There is, of course, a myriad of choices for support for the anxious person of today. Any Google search will give you a list of things to do, symptoms, prescribed and not-prescribed help. While no academic expert, I can give a story and some personal advice as to what kept me sane.
High school was far-and-away one of the most stressful experiences of my life, and not for the usual reasons. During the economic crash of 2008, my family lost our job and our house just before I started 9th grade. We lived in the homes of church families for a year.
The first house was with the Anderson family. Their family of six was accommodating and gave us spots within their house to sleep. My parents took the teenage girl’s basement bedroom, while she moved in with her littlest sister. The youngest boy slept with his parents and the middle daughter and I shared a room. My little brother set up a bed in the open basement. There we lived for three tension-filled months.
The four of us then moved in with a foster mom with experience in sharing her space. I shared with two daughters my age, my brother slept in their homeschool bedroom, and my parents took the master. The foster mom slept on the couch where she was already sleeping to keep an ear on the babies in the nursery. We shared that space with several foster kids in our nine months there. One was a small baby who had partially drowned and remained in a coma through her short month stay with us. One a twelve-year-old boy with severe autism and clubbed feet and hands.
Two babies came through that the foster mom adopted: a tiny baby with primordial dwarfism that looked like a doll, and a baby who was left in a hotel room and rolled off the bed, ending up with a severe brain bleed. The baby with dwarfism has since grown into an active girl who speaks using sign language, and the baby who had the brain bleed is now a prodigy elementary school boy.
Our divorced family was also going through some very personal drama, and all the while the undercurrent of stress about money lived in our minds. Meanwhile, I also turned 15 and was learning to cope with a measure of adulthood, feeling lonely beyond belief in my seemingly more mature problems and pretending it didn’t exist to family and friends. We moved out into a house my grandparents bought in 2009.
Luckily for me, just a week before we lost our house I was on a trip to Montana where I bought a composition notebook on an impulse and began to write everything that was going on during my day and my thoughts about it all. During that year of homelessness, I went through four notebooks. I rarely wrote about the real problems: hearing fights, wearing socks with holes in them because I didn’t want to be a burden, feeling like I was no matter what I did. I wrote about church drama. I wrote when I was scared or felt neglected. I learned to channel my energy to things that were easier to grasp. I’d write long soliloquys about the petty stuff and would graze over the big stuff, barely touching it.
I kept the habit up until 11th grade, when my loneliness threatened to overwhelm me and I felt that what used to be petty stuff had become big stuff. I was afraid that writing it all down would make me feel it more. I felt ostracized by my homeschooling and lost in the house we lived in. I had learned to bottle it up to keep from being a burden, so when I acted out, it always took everyone by surprise.
I now wish I had never stopped writing. Writing gave me a voice when I felt like I couldn’t talk. I’d complain about my roommates during homelessness and bemoan that I felt unworthy of friends or crushes, and it made me feel better to get it out to something that wouldn’t immediately say “That’s ridiculous, everything’s fine.” It felt like I could be me on the paper, even if I felt I couldn’t be me anywhere else. It’s a habit I’m trying to find again.
So this is me, 8 years later, trying again to get my feelings and myself down on paper. To stop feeling held back by what I “should” feel and just say how I really feel.
Here are some journaling prompts that I will use and I hope you’ll use them, too. Let me know how they go in the comments.
What happened today that made me feel sad?
What happened today that made me feel happy?
What parts of today did I have no control over?
What parts of the day did I mess up?
What do I really feel about what today was like and how would I rate it on a scale of 1-10?
Did today affect what I think of my future?
If I look back on today, will I feel like it was a good/bad day still?
Can I do anything about the situation I am in now?
What do I wish had turned out differently about today?
If I could make someone see one thing about how I really felt, what would I choose and how would it have changed anything?
If I could go back and change something about the day, what would I change?
If I was angry today, what do I wish I could have or would have said?
When I was in college, a ton of people started to pop up around me talking about the magic qualities of natural oils. I sent out a signal once on our school Facebook group that I needed some DayQuil/NyQuil for a sinus infection I had. One girl reached out and had me go to her room, where she told me she didn’t actually have medicine, but she had oregano oil and had me rub it on my chest.
I went back to my room still stuffy, pretty annoyed, and smelling like a pizza.
When I first heard about CBD oil, I had all but made up my mind that it was a bunch of hoopla mixed with placebo effect. When I heard that it had “proven” effects for helping things like anxiety, weight management, joint pain and poor sleep, my ears perked up. I looked into the science behind CBD and spoke with a wellness doctor.
I found that CBD is harvested from hemp. Hemp is cannabis that contains 0.3% or less THC (the part that makes you high). CBD & THC both affect the release of neurotransmitters in your brain, which are the agents by which we receive messages of pain, stress, sleep and your immune system. The key difference is that chemically, CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors in your brain and hence doesn’t produce the same psychoactive effects that THC does.healthline.com
So for someone with chronic pain or stress, CBD dulls those parts of the brain that communicate that pain or stress. CBD also works to relax the body by dulling those senses, making it easier to fall asleep. All other effects that CBD is often related to all tie back to that dulling: weight management is easier when your stress and cortisol levels are lower. It can be used to treat seizures because of that same relaxing effect, and so on.
The quality of oil you get matters, however. Knowing where the oil is sourced, how well its effects are researched from a particular brand, and the quality of the plant they pull from all matter. I can’t speak to any other brands, but on my research I found Equilibria, a brand that says it is specifically made for women and offers dosage specialists to help you find the amount and time that works best for you. (This is not a paid promotion, this is just what I found!)
I started with their daily dropper. After a week, the dosage specialist recommended I split my 10mg dose, one 5mg in the afternoon and the other 5mg around dinner.
I made an Instagram post when I first started, so a lot of my friends knew I was trying it out and they asked me how it was going. I showed them my chart I use to track the general calorie range I eat from day to day.
My system quickly shows me my ebb and flow during a week – a green day is under 1800 calories, a yellow day is under 2300 calories and a red day is over those.
My chart in October showed 2-3 red days a week with 1 or 2 green days. Those first three weeks in November I saw an instant change: I had 1 red day and I was stuffed. I still had only 2 or 3 green days, but I was sticking around yellow days mostly and felt really satisfied. If you remember my Emotional Eating post, you’ll know that I can tie most of my over-eating and binge episodes to emotional/stress related things.
That lowered stress (during election week of all things) was having an insane impact on my eating habits. I also stopped taking melatonin to sleep and found it was easier to wake up. I felt over-all calmer – I didn’t feel like I was hovering near an edge, about to fall off.
It’s now been over two months, and I find that missing my evening dose makes me hungrier at night, and missing both doses makes me feel frazzled. I don’t feel that this is a side-effect so much as I believe this is how my normal once was, and returning to it is really jarring.
Overall, I recommend CBD! Which is not what I thought I would be saying. I thought trying it would put the idea out of my head and I’d have to go back to my pell-mell way of coping. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not 100% better or have 0 bad days anymore, but I’ve found it easier to get back up and easier to avoid than before.
How did your experience with CBD go? What other brands do you recommend? Let me know here, in my contact form, or on Instagram!
Creativity can be such an outlet and distraction for the anxious mind (and who can binge eat with a paintbrush in their hand?). I think a lot of our generation is figuring this out. Not only are the felt posters of days passed coming back, but adult coloring books, or coloring apps are being advertised as stress-relievers. There is definitely something about making something pretty, even if you know it took little-to-no skill to make it. It calms the mind.
But for all the coloring book people I know, I know very few people who paint. Painting was always something I thought took a lot of skill to do well, but I’ve learned through the past couple of years that you don’t need a lot of skill to relax your mind in front of a canvas.
I am no Bob Ross, trust me. Typically my best work requires the urge. I have to feel that need to make something creative. I call it the “artistic seizure.” I paint, draw, craft, doodle, even sculpt, but usually they come out sub-par, more for me than for the observer, unless driven by that seizure. It’s only been recently that I’ve felt I’ve been able to recapture a love for the creative, even without it.
My family used to make out like I was some hot-shot artist with tons of talent because a doodle of mine was accepted as a front-cover for some Kidz magazine way back in the fourth grade. This doodle was just a pen drawing that we were taught in art class – like a strange concept on Van Gogh’s sunflowers, and I had added this puzzle-squiggly background with different colors and submitted it. From that day on, I was “the creative one” and I felt a lot of pressure to be really, really good.
It got to the point where I didn’t want to draw or try anything in high school because it wouldn’t be up to the standard I felt that I had been put at. Writing was where my focus was, and it took awhile before I felt comfortable creating anything else.
I got to college and there was this girl who talked about painting as her outlet all of the time. Painting was pretty foreign to me at the time, something that skilled artists could do but that was it: they could take these random colors and smoosh them together… and then ta-da! Something recognizable.
This girl in college, though, she didn’t paint scenes or things or people. She painted backgrounds and words and hung them up all over her room. So I tried it with her, and then I bought my own paints and tried it myself. Soon, any time I had an “artistic seizure,” or even when I just wanted to relax, I turned to a canvas.
Painting is not nearly as taxing, as hard, or as expensive as I always thought it was.
I’ve been painting for about 5 years now, and I can tell you that unless you’re going for gallery-quality, cheap paint is just fine! I actually just use Apple Barrel paint you can get from Walmart for 50 cents a pop. You can also go with just your primary colors and a black and white if you’re skilled at mixing. I wasn’t then so I still have tons of left over colors I can mix now.
I like to paint the cap of the paint bottle with the color so I don’t have to pull the bottles out to check, and it immediately shows me what the color looks like on white.
Now get yourself an old sheet, some plastic palettes, and a cheap set of paint brushes in different sizes. **Fun tip: you can also use Q-tips, sponges, your fingers, or anything else you can clean paint off of after to paint with!** Lay out your canvas (these also can come cheap from Walmart), and sit yourself down in front of it.
You’ll notice that my paintings typically have a colorful background, and something on top. My process goes the same way: background, then I decide what to put on top of it. If I could paint and mix backgrounds all day, I would. Here are some tips for making something simple if you’re looking to start somewhere.
Pick your colors! I usually go with one color and make a gradient, but here I decided to go with a pastel color scheme. Drop the colors on the canvas and just smear it with your brush. Make it blend by crossing the colors over each other. If you start to blend a color you didn’t intend (like some of the accidental brown in mine), wipe the brush and add a new color!
You can sprinkle some flecks by dipping the brush into a pool of the color desired and flick it onto the canvas. I threw some green into the corners and added some white flecks on mine.
At this point, you should let your canvas dry while you figure out what you have the inspiration to put on top of your background. I’ve done a purple background with pumpkins, or a green background with a Christmas ornament. You can practice on a piece of paper before you put paint to canvas if you’re nervous.
If you decide on a quote, you’ll have to think about spacing and make sure you don’t end up having to squish the end of the quote on the bottom of the canvas, so sometimes using a pencil on the canvas lightly will help you space your words correctly. I used the phrase “Dream Big” because my family is big on it, and I feel like a lot of what I’m doing right now requires some pretty big dreams.
I always over-decorate my pictures. I add too many little touches, too many flairs or sparkles or swirls. The funny part: THAT’S OKAY! I already knew getting into this that this wasn’t a picture I was going to frame and have in the living room. This might be a picture to put in my future art studio or in a creative space… and that’s ALSO OKAY!
How many times have you colored in a coloring book and thought “Well, if it’s really good, I’ll hang it up over the fireplace!” (Hint: You haven’t. No one does.) Let yourself enjoy the silliness, let yourself over-embellish or make a mistake. Try a weird technique, use a weird tool. It’s more about the process than the product.
Heck, if you hate it in a month, you can always paint white over it and make something brand new.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this let’s you explore your creative side that you might have never known existed!
This article is also going to publish on City Lifestyle! Check out my page here.
My one year anniversary is coming up next Monday and I feel like the story of my wedding day is coming up in conversation more and more often. I wanted to take a small break from my normal topics and give a more fun, informative post about it. Matthew and I are eating the top layer of our cake in just a week, and I wanted to make sure I celebrated in more ways than one.
Here is my favorite thing to tell people about my wedding: I spent less than $2,500 on the entire wedding day. The looks of incredulity people give are simply delicious. I’m hoping to tell you how I saved and prioritized to get there, but there’s something I did first that led me to the rest of it.
The very first thing I did was find out what was the most important for the day of. My fiancee’s request was easy; he said “I just don’t want to see you before the ceremony. I don’t care about the rest of it, as long as I’m married to you at the end of the day.” Brownie points for days, am I right?
So what was important to me? I wanted to make the day have hints of my fiancee, Matthew in it. I wanted it to be mostly family. I wanted to see my late father in hints around the room. I wanted my grandpa give a toast during the Rehearsal Dinner. I wanted to dance to “The Book of Love” by Peter Gabriel. I wanted to have a silly dance with my bridesmaids. I wanted to take a shot with the bridal party before the reception. I wanted to go to a fast food place after the reception while still in my wedding attire.
You’ll notice right away that these important moments all didn’t cost me anything, or cost me very little. I found that any time I started to freak out about not spending money on something more expensive… well it wasn’t in the top moments anyway. It was okay. So if having fresh cut flowers at your wedding is really important to you, then go ahead! If it is super important that you’re wearing a brand name wedding dress, then do it. I just found that all of my central moments required nothing extra, only time.
All these important things happened. I found cupcake toppers that were tiny light sabers and put them in the boutonnieres, and then the cake topper was a silhouette of Han Solo and Leia. My step-mom brought an old pin my dad used to wear on his hat, and I had a spare flower with ribbon set aside for my dad. The bridesmaids and I spent most of the night before the wedding practicing the line dance for “Footloose” so we could do it at the wedding. My husband and I went to a Starbucks before going to the hotel so I could wear my dress out.
So now for my tips and tricks and how I spent $2,500 on my whole wedding.
Small Town Weddings
We decided early on that we wanted most of the wedding attendees to be family (We ended up with about 120 people total). A lot of my husband’s family all lives in the small town of Argonia, KS, about 45 minutes from Wichita, KS. When looking at Wichita locations we quickly realized how much money we could save by doing it in Matthew’s hometown of Argonia.
We used the Community Center in Argonia, which happened to be right next to my in-law’s house and only cost $150 for the entire weekend.
This brings up a couple of hitches: What about those traveling from the airport? What would guests get to see or what places would they go before and after the wedding?What about those who became inebriated and then needed to travel? All these questions needed to be answered if we were going to have a small town wedding.
We stayed in close contact with our guests and ended up having very few people actually need to fly in. If we had more, we would have made a carpool system for those. We also decided to have a morning wedding and afternoon reception, so that our guests would have plenty of time to do something in the evening after driving back into Wichita. Finally, we decided to forgo having drinks/alcohol at the wedding so that everyone could drive back to where they needed in the afternoon safely.
We also decided on having an After Party with our Bridal Party and our siblings. After the reception, Matthew and I took a small recess at the hotel and then headed to the party at 7pm. I had rented an AirBnB in Wichita so that those that lived 45 minutes or farther away had somewhere to stay that night and that’s where we had some drinks, some pizza, some dancing, some great talks. Matthew and I headed back to our hotel that night and left for our honeymoon the next morning. The entire After Party was only about $300 out of pocket for us, as we asked everyone to bring one drink and one mixer or a six-pack.
Use your Friends and Connections
This sounds heartless, but you’ll truly be surprised how many people are excited and willing to be a small part of your big day. If you do it right, it takes nothing but a small favor, or a small piece of their time and they’ll feel like they were a huge piece of it all working out.
Food/Catering: My family are big on smoking meats, and their best friends are awesome helpers. My parents happily offered to do the meat the day before as a wedding present and their best friends helped with getting food cut up, opened up, and put into crock pots as well as serving on the day of. As a wedding present, my parents paid for the food as well, though they said the total only came to around $500.
*NOTE: Our small town venue was, of course, fine with outside food, though some bigger venues will not allow you to serve food that isn’t being cooked by a licensed professional. Yet another perk of a small town wedding!
Cake: Matthew’s aunt used to be a professional wedding cake designer. She actually asked early on to make the cake. We paid for the ingredients and she did the labor. This cake turned out to be the only hitch in the whole day and I had no idea until I arrived at the Reception that anything had gone wrong.
We had asked for raspberry filling/flavor in a chocolate cake, the raspberry filling she used made the cake unstable and it fell overnight. That morning, they salvaged the pieces and we ended up with one large sharable cake (which was more than enough), and our cute top layer in the picture from above. The cake was still delicious beyond all reason and it didn’t bother me at all that our cake wasn’t three tiers like we had originally talked about.
The Church and Sound: My husband’s dad is the clerk at their hometown church, so we got the use of the church building for free. I also sent a long thank you note to the sound guy of the church, Bob, who was very willing to run our sound cues for us through our ceremony. He also played the slideshow I had made of Matthew and I – some pictures of us dating and some of us when we were small.
This was extra special to me, because the church was always welcoming to me when we would visit, and now every time we visit his family we are reminded of the day we got married there.
Music: One of the things Matthew and I did in our year-and-a-half engagement was go to weddings and scope out the things we liked or didn’t like. We found that a DJ is definitely not a guarantee that the music and sound of your reception will be perfect. We also noticed that a good DJ is one you don’t really notice. Our families are no dancing fools either, so my Maid of Honor and I created a Spotify playlist the week before the wedding. We listened through it two or three times, and made sure that a good line-dance appeared occasionally and a slow dance appeared between.
Surprisingly, I still saw plenty of people dancing and the schedule I provided for everyone involved was plenty cue enough for our toasts and introduction. My sisters-in-law did the music cues for our Father-Daughter, Mother-Son dances as well.
Day Planner: Speaking of schedule, I had a binder I used through all of my planning that included an extensive schedule of events, budget, thank you notes for the day of, present lists, and honeymoon documents. I did all of the planning until the day of, when I asked Matthew’s aunt (a wonderful lady who is as organized as me, if not more so), if she would be willing to be the day planner. She did an amazing job of keeping everyone on schedule, and without her, I am sure the day would have gone astray.
Photography: This is the one I can see most people disagreeing with. We actually used friends and family for photography. We had our engagement photos done by one of the groomsmen, who loves photography. I loved the way the photos turned out, as Matthew and I are not anyone’s fancy-men.
We paid a college-friend and amateur photographer for the day of, and Matthew’s mom is great at editing photos. His aunt also took a lot of photos and I love the casual feel of the photos taken by our families. I don’t think we lost any value by doing so, but I can see the fear of not getting good enough photos of the day of.
Thrift, Used, DIY and Patience
This is probably the biggest thing that contributed to the success of our wedding: our long engagement (that I did NOT originally want, by the way) which meant that I could take my time and wait for the best deals on everything.
The biggest and best example of this is THE DRESS. I found it a year early in a thrift store. It had no brand name tag on it and some stains I was originally worried about. I brought the ticket price from $100 to $80 at the thrift store. Then I got it cleaned for $83 and altered for $200. My dress altogether cost only $363.
It wasn’t like the dresses I had pinned on Pinterest, but it honestly fit me so perfectly and Matthew still raves about how much he loved the dress and how it was perfect for me. It turned out to be one of the biggest blessings and his favorite memory of the day.
The first thing a bride wants to do when they return from their honeymoon is figure out what to do with all their decorations from the wedding. If you can wait through a summer before your wedding, you’ll see tons of Facebook marketplace posts of wedding decorations. Lucky for me, I already wanted a Vintage Rustic wedding – which meant white wood, burlap, twine, and lots of flowers. These are all common household decorations (especially right now), and they are pretty cheap from most craft stores as well.
Like I said before, we had gone to some wedding before ours. One wedding was also rustic vintage, and I actually chased down the maid of honor and then messaged the mom of the bride a little later and asked if they were selling their decorations. She quoted me a great price of $400 for all the flowers, pine cones, table scatter and burlap at the wedding.
All of the flowers are fabric flowers, so I collected as many pink, white, and blue flowers as I could find on Facebook and from thrift stores. I then created the boutonnieres, the corsages, my bouquet, and all of the table settings.
I bought all the wine bottles that were navy and pink from someone else’s wedding, and then wrapped twine around them to cover the scratches in the paint. I then added all the white bottles and wrapped those in twine to match. I made the party favors from some free cinnamon jelly hearts. I bought small paper bags, wrote a personal note on each and filled them with the hearts. I then stapled each and set them on the table settings.In fact, the most expensive part of the table was the blue M&M’s that I thought would bring out the blue of the flowers.
I created all the programs, order of events and invitations with Word and bought the card stock and printed on a friend’s color printer. I cut out every individual white heart from the leftover card stock for the aisle scatter. I also created the set up for the photo backdrop.
Don’t forget to borrow! Another perk of having the wedding in the same town as so much family: we borrowed a lot of serving dishes and serving tools. We found so many crock pots around town, and some decoration. We also were surprised with the original cake serving tools that Matthew’s parents used on their wedding day. The piano was already a setting in the community building that they at first wanted to put away, but I asked to keep it out. A vintage screen that my mother-in-law used in her house made a great prop for setting up some old pictures of Matthew and I.
Our wedding day ended up being exactly what it should have been. As any bride or groom will tell you, the day flew by; I only remember the small important pieces of the best day. The best advice I can give any couple getting married is to worry about just the most important things and know the rest of it will hardly matter at the end of the day.
The Actual Real-Life Budget:
FB – Decor – $15.00
Cardstock – $35.00
Cake Topper – $18.00
Decor Supplies, Wal-Mart – $25.00
Light Saber Cupcake Toppers – $8.14
4 Barn Windows – $60.00
Photography Deposit – $50.00
Wedding Dress – $80.00
FB – Tea Lights – $20.00
Large wooden lantern – $8.00
Other Wedding Decor – $400.00
Dry Cleaners – $83.37
Garage Sale – Vases $12.00
Reception Venue – $150
Refurbishing Shoes – $28.00
Ties for Best Man/Groom – $40.00
Envelopes for Invites – $28.22
AirBnb – $214.88
Bridesmaid Gifts – $66.00
Hairpiece – $16.41
Stamps – $33.52
Guest Book Sign – $54.20
Dark Blue M&M’s – $67.99
Marriage License Fee – $85.50
Marriage Counseling/Pastor Fee – $85.00
Groom’s Outfit – $67.75
Cabin for 2 Nights Before – $249.37
Bridesmaid Necklaces – $54.77
Wedding Arch – Amazon (FB one broke) – $27.99
Photography – $50.00
Cake Ingredients – $100.00
Dress Alterations – $202.31
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you got something informative or a cool idea for your wedding. I wish you the very best!
This was also published on City Lifestyle! Check it out here.
Say hello to my sanity from High School. These journals are filled with tears, with ripped pages, with pen and pencil, with history, with frustrations, with pretending, with texts, with passed notes… and so much more.
My first journal started when I was about to be a freshman. I had gone on a mission trip to Montana and was in a small town writing about the stars and how they made me feel small. I wrote about how home didn’t feel real when I was out there, and while I knew there was drama going on, I didn’t have to be apart of it there. I wanted to stay there forever and escape it all and I wrote and wrote about that.
Then about an hour later, a friend had some drama about a boy that we both liked and I had to write about that. Then the rest of the mission trip (and hence the journal for that week) was filled with petty B.S. – focus on boys and girl drama. A game of hot seat. Seating in the car rides. Just goofy stuff.
Then I got home and *ish* hit the fan. Family drama and fights that happened while I was gone. In the aftermath of 2008, my step-dad had lost his job. We were evicted around a week later and lived with a family from our church for three months. When those three months had finished, we moved in with another family from our church, a foster mom and her adopted kids – running the total number of people in her house to 12. I turned 15 while we were in that house.
It’s hard to talk about that time because there were some fun days, and it wasn’t all terrible. It’s also hard to talk about without feeling ungrateful or feeling like I’m airing dirty laundry. The screaming fighting of our family (and families), the tears, the constant fear, the anger I still harbor… it’s all almost too fresh to talk about. I dreaded going home. I hated being around the people in that house. I hid in the closet more than once. The one month where I self-harmed was in my most desperate time of living there.
On top of the fear, the lack of security, feeling the need to be strong for my parents, and so on – I was 14, going on 15. I had enough struggles just figuring out my place. Figuring out how to be a friend, how to like boys. I had some of the most serious family struggles among my friends, who had no idea how to talk to me about them. So I ignored them with my friends. I focused on whatever boy I liked at the time or the drama that my friends were having with the “other side” of the youth group. I know at times I came off boy-crazy or obsessed (sorry about that, by the way!), but it was my coping mechanism. I pretended. It was the only way I knew how to survive.
What got me through the hardest year of my life and the hardest years of growing up were these journals. For perspective, 3 and 1/2 of the 8 composition notebooks I used as journals I made in high school, covered that one year.
When I went to college, I started seeing the on-campus therapist. I originally went because I had learned some new information about my dad who had passed when I was 10. The new information had messed with the image I had of him so much that I felt like I was re-grieving, bursting into tears at the oddest moments for example, and I needed someone to process with. However, the experience, of course, became much more than just about my father.
We talked about growing up and the loneliness I had. We talked about the insecurity of my age in high school and the need to hide the problems I was having. Sometimes I would tell her things that would make her eyes go wide. She would marvel and say a comment like, “I’m impressed you are who you are today.” Eventually, I mentioned the journals. She dug in, and asked how many, how often.
Everything seemed to click for her. “Those journals might have saved your life,” she said. Then she told me the importance of a safe space where you feel you can be yourself, even if no one reads it. Even if you are completely vulnerable and it’s embarrassing to read later, the honesty can be so cathartic. What was hidden and unknown and unclear… is now on paper and can be judged to be serious or not immediately.
A friend of mine has been super encouraging through the last month of starting this blog and the Instagram. She sent me a message today reminding me that being as raw and real as I am is important because people need to know they aren’t alone. Even if it comes off like you’re looking for sympathy or if it’s a little **too** real sometimes, it’s important.
Both she and a reader/commenter on a previous post agree: writing is good for us. you can diminish the fear of the thing. You can see an old thought pattern and change it. If you publicly blog, you get the feedback, the reminder that you’re not alone. Just knowing there is someone out there who might be reading what you’re writing can be comforting by itself.
And if writing isn’t your thing? That’s okay. There are so many other ways to be real, to release emotions in a positive way. Something I did in college was doodle – I would cover full pages with doodles and really try to find the right symbol or shape to express an emotion. I then covered the pencil in sharpie as a focus technique. I would make sharp lines to express anger or passion, and swirls for confusion. Curling shapes took the place of thinking and pondering. I took peace in knowing the pages meant nothing to anyone else.
I also sometimes use crafting as a way to simply ignore the world. The world fades away during a DIY. You spend too much time considering how a thing looks or what to do next to ponder and sink. Sometimes all we need is a distraction.
Whatever you choose to do to cope with the world around us, make it a healthy habit. Scribbling can be a healthy habit. Crafting can be. Painting… building a house. Drawing. All of these are habits that let you feel like something is being created. Something is coming into form. Don’t let your life waste away while you cope with the problems around you.
Feels a bit hypocritical, coming from the girl who ate two bowls of cereal after a stressful day at work this week. I have not learned this lesson. But I am trying to take my own advice.
Love y’all. Hope this finds you well. Thanks for reading.
Sometimes… I am KILLING it. Two weeks ago, I had my Thursday 5k, I ate about 1350 calories – some of it in the delicious pasta recipe I had seen. I didn’t go back for seconds, and I crocheted and watched This is Us instead of late-night snacking.
Some days, I do great – even on the weekend. I do everything I am supposed to – I work out! I go to bed at a good time! I even clean! …And there have been a lot of days where this doesn’t happen. I wake up late, I grab a sugary granola bar for a snack, I dump some creamer in my coffee, I make a peanut butter cheesecake and have a second piece.
I made an Insta post this week with the caption: “Anxiety, you don’t go away overnight – but I am trying to pack your bags.” I don’t know how to go about making everything better all at once, and it drives me crazy. I’m still trying to climb that mountain in one, single, Superman-esque bound.
My therapist says I do not forgive myself easily, and I see it. I tend to always find a way to put the blame on myself, no matter what the circumstance was. I should have tried harder, I should have gritted my teeth – it is within me to make the change or to fix the relationship… even when I know that not everything can be controlled or fixed with such determination.
In fact, just today, I realized (in a session with the glorious Michelle of course) that a lot of my fear stems from this idea that when I fail or mess up, it causes people to leave. I fear that those who love me or care about me are pretending or that I tricked them somehow – so the idea of messing up? That’s terrifying. Messing up breaks the spell I put on them, or is the straw that makes someone not care enough to pretend to like me. I think somewhere along the line I decided that I was only beneficial/loveable to people if I did my very best.
One of my professors in college used to sit me down and say “Jessica is enough,” and the words never sunk in. I thought “Well, I am not enough if I don’t do what is right, if I don’t do the right things to keep people around.” These thoughts are hard to get rid of, because in some ways, they are true. We have to be good people, we should be helpful, but worth doesn’t come from our actions.
I struggled this past week with getting the nerve to write another post because I was afraid I would come off like a hypocrite who was trying to teach the world to be better when I had nothing together. I also didn’t want an emotional post that gave no one any benefit. Here’s my concession for both: I don’t have anything together. I am fighting all of the time against my anxiety and my fears. I am constantly reminding myself of reality. Here is what I am doing to get through the valleys and the days I don’t do what I am supposed to do… and maybe it helps someone else.
I am learning to ground myself – not to my room, but to the environment and reality around me. It reminds me of a book (that I am afraid to spoil the ending of) where the main character, after trauma unfolds in her life over and over again, learns to be okay by reciting every good thing she had ever seen someone do.
I am married to a husband who loves me and chose me. I am working at a company that chose me to work for them. I have friends who choose to hang out with me and talk to me about their lives. I remind myself of these things over and over again. This keeps me from sinking into my mind with uncontrollable thoughts of not deserving the things I have, or this weird impostor syndrome I seem to have developed.
I cannot fix all of me at once. This I must remember. I have so many anxiety-ridden habits and poor health habits.
I love to eat, as referenced in my Emotional Eating post. I bite my nails and the inside of my mouth. I pick at scabs. A lot of my favorite hobbies involve sitting still. I love carbs, and I love late night eating… and every time I feel like I am cracking the whip on one bad habit, the others swing to the forefront again.
I have to focus on one thing at a time and let the others lay where they lay for the moment. If I have to get a manicure to cover my nails, that’s okay. If I have some pasta dishes more often than not, but I am not binging at 11pm anymore, that’s okay. If the only workout I do for the day is a short walk, that is okay.
It may be possible as well that we can re-frame those days where we’re not as productive, and even do them on purpose. A friend of mine, Jess, describes these days as “Expand Days.” These days are for when you need to refresh or reset. The point is to allow your mind to expand to new ideas, avenues of thought or ways of doing things. You achieve it by just chilling out and “being,” not actively doing anything but enjoying the present moment. Having “Expand Days” or even just good-old rest days on purpose may help me feel like I am not slipping up, but being intentional.
In 7th grade, I dreaded gym class. I was your average gym student – not the slowest or the fastest – but mannnn I hated it. I heard we were going to have the 20-minute run in the Spring and I would have sworn to you that my stomach turned to lead. The day of came and the gym teacher said a phrase that sounded like heaven: “Even if you granny-shuffle the whole thing, I will be happy and you’ll still pass.”
You best believe I did just above a granny-shuffle. And I even found a way to pass the time as we ran around the football track: I pretended I was on the field and dodging other players. I found out what the minimum was, and because I am that kind of person, made sure I did better than at least that. I knew I couldn’t be the best, but as soon as I found out I didn’t have to, I felt so much better.
I am not your skinny Instagram fitgirl and blogger. I am focusing on small successes and personal progress. I am becoming more full with smaller meals. I am making better choices on dinners. I am feeling better in my clothes, even if the scale hasn’t changed much yet. Personal Bests are all I can get right now, and it still feels pretty good.
Thanks for reading y’all. Let me know what solutions you use for ignoring that voice in your head. What do you do when your progress doesn’t feel like it’s enough?
I have only recently received the official diagnosis from a medical professional, but I have always known that I have persisting anxiety (GAD being the proper name). A lot of this is related to the circumstances I grew up in. I had divorced parents, drug use in the family, I moved all of the time, lived under shaky financial situations, was homeless for a year, had a parent die in my formative years, had a mixed family, and so on. I learned early on, for better or for worse, truth or otherwise, that I cannot trust the people or world around me to take care of me, so I obsessively plan and blame myself when things go wrong (even when they are not my fault) because “I should have known better.”
All of this to say that when I try to pinpoint a time that “stress eating” in my life was not in effect… I can’t. A very early memory is stealing extra Flintstones gummies. Another is our constant influx of Taco Bell and Blue Bell (darn those bells). My cereal binges where I would fill a large salad bowl with cereal and milk, then taking the cereal box with me so I could refill until the box was gone. I took tens upon tens of granola bars from the pantry and hid them in my desk, or took gallon baggies of cereal to my room (Sorry, mom). The second I had autonomy I bought full jars – jars with an S! – of Nutella to eat with a spoon.
Not only that, but food was reward and love and community. I remember getting ice cream after a performance, or going out to eat with family being a huge treat. Getting to pick the place or our own pints (or half-gallons) of ice cream when we got A’s. Sneaking candy into the theater, making cookies, eating gallons of pasta, getting thirds – all of this was all mixed together with family and with love and with quality time.
On and on I could list moments where I turned to food over the last seven years being out of my parents’ house. Food does this special thing to me: it makes me stop thinking.
See, normally my mind spins and spins with all of the what-if’s. My life and I have trained my brain to feel constantly on-alert and to anticipate the worst case scenarios, which would be helpful if I was on safari or hiding from the law which my brain assumes I must be doing. I feel at least somewhat anxious or worried at all times. I wish I could say that this is an exaggeration, but truly, when my world is 95% good and 5% something going on, I will worry and worry at that 5% until it bleeds – it’s a habit that runs over into my other bad habits like nail-biting.
But, oh, when I eat…. it’s quiet. Blissfully quiet. My worries seem less important, my chores can sit on the back burner, this food is the thing captivating my attention. The world quite nearly blurs around me while the food is in sharp definition. However, the second I am out of food, or so full that I am in pain… everything returns, and with it – guilt and shame from eating in a red haze.
I know, from some of the research I’ve done preparing for this post, that stress is a huge factor. Short-term stress can shut down appetite in order to allow you to focus on the task at hand. However, long-term stress pumps in the hormone cortisol.
“Cortisol increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat.”
Emotional eating can quickly turn to binge eating. MEDA (Multi-Source Eating Disorders Association) says that this slippery slope is more of a continuum (source). Emotional eating can start as a snack or some comfort food that settles your nerves or fills your actual hunger, but it can quickly devolve into your only coping strategy, or something you do until it hurts you, either with physical pain and the need to purge or with shame and guilt.
While I’ve never purged, I do binge-eat when I eat my emotions, and just these realizations have begun to push me in a better direction. I am now more aware when I am slipping into my haze-eating, and I try to push the food away when it brings me to that state. However, in order for me to truly master this thing there are a few crucial things I need to address:
My anxiety and stress need to go down.
I need to find a new outlet that lets my mind quiet.
I need to associate food as fuel not food as love.
These are some tall orders. I have found a few hypotheses, if not quite solutions.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Something I have never had a lot of success with is meditation. In all honesty, I’ve never really tried. I get bored quickly, or my mind runs away before I muster the patience to corral it back. The idea of sitting in the quiet and meditating has always seemed so foreign to me. I grew up in a house with noise and with music constantly. There was no respite unless to sleep, and even then – we slept with radios in our rooms.
Mindfulness is another practice that has seemed strange. How do I pay attention to the food I am eating more? Is it the simple act of knowing what I am eating? Am I supposed to focus on the sensation? Upon reflection, I can see how the mindless stuffing of food into one’s mouth can be a stumbling block, but again, I’ve never tried mindful eating.
This upcoming week, I am going to try meditating at least three times for at least 20 minutes each time. I will also try eating mindfully on a meal or two, and maybe I’ll report back some results on Instagram.
We are all taking up new hobbies while locked in our homes for our quarantine 2020. At Walmart the other day I noticed that all of the sewing kits were gone and it gave me a bit of a chuckle. Heck, I am currently blogging for the first time so I might be a hypocrite for laughing. I have been thinking about returning to some of my old hobbies, and seeing how they fare, since I’m ditching food as my best friend.
I have been crocheting on and off since 2018, and I have owned a guitar since 2011 or so. I also love playing video games with my husband, so I am going to prioritize doing some hobbies of mine through the week and seeing what sticks again.
Here is the hardest one. How does one break an association? Is this a Pavlov situation that I need to reprogram? Is this a gradual process that will happen as I avoid using food as my comfort? I’m going to pose this question to any followers here or on Instagram, and hopefully we can start some dialogue. I’d love to have a post about this in the future.
This post has been a little heavy. I realized the truth of it as I was writing. I actually spoke up while writing and mentioned it to my husband – how far back this goes for me. I’ve been an emotional eater for a long time. There is some hope that as I address my anxiety and continue seeing my therapist (bless you Michelle), that I’ll continue to make strides.
What sorts of habits have you broken? How have you changed a negative association to a good one?
“I have been thinking about the idea of excuses for some time now. They are like menacing demons that creep into our lives without us knowing. They are roadblocks, white lies to ourselves, a reason to set the bar lower, and self-justification for achieving less than our full potential.”
Lorii Myers, No Excuses, The Fit Mind-Fit Body Strategy Book
It’s time! The time has come! It’s time to get real. Gettin’ Real with Jessica. No, that’s awful – I’m not calling it that. Let’s just call it honesty and move on.
I talked in my last post about my weight loss history and about how my pattern is to all-or-nothing, lose a bunch of weight fast for one event, then gain it all back (and sometimes then-some) only to repeat the process over and over again. This may not be the case for you, or for anyone else, but this is mine.
The obvious solution? Make real, lasting changes to my entire lifestyle. Make better choices in food and activity, make healthier dinners, go on walks, exercise. So why don’t I do it? Because it’s freaking terrifying! I love when “fit girls” go “It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet,” because that sounds scary af. Who wants to change the entire way they are living life cold turkey? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Another thing I’m scared of? Hiking. (Please stop laughing.) I get up to the foot of whatever darned thing I’m hiking up and stare up at that stinking summit and just groan. “How am I supposed to get up there? This is a huge task!” I think. The few times I have gone hiking, I’ve had these thoughts and it is only when I stop looking up at the summit that I can just think about one step at a time and only about halfway through do I start to think that I can actually reach the top.
Perhaps this is one and the same fear. I stare at the summit – the summit here being “a Jessica who is free of her anxiety habits (biting nails, chewing cheeks, excessive worrying, OCD habits, spiraling), a Jessica who is at a healthy weight, who exercises regularly, makes amazing healthy dishes, never emotionally eats, gets to enjoy back dimples and maybe a little abs. “That is an insane amount of ground to cover, how on earth am I supposed to do that?”
And my health blueprint says “All or nothing! Jump in with both feet or it’s not worth doing! Do it for three weeks until that big thing coming up so you’ll be able to wear that dress you like!” If we’re going with the hiking analogy, I tell myself I can jump from the bottom to the top in one go and that’s the only way that it’ll be worth it. This analogy is starting to fall apart though, so I am going to let it go.
So instead of doing what I normally do, let’s start by identifying the roadblocks that always get in the way, and maybe by the end of identifying them, I’ll have a few simple steps I can start with. Now, which things stop me from having better health and mental habits?
Emotional Eating (Eating for Comfort)
This is the excuse I believe we are all familiar with. Our busy schedules, trips, events, and daily lives can all take away that precious time we need. This is not a topic I feel I should or need to preach on, because my daily schedule is not busy enough to have a good excuse here. I don’t have children to cart about, and my husband and I have regular office jobs. We do little else but work and go home, and the occasional weekend get-together or D&D sesh.
However, I can identify a special time when “Time” itself gets in the way, and it’s holidays. Whenever I am out of town or have family or friends by, I find it hard to stick to things I want to. Who wants to work out when they could hang out with their best friend? Or wants to have a salad when you need to show your family the place with the amazing nachos you’ve been talking about?
Here is a crossroads for me, and for all of us. We have three options.
Abandon all healthy habits with family/friends. Eat dessert first, eat as much as you like because events are the only time you can let go.
Ease off the gas on holidays and with family/friends. Enjoy the time you have, but in moderation. You can have a piece of cake, but don’t have the second.
Stay strict at all times. Be the guy who brings pretend dressing to Thanksgiving or better yet, the guy who sips a protein smoothie at Christmas dinner. (You can see I’m not fond of this option)
I think pure abandon is probably not the best route, but it is the route I am most familiar with (and is the reason I’ve gotten sick at Christmas, twice!). I need to make practical steps towards ordering the smaller ice cream, getting water, and moderation at holidays and with family, but not using it as an excuse. I can also feel free to avoid hour-long workouts when I am on vacation, but it’s not a bad idea to go on an afternoon walk with some family.
There, Jessica, not so hard to take one step up that huge mountain!
*shudder* I have so much money anxiety. I’ll probably get to talking more about it at a later date, but I think just the one anecdote may get the idea across:
Leaving college, my wonderful grandparents sent me some graduation money that I used to deposit on a rental and furnish said-house. After doing all of that, I had some money left over and decided to get an Xbox so I would be able to play with my then-boyfriend. As I left Wal-Mart with the box under my arm, I had a panic attack in the car. I hyperventilated and would have returned it immediately had my boyfriend not started driving me away.
And so, you see, money and I are not usually friends. Particularly ~ spending money ~ and I are not friends.
Last year, I followed a diet plan with FitGirls and budgeting extra money for the expensive healthy meals they wanted had helped a bit, but only for the month that I did it and not for a long-term solution.
A couple of things have already begun to help me: following healthy blogs and other ladies on Instagram for one! They have great recipes that look not only easy to make, but like they are delicious. I also found ALDI, a grocery store which sells overstock goods, as well as off-brand foods (which are just as good), and cheap produce! *ahem* Let me repeat myself. “CHEAP PRODUCE.” The same grocery products I bought at a Wal-Mart when I lived in small town Kansas are 40-80% cheaper at ALDI now that I live in the Kansas City area.
I feel like money is one of those easy arguments, but at-home workouts have always been an option, and especially now, during and after the Stay-At-Home order, I think that is becoming more and more apparent. I do wonder how our gyms around the nation will be affected by this realization.
This is so big a topic (especially for me), I believe I will be writing a post about this over the weekend. Stay tuned!
By this, I mean dates! Hanging out! Galas, banquets, and events literally built around the food we will eat! I can’t say no to you, crab puff. Nor you, buffet. Nor you, ice cream date.
My husband and I bond over food. We love to eat together and to go to restaurants. Local places, chains, sit-downs, drive-thrus, you name it.
One solution I’m implementing? Our date is now a walk and cooking together. Chop these veggies, I’ll make the pasta. I’d love to Pokemon Go again and do that for a whole Saturday afternoon. Let’s find festivals of food, where we’ll have to walk around in the sun to enjoy the tastes. Let’s try new things and not just new foods!
“I’ll give you something to cry about!” Anyone else hear that one growing up?
You want motivation? I’ll give you motivation.
Working out increases your metabolism, improves your mood, helps to prevent all kinds of health problems like diabetes, poor circulation, poor immune systems, etc.
Having better nutrition helps your skin, your energy levels, your longevity, etc.
Taking better care of your mental health… is self-explanatory.
But all of this is head knowledge that I am sure you and I already have. Motivation comes from within – from wanting to be better.
And I want to be better. I’m done being worse, or being okay. I’m ready to be better. This, my motivation, will drive the rest of those roadblocks out of the way with time. Even if I stumble or fall back, there’s always tomorrow.
Here, by the way, is the summit of the first mountain I really hiked:
This week was the start of what I am calling my new beginning. See, I have a tendency to avoid these hard-line statements in favor of qualifiers. I love “for now” and “we’ll see” and “I’m hoping,” because these give me an out. When I mess up, I have license to throw the whole idea away… but this time I won’t let myself do it. I am saying, right here, right now, that this is the beginning of a Jessica that cares about her well-being. As comfortable as sad and anxious and chunky can be (and we can talk about the comfort of staying where we are later), I need to step out of that, and learn that “Yum,” isn’t just what I am used to. “Yum” can be found wherever we are.
Why do this? Why a blog and an Instagram?
Accountability! The more people I have on my team, watching my posts, reading my words, the more liable I am to stay on track! (The Stick)
Fun! I love writing, and I enjoy making content. Everyone enjoys that sweet, sweet validation of likes and comments, but just the creation process makes me feel worth-while. (The Carrot)
I hope that as I create content and post that you, you reading this, will be one of my helpers. I need a community around me. The fewer people I tell, the more likely I am to quit. The more people I have to help me… well, many hands make light work. So thank you in advance for helping me in the changes I am making.
So now for another big question: “But why though? What needs changing so bad?” This is the hard part, the honesty. Here, I am hoping that as I become honest, you’ll feel the real urgency of the change that needs wrought.
The most obvious and easiest thing to change; my outward appearance. This includes both losing weight and getting in shape. “But Jessica, you look great!” Nah, I don’t need that! What I need is to have a healthy BMI, be able to go up the stairs without panting, and darn if I wouldn’t love to look slammin’ in a bikini. These outward changes are worth making, but your point does lead me to my next change.
I need to change the way I see myself. I am your everyday girl, and I feel just as insecure about my body, about my opinions, about myself as any other girl (Not to say that guys can’t feel insecure, but stay with me). Isn’t it… exhausting? It’s bad enough to have the rest of the world question your authority, your education, your abilities, your appearance, your motives without doing it to your-darn-self. I am ready to leave that behind, and learn to trust myself.
It’s time to stop embracing my anxiety as a part of me. I have been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and my therapist is constantly giving me tips and books to help me control/understand it. What do I normally do with these wonderful resources? IGNORE THEM. It is so much more comfortable to sit in my worries and sift through them over and over again – to let the current of the whirlpool take me down to the bottom again – than it is to fight against it. Fighting your own nature…. #feelsbadman
Each of these has its own subtopics and side-rants that I can get into as I address each. There’s no fix-all for this stuff, and there’s no guarantees. There isn’t a manual and no one-size-fits-all.
That’s where the name of this blog comes from: “All Roads Lead to Yum” means that we can find happiness where we are. That ice cream and avocado toast are both acceptable. That size 2 or size 10 are okay. That anxiety doesn’t go away overnight, but that we can take a road, take one step at a time and make choices that lead down the road to… well, I’m calling it “Yum,” because there is no perfect this side of heaven. There’s progress, but no perfection.
So here we go. Let’s get started. Take my advice with a grain of salt, since really I am giving the advice to me – but hear me out – and comment and like so I can know where your head is at. Thanks for reading, guys and let’s dive in. Step…. one.