List of acts of love towards me

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This year, I’ve been working on a project I’m calling My Kindest Year. Each day, I do one nice thing for another person and one nice thing for myself.

Doing nice things for myself has been the most difficult. I’ve been putting it off until the end of the day and then not doing anything particularly special. Which is okay, but I do want to go a little above and beyond some of the time.

Here’s a list of acts of love I can do towards myself:

  • Go to bed extra early;
  • Take a long, hot bath;
  • Stop for a coffee on my walk home from counselling / biofeedback;
  • Cook myself a nice dinner when I’m going to be eating alone;
  • Ask others for help or to do something special for me;
  • Knit myself gifts;
  • Read for hours without feeling guilty about not being productive;
  • Take breaks from work to cuddle the animals in my home;
  • Bake my favourite pastries and desserts;
  • Do my nails;
  • Ignore emails / social media comments from trolls;
  • Sit out on social events when I’m not feeling up to it;
  • Buy myself nice vegan cheeses and beauty products for no occasion;
  • Be totally okay going out without make-up;
  • Give myself compliments; and
  • Use the things I’m saving because “I’ll probably never be able to afford this again!”, like soy candles and dark chocolate and face masks.

Are you frequently nice to yourself? What do acts of love towards you look like?

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Gettin’ into it

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This week in My Kindest Year went just great.

There were a couple days where I felt like I didn’t put much effort in, but then on other days I did a little extra.

For myself, I went to sleep at 9 p.m. one night. Another night, I took a long, hot bath and used a face mask. Another hot bath was with a mineral soak for joint pain which I’ve been saving, followed my using a spicy chai lotion I’ve also been saving. While I’m not officially figuring this into this project, I also worked much harder on not making myself feel guilty when I’m not being productive by reminding myself that I need breaks (especially as my wrists and fingers are in quite a bit of pain) and trying not to sweat the small things, like being late when it’s out of my control.

For others, I sent some tea to an Etsy buyer who made a large purchase this week and sent my younger brother a nice text. I wrote letters to two friends listing my favourite qualities about them (check out my article on Vent Over Tea about gratitude letters) and sent another card to yet another person whose cat recently passed. I feel great about all these acts of kindness. A couple only took a few seconds while others took a half hour, but they’re all giving people the feeling I wanted this project to give people; I want them to feel loved and cared about, and to get to have a moment of joy in experiencing something out of the ordinary.

On of my 2018 goals was to do one huge thing for a friend each month, so this week I’ll be focusing on that while continuing these daily acts of kindness.

What’s this?

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In 2018, I’m going to do one kind thing each day for someone else and one kind thing each day for myself.

Why?

There are a few reasons.

First, I’ve realized that relationships are one of my highest values, so I want to spend more time focusing on them. A few of my 2018 goals reflect this, but I wanted to do something bigger. Spreading love through small, daily acts seemed like that something bigger I was looking for.

Second, 2017 sucked. I lost a lot of the faith I had in humanity. I let go of a few friendships because of the way they backed right off after my car accident and I’ve struggled to not be bitter about the friends who weren’t there at all but who are still in my life. A lot of my feelings are totally valid and I do need to re-evaluate how much I put into relationships and how much I get back. But my desire to pull back from everyone and refuse to support those who haven’t supported me has been kind of scary. That’s just not me. I’m hoping that spending a year consciously being kind to others and to myself will help me work through some of these feelings somehow.

Third, I’ve decided (for the 1,000th time) to give quitting drinking a serious go. While I’ve managed to stay sober for months at a time in the past, I’ve never stayed sober permanently. I feel a project like this will help give me something to focus on as I tackle my drinking problem, once and for all. This isn’t something I’m terribly comfortable discussing publicly at length, yet.

What will it look like?

I’ve set some rules up for myself.

  1. Stitching Hearts projects don’t count because I’d be doing those anyways.
  2. If I decide to do something kind that takes multiple days (such as knitting someone a scarf), it will only count for one day.
  3. If I miss a day, the act of kindness towards myself will be forgiveness without making a big deal of it.

I’ll send postcards to friends, plan parties for loved ones and buy strangers’ coffee. I’ll take hot baths, spend afternoons reading in coffee shops and cook delicious meals for one.

Watch my blog for daily to weekly updates on how it’s going.

Self-loathing inner dialogue

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“I’m so ugly.”

“I hate myself.”

“I want to die.”

These are sentences that have run through my head frequently for years. The latter two probably at least a few times an hour.

This wasn’t something I was even conscious of until one day in 2016 when I was hanging out at the artist book library Also As Too Well with my new friend, Murat Ates. I don’t remember exactly how he worded it, but he basically asked if I was kind to myself in my inner dialogue.

Clearly not.

After this realization, I put some work into changing that, but the phrases popped into my mind so often without my control, it was difficult. I tried consciously thinking more positive things and correcting myself when I was aware of my thoughts. It didn’t really change anything. A few months ago, for an online self-love course, I came up with a few affirmations to say to myself each morning in the shower, but it just felt insincere.

Separate from my inner dialogue issues, I’ve been putting effort into self-care, which to me means doing the more basic things I need to do to keep myself happy and healthy. This has meant cutting back caffeine, taking naps, stopping working before my concussion symptoms flair up and not beating myself up for not getting through my to-do list on days when my head hurts and I’m dizzy. It also means cooking delicious meals, even when my husband is out and the food is just for me. I’ve started treating myself like  a friend, buying myself the occasional gift (like a zine subscription!!!!) and being understanding of my inability to do it all.

Through taking better care of myself, I’m learning how hard I’ve been on myself and am learning  to be more compassionate towards me. I’m also learning to love myself.

A few weeks ago, my internal dialogue started to change. “I love myself.” The words popped into my brain while I was standing in the backyard, petting our dog.

It’s pretty important that we all like ourselves. There’s no one anyone spends more time with than themselves. If you dislike the person you’re spending most of your time with, how can you be happy? And if you’re always beating yourself up, how can you be doing your best work?

As a freelancer, I’m my own boss. I’m in charge of making sure the work gets done, and done well, but I’m also in charge of avoiding burnout, providing encouragement and praise, and keeping morale up. I’ve been failing pretty damn hard at some of my job and it’s probably been holding me back.

I’m excited about this new, loving, compassionate relationship I’m developing with myself and I can’t wait to see how it impacts my career. And I, in part, owe thanks to my kind friend, Murat, for bringing my attention to my negative inner dialogue.

For more from him, check out his zine, Life. Fire. Prose.

Things are gonna be quiet over here for the next two weeks. I’m taking a little break over the holidays to enjoy my family and my first Christmas with my husband. See you all in the new year!

Routine to reduce anxiety

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I like to jump into my work first thing in the morning. The sooner I sit down at my laptop, the sooner I can close it and go have some fun. Before I moved in with my husband, I used to wake up at 6 a.m. each morning, feed my cats, make coffee and then get to work by 6:30, frantically plowing through my to-do list. Oftentimes, when I was done, I’d just sit on the couch, watch Netflix and craft. Super fulfilling. Super worth rushing through work I love.

In October, during my newsletter challenge to be more mindful, I took a free self-love e-course from Margaret Rushing. It started with carving out time each day to work on the challenge and to dedicate to myself and a routine for me.

I chose 8:30 a.m., right after Luke leaves for work, to do a 10-15 minute yoga video followed by making breakfast in the kitchen while listening to music that gets me moving. The whole while, I focus on being present and in the moment, really feeling each stretch and smelling what I’m about to eat.

And then I sit down to look at what needs to be done for the day, check social media and refresh my emails, feeling both energized and at peace.

Cait Flanders–a self-employed woman who suffered with anxiety–has talked quite a bit on Budgets and Cents about how having a morning routine has helped her. She calls them “slow mornings,” taking time to do something for herself before she starts work.

Taking time for oneself each day isn’t something I really thought I had time for before, but it’s made a huge difference in my days. What’s your morning routine like? Do you take time for self-care at some point during the day? Join the discussion on the Cockroach Facebook page.

Stop before anxiety makes you

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I spent a great deal of last summer working from bed because I was having too much joint pain to sit at my desk.

Since 2009 when my right hand froze in a painful claw one afternoon at my retail job, I’ve seen many doctors and specialists who’ve had no luck giving me answers. Last year, my doctor suggested it was a symptom of my anxiety.

The pain and anxiety don’t always go together–with my knees, wrists and elbows doing the worst during changing weather and rain–but they often do, making me think my doc is on the right track.

The symptoms caused by my anxiety have a huge negative impact on my life. There’s the pain, headaches, shortness of breath, fatigue and nausea. Discovering that all of this was caused my something going on in my brain was a wake-up call: I can’t work until I need to stop. I have to take more breaks to take care of me, otherwise I won’t have the energy to do even the most basic self-care, like eat healthy and exercise.

I’ve tested this out a bit, especially with the concussion. Can’t I just work until I start seeing a few signs that I’ve over-done it? If I work too hard one day, I can just even it out by working less the next, right?

Not so much.

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Days when I work too hard, I’d like to be able to hide away in a drawer with Stella.

It’s good to push yourself in ways that lead to the development of new skills and abilities, but striving to do more in a certain time frame doesn’t really work that way. Instead of becoming capable of doing more work over time, you become capable of doing less as health deteriorates.

Maybe it’s sort of like a car. You can only drive it so much before it needs some regular maintenance. You push that too much and you’re doing damage that is going to take a lot more energy to repair.

For me, I find that I only realize I should stop working when I start experiencing symptoms of my anxiety or concussion. And then I don’t stop working right away, but wait until I’ve completed another task.

I’ve started setting strict limits for myself. Stepping away from the desk and taking time to cook a nice meal, do laundry and take a bath have become as important on my to-do list as meeting my editing deadlines.

I’m going to challenge myself this week to schedule an hour in the middle of the day to do something that nourishes my body and mind. Maybe I’ll spend my lunch hour going for a walk in the forest, make a nice breakfast before I start the day or relax in a warm bath with a book. And I challenge you to do the same! Let me know how you spend your hours and how it makes you feel.

I don’t value my own skills

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A few people I know are either struggling with issues of self-hatred or concerned discovering the negative things others’ think about themselves, and it’s gotten me really investigating my own feelings towards myself.

Mostly, my thoughts about me are negative. How much I hate myself has got to have a huge impact on my mental health. Keeping track of my dream patterns and doing some reading into what certain symbols in dreams mean has actually highlighted some of the things I’ve been subconsciously believing about myself, such as that I’m a bad person.

However, the rather harmful belief is that my writing skills aren’t valuable.

I learned to read at a very young age by memorizing stories people read to me and then matching the oral words to the written. Pretty much as soon as I got that down, I started writing.

I vividly remember one dinner when I was about eight where I asked one of my dad’s friend how she lost her eyesight. I then wrote the story How Mrs. Threadkell became blind, accompanied by a picture I drew of her, and left it as a parting gift at the end of the evening.

In Grade 3, when the teacher tasked us all with writing a short story, mine amounted to 30 pages which I tirelessly revised with her feedback. In junior high, I was thrilled when we were assigned essays and in high school I chose to do a book report on Timothy Findley’s more than 800 page Headhunter when other students were choosing quick and easy reads. Until university, I devoured books of every genre and wrote everything from poetry to research papers for fun.

People have told me I’m a good writer and I do think, to a certain extent, that I am. But I also think that anyone can be. As an editor, I’ve watched enough new writers develop to know that it’s something almost anyone can learn to do well. Plus, I’ve been writing since before I could multiply numbers.

I took this attitude with me into ACI’s The Art of Managing Your Career course last year. While the artists in the class focused on the business side of their arts practice, I wondered if I even belonged in a room full of artists as a writer. I was so self-conscious, despite the other writer in the room who I really respected, that I completely shut down and became a sputtering ball of anxiety.

In a conversation with Chris Redekop during an episode of Red River Ransom, I stated publicly that I don’t think writing is an art form. He disagreed, and he’s a super cool dude who makes really fantastic art, so I needed to stop and re-evaluate my beliefs.

Any art form can be mastered by anyone. When I wanted to be a visual artist and spent hours painting and drawing, I created some beautiful pieces. People who have never played an instrument have become successful musicians. My five-year-old nephew has discovered dance and does some pretty rad interpretive dance when we listen to The Lion King soundtrack.

This isn’t to put anyone down for being an artist. No one can make art exactly the way anyone else does and, of course, everyone has different natural abilities. Just because anyone can learn a skill doesn’t mean it should be de-valued by anyone, including themselves.

I wish I had figured this out a long time ago. Valuing my skills adds to the value I place on myself as a human being. Acknowledging that I am good at something that not everyone can do helps me love myself more, but also gives me confidence to put myself out there to get work, which is necessary for me to do if I want to survive as a freelancer.

At the very least, recognizing the value in my writing skills would have saved me a lot of awkwardness and embarrassment in the ACI class.