Be Empowered; Be YOU; Be Enough

If you’re new here, or if you haven’t been following along over on the ‘gram, then you probably don’t know that in the latter half of last year, I fell head-over-heels in love with barre. More specifically, with barre3, a full-body workout that focuses on doing what you need to do for you.

Now, before you write this post off as a rambling love letter to a workout class, let me say one thing: it is, but it also isn’t.

What this post is intended to be is encouragement, more than anything. So I implore you, stick with me.

January, I often feel, can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of messaging out there during this time of year that essentially is telling you that you aren’t good enough as you are, that you should grab hold of this new year with a vengeance and make changes so that you become “better.” And, in one way, I understand it. I mean, I work in PR and messaging is my life, so of course I get it. But, in another way, I absolutely detest what this messaging is essentially saying.

This year is the first year that I’ve gone into without feeling even the slightest bit inclined to give in to that “you’re not good enough” messaging. I owe so much of that to barre3, and the confidence, strength, and empowerment that I have found since becoming a part of this community. Barre3 focuses on that idea that you ARE enough, exactly as you are. It emphasizes that you are in this workout class for you, not for anyone else.

And I absolutely love that mindset.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for taking steps towards a healthier you. But I’ve learned that the key is doing so in a healthy way, a balanced way, a way that is not reliant on anyone else’s approval. You already are enough – for yourself, for God, and for those who love you most deeply. Once you accept that as your primary mindset, the rest seems so much easier.

You want to eat better because you feel better… you alsowant to have a piece of that brownie because sometimes, the soul just needs some chocolate. You want to move because your muscles thank you when you do; you want to be a lazy bum and finish a book in a single sitting because our minds love that kind of adventure.

More importantly than fitting in that 30 minutes of cardio or eating only salad for a week – take the time for you. Whatever that may be.

Thanks in large part to barre3, I’ve started to look at workouts, and a lot of other things, as my time to fill up my own cup, and I’ve started to see a difference in how I approach the rest of my life as a result of it. For that, I am forever grateful.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to do this by going to a barre3 class… though there is a January challenge I’d be happy to help you sign up for ;). I’m not saying you need to do this by finding ANY specific workout class, actually. I’m not even saying you need a change in mindset.

I’m simply encouraging you to take a look at the goals you have set for yourself this year… the resolutions, for those of you who do that (I don’t). What motivated you to decide upon any one of those in particular? Was it because someone told you that you weren’t enough without striving for that particular achievement; was it because someone else said you need to do that to be better?

My wish for you, through any future goal-setting or effort to change, is to know that you are enough exactly as you are, and that the changes you make on behalf of your own self will be so much more significant, so much more meaningful, than anything you do because someone wrongfully told you that you aren’t good enough.

Trust me, you absolutely are.

Real Talk: Self Care September

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Guys, I had a plan for September. I had it all laid out — every blog post, every media event, every photoshoot I wanted to squeeze in. I was ready to dive into this blog again headfirst, after the August craziness that always comes with my birthday.

That said, it’s now the twenty-first of September (I’m noting that, just in case I don’t end up getting this post up until much, much, later), and I’m just now sitting down to blog. Not only that, but this particular post was definitely not on my editorial calendar.

And yet, I think it’s a pretty important one.

Needless to say, as you can see by that sorrowful schpiel above, this month has gotten away from me. My friend Nicole actually called me last night and we both spend a few seconds in awe of the fact that not only is it the ninth month of the calendar year… we’re more than halfway through it. Aside from the general panic that causes me about the upcoming end-of-the-year events (holidays, travel, potentially moving), it’s also just amazing to me that this month has flown by so quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a fantastic month. I got up to the cabin, I puppy-sat for my brother and sister-in-law as they took their babymoon, my best friend came to town, the boy passed the first phase of his CPA exam (praise!), I got to work yet another rewarding work event, my mom and I took the best Rory/Lorelai trip to Tahoe (more on that later, I promise), and my little niece was born.

Seriously, it’s been a great month.

But even in the midst of spectacular seasons like this one, I often find myself caught up in it all and, as the hype begins to wind down and things settle back into a more normal routine, I tend to find myself feeling a little, well, blue.

It’s not that I’m not appreciative. I’m so, incredibly grateful for the opportunities to live a life so full, and I thank God every day for it. It’s just that, as I transition back to “real life,” so to speak, it can feel a little… anticlimactic.

It’s in seasons such as this that I rely heavily on self-care. I know myself well enough by now — I hope — to know when I’ve run myself a little too thin, and usually, this heaviness is a key symptom of that.

So, I know it’s time to take a step back and take some time to reflect, reevaluate, and, more importantly, relax. In the spirit of doing so, I wanted to share my key elements of self-care this September:

A regular routine. Oddly enough, I thrive on routine. I like to know what’s coming next — it keeps me calm, and lets me feel on top of things. That means planning out my weeks to the best of my ability, including time allotted for workouts, errands, blogging, and reading (yes, I plan out my reading time and yes, I know that’s weird).

Hit the gym. This is a big one for me, and I know it is for a lot of people. I feel all out of sorts if I’m not exercising regularly. My anxiety and stress levels skyrocket, I’m irritated, and I generally just don’t feel my best. Which is why, these past few mornings, I’ve taken advantage of working from home and dragged myself out of bed an hour early to go running — it helps, of course, that Arizona has suddenly decided that autumn can, temporarily, be a thing.

Sit still. I’m terrible at this. Ask anyone. Unless it’s on a beach with a book, sitting still isn’t my strongest point, but I know it’s important. Even if it’s sitting still as I read, binge watch something on Netflix, or sleep, it’s the stillness that’s important.

Go to church. It’s so easy for me to fall out of the habit of going to church when life gets busy. I adjust my priorities, and my spiritual health takes the hit as a result. But I know it’s important to get that structured time with the Lord, to gather an outside perspective on what’s happening, and to spend time in my church community. When I’m not doing that, I don’t feel quite right, which is why it’s always at the top of my self-care to do list.

Cry it out. Okay, yeah, so I’m one of those people who sometimes just has to release it all, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Crying is just as much of a release as anything, and while it can sometimes be embarrassing to walk back into the office with my eyes rimmed and my makeup gone, it also, 9 times out of 10, feels so much better once I’m stopped holding it in. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not professional to cry sometimes. Who cares? It’s still human. 

That said, I’m taking this weekend to do all of these things — readjust my routine, get some good workouts in, sit still for a while, go to church and, who knows, maybe even cry a little, even if it’s just at a sad part in my book (and I’m reading Les Mis… everything is sad in that). We’ll see how it goes.

What are your self care rituals? Whatever they are, I hope you take some time to indulge in them.

Remember, even when it’s so easy to run around taking care of everyone else, it’s just as important to take care of you.

Building Balance

I’ve been staring at the blank page of this blog post for a while, wondering where to begin. (Update: I wrote this post and then let it sit in my drafts for a while, that’s how unsure I was of posting it.)

When I dove back into the blogging Instagram world, I was quickly reminded of the effect that it can have on one’s psyche. There’s so many pretty pictures out there of pretty people doing pretty things, and it can, sometimes, be a bit overwhelming.

It has gotten me thinking a lot about balance. And, in honor of National Mental Health Awareness month, I thought it best to share a bit of my own story. Forgive me if this is rambling, or redundant, but this is also a little leap of faith as I open up about something I don’t often do: namely, my relationship (or, my previous one) with food.

Trigger warning: this post deals with eating habits, restrictions, and dieting.

Now, there’s obviously a lot of different types of balancing acts. It seems like these days, we have to juggle so much, whether it’s our health, our jobs, our social media usage. Where is it that you find the sweet spot of feeling like you’re doing enough, but not too much? How do you know when to take a break, without doing too little?

It’s taken me a while to figure it out, and I won’t even pretend like I’m an expert at it. I think that balance comes as you grow and get to know yourself better, and I also think that balance can mean different things at different stages in our lives.

For example, once upon a time (aka, my freshman year of college) I decided to go “healthy.” I was determined to avoid the Freshman 15, so I rerouted that determination towards only eating healthy foods, work out regularly, etc. The only problem is, I went way the other direction. I skipped eating mindfully and started to pay too much attention to what I was eating, and working out regularly became like a drug: if I didn’t get my run in that day, I felt miserable, and not due to lack of exercise. If I didn’t get to work out and I ate something “bad for me,” I felt worse than miserable. Granted, I did indeed save myself from gaining the Freshman 15… I lost it, instead. And then some.

Needless to say, I wasn’t so healthy, even though, in my mind, that’s all that I was. Ironically, it was my mind that wasn’t.

I remember coming home from school that summer and my mother reminding me, gently, to be careful. I knew what she meant, and though I was stubborn at first, I eventually eased up a bit. I started being okay with the extra slice of cheese on my sandwich, with not knowing what I was going to eat for dinner until I ate it, with skipping a day or two at the gym. Eventually, I found my true balance again, and by the time I went back to school, I regained my balance with food again.

Besides, that sophomore semester, I had a goal, one I needed to be happy and healthy for: I was going to England.

I left for England the January of my sophomore year of college, and I spent the next seven months having the literal time of my life. (I’ve written, talked, and reminisced on that time more often than not, so there’s no need to rehash the wonderfulness of it now, just know that it was incredible.) It was the first time in a long time that I literally did not think about food or worry about how I looked. I just wanted to experience everything, and experience I certainly did.

I came back from being abroad heartbroken to be home, and upset with the number on the scale. But I was so afraid to fall back into my freshman year habits, so I took it one step at a time. I started junior year with a resolve to be better about exercise, but maintain my England-driven attitude towards food. And it worked, at first, but as all exercise-only diets do, I plateaued after a while. Then I dropped the exercise and started to only eat “healthy foods.” That, again, worked for a bit but stalled after some time. I couldn’t seem to get back into healthy habits I had once had.

The rest of college was a struggle to get that balance back. I’m not saying it was an unhappy struggle, though there were times where I would get discouraged or upset. But who doesn’t? I tried to make the most of my junior and senior year, because if England taught me anything, it was that the time spent in that atmosphere was short, and I didn’t want to take it for granted.

The idea of true “balance” came when I was out of college, as I think it does for many of us. Suddenly, I no longer had the excuse of too many classes or a looming thesis deadline. At the same time, I was living completely on my own, for the first time ever, and learning so much about myself in the process.

And of course, lot of my story is, of course, so strongly about faith. Don’t think for a second that I think I could have gotten to where I am today had I not unrelentingly turned to God for guidance. I have Him to thank for the courage to get through it, the support He put in my life, and the strength to find that balance. In fact, I can honestly say that I didn’t feel the full power of regaining my own balance until I fully pulled Him into the equation, and for that, I am incredibly grateful. He showed the true force of His stable, loving hand as he guided me through this journey.

This journey that, in time, helped me figure out what balance means to me.

Balance, to me, is working out 4 days a week and being an utter slug the other 3. Balance, to me, is eating eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch, and pizza for dinner. Balance, to me, is a hard workout followed by a bagel breakfast. It’s running 3 miles one day and just weight lifting the next. It’s having a wine night only to wake up and hike the next day. It’s putting a stone in the “healthy” side and a stone in the “happy” side at the same time. It’s making sure the scale stays even.

That said, I’m not saying that this is what balance looks like for everyone. For some, maybe it’s a daily workout and a strict vegan diet, because that’s what makes them feel their best. Because, really, that’s what it’s all about. Once you figure out what makes you feel happiest, and feel healthiest, then you’ll be able to get into that cadence more easily. If I’ve learned anything as I built my own structure for balance, it’s that there’s no one way to do it.

Balance looks different for everyone, and everyone has their own story for getting there.

PS: If you’re struggling, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The National Eating Disorder Awareness Helpline is a wonderful, life saving resource.

Getting Over The Overwhelming

Have you ever had one of those weeks? Or maybe months? Years? One of those stretches of times that feels like a little bit too much? 

In the spirit of honesty and transparency (two things I am a big advocate for, especially in the social media world), I spent the last week or so in the middle of one of those trials. I’m slowly climbing out of it, seeing the so-called light at the end of the tunnel, but that never makes it more fun.

So, it’s time for some #realtalk:

I get overwhelmed often. I cry easily, especially at the unexpected — anyone who has spent significant time with me can attest to this. I don’t handle teasing well. I get stressed too quickly, before I really have time to analyze if it’s worth getting stressed over at all.

Reading that description now, I’m actually a bit of a mess, aren’t I?

When I go through a particularly trying time, all of these less-than-ideal qualities about myself seem to heighten. I know I’m not alone in this, but when you’re feeling particularly crabby or mean, it’s really easy to think you’re just the meanest person in the entire world, and that adds an entirely new level of feeling rubbish.

(That said, I’d like to take a time-out to thank the people who deal with me in these situations. My boyfriend is a saint, my boss is an incredible mentor, and my best friends are wonderful cheerleaders. So, thank you. Intermission over.)

As I continue to grow in myself, and as I further learn who I really am, I’ve also come to learn techniques that work for me to deal with particularly overwhelming obstacles. Now, everyone’s different. What works for me might not work for you, but I wanted to take some time to share what I do to calm myself down and regain balance, focus, and control:

  1. Get some fresh air. This one actually comes courtesy of my boss, who has, in more than one stressed-out scenario, instructed me to go for a quick jaunt around the building. I’m trying to do this in more than just work circumstances, too. For example, yesterday I was growing increasingly frustrated at random things, so I put on my tennis shoes and hit the pavement. I pounded out a fast, lung-burning mile, and when I came back, I felt so much better. It’s amazing what even ten minutes of fresh air and an elevated heart rate can do.
  2. Eat something healthy. There’s this cultural impulse to reach for “comfort food” when the going gets tough. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the healing power of chocolate and am incredibly grateful when the boy offers to order pizza after a particularly long day so I don’t have to cook. But sometimes those things just make me feel worse — now, on top of stressed, I’m bloated and greasy. Sometimes, depending on what my body wants, reaching for a gigantic, leafy, colorful salad makes me feel more in control, more energized, and generally better.
  3. Cry it out. Sometimes you’ve just gotta let it out. There’s such a strong emotional release that comes with crying, and I certainly need to just let that happen sometimes. Sure, the cat looks at me like I’m crazy as I empty the dishwasher with tears streaming down my face, but as soon as the tears have stopped, I feel instantly better. (Well, almost instantly. I sometimes have to take a nap first. Does crying make anyone else feel utterly exhausted?!)
  4. Vent. Whether it’s to a person, to a pet, to a diary, or to the random readers on the Internet. Letting out what’s getting you down can be incredibly cathartic, even if no resolution to your problem comes of it. In fact, 9 times out of 10, venting does nothing to solve anything, but it does make you feel better. This is one tip I’m trying really hard to get better at letting myself do. I tend to write off my own problems as silly or not that important. I tend to see that others have it much worse than me, so why should I complain? But, as the people who love me often remind me, it’s not necessarily complaining if it’s your truth, and your support circle is there to listen. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting it off your chest.
  5. Trust. (Now, this can go many ways, depending on your beliefs or your faith or what have you, but remember, I’m talking about what works for me here.) I turn to God, and I pray for the strength to trust His plan. He knows where whatever trial I’m going through is leading me, and I just have to trust that He will see me through it. It’s certainly not the easiest process, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sometimes make it even more frustrating, as patience is not my strong point. But I do find that when I lay into that trust and allow Him to guide me, blindly, to what He has in store. Usually, when He gets me there, it’s so much sweeter than I ever could have imagined.

Like I said, I’m not trying to proclaim these as the end-all-be-all solutions for managing stress. But this is what works for me. As I’ve grown in myself, I’ve grown in these habits, too, and I am proud to say that (I think, at least) I handle stress significantly better now than I did, say, five years ago.

I implore you to find what works for you. And if you’ve already got a method for handling life’s madness, drop a note below! I’d love to hear what works for you.

Take Care

I think we can all agree: this week has been a long one.

When the week begins with tragic, heartbreaking news, and you go reeling into Monday with the weight of the world on your shoulders, it is impossible to feel on track. Maybe that’s just me, but most people I’ve spoken with this week have had the same undeniable burden of grief and sadness bearing down on them.

As Monday went on, blurred by breaking news and consumed with a devastating sense of loss, the shock wore off and the anger set in: anger at the state of our broken world, anger at the undeniable truth that something in our system is wrong, anger at the general divisiveness we see even on a day of overwhelming grief.

Tuesday came and suddenly reality hit again. Our world has to keep turning even in the wake of tragedy, and for many, that means pulling our bootstraps up and plodding along through work and the things that may have been on pause as we reacted. For others, that means diving even deeper into tragedy as they continue to cover, investigate, and rebuild. (I’d like to take a moment here to thank them for their resilience and bravery.)

This week has gotten me thinking about self care; in particular, how we often neglect it when we’re dealing with heavy things. Whether it’s on a national level or a more personal one, it’s easy to keep yourself busy and distracted rather than pause to process and protect yourself from further damage by taking the time to mend, rest, and heal.

But it is ever so important — perhaps more so, in times of great loss, than ever.

We each have our own idea of what self care looks like. For me, it often involves a large glass of wine and a good book, or a British baking show, and probably some chocolate. It involves long hugs from my boyfriend and time spent with loved ones, just to remind myself that there is good in this world and they are my favorite example of it, and cuddles with the cat, who (feisty as she may be) is a regular reminder of the innocence all around us. It involves reflection and prayer. It occasionally involves a long, hard run to sweat out all the toxins and frustrations I’ve got pulsing through me that day.

So as this long, heavy week comes to a close, I implore you: take a time out. Take a moment and take a breath.

Take care of yourself.

You’re important.

Be Something

Today is hard.

I went to bed with visions of a building burning. I woke up to news of a shooting. I checked Twitter halfway through my morning to news of another shooting. The weight I’ve already felt on my shoulders – a combination of exhaustion, pre-vacation-week stress, and PMS – got heavier.

Today is surreal.

I’ve felt disconnected all week, but today, that feeling is at its height. I wouldn’t say I’m struggling… far from it. I’m just existing – which, normally, would hardly be cause for analyzing, but after such a steady stream of excitement and elation, it’s hard to simply be.

But that’s exactly it, isn’t it? There is this warped perception that we need to be something all the time: be joyous at your blessings, be angered by our broken world, be excited for future plans, be focused at work, be something.

What happens when you feel like you’ve been everything lately, and you need a break? What are you supposed to be when you’re overwhelmed by the everyday activities of life and you need to take a breather and simply exist?

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, because it’s something I’ve always wrangled with. I tend to be on one end or the other of the emotional spectrum, and it’s difficult for me to find a middle ground and simply trod along through life for a while. Lately, I’ve been on the high end of that emotional spectrum; I’ve spent particular time focusing on being happy for the blessings in my life – my job, my friends, my family, my relationship, my cat. This has, admittedly, brought me an overwhelming sense of contentment and it’s definitely a way I want to continue living my life.

But sometimes, other factors make it difficult to solely focus on the good. Sometimes, there are things that demand our attention that aren’t necessarily happy things: funerals, work deadlines, finances, world events. And while I’m trying to avoid going entirely to the “dark side” (for lack of a better phrase), these things do weigh on me, and after a steady stream of sunshine and rainbows, even being temporarily downcast is a little bit harder to handle than I would have expected.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that I should simply be present.

I certainly have things to look forward to. To name a few: the boy and I are heading on vacation next week and I’ll get to see parts of the country I’ve never explored before, and I go see my best friend the week after that. But I learned earlier this month that it’s not necessarily good to jump over the tougher stuff just because life’s promising you happy moments. Sometimes, you need to process that hard thing before moving on, or else you’ll never be able to truly enjoy the goodness awaiting.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. I’m processing. I’m focusing on what’s happening, on how I feel about it, and what I can do about it.

The London fire (and everything that’s happened in the UK lately) makes my heart feel helpless. The shooting in Virginia churns my stomach at the thought of our political divisiveness and hostility. The shooting in San Francisco just feels too close to home.

Work is stressful because I have a lot to do before vacation. I’m tired from lack of sleep and I’m still dealing with the sadness of the past weekend.

I shouldn’t look at admitting these things like complaints. I should look at them like part of the process. That’s how I feel. Now that I’ve acknowledged it, I’ll process it, and then I’ll move on, with a smile on my face, and probably a coffee in hand, and enjoy the weeks ahead.

I have faith in the blessings in my life, and in what’s to come, and I can lean on that to make all these hard things easier. But that doesn’t mean that’s all I have to do.

Sometimes, it’s okay to just be present.

It’s okay to just be.