that you played a role in your successes. The good things in your life didn't just fall into your lap, you know. You hustled your ass for what you have; you said yes when you could have said no; you took that challenge. You get my drift.

Focus on the value you provide. The fastest way to get over fraudulent feelings is to help people and share what you know (hence this post.) This can be hard because there are so many what-ifs: what if people hate what you have to say? What if they make fun of you? etc etc.... the trick is just to write what you know.

Know that you're going to die. I think about death every day. Not in a morbid sense, but I try to take time to remember that I'm only here for a very short time, and I don't want to spend my limited time in this world giving in to feelings that make me feel bad about myself.

Stop comparing yourself to people. That person, especially. You know the one: the person who's where you want to be, who's written more, shared more, built a bigger business, whatever. Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance…” and he was totally correct. We're inundated with photos, tweets, Vines, etc showing off people's awesome lives, but we never see their struggles. Take those people down off their pedestals in your mind and focus on how you can bring yourself up.

Remember that being wrong or making a mistake doesn't make you an impostor. World leaders make mistakes all the time, Tiger Woods doesn't play every game perfectly, Brad Pitt flubs his lines sometimes... you get my drift. People make mistakes every single day. It's okay that you did, too.

Realize that nobody knows what they're doing. Nobody knows exactly what they're doing, even though there are lots of people out there who will insist otherwise (these people are lying to you.) We live in a world where we have to muck through the mud to get to there we want to be -you, me and everyone else.

Fake it till you make it. Ugh! So clichéd! But it's true. Just like how smiling tricks your brain into feeling happier, putting yourself out there and simply acting like you're 100% confident will start to translate into reality. Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing, and it means that you can shape your brain by pretending to be what you want to be.

Do you ever feel like an impostor? What steps have you taken to overcome these feelings? Tell me in the comments (or shoot me an email if it's too personal)


 

365 Days

- by Alyson Shane

Today marks my one-year anniversary with super-talented megababe John Luxford. That's 365 days of silly jokes, smiles, laughter, and shared experiences.

It's been an incredible ride. Fulls of ups, downs, and more amazing stories than I can count.

But this post isn't about my relationship.

Rather, it's about the first day, 365 days ago, that I took control of my life.

Before May 7th, 2014, I was floundering.

I had been fired from my job at Direct Focus and my career was directionless.
I was in a relationship with someone whom I had outgrown, but I was too insecure to realize it or do anything about it.
I had been partying my weekends away for years and the strain on my health and my wallet was taking its toll.
I had crippling anxiety attacks and routinely broke down, but didn't have the strength to admit that there was a problem.
I was maintaining a destructive and strained relationship with my parents simply because I thought that it was the "right" thing to do.

Things started to fall apart. My life began cracking at the seams.

I couldn't do it anymore.

So on this day last year I took the first step in taking control of my life: I left my boyfriend of nearly five years. With it went most of my "friends" and the party lifestyle that I had become so accustomed to.

Those first few weeks were some of the most difficult I've ever faced. I hadn't realized how much I had relied on my toxic lifestyle to mask much more deep-seated issues in my head and heart, and having to face my mistakes and look critically at my life wasn't easy, to say the least.

It was lonely at first, but removing myself from those influences gave me the space to clear my head and start addressing my issues without the haze of alcohol, partying, and the inevitable Monday-morning low that had clouded my mind for so long.

In the following months I focused on personal reflection and using my new 9-5 as an opportunity to learn some new skills. I picked up my first freelance client that summer and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks: I could do whatever I wanted to do.

I revamped my blog and started sharing the things that were relevant to me. Not just what I'd done that weekend (though sometimes I still share the cool things that I do) but my knowledge, my learning, and most importantly, my struggles. Who I really am.

I've acquired a handful of really great freelance clients while kicking ass at my 9-5. I've made enough money on the side that I've managed to make a serious dent in my student debt - something I could have never done in a year without my freelance work. At this rate I might pay it all off this year, who knows.

I work out regularly and because I don't party like I used to, my body actually responds to the hard work I put into it. I'm in the best shape of my life and I'm only getting stronger.

I stopped putting effort into relationships and friendships that detract from my life. The people I have in my life are smart, driven, kind, sincere individuals whom I know I can turn to in a crisis. This includes addressing issues with my family and standing up for myself.

I've started to address and work on my anxieties. I talk openly about my struggles because I want to help people who experience the same doubts and worries that I do. I work every day to be open and honest with myself and the people in my life about how I feel, and why. It's hard, but it's worth it.

In 365 days I have changed into someone so utterly different from who I used to be that I barely recognize myself sometimes.

I didn't manage all of this because I have a great boyfriend and a new relationship (though that helps), I did it because I started to take ownership of my life and to start making decisions that were in my best interests.

My relationship with John started on May 7th, sure, but I really feel like our anniversary means so much more to me than just the start of my relationship with him: it's the day I finally started taking what I want from life and not being so afraid all the time.

Here's to another 365 days of positive change and amazing new opportunities!

"being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage"
- Lao Tzu

 

Why I Haven't Been Around

- by Alyson Shane

Things have been difficult lately.

Not life; life overall has been incredible. In the past few months I've had amazing opportunities fall into my lap, made new connections and friends, and started to take some serious action in terms of my own personal growth.

My mind has been difficult lately, though, which is why you haven't seen much of the "real" (non-professional) me on this blog recently. It's easy to crutch on my Crowdfunding Crash Course project, or to whip an article about content marketing together because it's knowledge that I can easily make sense of and put into words.

Anxiety doesn't work that way. It makes you mute. It makes you hole up inside yourself and just dig deeper and deeper, and you don't even realize you're doing it until someone points it out.

The other day, after a full-blown anxiety attack John said to me "have you been doing any writing therapy lately? You used to write all the time - when was the last time you wrote about things?" and I realized that I haven't. Going back through my posts, the last time I wrote something "personal" was March 5th, when I wrote "To My Family, Who Read This Blog."

It occurred to me, then, that that's what has been eating at me: since my family cut me out I've been allowing my anxiety to build inside of me because it's always in the back of my mind. It's hard to land speaking opportunities, new clients, meet new people and not be able to call my dad and say

"Hey Dad, guess what just happened!"

It's even harder not to be able to call and say

"Hey Dad, how are you? I love you, and I really miss you, and I wish that you were able to have the kind of relationship with me that I'd like us to have."

It eats at me some days.

I think about my brothers a lot. I think about how they're younger than I am, and how they grew up with this idea that I'm this weird black sheep who just can't conform to what my parent's expectations are. I worry that they think that I'm a bad person because I'm not around to show them otherwise, because I know that that's the narrative that they're hearing: that I'm selfish. That I'm blaming everyone except myself. That I should just "suck it up."

I think about my mom a lot. My mom who refused to speak to me after I reached out to her; who stepped away from me and cast me out because I finally stood up for myself. My mom, who taught me so many negative behaviours and who has been the cause of so much of my stress, anxiety, and unhappiness. It's hard to disentangle myself from her influence, especially when she holds the keys to the cage in which the rest of my family resides, and manipulates everyone within it.

I think about my dad a lot, especially. I think about my dad every single day. I try to be objective and realize that, ultimately, the decision to not speak to me was, and continues to be, his own. But he's my dad. I'm his only daughter and I always assumed that, no matter what, he would be there for me. However he's also a person, one with flaws and issues just like everyone else, and it's unfair of me to put him up on a pedestal just because he's my father. Honestly though, that's been the hardest part so far.

The problem with thinking, and anxiety, is that it gets you caught up in these negative thought loops - your thoughts spiral downward and you get stuck running over the same comment or situation over and over. Everything suddenly becomes a really big deal.

Which explains why every small issue that's come up in my life has also become a really big deal: because I have this huge issue looming over my life constantly which amplifies everything else. Every good thing is really, really good, and every bad thing is really, really, tremendously bad.

Which leads me to this post. These words, on this page, the over-sharing and stream of consciousness writing that, as I type these words on the screen helps lift that giant weight up off my chest. I need to remember that writing is therapy, and that I have a safe place, here on my blog, where I can write as much and as often as I need. That it's okay to be going through this and talking about it openly.

Thank you for being here, and for listening.


 

Happy International ASMR Day

- by Alyson Shane

Ever since I was a little girl, I've always loved the sounds of people speaking softly, soft tapping, scratching or brushing sounds, and lightly-accented voices. I used to sit and watch Bob Ross for hours on end, mesmerized by his voice, and nobody around me could understand why.

This is because I have ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which Wikipedia describes as "perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli."

Basically what happens, for me anyway, is when I listen to people speaking softly, or hear "trigger" sounds, I get a pleasant tingling sensation in my brain. It also makes my skin really sensitive, and I frequently run my fingers gently along my arms or wrists when I hear someone that triggers it.

If you're unsure if you've ever experienced it, ask yourself if you've ever experienced a pleasant tingling feeling, wave of calmness, or "itchy brain" feeling when exposed to any of these triggers:

  • Exposure to slow, accented, or unique speech patterns
  • Viewing educational or instructive videos or lectures
  • Experiencing a high empathetic or sympathetic reaction to an event
  • Enjoying a piece of art or music
  • Watching another person complete a task, often in a diligent, attentive manner. Examples: filling out a form, writing a check, going through a purse or bag, inspecting an item closely, etc.
  • Close, personal attention from another person
  • Haircuts, or other touch from another on head or back

I only realized that I had ASMR a few years ago - until then whenever I mentioned the "brain tingles" I would get, people looked at me like I had lost my marbles. It wasn't until listening to an episode of This American Life that I realized that there weren't just others like me, but a while community of people on YouTube, Reddit and elsewhere who share experiences and post videos or audio clips to try and trigger other people.

But why am I talking about this?

First, it's because today is International ASMR Day, so it feels appropriate.

Second, I wanted to write about how finding acceptance in the ASMR community has helped me start accepting a part of my life that I had largely kept hidden from people. Being able to understand and find acceptance about something that had always alienated me from other people was a huge weight off my shoulders. You can only hear "you're weird" or "you're crazy" so many times before you stop trying to discuss an experience with people.

One of the amazing things about the ASMR community online is how kind and accepting everyone is. We all share a weird connection, and most ASMR artists incorporate kind, relaxing, and supportive messages into their videos as part of the "relaxing" experience that ASMR causes.

Third, I wanted to discuss it because ASMR videos have played a huge role in dealing with my anxiety. In addition to feeling a connection with the ASMR artists, the videos have a hugely calming effect on me, and have been a really powerful tool in helping me calm down during an anxiety attack, or helping me focus when I'm stressed out. There's even an article on LifeHack.org about using ASMR to de-stress.

Below are a few of my favourite ASMR videos, which I play on a regular basis when I'm stressed out or just want to experience a pleasant, calm feeling.

If you experience ASMR, or maybe even if you don't (who knows?) they might help calm you or make you feel good:




Do you have ASMR? If so, do you use it to help with an issue like stress or anxiety?


 

To My Family, Who Read This Blog

- by Alyson Shane

Hello.

I know you're there.

I've been told by a few of you on a couple of occasions that you intermittently read what I post here. That it upsets you. That you don't understand why I do any of this.

That's okay. I don't expect you to.

Because I'm not like any of you. I'm a writer. I find solace in the curves of words, in their permanence, in what is left unsaid between the paragraphs. Some people find comfort in a bottle, or the arms of a lover, but I find it in words. 

I don't know how I turned out this way. How I grew up to be such a demonstrably different person than I was ever told, encouraged, expected to be. 

But I'm thankful for it.

I'm thankful that I am learning to handle my anxieties and issues in positive, healthy ways; I'm thankful that I have people around me who support me; I'm thankful that I have this blog, my little corner of the internet, where I can pour out my heart and soul and thoughts when they overwhelm me.

I want you to know that I'm working on learning to accept that you can't and won't be the people that I so desperately need you to be. It's hard, but it's something that I will need to work on coming to terms with. If I spend my whole life expecting you to change then I'll never be happy. 

The only person whose growth I can control is my own, and I'm doing my best.

Part of that includes writing here. Of being honest about my struggles and challenges, and the steps that I'm taking to overcome them. 

Lots of people go through similar situations, and if my words are able to help a single person feel like they're not alone, or encourages them to get the help that they need, then I have a responsibility as a writer to put myself out here. Even if it means upsetting you.

As I said: I don't expect you to understand.

I do expect you to continue to ignore me; to continue to pretend like nothing is wrong and I'm just delusional or making up the fact that I have anxiety or issues with trust, confidence and self-worth. I expect you to continue to deny your roles in causing these issues, to continue to keep me at arm's length because it's easier to ignore me than it is to face the things about yourselves that make you uncomfortable.

But I know you read this blog. So I'm telling you that it's okay.

I forgive you.

(At least, I'm working on it.)


 

Managing My Anxiety with Pacifica

- by Alyson Shane

Many of you know that over the past while I've been trying to take positive steps to start tackling the stress and anxiety that I deal with in my day-to-day life. Part of that has been creating positive dialogues by sharing my experiences, and recently it's involved using an app called Pacifica.

I'd never really considered using an app to manage my anxiety, but after John mentioned it and sent me a link to their webpage, I figured "why not?" Since then I've been using it daily and have really been noticing a change in my mood and my anxiety levels.

Basically the app provides you with tools to work on mindfulness and to track your moods and activities over time, which attempts to paint a picture of the kinds of behaviours that can increase or decrease anxiety and stress.

There are five daily tasks: Mood, Relax, Thoughts, Experiments, and Health, though when you use the free version (like me, I'm cheap) you only get access to three a day. Honestly though this is more than enough. 

There are two things about this app that I liked enough to sit down and write a review, one of which is the little push notification. Usually I hate them, but there's something sort of soothing to look down at your phone and see a message that says "how are you feeling?" - even when I know it's coming from an app, it makes me stop and think. 

This also works well because once I see the push notification I go right into the app and input my Mood, which means that I don't just use it when I'm feeling good or bad, which would skew my ability to figure out if I'm making progress.

The other is the Thoughts feature. I used this for the first time the other day after a particularly stressful experience.

Basically the feature has you record your thoughts out loud, then it plays the recording back to you and asks you to identify positive and negative statements. 

When you identify a negative statement, it displays leading questions which force you to think about why you felt that way, and why you expressed it the way that you did. 

Once you've listened to it once (or more times if you need) the app has you re-record your thoughts on the issue: was it as bad as you thought? How could you change your thinking patterns moving forward? etc.

I really struggle to do this in the moment and while it was a bit weird to talk out loud when nobody else was around, hearing myself played back and thinking critically about the statements that I heard myself making really, really helped. 

The app does other stuff, too, like helping you track how much you sleep, how well you ate, how much exercise you got, etc, but this was the most influential tool that I've used so far.

I really find that managing my day-to-day stress and anxiety levels can be a challenge, and having an app has really helped me be more mindful of my choices and it's helpful to go back to a particular day and be able to say "yeah, I handled that really well" or "I could have done better, what can I improve on?" and see that progress over time. 

What about you - do you have any app recommendations for managing anxiety? I'd love to hear them! 


 

How to Be Positive (or Give It a Damn Good Shot)

- by Alyson Shane

Since I wrote my #BellLetsTalk post the other day I've had tons of people reach out and share their experiences with me - largely stating that they, too, struggle with feelings of negativity and often have a hard time not getting overwhelmed with negativity. 

I really, really struggle with negativity. I'm was raised to be a pessimist and to always look on the bad side of a situation. My first reaction to pretty much anything that stresses me out is to get my back up and start spiraling mentally into a black hole of what if's and this is terrible's.

So as a bit of a follow-up to that post I wanted to share a few of the steps that I've taken (and currently practice) to try and cope with my negativity and be more positive. 

Smile

I remember dating a guy who, years ago, went on a huge rant about how a friend-of-a-friend changed his whole outlook on life because he made himself smile all the time. I thought he was a total whacko, and while his story might be a slight exaggeration, there's science behind the fact that smiling makes you feel happier and I can personally attest to the fact that smiling, even when I'm sitting around and typing something makes you feel happier.

Focus on positive speech

I wrote a post a few months back about my efforts to remove negative words from my vocabulary and I'm happy to report that not only have I been successful, but that I've been able to encourage other people in my life to start curbing their use of hurtful words as well.

However, because of my anxiety I still routinely refer to myself as being "stupid" - as in "I can't believe I forgot that, I'm so stupid!" which has got to stop. I know it, I'm working on it, and if you find yourself doing the same thing, try and catch yourself when you think it or say it aloud. 

There are enough people in the world who are going to put you down, there's no need for you to help them out.

Additionally, try to focus on talking about positive topics and ideas. Venting about your tough day or that thing that your partner did that pissed you off might feel good in the moment, but vocalizing it adds more value than it probably deserves, and only serves to reinforce the negative things that you feel. 

Focus on the good around you

A lot of advice of this nature will tell you to keep a journal of things that you're thankful for, but if you're like me and feel a bit silly doing it, just make a point to try and find things that make you smile, or small positives throughout your day.

For me, a big part of being able to maintain this kind of thinking is my partner, John. We both vocalize the good things in our lives often, and probably say things like "I'm so lucky for XYZ" a few times a day. Personally, my Instagram #Project365 is also making me take a more critical look at the world around me - instead of going to and from places, I'm actively looking for things to photograph and admire and share. It's been a lot of fun, and it keeps me mindful of my surroundings.

Ditch the cynics

Do you have friends that just love to sit around making super-snarky comments about how awful the world is, how much their life sucks, and how nobody "gets them, man"? Yeah, we all have at one point or another, but in order to start leading happier, more productive lives we need to rid ourselves of those bad influences.

This can be incredibly hard to do, especially if you've got a super-tight circle of friends. I was fortunate in that I lost almost all of the negative people I knew as the result of a breakup, which forced me to take a long, hard look at the attitude and lifestyle habits that I had developed as a result of those influences. 

Not everyone is as lucky as I am, and it can be hard to start putting distance between yourself and those negative people, but once you start spending your time with more positive, energetic, driven individuals you'll find that your attitude changes naturally over time. It can seem intimidating at first, but actively making an effort to hang out with more positive people will result in a more positive you.

Sweat it out

I'm not saying start drinking protein powder for every meal and putting on massive gainz at the gym, but exercising releases feel-good chemicals and makes you happier, it helps relieve stress and your body will look smokin' hot if you keep at it long enough.

If you're like me it can be hard to find exercise that doesn't feel like a drag after the first 30 seconds (I lift weights, mostly, because cardio gets boring fast). Most people just default to cardio because it seems like the go-to exercise, but there are so many other ways to get your heart racing - check out your local gym for classes, cycle around outside, go swimming, whatever! 

Pay it forward

Being nice to other people makes you feel good. I'm not saying that you have to volunteer at a soup kitchen every night of the week (though if you want to that's cool, too) but doing small things like smiling at people on the street or holding doors open for strangers really make a difference in someone else's life and make you feel fabulous as well.

One thing I always make a point to do it thank my bus drivers. I commute via transit during the winter months and always make a point to thank the drivers if I'm exiting the bus at the front door. Think about it: these people basically drive in giant circles all day so that you can go to and from where you need to be. It's a pretty important job when you think about it, so I always let them know I appreciate it. 

Remember, it takes time

These tips won't always work. There will be days when you feel blue, get the Mean Reds, or just need to bitch it out over a cocktail with friends. That's totally okay. Becoming a more positive person isn't going to happen overnight, and the effort and things you learn as you grow will help contribute to long-term happiness. Give yourself a break and smile. 

 What about you? Do you have any tricks for staying positive? Let me know!


 

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