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

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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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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. 

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

Fleeting.

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”
― e.e cummings

I have heard that you can not escape death. It might be a rumor, but it seems to be a popular one. Lately, death has been sprinkled throughout my professional life. As a nurse, we do our best to stall the inevitable. We pause death, we push it back, we scare it away for a few more days. Eventually, the greater plan outweighs our own and the patient transitions to the after life. Some people spend 99 years on this earth and some spend a fraction of that time. Certain lives are long lived and others are fleeting. What determines your journey? Why does one person live to be 100 and another dies as a child? Existentialism aside, that is probably a discussion for another time. For now, I want to share what I learned from people dying. I am shooting for “morbidly uplifting.”

When a patient dies, it makes me question my journey. I question my priorities, my stress, my choices, and my soul. It changes my perspective. When I reflect back on years of journeying with anxiety, it seems so small in comparison. I feel lucky my heart rapidly beats and my anxious mind processes at a rapid pace…because that means I am still alive. Anxiety sucks. We know this by now. However, when I see a deceased patient, I pinch myself because I feel so grateful that my journey continues. A minor panic attack feels like a blip on the radar screen when you see a grieving family member choke back tears. It is all about perspective. Something that feels overwhelming in your life may not seem like anything to another person.

Health can be fleeting. You don’t know what next years physical might find. You don’t know what disease might manifest in ten years. So…why not embrace today for its perfection. Life is unpredictable, so focus on the beauty of today. Be mindful of your energy, breath, and body. Do not let feelings of anxiety or panic dictate your happiness. In the big picture, it is not that serious. Try to minimize your experience and see if that helps with perspective. Yes, you panicked today but that means you are still energized and breathing.

Take your right hand and place it on your chest. Feel that? It is a constant reminder that your work is not done. You have potential to make today the best day of your life. You have a heart that works hard to fulfill your body, mind, and spirit. Embrace each day with an unprecedented desire to find joy in the simple things. You can not predict the future, but you can savor every minute on this divine earth.

Love and light.

 

 

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My favorite spot to reflect and create.

Anticipatory anxiety.

Why does the unknown scare us? Why does the future cause us unrest? Why do we use anxiety as a mental placeholder while we wait for something to happen?

Well, the answer is simple: anticipatory anxiety.

Humans like control. We like to know what is happening, who is doing it, what it will feel like, and when it is supposed to happen. I am speaking for the vast majority of people. I will exclude the true wanderlust hippies who live blissfully in the NOW. Hopefully, the rest of us lay people can join you one day.

Scene: You have a presentation for work at 4:00pm. You wake up that morning, feeling a blend of nausea and excitement. You can’t focus at work and you feel like your brain has taken residence in a cloud high above the office. You might feel foggy, unfocused, on edge. Your brain recognizes the importance of the presentation and (rather unfortunately) decides it is a really BIG SCARY TERRIFYING THING. That is the deal with an anxious brain. It is overstimulated and angry with adrenaline. You might feel your heart rate increase, another sign that the sympathetic nervous system is pre-gaming this event. Why do the hours leading up to something stressful also have to be stressful? Hey Universe, that is not fair.

So, how do you challenge the anticipatory anxiety. I will let you in on a secret. The event is never as scary as you pictured it. You didn’t barf, pass out, or cry. Or maybe you did…but most people are genuine humans and would be empathetic to your struggle. It is never that bad, that scary, that daunting. Your mind and your adrenal glands have been primed to give exaggerated reactions to stress. Let’s talk about how to calm that response system down in the hours leading up to a stressful event.

  • Be mindful of the present
    • focus on what you are doing right now
    • what do you smell, hear, taste, feel, see?
  • Challenge the catastrophic thoughts
    • what is the worst thing that could happen? (thanks to my mom for instilling that great trick, love you!)
  • Make a positive thought for every negative thought?
    • “Ugh, why am I so anxious right now?!”
    • Counter with “I can harness this feeling to give a creative, energetic presentation”
  • Breathe
    • utilize Pranayama breathing techniques to engage that lovely parasympathetic nervous system and slow the mind/body down

Anxiety blows. Why wait precious hours getting anxious about possibly being anxious?  It is a cyclic thought nightmare. Just say stop. Literally, yell the word stop. Embrace the present moment, focus on your breathe, and save your beautiful brain power for something more productive.

I challenge you to try some of these techniques the next time you find yourself ruminating before a stressful event. Your life is beautiful and worthy. You don’t deserve to waste time with worry.

Love and Light.

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Slowing down before a presentation with a 5 minute meditation and some Doterra aromatherapy.

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!

Back from the dark side.

This is not a Star Wars pun, but rather an honest confession. I pulled away from writing blog posts because I felt like all this anxiety chit chat was actually stirring up my panic. Oh, the irony.

I felt an adrenaline surge over the past few weeks and I was trying to discover the culprit. I think I was becoming too engrossed with thoughts of anxiety, panic, stress, etc. I thought that starting a blog would be cathartic. Instead, my brain interpreted it as, “let’s bring up this cerebral sludge to the surface and let it freak you out again!”

My mind has been moving at a faster pace and I attributed that to spending a lot of time writing these posts and reading about other bloggers with similar journeys. I think there is a way to gain the benefit of this creative outlet and to not let it stir up murky emotional waters. I’m going to be more mindful and purposeful in my blogging adventures.

During lunch with a beloved friend today, she challenged my thought process. I verbalized how I felt like blogging about anxiety was making me more anxious and she countered with, “but you’ve still come incredibly far and people can learn from you.” That tugged on my caregiver heartstrings.

This blog might be difficult for me sometimes, but it might also give someone a breath of fresh air. It might sting to relive some vulnerable moments, but it might teach someone a new coping strategy. Also, I’m learning that anxiety is a part of my core being. I have been blessed with a lot of energy, a quick thought process, and an intensity that allows me to be successful. So, maybe the purpose of my blog will evolve from trying to “fix” my anxiety to simply embracing it.

The healing side of me outweighs the cautious side of me. With that being said, I’m back.

Love and Light to you on the New Year’s Eve

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A snuggly NYE celebration with my pretty diffuser.

Be cool.

Be cool. This phrase means two things to me:

  • Your body is starting to feel hot and tingly. The symptoms are present and the fear is rising. The wave of panic is swelling, ready to engulf your scared little soul. The pinpricks are warm and electric in your hands. There is a fire burning its way through your psyche. My internal monolog of “be cool” begins. I repeat it, feeling the heat dissipate. Be cool, Sara. Be physically and emotionally cool. It is a reminder to calm my body down, stop the rapid thought firing, and engage my parasympathetic nervous system.

 

  • Anxiety often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I might feel anxious, therefore I feel anxious. I might have a panic attack, therefore I have a panic attack. What if _____happens??!!  A lot of my time has been eaten away by negative thoughts about this big bad imaginary fear that I can not control. As a relatively type A perfectionist, being out of control is daunting. I am learning, slowly but surely, that I can be cool with my feelings. I can accept that my anxiety is part of what makes me that woman I am today. I can be cool knowing that I might feel uncomfortable at times. I am able to be cool with my thoughts, recognizing that they are just thoughts.

For me, being cool with anxiety is the catalyst to my healing journey. Anxiety is a part of my being and my hardworking brain. I do not believe I would be as successful without it gnawing at me. Because of an anxious mind I have:

  • graduated nursing school cum laude from Emory University
  • maintained a 4.0 in a Masters program
  • worked full time as a nurse/charge nurse at a catastrophic care hospital
  • worn the hat of daughter, friend, sister, lover, step-mom, aunt

It’s ok to see anxiety in a positive light. I believe we are so quick to file it in the “holy shit this is not ok” folder. I’m not sure that is always the most productive way to view this journey. It is ok to be cool with your anxiety, it has probably led you to some incredible experiences. My wish for you is to be cool…be cool with your soul, spirit, heart, and mind.

 

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Be cool. Be a Spiritual Gangster.