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Executive Dysfunction in Depression & Anxiety

I just can’t do the things I know that I need to do…

Sound familiar?

It’s something I hear time and time again. Something I’ve repeated myself regularly. Executive dysfunction hits those of us who live with anxiety and depression, and it hits us hard.

What is Executive Dysfunction?

First off, we all know I’m not a medical professional. You know that right? Not a doctor.

That said, I’ve lived with this shit for years, and a lot of them were years when I’d no clue what was going on. No idea that what was happening to me every day wasn’t normal. Wasn’t my fault.

Coz that is a big thing. We’ll come back to that one.

Executive dysfunction is a term for the range of cognitive, emotional and behavioural difficulties. Executive functioning is an umbrella term for many abilities including:

  • Planning and organisation
  • Flexible thinking
  • Monitoring performance
  • Multi-tasking
  • Solving unusual problems
  • Self-awareness
  • Learning rules
  • Social behaviour
  • Making decisions
  • Motivation
  • Initiating appropriate behaviour
  • Inhibiting inappropriate behaviour
  • Controlling emotions
  • Concentrating and taking in information

Source: https://www.headway.org.uk/about-brain-injury/individuals/effects-of-brain-injury/executive-dysfunction/

Depression and anxiety have been found to be associated with dysfunction in these executive processes, and an inability “to generate or implement adequate performance strategies has been postulated in depressed participants”.

Source: https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/66/2/162

Insomnia is a common symptom for both depression and anxiety, and sleep deprivation makes executive dysfunction even worse.

Some Coping Strategies for Executive Dysfunction

I know, you’re sick of hearing about it. But in all honesty, my Bullet Journal (what’s a Bullet Journal?) has been the absolute saving of me with regard to coping with executive dysfunction in my own life.

If you’re dealing with this recognised medical difficulty or disorder, please understand that it is not your fault.

Please don’t beat yourself up for not being able to do the simplest of things. The things you know you “should be doing”. Or “should be able to do”.

Stop that. Try this.

Here are some tips based on those from the U.S. National Center for Learning Disabilities:

  • Take a step-by-step approach to work.
  • Rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers, or watches with alarms.
  • Make schedules and look at them several times a day.
  • Ask for written and oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan for transition times and shifts in activities.

To improve time management:

  • Create checklists and estimate how long each task will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks, and assign time frames for completing each one.
  • Use calendars to keep track of long-term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Write the due date on the top of each assignment.

In short, I manage my executive dysfunction by writing everything down. And I mean – EVERYTHING. I store and organise all that written stuff mostly in my Bullet Journal, which is a useful system for doing that. But any analogue planner that you like will work just as well. I just love the complete flexibility of the Bullet Journal.

I also have huge wall calendars, digital calendars with notifications set to give me plenty of time to work in stuff I’ve forgotten, and a series of phone alarm reminders that tell me things like “Take a Walk”, “Eat Lunch”, “Tech Off at 10pm”, and “Take Your Meds”.

My best advice though, is to start where you are, right now, and take a tiny step forward. You don’t have to get all this figured out right now. Go easy on yourself?!

Pick just one thing that you know will improve your life if you’re doing it every day, and pick a sensible time at which to do it. Transition times are a good idea – see this post for more on developing good habits.

Now, do it for 2 minutes. Seriously. Just 2 minutes – but do it every day. For a week. For 2 weeks. Just for 2 minutes, every single day.

If you miss a day? That’s ok. Just start again the next day, and rebuild your streak. Mark it on a calendar. Tick a box in your Bullet Journal. Cross it off a daily to do list. Whatever works for you to show your progress.

Because every single time you do that small 2 minute thing, you’re telling yourself that this is something you can do. You’re rewiring your brain to understand that this is something that you do. Every day.

Don’t worry about not seeing progress by only doing the thing for 2 minutes. You’re moving in the right direction. You’re 2 minutes better off than you were yesterday.

You are the type of person who can do this thing.

Take THAT, executive dysfunction.

Gaining Mastery – a Daily Investment

“I would not have a god come in
To shield me suddenly from sin,
And set my house of life to rights;
Nor angels with bright burning wings
Ordering my earthly thoughts and things;
Rather my own frail guttering lights
Wind blown and nearly beaten out;
Rather the terror of the nights
And long, sick groping after doubt;
Rather be lost than let my soul
Slip vaguely from my own control —
Of my own spirit let me be
In sole though feeble mastery.”
― Sara Teasdale

I like that poem. It highlights, for me, my own struggle to gain mastery of my life.

That starts – always – with me coming back to centre, and continuing my work to gain mastery of my self.

What is Mastery?

The definition we’re going for is more ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity’, than ‘control or superiority over someone or something’. Although both can fit, depending on what mastery is needed in your life.

For example, I would like to gain mastery in the area of my professional expertise – Irish heritage – that is a ‘comprehensive knowledge or skill’. I already have authority, both professional and personal experience, and a certain amount of expertise. But I’m not yet at ‘mastery’, to my mind.

Now, this does beg the question of when is enough, enough?

Some folk will tell you that to gain mastery, you need to practice a thing for 10,000 hours and you’ve got it down, but that’s debatable. You can read some of that debate here.

For the second definition, I personally apply that to myself only. I mean, I’ve no interest in control or superiority over someone else. That’s a LOT of hard work right there, even besides the obvious ethical considerations.

And it usually pertains to controlling my ‘negative’ aspects; post-trauma and mental health problems, and all the associated issues that come with that.

So mastery can mean ‘becoming a master’ at something, or ‘mastering’ your personal issues in a positive way. For either of these, doing a little every single day is the right way to get started.

Daily Investment in Mastery

For the first challenge, to become a master in a particular field, requires practice. That seems obvious, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Practice for mastery requires not just Naive Practice (repeating what you already over and over), or Purposeful Practice (with well defined goals, focus, and regularly pushing past your comfort zone).

To truly gain mastery, you’ll need Deliberate Practice; which is purposeful practice, but with the element of coaching or teaching added to it, through a clear training program with a professional in the established field.

[You can learn more about that here.]

And the second challenge is truly an ongoing thing (for me at least), and a constant process of improving little by little, going off track a bit, and just continually bringing myself back to the process again.

For this, I keep coming back to my daily routines – particularly the Morning Routine.

I can’t emphasise strongly enough how vital a routine is for me, in my quest for mastery of my personal issues in a positive way.

What works for you?


Get Started on your Bullet Journal

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Morning Routine Part 1 – Hydration

You’ve just spent (hopefully) 7 or 8 hours asleep, right? Hydration is essential!

Why though?

Well, around 60% of your body IS water. So, hydration is sort of important like, to make sure all that watery stuff stays topped up and performing the way it needs to.

Trying to live, work, function with dehydration is like trying to run a car with no fuel, only worse, because the car is not made up of 60% fuel, is it? No. It is not.

Just like a car though, your body needs to warm up in the mornings. You can’t expect it to go from 0-90 along a motorway every day with nothing to ease it into that top speed.

This is where your first thing in the morning hydrations steps in. It’s a warm up of sorts.

You’re kickstarting your metabolism, and knocking out that slight dehydration we all have after being asleep all night, before it gets a hold of your systems and starts doing nasty things in there.

You can see some of the problems of dehydration here.

Room temperature hydration is optimal for helping your digestion get moving. And if you can take a squeeze of lemon in it, even better, as this too aids the digestion in warming up.

This also aids in the protection of vital organs and tissues, carrying nutrients and oxygen to your cells, lubricating your joints, helping dissolve nutrients and minerals to make them accessible to your body, and regulating your body temperature. All great stuff!

Again though, why is it important to do this first thing in the morning?

Specific Benefits of Hydration First Thing

  • You’re cleansing your body – drinking water on an empty stomach helps to cleanse your colon, which then increases the efficiency of your intestine in absorbing nutrients.
  • You’re supporting your bowel – adding that extra hydration first thing will help prevent constipation, bad digestion and intestinal infections. Winning!
  • Your other internal organs will thank you – plus your lymph system, which goes on to balance your body fluids, in a positive cycle of healthy hydration.
  • Your immune system needs that hydration – after the night asleep with no support, all those little worker soldiers are tired from fighting off infections and such. In my head that’s how that works anyway.

I dunno. I’m not a scientist. All of this makes sense though, and you know it.

Just drink water as the first part of your morning routine ok? Leave it by your bed the night before, and get it into you as soon as you wake up.

It certainly won’t do you any harm, and you might even poo better!

 


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Survive and Thrive through Family Pressures

What good is a routine or a system if they blow apart under stressful times or family pressures?

No good, that’s what.

Which is why I’m back at my desk today, doing the work, despite my own serious and traumatic family pressures this past weekend.

I’m not going to go into details… sorry, but I just can’t. Suffice it to say that an old and ugly issue has reared its head rather strongly again, and I’m in bits over it.

The crux of it came on Sunday, though it had been building for a while. On Monday, myself and Jon took a mental health day.

Coping with Family Pressures – The Mental Health Day

In the morning we went and did some errands that had been bothering us for a while, small easy stuff to take care of and enable us to feel a little in control of the day. I did some self care things, such as a repeat prescription for my meds (which is usually a pain in the hole for me first to find time for, and then to actually get out of my comfort space and make happen).

We talked a lot, and once the day to day stuff was under control, we made a joint decision to invest in ourselves, in our health and in our future happiness. We went and bought bikes.

After that, we shopped a little for things to improve our home space, including both indoor and outdoor plants. I was working away in the garden when our friend arrived to share a dinner, tea and chats – so we got to hang out with someone who understands the family pressures, and supports us.

To finish up our evening, we headed in different directions to unwind and relax in the ways that suited us, which we both needed individually.

He built things and took care of his dinosaur ‘family’ in a virtual world (playing Ark on the Xbox), and I headed to a Rose of Tralee watching party with family and friends. It’s an Irish ‘lovely girls’ pageant that’s in it’s 59th year (in 2018), and I’ve never watched it before, would you believe? Maybe you would believe.

We have a horse in the race this year though, so to speak – our friend Kirsten Mate Maher is the Waterford Rose, and she is an amazing person who I would truly love to see representing Ireland world-wide.

The whole experience was strangely soothing, helped along of course by the Rosé wine, and hilarious readings from Irish Twitter’s reactions to what was happening on screen.

All in all, the day worked exactly as we needed it, to ease those family pressures somewhat, at least.

Taking a deliberate, considered, mental health time-out when something big hits is absolutely essential.

When you struggle, as I do, with those pressures on a day to day basis, there is a very real danger that a stressful event can tip the balance toward something very negative.

But if you can press pause, do things that you know will provide relief and support – both short term and long term – ask for help if you need it, and use that time to ground and regroup, even a little… the next day becomes a bit easier.

SUGGESTION – Keep a running list of those things, or even make your own mental health time out plan in your Bullet Journal, so that you have something ready prepared to fall into, if a stressful situation hits you suddenly. Nobody needs to be trying to make a healthy and sensible plan in the midst of a crisis, right?

And once you’ve taken that time out – that’s when the routine kicks back in.

I know what work I need to get to get done today. I have my monthly and my weekly plans and master tasks to simply fall into, without having to think about it too much.

I also know that my work might not be completely productive or entirely perfect this week, this month, this year – depending on how the family pressures continue to play out as we go.

However – I have a system. I can press pause, reset, and slide back into this routine any time I need to. As many times as I need to.

Because I will survive, and eventually, I will thrive. And I hope I can help you to survive and thrive too.

 


 

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Your Sleep Cycle

I woke this morning at the wrong point in my sleep cycle.

The first thing I knew was an annoying cock crow that confused the fuck out of me. Not a real rooster mind you – I use a random selection of bird noises to get me up each morning. I’m not even sure why… maybe the different sounds stop me getting used to the alarm? And, generally, I do like to wake to more natural sounds than the ‘Reveille’ (that bugle call used by the military to wake everyone at sunrise), or a version of ‘the Auld Triangle’ going jingle jangle, like they used in Mountjoy prison to wake the inmates.

Alright so I know there’s other options for alarm noises to disturb your sleep cycle, but I was going for the most annoying but effective ones I could think of. Your methods may vary.

What is the Sleep Cycle though?

A sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, and during that time we move through five different stages of sleep – some of which you might already be familiar with, at least in passing. The first four stages make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4, where it’s really tough to wake someone from. When we’re in NREM sleep, we don’t have much (or any) muscle activity, and our eyes don’t usually move. But all of our muscles are still functional, which changes when we move to the fifth stage, when rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs.

REM sleep is when most of our dreaming is going on, and though our eyes are not constantly moving, they do dart back and forth, up and down. Nobody really knows even yet why our eyes move, but one of the generally accepted theories is that it’s related to visual images we’re watching play out in dreams. During this stage of the sleep cycle, our eyes are going like nobody’s business… but the muscles that move our bodies are paralyzed (except things like the heart and diaphragm, coz obviously we’re still alive and breathing).

This paralysis sounds a bit grim, but it’s actually stopping us from getting up and moving around while our subconscious and unconscious are doing their thing, which is useful for those of us who don’t want to walk out into traffic in our nighties, or attack the person sleeping next to us because we think they’re doing something nasty due to a dream that’s going on. A breakdown of this natural paralysis is why people go sleepwalking or get night terrors in which they do some pretty awful things while effectively unconscious.

Honestly, you don’t want that.

 

A typical night’s Sleep Cycle

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just running together a couple of 90 minute sessions and calling it a night. To understand your sleep cycle, we have to get that they change throughout the night.

During the first two to three sleep cycles, you’ll spend most of your time in deep NREM sleep (stages 3-4), but in the final two to three sleep cycles, you’ll be more in REM sleep with some lighter NREM sleep. It’ll also change according to when you fall asleep, as the earlier parts of the night tend to bring more NREM sleep, and also what stage of life you’re at, as kids tend to get more deep NREM sleep than adults.

 

How to Optimise your Sleep Cycle

Getting woken in the middle of REM sleep, like I was today, is not ideal.

It leads to that sensation of grogginess, a poor reaction time, and general fog that’s actually called sleep drunkenness, or confusional arousal. Being woken from REM can cause significant mood problems, and your blood pressure goes up. Like, it’s not optimal at all at all.

There’s tech you can use to track your sleep cycle and wake you naturally based on finishing one and before you start another. That’s amazing, but I don’t have that tech. (If you use something like that and find it useful, would you mind popping over to Our Facebook Group and giving a recommendation?)

Generally, I stuck with analog, and just tracked my sleep and how I feel the next day in my bullet journal, over about two months (not perfectly, as we’ve seen I’m not good at filling in trackers) to try to figure out what’s best for me.

I came up with a minimum of 7.5 hours and a max of 9 hours, if I can get it. That’s 5 or 6 sleep cycles, respectively. So I figured out that if I need to be awake by 8am, I’m going to sleep by 11pm to get my 9 hours, and that means tech off by 10pm and reading, journalling or talking (or Jon reading something not too interesting to me!) til I fall asleep, which usually takes around the hour to wind down.

Have you figured out your own sleep cycle yet?

Be well

L x


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Dehydration

So I came back from my wee break, a little dehydrated. Did you know alcohol consumption can cause dehydration? I mean, I knew this, but I just wanted to make sure you did too. Just in case like.

According to the ever trustworthy and reliable WebMD.com, signs of mild to moderate dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Not peeing very much
  • Dark yellow pee
  • Dry, cool skin
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

On the more serious side of things, signs of severe dehydration include:

  • Not peeing or having very dark yellow pee
  • Very dry skin
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion or irritability
  • Fainting

 

Now, while this particular case of dehydration for me is very much self induced due to alcohol consumption and simply not keeping up with my usual water intake levels on top of that because of being away and a change in routine… the results are the same. And they’re not pretty.

You see, dehydration is a thing I suffer with. I struggle with this, daily.

To most people, it seems that I drink a lot of water. Like, to function normally on an average day of not really moving around very much, I need at least 5, but ideally 6 pints of water (about 3 litres, depending on what type of pints you use). And that’s in addition to the water I get from my food, my daily green smoothie, and the odd juice, isotonic drink, or herbal tea, as I fancy them. I drink one big strong cup of coffee most days, only very rarely going over that – like if I’m in a social situation or something.

And that’s the fluid intake I need.

Most people I know don’t drink that much. I am 6ft 2” and have a fairly fast metabolism, generally, so that’ll be having an effect for sure. But even apart from that, it seems a lot to folks who figure out how much fluid I’m taking on board as standard.

Except when you look at it, it’s not really that much.

According to the CDC, referencing a report by The Food and Nutrition Board – “Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate”, this isn’t really much above the recommended daily intake (I go by the men’s recommendations because generally that’s more aligned to my physical size and workings). They say:

“The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their daily hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. The report did not specify exact requirements for water, but set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water — from all beverages and foods — each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water. The panel did not set an upper level for water.

About 80 percent of people’s total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages — including caffeinated beverages — and the other 20 percent is derived from food.”

Unpacking that a little bit, I’d like to gently point out that for a lot of people, unfortunately that 20% doesn’t arrive from their food as they’re not eating enough fruit and veg. Or any, in some cases.

And of the remaining 80%, the vast majority of that should at least be from herbal teas, non-sugared fruit juices, and ideally from just plain old water. I know people who claim that 3 litres of tea or coffee a day does them just fine, but come on. It’s not ideal now is it?

So, I’m not that far off with my current fluid intake, to avoid dehydration.

What happens when I don’t get it?

The thing is, for me, getting my water intake every day, tracking it and making sure I meet that goal, is a sort of keystone habit. It’s what I build the rest of my self care around.

Not really on purpose, it just works that way for me. Dehydration is the canary in the coalmine – if my lips are dry or my pee smells strong or I wake up gasping for a drink in the morning… I’m off track. I haven’t been paying attention. I’m out of that self care mindset that I literally need to have as a foundation in my life, or I won’t survive (never mind that thrive part).

Because if I don’t pay attention to drinking enough water, I stop the bigger stuff too. It gets too much, and it’s usually not even a conscious thing. Sometimes I am aware of it, I know I have only drank like a pint of water and it’s nearly bedtime and I’m watching it happen but feel too overwhelmed or powerless or self sabotaging (or whatever fun and games are going on in my head that day) to stop it. Those days I try to tell someone, ask for a bit of poking around my self care, some accountability and even support with the feeding and drinking stuff.

Other days though it just slides by accident and… it doesn’t feel like a big deal. I’ll catch up tomorrow. (We can talk about how this is a sign of subconscious self sabotage too, another day.)

But then I don’t sleep quite right that night, and I wake up tired and out of sorts the next day, and I resolve to hydrate properly that day but there’s so much else to do and I maybe get half of what I need in. And I’ve skipped one of the meals. At this point some part of my brain is beginning a low level panic, which will – if I don’t get a firm grip on it then and there – kick off a spiral of guilt and self recrimination and overwhelm which leads to further and more serious executive dysfunction. Sleep goes, food goes, cleaning myself goes, routine goes… and it’s a whole shit show of dragging myself back from all of that.

How do I do that?

I drink water. I start a new page in my journal, write the date at the top, and I draw 6 little water drop shapes – 1 for every pint of plain water I have to drink that day. And that is my goal. Drink a pint of water, colour one of those drops in blue.

Because when I can do nothing else, I’ve learned that I can do that. I can use that to begin again.

Today, I’m not on a spiral, and my dehydration doesn’t feel that serious. But I have got to make sure I fill in those water drops today, so it doesn’t get serious. No matter what else I get done or don’t get done on my daily list, that is my priority.

Now, I’m not being rude here my friend, but, when was the last time you peed? What colour was it, and how did it smell?

Check yourself before you wreck yourself, and however many little blue drops you personally need to get in your own day, to make sure you’re doing well… Get enough water into you today.

 

References

Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. (2005, 05). doi:10.17226/10925

What is Dehydration? What Causes It? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults#1

Taking a Break

I’m doing it! I’m taking a.. wait for it… a short break!

I’m taking a break with family and friends and food and fun and EVERYTHING.

It’s my son’s 13th birthday on Monday, so we’re heading away early in the morning and I’ll be back on duty by Tuesday, so expect your next post and email by then (are you on the list? Go Join the Mailing List and get the updates first!).

Problems I am having with this plan:

  • I knew it was coming, and I didn’t batch or get ahead of my work well enough to not be in a panic and probably working til midnight again tonight and be wrecked before I even set off in the morning. Sigh.
  • I promised ye daily emails. Well, daily (ish), to be entirely fair to myself. And a lot of folk have been in touch saying how helpful they’re finding this. So now I’m LETTING YOU DOWN. Sigh.
  • *mumbles* I don’t really believe I deserve time off, because I haven’t done enough. Super sigh.

Yeah, not all of that makes sense. I know, I really do.

But you know what? I’m taking a break anyway.

Because logically, I know the world will not end if I don’t stay working all weekend. Logically, I know that my family will not starve if I’m not at my desk from 9am to midnight every single day of the week. Logically, I understand that my body, mind and spirit all need proper down time.

So, see you Tuesday?! What can you do to take care of yourself this weekend?

Be well,

Lora x

 

The Importance of Down Time

I’m not good at this down time lark, to be honest.

My brain is very busy. VERY busy. It never seems to want to give me a break.

This is fantastic for ideas, and creative problem solving, and my work ethic. Well, you would think so, right?

Turns out, maybe not so much. Like, I want my brain to be running on full speed when I’m having ideas, problem solving, and working on my business. I don’t want to be half assing it.

There’s a huge drive within me to keep working (we talked about some possible reasons for that, Right Here)… but that’s maybe not the best thing for my business or my success. Or my health. Because taking time off for family, friends, outdoor activities and even old-fashioned daydreaming has clear benefits for productivity, as well as for your mental and physical health.

Yeah, I know. Seems obvious right? But…

How Much True Down Time Did You Have Last Week?

Probably every culture on the planet has a traditional ‘day of rest’. Maybe not every single one, but, let’s agree at least that it’s a VERY common theme.

Often, we refer to it as a ‘lazy day’ now, which, you know what? Doesn’t have very positive connotations for most of us. Even if we’re binging on netflix, or going for a walk, or reading an eBook, we mostly stay switched on with our phones or tablets or laptops. We’ve got notifications and alerts popping up and intruding in constantly.

I’m not saying you have to go tech free for true down time (although, when is the last time you did THAT for any length of time?!), but there’s a significant difference between strolling through sand dunes of a sunday with an audio book playing through your headphones and your dog racing round at your feet, to sitting slumped on the couch or in your bed half watching TV with your phone in your hand for scrolling through Facebook. I’m sure we can all see that.

The point is to create genuine space and time to give your body, mind, and spirit a chance to fully relax and recharge.

How Do We Get Some Of This “Down Time” Going Then?

  • If you’re anything like me, you’re going to have to clearly and consistently schedule evenings off, one or even two days a week free of work, and weeklong chunks of holiday every year. And stick to it (if your job and family responsibilities allow for that – I’m aware of and sympathetic to economic and personal factors that might be at play here too).
  • Take regular breaks through your workday, and sometimes take a break just for the hell of it. Even standing outside under a tree for 5 minutes will help refresh you. Or try a simple 5 Minute Meditation.
  • Turn off the phone. No really, I mean it. Most of us don’t even realise (or want to admit) how addicted we are to the phones. There’s a constant call and response loop going on when it’s in reach or in your hand, and the ONLY way to break that is to just put it away, out of easy reach, where you can’t see it. Especially during down time. ESPECIALLY especially during sleep time. I’ll do a whole other post on that soon.
  • Free your mind by having somewhere you can regularly brain dump all the background or foreground noise, and a process you can trust for going through that and sorting it into actionable tasks and events. Then make sure you have simple, regular routines and habits forming for the everyday stuff, so you’re cutting down on the amount of choices you have to make every day – automating it so you are less likely to suffer decision fatigue.

 

My Down Time

Yeah. Confession Time.

I literally took zero down time last week. I worked every evening and all through the weekend, til 10pm, 11pm, or midnight every single night.

That’s not good, and I am REALLY feeling sapped and drained starting the new week. My shoulder is in agony every morning when I wake, my knee has swollen back up (old injuries), I’ve had no time or energy to keep up my 8 week cycle plan so that fell by the wayside. I’m not sleeping right, and I’m grumpy as fuck.

That’s not right, and it’s not fair either on the lovely people I live with, or on me.

So, I’m working on it. Or rather, not working on everything all at once, and trying to take WAY more down time this week. I’ll let ye know how I get on, ok?

 

Lora x

Let’s Do The Work

Gods damnit.

It’s 11.33pm of a sunday. I’ve been working all day (ok, I started a little late, but it was still before noon when I sat at my desk), and teaching in my online classes and programmes since 7pm.

I have to work late like this once a month, on the last sunday, when I teach regular classes. But I also have to take world time zones into account – I find a starting time of 9pm Irish Standard Time on a Saturday or Sunday suits most of the people, most of the time.

There’s admin to finish up, making sure everyone got access and there are no customer service issues I missed while I was teaching (sometimes tech glitches happen), and I’ve to wait for all the files to save and download safely as I record all my classes as a bonus for those who’ve signed up… but also for resale later on too. Those files are important!

Between the hottin’ and the trottin’, as my Nana says, I didn’t get a chance to write this post earlier today, but I promised a daily one so, here I am (before midnight!) keeping my promise. It might not be a very long one. Or I mean, it might, because we all know I can be a little wordy. And it might not be the best piece of writing I’ve ever done, but it’ll be done.

Because that’s what self discipline looks like. That’s what it takes to run your own business. And that’s what it means to serve a community who may be counting on you.

I hate it. I hate being like this. I’m exhausted.

I wish my life was easier…

Or do I? Do I love this, really? Am I addicted to hard work? Do I push myself so hard as a form of punishment, a replacement for the self mutilation I used to do that has left permanent scars on my body? Do I have self inflicted scars on my spirit?

One of the most difficult parts about trying to heal from all the things and grow as a balanced person, is the work of separating out – or trying to – what’s a natural part of my personality, and what is a conditioned or trauma response. I was very young, 14 years old, when an older man began to groom me for a relationship. Oh I thought I was worldly and sophisticated. I was completely sure by the age of 16 that I was madly in love with that man. He was my soulmate, in fact, young me would have you know.

How do I look back at that young person and follow a true path from there to here? How do I figure out which trees in this forest I now find myself wandering through are native, and which have sprung from seeds that were planted; that are invasive and strangling and poisonous.

I’m in the middle of this forest. All I see around me are trees. Many look different from each other, and there have been a few obvious nasty twisted ones I’ve been able to spot and uproot, even though they were well established and those roots ran deep. I’m still finding the odd sucker and creeping tendril as they try to reform, to be honest. Maybe that’s part of my life’s work now too, consistently digging them out as they try to re-establish themselves.

But the rest just look like trees. They’ve been there so long, and they’re so well established, that they look and feel like they belong there. Like they’re an essential part of the life of this forest.

How do I know which is which?

It takes work. And it’s not easy, but I’m doing it. Because this forest is worth tending, is worth taking care of, and is worth the effort of cultivating and caring for until it’s the healthiest it can be.

With that, and with the clock about to strike midnight on this ramble through my soul, I will say goodnight.

And leave you with my hope that you, too, see that you are worth any effort, any work.

Let’s do the work.

 

Lora x

 

Self Worth

(Small Content Warning: reference to child abuse, fyi)

You were born worthy.

No really, you were. We all were. I mean, think about it. Nobody (I hope none of ye anyway) looks at a baby and thinks they have to earn love. That they have to do anything to deserve care. That, as they develop, their thoughts, acts, or achievements have to meet some exacting high standard before they will be acknowledged or respected.

Because that would be abusive behaviour, right? If a person was doing those things or expecting those things from a baby or a small child, they’re abusing that child.

And if you, by any chance, were abused in any of those ways… I am so very sorry. But even so, I would hope that you wouldn’t turn around and treat another baby or child in any of those ways.

Feck, this got real deep real fast. *Goes to add a small content warning to the top of the post.* I’m getting to the point, I promise.

You were that child.

You were born deserving love, and care, and acknowledgement of your development and growth and efforts. You were automatically worthy of all that, just by the simple fact of being born.

Most of us would agree with that, right? Like, logically we can see that to be true, and right, and a good way for folk to be going about their business in the world. The difficult part comes with translating that into a sense of self worth now.

 

Where is your self worth?

Do you ever feel you’re not worthy of love? That you don’t deserve care? That your thoughts, words, actions are not good enough to be acknowledged or respected?

If you’re about to say no, that’s not you… just stall that there for a second and consider that sometimes, even if we don’t consciously think those things, they are messages we have internalised for ourselves. And so we think or act in ways that may be unconsciously sabotaging our chances of love, care, and respect. We may not truly love, care for, or respect our own selves.

If that’s still not you, for real, in any way… fucking good on ya. For real. See ya tomorrow for a different topic, all right?!

I suspect though, that for most of us here there’s some painful truth in all of that. Somehow, as we go through life from childhood to here, we pick up and absorb these thoughts or feelings that we are not enough, as we are, to deserve good things for ourselves.

Sometimes there’s a clear and obvious primary cause for this. An abusive parent or ex, for example, who consistently undermined your courage, your belief in yourself, your trust in… everything.

But we are also surrounded by commercial messaging, literally from birth, that is designed specifically, by really smart people who often understand your brain way better than you do, to make you feel that you are not good enough. That you have all of these problems, and it’s only with the judicious application of Product X or the life saving support of Service Y that you can be good enough. For a while at least.

This seeps into society too, so the people around you are consistently reinforcing these messages. That’s how advertising works. It gets a foot in the door of your brain and eventually, as pressure mounts and your confidence falls, you begin to do their work for them.

The innate sense of self worth you were born with, has been syphoned off in a steady stream through the years – sometimes actively and with intent, but also passively – leached from all of us into the fabric of the world in which we live, for the benefit and profit of the 1%.

That’s a bit grim, right?

It is. So. What are you doing about it?

What can you do?

 

Simple Ways to Build Self Worth

First off, that little bollix that lives in your brain, that whispers bad things about you to you? You need to strangle that fecker.

Take a day and make note of every negative thing you think or say about yourself. Just one day. But every single thing. Make a mental note of them as they happen, or better yet write them down. In a journal, or on a stack of post its or something.

Do whatever it takes to make it super obvious how regularly we shit talk ourselves, and how awful the things we think and say actually are. Like, really look at them, at the end of the day. Your little collection of awful things about you.

They’re not true you know.

Your feelings are not facts. Your brain is giving you worst case scenarios, worries, concerns and negative biases.

Please, for the love of dog, recognise that your negative feelings are not the truth, and refuse to internalise them as such. Just don’t accept them. And if there’s one or two you’re genuinely not sure about, ask a friend. Look for evidence.

I’m betting you’ll be given out to for being unkind to yourself (if you have good friends), or that you won’t find any solid objective evidence to support the untruths you have been telling yourself.

Finally, for now (because oh you know we’re going to come back to the topic of self worth, if for no other reason than that it’s something I struggle with constantly), focus on the things you do like about yourself. Yes, you have them. Find them ok?

When you catch that brain weasel bollix attempting to say nasty things about you, do a mental switch. Imagine yourself as a small child, and the brain bollix is somebody horrible. Are you going to really let that fecker scar that small child for the rest of its life?

No, I hope not. Take care of that little version of you, and let it grow and develop to an abundance of self worth. You deserve it.

Be well,

Lora x


 

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