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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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

 

 

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.

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.

“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)

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Workplace Zen.

Stress lives in the workplace. Teacher, student, lawyer, nurse, car salesman, scuba instructor, grocery clerk, coal miner…everyone is connected by that blissful five letter word: STRESS. Every job elicits some type of stress response from a person. It would not be called work if it was not…well…work.

How do you cultivate gratitude and counteract feelings of stress at work?

Do you run and hide in a broom closet when sh*t hits the fan?

Do you see stressful scenarios as an opportunity for growth?

Can you bring positive energy into your space and be responsible for your own vibes?

As a nurse/future nurse practitioner, I often encounter work-related stress. Being around sick folks will do that to you. Also the whole “I literally could kill you if I made a big mistake” thought can  really get the stress juices flowing. I like to create a mini zen area at work to help juggle my responsibilities and soothe the soul in crisis.

Workplace Zen Toolbox

  • Doterra Lavender Oil
  • Doterra Clary Calm Roll on Oil
  • Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement
  • Turquoise stone
  • 5 sun salutations
  • 3 minutes of breathing techniques
  • lemon-infused water
  • get outside

Do I believe all of these items have the ability to counteract the chaos of work? NO. But I do believe they serve as a reminder to be mindful and focus on the breath. When I get stressed at work, my body goes on auto-pilot. My breathing gets rapid, my head gets foggy, my heart rate increases, and my efficiency declines. When I reference my toolbox, my brain and body have a moment to recuperate. I check in with my breathing and switch to a calmer, diaphragmatic breath. I become more mindful of my thoughts and goals. I take a moment to simply reset myself.

My job requires me to be in peak mental, physical, and spiritual shape for 12 hours at a time. This toolbox allows me to care for others, but also care for myself. I challenge you to incorporate mindfulness into your work routine. Did your stress level change? Did you become more aware of how your body reacts to issues throughout the day?

Love and light.