THIRTY FOUR: The Pursuit of HappMEness

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea… does that mean that one enjoys it?

Food for thought…post digestion

So last week I told the Timmunity that I was experiencing somewhat of a slump, but much like the great Detective Jake Peralta we all know and love, I chose this week to flip that slump on its head. I pmuls’ed, I did the ol’ backwards slump.

You may recall once upon a time that some smart cookie on this blog mentioned that we sometimes need to breakdown to breakthrough. Sometimes what we need to give us a little kick up the backside is a fresh dose of adversity, sprinkled with a bit of self-pity. Feelings, much like waves, come and go. Happiness comes, happiness goes. Sadness comes, sadness goes. Anger comes, anger goes. The only thing that is permanent is dad jokes, they are forever.

Often when I find myself in a bit of a rut, it generally comes down to feeling like I’m lacking a bit of direction. Tim needs direction, he needs goals and he needs something to work towards or his head explodes. Maybe I’ve neglected my routine, got myself into a rut-tine, if you will. This usually comes about as I sip a deliciously toxic concoction made up of neglecting any kind of fitness, avoiding social interactions at all costs, and eating crap on the sofa until I turn the metaphor of a couch potato into a living, breathing enigma of self-loathing.

In my experience, when it comes to feeling a little down or depressed, it’s perfectly valid to allow some time for it to run its course. Sometimes we need a little time to be a little grumpy, be a little sad or feel a little like the world’s against us. That’s absolutely fine! Honestly, everyone has moments like that. What’s important is that we recognise that there needs to come a time when we put our big person pants and get back into our groove. Whether it be a day, a week or a bit longer, the key is planning ahead. Take your time, padawan, we have plenty of that to spare.

For me, turning a slump into a pmuls is about reflection, understanding what it is that is making me feel the way I do, and planning a battle strategy to conquer the little brain gremlin. Last week, I was allowing my neglected fitness regime, poor diet and the subsequent lethargy and weight gain affect my mood. So it was important that, if I was to turn this rut-tine into a routine, I would need to address this head on.

Once we set ourselves a goal, the greatest service we can do ourselves is to allow every subsequent action we take be in pursuit of that outcome. If I decide that I wanna be an astronaut, then everything I do from this point on will be in the pursuit of becoming a moon-man

^what he (me) said.

Okay, so I’ve taken the problem, identified it, now it’s time to plan out a way to get out of the situation I’m in. Take my example, for example…example, if I am to get out of this rut I am to take the negative actions and do the opposite. Eating crap? Okay I’ve gotta cut back eating so much crap. Neglecting fitness? Alright let’s join a gym and get back into it. Avoiding social interactions? Okay I’m gonna call up my best pal and we’re going to have a quiet get together, something simple that won’t overwhelm me.

You could take your own rut and make your own rut-busting plan of attack in the same way. It’s about taking the issue, identifying the contributing factors and flipping them on their head and shaking out their lunch money. Got it? Great, let’s go charging, guns blazing!

Whoaaaaa whoa whoa whoa, slow down there cowboy.

One of the greatest disservices we can do ourselves is to go all-in on one hand and hope to win the lot.

^what he (me) said.

It was important that I took things slow and steady this week. As much as I hate it, the key to getting back on the horse is a little patience. As much as I would’ve liked to have returned to my former glory of getting FIT 4-5 times a week, 1. It’s not necessary for me to be happy and 2. To expect the same level of output as the Tim that was training 4-5 times a week is just not realistic. Instead, I opted to go twice, and go for a some walks throughout the week.

In  the course of the week, nothing externally has changed, but internally it has made a lot of difference (not my tum-tum, my brain. Well, actually maybe a little in my tum-tum, I am eating better after all). While we’re preoccupied furiously planning how we’re busting out of the damp, dark cocoon we’ve woven for ourselves, we subconsciously discover a more positive mindset.

No feeling is permanent, but we can always put ourselves in the best possible position to manage our topsy turvy rollercoaster of emotions in the things we do in our day-to-day. Any baby step in the right direction is progress, so if all you do for yourself is take a quarter of a step in the right direction, you’re already heading the right way.

Stay safe, stay opTIMistic and remember to brush your teeth. Happy Mental Health Monday

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% hoe I react to it

Charles R. Swindoll

THIRTY THREE: A Session of Depression

I don’t slump, people. I opposite of slump. I pmuls. That’s slump backwards and it’s what I do.

Detective Jake Peralta of the 99th Precinct

Y’know, for a mental health guy, I haven’t really talked much about the challenges that we face when our mental health is strained. Y’know, the dreaded “D” word? No, not that, ye pervert, I’m talking about Depression.

Today feels an appropriate time to talk about this, because despite my hiatus from alcohol, I have found myself sitting at the table with a dozen empty depresso martini glasses. Big T has been a bit down in the dumps, a bit caught in a slumps.

But are you okay Tim?!!?! Of course, because like all Timmunity members, I know this is temporary. But what’s important is I recognise the things I am doing that are helping, and the things that aren’t. And for a while, I’ve allowed myself to do a bunch of things that don’t help at all. From my experience, and I’m sure some of you can relate to some or all of these, these kind of behaviours are what I consider to be “mood manglers”. Things like;

  • Not exercising/spending minimal time outside of the house.
  • Eating an imbalanced diet, resulting in lower energy levels.
  • A reluctance to be social, disconnection from the majority of my social connections.
  • Negative self-talk, particularly in areas like body image.

In one way or another, we all experience our own mood manglers that often drain us of the motivation or energy we need to overcome our slumps. And while it might maintain it’s grip around our throat for longer than we would like it to, it’s important that we realise that one of the most important steps in the right direction is to be as patient as we can with ourselves. Depression isn’t homework, or a presentation for work, it doesn’t have a deadline that we need to meet, so take some of that pressure off!

The reality with mental illness is that it’s not in its nature a physical ailment. Sure, it can certainly affect us in ways that are physical, but that isn’t the source of the issue. It’s not like a cut on our foot, or a common cold, so a few stitches or dose of cold ‘n’ flu tablets won’t fix the problem. It’s a psychological ailment, it’s something that affects our brain and thought patterns. And if we know anything about our brains, it’s that the little blighter is responsible for just about everything our body does. From typing a blog post, to letting off a fart so loud that your housemate hears it in the other room. Since it’s not a physical issue, it’s not as simple as slapping on a band-aid. Depression isn’t a breakage that we can just piece together, and there’s a couple of reasons for that.

For starters, you are in no way, shape or form “broken”, my friend. You’re human, what you are feeling is 10000% valid, and what you feel is felt by far, far more people than we care to admit. But as the saying goes, you have survived 100% of the bad days you’ve had and come out of the other side. This will not be any different.

Secondly, depression or anxiety might not be a wound you can just stitch up and forget about, but there are some things that we can do in our day-to-day lives to help ease the intensity of what we feel, and how long it decides to hang around. So over the last few weeks, I’ve been preparing to take baby steps in the right direction. This is how I am doing it;

  1. To combat my lack of exercise and reluctance to be social, I finally bit the bullet and went and signed up to a boxing gym. I found that going to the same place and lifting up heavy things over and over got boring. By choosing to participate in something out of my usual routine, and something that involves classes with other human beings, I am metaphorically killing two birds with one stone. Metaphorically
  2. Planning my week of meals – Monday is a good a day as any to make plans for my week of tasty goodness. If I can plan ahead what I’m eating, and pick something I’ll genuinely look forward to, I’ll be far less likely to eat too much takeout. If I’m eating better, I’m feeling better and I can tell all that negative self-talk to shut the fu-, uh, front door…on their way out.
  3. Making social commitments – sometimes being social is exhausting, and getting back into the swing of things can be hard. But baby steps, baby. I went to a group event for a few hours then came home to watch my basketball team play. That to me sounds like a bloody good night.

Overcoming depression isn’t about finding a cure, it’s about management. When you look at it more as a mood rather than an illness, it doesn’t seem so daunting. Sure, it may not go away permanently, but does any mood? We don’t stop being happy and think that’s the last time we’ll feel that, nor do we feel that way about sadness, or anger, or excitement.

Depression comes in many forms, it affects us differently, sometimes without us even realising it. And with that variety comes a variety of ways to tame it. The important thing is that you listen to yourself. You know you better than anyone else, and if all you can muster is just getting out of bed, then give yourself a pat on the back.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, trust your process. You’re building something great.

Happy Mental Health Monday.

If today all you did was feel good for a minute, it was enough to get started towards better days

THIRTY ONE: The (Un)Health Industry

I haven’t seen gym in so long, I’ve reverted back to calling him James

Me – avoiding fitness

A few months ago, I went through my social media feed and unfollowed a bunch of accounts, because I realised that their presence in my socials just didn’t feel healthy. It was ironic. Why? Because they preached a message of health.

As we all know, H.E.A.L.T.H. stands for Happiness across Every Aspect of your Life Timmunity Honeys, but it is also identified more commonly (for now) by its definition. If you ask the World Health Organisation, they’ll tell you that to be health is to be in a state of “complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely in the absence of disease or infirmity”. What do I want you to take out of that? Health isn’t just physical, there is so much under the surface that we should hold in as high a priority as we do our waistline.

From a mental health perspective, the “health” industry’s presence on social media can be problematic for audiences, particularly in times when we are more body conscious than ever. We consume the carefully constructed content of social media “athletes”, which proves as detrimental to our overall health as a long-term unbalanced diet. When we lap up images of an “ideal” physique, the “must-have” supplements or the latest exercise craze, we mentally binge eat. Only this time it’s not what we over-feed our body, it’s what we over-feed our brain.

Social media in itself is a highlight reel. It’s a collection of a person’s greatest hits, and what you see in this highlight reel is dictated solely by the person running it. If someone only wants to show you the high points of their day, week, year or life, that’s up to them. If they chose not to disclose the challenges, obstacles and setbacks, that’s up to them. By having complete control over what you take from their feed, they shape how you perceive their life. So when it comes to how we perceive the lives of those who promote “health”, it ain’t always what it seems.

The things we don’t hear about on a health-driven social media can prove to be the things we need to hear about the most. Sure, it’s great to know how good it feels to get in a good workout, or learn some new ways to keep yourself engaged in fitness, but too often do these accounts with hefty follow counts leave out the important parts.

To be frank, we’re misinformed to the point that we are given an unrealistic expectation as to what we need to be doing to subscribe ourselves to premium quality health. We don’t hear that it’s okay to skip a gym session, we don’t hear that it’s important that you get enough sleep for your body to recover, and we aren’t told that cutting out your favourite foods will make you more susceptible to binge eating than weight loss because it makes you miserable. These people are not disclosing the challenges we can face in the pursuit of that “look”. Then we look back and wonder what we’re doing wrong, and why we’re not getting the same result by doing the same thing.

Well, there’s an ugly truth behind it.

What we don’t get told by these people with the “perfect” body is that they are training for hours on end to tone up the “problem” areas of their body. We’re not told that they barely sleep because they’re training every day, morning and night. We’re not told that they adhere to a miserably repetitive diet regime that does not bring them any enjoyment because of how restrictive it is. And, in some cases, we’re not told about the performance enhancers they use to maintain this unrealistic physique. These people don’t tell you that, in a vast majority of cases, the lifestyle makes you absolutely miserable in the long-run.

What makes this so concerning is that such a lifestyle is not sustainable, particularly for audiences who do not have a fitness-focussed career or lifestyle. But even for those who are, they are often left vulnerable to a number of long-term conditions that would prove far more damaging to their health, like eating disorders or insomnia.

In saying that, I am not a doctor, nor am I practiced in the field, what I say comes from experiences that have been shared. This isn’t a scare or slander campaign, but what I want put across to you today is this;

  • Your health is not determined by the size of your waistline, but with your relationship with it.
  • If you do not enjoy going to the gym and lifting weights for exercise, then don’t! The key to maintaining a healthy exercise regime is enjoying what you do. If you would rather go for a regular walk along the beach, or join a social boxing class instead, then all power to you, my friend.
  • Take what you see on fitness pages with a grain of salt, we see only what content creators want you to see. Try the tasty recipes and the tips on being mindful, but if you’re not sure about an exercise, a supplement or anything you see, ask someone you know and trust about it.

So this week Timmunity, I really want to you review what you are mentally consuming, because it can be just as harmful for your brain to binge unhealthy material. The key to good health is sustainability. Find hobbies you enjoy, engage with people with similar interests, have something to look forward to!

And above all else, have the happiest of Mental Health Mondays.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment

Ralph Waldo Emerson

THIRTY: Growth

In my opinion, people should wear different deodorants, one under each armpit…but that’s just my two scents

Do you remember the first time you tried beer? Or wine? Or maybe something less boozy, what about olives, or coffee? Do you remember that time? Remember HATING it?

I ‘member. I can recall the first time I tried beer. It sucked. Tasted like a butt, awful. Would not try again…until I did. But then it still sucked. Then one day, it didn’t suck as much, eventually it became somewhat enjoyable. Then I worked in a craft beer bar, and the relatively enjoyable Friday afternoon beverage (although I worked every Friday afternoon) became BLISS. Then I was sipping alllllllllllll of the tasty beverages

The moral of this extensive tale? My tastes have changed, as I am sure yours have too.

Now what if we took the beer example out of the equation, and we added a sport or hobby? For me, I would use UFC. Before I watched it, I used to think it was a thug sport and would refuse to give it the time of day. These days, it’s one of my favourite uses of my time and I follow it religiously, to the extent that I feel physically sick with nerves when my favourite athletes has a fight. Do not contact me during a Robert Whittaker fight, I am busy panicking.

Now what if we took sport out of the equation, and we replaced it with, I dunno, feminism? How did you feel about it 5 years ago? What about now, has your opinion changed, or remained the same?

So many questions Tim, too many.

The lesson this week is that your opinion can change about literally anything. You might hate a food, then one day you suddenly love it. You may think a sport/hobby is boring or unappealing until you participate and find that you were mistaken. Maybe you decide to change your viewpoint on a social issue after you learn more about it. There’s no harm in that, and there’s certainly no weakness.

Changing your views on something is an indication of growth. It takes a stronger individual to admit that they feel differently about something, and it sure beats keeping an old opinion for the sake of stubbornness. It’s 2021 fam, we ain’t got time for being stubborn for all the wrong reasons.

I’m not afraid to say my opinion has changed about a lot of things, and I’m not afraid to say it because I feel like it’s helped me progress into a better person (I hope…*nervous sweat*).

The biggest example would be feminism. I never really gave feminism the time of day growing up, which I attribute this to 3 things

  1. Lack of education on the issue, which came with my youth
  2. Toxic masculinity, and the pressure to dismiss women’s matters because that wasn’t “tough”
  3. Not listening to those who were affected by the issue.

It was in my final years of school that I slowly began to listen a little more, and opened my eyes a little wider. My best friend was and to this day is a very annoying ( I do say that lovingly, I swear she is far meaner to me) passionate feminist, and that proved really useful in understanding that she wasn’t passionate about putting one gender/sex over another, it was about being equal. She just wanted to be paid the same as me for the same job, she just wanted to be given the same rights that I took for granted. And who was I to disagree with that? As I started to understand the intention and the motivation, suddenly I started to give it more of my attention.

The point is, my opinion changed, because I educated myself about the issue and was able to formulate more informed perspective on the matter. It wasn’t about being wrong before and right now, it was about being able to support how I felt on something now I knew more about it with some legitimate facts, not just something I read on social media.

I’ve carried the lesson from this experience with me and applied it more in the last 12 months, and made some lifestyle changes. I cut meat out of my diet months ago once I started to shake the ridiculous idea that was engrained in my subconscious that “I could never give up meat”, and challenged myself to learn more about it. Sure, I might go back to it later, but it wouldn’t be because of some preconceived idea in my mind that one option is morally better or more socially acceptable than the other.

In a time when people of colour are asking to be treated the same, women are asking to be given the same rights as their male counterparts and our trans community are asking to be recognised the way they are identifying themselves, the best thing we can do for ourselves the greater community is to be the big enough person to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with acknowledging that you feel differently about an issue after you’ve learned more.

If you needed any more of a nudge, consider mental health. You’re likely reading this because you’ve had experience with mental illness, or you know someone who has. The biggest barrier we encounter as an anti-anxiety army of depression demolishers and bipolar busters is the stigma around our various conditions. Too often is mental illness dismissed because it is not always recognised by those who are not as versed as being “legitimate” because they can’t recognise the effects or understand how it affects an individual. The best thing we can do as individuals is remain inclusive, not just on mental health. Be the change you want to see in the world, my friends.

So the challenge for this week is to reflect. What is something you feel differently about now? What is something you could learn more about? No education is wasted, and the beauty of an opinion is that it can be changed in a heartbeat.

Happy Mental Health Monday!

Be the change you wish to see in the world

TWENTY NINE: Resolutions

New Years Resolutions; they go in one year and out the other

New Year, same old cringe me

Well, we made it to 2021. Ironic, because for a lot of us, “2020 won”. But nonetheless, we got through the year, so give yourselves a pat on the back!

Now it’s 2021, so…new year, new me, right? Time for the annual New Year’s Resolutions!

Whoa, whoa, whoa there, tiger. Let’s take a minute, shall we?

New Years Resolutions, they come around every January, when we’re feeling our most optimistic. We’re gonna drop the festive weight, we’re going to drink less, we’re going to exercise more, watch more documentaries and read more books!!!!

…until February, maybe March, when that fresh year glow has worn off and we go back to being our regular selves again.

I’m in two minds about the whole idea of a New Year’s Resolution. On one hand, I find it a bit gimmicky, and I mean if I was looking to make some sort of change to my life, I wouldn’t wait for Jan 1 to get started. But on the other hand, if a new year is what it takes for someone to kick start a healthy habit or switch their focus into something more beneficial to them, then by all means friend, all power to you. But, when it comes to NY resolutions, I think we sometimes take the wrong approach.

Let’s consider some of the most common NY resolutions

  1. “I need to lose 10 kilograms”
  2. “I need to start saving money”
  3. “God, I need to drink less”

Now if we consider these 3 resolutions, they’re certainly not ideas that would prove harmful, in fact their intention is on the right track. Being more financially-wise or improving our diet are great positive changes that we can make for the benefit of our physical or mental well-being. But when it comes to making an effective resolution, we need to consider our approach.

How about, instead of “needing to lose 10kgs”, we say, “I want to find some healthier alternatives to my fave foods”, or “I would like to try a new sport, or join a fitness class”. Instead of focusing on the outcome and fixating on reaching that “magic number”, why not shift the focus into finding more enjoyable ways to eat and exercise that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to. By shifting the focus to from the destination to the journey, it becomes more realistic and manageable.

How about, instead of “I need to start saving money”, we say, “I’d like to learn more about budgeting”, or “I would like to save a minimum of $X by X month”. Instead of making a generalised statement about saving money, why not set some goals, why not plan out a budget? As boring as it can be, taking 5 minutes on payday to allocate where your funds need to go, e.g. rent, bills, groceries, will help you find out how much you have in “spending money”, which you can put straight into savings if you wanted to. My parents always taught me to treat savings like a bill, then you won’t be so inclined to “accidentally” spend it on pizza…for the 3 time…this week… Anyway, I’m not an accountant or finance wiz, but consider taking that general statement and making a plan that works for you, you could apply that to any resolution, not just this example. The less you feel restricted and the closer you get to your goals, the longer you keep it up!

Then of course, there’s the sweeping declaration from any NY day hangover; “I will never drink again!”. So how about, instead of saying to yourself that you need to drink less, we, again, switch the focus. Instead of trying to go “cold turkey” and completely abstaining from alcohol, why don’t we say to ourselves; “I would like to try some different ways of socialising with my friends”. Instead of spending the evening in a bar where all you really do is chat and drink, why not see a movie? Why not go bowling? Why not invite your friends over to make pizzas?! Always a crowd pleaser. By removing ourselves from an environment that screams “drink  me”, we shift the focus from how many pints we’re drowning ourselves in to alcohol complimenting a different social activity.

I could suggest a few other things regarding alcohol, but that’ll be another week. I’ve got plenty in store on that front. But for now, consider what I’ve said above about resolutions, because I’m about to explain why the focus of our resolutions are important to not only their success, but our mental well-being.

Ah, here he goes, the mental health guy is about to apply this to mental health.

Is there a worse feeling than being turned down for a job, or not passing a test? Well, yes, but at the time when the wound is fresh it SUCKS. So when it comes to resolutions, or any goals for that matter, it’s important that we make these goals achievable. And for those really big goals, it’s crucial that we break them up into smaller goals to keep us motivated. Let’s take the weight loss example.

Instead of this;

  • Lose 10 kgs

We do this

  1. Join a gym/participate in a regular team sport or club/find an active hobby I enjoy
  2. Find some healthier alternatives to my favourite foods
  3. Plan out/cook my meals for the week
  4. Lose 3kgs this month
  5. Long term goal: Lose 10kgs

To me, there’s few feelings more satisfying than making a list (and checking it twic- wait, festive season is over) and checking off tasks as they are done. It motivates me and reminds me that, while I may not be at the main goal yet, I’m still making progress. It’s important to feel like we’re on our way to achieving our goal, otherwise it becomes far too easy to throw in the towel.

The reason I say all of this, is that we often find ourselves in somewhat of a Flat February if we set ourselves goals and don’t see the progress/results we hoped for. It’s not good for our psyche, let’s instead take baby steps instead of great leaps, and reap the benefits over the long term.

SO. Let’s take a look at our resolutions, and let’s put a little more work into them. Let’s break up these big tasks into smaller, more achievable ones that remind us that we’re on the right track. While life hasn’t changed between December 31 and January 1, if now is the time that you needed to make that change, you go for it. Start 2021 on the right foot, your way.

Happy Mental Health Monday

TWENTY EIGHT: Foresight is 2021

I promise not to make any more bad jokes for the rest of the year

Me – December 31 at 11:59:59 PM

Pro tip from a member of the Timmunity: read the following blog with Morgan Freeman’s voice. Strongly recommended.

There aren’t enough nasty words in the dictionary of any language that could adequately describe how shit 2020 has been for us all. But at the same time, there isn’t a whole lot more that could be said about it being shit, so I’m not going to go on about it. What I do want to discuss today is where I’m going to go from here.

We are in a very unique position as a community. I’m not just talking about your neighbours in your street, or your neighbourhood, or even your city; I’m talking about the global community. For the first time in my life I have felt more connected to the greater human race than ever. This is the first time in memory that we as a whole can relate first-hand to the challenges of our fellow man, no matter what part of the globe we hail from.

2020 has been different because for the first time in my life I felt like we all had a common challenge as a whole. It affected us in a great many ways; some of us lost loved ones, some of us experienced the pandemic first hand, some of us were pushed to our limits trying to support others who were affected with the illness. But what I feel we can take out of it is, while our experiences varied, we had a common denominator; Covid. And we stood together, socially distanced, and proclaimed as one: COVID IS A DICK.

Now I don’t know if you know this…but I’m kinda passionate about mental health. And as a mental health guy, I’ve been very weary since the pandemic hit that this would provide to be not just a monumental medical challenge, but also a very significant mental health one. For some of us, this was the first time we would gain some perspective as to what it was to experience depression or anxiety, for others this would present further challenges that we weren’t sure we could get through. Well guess what?

You bloody did.

Against all the odds you got to the end of an extremely challenging year. And while there are still challenges of 2020 that will carry into the new year, I can safely say that none of us will be carried into 2021 the same. And I’m going to tell you why that’s a great thing.

2020 was the lesson we needed to learn. Not just as individuals, but as families, as communities, as states and as nations as a whole. It wasn’t a lesson we were ready for, but it’s one that could prove to bring forth more growth than we could ever have anticipated.

In 2020 we became more health conscious, we exercised from home, and if we didn’t we worked really hard on our relationship with our own body. Some of us took the weight of expectations off of our shoulders and instead prioritised doing things that we felt we needed to do to get by.

And we nailed it.

In 2020 we reached out to our family/friends/loved ones more, some of us for the first time in a long time, for others it became more frequent. We opened up the dialogue to talk about our experiences with COVID, and offered each other support, companionship and shared ideas on how to manage in the circumstances. We traded nights out in bars for a family game night with loved ones in other cities, states or even countries.

And boy oh boy, we smashed it.

In 2020 we experienced financial and emotional hardship as the circumstances of our jobs changed. For some of us, we started working from home, for others we stopped working altogether. But we tackles these hardships with resourcefulness, determination and a drive to ensure we would find a way to get to the end of this year with our heads held high.

And we are flexing this new-found strength HARD.

And in 2020, we were forced to focus on our relationship with ourselves. In a time where we were confined to our homes, surrounded in the unknown, we grew as individuals in a way we never could have foreseen. It’s because of this, I’m embracing 2021 with a sense of strength that I didn’t have 12 months ago. In a year when all seemed lost, we found exactly what we needed to.

And we got through it.

As we reflect on the enigma that was the year two thousand and twenty, what is it that we are going to take with us into 2021 and beyond? What did we learn, about ourselves, about others? What did you do when you were faced with the year’s challenges, what do you feel proud of? I for one, have plenty of things I’m proud of, so why don’t we all take 5 minutes to reflect on just how damn good we did. Here’s some of the things I’m proud of, and I urge you to put together a list because you deserve to celebrate the successes in this adversity-ridden 12 month period;

  1. I moved to another country, and overcame the anxiety of settling into a new country whilst living with the unknown of my surroundings and the status of the pandemic in its early stages.
  2. In a time when it was crucial that I find myself a source of income, I persisted and applied to close to 50 jobs before finally getting an interview and, eventually, a role in a new industry.
  3. I embraced the challenges of developing relationships with my new work colleagues over the internet, as I was trained and have since worked in a new job remotely.
  4. I started journaling my experiences with mental health as a way of tackling the challenges of the year.

Before the year is out, do yourself a favour and pat yourself on the back. And while you’re at it, take a moment to appreciate how you got through this absolute train-wreck of a year.

As we say goodbye to 2020, it’s a good time to hold our heads high and walk into the new year more connected than ever before, and stronger as individuals and as a global community. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I think the lessons we have learned will carry us forward into a new year better than ever. So let’s flip that phrase.

They say hindsight is 20/20, I say foresight is 2021. Happy New Year, my friends.

You have overcome 100% of the hard days in your life. You’re undefeated.

TWENTY SEVEN: Mental Health is still Health

What do you call a bear with a mental disorder? A bi-polar bear

I’m back! Apologies for my absence last week. Actually, not really. I needed it. But I’m here now, with an important public service announcement:

Mental health is as important as physical health.

Ya’ll need to remember that your brain runs the show, stop ignoring it! Mental health is still health.

What do you do when you cut your finger while making dinner? Do you ignore it, or do you get that bad boy covered up? What about if you broke your leg? Would you walk it off, or would you get it plastered, and keep your weight off of it until it healed?

When we injure ourselves, we get it treated. Why? Because that’s what we need to do to recover. If we left an injury untreated, it would get infected and the outcome could be far more disastrous than it should be. We wouldn’t let our pride turn a cut into a lost limb now, would we?

Why is mental health any different? Why do we dismiss the thoughts of our friends, our family or ourselves when we say we’re hurting on the inside?

The nature of mental health is in the term itself, it’s still health, and I think it gets lost on all of us that keeping a healthy brain is just as important as a healthy limb. At the end of the day, without a healthy brain you might just stop having a healthy limb. Your brain is the control centre of basically everything you do, so if that’s compromised than you can wind up compromised, my friend. Just because a mental injury isn’t necessarily visible in the way we think about it, doesn’t mean it’s any less legitimate. So this week, let’s give credit to our mental health, and stop trying to “walk it off” when our mindset is a little wounded. Mental health is still health.

From my experience, when I haven’t felt A1, I generally start to neglect some aspects of my lifestyle that promote good physical health, which is why it’s so important to look after your mental health. They’re like cheese and biscuits; you can’t have one without the other. Primarily, I find that a lapse in good mental health will affect 3 main parts of my day-to-day; my diet, exercise routine and sleep patterns. Feeling low/depressed/anxious can really sap the energy from you, which in turn affects your ability and willingness to maintain a routine with these things. Let’s look at my examples;

  1. Diet – the last thing I want to do when I’m couch potatoeing + feeling sorry for myself is spend my evening cooking. So I often will compliment my freshly-shaken depresso martini with a pizza on Monday, burger on Tuesday, Chinese on Wednesday, taco on Thursday and leftovers on Friday because I’m broke til the next pay cheque. Whoops.
  2. Exercise – depressed Tim has been working hard on building his growing waistline, so the last thing he wants to do is undo all of that hard work by burning calories. But really, feeling low can often go hand in hand with a lapse in positive self-image, which will drain you of any motivation to go for a run or a workout.
  3. Sleep patterns – because depressed Tim is eating foods that are loaded with sugar and saturated fats, which means he has energy for about 10 minutes then crashes. So he naps…a lot. And what happens when you nap during the day? Well, you’re wide awake during the night. So your body clock is ready to start the day at 1am. Not ideal.

It can vary for all of us, we’re all different people, but I think if we had a little time to reflect on our own routines and behaviours, we would be able to pick up on the things that change when we lose that motivation and drive to keep on adulting. Let’s be real though, adulting is shit anyway. 0/10 would not recommend.

So back to the matter at hand, mental health is still health. So we need to treat it as such, and that sometimes involves doing things we can’t be arsed doing. If we get the flu or we hurt ourselves, we reluctantly spend the afternoon at the doctor’s getting the appropriate treatment. Sometimes a physical injury involves some rehabilitation, which will involve some extra efforts from us to make things better. Mental health is no different. Once we recognise that something requires a little extra effort, we make it. So, when I consider my examples, these are the sort of “treatments” I prescribe myself;

  1. Diet – find some recipes that you can look forward to eating, and plan ahead. All I need is a 10 minute window where I’m not feeling completely unmotivated to make a shopping list and get in the  car. Better yet, ordering online and having my food delivered. Perfect. Now that I have all of the ingredients,  it would be better I use them so they don’t go to waste. If I make a big batch, less cooking later, less take-out this week.
  2. Exercise – ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING. I don’t need to go and smash out a huge weights session at the gym, but any movement is good movement. Maybe I opt to go for a walk/run along the water if the weather’s nice, maybe I grab a football and have a kick around with a mate. Or, if all else fails, I get a personal trainer to run me through a 30 minute session. You’ll be surprised how much more you’ll do when someone else encourages you to do it.
  3. Sleep pattern – if I keep my day busy, I don’t nap. So I’ll write myself a checklist of things to do. The two above take up a good couple of hours of my day, combine that with a work/study schedule and I’ll get through to night time without a nap like a big boy. Then, I’ll cap the night off with a book to help shut the brain down and it’s ni night everyone.

So, my honourary doctors, take a moment to diagnose your symptoms, and prescribe yourself a treatment plan accordingly. You know yourself best, trust your gut. But the important thing is, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to snap your fingers and be a world beater again. If you need a week, a day or an hour to be a little dramatic, god knows I do it alllllllllll the time. And above all else, have the happiest of Mental Health Mondays!

Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.

Germany Kent

TWENTY SIX: Brain Gremlins

Instead of a swear jar, I have a negativity jar. Every time I have pessimistic thoughts, I put a dollar in. It’s half empty 😦

We’ve all done it, we all do it, we will all continue to do it, because it’s human nature. On more than one (thousand) occasions I have submitted to negative, irrational or illogical thinking, sometimes it’s just easier to concede. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say it happens a lot. I’m self-critical at the best of times, it leaves me vulnerable to illogical trains of thought.

Exhibit A-Z; my last relationship. It was the single biggest commitment I’d ever made in my life to date. Well, packing up everything and moving across to the other side of the planet was up there too, but I wouldn’t be here if that hadn’t have happened first. But more on that another day.

I exhausted every ounce of physical, emotional, spiritual and financial energy I had, completely tipped my spiritual cup upside-down until every last drop was spent, into my last relationship. I was committed and was very prepared to get down on one knee when the time felt right.

But that time didn’t come. It happens, things fall apart, and life inevitably moves on. I since moved overseas, started building a new life for myself. She since went on to meet someone else. That’s great, I’m happy for her, I hope it’s an opportunity for her to grow, I hope she’s happy and healthy. But, grief for the loss I felt still finds a way to encourage irrational thinking. More than two years on, I still catch myself doing it. Not every day, but on the odd occasion when I’ve had a rough day, or I need to have a good little cry and flush out some mental sewage from my brain, it rears its ugly head;

“I don’t think I have it in me to love someone the way I loved her”

“What if we only get one proper shot at this, what if that was it?”

“I don’t think I can recover from this”

I first considered this as a topic for discussion when I was having one of those times, and these were the three statements that sprung to mind. The logical part of my brain knows that it’s all ridiculous. Importantly, I do not reject my thought patterns from this point in time, because I do not need to punish or criticise myself. I felt what I needed to feel at the time, and bounced back just that little bit better off at the end. At the end of the day, I am super handsome, super charming, super witty and, above all else, super humble. If Shrek can find love then surely so can I…right? Right?! In a world where I could watch a reality tv show about a man with half a dozen wives, surely I can find my little needle in a haystack, my little diamond in the rough.

As far as relationships are concerned, I will say this; we don’t need a relationship to define us, I would hope that a relationship would instead compliment the life I work hard to build for myself, and that we would each find ways to bring out the best in each other. But I’ll go into that another day. Because illogical thinking spans far beyond the realms of romance.

It’s not just about relationships, you could look at how our thought patterns can affect other aspects of our life, like work, social or academic pursuits. In those times when the plan isn’t going as smoothly as we hope, or we aren’t getting the results we expected, that’s when the little devil on our shoulder gets smug and starts talking shit.

“Your grades suck because you’re not smart enough for this”

“You’ll never get a promotion”

“Your friends only talk to you because they feel sorry for you”

Uh, excuse moi, shut up pal. I ain’t got time for your crap.

The number one purpose the negative little gremlin in our brain serves is to deter you from overcoming any kind of adversity you encounter. Because, god forbid, if you ignore it you might end up proving it wrong. And one thing the little gremlin has in common with us is that they really, really hate being proven wrong. Don’t you? I mean, I can’t relate. It’s never happened to me…

I have learned to manage the irrational/illogical/negative thoughts in my brain by disassociating from them. I started identifying those thoughts as coming externally from someone else, like they really were being thought up by a little gremlin and not my own brain. Not in an imaginary friend kind of way, it’s not like I talk to it…I save that for Kenneth my ghost friend…

By disassociating from negative thoughts I began to give what I would hear less merit, the words began to have less influence over how I felt and I found it just a little easier to dismiss them. Because let’s face it, you’re less likely to believe crap that someone else says than when you say it to yourself. I, for one, know that I would allow a negative comment I made about myself take up more space in my thoughts than I would some moron who hasn’t a clue how I think or feel. One of the problems with that is that I am never wrong, so hearing something negative from me makes it hard to dismiss. Wise man problems.

So if I was to offer any advice about being self-critical, it’s to put a new face on the criticism. If those words were coming from someone else, and not you, would they carry as much weight? No one knows you like you, so if they do carry as much weight, I remember some super handsome guy talking about it in his post “The Weight of a Word”. But I don’t know, I ain’t one to advertise myself, you’d have to ask him…

So this week, I will be challenging my brain gremlin to a fierce dual. I implore you to do the same!

En garde! And Happy Mental Health Monday

One bad chapter doesn’t mean the story’s over

TWENTY FIVE: Cowa-brain-ga Dude

I got arrested for surfing on a dolphin. They claimed I did it on porpoise

I am beginning to think I have disappointed a few of my new European friends when it comes to stereotypes, because one of the most frequently asked questions I get is “do you surf?”. No I do not, I never got into it. And if their reactions are anything to go by, I must be the first non-surfing Australian they have met. I wasn’t one of those kids who spent loads of time catching waves at the beach. I was more into martial arts, Crash Bandicoot and being self-aware (jk that took 25 or so years to achieve). Probably explains my pale complexion, come to think of it…

If you have just joined us, (welcome to the Timmunity) or if you haven’t quite cottoned on yet, this guy loves himself an analogy. On a personal level, I’ve always found it a little easier to manage the challenges of my day or week (or life, am I right haha jk jk), by taking the human element out, and taking a more logical approach by looking at them from another perspective. So I hope you get something out of my interpretations too. Primarily I’ve used this as a sort of diary to express what I’ve learned on my mental health journey, but if I’m helping even one person understand how they’re feeling 1% better, I’ll feel 1000% better myself!

With that being said, I want to share with you one analogy I considered one afternoon, as I sipped my metaphorical depresso martinis on a walk along the beach back home in Aus. A real *insert “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter* sort of vibe. Remember that song? Boy, what a throwback. Anywho, as I watched the waves I thought about my last month. I’d had a shit week, everything absolutely bloody sucks. I give up. Sound familiar?

But then it occurred to me; *LIGHTBULB* nothing in particular had changed to make this week especially shit, only how I felt about my circumstances. Then I thought back to last week; nothing was any different, I just carried my emotional burden with more ease. So this week, my beautiful Timmunity, let us consider our emotions as waves

So if we’re to do this flawless analogy justice, we need to consider the similarities between our coastal tides and our brainwaves (brainwaves! Man, I’m just really vibing this, y’know?). They build up a head of steam, they pull back and tumble forward. After that? They do it all over again. Some waves are big, some are lazy little nudges on the sand, some are freakin’ tsunamis. But no matter what, they come up, they come down and they start again. Regardless of the circumstances or how big they are, you can rest assured knowing it’ll be followed by another wave. But if you take a single wave, you start to consider that a solitary wave in itself…is temporary.

Emotions are like that too. Don’t just think about the off days or low emotions we feel, consider the happy times too. Think about the times you’ve gotten good news; you’re elated, your excitement builds, you celebrate and then you settle into a calm rhythm. When you’re low or are on the receiving end of not-so-good news, the same process takes place within your mind and body, the only difference being the basic emotion from which our waves gather momentum.

The reason I find the wave metaphor so effective is because it’s a great way to process and manage how I feel. Not only that, but it helps me remember two equally important lessons that I learned as I stood there watching the indecisive tide go up and down the beach. And it was this;

  1. When you’re in your bliss, whether that be in a happy environment, or in the comfort of the people you love; be present in the moment. You owe it to yourself to treasure the time and be at one with the positive emotions that you are currently feeling. Because those are the times worth savouring, and those are the times you’ll look back on fondly.
  2. No matter how low you get, no matter how hard things feel right now, they’re going to pass. I can assure you of that. Like any big wave, it’ll come crashing down, it’ll sweep things up in its wake, but then it will calm back down. In those times when it all seems to much, remind yourself that this is just a wave I’ve got to ride until it’s run its course.

While I may not be the most proficient of aquatic athletes with a board in hand, I learned to surf without stepping foot on a board. Because baby, I surf those emotional waves like Kelly Slater, some would say even better than Mr Slater. I’m a real Lilo’s-big-sister-Hawaiian-roller-coaster-ride (how hot was Lilo’s sister though? I mean what I didn’t say that she’s not even a real so hot person) kind of surfer. But even Lilo’s hot sister got dumped by a wave from time to time. But what did she do? She got back on the board and grabbed the next one.

So next time the world comes crashing down around you, find your board. If you can’t find it, go with the flow, keep your head above water and see this through, ol’ boardy will come back to you.

All emotions are temporary. All of them. Every. Single. One. From my experience, I certainly have not felt a consistent emotion for the last 26 years. And you won’t either.

Cowabunga dude, Happy Mental Health Monday.

It can take sadness to know happiness, noise to know silence and absence to value presence