Month In Review: May 2017

Since I moved at the beginning of May, I had a lot to adjust to this month. I’m not sure how well I did, though, since it’s now the end of the month and I’m only just feeling settled. It’s hard to get into a routine when it’s so different to the routines you’ve had for years in school.

A celebration: My living expenses are next to nothing, since I’m living with my dad again.

A change: Well, I was still unpacking into the first week, so I guess my move—but mostly the season got warmer.

A conflict: Living with my family has proved to be a little difficult for me.

A relief: I found more resources for helping treat my mental health.

A regret: I didn’t put time toward my manuscript this month.

A random memory: A cashier at a convenience store, whose first language was definitely not English, said to me, “Have a happy day.” It made my morning, and I did have a happy day.

Onward to June. I’m hoping that this month I can really, actually, finally get revisions going on THE PILGRIMAGE. That’s really my main goal. My priorities are so shaken after moving and diving straight into work. I also have another project that I’m working on (that has been on the backburner for ~3 years) that has suddenly picked up momentum again.

C25K Journey: Part 1

If you follow me on Twitter or Snapchat, you might have seen that I’ve been doing the Couch to 5K runs! I’m using the “C25K” app on Android by Zen Labs.

Here’s a quick rundown of the C25K program that I’ve done so far.

Week 1

3 sessions of 30 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Eight 60-second runs
  • Eight 90-second walks
  • 5-minute cool down
Week 2

3 sessions of 31 minutes each, consisting of:

  • 5-minute warm up
  • Six 90-second runs
  • Six 120-second walks
  • 5-minute cool down

So far, I’ve completed week 1 and done the first day in week 2! I’m trying to go for sessions at least every 3rd day, or even 3 times per week. I started on a Wednesday, so the scheduling has been a little off. I wanted to get started a lot sooner, but after I moved at the beginning of this month, my town got rain every. single. day. I’ve done the runs through the trails near my house. The paths go up and down hills and have loads of roots, so it was nice to be mentally on my toes (haha) and on the lookout for possible hazards. I don’t like monotonous exercise, so running on a flat path gets incredibly boring.

My goal for this program is to increase my cardiovascular skills and heart health. My grandfather has had numerous heart surgeries. My uncle was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It kind of dawned on me that I need to make more effort in taking care of my physical health, and having a guide like C25K has been helpful so far. It’s hard to value myself, so any motivation to take care of my body has usually sucked. Things like, “You’re worth the effort!” are useless on me. The practical aspect of “Aiming to reduce heart problems in the future” is a lot easier to convince my brain as the truth. I’m tired of getting winded going up the stairs.

Anyway, I digress.

I wanted to check in to hold myself more accountable. Going into week 2, I was low on motivation, so checking in here might help keep me more accountable.

May 3: Week 1 Day 1/Run 1

I felt dead for a lot of this. After the 2nd run for a minute, I was very wheezy. I was still figuring out my route. I skipped one of the runs since my route took me to a large gravel hill, and I spent more time than intended, but with the longer route, I had lots of walking time involved.

Runtime: 7 minutes

May 6: Week 1 Day 2/Run 2

It was rainy this day, so I put on a hat and sweater, and went anyway. I felt more like a badass, even though it was only spitting. I thought I would have to cut the session short, since the route I went on Day 1 was different, but the loop I did ended up being just enough time! Unfortunately, I overdressed to compensate for the rain, and ended up overheating a lot.

Runtime: 8 minutes

May 9: Week 1 Day 3/Run 3

This was a great one. I did the warm up in my backyard, doing a bunch of moving stretches and high knees. I much preferred this to walking for 5 minutes. I did the same loop as Run 2 and got back to my house with time to spare—I ended up pacing around the house for my cool down.

Runtime: 8 minutes

May 12: Week 2 Day 1/Run 4

I was hesitant to go this day, but I knew that if I didn’t go, I’d start feeling guilty. Besides, I was a little angsty and needed to “do” something. I did the same warm up as Run 3, and walked until I hit the trail. I cut back on two of the running segments, reducing my total running time from 9 minutes to 8 1/2. Still, better than I was at the start.

Runtime: 8 1/2 minutes

At some point at the end of my run, usually during or after the cool down, I measured my heart rate, and I’ve noticed it’s gone down as I’ve gotten through each run.

So far, I’m enjoying this. I know at some point I’ll need to buy new shoes that are more appropriate for my feet. My current shoes are from 2008, getting worn down, and aren’t very “technical” when it comes to a running shoe. But at this point in time, I don’t care. I haven’t accrued any injuries or sores, aside from the exhaustion of, y’know, running. In time I’ll get better gear for my feet.

I got sick at the beginning of this week—not just a cold and sore throat, but an additional infection that would’ve made running incredibly uncomfortable—so I had to take a small break from the runs. The weather got hot, too, and I’m heat sensitive. I hope I can do a session tomorrow after the thunderstorm risk passes! I’m planning on doing Week 2/Day 1 again, since I struggled with it and have also had a week-long break from jogging.

I’m not sure when I’ll post the second part, but it’ll likely be next month!

Bullet Journal Routines

My approach to bullet journalling doesn’t put a heavy focus on routines and habitual usage. I use it a lot and also have patterns for when I use it.

There are two important times for me to use my bullet journal: morning and night.

At night, I’m less likely to remember the bullet journal, even though it’s better to use then. At night, I like to check in with my trackers and calendars, like my monthly spreads. I need a push to remember to check in with the trackers to do the point where I put a reminder somewhere on my daily or weekly log. I also like to plan out the next day.

In the morning, I check the plan for the day; or, if I’ve forgotten to write it up the night before, I make it. I’ll double check to see if there are any other things to add.

Throughout the day, I refer back to my bullet journal. This is what the bulk of my planning is for: keeping me on track throughout the day.

I don’t have a set time where I sit and make spreads or plan the day. However, when I am getting set up to work on my bullet journal, I like to put on some ambient music and minimise my distractions.

The time I take to finish a spread will depend on the complexity of the design, how distracted I am, if I’m illustrating stuff… All that jazz.

  • Setting up a monthly layout can take me about 1 – 2 hours.
  • Setting up a weekly layout can take about 1/2 – 1 hour.
  • Setting up a daily layout can take about 15 – 30 minutes.

I try to get the monthly layout done before the start of the month, and same with the weekly. However, there are times where I don’t get the month done until the 1st, or the weekly done until the Monday (because I start my week on a Monday, not a Sunday).

I strive for a planning routine, but really, I don’t have much of one. I want to develop a routine, but I’d have to have more of a schedule for the rest of my life as well and fit in bullet journalling into that. I’ll forget to use monthly trackers for a few days—sometimes a week or more—but I’ve learned to, frankly, not give a damn. 😉

My PTSD, Triggers And How I Manage Them

My triggers aren’t limited to my posttraumatic stress disorder. Because I have CPTSD, it’s ahem more complex than PTSD from concrete traumatic events. (This isn’t to say CPTSD is more advanced or whatever; they’re variations, with trauma coming from different events, factors, and points in life.)

As such, I’m triggered by different things, not always associated with trauma.

The thing about triggers is they’re not a guaranteed way to get a reaction. I’m not triggered every time I’m exposed to one of my triggers—which is something people might not understand. I am aware of my triggers, and I am also aware of how well I can manage any possible reactions if I’m exposed to them. Just because slamming doors triggers me doesn’t mean I’m going to have a mental breakdown every time someone slams a door. (I might have in the past, before I started therapy and learning how to manage my mental health.)

Here are the triggers I’m fairly certain are related to my PTSD:

  • loud footsteps
  • slamming doors and cupboards
  • hands moving to my face
  • yelling/loud voices
  • walking near moving trucks or cars

My PTSD triggers need to happen in real life. I need to hear and experience them to be triggered by them—a video game with stomping sounds, or a movie where people yell, won’t trigger traumatic flashbacks and my fight-flee-or-freeze response.

Here are the triggers unrelated to PTSD:

  • corpses
  • death
  • suicide
  • self-harm
  • bodily mutilation, on humans or animals
  • existentialism (I’m not even kidding with this one)

I’m still bouncing around on how I feel about the PTSD diagnosis, but I’ve been diagnosed twice with depression by medical practitioners in different cities, so I’m going to say I have depression. The triggers above are more likely to initiate “bad vibes” and a depressive mood, or make me incredibly upset.

The way I manage my triggers, and when I’m triggered, depends entirely on how I get triggered and what triggered me.

If I’m triggered in a verbal conversation with someone, or by something happening around me, I make a quick note to the people around me (who know about my mental health) that I’m not comfortable with the topic or the environment. My biggest response to my PTSD triggers is to get anxious or angry. I’ll complain about what I hear, because that’s the only way I can tell myself, “This isn’t a precursor to harm. It’s a trivial thing. People can complain about trivial things, things that don’t matter too much.” If you follow me on Twitter, I have occasionally talked about living with people who have heavy footsteps.

The triggers I struggle with more are the images and videos. I feel sick when I see photos of hurt people or animals, especially ones that are like, “Little Benjamin the beagle needs emergency surgery after being attacked, help the crowdsourcing campaign!” followed by a picture of little Benjamin’s hurt body. Just fucking don’t. It’s a graphic image. Content warnings for graphic imagery occur on television, but not on the Internet, and that’s why I need to avoid social media when I have bad mental health.

I could elaborate more on the specifics and individual situations, but it’ll be faster and more efficient to sum up my known triggers, how they influence my mental health, and how I attempt to manage them.

Trigger: loud footsteps, slamming doors and cupboards, yelling/loud voices, walking near moving trucks or cars
Effect: fight, flee, or freeze response; irritability; anxiety
Management: I’m still trying to figure out how to manage this trigger. At the moment, it leads to a bunch of complaining about whatever noises I’m hearing.

Trigger: hands moving to my face
Effect: knee-jerk reaction to get the hell away from you; fight, flee, or freeze response; accelerated heart rate; flashbacks; anxiety
Management: I snap or explain the situation to the person who triggered me.

Trigger: corpses, death
Effect: anxiety; suicidal urges; upset stomach; symptoms of grief (crying, loss of appetite, sadness, etc.); hopelessness
Management: I’m usually triggered by images of this one, but occasionally written or heard can trigger me; so getting away from the pictures helps, along with distracting myself with puzzles and other cognitive engagement (like games!).

Trigger: self-harm, bodily mutilation, suicide
Effect: urge to hurt myself; upset stomach; crying; suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination
Management: I’m only triggered by visuals of this trigger, and I manage it with deep breathing, distracting myself with puzzles and games (cognitive engagement), meditating, and doing “body scan” exercises to remind myself of compassionate touch/perspective on my skin, instead of pain.

Trigger: existentialism
Effect: suicidal ideation, urges, or rumination; anxiety; hopelessness
Management: I end and avoid conversations or discussions rooted in existentialism. Considering my purpose on the planet, or wondering the meaning of my life, is a sure-fire way to make my mental illness difficult to manage.

My intensive short-term therapy last year ended up being the best place for me to learn how to manage my mental health when my mental illnesses are triggered. I left out some of the more situation-specific triggers that can worsen my mental health, but on the whole, this post is fairly exhaustive of my life. Not every trigger has the same reaction and the same way of dealing with it. I’ve spent at least a year now trying to figure out the best solutions to navigate my mental illness without reinforcing harmful behaviours.

It’s been hard.

Bullet Journal Breaks: Starting and Ending Them

At the end of October, I took a break from my bullet journal (and most parts of life, let’s be honest). Recently, I took an unintended break at the end of March that last through most of April.

These two recent incidents aren’t the first hiatuses I’ve taken from my bullet journal. In fact, it’d be rare for me to commit to bullet journalling with the same motivation and dedication for more than 6 months.

Sometimes I feel guilty for setting aside my bullet journal. I should use it daily and rely on it. But there was a time before a planner and it wasn’t as bad as it might be in retrospect.

When you use a planner, it isn’t as if your skillset stays with the tactile book or software you use. A planner, whether it’s a bullet journal or printed agenda or an app, will strengthen your time management skills even when you’re not using it. That’s what a habit does, after all. So taking a break from your bullet journal won’t always be because of chaos or cause chaos.

My tips for taking a break from a bullet journal—whether it’s intentional or not—are similar to the ones in my post on how to take breaks from writing.

You might need to take an intentional/planned break from your bullet journal if you’re experiencing any of these:

  • getting distracted from your journal
  • feeling bored by using it
  • forgetting to use it at all
  • overwhelming pressure to create something (a nice layout, collections, spreads) despite not wanting to
  • “burnout” of any kind

Tips To Take A Break From Bullet Journalling

Be kind to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with putting aside things. A bullet journal isn’t a primary necessity in your life, like hygiene, food, or sleep. You can account for its disappearance in your daily routine if you need to take a break.

Pick a time to break from the bullet journal.

My last break, at the end of March, was just then: at the end of March. I noticed the above signs (all of them) on top of my priorities and mental health changing. I started a break from my bullet journal in the beginning of April.

A good guideline for starting and ending your break? Make them the same amount. If you’re start your break at the beginning of a month, have the break last a month. A week, a day, whatever suits your flow. If you notice you’re naturally stepping away from your bullet journal, take a look and see if you can extend the break mindfully.

Aim for a length of time to take the break—but make it flexible.

My month-long bujo break wasn’t exactly a hard-and-fast, cold-turkey disconnect from my bullet journal. I was barely using it for the first 3 weeks of April. During the last week, I needed to use it again, though not to the capacity I had previously been using it. My plan was to break for a month, but when necessity kicked in, I had to adapt.

Returning To The Bujo

My last point in taking a break mentioned necessity. When necessity kicks in, I use my bullet journal.

Signs it’s time to start planning again:

  • feeling disconnected from your activities
  • taking on more projects
  • increasing workload (personal work, professional work, housework, etc.)
  • making to do lists on scraps of paper, in your phone, anywhere

Tips To Start Bullet Journalling Again

Be inspired to create again.

You can look at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, and your own spreads to get jived to make something in your bullet journal again. My favourite way to get inspired to make a new spread is to look at new ones. Most often, my breaks happen because I’m bored of doing the same layouts.

Assess what needs to go into your bullet journal.

At one point, you may have had a habit tracker for every habit—a dozen or more—or you had an elaborate monthly calendar with quotes and routines all over it. Do you need that now, at this moment, to get planning again? You don’t have to set it aside forever, but is it what you need now? Think about what you need to write down, rather than what you want to look at later.

My recent return features a calendar, a sleep tracker, and 3 habit trackers. I thought that’d be good enough, but then I started making to do lists and… well, I’m bullet journalling again. But I’m doing it in such a way that leads me to my final tip for restarting.

Start simple.

Keep the pressure off yourself by making a simple spread first. This is always a good chance to go back to the roots of bullet journalling and look to Ryder Carroll’s system. The central concept for a bujo is adaptable and simple. It’s meant to be a quick and effortless way to plan, track, and remember your time. You may love doing calligraphic flourishes, or pretty headers, but ease back into them.

Incorporate the bullet journal into your routine again.

I like to look at my bullet journal once before bed, and after I’ve woken up and eaten breakfast.

At night, I review how the day went and see what needs to be done still. For an incomplete task, I add an arrow and write out the task again for the next day, or I look at a list of important, but not time sensitive, tasks that I’ve put in my spread. I also flip back to previous spreads to fill in habits and other places I need to touch base (bookmarks are handy for this).

In the morning, I assess how I’m feeling and how much time I have for the day. That way, I can accommodate any leftover tasks that I didn’t complete. Throughout the day, I occasionally check my bullet journal for what I need to do, especially if I find myself losing track of time.

But to start out with, I check in to my bullet journal at the end and beginning of the day, when it fits into my routine. I’m more likely to remember my bullet journal at the start and end of a day, so I make an effort to sit with it, undistracted, and adjust to changes in my time management. It’s okay to have unfinished tasks!

(An upcoming layout spotlight will feature the weekly + daily log combination I’ve loved using since the beginning of my bujo return.)

My Biggest Piece of Advice?

For both taking a break and returning from a break, I have one, single, be-all-end-all tip:

Don’t force anything.

Planning for something isn’t the same as forcing something. When you plan, you’re making space to accommodate the change. When you force, you’re trying to apply it when the time or circumstances won’t allow. Don’t force a cold-turkey break, or aim for an aesthetic if they’re things you can’t accommodate.

Happy bullet journalling, folks!

Quick Blog Update!

This is a quick update to say I’m reducing my posts from three times a week to only twice a week. Here is the new change.

  • Monday: Bullet journal posts, on the regular.
  • Any other day of the week: Personal topics, writing-related posts, and any other surprises I come up with or that strike me.

I’m focusing more on my work starting this month, and by “work” I mean creating art, writing stories and poetry, and editing fellow writers’ work. (If you’re interested in hiring me, I’m available to take on more clients for the start of June!)

I may only test this out for the month. At the start of May, I decided to be more spontaneous in my hobbies, and up the seriousness of the artistic crafts I’ve been wanting to focus on for so long. I’m hoping to update more often with my writing and artistic projects, rather than providing more posts.

Besides, I’m screaming on Twitter often enough that we don’t really need to read me three times per week here.

You’ll get another post on Monday, so thanks for being patient with me.

Thanks for understanding!

May 2017 Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

May 7 2017 Update: I’ve embedded the Youtube video of my timelapse doodle of the geode! Scroll down to the bottom to see it.

My bullet journal spreads in April (well, my singular spread) was almost like a break for me. I needed a bit of a reset from my bullet journal and from planning. I think it’s really important to take breaks from your bullet journal, particularly if you take a creative or artistic approach like I do. This month, I’m excited to get back into the bujo! I’m still unsure if I’ll do weekly or daily spreads, but for now, here are my monthly layouts.

This month, since it’ll be my first one where I’m living post-grad in my hometown, I have more time on my hands to work on my personal projects as well as my clients’ projects. My personal projects include doing more art, on top of the writing. I’ve always felt a little guilty for having to choose between the two, but in the words of Tulio and Miguel…

Both? Both is good.

So I created my spreads this month to both inspire my artistic inclinations, as well as remember two important philosophies for art:

  1. Practise your art, both what you know and what you’re learning.
  2. Ignore perfectionism.

I’m glad I could get my perseverance quote in this month, too. I didn’t include one for April’s spread—it didn’t feel right—and this month’s is perfect. I’ll be doing the Couch To 5K interval training for walking and jogging. I may post a blog about my motives for starting, and possibly check in weekly with how it’s going. (But then again, I might not.) I also have my preferred calendar, and as you can see, I haven’t filled in anything yet. I like to post my blank spreads, after all.

A 2-page notebook spread with a list on the left page and a calendar table on the right page.

I loved doodling the crystals and geodes. Doing so required some studying and reference photos, which is important in illustrative work. I recorded my doodle of the second geode (the one I didn’t mess up, haha), as well as the crystal cluster at the bottom. I’m thinking of editing the clips and posting them to YouTube or somewhere, so let me know if you’re interested in seeing those!

I used pictures from Pinterest as reference and study! Here is a split geode, and here is a doodled illustration of crystals. I’m excited to see the finished, coloured products of the crystals!

A 2-page notebook spread with a sleeping chart on the left page and illustrations of geodes and crystals on the right page.

But drawing the geodes really reminded me that planning can’t take precedence over organic function and creation. There was no way I could’ve planned the geodes. I started with an outline and had to go from there. I want to take that philosophy and apply it more to my life.

My bullet journal has been very planned out during in February and March, so I’m trying to go with the flow a little more this month. I’m not sure if I’ll use weekly or daily spreads, but we’ll see how it goes!

Timelapse Video: