Monday, 28 September 2015

"The Best Medicine"

10 things to Notice about people who laugh a lot:

Did you laugh today? I don't mean a giggle or a chuckle - I mean a big ole belly laugh. The kind where your tummy hurts and your cheeks ache. If it's really good, you'll also have tears of laughter rolling down your cheeks. You may even pee your pants (it's OK - happens to the best of us!). That's when you know it's a top-notch, high quality laugh.

Kids do this all the time. Laugh, laugh, laugh. We are all born experts in joy. But at some point we all slowly start to lose this expertise. We become adults with busy jobs, kids to pick up from school, ageing parents, and our own health issues. In short, things get more serious. We laugh less, worry more.

Laughter is one of my favourite things in life. It's also a barometer of the quality of my life. Have I laughed much lately? Am I taking life entirely too seriously? Yes? Time to reassess things, which I did recently.

When I walked out of my doctor's office five weeks ago it was not with a prescription for an anti-anxiety drug. It was with a to-do list: eliminate caffeine, get regular exercise and spend time with your friends. I took that list seriously. The most fun was definitely #3.

My friendships had suffered a bit in the last few months as my mental health declined. But I knew that I could do something about it. As opportunity would have it, I was invited by a comic friend to watch him perform at Stand Up For Mental Health. I gathered a couple of buddies, we met up for dinner and a catch-up, then hit the show. And did we laugh? Boy, did we ever.

Created by David Granirer, Stand Up For Mental Health is a fabulous opportunity for people who live with mental illness to learn a craft, stretch their boundaries and laugh about some pretty difficult subject matter. Granted, we went there expecting to have fun and laugh. But it was so much more than just that. Belly ache? Check! Cheeks sore? Check! Tears? Check! It all added up to some of nature's very best medicine of all: laughter.

Thank you to Al, David, Debra and Shep for some top-notch laughter. You certainly helped my mental health. It was just what the doctor ordered.

KB xo

P.S. Learn more about Stand Up For Mental Health HERE

Thursday, 3 September 2015

"Karmic Catch-Up"

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"The past five weeks have been intense, wouldn't you agree? You've been challenged to hold your own while continuing to cope and reach out for more. Recognized or not, it's been a karmic catch-up, crossroads, or fruition time. No matter how this critical reassessment cycle played out, you've made it through and you're still standing."

That is my horoscope for today and boy, it could not be more fitting. The past five weeks have been intense, alright. I have struggled with my mood and anxiety in particular. During this period I have been off work for more than half of it. It has been a painful summer, to say the least. Summertime and the livin' is easy? Not so much.

When you live with a chronic illness such as a mental disorder you always have two choices: let it overwhelm you or let it be an opportunity for growth. Not exactly simple choices. Over the 20 or so years of this personal journey I have often wanted to just give up. But there has always been something deep inside me that has forced me onward. This time has been no different in that sense.

But there has been a notable difference: anxiety. Anxiety has become much more dominant in my struggles and the depression seems to have taken a back seat. With this new challenge, I decided that I needed a new approach. In the past I have focused my efforts mostly on CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and medication. It's a combination, along with other elements such as surrounding myself with positive people, that has proved successful. With this new wrinkle, I knew one thing - no new meds. I believed that I had it in my ability to make some positive change in my health without adding another medication to the mix.

As always, I sought professional advice. And, as always, my doctor and I decided upon a plan of attack together. So what did we come up with? Pretty simple, actually. Frequent, regular exercise, elimination of caffeine, journalling, and some time away from work to regain my centre.

Wait - did I use the word 'simple'? Hmmmm. It's interesting that I view it now as simple because in the past I couldn't seem to make these small changes. They didn't seem simple at all - they seemed really hard. Something about the place that I am in my life and the fact that I didn't want to give up more time to anxiety, made me ready to embrace these changes. The fact of the matter is that I want to be happy and healthy and to live my best life. And I have a choice in that. We all have a choice: let life happen to you or take control of the things that you can.

I like the idea that this challenging time was really an opportunity for a karmic catch-up. By taking hold of the reins and making some adjustments, I am on my way to a stronger future. Yes, I made it through and I am still standing.

KB xo

P.S.  Therapy, unfortunately, can be very expensive if you don't have it covered under a medical or benefits plan. Please visit this page for some great resources: What to do when you can't afford therapy.

NOTE: If you are struggling with depression or anxiety please talk to someone. What works for one person does not always work for the next. Educate yourself and find a treatment plan that works for YOU.

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