Anxiety – Fighting back with hobbies

I am a gamer. As a proud card carrying member of Generation X I can tell you that in 1982 I got an Atari 2600. I actually got a “sears” version, back then Atari sold directly to Sears (who was still a major, if not the biggest retailer in the country) my FAVORITE uncle got it for me, LOL. I’ve been hooked ever since. Back then you had to hook it up to the TV, graphics were horrible by todays standard but god was it fun.

I’ve gone through many iterations of games and generations of gaming consoles in the last 40 years. I’ve been gaming probably longer than many of you have been alive LOL. I’ve recently started playing some of my older games again. This is my hobby of course, I work full time, I have a family I have a normal life. Hobbies allow you to disengage from reality, more over it allows you to escape from things you don’t necessarily enjoy doing.

As an example do you hate your job? Are you having a stressful situation with your family? Hobbies are a refuge, and allow you something you enjoy that’s exclusive to you. Sure you can share your hobby with other people but having something that is YOURS is very important for your mental health. It’s almost like a safe space, it’s a place you go that you exist as you like. At least that’s how it is in video games, and I truly appreciate that aspect of it.

Is it foolish to play video games?

Your hobby can be anything, cars, golf, pets, writing, video games. In the end though it’s a great way to have something that is just for you, that you can be selfish about and not share if you don’t want to. Its indulgent and people in your life may find it threatening to their relationship with you that you have something personal that doesn’t include them. It’s important to make time for everyone in your life and to make sure they don’t feel ignored.

However, it’s just as important to make sure that you make time for your hobbies. This will make you a better overall person and far more relaxed and happy. Remember to not over indulge and to be clear with the people in your life what your hobby is and what you are doing. As an example, I game wed evenings 8-10 and Friday night 9PM – to whenever I go to bed. My wife and kids know I do this, and it doesn’t create an issue for us. I game with my son from time to time actually, LOL.

The point is, find something you like for you. Be selfish, but don’t let it consume you. Anxiety sucks but we can fight back. Creating spaces in your life that give you time to do things that you enjoy is a great way to combat persistent anxiety. Remember this is your little thing, your corner of the world, your personal space. It can be anything you want, it’s a hobby something you are interested in and want to pursue and that gives you a sense of accomplishment and happiness.

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Oscar Wilde

3 reasons why the younger you are the brighter you work future looks. 

In this post we are going back to the workplace to give some of our younger reader’s encouragement. The last major work force shift was via globalization. Many of you are too young to remember a time when globalization WASN’T prevalent. When everything wasn’t made in china, as an example. I’m not here to say globalization is good or bad, but it’s an example of how work can change dramatically.

The latest shift was hastened by the pandemic that is the “great resignation” which coincided with a huge increase in people working from home. This shift is evolving but similar to globalization this will have a dramatic impact for the next 20-30 years. Globalization didn’t happen overnight, it took decades and now it is here. The “great resignation” impact is being felt now but it’s really just beginning. This is why the younger you are the brighter your work future looks.

Why? Three major reasons.

  1. Remote work – in 2015 remote work was a novelty now it is main stream. It’s not going away and its upside is hard to quantify but I will try. Less time traveling to work, more opportunity to work at convenient times for you. More options for work. You see Remote work is a game changer in so many ways. Younger workers are going to be able to adapt quickly and in some cases hold more than one job making much more money.
  2. Boomers & Gen Xer’s – We are getting older. Many boomers have already left the work force. I will be gone in 15 years myself. There are more of us working in traditional industries then the younger generations (some Gen Z kids are still in high school). The more of us that leave the more positions that open up. The work isn’t going away, it still needs to be done and companies need someone to do it. This ties in to the point below as well but as Gen Xers age out of jobs you’re going to have more chances at middle and upper management roles, that’s where the real money resides.
  3. Birth rates – People are having less children and they are having them older. This really started with my generation xers. Many of us had our kids in our 30’s and our family size dropped from prior generations. This trend is continuing, along with lower marriage rates as well. The bottom line is there will be less people in the workforce coming in 20-30 years from now. So the 20-40 year olds working now? Things look good for you here, newer, younger cheaper versions might not be so plentiful in say 2050.
Working from home?

I know conceptually some of this might be a stretch but it’s not out of the realm at all. I think most of these suppositions are actually highly probable. It could be that we experience another huge labor force shift on a shorter time span then normal (they usually happen every 35-100 years). Technology is moving quickly so it might be global companies have an even broader pool of candidates should they continue to evolve remote work.

Either way I think it bodes well for younger workers. I think in 2050 the people turning 40 will have very good employment opportunities and income levels should be very robust. This of course doesn’t account for anomalies like pandemics, war, environmental disasters. Let’s not kid ourselves things could go badly, but if things remain the same as they are now I think working in the next 20-30 years will be easier. You will have better options, more availability and a greater pool of employment opportunities.

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Am I contagious?

Personal Finance – 3 journeymen (not advanced) finance tips

Like every finance piece I do on this blog this is my personal opinion based on 30 years of working in the finance industry. You should research thoroughly any advice you receive before making any financials decisions. The tips in today’s piece are moderate, they aren’t for beginners and those advanced in their financial journey probably have already encountered these concepts.

  1. Reviewing your insurance profile: Regularly you should be reviewing and understanding your insurance profile, likely twice a year. Now insurance is to mitigate disaster/negative situations. This is more than auto insurance or homeowner’s insurance; this should include things like long term disability insurance to replace income. Long term care insurance to mitigate costs of nursing homes or assisted living and umbrella policies that give another layer of coverage for you beyond specific policies (like home owners or auto)
  2. The care of loved ones: This extends to your elderly parents or your children. Do you have a plan for either? What if your parent becomes sick? Who will assist them? This can take on many forms, maybe you have siblings who can help as well. Point is, have a plan here because it’s when you don’t then it presents itself. Kids? Anything can happen here. From the unthinkable of devastating medical injury to helping them pay for college. You should have some plan in place to set aside some money “just in case” hopefully you can help your kid get a head start in life financially, worst case you have to support them for the rest of your life because of a medical issue. Yes, that happens.
  3. Running your finances like a business: This is the hardest one to pull off, but your check book (or whatever you use to ledger your money) is like a Profit and Loss statement for a business. You have to review this regularly, really be clear on how your business is running and call in the executives for meetings regularly on spending and revenue. I know it sounds silly doesn’t it? What this does is, it takes the “personal” out of it and all the stake holders (spouses, kids) become officers of the company who have a vested interest in its success. If you can get to this point on your personal finance journey you are one step closer to expert status, not many people get to this point.
How much is this going to cost?

In the end, a strong personal economy = better outcomes. You can be more generous, you can have things you want, you can afford a good life. When you don’t know where your money is going and you don’t assign a mission to every dollar you place yourself in a weaker position mentally and financially. Anyone can win with money; your income level doesn’t matter you just have to get a handle on where everything is going. This takes maybe an hour a week to do and over time it will take less and less, you can do this.

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Anxiety: One of the hardest things to deal with

For those of us with anxiety we have good days and bad days. There are of course degrees of anxiety, some of us are in better places then others and that’s why every day is a crap shoot. Like anything in life the more you experience something the more adept you become at navigating its nuances. Anxiety is no different and for me I have had a few very hard lessons in my travels.

One of the hardest for me? The conversation you have been avoiding is probably the one you most need to have. If you are dreading it, chances are if it’s not already a trigger it’s going to be soon. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, the neighbor’s dog barking? The Amazon delivery person’s insistence in putting your packages on the side step instead of the front? This can be a wide range of subjects; we all have different triggers.

The worst part is not knowing, not knowing if having the conversation is the person going to think you are nuts? Will they reactive negatively? Violently? These emotions are real, and don’t let anyone minimize them. If you are talking to your roommate about the guy upstairs playing music to loud, don’t let their rational (or agreement) sway you from how you feel. The hardest part is making the decision to confront and “have the conversation

Some conversations you know going in, its going to be a horror show.

This is one of the worst parts of anxiety. Wouldn’t it be great for just a day to not care what other people think? Many of us find that relief through self-medication and I am not advocating that here. What I am saying is, there are options. Continue on and allow this to eat away at you and become another trigger. I’ve done it, you wouldn’t be the first to live with other people’s crap. Or have the talk and confront.

The downside is it can be a disaster, creating more conflict then you ever wanted. The upside is the person may provide relief, gain a measure of respect for you and in the future may be more aware of how their actions affect you. I advocate to have the conversation, with a HUGE caveat. That being you have to assess the risk posed by the other person. Example, a conversation about putting the cap on the toothpaste is likely to have less of an impact then asking a parent to have their child stop leaving their toys around.

Both may be triggers but the likelihood of one garnering a negative response is higher. Use your instinct and your experience as an individual with anxiety. Some battles (and for us, internally, that’s what these conversations are) are less risky than others. have those first, build a mental reserve of successful (or failures) outcomes to draw on as you consider attempting the harder and harder conversations as your life progressives.

If you are thinking about it constantly, its eating at you and emboldening your anxiety. It’s likely a conversation you should have sooner rather than later.

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The Value of time – As Time Passes

In my travels around the internet I often stumble across interesting pieces. Poems, quotes, obscure news stories… One of the concepts we talk about on this blog is the value of time. I believe that time is the most valuable commodity on the planet. It doesn’t care what your age is, your gender, your sexuality, your political affiliation, or where you live.

I found a great poem below. I cant remember where I found it but I did get the Author and the year it was written. Time goes by so fast, moments that I wish would never pass are now memories. The older I get the more I realize how much I have done, and how much I have missed. This poem is great, I hope you enjoy it too.

As Time Passes

Jenni-Fiere M. Bivens 2006

As the seconds pass,
We look back
At what our lives have held.

As the minutes pass,
We see what fell through the cracks.
Parts of our lives we withheld.

As the hours pass,
We think of what we learned,
What we have taught,
What we have forgot.

As the days pass,
We wish a lot could be returned.
We wish we would have never fought
You hope they forget me not.

As years pass,
You stand alone.
They have all grown,
Married and gone
Or on their own.

As your life passes,
You stand proud,
Looking how well they raise their own.
You did well.
Live on…


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Surviving 2020 & covid

Anxiety decades later

So a quick post today. As most of you know I have anxiety, like many of you, and millions of people all over the world. Now unlike many of you I am in my 50’s and I have been living with Anxiety in some form for decades. So what is it like to have anxiety issues in your 50’s and dealing with them for years?

Let me say that age enables you to have experience and experience breeds wisdom. It makes dealing with Anxiety easier so that’s the good news here. The older you get, the longer you live with this issue the better equipped you become in dealing with it. Now things can still get bad don’t get me wrong, but the feelings of isolation and shame decrease as you begin to realize more and more that many people have this problem, it’s not just you.

That’s the good news, the bad news is you have more time to reflect on, which for me has always been the problem. I suffer from intrusive thoughts. I can be sitting in the car and suddenly I remember something that happened in 1983 that was a negative situation. The problem with intrusive thoughts is you assume the emotional reactions you had at the time and then start applying them to your current situation.

Pick whatever name you want, Anxiety at any age sucks

The older you get the more situations you have that you can reflect on. Now everyone does this to a degree but for me anyway it can be debilitating. I can’t get out of the thought or the feeling, it will replay itself over and over until I can expel it. Like a song you can get out of your head. It flavors everything I am doing and affects all of those around me. Now this is contradictory to the first part of the post isn’t it?

“Karac you said the older you get the less shame and isolation you feel” yes that’s true, but the frequency increases and that’s the problem. Literally daily I have an issue like this, and the factors that contribute to its intensity can be anything from lack of sleep, stress at work or family issues. So the older you get the easier it gets to deal with the issue, but the issue becomes more frequent.

At least that’s what is happening to me. I could take more medication but I basically just push through. Don’t get me wrong I have more good days then bad but when you have anxiety, you are most likely going to be dealing with it for decades. So all my Gen Z and Millennial friends out there, your mental health is a life long journey. The first critical step is recognizing your specific issue and understanding what your triggers are and why they are happening.

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One of the hardest things to do when you have anxiety

Maybe it will be in school, maybe at a family function, maybe at work… At some point in your life its highly likely you are going to have to speak in front of strangers. For some of us this can be crippling and send our anxiety through the roof. For others, they dont shut up anyway, lol.

In life its often the case that we are asked to speak or called on particularly at work. Remember in high school (maybe your still there) when you were called on in class? Same theory really, as you enter the work force you’re going to be in meetings from time to time. You might be called on. Talking to a group of people is one of an anxiety suffers worse nightmare.

So many thoughts run through your head it can be nerve wracking and it can literally cause you physical harm. This post focuses mostly on impromptu speaking, like being called on randomly in class, or being asked a question in a meeting at work.

You are being asked to speak because the person asking thinks you have something of value to add. There are times when someone might ask you something to literally put you on the spot, which is cruel but more often then not people who want to hear you speak on a subject genuinely value what you have to say. That’s probably the hardest thing to realize when you are “on the spot”.

One step closer every day.

In an instant you can be overwhelmed with this situation. Below are 3 things I have always done before meetings to make sure I was moderately prepared. These will enable you to have quick talking points should you need them. These can be applicable to school situations as well. However work is different as we are being paid to be there and there is a level of expectation that is much different then a learning environment.

  1. If I know the meeting is coming I educate myself on the subject.
  2. I run down quickly in my mind, who is calling the meeting, what their role is and why I think they are calling it.
  3. I look to see who else is in the meeting and identify allies.

More on 3. In any work situation, or life really, look for allies. People who are genuinely friendly to you may share a common mindset etc. These people may not be your friends, but you need allies in life to help you through tough situations. If you are in a meeting with one of these people, you can lean on them. Literally you can mimic what they said, they probably won’t be offended. You can look at them as you speak.

Speaking publically can be challenging for a lot of us, anxiety aside its not easy to stand up in front of strangers and speak on the subject. You dont know what they know, you have no idea what you sound like to them. That can be the trigger for crippling bouts of anxiety, before, during, and after the talk.

Life can be a roller coaster at some point you’ll likely be in this situation. Some work environments are very toxic and people who know you have anxiety can be sinister and actually create situations where you have to talk to a group, knowing full well it will create a huge negative impact on you. That’s the reality of the working world, its filled with all sorts of people.

Sit up straight, take a deep breath and speak clearly. If you are nervous, make a small joke about it. If you know the subject matter, elaborate, if you dont know create an out proposition “I need to get more information before I speak into this matter” something like that. If you have anxiety issues speaking publically can be one of the serious pit falls ahead. Many people cant handle it, and thats okay too.

Be ready for it, as best you can. Practice your posture, practice looking at people, practice speaking in a clear voice, note your hand gestures, note how other people handle it. These are skills and tools you will be able to use for decades to come, they are applicable anywhere. From getting the attention of a server at a resteraunt to presenting a report to the board of directors.

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New Year’s Resolution?

What changed exactly from 12.31.22 to 1.1.23? Not a whole hell of a lot really. Change happens when you commit to it, and change is one of those romantized notions that people cling to in the hopes of a better outcome. New leaders, new seasons, new year’s, new clothes, new jobs on and on.

How do you feel? I’m betting you feel pretty close to the same as you did in 2022. I’m not chastising you here I am trying to knock the steam out of a potential failure. So many people pin their hopes on a “new year” a “resolution” and it rarely works out. Why is that? Because the changes you seek are often desired to have immediacy. Simply put, you want big changes as fast as possible and change doesn’t work that way.

What’s going to make 2023 better for you? Have you identified that yet? Changing your life requires momentum and momentum is achieved often by small incremental steps not huge leaps. Sure some people can make massive strides fast and maybe you are one of those people I don’t know. What’s an example, okay let’s try this.

I once resolved to quit coffee…. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…. Ya no.

You want to lose 40 pounds, you make large changes in your diet exercise, you go all in. in a month you are exhausted, you are binging food and it’s just “one cheat day” before you know it its march and the 40-pound goal is gone. OR you could change one part of your diet. “I am no longer going to drink soda” now which do you think will be more successful?

You may stray once and while and chug a soda, but it’s a far easier goal to attain then the mountain you wanted to climb by losing 40. Here is the point. Small Incremental changes lead to long term positive outcomes. By creating large resolutions, we place ourselves in a position to not succeed. I didn’t say fail because effort is a success. Smaller more attainable goals build momentum and create the conditions by which you can parlay them into larger success. Here are 5 small resolutions to strive for instead of one huge one.

  1. Eat less sugar
  2. Save $20 a week
  3. Turn the screens off at 10:30 PM
  4. Take 3000 steps a day
  5. Volunteer once a month

Small changes provide a great chance for successful outcomes. This in turn provides a great chance to parlay those successes into smaller changes, medium changes or eventually into large life altering changes. A new year is a great time to resolve to do better. Put yourself in a position to succeed in 2023 by making a few small changes first.

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Enough

Anxiety: One quick way to get out of others grief.

Grief is horrible. It is usually derived from a cataclysmic event in someone’s life that is often unexpected. This can happen to anyone; someone you love or know could have a random serious medical condition tomorrow. Life is that fragile, I do not wish something like that on anyone. Now most of us reading this blog have some form of anxiety. Manageable for most of us but grief can spiral us out of control. Not just our grief but others as well.

I absorb other peoples emotional state, but like all good men I internalize it (joking…. Somewhat). The issue becomes when you absorb others emotional state or energy around a grief event this can spiral you towards revisiting your own grief events through your life. They don’t even have to be current, what you are doing is, is trying to empathize with the other person through a corollary of your own experiences.

If you are far along in your anxiety journey and can navigate that, bravo you’re doing awesome. Many of us can’t and it cripples us emotionally because we revisit some of the most painful episodes of our life. How do you deal with it, or as I quip in the title, how do you get out of others grief? It isn’t easy and requires a great deal of effort on your part because your instinct is to relate. How do you do it? You look them in the eye first. “What if they aren’t looking at me?” then you take both of their hands in yours (if appropriate), they will look at you then and say:

“I know you are hurting; I wish I could make this better for you. I will be right back”

You then go to another room if inside. If at a restaurant you go the bathroom. In a car? Instead of saying “I will be right back” you said “I need a quick minute” and say nothing.

Words can be Good, Bad, and Ugly

This may seem callus, cold and harmful its actually just the opposite. What you are doing is you are breaking the grief energy by not allowing yourself to be a conduit. Everyone has to grieve but the longer you do, the harder it becomes to escape its negative consequences. When you come back you can discuss the issue, offer sympathy, listen everything you normally would.

By breaking the flow immediately you give yourself and the person grieving pause. That pause is an opportunity to have other energy flow in. Breaking the continuous flow of grief is paramount to keeping anxiety in check. Do this regularly with those in grief, again come back to them provide them with support but when the energy starts to filter to you, break its flow with a polite removal of yourself.

This is a subtle social skill that if mastered will benefit you tremendously as you develop it. It may seem selfish, or self-absorbed and I can see why some might say that. The truth is breaking grief moments help expedite the opportunities for other moments to filter in. A story comes on the news, a song plays on the radio, a child needs attention. It’s not perfect but as individuals with anxiety grief can literally be a killer. Address it with as much grace as you can muster but always be aware of it.

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Merry Christmas!

Hey folks, taking a day off today and sitting around with a few immediate family members. So nothing big, I just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you. Whether you celebrate or not I hope you get a respite today and can relax.

Take care and enjoy!

Karac