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

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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Perfectly Happy.

External circumstances impact your happiness for a short period of time. However, internal circumstances are the sustaining practice to achieving and maintaining happiness. This revelation is a relatively new concept for me.

In my first few decades of life, I created a correlation between success and happiness. If I achieved my tangible goals, happiness would naturally fall into place. This relationship was not as strongly correlated as I once imagined. It began in my early 20’s when I was working towards a career in healthcare.

Once I get into nursing school, everything will be perfect.

I got into nursing school and it was difficult. I assumed it was just a period of growth and put my happiness towards the next goal.

I will get accepted into a Master’s Program and I will become a Family Nurse Practitioner and my life will be perfectly happy.

Fast forward a few years: I graduated with honors with my MSN and landed a job immediately.

THIS HAS TO BE THE POINT WHEN EVERYTHING IS PERFECT AND I’VE ACHIEVED ULTIMATE HAPPINESS?!

As the dust settled and I felt my feet become grounded with the earth, I realized what I was missing. Accomplishing goals is a beautiful process, but the perfect life is not waiting for you at the finish line. The perfectly happy life was in the journey, in the small moments of self-discovery and love. I feel as if I put my head down to barreled through to the end and I missed most of the adventure along the way.

These past few months have opened my eyes towards the intrinsic nature of happiness. It is what we seek and create in our soul and mind. Happiness might be impacted by external results for a short time, but it is sustained by the inner journey.

Meditation has given me the opportunity to reflect back on my experiences and realize that I did miss out on small moments because of a focused vision on the end goal. I have learned to be more mindful and stop to raise my gaze to the world around me. The old adage is true: Happiness is the journey, not the destination.

I realized that I am having the time of my life RIGHT NOW. It’s not next year when we get a house or when we have our first child. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s here now. I think life becomes more enchanting when we stop focusing on the finish line, breathe, and look to our left and right.

Do you think you can create your own happiness by becoming more mindful and tending to your soul? Let me know in the comments.

Love and Light.

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My afternoon meditation corner on this cozy day.

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

 

 

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!

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.

Healing Hikes.

Nature. It cured me.

My journey through anxiety has been encompassed by a larger journey…one of self-discovery through the wilderness.

My greatest healing happened deep in the woods, away from people, technology, and the chaos of busy life.

I fondly call these experiences my healing hikes.

Rewind 20 years. One might find me playing in the woods that was adjacent to my best friend’s house. I would be playing outside, regardless of the weather extremes. I remember watching the thermometer in our cozy Ohio kitchen, staring until the number went from 9 degrees to 10 degrees. The rule was you could play outside when temps reached double digits.

Nature has always been my safe space. When I was in the height of my panic attacks, I would often escape the environment by running outside. Grocery store meltdown? Quickly escape outside. Stuck in line at the DMV? Gracefully (or not) power walk out the door. Stuck in a stifling conference of 500 people? Get up and run to the parking lot. The end goal of my escape plan was to seek comfort in my true home: nature.

Being outside has always been a source of joy, but that joy became exponential as I realized the impact that wilderness had on my panic.

I started hiking with Kemp and it grew to be a large part of our life. We have been in our “explore” phase for almost 3 years. I keep a journal of every hike/camping trip/kayak trip we take. It has become a precious item in our home. It is a book of reflection, memories, and lessons learned. So far, we have hiked almost 300 miles together.

I believe hiking is a lot like anxiety. Hear me out. When you start hiking at a new trailhead, the path is foreign and new. Your heart races as you get accustomed to the new pace. Your breathing increases to compensate for this increased demand. You focus on the path directly in front of your feet so you don’t trip and fall, creating tunnel vision. However, after a few minutes on the trail, you sink into the pace of hiking. Your heart rate and breathing regulate as you adapt. You look up from your feet and gaze at the beautiful periphery. Sounds a lot like riding the wave of anxiety, right?

Hiking taught me to push through moments of discomfort and trust my body.

There is a program called “Walk off the War” and it is geared towards Vets dealing with PTSD. They are guided on hikes and taught to rewire the overstimulated mind. It is the same concept with anxiety.

Nature helps me rewire that hyper-responsive sympathetic nervous system that my body LOVES to use and abuse.

 

What activities have helped you overcome mental illness?

Love and light.

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At the highest point in Georgia!

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Our morning view from a bed and breakfast called “The Len Foote Hike Inn” in North Georgia

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Sitting on the top of Mount Yonah in North Georgia. The Rangers use this mountain for training…it was tough.

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Hiking and climbing our way around southern Cali

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Cloudland Canyon in Georgia