Balancing Positive and Negative Emotions

Today’s professional development day at school focused on Positive Education and how we can help our students and our communities to flourish. 

One of the aspects I found most thought-provoking was the discussion about positive or comfortable emotions and negative or uncomfortable emotions. It was particularly relevant to many of the things I have been experiencing and observing about life in recent weeks, and I want to share my observations and reflections on those things with you here.

Before I go any further, though, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not a medical or psychological expert or professional. I am, however, a high school teacher of 30 years’ experience, so I have had time and opportunity to make some observations about the things that happen in life and how we deal with them.

More personally, as someone who experiences chronic physical issues and mental health challenges, and who has experienced many conflicting emotions recently due to profound personal loss, I’m confident I know at least a little bit about dealing with adversity, and I’ve learned a few things about the importance of balancing negative emotions with positive ones. 

Both positive and negative emotions can be powerfully motivating.  Fear of failure or embarrassment is as strong, or stronger, in some people as desire for success is in others. 

Negative or uncomfortable emotions can motivate and fuel positive outcomes such as creativity, empathy, and relationship building.

Positive and negative emotions can actually be highly effectivecompanion emotions‘.  I don’t expect that this is a scientific term at all, but it seems to me a useful term that describes how contrasting emotions experienced at the same time can provide some healthy balance and perspective. 

I can testify from the past few weeks that gratitude can moderate grief, and enjoying a few quiet moments in the beauty of nature can transform abject misery into much gentler sadness.  

In different contexts, fear can be a healthy addition to awe or wonder – think of a child at the zoo, for example, for whom interest and desire to engage with the animals should always be balanced with both respect and a little fear or mistrust, so that the child and the animals all remain safe. In yet another situation, a little anxiety or nervousness can actually heighten deliberate preparation and performance if it is paired with intentional and thoughtful preparation, because it can stop one from making rushed or careless errors, or from taking success for granted. 

Life is not about always avoiding the feelings that make us uncomfortable or sad. Hoping to do so isn’t realistic at all, given that there are many situations that we can neither actually control or entirely avoid. 

Instead, it’s crucial that each of us learns to manage those negative or uncomfortable feelings and use the situations in which we encounter them to develop and consolidate our personal strengths and resilience.  Learning to look for the positives in life and choosing to find a balance for the negative experiences or emotions we encounter is how we grow and move forward in life. 

“Whether dealing with a major lifeshattering event or a small bump in the road, we can use gratitude to help boost our happiness and change our outlook. While gratitude won’t change our circumstances, experts say gratitude can change how we feel about them.”

Paula Felps in ‘Your Brain on Gratitude’ by Paula Felps 

That’s certainly what I’m seeking to do while working through my grief. It’s okay to take the time to mourn my losses, but I can’t afford to unpack and live there. Finding a constructive way through my pain will enable me to heal, and come out stronger at the other end. 

In being honest about how I feel and what I’m thinking in my posts on this blog, my hope is that my words will help and encourage someone else get through their personal challenges, whatever they are, and to deal with both their circumstances and their feelings.

I have no doubt that knowing we are not the only ones going through grief or pain or whatever trial it is that is burdening us actually helps us to start to heal. That’s why empathy and compassion are so powerful. That’s why the support and love of family and friends is what we yearn for and seek out when things are hard.  

Tonight, as I reflected on these ideas and considered the fact that I had no evidence for my inexpert assertions, I did find a number of articles that show my conclusions are consistent with current science and research surrounding emotional and mental health. 

Of those articles, some were quite wordy and far too academic to be accessible, but I did find two easily readable and very interesting pieces that discuss the ways in which positive emotions such as gratitude and self-compassion can help individuals deal with adverse situations more constructively.  They are:
‘Your Brain on Gratitude’ by Paula Felps via livehappy.com
’The Reason You Make Unhealthy Choices’ by Mandy Oaklander via time.com

“Being kind to yourself, as opposed to tearing yourself down, leads to fewer bad feelings and, in turn, healthier actions.”

Dr Fuschia Sirois, quoted in ’The Reason You Make Unhealthy
Choices’ by Mandy Oaklander
, via time.com September 25, 2014

Balancing Positive and Negative Emotions
#emotions #feelings #psychology #thoughts #reflection #personal #blogpost

Forwallowed.

Forwallowed is a very old, but very relevant, word.

image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

Having successfully incorporated ‘forswunk’ into my vocabulary and introduced it to my friends and family, I am delighted to have discovered another word equally useful as a fibromyalgia sufferer. 

Forwallowed’ is an archaic word from the 15th century that means ‘weary from tossing and turning all night’. 

Not only is it perpetually relevant to my life, it sounds and feels beautiful when spoken. 

It is one of those words that evokes the sadness and tiredness of the very feeling it expresses, both physically and mentally, almost like a form of emotional onomatopoeia.  

It seems so versatile and germane that I don’t understand why it ever fell out of fashion. Forwallowed is a wonderfully expressive word that deserves to be brought back into regular use.

Mission accepted. 

Forwallowed: an old but highly relevant word that deserves to be brought back.
#words #englishvocabulary #englishtips #vocabulary #blogpost

Vetiver Oil: A Grass Roots Therapy For Better Sleep

If you suffer with insomnia, or if you have trouble relaxing at night, you might find this post helpful.

An Aussie Maple Leaf, adrift on the wind...

One of my most consistent problems with sleeplessness is that I can be totally exhausted, but still unable to actually drop off to sleep. 

That’s mostly because of my fibromyalgia, but it is complicated by back pain on those nights when my pain relief medication fails to cut the mustard, as it sometimes does.

Because I know from past experience that prescription sleeping medication causes my whole system to lag, and because of the strong pain killers I need to take for my back as well as my fibro, I feel very strongly about not having those other drugs in my regime.

So,I recently visited my friendly local alternative health practitioner and asked, “What can you suggest to help me sleep?”

She suggested Vetiver Oil, diluted in fractionated coconut oil. The instructions say to apply it under both big toes and to the wrists, to inhale deeply on going to…

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How can insomnia be a good thing?

This post struck a chord with me. I hate my insomnia, but because of it, I have written some incredible poetry at 3am.

I do try to manage it, and to practise good sleep hygiene, but sometimes my pain levels and my brain conspire against me.

On those night when I am not able to write, I find listening to talkback radio, a podcast or an audiobook helps me to relax and and least rest while I am awake.

I’d love to know what works for you.

Fibromyalgia Explained.

Since I began posting about my experiences of Fibromyalgia, a number of friends have asked me to explain what it is. I always start with “I can really only tell you what it’s like for me…” 

I was recently introduced to a video by Dr Andrea Furlan, a pain specialist from Toronto, in which she explains the symptoms, possible causes and treatments for Fibromyalgia far better than I ever could. While some GPS are still fairly dismissive of this disease, Dr Furlan explains with empathy and understanding of both the physical and mental effects of Fibromyalgia on those who endure it.

Even though everyone experiences it a bit differently, it felt as though she spent most of the time actually talking about me. This tells me two things: she really knows what she is talking about, and she is a very good communicator. 

So, if you want to know more about Fibromyalgia, take the time to watch this video and find out why the people you know with this condition I find it so debilitating.

Things I Am Thankful For Tonight

After two ridiculously hot days –40C or 104F–and a busy first week of the school year, my fibromyalgia pain is going nuts.

It’s currently 11.35pm and still warm out, even though a cool change came through a few hours ago and dropped the temperature by ten degrees in as many minutes. It’s also pouring rain – and I’m not going to complain about that!

I am lying in bed listening to the rain, hoping my pain meds will work quickly, and trying to focus on positive things instead of feeling miserable.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of things I am thankful for tonight:

  • Pain medication
  • Ceiling fans
  • Cool changes
  • Rain
  • Three seasons other than summer
  • My bed
  • Total adoration from Abbey the Labby
Abbey the Labby: so clever, she’s on Facebook.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

The term ‘painsomnia’ is perfect for describing the impact of chronic pain on the sleep patterns of those who live with conditions like Fibromyalgia.

This post touches on so many aspects of my life with both Fibromyalgia and back pain.

I’m thankful to The Brainless Blogger for writing so clearly and honestly what many people struggle to explain.

If someone you know has a chronic pain condition, you need to read this and share it with everyone you know.

Brainless Blogger

So I’m going to start with this tidbit: The brain literally starts eating itself when it doesn’t get enough sleep.

AHHHhhhhhh!!!!!!! My brain is EATING itself. WTAF!

Not cool.

Painsomnia and sleep deprivation

Other issues with sleep deprivation can include:

  1. Impacts short-term and long-term memory
  2. Concentration becomes impaired along with problem-solving abilities and even creativity
  3. Mood instability- obviously lack of sleep can make a person cranky as all hell. But long term it can be comorbid with anxiety and depression and make depression more intense
  4. Less than 5 hours a night can cause your blood pressure to increase
  5. It increases your risk for Type 2 Diabetes
  6. It increases the risk of heart disease
  7. It can lead to poor balance and increase the likelihood of falls
  8. Affects immune system and it may take you longer to recover from illness
  9. Increases the chances of obesity (source: Healthline)

And if that were not enough there is…

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FibroMyFriday

The aim of this post is not to complain. My spirit is still quite positive, albeit a little weary after working hard to tick things off my “do or die” list this week. Instead, my purpose is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with Fibromyalgia. 

People cannot see my illness. It’s easy to feel sympathy for someone in a cast, a wheelchair or a hospital bed. I notice an immediate difference in people’s responses on the days I need to use my walking stick. Some are kinder, and most are more physically careful around me. 

Of course, there are always some who couldn’t care less about someone with a cane, but there is no point losing time or sleep getting upset about them. Their attitude only highlights the good in others’. 

My disease is invisible, although some of its effects are not. I may look tired, or upset, at times. My emotions sometimes get a bit messy, although I am a good actor so most people don’t know that. 

After a busy and somewhat stressful week, my body is letting me know how unimpressed it is. 
My pain levels are in the “stupid” range. 
My legs don’t want to bend anymore. 
I have zero need to take my pulse because everything is throbbing. 
Even  typing this is slow because my fingers hurt too.

To anyone else, I probably just look like someone in a recliner, covered with a quilt on a cold night, typing on her iPad. The truth is, I want to go to bed but I don’t want to move because I ache so badly.

I have medicated, but it’s not touching the pain. That’s always good. 

In a further act of bodily insubordination, my very dodgy spine is giving me spasms— yet another an indication that I have probably (read: definitely) overdone it, yet again. 

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want medals or admiration, or people telling me I’m brave.

What I want is for people to understand that Fibromyalgia and other “invisible illnesses” are not imaginary. They are not something we adopt because they are “trendy”. 

Fibromyalgia hurts. And it sucks. And it doesn’t go away. 

And if you think I “don’t look sick”? Just remember, you can’t see my superhero cape, either.