How Does Journaling Help?

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.

The journals I kept through High School

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.

Journaling Prompts:

  • 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?

CBD for Anxiety Relief

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!

https://www.instagram.com/allroadsleadtoyum

Agreeable

Is it better to be agreeable? Truly?

I’ve heard it all my life: how easy I make everyone’s lives, how well I listen, how I fill the gap and take initiative. These are all good traits, I’m sure. I’m sure there are people who don’t have these that wish they did, but maybe… this is counter-intuitive for me.

The Enneagram

There are millions of tests on the internet: “Which cheese are you?” “Which Disney prince should you marry?” “How weird are you?” There’s no shortage of them. However, most of the tests don’t reveal so much as they do just confirm biases you already have about yourself.

The Enneagram is unique in that it is not only over 100 years in the making, but that it is used to find your motivations, your drives, your failings, and so much more. It is recommended that you don’t have someone who is an expert examine you and decide what you are, but rather that self-discovery leads you to the place where you find who you are in an honest way.

However, honesty is not always easy… especially with ourselves. Take it from me: I was certain I was a 3: The Effective Person. The person who is an achiever and seeks nothing but achievement in all things to feel effective in the world. Every person I spoke to agreed with me.

When I started working at my current job, they sent me the test from WEPSS.com. They paid the $10 fee for me, and I took the 200 impression-question quiz. It took about 20-30 minutes. What came out on the other side has made me re-evaluate so much about the way I present myself to the world. Let me show you my results:

Out came the realization that I was, in fact, a 2: The Loving Person, with a WING of 3. The nickname of a 2-3 is “The Host.” This person shows the characteristics of a 3 (drive to succeed), but does them with a 2’s motivation: receiving love.

The 8 line indicates that under stressful conditions, I resort to an 8 manifestation: I become a little more assertive and willing to set limits. The 4 line shows that when I am relaxed, I become more like a 4: I can become more aware of my unique qualities as well as my needs and wants.

Used with permission from WEPSS.com.

This didn’t quite convince me I wasn’t a 3. Until I read this:

“During your early development, you were very aware of your interdependence with others. This awareness became distorted when important people in your life gave you approval for giving to them, helping them, and not asking much from them in return. When you directly expressed your own needs, you were probably met with indifference, disapproval, or abandonment. Thus you came to believe that your own needs would not be met until you first met the needs of others. When you were a child, you may have even acted like a parent to your own parents in order to get their affection.”

This paragraph made me cry as it hit me, and I re-read the email results over and over again.

I’m a two: a person who does all they do to receive love. They feel motivated by love and acceptance and making a difference. They become more stressed when they feel unloved or neglected, or when they fail to accomplish their goals.

Being Easy

Early on, I learned that being easy was the best way to receive love and acceptance. The easier I was to be around – the more quiet I was about my own needs – the better. I learned to just run with every task given to me and find little goals to make myself feel better it. This tactic works well. Bosses, other parents, teachers – they’ve all loved me and my “drive to succeed.” What they don’t know is that it’s actually a “drive to be appreciated.”

So what happens when I do this all of the time?

  • I don’t tell my husband when I’m really wanting something in an effort to be easy.
  • Finances become a source of stress because I don’t want to limit others’ spending, but limit myself to make up for it.
  • Bosses give me task after task and I’m unwilling to share that I’m unhappy doing something.
  • I stretch myself thin for friends and family when they’re visiting and become unhappy when it seems unappreciated (though I’d never show it).

The key is communication, obviously. But communication seems impossible when it feels like telling someone how you feel will inconvenience them, upset them, bother them, or do anything else, really, but make them love you. My brain connects that holding my needs in will make them love and accept me.

Not communicating, however, is likely going to do much worse to me. Again, the answer is obvious: when stating your needs you always sandwich requests: good-bad-good. You give appreciation, you say what you need/want/desire, you offer a way for that to happen, and boom – both parties can walk away still feeling good… but, Lord, do I overthink.

It’s time. It won’t happen all at once, but I have to learn that people won’t hate me for saying what I want or how I feel, and if they do… I need to be okay with that.

Comment your strategies or let me know if you’ve ever felt this way!

Stirring Up

What a week I’ve had… and it’s only Tuesday.

I have felt insanely anxious and on edge since the middle of last week, and I think it started with having to cancel on a friend and I’s walk on Thursday. I had completely forgotten that I was leaving work early for a DMV appointment and that I wouldn’t be able to walk with her at 5pm. Even now, I’m staring at the big red X on my planner across it and feeling that familiar pang of guilt.

I took on the troubles of a dear friend as if they were mine that same night. Then I forgot to call someone about an opportunity for writing. I skipped my workout on Friday, I forgot to listen to a podcast over the weekend, and I binged on cereal on Sunday.

My anxiety comes out as guilt (this is a new revelation for me). I blame myself for ev-er-y-thing. You can imagine how this last week has felt for me. Only now, my therapist has pointed it out. The glass has shattered, and now I see it.

Yesterday, I was overwhelming myself:

  • I pushed a walk with a friend to the weekend to give myself space and then she responded that she would be out of town for the weekend. Immediately, I felt guilty and rude for assuming she’d be free.
  • I left work at 5:02pm and felt guilty for leaving so quickly every day.
  • I realized that a friend and I haven’t talked for four months (since before quarantine) and felt guilty that I hadn’t reached out again (even though the last text was a question from me that she didn’t respond to).
  • I sent an email to the woman I was going to have that call with about writing and she never responded, so I felt guilty and stupid for forgetting to call last Friday.
  • I felt guilty that I asked my brother to do all the dishes when I knew about half of them were mine, but I had been feeling overwhelmed at the time.
  • I felt guilty and sick because of all the cereal I had eaten the day before.
  • I felt guilty that I was already imagining finishing the bag of pasta that I had made (which easily had three servings in it).
  • I berated myself for not apologizing to someone when I know I had nothing to apologize for.

On and on.

So I worked out yesterday, hard. Then I sat in the hot tub at the gym with my husband. I went home and ate the whole bag of pasta (because imagining myself doing it made me do it, I’m sure). I felt anxious and guilty so I took a hot bath, read a self-help book – and then tossed and turned in bed until almost 12:30am.

I finally sat up and told my husband that I was anxious. That all this stuff was getting stirred up and I didn’t know what to do. He asked what he could do and I realized that the dumbest thing was bothering me… my watch.

My Fitbit Versa 2 is a dream, I swear. I love it for my workouts, for my heartrate, for my steps… the problem was that it was at 20% battery. Meaning it had enough charge to last the next day, but it was close enough to dying that I kept thinking about it dying on me. The band was wrapped around my wrist and bothering me, but I knew I should wear it to track my sleep. I told my husband all of this, and he went and got the watch charger from the living room and put it by my bedside. I took the watch off and fell asleep in five minutes.

I found the best stock photo site, y’all. I have not been photogenic this week, so this is what you get. Lol

I can tell I have a long way to go. This stuff is so ingrained in me, and all this change is stirring it up, bringing all that gunk that’s been sitting at the bottom of my tank to the surface. Let’s hope I can siphon it out.

Do you guys experience this? That things get worse before they get better? Let me know in the comments here or on Instagram so I don’t feel so crazy!

The Tortoise Wins Again

Why must we learn the same lessons over and over again? Why do silly moral stories stay so important through generations? I’d say we just need reminding again and again.

When the heat of quarantine was going on, I remember seeing post after post about how we’d learn to slow down like we had been during quarantine and we’d learn to spend some time for ourselves, our hobbies, and our families. Yet, now, I feel I’ve filled my time and my capacity back to its limits – and I’m not the only one.

Life has done yet another number on my family. While we figure out our finances and make plans for the future, I’ve left my blog and my Instagram nearly to rot. See, I’m doing that thing I always do – trying to make Superman leaps and bounds instead of little pieces at a time. I’m trying to grow a community on Instagram in a few weeks, I’m trying to make myself write a personal blog once or twice a week!

It’s a constant flaw of mine to try and go the entire distance as quickly as possible. See, I tell my bosses this – but I expect such perfection out of myself that it comes off like I can’t take correction from my bosses. Truly, it’s that I can’t take the correction because I expect my first try to be the only try. This is an anxious flaw of mine (probably tied to the way I manifest my 2-ness and how I think I need to earn love and respect).

So a blog and an Instagram? I wanted everything to be perfect right from the start.

So here’s to breathing and scaling back. Learning that not everything has to be perfect right away. That only half a pound of difference is okay. That meditating only once a week is okay. That posting only once every 2 or 3 days is okay. That making a blog only once every week or two is okay.

Yes, I know scaling back means that progress and growth will happen at a slower rate, but to be honest, I know myself by now. If I don’t take it slow, then it won’t happen at all. So if I have to choose between inching-by progress and not changing at all, I choose the tortoise.

So deep breath, my friends. Keep your head up. Remember to forgive yourself for mistakes. Remember that small changes are better than none. Remember that life isn’t always going to go the way you imagined it. Remember that everything really will turn out okay.

Onto the second half of 2020, what do y’all think?

Shoot me an email if this speaks to you, or comment and let me know what techniques you use on your perfection to allow yourself space. How do you keep margin in your life?

You Are Your Own Charge

Sometimes I feel like I’m babysitting myself.

“Jessica, remember to wash your face again before bed.” “Jessica, you have to go workout, it’s good for you, you feel better when you do it.” “Jessica, there isn’t time to play a game of Apex, you need to prep some food so you don’t run out of time tomorrow.” “Jessica, you’ve been doing so good today, don’t mess it up.” “Jessica, you can have that avocado toast but that is it until tomorrow.”

It’s exhausting! I feel like I hardly have any time to just relax and enjoy myself. I keep telling these coaches who reach out on Instagram that all I want is for healthy Jessica to be normal Jessica, and that process of change is so stinking hard. I feel like I’m constantly trying to put myself back on the right path.

Lenexa City Center – pretending that being out of focus is trendy.

One of my favorite lines in Bojack Horseman (y’all that show is a miracle, you gotta watch it) is when this runner passes by the titular character and stops to help him up. He says,

“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part… but it does get easier.”

Bojack Horseman

I feel like I might need this engraved on my skin… or you know, a watch or something.

Being Intentional

Something I’m finding is that when my margin gets smaller, I have to be more and more intentional about what I do with the rest of my time. If I don’t use it on purpose, then it will get used, but heck-if-I-know what I did. I’ve started to plan my days and my weekends with purpose so I don’t lose the time or spend it wishing to dive head first into a half-gallon of Blue Bell.

Being intentional keeps me from going buck-wild when I have a good reason. If friends are coming over, I put out both chips for them and carrot sticks for me. You’ve gotta plan ahead or there would be no carrot sticks and someone would have to rip that bag of chips out of my hands.

Ready-Made Fun

When you’re babysitting, it can sometimes be helpful to have a go-bag. If you bring coloring books and paint and hula hoops, with a game or two up your sleeve, you can usually avoid cries of boredom (which leads to whining or fighting, usually). When I get bored, I eat. Hence, I should treat myself like a small child and have ready-to-go fun.

Here are some of the things I try to make sure are always have in my go-bag for when I’m bored:

  • A spare canvas or two and paints.
  • Crocheting
  • Bubble Bath and/or Bath Bombs
  • Nail kits
  • A game on my phone I like at least a little
  • A book I have been meaning to read
  • My walking shoes
  • A swimsuit
  • A DIY project I’ve been meaning to get to.
  • Coloring Books & Nice Markers
  • A polaroid camera

Understand that you are in charge. While a disorder or mental health can get in the way, you can always control how you react. React well. Babysit yourself. Be prepared and know your triggers. It’s so important.

Much love as always, and thanks for reading!

When It’s All Too Much?

Written June 2020

I like to think I’m a lot stronger or better or braver than I am. I heard once that we always expect our “tomorrow” selves to do much better than we do today. We expect higher motivation and generally assume that after a night’s rest, we’ll be doing great. Kind of reminds me how it seems like every 20 year old my age is constantly saying “Well, after this one crazy week, everything should slow down.” It doesn’t. It never does.

I expect myself to be more in the mood to workout tomorrow. I assume that after the bowls of cereal I had tonight, that tomorrow I’ll be ready to eat nothing but Kale and pineapples. When someone asks me to do something in a week, I always assume I’ll be ready to hang out with people by then.

I also like to think that I am more in the know than I believe, or that I am tougher than I look. I like to say to myself, “Well, when it comes down to something real, I’ll have the balls to deal with it.” To be honest, after the week I had last week, I’m starting to think I relate more to quitters.

Last week was tumultuous for all of us. We all are slowly coming out of our homes again like Punxsutawney Phil, testing our shadow for COVID’s end. Then we saw some terrible things in the news. We saw some of our population rise up in outrage, and we saw movements begin. We saw all-black instagram posts, and then all of a sudden, we saw Facebook posts. THOSE Facebook posts.

Remember how I thought I was stronger?

On Wednesday, I began experiencing anxiety attack symptoms. I was starting to lose focus, lose sleep, and I had spinning thoughts I couldn’t control. By Friday, I had a tension headache the stretched down my shoulders, tremors I couldn’t control, was dizzy, couldn’t eat, and was sweating profusely. I left work early saying “sick,” because I didn’t know how else to explain what was happening.

This weekend, I deleted Facebook from my phone. I deleted Twitter from my phone. I took a break from it all because I felt like I was losing control.

I hope this is communicated clearly: I believe strongly in the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe that my reprieve from posting on Instagram was important because people need to hear the voices that have been ignored. No one needed to see a post about my Pumpkin Lasagna Rolls this week, they needed to hear and be uncomfortable and it needs to continue happening.

Please understand that as I continue my blog, my self care, and the accountability of making posts on Instagram, I am not ignoring the situation. I am still here for all who need to be heard/seen/understood. I am still signing petitions, donating, and keeping up in the news.

Distractions Needed?

I think we all could use some anxiety-deflecting techniques. As I prepare to go into the fray of another week, I have compiled a list of some calming techniques. Here’s some of the one’s I’ve been doing just this weekend to calm down:

  • Long walks
  • Going to the pool/gym
  • Painting
  • Writing
  • Cleaning
  • Video Games
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Inviting friends over
  • Dungeons & Dragons (make fun, I have no pride)
  • Cleaning
  • Taking a bath
  • Coloring
  • Petting/Playing with my cat
  • Painting my nails
  • Getting a smoothie
  • Going on a drive
  • Cleaning (seriously cleaning makes me feel more in control than anything)

Here are a couple of other quick resources with techniques for calming.

18 Ways to Distract from Anxiety

Distraction Techniques for Panic Disorder

12 Ways to Calm Anxiety

15 Ways to Calm Yourself Down

Tips to Manage Anxiety & Stress

The world doesn’t seem to be “getting back to normal” any time soon, but it could be for the best. Let’s continue to fight the good fight, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well as your neighbor. Remember, put on your own mask before helping others put on theirs.

Love you all, wish you the very best.

Don’t forget to see the Black Lives Matter movement website, here.

Painting for the Non-Artist

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.

Setup/Supplies

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.

My Process

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.

Creativity and Anxiety

High School Journals, starting June 22, 2009.

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.

More than once I would cover pages in scribbles, incoherent rambling, or screams.

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.

A writing/drawing space in my house, with a sneak-peek kitty in the hallway.

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.

Most here are from January 2015.

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.

For some new recipes, check out this new page!

Not Every Day is the Same

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.

Delicious Pasta Recipe I got from @conditionedbykaty on Instagram.

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.

Grounding

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.

Concessions

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.

Personal Progress

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.

Personal Progress

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?

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