Avoid Fighting with Constructive Talking

2192928_f496It hit me one day when discussing a fight one of my girlfriends had had with her boyfriend… My boyfriend and I had never had a fight. Sure, we had our disagreements and there were certainly times when we didn’t see eye to eye, however, this had never resulted in a typical girlfriend/boyfriend fight. I would be lying if I said my relationship was perfect, and there are some interests and lifetime goals both big and small that we end up on opposite sides of the spectrum regarding, but no matter how different our views may be, we choose to talk it out. And when I say talk it out, I mean TALK. No yelling, no name calling, no negative tones, no storming off, no pointing fingers. In the same light, there is no brushing the issues under the carpet either.

It took a long time to get here. Past relationships would result in ongoing arguments that would escalate to fighting. They very much involved pointing the finger and placing blame. If you expect for your significant other to actually LISTEN to you, then you need to speak to them in a way that to them, is worth listening to. As soon as we begin to point fingers in statements such as, “You don’t do this”, “I don’t like when you do this” we automatically disregard any responsibility we might have in the problem, and place full blame onto the other person. It takes time and practice to get in touch with your inner self and learn to talk to others as you wish to be spoken to. Sure, I’ve flown off the handle before, I’ve been in sour moods before, I’ve lashed out before. One thing I have done with this current relationship and what I hope to continue to do is that when things like this do happen, I apologize. I am lucky that these scenarios have not happened often as I have learned to analyze situations prior to reacting to them, which allows me to fully understand what exactly is bothering me, to differentiate whether it is a NEED or a WANT, and to decide what exactly I wish to gain from having the conversation. It is based on this analysis that the lack of fighting has occurred within my current relationships both with significant others, friends and family.

With that said, what SHOULD we do to avoid a full-fledged fight? Firstly, it is important, as mentioned earlier, to decide whether the reason as to why you are upset is a need or a want. If it is a want, it is important to give the scenarios some serious thought, which is where the idea of “choose your battles” comes into play. If it is a need, meaning that the situation is very important to you and you may not be able to shake how upset, sad, angry or disappointed you are without discussing it, then one must choose to discuss the issue in a calm and appropriate manner. After making the decision and discovering that the issue at hand is a need, then one must figure out why exactly it is upsetting you and to think of possible solutions to the problem. It is upon seriously analyzing your feelings and thoughts and deciding why you are upset and how you might feel better about the situation that you would present the issue to your significant other (or anyone you might have an issue with for that matter). And lastly, once all you’ve had to say had been said, it is important to bring the conversation back to your relationship, why it is important and what you can do yourself to improve your role in the partnership. This also provides the other person an opportunity to say anything they might be holding on to or upset about that can then be discussed and resolved. It sounds so simple when in hind-sight, it’s much more difficult to take the time to go over the situation and analyze how you might present it, then to simply react and say the first thing that comes to mind when regarding the issue.

At the end of the day, who wants to fight anyway? It’s way too much effort, it causes way too much drama, and do we end up with what we want in the end? For the most part, I would like to say no. So put that blame finger away, take a step forward and present yourself with honesty. With practice, only good things should come your way.

Image from: http://livenlearn87.hubpages.com/hub/10-Reason-Why-it-Might-be-Time-to-End-Your-Relationship

Find a Job that’s Right for you!

facebook-employment-625x1000Many of you have one more year of university to complete, or have even graduated this past June. What does this mean? It means it’s time to face the real world and get a ‘real job’. Now, when I say ‘real job’, it is not to disregard employment one might have had during university. Many of us had to work during our undergrad whether it was through retail, customer service, the restaurant industry etc. which all involved our time and effort. What I do mean by ‘real job’ is a job that will eventually bring us closer to our ultimate career.

With that said, after being out of school for over a year, and working full time for the past two years, I can say that even in that short period of time I have learned a great deal in how to find a job that fits my needs and desires (based on both positive and negative experiences). Here is a list of helpful tips in no particular order:

  1. Don’t jump the gun – When it comes to finding the right job, patience is a virtue. Don’t take the first thing that becomes available (unless you’re really, REALLY, in a jam). Finding that perfect job takes time and research. Surf the web and see what’s out there. Don’t take the first job you get offered unless you’re sure that it is a good fit for you.
  2. Do your research – Find out as much as you can about the company. Surf the web, or if you know anyone who has been employed or is employed there, ask him or her what the job and work environment is like. See if there are any reviews or even ratings online (but of course, take this information with a grain a salt. A company should not solely be based on online reviews and scores, which in many cases are biased).
  3. Interview them when they interview you – When having an interview, come prepared to ask questions that will give you the information you need when choosing a job. Find out what the compensation is, what the company stands for and their philosophy, whether there is room to grow in the company, whether there is opportunity for raises and what staff turnover is like. These questions will of course depend on what job you are applying for, but it’s important to gather the information (both general and specific) you need to make a sound decision and to ensure that with taking this job, your needs and wants will be met.
  4. Choose a job that best fits your needs – after doing your research and asking the right questions during the interview, decide which factors play the most important role in your decision. Is it work environment? Compensation? Work place relationships? Work place responsibilities and duties? Working hours? Work place philosophy? Benefits? There are a ton of factors to consider when choosing a job and your decision should be based on what you believe to be most important.
  5. Go with your gut – For the most part, our ‘gut feeling’ i.e. intuition is something we should pay attention to when selecting a job. Some people are more in tuned to their gut than others, but in many scenarios, your gut is usually right. If a job feels too good to be true, it’s because it probably is. If a job just doesn’t feel right, it’s probably because it’s not. If a job feels wonderful, than it very well might be. So long story short, go with your gut!

I hope these tips will help you in your discovery of new, fun filled job opportunities that may arise and which job might be best for you. Take these tips into consideration and they should help you on the right path to your future career. Good luck!

Image from:

http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/facebook-users-five-times-more-likely-to-land-a-job-talking-to/#!bGo28g

In a New York Minute

New York City – The “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” (according to the R ‘n’ B singer Alicia Keys). I don’t know if I would necessarily go that far, but it’s definitely a city that everyone should take the time to visit. From towering sky scrapers to the beautiful brick architecture. New York has a certain authenticity that words cannot explain. This is why when a friend decided to complete her studies in New York, I knew I would have to visit. After visiting last summer, we decided to make my visit an annual trip. When saving money on accommodation (since I would be staying with my friend) who wouldn’t want to venture over to the big city?

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Last year’s trip was unforgettable and this years was much the same. Each visit to the Big Apple there is always something different to do. While the first trip was my first time in New York, I knew I had to see the tourist-y stuff like Times Square, Soho, Broadway Street, Rockefeller Square etc. Having done all the tourist-y stuff the year prior, we wanted to take a different approach this year. This year was more focused on cuisine, shopping and pure fun. I had the opportunity to eat many delicious meals while in New York. I recommend the brunch spot we went to (which had a line of course due to the deliciousness and hype of the food) called Jack’s Wife Frida. This brunch place served comfort foods like chicken and waffles or delicious poached eggs with haloumi. It was a small, quaint place with a cozy atmosphere, a nice patio and even sharing tables in the centre where you can dine next to other brunch goers. My favourite dinner restaurant spent in New York was Miss Lily’s. This Caribbean restaurant served classic Jamaican cuisine like jerk chicken, fresh fish tacos, and coconut roasted corn. Not only was the food phenomenal, but the atmosphere was unforgettable. Groups of people are sitting in their booths bobbing their heads and moving the shoulders from side to side as classic reggae and soca melodies fill the air. I had never been in a restaurant where you are literally dancing in your chair while eating. This place was something special and I can’t wait to go back next year!

Two friends and I at Miss Lily's!

Two friends and I at Miss Lily’s!

In addition to food, we also wanted to enjoy some special events while in New York. We were able to hit up a 90’s dance party which was a Saved by the Bell theme and held by the band The Bayside Tigers at Le Poisson Rouge. Everyone was sporting 90’s getups while jamming to live music. It was a blast from the past as you bopped around to Hanson, Ace of Base and the Spice Girls. They even played the theme song to Full House! This was a dance party like no other. If you get a chance to see The Bayside Tigers, I highly recommend it. This party was nothing short of fun!

The Bayside  Tigers

The Bayside Tigers

We also got to experience Warm Up by MoMa PS1 in Queens which exhibited a large sculpture in the centre of the courtyard, beer/wine tents, comfort food stands and new featured DJ’s. The place was packed! All in all it was worth the money to experience this new opportunity involving live music, drinks and art.

MoMA PS1

MoMA PS1

Lastly, a major feature of the trip was shopping. We were able to hit up two major sample sales: M0851, a store known for their quality leather and Theory and Helmut Lang, a clothing line with crisp dark and white tones and an edgy style. It was my first time experiencing sample sales and it was crazy to see how intense women got with this form of sale shopping. Once you picked your clothes, you enter a separate room covered solely by a black curtain where all women undress amongst one another to try on their new finds and check out oneself in the few mirrors available within the room. What an experience! We also had the chance to go to Nordstrom Rack, which is a discount store (similar set up to winners but designated by brand names) of the original Nordstroms. We had been there last year and had to go back as you can find top name shoes, jackets, clothing etc. for very reasonable prices! All in all, shopping in New York is top notch (even if it burns a hole n your wallet).

Nordstrom Rack!

Nordstrom Rack at Union Square!

So what’s left to say about New York City? It’s timeless, unforgettable and one of a kind. I’d go back in a New York minute!

Images:

http://ettannatnewyork.blogspot.ca/2011/07/344-nordstrom-rack.html

Sources:

Jack’s Wife Frida: http://jackswifefreda.com/

Miss Lily’s: http://misslilysnyc.com/home

The Bayside Tigers 90s Dance Party http://www.thebaysidetigers.com/

MoMa PS1: http://www.momaps1.org/ M0851: https://www.m0851.com/

Theory and Helmut Lang sample sale: http://www.nycinsiderguide.com/nyc-sample-sale#2014

Nordstrom Rack: https://www.nordstromrack.com/event/57738

Self Administered Treatment for Anxiety Disorder [Part II: CBT Exercises]

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It’s important to be aware of mental health issues and how to treat them. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how we can actively be involved in our own recovery and in the maintenance of our own mental health. My last post focused on anxiety disorder, how it impacts one’s mental state and how one can address it using relaxation exercises. This weeks’ post will be focused on more cognitive behavioural approaches towards treating and minimizing anxiety on one’s own.

One cognitive behavioural technique you can do on your own is filing out a thought record. Here is a step by step description of how you can fill out a through record:

1. State the situation that triggered the anxiety by answering the 5 W’s (Who? What? Where? When? Why?).

2. Describe your mood during the situation and rate that feeling from 0-100.

3. Describe the automatic thoughts that occurred just before your feelings of anxiety began. Think about how the situation reflects who you are and your future? Write down what your fear is and why? Think about any images or memories that might come to mind.

4. State the concrete, factual evidence for the most extreme and anxiety provoking thought from step 3.

5. State the evidence against the extreme thought.

6. Are there any alternative thoughts? Rate how much you believe each thought from 1-100.

7. State what mood you are now feeling after completing the exercise. Rate that mood(s) from 0-100.

The point of this exercise is to interpret your anxiety and how you are feeling, why you are feeling it, whether your thoughts have evidence and to think of an alternative thought. After breaking down the scenario and considering how accurate your thoughts are and why they may not be as accurate as you think you will hopefully be feeling less anxious. When we get anxious, we tend to think more irrationally as our mind begins to race and we think of the worst case scenarios. Through this exercise, we are able to identify our triggers and our unrealistic thought while also thinking of more alternative, rational thoughts. It takes time to master a thought record but it is a good way to reflect on oneself and identify why you are anxious. A helpful suggestion as mentioned in the last post is to show the thought record to a friend, family member or loved one so that when an anxious episode begins, they can remind you to do your exercise and can even coach you through completing it.

If you don’t have time for complete a thought record or don’t have a template available, another helpful way to diminish anxiety on your own is by jotting down the unrealistic thought that is causing anxiety (this can be on paper, in your phone, whatever is easily available and works for you) and then coming up with a more realistic and balanced thought.

An example from http://www.anxietybc.com/self-help-cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt :

Unhelpful and unrealistic thought:

I always screw things up. I’m such a loser. What’s wrong with me?”

More realistic and balanced thought:

“Everyone makes mistakes, including me – I’m only human. All I can do now is try my best to fix the situation and learn from this experience”

Don’t make these exercises difficult on yourself. Jot down simple thoughts that you can work with. They can be specific thoughts to a particular situation or more general thoughts on how you view yourself. Regardless, it’s good to work through these thoughts in order to calm the mind.

I hope these relaxation techniques and CBT exercises can be helpful to those of you facing anxiety disorder. It’s a tough battle to fight, so do your best to be actively involved in your own support and treatment. Take the time to focus on yourself and work through your anxious episode through breathing, muscle tensing, thought records or realistic thinking. We are the answer to our own recovery.

Sources:

Thought record http://www.docstoc.com/docs/102511728/CBT-Thought-Record http://www.anxietybc.com/self-help-cognitive-behavioural-therapy-cbt

Images:

Cognitive Hypnotherapy for Anxiety – Article in the Guardian Newspaper

Self Administered Treatment for Anxiety Disorder [Part I: Relaxation Techniques]

It’s that feeling you get when you feel like you can’t breathe. When your heart is beating so fast you fear it might explode or simply stop altogether. When your palms become so sweaty you can no longer grip anything. When you’re too stunned to speak. When you’re too overwhelmed by thoughts and this feeling of impending doom that you just don’t know what to do. When your emotions become so out of control you no longer know how to verbalize how you are feeling. When the only actions you can manage to perform are manic and fidgety, like picking your fingers or rubbing your palms down the side of your thighs. This is the reality of many… the undesired aspects of anxiety disorder which may, in extreme cases, lead to pure and undeniable panic.thCABAZNVA

This form of mental illness is very common and can be linked to other disorders such as depression, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and other specific forms of anxiety disorders such a social phobia, separation anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. With that being said, how does one cope with anxiety disorder and how does one conquer these worries or fears? While psychotherapy is certainly an option using methods such a talk therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy, there are also steps one can take on their own to assist in eradicating or at least diminishing these provoking thoughts that result in feelings of anxiety.

One can learn relaxation techniques such as box breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Box breathing is when you inhale and exhale in counts of 4 while visualizing a box (i.e. inhale 4 counts (up), hold for 4 counts (to the side), exhale 4 counts (down) hold for 4 counts (to the side) until you have completed the box). This will help stabilize your breathing when your breathing become rushed.

Box Breathing Technique

Box Breathing Technique

Progressive muscle relaxation is when you tense different muscles in your body and hold the tension for a few seconds before relaxing it. You can start head to toe or vice versa. (for example: tense face – hold – release, tense upper arms – hold – release, tense hands – hold – release etc.). I know it can be difficult to remember these exercises during an anxious episode or it can be difficult to perform these exercises on your own so I suggest teaching a friend, family member or loved one how to perform these exercises so they can remind you to do them and can coach you through it.

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Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

I find one of the hardest aspects of experiencing a severe anxious episode is remembering that you are not alone. It’s so easy to have your thoughts race and to begin thinking that you are the only person who goes through this and for that you are ‘odd’ or ‘not normal’. It’s important to remember how prevalent anxiety disorder is and to not focus on how ‘not normal’ we might feel, but to try and remember self-administered steps we can take to help relax our minds and bodies in order to feel a sense of equilibrium.

Next week I will be posting a continuation of this blog post on anxiety disorder treatment and will be focusing on more cognitive behavioural approaches to treating anxiety through thought records and other approaches. Don’t forget to check back next week!

Sources:

Box breathing http://www.livestrong.com/article/74944-box-breathing-technique/

Progressive muscle relaxation http://www.guidetopsychology.com/pmr.htm

Images:

http://jdy-ramble-on.blogspot.ca/2013/01/living-with-someone-with-depression-and.html

http://simplemedicine.co/2013/02/10/a-quiet-mind/

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/246994360786023886/

The One or the One of Many?

Sometimes I wonder, is there one true love out there for each person on this earth? Are we meant to test the waters through dating in order to rule out various men and women until we find the one? And if this is the case, will we all have the opportunity to meet our one and only and live with them happily ever after? If only life were that easy!true-love-00-couple[1]

A friend had once told me about a middle aged woman she knew who had married over 4 times and had divorced over 4 times. She was described as a beautiful woman with a great personality to go with it. Most people would react to this woman’s continuous marriages and divorces with judgmental disgust and distain. I can’t say I didn’t think negatively towards her situation either. But believe it or not, this woman had no regrets about her flames and failed relationships. She got to experience many first dates and first kisses. She got to experience that butterfly feeling you get when first starting off a relationship multiple times. She got to experience the joyful bliss of a wedding and marriage over 4 times. All in all, this woman explains how fortunate she was to have experienced love so many times, and to share those special moments that a couple does with many loves or her life. At the end of the day, she was happy to have loved so many than none at all. When explained that way, it didn’t sound so bad.

So who are we to judge between what is the right way and wrong way? I had always pictured my life in that cookie cutter, Pleasantville kind of way. Dating few men, meeting my one and only and getting married and having children. Yes, this ideology works for many, but who said this was the right or best way? I am lucky to have loved two men in my lifetime as I slowly reach my mid twenty’s. Does this mean that I will love a few more until I find the one? I have no idea. I always thought it would be better to remain single and go through less heart ache while waiting for that one special person but the more I reflect, the more I begin to see that it might not be so bad dating and forming relationships in order to learn what I do like from a relationship and what I don’t like. To learn what kind of men I am compatible with and learn what my deal breakers are. Through relationships, you learn more about the person you are within a relationship, you learn about compromise and you learn about your wants vs. your needs. Is there really a one true love for us all? I think that depends for each person and their belief systems. I think it is possible to love more than one person in your lifetime and I see no flaw in this. As for the one… who knows? But for the time being, lets continue to love with open hearts and open arms because what is life without love?

image from: http://www.lipglossculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/true-love-00-couple.jpg

‘Are we ever Genuinely Happy?’

happiness[1]

A friend asked me the other day, ‘Are we ever genuinely happy?’ Another friend was quick to reply, ‘Of course we are!’ I on the other hand, was not so quick to come to that conclusion. Are we ever genuinely happy in life? Do we experience a state of happiness that lasts our entire lives? Or do we experience episodes of happiness. When it comes down to it, the question is much more complex than it seems. I then expressed that I did not believe that we were ever absolutely happy. But with that said, of course we experience states of happiness throughout our lives whether it is passing our G2 test, acing a final exam, scoring that dream job, getting married to your best friend and so forth. We experience many events throughout our lives that bring about feelings of happiness and great joy.

So getting back to my original thought on happiness, I am not trying to express a pessimistic view on whether or not we are genuinely happy. I am merely stating that in my opinion, for us to be genuinely happy, life would have to be worry free, drama free and conflict free. The problem with this is that if we never experienced an event that caused us to worry, an event that resulted in drama or an event that was conflicting, we would not truly know what genuine happiness is either, or if we did, we would surely take it for granting, which in the end would not be the utmost happiness either. Confusing huh?

Well, after being asked the question and thinking about it as an event, scenario or period of time that resulted in true happiness, I would have to say a period of time that stuck out for me would have to be my exchange abroad in Australia. I remember walking through the outdoor campus in Perth thinking to myself, ‘I can’t believe I’m here. Life in this moment is perfect’. I remember feeling a great sense of joy. I could not think of a time that I had experiences more happiness, more freedom, or more confidence in myself. I’m sure the daily sunshine and warm weather had something to do with it, but it was also being in an unfamiliar place and being able to start over. I was free to be whoever I wanted to be. I was offered a blank slate to begin a new life with new friends, in new surroundings. To me, that was what happiness was; to feel a sense of independence, freedom, and utmost joy.

Having considered my own experience with happiness, I decided to ask some friends what they believed to be their happiest memory or experience. Here are some of the responses I received when I asked what experiences brought them the most happiness:

“At the beginning of a relationship when it’s new and you know that they like you back but have yet to find out if they love you. When your chest feels like a bomb of excitement. Because new love is so exciting, uncharted territory and something you throw yourself into. I also feel immensely happy when I look within myself and get over bumps in the road because I am closer to understanding myself and more confident than before. Or when I just sit back and enjoy the things around me, it is truly unfathomable how amazing everything is if you take a chance to sit back and look at everything.”

“The moment when I finally got hired on fulltime at [an advertising agency]. I was working three bar jobs on top of my internship. It was proving that hard work really pays off.”

“I was horseback riding on the beach in Ireland. I had this gorgeous powerful animal underneath me and I felt so free. It was an out of body experience. I wasn’t thinking about anything, I was just in this perfect moment in time.”

“I was so happy the night my Nanna and pop came to [Western Australia]. I had no idea they were coming and mum took [her husband’s] mum back to the airport that day and I was sitting at home waiting for them to get back when Nanna walked in and I burst into tears because I was both so surprised but so happy to see them.”

It is clear that we all experience happiness in a variety of ways. Some experience happiness through relationships with others or through gaining a sense of self. Some experience happiness through achieving goals or through attaining one’s dream job. Some experience happiness through moments of freedom or through bonding with animals. Some experience happiness through family or when sharing special moments with the ones we love. We may not maintain true happiness for our entire existence, however when those happy moments do come around where all the worries melt away and we feel nothing but bliss, we appreciate these moments so much more.

Image from: http://jeremyaffeldt.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-pursuit-of-happiness/

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

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What are we going to do after graduation? Will we dive into the working force and put what we have learned at Ryerson to good use? Or will we decide a career path that is completely different of what we studied? Will we achieve our career goals of becoming a teacher, engineer, psychologist, nurse, accountant and so forth? Unfortunately I don’t have the answer for you. What you decide to do after graduation is up to you (except in circumstances such as lack of specific job opportunities etc.). When I began my studies in Early Childhood Education (ECE), I had plans of becoming a director/owner of a childcare centre. I wanted to work in the public sector in order to provide accessible childcare to disadvantaged families. What am I doing today? I am currently working at a private child care centre providing education and care to preschoolers of families that can afford to send their child to the centre. We don’t always achieve the career goals we hope to. It takes time and experience to gain a good footing in the career path we choose. Not only am I working in a different sector than I had hoped, but my dreams of being a director have shifted greatly since learning about other aspects of childcare through my studies and after gaining more experience in both the public and private sectors through school placements and employment.

So what does it all mean? Am I a sellout for working for a private organization rather than the public where I am supporting a variety of families from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds due to subsidized care? I think if I answered ‘yes’ to this I would be being a little too hard on myself. The working field is not as accessible as it used to be. Especially being a recent grad, you want to choose a job that is of interest to you, but you may also need to be flexible and choose a job, even if it’s temporary, that is at least available when you need it.

Our interests are constantly changing. Through my experiences, my interests shifted from childcare to child therapy and taking a more mental health perspective on childcare. Is it scary to choose a different profession half way through your undergraduate studies? Yes. But does it mean you have to change majors? Not necessarily. I did my research and realized that the ECE background would always be beneficial to have when working with a child population regardless of whether or not it is specific to childcare. I also realized that completing a Masters in Social Work and pairing that with ECE would bring me to fulfil my new dream of becoming a child and family psychotherapist.

With that said, it is never too late to change your mind. Education itself is never a waste. When I look at how many friends of mine graduated from one program and are in a completely different line of work, it’s a relief to know that as our interests change, so can our jobs. Think back to your preschool days and what your response was when a teacher or parent asked you, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Did you end up going to school to fulfil that dream of becoming a veterinarian, a fighter fighter, a doctor or a teacher? Many of you will answer ‘no’ because what we wanted when we were preschoolers is usually very different than what we want in university and the same goes for completing our undergrad to our interests upon graduation. So forget regret, dive into a job you want, or something that will fulfil you for the time being until you figure out your dreams. Nothing is set in stone.

Image from: http://missingsecrettoparenting.com/grow

The Opposite of Loneliness

What is the opposite of lonely? I asked myself this question after I began reading Marina Keegan’s book of short stories and essays entitled, “The Opposite of Lonely”. In this book, she describes the opposite of lonely as her current state; a state of tranquility while completing her studies at Yale University as a writer. It was a state where she was surrounded by support from friends, professors and her family. It wasn’t what I would consider a ‘typical’ answer to the question, as I figured many would touch on the significance of their relationships and the intimacy that corresponds with it. I hadn’t expected it to be an answer regarding the happiness and comfort that comes with school surroundings and the journey towards a desired career. This question really got me thinking, what is my opposite of loneliness?   Opposite-Loneliness[1]

It had hit me a couple of months back when I had started at a new yoga studio and was attending religiously three times a week. Prior to my current relationship, I had been single for about five years and although I learned a lot during that time and I can appreciate the experiences that came with singlehood and the desire that came with finding my inner identity, I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a sense of loneliness now and again. Since being in my new relationship, as much as I want to be able to count on someone other than myself and allow myself to become vulnerable to others, I also want to be able to stand on my own two feet, regardless of my relationship status. So it was there in that yoga studio during my evening shavasana that I realized, I was no longer alone. Not just because I had someone to hold at night, but because no matter who came in and out of my life, no matter how much love or pain I felt, I would never be alone; I would always have yoga. It sounds silly but it was a relief knowing that no matter how much I loved someone and no matter how much pain I would feel if that love was no longer there, I knew I would always have my yoga practice to keep me grounded, to keep my strong, to help me to relax and to love me back.

I had found my opposite of loneliness prior to having read this book. However, after having read this book, it made me realize the varying opinions and experiences of what the opposite of loneliness is. With that said, I decided to ask some friends what they thought the opposite of loneliness is.

One friend touched on the idea of social atmosphere as being the opposite of lonely and when asked for a specific scenario when she felt this way, this is what she said:

“An example would be like having heaps of different people contacting you and making plans etc. Maybe like before I came to Canada [from Australia], I was catching up with everyone before I left, so I was really social. So to me that would be the opposite of lonely.

One friend kept his answer short and sweet, to him, the opposite of lonely is:

“Waking up beside someone you love and loves you back”

And another simple and to the point response:

“The opposite of lonely? Probably when you’re surrounded by family or friends.”

Two friends had associated the opposite of lonely with social gatherings, specifically Birthdays. They answered the question with saying:

“My 23rd birthday when a lot more people I expected came to celebrate it with me. I felt like I mattered to other people. I had a lot of fun with friends that night”

and

“I guess at a big gathering with friends or family. Like thinking more about my birthday party because a bunch of people come out to celebrate with you and show that they care and are a friend”

One friend took a more sensitive approach to answering the question. Her parents had both passed away when she was young and so this is what she had to say about being the opposite of lonely:

“I honestly never feel overwhelmed with completeness…I just feel okay about situations. I’m like the worst person ever to ask … But I can say that when my mother died everyone came together to support me and made sure I was okay and I knew I wasn’t alone. (Even if I was feeling the most alone at that point in my life)”

Being the opposite of lonely has different meanings to different people. This feeling is embraced through social gatherings, time shared with family and friends, comfort received in times of need, embracing a state of completeness when achieving career goals and even embracing one’s Zen during yoga. I enjoyed reflecting on my own thoughts of this idea and enjoyed hearing what others had to say about it. So ask yourself, what is your opposite of loneliness?

Sources:

Novel: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Image from: http://www.buzzsugar.com/photo-gallery/34465740/Opposite-Loneliness

Quotes were from direct text messages I recieved

What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder?

After hearing the term ‘body dysmorphic disorder’ for the first time during the Miss Representation documentary (I highly recommend this documentary for both sexes!), I decided to do some of my own research on the topic. I researched what was available in the form of books and online resources and decided to purchase the book written by M.D. Katharine A. Phillips entitled “The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder”. Reading the book, which contains case studies, some of her patients shared stories and Phillips’ recommendations based on factual research for appropriate treatment methods was both terrifying and relieving. Having been a woman who mainly looked in the mirror and saw someone much larger staring back at her, there was something relieving about being able to identify with others after reading this book. Not only were there other women similar to me, but there were also individuals who saw a lot of various flaws that weren’t apparent to others. It’s a disorder like this that surfaces obsessive behaviours like skin picking, camouflaging with excessive makeup or baggy clothing and constant mirror checking to name a few. Some of the most popular ‘imperfections’ based on these case studies include fear of losing hair or that one’s hair doesn’t look right, fear of blemishes on the skin, fear that one’s body is too big or too small, fear that one’s nose is too big, fear that one’s breasts are too small and the list goes on.

body-dysmorphic-disorder-1Some of the case studies mentioned in the book were so horrible it was hard to believe they actually happened to everyday individuals. One woman was so nervous about her skin (even though according to the author, there didn’t appear to be any imperfections) that while driving down the highway, she began to panic when traffic slowed to a stop due to an accident up ahead. She was so nervous that the cars next to her were starring at her skin and thinking how ugly she was, that she got out of her car, left it in the middle of traffic on a major highway and walked until she found a payphone to call her mother to pick her up. It’s hard to believe that a disorder based on looks can cause such emotional turmoil and in extreme cases, can even cause individuals to remain at home for months, and even years in order to not be seen.

In order to diagnose this disorder, an individual must experience all three of the criteria listed below:

  1. Preoccupation with an imagined defect in appearance (if a defect is visible, it is a minor defect which results in excessive concern)
  2. The preoccupation causes significant distress or impairment in everyday functioning
  3. The preoccupation is not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. body dissatisfaction in anorexia)

In order to treat this disorder, it is recommended to speak with a doctor or psychiatrist who can prescribe a serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is an antidepressant and appears to decrease obsessive behaviours in many individuals. It is understandable that some individuals may wish to avoid prescription medication and in these cases, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is also an option. CBT involves changing the way you perceive and feel about an anxiety-provoking situation and taking small steps to confront that anxiety-provoking situation. The most recommended treatment (which of course would depend on the individual and how severe the symptoms are) is a combination of both an SSRI and CBT. The main thing to take away from this is that there is a way to treat this disorder, no matter how severe it may be. It may take time to experiment with medication to find one that works for you, and/or it may take time to gain the confidence to face anxiety-inducing scenarios, but with the assistance of friends, family and a trained professional (i.e. doctor, psychotherapist, psychologist etc.) it is possible to overcome this disorder.

Sources:

The Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder by Katharine A. Phillips, M.D.

Image from: http://www.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/body-dysmorphic-disorder.htm