GoFundMe – Support Spec in their time of need

For those who know Spec, it’s very likely that they have been there to support you at your time of need, but now they need us. 

Due to personal circumstances over the past few months, Spec is now living alone with a very limited support bubble around them. That’s why I’m asking Twitter to be the bubble they need right now. 

Whether its a few pounds or more, I’m hoping we can give Spec some extra support to allow them to buy food shopping and keep a roof over their head during this difficult period in their life. 

Spec has helped me so many times over the past few years, without the expectation of anything in return. So I hope I can help return the favour by providing the financial support they need while they find their new normal and get back into work. 

I appreciate that this is a tough time for everyone, but anything you can donate will help

gf.me/u/ykbn5m

POETRY [UNTITLED SERIES] – 14

Everyday I dress up in my own words

Pulling Strength from what lies on the floor

Unable to breathe any Hope from a closet

The Comfort in a black oversized t-shirt

Oh god I want to feel again

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How to break the cycle of fear in habit formation

Recently we covered self care ideation and how there are practical and realistic ways to love yourself beyond the keywords and SEO. Today we will talk about aversion, procrastination and habit forming when it causes some fear response or avoidance behaviour. Being able to form new habits and behaviours is complex and difficult as it requires a lot of internal rewiring. So, we will start from the beginning of the process. We’ll talk about why this happens to begin with, what causes it and strategies to change it.

Why we do what we do?

There is no correct answer to this, as depending on the severity and context of the issue it can be one of many things. However, it all breaks down to one key thing – it is something that ultimately serves you. I’m reluctant to use the word benefits, as no one has depression or anxiety because it benefits them. In saying that, your brain is smart, and it tries to adapt to the environment and the chemicals it produces to function, even in states when it is not optimal.

But this isn’t an article about the chemical compositions of major and minor mental illnesses. It’s about habit formation, but it’s important to understand how these mental states can really affect your ability to form new habits for yourself, even if they are beneficial to you.

For instance, in my personal life I’m having a hard time keeping up with personal hygiene and other fundamental things to keep my body healthy. But my mind is so overwhelmed just existing right now that it’s just not prompting me to do things beneficial for my health. So, not showering – taking medication that involves touching myself or anything that requires an incision into my body. Even though I know – logically and emotionally that I need to take these medicines to be well.

It’s causing for me an adverse reaction. Even thinking about doing these things cause me a certain amount of physical anxiety and emotional strain. Thus, me not doing these things or thinking about them causes me to get that bit of a dopamine hit for not doing them as a reward. As far as my chemical body is concerned, it’s gotten me out of danger and therefore my body should be rewarded for running away from the reaction.

So it is now associating not taking my medicine and that running away from discomfort with a sympathetic chemical reaction.

This can work against us, chemicals in are body are impossible to reason with. They are the things that keep our body together and informs our bodies on what to do. If I continue this pattern of not taking my meds or fighting the urge to take my meds with success, it will only be harder to implement taking my meds because it’s chemically associating itself.

For me, avoidance is how these things manifest in me. For others, this can turn into something much harder to combat, which is fear or phobia. Have you ever wanted to do something so much that you ended up becoming just pure afraid of doing it or having any association with it? It doesn’t have to be anything to do with self care. It could be a fear of heights or spiders, which it is in my instance.

But what happens when you get to a stage where you are so anxious and upset around the thoughts of being in contact with things like water that you become hydrophobic? So, this makes drinking water, taking baths or showers far more complex. Fear increases the stress hormone cortisol in your system. If you have previously seen times like brushing your teeth or taking baths as something that was a relaxing activity but is now not sending those reassuring chemicals associated with calmness and relaxation and have been replaced with a stress response. This can be a challenging thing to overcome.

There are a few things you can do to change your associations around things that had been a source of relaxation and now cause you stress or anxiety.

Key among them is to be exposed to the thing you fear.

Exposure therapy in controlled situations is a well-researched tactic to combat some specific phobias. This does not mean that I’m telling you to jump into a pool to cure your hydrophobia! What you need is slow and controlled exposure in a way that you can incorporate it into your life without its existence being seen to your body and your mind as a threat.

A plan for treating hydrophobia and being able to work up to incorporate water-related activities into your life is by working on it step by step and this is something that needs to be done over months, not weeks or days. The risk of doing exposure therapy too quickly is that you end up building up that fear response instead of disarming it, which is what you want to do.

The goal is to reincorporate these instances into your life again like they have always been there are as little of a threat to you as a cushion you have on your sofa. Trust is a muscle. We build it up. It is understood or implicity given. For example, when you go to sit down on a chair you trust that the chair will support your weight and that you will not fall over because you’ve sat on chairs before and know what to expect. The same is what we’re trying to develop with building in a new habit or breaking free of something that doesn’t serve us.

In our instance with hydrophobia. For the first two weeks, all I’d want someone to do is to have a glass of water beside the fridge or bathroom. (Yes, even if you’re not cripplingly afraid of water) I’d want you to place it in a place where you go by it regularly in your day to day and you don’t have to interact with it. It can just be placed there without you really considering it and go about your days as normal.

That’s it. This is around changing the relationship of how we view something that threatens us. If we can prove to ourselves through non threatening exposure that things will not hurt us, that is the reassurance we’re giving to our mind and our bodies.

After a while, you’re not even going to notice it’s there. It will blend into the background, much like a piece of art on your wall. It’s just going to be there, and it’s all gravy.

When that happens, I want you to put another glass in another common place like your bathroom. You don’t have to interact with it; you don’t have to do anything with it. Just have it there and repeat the exercise till you feel you don’t even really notice its presence anymore.

How does this help me take a bath? You may be wondering. But much like all of this is manifesting for you didn’t just happen overnight similarly neither will the cure. You will build up your trust with a system is in place to help support you, and this should be a plan that you should curate as appropriate to your needs with the support of your personal support network.

This process has no timeline – it will take as long as it takes. But these are the foundations for changing your associations emotionally, physically and chemically to a phobia or habit that you are trying to change. Remember something key, emotion = motion.

If we can catch each other when we’re in a loop of emotions or frustration, we can change it by changing our state.

Tony Robbins goes into this a lot and this is because it physiologically changes what is happening in your body when you are feeling a set of emotions or doing something in a pattern.

An example I can give you is today. When I was writing up this article, I was just out of surgery and got diagnosed with another set of nasty stuff. It’s something I’m hoping to cover in another article, but I was ruminating a lot about Mark. There was a part of me that in some fairy tale imagined him being there when I woke up and that things would be ok. Then I started falling down the emotional rabbit hole of “what if he doesn’t come home” “I’m in so much pain and discomfort and I have no one here.” and I just was spiralling but at one stage I could catch myself and I stood up and at the top of my lungs I screamed NEXXXXXXT!!!!

And I felt better.

I could control and choose my state.

You can too. It doesn’t matter how able-bodied you are, whether or not you can stand. This is about changing your state, to change the chemicals in your brain from you keeping from patterning it out the way you normally do.

Mel Robbins (unrelated to Tony) deems this as pulling the emergency brake.

None of these responses are your fault, your body and brain do so much on autopilot that it has this in place for you because it’s trying to protect you from something. Or is making things as easy as possible for your daily brain to cope with it. But what is important to know is that through the right strategies and mechanisms you can control your life and make the changes you wish to see.

Learn how to free yourself from anxieties with these 6 easy steps

Anxiety is a condition that affects everyone at some stage in life. For some people, this is more of a chronic condition than others who only get anxiety occasionally. Having effective coping mechanisms is essential to success when you’re in this headspace. I will go through some processes and ideas that may help you cope when anxiety comes around.

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Anxiety is a condition that affects everyone at some stage in life. For some people, this is more of a chronic condition than others who only get anxiety occasionally. Having effective coping mechanisms is essential to success when you’re in this headspace. I will go through some processes and ideas that may help you cope when anxiety comes around. 

Breathing

While it might sound obvious – and honestly quite irritating when you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack only to have a well-meaning bystander telling you to “just breathe” and to breathe with them. I don’t know about you, but it’s about as useful as someone waves a sandwich in your face when you’re hungry, wondering why you don’t have a sandwich too. 

However, there are exercises that you can do to incorporate them into your exercise routine or a morning ritual for yourself when you’re making your coffee. 

The most wonderful Yoga With Adrienne has the most wonderful YouTube channel where she takes you through Yoga practices for free. She has an in-depth breathing playlist to teach you various breathing techniques. Her no BS approach to Yoga encourages you to “be where you are” with your practice. If you can’t do the poses, then that’s ok. She encourages the mantra that “turning up is enough”. 

You can find a link to all of her breathing exercises below : 

Writing

Taking some time to write what is causing you anxiety can be a useful practice. I don’t mean for you to analyse what is going on or the things you’re worried about or things that might cause you added anxiety. Focus on getting them out of your head and onto some paper. 

I recommend keeping a piece of paper or a notepad beside your bed or the toilet. Wherever you find yourself lost in your thoughts. Don’t judge your thoughts or content. This is just an exercise to help clear your mind and help you get a little of mental rest.  

Meditation

Like breathing. Telling people to meditate can seem like it’s such an obnoxious thing to say to someone. However, while it’s proven that meditation has positive effects with helping your mental state. There is also equally enough bias and “a way to do it” that people pontificate about. 

I want to tell you that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. It is a practice of just turning up for yourself in that practice of trying to calm your mind. I use Headspace (not nearly as often as I should) and I’ve found that a lot of what makes up a good practice is less about hitting that “zen” feeling or anything like that but more attempting to turn up to the practice and to try. 

The simple fact of the matter is – your mind will not be quiet the first time around. Meditating will feel uncomfortable and unnatural when we’re so programmed to doing things. 

Here is one of the best things that I’ve learned from Headspace: 

“Headspace Co-founder, Andy Puddicombe likens the practice of meditation to sitting by the side of a road, with instructions to watch the traffic. How do we stop ourselves from getting caught up with the thoughts? It’s a question of perspective.”

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on helping you identify patterns in your everyday life that might be triggering any anxiety or depression. It is a system that can apply to a wide number of mental health concerns, not just anxiety. Like all approaches in psychology it will depend on each person whether this approach suits people or not. 

While I’ll always advise going to see a professional licenced therapist for any work – sometimes its not always an option. So here are some recommended text books that talk you through the basics as well as having worksheets to support your learning. (Pro Tip! Use a copier to work on the worksheet so you can reuse them multiple times) 

Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks: A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety
Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks: A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety
Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks: A Workbook for Managing Depression and Anxiety
Change Your Thinking: Overcome Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, and Improve Your Life with CBT
Change Your Thinking: Overcome Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, and Improve Your Life with CBT
Change Your Thinking: Overcome Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, and Improve Your Life with CBT

Talking

In the spirit of counseling, it seems purposeful that we talk about talking. We must find the right support network for us to be supported when we’re having periods of anxiety. Sometimes, despite our friends and family’s best interests, they might not give you the support you need. 

It’s unfortunately common that friends and family may, very well intentioned, tell you not to worry about it or that you’re overthinking things. That doesn’t help with calming feelings of overwhelm or anxiety. 

This is where seeing a registered, licenced therapist comes in. They provide a safe space where you can share your thoughts and feelings in a non judgemental space. Please don’t misunderstand me, it can take a long time to find the right therapist who gets you. I have been with mine through an app called BetterHelp for the last 3 years and my therapist has been essential to my mental health. 

For anyone unsure if counseling is for them, there is a weeklong trial that you can take where you’ll be matched with a therapist and you can see how you feel. 

https://www.betterhelp.com/rpc/8e1fb10457057a04-2-01

Movement

In the lengthy line of cliches about what to do to ease anxiety, going for a walk is nearly always high on the list of what they recommend. I know how bothersome this advice is first hand, as it was my father’s solution to everything that ails you. I legitimately wanted to strangle him every time he mentioned it. 

In saying that, it doesn’t have to be so productive as going for a walk. It can be as simple as taking the time to stretch. Or to do some Yoga poses. When I’m feeling ungrounded, I often do a sun salutation to help me reconnect with myself. 

Yoga with Adrianne 10 minute Beginner Sun Salutation Practice is just enough for me to feel stretched and calmer. 

eeeee

As for more traditional stretches you can find a selection of them on YouTube but some of my favourites are from Dr Joe. 

I hope these suggestions will help empower you to make the most out of the times you have anxiety and to encourage you in that things get better. 

The Beginner’s Guide

100 Word Gaming Reviews

The Beginner’s Guide is one of those games that fall under the definition of the less you say about it the better. But it is practically essential to play. At a max run time of 2 hours, The Beginner’s Guide is a short but complete experience where we get to discuss the impact of creation, and at what stage does someone’s creative work outlive or outgrow its intention.

Accessibility Concerns: Would be accessible to anyone using a mouse and keyboard or anyone with a gamepad. It has subtitles and audio matching them so there would be little barrier to entry.

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Surprised! I joined the crew over at 100 Word Gaming to give a platform to my bite-size reviews series!

100 Word Gaming Reviews

This is a visual novel unlike any other. There is a Murderous Teddy Bear Headmaster in a highschool designed for pure despair. The only way to survive? Kill your classmates, but don’t get caught. Get caught, your death is designed to be the most torturous thing tailored for each person. Danganronpa is a masterclass of the powerful storytelling of visual novels.

Accessibility: This is a point and click game with subtitles, so it would be accessible for those who can use a gamepad or a mouse and keyboard. For players with visual impairments, there are large sections that are text only.

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Bite Size Reviews – Dream Daddy

Dream Daddy is a visual novel created by popular Youtube Channel Game Grumps. Dream Daddy is a Dad dating simulator. You move into a new place with your beloved daughter Amanda as she is finishing up her final year of school. With a new move to a cozy cul-de-sac you have the option to create the Daddy of your Dreams and date your very own Dream Daddy.

Dream Daddy is a wonderful experience. Short in its narrative with 7 different datable Dads all with different routes and outcomes. It’s a showcase of what diversity and respect for the LGBTQ+ community cannot be overstated. The scenarios feel real and fundamentally grounded in reality. You experience the trails and tribulations of being a single father trying to navigate their way in a whole new phase of their lives.

Bite Size Review – My 49 Days with a Cell

Sometimes it’s hard to be honest about what you want and what you need, with yourself. I didn’t think to myself that this was something that was going to teach me anything when I landed on My 49 Days with a Cells in the Apple Store. A bit like the Eggs game (which is a time waste, and a very good one at that!)

That’s it. 49 days of these cell’s lives. You are the person who has to take care of them. Easy.

Well, not so much. It turns out that taking care of these little cells is about as difficult as it is to look after ourselves.

For a little while now I’ve been on a journey where I’m trying to learn how to take better care of myself. I’ve had very drastic changes in my life. Just a lot of life happens in a very short time. I suddenly lost my dad and as a result of his death I moved home 4 times in 3 years. During that period, I would have worked two jobs at the same time, just to get the ends meet.

Then, I started to suffer massively from health problems. Two months after I got married, I had a lump removed from my breast, as they thought it was cancerous. I was at the time in a job that was pursuing a dream I wanted but it made me slowly sick and stressed because of the working environment. Since quitting the job due to sickness and being burned out,I decided to go back to college to pursue a Masters degree and work at the same time. More health problems, however, occurred to a point where I wound up having to leave both my college degree and what work I was doing at the time. I had major surgery in January where they removed my uterus and not even a full 2 years later and I’m pending another surgery next month to figure out why things are still wrong.

TL: DR Needless to say, I know the strength of what one of those little cells holds firsthand.

We are back to the land of simplicity, gameplay wise. You’ve got bonus energy to spend on the first cell. What ‘s great, it gives you the freedom to see what you might want to do with your cell, and then you’re going to plan your first week with it. At first, your choices feel endless; food, exercise, culture, rest, play, study and wash are all your main categories and then they are subdivided into categories. So, my first week has started. Through my little cage, I tried to live vicariously, wanting to fly, read and play without end. However, it did not turn out that way.

There has always been a trade off doing too much without caring about other needs such as feeding or sleeping in the cell. Around the time I was halfway through my first lifecycle of cells I recognized that I was making the same mistakes that I personally made.

I just didn’t take care of it. The little cell couldn’t eat properly, couldn’t rest and had barely planned time to take a bath! I was so focused on putting everything in its existence that I would have forgotten to take into account what it wanted or needed. I just didn’t listen to it.

I was so focused on doing what I thought it was important, and wanted me to take notice of the fact Nobody was listening to them.

Ultimately, it was too late to rectify the error by the time I realised that I had left it undernourished, deprived of sleep and stinky. Fortunately, it didn’t die (well, it depends on how you look at it), but on its 49th day, it decided to turn it into a stone.

I started my second round with its previously divided cell (which carries all of the previous cell stats) disappointed, and equally a little mystified. A cell’s life cycle is from 15 to 30 minutes of playtime anywhere, so I was startled when I realized the cells respond to you when they’re in an event — if they don’t like an activity, they ‘re going to tell you.

It took me some time to understand that in some respects life imitated art. These little cells had hopes and aspirations and I forgot the key things to make this a success in the pursuit of that achievement.

Through listening, loving, and caring.

Like how I had forgotten to listen, to appreciate and to care for myself.

They say you should talk to yourself as if you were talking to your friends and I have never been good at taking advice like that. But something really hit home with me about My 49 Days with Cells, it taught me a lot about myself and I’m sure it can teach you something too.

My 49 Days with Cells are available on both the IOS App Store and the Google Play Store for free.