Eulogies, rock climbing, and book club.

What do these three things have in common? Nothing. I just wanted to get your attention. Hello, hi. The first part of the title is the true purpose of this piece. On Monday, April 10th, my husband’s sweet grandmother passed away at the age of 105. Conceptualize that age. She was born before the Titanic sank and preceded the invention of the car. Her eulogy was sweet, sincere, and perfect. It encompassed a love of bridge, church, and chocolate. Perhaps it was the deliciously blue sky as a backdrop or the songs of a robin, but the eulogy truly stuck my soul. On the drive home, I thought to myself,

What will my Eulogy say?

Morbid? Maybe. Hear me out. If you died tomorrow, what would you want your loved ones to say? Would you want your love of Chinese take-out and romance novels to be the focus? Perhaps you want your philanthropic hobbies discussed and a few sentences about the animals you rescued?

In the early part of my life, I put a lot of my self worth into achievement.

I am worthy because I made all A’s/got the dream job/etc

As I’ve leaned into my late twenties, I’ve learned that my self worth is built from my compassion, humor, positivity, and kindness. I want to be known for the type of person I was, not necessarily my achievements. This concept permeated into my workplace today and I posed the question to my colleagues. One of the psychologists at work told me that writing your eulogy is a true psychological strategy for motivating patients. It forces the patient to focus on the main priorities in life and identify your purpose and passion.

I ask you this question:

If you wrote your eulogy tomorrow, what would you want it to say?

I am humbled that sweet grandma lived to be 105 years old and I can’t comprehend the knowledge and sage wisdom she accumulated. Each day is truly a gift and I am going to spend it working towards becoming the woman I want to hear about when I’m listening on the other side of the clouds (in many, many, many years from now).

Be present, be kind, be the light.

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Natural beauty 

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Accidental hippie.

I live in a city surrounded by crunchy granola hipsters. I love most of them. It is a lifestyle that compliments the alternative nature of Atlanta life. A-town is synonymous with trendy, hip, artistic, and raw. It is a town that supports uniqueness and straying from the norm. This cultural vibe has worn off on me throughout the years and I have evolved into a crunchy hippie. My days consist of essential oils, yoga, meditation, skinny jeans, and a vat of coconut oil. I ain’t mad about it.

There is a fine line between suburban PTA mom and a crunchy hipster. Or is there? I guess what I am trying to say is there can be a fluidity between your persona. I know a lot about GMOs, chemicals, etc…but I still like the occasional greasy hamburger and caked on toxic makeup. I think there is this mentality that once you choose to live a clean/hippie lifestyle, every aspect of your life must change. Welp. That is overwhelming. It should be treated like a spectrum. Substitute some unhealthy choices for healthy ones and work towards a cleaner life. It does not have to be an overnight transformation to perfection. That is where the danger lives. We put so much pressure on ourselves once we decide to adopt a flower child journey. Everything is a progression. Make one positive change each day and set yourself up for success.

Why did I choose a more bohemian life? Well, internet, I am so glad you asked. Or maybe you didn’t, but I feel like this post should be longer so we are going for it. My struggle with anxiety is embedded in an overly-goal oriented personality and crappy choices. I was the girl who wrote down goals for high school on the first day of class. Thus far, I have achieved every academic goal I have ever made. Cool, right? Eh. Debatable. It came hand in hand with anxiety, panic attacks, and gastrointestinal issues.

I also used to drink a lot of alcohol, coffee, and tea. My caffeine intake was impressive to say the least. My food choices were also sub par. Picture late night fast food outings and a plethora of desserts from the campus dinning hall. About two years ago, I decided to experiment with lifestyle changes related to my anxiety. I cut out binge drinking and all fast food. I have not been drunk or had McDonalds in over two years. That second part was harder than the first.

I learned about yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. I started working with crystals and essential oils. I bought a Himalayan salt lamp. I started wearing turquoise to bring positive energy to my day. I started using mala beads as a form of prayer. I switched out my cleaning supplies and makeup with all natural alternatives. I cut out caffeine (recently…yikes). I started working out 5 days a week. I started talking to a fellow granola-esque therapist. My anxiety became a lot more manageable. Everything just kind of got better. I accidentally became a hippie.

Have you adopted a more alternative, natural lifestyle? Did you make the choice when you felt like you were struggling and needed a change? Let me know!

Love and light.

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.

Yoga for gangly folk.

I am a relatively large human. I believe the actual height is somewhere between 5’9″-5’11” depending on how much I can drop my hip. Being tall has been a blessing and a curse. People often ask me to reach things on shelves which gives me fulfillment and a sense of purpose in the world. It also gives me tired arms. Let me take you back a bit in the imaginary time machine that I am creating right now. Impressive, huh? Ready-go!

The year was 2000 and I was in elementary school. I was a staggering 5’7″ and all of the boys were about 3’6″. Dramatic, but you catch my drift. My body elongated and stretched out aggressively in a period of about 3 months. Add that to chin acne and bangs and you have hit the Holy Grail of awkwardness.

Fast forward to high school. I never really grew into my body. I played sports and was decent. I was never super fast or super strong etc. At least I didn’t trip over my feet anymore.

Fast forward AGAIN to present day. Welcome. As an adult, I still feel somewhat out of place in my own skin. Anxiety and panic have created this weird energy between my mind and my body. Sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own skin. I still am slightly clumsy and gangly. Anxiety makes your brain feel so odd that you don’t even feel at home in your own skin. This feeling is not ideal so I started exploring ways to connect to my body. Over the years, I attended free yoga classes at the college gym or tried an online video. I was never serious about my practice. I’m still not serious about it, but I love where my journey is headed.

Yoga makes me feel connected, grounded, strong, calm, healthy, and happy. The practice has strengthened my mind and body connection. My height is a strength in yoga. I might stumble on my way to the mat, but I am strong and graceful in my practice. I fall over in the occasional pose and lose my balance. It is a good reminder that life might make us feel awkward in our own skin, but we have the ability to cultivate strength and become grounded. Yoga teaches me about myself physically, mentally, and emotionally…and for that, I am grateful.

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