Stopping the Spin

Whirling: A verb: move or cause to move rapidly around and around. That’s how I describe it. Constant, continuous whirling. All. The. Time. Thoughts whirl in, out, through and around my head. And for a while, I had no idea how to manage it.

To my recollection, the whirling dates back to when I was 2 years old. I would rip paper up, put it into a plastic bowl and spin it around with my hands. At the same time, I would chant. Yes, you read that right. A buzzing, humming chant that increased in volume over time. While I don’t have proof that this was the start of the whirling, it certainly looks that way.

As I grew up, the whirling turned into anxiety. The floodgate of thoughts would open at any given time, rush through my brain and leave me anxious and unsure of what to do. It wasn’t alway as paralyzing as it sounds. I figured out ways to focus, especially when the topic was of interest to me. While the chanting did stop, the fussing and fidgeting did not; I would constantly twirl a rubber band (or Mardi Gras beads, or a hair tie, etc) between my fingers. I could control it to an extent; if I was comfortable around someone or in someplace, the rubber band would appear.

10% HappierTwo weeks ago, I ditched the rubber band. Sometimes, it feels like I threw out my security blanket. The twirling and fidgeting was a release for me and although it isn’t detrimental to my health, it was distracting, to me and those around me. This is thanks to Dan Harris and 10% Happier. Harris, an ABC news anchor, talks about his struggle with his version of whirling. He’s real, relatable and was a skeptic of meditation. Now, after seeing a change, he is one of its biggest advocates.

We all have the whirling..worries, to-do lists that are never done, etc. But, how we manage it is unique to us. What mindfulness does, as Harris describes, is helps people identify their thoughts to create space in their heads. This helps you be less anxious, less responsive and overall less stressed. Yes, there is scientific research that backs this.

I’m also finding that other activities provide similar results to meditation. Activities like working out (especially yoga and strength training) and cooking relax my mind and provide something specific to focus on. Cooking also unleashes a stream of creativity that excites me. Maybe try these activities (if you like them) as a start.

I get it, it sounds a bit crazy. I know. I was there. But I encourage you to start small, a few minutes a day and use a guided meditation app (I recommend 10% Happier, Happify or Headspace). I use these to fall asleep, which is when my whirling is the worst. Overall, I fall asleep and stay asleep longer, can stay in the present more easily and when I can’t, I use my breath to regain focus.

Now, I am not perfect and some days, all I do is whirl. But, it’s progression, not perfection, that’s important in this mindfulness journey. Corny? Maybe. But it’s accurate and life changing. Give it a try and start living your best life.

 

 

What’s With Well-being?

Whirling. We all do it. When the thoughts in our head race so fast we can’t keep up. When you’re so restless at night thinking about the next day’s to do list. When the days fly by and you forget to eat, sleep or pause for a breath. Yes, this is the whirling. I was (and some days still am) in need of a way to get the whirling to stop. Luckily, I found one.

About a month ago, the Center for Healthy Minds did a live event with the Dalai Lama. It was the most enlightening 90 minutes I’ve experienced in a while. The Center is dedicated to helping people change their minds, so they can change the world. Richie Davidson, the founder of the Center, spoke passionately about the four components of well-being:

  1. Resilience: How fast or slow we recover from adversity. Richie believes this is a learnable skill.
  2. Positive Outlook: The ability to see the basic goodness in every human being and savor that experience.When you see the world in a more positive light, your body’s stress hormones are lowered.
  3. Attention: A wandering mind (aka a whirling mind) is an unhappy one. There are strategies for managing attention including mediation.
  4. Generosity: Acts of giving activate circuits in the brain that regulate emotions and lower stress.

When all of these aspects are combined, a person can achieve well-being or the state of being comfortable, healthy and/or happy. Richie cites different pieces of research that prove these concepts improve your overall physical, mental and emotional health.

Dalai Lama

Inner peace is another way to say happiness

As for me, I just wanted the whirling to stop. I listened to Richie and the Dalai Lama speak and show real scientific proof and thought might as well give it a shot. I started by mediating to fall asleep at night. It got me to focus on my breathing instead of my to do list. I fell asleep faster and stayed asleep all night. Win #1 for meditation!

Resilience has been the hardest concept for me to implement. When things go wrong, either at work or at home, I tend to get hung up on them. I replay the mistake or challenge over and over again and lose all confidence in myself. This is definitely not a good place to be in. One thing I’ve started doing was writing down any challenge, heated moment or incident that triggered me. By writing it down, I’m letting it go. Still very much a work in progress, but it’s a start.

You can start today too. Well-being isn’t something you inherit, you can learn as you go and pivot as needed. I absolutely feel better and in times of high stress know how powerful even a few deep breathes can be.

 

 

 

Stop Freaking Out About Your Future Finances

It’s almost the end of February so if you’re a responsible adult, you’ve filed your taxes. Now you’re waiting for that highly anticipated tax refund check. It’s probably one of the few times a year all of the 20-somethings in the world feel financially stable and like they rule the world.

Why limit that feeling to only one time a year? Your personal finances should not freak you out. If you have a good job with a respectable income, then money should not cause you anxiety. I’ll admit for a while money, credit cards, investing and budgeting were all things that stressed me out. I was paranoid that the money I saved would magically disappear. Guess what, there is not a money stealing fairy that takes all of your money in the middle of the night. You just have to be smart about saving for the future.

A budget spreadsheet should be your best friend. It’s a really simple way to track your spending. There are different apps out there that can do the same. Knowing where you money goes is the only way to reduce expenses and save more. Now how do you take your finances to the next level?

Investing. Yes, that big scary word that doesn’t really make scene to a lot of people. I am of the Carrie Bradshaw mindset: “I like my money where I can see it…hanging in my closet.” Fair point because at least Carrie (and others) know where their money is going. With investing, it’s a bit more ambiguous. You know what you’re investing in but aren’t sure how your money will fare in the market.

There are lots of resources that can help you figure out how to invest your money. One example Quandl, a centralized website that pulls financial and economic data together as a tool for people to use when investing. Their futures page show over 100 options for investing and provides data on each over a period of time. So before you put your money anywhere, you’d want to check out trends and historical data to make an educated decision.

Managing your money boils down to needs versus wants. As long as you maintain a balance between the two while planning for the future, you’ll be set. Add in some smart investments and you’re in a good place. I know it might not be as easy as it sound in this post. But if you remove some of the fear you might have about finances, it does make the process less painful.

A Reminder for all my Single Ladies

It’s February 11th, which means we’re three short days away from Valentine’s Day. On this day, single women (maybe men too) pretend to hate the holiday, claim their independence and wear black. They tell themselves and the world that they don’t need anyone to take care of them. They celebrate with their girlfriends and refuse to entertain the idea of happily ever after. I’ve been guilty of this behavior but how is acting like this serving us?

For starters, I know I am making several generalizations. I am basing all of this off of my personal experiences and am not trying to bash fiercely independent single ladies, especially since I am one. You go and own that independence and keep doing you. My point is more about Valentine’s Day and love, which some cynical singles denounce. Do we really think that’s worth it? Probably not. If you believe in the theory that by putting good out there, you’ll receive goodness, then bashing men and relationships is pointless. Take your armor off girl and be vulnerable. All men are not created equally.

There are good men in the world. The sample of the population you’ve dated or dealt with is only a small portion of the whole. You’re also not allowed to base your attitude towards men on your relationships with any male relatives. I promise if you look outside of those populations, you’ll find good, strong, happy men. I work with several of them – colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of working with that are good men. Smart, vulnerable, funny, respectful men. They do exist I swear.

Case in point, my friend Alicia’s fiancé Andrew. I’ve only met Andrew once but based on my friend’s overall happiness, I can tell he’s a good man. And there’s proof! Check out the video below that shows how Andrew proposed to Alicia: with awarding winning photographers capturing several different shots that Andrew made into a stop motion video. Also pay attention to how Andrew starts the video…more evidence that when a spark of magic occurs, people show up differently.

 

So my single ladies (or any cynics out there), I challenge you to think differently about relationships, love and the upcoming holiday. Be open, put the positive vibes out there and you might be surprised at what you get in return.

Since I’m putting the ask out there for others, I should be practicing what I’m preaching. I created an online dating profile today. I’ve considered it in the past but now I’m really doing it!

Easing into 2016

The month of January goes one of two ways:

  1. You throw yourself into New Year’s resolutions, planning, etc.
  2. The holidays and the cold weather have drained you and the thought of resolutions makes you want to crawl into a hole

Typically a new year is a time for you to reflect and create new goals. But why put all this pressure on ourselves to implement these changes up front? Why not create a year of resolutions, aspirations and new fun things you want to experience?

For the last two months, I’ve been listening to Gretchen Rubin‘s podcast Happier that she does weekly with her sister Elizabeth. Among other pearls of wisdom, each episode starts with a try this at home tip: a digestible idea to help you create better habits. A few, liking setting an alarm for bedtime, resonated with me. They’re also super easy and fun to try.

As I planned for the new year, I remember the podcast, these tips and recognized that a list of lofty resolutions wasn’t going to work for me. Actually, it never has.

So instead, I started focusing on a couple of things that hopefully will male me a little happier and a little healthier. So far for the month of January, I’ve implemented:

  • Packing breakfast and lunch daily
  • Tracking workouts at the gym
  • Walking during one call a day at work
  • Writing blog posts while at the gym (eliminates the pressure to find another time to write)

Now for some ideas I thought were good but aren’t sticking:

  • Getting up 30 minute earlier to do yoga.
  • Going to bed at a consistent time
  • Taking a lunch break to read

small changesI’m not totally giving up on these ideas but need to look at them differently and assess if now is the right timing. For example, instead of a full yoga class in the morning, maybe it’s ten mindful minutes of stretching. These smaller changes do have a bigger impact and absolutely remove the pressure of trying to do too much.

I can only speak for myself here: pressure doesn’t help me but it might work for you. We all need to meet ourselves where we are. Nobody needs more pressure or stress. Certainly, I’m not perfect, but these smaller changes have helped my mood. overall well-being and happiness.

What are your thoughts on New Years resolutions? Any helpful tips to share on how to implement new rituals or habits?

365 Days Later

2015 sucked. Yes I’m being that blunt. While there were highlights, generally speaking, I couldn’t wait to see 2015 go.

365 days ago, at the exact moment this blog post was published, my family lost its matriarch and I lost one of my best friends. Losing my grandmother shook my family to its core and one year later, all of us are still feeling aftershocks.

While I certainly miss Nana and think about her everyday, her death triggered much more for me. As I watched my mother and aunt tend to her tirelessly, I thought to myself: this is going to be me one day. I will be responsible for my parents and I will have to say goodbye.

It was during this realization that for the first time I actually felt like an adult. As we laid my beautiful Nana to rest and handled the details, I grew up, almost instantaneously.

Grief comes in waves, striking us in the least opportune moments. We can’t control this no matter how much time has passed since the trauma. But what else comes with grief? For me, it brought along a paralyzingly fear. Fear that those I love most would suddenly rise to heaven leaving me here hopeless and terrified. I made decisions based on this irrational fear. It influenced my personal relationships and professional interactions. It consumed me. All the time. Even when I wasn’t aware of it. I’d think I was getting ahead of it only to experience another painful loss that put me right back where I started.

It is only thanks to two of my colleagues who asked some profound questions that got me recognizing this emotion and how it shows up for me. This fear isn’t going away but I am much more aware of how it attacks the most innocent of situations. No matter how petrified I might be, I can’t control destiny. I can’t save anyone. I can live each day making decisions based on my happiness, not my fear.

I share this with you my friends so you know you’re not alone. Whatever you’re feeling after a traumatic event is justified. I’m so glad someone gave me the permission to feel all the feels. It was what I needed. I hope you can too, so we all can begin to heal and move forward.

I am forever grateful to my angel grandmother, for teaching me so many of life’s lessons even from afar.

Feb 2015 370

Year of Intention

I wrote this post on top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean with OneRepublic’s “I Lived” playing. Sounds like a fairy tale, right? It’s pretty much is and allowed me to pause and reflect.

My writing spot for the day

My writing spot for the day

It’s been a long summer, one where I repeated the phrase: “It could be worse,” nearly 100 times. Everyone moved, work was crazy busy and I found myself moving along without any clear direction. That’s not normal for me – I’ve always had a plan, a goal, a schedule so this way of life didn’t feel right.

If you’re not moving forward, then you’re going backwards right? I’m not sure. But what I learned this year is that over orchestrating my life puts too much pressure on me and probably those around me. Every day should be its own adventure.

I paused over the weekend and reflected on what I want the next year to look like. Normally, I would create a list of things I want to accomplish in the next year and highlight the best moments of the past one. But that’s easy for me. 25 feels like a milestone so it should be more challenging. This year is going to be the year of intention: setting intentions, putting more positive ones out to the universe and being more intentional with my words and my time. To start, my intention for this new year is to believe in the change. My journey in the last year has been shaped by changes that life handed to me not ones I consciously put into motion. I know I can do better when faced with new challenges and unexpected changes. Whatever is meant to happen will shape my path for the better…or at least make for an interesting story!

Will I totally give up my planning nature? Definitely not. Who I am at its core isn’t going to change nor do I want it to. But in the spirit of continuous improvement, I want to fageocus on getting better from here!

I’m looking forward to celebrating my birthday over the next few days and making 25 the best year yet! I invite you to join me in my year of intention and to share your thoughts below!

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