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.

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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.

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“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)

Travel.

Anxious people and travel often do not mix in the wanderlust-themed soup of life. For the anxious soul, travel is too unknown to be comprehensible. New roads, cars, rooms, restaurants, people, and spaces…the unfamiliar territory is daunting. I want to let you in on a little secret: the joy of adventure always outweighs the fear.

“I would rather have a panic attack on a beach in Brazil, than in my living room.”

Let’s say you are at a crossroads, (the travel-themed metaphors are just TOO easy) and your options are to stay home or go on an adventure. I guarantee most anxious people will be consumed by option A.

“Well, if I just stay home and rest this one time, I’ll be better prepared for next time”

“I’m tired and I think I’ll just watch a movie at home”

“I don’t have the right clothes/gear for that, so I’m going to pass”

“I’m swamped with work, I just can’t get away for the afternoon”

Guess what? I call bullshit on all those answers. Anxiety likes to dictate the initial response to questions and call the shots. After years of dealing with panic, I still catch myself slipping into the default mode of “oh, no thanks…not this time.” CHALLENGE THAT THINKING.

Travel is this beautiful gift that allows up to pause reality and submerge into a hidden world where the potential is limitless. If you want to be a carefree hippie-wood nymph and traverse throughout the woods, you can. If you want to get a tattoo in Myrtle Beach (not recommended based on personal experience) then go for it! Traveling allows you to shed that timid shell and explore your true persona in a new environment.

The next time someone asks you to travel (an afternoon/day/week), pause before you answer. Reflect on this idea: Anxiety does not have to travel with you. What if you could leave her at home to veg on the couch while you explore the world. She doesn’t deserve to come on an awesome trip.

At the height on my anxiety, long car rides would be difficult. I would ruminate on all of the things that could go wrong once we got to the destination. Now, I focus on enjoying uninterrupted time with my fiance. I focus on being mindful and present on the experience instead of catasterbating (patent pending on that word…kinda).

Here are a few tips that I use to make traveling an awesome experience:

  • Prepare
    • If we are hiking, we map out the trail and share the latitude/longitude with friends so if we get eaten by a bear, they can find our gear and fight over the good stuff
    • Use google maps to see a “street view” of where you are going. Visualizing the new location can alleviate some bad vibes
    • Check the weather…duh.
  • Stack the deck
    • There is nothing wrong with bringing parts of your toolbox (see previous post!)
    • essential oils, a favorite mantra, a book are all great supporting objects during travel
    • Be rested, stay hydrated, eat well…when your body is healthy, your mind will follow along
  • Embrace
    • Be mindful to focus on the experience, not the anxiety
    • You are having a beautiful moment in a new place, simply enjoy it

 

I finish with a caveat. We love to travel and 80% of the time, I’m a badass travel buddy. There are still times I get overwhelmed. I HATE flying and I drink myself into stupor to board the flying germ tube. I also still deal with occasional anxiety while driving on the highway. I ignore the feeling and zone out to some nerdy podcast instead of trying to figure out what I’m feeling. Is that therapeutic? Nope. Is that the healthy, hippie way to cope? Hell no. Is that the yogi-granola way to heal? Naw. But, it’s a process and a journey. I’m striving for integrity and raw writing…not perfection.

Love and light.

 

Enjoy some pictures from my travels over the last month

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Our ‘hotel’ for the night during a camping trip

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Watching the waves in Sunset Beach

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Braves game! 

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Exploring downtown Wilmington, NC

 

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.

Yoga for gangly folk.

I am a relatively large human. I believe the actual height is somewhere between 5’9″-5’11” depending on how much I can drop my hip. Being tall has been a blessing and a curse. People often ask me to reach things on shelves which gives me fulfillment and a sense of purpose in the world. It also gives me tired arms. Let me take you back a bit in the imaginary time machine that I am creating right now. Impressive, huh? Ready-go!

The year was 2000 and I was in elementary school. I was a staggering 5’7″ and all of the boys were about 3’6″. Dramatic, but you catch my drift. My body elongated and stretched out aggressively in a period of about 3 months. Add that to chin acne and bangs and you have hit the Holy Grail of awkwardness.

Fast forward to high school. I never really grew into my body. I played sports and was decent. I was never super fast or super strong etc. At least I didn’t trip over my feet anymore.

Fast forward AGAIN to present day. Welcome. As an adult, I still feel somewhat out of place in my own skin. Anxiety and panic have created this weird energy between my mind and my body. Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own skin. I still am slightly clumsy and gangly. Anxiety makes your brain feel so odd that you don’t even feel at home in your own skin. This feeling is not ideal so I started exploring ways to connect to my body. Over the years, I attended free yoga classes at the college gym or tried an online video. I was never serious about my practice. I’m still not serious about it, but I love where my journey is headed.

Yoga makes me feel connected, grounded, strong, calm, healthy, and happy. The practice has strengthened my mind and body connection. My height is a strength in yoga. I might stumble on my way to the mat, but I am strong and graceful in my practice. I fall over in the occasional pose and lose my balance. It is a good reminder that life might make us feel awkward in our own skin, but we have the ability to cultivate strength and become grounded. Yoga teaches me about myself physically, mentally, and emotionally…and for that, I am grateful.

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Googlephobia.

I am the queen of Google.

I have removed the Google app from my phone because I morphed into the Dictator of Google.

I feel anxious, therefore I must Google the shit out of these feelings.

Scenario:

I was sitting on a beach with Kemp last summer. We were paddle boarding, drinking cheap beer, and having a blissful time. I left anxiety at home for the day…or so I thought. All of a sudden, I got a cramp in my right calf. The logical side of my brain should have processed the fact we went running earlier and I was probably dehydrated. But the logical side of my brain is boring so clearly I spiraled down the black hole of catastrophic thinking. I immediately took out my phone and started googling “cramp in calf.” Guess what came up? Something along the line of blood clot, cancer, imminent death, etc. Let me casually reiterate something. At this point, I had been a nurse for a few years and had 4 years of medical courses. My logical brain knew that these google revelations were wildly inaccurate. My panic, freak the fuck out, brain had other plans. Five minutes had passed and I was attempting to convince Kemp to chug his beer and take me to the SeaCoast Medical Building. He looked at me, smiled, took my hand and led me into the water. And that was that. I bounced up and out of the dreaded Google hole.

End scene.

I write this in jest, but I imagine a lot of you have been there. The anxious thoughts arise and we seek validation from an external source. My logical brain knew I did not have a blood clot, but my panic brain thought that was reasonable and wanted support by googling ridiculous things on the internet. I also have googled “anxiety quiz” numerous times to simply confirm that I am not losing it. My results always indicate mild-moderate anxiety and that gives me a few minutes of relief, knowing I must be ok compared to others. Why can’t I just process these thoughts without external validation?

We all need someone to look at us and say, “you are calm, you are fine, you are doing well.” I often use Google as that voice, because I’m too broke for therapy every week. Cheers!

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Status post the blood clot meltdown of 2014. Yes, I do have full formed legs. I have not mastered the art of the standing ocean paddle board experience. I can’t help but laugh at that one 🙂