Mindfulness

The Importance of Time

I believe that the most important thing that anyone can give you is their time. Why? Because we only have so much time in a day — 24 hours comprised of 60 minute intervals. And, not to put a damper on this post, but we really don’t know when our last second will be. Therefore, it’s important for us to enjoy every minute of everyday.

One of the problems many people — myself included — tend to have is time management. What is an important way to manage our time? How do we do it in a way that’s effective? And, most importantly, how do we do it, and still manage to do the things that we love?

After all, I feel that sometimes we often forget we do in fact lose sight on the importance of ‘me’ time — time devoted to doing the things that we love such as read, exercise or even watch an episode of Netflix. Why? Well, sometimes it could be from work — you work later or more, for extra cash or to make sure you’re doing a good job. Or, you could be swept up in the attempts to do things for other people.

Either way, you’re putting the needs of yourself behind everyone and everything else — somewhere where it probably shouldn’t be.

I think that we owe ourselves responsibility in the same manner that we owe the other people and things in our lives, whether it may be to make sure that we get enough sleep, making sure we take five minutes to go to the gym or even breathe. In fact it’s called a little thing called self care.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to manage our time throughout our busy lives so we can do that. And, by doing that, you’re only improving your performance for the other roles that you have in your life — mother, father, worker, friends, girlfriend, etc. I think that it’s something that many often forget.

But, the question is, how do we accomplish this? Well, it’s simple. We take five minutes to eat our lunches without doing any work. In addition to scheduling time for our work meetings, we also take the time to schedule time to exercise and to balance our schedules with something fun. We also take the time to just breath, to veg out and to take a bubble bath.

It’s all about balance, people.

I too struggle with this There was a time in my life where I would devote myself solely to work and school. During that time in my life, I felt that I constantly kept on going and going. I also had a job that took over every minute of my life — where I would stay late almost every night, and do work on weekends and night. In both instances, those aren’t healthy.

Looking back, I wonder now what would have happened if I had put myself a priority versus everything else in my life. I’m pretty sure if I drew the line from that, if I had said ‘no, it’s not going to work out for me,’ I would have been happier and maybe have been able to get through these stressful moments ten times easier. I now know that I owe it to myself to do so — and make sure that I make myself a priority.

So, the next time you are stressed out for any reason — work, school, balancing work and school — take a moment and look at how you spend your time. Chances are, you need to devote more to yourself.

Mindfulness

Understanding the Relationship Between Physical and Mental Health

Until recently, I never quite understood the marriage between physical and mental health. That is, until I decided to up my health and fitness game — I decided to eat a little healthier, cut out down my coffee drinks, and exercised a bit more to make sure I reached my step goal on my Fitbit.

And, I noticed a change in myself. I noticed I was happier, and slept better during the night. In addition to that, I noticed that my clothes began to fit me a little looser than they did when I first bought them — an ultimate win.

When many people try a new diet or exercise program, they often have one goal in mind — weight loss. Which is fine, if you ask me — but that shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal should be to get healthy.

Focusing more on your physical health is something does wonders for your mental. Remember when Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphin. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” And, she’s right. According an article on Mayo Clinic called “7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity,” regular physical activity “stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.” And in my experiences, it always manages to help release stress when you’re feeling highly stretched, and helps keep you calm when anxious. In fact, it was something that my therapist recommended when I went to therapy.

Definitely worth the trip to the gym in the morning then.

In addition to making it a point to regularly exercise, it is also important to stay hydrated — especially in the hot summer heat. If you know me, you know that I carry around a bottle of water pretty much all of the time, and drink at least three glasses of water at dinner.  Believe it or not, staying hydrated has some effects on your mental health as well as your physical. According to an article on Active Beat entitled “10 Benefits of Staying Hydrated,” hydration is closely related to “balancing mood and emotions.” And this is on top of the physical benefits, which include help keep your body cool, helps keep you from being thirsty, and cleanses toxins. And, by opting for water instead of soda, you reduce calories and sugar intake even further.

It’s always an amazing feat when one makes a change to improve their overall being — whether it may be to go to a therapist, start running, or change their food intake. By making you and your health a priority, it only helps you be a stronger and better person. By taking 20 minutes a day to walk, it makes the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day ten times better, because you are more focused and less stressed.

And, can’t we all use a bit more of that? I certainly think so.

anxiety, mental health, Mental Illness Awareness Month, Mindfulness

11 Mantras Everyone With a Mental Illness Needs to Hear

Having a mental illness – or even just going through a rough time – can be the most isolating thing on the planet. It is like you are in a downwards spiral, and have no way out of it.

With that being said, it’s hard to think that there will be an end to the suffering and the pain that you are dealing with. So, I’ve decided to provide a list of mantras for those who are going through a mental illness or a rough time to serve as reminders that you truly can get through it.

  1. I am worth it.
  2. I can beat this.
  3. I am worthy of love.
  4. I am strong.
  5. I am beautiful.
  6. Everything is going to be okay.
  7. I am loved.
  8. It is okay not to be okay.
  9. I am going to get through this.
  10. My best is good enough.
  11. I am good enough.
Mindfulness

The Importance of Enjoying Life

Recently, I read the book Home to Italy by Peter Pezzelli. As I was reading it, it got me thinking about something.

From what the book said, life seemed completely different then it is in the U.S. Every afternoon, the entire town shuts down for a while to rest and eat lunch. Here in America, some don’t even take their 30 minutes for lunch.

Which one of us has it right?

Here in Connecticut, we’ve had some unbelievable weather with the sun finally sticking its head out of the clouds, and temperatures souring into the 80s. I began to develop a severe case of spring fever. Therefore, I flocked to every local park to enjoy every blissful ray of sunshine that I could.

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Wharton Brook State Park in North Haven, Conn. — what a lovely lake!

During one of my walks, I realized something. For about three years, I was completely engrossed in two things – work and school. Those two things took over my life, and resulted in a completely stressed out college student. I never did anything for the fun of it. I did things to add onto my resume.

As I head into this new phase in my life – where I would be essentially figuring out my next place in this world – I want to spend every second I can enjoying the beauty that life allows us to. I mentioned this earlier on, when I wrote the post The Little Things. But, why can’t we incorporate those mindsets in our daily lives?

I think we need to take a page in Italy’s book. Life is too short to live in a cycle that consists of work and education. There is so much true beauty in the world, beauty that can be overlooked. By doing this, it will help us become happier beings, and more holistic beings. This in turn will keep us from burning out.

How can we do it?

Start by taking breaks. Take your lunch break, and if it’s nice out, spend sometime outside. Schedule time where you do something fun. Rest when your body tells you to. Schedule a vacation so that you can decompress.

And last but not least – balance. Balance, my friends is the key to life.

Mindfulness

The Little Things

This past weekend had some of the nicest weather that we’ve seen in a while. I’m talking about the sun finally coming out of hibernation, and for the first time, it truly felt like spring.

While I was sipping on my Starbucks Pink Drink (for those of you who want to know what exactly the pink drink contains, it’s basically a Strawberry refresher with coconut milk – I highly recommend), I began to think about something. Some call this stopping and smelling the roses.

There are only x amount of nice weather days a year. There are only about 180 days of spring and summer weather – days where the sun emerges for the first time and you can go outside without having to wearing a parka and gloves. With that being said, we must take advantage of every day where the sun is shining and the weather is above 60 degrees. Because, these seasons only are allotted this amount of time. Therefore, you can’t take it fore granted.

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A picture I’ve taken while taking a walk through East Rock Park — a great way to enjoy the warm spring weather! 
That same thing applies to life. How often do we think about the bigger picture, practically worrying about something ending or going wrong, or about something that we don’t know if we have a cause to worry about? How often do we do that, and then forget to enjoy the little moments of everything? The sweet taste of the Starbucks latte that you are enjoying, the taste of the lips of the person that you’re kissing, or the sunshine on a wonderful spring day. Those are the moments that you often lose sight of, because you are worrying about your finals, not finding a job, or the relationship ending.

It’s safe to say that my Starbucks drink had come with a side of insight.

So, on this wonderful Monday (yes, an oxymoron, but Mondays could in fact be wonderful), I challenge you to enjoy every sip of your morning coffee. I encourage you to take a moment and enjoy the rays of the spring season. I encourage you to think about the day, and not about the future. I encourage you to think about the date you’re having, and not worrying whether or not the relationship will last. I myself am guilty of some of these things, but I am going to do my best to make sure that I enjoy the little delights of life. And, perhaps, this will translate to the larger areas of my life, which in turn allows me to be present for today.

Mindfulness

The Art of Being Present

Last week, I visited my college campus to pick up my diploma (long story, but my original one was damaged in the mail). And, it got me thinking.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my time at Southern. When I was in college all I could think was oh, how I can’t wait to graduate. I pictured my post grad life to be heavenly: I would be working only one job, as opposed to three, where I would be making a decent amount of money. No classes, no online internships, no many part time jobs. And it will be great.

Oh, how I was wrong. For the past few months, all I craved was a chance to go onto my campus and do college all over again. I missed it all. I missed knowing what to do, and what my role as a student was. I miss meeting friends, and hanging out with them. I miss taking classes, believe it or not, especially with those who shared the same passions for English and journalism that I had.

A year ago, if I had told you that I would miss college, then I would have thought that you were off your rocker.

Upon reflecting on this, I realized something. In both instances, I am not present. When I was in college, all I wanted to do was graduate. Now that I am in college, all I want to do is go buy a super expensive textbook. And, while I am wishing that I was somewhere else in time, I am not enjoying the cheap thrills of today.

With that, I am realizing something. I am not happy looking ahead or behind. I am ignoring the simple thrills of today, and am not savoring the sweetness of everyday life.

One of my goals is to be more present. You hear that everywhere — in self help books, or in any article about anxiety. But, what does that mean? 

I don’t know what the Webster definition of it is, but I’ll tell you mine. For me being present consists of enjoying the daily luxuries, such as great lattes, taking advantage of the sun’s rays when it’s nice outside, and cuddle sessions with my dog.

By enjoying the little things and savoring them, I think it’s one of the ingredients in the recipe for happiness. After all, anxiety occurs when you are looking too far ahead into the future, and depression occurs when you are living solely in the past. Therefore, by living in the present, by being present, one can somehow be on the road to happiness.

Mindfulness

Stress And The Importance Of Taking Care of Yourself

For about two weeks, I had felt completely and utterly awful. My body ached, I was in so much pain that I could barely sit in a position that was not vertical, and my head hurt – to only name a few of my symptoms. It became so bad that I actually needed to take a day off of work to find refuge in my bed. The cause of this experience? Stress.

In the past few months, it’s an understatement when I say that I have experienced my fair share of stress. I started a new job. I switched gears from being a full-time student, to being a full-time career gal. Needless to say, with all of that stress building up in my system, it finally caught up with my body.

On that day, I decided to take some time to reflect and brainstorm some ideas on how to manage stress, the healthy way so I don’t end up in bed again. You see, up until that point, I definitely was not doing that – I used shopping as a coping mechanism, constantly was under distress, venting to all of my friends, and I just wasn’t taking care of myself, both mentally and physically.

Not good, Natalie.

So, before I could do any further damage to my body – my doctor said that stress can kill you – I took out my journal and decided to write a list of healthy things I can do to help manage stress:

  1. Actually take my lunch breaks.
  2. Drink more water.
  3. Drink less coffee/caffeine.
  4. Exercise daily.
  5. Journal/blog often (aka write more personally, rather than for work).
  6. Go hiking (weather permitting) once a week.
  7. Paint my nails as often as possible.
  8. Use my planner to track what I’m doing.
  9. Plan one to two social outings per week.
  10. Take time to do things that make me happy – reading, crafts, or even doing absolutely nothing!

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Taking the time to enjoy views like this can definitely help reduce stress! 
Having that list (and writing it) made me realize that while I am powerless to protect myself from all of the stressors that life throws at me, I still have the power to stop it.

Someone recently told me that when something stresses you out or causes you anxiety, it is because it’s important to you and is something that you are afraid to lose. That served as a reminder whenever I feel anxious or stressed out about the real source of my anxiety, and is something I hope that you all out there find comfort in as well when you assess what’s truly bothering you. 

 

Mindfulness

Snow Days and Self Care

My alarm woke me up at exactly 6:15 a.m. – the time I usually get up. With the expected snowstorm, I reached for my phone and called my company’s weather line.

Work was cancelled. Yippee!

As much as I love my job, the prospect of a snow day was just enough to send my half awake self into happy dance mode.

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Books and a cup of coffee — perfect snow day activity! 

One of my former professors said that snow days were like a gift from God. I agree with her, because snow days are just days that you can wear your comfy socks, sip something hot, and spend it doing whatever you want. You can read a book, you can catch up some work, or bake some cookies – all of that fun stuff to relax.

But, other than relaxing, doesn’t that sound like something else?

Wait, for it. I know you can think of it.

Doesn’t it sound like self care? Why yes it does!

In therapy, I learned a lot about the concept of self care. To me, self-care is doing something nice for yourself that makes you happy. This spans further than just taking a bubble bath (although, those are kind of fun!). This is taking the time to step away from your work, doing something that’s fun for you, and tending to your needs.

Kind of like the activities that you do on a snow day.

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While the snow is pretty to look at, it also can prompt relaxation. 

So, I guess in a sense, snow days are like God’s little ways to remind us to take the breaks that we need to just relax – the unexpected days that prompt us to take a break and do something that we enjoy for once. The days where we can just catch up on our work and slow down our hectic pace, even just for a day.

I guess having a blizzard isn’t so bad after all.

Happy snow day everyone – I hope that you all get a chance to practice some self care today. As for me, I’ll be getting ahead on some work, online shopping, and reading my book.

Mindfulness

Who Are You To Tell Me How To Feel?

If I had a dollar every time someone told me to (or not) feel a certain way, I would have enough money to pay for the car I want to buy in full. Don’t feel this way because it’s not worth it. Don’t cry about that boy because he is not worth it. It’s been this amount of time since you’ve broken up-why don’t you start dating again?

It is almost as if we have to shut our feelings off and push them in the back of the closet, because feeling something, any kind of something is a crime. Happiness, okay you can feel that. However, anger, sadness, and anxiety? No, you can’t feel that because it is much too harsh for us to deal with on a daily basis.

Too bad it doesn’t work that way. Many times, we are asked to ‘suck it up’ when something happens. After six months of grieving something (a relationship/a death/whatever), we have reached the maximum time that we are allotted to feel sad. After that, you no longer have the right to cry at night, because you are still hurting from your break up. That is the time when you are expected to suck it up and move on.

But, that’s not how it works.

And, I absolutely hate it.

I wish I could meet the person who made those rules, so I can slap them in the face and tell him that they were stupid. I wish that I can get a megaphone so I can scream to people “it’s okay to feel upset sometimes, you will heal eventually.” I wish that I could hug every person who is feeling sad, anxious or depressed right now and remind them that what they are feeling is truly valid.

Since I do not own a megaphone, this is the closest feeling that I can get to that. It is the power of the Internet.

So, it is okay to cry. It is okay to admit that you are sad. The thing is, by admitting that you are sad, you are one step closer to reaching the point where you are healed. By repressing those emotions, it is only going to explode one day. And, that is definitely not healthy.

The thing is it is going to take time to get back up. It’s going to take time to heal your emotional wounds, and to reach the point of true healing. However, with that being said, there is no end date to the hurting. So stop creating one, and focus more on healing you.

After all, it is your opinion that matters the most, doesn’t it?

Mindfulness, Relationships

Learning to Love

Fear comes from many aspects in life. One of those aspects is from past experiences, whether they may be from trauma, heartbreak or anything that causes anxiety or fear to rule over your body. One of those fears is learning to let someone in after heartbreak.

I have been broken up from my former boyfriend for almost three months now. I can safely say that I am over him, and hold no interest in ever dating him again. However, his ghost still lingers in my head and heart, a reminder every day of what happened between us and how hurt I still am.

We have only dated for a few months, and yes, I should not have this person cross my mind. However, I believe that there should not be a timeline of getting over someone, especially someone who was my first kiss, and my first real relationship. I am in no rush, as I want to feel everything before moving onto the next.

However, I am beginning to go out on dates and talking to new guys. And, for the first time, I am noticing that fear evident as I make dates and even consider entering a relationship with guys that I would otherwise go into with no qualms. I am scared of having to deal with the same problems that our relationship had, whether it may be you wanting too much or not having enough patience to deal with me. I am scared of opening myself up too much, only too get hurt again. That was a fear that I had when I was with my relationship with my former boyfriend, and is something I deal with today.

I think I need to re-learn to love. That love starts from within, which is something that I work on. As I work on becoming a person who loves herself, I am realizing what I will and will not stand for. Learning to love comes from learning to love you, and that is something that I am learning to do better on the daily.

In the efforts to learn to love, you also have to learn to trust. You have to be honest, when the time is right, when you are dating someone and are afraid. You have to trust that person, even though your trust is broken in the past. I also think in order to learn how to love, you need to put to bed the past before moving on.

Every day, I am getting better at learning how to love. I am allowing myself to feel every emotion that I am feeling, writing it down in a journal. I am getting out there by surrounding myself with supportive friends and meeting new people. I am learning to love, love me for my flaws, which will lead me to learning to love someone else when the time is right. I am a work in progress, however, one day, I will eventually be less cracked. Like Michael Bolton says, it takes time, love and tenderness, which is the tools needed for learning how to love. And, with those tools, I will get an A in learning to Love 101, leaving the anxieties of what happened in the past.