One of My Favorite Skills

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A few years ago, when I was enrolled in classes intensively studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy, I learned a skill that became one of my very favorites. I put together an iTunes playlist soon after I enrolled in those DBT classes and this one skill seemed to be the easiest skill to find represented in the songs I had in my iTunes library at the time. Later, I found the coloring page above and used colored pencils to add vibrant colors to the page so I could have a bright reminder for using this skill. The DBT skill essentially taught me to do what the picture above is recommending.

Stand tall when you feel small. Or another way of saying it is, fake it until you make it. The specific instructions in Dialectical Behavior Therapy involved doing something that elicits the opposite emotion to what emotion you’re currently feeling. So, if you feel like going back to bed and hiding under the covers all day, instead get up and do something productive! I use this skill regularly. I love that if I’m starting to feel irritated and I don’t feel like doing something that’s good for me, I can use this skill to drastically change my mood.

You don’t have to have studied Dialectical Behavior Therapy to benefit from doing this to help you get yourself out of a mood rut. I have found that it’s helpful when interacting with my small daughter to recommend to her when she’s feeling gloomy that she do something different that she enjoys and she’ll feel less gloomy. It works!

I feel so grateful to have skills to help me manage my moods. I don’t often have mood fluctuations these days, and it’s so nice to have skills like this in my self-care repertoire. Try it. Stand tall when you’re feeling small!

Lightening Our Burdens

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Yesterday my day started out pretty badly. I was able to recognize though, while feeling really blue, that I didn’t want my day to continue on as it was going. At that point, I was feeling just awful. So, to help myself,  I used a skill I learned while I was attending online Dialectical Behavior Therapy  classes at DBT Path. You can learn more about the classes I attended, and which I highly recommend, by going here.  The DBT skill I used ended up helping me to turn around a day that began with very unpleasant feelings, including tears, into a day that ended up being filled with gratitude and peace.
Yesterday morning I was feeling very triggered and stressed out by a situation that is impacting every area of my life. I started the process of helping myself out of that triggered and stressed blue place by validated my own feelings. I allowed myself to mindfully feel sadness and frustration, and I allowed myself some mindful crying, because I feel that tears can be very cleansing. However, I also knew while I was allowing myself to feel those unpleasant emotions that it would ultimately do me no good to wallow in those unhappy thoughts. So, while I was still crying I typed a simple message on my phone and sent it, copied, to all of my friends with whom I am in regular texting contact.
The simple message I sent to each of my friends looked like this:
Hi there! I hope your week is going well. Thinking of you, and sending hopes of all good things your way. 👍😊
I felt a tiny bit better, emotionally, after sending out those words of encouragement and kindness to my friends. I didn’t know what was going on with my friends yesterday morning. But, I suspected that there was a pretty good chance that one or two of my friends might even be needing to read words like those coming from a friend yesterday because of things going on in their lives which they had not shared with me.
So, I went about my morning. I washed some dishes, and I took some time to do a meditation to help further calm my emotions. Then, I started receiving text replies from some of my friends.
Many of the friends I had reached out to with that simple little message responded thanking me for thinking of them, and for taking the time to reach out to send them good wishes. Over the course of the rest of my day I ended up in several brief texting conversations with friends who replied thanking me for reaching out, sharing what’s going on with them, and also asked how I was doing, and wishing me well.
I have been having a challenging week, pretty much filled with challenges I would have rather done without. So, when some of my friends inquired as to how I’m doing I answered their queries honestly. But, as I wrote back to them, I realized, and shared with them, that the challenges I’m facing this week may not be pleasant, or what I would have wanted to experience, but that I feel gratitude for the fact that I can *choose to* transform these uncomfortable moments in my life into writing material to add meaning and richness to the experiences of the characters who populate my fiction writing.
I know not everyone writes fiction, or writes at all, so not everybody has the option to label their unpleasant experiences as writing material. But, I know for certain that I have developed my attitude of gratitude toward ALL my experiences thanks to studying DBT for quite a few years now.
Yesterday I used a DBT Skill to check in with my friends, and sending the messages out, and hearing back from many friends, both lightened my own emotional burdens, and in a few cases I also ended up being able to help my friends lighten their emotional burdens a bit too.
By the time I went to sleep last night I was feeling pretty good. I even was able to finish writing a new chapter in the novel I’m currently creating. How different, and how much better my day ended compared to how it began!
It didn’t take me long to send out that simple message to my friends. And, it didn’t take away time that I desperately needed to have spent engaged in some other task to engage in some brief texting conversations with my friends either. All of the time I spent yesterday validating my own feelings, and validating the feelings of my friends, was absolutely time well spent. So, this morning I thought I would share this experience with all of you who read my blog posts.
I hope that all of you who read this post will validate your own feelings today, to the best of your ability, and that perhaps you might also take some time to lend a listening ear to someone else too, if you are able. I feel that each and every one of us make the world a little bit better place when we make the choice to help each other in lightening our burdens.
© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Ridiculous Breakfast Smiley Face

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I don’t know about you, but there are days when I wake up feeling great and happy, and there are other days where I wake up feeling just about the opposite. As I live each day, managing my various physical and mental health conditions, I am learning ways I can help myself feel better on days that don’t start out feeling great, or days that begin with feeling happy but take a wrong turn later and then don’t feel good.

These days I find that the littlest things can sometimes make the biggest difference in the way my moods flow from day to day. The photo you see above was a breakfast I ate sometime last year (before my physical health needs required me to eat a low-carb diet) on a day that I wasn’t feeling so great in the morning. I arranged my breakfast that way on the plate to help alter my sour mood. My breakfast looked so ridiculously happy that I had to smile along with it.

I have been studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy for quite a few years now, and as you read my blog posts I’m sure you’ll notice that I tend to mention things I have learned in DBT study that are helping me manage my mental illness symptoms, and my life in general. One of those skills that I find helpful every time I use it is a skill in which you improve the current moment by adding some fun to what you’re doing. So, that’s what I did by arranging my breakfast that day last year into a ridiculous breakfast smiley face.

I could have gone about eating my breakfast in a lousy mood, and I bet my day would have been less pleasant than it turned out to be. By choosing to arrange my breakfast on the plate in a silly smiling face I improved that moment, and I cheered myself up. It didn’t take much time at all to choose to do that, but it made a difference. I remember giggling while I took that photo, and I also remember thinking how great it was that doing such a simple thing cheered me up and made eating breakfast a much more pleasant experience.

It’s the little things. I find, so often in my life, it’s the little things that I do which make a really big difference in whether I thrive or suffer while managing the health conditions I have. I love that I can make choices to help myself feel better and have a higher quality of life, even though my conditions and symptoms are what they are.

Today I intend to improve as many of the moments I will experience as I can. I appreciate so much that I can use this skill to enhance my days. Today I have some fairly mundane tasks to attend to for work, and other areas of my life. But, I don’t have to approach them as though they will be soul-sucking and dreary. I’m looking forward to seeing how I choose to improve my moments today.

We all write a page of our own life stories each day we live. I plan to make today a good chapter in my life story, even if everything that happens isn’t exactly what I would have chosen. I hope that you who are reading this post also write a good page in your life story today. Let’s all improve as many of our moments in our stories as we can!

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Accepting myself unconditionally isn’t selfish after all!

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What you see above is one of the first pictures I colored in an adult coloring book. I colored that picture with colored pencils in an effort to give myself some compassion. At the time I have to admit that it didn’t really work. I didn’t believe those words. I did like the colors I chose to use. Colors are pretty.

For many years I had a really hard time feeling like being kind to myself, and doing self-care, were selfish choices to make. I think that’s an easy trap to fall into when you don’t always feel confident, and you’re not always overflowing with healthy self-esteem and self-worth. However, after spending a few years intensively studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and taking the time to learn a variety of meditation techniques, I realized that I can make a different choice from thinking that way.

One of the guided mediations I have been using almost daily since early 2015 is where I first heard an explanation that I could get on board with of why doing self-care and giving myself compassion are not selfish acts. In that meditation the soothing and calming voice leading the meditation explained to me that when I take the time to do activities that are helping me feel good about myself, or helping me feel better for my basic physical health, that’s not selfish because it’s helping me become the best version of myself.

That soothing and calming meditation guide went on to explain that being the best version of myself is an important thing to become because how I am when I interact with others makes a difference in how those interactions play out. The meditation guide described this as a gift I’m giving to myself, and that it is also a gift I’m also giving to every single person who I come in contact with in any way. That clicked.

I don’t want to be that person who yells at customer service people on the phone, or who lashes out at cashiers in stores. I want to treat everyone the way I want to be treated. Including myself. So, now, several years after I colored that picture you see above, now it’s finally working as a great reminder.

Accepting myself unconditionally isn’t easy to do. Encouraging myself and doing what I need to in order to be as healthy as I can be; these are choices I have to make fresh again every single morning. But, you know what? In the end, making those choices IS worth it, because I’m worth it.

And you know what else? You’re worth it too. Yes, you. That’s right. I’m talking to the person who is reading this post right now. You too are worthy of giving yourself compassion and doing whatever self-care you need to become your best self. I know this may not be easy to believe right now, but I’m pretty sure that if I was able to get around to believing it, then you can too. I know it’s not easy though, and it very well may take a while, so I’ll leave this post here as a gentle reminder to you, and also as a reminder to myself.

I know there will probably be days when I’ll have go back to having trouble believing this stuff. So, with any luck, having this post here will remind me on the difficult days why I’m doing this work on myself.

I’m committed to accepting myself unconditionally today. Today is all I have to focus on right now. Tomorrow will be another new chance to try again.

 

 

 

© 2017 Iris Baldwin All Rights Reserved.

Every Day Realities of Freaky Friday

This blog is part of my website, whatplaysmaycome.com and as such it is linked to that main site. However, unlike the blog you would find should you visit my main site, this blog is not about playwriting. In this blog I intend to focus on the very personal journey my mother and I are taking together as we live with our life roles permanently reversed.


Being my mother’s caregiver as she lives the rest of her life with Alzheimer’s Disease has effectively made the mother and daughter body swap plot of the old film Freaky Friday our every day reality. In many ways, I have become her mother, and she has become my daughter. These days I have put my creative writing projects on the back burner while I focus on making this final chapter of my mother’s life as pleasant, as fulfilling, and as full of happy memories for me, as it can possibly be.


In addition to being a playwright and a caregiver, I am a Highly Sensitive Person. Due to my heightened sensitivity it can be particularly excruciating having to watch my mother slowly disappearing before my eyes a little more each and every day. Alzheimer’s Disease is a truly horrifying illness. Being an HSP caregiver makes the realities of Alzheimer’s Disease even more unpleasant to me as they would be to a person who is less emotionally sensitive.


Before I began working as my mother’s caregiver here in my home I managed my highly sensitive nature by meditating regularly, eating six small meals per day, exercising regularly doing Zumba dance workouts, monitoring and managing my intense emotions through the application of the skills I learned in three years of intensive online Dialectical Behavior Modification Therapy (DBT) classes, and I also utilized talents I have in writing, singing, and in the visual arts, to help me maintain a life worth living in this often insensitive world.


In this blog I hope to be able to share the stories that my mother and I are living together as I help her make her way along treacherous and tragic road that is Alzheimer’s Disease. I hope to ease her journey, and mine, through the mindful seeking of silver linings, creativity, and the use of my DBT skills. And I hope, that through sharing our journey here I may be able to help someone else’s journey through a similar life story with their loved one a little bit easier.


An important element of self-care for Highly Sensitive People, and for anyone living the emotionally and physically exhausting life of an Alzheimer’s caregiver, is maintaining a regular sleep routine. So, with that as a goal, I will end this post here and return to my bed.

Thank you for reading!