What Are Adaptogens and How I Use Them

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.

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 affect me.

Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane is a type of mushroom, which is where this adaptogen is derived from. Helping with brain function and focus, I first started using lion’s mane when I was in my fourth semester of nursing school. This adaptogen came into my life when I had been having a really hard time focusing while studying and taking exams, so I decided to give it a try.

I definitely didn’t feel an immediate effect but over time, after drinking lion’s mane daily, I began to feel more focused and grounded. I definitely believe that it improved 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 feel more present. 

There are actually some studies out there about lion’s mane and its 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.

How I use it

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. 

Reishi

Even WebMD 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.

How I use it

I often enjoy reishi in the evenings because it has a calming effect, which helps with sleep. When I travel, I always bring reishi with me to help my body relax in a new environment. Just mix 1/4 – 1/2 tsp into a hot cup of tea or blend it in a smoothie. These little packets are great for travel too!

Ashwagandha

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! 

How I use it

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. 

Leave your adaptogen questions in the comments! 

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You can’t hang on to every memory

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.

Xx

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My Daughter’s Birth Story

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 around 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 and after starting to time them, I 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 drove 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 time frame 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.

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. My plan had been to hold her on my chest, skin to skin, right away and breastfeed immediately after she was born. I had planned for 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 a 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 is really beneficial.

I’m also trying 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.

xx

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How Motherhood Motivated Me to be the Best Version of Myself

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 since transitioning into motherhood, 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.

During pregnancy

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 and understanding for any mistakes that 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.

Into motherhood/postpartum

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 roller coaster 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.

Finding acceptance/understanding myself better than ever

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 motivates me to have has helped me get to know myself better than I ever had before I got pregnant.

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 too short to be wasting it in an angry state.

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?

Xx

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Europe Reflections Part IV: A Broken Sandal in Sardinia

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:

Amsterdam —> Brussels —> Alghero —> Dolomites/Cortina d’Ampezzo —> Venice —> Florence —> Rome —> Dublin —> Galway —> Westport —> HOME! 

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 by the way, spoke little to no English at all. I knew little more than “tutto bene” when it came to the Italian language, so I was definitely nervous but excited. 

As soon as the plain landed in Alghero, Sardinia, 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. 

Apperitivos! Water for me

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 a time in my life when I would have judged someone for doing this too, I get it. It does sound a little crazy. But, 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: 

  1. Go to Sardinia, it’s AMAZING there!!
  2. If you’re thinking of traveling solo, first of all DO IT. Second of all, I highly recommend a language school.
  3. 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!

Beautiful streets of Alghero

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3 Lessons My First Marathon Taught Me

Running my first marathon taught me about a whole lot more than just running.

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, nor did I realize 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 my top three takeaways from running my first marathon, and how they relate to so much more than just running. 

1. Be present. 

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).

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 I’m not in the best headspace. I’ve taught myself to focus on the present moment, and 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 is: even if you’ve only got a mile left, there’s no point in telling yourself, “only one more mile,” because even that one mile will drag 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. In our society, it is hard to be present since we are constantly being stimulated and distracted by technology, and many of us follow hectic schedules that cause us to constantly be focusing on what’s 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. 

2. 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 first 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 (side note: foam roller = game changer).

Luckily, I got away without a serious injury but having a glimpse of what it’s 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 just soreness. If it was soreness, I’d keep going until it actually hurt or until my run was over; and almost every time, what came first was the ladder.

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. So figuring out how to distinguish between soreness and a true injury is super important, and this requires you to be in touch with and aware of your body.

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.

3. 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.

It wasn’t until I believed in myself, that I became capable of accomplishing this.

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. I doubted my ability to finish nursing school. Then, I graduated. 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.

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Breaking the Cycle

Get out of the house with your baby, break the cycle!

Every morning, I wake to a little hand smacking me in the face, or pulling on my hair. My eyes open and I see that little face looking up at me as if she’s thinking, “finally you’re awake”. If I’m lucky, we’ve slept until 7:30 in the morning.

I often wake up filled with love and joy, although exhausted. I look at that face and the tiredness just doesn’t matter. But some days I wake up and I feel like I can’t do it today. I truly don’t have the energy to chase this little person around while she seemingly tries desperately to hurt herself, or to set up another meal time, with food thrown all over, only to clean her up entirely and do it all over again 2 hours later (especially when 2 hours feels like 30 minutes). Now I’ve fallen into a cycle of anxious, negative thoughts. 

I’m still laying there in bed, running these scenarios through my head, while my daughter looks at me, pinching me, pulling strands of hair, climbing on me, and giggling about it all, when I think, “not today”.

I refuse to let myself fall into this cycle today. I’m not going to go straight for sitting on the couch and staring at my phone. And I’m definitely not going to fall into that negative thought pattern. Today, I’m breaking the cycle

So, I grab my daughter, change her diaper and change her out of her pajamas. I make my coffee and pour it into a to go cup and I strap her into the stroller. First thing this morning, we’re going for a walk to the beach, because we’re starting this day out strong and we’re breaking the cycle. 

I recently noticed that when I step outside of my day-to-day routines, it has a really positive effect on my mental health. This is interesting to me because of how emphasis is often placed on forming healthy habits, which are important but its also important to remain aware of how you’re spending your free time, and how your habits and routines effect you. 

For me, stepping out of my day-to-day looks like getting up off the couch, looking at my phone less, and just getting out of the house. Sometimes as a mom, this could be something as simple as going for a drive or a walk with my daughter. Even these small steps can have an impact. Before I was a mom, I would spend a lot of time alone in my apartment, studying (I was in nursing school at the time). Packing up my things and going to the library or a cafe instead was how I would break the cycle back then.

It’s kind of like getting stuck in your own bubble. Sometimes, if we’re doing the same thing all the time we forget about the world outside of our little bubble. There are extreme examples of this, where a person is just simply so hung up on their own problems that they’ve become oblivious to anything else. Then, there are circumstances like my own, which simply involves hiding out inside for too long, feeling a bit isolated, and ending up feeling anxious. This concept will obviously look different, when applied to different people and their circumstances. 

Back to that morning I described at the beginning, I felt stressed the moment I woke up because I could feel how exhausted I was and I knew that I didn’t have a day of rest awaiting me. When I got out of the house and went for a walk, I really started to appreciate my life. I took a step back and realized that my life is really great.

I’m not exactly sure why this happens, but I’ve noticed a pattern when I do these types of things. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’m getting out of my comfort zone and doing something new and exciting. Or maybe it’s because getting out of the house reminds me that I may have my own issues and things but there is a whole world functioning outside of my home.

There are billions of people, with their own lives happening outside of my little bubble. These types of thoughts remind me of how beautiful life is, how small I am on this giant planet, how my current problems/issues/stressors/whatever they are, they’re just a drop in the bucket.

My little baby waking me up is the sweetest thing, although I’m exhausted and just want to sleep in. But one day she’ll be a teenager or even an adult and I will miss those little hands yanking my hair so much. So, I’m going to try to laugh more, be present, and embrace these moments for what they are, all the while being patient with myself because we all have bad days and that’s okay too. 

What does breaking the cycle look like for you? Whatever it may be, I encourage you to give it a try. Let me know in the comments how breaking your cycle has helped you! 

Xx

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3 Strong Mantras for Mindfulness

In certain situations, I feel the need to repeat a mantra to myself to stay in the right mindset. I’m going to go over three of my favorite mantras for mindfulness, patience, and peace; and how I came up with them.

Mantras for mindfulness

  1. I am patient, I am calm.
  2. Just be here now, you can do this.
  3. I have no expectations because the future is unknown.
Beautiful field in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. Practice mantras for mindfulness in a peaceful field like this one.

I am patient, I am calm.

I started repeating this one to myself one night when I was rocking my daughter to bed. It can be quite a trying process because it takes a long time for her to fall asleep, causing me to have to endure her fussing and often, she wakes up as soon as she’s laid down. So, I started to repeat this phrase to myself, while deep breathing, because I figure the calmer I am, the more likely it is that she’ll feel calm and fall asleep.

Just be here now, you can do this.

This is my oldest mantra on the list and dates back to my long distance running days (feels like a past life). I repeat this phrase to myself while I’m out running, in an attempt to avoid constantly counting down to the end. This mantra honestly carried me through my marathon. Staying present helps me embrace the run for what it is and usually causes me to run even better. Hey, maybe this post will motivate me to get back into running!

I have no expectations, because the future is unknown.

I found myself worrying about the future recently. I was playing out different scenarios and feeling really anxious. Then I realized that the future is literally unknown. There is no way to predict what will happen and worrying is completely pointless. Also, the possibility of something terrible happening is just as likely as something wonderful happening. So, why not look forward to the future with excitement for the amazing things that are waiting for you, rather than worrying about hypothetical scenarios.

These are a couple of my favorite mantras for mindfulness, but I’m always open to new ones. Leave a comment with your favorite mantra, and how it helps you!

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Simple Steps to Boost the Immune System

I went about two years without getting sick at all, and now I’m feeling under the weather for the second time in the last 6 months. I’ve known for a while that I would need to start taking more action to maintain my health, once I started my career as a nurse. It’s funny how a job that centers around helping others feel better, causes a serious hit to the health of those who are providing the care.

It’s no secret that nurses, people who devote their lives to caring for others, are some of the least cared for people out there. Just a few ways that the health of nurses is put in jeopardy: exposure to sick people, exposure to toxins (cytotoxic drugs, strong cleaning chemicals, hand sanitizer filled with chemicals), lack of fresh air which causes us to breathe recycled, toxin filled air for an entire 12 hour shift, and of course hardly anytime to eat lunch/drink water most days. Yikes. 

So, realizing that I’m sick again, along with the fact that I used to never get sick has me asking myself what more I can do to improve my health. I refuse to accept a life of feeling sick all the time, so I’m taking action!

A few weeks ago, I posted 4 wellness steps I’ve taken recently, but those were more focused on mental health. So, here are 4 simple steps to boost the immune system.

1. More fresh air and outside time

Getting some outside time each day is a really simple way to improve your health. On the days that I work, it’ll be a little tougher since I spend 12 hours inside and rarely have the time to leave the floor, even for lunch. My plan is this: I’ll start driving home with the windows down and sitting outside on the porch for a few minutes when I get home. Also, I’ll try to start spending the majority of my days off outside, to make up for the lost time. 

2. Consistency with vitamins/supplements

I take a couple of vitamins and supplements “daily”. I put that in quotes because I’m pretty inconsistent with it and I kind of just take them when I remember to. I’m going to start making sure to take them everyday. My daily vitamins include a probiotic, prenatal vitamin, and a dropper of elderberry syrup. 

3. Exercise/sweat

When it comes to exercise, I’ve been slacking lately. It’s hard to find the time and energy to get moving. Back to my job being strenuous, I typically walk about 5 – 6 miles on the days that I work and that walk is more like a light jog because I’m constantly rushing around. So, when I get home I’m pretty worn out. Even so, it’s important to try to get moving outside of work a little bit each day because sweating is one of the best ways for me to detox my body from all of those toxins that I just mentioned! I don’t need to be running 10 miles a day, but a little movement and sweat will really benefit my health. So, I’m going to try to get moving daily, even if that just means doing 15 squats in the evening. 

4. Stretching and deep breathing (preferably while outside)

Stretching is something that everyone can benefit from. Stretching can make you more flexible and less likely to injure yourself and it further helps with detoxifying the body. Add in some deep breathing and we’re in business, baby! Bonus points if you accomplish these while outside and getting fresh air.

If being a nurse has taught me anything, it’s that we’ve got to take care of ourselves because no one is going to do it for us. And taking care of yourself is the first and most important step in being capable of caring for others. Don’t slack on your self care, mental health, or wellness. Incorporate these simple steps into your schedule to boost your immune system today!

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Europe Reflections Part III: Lost in the Streets of Brussels

“Bon voyage, Mademoiselle,” chimed the Uber driver as we arrived at the Brussels airport, he had unknowingly just rescued me from over an hour of wondering around, lost in Brussels. It was 6AM and I’d be catching a flight to Sardinia in less than an hour. I felt an immense sense of relief because the journey to get to this airport had been a wild one.

Let me take you back to a couple of hours earlier. I had spent the night at a hotel located in the outskirts of Brussels, Belgium. I booked this specific hotel because I knew it was near the airport, and they offered a free airport shuttle. This seemed like a flawless plan to make my super early flight to Sardinia. 

I woke up around 4AM, got dressed, grabbed my bag, and headed downstairs. When I approached the hotel lobby desk, I asked about the airport shuttle. The secretary gave me a curious look and asked if I had scheduled pick up by the airport shuttle. I returned the look with the same level of curiosity and responded with, “no, I thought it just showed up automatically”. She told me it was no big deal, she would call the shuttle and they would be here shortly. All I was to do was go outside and wait at the shuttle stop. 

I arrived at the shuttle stop and sat there patiently. I called my boyfriend to feel like I had some company. 

What appears to be an airport shuttle pulls up. I hoist my 4 liter backpack over my shoulder and climb on. I notice that there is only one other passenger, with very little baggage for someone who is heading to the airport. I found this peculiar. I’m chatting with my boyfriend who’s still on the phone when I get an odd feeling. I decide to look on Google maps and see if we’re getting close to the airport. Thank God for that international phone plan.

To my utter shock, we were actually moving further and further away from the airport. 

I stand up and tell the bus driver I need to go to the Brussels airport. He repeats the word “no” along with “Brussels airport” a few times along with some French words and pulls off to the side of the road. He opens the bus door and points, and says more French words. He seems to be giving me directions, while also encouraging me to get off of the bus. At this point I have no idea what to do so I walk off the bus. 

Now I’m alone and stranded, at 4AM in the middle of a foreign city that right now, isn’t looking too friendly or safe. Also, I’m 6 months pregnant. I start to mentally beat myself up for endangering my unborn child.

I’m reminding myself of all of the un-approving looks I got when I told people I would be embarking on a backpacking trip, alone and pregnant. “Haven’t you seen the movie Taken??”

I was honestly terrified. I went into fight or flight mode. I plugged the address of the airport into google maps and was directed to walk a mile to a train station. I thought, okay good, I’ll walk to the train station and figure it out from there. At least I’ll be somewhere indoor, well lit and filled with people. 

That one mile walk felt like a marathon. I was so on edge the whole time. I was clutching my pregnant belly and my heart jumped a little every time a car passed by. I was praying to God to keep us safe.

Finally I made it to the train station and that’s when I realized the train “station” wasn’t a train station at all. It was a train stop and it wasn’t indoor, well lit nor were there any people there. It was an outdoor train stop, that didn’t feel anymore safe than the streets I had been walking on for the last 30 minutes. I checked the train schedule that was posted and the next train wouldn’t be there for over an hour, there’s no way I could make my flight in that time and that would require me to sit here even longer, alone in the dark. No thank you. 

I was panicking when the most obvious idea hit me, Uber. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Well actually, I had thought of it before but I wasn’t sure if the town Brussels even used Uber, also I assumed that no Uber would be available at 4AM. Luckily for me, that assumption was false.


I requested an Uber and he was there in minutes. Two stray kittens scurried by and I started to play with them. They were an uplifting distraction, so I decided to take a picture. My Uber driver in shining armor arrived, and I was so shaken up that when he offered to put my backpack in the trunk I said no, and I clung onto it in my lap the whole car ride. Before I knew it I was safe at the Brussels airport. Indoor, well lit, and filled with people.

Read more of my Europe Reflections here!

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