What I’ve Learned in Quarantine: Less Really Is More

What I’ve Learned in Quarantine: Less Really Is More

Read Time: 8 minutes

The last few weeks I have been in a major slump.

I have had no gumption to post on Instagram, I take longer to respond to comments from other users and my beloved practice of writing for one hour a day to create content for this site has gone by the wayside.

Continue reading “What I’ve Learned in Quarantine: Less Really Is More”

Featured Work: The Worrying Wife Workbook

Look ma – i’m featured in a thing!

My Instagram buddy and follower of my blog The Worrying Wife has now published her beautiful new workbook with LOADS of fantastic tips, tools, check-ins, affirmations and goodies to get you through this wiggity wack pandemic as well as general times of stress, worry and anxiety. Did I mention it’s FREE?

She reached out to me asking if I had a recipe to contribute …. and I did not! So I quickly got to work experimenting in my kitchen and managed to whip up this delicious green smoothie bowl so I could join in on the workbook fun.

Get all your good green veggies in with my yummy recipe (cucumber? In a smoothie bowl? Who wouldathunkit?? I’m shocked too but it works and tastes refreshing).

Have you tried smoothie bowls before? Have a fave recipe? Comment down below!

The Timeline Complex

The Timeline Complex

I should have written my book by now, I want to have kids no later than 35. I should have started a food blog years ago, it’s probably too late now. Have you ever found yourself thinking similar thoughts?

Somewhere along the way, humans began placing constraints upon ourselves and upon those around us, specifically to do with our time. These constraints may manifest themselves via such false narratives or beliefs as one is too young or one is too old to meet certain goals or dreams they may have for themselves, or one is past the age to do what they want. Many of these beliefs inevitably lead us to then actively gauge, weigh and measure how much time we have left to do what we want.

Credit – Giphy

Our unconscious mind has been especially sneaky in picking up on these beliefs – it feeds them back to us, and convinces us along the way, with influence added in from outside sources, that these false narratives and beliefs must be true. Before long these constraints define our value, our worth, our accomplishments and who we are as people.

It’s frightening how EASY it can be to find ourselves stuck in mental ruts that allow our minds to get swept up in false beliefs or false narratives that tell us we are too young, too old, too inexperienced, too short on time to do what we want with our lives.

If there is a psychological term for this, I am unaware of it, but for the sake of this post, I would like to refer to this phenomenon as The Timeline Complex. The idea that we use time constraints to measure our own accomplishments and the accomplishments of others, as well as using time constraints as a primary benchmark for the completion of our goals and dreams. Oftentimes, this benchmark is associated with or can evoke feelings of shame, failure, self-doubt, self-blame and/or sadness.
Credit – Giphy

I, of course, am not a professional psychologist and I may be more off my rocker here than on point with making up names for random experiences. What I do know is that this is something I have experienced and am working to confront. As I have stressed before in previous posts, I tend to confront my mental health ruts by making lengthy blog posts about them. I dissect how they affect me, then I begin to look for more positive, alternative viewpoints that make me stop and say “well.. hold the phone on that irrational thought/false belief/false narrative for just one second”.

I also recognize, that a health professional reading this may accuse me of spreading misinformation – slapping a name on something without doing any prior research into if a title for the experience actually exists – but that is genuinely not my intent. My intent is to place a name, a label, that works best for me, on this experience that has held me back and kept me afraid, worried and concerned. Giving it my own name allows for me to confront and identify the experience more efficiently, more carefully and more fully, in a way that works for me. Not to mention, if someone comes along and decides the name I have placed on this, works for them and their experience as well, then they can feel free to use it, too.

You may be familiar with the idea of a complex, the most familiar example to many of us is an Inferiority Complex. A complex itself is defined as:

A related group of emotionally significant ideas that are completely or partly repressed and that cause psychic conflict leading to abnormal mental states or behavior.

Breaking down this definition, we can start to see how it might apply to The Timeline Complex:

Emotionally significant ideas – Examples would include what we want to do with our lives, the significant goals and dreams we plan, create and manifest for ourselves.

Credit – Giphy

Completely or Partly Repressed – These ideas become repressed when we as people begin communicating beliefs and narratives to ourselves and to others that our capabilities and our limitations are defined by our age. We also communicate that we are defined by what stage we are at in our lives. Oftentimes, we view the stage we are at in our lives and what we have accomplished by a certain age as interchangeable – they in turn become a method to measure ourselves and others. We also use whether or not we have accomplished what we should have by a certain stage, as a method of measurement. This last component in particular, I will come back to shortly.

Psychic Conflict leading to abnormal mental states or behavior – The psychic conflict comes into play when we unconsciously deny ourselves what we want to do with our lives, we start to diminish the reality of working on or achieving our goals and our dreams because we define ourselves, our capabilities and our limitations by our age, as well as our accomplishments by said age. Which leads to:

Abnormal mental states or behaviors – in the form of such thoughts as I should have written my book by now, I want to have kids no later than 35. I should have started a food blog years ago, it’s probably too late now. Sometimes these thoughts are accompanied by shame or failure, as I previously mentioned, but also a potential feeling of urgency, as if time is running out.

Credit – Giphy

I touched previously upon what we should have accomplished by a certain age. What exactly determines the benchmark for accomplishment for various stages in our lives? The people we surround ourselves with for one – what your friends have accomplished by a certain age, as well as what your family has impressed upon you to some degree. Their values? Their hopes and dreams for your betterment?

Information we consume is another benchmark – social media and the news, as well as what society as a whole communicates to us – societal pressures, especially those pressures placed upon women (more on that later). We look for similarities and we look for differences, we look for the with’s and the without’s, we look for the have’s and have not’s and slowly we begin to form comparisons and create standards to live by based off of all these factors combined.

My Experience with The Timeline Complex

This is one narrative which I have allowed to somewhat run my life for the past few years. I’ve focused a lot of my energy on timelines which primarily exist within my unconscious mind, but admittedly that have also been conjured by outside influences. This includes placing steep self-imposed timelines upon myself. In addition to being concerned about a lack of time to do what I want, I have had a hard time really getting clear about what exactly it is I want to do, too. It turns out while focusing so much on not having enough time to do what I want or concerning myself with the future, that my time started to slip away without even realizing it.

Credit – Giphy

One example for me would be YouTube. I briefly started up a fun, informal, YouTube channel with a friend when I was 25. Even with a fun and easy-going project such as that, the narrative in my head was that I was too old to be doing it. People with mass followings who were in their early 30’s, whom I respected for continuing to follow their path despite the platform seemingly turning to a younger audience, had started in their late teens, early 20’s. Many had been chipping away at where they are now for years. I was starting at 25, would I be 40 by the time I was as successful as those YouTubers in their early 30’s?

Another example would be completing my Master’s degree – my goal was to finish it by the time I was 30. The kicker is I had (and have) no desire to re-enter a classroom anytime soon. I’d had a handful of friends do back to back Bachelor’s then Master’s degrees. I thought maybe I should too, get it knocked out of the way. My parents had also been supportive in suggesting the possibility of me going back to school but I didn’t know what I would focus my degree on and didn’t want to spend the time or the money to go back to school when my head and my heart weren’t really in it. I also had experienced the workforce, which meant earning a good salary – I wasn’t about to drop everything to prioritize school again and sacrifice my apartment or my career, just so I could satisfy my own goal for myself (partially as well for the benefit of others, too). I also recognized that if I did not meet my very specific, very soon timeline I was pressing upon myself, I would be disappointed and that would probably deter me from going back to school even more.

Credit – Giphy

A third and final example would be engagement, marriage, babies – that whole shebang. Admittedly, I am 27 and single. I want to get married, I want to have kids. That being said, I don’t want children before the age of 30 – I aspire and aim to experience further growth spurts within my career first and I’ve got some traveling I still want to do. Not to mention (while many people might argue there is no difference before and after), I want to enjoy married life first, prior to introducing kids into the picture.

But as close friends gradually get engaged, get married, start having children, I’ve experienced this weird internal itch that tells me I am somehow falling behind (hey – wait for me!). Is it because of some unconscious calling to wifely duties which I should be fulfilling by now? Is it the unconscious calling of a barren womb while friends around me seem to be pushing out offspring at a yearly rate? (okay, I giggled a bit at how dramatic that sounded when I typed it – barren womb – but YOU GET MY POINT). Every other aspect of my life seems to be flourishing, but this one piece of my life is … well … stunted. That’s a good word for it.

Credit – Giphy

People who ask my age, usually reply with oh you’re a youngin’ you’ve got all the time in the world (how many times have you heard that if you’re still in your 20’s?). While they aren’t saying it (and aren’t implying it), a little voice in my head likes to pop up at this point in the conversation and point out that yes, BUT you should probably have children by 35, otherwise your eggs will start to dry up and getting pregnant is no walk in the park when you’re starting to push 40. I envision that voice sounds like Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. How typical, – an old, white man dictating my reproductive should’s and should not’s. Yeesh.

Credit – Giphy

And then in most cases, because I have a critical inner voice, it will usually pop a thought or two in my head to the effect of:

“What’s wrong with you? Why haven’t you met someone yet? There must be something wrong with you, all of your friends are in normal, healthy, happy relationships – it’s probably because you overthink your relationships to the point of self-sabotage that they all turn out to be a big, hot pile of steaming garbage anyways”.

Ahh my Inner Voice – she’s such a sweetheart, ain’t she?

Bottom line it can be a battle to attempt to swim upstream against the current of your life and the time you are given. Especially in my late twenties, an underlying push and pull messaging has weezled it’s way into my cranium – a message of sure, you’ve got time, but not too much time. I think for women especially, there’s more of a ticking clock, perhaps because the Motherhood 4500 starts driving by the front of your house, revving up it’s ovary engines.

Ovary Engines? Did I really just use that term?

Credit – Giphy

But let me tell you something – being single at 27 is actually normal (AND OKAY).

Having goals and dreams is normal.

Recognizing goals and dreams take time to develop and come to fruition is normal.

Constraining yourself to the idea that if you do not complete a task or meet an accomplishment by a certain age or stage in your life, then you might as well give up on it, OR that your worth or your value is somehow lessened, is abnormal.

Dictating that someone’s worth or value is less than yours because they haven’t completed or checked off what they should have done or completed by now, according to societal standards (or your standards) is abnormal.

That’s right – i’m calling you and your standards out. Stop it.

Credit – Giphy

Truth be told, I have found ways to take solace amidst my own Timeline Complex.

If YouTube had worked out and turned from a fun project into an actual thing, it might have meant not creating this blog. Not surprising, I actually find writing and curating content for this blog a lot more meaningful, a lot more cathartic and a lot more fun than YouTube. I hop on here and ideas flow and my ability to express my thoughts, emotions and feelings is much clearer than I think any amount of time spent in front of my iPhone camera filming (even for recordings on my Instagram account) would give me.

I realized my desire to complete a Master’s degree was for the wrong reasons – because my friends were doing it, because it meant a bigger pay cheque to accompany the new designation which would now appear at the end of my name next to my BA, all especially while not knowing what I was going to study and my head and my heart not being in it. So I let go of it.

Letting go of the time constraint altogether of obtaining a Master’s degree by the time I was 30, lessened a lot of the pressure I had placed upon myself. Maybe i’ll do it when I’m 35, maybe i’ll do it when i’m 45, I honestly don’t know, it’s not a priority for me at the moment. The point is I no longer feel pressure to produce the work and get the degree by the time i’m 30 and that’s what works best for me.

Credit – Giphy

On a similar note, not doing a Master’s degree right after my Bachelor’s allowed me to accept job opportunities which set me on the right track for my career, while a lot of my friends were working menial tasks such as teaching assistants or dorm supervisors because they couldn’t keep full time employment while doing an MA. Of course, that’s what worked for them at the time, and I respect the work and the commitment they put towards their degrees, but I value those few extra years where I got a jump start in making strides towards my career path.

Being single for a good chunk of my twenties, has led me to the fulfilling and unique experience of solo travel through Europe – three times! I didn’t wait for a partner or a boyfriend to come along to do it, I didn’t ask a friend, I just did it. If i’d been in a relationship over these time periods, who knows if I would have gone, or what that would have looked like – less freedom, more compromise on my ideal trip?

Being single at 27, has also allowed me to shape and better define as I have aged what I want and what I do not want in a relationship. It has granted me the ability to recognize that while I am much more mature now than when I was 21 and in a relationship, I still have significant strides to make in my emotional maturity and my mental health in relation to entering and maintaining healthy relationships. AND THAT IS OKAY.

Credit – Giphy

Being single at 27, also means not stressing about what the future may look like. It can be hard some days – being single as 30 approaches while watching friends move on to new stages in their lives and wanting that for myself too. I know what I want but if what I want does not take place, then i’ll be okay with that – it comes back to not stressing about things out of my control. I could be destined to be the cool fairy godmother for all my friend’s children, who sprinkles them with gifts, plays with them, then gives them back to their parents at the end of the day. That would be second string to being someone’s wifey and a momma myself, but while i’m all for attracting what you want in life and being optimistic, i’m also a realist and I think that can be healthy, too.

Credit – Giphy
When looking at the bigger picture of my life, I recognize that yeah, there’s stuff I haven’t done in my timeline which others seem to be doing. But by not doing them, and following the same pattern as others, I’ve done what has worked for me, I’ve removed stress from certain elements within my life and in turn, created opportunities which might not have otherwise existed.
And just because I haven’t done them right this minute, before I turn 30, let’s panic, asdfghytr – it doesn’t mean I won’t do them at some point in my life. At the end of the day the only timeline that matters is the one I choose to follow.

Have you experienced a similar Timeline Complex in your life? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Feel Like Everything is Your Fault? 5 Tips To Break The Cycle

Feel Like Everything is Your Fault? 5 Tips To Break The Cycle

Welcome to the 2nd part of this two part blog series, in which we focus on feelings of fault – more specifically, feeling like everything is your fault. It can big fault or little fault, it can be fault that is not actually yours to bear, but you feel it, you internalize it, you feel guilty nonetheless.

Blech, who needs that?

Part 1 – I Believe Everything is My Fault: Here’s 3 Reasons Why – came out last week. The purpose of it was to give you some context about my personal experience with fault and involved me doing a deep-dive into why I believe this and project this belief onto myself. My reasons why may have resonated with your reasons why, and if they do – amazing. This week’s post is where I give you solutions to halt the belief that everything is your fault, as well as counter feelings of excessive fault and guilt. These are solutions which I continue to use and put into practice, when I find unnecessary fault arising within me.

Solution 1. Recognize that you are not your thoughts

Alternative Title: Confront your reality

One of my biggest concerns when it comes to excessive feelings of fault/guilt, as well as overthinking, is that once I experience feelings of fault, they make a nice little home for themselves in my mind and stay put. Once they’ve taken up residence, I have a really hard time:

  • a.) Letting the thought go (and when I try to let it go, it usually stays put even more);
  • b.) Not viewing the thought as true (I think them, therefore they must be valid/my reality/accurate), but most importantly within the context of Solution 1;
  • c.) Not viewing the thought as an extension of me (I think them, therefore they are a part of me/they are me).

Sure, you think these thoughts, there’s no denying they came from your noggin’ (unless this is some alternate reality with a government who’s implanted micro-chips into the brains of it’s citizens which enforces mind control dear god I am spiraling down some deep dark rabbit hole of conspiracy theories asdfmlgh send help).

Sure, they pertain to your lived experiences… but they can also attack your lived experiences, they can become negative and self-harming, they can lead you to act out on impulses and feelings which may not be in your best interest. They can influence you to believe something which is not true (a la Lindsay is a garbage human being who can’t get anything right and everything is her fault). They can cramp your style and make you feel like shit about yourself.

But just because your mind sways you to believe such things…. Are they your reality? Are they truly you? I would wager the answer to those questions is no. Asking yourself such questions can really help you to recognize that you are not your thoughts and assist in unwinding your brain from whichever twisted path it’s found itself on.

Does it feel like you are truly at fault for everything? Yes.

In reality, are you truly at fault for everything? No.

Does it feel like you are a horrible human being who’s screwing up constantly? Yes. In reality, are you actually a human being like everybody else on this planet, who occasionally is at fault and makes mistakes but are able to learn from them and become a better human as a result? Yes.

Key Take Away:

The reality of you, the “lived you”, is so much more heartfelt, kick-ass, hardworking, authentic and gentle than your mind’s perception of you. Frankly, it’s about time you sent your mind for a time-out in the quiet corner because it hasn’t been doing you any favors.
If you are having trouble inwards, seek council outwards through family and friends when you are waging war against your inner thoughts. Your loved ones might be shocked you think such things of yourself at first, but my guess is they will proceed to calm you down and give you a boost like those stars you can run into for invincibility in Mario Kart.
Credit – Giphy

Solution 2. Practice Mindful Visualization Techniques

Alternative Title: Watch Your Thoughts Fall Off a Cliff

One evening, I found my mind veering into it’s all your fault territory – primarily over concerns about an upcoming interview and it going badly (more so a fear of failure and a lack of belief in myself), as well as feeling guilty for taking a mental health/sick day. Despite waking up feeling physically and mentally crappy, my mind turned on me and said “you are letting your office/colleagues down, you should feel bad about it“. I’d also had a great track record of no sick days the entirety of my employment, and had up until that point wore that as some sort of badge of honor. So I also felt guilty over breaking that streak in some weird, twisted way.

Rather than lie awake, staring at the ceiling, dwelling on the supposed horrible human I was, I decided to mentally visualize my negative thoughts coming and going.

Credit – Giphy

Mindfulness can be a fantastic tool to practice remaining in the present moment throughout the comings and goings of our often busy lives. We can use it to build up the mental strength to recognize negative thoughts or thoughts which do not serve us well that are present in our mind, to acknowledge and accept these thoughts, but not give them the attention they crave or seek. However, when we add in a visual element mentally, it can especially help to elevate the practice of mindfulness in that we can picture the thoughts as exiting or being dispelled from the mind.

A common example is imagining your thoughts are clouds in the sky drifting by. You see them, you acknowledge them, but no need to fixate or focus on them, they’ll just float by. The physical action of a cloud floating by and out of our view, can assist in ridding ourselves of negative thoughts. Another example could be visualizing your thoughts falling off of a cliff. If you’ve ever watched the Roadrunner cartoons, envision your thoughts as a cartoon Wil.E. Coyote hovering over then falling off a cliff, where he usually finds himself amidst his pursuit of the Roadrunner.

Credit – Giphy

In my instance, I visualized myself standing on a subway platform. My thoughts are the subway cars that have pulled into the station. I can choose to get on the subway and ride along with those thoughts and be carried away. Or, I can stay on the platform, watch the doors close and the subway cars pull away down the track and disappear into the tunnel.

Key Take Away

When we add in visualization techniques, we allow ourselves further room in our minds to visualize unwanted or unhelpful thoughts and feelings, coming and going. Visualizing can also provide a physical end result in our mind’s eye, which allows us to dispel the negative thought even further.

Solution 3. Work to Care Less and Recognize What You Can Control

Alternative Title: Becoming a Human Who Feels Less Fault May Involve You Giving Less of a Shit.

Credit – Giphy

I’ve said it before that if there’s a reason I fixate on things, it’s because I care. This is true – I care and take pride in my work, and I care about my relationships with family, friends and romantic partners…. but sometimes too much. And caring too much has had a fun little side-effect of making me feel guilty and at fault about things I don’t need to.

So i’m working to take things a little less personally and give slightly less of a shit.

Take a look at this notmadeupin30minutesusingMicrosoftWord entirely real, data-driven bar chart of how my levels of caring are improving – isn’t it an amazing scientific feat??

Recognizing what you can and can not control will also help you to care less too. Can you control how much you contribute to a project at work? Can you control that your kids’ lunches are made, that they make it to school on time? Can you control how to respond before reacting in heated situations with your partner, with friends, with strangers through mental progress?

Can you control people’s opinions about you? Can you control the outcome of a project? Can you control if your partner’s feelings towards you will always stay the same?

These are all just examples, but the point I want to hit home with you here, is that if you can not control an aspect of your life (for example, people’s opinions, or the outcome of a situation), why would you (also, why should you) continue to concern yourself with it, or care about it? I know first-hand that it can be really hard to not concern yourself with what people think about you, but by concerning yourself with an outcome or an aspect of your life which you have no control over, this will only bring you more stress, anxiety and worry. The outcome will be whatever the outcome will be – all you can do is try to be a good human and try to do your best throughout the process leading up to the outcome.

Credit – Giphy

Of course I get it – there are many facets in your life that you cherish and you care about and by extension have or don’t have control over, but there’s a fine line between caring and caring too much. If caring too much is making you feel at fault or guilty for things that you have no reason to feel at fault or guilty for, then release thy grip on giving thy shit.

Key Take Away:

In the most respectful way I can say this – Care less and Chill out – about work, about your critical inner voice who holds you back from doing what you want to do, about people’s opinions of your very valid, very sacred hopes, dreams, decisions, opinions, choices, and especially about if you mess up (because it will continue to happen – welcome to the realm of being a flawed human, here’s your membership card).

Solution 4. Give Your Fault a Deadline, then Let It Go

Alternative Title: Leave Your Fault in the Dust

Credit – Giphy

Recognizing and owning up to when you are actually at fault within a situation can be humbling, but to be able to forgive yourself for being at fault, to make peace with it and to be able to move forward, is where true empowerment lies.

Let’s say you’ve found yourself in a situation in which you are legitimately at fault – i’m not talking made up fault in your head, or something out of your control which went poorly, which you then internalize as your fault – i’m talking, you f****d up. Thereafter, you’ve addressed the person and/or the situation directly, you’ve taken the steps to right the wrongs, you’ve asked the other person how you can make amends, you’ve expressed remorse and you’ve apologized. As far as i’m concerned, all of the core components of a respectful make up process have been completed.

If you still feel at fault after the situation has been resolved, I suggest giving your feelings of fault a deadline. You can’t allow yourself to continue to live in the past if the situation has been addressed and resolved. However, this is not always an easy thing to do when you are someone who tends to feel a lot of fault, or even someone who overthinks. The deadline can be however far in the future you want – it’s ultimately up to you however long you need. So long as you take the time before your self-imposed deadline to recognize your feelings associated with the fault and to make peace with those feelings. Once the deadline has come and gone, the fault stays behind with that deadline, and you move forward, with a peaceful and clear mind and conscience.

Credit – Giphy

Key Take Away:

Recognize when you are legitimately at fault, feel remorseful/bad/sorry/sad whatever other emotion you need to express and/or experience to work through the process, make amends as best you can, give yourself a deadline if needed, then move on for your sake.

Solution 5. Be Mindfully Present in Conversations

Alternative Title: Avoid ‘Boy Who Cried’ Wolf Behavior

Apologies are often (or, are) a by-product of feelings of fault.

I messed up + I am at fault = I should apologize

But as I touched upon last week, sometimes feeling of fault come about when we have no reason to feel at fault – when we haven’t messed up or done anything to warrant those feelings. Then the equation may look more like this:

I messed up + I am at fault = I should apologize

I am one of those individuals who apologizes excessively, or who apologizes for things which don’t warrant an apology.

I realized that as I became more excessive in apologizing, the less legitimate the act of apologizing and the apology itself became – it became less valuable. It’s a boy who cried wolf lesson in apologetic behavior – the more I apologized and tossed my “sorry” around, the less the apology carried true weight, and the less meaningful it felt when I apologized for something which I was legitimately at fault for.

Credit – Giphy

At the beginning of 2020, I made it one of my goals to say sorry less, to gradually reduce the times I find myself apologizing for things which do not need an apology; a goal i’m glad to report I have stuck with. I became more mindful of what I was about to say before I said it, I changed my responses so sorry wasn’t my default. As I became more mindful of when I said sorry, I also found myself being more present in conversations with others. Because I no longer allowed myself to run on apology auto-pilot, I had to ensure I was attentive to what others were asking of me or were saying. Only then was I able to focus on if my apology in the moment was really warranted (no Joyce I haven’t seen the copy room stapler, I ain’t apologizing because I haven’t seen it.).

Key Takeaway:

Be mindfully present in conversations – don’t zone out. Recognize there is power within an apology, but there is also power in playing a conscious role in knowing when to say it.

I hope you will find these solutions helpful – even just the act of writing them out for you has helped me so much and I thank you for reading. If you have solutions which you use in your own time to counter feelings of fault or guilt, feel free to share them in the comments below!