Adding flavor to your 9 to 5.

The vast majority of the people work a typical 9am-5pm desk job. We wake up to a boisterous alarm clock, slovenly roll out of bed, and start the daily grind. We trudge to work in our cars and join the daily rat race.

That is a depressing description of a typical morning, but my fear is it is an accurate one. Day after day, we get up and go to work and get lost in a mundane routine. I have some strategies to help you open your eyes to the beauty of an average day. You have the ability to make average…extraordinary. The root of this concept is mindfulness:

Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It is being conscious of the simple moments.

A typical day is filled with precious moments that are often overlooking by the blinders of auto-pilot that so many of us wear. Here are some tips on shifting your typical day into a day of beautiful awareness:

  • Enjoy 6 mins of desk yoga. Connecting with your body and finding movement after hours of stagnate sitting is a blessing. Here is a link to a lovely video by my girl, Adriene
  • Get outside. Most jobs do not require being “office-bound” so slip outside for 5 minutes and get some fresh air. Listen to what you hear and take stock of the visual gifts in front of you.
  • Enjoy your commute. I have become a lover of all things Podcast. I use my commute to learn new information about subjects that I typically would not be expose to (hoarding, clock-making, LSD…just a normal day).
    • some of my favorite Podcasts that can be found on any iPhone: S-town, This American Life, The Daily, Serial, TED Radio Hour
  • Sneak in some yummy breathing. I am an advocate for the belly breath and taking moments throughout the day to engage in 2-3 breaths to center myself. I like to take deep breaths before I enter each patient’s room because it clears my head and allows me to be an active and engaged listener

Enjoying the small, beautiful moments is a great way to combat the “rut” feeling of doing the same thing each day. How do you find joy in your work routine?

Love and light.

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Post-Chair yoga in the office

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Enjoying the Healing Garden at work during lunch

Eulogies, rock climbing, and book club.

What do these three things have in common? Nothing. I just wanted to get your attention. Hello, hi. The first part of the title is the true purpose of this piece. On Monday, April 10th, my husband’s sweet grandmother passed away at the age of 105. Conceptualize that age. She was born before the Titanic sank and preceded the invention of the car. Her eulogy was sweet, sincere, and perfect. It encompassed a love of bridge, church, and chocolate. Perhaps it was the deliciously blue sky as a backdrop or the songs of a robin, but the eulogy truly stuck my soul. On the drive home, I thought to myself,

What will my Eulogy say?

Morbid? Maybe. Hear me out. If you died tomorrow, what would you want your loved ones to say? Would you want your love of Chinese take-out and romance novels to be the focus? Perhaps you want your philanthropic hobbies discussed and a few sentences about the animals you rescued?

In the early part of my life, I put a lot of my self worth into achievement.

I am worthy because I made all A’s/got the dream job/etc

As I’ve leaned into my late twenties, I’ve learned that my self worth is built from my compassion, humor, positivity, and kindness. I want to be known for the type of person I was, not necessarily my achievements. This concept permeated into my workplace today and I posed the question to my colleagues. One of the psychologists at work told me that writing your eulogy is a true psychological strategy for motivating patients. It forces the patient to focus on the main priorities in life and identify your purpose and passion.

I ask you this question:

If you wrote your eulogy tomorrow, what would you want it to say?

I am humbled that sweet grandma lived to be 105 years old and I can’t comprehend the knowledge and sage wisdom she accumulated. Each day is truly a gift and I am going to spend it working towards becoming the woman I want to hear about when I’m listening on the other side of the clouds (in many, many, many years from now).

Be present, be kind, be the light.

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Natural beauty 

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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Fresh.

2017. A fresh start. A clean slate. Cough Cough, insert inspiring Pinterest quote here.

All jokes aside, I put this blog on the back burner as I transitioned to a new career and it feels like time to begin again. My creative mind was itching for an outlet and I have missed the meditative feeling of pen to paper. Rather…fingers to keyboard.

Speaking of meditation, I want to share a quick update with you all. I transitioned from a nurse to nurse practitioner three months ago and it has been a trying experience. I am experiencing the “from novice to expert” phenomenon and it is exhausting. Exhaustingly beautiful, but exhausting nonetheless. These past three months have left me feeling vulnerable, strong, proud, embarrassed and everything in between. However, personal growth is an intimate evolution of the self and I have been leaning on meditation to cushion the path.

Mediation makes me feel powerfully calm. It also makes me feel incredibly humbled by my brain’s ability to juggle 80,000 thoughts a day (real number…it’s worth a google). It gives me the awareness to recognize my chaotic mind, say hello, and continue about my day. If you have been following my blog, you know that an anxious mind is my natural default setting. I use meditation, not to “fix” my brain, but to acknowledge and support my mental journey.

Insight Timer is an iPhone App that offers thousands of FREE guided mediations. I am currently participating in a 365 day challenge with a million of my closest friends! The app allows people from all over the world to come together (in a virtual sense) and unite with a common goal: mindfulness. Each day, I sit on my yoga mat and meditate. It might be for 3 minutes or for 40 minutes. There is no right way to meditate. The only “right” thing is to show up for yourself and give yourself the peace of mind you deserve. Meditation can be finding awareness in the breath and enjoying 3 deep inhale/exhales.

I challenge you to begin with just 3 deep breaths in the morning at the edge of the bed. How did it change the way you greet the day? Did you feel more grounded and controlled?

Meditation is not a solution for everyone. Just the thought of sitting down with your thoughts for 30 seconds scares people. If you feel that way, then you really should embrace meditation! 🙂 For some, all of this sounds like complete bull. I sound like a liberal millennial who should lay off the incense. And…that is ok. This has worked for me, but it does not work for everyone. My hope is that one person who is struggling with an anxious mind will find this article and give this strategy a try.

It feels good to be back. I want to share my light with the world and this currently feels like the platform…so…stay tuned!

Love and Light.

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Serendipity.

Do you seek out joy or wait for good things to happen to you? The concept of serendipity tells us that pleasant things appear spontaneously. Well, I like to think you can create your own serendipity with a little bit of luck and effort.

My schedule has been aggressively busy over the past month. I started a new job that tugs on every essence of my being; in a good, yet time-consuming way. “Busy” is a commonality among most humans. The challenges shift among people, but most days involve school/job/spouse/family/children/housework or any combination of the stressors. When life is busy, do you stop engaging in self-care? Do you stop taking precious moments to yourself to seek out beauty?

When I am at my busiest, I find that I thrive at self-care and my calming practices. I have to budget my time, which forces me to schedule times of relaxation. My commute to work has evolved into a delicate time of reflection and relaxation. I must drive every morning, so why not create a sacred experience. My car smells of strong coffee and emits soothing sounds of my favorite musician, Trevor Hall. I also have a portable essential oil diffusor for the dashboard. So, with a little bit of effort, a daily commute has unfolded into my sacred Sara time.

Another way I squeeze beauty into my day is tea time. I have a Keurig in my office at work and I brew a cup of tea after I round on my patients. Although a small gesture, the smell of loose-leaf tea makes charting a lot more pleasant. It also brought a sense of community to my work space. I’ve met other staff members through this spontaneous love of tea. Now, I bring tea to our weekly team meeting. One small action has become a new habit that reminds our coworkers to slow down and enjoy a delicious drink. I truly believe everyone can benefit from more mindfulness in the workplace.

My daily yoga practice has been a grounding force during this wild month. Somedays, I practice for an hour and its a sweaty, sublime practice. Other days, I lay in bed in Savasana and call it yoga. It’s about creating a balance, right? After a long day at the hospital, getting on my mat and releasing the tension feels like a true gift. Even if it’s a five minute practice, it’s five minutes of healing bliss. Create a serendipitous moment by getting on the mat and engaging in a delightful flow.

As I reread this, I realize how a lot of this sounds like “first world problems.” Oh, I’m too busy from my JOB that allows me to provide and never have any financial worries. Oh, I’m just so stressed from being at work that I have to drink $10 tea from Teavana out of my Keurig. That is not my intention. My intention is that we are all busy and all have our own struggles. In that busyness, we often forget to slow down and create magic in our everyday lives. We forget to create or embrace serendipity. We forget about the importance in the small moments.

How do you celebrate small moments when life is moving fast? Share with me 🙂

Love and light.

 

Gynecologists and spilled iced tea. Honestly.

This piece is inspired by hubby-to-be working late, a relaxing massage from my fantastic coworker, and one too many local craft brews. I want to take you on a journey from the Spring of 2015.

I am anxiously sitting in the waiting room of the gynecologist’s office. Many of you may know that us women have a majestical organ that can grow human life, but also requires an annual oil change. The nurse calls my name and I follow her to the exam room, barely staying upright on my jello legs. At this period of my life, my anxiety was still quite welcome and made a daily appearance. Pair that with a stranger, cold metal, and you have a damning combination. My blood pressure was so high that the sweet nurse looked quite frightened. What can I say? I like to keep people guessing. Anyway, I made it through the appointment and wobbled to the parking deck to retrieve my dignity and vehicle. I drove out of the deck, only to realize it was a cash only payment system. Let’s be honest…I have not carried cash since 2004. So, I had to promise to mail a $5 check to the cashier within one week. MAIL A CHECK, PEOPLE. I did mail such check because my catastrophic thinking pattern convinced me if I did not send in the money I would go to prison and rot on death row. I digress.

I scheduled another appointment right after the doctor’s office because that is a great idea when you are riddled with semi-crippling anxiety. My meeting was with the Physician’s Assistant I was going to shadow in the upcoming fall for my clinical rotation in my Masters program. It was my duty to find a health provider, set up a meeting, and create a mentor-style relationship. My logistical mind decided that the gyno and this medical facility were close in proximity so it would make perfect sense to schedule them on the same afternoon. My anxious brain quickly vetoed the idea, but canceling was not an option.

I wore workout clothes to the gyno appointment because who doesn’t want their doctor to think they are a stellar, fit, healthy human who works out for 329 minutes a day. So, I packed a cute business casual outfit for my meeting with the Physician’s Assistant. I decided to run to a Chick-fil-a and enjoy a quick lunch. Unfortunately, nausea used to be a common anxiety manifestation…so I was essentially dry-heaving chicken nuggets in the parking lot. Casual.

Now comes the time to change outfits. All goes well. I decide to take a nice sip of my iced tea and then it happens. The lid cracks and dark brown liquid pours all over my white chiffon blouse. In panicked mood, I exit my vehicle to look to see if I have another shirt in the trunk. As I step out of the vehicle, my high heel gets caught in a grate in the road. My heel snaps off. So now, I have one broken pump and a stained shirt. The time crunch is kicking in and I need to make a decision. I decide to put on the workout clothes in the hopes this prospective teacher will see me as a sassy fitness guru.

I enter the office and ask for the Physician Assistant. The receptionist asks me if I am a patient. Not a good start. Fast forward…I met with him…it was a decent interaction…I cried all the way home.

What is the point to this story? Perhaps my judgement is clouded by the hoppy deliciousness of local beer. The point is this…it is really not that serious. I ended up having another preceptor take me as a student, graduate with a 3.9, and got a job. It always works out. Even the moments that feel chaotic and overwhelming always lead to the correct path. Anxiety makes the small moments hard and gives too much power to stupid and trivial things. None of it matters in the long run. It always falls into place. I wish I would have learned to take things less seriously…but now I value that knowledge. Laugh at yourself, at the world, at this blissful chaotic thing we call life.

Love and Light.

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For fellow craft beer enthusiasts…this Thai Wheat by Second Self is stellar. Cheers to not taking life too seriously

 

 

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. 

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

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.

Pause button. 

Stop what you are doing right now. Breathe. Feel your belly rise, supporting your soul.

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you smell?

What do you feel?

What do you taste?

Take this second to embrace your mind and body. This moment will soon be gone. Did you enjoy it? Did you engage all of your senses to feel connected to the Universe and the grounding force inside your core. Stop, breathe, repeat.

Love and light

Drinking tea is my favorite way to escape into a moment of mindfulness. Cheers!

Balance.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance,

you must keep moving.

-Albert Einstein

Maintaining balance between life, love, jobs, friends, family, etc can be a delicate act. The feminist side of me embraces the fact that women wear so many hats. We have the ability to serve many roles, while maintaining a fierce sense of individualism. However, life is not a perfect balance. Certain roles will pull at your heart strings with a ferocious energy. A lot of my roles have shifted over the past few weeks. We officially announced our engagement, my future mother-in-law was hospitalized, and I started as a nurse practitioner student at a new clinic. During the past few weeks, the delicate balance of my roles shifted. My anxiety loves these scenarios. Anxiety feeds off of external chaos.

Here are my pearls of wisdom from the past month (not sure I’m qualified for that, but we are going for it!) :

Life will never be perfectly balanced. You can not control everything. When you are spinning all of your plates eloquently above your head, you will get an arm cramp and they will crash down. AND THAT’S OK. Or, you might maintain the balance but you will become physically and mentally exhausted. It is ok. It is always ok.

Scene: Kemp’s dad called us panicked on a Sunday morning. Kemp’s mom couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the ER. Kemp hangs up. He looks at me and I know it is time to shift my balance from 50/50 partnership to 100/0 partnership. It is time to carry him in this moment. Guess what happens when you shift your mindset from panic brain to compassion brain. Anxiety dissipates. Everything is better with his mom and I did not let anxiety dictate the situation. In that moment, I led with love, not fear. As a healthcare provider and anxiety goddess, I found the balance.

As someone who journeys with anxiety in my passenger seat, I feel compelled to tell you (and myself/ego/id/superego/all those other undergraduate psych vocab words) that it all will be ok. Balance is possible. You might have anxiety and it might debilitate your spirit. But, you might find moments of relief throughout the day. Maybe that is your balance right now. Life is not black and white. It is a journey of greys that seep into some mixture that we call life. You will never simply be an anxious person. You are a balance of a beautiful soul who has an occasional dark cloud. Keep moving forward through the stress and the change. Do hard things. Find a healing balance. Stressful situations are just opportunities for you to show yourself strength.

I intended for this piece to be fluid and encapsulate the concept of balance. I’m not sure I ended up there. I guess that’s what I get for writing a piece after eating nothing but sugar and sitting at a carwash in 30 degree weather. Eh, I’ll take it.

Love and light

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Life is not black and white. Except, I guess it kind of is if you look at my meditation corner. AWKWARD.