Riding the Emotional Roller Coaster!

I’m not afraid to write my feelings in songs. ~ Taylor Swift

Image Source: Wakeuptiger.blogspot.ca
http://wakeuptiger.blogspot.ca/2012/03/feelings.html

Thanks to adjustments in my seizure meds, I have been riding the emotional lability roller coaster lately (so to speak). Emotional lability – sounds…weird, right?

Here is a dictionary definition:
emotional lability – a condition of excessive emotional reactions and frequent mood changes.

Sounds almost benign, eh? Well here is a description that is a little more apt:
The symptoms of emotional lability might vary among individuals and in frequency of occurrence. Fits of laughter or crying jags are two examples. Some people do evidence this most with explosive tempers, and there can be instances where people will experience all three emotionally excessive expressions at varied times. When these expressions occur, it’s often daunting for the people undergoing them because many people know that their emotional response is in excess to the circumstances. It can even get embarrassing for some individuals or be a condition that makes them withdraw socially. (source: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-emotional-lability.htm)

So what bring this on? It can be a symptom of degenerative brain disorders like multiple sclerosis. It can also be a side effect of some medications.

In my case, it seems to be a bit of both going on – MS-fatigue induced lability, as well as Seizure Med induced labaility! Erg.

In recent weeks I have become more weepy off and on, with the weepiness triggered by …well, sometimes absolutely nothing, …and at other times, triggered by stuff that should either make me furious or make me just go “awe…how sweet”!

In order to sort it out, I have taken a bit of time off work (doc ordered), because the high stress at work from the effects of cutbacks and such has become quite toxic. So, once off work, the stress lessened, especially as my sleep increased significantly…but the crying continued! Ack! This time, the crying was happy crying, from Mother’s day and such. But the waterworks would not turn off! (Very frustrating to me, but highly amusing to my family!)

As I have gotten more sleep with long afternoon naps, I have become much more tear-free. Go figure, eh? It would seem that somewhere along the way, I put my need to seriously manage my MS fatigue level to the bottom of my priority list…and my body responded this time not by dropping me with a serious seizure, but by making my emotions rise to the surface in the form of weepiness! Somewhere along the way I had forgotten the importance of me taking the rest I need when I need it – and, ironically, the privilege of being accommodated for working from home was making me feel guilty for taking that rest. Stupid, eh?

You see, one of my seizure meds has a known side effect of weepiness and crying. While I had managed to keep it under control for a while, the change in meds, combined with the very high stress at work, and my growing deep fatigue, seemed to have led to the teary times being more than I could manage.  And while one doc wants to put me on an anti-depressant to counter the side effect of the other med, another doc on my team wants me to stay off antidepressants, and lower the seizure drug dose, while upping a different seizure drug.

Talk about russian roullette, eh?? But the positive in all of this? I have not had a siezure in over a year now – despite the high stress! Given that high stress (psitive or negative stress) seemed to be a possible trigger for my seizure, this lack of seizures to date hopefully means that the seizure meds are working.

So, in the scheme of things…what’s a few tears here and there, eh??

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” ~ Alan Watts

Namaste

Carolyne

PS – This Bruno Mars’ video says it all…

Back in the Saddle: Keeping Life Balance Despite the Challenges

“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” -Bikram Choudhury

Sometimes, the stresses of life can throw you off balance in unexpected ways! I myself have been “off my game” for the past few weeks, basically suffering from “home-office-presenteeism-itis”. What does THAT mean? It means that sometimes the stresses associated with working at home (as per my health accommodations) can take up residence in the sanctuary of my home and continue the stress that normally I would LEAVE at work. That is the tricky part of working at home as a way to accommodate your health – figuring out how to keep them separate, while still being passionate about your hobbies and other life-balance tools. And no matter what – your health factors in as a very high priority issue!

You see, my home office includes my official work station, but it also includes my personal connection station to the world (including this blog, etc). In recent weeks, the stress at work due to cutbacks has become so high and so toxic that is has leaked into my home sanctuary. In order to deal with the stress of the office, I closed my door by the end of the day on Fridays, and just could not face even the idea of going back into that room until the following Monday. I spent my weekends recovering from the stress and the toll it took on my MS and overall health, including the worry that the stress load could trigger a major seizure event. (Thankfully, so far so good – no seizure!) Good strategy, right?

Yes and no.

What that shutting of the door meant was that I was shutting out the workplace stress. But the secondary effect was that I could not muster up the desire to come in and sit down to write my blog – which a positive tool in my life. It meant that part of my coping mechanism for managing my health became “inaccessible” to me – because I just needed to be away from the “work” part. I worried that I might become a full-on practitioner of presentee-ism in my blog if I chose to write when I could not stomach the idea of being in the office area. What is presentee-ism? Lemme tell you…here is a definition:

Presentee-ism: When employees come to work not mentally present due to an illness, extreme family/life pressures or stress, they are not giving themselves adequate time to get better.

While I do not consider my blogging a chore in any way, the thought of being in my office over the weekend hours considering the amount of work-stress faced daily during the week was just not something I was/am willing to tolerate. I just could not stomach the idea of being in my office, my place of work, on my personal time. I needed an emotional rest on weekends away from anything work-related – because the idea of going into my office made me physically ill. But this in itself caused stress, because blogging is a joy for me – so my joy was being affected! Catch-22!

So – what to do about it? Well – I have decided I need to re-organize my time in a better way so that my joys can be protected from the toxic spillover of stresses from my workplace. Work stress is a fact of life. Chronic Illness such as MS is exacerbated by stress – and boy, have I felt that in recent weeks. Establishing a balance is critical, especially at these times of extreme work stress – working from home can make that balance even more of a challenge to find, and even more of a challenge to maintain!

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

So – I will keep trying to find the balance, and keep on blogging about this and other life challenges and successes. Life is a series of ups and downs…and there is ALWAYS something to learn!

Namaste

Carolyne

When the Best-Laid Plans Fall…

“Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.” -Unknown

Isn’t it just the way that when you think you have planned for everything, accommodated your health in all forseeable ways, something changes your best-laid plans?

This December, I did my best to make sure my life was as balanced as possible as I wanted to maximize my ability to enjoy the season and keep active. I kept my workload (while high) manageable by setting boundaries and “rules” regarding my cellphone, email, and travel. I planned very carefully around a late December business trip to Ottawa-Gatineau, fully determined to ensure maximum health accommodation so that there would be minimal health fall-out. I used my cane in the airports as docs suggested, exercised at the hotel every evening (cardio then yoga) and took the mornings a bit slower before my meetings, ensuring maximum stress management. I made sure my holiday prep and shopping was done slowly over the course of December. I ensured minimal commitment to functions in order to give my health the play it might need. But even so, by Boxing Day, I found myself pretty well bed-ridden, dealing with some of the worst days of “brain bursts of sensation and light” and spinning vertigo in a long time.

So – what happened? Well, for one thing, turbulence happened. Turbulence in the air, specifically. I am rapidly discovering that flying during winter months can throw a significant wrench into things for me. I don’t really know if it is as a result of the severe concussion damage I still have from my first seizure episode a few years age, or from the temporal lobe (same one) lesion/tumour which triggers my seizures, or if it simply a matter of medication and/or menopause that just does not function well in a pressurized cabin with turbulence. Or – was it a case of seizures trying to happen, but meds not letting it? I dunno…No matter what the cause – it blind-sided me and changed my plans.

My plans to come home from my business in Ottawa and write a personal pre-holiday season blog were blown away – replaced by a foggy and slightly woozy brain. My plans to do yoga and get some extra cardio in so I could indulge were blown away – replaced by the need to ensure my own personal safety by not jumping on a moving treadmill nor moving my body into yoga positions that put my balance and spinal safety at risk. (Even simply moving forward at a rate faster than a tortoise sends my brain spinning!)

After a sufficient period of self-pity, where I whined and bemoaned my plight of being, for all intents and purposes, physically immobilized by my brain, I flipped into my usually optimism and looked at it for what it was – another learning opportunity.

I learned that winter air travel can really sucker-punch my brain by making things a bit woozy and “squishy” in there. I learned that sometimes it can be a blessing to lie in bed with a TV remote and watch Discovery Channel marathons, or Ancient Aliens, or other fun things. I learned that deadlines can be missed and the world keeps on trucking. And I learned that I really hate being foggy and dizzy! (Well, I already knew that one.)

I learned that the best laid plans can go awry, no matter how well laid out, but that the world continues to move forward, and it usually all turns out just fine.

Happy Holidays!

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.  ~Peg Bracken

Namaste

Carolyne

Blown Away in December!

“Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest as it happens.” -Epictetus

This past number of days has been a series of days in which I have been blown away, both literally and figuratively!

I have been taking studies in change management, innovation, engagement and making change work. My mind has been figuratively blown away by new concepts, old concepts, developing theories and studies, evolving knowledge, and deepening passions as a result. (The scientist and self-researcher in me was enthralled!)

In addition, I have been physically blown away but one heckuva good winter storm that ripped roofs of building, dumped loads of water on us, and actually blew me 10 feet across an intersection! Roads were closed, buildings were closed, and power went out.  (The geeky meteorologist in me was absolutely thrilled by all that!) I was so grateful that my footing was strong thanks to my yoga practice. Before yoga, I would have been swept off my feet onto my butt with the inability to balance and feel strong on my feet.

What a crazy, busy couple of weeks!

It all made me start thinking more about how the busy-ness of the holiday season can also blow us away – by overwhelming our abilities to handle all the holiday bustle, the commitments, the emotional ups and downs, the temptations, and so on. It can be a period of emotional joy, upheaval, or sadness. It can be fun, boring, or painful. It all depends on your own personal perspective and experience.

When we are managing our health in the midst of all this bustle, we can easily forget our own needs – such as medications, exercise, stress management. We might take on too much in the excitement of the season – doing more baking or committing more time to activities that overwhelm us if we don’t take car to maintain a fine balance. Routines get blown away – and even our resolve can get blown away.

When managing a chronic illness like MS, it is really important to make sure you take time to rest. Take the moments when you can – even if your routine is blown away.

Here are a few Tips and Tricks for Not getting “Blown Away” over the holidays:

  • Take a moment in the midst of a party or social function to sit and simply breathe and regain some energy. Focus on your yogic deep breathing in order to refresh yourself and reduce fatigue levels. Do this for 5-10 breaths to refind your inner calm.
  • Practice yoga for at least 15 minutes each day. Even if the only pose you practice is Savasanah (Corpse pose, or Relaxation Pose), spend that 15 minutes like it is the most precious 15 minutes of your entire day!
  • Don’t be afraid to put yourself first and say “no” when you feel the need.
  • Smile!

“Life is so great that we only get a tiny moment to enjoy everything we see. And that moment is right now.” -Neil Pasricha

Namaste y’all

Carolyne

Emotions are Catchy: Managing Emotional Overload during Stressful Times

“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” -Etty Hillesum

Have you ever noticed that if you are hanging out with happy people, you often “catch” their mood and become happier, too? Or conversely, you start out in a great mood, then after some time with a grumpy colleague or friend who is negative, your own spirits tank to some degree? You’re feeling good at work until your grumbling co-worker comes in, complaining and criticizing endlessly – soon, you’re doing it too. On the flip-side, perhaps you’ve felt your sad, anxious, or lonely mood lift when your kids or significant other comes home, laughing happy and upbeat. That’s because emotions are contagious!

“Emotional contagion”.  Sounds serious, doesn’t it?? Simply put, it is a term specialists use when emotions “spread” from person to person, influencing the moods and behaviors of others. “Second-hand Stress or Depression.” Sounds like it should be part of a warning system on something – like the Canadian cigarette packs of today. Research in other fields is beginning to suggest that, like cigarette smoke, secondhand stress may be more harmful than we’d realized. (Second-Hand Stress)

Generally speaking, the people most likely to cause you secondhand stress or depression are those closest to you — your spouse, kids, parents, co-workers that you see every day — since their problems have direct, as well as indirect, impacts on you.The more you identify with a person, the closer you are to them, the more likely you are to catch the emotion. Most of the time, we are not even aware it is happening. As we develop our personal self-awareness, we can become adept at recognizing it sooner.

Personally, I came to a conscious awareness of how deeply second-hand stress and depression was affecting me when I have a catastrophic technical break-down that forced me to change up my daily routine for a bit. Workplace stress and staff cutbacks had created a very depressing and stressed atmosphere that was affecting me, making me feel unmotivated, disengaged, tired, and frustrated – but it was compounded by some family health issues with depression and anxiety at home. After the technical breakdown forced me have to go into the office daily for a week, rather than my usual working from home accommodation for my health, I was anticipating that I would become even more stressed, fatigued, and demotivated. Interestingly enough – that did not happen. After 2 days at the office, surrounded by colleagues who have a naturally positive outlook and approach similar to mine, my mood lifted greatly. My work stress, while still there, felt lighter. Physically, yes – I was exhausted. But emotionally and mentally – I was jazzed.

So what happened?? Well – it was a combination of things. Firstly, at home, I was in the daily presence of my significant other who was going through a personal crisis and dealing with resultant clinical depression. Secondly, at work, two close colleagues who work with me took advantage of the fact that I was on site, and we spent a lot of time working together and getting things done (amidst a lot of laughter and goofiness) that might otherwise have taken longer remotely. So, basically – there had been an on-going drain on my emotional energy, and not enough positive re-filling. The change in my daily routine allowed me to recognize clearly what was happening – I was emotionally overloaded, and not all the emotional overload originated within me. Subsequently, I have made some changes (mostly in my own attitude) and my stress levels and mood are much better!

So how can we stop from catching someone else’s negative emotions – the “carriers”? Conversely, how can we recognise when we, ourselves, are the emotional contagion carriers?

Developing emotional awareness (source: gaiam.com)

  • Notice and name your emotions. Stop and spend a few minutes experiencing the emotions in your body. Notice what you’re feeling physically and then name the emotion. Don’t judge what you’re feeling, or change it. Just learn to recognize it.
  • Figure out where your mood is coming from. If you’re experiencing powerful emotions, like anger, consider where the emotional energy is coming from. Could it be residual emotion from a mood you were infected with hours ago? Identifying where your mood originates — for example, a sad mood could be a result of spending the day with a depressed friend — can keep us from misdirecting our emotions later.
  • Raise the feeling. Take time before any interaction to tune in to your emotions and shift them in a more positive direction. Try a quick gratitude exercise. Or set an intention for a patient, kind interaction with the person you’ll soon be meeting. Do something to generate good feelings or temper the bad ones so you have something positive to share.
  • Practice non-attachment. Meditate or do yoga to reduce the stress levels. Acknowledge where you are without judgment. Acknowledge what is yours, and what may not originate with you. Let go of what is not yours. Simply observe what is yours without condemnation.

Keep that in mind that the Holiday Season stresses build with the approaching festivities. The Holiday Season can be an especially stressful time, especially for those of us balancing holiday commitments and personal energy issues as a result of managing chronic illness.

When you keep in mind that emotional contagion is always at work at some level or another, positive or negative, you can automatically diffuse its power and become more aware of the emotions you’re both experiencing and sharing with the world.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” -Hermann Hesse

Namaste y’all!

Carolyne