What Are Your Toxic Traits?

A friend showed me this questionnaire that assesses your insecurities/toxic traits: https://www.positiveintelligence.com/saboteurs/

My results

‘Toxic traits’ was how my friend presented the site to me. However, after having completed the questionnaire and taken a look at my results and analysis, I wouldn’t say it was about ‘toxic traits’ rather, just some areas we can continue to grow and be more mindful of.

What the survey reminded me of, was a podcast I recently listened to and thoroughly enjoyed, on the topic of fear. In the episode, Adam Grant interviewed Alex Hannold, the first person who climbed El Capitan, without a rope or a harness. They candidly discussed fear and how Hannold reconditioned his brain to perceive danger and threat differently, and subsequently elicit a different biological response from his brain. Of the many strategies, Cognitive Reappraisal caught my attention the most.

The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.

John C. Maxwell.

Cognitive Reappraisal

Cognitive reappraisal is defined as the attempt to reinterpret an emotion-eliciting situation in a way that alters its meaning and changes its emotional impact (Lazarus and Alfert, 1964Gross and John, 2003).

For example, if you perceive working out as a chore, then you are less likely going to be consistent with it; whereas, if you rewire your brain to perceive working out as a treat or special ‘Me time’, then you will be more motivated to work out consistently.

Is there something off the top of your head that you think you can cognitively reappraise to improve the quality of your life?

Intermittent Fasting

I started Intermittent Fasting (IF) about 5-6 years ago. Since then, I have fasted nearly every single day. That in and of itself is rather mind-blowing to me—I have done almost 2,000 fasts! That said, the types of fast I do and the purpose behind why I fast have changed drastically. I thought I’d share my journey with you, corroborated by scientific research for those of you that require more data-based evidence (like me!).

I can think. I can wait. I can fast.

Hermann Hesse

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are many well-documented researches that delineate the physical and mental health benefits of IF.

Weight Management

It is most popularly known as a diet strategy for weight loss. The narrowed eating window is helpful for reducing calorie consumption for individuals; however, it is important to keep in mind that: the only sure method of losing weight is to be at a calorie deficit. In other words, regardless the size of your eating window or how long you have fasted, as long as your caloric consumption exceeds your caloric expenditure, you will not lose weight!

Anti-aging

Besides weight management, studies have discovered IF to have neuroprotective effects by enhancing hippocampal neurogenesis and long-term potentiation (LTP) at hippocampal synapses (Baik, Sang-Ha et al.). In short, IF activates the mechanisms that fortify our central nervous system against injuries, both acute and chronic, such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.

Another benefit of IF is the induction of autophagy, which is a metabolic process that our body employs to dispose of damaged cells. This quality is commonly associated with anti-aging! Typically, autophagy begins when glucose and insulin levels have dropped significantly (Bagherniya, Mohammad et al.).

Mental Finesse

Finally, the last efficacy of IF that I am going to share here is: mental clarity. When we fast, our norepinephrine levels increase; it is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that enhance mental focus, and memory storage and retrieval (Fung and Moore).

Types of Fasts

  • The Warrior Diet
    Eat only one large meal a day
  • Eat Stop Eat // 24 Hour Fast
    Pick one day of the week and fast the entire day
  • Time-restricted Fast
    Fast for 12+ hours every day and reduce your eating window
    A popular one is: 18/6
    18 hours fast and 6 hours eating window;
    and 14/10
    14 hours fast and 10 hours eating window

  • Alternate Day Fast
    Fast every other day
  • 5:2 Fast
    Eat as you normally would for 5 days, restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 on the other 2 days

Tips to Get Started & Risks to Avoid

In my years of fasting, I have tried all of the fasts listed above, for various reasons. I first stumbled across IF when I was trying to lose weight. I was assiduous in my fasting, so much so that I overlooked and neglected all biological signals, and subsequently lost my period. As a beginning faster, I had no way of discerning: how much I was supposed to suppress my hunger cues; which cues were derived from hunger, which ones were from boredom; when to abort the fast, etc.

I will share some of my tips (from personal experience and research) but since all of us are different, please note that what works for me may not work for you.

1. Start Slow

I leaped straight into a daily 16/8 Time-Restricted Fast (16 hours fasted, 8 hours eating window) as a beginner. After nearly a month of 16/8, I felt rather good and confident, so I increased my fasting window to 18 hours, while at the same time reducing my caloric intake because I was trying to lose weight ASAP—huge mistake! This foolishness and naïveté lost me my period, which took me months to recover. To avoid making my mistake, I’d recommend starting with a smaller fasting window, say 12 hours, and slowly work your way up.

2. Drink LOTS of Water

You may be tempted to be strictly drinking caffeinated beverages to stave off hunger but those are diuretics. It is highly—HIGHLY—recommended that you drink a copious amount of water to remain hydrated.

3. It’s Okay to Abandon a Fast

Some days you may be so so so close to completing your fast yet your blood sugar has already dropped too low and you are beginning to feel dizzy. Abandon fast. Eat. The beauty of this social construct of time is you will get another 24 hours the next day to fast! In the grand scheme of things, one incomplete fast really doesn’t make any difference.

My Current Routine

Currently, I fast 14+ hours daily, unless I am feeling unwell. My body prefers this fasted state in the morning wherein my thoughts are crisp and agile. While I fast, I drink an obscene amount of water, along with some black coffee. I no longer fast for weight management, rather mental clarity and personal preference.

That’s it! I hope this post was informative. Let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be happy to impart my flawed wisdom! 😉

Emotional Agility

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

—Susan David, “Emotional Agility

I find myself anthropomorphizing Life and Universe, a lot. I know it’s not unique to me but I do often catch myself saying or thinking: Life/Universe has a strange sense of humour.

Last week I wrote about Flexibility versus Rigidity in fitness and dietary routines. Simultaneously I was also processing and learning about our emotional intelligence (EQ). I chuckled in my head when I came across Susan David’s book “Emotional Agility” after I had written my post.

“‘Agility!’ It’s that word again! Universe has a strange sense of humour.” I thought to myself. “It must be guiding me through my lessons for this season.”
(I don’t actually think the Universe lines up lessons. The same way I am not sure if everything happens for a reason. I mean, if the Law of Action-Reaction and the natural order of consequences count as “reasons”, then yes. Otherwise, I am agnostic.)

Oops, I digressed. I am still working on keeping my writing tight. Back to Emotional Agility.

How does Emotional Agility differ from Emotional Intelligence?

Succinctly summarized by Andy Brett, Emotional Intelligence is: “the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions.. [and] to shift negative patterns to more positive ones.”

Emotional Agility, on the other hand, is the ability to recognize your patterns, without necessarily changing them. It is about living in a way that allows you to align with your core values in life.

How Does One Become More Emotionally Agile?

There were quite a number of techniques that Susan David had outlined in her book, amongst them there were three that particularly stood out for me:

Continuity of Self

Continuity of Self is a term in psychology that refers to one’s connection to their past, present, and future self. You know that exercise in which you write letters to your younger self? That’s one of the common exercises you can do to strengthen your Continuity of Self.

This continuity is important in helping you examine what your core values are, how they were formulated, and how to best support and live in accordance to them. Not so surprisingly, this concept of aligning one’s behaviour to their core values is not a new one. In fact, it is similar to Viktor Frankl’s psychotherapeutic method—one that he had devised whilst trying to survive the Nazi concentration camp—to help his patients find purpose, and consequently: their meaning of life.

Emotional Granularity

Emotional Granularity is the ability to express feelings with a high degree of accuracy and precision. For example, instead of broadly categorizing your feeling as “stressed”, dissect this feeling into more detail. Are you feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do? Are you feeling anxious about not being able to complete certain task? Once you can identify the granular details of your emotional state, you can better address it. While sometimes you may just need to hold that feeling, other times you may be able to come up with a plan to alleviate it.

Self-compassion

Extend yourself the compassion you would a beloved friend, family. Understand that going through that range of emotion is part of the human experience, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with not feeling rainbows and sunshines all the time. In fact, are there anyone who only feels rainbows and sunshines?

Self-compassion also means not caving into Toxic Positivity.

  • 🚫”Positive Vibes Only!”
  • 🚫”Don’t worry, be happy!”

Toxic Positivity invalidates and negates the gravity and weight of emotions and our experience. It creates this unhealthy illusion that it is possible to have one’s life together, all the time; along with the implication that: if others have their lives together but you don’t, there must be something wrong with you.

NO. No, No, No, No, NO!
No one’s life is perfect, not even remotely close. Allow yourself to experience your emotions, hold them. Avoid minimizing and hiding them away. Bravery is holding gaze with your fear and discomfort, recognizing that life can be hard, but you soldier on anyway.

Because after all, growth happens outside of your comfort zone!

For the record, just like all the other topics I write about, I definitely do not have life all figured out. I will be the first to admit that there are still so much work to do, so much room for improvement. However, what I have figured out and committed to, is that I will tirelessly learn and grow, even if it takes a few million iterations. It all started with Andie 1.0, then Andie 2.0, and maybe one day I’ll get to Andie 5,172,321.0.

Thank you for reading! I hope it has offered you a modicum of insight.❤️

A little background about Susan and where Emotional Agility has been integrated.