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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Sundaze.

Tell me about your Sunday night routine. Do you feel a heavy fog of monday’s stressors hanging around your psyche? Do you feel like the beginning of the work week has penetrated your Sunday utopia?

Sunday night used to be a trigger for my anxiety. Around 5pm, my mind began the familiar snowball of chaotic thoughts regarding the ensuing week.

I have to go to work, run to the store, work out, pay bills, and cook dinner. Then, I have to turn in a paper and have a phone conference with my collaborating preceptor for clinicals….etc….

Grad school ended, thus extinguishing most of the external stressors in my life. I want to share how I handled a healthy relationship with the final hours of my blissful Sunday during the most hectic weeks.

  • Self-Care Sundays
    • Take a long shower and embrace the purity of feeling clean. Wash away the stressors of the upcoming week and feel the warm embrace of a hot water hug
    • No/minimal alcohol
      • The worst part of Monday is waking up with a hangover. I have drastically limited my alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks at a time and it has improved my mental and emotional health
    • Engage in a hobby
      • I love adult coloring books and the therapeutic release I get from that raw pen to paper feel
    • Ground yourself
      • Meditation is an important aspect to the delicate balance of my healthy vs unhealthy mind
      • Take 5 minutes to sit in silence and enjoy watching the flow of thoughts as you accept, acknowledge, and forget them
    • Journal
      • I keep a gratitude journal and I like to reread it on Sunday nights before beginning the daily grind…it shifts the perspective
    • Tea
      • Make yourself a damn cup of tea. From scratch. Like an adult. The act itself is very spiritually healing and I love to end my night with a delicious cup of Yogi tea

Will these activities guarantee a perfect transition from Sunday into Monday? Probably not. Do I do all of these each Sunday? Does a bear shit in the woods? Actually, I have never understood that saying, which is shocking because I like to consider myself a female Bear Grylls. Now, I am getting off track. What were we talking about? See…Sundays are weird.

I challenge you to work on the ease of transition between the restful weekend and the loudness of the week. Perhaps you have a career that allows for a natural evolution between the two. Perhaps we should all find careers that allow for low stress. Perhaps pigs should fly. I am not sure where all of these animal hyperboles are coming from but I kind of like it.

My wish is that your Sundays are blissfully yours and only yours. May you enjoy the last moments of tranquility before a week of adulting.

Love and light.

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The mug is not exactly accurate…I will not be officially a MRS for another few days ūüôā

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Today, I enjoyed a short afternoon meditation sitting on this dock on Lake Allatoona 

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!

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). РNational 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.

 

 

 

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.

Nature meditation.

This weekend we embarked on a hike in Dawsonville, Ga. We hiked to a bed and breakfast that can only be reached by foot through the hills of north Georgia. It is a true gem and perfectly named “Hike Inn.” Ahh, the puns. This was our second trip to this secret spot and it was wild to see how much has changed in our lives since our last visit. When we first started hiking two years ago, we stumbled upon the Inn on a google search. The only hike I had ever done was towards the back of the Target parking lot on Sundays. This whole “put on a backpack, voluntarily walk through the woods, and eat beef jerky” thing was not my normal routine. I played outside a lot as a child, but quickly lost that wanderlust side of myself in early adulthood.

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Our journey back to Hike Inn this weekend was healing. We had genuine conversation with new friends, listened to guitar as the sun set, and silently gazed out at the mountains. My love affair with nature has grown with each hike. We have hiked hundreds of miles in the past 2 years and I feel as if I find a piece of my soul during each walk. There is something so vulnerable about traipsing around in the woods and facing your own mind. It is a raw experience where all stimuli of distraction is gone and you must delve into your own spirit. You begin to get to know yourself out in the wilderness.

Meditation and nature compliment one another. Throughout history, many people used nature as a practice inspiration and conducted many sessions outside. Most of us do not have the luxury of living on acres of land, so hiking is a good compromise. I enjoy a walking meditation during my hikes. It normally goes something like this:

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Deep breath in 1-2-3, hold 1-2-3, exhale 1-2-3, look around at the magnificent earth. Feel the ground under each boot as you step. Smell the fresh air. Listen for the birds.

Another favorite of mine is something I think I invented…granted, people have been alive for many years so I’m sure some other boho hippie has done this before me. Sigh. Anyway, this is how it goes:

ABC’s of gratitude. During your hike, think of one person, place, or thing that you are grateful for that begins with the letter “A.” Move all the way through the alphabet. You will be humbled by the blessings in your life and by the peace of your surroundings.

We disconnected from technology and the outside world this weekend. It heightened the intensity of my practice and allowed me to truly experience my surroundings. When is the last time you were in nature and sat down to take it all in? I bet you were tempted to take out your phone and immediately capture the beauty. What if you captured the beauty with a mental picture and used it to harness inspiration for your meditation practice? I am guilty of using my phone too much and forgetting the importance of a mindful presence. Working on it…

After we got home, I felt really overwhelmed from all of the stimulation of regular life. Everything seems so loud, bright, and busy after spending a few days in the woods. I verbalized this to Kemp and he added tapestries to my meditation corner to create a secret place. Now, I can meditation and read in my own hidden corner.

My wish for you is to get outside, connect with nature, and do hippie shit.

Love and Light.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.