Posts Tagged Stress

Quests: The Four Agreements

Yesterday my SuperBetter ally sent me this image. She always has impeccable timing. These things have been on my brain for sure.

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I need to work on the following:

1c. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself

I have been struggling lately with the idea that anyone could love me or find me amazing. This is a sad thought. I’ve been finding a lot of negative self-talk creeping into what I say. I know in my heart this is not true. I have a friend who always tells me how amazing and adorable I am. The way she says it and shows me I am, it is very hard not to believe her. One of my family members always tells me I put others first. I never see it that way. I always think I don’t ever do enough for anyone. But, to hear it, I can start to think of the things I do for people, including listen and give advice or a helping hand. One of the most eye opening events for me to realize how special I am, was to actually watch a video of myself. I could not believe that was me, so smart, adorable, and funny. I know that many years of being told I’m not amazing and being abused made me feel I am worthless. I can choose to believe those things, or I can choose to believe I am lovable and amazing. I would match rather believe the latter. But, I realize a lot of hard work and practice will go into that.

2. All of 2 – Don’t take anything personally

This one I wrote about in my last blog entry with work, dealing with controlling people, and feeling pressured. Like the image says, what those people were saying and doing is a projection of their reality. My therapist had gone over this with me before. I can’t control how they feel. I can think I can try, but then what’s the point? It will just make me suffer needlessly to worry about it and do things that won’t make me happy in the long run.

I think I fully understand, but could always use more practice on the following:

3. Don’t make assumptions

I have made an effort to now always ask questions or to clarify things if I am anticipating judgement. Sure, I have a million questions and worries, but I continually remind myself, is that worth worrying about? Can I do anything about that now like ask questions? Or should I put that aside and address it if it is still bothering me later?

4. Always do your best

This is really about self-compassion and not passing judgement on yourself. I know that each day I do my best. I know that some days and some moments I’m going to make a mistake, but if I am as compassionate towards myself as I am of others, I will never feel self-judgement, self-abuse (beating myself up) or regret.

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Lab Tools & Equipment for Getting Better from PTSD

I realized the other day that I have been playing SuperBetter for over 6 months now since the end of February and beginning of March 2012. This morning I was reflecting on all of the tools and Quests from SuperBetter, the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence, and working with my SuperBetter allies and therapist, that I’ve used to work on PTSD and was thinking, hey, I should create a toolbox or to be more appropriate for my SuperBetter Hero who is a scientist, “A Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment!” So here goes.

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Summary of Laboratory Tools and Equipment (to Get Better from PTSD)

PTSD / Trauma Symptom Lab Equipment, Tools or Methods to Use
Anticipation

Hypervigilance

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Be aware of being hypervigilant
  • Be aware of my expectations
  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel Fish Quest – Read about it in my post here
Supposed To Beliefs

Expectations

  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back
Dealing with Conflict

Avoidance

  • Deal with conflict instead of avoid it
  • Make Quests to do things I’m avoiding like go to the dentist, say “Excuse me”, go to a place to make new memories I associate with my abuser
Negative Self-Talk
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters Feel Better by Changing the Way You Talk to YourselfThe Power of Nonnegative Thinking
  • Track your Negative Self-Talk – see my posts here and here
Assertiveness

Self-Advocacy

Self-Compassion

Body Image

  • SuperBetter The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Being Awesome PowerPack
  • SuperBetter Better Than a Chill Pill PowerPack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters on Self-Advocacy: An Overview and Initial Self Assessment and Assertiveness, Aggressiveness and How to Take the High Road
Stress & Muscle Tension
  • SuperBetter Stress Buster Power Pack
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapter on Managing Stress By Controlling Muscle Tension – See my post on this chapter here.
Anxiety

Isolation

  • SuperBetter MindMaster PowerPack
  • Quest to Ask for Help
  • SuperBetter Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day PowerPack
Guilt
  • Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook chapters How to Get Rid of Your Guilt  – See my post with my results here
  • Talk with a veteran or other domestic violence victims with PTSD and their experience of how they overcame guilt (this can be via an online chat, in person, etc.) – It helps!
  • Forgive yourself – This will happen!
Nightmares
  • Remember: Nightmares are just reminders of the types of people and behavior you need to be wary of – Read my post on this here

I’m sure I’m missing some tools, but can always add them in later, or new ones as I learn about them.

What things have worked for you to get better from PTSD? What do you want to try? What are the biggest obstacles you are facing?

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My Scientist Hero’s SuperPowers

In playing SuperBetter you can play whatever Hero you want to be to get better. I had picked a great scientist.

But, to make it a little fun, I was lately thinking of the X-Men and Jean Grey. Kind of a scientist of some sort and for some reason she was always my favorite character in the X-Men.

I was trying to think how Jean Grey’s super powers could relate to getting better from PTSD and here’s what I came up with:

Super Power As it relates to getting better from trauma
Telepathy
  • Awareness of being hypervigilant
  • Awareness of my expectations
Telekinesis
Phoenix Force grants the ability to:

Travel unaided through space

  • Resilience!
  • Ask for Help
  • React instead of avoid conflict
      Psionically manipulate matter and any form of energy
  • Keep Positive
  • Do my power ups on a daily basis, especially:
  1. Running, biking, or swimming
  2. Spending time with friends

 

      Create powerful “cosmic” fire
  • Overcome anxiety
  • Manage stress through muscle tension exercises and breathing
  • Deal with nightmares

 

      Resurrect from death and manipulate life energy in others
  • Practice Self-Compassion
  • Practice influence – optimism, relate to people
  • Spend time with friends and family
      Manipulate timelines
  • Overcome Guilt
  • Witness your experience
  • Live in the Now
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

This was pretty fun to come up with. 🙂

Who would you be and how would you use your super powers to meet your goal?

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Quest: Broken Babelfish Cartoon

Quest: Broken Babelfish Cartoon

I had set this Quest a long while back, actually at the beginning of starting to play SuperBetter. It has now been 6 months that I’ve been playing SuperBetter and finally sat down and did this quest for a few scenarios in my life where I have been hypervigilant. It didn’t exactly come out like I envisioned it, but I did it! And it has helped me become more aware of situations where I am hypervigilant and misinterpret what people are saying and actually mean and have a much better understanding of why I do it, which I’ll talk about in a future post on Expectations and Hypervigilance.

Here was the original Mission / Quest:

Mission #3: Help Fix My Broken Babel fish – Every other week

This mission got turned down already! But, I think it would still be fun.

I have what I like to call a broken Babel fish. I hear people say something and think they mean something else, which is usually something negative. I almost see drawings being involved here with what was said, what was heard, what they really meant. Then I’d figure out why I thought they meant something negative and stop doing that. This is something we could do once a week or every other week.

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Could Self-Compassion Be the Foundation for Cracking Avoidance & Being More Assertive?

It has already been a month since I’ve set my next Epic Win to crack avoidance of conflict and to be more assertive. I can certainly think back to quite a few examples where I have faced conflict head-on and have been more assertive. But, more importantly, I have noticed I’ve been a lot more confident and self-accepting.

In therapy, I have been talking a lot about changing your point of view or attitude about things, being assertive, asking for things I need, taking time I need, understanding specific situations and why people act certain ways, and how I have been feeling more relaxed. The change of mind for the game I think has helped big time. I am more focused on living in the now and enjoying life. I had an incredible weekend after a week with work life balance. (AND I just can’t wait to set new Epic Wins that are much closer to my own personal goals!)

In SuperBetter, I added in a few new Power Packs, which reminded me to chill out, be more self-compassionate, and stay present:

  • Being Awesome
  • Better Than a Chill Pill
  • The Mood Elevator: Ground Floor

Last week with the SuperBetter Quest, “The Compassion Express: When You Think You Might Suck”, I read the articles on the Science of Self Acceptance:

Self Improvement at the Risk of Self Acceptance – NY Times

Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges – NY Times Well Blogs

And took an online quiz to gauge where I am at with Self-Compassion and Self-Acceptance. I wasn’t too surprised to find I was in the pretty high ranges, with a 4.1 out of 5.0. Anywhere from 3.5 – 5.0 was considered excellent. You know that old saying, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” I think I’ve been applying the reverse principle, “Treat yourself as you treat others.” I have a lot of compassion for people and often I find myself thinking these days, everyone is dealing with similar problems and its ok. It’s even ok for me to reach out to others for help and help them when they need it. This is all part of life and its journey.

I think two years ago I was a completely different person. When I was a teenager, I used to think I was pretty awesome. Now, I finally feel that again. I am an amazing person who has led an amazing life and have much more ahead of me I am excited about. Each day, I want to enjoy something and grow closer in my relationships with my friends and family. I have my whole life ahead of me and I could choose to be miserable, but I would much rather choose to be awesome. And then doing things like dealing with conflict and being assertive become so much easier, because I know I can do it and I understand, hey, my needs are important too, just like yours.

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A New Kind of Growth

I’ve been very busy the past couple of weeks, which is why I’ve been near non-existent. A week ago I came to the conclusion that the post traumatic growth I was experiencing for the past year and half was starting to fizzle out. The world didn’t seem so bright and shiny. Things were just starting to become like everyone else seemed to experience it, just “Meh.” For example, I ran three half marathons in the past month and wasn’t like “Wow, that was completely awesome!” I didn’t want to lose the feelings I have about how amazing so many things in my life are, so I have been gripping onto them tight.

This week I noticed I was a little more relaxed version of myself even though I just wrapped up a super stressful week to flow into yet another stressful week. I might have let a lot of emails, texts, and phone calls slip by. I didn’t really feel like socializing. I just felt like being in tune with myself. Though I worked most nights, I took a couple hours to veg or explore new places and things. Then the stress finally caught up to me and I got sick and stayed in bed rather than go on my long run.

This morning though it was raining, I set out to do my long run, headache and all, before a long day of plans. I was smiling most of the run. I felt like I was flying and free.

Last week after finishing the Rock n Roll 1/2 Marathon, I said to my friends, I need something inspiring to read again. They said, “Why don’t you read Born to Run?” I had it sitting around for awhile now. Now, I’m almost done with it. Reading Born to Run, I had another eureka moment like when I read Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken. I read about how the real secret of the Tarahumara was they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. This really rung true to me too. And reading about Scott Jurek, who is also from Seattle like myself, I was inspired by his story where he was picked on growing up and dealt with the hopelessness of taking care of his mother who would never get better, where running was his outlet. My whole life running has been my outlet, as well as a zillion other outdoor activities and sports. But, running is truly where I feel free.

Then I started thinking about Michael Richards (@mtcrun) who is also playing SuperBetter and won the Skagway Half Marathon at the beginning of the month. Michael is using SuperBetter to get better from depression, but he set his Epic Win to run the Half Marathon. After winning, Michael said, “Jane, you and @SuperBetter are directly responsible for helping me run, win, and, most importantly, enjoy the 1/2 :).” And two weeks later I saw his post that he was setting his next Epic Win. I also noticed a ton of posts about his group runs and training leading up to the race, which all in all lead to getting better from depression. And suddenly I had this eureka moment. Why aren’t I setting Epic Wins to do things I love to accomplish getting better from PTSD? Rather than focusing on the symptoms of PTSD, which has made this kind of daunting. So I don’t know exactly where to begin, but I suddenly had a change in my mindset about playing the SuperBetter game and about life in general, which I think is going to lead to a new kind of growth.

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Quest: Challenge Guiding Fictions or “Supposed to” Beliefs

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Last week I had some not so great moments. I could tell my self-esteem was slipping. It was like I had an engine going down and I needed to do something about it fast before I crashed. I noticed my negative self-talk was back and running rampant. I pulled myself out of it by thinking about the positive things that were going on in my life and instead of getting caught up in my anxiety, looked outward and was caring towards others. I realized this could be a little dangerous because I have just been avoiding what I wanted to say. But, I admit I feel a zillion times better and things have been going a lot better. I reminded myself that if I exhibit confidence, that then it will seep out into my relationships and interactions with others too.

The other thing I did this week was finish the next chapter in the Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence workbook, “Supposed to” Beliefs That Lead Women to Stay or Go Back. After finishing the chapters on guilt, I was amazed how easy this went. There is no doubt in my mind that leaving my abusive relationship with my ex-husband was in my best interest and the best decision I have ever made. And there is no doubt in my mind that I never want to be in an abusive relationship again. 

This week “Guiding Fictions” or “Supposed to” beliefs were on my mind. In one of my conversation with my SuperBetter ally, we talked about beliefs that have been very deep rooted in myself. These beliefs may have caused me to make certain decisions along the way in my life that I would not have ordinarily made if I didn’t have them. Some of these beliefs I have become aware of, especially the 7 “Supposed to” beliefs they discuss in the workbook chapter.

Some of these beliefs I realized I developed as a way of coping with what was going on in my life. I don’t know how many of these beliefs I’ll be able to recognize and see how they’re impacting the way I interact with the world. But, at least I am now conscious of the basic symptoms of post traumatic stress that I can now stop and question and even change what I am doing and why I am doing it, which may be the beliefs behind them. I realize that this can take a lot of work and I’m willing to do it because I’m going to feel a lot better and push what I can accomplish in life beyond what I thought was possible.

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SuperBetter: Allies & Game Quest Ideas Revisited

This week I had an interview with SuperBetter to talk about the game and it was awesome because it allowed me to step back and reflect on the game. The game has given me a lot of things I needed to help me make progress on healing from the trauma of domestic violence and other abuse history. It has given me structure I need, the ability to track my progress, Power Packs with Quests, and tips and tricks to help me get to my goals and in a fun way. And I seriously love the secret files. If people would send me cool interesting facts that apply to my day-to-day life all the time, I would probably have the equivalent of the “runner’s high” without having to run.

Re-thinking Allies

There are a couple things I’ve been realizing I need to tweak. Originally, when I went into the game, I thought I’d invite my friends as allies and there’s certain things I think each of them could help with in person when we hang out on a regular basis which I mapped out in the post SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas. That hasn’t been the case. I talked about it in therapy a bit. Why are my friends not really engaging in the game? And brought it up in the interview with SuperBetter. My therapist had talked about it as people have a difficult time interacting with people they know in person, online. In person, they see you in one way, and then online, differently. Plus the subject matter I am working with, healing from trauma, is an extremely sensitive and uncomfortable one. People don’t want to deal with that. Both my therapist and SuperBetter suggested I try to work with allies I meet through the game who are struggling with similar problems. I have one ally I met through the game who has been my strongest and best ally in the game. And I would highly recommend pairing up with someone in the game. 

My ally from SuperBetter is in a completely different timezone, but that is not a barrier. We interact mostly through e-mail, in a pen pal type way. I do my e-mailing in the morning and she has my undivided attention. We work through problems that we’re facing, share our ideas for dealing with them, and ask each other for each other’s support. We both have similar personality types and are dealing with very similar problems. 

Epic Wins & Better Ties to Quests (and Putting More Thought/Time into Quests)

One of the things I’d like to start doing a better job of in SuperBetter is being able to plan out or tie Quests to complete in order to reach my Epic Wins. Epic Wins, to me, are really a goal you are trying to reach for. I’ve been planning my Epic Wins around the areas in the workbook Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence and areas I notice within that week or month time span that I am having a particular problem with. When I started SuperBetter, my big focus was on Negative Self-Talk and Hypervigilance because I know I was driving people around me nuts by doing it and they were being addressed early on in the chapters of the workbook. I am guessing the workbook is set up in the way it is for a reason. But, the workbook is not the end-all be-all and therapy is only one hour a week and I use it to bring the things I’m really struggling with to each week. I feel like if I want to really get better, make progress, and continue to keep it up, I’m going to have to make it more part of my day-to-day life. But, it also can’t be miserable and difficult. It has to be fun and rewarding. Some of the Quests I thought up in my 2 posts, SuperBetter: Game Quest Ideas and SuperBetter: Allies Mission Ideas, I haven’t even actually put them into my SuperBetter game! And there’s stuff my ally and I talk about that are great ideas, I also haven’t put into the game. So it’s time to put some real effort into this and make it really fun and rewarding.

Here’s some examples of my current Quests, most of which are from the Power Packs “Social Resilience in 5 Minutes a Day” and “Stress Buster”, that map up to my Epic Wins.

Stress & Muscle Tension

  • Learn About Stress
  • Find an Oasis
  • Doing the Meditation Deed: The One-Time-Only 25-Minute Challenge (OK so I did all the others but haven’t found 25 minutes to meditate yet. I must do this Monday night!)
Avoidance
 
  • Find a Dentist
  • Make a Dentist Appointment
  • Track when I won’t ask question to avoid conflict
  • Go to places or do something I associate with my abuser

Self Advocacy

  • I am thinking of loading the “Being Awesome” Power Pack for this area
  • Ask for Help – regular reminder to ask for help (or anything, including “excuse me”) which is something I have an insanely difficult time doing and should probably get to the root of, why?
  • Say Excuse Me to ask someone to move – I need to make this a regular Quest
  • Stop Negative Self-Talk

Social Anxiety

  • Pay It Forward – Do something nice for someone in your life. I did this yesterday! 🙂
  • Give the Gift of Experience – This will be done Tuesday and I can’t wait to hear their reaction! 🙂
  • Three Things That Rocked – Write down 3 things that rocked over 5 days (recurring Quest)

Hypervigilance / Anticipation

  • React instead of anticipate
  • Broken Babel fish game – Draw cartoons from the week of things I’ve heard, what I thought they meant, and what they really meant

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Quest: Asking for Help & Breaking Free of Isolation

Last week I really tested out what I learned about Hypervigilance with a great group of people. Each time my mind started to wonder things like “What did they really mean by that?”, “Maybe they don’t like me,” and etc., I stopped and responded to myself with things like, “Let’s table that for later in case I still feel that way about it”, or “Do you really think that’s true?” Before I knew it, the hyper arousal turned itself off and I had a great time. People even commented on how much more involved I was with the group than last year. I got to know two amazing people on the trip a lot better now too and am looking forward to hanging out with them more over the next year.

When I got home though, something devastating happened. Instead of internalizing everything and isolating myself, I reached out to someone and I am really glad I did. Reaching out to one person triggered a chain reaction of reaching out to more people throughout the week. I made plans and spent time with people who I enjoy spending time with who gave me great support and who I wanted to get to know more. I even stopped someone in the hallway to talk about one of my most favorite hobbies, running, and made lunch plans for next week. It was a big difference from the rut I kind of got myself in since starting my life over a year ago. Every once in a while I make the effort to get myself out of it, but this time I felt like I had a major click go off in my head and I hope that this will be a permanent change. By Friday, I responded to a post about needing allies for coping with major life changes to not be so isolated.

Over the past year and a half I’ve dealt with major life changes and so are a few of my friends. A few of us have now gone through divorces, new relationships, moves and one of us have lost someone who was extremely close to them who they used to be a caregiver for. All of us have been dealing with these changes by asking friends for help, setting days and times aside to regularly spend time with friends and continually making plans with each other to do things, even if it’s a couple months in advance like running marathons together or going to a wine tasting or camping or renting a cabin for a weekend together to hang out and go skiing. These things and asking each other for help make us grow stronger and closer together. The key thing is anytime someone invites you to something try to arrange things so you can accept the invitation and open up to people and listen. Also don’t be afraid to call, email, text people to make plans for anything like coffee, a walk or just to say I saw this article you’d think was cool or etc. it’s funny! I’m just learning this stuff and am getting the hang of it. Once you start doing this more and more you get hooked on it. If you don’t already have people in your life, you can get some by making time to do activities you love or talking to someone in the grocery store or on your bus or who you work with who you think is neat.

I couldn’t believe I found myself giving this advice. I’ve know all along how to do this from watching other people, but what made it so hard? Why do people isolate themselves?

Looking into myself and my past, I realize I had been “shut down” or “numb”. I also had a large amount of social anxiety from past experiences. But, this devastating event pushed me to completely open up and need to reach out. I would like to really encourage others who are going through something similar to not be afraid and reach out to people. You might be told no or be ignored from time to time, but do not let that discourage you, and keep trying it. I think back to the day I left my abuser. I made one phone call to a domestic violence hotline and having that one person support me and help me through it made the world of a difference. Why wouldn’t I keep reaching out? The world is full of amazing people and some of them are really going to care, as you will for them too.

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Quests: 7 Day Tiny Risk Taking Challenge

I finished the 7 Day Tiny Risk Taking Challenge! Each day I did something that scared me every day. Granted some of these things might seem small to others, but they helped me tackle some of the things I am dealing with like anxiety, hypervigilance, anticipation of being judged, not being my own self-advocate, and umm what seemed to be becoming an unhealthy smart phone addiction. So here are the results.

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Day 1: Take 5 min to relax

How did I feel after I took that risk? Amazing. Why don’t I take the time to do this more often?

Day 2: Tell another person with PTSD my story and exchange ideas

How did I feel after I took that risk? I felt like I am not alone.

Day 3: Ask for something I will never get

How did I feel after I took that risk? I actually got what I asked for! When the heck does that ever happen? Maybe I should try asking for things more often and not let it get me down when someone says no. People won’t always say no.

Day 4: Share my win and progress with my friends

How did I feel after I took that risk? I was excited, but felt like no one cared except the person who was closest to me.

Day 5: Say no and stand up for something I needed

How did I feel after I took that risk? I felt horrible. Like a complete jerk.

Day 6: Turn off my phone for 4 hours

How did I feel after I took that risk? Strong. 🙂 And really, I didn’t miss anything.

Day 7: Write down 3 good things that happened the past 3 days and the reason why you think that event happened the way it did

How did I feel after I took that risk? Like I want to do more things that rock and usually those things happen when I make an effort to spend time with people or do something I enjoy.

Is my life better today that it was seven days ago?

Yes!

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