How to cope with sadness?

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When that dark cloud hits, it can get really hard to find shelter before the downpour. The purpose of the month is to find (and test) ways that help a depression-inclined person like myself to overcome the sadness.

What have I learned so far?

1. Find a hobby that takes you outside

I went through a period when I made postcards from scratch. It was nice, and did take my mind off things but it’s nothing in comparison with walking with my camera, searching for viewpoints that are beautiful enough to be captured.

Bird in-flight, Belfast

Bird in-flight, Belfast

2. Trick yourself into exercising

The first advice you get when you’re going through depression is to exercise. Which is all fine and dandy but how can one force oneself to exercise when some days it’s not even possible to leave the bed?

One solution is of course, going to work. There’s really not much we can do about it, if we want to eat, we need to work. And if we’re out of that effing door, we might as well walk.

Dublin, War Memorial Gardens

Dublin, War Memorial Gardens

I don’t drive so I suppose that helps me because I just get off the tram a stop earlier and walk the rest. It’s not much but it saves the money and gets me into the mindset.

The other option is to keep on the money-saving track. Instead of paying for transportation, use the free one: legs or the more enjoyable (and faster) bicycle. I don’t know about you but I personally hate wasting money if it’s not necessary and my budget is grateful for every little relief.

And as it turns out, cycling is still fun!

3. Cut out the people that make you feel bad

Even if it’s not their fault (and I acknowledge that more often than not that is the case), it’s better to let them go.

It can be hard, especially if they’re a prominent member of a community you’re part of, but it’s not impossible. What is important though is not to do it bitterly. Which is hard. But the point is, no matter whose “fault” it is, where the feelings originate from, they end up making ME sad.

Belfast murals

Belfast murals

I recently closed down one of my dedicated twitter accounts for a break because there were so many people there who make me upset or even angry. I can’t change their behaviour. I can’t avoid them so I chose the only possible option: avoid the whole community. And it really made a difference.

4. Make plans to look forward to

One of the things depression does to you is that it makes you feel like there’s no way out. Nothing will ever change, it’ll always be dark so what’s the point of it all?

It’s harder to think that way when there are already organised events coming up that make me feel happy. Like a concert. Or even better a concert with a weekend trip with like-minded people. A trip around the southern tip of Ireland. Planning a special visit to Barcelona to give my brother the birthday of a lifetime.

I think the trick is to have them spread over a period of time, not too far away. For me, it works better to have more smaller trips than less longer ones. (I know experts usually advice for the latter but they’re not the experts in me, are they?) And I’ve been blessed to be able to afford them right now so nothing’s stopping me to dream, plan, organise and go!

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Have you tried any of these yourself or what’s your favourite way of finding that shelter before the dark cloud swallows you entirely?

Etienne, the bike

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About 3 years ago we met. He was standing proud among his brothers and sisters, waiting for someone to see how special he was and to take him home. And that someone was me.

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Etienne himself

 

Yes, Etienne is a bike but since I was a kid my bikes were always more than that. They were my secret getaway to a place where I was freer, faster, stronger, more mobile. They always brought the best out of me and I tried to do the same with them.

Etienne unfortunately wasn’t so lucky. He had to endure rain and snow, cold and warm mostly without any protection, standing in the yard, waiting for me getting back to him after the first couple months of honeymoon. He had to wait 2.5 years.

But wait he did and despite of age and wear he and me had a smashing day on Sunday. We were back in the same place of companionship in no time. Look at all the fun we’ve had!

Standing by one of the many Irish murals of West Belfast

Standing by one of the many Irish murals of West Belfast

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In the Belfast City Cemetery, among old, forgotten graves

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Peeking by the bushes

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Waiting for the photoshoot to finish by the tree

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With the celtic cross

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Lighting up this sad corner of the cemetery

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Resting by the wall of the Jewish section

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Getting tired

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In the Remembrance Garden

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With Bobby Sands and co

 

 

June: Develop strategies for coping

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Another month in the journey to a happier life and this one focuses on coping techniques.

Coping, I guess, has different levels from surviving to thriving and is not only completely individual but varies from what stage we are in our lives. Writing, of course, is one of the main ones. Journalling, fiction, even non-fiction sometimes helps to work out any issues I’m facing.

But recently I’ve found a new area: visual stories.

My biggest joy in life is to observe, process and connect the dots. Words are my first love (and likely they’ll be my last) but convey thoughts through a different medium is refreshing. Photography also forces me to get out of the house, to take a deep look at the world around me and to see how beautiful it is.

Bird in-flight, Belfast

Bird in-flight, Belfast

It’s the summer in Ireland, everything’s blooming with intense colours (you wouldn’t how many shades of green there are until you really look), everyone welcomes the sun with a deep smile that knows that Irish summers don’t last long.

Stephen's Green, Dublin

Stephen’s Green, Dublin

Even these short past weeks I see how beneficial this new hobby will be: I’m taking long walks, I’m looking people in the eye and still don’t feel exposed. It’s not about me and I’m glad.

Stay tuned for more picture-related coping during the month.

Love,

Andrea

May…

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May…

May was about relationships according the big masterplan and it’s no wonder I kept quiet. I’m a naturally lonely person, I’ve no inclination to always be surrounded by people and noise but the past years even I can see that I went far in cutting people out of my life. And in all honesty, I didn’t do much this month to get them back.

Hence the silence. I couldn’t talk about relationships when all I could do was keep hiding from them. There’s so much I can talk about without doing…

Before you think I’m heartless, I’m not. I care deeply but that also means that I hurt deeply, too. So I protect myself from the pain by hiding away.

I recently realised that lack of unconditional love when I was little came back biting me in the ass*: I cannot believe that anyone can or would want to care for me. Which results in me looking for constant reassurance that people care. No-one is able to provide that kind of reassurance constantly. It’s exhausting. I can see that. In my head.

I’m still looking for it in my heart though. Can’t stop it.

This is a constant struggle between my head and my heart and I didn’t grow strong enough to take this to other people. I was planning to and I have to be fair: the circumstances were less than ideal for me to take this step. But sometimes one needs to take that leap of faith without being sure of the outcome. And I couldn’t do it this month.

If you’ve any good practices to overcome this, I’d love to hear. In any case, I hope you had a great month!

Love,

Andrea

*I wanna make it clear: I’m not blaming my parents, I’m just stating a fact. I know how much shit they had to go through on their own and I know they did their best. But that complete love people talk about when it comes to mothers and fathers? I don’t know what that means.

A to Z Reflection Post

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April was not only dedicated to the topic of kindness but was also busy with the A to Z Challenge. Now that it’s officially May, it’s time for some reflection on how it all went.

(If you’ve read the post on Music and Words and are only interested in the specific stats about this blog, skip to “Increase Readership”.)

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What did I learn during the month?

As kindly asked by the organisers let me go through some of the learning points of the challenge. I participated with 3 of my blogs: apart from this one The Script Bible and The Road to Happiness and I also volunteered as an assistant to one of the organisers, Nicole. With the challenge my goal was:

  • to stress myself with the regularity of posting daily
  • to increase readership on the blog
  • to build connections on twitter
  • to have fun reading otherwise non-related blogs

So how did I do?

Posting regularly

I started to plan the posts WAAAY in advance. Had the topics nailed and almost all the post titles as well. But then as a major procrastinator, the actual writing of the posts didn’t happen in advance despite of all the plans. I wrote most of them on the day or the day before or sometimes a couple days in advance. But in April.

There were some delays and combined postings but all in all, all letter was managed to be included. In retrospect if I’ll do multiple blogs again, advanced scheduling would make my life a lot less hectic.

 

Increase readership

As my blog is only 5 months old, my total views according to wordpress statistics is 631. Out of which 311, ie close to 50% happened in April. I’m happy with that.

I received 53 comments in April which constitutes of 45% of all comments on this site. In April 24 people decided to follow the blog, which is almost 40% of all followers and there was some more right before the challenge begun.

I think the topic resonated with a lot of the readers even though it was my main blog, Music and Words that appeared on the vast majority of my comments.

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Twitter connections

Before April set off I created a list for bloggers on twitter and it now has 81 members. This includes everyone, active or inactive. I also took part in one of the AZchats which was a great way of touching base with the other tweeters. I think that was one of the new things in the challenge that has a lot of potential for later years, maybe extending it to other social media platforms.

Reading non-related blogs

Although I didn’t read other blogs every day, when I did, I went way over the average 5 – it’s hard to stop once you start. I found blogs in 4 ways:

  • those who commented/followed my blogs
  • those who used the hashtag on twitter
  • those who were assigned to me as an assistant
  • randomly selected ones from the list

labyrinth-wallpaper-1-1024x768This last one was great fun. I used random.org to give me numbers which I then looked up on the list and read their latest post. I’ve found it so enjoyable, I plan to do it later as well! 🙂

The organising

I really liked the emphasis on the connections and the support to lesser visited blogs this year, I think it’s absolutely great. I haven’t read all the posts on the main blog but visited it at least twice a week. Some posts I enjoyed, some posts were useful, (some both!) and I think everyone found something for their own style. I was surprised the organising blogs didn’t receive more of the limelight but I think it’s the style of the challenge: it’s not about the few but about the many. I think some kind of discussion forum would be great so that bloggers in similar areas and/or with similar topics could connect. The overall noise of social media doesn’t really allow discussions like that. I’ve also found that writing blogs dominate the challenge, I hope that this can be perhaps expanded. I think the greatest asset of the challenge is its’ flexibility though and I’m glad it could be maintained all these years.

Next steps

All my favourite wordpress blogs are saved in my readers and twitter and G+ will be essential in keeping in touch with those on blogger. I’m a little worried that that will be more difficult, haven’t found a proper solution for collecting blogs from that platform. (All ideas welcome.)

The blogs themselves will continue their lives as usual, My Road To Happiness with focusing on Relationships, The Script Bible on youtube and spotify, and on the Music and Words I’m trying to connect music and writing with weekly tracks as prompts for short pieces. Anyone is welcome to join as a participant and of course as a most precious reader!

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If you haven’t, get in touch on twitter or on G+ as well.

Thank you again for accompanying me on this journey this year, hope you all had fun here and on other blogs and looking forward to read you soon!

Special thanks of course to Arlee and the co-hosts!

Love,

Andrea

 

 

 

Kindness Zone

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ZThe City of Angels Camp was Proclaimed an official Kindness Zone on February 17, 1995. Last year Ireland’s Cork organised The Random Acts of Kindness festival with its Kindness Zone. These are some of the examples to show that we and our community needs this positive approach. We all need kindness in our lives. And it’s totally up to us to decide where OUR kindness zone starts and finishes, who do we involve and for how long.

I’m not gonna say that the bigger the better because we can’t all sustain a large number of relationships – but I am saying that this zone needs to exist in a conscious way for every one us.

Here’s to every one of us striving in that zone and helping others to do the same.

And the next step on my journey is “to nurture social relationships” – I look at it as extending my kindness zone. Stay with me once or twice a week in May for this experience.

Love,

Andrea

Your kindness

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Just a quick post to say that your kind presence and activity on this blog means the world. It feels like I’ve company on this journey of self-improvement and even though we can’t possible walk the same path, it’s nice to see you waving over from yours. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

 

 

And if we’re at thank you’s I also wanna give a grateful shoutout to the creator of the A to Z Challenge, Arlee and all the co-hosts of this year.

Arlee Bird @ Tossing it Out
Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh
Author Stephen Tremp
Tina @ Life is Good
Damyanti@Amlokiblogs
Jeremy @ Being Retro
Nicole Ayers – The Madlab Post
M. J. Joachim’s Writing Tips
Heather M. Gardner
AJ @ Naturally Sweet
Pam @ An Unconventional Librarian

Special thanks to Nicole at The Madlab Post and her Mighty Minions Bureau that I was part of.

I really hope that some of you will stick around and we can continue our journey together.

Thank you for the past 30 days!

Love,

Andrea

The extra mile

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The extra mile

Every customer service training emphasizes the importance of going that extra mile for the customers and there are many businesses who utilise the personal aspects of social media to be informed about extra needs their customers may have.

Here Guardian brings up many examples but this is my favourite:

At Kiel House Stores in the village of Dinas Cross in Pembrokeshire, owners Phil and Meinir Simpson are so well known in their community for their kind ways, they’ve won awards. The shopkeepers have run the busy convenience store for the past nine years, and have picked up awards including Independent Achievers Academy Top 100, singling them out as one of the best 100 independent shops in the UK.

“Our customers are usually the same people most days,” says Simpson, “and, within quite an aged village, if some of the customers don’t come in we pop over and see if they’re OK, or we phone a neighbour. I’ve got one lady who lives on her own who is very shortsighted so I deliver her goods and read the paper to her and do her correspondence.”

As well as delivering to the elderly at no extra cost, they also advertise local events, support local charities and are first responders who go to the aid of someone if a personal alarm is set off.

The pair often find themselves mowing lawns, walking dogs, and putting up curtains. “We do jobs like that if we can. We just like to be helpful,” he says. “It does help the business and makes you part of the community. You get the feelgood factor if you can help someone, it puts you on a bit of a high.”

From suspended coffee to personal gifts, gift certificates to free products, there are many organisations who follow that example. (Read another list here.) It’s no surprise: as this personal account shares, it’s good for business, too.

Have you ever been on the receiving or giving end of that extra mile?

Wounds vs kindness

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Wounds vs kindness

It’s hard to write about kindness when I’m feeling wounded.

Here’s what Godwin Samararatne has to say about this:

Human beings carry what I call wounds; wounds created by what you have done to others, and wounds created by what others have done to you. I think everyone here, including myself, can relate to this. What happens with some human beings is that they continue to carry these wounds within themselves. So if you carry these wounds within without healing them you can create suffering for yourself and suffering for others, without knowing that the suffering is in relation to the wounds you are carrying.

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With these unhealed wounds we cannot live peacefully, we cannot sleep peacefully, and we cannot die peacefully. Therefore it is extremely important to learn to heal these wounds. Meditation of loving-kindness can help us to heal these wounds by learning to forgive ourselves and learning to forgive others. Forgive ourselves by realising that we are only human. Forgive others by realising that they are only human too. Also learning to let go of the wounds by realising that they happened in the past. We cannot change the past, so why should we carry the past as a burden to create more and more suffering for ourselves and others in the present? (Read the full speech here, it’s worth it.)

I hear ya universe. Message received. And you, little vainglorious woman, who hurt me, you’re forgiven. I’m not carrying you with me any more. Quoting Godwin once again:

I forgive you: may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free of suffering.

Love,

Andrea

Vanity vs kindness

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Vanity vs kindness

Kindness is about putting others first, even for a second, vanity is when we expect others to put us first.

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Vanity can be dangerous. Obsessing about what others think can lead to paths we would’ve never chosen for ourselves.

 

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Giving and receiving is not a trade. Don’t expect balance. Giving is up to you. Receiving is out of your hands.

Love,

Andrea