8. What is a Fulfilling Life?


Personally, I find the whole concept of living each day to the fullness super stressful. First of all, what does that mean? For an logical overachiever like me, most of the time I am just confused about how to excel at this concept. Does it mean you have to be happy every second of the day? Does it mean you have to find some joy in each day? What if it is just a mundane and boring day, am I still living my “best life?” Maybe it is like a math equation. Fulfillment is calculated, not by the average happiness of the day, but by the overall average of happiness in the year.

Let’s face it. Even in a job that you enjoy, there is no way that you can find it fulfilling everyday. I find that the five day work week can get super monotonous. You get up at the same time, you brush your teeth, and then try to rush out the door to make it to work on time. I mean, there are some jobs where there is more variety. In my case, I wouldn’t say my job is like the movie, Groundhog Day, where everyday just repeats itself. However, there is still a sense of routine in my line of work. There will be tasks that I deal with everyday even though it might be with different people and situations.

For someone with anxiety, routine is extremely helpful for me. However, do I find it always fulfilling? Not necessarily. I really love most aspects of my job, but I don’t enjoy it at all times. Even the things I love to do can get boring and monotonous over time. Moreover, since you are being paid, you have to do it even though you are not “feeling it” that day. Obviously, I understand if there was no time schedule, maybe nothing will get done though. So how do I get fulfillment when I don’t feel like working that day? I have no answer to this except that I keep plugging along and most days I feel content at work, and even fulfilled. Sometimes, I wonder though, if it would be better to be self-employed and have more than one job. I mean, as people, we are multi-faceted and have different hobbies and interests. Why can’t our jobs be like that too?


7. Does Fun + Stress = Happy?


Last week could be summed it in a few words: pure fun and exhaustion. Why is that often the “funnest” things can also be the most tiring? What would you choose? Doing something that is great fun and great stress or something that is great fun and no stress. The obvious choice would be do something that is fun and not stressful. However, somehow doing something that is fun and stressful usually gives me more satisfaction overall. For example, this event I planned ran for three days, and I was just physically and mentally exhausted at the end, but I just felt so happy that completed it! For me, that feeling of satisfaction is worth the stress and anxiety I endured. “Coasting” along in life is fun, but finally finding that place where you feel happy and fulfilled is even more fun.

Last week also made me think about “being busy.” Since I have anxiety, I often try to balance work with rest. Usually on days off, I will focus on “me time.” I like to spend hours by myself, not talking to anyone. For some people, this may sound absolutely horrifying, but silence really always my brain to relax and reset. I am a complete lover of my own company. For me, this last week, has felt the complete opposite. Every day felt like “go, go, go.” I didn’t have a minute at work to even let my brain chill out. It felt like it was constantly “buzzing.” Weirdly though, my brain was so occupied with just completing the task at hand, that I had no time to ruminate over my anxiety as much. That is perhaps why my doctor insists that I don’t take time off work because it can sometimes help my anxiety.

6. Accepting Uncertainty


Last week I wrote about how to feel less overwhelmed, and ironically, this past week has been very overwhelming. In the last week, I had to organize a big event at work. I had hosted this event before so I felt pretty organized and confident that I could pull it off. However, I didn’t expect some new projects to also pop up at the same time. I started to get overwhelmed of course! So I decided to follow my own guidelines to not feel overwhelmed that I wrote about in my last blogpost. I preceded to finish the immediate tasks at hand and plan out my to-do lists on my calendar.

It seemed that I was calming down a little and then suddenly Monday night I just started to feel super overwhelmed. You know that feeling when every anxious thought just starts infiltrating your brain and then the supposed calm you had created just dissipates into thin air. I hate that feeling. I mean, I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed because I was prepared. So I started pacing a little and of course, started talking to my husband. Then, I preceded to distract myself with Instagram and Youtube. Like usual, I got a bit teary, but I guess it wasn’t that bad.

It made me think about how anxiety controls our minds. We become masters at trying to dodge its presence, but no matter how prepared we are, it will always come to haunt us when we can’t accept uncertainty. I know my doctor tells me all the time that the only way I will get better is if I face my fears, but boy is it hard when I do. This week I had to face my fears of being super busy, talking in public, and organizing a big event. I chose to face these fears because I didn’t want my anxiety to hold me back from things I wanted to do. Of course, it all went well and I wasn’t even that anxious at all, but the buildup, the buildup, is always so hard for me. I guess it is true, a battle is not won in a single day, or a week for that matter and what is my battle anyway? Is it to cure my anxiety (which isn’t possible since it is a chronic illness)? Is it to manage it or is it just to be friends with it? Who knows?

5. How I Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed


I have been meaning to write this blogpost for awhile, especially around the Christmas and the winter holidays time period. With having to attend Christmas dinners, and buying Christmas presents, December can be very stressful and very overwhelming (I particularly feel like typing the word “very” in capitals). I am definitely one of those people that get overwhelmed easily. It stills happens a lot despite that fact that I am better at dealing with it, and part of me has accepted that I will always be a little overwhelmed. However, there are a few things I do which have helped me feel less overwhelmed over the years and I thought they might be helpful for you.

Focus on the Immediate

Usually, I feel the most overwhelmed when my to-do list starts stacking up. There is so much to do that I simply don’t know where to begin. That is usually when the panic begins to set in and I decide to start finding out a way out before I lose complete control. At this point, I will usually just put the brakes on everything and focus on the immediate thing I need to get done. For me, this is usually the task with the nearest deadline or has the greatest importance to me. Then, I proceed to block out everything till I get this one task finished. After I am done, I find that it buys me a little time to figure out how to complete the other tasks on my plate. Moreover, it just feels good to be able to finish something, even if it seems small in comparison to everything else you need to do.

Plan of Attack

Now, that I am not freaked out about the closest deadline coming up too fast, I then start to wrap my head around how to make the rest of the tasks less overwhelming. I usually have several strategies of attack. Sometimes, I will just add all the events onto my calendar first and then add all the tasks I need to complete each event also on the calendar. I find that once I see how everything fits in, almost like a puzzle, I don’t see it as tons of tasks I have to complete. Instead, I just see it is as a few tasks that I have to complete each day. I also like to spend time prioritizing the tasks each day just in case I don’t finish everything that day. The ones that I have to do for sure are placed at the top of the list. You can also colour-code them so you easily see which ones are the must-dos of that day.

Choosing Perfection

I find I often feel overwhelmed, not only because I have to get a lot done, but also because I want to do everything well. Being perfect all the time, if that does exist, is very difficult to achieve, if not impossible. What I usually do is aim for “more perfection” in some tasks over others. I will think to myself that I want to do Task A and Task B the best I can. Then, I will complete the other tasks well, but not fuss over the small details. I understand that seems like I am not pushing myself enough, but I just think it is a more healthy way to live. I personally don’t think you can be an “A+” in every part of your life. Instead, living a balanced and healthy life has become my form of an “A+.”

What are your tips for feeling less overwhelmed?

4. Triggers and Blogging

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In the last week, I started spending more time reading the blogs of other fellow mental illness sufferers. This is often hard for me because I tend to get triggered by reading other people’s experiences. This would often happen when I was very ill because I would think that what happened to someone else would inevitably happen to me. That is why I tend to only spend maybe once a week reading other people’s blogs. However, I have noticed as time as gone by this has gotten a little easier for me and I started to wonder why.

They say with “knowledge comes power,” and I think this applies to how I feel about my mental illness. As I have learned more about anxiety and depression, I feel that I have developed a greater power to deal with it. When I first discovered I had mental illness, I knew absolutely nothing about it. I thought it might just go on forever and I would never recover. I now know there is a lot of help and support for mental illness and you just have to ask for it. Moreover, as I have dealt with it for over ten years now, I know my symptoms and triggers quite well. If I get stuck, I can always call my doctor. I also realized that everyone’s mental illness is different and comparing isn’t always helpful.

Ironically though, sometimes it can be helpful for me. When I read other people’s blogs and connect with their stories, it makes me feel less alone. It also makes me realize that many of us face the same struggles and we can possibly help each other find a way out. I also think that it also creates a nice sense of community where we can share and help each other. Previously, I have had troubles with going to mental illness support groups. Somehow the face-to-face interactions overwhelmed me and made me overthink my illness sometimes. I just felt less likely to share in these groups because of the judgement perhaps. There is anonymity in the blogging world and this has allowed me to truly express my thoughts. It has all been very therapeutic for me.

3. Self-Care and Productivity

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This week marked a change in routine for me. A family member has returned from her extended vacation. It was a week full of errands, from picking her up from the airport to bringing her to places to pick daily essentials. As I mentioned in other blogposts, I am a person who enjoys routine, so I felt a bit more overwhelmed than usual. However, I know that having her in our lives again will soon become routine again. As someone with anxiety, I always feel like I am living in an oxymoron. I want routine, have to adjust to changes in my routine, and yet I crave some change in my routine as well.

When there is a change in routine, I feel like I always sitting at the edge of a cliff in the beginning. I end up trying to do anything I can to achieve some balance. Usually, this means I will often try really hard to overdo the self-care piece. So much in fact, that I will start thinking maybe I am being too lazy. I think these thoughts go back to my last post where I talk about feeling my sense of mortality and trying to live my life to the fulless.

As I was chilling out one night last week, I started to think that maybe self-care is productive and that I shouldn’t feel bad about it. We often mistake productivity with having to go to work, or cleaning the house. Yet, we often forget that taking care of our minds is productive. On the flip side, should I feel the need to be productive all the time? I mean, is life too short to dissect and try to divvy up ever moment as meaningful and productive? Or should we just go with flow? What do you think?

2. Afraid of Suffering

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I assumed everyone was scared of death. I certainly started to “feel it” when I turned 40 this year. To many, this might seem too early to think about dying, but for some reason, I started to think about how risks for certain diseases seem to increase with age, and in the next 20 years, I might witness the death of someone around me. I guess, it might be just my anxious nature. Certainly, in my 20s, I never had these thoughts. I just assumed that life would go on forever, and if I made a mistake, I could certainly fix it tomorrow. However, as I have gotten older, I have started to feel the sand trickle down that sand timer a little faster than before. Is it only me?

The other day, I brought this topic up during a lunch with friends who were around the same age as me. I was surprised to hear that they weren’t afraid of death at all. In fact, they thought it was a natural part of life. Even my husband could easily give me a similar answer. All this made me think really hard about why I was afraid. Was I afraid of the possible suffering before death? Was I afraid that I was wasting my precious life? Was I scared that I won’t be able to see my loved ones again? I’m not totally sure. Maybe, it was a combination of all those reasons I guess.

However, the most ironic thought came into my head afterwards. I used to wish for death all the time. I remember when I was my sickness, living at the psych ward, I was asked by the nurse whether I felt suicidal all the time. My answer was always “yes,” because I wanted the suffering to end. Yet, now today, since I feel “better,” I am afraid death all the time. I can barely to make it to most doctor appointments without freaking out. Furthermore, I don’t know how many times I have cried at the eye doctor. Gosh, life is truly a weird journey sometimes, isn’t it?

1. Trips and Anxiety

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I haven’t written a blogpost for a while, mostly because I have been so overwhelmed with all the activities during the Christmas holidays. Now that it is the new year, I feel inspired to write again. However, I thought I would write my blogposts more like a journal this year. I just want to share thoughts and experiences that I encounter in my daily life as someone with anxiety.

The last week was a bit of a difficult one since I became ill after returning from a trip. For an anxious person, going on a trip is like a double-ended sword because it can be great fun, but also can bring about great stress. I am one of those people who thrive on routine, and with travelling, even if it is well planned out, it is still not my everyday routine. So I was surprised that this trip went quite well. I think it helped a lot that I was visiting family who were aware of my mental illness. Instead, I think most of the anxiety for this trip stemmed from not having a great time on my last trip. During my previous trip, I actually drank strong coffee (which I hadn’t drank in a long time), and it made my anxiety suddenly spike. I actually had to go lay down in a room.

I think one thing that made this trip better was I just decided to just do whatever I wanted according to how I felt. I thought it would mean I would miss out on certain activities, but weirdly enough, I pretty much participated in everything. It was strange. I felt like just going out and having fun became the routine. I guess, anxiety affects people in ebbs and flows too. It doesn’t always turn out to be bad like we imagine in our heads. Even if it didn’t turn out to be a good trip, I also realized that I showed up and tried and that is half the battle. Did I have a few moments of stress? Yes I did and I actually told others how I was feeling. I realized sharing your vulnerabilities actually gives you strength sometimes. I figure, in life, any time you can be as close to your true self as possible is a good thing right? How do you feel about going on trips?

How Therapy Changed My Life

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I was inspired to write this blogpost after reading Jame’s version from his blog, The Bipolar Writer. I hope he doesn’t mind that I am writing a similar blogpost inspired by his. James is an excellent writer and his blogpost talked about how therapy has helped him open up and assisted his recovery process. I thought I would talk about my journey with therapy and how it has changed my life. I have been treated by two therapist, and they have been completely different in their approach. However, both of them have been essential and helpful during my recovery process. So in this blogpost I want to talk about why therapy has been so important to me.

Life Line

I wasn’t sure how to call this, but the fact that I have a trusted psychiatrist to call when I am feeling helpless has lowered my anxiety immensely. I know my family and friends have been essential in my recovery. However, there are times when no one can seem to bring me down from ledge. I don’t know if it is because a psychiatrist is a professional, but somehow, being able to have someone to call who I know will comfort and calm me down has been such a blessing. That is why it is important to find a psychiatrist that you can trust and communicate with. It can be the difference between feeling completely helpless and knowing that there is always hope.

Spill Your Guts

Let’s face it. Whenever I talk to my family and friends about my mental illness, there is always a certain “dark bit” that I leave out. Mostly, because it pretty much terrifies others when you tell them the depth of your helplessness. So I am so relieved whenever I see my psychiatrist and I can just lay down every horrible thought I have at his office. I know that everything I say in that room is confidential so I don’t have to hold back. Plus, I assume that my psychiatrist has heard these types of thoughts on multiple occasions so his reaction is always calm and reassuring. I find this really helpful because I know that I am not the only one with this issue, and it makes me feel less alone somehow.

Game Plan

Usually when I am in a bad state, it is hard to think rationally at all. Here is where my psychiatrist has been extremely helpful. He is able to break down my huge cloud of spiralling thoughts and make it more concrete and manageable somehow. Moreover, he is able to help me refute these helpless thoughts step-by-step and then provide a game plan on how to attack them. Most of the time, after I walk out of his office, I feel a little lighter. Instead of having a million thoughts in my head, I now only have a couple of pointers that I need to focus on before I see him again. This really helps me because I tend to get just overwhelmed easily. Plus, after I see him, I often glimpse an end point, and that is truly hopeful when mental illness often feels eternal.

How has therapy changed your life? I would love to hear your stories.

Finding Transcendence

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As someone with anxiety, you often get caught up in thoughts that keep coming back again and again. Sometimes they can be crippling, but once in a while, you look forward to them coming back. This week, I actually quite enjoyed repeatedly contemplating the idea of transcendence.  In my last blogpost, I talked about my reflections after watching a TED Talk about happiness. The speaker, Emily Esfahani Smith, talked about her four pillars to a meaningful life and one of the pillars, transcendence, really intrigued me. For her, transcendence are “rare moments when you are lifted above the hustle and bustle of everyday life” and you feel connected to a “higher reality.” For example, she said that she felt transcendence when she was writing and that others have found it in religion. So it got me thinking about where did I find transcendence?

Initially, I just really couldn’t come up with anything. For my husband, fishing was definitely his form of transcendence. You didn’t know when he would be back! It was then that I realized I was stuck in thinking that only hobbies could be considered transcendent. In fact, we actually can find many transcendent moments in our everyday lives.

Family Dinner

Easy conversation. Endless laughter. Yummy Meals. For me, this equals transcendence. Family dinners take me away from the stressors of everyday life and allow me to enjoy a place in time where I can just be myself. Where I am enveloped by conversation about new and exciting ventures, but also familiar inside jokes only those at the table would get. I think we often forget how precious and rare these moments actually are and how thankful we should be.

Taking Care of my Succulents

I was initially going to title this paragraph “Gardening,” but then I thought who was I kidding? I don’t know if I would call taking care of a few potted succulents actually gardening. I started growing succulents a couple of years ago and I am genuinely hooked. I truly love planting a succulent, tending to it, and then being able to see it grow and flourish. Of course, there have been some that didn’t make it, but it has been rewarding to learn and grow from these mistakes. I decided to include this hobby in this post because I do truly lose track of time and space when I come home every day to check out each succulent to see how they are doing and if there are any changes.


I have mentioned my love of solving puzzles in previous blogposts. Jigsaw puzzles were actually at the core of my healing during my hospital stay. One of the most difficult aspects of my hospital stay was filling up my day with things to do. Something about the physical act of figuring out how to fit all the pieces together in a puzzle gave me a sense of peace, purpose, and fulfillment. Since there really wasn’t anything else to do there, working on these puzzles took me away from the reality of my mental illness, even though it was only temporary. Knitting, word games, and anything similar to a puzzle all give me this feeling of transcendence.

What is your form of transcendence?