Good smelling germs. 

When I decided to transition to making my own cleaning products, my husband was skeptical. He insisted that they would not work as well as the chemical shit storm (my words, not his) products. He also was unsure of the efficacy and kept stating the manta, “at least we will have good smelling germs..if nothing else.” Fast forward to present day and I sit here writing this post while glancing at my lovely husband as he cleans our kitchen counter with my “all purpose” cleaning spray. Ahh, the smell of sweet victory…and essential oils. Marriage is a compromise, what can I say. 

Why the switch? 

Honest answer: cost and health. It is exponentially cheaper to make your own products (Insert impressive data that I do not currently have here). Realistically, making something is almost always cheaper than buying it. Also, I find it rewarding to “upcycle” and reuse empty bottles. Maybe it’s the hippie in me, who knows. In terms of health, I started getting headaches while cleaning the bathroom. The smell of the strong chemicals made me nauseated and I had to open a window to finish the task. After delving into the deep dark interwebs, I realized that I no longer wanted to inhale the crud I was using to clean. 

How do you do it? 

You need 30 seconds, an empty spray bottle, and a few household items. 

ALL PURPOSE CLEANER RECIPE

  1. Empty bottle 
  2. 2 cups of distilled water (or tap water if you’re like me and simply not fancy or motivated to go buy distilled water) 
  3. 1/4 cup distilled vinegar 
  4. 15 drops of Essential oils of your liking (I used Doterra lavender and lemon but feel free to use what you have available) 

Mix everything into the container, shake it up, do a happy dance, spray shit around your house. Voila. 

BATHROOM SCRUB

  1. Empty bottle (I see a trend here) 
  2. 2 cups of water 
  3. 2 tablespoons Dr Bronner’s Castile soap
  4. 2 tablespoons of baking soda 

Mix, spray, relish in the joy of a fresh smelling toilet. 
Love and light 

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Two Steps Forward, One leap back.

This anxiety journey is exhausting. To quote the cliche, “it is an emotional roller coaster.” One day, I might be thrilled with my progress and my sense of normalcy. The next day, I feel mentally crippled by feelings of panic and self doubt. If I burned calories based on the mental workout I get, I would probably look like half an Olsen twin. I feel like I’m progressing and I guess that is why I have such anger when the panic wave rises. I feel like I should have won by now. I would like you to get a glimpse of my healing adventure. These are all of the things I’ve tried:

  • biofeedback therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • overpriced regular therapy
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • aromatherapy
  • talking with family/friends
  • self-help books
  • a research project on understanding anxiety
  • diaphragmatic breathing
  • yoga
  • yelling, screaming, punching pillows
  • frequent exercise
  • healthy diet
  • no alcohol
  • self-help podcasts
  • journaling
  • panic diary

Get the picture? I’ve tried SO many things and most of the time…they work! However, it’s those times that sneak up on me and the darkness lingers. It comes out of nowhere and I feel defenseless to this magnificently strong power. I become frustrated because I should have figured this out by now. I have the tools to stop the panic. I have years of experience dealing with this. Why can’t I just figure it out? I would have the perfect life it this anxiety stopped.

That is a lot of “should, would, could” statements. For the first time in 25 years, I’m seeing the burden of those statements. I don’t have to have it all figured out and I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to keep working on my mind, body, and soul. When the Universe is ready for this burden to be lifted, I’ll find true peace. But, until then, I’ll ride the wave of panic and seek wisdom from each uncomfortable moment. My wish for you all today is be gentle with your soul when you take that leap backwards. It’s a process, a journey, an adventure. Love and light.

 

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Aligning my chakra stones gives me a sense of balance when I’m feeling internal chaos.

Smell ya later.

 

[Aromatherapy] seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process. — National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy

 

Essential oils are a great way to hit the pause button during a toxic stream of consciousness. I have recently started incorporating them into my healing journey. The limbic system controls a lot of our emotions and aromatherapy has been proven to calm that center of the brain.

I’m currently working with these scents:

  • Lavender
    • It is my favorite “go to” scent to calm my brain when I feel the wave of anxiety ascending
  • Peppermint
    • Nausea is a common side effect of anxiety and I’ve had my fair share of gastrointestinal issues
    • This oil is great to calm the butterflies in the tummy!
  • Eucalyptus
    • I feel my chest expand and my heart open after using this oil
    • Picture a lovely natural version of Vicks vapor rub
  • Panic Button
    • It’s a combination of rose and orange flowers
    • I’ve used this in the height of a panic attack and it is helpful

Other helpful scents:

  • Clary Sage
    • It has antidepressant effects and has been proven to work even better than lavender!
  • Bergamot
    • A study showed that 10 minutes of aromatherapy with this oil decreased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Angelica
    • This fresh scent is very popular in the natural healing world to treat anxiety

How do you use the oils?

  • My skin is used to the oils, so I place a few drops on the inner part of my wrist
  • You can also put drops on your fingertips and rub the oil on your temple/behind your ears
  • A diffuser is a tool that allows you to make an aerosol version of the oil and diffuse the scent around your house, similar to a humidifier
  • Mix the oil with a coconut oil base to create a balm

 

This information has come from my personal experience and also from the source: http://www.naturallivingideas.com/anxiety-and-essential-oils/

These are personal tips for what works for me and is in no way affiliated with any medical advice/brand promotion.

Go forth and breathe yourself to calm.

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Some of my oils with a chakra flag in the back.

Mindfulness Meditation

In the 5 years since I’ve been (cough cough, ready for this?) DIAGNOSED with an anxiety disorder, I’ve tried every treatment on the spectrum. I have avoided any pharmacological interventions because I’m a future Nurse Practitioner who does not like medication. Slightly ironic, but we will roll with it.

Things I dig:

  1. Meditation
    • The practice of meditation is as casual or strict as you want to make it
    • It does not have to be chanting in a dark corner while sitting in lotus position with incense burning (give me 2 glasses of wine and I’m there…let’s be honest)
    • It allows you to make friends with your brain
    • It helps to give you a sense of control over rambling thoughts
    • Check out this website for a down and dirty of my favorite hobby: https://thebuddhistcentre.com/text/what-meditation
  2. Mindfulness
    • Engage all 5 senses to experience your world RIGHT NOW!
    • What do you smell, hear, taste, feel, see?
    • It is difficult to worry and be anxious when you are embracing the present moment
    • It gives you the tools to live in the now
    • Check out this website for a more detailed description: http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/what-is-mindfulness
  3. Gratitude
    • Having anxiety and the occasional panic attack SUCKS, but…it does not have to define your life or happiness
    • Practice gratitude every day by verbalizing three things you are grateful for
    • Gratitude has been proven to increase happiness and decrease anxiety by embracing perspective
    • Write down what you are thankful for and read your notes during your next panic attack IMG_5987This is my happy place. It is a meditation corner that is evolving into a meditation living room. Ain’t mad about it.

I Don’t Have Time To Panic. I’m Busy.

I had my first panic attack in 2011. I was in nursing school at Emory University, a place where anxiety is cultivated. I was taking a pharmacology exam in a large lecture hall when all of a sudden my whole body started to tingle. I looked down at my hands and they looked foreign. I broke into a sweat and my vision became blurry. My heart was pounding so hard that I was convinced the professor could hear it from 15 feet away. I circled random answers on the exam and got out of there as quickly as possible. Congratulations, Sara! You have earned yourself a panic attack! Welcome to the lonely club of high-achieving, anxious, perfectionists!

I immediately pulled myself together, put on some yoga pants, and trotted over to the student health center. As the astute nursing student I was, I calmly informed the nurse that I was dying and needed a chest x-ray to rule out a thoracic aneurysm. That’s logical, right? Welp.

A panic attack can often sneak up after years of chronic stress and a lack of proper self-care. Many people go to the emergency room after the first attack because it can mimic a heart attack. After a month of similar experiences, the student health center nurse told me that I was suffering from panic attacks. I was a 4.0 student at a prestigious university with a budding social life and perfect life! I was not having panic attacks! I did not have time to fit panicking into my schedule! I was not even stressed! Right? Oh, wait. I get it now.

I believe a panic attack is our body’s way of saying, “Hey you…slow down and listen to me. I need you to breathe. I need you to relax. I need you to sit the eff down and watch Netflix.” After about 5 years of this journey, I am finally learning to listen to my body and chip away the chokehold of perfection.

dream-beautiful-bomb-brain-Favim.com-773379My brain was churning out gunk left and right during my first panic attack. The thoughts “I’m dying”, “I’m going crazy” were quite loud in my chaotic hippocampus.

The Tiger Never Comes

It’s raw. It’s visceral. It’s a backseat driver, desperately trying to shift you from control. It’s the bully. It’s the annoying neighbor that silently judges. It’s the space-occupying villain. It’s the darkness. It’s the desperation for perfection. It’s the voice that tells you everyone is watching. Even the eyes within the painting are judging you. It’s the taste of bile in the back of your throat. It’s the unsteadiness that makes your legs feel incapable. It’s the quick heart beat that makes you feel like you’re about to fight a tiger, but the tiger never comes.

Throughout evolution, our bodies created this amazing defense mechanism called “fight or flight.” We adapted over time to be able to use our sympathetic nervous system to our advantage. Thousands of years ago, our distant relatives faced extreme challenges related to daily living. A tiger chasing after them is not a farfetched idea. In a life or death scenario, our body engages the sympathetic nervous system which allows us to face the threat. It is created by releasing a massive amount of adrenaline (the holy shit hormone). This hormone allows us to react with the intensity needed to counterattack the threat. When you read a story about mom lifting the minivan off of her trapped child, it’s because of that hefty surge of adrenaline. Pretty dang cool, right? In the appropriate situation, this physical response to a threat is protective and helpful. Unfortunately, the nervous system can get slightly wonky and decide to have this “fight or flight” response at an inappropriate time.

Today’s society does not have to worry about being eaten alive by a tiger. Hopefully. The reasons people are stressed have also evolved over time. We used to be stressed about trying to make a fire, kill dinner, and survive through the winter. Today, we are stressed about our job, family dynamic, social media presence, friendships, role strain, health, etc. I believe this is why anxiety disorders have been on the rise in the last 20 years. We figured out how to survive, so now we spend time perseverating on things that are not critical. We have this innate system to have healthy anxiety, but unfortunately it has manifested into an adrenal system crisis.

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I wonder if life was simpler when you only had to worry about whether or not you could build a fire.

About

A few years ago, a khaki clad man told me I have Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia. He didn’t even take me out to dinner before sharing this revelation. A hefty diagnosis like this was the catalyst to my journey through stigma, panic, and anxiety. Want to know the irony? I am also a successful nurse, graduate student, hiker, lover, friend, daughter, and sister. Panic doesn’t define you, but it sure as hell loves to be along for the ride. This blog is my stream of consciousness and may be just as therapeutic for me as it is for you. Stop by, share a feeling, and let’s heal together.

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