Adding flavor to your 9 to 5.

The vast majority of the people work a typical 9am-5pm desk job. We wake up to a boisterous alarm clock, slovenly roll out of bed, and start the daily grind. We trudge to work in our cars and join the daily rat race.

That is a depressing description of a typical morning, but my fear is it is an accurate one. Day after day, we get up and go to work and get lost in a mundane¬†routine. I have some strategies to help you open your eyes to the beauty of an average day. You have the ability to make average…extraordinary. The root of this concept is mindfulness:

Mindfulness is maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. It is being conscious of the simple moments.

A typical day is filled with precious moments that are often overlooking by the blinders of auto-pilot that so many of us wear. Here are some tips on shifting your typical day into a day of beautiful awareness:

  • Enjoy 6 mins of desk yoga. Connecting with your body and finding movement after hours of stagnate sitting is a blessing. Here is a link to a lovely video by my girl, Adriene
  • Get outside. Most jobs do not require being “office-bound” so slip outside for 5 minutes and get some fresh air. Listen to what you hear and take stock of the visual gifts in front of you.
  • Enjoy your commute. I have become a lover of all things Podcast. I use my commute to learn new information about subjects that I typically would not be expose to (hoarding, clock-making, LSD…just a normal day).
    • some of my favorite Podcasts that can be found on any iPhone: S-town, This American Life, The Daily, Serial, TED Radio Hour
  • Sneak in some yummy breathing. I am an advocate for the belly breath and taking moments throughout the day to engage in 2-3 breaths to center myself. I like to take deep breaths before I enter each patient’s room because it clears my head and allows me to be an active and engaged listener

Enjoying the small, beautiful moments is a great way to combat the “rut” feeling of doing the same thing each day. How do you find joy in your work routine?

Love and light.

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Post-Chair yoga in the office

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Enjoying the Healing Garden at work during lunch

Perfectly Happy.

External circumstances impact your happiness for a short period of time. However, internal circumstances are the sustaining practice to achieving and maintaining happiness. This revelation is a relatively new concept for me.

In my first few decades of life, I created a correlation between success and happiness. If I achieved my tangible goals, happiness would naturally fall into place. This relationship was not as strongly correlated as I once imagined. It began in my early 20’s when I was working towards a career in healthcare.

Once I get into nursing school, everything will be perfect.

I got into nursing school and it was difficult. I assumed it was just a period of growth and put my happiness towards the next goal.

I will get accepted into a Master’s Program and I will become a Family Nurse Practitioner and my life will be perfectly happy.

Fast forward a few years: I graduated with honors with my MSN and landed a job immediately.

THIS HAS TO BE THE POINT WHEN EVERYTHING IS PERFECT AND I’VE ACHIEVED ULTIMATE HAPPINESS?!

As the dust settled and I felt my feet become grounded with the earth, I realized what I was missing. Accomplishing goals is a beautiful process, but the perfect life is not waiting for you at the finish line. The perfectly happy life was in the journey, in the small moments of self-discovery and love. I feel as if I put my head down to barreled through to the end and I missed most of the adventure along the way.

These past few months have opened my eyes towards the intrinsic nature of happiness. It is what we seek and create in our soul and mind. Happiness might be impacted by external results for a short time, but it is sustained by the inner journey.

Meditation has given me the opportunity to reflect back on my experiences and realize that I did miss out on small moments because of a focused vision on the end goal. I have learned to be more mindful and stop to raise my gaze to the world around me. The old adage is true: Happiness is the journey, not the destination.

I realized that I am having the time of my life RIGHT NOW. It’s not next year when we get a house or when we have our first child. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s here now. I think life becomes more enchanting when we stop focusing on the finish line, breathe, and look to our left and right.

Do you think you can create your own happiness by becoming more mindful and tending to your soul? Let me know in the comments.

Love and Light.

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My afternoon meditation corner on this cozy day.

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! ūüôā 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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Serendipity.

Do you seek out joy or wait for good things to happen to you? The concept of serendipity tells us that pleasant things appear spontaneously. Well, I like to think you can create your own serendipity with a little bit of luck and effort.

My schedule has been aggressively busy over the past month. I started a new job that tugs on every essence of my being; in a good, yet time-consuming way. “Busy” is a commonality among most humans. The challenges shift among people, but most days involve school/job/spouse/family/children/housework or any combination of the stressors. When life is busy, do you stop engaging in self-care? Do you stop taking precious moments to yourself to seek out beauty?

When I am at my busiest, I find that I thrive at self-care and my calming practices. I have to budget my time, which forces me to schedule times of relaxation. My commute to work has evolved into a delicate time of reflection and relaxation. I must drive every morning, so why not create a sacred experience. My car smells of strong coffee and emits soothing sounds of my favorite musician, Trevor Hall. I also have a portable essential oil diffusor for the dashboard. So, with a little bit of effort, a daily commute has unfolded into my sacred Sara time.

Another way I squeeze beauty into my day is tea time. I have a Keurig in my office at work and I brew a cup of tea after I round on my patients. Although a small gesture, the smell of loose-leaf tea makes charting a lot more pleasant. It also brought a sense of community to my work space. I’ve met other staff members through this spontaneous love of tea. Now, I bring tea to our weekly team meeting. One small action has become a new habit that reminds our coworkers to slow down and enjoy a delicious drink. I truly believe everyone can benefit from more mindfulness in the workplace.

My daily yoga practice has been a grounding force during this wild month. Somedays, I practice for an hour and its a sweaty, sublime practice. Other days, I lay in bed in¬†Savasana and call it yoga. It’s about creating a balance, right? After a long day at the hospital, getting on my mat and releasing the tension feels like a true gift. Even if it’s a five minute practice, it’s five minutes of healing bliss. Create a serendipitous moment by getting on the mat and engaging in a delightful flow.

As I reread this, I realize how a lot of this sounds like “first world problems.” Oh, I’m too busy from my JOB that allows me to provide and never have any financial worries. Oh, I’m just so stressed from being at work that I have to drink $10 tea from Teavana out of my Keurig. That is not my intention. My intention is that we are all busy and all have our own struggles. In that busyness, we often forget to slow down and create magic in our everyday lives. We forget to create or embrace serendipity. We forget about the importance in the small moments.

How do you celebrate small moments when life is moving fast? Share with me ūüôā

Love and light.

 

A whimsical, wild wedding: An unconventional bride’s take on going rogue.

 

In the South, there is an expectation to do things a certain way. It is understood that (most) women are supposed to marry at a young age, pop out a few pups, and have a rampant Pinterest board. Is there anything wrong with that plan? Nope. If that is the trajectory of your life and it gives you fulfillment, that is beautiful. If we all chose the same path, the world would be pitifully boring.

When I was little, I never thought about my wedding. I dressed in scrubs and informed my mother that I wanted to be a brain surgeon. I ended up as a neuro-specialized nurse practitioner, so I guess that is close enough. There is photographic evidence of this that can be provided at a later time. For reals. A part of me wishes I spent time envisioning a special day filled with cake and whimsy, but it just never happened. I was not even sold on the idea of marriage until I met my now husband.

A lot of my time is spent trying to please other people. It is a large part of my job, but an even larger part of my personality. When I got engaged, the idea of an elopement weighed heavily on my heart. However, the reality of it seemed out of reach.

Could I really have a private ceremony with just my husband, a minister, and a photographer? What would people think? Would my family be hurt? Is that even “allowed” in Southern societal norms?

I had an epiphany during my semi-annual haircut and color with one of my favorite humans. I like to think of these interactions as a combination of heavy chemicals and two hours of free therapy. If you knew my stylist, you would want to steal her. I told her my idea of running off into the woods and she told me, “Sara…find what satiates your soul and forget¬†the rest.” She did not actually use the word “forget”, but rather a saucier verb. And then it hit me. We would run off into the woods.

From day one, our families and close friends were great. We let everyone in on the proposed plan and received copious love and support. I hope I can gift my children the same unwavering love in the future. No questions asked, just support. Our families knew this was what we wanted and sacrificed to give us our dream day. In hindsight, we never really received any negativity about this untraditional adventure.

The biggest lesson I have learned during this process is this: Do what you want to do in life. The people that matter will support you. Following your dreams (so cliche, yikes) is a fulfilling and delightful way to find self love. I am so thrilled we stuck with the original plan and neglected to be influenced by societal expectations.

The conversation that my husband and I had during the past few months consisted of the mantra, “small wedding, big marriage.” We wanted to go into marriage focusing on the thousands of days, not just one day. We desired to focus on the big picture…creating a relationship of long-lasting support, respect, and connection.

Our wedding day was a dream. Not because of the flowers or the venue or my dress, but because it was what my husband and I wanted. We chose to get married on the summit of a mountain because nature has an exquisite place in our relationship. Nature is home. It is a spiritual place where we have shared much love and vulnerability over the years.

This post is about learning to listen to that inner voice and respect it. Do what you want to do and be mindful to respect your gut. If you dream of a beautiful wedding with 300 people and 20 bridesmaids, do it! If it is what you want and what satiates your soul, go for it! Fulfilling what you want is a beautiful gift that we do not always give ourselves.¬†In the words of my favorite Yogi, Adrienne, “find what feels good.”

Love and Light

Please enjoy pictures from our wild, woodsy wedding courtesy of our dear friend, Drew Oswald. You can contact him on @drewoswaldphotography on Facebook.

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 

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)

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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