Fighting Gloom with Gratitude

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it feels like the universe is everything but on your side? A beautiful vacation in Michigan with my family was followed by a series of unfortunate events. I was about 20 minutes into my trip back to Philadelphia when a small deer attempted a dance with my car, resulting in the car doctor’s diagnosis of “most likely totaled.”

After scrambling to find a way back to Philadelphia, my brother graciously lent me his car. I drove home, left for a 6 mile run with a friend, and that was it. I ran home through a rain storm with the challenging moments of the week behind me, or so I thought.

I arrived back to work the next day, fresh faced and ready to roll, to be greeted by 31 voicemails and 53 emails. As I dug through, I learned of a series of client crises that had occurred while I was gone (one client suicidal, another in crisis, another arrested). I dealt with them with stride, taking things one step at a time. When the day was done I felt stressed and slightly overwhelmed but satisfied with the job that I had done.

As I parked my brother’s car that night, I let out a sigh of relief. Even through the heavy rainstorm I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, which for me, included a quick dinner and some HEAVY relaxation time. The next morning I was ready to do it all over again: work, relax, repeat. I soon found myself standing in soon parking spot… where my brother’s car used to be. I looked around, noticing all of the street cleaning signs that read “VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED.”

I felt my anxiety rising, hands shaking, talking to myself as I looked up the phone number for the City of Philadelphia while simultaneously texting my brother to get his license plate number, etc. I began walking back to my apartment when I saw it: the silver Dodge Dart that so beautifully stared at me from across the street where the tow company had relocated it. I repeated another, though stronger, sigh of relief as I clicked the unlock button to ensure that this was, in fact, my brother’s car.

On the way to work, I found my mind racing with the “What will be next?” thoughts. “Bad things always happen in threes,” I irrationally told myself. “I wonder what horrible thing will happen next.” I was able to catch myself by acknowledging that, although these events were unfortunate, they could have been so much worse. The more rational side of my decided that this is the perfect day for a gratitude list. So here is what I am grateful for:

  • I was not injured at all in the accident with the deer
  • I was close enough from my mom’s house that my dad and brother were able to come get me after the accident
  • My car is still able to be driven (regardless of the lack of reliability for the three hour trip back to the city)
  • My brother’s car was simply moved down the street and not to an impound lot, where I would have had to pay multiple hundreds of dollars to get it released
  • My brother-in-law offered to go car shopping with me if the insurance company agrees that my car is totaled
  • My supervisor is incredibly laid back and empathetic to my situation in needing an extra day of vacation to tend my car
  • I have delightful coworkers who helped to address the crisis situations at work while I was on vacation and supported me as I worked to follow up after my return
  • I have incredibly supportive people in my life in general, friends, family, etc. I could not have gotten through these events without being able to lean on them for guidance

Last but not least, I am grateful for this platform through which I can openly evaluate my negative thinking and reframe into more positive thoughts. I want to thank those who have engaged through follows or comments. I love the feedback. While on vacation, I did a lot of planning for this site that I hope to work on while life calms down. This blog helps hold me accountable, because if I am not being a Wellness Warrior myself, then how am I able to encourage others to be?  

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Creating My Happy Place

This week, I had one goal: plan and create a mini oasis in my tiny, tiny backyard (or backcloset, as I say). This would be a place to read, meditate, drink wine, and relax. The ultimate self care corner!

This is what my little backyard space looked like before the project:

I started the week religiously geeking out over IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart trying to map out the perfect outdoor space. Trying to find a way to utilize the small space was tough, but well worth the time spent brainstorming.

When the weekend rolled around, I started my Friday night with Goodwill in the suburbs. If I was going to take on designing a small, relaxing space, I was going to do so on a budget. If you’re near Philly, you know that the suburb thrift stores are where the goods are, and it truly did not let me down. I left feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, uplifted by that thrift store adrenaline rush. Here’s what I found (photobombed by a curious, handsome fluff):

Saturday morning, I got started bright and early at my happy place: IKEA. I spent two hours stuck in the euphoria that is Home Goods Heaven, and another two hours back and forth between Home Depot and Walmart.

I slowly hit a point where I was both satisfied with my purchases and anxious to get back home and out of the Saturday store scuffle that many people experience in the city (too many people for a considerable amount of time truly tests my patience!!).

When I got home I went to work building, organizing, making sure things were going perfect. That is, until a freak thunderstorm decided to rain all over my parade and all over my oasis.

When the rain cleared, I resumed my work. I set up my little hammock chair, placed my plants how I wanted them, and hung up lights. Here was the end result;

I am so happy with how it turned out! I got to sit outside last night and drink wine and relax. This is the PERFECT little Self Care Space, where I can drink tea, meditate, listen to the birds. Although my mom thinks my backcloset looks like a burial plot, and my brother-in-law joked about this being smaller than a prison cell, I am so happy with how it turned out! These are some snapshots from last night’s relaxation time during my first night of having my little oasis:

This post serves as my encouragement to design yourself a comfortable space where you can relax and recharge. And if you already have, please share! I’m always looking for interior and exterior design inspiration. Happy Sunday, y’all!!

8 Ways to Find Balance

A person’s ability to achieve a health balance between professional and personal life directly contributes to overall happiness and job performance. According to Small Business Trends, 66% of full time employees believe they lack a healthy work-life balance. For employers, this relates to poor productivity, low morale, and high turnover. For individuals, this means missing out on spending time with people and at events we enjoy. Even scarier, long term effects of an unhealthy work-life balance may include higher risk of depression and anxiety and higher risk of heart disease or stroke. Family Living Today and Now Sourcing investigated statistics across the globe, ranking the United States 30th out of 38 countries in work-life balance.

Recent statistics show that 11.4% of Americans work over 50 hours per week. As someone who still sometimes gets stuck in the whirlwind of the working world, I’ve compiled a list of methods in which we can all adopt a lifestyle that promotes a healthy balance between our work and ourselves.

  1. Figure out what a work-life balance means to you. As individuals, we all need different things to regroup and recharge. Some may need more alone time, while some may benefit from more time with loved ones. Identifying what exactly we need to feel a greater sense of balance is the first step in achieving it.
  2. Set manageable goals. Having a realistic idea of how much work we are able to manage in a day is crucial in avoiding setting ourselves up for failure. Create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
  3. Prioritize. Create a daily to-do list and start with the tasks that need to be completed that day. At the end of the day, if there are things that need to wait until tomorrow, they will be things that can wait until tomorrow.
  4. Learn to say no and delegate. We all want to be good at our jobs, but part of being a productive employee is recognizing if something will be biting off more than we can chew. Instead of saying yes, try: “Although I would love to be a part of that project, but I feel it may be best to focus on my current projects at this time. Maybe we can assign this to project to someone who can put the time into it that it deserves.” Be honest. Chances are we would rather be great at one job than just okay at several jobs.
  5. Be more productive at the office. Turn the cell phone off. Minimize distractions. Do what is needed to do in order to allow yourself to get the job done, which may help you……
  6. Leave work at work! This is the best advice I’ve gotten from a supervisor: “After work, allow yourself the time to process and reflect on the day as you collect your things and walk to your car. As you shut your car door and drive away, leave the work day where it is: behind you.” In addition, by being more productive in the office, we can limit the amount of work we are doing from home. Small Business Trends reported that 40% of employees believe it is acceptable to answer an important work email at the dinner table. Part of having a healthy work-life balance is making a clear separation between work and life.
  7. Take more mental health days. I hate taking days off, and sometimes I feel like I need “TAKE MORE MENTAL HEALTH DAYS” written in big, flashing letters above my desk. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the fact that work goes on without me when I’m not there, and it’s hard to return and feel like I need to “catch up.” However, the more I allow myself a mental health day, the more I find myself in a better mindset to tackle the tasks ahead of me with ease.
  8. Have more fun. It’s hard to avoid spending time away from work simply gearing up to resume the grind. We can’t forget to have fun! Go outside, spend time with family, hit the gym. Social interactions and healthy self care skills have a direct positive impact on both mood and productivity.

Most importantly, we must be gentle on ourselves. If we find ourselves burnt out or overwhelmed, we can reflect and ask ourselves, “How have I been balancing lately?” It’s hard to navigate between wanting to be good at our jobs and wanting to be good to ourselves, but hopefully some of these changes in daily routine can help to alleviate some of the imbalance.

When The Going Gets Tough

This past week has been a rough one. For the past month or so, I’ve been so wrapped up lately revisiting an ongoing tumultuous relationship that has never been necessarily mentally healthy, and now that it has ended I really need to get myself back on track. At this moment, I feel an overwhelming need to pause, regroup, and focus on myself. I’ve created a list of things that have helped in the past so I can go back to incorporating them into my routine while I get reconnect with myself in a healthier way.

  1. Journal
  2. Self reflect on what I worked on in therapy
  3. Catch myself if I’m thinking too much
  4. Listen to (HAPPY) music
  5. Spend time with friends
  6. Keep my apartment clean, organized, and free of clutter
  7. Stay on top of my exercise routine
  8. Use my time productively
  9. Meditate more consistently
  10. Meal prep to keep the week less stressful
  11. Continue making time on Sundays to plan goals for the week
  12. Focus on facilitating positive interactions with others

Taking a Time Out

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I am currently on the road with Cape Cod, MA as the destination. My sister is driving with mom in the passenger seat, and I’m in the back tucked in tight between my brother and my nephew. We woke up bright and early and rolled into the car at around 6:30am. After realizing I hadn’t taken significant time from work in over a year, I set the goal to make this trip an opportunity to recharge and spend time with the people I love. I thought it might be useful to jot down a few “Self Care” goals that I’d like to strive for over this long weekend.

1. Unplug as much as possible. I’ve already spend most of the ride with my phone off, so I definitely want to make taking a break from screens a priority.

2. Reflect. I’ve been in the middle of some pretty important and scary decisions lately. I brought my journal and a handful of pens to organize my thoughts and feelings. Remembering to treat myself gently as I consider what I want and need out of like is pretty key for this goal.

3. Listen to as much music as possible. Music has always been an immediate mood boost for me, so of course this has to be toward the top of the list. I’ve been a little jittery lately thinking about the decisions mentioned in #2. My mood has not been low by any means, but part of self care is maintenance and prevention, which is where this goal comes in.

4. Relax. There is nothing like meditation to make my brain clear and calm and doing so on the beach just seems like it would be amazing. I also brought my yoga mat and sneakers, so I can run and do yoga as much as I want. I have face masks and books and everything that makes me feel relaxed to utilize.

Aside from having a blast with my family, these four goals are what I’d like to focus on this weekend. Some key themes are just being present in the moment while remembering to take time for myself. I will be sure to check back in soon with the progress made toward these goals! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Being Gentle With Myself

Since childhood, I have been a perfectionist. One of my most vivid memories is trying to build a house for my tiny Ernie doll that I had gotten with a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I spent hours with a hot glue gun, trying to piece together Popsicle sticks so Ernie could have a space to sleep. Every time I tried to stand it up, it fell to pieces again. With each fall, my body heated up and frustration tears rolled down my face, until I finally threw the failed project in the trash.

I still cry when I’m frustrated. This week, I’ve been attempting to navigate my activity schedule. Scheduling activities is a therapeutic technique that is used to treat depression. It gives the person something to look forward to, while encouraging that person to stay busy. I use it myself by sitting down every Sunday and writing a list of what physical activities I want to do that week, whether it’s running, strength training, yoga. I write a list of whatever I feel like my mind and body needs.

I’ve struggled this week to stick to that schedule. I was really excited to get more on track with a workout schedule now that my work schedule is a little more flexible, but things rarely go as planned. On days where I’d planned to work out, I got home from work too late, or had to stop at the store, or realized it didn’t fit as nicely into my schedule that day as well as I thought it would have. Several times this week, I’ve caught myself feeling disappointed and have had the thoughts, “I’m not trying hard enough.”

Through this, I’m learning patience. Things don’t have to be perfect. I have to show self love for fitting in runs and a workout throughout the week, despite my planning hiccups. Wellness is a process and a journey, and I must be patient with learning how exactly being active will fit my schedule through trial and error. I often tell clients, “We can plan all we want, but life happens sometimes,” and this week really opened my eyes to taking my own advice. I’ll be gentle with myself and give myself credit for my efforts instead of getting frustrated and throwing the project in the trash.

Stay Grounded

Racing thoughts, ruminating, and general overthinking can have a serious negative impact on one’s mind and body. Working with clients, specifically clients with anxiety, we typically start from scratch and learn or review basic skills that they can utilize to self soothe.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love deep breathing and other mindfulness techniques, but deep breathing is only going to go so far if on the verge of a full blown panic attack or having difficulty regaining control over negative thoughts.

My favorite grounding technique is one I call the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, also known as the Five Senses exercise. This is an exercise during which one will identify the following:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can physically feel (such as clothing on your body, etc.)
  • 3 things you can hear
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

I love this exercise, because it is easy to adjust to fit your needs. If a longer time for grounding is needed, one can increase the numbers or find as many things as possible. It can be quick and easy or it can be longer and more detailed. The purpose of this is to refocus on things outside of oneself, rather than what is going on in the mind. It’s meant to bring one to present awareness in times where one may be stuck inside the mind. And it can be done anywhere! In a park, at home, walking in the community, at work, in a car (as long as it’s safe!!).

This is one of the exercises that I teach clients most frequently and the one that I most frequently utilize myself. I always tell clients that I won’t tell them to utilize a skill or exercise that I haven’t tried myself. This is one that was so effective for me that I needed to share it with as many people as possible! I always love to hear experience utilizing this skill, so if someone out there tries it, let me know how it went for you! What works for some may not work for others, but this one hasn’t let me down yet.

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. As we gear up to the work grind, don’t forget to stay mindful. Happy Monday!