Creating a new mantra!

I try not to skip weeks in my blog, but I was away last Monday and these days I refuse to overdue it when my plate is full.  Baby steps.

In my last post I talked about going to the dentist as an act of self physical care.  Turns out my routine cleaning showed that a crown that had been placed on my tooth over 8 years ago had come loose.  They were going to have to replace it, as it was quite possible that decay was creeping up under that crown.  DECAY.

I’ll admit my first thought was, “RUN.”  They told me it would take two visits to replace the crown.  All I kept thinking was, “I’ll make the appointment to humor them and then I won’t come.”  And yes, this was just after writing the blog post about taking care of your physical self.  My fear of dentists is NOOOOO joke.

But I made it to the appointment and showed up (today) because I did some prep work ahead of time.  It occurred to be I could go into this appointment like I do on rainy days. Playlists at the ready, treats (not food treats) lined up throughout the day, saved podcasts for day like today, and a little help from pharmaceuticals.

Allow me to elaborate.  I realized a long time ago that dental appointments are on my most hated “things to do” list.  My anxiety is typically through the roof and my pre-appointment panic is hard to manage.  So a couple years back, I confessed this to my doctor.  He prescribed Xanax for my dental appointments.  I remember being both hesitant and relieved when I got the prescription.  There was a small part of me that was frustrated that I had to rely on something other than myself.  But I gave it a shot, and today my pre-appointment panic was manageable as was my anxiety in the appointment.

Now, I know that some of you may immediately tune out when you read this.  Obviously an anti-anxiety medication is not for everyone, especially if you don’t experience anxiety.  But if I didn’t include that in those post I would not have been truthful about my experience.  Taking a Xanax before my appointment was part of my process for coming prepared.

Secondly, I advocated for myself.  When I sat in the dental chair I spelled it out for the dentist and dental assistant.  I explained that I was terrified of dental appointments but was going to do my best.  I told them I was on Xanax so that they weren’t unaware.  And finally I asked if I could play a podcast while they worked on my mouth, to distract me.  To my shock, they said, “Of course!”  It had never occurred to me prior to that appointment, that this was something I could even ask for.  But as I walked in the room, I realized that I had nothing to lose.  If they said no, I’d adapt.

And lastly, I had something to look forward to.  Remember when you were a kid and the dentist would give you cheap plastic rings or stickers when you finished your appointment?  No?  That was just my dentist?  Well, I made sure that I had some sort of treat lined up for myself, so I could focus on that during the tough parts of the visit.  I’d visualize getting to listen to the podcast I’d saved, or practicing a new song on the guitar.

Now, in my case this was just a simple dentist appointment.  But I encourage you to no longer go with the mantra “grin and bear it” when it comes to taking care of yourself. Know thyself.  If you find yourself canceling medical/dental/therapy appointments for reasons that are based merely on fear, I urge you to push through that discomfort. Figure out what is the right equation for you, to get to those appointments.

Do you need a friend there with you?  Is the appointment by a bookstore you love?  Do you need a playlist for the appointment or after the appointment?

Whatever you need, know that you are not alone.  It’s scary taking care of yourself, but if you don’t who will?

Take care of YOU.

 

Guess what? You matter.

I have a dental appointment today.  I loathe going to the dentist.  But I’m going.  Self care isn’t just about our emotional and mental health.  Physical health shouldn’t get overlooked, but unfortunately caregivers are notoriously bad at attending to their physical health.  I get it, we are so busy taking care of everyone else when it’s our turn we brush it off. Often times we are taking care of people in much poorer health than ourselves we think we can postpone that check up a little longer.  Or we ignore that tooth pain or body ache because other people have it so much worse.

Cut it out.  (Per usual I am saying this mostly to myself).  Keep those appointments.  Don’t be a martyr and pretend everything is fine if it’s not.  Who is that serving in the long run?  I go to the dentist every 6 month for a cleaning.  I do this to avoid having a major surprise of a root canal or multiple cavities etc because I waited 3 years to see a dentist.

Now I recognize that I have dental insurance which many do not, and that I have access to good medical care that is covered, which many do not.  I fully acknowledge my privilege and it makes me nuts that this isn’t available to everyone.  I used to work with someone who hadn’t gone to the dentist in many years due to lack of funds.  But you know what he could afford?  Dental floss.  He took such good care of his teeth by the time he was finally able to afford a dental visit, very little needed to be done. That’s not going to work for everyone, but keep in mind all the little things you can do when you are in between jobs or uninsured that will keep you healthier.

If you are fortunate to have insurance, use it.  Practice preventative medicine on yourself.  Don’t “wait and see” on anything.  Years ago when I went in for a routine skin check (I had had issues in the past) I mentioned to the doctor that something didn’t look right.  They checked it out and said it didn’t look suspicious but after some back and forth we agreed that they should remove it “just in case.”  It was malignant melanoma.  I remember the frantic sound in the doctor’s voice when they called me.  They had NOT expected that diagnosis.

I no longer believe in the “wait and see” method.  Would you want a loved one to “wait and see” on something that was physically bothering them?  Nope.  So practice the same care and tenderness you would provide for others on yourself.  In case you haven’t been told this in awhile, you matter.

When you go to those appointments, or eat well, or exercise or get enough sleep or floss, you are saying to yourself and those around you, “I matter.”

Take care of YOU.

 

 

Hit the pause button a couple times a day (and other lessons I learned on vacation)!

I’m on the final day of my two week vacation.  It can be best described as, “Whoa!”  Per usual I’ve been left with many little lessons that I hope and plan on taking with me, moving forward.  Now before I write about some of my take-aways from these past weeks, I just want to put out there how much I value travel.  You don’t have to break the bank to do so, I rarely do!  Every time I travel, I start to see parts of myself that I’ve missed or forgotten about, begin to resurface.  Travel will wake you up.  So if you are reading this and feeling a little stuck in life, I encourage you to take a chance and travel.  I sincerely doubt you will regret it.

So where did I go?  My mom and I travelled to Scotland, Sweden and Norway.  One of the first glaringly obvious differences between my life in New York and life where we travelled was the importance of breaks during the day.  We had the honor of traveling around Norway with dear friends from Sweden.  We road tripped throughout Norway and they introduced us to “fika.”  We learned that fika is a Swedish term essentially describing a break in the day (typically one mid morning and one mid afternoon) where you have coffee and a snack.  Though typically in Sweden they may have 7 different types of cookies as the snack, which is obviously my preferred option.  (On a side note, workplaces incorporate this into their days as well and often provide the snacks and drinks, bravo Sweden!)  So, as we drove through the incredible beauty of Norway, we also made sure to stop and take real breaks (fika).

Initially my body and mind weren’t used to breaks, and instead I was focussed on getting to our destination.  I assumed we were supposed to scarf down our food as quickly as possible so that we could get back on the road.  I was wrong.  A break is actually a break.  You are meant to taste the food, savor the coffee, and enjoy the view.  After the 4th fika, I finally caught on.  I allowed myself to hit the pause button like my traveling companions and finally be present with no other agenda.  Turns out, that’s where the magic happens.  Because we incorporated this idea early on in our trip, I was able to reframe my thinking from focusing solely on the destination to instead enjoying the journey as a whole.

So this leads me to my next lesson: enjoying the journey.  How many quotes have we all read about this?  I’ve read MANY.  But when you are dealing with some tough things in life it can feel obnoxious when you are reminded to “enjoy the journey not the destination.”  If someone said that to me, while I was going through it I might be tempted to bop them in the nose…or definitely throw them an eye roll.  But it became clear to me that the journey we had throughout Norway had come to pass because all four of us where ready for it now.  Had there been other opportunities before?  Sure.  But they never quite took flight.  However my mom and I never gave up on the dream of getting to Norway.  And suddenly the timing was right.

My last little lesson learned was that dreams can come true.   It was awesome to watch my mom live her dream of getting to Norway.  It was awesome to watch my friends be honored to help her get there.  It was incredible to be reminded that dreams are often achievable and within our grasp!  I don’t believe in keeping dreams to yourself.   My mom and I got to Norway because our dear friends got the wheels in motion after I voiced her dream.  There are people out there that will help you make your dream a reality, but you’re going to have to make it known.  Do it.

Take care of YOU.

 

 

 

“The best time to celebrate is whenever you can!”

Who says that you only get to celebrate certain occasions?  Yes birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, weddings, baby showers etc are all worth celebrating!  But sometimes we need to celebrate other things as well to remind us we are ALIVE!  If you are reading this, you are both alive and have been given the gift of literacy.  Celebrate that!

I may have already shared this story, so apologies to the avid readers of this blog.  But years ago I had the privilege of working with a chef who volunteered at the shelter where I worked.  Some time before I met her she had gotten into a bad car accident with her new husband and miraculously they had both made it out alive.  Their perspective instantly shifted as did their gratitude for the life they were able to live even longer. So they decided to celebrate life every chance they got.  They celebrated the fact that they found each other against all odds, late in life.  They celebrated that they were given even more time together on earth.  They celebrated everything.  And no, it did not lessen the specialness of the celebrations, but instead increased their ability to see gratitude everywhere in life.  And let me tell you, this chef oozed with sparkle.

Sprinkle some sparkle wherever you can.  This doesn’t mean that every celebration has to be one that breaks the bank.  But maybe use the cloth napkins for your dinner at home, or light some candles, or suggest to friends that you do a potluck, or picnic at the park, or have an ice cream sundae party.  But above all, remember to make it a celebration.  Take a moment during your celebration to acknowledge your gratitude for whatever you are celebrating.

Let’s all be like that chef.  Let’s ooze with sparkle!

Take care of YOU.

 

 

Go on, make a vision board. Why not?

When you hear the words “vision board” does your skin crawl?  Or do you suddenly want to run to Michael’s and get poster board and cut up magazines or start pinning on Pinterest?  Or do you have no idea what a “vision board” is and suddenly feel left out?

Well regardless of where you stand, let’s talk a little bit about them.  Vision boards are essentially a way to help articulate and focus a life goal in a physical way.  A way to get ideas out of your head and on to paper (or a Pinterest board).  Typically you don’t just put words on paper or Pinterest board, but also pictures of what you want in your life.  The pictures are there to help you visualize better what you long for instead of having an unclear idea of what your dream would look like.

So what’s the point?  Where do I start?!  First, there’s power in acknowledging your dreams and not just keeping them in your head.  If you never let any dream come out of brain and out of your mouth, think of how many things you would have not done?! When I first considered the possibility of being a nurse, I was in the Peace Corps in Romania.  I remember having a drink with a friend and verbalizing the insane idea of going back to school for nursing.  My friend (lucky for me) was totally supportive and together we started imagining my life as a nurse.  A verbal vision board. (Although after that conversation I made a physical one as well) We visualized what type of nursing I’d do, where I’d work, what I’d wear (yes even that)!  I had to picture myself in scrubs in order for the idea/dream to start to feel like an attainable thing.  In fact, I encourage you to get that specific.  It forces your brain to take this dream seriously.

Secondly, sometimes we need a forum to begin to figure out what we need and/or want. The vision board can serve as tool to help you get to the bottom of things.  If your life is not where you want it to be, creating a board helps you figure out what you feel is missing or lacking.  As the board starts to fill up, you will start seeing common themes. These themes are clues into what you want.  This is an essential exercise when you are feeling stuck.  It starts to wake you up again and remind you of what you enjoy, what makes you feel like YOU.

Next, this board needs to be placed in a prominent place or in a place that you will look on a regular basis.  Why?  If these are truly goals you want to achieve in your life, they need to remain a focus in your life.  You need to be reminded of where you are headed on a regular basis so you can stay on track, otherwise I promise you, other things will distract you.

If you are the perfectionist type I really encourage you to try and let that go when you are creating your board.  It doesn’t need to be perfect and it’s ok if you forget something or if it’s a little messy or not as artistic as the examples you saw on Pinterest.  It just needs to get done.  Because once it’s done you can start prioritizing your life and focussing on the things you want in life and not let the mundane distract you from your goals!

Have fun with this! Get excited about it!

Take care of YOU.

 

Allow yourself to get lost!

Years ago I had a friend tell me he had a hard time tracking my life so far, and wanted it drawn out on a poster in timeline form.  I remember feeling both pride and concern about this comment.  On one hand my life was already full of all sorts of wild adventures, but on the other hand was it ever going to make sense as a whole?  Was I maybe a little lost?

The answer is yes, I was more than a little lost, I was majorly lost.  Thankfully.  Yes, I wrote thankfully.  When did we decide that we were supposed to know where our lives were headed at 18?  That’s bananas!  Have you interacted with an 18-year old lately?  They are still babies, with adult-ish bodies.   I mean no disrespect to them (or to our former 18-year old selves), but they have had very little time to separate what makes them tick as humans with the cultural and familial expectations that are placed on them.  They are at the very very beginning stages of figuring themselves out.  And so are we.

My life has been full of random ideas, and loads of starts and stops.  If I completed my timeline on a poster now, it would be all over the place.  Now some of it is starting to make sense.  Some of the random journeys are looking a little less random as the years go on.  But…it doesn’t have to!  We need to never stop exploring what makes us tick.  Others may not understand why we are suddenly drawn to that pottery class or learning guitar etc.  But we don’t have to understand everything.  It doesn’t have to all make sense, now or ever.  Isn’t that awesome?  There’s so much freedom in that.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.  It will not lead you astray.” -Rumi

Take care of YOU.

 

 

 

 

Rethinking the Fast Pace Lifestyle.

I live in the city that never sleeps.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have to.  (This sounds like the beginning of a detergent commercial…hmmm.)  In fact I really need to, ESPECIALLY because I live here.  It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace and convince yourself that this pace is the only pace.  However I assure you, it is not.  It is one of the many you get to choose from, regardless of where you live.  Yes that’s right, I’m daring to suggest you can choose your own pace.

Maybe there have been times in your life where a fast pace has suited you.  Maybe that pace allowed you to finish school, apply for many jobs, and even get the job you wanted. Does that pace suit you now?  Do you have to maintain that pace? Is it one pace fits all stages of your life, forever?  Check in with yourself, you are allowed to ask these questions.

There was a time when I daydreamed about rapidly walking with a coffee in hand, heading somewhere “important” in NYC, like the movie Working Girl.  But I look back at that daydream, and think what’s the rush?  Are you even enjoying that coffee?  Do you really need to walk that fast, right off the bat?  Save your adrenaline for something more worthy than a Monday morning.

So here’s my plan for the rest of my week.  Anytime I find myself heading right into fast pace mode, I’m going to PAUSE.  Do a quick check in.  I will ask myself one thing only, “Is this pace necessary for this moment right now?”  If yes, I will continue.  If no, I will adjust my pace and high five myself for paying attention.

Take care of YOU.