If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that in recent months I’ve been taking a closer look at my life and paying more attention to how I spend my time, money, and energy. Today, I’m examining my beauty routine and sharing some tips on how to simplify your beauty regime and make it more eco-friendly.
Reduce where you can.
I’ll be the first to admit that I could probably be DIY-ing a lot more when it comes to my beauty routine. I went through a phase a couple of years ago where I got really into DIY skin care and beauty. At the time, I made my own skin serum, toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, face wash and more. I’ve since gotten away from it quite a bit. Unfortunately, my homemade skin care products just didn’t work as well as I needed them to, since I do struggle with some acne. I still use my homemade deodorant and I’m due to make another batch of lip balm. Maybe this post will inspire me to get back into making my own products. It truly is the most sustainable practice because you get way more for your money and you can easily reuse the containers that you make your products in.
One way that I reduced my waste in terms of my daily rituals is with reusable cotton swabs. A couple of years ago, Ray and I were exploring Brooklyn when we stumbled upon Package Free Shop. I was stoked to check it out since I’d been following them on instagram for quite a while. Package Free Shop is an amazing company that is doing exactly what our planet needs from more businesses, by promoting sustainability, intentional purchases, and overall helping preserve our planet. Package Free Shop sells tons of products to help people reduce their plastic waste from reusable coffee cups to bamboo straws to biodegradable poop bags for your fur babies! They’re seriously so awesome.
Anyways, I bought some reuseable cotton swabs from there and have been using them for years now. I use them to apply toner to my face and to remove makeup. I keep a little container of clean swabs in the bathroom and I have a separate container where I place the used ones. When it’s time to wash them, I simply put all of the used ones into a mesh laundry bag and wash them with whatever other laundry I have for that day. This is a simple, small step but overtime it makes an impact. Back when I visited Package Free Shop, they didn’t yet have an online store. But now they do, so here’s a link for $10 off!
Make little changes that go a long way.
I recently made a couple of swaps in my life that overtime will improve my hair and skin quality, in turn causing me to require even less products. I switched our pillow cases to satin and have gotten in the habit of changing them at least once a week. Satin or silk pillow cases can help reduce wrinkles and can give hair a smoother and shinier texture. I also bought some extra face towels and filled a drawer in our bathroom. That way, I can use a clean towel every time I dry my face, helping keep my skin even cleaner and reducing breakouts.
Find your favorite brands and stick with them.
Lastly, for the products that you just can’t (or would rather not) DIY or eliminate, find your favorite, sustainable brands and just stick with them. I used to buy all types of products from Ulta. I would order certain products that came with free gifts and free samples, causing an accumulation of mini-sized bottles of tons of different products, none of which I actually needed. I’ve realized that you don’t need a million different products.
If you know what brands you like, you can figure out the specific few products to use by them and you don’t have to be constantly testing out new products. Although, the higher quality products are going to cost more per item, they tend to last longer and when you know exactly what you need you won’t be buying a bunch of different things to test them out. Lastly, being more particular about your products helps you have less clutter. My beauty cabinet in the bathroom is a large source of clutter that I look forward to cleaning out in the near future. Here are my favorite, essential brands (and some discount links!)
Essential Skincare: Youth to the People
I use YTTP for skin cleanser, moisturizer, and an overnight moisture mask. Their products work great for my skin and are made with sustainably sourced, natural ingredients. They also use glass bottles for all of their packaging and their products are cruelty-free and vegan. In my eyes, they are a great brand to support, so I gladly give them my money.
Applying a daily sunscreen to your skin is a really great way to keep your face looking vibrant and healthy (especially if you live in a sunny place, like I do.) COOLA uses 70% organic ingredients and completely plastic free packaging; they use mostly glass bottles and their plastic looking tubes are actually made with 100% recyclable sugar cane resin.
Hair Products: Rahua
Rahua is a sustainable and natural hair product brand. They use pure, natural ingredients and were founded by environmentalists. Rahua has preserved over 37,000 hectares of land in the amazon rainforest. Currently, I use their dry shampoo daily and I’ve also used their detangling spray and volumizing spray. I look forward to the day when their shampoo and conditioner fit into my budget because all of their products that I’ve tried have been high quality and make my hair look great. Also, they offer refillable packets for their shampoo and conditioner so that you don’t have to keep buying more and more plastic bottles.
And lastly, for my few makeup essentials, I typically turn to Glossier. Their products are high quality and affordable. I’ll be honest though, I’m someone who doesn’t wear much makeup (mostly because I’m not the best at applying it). So I know some of the women out there who take their makeup game more seriously, might be buying a bit more in this area.
Knowing exactly what brands I love and reducing as much as I can makes my life easier in so many ways. Also, taking a look at lifestyle choices helps me reduce even further in the beauty and skincare departments. I don’t spend hours shopping around for one thing, I don’t buy multiple items for the sake of testing things out. I simply get what I need, and since I use trusted, high quality brands, I always know what I’m signing up for.
I hope these tips can help you reduce a bit and as always, thanks for reading!
When someone asks you about yourself, what aspects of your life do you use to describe who you are? Is it your job, your college degree (or lack there of), what your significant other does? Do these factors actually make up who we are, or is there more to it than that?
If you ask me, a person is defined by their values, beliefs, and hobbies. The aspects of my life that make me feel like the truest form of myself and the way I spend my time when no one else is around, those are the aspects of my life that define who I am.
So, today I am here to ask you, what defines you? Who exactly are you? Do you regularly review this with yourself? Are you paying attention to your values and making sure to honor them? Or are you losing site?
It wasn’t too long ago when I started to lose site of who I was. I started to compromise some of my beliefs and forget who I was because I was focused on a paycheck.
It is possible to be too busy.
I used to think that when people said they were too busy it was just an excuse. A lot of times, it is but not always. In a world where managing a hectic schedule is the norm, it can be hard to determine when to draw the line. Let me take you back to when I was working as a nurse.
First thing in the morning, I’d catch my reflection in the mirror and I’d see blood shot eyes accompanied by dark circles underneath. I’d get ready for the day by covering both with eye drops and concealer. My skin was desperate for the sun but I covered that too, with self tanner.
Back when I was in nursing school, I started to understand what it meant to live a purposeful life. I began questioning all of the products I used from skin care to makeup to cleaning products. I started to check ingredient labels of not only foods but the products I was putting on my body as well.
I also started to pay closer attention to the amount of trash I was sending to the landfill. I would take a closer look at the items I was getting rid of and strive to find a new purpose for them. I paid attention and tried to get the most use out of things as I could. I started to understand the true satisfaction of making a small impact in helping preserve our planet. This way of living intentionally became a part of my identity.
Then, I got pregnant and I started to pay a little less attention. Maybe it was the brain fog of pregnancy, or that the intense food cravings were causing me to overlook the packaging and ingredient labels of my food. The desire to prepare for the baby also made me a bit impulsive about buying things that I thought we needed.
I still had purposeful goals though. I wanted to use cloth diapers so we wouldn’t be creating tons of waste, I wanted to have a natural birth free from medical interventions, I wanted to keep using natural/nontoxic products into motherhood.
Then, the diaper sprayer we needed to use for cloth diapering wasn’t compatible with our pipes. Then, I ended up needing a C section. Then, I started working in a hospital and I realized that if I worried about the harmful chemicals in the hand sanitizer that I was slathering myself with (or all of the other toxin exposure), I would make myself crazy because I had no other option. I noticed all of the waste that is produced at hospitals for the sake of preventing infection. This caused me to feel defeated and let go of reducing waste in my personal life because I realized how little control I had. Little by little, my goals were slipping away.
I started to understand the satisfaction of spending the paycheck that I was working so hard for, it was a type of coping mechanism. Impulsive clothing purchases, makeup/skin care items that I didn’t need, completely random subscription boxes. I was so busy that I was making more online purchases and simply trying to live in the most convenient way possible. I was not only letting go of values I believed strongly in but I was losing myself and filling my life with more and more clutter.
So, that’s how I reached this point of looking in the mirror and not knowing exactly who I was looking at. My job didn’t align with my values, making it impossible to live my life in the way I wanted. I was giving up the freedom to decide on the life I would live, all the while clouding my vision even further by buying things. The impulsive purchases were also fooling me into believing that my job was worth losing myself.
Convenience ≠ simplicity
There is so much irony in the concept of convenience. Often, we tell ourselves that by doing the more convenient thing, we are simplifying our lives. But the reality is that convenience does not equal simplicity. By living a “convenient” life, we are actually adding more clutter to our lives.
Convenience can also cause you to lose control in life because you’re no longer buying an item because you need it, you’re buying it because its the easiest option and you feel like you have no other choice.
Do more of what makes you feel human.
As it turns out, quitting my job was exactly what I needed to do to regain my sense of identity. It’s been almost three weeks since I quit my job and slowly but surely, I have been feeling more and more filled with life. At the end of my days, I often feel tired but it is the best feeling of tiredness. Rather than feeling completely drained, dazed, overly stimulated, I feel fulfilled, content, satisfied. I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Quitting my job was what I needed to do because being at home with my daughter and writing are the things that make me feel the most human. Being able to live and raise my daughter on my own terms is what fills me with life.
I am starting to feel my health improving again, the chronic stress I was under for so long was honestly doing a number on me. Now, I’m getting lots of sunlight and fresh air everyday. I’m moving my body regularly and drinking enough (filtered) water. When I look in the mirror, I no longer see that shadow of myself, drained from life like a deflated balloon. I see a glowing face, filled with life and hope, because I’m living life exactly how I’m supposed to and it shows.
When I think about the fact that I’ve only got one shot at this life, the thought of living in a way that doesn’t fulfill me seems ridiculous. So many people are living in this way and might spend their whole lives like this, never finding their purpose. My heart breaks for those people. I’m not sure how much unresolved pain would have continued to bubble up inside of me if I had continued life as I was and how that would have affected my health and my family.
I understand, sometimes we have no other choice but to focus on that paycheck. People need money, have bills to pay, mouths to feed. This is why it is important to pay attention. Pay attention to what you believe in and how you are feeling everyday. That way, even if you have to stick it out and stay at your job because you truly need the money, you’re aware of the fact that once you have the means, you need to re-evaluate. If you’re aware of the fact that you need to make a change ASAP, then you can start stashing money away now and plan for a future of freedom and living with purpose.
I know it all sounds so cheesy but trust me, when it comes to life, you get one. Just think about that for a minute. You have one chance to live the life you want. Don’t waste it.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is a book by Lori Gottlieb, a psychotherapist. Gottlieb dissects the stories of some of her clients while telling a story of her own, during which she found herself seeking a therapist when faced with crisis in her own life. I’m going to share a couple of quotes from the book and the ways in which they resonate with me.
Hierarchy of Pain
“There is no hierarchy of pain. Suffering shouldn’t be ranked, because pain is not a contest. Spouses often forget this, upping the ante on their suffering — I had the kids all day. My job is more demanding than yours. I’m lonelier than you are. Whose pain wins — or loses?”
I’ve found myself at times, feeling a sense of resentment towards my significant other because I was feeling a lack of satisfaction at my demanding job. It was draining my energy and robbing me of my ability to be the mother I wanted to be. All the while, he was doing a job that allowed him the flexibility of working from home. I knew better than to compare myself to anyone and to feel envious (especially in regards to the person I’m building a life with), but for whatever reason, I was doing it anyways.
This sentence is a reminder that we all suffer in our own way and there is no real way to compare your suffering to that of someone else. No one can ever feel your pain, and vice versa. So, making the assumption that someone else has been granted the courtesy of feeling less pain than you or having an easier life is wildly counterproductive. Although, taking the high road and choosing a healthier mental approach is often easier said than done, so be patient with yourself.
Attempting to compare suffering isn’t always in the context of assuming that your life is harder than someone else’s, sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes you get angry at yourself for feeling upset because you believe that there are other people who are suffering much more than you. You feel ungrateful, selfish, guilty even. This is also a false assumption.
“—by diminishing my problems, I was judging myself and everyone else whose problems I had placed lower down on the hierarchy of pain. You can’t get through your pain by diminishing it, he reminded me. You get through your pain by accepting it and figuring out what to do with it. You can’t change what you’re denying or minimizing. And, of course, often what seem like trivial worries are manifestations of deeper ones.”
Don’t deny your pain. Strive to face it and figure out where it’s coming from.
Seeing our parents as flawed humans
One of Gottlieb’s patients is a mother with adult children who made some pretty major mistakes in raising them. All of her kids have cut her out of their lives. She’s faced many unhealthy relationships in her life and now, at the age of nearly seventy, she meets a man who is head over heels for her and simply wants to love her in the way that she always deserved to be, but never was. Due to her fear of opening up to him, and confessing her mistakes in life, she pushes him away. Later on, she writes him an open letter, telling all of the painful details from her past. After she reads this letter, explaining all of the mistakes she made as a mother, Gottlieb draws a comparison between this and her own relationship with her mother.
“So, like Rita’s children, I went through a period where I shut my mom out. And while that had long passed, as I sit with Rita and hear her story, I have the urge to cry — not for my pain, but for my mother’s. As much as I’ve thought about my relationship with my mother over the years, I’ve never considered her experience in exactly the way I am now. I have the fantasy that all adults should be given the opportunity to hear parents — not their own — rip themselves open, become completely vulnerable, and give their versions of events, because in seeing this, you can’t help but come to a newfound understanding of your own parent’s lives, whatever the situation.”
This line spoke volumes to me. My relationship with my mother has been complicated, to say the least. As a teen, we always butted heads but as I grew older and matured, I learned to let her in a bit and we have grown closer over the years. Now, after becoming a mother myself, I found myself criticizing her choices as a mom and distancing myself yet again. I have been having a tough time finding a balance with setting boundaries in our relationship but also not being too critical of her.
Recently, I have had the revelation that I am still dealing with an unhealthy amount of anxiety in my life. It started over a year ago, after I gave birth to my daughter. It has been happening on and off, and I’ve been incredibly distracted by the demands of my job. This combination has caused me to avoid facing these issues, allowing them to go on much longer than they should. When I would have a good day, I would tell myself, “it’s over, I have nothing to worry about anymore, I’m healed.” Unfortunately though, I was not healed, and beneath the surface, the anxiety had been deepening and deepening.
I realized that it was time to quit my job. It was a difficult decision to make because my job was not the root of my problems but it was causing me to avoid facing the problems by keeping me so busy. I’ve realized that I’m incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to quit my job and focus on my mental health. I have been smart with my money over the years and if we budget accordingly, my family and I will be okay financially for a while, while I figure my life out. So many moms aren’t given this choice. So many moms are thrown into motherhood and never have the support that is needed to adequately recover. So many moms, have to work like crazy, making them unavailable to their children, mentally and physically — because they simply don’t have the financial means or support from their spouse/family to just quit. These moms might never face their mental health issues, and these issues will never go away until they’ve been dealt with.
My mom was one of those moms. She had to work full time to support three kids, and she didn’t have a supportive spouse. Who knows how long she could have been struggling with mental health issues that continuously went unresolved. Comparing my struggles as a mom to my mother’s and putting myself in her shoes — seeing her as a flawed, imperfect human just like every human is — prompted this empathetic revelation. If I were in her shoes, I might not have the option to just stop working and focus on myself. I would have to keep on going, living life in this perpetual state of anxiety. I hope I can help my daughter understand this principle one day as well, when she begins to dissect the choices I made in raising her.
I could honestly dissect this book in its entirety and never get tired of Gottlieb’s words. But if I did that, you would have nothing to read! I’m sure I will reread this one day. I’m still asking myself if I read this book at the perfect time in my life or if it’s just one of those books that tells you everything you need to hear, regardless of where you are in life. I’m thinking it’s the latter. Here are a few more quotes from the book, just to get you thinking!
As always, please share any thoughts in the comments & thanks for reading.
“I thought about how many people avoid trying for things they really want in life because it’s more painful to get close to the goal but not achieve it than not to have taken the chance in the first place.”
“The inability to say no is largely about approval-seeking — people imagine that if they say no, they won’t be loved by others. The inability to say yes, however — to intimacy, a job opportunity, an alcohol program — is more about lack of trust in oneself. Will I mess this up? Will this turn out badly? Isn’t it safer to stay where I am? But there’s a twist. Sometimes what seems like setting a boundary — saying no — is actually a cop-out, an inverted way of avoiding saying yes.”
This is an open letter, to whoever needs to hear it. Maybe you’re like me, and you feel empowered when you witness another human, revealing their humanness, their vulnerabilities, their imperfections, freely and openly for the whole world to see. Maybe you’re just curious, looking for entertainment. Maybe you’re tired of seeing the false narrative of perfection being told on the internet and you need a reminder that we’re all in this together. Regardless of who you are, this letter is for you and I hope it finds you well.
In the year of 2020, I made the most money I ever have. I put over $1,000 in my personal savings, began saving for retirement, nearly paid off my car, and bought all kinds of things that I thought I needed. I also experienced some of the most severe anxiety I ever have, felt a complete loss of identity, and compromised (and even forgot about) some of my strongest beliefs. I walked away from making nearly $4,000 a month and from a career that took me 5 years of work to build for myself. This decision to quit weighed heavily on me and still does. I’m still trying to decide exactly why I’m here telling this story, but I am. So, here it is: the story of walking away from my career as a nurse.
The start of my nursing career
I started my first job as a nurse on a busy and understaffed med/surg unit. I knew going into this job that it would be extremely stressful. I told myself it wasn’t forever, I’d get some experience, then move on.
Here’s a little glimpse into what my days were like: Most of my shifts were insanely busy from the moment I walked on the floor until the moment I left. Personally, I like to stay busy at work, but this was a little over the top. I would run around nonstop and if I ate lunch before 3PM, I was lucky. I often barely had time to drink water all day. I had to rush away to pump three times a shift so that I could continue breastfeeding my daughter; she was two months old when I started this job. I’d have to drop what I was doing in the middle of it in order to go pump, or I just wouldn’t get a chance to pump at all because there was never a true “stopping point” where I could take a break. My days at this job were messy, chaotic and disorganized. I would look forward to my days off and imagine relaxing at home, doing nothing at all with my family.
Then, a day off would arrive and I’d wake up with my daughter at 7AM feeling completely drained. I’d look around my messy house and see an overflowing laundry basket, a dishwasher that needed to be unloaded, and clutter everywhere. It would drive me crazy and give me anxiety. I felt like I had a lack of control in my life. Even if I wanted to have a clean house, I wasn’t able to, because I simply didn’t have the time or energy to maintain it.
I’d think of 100 different things I needed to do. All the while, I was too tired to even process what those things were, much less how to go about doing them. On top of that, I actually wanted to spend time with my daughter, but my time with her felt ruined because I was too busy being stressed about all these other things. Then I would get angry at myself for feeling this way and fall into a negative mindset.
Prior to getting pregnant, I still had a lot of responsibilities. I worked part-time and was a full time student going through nursing school. I maintained multiple friendships and social obligations and stayed on top of keeping my bills paid. I definitely felt overwhelmed at times, but I could always get through it. I knew what I needed to do to manage my stress. I felt good, I had a handle on my life. So, this wasn’t the first time I was attempting to manage multiple things at once but for some reason, this time was so different.
I think there were a number of things at play that were causing the anxiety I was experiencing. My difficult experience giving birth to my daughter was something I was still trying to process. The stressful nature of my job was causing me to feel like my nerves were shot. Putting my daughter in daycare after doing little research and just feeling like I had to figure something out last minute wasn’t helping. But most importantly, I think I returned to work too soon after giving birth and overall, I wasn’t fully recovered. I was antsy about making money again, I wanted to rebuild my savings and I wanted to feel financial security and use the degree I had worked so hard for. So, I rushed into my career as a nurse and I don’t think I ever stopped rushing around until, well, now.
It felt like every day off I was facing the same exact issues: feeling pulled in multiple directions, feeling overwhelmed, not knowing where to start with my tasks, having an endless to do list, and overall wanting to spend quality time with my family but still not feeling capable of doing so because I was so hung up on my own issues.
My boyfriend was working from home, so he could help and even spend time with our daughter to give me a break. But that became another source of anxiety. While I was at work missing my daughter, I would dream about rocking her to sleep even if she was screaming, or changing her poopy diapers. I didn’t care, I just missed her. I wanted to be around her, even if that meant doing the things that sometimes stressed me out about being a mom. But then the days would get there and those little stressors felt like huge stressors and I just didn’t feel like I could handle it. I’d feel like I was crumbling and my boyfriend would have to come relieve some of the pressure. Then I would get even more upset and think “I finally have time off with my baby, and I can’t even handle being a mom. I’m constantly requiring some type of support”. This would make me angry at myself yet again, and the anxiety would continue to spiral.
Deciding to quit job #1
At the time, I blamed my job for my anxiety but I was failing to see that it was so much deeper than the stressors I faced at work. The stressors I was facing at work were still too much for me to handle though, so I made the decision to walk away from this job. At first, the idea of quitting scared me; I had less than one year of experience in my career and most other hospitals required a full year of experience. Also, I didn’t want to just not work. I needed to make money and I wanted to stay busy. The idea of not finding another job scared me.
I had a plan in mind. There was another hospital, at which I had spent a lot of time as a student. I knew that a lot of things were different there. The employees seemed happier, there were more resources. I sent out multiple applications in the weeks prior to my giving notice at my job.
My last day of work was approaching and I hadn’t heard anything yet. The pressure of finding a new job was setting in, so I sat down to do some brainstorming.
I remember my last day working in retail when my manager said to me, “If nursing doesn’t work out and you want to come back, you’re always welcome!” I laughed so hard about this later, like, yeah right, I’ll never be back. I felt so high and mighty with my nursing degree. Well jokes on me, because here I was, just a few months into my career and thinking to myself well, retail doesn’t sound too bad right now.
Regardless of my open mindedness, I didn’t end up having to return to retail because when I sat down at my computer that day, I had an email. I was being invited to interview at the hospital where I had been wanting to work.
I’m sure you can guess what happened next. I got the job. There were a lot of benefits to this new job, the only downside was that it would be a one hour commute each way, but I was okay with it. I knew it would be more than worth it.
Starting Job #2
I remember nearly having a panic attack the weekend before I started. I had 4 days off in between my last day at job #1 and my first day at job #2. During which I had to print and fill out paper work, drive an hour to the hospital to do blood tests, provide urine samples, etc. I was remembering how intense starting a new job can feel, especially in nursing. Since nurses have such serious responsibilities, we have to give up a lot of ourselves to start a job. Here I was, feeling the same thing again; pulled in multiple directions, too many things to do. I told myself it was normal to be stressed about a new job and to just keeping pushing, it’ll get better.
It did get better, in a sense. At work, I was feeling genuinely good. My coworkers were happy, I had a good workflow, I was interested in my work. It wasn’t nearly as negative an environment as where I had come from. But at some point, the anxiety returned. The same exact feelings as before but this time, it felt so much worse. I feel like it was God trying to get my attention.
When the anxiety returned this time around, it was even more intense than before because I would end up feeling so defeated. I had gone out of my comfort zone and advocated for myself, I had gotten my dream job, but still, I just couldn’t manage. I couldn’t handle all of the responsibilities I had in my life. And even though my job was so much better in so many ways, now it was so far away that I was giving up even more of my precious time and the car lag was making me even more tired on my days off. I would wake up at 4:30AM to drive an hour to work and get home and 8:30PM. I’d have less than an hour to shower, wash my scrubs, eat dinner, and pack my lunch for the following day before I needed to rush off to bed so I could do it all over again the following day.
This is when the panic attacks began. My stress would lead to the realization that I needed to quit my job and that realization would cause my anxiety to spiral even more. I just started this job, I can’t just quit. What will people think? This is such a good job, if I walk away, this opportunity won’t come back. Will it cause staffing issues? I don’t want to hurt other people in the process. So many questions, fears and worries would flood my mind when I considered quitting. It was getting to the point where I would just shut down.
I don’t remember what started my first panic attack but I remember it ending with me crying uncontrollably, curled up in a ball on the floor of my kitchen. Something has to change, something has to change.
Then about a week later, I had my first day off after working three shifts in a row. That morning, I could feel the anxiety creeping in, but I tried to just accept it and let it pass. We decided we would take our daughter to the pumpkin patch and then to a park to swing on the swings. The anticipation was causing me to stress about minor details. Where would we park? What order were we doing things in? Would we get lunch too while we’re out? I was trying hard to be present but I couldn’t stop anticipating and wanting to plan everything.
We were in the car and I was verbalizing these thoughts to my boyfriend, “I’m trying to be present, but I can’t stop worrying about the minor details,” I told him. Then my heart started to race and I could feel it happening again. I was panicking. There were a lot of people out and about walking and a lot of cars on the road. I felt like everyone in traffic could see me and I just needed to cry. I wanted to sink into the car seat and disappear. My boyfriend pulled over into an empty parking lot. I leaned forward, putting my head between my knees and completely lost it. I was crying uncontrollably and gasping for air in between sobs. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I didn’t even know where any of this was stemming from. It all started with me worrying about our agenda for the day, but it was so much deeper than that. The hardest part was knowing that my daughter was sitting right behind me in her car seat, listening to it all.
Quitting Job #2
This second panic attack made me realize what I needed to do. I needed to quit my job and not get a new one for a little while. Although it’s scary to not have a plan in mind, I needed more time in my life, more space to figure everything out, more time with my daughter. More than anything though, I needed less. Less obligations, less responsibilities, less people to please, less distractions from my mental health issues that I needed to face.
So, the following Monday, I talked with my boss and told her exactly what had been happening. She was supportive and understanding, and that was it, I was done. I expected to feel an intense relief afterward, but instead I felt scared for the future. Regardless of the fear though, I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision.
The future is unknown and I’m definitely a little scared. I don’t have a plan but I have faith. Writing this was difficult, because it caused me to relive my panic attacks and that was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt. I never want to feel that again, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I know that I had no other option but to walk away from my job because it was the only way I could open up more space in my schedule in order to focus more on myself.
When I got pregnant, I was finishing up nursing school. I remember saying, “I’m always going to put being a mom before being a nurse.” I feel like all this time, I was making nursing more of a priority, without even realizing it. It is time to take a step back, hit pause. I’m taking a closer look at my life, working on simplifying things, and living with purpose.
I don’t have any regrets. I may never return to nursing and I spent 5 years of my life working towards that goal but I’m learning that it takes trial and error to find your purpose in life. This is a lesson in letting go. Letting go of the opinions of others. Letting go of how you’re “supposed to do things”. It’s also another example of trusting the process. It’s not about the end goal because we may never reach the end goal. It is about what happens in between; that is when real changes occur.
When I first heard about adaptogens, I was really unclear on what they even were. Then I started to hear words like Chaga, He Shou Wu, and Ashwagandha and it just made me even more confused. In this blog post I’ll explain a little bit about what adaptogens are and how I use them, in case you’re wondering what they are.
What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are basically a type of supplement/plant extract. Adaptogens come in the form of a powder and are derived from different types of herbs and mushrooms that are believed to help the body adapt to stress. The effects of adaptogens can help a person feel more balanced and calm. Below I have listed a few of my favorite adaptogens, how I use them and how they effect me.
Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom, which is where this adaptogen is derived from. Lion’s mane can help with brain function and focus. I first started using adaptogens when I was in my fourth semester of nursing school. I had been having a really hard time focusing when I was studying and taking exams so I decided to try using lion’s mane to help me. I definitely didn’t feel an immediate effect but overtime, after drinking lion’s mane daily, I began to feel more focused and grounded. It definitely had an effect on my test scores. Even though I’m not studying or taking exams now, lion’s mane is still one of my favorite adaptogens. It helps me feel less brain fog and just focus on the tasks at hand, which helps me be more present.
There are actually some studies out there about lion’s mane and it’s effect on helping Alzheimer’s patients, which I find amazing. As someone who went through nursing school, I have gained a new perspective on modern medicine. Let’s just say, I’m not a big fan of the pharmaceutical industry, and our modern ways of “healing” people. So when I hear about a plant extract and its effects gaining attention in the world of medicine, it kind of makes my heart sing.
I typically drink 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of lion’s mane mixed into my coffee in the mornings. It doesn’t always dissolve all that well so I try to add it in when my coffee is still super hot. You can also put it in tea or a smoothie. I try to use it daily.
Even WedMD recognizes the medicinal effects of reishi. Reishi is also derived from a mushroom. I’ve always heard of this adaptogen being used for anxiety but apparently it has other uses too, like treating infections.
I often enjoy reishi in the evenings because it is believed to have a calming effect which can help with sleep. I also like to bring reishi with me when I travel. I usually just mix 1/4 – 1/2 tsp into a hot cup of tea. These little packets are great for travel too!
Ashwagandha is the first adaptogen I ever heard of and it is the only one on this list that is not derived from a mushroom. I guess ashwagandha is some type of shrub. This adaptogen helps with calming, inflammation, and even lowers blood pressure. Ashwagandha also has immune boosting properties and has been found to help with depression and anxiety. I think we could all use a little ashwagandha in our lives!
I use ashwagandha the same way I use the others, just 1/4 – 1/2 tsp mixed into my coffee or tea. It’s a super simple step towards better health and feeling more grounded and human.
My daughter had her first birthday this past weekend, and I’ve been feeling a mix of emotions that I’m trying to process– I’m realizing this is a common theme in parenthood. I feel a lot of positive emotions. I feel incredibly blessed to have a healthy, happy one-year-old, to have a support system of family and friends who think the world of us, and to have the financial security and resources to provide for her and meet all of her needs. I also feel sad and a bit anxious. It’s hard to pinpoint where the sadness is coming from because I truly don’t want to go back in time. I do think fondly on the days when she was a tiny newborn and we spent everyday just sitting on the couch, doing little more than staring at each other in-between naps. But life with a baby has gotten a lot more manageable as the time has gone on. I feel like I know her better, I can predict what she will need, she has her routines. This makes it easier to get out of the house with her, break the cycle, and be productive with my days while also watching her. The more she grows, the more fun we have together. So, I definitely don’t want to go back in time, but I still feel sad that those times are over. I keep asking myself if I’ve been present enough this last year, or if I was too caught up in my own issues and I missed out on moments with her. I ask myself if there were things I should have done differently. One of the realizations I’ve had that is tied to the most emotion for me, is that I can’t hang on to every memory. I can take a million photos, but there are things I will forget and that scares me. I want to remember everything. I always want to be able to think back to our first week home with her, and remember every little detail — what we ate everyday, discussions we had, how we felt — but I’ve realized that I might not be able to one day. So how am I supposed to accept this? I want to find a balance because if I’m too hung up on remembering everything and thinking back on the past then I’ll miss out on what is happening right now. I think the best I can do is choose to be as present as possible, and accept the fact that I can’t remember it all. Just take in every moment as fully as I possibly can, as it is happening. I’ll definitely take photos, but I don’t want to live life through my phone screen either. Feeling so many emotions at one time can be overwhelming and weird. It is like I don’t know what I’m feeling, because I’m partially happy and partially sad. I decided I would make a flower crown for my daughter’s birthday party. I thought it would be a cute accessory to plop on her head for some photos. I imagined I would make it sturdy, and that we could let the flowers dry out and keep it for years. We could show it to her one day when she’s older and tell her about her first birthday. But it didn’t work out that well. I didn’t really know what I was doing when I was putting it together and it wasn’t sturdy at all. I had to use some tape for reinforcement and the flowers were barely hanging on by the time we took photos of her wearing it. I realized it wouldn’t stay together so I’d have to throw it away. You can’t hang on to every memory.
Just like you can’t finish everything, you can’t please everyone, you can’t do it all. Even in accepting this, my heart still aches. I haven’t taken down her birthday party decorations quite yet. When I tossed out that flower crown, I took a step in letting go. I also took a step into moving forward. Wonderful things are waiting for us everyday. If you’re going to attempt to hang on to anything, make it this present moment because at the end of the day, that’s all you’ve really got.
I wouldn’t say that I ever felt tired of being pregnant — a feeling that I’ve heard some women use to describe the end of pregnancy. It had been a pretty seamless nine months. However, when my due date of October 9th came and went, I continued to grow more and more emotional. Aside from the physical aspects of pregnancy feeling “easy”, the emotional aspects wore on me a lot. I remember being a few days over due and spending most of the day crying, for a reason that I really couldn’t pinpoint. I wasn’t tired of pregnancy, I just thought I would have met my baby by now. I wasn’t sure what to think. It felt like I was in this weird state of limbo. I was still pregnant, but I wasn’t really “supposed” to be. I felt too big and too tired to leave the house, and I had stopped working. So all there was to do was sit and wait.
On Tuesday, October 15th, I had an appointment with my midwife. When I got up out of bed, I noticed some fluid leaking. I told my midwife at the appointment and she used a pH strip to test my cervical fluid. Looking at the pH level could help her determine whether the fluid I had noticed was amniotic fluid, which would mean my water had partially ruptured. The test came back negative, meaning the amniotic sack was still in tact. I have a feeling that this test was incorrect, but I was later told by an OBGYN that a false negative is highly unlikely. I guess we’ll never really know but personally, I trust my instinct.
At this visit, I had a test called a “non-stress test” which evaluates how well the baby is tolerating life inside the womb. My baby and I passed this test with flying colors. The midwife told us that she would be comfortable waiting until I hit the 42-week mark to plan on medically inducing labor. She told us that this was actually longer than she typically allows with her patients, but since the baby and I were so healthy, she felt comfortable.
During my pregnancy, I never got morning sickness, my feet swelled one time, I stayed fairly active (I mean, I backpacked Europe for a month!) So, I had envisioned myself having a natural birth, free from any medical intervention. I honestly didn’t even believe that a cesarean delivery was a possibility for me. It seemed unnecessary to even plan or discuss it. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s to not have any expectations because you really never know what life will throw at you.
On Wednesday, 10/16 I woke up around 6AM and could tell that more fluid was leaking. It felt exactly as it had the morning before, but this time there was a bit more and I was starting to feel contractions. The contractions were mild, irregular and very spaced out. I went back to sleep and woke up around 10AM. By this point, the contractions were more regular but they were still pretty weak. I hung out around the house for the day and kept myself busy but also rested quite a bit. By about 4PM the contractions were very regular and only a few minutes apart. I decided to give the midwife a call. She said that she would like for me to come in within an hour or two, since I thought my water could have broken.
At 5PM, my boyfriend got home from work. At this point, the contractions were causing me a lot of pain. I was breathing through them pretty well. I started to time them and realized that they were only 3 minutes apart, but they were only lasting for about 30 seconds. I felt like we needed to get to the hospital since they were so close together, but I also wanted to wait as long as possible.
We were heading to the hospital around 6:30PM. In between contractions, I decided to play the birth playlist I had designed for the occasion. Turns out, “Here Comes the Sun” was the last thing I wanted to hear in that moment. I slammed my hand on the volume button and shut down George Harrison mid-verse and mid-contraction. I just wanted to breathe, focus and be in silence.
I really wish this was one of those “we barely made it to the hospital bed, I almost gave birth in the elevator!” or “I didn’t have time for an epidural, I was already ready to push when we got there,” stories, but unfortunately it is not. Everything changed very quickly as soon as we got to the hospital. Once I was hooked up to the fetal monitor in the triage area, we found that baby and I both had elevated heart rates. “Does your heart rate usually run high?” the nurse asked me. “How high?” I asked. “Like 130..” At the time, I was so distracted by the pain of the contractions that I couldn’t even remember the normal adult heart rate of 60-90 beats per minute. I kind of just gave her a blank look and told her I wasn’t sure. My baby’s heart rate was running at about 180 and I had a fever.
The nurse tested my cervical fluid with a different type of test than what was used on me the day before in my midwives’ office. This test confirmed that my water had in fact broken, and based on the presenting symptoms, it looked like I had developed chorioamnionitis, which is a fancy way of describing a bacterial infection developed before or during labor. Often, chorioamnionitis is the result of a woman’s water being broken before labor begins. If the water is broken, the baby and the womb have less protection from bacteria that could enter and cause infection. The longer this protective barrier is broken, the more likely it is for some type of infection to occur. Often, after a woman’s water breaks, doctors want her to deliver within a certain timeframe to avoid this complication. This is why I believe that initial pH test the day before was a false negative.
So there I was in my hospital bed, hooked up to a continuous fetal monitor, IV Tylenol, fluids, and antibiotics all running at once, unable to get out of the bed. The complete opposite of the labor that I had envisioned and I was definitely letting it get to me. I was falling into a negative mindset which made it really difficult to manage the pain of the contractions and they were getting really intense at this point. To make things worse, I was only dilated to about 3 centimeters, not even halfway to the point of pushing.
After about two hours of laboring in bed, my midwife came in and told me that things weren’t changing and that they were concerned about my baby. She said she was going to do everything she could to help me still have a vaginal birth but a birth free from medical interventions wasn’t going to happen at this point. Since my water had not fully ruptured, she was going to break my water and insert an internal fetal monitor which is a device that attaches onto the baby’s head and watches more closely to see how they are tolerating each contraction. The hope was that breaking the water would help the labor progress more and we would be able to get the baby out before she went into distress from the side effects of the infection. Something interesting about chorioamnionitis: often the only cure is to deliver the baby. Once the baby is out, the infection resolves immediately.
The process of breaking my water, checking my cervix again and inserting this fetal monitor, was extremely painful. It was a minute or two that felt like an hour. My contractions were extremely close together but not lasting long at all and I was still only dilated about 3 cm.
Very shortly after, the on-call OBGYN entered the room and informed me that they didn’t want to wait any longer and that I would have to deliver via cesarean section. Hearing those words was really painful, and when I think back to that moment my heart still drops into my stomach. At the time, I was so distracted by the pain and by everything going on that I wasn’t really sure how to react, what to feel or what to think. I was in shock more than anything. “The good news is, you’ll be meeting your baby within the hour,” this was crazy to me because I had only been at the hospital for 2-3 hours. I expected to labor all night and not meet her until the morning.
Before I knew it, I was laying on my back on a surgical table with multiple doctors and nurses leaning over me. I’ll never forget the first time I saw my daughter. I glanced behind me as a nurse carried her over. My first view was the back of her head, wow look at all that hair. I hadn’t really imagined what I thought she’d look like, but somehow she looked exactly as I would have expected, if that makes sense. I felt like I just knew she was my baby the moment I laid eyes on her. She was placed next to my head, all wrapped up and my boyfriend was at my side. She was screaming at the top of her lungs. It was all really strange to be entirely honest.
I didn’t feel a big rush of emotions at first. I felt medicated, anxious, numb, shocked, and scared all at once. I wanted to be holding her on my chest doing skin to skin, right away. I wanted to breastfeed immediately after she was born. I had wanted a natural birth. None of those things were happening. What was happening? I wasn’t sure, I was in foreign territory.
It was really hard to accept the way this birth went. After we got home from the hospital, I felt the need to mourn the loss of the birth that I had wanted to have. I know this might make me sound ungrateful, because hey! at least me and the baby were both perfectly healthy! Right?! That is true, and a really well-intentioned thing to say, but it wasn’t what I needed to hear. I was honestly so heartbroken and no silver lining was going to change that. In those first few days after giving birth, I would come across some of my old pregnancy books, “The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth”, “Having a Baby Naturally”, and it would cause me to break down. I couldn’t help but think about all of the ways that I had compromised what I wanted, but it had been totally out of my control.
I’m still learning to accept this story. One thing I’ve learned is that I may never fully accept it and that is okay. Sometimes I still ask myself if there was some way that things could have gone differently, although I realize that there isn’t and everything really does happen for a reason. This experience has truly become a part of who I am.
I can’t imagine any birth being easy to process emotionally. The ability to endure such a miraculous thing is just another reason why women are so incredibly resilient. Learning to process this trauma has made me a stronger person and better version of myself. I’m so much more emotionally aware than I ever was before motherhood. I’ve realized that many aspects of life are unpredictable, and letting go of the need to be in control can be really beneficial. I’m still working on that though. I’m also trying to teach myself to stop setting expectations for things because the future is unknown and often, expectations lead to disappointment. How do we find a balance between setting goals/envisioning our dreams and setting expectations? Do expectations always lead to disappointment or is it okay to have expectations sometimes?
Even the traumatic births are so worth it in the end. It only makes sense that the most challenging endeavor would result in something as life-changing as becoming a mother.
A lot of things change when we become parents. There are the physical changes of pregnancy, the physiological change in hormones, and the emotional changes from feeling a love like no other. Another change I’ve noticed in myself is my desire to be the absolute best version of myself. Although, it is still a work in progress, this motivation started early on in my pregnancy, before I had even met my daughter.
When I got pregnant, I really started to examine my past and think about my own childhood. This caused me to face certain traumas that I had been pushing away from the surface for years.
I have never been more emotionally aware in my life than I am now. Thinking about my past has helped me come to terms with things that I used to just ignore. I realized that I was raised by parents who had unresolved traumas of their own and how it affected me. This motivates me to face my own issues head on and do my best to resolve what I can so that I don’t damage my daughter with my personal problems.
Seeing my parents as flawed humans who were facing their own issues has given me a lot of patience for any mistakes that I believe they might have made. It has helped me accept where I came from and it’s given me patience for myself. I want to do my best as a mom but I know that I won’t be perfect either. When it comes to facing trauma, I’ve realized that the most difficult conversations are the most important ones to have.
I started facing my childhood traumas during pregnancy but then after my daughter was born I had to learn to face the trauma I had dealt with during her birth. It’s been almost a year and some days it feels like I am still processing everything that happened that night.
This is a part of parenthood that I didn’t expect at all. I had no idea that I would be so motivated to find peace within myself. In those first few weeks after she was born, I expected to feel a rollercoaster of emotions, and I did. But when the fourth trimester came and went and I was still feeling a lot of anger I knew something wasn’t right.
When I think about how dependent and truly out of control my little baby is, I can’t help but hold myself accountable to create the absolute best life I can for her. So when I noticed myself having angry outbursts about something as trivial as having a messy kitchen, it prompted a revelation.
After a lot of open discussions and even a few sessions with a therapist, I feel like I have finally accepted my pain. It has taken a lot longer than I would have ever expected. My heightened awareness of my emotions that my daughter prompts me to have has helped me get to know myself better than I ever had before I got pregnant.
My revelation was that, the kitchen is bound to be messy and life will always carry with it so many unfinished tasks, so if I let those things make me angry I will be living an angry life and life is short so wasting it being angry is a terrible idea.
So, now that I’ve accepted my pain I’m trying to figure out what to do with it, how to manage it, and what I can do to have more control because I’m still feeling it. Will I ever stop feeling this pain or does some pain simply stick with us? What do we do with our pain once we’ve accepted it?
Sardinia was my next stop after a wild journey out of Belgium, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Since these posts are not written chronologically and to make it a little easier to understand here is a brief overview of my backpacking trip:
I had a wonderful experience in Amsterdam, a not so great experience in Belgium, and now I was headed to Sardinia with no idea what to expect. One thing that this backpacking trip had already taught me was to not set any expectations at all. I would be attending a 5-day Italian language course and staying in the home of a Sardinian family who spoke little to no english at all. I was a complete beginner when it came to the Italian language. I was definitely nervous but excited.
As soon as the plain landed in Alghero, I was met with a WhatsApp message from the taxi driver who would be picking me up. I found him easily in the airport and he drove me to the home of Tonino and Paola, the Sardinian couple I’d be staying with. I pretty much felt at home from the moment I stepped off that plane. Everyone was so welcoming in Sardinia, although I had no idea what anyone was saying to me, I could just tell.
When I get to the home I would be staying at, I was met by Paola, an extremely warm and welcoming Sardinian woman who kissed me on both cheeks, ushered me inside and gave me a tour of her home. She was over the moon when she saw my pregnant belly. I also met Paola’s husband, Tonino and Christine. Christine was a girl from Germany who was also staying in the house, she would be attending the language school with me, she spoke fluent English and a decent amount of Italian as well. Her presence was so great. She and I quickly became friends and would spend the next 5 days getting gelato and coffee together. Also, she mostly bridged the communication gap between Paola and I, so that was great.
It was a lovely 5 days of studying Italian, bike riding, eating ice cream, and sun bathing. I quickly got into a routine of sitting on the porch in the mornings and drinking Italian coffee, riding my bike to class, then eating lunch on the beach in the afternoons. I’d go to little markets and buy fresh peaches and large bottles of sparkling mineral water. It was honestly a dream there and I can’t wait to go back one day and bring my family. I felt at home, safe and secure.
I highly recommend attending a language school to anyone who plans to travel to a new country, especially if you’re traveling alone. I had such an amazing experience at Italiano in Riviera. Taking Italian lessons in Sardinia gave me a productive way to occupy my time, introduced me to more people, and helped me further integrate into the culture. Although, I returned with little to no actual ability to speak Italian, it was helpful to learn some words and phrases that I would practice over the next two weeks while in Italy and gave me a good foundation for future Italian lessons. Sardinia was definitely my favorite stop on my solo portion of the trip and the language school is a big reason for this.
Sardinia (like much of my trip to Europe) taught me to face my fears. As someone who grew up in Florida, I’ve been on plenty of boat rides and I’ve spent a large portion of my life swimming in, staring out at, and jumping into large bodies of water. So when it was time for me to step onto a sailboat in Sardinia, I wouldn’t expect to feel fear but sometimes our fears sneak up and surprise us. Standing on that dock, my heart started to race. I was thinking about how I hadn’t been on a sail boat in a while, it looked like a small boat. What if it’s a rocky ride? What if I get sea sick? I haven’t been on a boat since I got pregnant, who knows if my body will react differently. I almost wanted to stay back. When I saw the other passengers leaping onto the boat from the dock, I thought about how easy it would be to trip or misstep and fall into the water. I was internally freaking out.
Then it came time for me to take that leap and I’m so glad I did. Kind of like the leap of faith I was taking by going on this trip at all, or preparing to become a mother, or by choosing to take 8 months off from my career instead of jumping into it immediately after college. Leaps of faith are scary before we take them. Fear seems a lot scarier when we’re contemplating it internally, but in those moments when you’re actually facing it, it’s not all that bad and in hind sight it’s always so worth it.
That’s how this sailboat ride felt. The moment I stepped onto that boat, my fears eased. I was sitting next to Christine and facing the other two passengers (two Swiss Germans), while our driver Guiseppe (a Sardinian local) drove the boat. The water was so calm, and floating along the Mediterranean sea was so incredibly peaceful. We anchored the boat and all jumped in the water. It was amazing.
One night, Christine and I went out for apperitivos (basically the Italian version of happy hour) with a group of classmates and a few of the instructors from the school. Afterward, we all went out to dinner. By this time, it was late in the evening. 10 o’clock isn’t an uncommon dinner time in most of Europe. We had to try a couple of different restaurants to find a place that had seating.
I was sitting around a table with three Germans and one man from Holland (“what did you think of Amsterdam??” he had so excitedly asked me), and we were all trying our hardest to maintain a conversation in Italian, of course I was totally lost. Finally, we all started to speak English. This experience made me feel so motivated to learn another language. Here I was, sitting around with a group of people who all came from another country and spoke a language different from my own, yet they all spoke my language as well, and I didn’t speak anyone’s language but my own. I felt a little ignorant. I still don’t speak a second language but I like to believe that one day I will.
It was really starting to get late and my pregnant self was ready to go to sleep. Christine and I decided to bike back. I glance down, and somehow my sandal had completely broken. I’m not sure how that happened, because it was fine on the walk here. Oh well, I pulled them off and tossed them in the nearest trash bin. I guess I’ll be purchasing some sandals tomorrow.
Side note: I got a pair of brown leather sandals that next day (they’re sort of like knock off Birkenstocks) and honestly they are to this day, one of my favorite pairs of shoes. I have walked so many miles in those shoes that they’re actually starting to fall apart.
So here I was, 6 months pregnant, biking barefoot through the hilly streets of Sardinia at midnight, having an amazing time. Reflecting so fondly on this broken sandal experience reminds me that traveling alone is fun, traveling pregnant is fun, whatever your excuse is, stop it! You’re limiting yourself. I decided to be free and not put limits on myself and it lead me here, and I was having the time of my life. I was accepting glasses of Prosecco (I only had a few sips) sent over from a group of men at a restaurant, I was floating in the middle of the mediterranean sea on a paddle board, I was jumping off sail boats, I was staying out late, I was living. I know I was judged for backpacking Europe alone and pregnant, there was probably I time in my life when I would have judged someone for doing this, I get it. It does sound a little crazy. I felt confident in myself and I just went for it, when I could have let this judgement hold me back. Think of all of the ways we hold ourselves back by making excuses or worrying about the opinions of others. You gotta let that shit go.
So here are my takeaways:
Go to Sardinia, it’s AMAZING there!!
If you’re thinking of traveling solo, first of all DO IT. Second of all, I highly recommend a language school.
Stop worrying about what people think. Traveling alone is fun, traveling pregnant is fun, don’t hold yourself back, just go for it!
Please enjoy some more photos from my trip to Sardinia, I cannot get over the beauty of this place!
On January 1st of 2018, through the haze of a hangover, I said aloud to a coworker, “I think I want to run my first marathon in the year of 2018.” At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would actually achieve this goal or not. I also had no idea how much I would learn in the process of training for it. Training for my first marathon taught me about a whole lot more than just running. Running has a way of teaching me things I didn’t know I already knew (if that makes sense). In this post, I will summarize three of the most important lessons that my first marathon taught me and how they can relate to so much more than just running.
The future is exciting and fun to day dream about, but it isn’t guaranteed. I know that sounds grim, but it’s the truth! And don’t even get me started about the past.. This is why it is important to embrace right now. Yesterday, today wasn’t promised making this present moment something to be thankful for. When it comes to running, it is really easy to constantly think of the end of the run while you’re on it (especially when you’re running 16, 18, or 26 miles at a time). “Okay 4 more miles, in 2 miles I’ll only have 2 more.” I’ve realized that letting these thoughts consume me on a long run negatively effects my time because I’m constantly checking my watch and not in a good headspace. I’ve taught myself to just focus on the present moment, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. When I’ve reached the finish I’ll know, so why bother continuously checking my distance?
Another important point to make here is this: two miles out of twenty six must go by super fast since you’ve just run twenty four, right? Wrong. The last mile or two or three of a marathon felt for me, not like a jog or walk, but more like a crawl. If it is a jog, it’s a jog through waste deep water of gelatinous consistency. It’s a feet digging through the soft sand of the beach, giving it your last ounce of energy run, that feels like the effort of a 7 minute mile but it’s really the speed of a twelve minute one. Basically, the point I’m trying to make with this beautifully descriptive paragraph is, even if you’ve only got a mile left, theres no point in telling yourself “only one more mile” , because it will most likely feel like you’re telling yourself that for 15 miles because it drags on and on and on when you’re that close to the end of something so strenuous.
So, we’ve established why being present while running a marathon is important but it is also super important in life in general. If you spend your whole life looking forward to the next thing then you’ll forget to celebrate your accomplishments. If you think in the format of, “once I finish college I’ll get that good job,” and then you get that good job and you’re like, “once I get one year of experience I’ll get an even better job and make more money and be even happier,” and then you’re like, “as soon as I finish grad school, I’ll find THE BEST job and I will be SO HAPPY,” will you ever reach that figurative future point of eternal happiness? Most likely no. Most likely you’ll one day look back on life and feel like it was all a blur because you were too busy RACING through it (see what I did there). In our society, it is hard to be present since not only are we constantly being stimulated and distracted by technology, but many of us follow hectic schedules that cause us to constantly be focusing on “whats next”.
My best advice on remaining present is to try to become aware of your thoughts and when you find yourself worrying about the “next thing” (or mile) tell yourself to be present. I use the mantra “just be here now, you can do this” when I’m running.
Listen to your body.
The human body is literally built to run, but it can still sustain serious injury if you don’t recover properly. While training for my marathon, I started to experience knee pain that radiated down my entire leg. At first, I would only feel the pain while running but then I started to feel it while doing my day-to-day tasks. This was my first time feeling pain from running that wasn’t just soreness. It was terrifying since I had heard so many horror stories about running injuries. So, I started to do some research. What I decided was that I wasn’t at all recovering properly. I started to incorporate more stretching, utilizing ice, and I bought a foam roller. Luckily, I got away without a serious injury but having a glimpse of what its like for my body to break down on me, caused me to start really listening to my body. I started to “run until it hurts”. Basically, if I started to feel like walking or cutting my run short, I would ask myself, “am I in pain?” If the answer was yes, I would then ask myself if it was true pain from an injury or soreness. If it was soreness, I’d keep going until it actually hurt. Pain during a marathon is inevitable but that’s why it is important to listen to your body in case it is trying to tell you to slow down. A huge part of marathon training is getting your legs used to running when they’re tired.
Listening to your body is an important practice regardless of whether you run or not. Often, when we aren’t feeling right, it’s our body telling us to make some type of change. Every time I test out some type of new diet I pay attention to the way my body reacts to it. Also, listening to my body helps me stay aware of my hormones and mental health.
Let go of self doubt.
When I first said that I wanted to run a marathon, I remember thinking, “yeah but I’m not actually going to do it”. At that time, the furthest I had ever run in my life was 9 miles. By the October of my “goal year” 9 miles was still the longest I’d ever run. Then in November, I ran a half marathon for the first time. Once I finished that race and felt minimally sore, I took the plunge and signed up to run a marathon in December of 2018 (hey, it’s the last month of the year but it still counts). Four days after my half marathon I ran 16 miles for the first time. Ten days after that, I ran 18. Three weeks later, I ran 26.2. That escalated quickly!
It wasn’t until I believed in myself, that I became capable of accomplishing this and that is why I think this is the most important take away from this post. Letting go of self-doubt is the first step in accomplishing any goal. Your friends could be cheering you on all day but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to get very far. You have to just go for it. There was a time in my life when I thought even applying to nursing school wasn’t attainable for me. Then I got in. Then I doubted my ability to finish nursing school. Then I did it. Then I doubted my ability to pass my boards. Then I passed. I think you get where I’m going with this. Stop questioning yourself, and just do the things that you want to do. Instead of saying, “I can’t do that.” Ask yourself, “what are the steps that I need to take to do it?”
I’ll never forget the feeling of crossing that finish line. Or getting that acceptance letter. Whatever it may be, tell yourself it’s possible today and start figuring out the steps it’ll take to get there.