“remember…it takes time”. A fitness journey in the making with Courtney Hill

“remember…it takes time”. A fitness journey in the making with Courtney Hill

Processed with MOLDIVOne word. Fitness. It literally is everywhere. Whenever I turn on the television I am overwhelmed with how many ads there are promoting different diets or different workout equipment you can purchase for yourself. It can be extremely overwhelming for a fact, especially if you literally do not even know where to start. Even on different social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, we are bombarded with different fitness transformation processes and results that people are getting just by having a healthier lifestyle. I remember being really interested in fitness a few years ago. I had a workout machine downstairs at my dad’s house and I would often be down there for the beginning of the day. I also did a lot of home workouts at my mom’s house and started eating healthy. I could honestly see huge results in the way my body looked but secretly I was not 100% healthy. In the process of doing home workouts and making healthier meals, eating disorders were underlying issues for me, for numerous years. Although I could see wonderful results, I know that I was not doing it the right away. I eventually had went off to University where I entered the partying life, and really did not have time to make all these healthy changes….. that or I was completely lazy and not motivated.

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So those four years of university passed and I was still not doing anything fitness related really. I felt really bad about my body and really had no energy whatsoever, it was extremely frustrating. As an Instragram addict, I am constantly on  social media sites viewing pictures on my newsfeed and I came across one person in particular that caught my eye, Courtney Hill. I had went to highschool with this girl and knew her a while back although we never really spoke that much before. I could see how devoted she was towards fitness and starting this “fitness journey“. Of course, me knowing hardly anything about fitness, viewing her posts were extremely fascinating and were very informative. I knew that I had to reach out to her and ask her about her fitness journey and how she got started and so forth.  I know that a lot of people would benefit greatly from her advice, and I know it could actually help others to strive for that same dedication and motivation, myself included. I was so happy and ecstatic when I received a response back from her, stating that she would love to be a part of this fitness blog. I then began to think of  a bunch of fitness related questions that I had always wanted to ask her, or that I thought would be extremely interesting to hear more about.

One question was extremely easy to come up with and I knew I had to ask it right away.

What motivated you to want to start working out and start this fitness journey?  “Throughout university, I partied A LOT – you could find me in the bar 4, sometimes 5 times a week. I drank on the regular and with that came a not so healthy diet. I worked out here and there between my crazy nights out but never saw any results of course. After a while I also noticed I had a lack of energy and never felt 100%, I knew I had to make a change. It wasn’t that I ever struggled with weight issues or anything but I just did not feel the best that I knew I could feel.
       It just so happened that my boyfriend and I of 6 years broke up shortly after I started to pay more attention to my diet and workouts. I was a mess – there’s no better way to put it. Working out kept my mind off my troubles and helped me to remain positive. I guess you could say it is what stemmed my fitness journey to continue. To this day, fitness is still a source of stress relief for me. I can always guarantee to feel amazing after I work out.”

I can completely relate to the partying aspect 100%. It is extremely hard to not go out with your friends and have a great time, especially in the best years of your life. I find it extremely interesting that Courtney uses fitness as a source of stress relief. I find that this reason is honestly not promoted enough in the world today. Often we think of fitness as strictly dealing with body image and striving for that “perfect body image“. In reality, however, fitness is so much more. As a person who suffers from anxiety, I often use fitness now as a form of lowering my stress levels. I find this helps tremendously.

So progressing with the interview, I basically wanted to know exactly when she had started this transformation and journey. I know for myself, it is extremely overwhelming deciding where abouts to start if you want to create a more healthier lifestyle for yourself. So I decided to go straight into it!

No, I never set a goal weight for myself. I am a firm believer in it’s about how you feel…not so much the numbers”. 

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What age did you start working out at? I started working out here and there when I was about 17 years old, I would go for runs around the block or to the stairs near my house. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of university (20 years old) that I started to take it seriously and follow an actual plan“. I honestly think that is where a lot of us get “stuck”, we do not actually follow through with a plan and stick to it. I began to ask Courtney if she had ever set a goal weight for herself. I know often people are not realistic when they actually want a specific goal weight.  She then had stated, “No, I never set a goal weight for myself. I am a firm believer in it’s about how you feel…not so much the numbers”.  I absolutely love this, and I feel that this should be said to a bunch of people who are in the fitness industry or who are starting this journey. Often we are so taken back and focused on the numbers that are on the scale. We are slowly missing out on life and we don’t even notice it. Fitness is about helping your body feel more energised and overall feeling, “happier“. It is an amazing feeling after a workout to sit back and think, “wow….that made me feel wonderful“, as opposed to hopping on that scale afterwards and being disappointed with yourself. Often this can result in body dissatisfaction and using such cruel and harsh words towards yourself. We need to focus on being kinder to ourselves and giving ourselves credit for that workout we just completed.

I then began to ask Courtney about going to the gym and what she basically did for her workouts. There are so many different kinds of workouts out there, especially if you look on Pinterest. I know for myself, I never really know how often to go to the gym during the week, but this can be different for every person. Not everybody has the same workout plan but it is nice to see different people’s workout schedules!  Courtney stated, “between the gym and hot yoga, I work out 6 days a week – because it has become such a significant part of my life I struggle to take a rest day. I know how important it is to rest your body so I do try but it feels like such a part of my routine so it’s hard. I work out at Aftershok Performance Fitness which is a functional facility that offers various classes such as spinning, TRX training, strength training, boxing and open gym times. I also go to hot yoga which is amazing to balance out the intense workouts – it also helps with the mind!”.

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Do you every do any at home workouts? “I have tried home workouts videos and what not as well as many youtube videos but I can never seem to keep motivated for long. I use them when I am in a pinch and can’t make it elsewhere”.  I can relate to Courtney here for sure. I have tried at home workouts as well, and sometimes they do work but other times, it can be extremely hard to stay focused when there are so many other things that you could be doing in your home at that very moment. Do you come up with the workouts on your own? If so how did you come up with them? (i.e Pinterest, friends and so forth). “I have made up workouts on my own in the past based on different things I have learned at Aftershok and researching over the years. I use Instagram a lot for fitness motivation and workout ideas”.  That is why I absolutely love social media sites and what they have to offer. There is so much to look at especially when it comes to fitness. You can literally type in “ab workouts” and there are videos that can show you different exercises. One thing that I struggle with however when I am at the gym is trying to figure out what different muscles to work on that day. I wanted to see what Courtney’s view was on this. She stated, “I usually try and lift heavy 3-4 times a week which is split into chest/triceps, back/biceps and then legs. Other than that I will do a mix of HIIT and boxing as well as hot yoga like I mentioned before. This changes often though, I do what feels right for my body. I am not training for anything in particular so I do what makes me feel good”. There are a lot of different muscle groups that you could focus on while at the gym. It is nice to see other people’s workout plans however to maybe compare and add in a view of their exercises! Nothing wrong with that!

When discussing “balance” and trying to fit a good fitness chunk into your day it can be stressful for sure. I know when I have had a very stressful day at work, I usually want to come straight home, grab a coke, and lay on the couch while I watch a movie. It is hard to balance your career and your fitness journey for a lot of people, including myself. I wanted to see Courtney’s view on this as I had seen that she worked as a nurse, so working 12 hour long shifts can be extremely exhausting! How does she do it? Courtney explains, “I am very fortunate with the job I have right now I work straight days (Monday-Friday) so I have plenty of time to work out and keep my meals on track. I am a nurse but I currently work in research so I am not worried about the 12 hour shifts and what sort of thing. If I do however decide to get another job where my hours will be more inconsistent I will have to make that extra effort to stay on track”. It really does come down to motivation and dedication. If you really wanted to, you can make time for that chunk out of your day for your exercises. I know when I am working and had a stressful day, I sometimes bring my gym bag with me to go straight to the gym afterwards. I know that if I go home, I will be more tempted to just stay home and not go, which I will kick myself in the butt for later on. If you have that right mindset that you are going to stick with your guns and go that way, you can push yourself to go.

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Going off of this thought, mentally preparing yourself for this fitness journey that you are currently in or wanting to start is extremely important and crucial. Having a strong support system behind you can influence your progress on this journey. Courtney shares, “My biggest influence is my best friend, Kristen. We have shared this journey together. From all the runs around the block back in high school to the meal prep dates, yoga sessions and crazy lifts these days, she has been my rock”. It really does help when you have people around you supporting your healthy lifestyle change. Recently my boyfriend and I have begun meal prepping together on Sunday nights, and we both push each other to head to the gym.  Having that support system there and behind you 100%, you can push yourself to go further. I then began to ask Courtney a series of questions based on how she felt now after starting this new fitness journey.

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Do you feel more energised every morning since beginning your workout journey? “Yes definitely, especially when I am able to get morning workouts in. It is the perfect start to the day for me and truly makes a difference. Overall though I would say that I am definitely more energised and I think that it is a combination of keeping active and also fueling my body with the nutrients it needs”.  That honestly was one question where I was excited to see her response to. I will admit it, I f***ing hate mornings, and I am nowhere near a morning person whatsoever. However, with my job and like most jobs, you literally have to become a morning person whether you like it or not.Having that boost of energy in the morning and feeling happier in the morning because of fitness would be an amazing feeling. Having started the gym, I have felt better in the mornings when I wake up as opposed to when I never really involved fitness in my days. It is a super nice feeling to be able to wake up and think positive thoughts and vibes. Having that mindset that you are “ready to take on the day and see what it brings“, is so important when wanting to be happier and live a more positive lifestyle.  I then asked Courtney what her own personal advice would be to someone who wanted to begin a fitness journey. She explained,”The best advice I have for somebody starting a fitness journey is to remember it takes time. It’s about making small changes little by little rather than trying to change everything all at once. From experience, this only leads to failure. For it to be a true lifestyle you need to take it one day at a time and make small adjustments as you go. There is NO quick fix – what works for you may not work for everyone – even Kristen and I have many differences in our workout and meal plans”. I think a lot of people do not realise that fitness is a “journey” not a one-day thing. Even for myself, I know some days when I know that I had a great week at the gym and I am seeing little results I get bummed out. In reality , however, your body is slowly changing and preparing itself for that change. This is where we begin to get so hard on ourselves and become discouraged. Look at Courtney, she has been working extremely hard each and every day for the body that she has now, it’s not some magic pill that we can take and say “voila“. As you can see in a majority of her photos on Instagram, she pushes herself. I can guarantee you that workout below is not as easy as tying your shoe…

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“it has changed my life and allowed me to grow in so many positive ways. I couldn’t imagine my life without fitness now”

So I know what we are all dying to hear…. the important part of this fitness journey right? It is not strictly based on the exercises you complete but a lot of the results you are going to see are made from the kitchen. I was interested to hear about Courtney’s meal plan and was excited when she generously gave some examples of different meals she cooks in the kitchen.

Do you meal prep? If so, what kind of meals do you usually eat for breakfast, lunch , dinner and snacks? “YES – meal prepping is key for me. Every Sunday I prepare meals for my work week. I prepare all of my lunches, snacks and dinners for the week. I do this for convenience and for portion control which I have always struggled with. Nothing worse than coming home starving after the gym and eating everything in sight (healthy choices of course just WAY TOO MUCH). Being prepared helps with that. I have been meal prepping for 2 years now and it is a saviour for me. . I tend to eat the same stuff over and over again until I am bored of it” . Some examples that Courtney shared included:

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Breakfast:

Vanilla protein shake with fruit, almond/cashew milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds, ½ avocado and PB

Eggs and avocado toast or oats

Lunch/Dinner:

Chicken Salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber, cranberries, pecans and balsamic dressing

Quinoa-arugula bowl with pulled chicken and roasted veggies (cauliflower, zucchini, butternut squash, sweet potatoes)

Lean ground chicken, quinoa and sautéed veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, spinach)

 

Snacks:

Rye crackers, tuna and avocado

Rice cakes with peanut butter, almond butter or avocado and salsa. YUM

Piece of fruit and almonds

Protein ice cream (I freeze almond milk to make ice cubes to blend with my protein powder)

 

“There are many other recipes and things that I try but those are just some of my go to meals”

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One thing that I can strongly emphasise right off the bat is how hard it is to resist those sweets and cravings. I am a huge chocolate lover and I absolutely love any baked goods, so cutting these out of my meals is super challenging for me! I wanted to see what advice Courtney had based off of this. She stated, Best advice I have for cravings and sweets is everything in moderation. DO NOT deprive yourself or restrict yourself from any foods – it’s about finding a balance and making it a lifestyle rather than a diet. I have tried every diet under the sun and they have all failed terribly; making lifestyle changes little by little is the way to go. If you tell yourself “I cant eat any chocolate, I’m cutting it all out” 9 times out of 10 you’re going to eventually cave and binge which will be a lot worse than having that one piece when you were craving it. If you find yourself with constant cravings, drinking a lot of water helps – so does brushing your teeth. Sometimes after dinner, I will brush my teeth and that usually helps me.”  Having heard this from someone who is so motivated and into fitness was extremely helpful. I know for a fact that I have said to myself numerous times, “I am going to cut out all sweets and also stop drinking pop altogether“. Has this worked for me? Absolutely not. Having these in moderation however, would benefit me way more! I would not be setting myself up for complete failure.  I also really loved the advice on brushing your teeth! I have never actually tried this but it really does make perfect sense! I am for sure going to try this next time!

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Do you have cheat days? No I do not do “cheat days”. I have tried that method of eating “clean” for so many days and then going all out for one meal but to me, that’s no way to live. For me, I do what makes me feel good, if I want to go for froyo or sushi with my friends on the weekend I won’t beat myself up over it. I love food and trying new things and that will never change. I try my best to make the best choices but every so often I will have meals out of my usual routine of course- everything in moderation J I have gotten to know my body and how I feel after eating different things”.  I think this is extremely important. Knowing how you feel and how your body feels after eating certain meals is useful in determining what you should and shouldn’t really be eating. When I would eat pizza I would literally have 4-5 pieces….no joke. Now if I were to eat pizza I would cut myself off at 2 pieces because I know I would feel like absolute shit after I am done. We need to get to know our bodies more and take into consideration what makes us feel good, thinking and keeping in mind to keep living your life.

Do you have to restrict a lot of food that you intake? Do you feel like you are deprived of certain foods? Like I mentioned above I do not restrict myself from specific foods or anything like that. I will steer clear of foods that I know will make me feel like crap that’s about it”.

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“…I have finally realised that being happy and healthy cannot be achieved based on outer appearance, happiness and health of the MIND and the HEART are just as important”-Courtney Hill

 

Overall, having a healthy mindset and heart really are extremely important. Often we are so focused on striving for that perfect figure that we really do forget about all the other little things that fitness is associated with.  We need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Courtney provided us with so much important and helpful information on how she got started on her fitness journey. Having the proper information and knowing those steps that you need to take are so helpful. I am beyond grateful that Courtney took the time out of her day to share with us her helpful tips and tricks when it comes to fitness. Be sure to check out her Instagram page for more fitness related posts!

“courthill”

I hope you guys enjoyed this post as much as I did writing about it! I thought this would be extremely benefical for others to look at and view for themselves. Be sure to check out my other social media accounts for more updates on my latest blog posts!

Photograph taken by Alisha Marie 

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 3

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 3

Processed with MOLDIVGood evening my beauts and happy Saturday! So I have some pretty good news to share with you guys, I have not been in a rut this week so that is a good start! I have been feeling pretty good lately since I have been eating a lot better, meal prepping and even going to the gym on a daily basis. That being said, my mood has been up lately and I have not been in an aggravated state recently. So, that being said, moving onto session number three of my social anxiety group therapy. This Wednesday was a lot more interesting than the other ones by far, as we actually started to get into the real deal. Shall we get right into it?

I actually was not nervous at all this time when 6:00 hit. I was feeling a lot more at ease and comfortable which felt so nice. The week prior I had been filling out my cognitive therapy tracking form. We had to track for the week our social anxiety thoughts. This basically included different situations such as the place where it happened, what your anxiety was rated during that moment, what different anxiety provoking thoughts and predictions that were going on in your mind, different alternative thoughts and predictions, the evidence and realistic conclusions afterwards and lastly your anxiety rating after the situation. So.. this was a lot of information to track down as you can see but it is crucial to get every single detail within that moment so you can actually sit back and view how your anxiety gets triggered and how you cope with the situation. I only basically had written down one big situation that had happened that week.

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We began the session by some mindful awareness exercises… basically, like meditation. We closed our eyes and focused on our breathing taking 4 big deep breaths in, ensuring your tummy pops out as you are inhaling, and exhaling for 5 seconds through your mouth afterwards. I do find these extremely relaxing but I often find myself not being able to hold my breath that long so I really need to work on that! haha! This went on for about 15 minutes for the start of the session, then we reviewed the homework that we were assigned to complete that week, such as the anxiety thought record sheet. Of course, being a social anxiety group, nobody ever really volunteers to speak when the instructors ask if anyone wants to share some experiences they had that week. I am however thankful that they push you to step out of your comfort zone. So of course, I did not raise my hand whatsoever, and just kind of stared down at my sheet hoping they would not call on me. This brings back so many memories back when I attended Brock University. If I would not want to be called upon I would often look down and avoid eye contact at all costs. So low and behold who do you think they call upon? “Alyssa do you have anything you want to share with us?“. I wanted to badly to say “pass” but I knew deep down I would only be letting myself down and not really trying to push myself to go at it.  I remembered during that whole time when I was wishing they would not pick me, just going over and over in my head what I would share if I had to. That’s part of my anxiety,  going over and repeating what I would say, often preparing myself so I do not stumble or make a fool out of myself. I began explaining what had happened that week and how I actually had my first panic attack. I will share it with you beauts what had happened to me that Thursday night.

I was at the gym and actually had my last personal training session that I had paid for. I had a total of 4 personal training sessions which I absolutely loved and I really did love my trainer. I informed her a lot about my life and what was going on such as my anxiety and so forth. So after my session had ended, she sat down with me and offered more extensive training to me. Basically, for 9 months I would be training 3 times a week with her. I honestly was very excited about this opportunity and did not fully think through the financial aspect of it. Personal training is not cheap. So once I saw the number that I would have to pay by the end of the nine months I almost passed out. She then began to inform me to not look at that huge number but that I would be making bi-weekly payments instead. At the end of the discussion, I decided to sign the contract without informing my boyfriend who I am living with right now what I was doing (bad mistake on my part by far). Anywho, I eventually told my boyfriend Ian later that night what I had chosen to do and he was pretty upset with me, to say the least, which was completely understandable. I would be upset too if I were him, especially since we are saving money at the moment. So as I was speaking to him I decided to message my personal trainer informing her that I had made a mistake and if I could possibly cancel my contract and the personal training altogether. Let me just add in there that this personal trainer is actually the boss and the head person at my gym. She had messaged me back saying that she could not cancel the contract as it was already sent to head office, my registration. This caused a lot of tension in my home, as I was now informed that I had to stay in this contract and keep making these payments. I could feel my anxiety going up tremendously, and my heart started to race. Tears then started streaming down my face and I was having a hard time trying to breath. I literally thought I was dying, but I knew right away that I was having my first panic attack. Luckily my boyfriend had calmed me down at the time and actually looked more into my contract. He then found a statement in fine print at the back of the contract that basically said I had ten days to cancel my plan and get out of my contract. I could not believe it. If it had not been for him looking more into it, I literally would have been completely stuck. I do not really know anything about contracts and how they work, let alone this was the boss that was giving me this false information. In her messages,, she kept saying she could lower the payments and cancel some training sessions so I did not have to pay for as much. Long story short, I cancelled my personal training…. thank god… but this whole thing could have been completely avoided from the start. I was so mad and felt the frustration run right through me.  We ended up complaining about the whole issue to the head office, so I am not too sure if something had been done about it or not.

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As I shared this whole long story with the rest of the group, I was actually surprised by myself how I did not even stumble over my words. I took my time when I was sharing my story and didn’t feel the need to rush through it. I was honestly proud of myself for speaking and even speaking for a long period of time. After others had shared some of their stories as well, we then got onto the topic for today’s meeting which was “exposure therapy“. I have been dreading this…. you guys can probably tell by the title just what it is. The instructors informed us that a lot of people would rather avoid situations instead of dealing with them head on. Basically, avoiding an anxiety provoking situation brings immediate relief but only for that exact moment, not for the long run. By facing your fears, on the other hand, you learn that avoidance is not the only strategy out there. We then went over some subtle avoidance and safety behaviours that a lot of people tend to do including me. One that stood out was distraction. Often when I am in an awkward situation and I do not know what to say, I pull out my phone and immediately start texting or looking at social media. This helps me feel more comfortable in certain situations but this stops me from learning different ways to manage this uncomfortable feeling. Another behaviour that stood out to me was “overprotection“. I was called upon again and asked if this had ever happened to me before. I then stated to the group that I often like to go with a friend to certain events. I stated that in previous years I only went to the gym with a friend and I would not dare to ever go by myself. I also would never go to the mall by myself as well. The instructor then questioned why I would not do these things, what I would feel. I then stated that I would not know what I was doing at the gym if I went by myself. I would look like a complete idiot not knowing how to work the machines. That way if I was with a friend, they could help me out without me having to ask someone else. But I have been slowly challenging my anxiety without really taking the chance to step back and notice. I joined a gym here in Hamilton, and actually go by myself. However, I made sure I felt comfortable in the atmosphere before joining and that it was an all girl’s gym. I also love to go to the mall by myself now too, and I can literally take as much time as I need in the stores….. which I love! This also made me remember about a week ago what my best friend had pointed out to me. I was shopping with her in Lazensa and she was looking for some bras and needed help with her size. The lady who works there came over and asked if we needed help with anything. I then proceeded to state that my friend here was looking for a size in a certain bra. I also thanked that lady for her help on the way out of the store when we were finished. My friend then stated that she was super proud of me and could not believe I did that. Some things I do not even really notice I am doing now, which is a huge step for me.

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Some of the other behaviours that were mentioned included: overcompensation; which could include preparing topics to discuss at a party, excessive checking and reassurance seeking; including constantly checking how other’s perceive you. This behaviour I can strongly relate to, especially when it comes to my relationship with my boyfriend. Whenever he looks upset I always ask him, “what’s wrong?”, or “are you mad at me?”. I often am always concerned about his state meanwhile he just had a long day at work or he’s just tired. This sometimes comes off as nagging on my end which I can totally understand but I sometimes can’t help it! Another behaviour that I can relate to strongly is “substance use“. Whenever I am invited to a party, I usually always ensure that I had a drink before arriving. I hate being sober at parties and even this thought causes me a lot of anxiety. I am usually afraid that I will not know what to talk about, and that when I am intoxicated I am more sociable and outgoing.  So after going through these safety behaviours and avoidance behaviours in great depth, we then discussed the “exposure hierarchy“. Before I even attended my first social anxiety group session, I had to attend an orientation. Within this orientation, the instructor and myself came up with a hierarchy of different social situations that make me nervous. I will share with you guys exactly what was on my list:

  1. talk with individuals one-on-one                 Fear(90)   Avoidance(50)
  2. maintain eye contact                                          Fear(70) Avoidance(40)
  3. manage anxious thoughts about what people think of me  Fear(80) Avoidance(80)
  4. tolerating criticism                                               Fear(80) Avoidance(90)
  5. express more in a job interview                        Fear(80) Avoidance(50)
  6. go to a party sober                                                 Fear(90) Avoidance(100)
  7. call people on the phone                                     Fear(90) Avoidance(80)
  8. return an item to a store                                      Fear(80) Avoidance(100)
  9. ask someone for help                                            Fear(90) Avoidance(100)

Ask you guys can see this is quite a big list, but it basically covers which really triggers my social anxiety.  After reading this list again we started discussing the topic of “therapeutic exposure“. So basically this needs to be structured, planned ahead of time and it needs to be done frequently. I had to decide when I was going to do my exposure, what time I was going to do it at, who was I going to do it with and it needs to be done as close as possible to each other. One thing that the instructors emphasised was that while thinking of these exposures and planning them, we needed to make sure they were small and not overwhelming. These exposures are going to test out our anxious thoughts, and also challenge our beliefs and predictions.  We were informed to make a plan. While working on our plan, remembering to let our feelings happen, and to not leave a high anxiety situation, but rather to wait it out. No safety behaviours are to be used in these exposures as well as no avoidance. We can also use the cognitive strategies I had mentioned in my last blog post to challenge the anxious thoughts that come up afterwards. One that I had mentioned that worked well for me was stating, “it’s only temporary“.

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Phew, that was one hell of a long blog post this week sorry guys! There was just so much to discuss that had happened in this meeting. I have been slowly tracking different small exposures that I have been doing so far. Some of these exposures include:

initating small talk and one-on-one conversations with my boss. Asking more questions such as “how was your weekend” and so forth.

-returning an item that did not fit from Forever 21. 

I am making some progress but it is not just all going to happen at once. I will admit I was anxious in both of these situations, but I did not leave and pce the hell out. I dealt with them, and they were really not as bad as I thought. I am still brainstorming what other exposures I will do until next Wednesday. I will be sure to tell you guys in my next blog post, what other exposures I did. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this post! Let me know what you guys think. Be sure to follow my other social media accounts as well:

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 2

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 2

image3Hey my beauts, I hope you all had a wonderful extra long weekend and did lots of family-orientated things today! So I know that I had promised to keep you guys updated with all of my weekly sessions, so I am going to share with you guys how my second session went. So last Wednesday was not a fully eventful Wednesday let’s just say. It honestly was such a super long day for me. I got off work early and literally had two appointments that day including the social anxiety group therapy meeting. When it came time to go to my meeting at 6 I was literally exhausted and really did not want to be there. However, once the meeting got started it pretty much flew by which was awesome. This Wednesday I was not as anxious as I was the previous Wednesday. I felt more relaxed that whole entire day leading up to my meeting and in the meeting as well. There were a couple people that were missing this time however for what sort of reason.  As soon as I found a seat, sat down and grabbed my name tag, I was right away commented on by the coordinator that I looked completely different. I literally did come straight from the gym so I knew I looked like a complete dirtbag let’s just say.  I had then mentioned to her that I didn’t have time to put on any makeup whatsoever and that I had come straight from the gym. What I found so weird when looking back to that incident now, is that within that same meeting later on in the hour we learned different types of categories in relation to the anxious thoughts that could occur. One was “mind reading” and that is exactly what I was doing in that moment. When the coordinator mentioned that comment, I automatically thought that she was thinking I looked like complete ass and that I looked like a hobolojoe. In reality, however, I did look completely different. I was wearing a baseball cap and sweat clothes with no makeup. My anxious thoughts however automatically raced to the negative view and outlook of that comment when realistically I just looked different from my last session, and that may not even mean in a negative way. My mind just likes to jump to the negative in a lot of situations, and that is where my anxiety starts to peak. Going off of this incident, we did learn the cognitive therapy aspect of social anxiety. We started to go into depth on the anxious thoughts one may have such as : mind reading, probability overestimations, should statements, personalization, all or nothing thinking, catastrophic thinking, negative core beliefs and lastly selective attention and memory.

As you can see there are eight different kinds of anxious thinking and thoughts that an individual can have. This was honestly very new to me, but once this was looked at and reviewed I could relate strongly to a bunch of these that happen on the daily with me. The one that stands out the most to me is the mind reading category. I often always assume that people are thinking a certain thing, often relating to something negatively. I also can see myself using the should statements such as, “should I do this instead of this“, or even “I shouldn’t have done that“, and so forth. So after going through each anxious thought in depth, the instructors then started to go over different ways to identify the anxious thoughts that are occurring. In order to do so, it is crucial to ask yourself 3 important questions. The first is, ” What am I afraid will happen to me?”, the second, “What do I fear that the other person will think about me“, and finally, “What will happen if my anxious thoughts are true?”.  Once you have identified which type of anxious thoughts are bothering you, you can then move onto coping and dealing with those thoughts. We were taught that first you need to examine the evidence within that certain situation. So basically, what is that anxious thought/belief that you are having? You are then going to find support of that anxious thought and also support of alternative thinking.  I am not going to go through every stage of the 7 stages for you guys, mainly cause I do not want to bore the shit out of you. But going through each of these 7 stages and understanding how each of them worked was great.  One huge stage that stood out to me was stage 6 and that was different coping statements that everyone uses to get through an anxious time. Everyone has different statements that they use and there really is no wrong answer. I often find myself saying and thinking, “it’s only temporary“. Once I say this to myself within an anxious situation, I know that the anxiety will only hang around for a short period of time and that it will eventually go away. Some other statements that one could use could be: “it’s anxiety not the truth“, or during a presentation “it’s okay to be nervous during a presentation, it’s normal“. These coping statements work so well and yet they are so simple and take two seconds to say. I would highly recommend thinking of a coping statement that works best for you.

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There are several different key points that I want to address to you guys that stuck with me from that Wednesday meeting and my second session. One of the instructors mentioned that if you are someone who often uses mind reading as a way to introduce anxious thoughts she stated, ” you are the one who in reality is hurting yourself, they are not hurting you. By you thinking that they are thinking negative stuff about you, you are creating those anxious thoughts but in reality, their thoughts are not the ones attacking you and stabbing you“. Even though this statement is so simple it honestly hit me like a tonne of bricks and a light bulb went off. She was so right. Their thoughts are not hitting me, kicking me, causing me pain. In fact, their thoughts are stuck in their minds and chances are… they probably are not even thinking what you think they are thinking about. Another statement that was made within the meeting that stuck with me was seeing things from the other person. People who have anxiety often do not think the nicest things about themselves or speak to themselves nicely… I can highly relate. The instructor had asked us a simple question, “would you speak to your best friend about things that are bothering them the same way you speak to yourself?”. Obviously, I would never say rude things to my best friend and if they ever felt anxious I would try to go about the situation in a more positive setting, so how come we are so negative in our ways of thinking when it comes to ourselves? This is a question that really stuck with me and made complete sense. Or you could go about different situations in the mindset of someone who did not have anxiety or social anxiety. “If I did not have anxiety, how would I go about the situation?”.

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Lastly, I wanted to quickly mention the seventh stage that was introduced to us within cognitive therapy.  This was the stage of behavioural experiments, and I would have to say… this is the more anxiety provoking stage for sure. This is basically putting your anxious thoughts to the test and experimenting what the actual outcome would be. One anxiety provoking thought could be, “thinking it would be terrible if my hands would shake when I hold a glass of water“. The behavioural experiment from this thought could be to make your hands shake on purpose. You could spill on yourself and see what happens… if it is really THAT terrible. One that I know relates to me is the fear that during a conversation, I will not know what to say next. Something that I could practice could be actually pausing during a conversation that I am having then carrying on after a short pause. This will allow my mind to realise and see that it is okay to pause and collect your thoughts… that it is normal.

Although I did not completely cover in detail the seven different strategies for changing your thoughts, I will list them below for you guys to view:

  1. examine the evidence
  2. challenge catastrophic thoughts
  3. include your strengths and positive traits
  4. seeing the other’s perspective
  5. examine the costs and benefits of the thought
  6. use coping statements
  7. do behavioural experiments

At the end of the session, we had to get into partners (absolutely hate doing that shit), and go over different strategies that we could try in relation to our anxious thoughts. Overall, it really was not that bad getting into partners, and my partner was very helpful. I did feel slightly anxious when we would run out of things to talk about and created that awkward silence, but hey….. what can you do.

I hope you guys enjoyed this session update on my social anxiety group therapy! Be sure to follow my on my other social media accounts for more uploads in the near future!

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Much love xo.

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Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 1

Social Anxiety Group Therapy- Session 1

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Happy Friday my beauts! I hope you all are having a wonderful day so far and enjoying your evening! So if you guys have not read my latest blog post discussing my mental illness then I strongly suggest reading that prior to reading this one today. I touch base on my anxiety and what different steps I decided to take to help manage and have better control over my anxiety… more specifically my social anxiety. As you all know I decided to join and take part in an anxiety support group that is based strictly on social anxiety and geared towards finding strategies to manage it better. I have decided that I am going to do weekly blogs, aside from other blogs that I may choose to write, discussing my different sessions that I take part in. I go once a week to these group sessions and they are two hours long. I mainly want to blog these sessions to inform and give advice to others, who may want to chose this form of treatment to better themselves as well. I also find that this is a great way to look back on the progress I have made over these 8 weeks of therapy. So… shall we get started or what?

As some of you may know I had my first group therapy session last Wednesday. This was held in a facility located in hamilton. I literally had no idea what to expect. I would say that my anxiety level a week prior to this meeting was very low since it felt so far away. Even on that Wednesday morning, my anxiety was not high whatsoever. When driving up to the building however, I could feel my anxiety levels slowly start to creep up and bang on my chest. I honestly had so many thoughts running through my mind as I sat in the car waiting for it to be 6:00. “I wonder how many people are going to be in the room with me?”, ” is everyone going to be nice and welcoming?”, “am I going to get called upon even though this is the first session“, “am I actually going to go through with this?”. I knew for a fact that I would rather be anywhere else than go waste two hours of my time talking to complete strangers and feeling uncomfortable. I knew deep down however, that this mental illness could not take over my life any longer, and I need help getting it under control. I knew that this was not going to be easy and my anxiety was probably going to be through the roof.. but you know what? That’s okay.

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Finally, it was 10 to and I knew that I had to make my way into the facility and find the room. I could feel my social anxiety already start to kick in. I for sure did not want to be the last one walking into that room as that would mean that all eyes were on me. At that moment I had a huge flashback to University…. remembering that if I was the slightest bit late to one of my lectures… I would literally say “pce the f*** out“, and turn around and head home. There was no way in hell I would open that lecture door and everyone would be staring at me…. say hello to social anxiety! I finally found the room for the group therapy and was honestly expecting a group full of people sitting around in a circle.  Instead, I was welcomed to a big table with seats all around it. Again…. another flashback hit me square in the face. This literally reminded me of my seminars at Brock University as the set up was the absolute same. I felt my anxiety quicken as I hated those memories… being forced to speak to a group of people or else you would get a poor mark… always feeling uncomfortable. I found a seat right away and sat down. I found a questionnaire in front of me as well as a booklet and a tag for me to write my name on. I sat there quietly waiting for other people to come in and for the session to finally start. Within my sessions, we have two girl group coordinators that run the program. There are also 7 other people besides myself who are participating within these social anxiety sessions. To be honest they all look around my age or slightly older but all looked relatively normal. When you think of social anxiety, you think of someone who is a hermit, someone who keeps their head down and their eyes on the floor. To my amazement, nobody really looked like that. Finally, it hit 6:00 and the session started to begin.

Right away we opened our workbooks and started going through what these sessions were going to address and how they run. You have the right to pass whenever you need to, but the group facilitators strongly suggested trying to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. We then were addressed that later on within the sessions, we were going to encouter the “e” word…. exposures. I knew that was coming, and did not want to think about it at the time. The thought of being put in one of your most uncomfortable situations and facing your social fear terrifies the shit out of me…. literally the absolute shit. But hey… I want to get better…. I need to.  We then started the introductions which I knew was coming and was dreading it. We had to say our name, and one neat thing about us. Right away my social anxiety decided to visit. “What if the thing I say that is neat about myself really is not that neat?”, “what if I stumble on my words?”, or “what if somebody judges me?”.

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“Hi my name is Alyssa. I am a twin and I have two younger sisters who are twins as well“. Right away to my surprise I made a few people smile and I heard a few “wows” in the room. Wow…. see that was not so bad was it? After that hard part was over, we were directed to fill out the questionnaire in front of us. Basically, this questionnaire was rating our anxiety levels and what goals we want to reach. You can pretty much guess what my anxiety levels were… super high. As the session progressed and the hour went by, I actually managed to raise my hand and share some answers with the others.  Still however, after speaking I would always question in my mind if I sounded okay when I spoke out loud or if I sounded like a complete idiot.  One issue that social anxiety steals away from me is my confidence. I should be confident towards what I have to share with others… but I never am… in fact, I am overly nervous and unsure. I remember one of the other people in the room asking if their anxiety should be decreasing throughout this session, but sadly stated that his was the opposite.  As opposed to his anxiety levels going down and his nerves calming, he was getting more nervous every minute. I looked at him as if I knew exactly what he was going through. This whole entire hour, my chest has been so tight and I could feel the butterflies trying to get out of my stomach. I hate this feeling. I hate feeling uncomfortable all the time….. and why? I am literally sitting in a room with 7 strangers and listening to a person speak… what is there to be afraid of?

 

image1-4Poof. My social anxiety literally fled the room and I never encountered him again…. kidding.. literally wished it was that simple. Throughout reading the first few pages within the notebook I actually learned and took in a bunch of important information. I had learned that avoiding anxiety only just maintains it but gets rid of it in the moment. I can relate so much to this statement, as that is what I have been doing… avoiding certain situations when I can.  One important piece of information that stuck with me throughout the session was that having anxiety is not a bad thing. I have always hated my anxiety and hated how it picked me to bring down. In reality however, fear and anxiety are helpful. They can protect us from certain situations and make us more alert. They can also provide us with the energy and motivation we need to get through events. I guess I have never really looked at my anxiety from that point of view before, to not actually get rid of it completely but more or less control it better.  Within the session, we also touched base upon the three components of anxiety which are : the physical sensations, the thoughts and the behaviours that go along with these thoughts. People who have social anxiety, like myself, tend to focus more on the negative instead of the neutral sides of things. In reality, more likely we are actually the ones who are causing the problem and the attack in the first place, this is a psychological sensation and our minds can be our worst enemies. We react to situations how we perceive them to be which usually results in over-generalization. I remember clear as day probably a couple days ago, I went into work bright and early (I am a nanny) and the father had asked how I was that morning. I replied with good and asked him how he was doing. He did not look too pleased and just kind of huffed and stated that he was okay. Right away, I started thinking “what did I do?”.  When in reality, he was absolutely exhausted and the kids did not sleep that good. Over-generalization. I literally do this all the time and that is the route of my problem but I can not help it.

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Finally it is time for our ten minute break so I can gather my thoughts on this session and try to calm down a bit. I remember thinking that I was going to cry because I was so overwhelmed with everything that was happening. I gathered myself together and was ready to take on the next hour. One person however, did not come back to the session and I remember thinking, “hey… you’re still here and that is a big step“.  I knew I was doing the right thing by still sitting in that chair. We then went on to discuss more of the booklet and fill out different anxiety charts.  I remember looking at one of the pages where it listed different examples of social anxiety situations. I could not believe how blind I was that I actually had a severe form of social anxiety. I honestly thought that it was a normal thing, and it would eventually pass on it’s own one day. Some of the examples that I could relate to were:

-presentations

-speaking on the phone

-one on one conversations (sometimes)

-going to a party completely sober

-having to small talk with someone

-job interviews

-speaking to authoritative figures

-asking for help

-having to attend a social event by yourself

How crazy is that though? The red flags were all in front of my face, yet I still honestly had no idea I needed help. I set a bunch of goals for myself after I am finished with the 8 weeks of sessions. A lot have to do with the list above, and managing my anxiety a little better so I can breathe during these situations. After the first session was over I felt a bit of a weight get lifted off my shoulders… I did it. I made it to my very first group therapy session on my own and that is a huge step for myself. However, I am still nervous about what is to come from the other sessions and I am really not looking forward to my exposures. I can not wait to see my progress however, and finally be able to breathe and live life again. I can not wait to face my fears and challenge myself. You will never conquer your fears while still inside your comfort zone. Take that step.

I hope you guys enjoyed this first blog post on my first session with social anxiety. I will be posting more after each session occurs, informing you beauts on the experience that day and what I had learned. Be sure to follow my social media accounts for more updates in the near future!

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Much love xo.

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