Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: mental health

Working Through The Comparison Trap

Recently, I was in a video/book study called The Comparison Trap. This little four-week course is life-changing. Well, I should say: it can be life changing if you put into practice what the book discusses. (Side note: There’s a spiritual element to this book. It quotes Bible verses, and the woman who wrote it is married to a preacher. EVEN IF this usually does not do it for you, I recommend fighting through this and reading the book anyway. Every place she talks about God, can you think of Higher Power or Universe instead? I’m stealing this idea from the book You are a Badass! But I think it is an excellent point to not get hung up the “G-word.” And who knows what can happen in your life if you keep an open mind? ) Onward…

Before week one, I never realized how often I compare myself to other people and how shitty it makes me feel. Sometimes, I compare myself and I don’t measure up. I don’t have a loving husband or boyfriend. I don’t live in “the best school district” (although I love mine and the location of my house). I don’t have as much money as friend A, B or C.  I’m not 25 anymore. I could go on and drive myself crazy. I also do the flip side: Well, at least, I work full time. Well, at least, I have a book published, and so on. All of that thinking and comparing is exhausting and not helpful to anyone, most of all me.

The class had anywhere from 6 to 8 women in it each week, ranging in age from mid-40s to retirement age. And it was powerful. It was so powerful that we actually met for 5 weeks, instead of the 4 that the author recommends. Let me tell you the two moments that sealed it for me:

  1. The last week, we were asked to think of a time in our lives when we couldn’t celebrate other people’s good news. When we heard good news, did we react with jealousy or did we celebrate with the person? At first, I thought: this is a no-brainer–I celebrate. When I read the daily devotionals about overcoming this “jealousy”, it didn’t fit me, until I started thinking about when I was trying to get pregnant. It was very difficult for me to get pregnant, and I thought it would never happen. During this time, whenever I found out someone was pregnant, I was not celebrating. I was saying: Why me? In class, I even shared that I skipped a few celebrations because it was so heartbreaking to attend baby showers. It was a dark time. I am not proud of myself; and even though you may be thinking, well, I can understand why–that doesn’t excuse it. I was comparing my life to theirs, and my life is nothing like theirs. It’s not healthy, and it takes an extreme amount of faith in the Universe or God or your Higher Power or whatever you believe in to get out of the darkness and move on. I am happy that I did it. I am happy that once I let go, I got pregnant (just like everyone says).  And I think I still do that “jealousy thing” a little bit today now that I am divorced. But I am stopping it! Right now! I realized as I was writing this post: Sometimes, when I’m thinking about my relationship status, I will count up the number of people I know who are also divorced and without a partner. But really, this is terrible. If my friends and family want to be in a relationship, then they should be, and it should be happy and healthy and enriching. And I should celebrate it with them and let go of this notion that makes me compare myself to find my worth. Because frankly, it is exhausting.
  2. The two big messages that are driven home in this book are everyone is unique and special with their own talents. AND if you have a heart of gratitude, you will find contentment. We discussed these philosophies at length and honestly. Because let’s be real, isn’t it hard to take sometimes when you look at your neighbor and she is beautiful, owns a fancy car, and has a successful career,and a loving husband? Why did she get all of this and you didn’t? It can be hard to take when you are looking OUT. So what I learned in this book and this class and even writing this post is–you have to look IN. What are your talents and blessings? What are you grateful for? We also discussed how being content does not mean you can’t have goals or improve your life. But you should create these goals and improvements because you looked IN and it’s what you really want–not because you are looking OUT and trying to be as good as Mrs. Jones.

If I remember nothing else in a month from this study, this phrase, which is now hanging on the bulletin board in my room, will be something I remember: There is NO win in comparison. 



Stress Busting 101: How To Reduce It In Your Life

We are coming upon one of the most stressful times of the year for people–the holidays. This contributed article has some good tips to consider to focus on reducing your stress:

We all lead busy lives and can find ourselves feeling stressed from time to time. Heck, not even time to time for many of us; more like all of the time! It could be family, work, health, or other issues that can lead to the stress, if not a combination of them all. But whatever your source of stress is, it is a good idea to take control of it now, so that you can deal with it and find ways to eliminate it. After all, stress can make many aspects of your life worse, such as your health (both mental and physical).

Professor Cary Cooper, from robertsoncooper.com, has stated that in our lives, there is always a solution to the problems that we face, even if it doesn’t feel like it or that it feels impossible. But when we just let things carry on as they are, it can make things much worse. The keys to dealing with and managing stress tend to be building up some emotional strength and having less of a “woe is me” kind of attitude. When you do have a victim attitude, you are justifying the situation rather than doing anything about it. Taking control of the situation can help, as well as being positive and having a good group of people around you. Being able to share the load, so to speak, can help massively. Even if it is just someone to talk to over the phone.

What else can you do to address and then eliminate the stress that you have in your life? Here are some stress-busting suggestions.

Be Active

Being active and exercising isn’t going to make your stress disappear. But what it does do is help you to manage it. Exercise can lead to a bit of an escape, as well as reducing the intensity of it all for you. Exercise can lead to a production of happy hormones that can lift your mood. So when you have to go back to a stressful situation, you are likely to deal with it in a better way.

Seek Alternative Therapies

As well as exercise, there could be an alternative therapy that could help you to feel better about things. Regular massages, reflexology appointments or even seeing a chiropractor could help you. Again, it isn’t going to eliminate the stress in your life. But it will help you to deal with it better. The reason behind these kinds of treatments is whole-body healing. The focus, according to myauburnchiro.com, is not so much on sickness, but rather on overall wellness and healthy living. So it could be really beneficial for you to give it a try.

Connect with Others

A good support network of people around you–friends, family, or colleagues–is a good way to help to lift your mood. They can offer support and fun, as well as offering advice to help you deal with the situations that you face. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. It can be good to just talk about your feelings, too, even if you just want people to listen, rather than offer solutions. Sometimes, when we say things out loud, it can help us to resolve the issues that we had on our mind.

Avoid Unhealthy Habits

As we know, there are many things that can make us feel better when we are feeling stressed. But there are also some things that can make us feel worse. We may think that they are going to help us, but unhealthy habits can actually have the opposite effect. Smoking, alcohol, and too much caffeine can actually make our bodies feel more on edge and stressed. In the long-term, these are just crutches and can make things worse. This is especially true if you end up feeling like you can’t get through your day without a bottle of wine, for example. So look for healthier habits, as said above, such as exercise or an alternative therapy.

Be More Productive

You may feel stressed because you have so much on your plate that you need to do. But the key is to be more efficient with your time, rather than spending every waking minute doing things. What things could you tick off your list at the same time? What work can be prioritized and others not as much? Can you get help at home, like a cleaner, for example, so that you can focus on other tasks that have more value to you? Set aside time to be more productive and remove distractions, such as your phone. It could mean putting it in airplane mode, for instance, until you get a specific task done. It is all about working smarter and being more productive, rather than working harder.

Make a Positive List

You will be surprised at what a difference being positive can make. If you find it hard to be positive, then it can be a good idea to take some time out and write out what you are grateful for, as well as the positive things in your life. When you take the time to do just that, it can make a massive difference and, you’ll see all of the good and happy things that you do have. It can put the stressful side of your life into perspective a little bit and help you to refocus.

Help Others

Along a similar line of making a happy and positive list of things in your life, it can also be a good idea to look for ways to help other people. It can give you a different focus and again, puts things into perspective for you. It can act as escapism and does help to give you a happy and euphoric feeling. You may not think that you even have time to do something like this. But when you make an effort to do it, you will see the benefit of it in your life.

Hopefully, one of these ideas helps you handle your current stress. What works for you? 



A Letter to a Narcissist

A little bit of creative writing I’ve been working on…

Dear Narcissist:

I am no longer going to be a supply for you. What do I mean? I know where you get your energy. You get your energy from me, from her, from anyone who will allow you to come into their lives and wreak havoc. But today, I am putting my foot down, and the thing is, I’m not telling you.

This may seem unfair to anyone who doesn’t know a narcissist. But if I tell you, if I let you know that today, I’m done allowing you to make me feel like I don’t matter, to make me feel like I am less worthy than someone else in your life, then I won’t be able to stick to this. All I will be is your supply for the day. You will make me feel guilty. You will make me feel wrong. I could be wrong, but the thing is that doesn’t matter. What matters is how I feel after dealing with you–whether it’s a conversation, an in-person meeting, or no response to my attempts at contact.

Actually, I don’t think you will notice. You’ve started to groom someone else, someone else is supplying your high.  You have someone else worried about your every need; you have someone else who will do anything for you. You found others who are supplying that emotional energy you need, when you make them feel like less than themselves. You make them feel like you’re the only one who can fix them, the only one who will have anything to do with them because of how horrible they are. You basically have to do nothing in return, except for your grooming, because now the people in your life are just waiting, hoping, yearning for your approval, time, and attention. It really is a wonderful support system you’ve created for yourself. But it’s not real, and deep down, you know it. Everything in your life is a facade. How exhausting that must be to be grasping a life, filled with beliefs that aren’t based in reality.

Here’s the other thing. I’m not upset with you–not anymore. I used to be. I used to be upset about how you always changed the rules; how you said something and then when I did it, you changed your mind and said it wasn’t enough or it was wrong; how you blamed me for everything; how you didn’t consider my feelings; how you acted like everything you gave me was a gift that I was super lucky to have because you were so busy and great, and I wasn’t; and how you made me feel like I owed you for the nice things you did for me. I’m not upset at you.

I’m upset with myself–for knowing that it would never get better; for getting away from you before and then letting you back countless times; for feeling like if I could only do this ONE thing right, you would want me again; for wasting my energy with someone who clearly doesn’t care about anyone, including himself.

I only hope I can stick to the first line in this letter.

I’m not going to be a supply for you anymore.


Someone who has a long journey ahead

If you have a narcissist in your life, the pain that you may be feeling is very real and similar to what is expressed in this post. I have found an invaluable resource in Kim Saeed’s website, if you are looking for answers and need to start healing. 





Take a Mental Health Day and Forget the Taboo

contributed article

Something you may or may not have heard of in recent months is a “mental health day”. We’ve all heard of sick days. Heck, we’ve all had them ourselves! You just can’t be expected to go into work and spread germs when you’re throwing up every 10 minutes. However, many people question mental health days because, well, you can’t physically see mental health. It doesn’t show physical signs like when you have the stomach flu.

Even if you’ve never experienced a full on mental health issue, we all need to take care of it carefully. Don’t worry about people calling you weak or not taking you seriously – that’s their issue. They’ll be the ones in trouble  when they start experiencing problems associated with poor mental health.

How Do You Know When You Need A Mental Health Day?

So, the first question is how do you know when you need a mental health day. This can vary from person to person. For instance, some people begin struggling with feeling overwhelmed, and they are forgetful and struggle to concentrate. If this sounds like you, taking a mental health day or two could be a great way to recuperate. If this sort of mindset would actually be dangerous for your job – for example, somebody who drives vehicles all day, then you may need to take more days. Here are a few more pointers you can use to figure out the right time:

  • You’ve been neglecting your self care needs – maybe you need alone time to recharge your batteries, and you’ve been slacking on basic self care.
  • You’re distracted by an issue you have at home – maybe you’re going through a tough divorce or you’re behind on your bills. If you don’t feel in control, you need to take time off to reduce your anxiety.
  • You need to go to appointments to take care of your mental health – maybe you need to see your therapist or have some medication adjusted. These appointments need to be prioritized.

How To Take A Mental Health Day

Luckily, many bosses and institutions are starting to realize the importance of their employees’ mental health. They know that mental health is something that needs to be worked on by all, whether considered mentally healthy or mentally ill

If you have long term mental issues, it’s a good idea to speak to your boss face to face. Your boss should be understanding. You don’t need to tell them absolutely everything, but hopefully they’ll allow some lenience that will make your life easier, such as leaving early once a week for therapy or having the occasional day off. You can raise the issue with HR if your boss isn’t making you feel supported.

Once you’ve taken a mental health day, spend time reducing your anxiety. Meditate in a fluffy robe from topbathrobe.com after a long bath and plan on doing the bare minimum. Maybe you’ll catch up on your reading or go for a long walk.

Don’t stress out and start thinking that you should be at work or that you should be making the most of the day and being as productive as possible. You can spend mental health days that way, but only if you feel up to it.

It’s high time people started looking at mental health the same way as physical health. Never, ever feel bad about prioritizing your mental health!