News for January 2013

January – Long and Cold

This past month has been a long and cold month in several ways. There has been a lot going on here for both my wife and I which has consumed a lot of my time and energy. A lot of the stress that has cropped up this past month has been related to money. I am looking for a new project within my company to reduce this stress by allowing to have more financial growth.

This is very unfortunate because I love the project I am on and hate to leave it; especially, since I have been on the same project for over seven years. The system I work on has become like my kid. When I started at my job it was about 1/4 the size it is now. I have been involved in the development and refinement of just about every single area of the system.  However, when I made the decision to look for another project, I knew it was the right choice. I thought it out before I made the decision and weighed the pros and cons of it. When the time came, I was at peace with it.

Adding to the stress has been the fact that one item I have been working on at the office has not gone as smoothly as I would like. There is really nothing more I can say about that.

There are other things I could go on about, but I see no reason to go into more detail. I will just say that overall January has just been rough for me. It has been the roughest month in the last year for me. There have been a couple of episodes and an increase in stress levels; however, I have been able to avoid self-harm.

Actually, as I write this and think back, the month has had several rough patches, but as a whole it was not as bad as I first thought.

This was really meant as a fast update so that people know I am alive and well. I plan to put up a new entry and get back on track this weekend.

Edited: January 30th, 2013

Your Surroundings Matter – Office Edition

As I mentioned in the article, Your Surroundings Matter, one of the easiest things for us to control is our environment, which is a good thing since our environment has a big impact on our mental health. While we have more control over our environment at home then we do at the office, we still do have some degree of control at work. Unfortunately, when we are in a public environment we need to operate within constraints put in place by other people. For example, one constraint that I need to work within at the office is that we cannot have anything plugged in other than our computers and phones. This constraint prevents me from keeping an electric relaxation fountain at my desk, which is one thing that I used to use to help me deal with stress at work.

Controlling your environment at work is much the same as it is at home; however, you are limited to things that respect other people’s space, rights and privacy and do not cause any disturbance. Admittedly, working in an office at a computer all day, provides me with options not available to someone who works on the sales floor in a retail environment; however, it is still possible to control things in a retail setting. I will talk about that later in this article.

The first thing to keep in mind, is you cannot control the people around you, that part of your environment is beyond your control. So you need to focus on the things you can control.

One of the most important things I can recommend is before you do anything, make sure your office allows you to do them. Some places are more lenient than others. If you are not sure, check first.

If you are like me and spend a lot of time at your desk and on a computer, then the best place to start is with your sense of sight. There are a few very simple things I do to appeal to my sense of sight. It is important to keep objects  that are calming, soothing and that reinforce positive thoughts in your line of sight. I keep a picture of my wife and I on the wall right in front of me, there is no way I can miss it. I also have a picture of my cat as the wall paper on my computer. Typically, I keep a souvenir from my honeymoon on top of one my computers. This way when I turn to talk to someone, I can see it out of the corner of my eye and it reminds me of positive experience. This helps during stressful conversations.

A few other things you can keep at your desk, flowers (fresh or silk), any form of positive recognition, a stuffed animal that reminds you of a loved pet. Anything positive and allowed.

The other main thing I use at work, is my sense of hearing. I always carry my iPod and headphones with me. This helps during the commute as well. When I am at my desk and not involved in a conversation, I keep my headphones in and listen to music that I find relaxing and/or enjoyable.  Some of the music I listen is ‘normal’ to most people, even if they do not like it. For example, music like Kansas, Blue Oyster Cult, Bon Jovi, Bob Seger, Styx, Will Smith, and so on, no one would question as ‘normal music’; however, some of the things on my iPod would make most people shake their head. The best examples of this type of music are my Marine and Army Cadence, both running and marching, and my WWE entrance themes.

Don’t have an iPod? Not a problem, if you have a computer at work and are allowed to you can do a few different things. First you can bring in CDs and play them in the CD drive. A second option is to find an internet radio station you like and listen to that. Finally, you  can always listen to stuff on YouTube.  Make sure you know your company’s policy on computer use first though.

Finally, you can find ways to control your sense of smell. Now, you need to remember, it cannot be something overpowering that will intrude on other people’s space. The fact that you are in a shared environment makes smell a more challenging sense to deal with at work. If you are allowed, fresh flowers are always nice to have. They appeal to both your sense of sight and your sense of smell. If you work in close quarters with other people, you may want to ask them if they have any allergies to flowers before you bring some in to the office. Making others miserable will not help your environment in the long run. If you cannot have fresh flowers, and some places do not allow them, you may want to look into some potpourri for your desk.

Now, I mentioned at the beginning of this article, that I would talk about handling your environment in a retail setting. Unfortunately, you are more limited in a retail setting, but you can still do things to help yourself. When you are in a retail setting, you need to redefine your environment. You need to redefine it to you since you always have control over your own body.

Two simple things you can do in this type of setting is to wear an article of clothing that you find comforting or that makes you feel better about yourself.  The other thing you can do, and it is something I do, is wear something like a necklace or another piece of jewelry that you can touch to help ground yourself when you feel stressed or upset. I have two different necklaces that I wear regularly. If you have a locker where you work, you can put up photos just like you would at home or the office.

 

Edited: January 21st, 2013

Your Surroundings Matter

IMG_4228_ResizedaOne thing that we often overlook when dealing with our mental health is our environment, yet it is one thing that is the easiest for us to control on a daily basis. The things that our senses take in can have a huge impact to our state of mind. After all, our senses are how we interact with our world. It is why treatments like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teach people to use their senses to self-soothe in times of distress. This is an effective technique for many people.

Life does exist beyond times of distress, I know there are times it may seem like that is a lie, but life really does exist beyond times of distress. One of the best ways to avoid periods of distress is to find effective ways to prevent them. For me one thing that helps prevent them or at least helps cut them off when they are trying to start is by controlling my environment as much as possible. I primarily control my environment through the sense of sight, but I also make use of my senses of smell, touch and hearing, but to a  lesser extent.

To help control my environment through sight, I keep things that are visually soothing, positive and relaxing to me all over my apartment. Almost everywhere I look, there is something that has a positive impact on my mental state. On the wall behind where I sit, I have plaques with various bible verses in earth tones, on the wall above where my dining room table would be I have three plaques with the Chinese characters for Friendship, Good Luck, and Good Fortune. In my hallway I have quotes from the Dalai Lama hanging above my washer and drier and a Irish Wedding Blessing on the wall before you enter the master bedroom.

Since  I spend a lot of time on the computer, that area has more reinforcing material than just about anywhere else in my home. In front of my I have performance awards, on my left I have certificates of appreciation from the Assistant Attorney General and on my right I have my college diploma. Above my head, I keep my books on psychology, most of which focus on BPD and treatment types, my computer books, my books on leadership and ethics. All these books have a positive impact on me for one reason or another. I will talk more about that in a different article. No matter where I look, I am surrounded by things that remind me that I have accomplished things and reinforce a positive self-image. Behind me is the washer and dryer and as I said I have quotes from the Dalai Lama there. I even have a soothing image hanging in my bathroom and on the opposite wall from my bed.

On my bookcase in the living area, I have my ‘Spot Award’ for work I did in 2011 and my award for 5+ years of service with my company. There is one last way that I control my environment through sight. I do that by the television that I watch. A lot of the shows I watch are comedies, but I also watch a few dramas like N.C.I.S. and Elementary along with Supernatural. The comedies make me laugh and provide a ‘positive vibe’, the dramas keep my mind engaged and appeal to my analytical side and Supernatural appeals to the part of me that enjoys fantasy, the idea of ‘good vs. evil’ and ‘monsters’. Supernatural provides me an escape from reality. I may do a separate article just on Supernatural and its impact on my mental health.

Television also provides a great way of affecting your environment through sound. It can be the music featured in the show, the theme songs, the laughter from the audience or just the voices of the people acting. Another way I affect my environment through sound is I keep a Tibetan Singing Bowl on my bookcase which I use to soothe myself. I am still trying to learn how to use it. I can get it to sing, but I am far from an expert with it.

My sense of smell is the one that I do the least for, but even though I do not do a lot it still has a considerable impact. When it comes to smell, I burn scented candles, incense and scented oils. I do not burn them all at the same time. I choose candles and oils that have an appealing smell to me or that remind me of pleasant places. Incense has a very calming affect on me. I typically use incense from India or Tibet.

Finally, I come to touch. When it comes to my sense of touch, I have a very affectionate cat. She provides constant entertainment and loves to have someone pet her. There is something, about petting a cat that is in itself soothing and calming.

When it comes to work or commuting, I have less control over what I take in and how many things I can surround myself with at any given time. I will talk more about work and commuting environments separately.

These are some of the things that work well for me and help me. You may have very different things that work for you. It is about finding the things that work for you and surrounding yourself with them.

Edited: January 16th, 2013

Let’s Get This Party Started

january-1So far this year has started off with a lovely ‘bang’. I have spent a good part of the day dysregulated because of the ‘fiscal cliff’ crisis here. I have been watching it closely and it has caused me a great deal of stress. I have spent the better part of the last week doing calculations and estimating the impact that not reaching an agreement would have on my wife and I. The results have been very upsetting. If they do not pass something that extends the tax cuts on the middle class, I will need to get at least a 6% raise to make sure my net pay each pay period doesn’t go down. If I get a 6% raise, and the taxes go up, my pay check goes down 64 cents a month, that same raise with taxes staying where they were in 2012, would bring me in an extra $245 a month.

The whole situation has left me very dysregulated, with me having several episodes. This is on top of 2012 ending with a bit of a ‘bang’ and a ‘thump’.

I am going to add a trigger warning to this next part due to the nature of what happened. It deals with a near accident on the road last night.

 

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On the way home from dinner, my wife and I got ‘attacked’ by a chair. Someone had a recliner on the back of their truck and it flew out of the back and into the middle of the road. We were able to swerve out of the way. Thankfully no one was hurt and only a tiny dent in the car, about the size of a fist. The interesting thing about this is that my pulse didn’t race, there was no anxiety, I wasn’t shaking or anything like that at all.

This is significant because a few years ago, my wife and I had a horrible auto accident that almost killed us. My wife wound up with some serious injuries and is still recovering from them over three years later. For the longest time, even if someone looked like they might get a little too close to use it would cause an anxiety attack. I would at times have to pull over to calm down.

So here we get attacked by a recliner flying through the air on New Year’s Eve on a major interstate and it didn’t even make me flinch. That’s a big change.

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Today’s mindset is crucial to the rest of the year. It can set the tone for how I view tings the other 364 days. It was a rough day, but it was only a single day. I need to shake it off and keep going. I cannot let it drag me down. I need to look forward. There will be a bad day from time to time, but that doesn’t mean that the next day will be bad as well. One bad day does not equal a bad life.

Like I said last year, I will not let 2013 be a bad year. If 2013 tries to give me crap, then I will give it a good swift kick in the butt. I am not going to go back to where I was in 2011. I won’t settle for anything less than 2012.

So like P!nk said 12 years ago, Let’s Get This Party Started.

Edited: January 1st, 2013

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