I’m Coming for You May…

So I am a bit behind because the start of this month was a Derby whirlwind. If you live in Louisville, you understand. We are nine days into the month of May and the days are finally longer and warmer, and this has me feeling very motivated to set some new goals for myself this month.

Accomplishing new goals shouldn’t be something we save for unachievable New Year’s Resolutions. Instead they should be challenging yet achievable. We should also spend time editing these monthly and making changes for the things that do/don’t work for us while striving to be better. Lately, I have been focused on making time for the things that make me happy without guilt, which is something I want to continue.  So for the rest of the year, I plan on picking three goals to work toward each month.

Giving Gratitude

Being grateful makes you happier – its science (I think). This month I want to write down three things I am grateful for each day. I also want to show my gratitude for someone every week. I know… I know… I am a big cornball (in case you didn’t already know) but I think this is important. I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and I want to start spending a little time acknowledging that.

Running Weekly

Now here is a commitment that I have tried to stick with time and again. I always feel better when I make time for exercise, but it is so hard to motivate myself to do it. I really have no excuse since there’s a gym in my neighborhood and a park 5 minutes away. Instead of saying I am going to work out everyday (we all know that won’t happen), I want to make a commitment to 3x a week. On these three days I will get a good run in and whatever else I feel like doing at the time. I want this goal to be less about how I look and more about how I feel. The scale tends to discourage me these days. Being a woman, I feel I put too much pressure on myself to be a certain size. I have struggled with the fact that my womanly body has changed quite a bit since my early 20’s and for me its time to accept and embrace the curves (wanted or not). My goal here is really just to feel stronger and healthier.

Yoga/Meditation

I have really let this habit go over the last month, which makes me sad because I was making a lot of progress. That’s life though… and mine has been busy. I am going to  recommit myself to my at home practice, and I plan on doing this around 5x a week.

I am really just hoping this will help me kick start a happy, healthy summer. Summer is definitely my jam, and I am hoping this will be another one filled with adventure, new friends and fun. What are some of your goals for this summer?

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My Experience with High-Functioning Anxiety

I first notice it in my throat, a tightening, like I just swallowed a pill that didn’t quite go down the right way. Other times, I will notice it in my neck and shoulders at night, when I finally quiet myself enough to realize all the tension I’ve been carrying throughout the day. Often this makes it hard to fall asleep. Even still there are times that I am left wide awake by the endless stream of thoughts that permeate my brain when all I want is rest. Then there’s even the feeling I get in my chest. The palpitations and the nervous feeling only made worse by the fact that my heart is racing, an endless cycle. Usually when this is happening, I say nothing and push through until the wave of anxiety subsides.

Last night was one of those nights. I tossed and turned and replayed every scenario of everything going on in my life up to the current moment. Work has been pretty challenging for the last several weeks. Things have been extremely busy, and there are a few people that I have felt I am constantly walking on egg shells around. Trying to manage this with my need to make everyone happy is exhausting. I deal with the stress with a smile on my face and try very hard to not let anyone see behind the façade.

I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I tend to refer to it as high-functioning anxiety despite the fact that it is not an officially recognized diagnosis. For me it is just a better description of my personal experience. Sometimes people mistakenly assume that someone with anxiety tucks themselves away hiding from the world outside, and this may be the case for some people, but my experience has been very different. For me it has more to do with my endless pursuit of perfection. The carefully constructed image of myself that I want to convey to others in order to hide my insecurities and imperfections.

I have an endless array of hobbies, volunteer work, achievements and pursuits. Many of these things do bring me joy and fulfillment. But there is also my need to be busy, to fill my time so that I can stay out of my own head.  There is also my embarrassing nervous laughter. Laughing to fill the space in a conversation, when maybe I am feeling insecure. Other times it is my shortness with someone caused by how overwhelmed I am feeling at that moment. Different things trigger this for me and I am aware of what those triggers are, but every once in a while the wave of anxiety still pours over me.

Most people (outside of those who read my blog, and those very close to me) would never realize that I am constantly at battle with my own mind. This is significantly better – I do take medication, practice yoga and breathing techniques nightly and try to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. But occasionally nights like last night sneak up on me and suck me into that black hole of my mind, with the endless gravitational pull of my incessant thoughts.

It’s often hard to remember but if you are coping with an anxiety disorder, realize that you’re not alone. Often those you may least expect may be dealing with similar issues. Anxiety isn’t a stereotype, it looks different on some people than it does on others. Exercise and breathing techniques work, talking to someone is even better, self care is a necessity.

Exploring Clifty Falls

“We’ve all had a heartache. And so my journey now is to find some sort of grace in the face of this defeat. And I can look at the journey, not just the destination. I can feel proud, I can stand here in front of you tonight and say I was courageous.”  – Diana Nyad

The quote above speaks loudly to me. We all face disappointment and I know that I have endured many of my own heartaches. But somehow, wandering in the woods brings out the strong, sometimes buried courageous side of myself.  Its not just about the destination, but facing head on the challenges of your own journey. Sometimes I find myself trudging on trying to get to the end destination instead of focusing merely on the beauty around me, and the strength it took to reach the top of that hill.

So much like life… some times we find ourselves wishing it away. I will be happy… when… if only…. as soon as (insert end goal). Often, I relate my hikes back to situations I am facing in life because I find there are a lot of comparisons to be made there metaphorically. Clifty Falls is one of those special places with no end destination, because there is so much beauty every where you turn. There may be a few hills along the path, but the payoff and strength gained is worth it.

A couple of weekends ago I visited Clifty with a friend of mine and did some exploring. First, we went to scope out the waterfall, because it’s super easy to get to and is a must see for the first visit. Then, we went down to the creek bed to wander around for the rest of the day (Trail 3). There was hardly anyone there that day (it was still cold) so we let the dogs enjoy some off leash time too.

For me the creek bed is always a delight. Its dried up in many areas, which allows you to explore all through it. The cliff sides and trees surround you and the beautiful creek stones and occasional flowing water makes for gorgeous views. The creek also features many large coral and shell fossils. All of these sights, and sounds let me fall away from my daily barrage of worries (again… coping with anxiety) and just savor the current moment. FYI there are many different trails in this park and it is certainly suitable for beginners.

If you live near Louisville it is only a short 1-hour drive to Madison, IN where you will find Clifty Falls State Park. Madison itself is a charming, historical riverside town. Anyone needing a place to hike this spring, and a place to enjoy the “now” should certainly add Clifty to your list of nearby visits.

 

Finding Balance

So I am a week behind on blog posts, but last week was a killer for me. I was stressed to the max and felt like I just couldn’t keep up with my to-do list (both for work & at home). By Friday, I was  so irritable I just knew I needed to readjust my attitude and get centered for the busy week ahead.

Do you ever just feel like… I am going to scream if I get one more email request for something someone needs “now”? Yea… that was me. Needless to say, if you spoke to me last week, I apologize for my less than bubbly disposition. There are certain things I have noticed have a tendency to greatly affect my mood throughout the week including the amount of sleep and rest I get and the time I make for myself.

Thanks to my generation (yes… I am a millennial) there is an expectation we should always be connected and available. Work days, are no longer 8 hours, and I know there are times I find myself checking email late at night. This is one thing that I have tried to really get a handle on not doing. After 8PM, I feel like whatever it is can wait until the morning. My evenings are for catching up with friends/family, snuggling on the couch, walking the dog, and taking care of me. It’s not that I’m less committed than those who do, it’s that ‘ME’ time is a necessity.

And now at the risk of sounding like an extremely old lady (I swear I am only 32), I try to get 8 hours of sleep throughout the work week. My devices go off at 8PM, and I am in bed reading a good book at 9PM. YIKES… I sound so old! It’s amazing how my evenings have changed over the last 5-10 years.

Gone are the days carousing at a bar on the weekends – although I’ll proudly admit I poured myself a bourbon or two last Friday. I need weekends to be restful and I particularly enjoy spending time outdoors. My work week is fast-paced and stressful, not to mention, I spend time the majority of my day at a desk in an interior (no windows/fluorescent light) office.

I am still figuring out balance and how to achieve it. But these are things I think we all need to be a bit more mindful of – particularly allowing yourself to unplug every once in a while. This doesn’t make you less committed or productive. This allows you to have time to pursue other interests, which in turn guards against burn out and makes for a more positive working environment for both you and your team. Make time for rest, the hobbies you love, and of course your family and friends.

Next weekend I challenge you to explore a new town, read a book, or take a yoga class – invest in your own happiness and well being.

 

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How my Friendships with Women Inspire Me

Happy Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, and I wanted to write a post about my relationships with other women and how these friendships impact my life. We all have our different types of friends; some are old or new, some are thoughtful, some are the life of the party and always providing the laughs, while others are no-nonsense, “tell it like it is” companions. All of these various women in my life help give me confidence, support, and even sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

First, I have to say I have been blessed to have always been surrounded by strong women, starting day one with my mother. Growing up she always pushed us to try our hardest, but also gave us love and comfort when we needed it. She set an example for hard work when she not only worked full time as an RN raising two kids, but also went back to school to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Then, I had my grandmothers who both raised kids and took care of husbands. I have been fortunate to have close relationships with both of my grandmothers, and their loving advice is worth more than gold. The lessons I have learned from these women I carry with me daily.

I also grew up with a younger sister, Emily (yes – my poor Dad had to endure a house full of women). Though we fought a lot growing up, as sisters often do, we have a great relationship as adults. My sister has been there for me through many ups and downs and she is one of those people I know I can always call. Lord knows, she’s had to listen to me cry about more breakups than I would care to admit, but I know she always has my back.

I have always had wonderful friendships with other women (I don’t get the whole – I’m not a “girl’s girl” thing, and frankly think it is stupid). In my hometown, I have friends I love that I have known for years, and since moving to Louisville I have gained a whole new group of friends. All of these women inspire me with their goals, hobbies, careers, community involvement, bad ass parenting skills, and many of them seemingly able to juggle it all. These friends give me career advice, push me to be more involved, give me pep-talks before Bumble dates (LOL – true though), and most importantly they show me what I am capable of through their own achievements. Seeing women further in along in their careers kicking ass, or being an awesome mom raising an actual human being (I’ll stick to my dog for now because you know… training wheels), these things are inspiring to me. These things show me what is possible.

So cheers to all you bad ass women from the past to present! Thank you for your support, drive, dedication, and most of all your inspiration.

The Best & Worst Things About Being a Dog Mom

In honor of Minnie Pearl’s Happy Gotcha Day!

My sweet Minnie Pearl came into my life just 2 years ago, and I definitely could not picture life without her now. Yesterday we celebrated by spending some time at the dog park and getting some extra treats! This girl is affectionate, sweet, and entertaining beyond belief. Although she has the ability to drive me completely insane (chewing books, eating garbage, rolling in poo), I wouldn’t change a thing about bringing this little love bug into my life… even if I will never again leave the house without being covered in dog fur!

Worst Thing #1 – FUR Everywhere…. EVERYWHERE

One thing about bringing this little fur ball into my life is that I now have to vacuum about every other day to avoid my whole apartment being covered in a thick layer of fur, and my car… well that’s a lost cause. I rarely leave the house without fur on my clothes and my go to uniform of black on black is certainly much less chic these days. My car has black cloth interior that is like Velcro for her fur, not to mention the muddy paws all over the back seat on the way home from the dog park. I even tried using one of those seat covers, but she enjoys burrowing and has figured out how to crawl under it (pointless). Cleaning 24/7 has become my life.

Best Thing #1 – I’m More Active

Minnie keeps me very active. If we don’t get our normal amounts of exercise in, there’s no telling what I might come home to after a long work day. We go for our regular walks around the neighborhood, but we also take lots of hiking trips and trips to the park. I feel like she’s my little 4-legged accountability partner. The added exercise keeps me healthier and much happier. I am also much more adventurous with her by my side.

Worst Thing #2 – Having An Audience at Dinner

That beagle nose is a powerful thing! And those ears can hear a bag of chips opening from a mile away. I can’t even remember the last meal I ate without big brown puppy eyes staring sadly up at me. Now this is cute at first, but quickly gets old, especially when I have guests over – I am well aware that my inability to discipline her probably plays a role in this, but she’s too cute to get mad at.

Best Thing #2 – She Makes My House a Home

When I first moved to Louisville a little over two years ago I had very few friends. Although I think being forced to do things on my own was good for me and played a role in growing my confidence, Louisville didn’t really feel like home. I struggled with homesickness, which was made worse by the anxiety and depression I have always struggled with a bit. After months of thinking about it, I finally saw a little 1 year old dog on the Humane Society’s website that I just had to have. I went and got her that day  and never looked back. Having a dog greet you at the door every day with her tail wagging and a toy in her mouth brings a smile to my face even on the worst days. She definitely makes my house a home.

Worst Thing #3 – People Won’t Understand

People will not understand your relationship with your dog, especially if they don’t have one. Minnie depends on me for everything and sometimes I have to make sure I am home by a certain time to feed her, take her for a walk and spend time with her. Minnie’s day revolves around me and when I leave her home alone for too long, I feel guilty. Other’s won’t understand this responsibility. She is a very affectionate girl and she likes to be right next to me most of the time, which means she likes to be on the couch and in bed with me. This is great for me because it makes me happy, but not everyone will enjoy this in the same way you do either.

Best Thing #3 – Comfort

Although my anxiety and depression is managed really well these days, occasionally I am just off. I will have days where I feel sad, and unmotivated for basically no reason at all. My dog gives me love without judgement, which is sometimes all you need. This doggo will lay by my side on my bad days, but she won’t let me be anxious or sad for too long. Her playful antics and snuggles always brighten my day. The comfort she gives is unbelievably therapeutic for me.

I realize that I probably sound like a crazy dog lady (mostly because I am), but this dog has brought so much joy into my life over the last two years. The laughter and love she has provided is worth more than anything. She has already supported me through some pretty tough times and I would recommend anyone craving companionship get a rescue dog. If you live in the Louisville Area and are interested in rescuing an animal, I highly recommend the Kentucky Humane Society (it’s where I found Miss Minnie).

 

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My Changing Body – Another Uncomfortable Topic

For the sake of staying on track and sharing every uncomfortable issue with everyone under the sun, let’s discuss the changes that happen to women (overnight) once you enter your 30’s.

I am healthier and more appreciative of my body than ever, so what the hell is this crap!

Throughout my teens and 20’s I abused my body in ways I would now find unimaginable. I am ashamed to say I drank too much, stayed out too late, even occasionally smoked cigarettes (a thought that now makes me gag beyond belief). There were even times where I would obscenely binge on Taco Bell and Dairy Queen (oh God… the things I would do for a cookie dough Blizzard) with basically ZERO consequences. If I even entertain the thought I eating that way now, I would suddenly gain 20 pounds!

 

Throughout my teens I actively participated in dance and cheerleading, and consistently stayed on the very low end of the BMI chart, partially from training and partially good genetics. As many women often do, I took my body for granted and even nitpicked my body for no reason whatsoever. I had no idea the changes that would happen as soon as I celebrated that 30th Birthday two years ago!

I now enjoy staying active (especially hiking, climbing & yoga), and cooking is a hobby for me so I prepare dinner at home most nights and prep most of my lunches for the week. Even with those healthy changes the days of wearing size 4 dresses and crop tops are gone; instead I have to learn to honor my womanly body with all its curves, and what at one time I viewed as imperfections. I have boobs and a booty and when I am not eating right a little belly too. I am by no means overweight, but am definitely not the size I used to be and I am slowly becoming accepting of that fact – you could even say happy about it.

I am healthier today than I have ever been. Every day I try to be grateful for my body – it takes me on beautiful adventures, allows me to dance, play, run, and hike. I try to be conscientious of what I put into my body (forgoing the excessive late nights and things that go with that). I try not to pick on myself and really focus on not speaking negatively of other women because I really hope to be a source of encouragement for others. We all have “flaws” and we all harshly compare ourselves to others, but lovingly accepting ourselves and others brings a sense of solidarity and peace – even if it is total CRAP that I bust my ass with half the results of the girl I was in my early 20’s lol.

 

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