The Beupstry

There are plenty of places online to be down. This isn't one of them.

You can change. You’re probably changing right now.

Like all people, I have a set of stories I tell myself about myself.

  • “I’m bad at arithmetic but good at calculus” (no, really! Can’t add, but good at higher math)
  • “I’m no good at taking photographs”
  • “I’m quick to learn new things in general”

One of the most counter-productive stories I tell myself, though, is that I tell myself that “I’m incapable of making changes in my behaviour that stick”

The reality is that that’s not true for any of us. Hell, if you want proof, think of a habit of yours that you’d like to get rid of and see how it’s cemented over the years – maybe it’s eating junk food, watching tv from dinner until bed every night, or drinking more than you’re comfortable with. Let’s say you started out by only drinking on special occasions or weekends and now find yourself having wine with dinner every night. Even if you don’t WANT to be doing that, congratulations! You’ve just proved that your behaviour is capable of being modified!

Now, you may say “well, I didn’t PLAN for that change, it just happened”. It’s probably true that you didn’t plan that change, but there were things in your environment that nudged you in that direction and Lo! Change!

Part of how I reinforce my belief that I can’t make any long-lasting change in my behaviour is that I cherrypick the start & end date of whatever behaviour I’m considering. There’s some natural tendency to do that – we think of ‘starting’ a new behaviour and ‘stopping it’.

But there’s another way to think about it. A way that’s a bit less self-defeating. A way so that you can be easier on yourself.

Here’s a graphical representation of what life looks like (humour me – I’m working with limited built-in icons or there would be TV & computer in there for sure).

Activities

It’s a funny old thing, life.

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Go The F*** To Sleep!

Last Thursday night at about 8pm, I realized that I was zonked. Not sure who whacked me with the sleepy stick, but I was out. I went to bed at 9pm and didn’t wake up until 10am the next day! I felt GREAT on Friday. That is, until about 11pm or so when I realized that I must have used up all my sleep for the week and was probably not getting to sleep anytime soon.

And I didn’t. I kept hoping that I would fall asleep EVENTUALLY so I stayed in bed, tossing & turning (which I’m sure was delightful for the person sleeping next to me). I had a miserable night, and an equally miserable Saturday. I felt really low and hopeless and generally blah. If you had asked me yesterday whether I felt like I could achieve ANY of my goals for this year, or any goals for the rest of my life, my gut response would have been “I cannot imagine how that would be possible.”

 

GoTheFuckToSleep

 

I had to explicitly remind myself that I didn’t feel that way because of any external change in circumstance, but just because I hadn’t gotten the sleep I need. It was tough, but it did help me through the day and today (after a pretty good night’s sleep) I’m back to being hopeful and working on the things I want to do with my life.

Think about that – my real-world circumstances were not materially different on Friday than they were on Saturday* – the thing that had changed so much was me and my perception of my world. And THAT was purely driven by lack of sleep.

One of my goals for this year is to take much better care of my physical self (I’ve got goals around mental/emotional self too, but I’m actually pretty happy with the progress I’ve been making there – I’ll be writing about that as well). It took me a lot of years to realize that my emotional well-being and state of mind was so tightly coupled to how well rested I was, but I get it now. Some people figure that out by taking a journaling/quantified-self approach, others just wake up one morning and realize it. I’ve never been much of a self-measurer, so my approach was to work on being mindful of how I felt & to look for alternate explanations that didn’t boil down to “everything sucks”. If you aren’t a metrics geek, you can end up despairing of ever making any changes in your life because the “MG”s around you tell you that you can’t change what you don’t measure. That’s not true. You may not change as quickly, and it may be harder to see changes but don’t you believe that you can’t change your perspective without a fitbit or a kanban board! Start paying attention & you’ll see.

There are plenty of online resources and tips on how to sleep better, but I want to share one I came up with on my own. When my head is cold, I fall (and stay) asleep much better. I have a couple of gel ice packs that I keep in the freezer and if I am having trouble falling asleep I get one & lay it across the top of my head. It really works!** Obviously, as you move around they don’t maintain perfect contact with your head, so I thought about building a cap that I could slip them into to hold them in place. It turns out that kind of cap already exists and is used for preventing hair loss during chemotherapy, so I could just buy one if I wanted to. But I don’t think I want to, because during the night, the gel absorbs heat from my head and ends up being a warm cap instead of a cold one. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I swap the current gel pack with the other one from the freezer. Boom. Back to sleep.

*OK, Friday was sunny and Saturday was grey and drizzly and while that definitely does play into my mood, it’s even wetter, colder, and grosser out there today and yet my perspective is up.

**This works most of the time but in past I have gotten so worried about not being able to fall asleep or not getting enough sleep that I stress myself out – making sleep impossible. I am fully supportive of using medical means to address that type of negative loop. I use over the counter Nytol to help me fall asleep when I need to and if I hit a long patch of sleep-associated anxiety I will go to the doctor to get sleeping pills. EVERYTHING in life is harder when you’re not getting the sleep you need. Do what you need to do for you.

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Welcome to the Beupstry

Welcome! I’m Kara – the founder of and (currently) sole contributor to The Beupstry!

Who are you?

I’m a person who has spent a lot of my life being either angry or depressed and I’ve finally woken up to the fact that we actually do only get one life, and that it’s finite, and that we have a surprising amount of choice in how we live it. I’ve previously chosen to be reactive, bitter, angry, and powerless but I’m finally starting to make some progress in changing that. And I have to tell you, it’s more fun not being those things.

What is this place?

This is where I’m going to talk about what I’m doing to change my attitude and how that actually has an impact on my life. There will some introspection on what I’m saying to myself and the techniques I’m using to pull myself out of the holes I end up in sometimes. I’ll also be covering and sharing other resources that I’ve found helpful for this change in trajectory.

Why would anyone want to read this?

Ah, the thought that keeps 99% of people from writing what they think online 🙂 Maybe you shouldn’t. That’s ok, this doesn’t have to be for everyone. But I also know that one of the things that kept me from really making a meaningful change in how I lived my life was that when I heard about things that other people had done to make themselves happier, I would tell myself:

“well, sure, that’s fine for those people, but it would never work for me”

There’s a whole lot of self-loathing wrapped up in that thought and it’s not necessarily true. Part of why you might want to read this is that I’m going to be sharing all the internal thoughts I have as well, and I would bet that many of them will sound familiar to a lot of you. And if you can see that someone with the same opinion of themselves that you have of yourself is managing to dig herself out of that painful, unhappy place, maybe it will help you. And that’s really the point of this site. I want to be happy, and I want to help you.

 

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