Sleeping kitty!

Self-Care > Guilt

Happy Almost Friday, my dears.

Aside from attending one class, I set aside most of today for self-care and my menagerie. Grad school can be overwhelming [read: is absolutely overwhelming] and remembering “me” time is super important. I have a hard time with this concept, not going to lie. I usually just feel guilty when I take time for myself, and then I don’t enjoy it. I’m so busy worrying about all of the assignments/adult things I should be doing that I totally miss the point of “me” time. My therapist and I are working on that, and I think I’m getting better. Most of the time, anyway. When I have big projects, I still stress about taking time for myself. However, during my adventures with the evil OCD squid and anxiety, I’ve discovered a few tricks to help me focus on self-care instead of feeling so guilty. Since I know so many people who struggle with the same guilt/anxiety spiral I do when they’re trying to relax, I thought I would share a few of my methods.

First, I pick immersive activities. Some people I know can just “turn off” the student/adult parts of their brain and relax, scroll facebook, etc, but I do NOT have that happy ability. When I’m taking time for me, I have to be actively doing something that requires my attention. If I’m feeling introverted, I play World of Warcraft. Yep. I’m one of those people. I love WoW, and it requires attention to play the game well. I can make characters, level in tons of different parts of the in-game world, and something new is always popping up. Blizzard (the company who makes WoW) is good at that. I like other games too, like Alice Madness, Little Big Planet, and Flower, but I’m not as good at those. Which is fine. The idea is to get involved in something and have fun, not to be perfect.

Along the same lines, I also read and watch Netflix. Those two don’t always work as well as gaming, though. It really depends on how invested I am in what I’m watching and/or reading. If I am super caught up in a story, it works. If it’s just so-so, I’m better off doing something else. Depends on the day.

I also leave my apartment. Playing games and watching Netflix gets old after a while, so a change of scenery is also a good choice. This is especially helpful when I am feeling especially guilty or anxious. Getting myself away from my textbooks and laptops lets me breathe a little easier because I can’t just reach over and start working again. Sometimes I go to the local used bookstore or Barnes and Noble (I mean, coffee, tea, and books . . .yes), or to other random stores with a lot of pretty things to browse through. One of my favorites is At Home, because it’s huge and there is always so much stuff! Antique and thrift shops are fun too. Sometimes I do this by myself, and sometimes I take a friend with me. Depends on the mood I’m in. I also take myself out to lunch or dinner. Again, sometimes alone and sometimes with a friend. I used to be afraid to eat out by myself, but I’m so glad I got over that. Reading a book or people watching without having to keep up with conversation is actually really nice. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Might hate it, but you also might like it.

Spending time with the animals is also a good option. My reptiles and axolotl require pretty in-depth care, which requires me to chisel out time to maintain their habitats and such. My hamster needs a clean cage too. If I’m feeling super guilty about not doing school work, I clean creature houses and rearrange decorations. It makes me feel like I’m being productive (and I am), which takes the edge off the anxiety about not doing work. Besides, animal houses do have to be taken care of to keep the babies inside happy and healthy. Cicero is also always up for adventure. We go to one of the parks when the weather is nice, or to stores that welcome animals if it isn’t. He’s a big fan of riding in the car, and a good choice when I want company but don’t actually want to interact with other people. The cats are good company too, but their preferred activity is draping themselves over my bed and napping. Or demanding treats. Much love for my feline friends.

4. Setting specific time aside also helps me. If I plan “Kelsey” time into my day along with my other work, I’m more likely to do it. (If only for the satisfaction of crossing it off my list.) And if I give myself me time, that means I’m more likely not to procrastinate later. Even if it isn’t much, I try to take at least three scheduled breaks from work/adulting every day, and I try to break up the adult-ing with other little things too. For instance, I might write part of a paper and then go check the mail . . . and get hot chocolate from the office on the way back. Or I might run errands and then come home and make cute postcards to send the family that I don’t see often. I might take extra time with my makeup, or give myself 10 minutes to write for pleasure instead of school. Little things that make it a tad easier to get everything else done.

These aren’t all of my methods for self-care, but they are the ones I use most often. For me, it’s all about outsmarting the anxiety that says I’ll fall behind in my assignments if I take a break. That is not a rational anxiety, and the opposite is true. If I don’t take breaks, that’s when the trouble starts. You have to be kind to yourself. I’ve tried it the other way around, and it did not work out well. I ended up getting completely overwhelmed, dropping out of school, and spending a lot of time in needless panic attacks and anxiety spirals. Not fun. Not necessary. Self-care doesn’t get rid of anxiety entirely, of course, but it does help to manage it. As do therapy and medication. For me, managing the anxiety and OCD is a lifestyle. I had to change how I did life in order to deal, and it was a very positive change. What about you guys? What do you do to cope with adult-ing? Let me know! I’m always up for trying new things.

In other news, I’ve also picked up Matched by Ally Condie. It’s technically for class because of a project I’m doing, but it looks like it’s going to be fun to read. I’ll let you know what I think after I get a little further in. For this moment, I love the cover. So pretty! I’m heading to the giant used book shop with my mom (she’s here for a visit) tomorrow, so I’ll let you know what sorts of fun things I pick up. Will also be adding a page soon to introduce my animals. 🙂

Sleeping kitty!
My kitty knows all about self-care. Always has time for naps.

Have a lovely Friday!!

“Stop what you are doing.

Go outside and breathe.

The world will not end if you take ten minutes for yourself.”
― Fawn Germer


Sea Monsters and West Highland Terrors

“You are not your illness. You have an individual story to tell. You have a name, a history, a personality. Staying yourself is part of the battle.” – Julian Seifter

Good morning, lovelies!

It is no longer Monday, which means that today cannot possibly be as trying as my migraine filled, assignments due, so-much-reading-for-class Monday. No migraine today, which is a good sign that things are already looking up. Cicero woke me this morning by standing on my face, followed by Mika screeching in my ear. Such a sweet sound . . . except not at all. The other cats were waiting at my door, and my personal sea creature (the axolotl) was practically dancing in his aquarium for food. But I digress. I am not just rambling on about mornings and animals, by the way. I do have a point to make. And that point concerns how incredibly helpful animals are when I am struggling with my OCD/anxiety/panic disorder adventure. (I think adventure sounds better than disaster, and I try to keep a positive spin on things.)

Just a little insight for new readers: I am diagnosed with OCD, panic disorder, and severe generalized anxiety disorder. I have been dealing with them my entire life, though I didn’t know what the OCD was until it became so severe that I gave up on life for a while. I also had to take a break from college for a while too, but more about that later. Anyway, I battle with these disorders daily, as even medication and therapy haven’t managed to control them completely, and I’ve learned quite a few tricks and coping skills to help me get on with life. I am not my diagnoses by any means, I am much more, but I do share in hopes of spreading awareness and understanding of the disorders, OCD in particular. It isn’t all about hand washing and cleanliness, folks. If I can help someone else along the way by sharing, that would be awesome too. 🙂

Now, onward with what I was actually talking about.

Now that we’ve hit October, which is my favorite month, grad school assignments have started to collide and grow. That’s always the way of it; big assignments show up all at once and are inevitably due too soon and on the same day. If you add in the lack of specific instructions on how to complete said assignments, you’ve created a perfect storm for me. For those of you new to the many excitements of obsessive compulsive disorder, uncertainty is the absolute quickest way to make me flare up. Unfortunate, because life by definition is uncertain. If I let myself think about it, I would get nothing done at all.

I like to think of OCD as a giant squid-like sea monster, with many tentacles, pincers, a surprisingly high intelligence level, and a mischievous little desire to cause trouble. Anything the OCD squid can latch onto . . . you can bet he does, and pulls me in. Recently, the main trigger for me has been that I don’t know how exactly to do these assignments, so the squid likes to tell me that I must certainly be doing them wrong. And then the anxiety kicks in and brings along the panic attacks . . . and I have a recipe for hopelessness, getting nothing done, and feeling even worse about myself. Nasty spiral, and quick.

The trick is to outsmart the squid before it ever gets started. If you let it get one tentacle on you, more will follow and the trickier it becomes to get out of its less than kind embrace. I must admit that I let it get a little too cozy yesterday, which led to the lack of work and the migraine that kept me out of class. Which is where my animals come in. Somehow, they know when something isn’t right. Mika gets snuggly, Parker hangs out nearby but not too close, and Sidney becomes a faithful lump of cat who keeps out of the way, but watches. And Cicero—Cicero becomes a demanding trouble maker. That means that I have to do something to stop him, usually take him outside, which effectively allows me to begin the process of disentangling myself from the squid-monster. I’ve found that a change in atmosphere is one definite way to help me realize that I’ve slipped into OCD land. The slip is very difficult to catch until it’s gotten very bad (and I mean crying, sobbing, obsessive ritualizing bad), but my creatures help me catch it earlier. Basically, my animal companions help me get out of my head which lets me regain control of the sea monster and plop him back into the aquarium at the back of my head. (I’ll explain more about the reasoning behind my sea monster, aquarium, etc method of viewing my OCD in another post, by the way. It’s actually very helpful to me to see it as a separate entity that can be controlled.)

The West Highland Terror, Cicero

After I walked Cicero, I went through my daily ritual of cleaning creature enclosures and feeding the ones who needed food. Andromeda (citrus bearded dragon) had ruined her terrarium again because that’s what she likes to do, and Teacup’s (leopard gecko) was just as neat as ever. He’s a dear, really, compared to the others. By the time I was finished there, I had mostly gotten over my OCD-induced academic despair, took a bath, and worked on homework. A successful end to my day, despite the miserable hours spent in the claw tipped tentacles of the squid. Again, I try to see the positive. Anyway, just a little insight on one way I deal with the delightful mental illness that is part of my life. If you have questions about the OCD/anxiety disorders, please feel free to send them. Or about anything else! Thanks, dears. Enjoy your Tuesday!