Life

Read A Damn Book

So my therapist told me that I should minimize going on social media to reduce stress. I agreed, did that for a week, and found that it helped. Now I only check the news and go on social media at the end of the day. However, I’m slowly finding that habit harder and harder to sustain. Not that I have an urge to check the news, per se, but that I need to do something else in its stead. There are just times when I want to relax a bit before doing work (like right after eating breakfast, or just coming in from exercise, etc.), and I used to fill that with endless reddit scrolling. I now found myself opening browsers to catch up on news during those blocks of times when I told myself I wouldn’t. Well, that just won’t do , will it?

So this morning instead of grabbing for my iPad I reached for my Kindle. I have so many books that I meant to read but haven’t started on a single one! Well, that is about to change, my friends! Or it has changed, because I spent 30 min reading a book, an actual book, instead of browsing the Internet and getting stressed/angry/depressed at whatever people are saying. It calmed me down and I even started work early because of the calmness! So I’ve decided that whenever I feel like I’m losing concentration, or need a break, I will NOT open an Internet browser, instead I will just get on the bed and read my Kindle for a few minutes. It’s been working so far, although the day’s not even halfway over yet, but I feel, dare I say, optimistic about it? I’ll of course keep you updated on how this’ll go. Maybe, finally, I can tackle my book backlog as well as quit obsessing over social media for good.

Life

Good Fridays – Bullet Journaling

I said a couple of entries ago that I should dedicate a post a week on something good in my life. Doesn’t have to be an event, could just be a great cup of coffee or a good book I’m reading. It’ll balance out all of my doom-and-gloom writings, and might actually cheer myself up as well. In more blogg-y terms I suppose it would be one of those “thankful for the little things” posts, all inspirational like. Well, I don’t think I’m great at waxing poetic about hopeful feelings, but I can write about what makes me happy. So, without further ado, let me introduce you all to the first of hopefully many, “Good Fridays.”

Today’s topic is, like the title says, the art of bullet journaling. In case you haven’t heard of it, bullet journaling is a method of jounaling that’s a hybrid of a diary, planner, to-do list, scrapbook, art project, and whatever else you want or need it to be to keep your life on track. Here is its official website, which goes into much better detail. (There’s also a book but I think the website and good thorough Google search would suffice.) It may seem intimidating at first, but trust me, I started on that exact same page, with just a plain notebook and single blue pen, and now it has blossomed into a dedicated notebook with thick paperstock and a full arsenal of stickers, washi tape, color pencils, micron pens, and you name it. I follow Amanda Rach Lee and Jenny Journals for tips and ideas, along with Emberlinmoon, although she uses hers more as a diary to record the past than a planner for the future. There are tons of content out there for bullet journaling that you definitely won’t be lacking in inspiration.

Aside from just a joy to create, my bullet journal has become a major part of my life. I keep it right on my desk, where as I sit down to start my workday it’s the first thing within reach. I’ve always been a planner – not obsessively, but if I don’t have a general idea of what’s going on I get anxious. I also have a terrible memory (I’m only in my mid-thirties! I dread the decades to come.) so putting all of my appointments in one place is crucial. At the start of my day I write down every single thing I need to do. There’s just something about seeing all the tasks neatly laid out that makes them feel more doable. Even if some things still don’t get done at the end of the day, I still know that the chance of it being done increases dramatically if it’s recorded in my bullet journal than not. There were days where I didn’t feel like doing anything, but forced myself to sit down and open the page, and somehow the goals feels just a little bit closer, a little bit more possible, and that’s really all I can ask for.

I am no artist, however. I watch all these channels with people whose ‘doodles’ look amazing and I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler. So I rely heavily on stickers and washi tapes to decorate all my pages. I get most of my supplies from China and our local Japanese markets, and it kind of ballooned into a massive collection, I had to go by a shelf container for them. My go-to notebooks are the large dot-grids from nuuna. The size is perfect, and the paper is heavy enough that my pens don’t bleed through. I make my spreads on the last week of every month. I’d put on some music, maybe a podcast, and then just let myself relax and draw/tape/write for the next hour or two. It’s became a ritual in itself. Instead of taking a bath or getting a massage I just bullet journal haha. If you feel like this might help you I highly recommend at least try it for a month or two. I don’t really remember exactly when I started this – a couple of years ago, perhaps, but I’m sure I’ll be doing this for a very long time to come.

Life · Work

Social Media Is Bad For Me, Apparently

Well, I went to another session with my therapist and told him that, yes, I am keeping a journal, but no, I haven’t worked a lick. Yeah…remember I said I would really, really try to work these past few days? Tried and failed like no tomorrow. I told him this, and we went over all kinds of why’s and how’s and what now’s. So he set some new rules to try this week. One, do some kind of relaxation exercise for 20-30 minutes first thing when I wake up. Two, no checking any news/social media before five pm. And three, keep on journaling, of course.

So apparently what I’ve been doing the past few days was obsessively going on reddit and other news sites to check on the coronavirus situation, because right now California (and a lot of other states, but since I live in Cali it impacts me the most) are surging like mad in cases. It’s making me anxious, but I can’t stop myself from looking up discussions and other slightly alarmist news articles about it, and it went on for hours every day. As a result I get too jittery to concentrate on any creative work. So the doctor’s solution is to just ban myself from social media for the majority of the day. I may have to adjust his ‘no news before five’ stance to something like ‘no news until after dinner’, because I usually start working around 2 or 3 and 5 is way too early. But the point is the same. I wish there’s an easy-to-use site-blocker on Opera, but maybe it’s a test of character or something if I just force myself to not type in the address. I don’t know, let’s give it a week before I feel like I need to install something to do the job for me because I just can’t help myself.

He also said that I might be journaling the wrong way. I told him that writing things down in a journal doesn’t seem to help me much. I mean it helps me in that I no longer am bottling things up and am seeing things up front, and that’s good, but I feel like he’s expecting some kind of catharsis just from that process or something and I’m just like, uh, no? But he did say that maybe instead of me diving deep down I kind of just circle the same point over and over and that’s actually making me more anxious because I get stuck. Maybe. I am noticing, as of right now, even, that when I write my mind keeps on wandering to other, usually stressful things. (Did I take my medication? Garbage needs to be taken out today. I want to use this app but it’s a subscription but it might be helpful but it cost money which I don’t have! Etc. Etc.) And then I stop and try to do something else to alleviate the stress all these other thoughts brought me, which, you guessed it, most of the time is going on to social media, which then brings on more stress and oh my god it just never ends! I’m not sure what to do with that. Well, guess we have the topic for the next session, huh? In the meantime I’ll just have to, again, force myself to concentrate and not get distracted. Really makes one see the appeal of Addreall, but, you know, that’s not healthy for you either.

Life

Mental Health Journaling

So…I disappeared again. Had a small bout of depression where I lost all will to do anything. Couldn’t get out of bed, didn’t want to do anything that I used to enjoy, did no work, all that normal depression stuff. I blame Covid and the quarantine, of course, because so many people are going through the same thing as I am, I’m sure. I also tried to schedule an appointment with my psychologist and he was all booked up for weeks. Finally got through and had a chat (telehealth, perfectly safe) last week. By then I was slowly on the upswing, playing some of the video games I gave up during the worst of it, slowly slowly trying to get back to work. So I just basically talked to him about the process and everything, and he said, keep a journal. I asked what for? He said just, whenever you try to work, and then got anxious or whatever and stopped working, write down what you feel when you did. Just keep track of it, and we’ll talk about the next time.

Well, “the next time” is in two days. And I have done ZERO work. Yep. Just the fact he said I need to work and then keep a journal kept me anxious for two days and didn’t do anything. And the weekend I actually was busy, although the good news is that I am slowly coming back lifestyle-wise. (You know, take regular showers, get out of bed, clean the house, etc.) But I’ve decided that today, finally, I’m going to take his advice and do what he asked, which is keep a journal while working. I don’t think he necessarily mean a public blog about it, but I find this…strangely compelling? Like me spilling my guts to the Internet is somehow more therapeutic than me writing everything down on paper and lock it away. So that’s what I will do. Sorry that I keep on writing such glum things. I will actually try to branch out on my posts in topics, because it’s no fun reading all these during such global unrest.

Speaking of that, I think I’m going to try to have a weekly good things post. Something like “Good Friday” every Friday, where I talk about happy things that happened, or things I’m looking forward to, and the like. Might be small and inconsequential things like ‘oh, I bought this awesome nail polish and I can’t stop staring at my hands’ or ‘oh I finally started that book that I heard about and it’s absolutely amazing’. I think I’ll start this week, along with getting back to “Friday Fictioneers” (which I ironically never post on Friday, it seems). So there’s more diverse content than just me getting through mental and physical health crises one after another. Folks, take care of y’allselves.

Life

Why Is My Mental Health So Shit?

Alright, let’s talk about my health. The title of this post couldn’t be anymore obvious, but you know, I’ve never really thought about how frigging true it is until lately. I know people say stuff like ‘oh he worried himself sick’ or ‘they gave themselves an ulcer from all the stress’. And I think, yeah, people’s immune system gets low when they’re stressed so of course that happens. But I never thought too much about it, until it actually happened to me.

Yeah, hindsight and self-discoveries just make me feel ultra stupid. So basically I had a deadline coming. I’m part of a non-official writers’ group – more a support group than anything else “professional”, although on my resume I’m certain I can call it such. Anyways, it’s my turn to submit some chapters from my novel. I volunteered to do it, it would help my work tremendously, but oh my god was it super hard for me to sit down and work on it. Like, right now the chapters I want to submit needs major rewrites, because they’re the beginning chapters and I hadn’t gone back to fix them yet and they don’t match anything else later. Process of writing drafts, completely normal, but holy shit, so much pressure to make things perfect from scratch again! My creative process basically shut down, and I just became this listless blob for a few days, and then I developed that lymph node swelling/throat thing I talked about yesterday, and it’s just all downhill from there. I ended up not going to the monthly meeting at all because I was too tired to read other people’s things to critique, let alone talking to other people (via Zoom but still), and so, here I am today, nothing good written, missed deadline, sick, a bad place.

I’ve always been a bit trepidatious talking about my work. Where I realistic am, instead where I wish I am, stuff like that. I guess the first step of progress is just to be honest with myself. (And being honest in public is a whole different thing, but I think it helps more? Accountability and all that.) I’ll talk about this in detail in another post, because this one is about how my utterly crazy mental blocks basically made me physically ill for two weeks. I called my doctor today and scheduled a tele-health appointment later this week. The symptoms may or may not completely dissipate by then, but at least I can get some round of antibiotics if it it’s still there. Or something – I feel like my body is just completely breaking down right now with infections everywhere. This isn’t me being a hypochondriac; I’m really not in a good place health-wise. At least the doctor could either calm me down and be like, no you don’t have cancer/etc. just stress here’s some anti-inflammatory drugs, or he would actually be concerned and I’ll get it looked it. If it’s something serious early detection is key right? The point is, if my brain didn’t go crazy I probably wouldn’t be in this situation right now, and I don’t know what to do to make myself calm down. Well, I do, and that is finish the novel completely, which means I’ll be calm in like six months, which is not acceptable! Ahem. Right. That’s another post. Sorry the blog is kind of all over the place by now. I’ll keep you updated. Stay safe, everyone!

Life

Apparently Stress and Sickness Go Together

So I got pretty sick last week. Nope, not Covid, and not any cold or flu either. My lymph nodes acted up and my throat swelled, and I was just dog-tired for no discernible reason. I basically slept all day for a good few days, and every time I swallow it was, well, not painful, per se, but uncomfortable. Like my esophagus was dragging a bowling ball with it, and you can hear this weird ‘click’ when it finishes. It started at the top of my throat, and then traveled downwards. I was freaking out thinking it’s cancer or something crazy, until my s.o. calmly told me, no, the chance of it being cancer is astonishingly low. Cancer doesn’t just suddenly pop up and certainly doesn’t get better when you take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. You’re just stressed and have some sort of infection. Stop freaking out.

I hope he’s right, but it’s been a full week now and it feels like the swelling has gone down a bit. It has moved to a small area on the lower right side, and the clicking noise isn’t nearly as loud, and there are now some times when I swallow it almost feels normal. So, cancer is unlikely. I am thinking of calling my primary doctor, though. They’re doing telemedicine, I believe, but during this time I really don’t want to have anything to do with hospitals. My s.o. also said maybe you caught a strain of flu that’s prevented by your flu shot, or a cold you had before, so instead of fever/coughing etc. you just have an overactive lymph node. I don’t know. I am thinking I was just super stressed, and the birth control pill I’m taking is not helping things much either. (To regulate my period, so I can prep for the next stage of my IVF.) I’m going to call and make an appointment tomorrow. Maybe at least the doctor can give me some antibiotics or something.

Yeah sorry I’ve been gone for a while again. But guys I’ve been pretty stressed lately, and yes, the quarantine does have something to do with the overall state of things, but I’m pretty sure my stress comes from my work. I’ll talk in detail about that some other time. Maybe tomorrow. Now I’m just going to sign off and take another nap.

Life

Quarantine Shopping and a Little R&R

I went out shopping today for the first time in weeks. Now I did go for regular walks around my subdivision so I’ve been outside, but I haven’t actually been in a car going to a grocery store or anything like that. To minimize exposure it’s always my husband who goes out and do the shopping so it’s only one person out at a time. But now I need personal care things like razorblades and cotton balls, so I went out with him because he wouldn’t know the exact brands and stuff.

And boy it took forever! Sure, the roads are fairly empty since my state is under shelter-in-place orders, but there are just so many other things we have to do to prepare to go out. We both have to put on masks (not N95 ones, but a surgical mask is better than nothing), bring hand sanitizer, my husband somehow got a box of Clorox wipes and keeps that in the car to constantly wipe down everything. Then we get to the grocery store and had to wait outside in designated lines because the store’s pretty small, so they had to limit how many people could be in there at one time. We bought out about 2-3 weeks worth of food (frozen meat and non-perishables, mostly) and then went to Target for the daily use things (still no paper goods, but that’s probably because we went too late in the day). And when we get back we wipe everything down and wash our hands a lot and leave some non-food items in the bag to be put away 24-48 hours later. Under normal days a trip like that would take less than an hour (barring traffic, but the Target is literally 5-min drive from my house, and I mean that in LA-traffic speak which is like .1 miles or something). Took more than 2 today! And I’m so stressed from just general anxiety that I was exhausted when I finished everything and just lay on the bed for a while, listening to podcasts. I have zero motive to write anything. So I decided, well, might as well take the day off and take care of some other work/life related things, like figure out some refunds and plan out the rest of the week and the like.

I feel kind of guilty not working on my novel, but I’ve been steadily writing a lot these past couple of weeks, and I think one day of rest is good to have. I’ll just have to pick it back up tomorrow, when I don’t have to brave the outside world too much. You’d think quarantine wouldn’t stress out super introverts like me, but for some reason it’s making my anxiety worse. I guess it’s the whole sucky situation as a whole. I know we’ve been very careful but now I couldn’t help but wonder did this one trip give me or my husband coronavirus? I have asthma and he has horrible allergies and get upper respiratory system illnesses a lot, so yeah, if this hit us it’ll hit us hard, probably. Cross our fingers, I guess, and just try not to worry about it needlessly in the mean time. It’s much easier said than done.

Games · Life

Something Light and Fluffy

With all the stuff going on in the world, I’m going to talk about happy things today. And for me that usually entails books and video games, so, games it is.

So let’s chat about how much my husband and I have been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, shall we? He’s never played an Animal Crossing game before, so it’s all great fun to introduce him to the franchise. I’m an exclusively single-player gamer – never had friends to play with (they either weren’t gamers, also loners, or played different genres from me), did the bare minimum of social interactions in MMOs, drawn to builders and story-focused rpgs, etc. I do like couch co-op with my husband and we had played a few games on the Switch so far, but they are all platformers and, uh, I’m alright with them but he sucks at it haha. So it’s usually a fun but frustrating experience. But Animal Crossing, man, has such a seamless and relaxing two-player mode that we both got obsessed with it on the spot. It got released last Friday and we were basically playing nonstop over the weekend. The non-time-travel way, too, although I did set the clock to 3 hours earlier than my actual timezone, because we both like to play at night and this gives us some leeway when it comes to store closing and daytime bugs and such.

It’s such a delight amidst all the chaos to just plant trees, catch bugs, dig up fossils, and collect/build/decorate furniture to our hearts content. To top that off, my husband is a social gamer and has co-workers/friends to play with, so I’m actually playing with people I know in real life online. We visited each others’ islands and gave each other things that a single game didn’t have (kind of like Pokemon, there are fruits and other items that require multiple islands’ resources if you’re a completionist.) They also time travel, so I picked up some out-of-season bugs and such. Not gonna lie, I desperately needed this in my life. So happy and relaxing. It’s also, ironically, making me do more work too, when I’m not obsessively playing.

So if you’re stressed and have a Switch I highly recommend picking up this title. Even if you’ve never paid attention to Animal Crossing before. (No, this is not sponsored by Nintendo I swear.) It might help with all the worldwide anxiety right now. Take care of yourself, everyone. I will be on a virtual tropical vacation for a while.

Life · Work

It’s Super Effective!

Yeah so I now have concrete evidence that not going on r/coronavirus, or reddit in general because the front page is coronavirus related anyway, helps me with productivity. A lot.

On Saturday I deliberately forced myself to put down the iPad and not look at any outbreak related news. I was a lot more productive and worked longer hours. On Sunday I didn’t, and well, kind of whiled the afternoon away, so I subsequently freaked out and obsessively clicked on links. Yesterday I only allowed a little bit of perusing in the morning and not so much later, and guess what? I got no work done in the morning, and in the afternoon the minute I (again, forced myself to) put down the iPad, I started working almost right away. It’s crazy. Well, not exactly ‘right away’ as there’s an hour of ‘lag,’ per se, between me reading anything and starting working, but that just means my brain needed the time to switch gears. But as soon as I cut off the obsession the gear did switch, and that’s the important takeaway here, I think.

So today, and probably for the foreseeable future, I will at most allow myself some minor perusing just to keep up on the events. The minute I realize I’m getting sucked in I will stop. It works, but needs self discipline. I am in an entirely self-driven career anyway, so I guess this is a good way to practice as any.

Life · Work

Detox

I’ve decided that I should stop visiting reddit about the coronavirus. It’s not good for my mental health. I would be working and wanted a brief break and so go on the subreddit, and whop, there goes an hour of clicking on headlines and reading comments and silently freaking out. And then when I try to get back to work my headspace is nowhere near where it needs to be to concentrate. And so I open more tabs, because I don’t want to work, and so rinse and repeat. It’s why work that should only take 2 hours takes like 7 hours, which is ridiculous. And then I have bad dreams on top of that. My sleep pattern has seen some crazy wild swings like the stock market. All in all, I need to stop visiting that website.

If anything super major does happen (like we finally start actually testing and discover there’s 100,000 cases in California or something), I’m sure the front page of reddit will let me know. Or the actual news. Or anything, really. I have to concentrate on my novel now – I refuse to let it go past the full five year mark. I had a brief existential crisis before I went to bed last night, about how I’ll never finish writing anything, good or bad. Again, not good for my mental health, but I’m pretty sure that’s just anxiety talking (brought on by all the stuff that’s going on in the world). So I’m going to limit my exposure to fix my anxiety, and that starts with not going to r/coronavirus for a while.

Gosh, Animal Crossing: New Horizons can’t come soon enough.