Emotional Awareness

I have been working on improving my emotional awareness for at least 6 years now. Progress has been slow, but I think that I have made at least some progress.

One thing I have been using recently to increase my awareness is my perception of other’s emotions. It is much easier for me to project emotions in other people than it is for me to observe emotions in myself. So when I’m talking to someone (this has happened a couple of times with coworkers this past week), and I think that I see an experience of “there’s something wrong” in them, I use that to check in with myself. I’ve found that when someone appears confused or worried about something suddenly in conversation, it can sometimes be in response to an emotional reaction that they had seen in me.

So far, this has been useful for me to have become aware of times where I was experiencing anxiety or frustration. My autopilot response to this awareness (and probably still even when I’m not aware) is to eliminate the source of my anxiety or frustration. But this is simply an attempt for me to regain control, and control is something I’m trying to let go of. So what I’ve been trying to do instead is to focus on how I can respond to the situation in a way that might influence it for the better, while at the same time, not letting go of my experience of the emotion.

But I can’t say this has been going great so far. I’ve recently reflected on my perception of time, and I often feel like time is happening very fast. I also feel like I have to respond to things very fast. (Maybe this is just another way my perfectionism shows up? Maybe this is just another indicator of how I am stressed?)

As the world happens to be, things rarely go exactly like I want them to, even when I try to influence these things. Because I’m now trying to stay with the emotion, but at the same time perceiving things (often that I don’t want to happen) to be coming at me very quickly, I find that my emotions fall into a positive feedback cycle. So if I was anxious about something before, I’m even more anxious now.

I think my work going forward, I will be trying a couple of things. First, I want to try to be more grounded in the present moment. I suspect that doing so can help me from falling into the perception that things are happening incredibly fast. Second, I want to continue try sticking with the emotion while try to influence the situation. Things aren’t always going to go as I want them to. But I think that rather than aiming for perfection, if I continue to practice sticking with the emotion, I will still be able to make progress.

Excitement

Funny, I think I just experienced the most excitement I can recall experiencing in a long time. I went out for a short 30 minute run before bed. I came home expecting to have to go to bed a little hungry with only a protein shake left in my calorie allotment for today. But then I opened the fridge and realized I also had a serving of pasta and a piece of a chocolate muffin left as well. Things are good. 🙂

Control

I got decent grades when I was in high school and university. I usually get feedback that I perform fairly well at work. I got better at volleyball fairly quickly during my first couple years of play. I attribute much of these achievements to a common thread that runs through them: control.

I try to take note whenever there’s an action I can take to move something forward. I try to reflect on how things can be improved. I try to keep a very thorough to-do list. I try to maintain a reliable schedule/calendar.

However, in recent conversations with my psychotherapist and through reflections in a series of personal development workshops I’ve been participating in, I’m starting to see how control may be one of my neuroses (my interpretation/diction, not theirs).

To be clear, I think there is a healthy place for planning. But in my case, it seems like I try to control everything because of an insecurity I experience around spontaneity. And ironically, although I adopted control as a self-defence mechanism, control seems to have become a major source of anxiety, stress, and other problems for me.

For instance, I bumped into this issue earlier this morning when I was taking transit to work. This person stood in front of the train doors to get off first, so I assumed they were in a rush. But then when we got off the train and had to walk through a narrow walking area left by the people waiting for the train, they walked slowly and I couldn’t pass them without colliding with them or other people waiting to get on the train. After we got through this narrow path, they increased their pace as they started to head for the escalator. They entered the escalator on the left side, so I tried to enter it on the right side. But then once they were on the escalator, they decreased their pace again and walked in the center of the escalator. This series of events and my interpretations left me feeling angry, anxious, and stuck.

Another example is how control influences my perception of various things. If I think I should be doing a better job of listening to someone, or if I think I should be able to concentrate on a task, or if I think I should be more self-aware about some aspect of my experience, I think that I’m failing to control something that I should be able to control. This often leaves me feel frustrated, stressed, and incompetent.

There are two things I’m currently working towards in navigating my issues with control. First, I’m looking to become more familiar (and thus comfortable) with the spontaneous. Fear of something may be alleviated as knowledge of that thing (and the lack of danger associated with it) moves from the realm of the unknown to the realm of the known. Second, I’m looking to become more aware of the illusion that is control. There are things over which I have influence but I think that I have control. If I can shift my perspective on this, I may become less attached to the outcomes of things over which I have influence.

As a side note, I struggle with solving this problem because whenever I look for solutions or next actions, I wonder if it’s just my need for control stepping in again. But I guess if that’s the case, I can deal with that problem when I get there.

Stress

I recently got a fever and cough. I was not particularly sick, and was completely functional in the rest of my day today. However, it was the third time I’ve gotten sick in the past 6 months. Historically, I rarely get sick, so going from having an excellent immune system to this super frail immune system was a bit concerning.

At the same time, I’ve been battling regular issues with my digestion since at least December. My naturopath and I decided to look at food sensitivities as a potential contributor, so I had some initial testing done, and then started an elimination diet in January to see if we could validate any of those results.

However, March came along with no improvements to my digestive health and now I was also sick again. I decided to visit a clinic to see if I could tackle these two problems at once.

I brought up these two problems with the doctor. For the fever and cough, they suggested the typical rest and over-the-counter drugs as needed. For the digestion, they ordered a bunch of tests for me to do with the caveat that digestion is a complicated issue and they thought it would be unlikely that the tests would reveal anything conclusive. Another possible explanation they mentioned that could explain both the digestion issues and the recurring fever/cough was stress.

This was not the first time stress was mentioned to me as a potential problem. Over the past couple of years, I’ve had conversations with my naturopath where they would ask me about my stress levels. About a month ago, my psychotherapist brought up stress as a potential issue. So after having three independent parties suggest to me that this might be a problem, I started to consider it more seriously.

I think the hardest thing for me is my lack of awareness when it comes to my stress levels. Even now that this is on my radar, I’m still not aware of when I’m experiencing stress. However, I have started to speculate about how somethings could be stressful for me.

For instance, the elimination diet I was trying had me cutting out foods such as wheat, corn, rice, potato, dairy, and nuts. These foods are regular parts of my diet, and they are very common ingredients in foods at both restaurants and grocery stores. As a result, I would be stuck eating unfamiliar or unfavourable foods at home, and at restaurants my options would be extremely limited, even after asking if certain accommodations could be made. I figured that this could be a source of stress for me since food plays a fairly big role in my day-to-day, so after hearing this third mention I’d stress, I decided to end my elimination diet prematurely. My digestion issues haven’t gone away, but I do think they are a little bit better than in the past; I acknowledge that this could simply be confirmation bias, though.

A couple days ago, a friend told me about some observations that they had made. A while ago, we were bussing up to do the Grouse Grind, and I passed out during the commute. They also pointed out that I pass out fairly frequently during our regular hang outs with friends or at work. They mentioned that they interpreted this to be a fairly serious warning sign. I’ve always just brushed it off as being tired. But now I have to reconsider how this may have been a blind spot for me.

But now I’m starting to worry a bit about where I may use this as an excuse. For example, I’ve read that high stress levels can lead people to become easily frustrated. Reflecting on some conflicts with my boyfriend, I know that I’ve been easily frustrated. But is that actually due to my experiencing increased stress? Or is it simply a reflection of my lack of emotional intelligence?

In any case, I’m trying to think more about stress without stressing about stress. I imagine this will be a long journey for me. I’m hoping that along the way, I can become more aware of my stress levels and stressors. I’m also hoping to get better at managing my stress and recharging so that stress doesn’t have such a big impact on my health in the future.

Reset

It has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. I’ve been wanting to write more often for a while now, and now I’m also considering the current momentum of internet policy. Most recently, the European link tax has been on my mind. These thoughts together are driving my decision to do more sharing of my own writing and do less sharing of other’s writing.

I’m aiming to write fairly regularly on this blog—that is, at least on a biweekly cadence. My initial goal in restarting this blog will be to share some of my experiences and navigate some of my thought processes. Hopefully some of my posts will also lead to interesting conversations as well!