DIY: Stop a Panic Attack.

Everyone (from my Starbucks barista to my family) knows that I am the queen of anxiety. I started having panic attacks in nursing school, but my overzealous brain told me that it was something physical. My brain interpreted these strange moments of adrenaline to be a deviating physical aliment such as a rupturing aortic aneurysm or a heart attack. It was a combination of knowing too much about the medical field and deep dark dives into google that led me to believe my pounding heart was the end. Fortunately, nursing school also exposed me to this concept called anxiety (typically common among the wealthy suburbanites that do not have real things to worry about). I kid, I kid. Fast forward a few years and a few hundred dollars in therapy and I arrive at the present day…with an arsenal to defend against the dreaded anxiety attack. I am humbled by many late nights spent surfing Amazon for self-help books and streaming TED talks on Youtube. I have developed a few successful tips that can help you get through a panic attack after years of self-study.

  • Engage your 5 senses.
    • what do you see? Name 2 items you see.
    • what do you hear? Name 2 times you hear.
    • what do you feel? Name 2 items you feel.
    • what do you smell? Name 2 items you smell.
  • Belly Breathe
    • the core of calm lives in our bellies
    • inhale for 1-2-3-4, hold it 1-2-3-4, exhale 1-2-3-4
    • when you inhale, feel your belly pushing out as if you were preparing to sing a high note in chorus (shout out to middle school chorus and the awkward pubescent moments of doom and acne)
  • pick your manta
    • “I’ve been through this before and I survived/thrived”
    • “Let it go”
    • “I am calm and compassionate”
  • Seek gratitude
    • in the midst of panic, finding something you are grateful for is a challenge, but it makes all the difference
    • say one thing in your mind that you are grateful for
    • the shift from fear/panic to gratitude is a powerful and beautiful moment

Panic used to make me feel spaced out and strange. I would feel dizzy and disconnected. By focusing on my senses, I would feel grounded and connected to the earth. Sometimes, I would smell peppermint oil to really jolt me back in the present moment. Mantras work well for me also because it stops the continuous negative thought pattered and replaces it with something positive. Our brain has this miraculous area called the limbic system. It has allowed us to survive for thousands of years and outrun tigers /prevent us from burning our houses down etc. It is a bad ass emergency system. Unfortunately, we live in a state that has the limbic system switched to “on” most of the time, resulting in hypervigilance. This explains why you might be in line at Target and the next thing you know, you are sweating and feel a desire to run out of the store. Thanks, sympathetic nervous system. By utilizing the techniques listed above, we can counteract this overstimulated response system and begin to engage our parasympathetic nervous system. I fondly refer to it as the chill the f*** out system. Our brain is phenomenal, but we can still manipulate it to halt panic and allow space for a more calming energy. You have the power to trick your brain with your body.

You are a warrior goddess/defender of the good/captain fantastic/super human….just if you needed a reminder.

Love and light.

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Sundaze.

Tell me about your Sunday night routine. Do you feel a heavy fog of monday’s stressors hanging around your psyche? Do you feel like the beginning of the work week has penetrated your Sunday utopia?

Sunday night used to be a trigger for my anxiety. Around 5pm, my mind began the familiar snowball of chaotic thoughts regarding the ensuing week.

I have to go to work, run to the store, work out, pay bills, and cook dinner. Then, I have to turn in a paper and have a phone conference with my collaborating preceptor for clinicals….etc….

Grad school ended, thus extinguishing most of the external stressors in my life. I want to share how I handled a healthy relationship with the final hours of my blissful Sunday during the most hectic weeks.

  • Self-Care Sundays
    • Take a long shower and embrace the purity of feeling clean. Wash away the stressors of the upcoming week and feel the warm embrace of a hot water hug
    • No/minimal alcohol
      • The worst part of Monday is waking up with a hangover. I have drastically limited my alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks at a time and it has improved my mental and emotional health
    • Engage in a hobby
      • I love adult coloring books and the therapeutic release I get from that raw pen to paper feel
    • Ground yourself
      • Meditation is an important aspect to the delicate balance of my healthy vs unhealthy mind
      • Take 5 minutes to sit in silence and enjoy watching the flow of thoughts as you accept, acknowledge, and forget them
    • Journal
      • I keep a gratitude journal and I like to reread it on Sunday nights before beginning the daily grind…it shifts the perspective
    • Tea
      • Make yourself a damn cup of tea. From scratch. Like an adult. The act itself is very spiritually healing and I love to end my night with a delicious cup of Yogi tea

Will these activities guarantee a perfect transition from Sunday into Monday? Probably not. Do I do all of these each Sunday? Does a bear shit in the woods? Actually, I have never understood that saying, which is shocking because I like to consider myself a female Bear Grylls. Now, I am getting off track. What were we talking about? See…Sundays are weird.

I challenge you to work on the ease of transition between the restful weekend and the loudness of the week. Perhaps you have a career that allows for a natural evolution between the two. Perhaps we should all find careers that allow for low stress. Perhaps pigs should fly. I am not sure where all of these animal hyperboles are coming from but I kind of like it.

My wish is that your Sundays are blissfully yours and only yours. May you enjoy the last moments of tranquility before a week of adulting.

Love and light.

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The mug is not exactly accurate…I will not be officially a MRS for another few days 🙂

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Today, I enjoyed a short afternoon meditation sitting on this dock on Lake Allatoona 

Waves 

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher whom I love dearly. Or maybe it is “who I love dearly.” I never claimed grammar was my strongest attribute. Moving on. His work is beautiful, raw, and thought-provoking. His book, The Book of Awakening, is a daily meditation devotional that has provided me clarity over the past two years. I recently read a passage about the wave of anxiety. 

…we mount and curl and crest and spray, only to subside back into that from which we come.

Anxiety is a lot like the ocean. You must swim through the sludge to pass the crashing waves…only then, finding a floating peace. These past two years, I experienced the journey of swimming through the resistance. There were days the riptides were overwhelmingly strong and swimming was exhausting. But, there were also days when the ocean was calm and I could easily float to my next destination. Anxiety ebbs and flows like the waves. Some days, it’s debilitating and some days is calm. The end result is the same: push hard enough through the crashing force of unforgiving water and you will reach utopia. Your body, mind, and spirit will find tranquility. I feel like I’ve finally made it home. The goals were met and the anxiety did not stop me. The wave did not stop me. Now, it is time to float and relish in the blissful standstill of a job well done. 

I have every faith that you can swim in this ocean we call life. It will not always be easy. For me, it took a lot of patience, kindness, love, meditation, and (let’s be real) therapy. Ride the wave. The anxiety will pass just as it swelled upon you. You can do it. 

Love and light. 

east coast waves

My biggest fan and supporter, the man I get to call my husband in one short month!

Whirling dervish.

I can tell how well I am controlling my stress based on the organization of my home. My room is often a sneak peak into the stability of my anxiety. When I’m pushing myself too hard, our house looks like a tornado tore through. Drawers are open, clothes are on the floor, and the fridge is left ajar. In a sweeping mania, my house begins to unravel. Typically, this phase only lasts a few hours until I sense the unease in my psyche. My fiance has even picked up on the pattern. He can sense the correlation between stress and home destruction and often steps in to intervene.

Our bodies often give us signs to remind us to slow down. A cold might sneak up on you after two difficult months at the office. A heavy fatigue might drip down from your shoulders during a break from school. Eventually, our body warns us that it is time for a break and a mental reprieve. My body slips into a whirling dervish mania that is in constant “GO” mode until I look up and realize I’ve been studying for 14 hours without a break. I attribute this high intensity to my success, but also my stress. The biggest thing I have learned in this past year of healing is to listen to my body’s warning signs.

How I know it is time to take a mental health day:

  • The house is imploding and messy beyond belief
  • My body aches and I don’t feel rested after a decent sleep
  • Somatic issues: nausea or headaches
  • My natural friendliness is replaced with irritability

I have learned to listen to my body in addition to my spirit. When I feel stretched too thin, I take the time to pause, breathe, and regroup. I am still new to this concept, but I know it has helped me juggle the chaos of the past two years. Listen to the messages from within and be gentle with your soul.

My strategies to combat feelings of overwhelming stress:

  • Stop, drop, and yoga
    • I have been known to do yoga in the middle of the nurse’s station to channel my energy in the middle of chaos
  • 3 deep and slow belly breaths
  • Gratitude journel
    • Write down three things you are thankful for each day and feel the shift in your perspective
  • Mantra
    • Pick a few phrases to carry in your heart when those negative thoughts decide to interrupt your flow

This entry was selfishly more for me than you. When I can sit down and think about verbalizing the importance of slowing down, it reminds me of the gift of self-care. Lately, I have been feeling like my coping strategies are not as effective against the stress of life. In the next 6 weeks, I am graduating with my Masters, taking a national board exam, getting married, and changing jobs. I will allow myself to feel the energy of change and remain grounded in my mental strength.Sometimes, being the whirling dervish can be a glorious and exhilarating experience. This will be a great challenge to engage everything I have learned over the past few years. I believe it will be a beautiful journey.

Love and Light

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Spending a lot of time on the mat these days.

Undulating.

The ebb and flow of my yoga practice has provided me with years of comfort. Yoga gives me stability in mind, body, and spirit. My practice continues to evolve and I spent my morning meditation reflecting on the evolution of my yoga journey. My heart felt compelled to write about it, in the hopes of touching other lives.

High School: I learned about yoga in my AP history class. We discussed religious and cultural practices of ancient civilizations. We talked about Gautama Buddha and his sage teachings. I soaked up the information and enjoyed learning through a global lens.

College: A time of challenging your past knowledge and paving the way towards individual thought. I never knew there was more to life than what I was taught in high school. My world was very small, so I craved more of this fresh information. The campus gym offered a free yoga class one night and I decided to go. I purchased a yoga mat that was essentially a foamy beach towel and headed to the class. My fingers aggressively typed into the search engine of my 47 lb Mac laptop, “what does one wear to yoga?” Unfortunately, I did not have any spandex in my possession (a true tragedy) so my only choices were sweats and a t-shirt that said “free hugs.” Seemed fitting considering I was about to delve into the world of patchouli and liberals. Class starts, the lights dim, someone is chanting, and I somehow feel at home.

Nursing School: Yoga served as an educational tool, rather than a practice of relaxation. I taught simple yoga classes at a homeless women’s shelter during a clinical rotation. To see women halt from the chaos of life and enjoy 15 minutes of self-care, was a true gift. I realized yoga was so much more than hipsters sweating on a mat. It was about hitting the pause button on life and taking time to give your soul a hug. It was a free and easy way to connect with yourself and others.

Adulthood (if that is really even a thing): I once heard someone describe being an adult like this… “you leave your house, look both sides before crossing the street, you walk towards your car and a plane hits you.” Honestly, that nails it. With adulthood came this terrifying revelation that groceries are expensive, doing your taxes is a real thing, and you can not survive off of ramen noodles because it will make you hypertensive. So, I turned to yoga once again. My local gym offered yoga classes and I used them as xanax to combat my newly discovered anxiety. My meditation practice was evolving, so it only made sense that I become the semi-cool yoga hippie chick (right?). At that point, I sometimes wonder if I was practicing yoga because I loved it or because I thought I had to in order to keep up the image of the laid-back bohemian meditator.

Present: I have transitioned my practice from community group classes to the home practice. My gratitude goes out to Yoga with Adriene. Her online classes reminded me why I love yoga. It is not about wearing the cutest clothes or being seen at the right/hardest class. It is about a raw, honest relationship between your mind and body. Today, I often practice lazy yoga. I am gone for 15 hours most days, so I simply melt on the mat in child’s pose for a few minutes. Sometimes, my daily practice is 5 minutes of just standing in Mountain pose and preparing for the day ahead. But, that is what works for me right now, thus making it the perfect practice.

My relationship with yoga continues to undulate. It bends, moves, crescendos, crashes, and stays stagnant. It is your practice, it can be whatever you want.

Please enjoy this website, I have learned so much about my journey through Adriene’s words.

Blog

Love and Light.

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An example of a lazy practice.

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The tech world meets the yoga world! Thankful for youtube for helping make the home practice a reality

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Squeezing in a quick practice during my lunch break at Urgent Care.

“Crazy” is in this year.

Over the past 80 years, there has been a constant rise in the prevalence of anxiety and depression and no one really knows what is causing it. Let that permeate your mind and sink in. This year, I have treated about 1,000 patients in primary care/urgent care settings and 30% of them have a history of anxiety or depression. That data is staggering. My school requires me to input data into a server that organizes information for us to see trends and learn about common themes in healthcare. When I adjusted the settings to display the ratio of patients:mental health issues, I felt a surge of intense questioning. The Association of Anxiety and Depression claims that the prevalence of these disorders is significantly lower. Why?

Perhaps people who are feeling depressed or anxious are more likely to seek medical care, thus skewing the data? Regardless, why are we seeing this dramatic increase and why is this not considered a massive public health crisis? Most of my adult life has been dedicated to questioning things and annoying most of the people around me with my theories…BUT THIS IS A BIG DEAL, Y’ALL.

My database has tangible evidence that suggests about 1/3 people deal with anxiety/depression. I believe that number is even higher because of the lack of accurate reporting. A lot of people do not have the self-awareness to even recognize something is off with the mind and psyche, so who is to say 1/2 of people are actually on this mental health train?

I want to play a guessing game with you. Think back to the last time you saw a medical provider. Perhaps it was your annual physical or an episodic meeting. Did your provider ask you about your mood/stress/energy? As a future provider, I recognize that time is of the essence and you can not perform a full blown psychoanalysis on every patient. With that being said, I value the importance of a handful of screening questions. I try to ask my patients, “how is your energy level during the day/how are you handling your stress/what do you do to for self-care?” It takes about 2-3 minutes and opens the door for a emotional connection.

 

When time permits, I love to teach patients about stress management through alternative methods: belly breathing, guided meditation, and yoga. All this is hunky dory, but back to the point…

What is causing the constant rise in anxiety and depression?

Unsolicited advice/theories I developed that probably hold 7% scientific value:

  • technology
    • after a weekend in the woods, my mind and body are in such a calm state. Being off the grid and “disconnected” is therapeutic for my adrenal glands and neurotransmitters
    • social media (I REALLY spend too much time on that crap) is a forum for “look how amazing I am” and drives feelings of inadequacy
  • food
    • our culture sucks at eating, let’s be honest
    • the era of processed food, sugar, add added hormones is essentially destroying our brain’s ability to regulate emotion and stress hormones…no big deal
    • hypoglycemia can mimic feelings of anxiety and that tends to be an issue when we eat such a high sugar diet–leading to fast metabolism of food and a massive blood sugar crash (you should probably apologize to your pancreas)
  • birth control
    • who doesn’t love good old oral contraceptives…ok, ok, too far, I get it.
    • the estrogen component in most OCP is detrimental to the mind
    • my anxiety was drastically reduced when I changed to a very LOW dose of estrogen
    • all the smart brain docs tell me that estrogen negatively impacts serotonin and norepinephrine
  • lack of community
    • although we are the most “social” generation via social media, we are actually the loneliest
    • in the 1930s-1950s, farming was a critical aspect of society and most people lived on land with many family members and spent very little time alone
    • some people believe that a large social circle will buffer the impact of anxiety/depression, thus serving as protective
    • when is the last time you drove to someone’s house to talk to them instead of text them? Exactly.

My commitment to the medical community is to discover trends and determine how I can make a tiny positive impact in the world. Maybe that is through developing more screening guidelines or writing a self-care novela as a free gift with purchase. “Thanks for getting a Pap today, enjoy your free guide on how to take care of your mind and body.” All jokes aside, I have a lot of questions and a lot of energy to figure them out (thanks to the shit ton of green tea I guzzle). I want to solve this dilemma and save the world. All in a day’s work.

Why do you think we are seeing the consistent rise in anxiety and depression? Comment below!

Love and Light.

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Sources: (http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/03/for-80-years-young-americans-have-been-getting-more-anxious-and-depressed.html)

Keeping a calm mind in a crazy life.

I want to share some tips regarding efficiency, self-care, and relaxation in a busy world. I suppose I’m fulfilling my inner narcissist by giving all this unsolicited advice, BUT I do truly want help people learn more about the mind.

I know my body and brain. I know that my anxiety tends to flare up when I stop taking care of my spirit because of a busy schedule. However, I have learned a few tricks to harness my anxiety during chaos. Grad school, work, and life combine to create a somewhat daunting schedule. There are days I leave my house at 5:30am and get home at 9:30pm. Essentially, I work a reversed 9-5 job. In a nine day period, I work as a nurse for 48 hours, a nurse practitioner student for 60 hours, and juggle the roles of fiance, mom, daughter, and friend. Oh, and I’m currently taking full time classes for school.

Life is wild. My anxiety used to skew my perception of busy and flare up during swamped schedules. Over the past year, I’ve learned to harness that anxious energy and transform it into efficiency. I try to maximize my downtime and embrace small moments of self-care. There has always been a direct relationship with how busy I am and my anxiety. I think that is a common relationship: more going on=more stress. Let’s shift that perspective.

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Hush Hush.

Nobody talks about it. Like, really talks about it. Anxiety is pervasive in our culture, yet we ignore it and continue to stigmatize its presence. I find this particularly popular in the world of women.  I personally have heard from many women who have reached out to me about anxiety, but we still deny that this is a public health problem.

 Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). – National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Picture this: You are at a lunch with 5 girlfriends. Based on statistics, one of them has an anxiety disorder. That is pretty awe-inspiring in terms of prevalence. Here is my question, why are we STILL not openly talking about this?

American culture, especially southern culture, encompasses female perfection. You will be the perfect wife, friend, mother, sister, daughter and you will do it with luscious blonde curls and a Michael Kors watch. I suppose this facade of having it all together makes it difficult to discuss the burdens of perfection. Social media is also pretty damn toxic to our mental health. Trust me, I’m just as guilty of spending too much time stalking people from high school and gawking at the fraudulent perfection. Because we fill the internet with controlled happiness, it shifts reality. No one has it all together, but social media tricks us into thinking the opposite.

My wish is for women to be genuine with the struggles of life. It is hard to wear so many hats and it is ok to be anxious at times. Life is daunting, but also blissfully exciting. So, I challenge you…peel back the layers and share what is permeating through your spirit. There should be a community of support for anxiety, instead of silencing it. If I have a patient specifically come in to the practice to discuss mental health, I often share my own journey. Creating that tangible and emotional connection truly opens doors and leads to a better course of treatment. So this week, be open and honest with your struggles. You might find a charming community you never knew you had in life.

Granted, some people find that vocalizing anxiety magnifies its power. If you know this about your soul, then verbalizing it to others might not be an ideal journey for you. The anxiety adventure is unique to us all and it takes time to figure out your relationship with it. I am an open spirit, often sharing my story with furry Starbucks baristas and yoga class dwellers. Just find what works for you to alleviate the burden and find peace. In the words of my favorite yogi, Adriene, “find what feels good.”

Love and light.

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I find that nature is one of my favorite places to process anxiety. It puts a lot in perspective.

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My healthcare community of patients and coworkers is pivotal is this journey.

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Find your one sounding board. For 20+ years, we’ve been swapping ideas and sharing trials/tribulations. Love you.

 

 

 

Appreciation.

Stop and smell the roses

This common adage is shared through generations, often coming from the sage advice of elders. If someone tells me something and they have wrinkles and smell like cinnamon, I usually take the advice.

What does this saying mean? To me, it means to stop, be mindful, and enjoy the beauty in life. In theory, this is a whimsical way of life that brings joy. How often do we truly live by this advice? In a study done at Rutgers University, a professor conducted a study that assessed levels of appreciation.

Fagley’s survey of appreciation zeroed in on eight aspects of it, including awe—or feeling a sense of connection to nature or life itself—and living in the present moment.

Essentially, she tested how appreciation impacts our lives and happiness. By stopping to smell the roses, we are engaging in appreciation of the moment and of life’s beauty. If you want to read her study, please visit:

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/a_scientific_reason_to_stop_and_smell_the_roses

Ok, so we have established a correlation between appreciation and increased happiness. So why don’t we make the time to stop and smell the proverbial roses? I have a few theories:

Technology

  • The tech world has thrust us into a universe of speed, heightened awareness, and immediate gratification
  • Your phone beeps/rings/meows and you immediately check it, stimulating your adrenal glands (hello adrenal fatigue..the next health crisis). This hyper-awareness that is a result of being tied to a phone steals the precious ability to disconnect and be mindful

Work

  • In the age of cavemen, leisure time made up 70% of the day
  • In today’s world, the average person works/commutes about 10 hours a day plus family responsibilities/sports/cleaning/social life/etc…leaving little time for leisure
  • We have shifted towards this culture of “pay bills and eventually die” rather than living mindfully and spending time with passions and hobbies

 

This blog post was inspired by my morning. I woke up, frantically got dressed and headed to the hospital to pick up a badge to begin my next clinical rotation. I shook hands, kissed a few babies, talked shop with important looking people and headed home. My next stop was out to the coffee shop (I’m such a hipster, I can’t even deny it) to apply for Nurse Practitioner Jobs. My next three hours were eaten up by cups of green tea and endless resume edits. After than, off to the gym and to the grocery…only to be met with housework when I returned home. Did I stop to engage my breathing? Nope. Did I check in with my posture to see how I was treating my spine? Naw. Then it hit me. Why am I more focused on the efficiency of my day then the ability to appreciate the small moments?

I headed back out to the cozy downtown by my house and sat outside. When my gaze lifted, I saw this sign. Although this is a physical sign, it felt more like a metaphorical sign. Enjoy life. Stop and smell the roses. The Universe heard me when I didn’t even realize how the pace of my day was negatively impacting my appreciation of life.

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Slow down. Appreciate. Take 30 seconds to look up from your phone and feel the sun on your face. Listen to the birds. Feel your feet engaged with the grounding earth. Check out of the world so you can check in with the moment.

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Love and Light.

Lotus. 


-Author unknown

May your Sunday night be peaceful, your Monday morning calm, and your work week fulfilling.

Take the time to sit tonight. Sit in meditation and focus on the week ahead. Maybe your practice is traditional, sitting in lotus with an erect spine. Maybe your practice is lax, laying in bed with a voice guiding you through a meditation session. Maybe your practice is new, pausing to take a breath while you brush your teeth. Regardless of your practice, may you take the time to “sit” tonight and be mindful of your spirit. Be the lotus and let nothing steal your light this week. Trevor Hall, a favorite singer of mine, quotes “don’t you carry stones in your bowl of light.” Radiate positive light as your embrace on another work week. Prepare your body, mind, and spirit with a calming meditative practice. Sleep peacefully. Eat well. Heal.
Love and light


This is the area that surrounded me during my formal practice tonight. I did a guided meditation on letting go of stress. It was truly blissful and invigorating.