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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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.

Keeping a calm mind in a crazy life.

I want to share some tips regarding efficiency, self-care, and relaxation in a busy world. I suppose I’m fulfilling my inner narcissist by giving all this unsolicited advice, BUT I do truly want help people learn more about the mind.

I know my body and brain. I know that my anxiety tends to flare up when I stop taking care of my spirit because of a busy schedule. However, I have learned a few tricks to harness my anxiety during chaos. Grad school, work, and life combine to create a somewhat daunting schedule. There are days I leave my house at 5:30am and get home at 9:30pm. Essentially, I work a reversed 9-5 job. In a nine day period, I work as a nurse for 48 hours, a nurse practitioner student for 60 hours, and juggle the roles of fiance, mom, daughter, and friend. Oh, and I’m currently taking full time classes for school.

Life is wild. My anxiety used to skew my perception of busy and flare up during swamped schedules. Over the past year, I’ve learned to harness that anxious energy and transform it into efficiency. I try to maximize my downtime and embrace small moments of self-care. There has always been a direct relationship with how busy I am and my anxiety. I think that is a common relationship: more going on=more stress. Let’s shift that perspective.

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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.

Do hard things.

If you let fear guide you, your world will become very small. Anxiety makes us seek constant control. Anxiety intensifies fear. Anxiety changes your perception of your abilities. However, you are not limited to these feelings. If you push yourself and do hard things, you will overcome anxiety.

When I feel anxious, my sympathetic nervous system says, “get the eff out of here! RED ALERT! BING BING BING RUN AWAY.” You get the point. So how do you challenge those thoughts? You do the hard thing. You take on the challenge. You stay in that fear. You do not retreat. You ride the wave of panic.

My day started off well. I had a nice breakfast, worked out, and went to a local trail to hike. Hiking by myself has always been a trigger. When I know I am alone and far from my car, the anxious thoughts drift into my head.

What if I panic and I’m all alone in the woods? What if I get hurt and no one can come help me?

I challenge those thoughts and stop the pervasive thought cycle. I logically analyze the statement. If I panic, then I panic. It won’t kill me. It just sucks for a few minutes. If I get hurt, I still have cell service to call for help. I’m a seasoned nurse, I can take care of most things that could happen to me.

I try to participate in something anxiety-provoking every week. It helps me work on coping and getting back into the adventurous side of life. Today, I did just that.

There is a long, skinny wall that juts out into the river next to the trail. It is about 6 inches wide and leads to a waterfall. I don’t particularly have a fear of heights, but this wall is thin and goes across a freezing river. The thoughts started…”what if I fall? what if I walk out then can’t walk back? what if…what if…what if…” So, I took a few shaky steps out on the ledge. I could taste the metallic adrenaline in my mouth. I stopped, mouthed a few “mother f*ckers” and promptly walked back to the ground. My fear won. I started walking back towards the parking lot.

A wave of disappointment washed over me. Am I really going to let my actions be dictated by fear? Nope. I turned around, hopped on the ledge, and walked all the way across. I sat down on the wall and meditated. I won. I channelled the fear and converted it into energy to finish the task. My fiance (Iraqi War Vet) always tells me “just finish the drill.” I finished it and it felt pretty damn good.

Challenge yourself to do hard things. It will help you grow emotionally, physically, and spiritually. How can you incorporate challenges into your life? How can you grow from fear?

 

Love and light

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 🙂