Waves 

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

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

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

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

Love and light. 

east coast waves

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

Advertisements

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.

IMG_6538

At the highest point in Georgia!

IMG_6196

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

FullSizeRender

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

18911_10153163909549841_4662263877711372530_n

Hiking and climbing our way around southern Cali

IMG_5795

Cloudland Canyon in Georgia

Visceral Terror.

My heart physically aches. My brain is numb. It feels like someone gave my soul a paper cut.

Sunday morning: The phone illuminates an empty patient room. I snuck away to chart my morning assessments, only to be greeted with a harsh reality that our innocent bubble has been broken. Another massive tragedy. Another faceless gunman. Another precious day polluted by the shadow of death.

I tend to perseverate on the news. My brain loves the dopamine jolt of a juicy news story. I must keep my curiosity in check because I often fall down the news hole…only to awaken three days later, covered in chips and sweat. This Sunday was no different. I sat in my patient’s room and we quietly watched as the Orlando massacre unfolded. So many questions…who? why? how many?

Terrorism: the state of fear and submission produced by terrorization

My mind immediately reverts back into an anxious state, convinced that the world is ending and many attacks will follow. That is the weird thing about terrorism…being anxious about the next attack is proving to not be such an extreme reaction. Look at the past few years: Fort Hood, Boston Bombing, Chattanooga Shooting, San Bernardino shooting. For the first time in my life, my anxious thoughts might truly be validated. Normally, my repetitive worries represent irrational fears, which are easy to challenge and reframe. This…this fear of where our world is headed…is a realistic thought process. I never thought I would see the day.

My generation grew up with words like “terror, ISIS, Al Qaeda, terrorism, massacre” as part of the colloquialism of family gatherings. These vicious acts have almost become a numb aspect of the American psyche.

Um, 50 people were killed by one man claiming allegiance to ISIS. Terribly sad. Oh… what would you like for dinner?

I worry we have become so accustomed to the horrific news that our guard is down. The hateful acts still feel “far away” even on American soul. The bystander effect kicks in…”it would never happen to me.” Well, it could and I urge you to exercise your right to knowledge about self-protection.

The logical part of my brain is thinking that I do have statistics on my side and that a terror attack will never touch my life. The emotional side of my noggin is screaming for awareness and vigilance because another attack is right around the corner. We could have another 50 innocent victims in the coming weeks. The unpredictability of it is almost too much to bare. So, what is the solution? If I had a real one, I would be running for office.

In my book, the solution is to harness the anxious energy and convert it into logical planning. Research. Plan. Communicate. Get with your coworkers and discuss a plan for an active shooter in the workplace. Create an emergency contact. Learn basic techniques for disarming someone. Be vigilant in your personal fight against terror, thus giving us a universal strength against the enemy.

 

Love and Light (and a little bit of ammo).

10622825_10152798006804841_5748284247810778554_n

Thanks to the man who not only fought the war on terror for many years, but who teaches me so much about self-defense and awareness.

Hush Hush.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and light.

IMG_0303

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

IMG_2832

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

392760_10150529277899641_145207320_n

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

 

 

 

Appreciation.

Stop and smell the roses

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

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

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

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

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

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

Technology

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

Work

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

 

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

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

IMG_0721

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.

IMG_0297.JPG

 

Love and Light.

Lotus. 


-Author unknown

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

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


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

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

IMG_0221

Our ‘hotel’ for the night during a camping trip

IMG_0486

Watching the waves in Sunset Beach

IMG_0320

Braves game! 

IMG_0521

Exploring downtown Wilmington, NC

 

Mantra.

By definition, a mantra is:

mantra

noun man·tra \ˈmän-trə also ˈman- or ˈmən-\
  •  a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated by someone who is praying or meditating

  • a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs

I use mantras in my daily life and I picture them as a grounding force in a chaotic storm. When your mind is spiraling down an anxious path, a mantra is the kind person who stops to give you directions. It helps by refocusing your thought process and shifting your mind into a calmer demeanor. My brain really loves to work hard, so I meet that need for constant activity with positive thoughts and phrases.
Here are a few beautiful mantras to take you into the weekend. I challenge you to embrace the concept of a mantra and allow the words to fill and calm your soul. The next time you are ruminating on anxious thoughts, replace that fiery energy with some of these options. You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly you can rewire your thoughts and calm your spirit.

I am confident about solving life’s problems successfully.

I transcend stress of any kind. I live in peace.

All is well in my world and I am safe.

With every breath, I release the anxiety within me and I become more and more calm.

Life is wonderful. I trust in God/Universe to live a well fulfilled life.

I overcome my fear of anything and everything and live life courageously.

I acknowledge that the only constant in life is change and am prepared for it.

I am free of anxiety and continue to do so.

Let it be.

Credit to:http://www.self-help-and-self-development.com/affirmations-for-anxiety.html

 

 

Love and Light

IMG_9888

Breathe in the love around you. Be tall like the trees and bright like the sun. Namaste.

Toolbox.

The most daunting part of anxiety is the sneak attack. Anxiety might decide to come play while you are buying bruised organic avocados at the grocery. It might miss you so much that it decides to rear its head during a coffee date with friends. She (I’ve given my anxiety a sassy female alter-ego) might decide to stop by and say hey while you’re 12 episodes deep into Orange Is The New Black. Anxiety is overwhelming simply because it pops up unannounced. These annoying sneak attacks have given me the opportunity to learn how to combat that unwanted wave of panic.

The biggest thing I have learned is to always be prepared. Build a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual toolbox that you always carry. This can be a gray area because some people use items to distract from anxiety or associate certain items with stopping panic. I don’t want you to try to stop it. I want you to ride the wave and have tools that will make you more comfortable during the journey.

Here is my 4-part toolbox:

Physical

  • Lavender essential oil
    • I carry it in my purse/in my car/etc for instant zen
  • My engagement ring
    • My fiance told me to always look at it when I feel anxious and remember I’m never alone in this journey
  • A stone that says “let it be”
    • I bought this from a Crystal shop in Laguna beach. It helps ground me and put things into perspective

Mental

  • Positive self-talk
    • Tell yourself how awesome you are!
  • Mantra
    • Choose 2-3 mantras that you can repeat to yourself if the anxious thoughts are pervasive
    • “Feel the fear and do it anyway”
    • “All is well”
    • “Just keep swimming”

Emotional

  • Feelings are feelings and thought are thoughts
    • Really, though…it is simple! Focus on what your body feels like, not the chaotic shit storm inside your head
  • Reach out to someone around you and verbalize your anxious feelings
    • Telling someone how you feel and creating that connection will make you feel less vulnerable

Spiritual

  • Lift up these feelings to a higher power, whoever you believe in
    • You have God, many gods, the Universe…the possibility to have so many people on your side
  • So much pressure can be relieved when you send up anxious thoughts to the sky

 

Plan ahead, use your toolbox, and dominate life. Over the years, I’ve learned that I can lessen the extent of my anxiety by preparing. If I’m nervous about an interview, I might type the address of the office into Google Earth to see a street view of the building. I might lay out my clothes the night before and have my tea mug laid out. I might drive to the location an hour early to prepare for traffic. I might bring an extra pair of clothes if I spill something on my interview attire. This literally happened in the past (insert long sigh). I might prepare answers to common interview questions. Another example of the benefit of preparation is going out for a weekend hike. I will meticulously plan what supplies, clothes, food I need. I will look at the weather and prepare extra gear. I will carry supplies that could last me a few days if something happens.

You have to stack the deck, make the odds in your favor. Anxiety does sneak up and you can’t always be ready. But…you can be better prepared to journey through the fear.

 

 

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.

 

 

11204969_10153512838864841_220168670356421356_n

My favorite spot to reflect and create.