Tag Archives: Anxiety

Sick of Somedays

How many times have you flopped on your train home and said “I can’t wait for this day to end?” You don’t mean it literally, of course. We’ve all uttered these words but do we mean it?

I’m typing this on my flight home from Houston after a work conference. A few hours ago, not too far from Houston, yet another school shooting occurred, another set of innocents lives taken for no reason. Unfortunately, these shootings aren’t new headlines, as it feels like some massive tragedy is almost a weekly occurrence. Lately, it’s not only mass shootings that have me thinking about morality in general and how truly fragile life is. I’ve heard of people being at work on Thursday and gone Friday. People with plenty of life left to live. Let me be clear, death is scary and upsetting regardless, but when high-schoolers are shot or a relatively healthy 30 year old dies, it makes you pause.

Everyday matters

From the book, “Where Will You Be in Five Years?” Highly recommend!

I’ve seen or heard too many of these examples lately. Sometimes, there’s no reason why. All of these too close to home scenarios have me reprioritizing. As I’ve confessed before, I’m your typical type-A planner, who obsesses over the details. These personality traits come in handy most days. But it can leave me with somedays instead of todays.

The obsession and anxiety can be so paralyzing that my couch is the only place I want to be. It’s doesn’t happen often because I’ve learned to recognize it, yet I still catch myself spinning or avoiding tasks. My guess is this won’t ever go away. However, the obsessing is slowing down. You hear these tragic stories that bring the cliché “life’s too short” to fruition. There’s only time stop and smell the roses if you make the time. When’s the last time you looked up at the sky? Or gazed at the stars? If that’s not your thing, find what is. And make time for it. I’m not saying go quit your job and backpack Europe (maybe!) but slow the hell down.

How you ask? I’m still figuring it out. Some days it’s simply working outside so I can feel the sunshine. Other days it’s spending over an hour on the phone with my mom. For the month of June, it will likely mean living out of boxes as I refused to give up my social life to move. It’s thinking bigger. No one is going to say, “Wow she created a fantastic spreadsheet” at your funeral. They’re going to talk about how you made them feel and the memories you created. Drastic example, I know. But, asking myself the question, “If you look back at your life, do you like what you see?” has made me be more intentional with my time.

I’m not saying don’t strive for more. I know I always will, it’s in my DNA. And some of Diane Ackermanthat striving brings me a euphoric high that I’ve never want to lose. Yet, I find myself being more resilient and letting go of things more frequently. Screwed up a communication at work? Let’s debrief it and move on. Didn’t exercise today? Ok, I’ll try again tomorrow. Had a horrible date? On to the next one! Life really is too short to waste precious energy on things that won’t matter in five minutes, let alone five years.

And even for the big things that do matter, if I can’t change the outcome, then it’s not worth my energy. It’s not worth wasting a minute of my life. Because it’s all mine and all yours. Not your parent’s or your spouse’s or your kids’ or your employer’s. It’s yours, stand up, own it and give up the somedays.

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I Am Miranda Bailey

Let me first start by saying I am a dedicated Grey’s Anatomy fan, which means Thursday nights are a form of religion for me. Whether it’s realistic or not, I’m committed.

Before I tell my story, I want to acknowledge that I am not 100% Miranda Bailey. I will never know what it feels like to be an African American woman. It is another complex layer to Bailey’s story that I cannot understand because I don’t have that experience. However, I can say with full confidence that I know the debilitating effects of OCD.

Let me fill you in. In last week’s episode, Dr. Miranda Bailey went to the hospital (not her hospital) because she knew she was having a heart attack. Multiple doctors rejected her claims. At one point when reviewing her medications with the doctor, she mentions an antidepressant to help manage her OCD. She describes precisely how she fights the compulsions daily and knows the doctors are looking at her differently because of it.

Miranda BaileyI nearly stood on my couch and applauded Bailey (and Shonda Rhimes) for going there and saying all the things those of us with OCD and anxiety feel daily. On average, I fight at least a dozen daily thoughts that could hault my entire life. Some are trivial like what to wear, what time to food shop and what episode to catch up on first. Others are far more draining. And every day, I talk myself down, reminding myself that whatever choice will make me happy is the right one. That anxiety is useless and there’s no reason for it. Some days it’s a few deep breaths. Other times, it can take a full hour to rewrite the story and shake the frustrated mood I’ve put myself in.

It has taken me years to get to this place, where the anxiety and OCD are manageable. A combination of experience and meditation have helped immensely. For some, the only way to find some relief from this constant spin is medication, as in Bailey’s case. And THAT. IS. OK. If that’s what it takes to live without the constant second guessing, overthinking and over exaggerating, so be it. Certainly, a person shouldn’t be judged for it. That’s the trick with mental illness: You can’t see so it mustn’t be real. That’s also the problem. I am SO glad Grey’s Anatomy went there because it needs to be addressed. Just think: This is an accomplished, educated Chief of Surgery who knows what a heart attack is. Yet, she wasn’t’ taken seriously because of her OCD, her gender and her race. What chances does the everyday women without a medical degree have when she walks into the ER?!

You can have OCD and anxiety, but still make rational decisions. Honestly, the older I get, the more I can sense when my obsessiveness is shining through versus knowing something is right in my gut. There’s definitely a difference and it’s through much self-reflection that I’ve been able to listen to myself more and trust myself again.

To the millions out there working through these suffocating conditions, hang in there. Get and ask for help if you need it. Every adult should have a good therapist and a favorite ice cream flavor stocked in their fridge at all times. You can and will overcome. You’ll learn that life is too damn short to obsessed over nail polish color or missing a family occasion. No matter what you do, it’s never enough time anyways.

be gentle

 

C-C-Changes

I wrote this post as thousands are suffering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. If that doesn’t give all of us perspective I’m not sure what will. I decided to still publish this post because what each of us is feeling is always valid. Please keep those in Texas in your thoughts.

I pride myself on being a positive, life-loving person. As I’ve talked about before, I was an anxious child and teenager. I swore I wouldn’t go back to being that person. The person that was “too much,” who lost friends because of fake freakouts and who walked around feeling like I was always letting someone down. That person was gone.

Enter a dresser. Yes, a dresser that caused me to revert back and feel all the feels.

I was never a big fan of change. I liked my world in black and white, no grey area. Clearly, life doesn’t work like that. The recents weeks, months, years have been filled with tons of change – it’s really the only constant in life. I’ve learned to accept that and put a huge smile on my face. See the first paragraph – I didn’t want to be that girl again – the anxious, negative, too much girl.

Then I decided to build this dresser over the weekend. Surely, I’m a smart girl, I can do this. After multiple hours and getting a friend on FaceTime, I literally lost it. I let myself get to this point because I don’t want to admit to feeling anything other than positive emotions. Let me be clear, the damn dresser is a first world problem and thanks to a very good friend, it’s standing with my crap in it. Life is good, actually it’s great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel some kind of way about the future. get up and dont give up

I. AM. TERRIFIED. 

Of becoming that girl again. 

But guess what?! It’s ok to be scared or anxious sometimes. I fight these feelings everyday so that I don’t go back to my old ways. No one, including me, liked that girl. The one filled with fears and doubts. But every now and again, she shows up because the feelings are valid. I need to recognize her, work through the feelings and move on, not bottle them up and explode on my poor friend who was trying to help.

Of course, once the floodgates open, every last insecurity came out. I should be able to build this dresser, other people can. Why didn’t I just pay to get a premade one? I *should* be able to afford a nicer one. Um, yeah total insanity. Who cares about how much the dresser costs, that it took me several hours to build it, why does ANY of this matter?!?! It’s doesn’t. All of this led me to my new mantra:

COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY

One foot in front of the other. Every single damn day. That’s all I can do. I am happy, I am healthy, I am surrounded by amazing human beings. On the scary days that I *will* allow myself to have, those are my reminders. And that I can do, overcome and become whatever and whoever I want.

So if you’re afraid that all the progress you’ve made might blow up, it’s okay. Feel the fear, talk to the boy/girl you used to be and politely tell him/her to hit the road. You are more than your yesterdays.

Break Before the Breakdown

I spent my #MDW doing absolutely nothing. No predetermined plans. No beach trips or barbecues. Instead, I slept. I exercised. I shopped. I caught up on my favorite T.V. shows. And it. was. blissful!

Because sometimes having your life scheduled to military precision drives you insane. Sometimes you need a weekend to exhale.good vibes only

This weekend was the first weekend I’ve been home, in my apartment, in six weeks. Five business trips along with one week at my dad’s house. Traveling is one of my favorite hobbies; my curiosity is instantly peaked when I’m in a new place. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve experienced.

But…

It’s exhausting. Early mornings, late nights, always being “on.” As extroverted as I am, even for me, six weeks was enough. I took the weekend to unwind, unplug and reflect. Schedule time to think my friends, it’s extremely important.

During week five while at my dad’s house, I literally had a breakdown. Think panic attack meets three-year old tantrum. One minute I was typing an email, the next I was hysterical. And I had no idea why until I took time this weekend to figure out what happened.

I am a creature of habit: I love having a game plan, a routine. I want to know how my day, week, month is going to be spend…loosely. Every hour does not need to be scheduled. When I break my routine, I lose control. I tell myself stories that are completely untrue. And my anxiety goes through the roof. Enter childlike breakdown.

Upon further review of the situation, here’s what I know:

I need sleep. This isn’t a new thing, even in college, I couldn’t pull all nighters. Without an uninterrupted six to seven hours, I’ve miserable. I also need to exercise regularly, better if it’s in the morning. It starts my day off right and prevents the spin.

I noticed that all of areas of energy are connected. For example, if I exercise, I am instantly in a more positive mood. Physical energy connected to mental energy, easy example I know. Then there’s emotional and spiritual energy, which is a bit harder. Writing in my journal every Sunday night is how I refill my emotional energy tank. I include things I am grateful for and other reflections from the previous week. Spiritual energy means finding your church. It could be an actual church, it could be your yoga mat, whatever is good for your soul.

All of these examples were missing the week of my breakdown.

surround yourself

The people in  your life are also a source of energy. It can be very easy to catch the energy that’s around you. You should only surround yourself with good people, positive people, people who want to make a difference. Negativity sucks the life out of you and negative people steal your joy. No bueno.

Sometimes I need to distance myself from people I love so that their energy doesn’t consume me. Sometimes that means taking a time out and walking away. I’ve done this at work, where I’ve gotten up from my desk and gone for a walk so I don’t lose it. If you feel a breakdown coming on, stop what you’re doing (it’s not that important), change your scenery (outside is recommended) and breathe. Break before the breakdown!

My new goal is to communicate this with the people around me. I can’t expect people to be mind readers. Share your routines, boundaries, plans for progress with anyone who could impact them. It will save you the headache later.

I’ve been much more intentional about controlling my different energy level since my breakdown earlier this month. So much so that I now track it my journal. I know when I need to sleep or need to meditate or need to talk to someone.  I can literally feel it and I’ll never ignore that feeling again.

If you’re energy is depleted in any way, you’re no good to those around. And with everything happening in the world right now, we can’t afford to be anything less than at our best.

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.

 

 

Starting the Conversation

For those who don’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. An entire month is dedicated to these debilitating diseases that impact approximately 57.7 million Americans over the age of 18. The first step is truly generating that awareness and starting the conversation.

The problem we face today is the stigma around mental illness. It should be treated like any other disease. Just because the symptoms aren’t always visible doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Anxiety, addiction and others paralyze people in ways that are indescribable. Unless you’ve experienced it, you should not judge.

I apologize if this post sounds like a rant; that’s not my intent. I know too many people who suffer in silence from mental illness. Mental health is just as important as physical health and people should realize that. Without your mind, you’re just a body wandering around. Talking about it will ultimately help save lives.

Over the weekend, a Temple alum and successful professional athlete, died at the age of 25. The cause of death was confirmed as a suicide yesterday. This was someone who had everything going for him. What could have possibly been that bad?! We will never know. If he only would have talked to someone and been vulnerable enough to admit something was wrong, could that have saved his life?

kindnessI think about him and others and wonder: If we as a society embraced mental wellness more, would people suffering be more comfortable talking about it? Today, I am inviting you to start that conversation with me – share experiences, offer advice or just listen. The quote to the left is our reminder that you just don’t know what people are experiencing. Approach your day with empathy and a smile – it could change someone’s world.

Little “A” Moments

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.

During one of our team meetings at work, a colleague asked us to share a great adventure we’ve had. She explained that it could be a little “A” adventure instead of a big “A” adventure. This icebreaker inspired me to participate in Jess Lawlor’s second Get Gutsy essay content.

What I’ve realized after a year of reflection is that getting gutsy or stepping outside of your comfort zone comes in many forms, some grand obstacles that you overcome (like running my first 5K last year) or smaller, more personal moments. For me, all of them can be described as adventures.

All of these adventures happened towards the end of my 2014. It was like the universe knew I’d need material for this essay contest! But regardless of the contest, I hope you’ll see your own meaningful moments that push you outside of your comfort zone and can happen in the most ordinary of circumstances. These are my moments, adventures that defined getting gutsy.

  • Leading someone more senior than me at work – So this is probably fairly common. I was given a responsibility to train and mentor people at work who have more experience than me. At first, I was a bit intimidated, but I realized that I was more experienced in the subject so it made logical sense for me to train them. Also, these individuals were so open to it, which really helped me. How this is my getting gutsy: I overcame initial intimidation to achieve a team goal.
  • rock wallClimbing a rock wall – For almost a year now, I’ve been saying I was going to climb this particular rock wall. This past November happened to be the time I chose to do it. My first attempt was a train wreck: I only got half way up before I started panicking, shaking and eventually giving up. My co-workers were at the bottom trying to cheer me on, but that just increased my anxiety level. I ended up yelling at them (no bueno) and walking away. I changed my strategy for the second round and had only one person, who was coaching me at the bottom. I rang the bell (proof to the left!) and was SO ecstatic that I did it. How this is my getting gutsy: I overcame my anxiety and fear of failure to complete a personal goal.
  • Going to church where they only speak Spanish: While visiting my friend in California this November, I attended church with her and her family. I think of this as a privilege so I tried really hard to not show that I was nervous. First off, this type of church was completely different from anything I had ever experienced. Second, the entire 90 minutes was in Spanish. Now, I can understand some Spanish and can kind of speak it (on a good day). But I always get really nervous of messing up, especially when with native Spanish speakers. I managed to gleam a couple of provoking thoughts from the mass and by the end, I really enjoyed myself. How this is my getting gutsy: I embraced a completely different setting despite being nervous and ended up learning a lot.
  • Watching a loved one get sick – In the last month, I’ve watched someone very close to me get very sick very quickly. It’s sad, scary, painful and paralyzing all at the same time. But, I go, I visit, I read and pray. Some days, I feed or make jokes or sing songs. I do anything to make this person smile. Most days, I dread walking into the room, wondering if this time is the last. But, this is bigger than me, than any of us. How this is my getting gutsy: Being selfless and sacrificing is the best way to be pulled out of your comfort zone.

I walked into 2014 eyes wide open, excited at all of the possibilities this year that to offer. The possibilities and lessons were endless and certainly caused me to grow up. The biggest lesson of them all: little “A” moments sometimes teach us the biggest lessons that put us so far outside our comfort zones that we don’t recognize our old selves. I leave you with one of my favorite songs of 2014 that truly captures all of my getting gutsy moments this year.

Of Undisputed Origin

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