To My Sisters

Lent started on March 1 and if you’re a practicing Catholic, you give something up. So, I gave up apologizing, casually throwing around “I’m sorry” when it wasn’t needed and certainly when I didn’t mean it. I also made a point to find at least one woman, each day, who left on impression on me. Maybe she showed kindness, or strength or listened when I needed it. Plus it’s Women’s History Month, why not focus on my fierce lady friends!

sistasMy little mission yielded a few lessons or maybe observations is a better word for what I saw. In 31 days, women close to me and complete strangers influenced the trajectory of my day. Each, in her own way, raised me up: with encouragement, compassion, advice or a mug of wine. I didn’t struggle to identify someone each day; in fact it was the opposite, I couldn’t choose one name!

As I paid close attention to the women I interacted with, I also paid close attention to my apologizing tendency as well as other negative language I use without even thinking about it. I saw myself really thinking about  saying I’m sorry. I only did it when I truly meant it. It made such a difference!

Word choice and the language we use especially when talk about ourselves is important. In the last month, when I listened more closely to these same women, they were far less empowering when it came to speaking about themselves. I heard women struggling to accept compliments, be recognized, say thank you and talk positively about themselves. It wasn’t always the case but happened more often than not.

It’s been an enlightening 31 days and my intentionality around apologizing and language will continue past the month of March. Now my PSA: Ladies, our paths are different from our male counterparts. That is fact, however, don’t forget where we as a population have come from. We must own our power as women, to set the example for those behind us. You are whole, you are strong, you have God-given talents that no one else possesses. They are uniquely yours. Own them!

The way each woman who crossed my path this month acted is how we all must treat one another. With respect, humility, compassion and grace. We must raise each other up. When one succeeds, it is a victory for all. It sounds preachy and idealistic, I know. However, it’s the only way to move forward and to make sure everyone knows and appreciates a woman’s worth.

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Self Love

I meant to write this post in February, the month of love. But I got distracted. Moving on.

February is the month of love but I bet you instantly think of Valentine’s Day, couples and chocolate. But shouldn’t it start with self love? That’s what I dedicated my February (mostly) to and here’s what I learned.

Mornings at the gym set the tone for my entire day. I absolutely need sleep if I want to be nice (and probably productive too). I feel better if I eat right but that does include carbs.I get a headache if I don’t drink enough water. Destressing after work includes watching my shows including sobbing during This Is Us. I catch people’s energy. Silence scares me. So does formally joining a dating website. People’s lack of accountability drives me nuts.

My biggest realization on this self love journey? I’m a fixer, a helper, a person who is the first to offer to help. I don’t say this to be self-righteous. I share this with you as a reminder to myself and because I’m sure many of you feel the same way. I love helping people and it certainly feel good to do good. But at what point does that stop and you start becoming resentful?

Harvard Business Review’s “Big Idea” in January was called Beat Generosity Burnout. In the article, the authors share how selflessness at work (and I’d argue personally too) leads to exhaustion. It’s a fascinating read that completely resonated with me. At some point, when all you do is say yes, you reach a breaking point. You throw your hands up and say no mas!

As the article points out, there are several ways to prevent yourself from getting to this point. For me, it all comes down to boundaries. I tested my theory out this past month and for the most part, it worked. When I chose to do things based on how I was feel and my priorities, I’m happier. I got clear on my boundaries by writing down what is important to me. I also realized that each day is going to go exactly my way. It’s okay to put others first when you choose to do it versus being forced. When I did choose to help, it felt even better than before and I was more present while with the person or project.

Self care is fundamental yet we all try to be superheroes. Taking care of yourself – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – is the only way you’ll be able to help others. So it’s not selfish, it’s the first step in loving yourself fully.

 

 

 

#WhyIMarch

My head has been spinning for months now trying to articulate how I feel to the Internet. I’ve been afraid to share my true feelings with the world. I’m not sure what changed but I’m ready now..and I won’t apologize for how I feel. 

Thankfully, we all are allowed to feel however we want. The range of emotions in this country (and around the world) right now is powerful. From love to hate, from proud to petty, from afraid to awakened. The list is long. I beg all of you to keep feeling, no matter what. And express those feelings respectfully. 

On Friday, I watched our 45th president get sworn into office. I watched. I listened. I learned. It is history. On Saturday, I marched. Before you assume, please let me clear it up for you: I did not march because of the president. I marched so that all of our elected officials and people (not just men) around the world know that women’s right as just as important as anything else. More specifically: I marched for my beautiful, strong baby img_3281sister, who I pray never loses her sense of self and stays as confident as she is today (at almost fourteen). I marched for the strong woman who raised me, who sacrificed so I could have. And for my father who has never once disrespected me or asked me to silence my voice. I marched for my grandparents who started lives here and built them as best they could for us. I marched for the women and men who have encouraged me to think deeper, go further, to want more. I marched for every woman who came home and was met with a fist. For those whose dignity was taken from them. For those who never had a choice. That’s why I marched. The beauty of such a movement is that we all marched for different reasons. It was and always will be personal. 

For me, Saturday’s march was not about right or wrong. Republican or Democrat. It was about using my voice for good. To stand up for something bigger than myself. To make it known to the every sexist man on this God green earth that women matter. That no means no. That my gender should not determine my pay or my rights. 

Let me also say I know good men. Many marched beside me. Even those who didn’t, you are still good men who empower women and are fighting the good fight next to us. I am NOT saying all men are wrong or bad or sexist. But some are. I hope those some were watching. 

To the women who didn’t march or say it was a waste of time, I respect your choice. However, please don’t put other women down. That does nothing for us. And no matter how you feel, we are an us. Empowered women empower women. 

I don’t feel oppressed. But the fact is I make less than my male counterpart. And even though I don’t feel oppressed doesn’t not mean I can’t stand up for the oppressed. That’s called empathy, this world needs more of it. 

I have never been more proud to be an American. A woman. A sister, daughter and friend. I will remain proud and will continue to make my voice heard. 

group-shot-march

Hello Mid-Twenties!

I am less than a month from my 26th birthday. You probably just rolled your eyes. For whatever reason, being in my mid-20’s sounds so…grown up. Don’t get me wrong, life is fabulous, I couldn’t ask for more. But things feel real now. Does that make sense? If not, oh well, that’s not the point.

As I normally do around my birthday, I reflect on the past year…the good, the bad, the in between. As I was reflecting on this past year, I started thinking of the highlights from the first half of my twenties. Some are all about having fun and others are valuable life lessons. Of course, it’s going to look different for everyone but here are my favorites:

  • Move out: Obviously, only do this if the timing is right for you. There is something so liberating about living on your own and making your own decisions. You also learn real fast how to budget and deal with other human beings that aren’t your family aka your roommate(s).
  • Know where your money is going: Understand interest rates on credit cards, what you’re being charged for rent, how long 401K vesting takes at your company, etc. It’s super important to understand your money so you can create a realistic budget. Companies such as Personal Capital have great, free financial software that can help you manage your finances and even plan for retirement.
  • Explore the world: There is nothing better than traveling and experiencing new cultures. It gives perspective on how people around the world live. I also find traveling to be a great source of renewal.
  • Go to the doctor: All of them, including your dentist and eye doctor. We tend to fling our health around in our twenties only to be disappointed when we suddenly have high blood pressure by 30. Be proactive and see your doctors regularly. Figure out your own health insurance too!
  • Dance it out: Grey’s Anatomy reference here. But some of the best nights were spent dancing with my girlfriends and screaming the Beyonce lyrics. You need those carefree, anything goes nights to remember who you are.
  • Date: This one is hard for me. But, go on dates, meet new people who make you laugh. Relationships can be worthwhile adventures. Don’t be too jaded; we all have those failed attempts from college and our early twenties. Also, don’t knock the online dating websites until you’ve tried them. Even if you’re in a serious relationship, make time for date nights that don’t involve leftovers.
  • Find a hobby outside of work: When you’re starting your career, work quickly becomes a big part of your life. Nothing wrong with this but everyone needs balance. Find something you love to do (volunteer, exercise, knit, doesn’t matter) and dedicate time to it. You’ll appreciate the balance you’ve achieved as you get older.
  • Make peace with your family: Everyone has family drama, but yours is unique to your family. Remember not all drama is your drama and you can love someone while also creating some space from them. Also, spend time with your grandparents/elders, you will miss them more than you know when they’re gone.

S&TC.jpgBottom line: Do whatever is going to work best for you. I’ve spend too much time trying to please people and live a life that isn’t mine. Your happiness comes first, everything else is secondary. Sharing one of my favorite Sex in the City quotes too as a reminder for all of us.

Let me know what you would add to list in the comments section below!

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.

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