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

 

 

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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.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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.

Pranayama.

This sounds like a fancy drink that you would get at the local gastro pub. I’ll have a pranayama and the cheese plate. Moving on..

Pranayama is the foundation of yoga breathing. 

It goes all the way back to the beginning of yoga. Many, many, many moons ago. The concept is simple: use certain techniques to enhance your breathing ability. There are various styles of pranayama, but my favorite is the Nadhi Sodhana. That’s a fancy Sanskrit word for “alternate nostril breathing.” Check out this video from my favorite yogi:

As someone who has journeyed with anxiety for many years, the ability to calm my nervous system feels tremendously empowering. If I feel like I am on the verge of panic, I utilize this technique to kick in that lovely parasympathetic nervous system. By slowing the breath, you eliminate the hyperventilation that is often associated with panic. This technique also uses a mudra to aid in the calming. What’s a mudra? Picture it as art through the use of your hand. You use different hand positions to encourage positivity and changes in energy. Think about all of the hand symbols we use in everyday life: thumbs up, peace sign, flipping the bird. Each movement conveys a non-verbal gesture. A mudra is used in the same way. By positioning your hand in a certain way, you are non-verbally sending a message to yourself. OK THIS IS STARTED TO SOUND REAL HOKEY, SARA. Ok, fine..moving on.

To begin the alternate nostril breathing exercise, take your dominate hand and fold down the pointer and middle finger. It should look something like this:

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Place your thumb over your right nostril (or left if you’re all weird and left handed) and block the passage of air. Inhale deeply through your left nostril.

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I know this looks slightly odd, but I’ll take looking odd over anxiety any day of the week, my friend!

Hold your breath for a slight, sweet, delicious moment. Use your ring finger to cover your left nostril. Exhale through your right nostril.

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Inhale through your right nostril.

 

Hold your breath and release air through your left nostril.

 

Repeat as many times as needed to feel calm and grounded. Don’t get crazy and pass out or anything because I don’t have time to squeeze a lawsuit into my daily activities. Enjoy this time. Find the space between the breath and get to know yourself. Spend time in the quiet space.

 

Love and light.

 

 

 

Pause button. 

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

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you smell?

What do you feel?

What do you taste?

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

Love and light

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

Balance.

Life is like riding a bicycle.

To keep your balance,

you must keep moving.

-Albert Einstein

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and light

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

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.

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 🙂