What are my coping skills?

Hey all! Happy Monday 🙂 What the what… I’m back here on the blog again… so soon. Also, who in creation says “happy MONDAY”?!? I’ve been posting more lately and it feels right. Does that make sense? Doing what I love and what makes me smile – writing and sharing!

What am I here to talk about today? Coping mechanisms and skills for your mental health toolbox. OK, so, I came across a quote the other day which inspired me to sit down and journal about what I define to be my purpose and goals. I’ve been extremely on edge lately and dealing with way more anxiety than “normal” for me. Knowing this, I knew that I NEEDED to take some time to myself and just write, process, and understand my feels. In doing this, I decided to define what my coping skills are or what could be a genuine coping mechanism for me and my life. Coping skills are a necessity, and in my opinion, the more in-tune we are with our needs and what things are supportive of our needs the easier reaching goals becomes. It’s never a bad thing to utilize skills and cultivate habits which support our goals and fall in line with what we feel is our purpose on this planet.

I am such a quote person it’s slightly ridiculous, not a bad thing, merely an observation. Anyways, “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” ― Neil Gaiman

Like I said, define my purpose. Before getting into specifics, I just wanted to share some hiking panoramics which I love to look back at and reminiscence between hikes. THIS is a huge coping skill for me.

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All of that said, let’s jump into the primary topic of this post… coping skills. The categories to define various coping skills are some that I learned while in treatment, and honestly, I think they’re gold.

Based on the five senses, what are things that soothe you?

  • Sound: birds chirping, rain, thunder, the ocean, bells,  music
  • Smell: pine, coffee, mint, smoke from a campfire, lavender, fall leaves, cinnamon
  • Taste: berry, mint, coffee, cinnamon, vanilla
  • Touch: comfy clothing, hugs, hot showers, sauna (heat), soft blankets/being under multiple covers in bed, walking barefoot
  • Sight: sunshine, rain, the forest, waterfalls, mountains, blue skies, the ocean, wildlife

What can you do to reconnect with yourself physically?

  • Run OUTSIDE
  • Yoga
  • Go for a walk
  • Hike

What can you do to reconnect with yourself mentally?

  • Meditate (guided or unguided)
  • Journal
  • Write a blog post
  • Listen to a calming music playlist

What will you do if you need an out?

  • Remove myself calmly from a situation
  • Text a friend to call me/call a friend
  • Accept that saying NO is acceptable

What can you do to distract yourself and/or remove yourself from anxiety (I filled in this question with anxiety to get more specific)?

  • Meet up with a friend
  • Work on homework
  • Plan a workout
  • Read a book
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Take a nap
  • Take a hot shower
  • Hold a frozen orange (cool and useful technique learned in my program… keep an orange in the freezer and if you feel a panic attack coming on just sit down and hold said orange, your focus will move from negative and very robust emotions to the fact that your holding a freezing cold non-melting object… if this isn’t enough you can resort to filling a bowl with ice water and sticking your head in… YEP, I have done this (twice), and YEP it does the trick). I do think processing the feelings which led you to needing to utilize this skill in the first place though after the fact is important.

What will you do if you feel stuck?

  • Attempt to decipher my feelings
  • Talk with a close friend
  • Read old blog posts and journals to try to help regain a sense of self and light a fire under my ass
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Best friends make the world go round

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Replace and anxiety for depression and #nailedit (also nails it for depression also, of course!)

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Had to share this… Left class one day and just sat outside for ~ 15 mintues because I needed a moment (a lot of moments). Decided to snapchat a friend instead of getting lost inside of my head. #puttingskillstowork

What are some of YOUR coping skills? We’re all different.

Any quotes that speak to you lately?

Thanks for reading 🙂 xo, S

Why I love running & WHAT is my college major?!

Hi all! Happy Friday Smile I’m really excited that it’s almost the weekend, mainly because I’m heading off for a hike on Saturday with a friend who I met via social media (how cool is this community of people?!) and Sunday is a run day!

In my last post I talked about how I changed my major, but didn’t get into the nitty-gritty details… read: what I changed to. Since starting I’ve been Neuroscience, and I’m now a senior, on the five-year plan. The five-year plan is extremely common at my school, especially as a transfer from community college. Focus Sarah, focus… anyways, my major is now psychology. This was a hard pill to swallow at first. Mainly my ego was extremely against this because the two majors are very similar (same department) yet so different. I felt that neuroscience was “harder” because it sounded intense. That is point blank one of the worst decisions to stay in a major… because it sounds more appealing to your ego.

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Descending Mt. Hancock

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I have loved my psychology courses at this point. Don’t get me wrong I’ve also loved most of my science coursework – genetics, anatomy & physiology, and biology. I did well in chemistry but the lab gave me anxiety. This SHOULD have been my “aha moment” that something just wasn’t right for me, but that didn’t happen, and to be honest that’s ok. I enjoy the lecture portion of science courses, but feel very uncomfortable in a lab. I’m not sure why, it’s just not my niche. Besides that, the neuro curriculum is very great for pre-med/vet/phd, which for forever was my plan. I thought I wanted to pursue medicine. It seemed like a great fit – I want to help people, I’m very interested in disease processes and holistic health, I am good at school, and I get along with people well. Great. I’ll graduate, go to medical school, become a doctor, and work in healthcare. Ok ok ok, I can do this… this is the plan… no detours aloud.

It didn’t feel right.

I’m not sure what the “plan” is, and quite frankly I don’t think I need to know what the plan is. I think being accepting of not knowing is the best place I can be in right now. I’m open to what happens. Sure, I am anxious, very anxious, but what is meant to happen will happen and I am focusing on that. I’m going with the fact that I enjoy psych coursework, understand it, and can use it in a wide variety of ways post-grad. I’m also super happy that I was able to take courses such as behavioral neuroscience and drugs and behavior for neuroscience which also count for the psych degree, and allowed me to really understand the physiological mechanisms in the brain.

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Just call me the bird whisperer

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A quote I posted a while ago has really been speaking to me lately: “You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

Yes yes yes. This is so true, at least for me. Experience has been the best teacher. Experience has allowed me to be accepting, vulnerable, open, and thoughtful. Here I am mainly talking about recent experiences which have opened my eyes to what else exists in the world besides the goals I’ve had my mind so intensely set on achieving, and therefore limiting my perception of the bigger picture. I’ve processed A LOT in the past six months. I’ve cried, journaled, questioned, experienced a plethora of emotions AND felt them versus shoving them down and away into a deep dark hidden black hole. I want to understand my dreams, not just on a superficial level, but on the deepest level possible. I am working to understand what motivates me and sets me on fire instead of what enlightens my ego.

This is where hiking, running, and fitness come into play. For years I have considered the gym to be a part of me, but more in a sense of my place to unleash my energy, not a place to explore my life purpose. I used to be very involved in the outdoors. I also used to run a lot. Both of these, outdoors and running, have made minimal appearances in my life up until last summer. Sure I’ve been in the gym lifting and taking some group fitness classes but not much else. I felt very in shape but missing connection. Since getting back into being outdoors, mainly with hiking, and adding running into my mix, I have felt more alive than I have in years and quite possibly… ever.

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Mt. Jackson. Winter wonderland.

I truly believe that things come and go as we need them. I got myself back into hiking and running for a reason – clarity and understanding, The two activities for me are not just a form of fitness but a form of being true to myself and are activities which set my soul on fire. I’ve talked about hiking on the blog before so right now I’m going to focus on running. I was a sophomore in high school when I first started running, and to be completely honest, at that point I didn’t love it, I did it as a means to work out more and it was a coping mechanism entirely intertwined with my eating disorder. Fast forward to graduation and I found myself training for my first Spartan Race and excited about the experience yet still very stuck in my head. After playing around with racing for a few years I ended up dealing with a considerable injury which sent me over the deep end with where I was mentally. Since this time I haven’t run much. Sure, I would do a mile or two here and there but nothing beyond that. After getting back into hiking and being outdoors over the summer, I began running again. In the beginning it was slow and low mileage, to test the waters and make sure I was adding it for the “right reasons” as I’m now much more aware of when I’m doing things which are maladaptive coping mechanisms.

In the past couple of months running again feels entirely different that it did when I began in high school. It’s freeing, therapeutic, enlightening, and bliss. I love it. I can’t even explain it. It’s like the feeling I had before my first Spartan but without being in my head. It gets me out of my head and helps me process, kind of like hiking does. It feels good, but most importantly, I feel good. Right now I am enjoying the process of getting back into running and allowing myself the space I need to understand why this activity is becoming more and more a part of my life again – but with positive attributes instead of negative ones. I think that all along I’ve been an “endurance junkie” (I mean look at my past life aka childhood with competing in jump-rope) but have never understood the meaning behind it and therefore it was never something beneficial towards my growth as a person. I’m now understanding this side of me more, and I’m very very open to exploring this part of my life which I closed myself off from for so many years. Another point I will add is how both hiking and running increased my ability to step back and look at my education as a big picture versus being hyper-focused on my ego’s goals. These two things have given me the space to find my thoughts.

For me, running is clarity, therapy, adventure, and a challenge. It allows me to push my physical limits and also helps me grow into a space where I feel the most “true to myself”.

“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” – Deepak Chopra

Pursue the dream that YOU see

Hi guys! I’m popping by today to say hello, post some pictures from fall and winter hikes, share a couple recent favorite quotes, and give a minor school and life update. I’ve missed posting on the blog. I haven’t felt the motivation to do so, I’ve considered writing something up but nothing felt genuine. I haven’t been sure of my current path, where I’m headed, and needed to take space for myself to determine where I want to head.

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Mt. Isolation on a stormy day

It’s January 24th! What does that mean? It’s the first day of classes for the spring semester… except they were cancelled today due to a darling snowstorm. You know when the first day back is a snow day that it’s going to be a good semester Winking smile School updates are an interesting bunch and I am keeping it simple (for now). I’m changing majors, and no I’m not mentioning to what in this post. This has been an on and off thought for a long while now. Don’t get me wrong, I love neuroscience. It’s cool. I understand it. I’m good at it. Those three things however don’t cut it, at least not for me. I don’t feel as though I’m becoming prepared to enter the real world. I feel like a good student. Something is missing, classes feel off, my mind doesn’t ever stop wondering what else is out there. If there is one thing I know about myself from an educational perspective, it’s that I’m a lifelong learner. I believe that experience is the best form of education. Only though trial can one truly truly learn how to both interpret material but also execute the learned material. There’s input and there’s output.

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View from Wildcat A peak

“It is your thoughts and your thoughts alone that determine what’s possible for you now.” – Marianne Williamson

One point I will mention is how aware I’ve become of my feelings. Aware and accepting of. Over the past several months I’ve noticed a shift in mindset. I still overthink on a regular basis, but I let less stresses wear down on me. The way I approach stress has been from a different angle. Instead of trying to shove it down a hole and cover it with hobbies, life, and miscellaneous tasks… I’ve been working through it by doing the things which set my soul on fire and feeling my feelings in the process of these activities. Stressed about my major, jobs, career and life aspirations, needing extra quick cash, my inner demons… I ponder it hiking, snowboarding, running. I think through the stress while I’m in my least overwhelmed state and things almost automatically seem “less bad”. I have more control, more awareness, and more clarity or the situation at hand.

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Mt. Tecumseh summit

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.” – Amy Poehler

I’m learning to trust my instincts. I’m learning to simplify things, keep my problems as straight forward as possible, work with the negatives and the positives simultaneously, and keep moving in the direction that I want to be moving towards.

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The Wildcats

“There is a voice inside of you
that whispers all day long,
‘I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.’
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
or wise man can decide
what’s right for you – just listen to
the voice that speaks inside.” – Shel Silverstein

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Summit of South Hancock

I’ve always been the person to keep adding more and more things. Adding to the point of feeling as though I’m a hamster running around it’s wheel, locked inside of a cage. I’m great at saying “yes”, both to things which serve me and are supportive to my life and at things that either don’t support me or are simply too much. Multitasking is another skill, however almost to a detriment because I keep feeling that it’s leading to me being productive in the sense of quantity but not quality. Letting go of things is something I’m not as skilled at. Letting go of “extra baggage” is crucial for growth. Letting go of negative behaviors, toxic relationships, things which no longer serve a purpose = essential for moving forward. I’m tired of feeling like I need to escape my life. I want to feel the strongest feelings in my life and be okay with them, cherish them, process them, and keep going. I’m working to grow myself into a place where I constantly want to be present in my life.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” – Robert Greene

Mental health updates & living effectively + sustainably

Why must I use fancy words in my title? Well… #nerdlife

Effectively (adv): In such a manner as to achieve a desired result

Sustainably (adv): In a way that can be maintained at a certain rate or level

* source

I’m a huge proponent of waking up and feeling excited about life. Aren’t we all? Lately it’s been a lot of waking up content, going to the gym, and then heading to school. Fine and dandy, except when it’s not fine and dandy. I need to be capable of excelling in my day to day life without it being draining or daunting. I need to be effective. I don’t feel these two things right now. I want to reach my goals (we all do), but not destroy myself in the process of doing so. I’ve nearly destroyed myself before, a few times, and I’m not open or accepting to that experience ever again. Sure, I might be served a “shit sandwich” as Mark Manson likes to call it, but it’ll be my own preference and therefore I’ll roll with the punches. I want to be able to sustain my lifestyle, actions, inactions, and values.

Recently I’ve been pretty stressed regarding the future. Okay, I’m still pretty stressed, tbh. BUT, I’m becoming more accepting of the whole process, trusting my instinct (which changes… like daily), and letting things just ebb and flow. I’m a junior in college studying neuroscience and nutrition. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and that is entirely OK. I always had my mind set on something in healthcare, and I still hope to work within that field in some capacity or another. Ever since I was last in treatment for my eating disorder I’ve had my sights set on medicine (prior to that, for the bulk of my existence it was physical therapy). I’m not going to say I want to be doctor because I hope to help people. I mean, yes, that’s true, but it’s so so so much deeper than that. I want to teach people to take care of themselves before it’s too late, or before they get sick, so prevention. I want to help people love themselves. I want to show people that you can be in pain for years, decades, and still come back from that. I want to be the person who can answer the same questions I once had myself. I’m also insanely interested in the brain, microbiome, biomechanics, and the immune system. Oh and I think reading research papers is fun, almost as fun as histology. So essentially I’m a wee little nerd with a plethora of interests. Yep, nailed it.

I thought pursing medicine would be my thing, my niche. Maybe it will be, that I’m not sure of, but I want to broaden my horizons with new ideas. Perhaps becoming a physician isn’t the only way to do all of the previously mentioned goals I hold for myself. I sometimes wish I could just buckle down and say “ok, I’m going to be a doctor”. Close curtain. End of story. I can’t say that because I’m not sure. I know I’m capable of it but I’m not sure it’s the path to reach my goals, personally and professionally. I am working to expand my scope and explore different directions which are more in line with my life and other interests.

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I recently was listening to a YouTube interview with Dr. Allison Brager where she said “plan your career around your lifestyle not your lifestyle around your career”. This REALLY hit home. It struck a chord which hasn’t been struck in quite sometime. The job description of physician jives with my goals. However, the lifestyle of a physician does not come close to the life I hope to have 15-20 years from now. If there is anything I’ve learned from my past, it’s that not living true to myself doesn’t work. Destroying myself while trying to please myself won’t cut it. There’s always another road, another option, another direction for growth. Perhaps letting go of the one single idea I’ve held for years and replacing it with others is the best move I can make. It drives me absolutely crazy that I know I am capable of practicing medicine, but that the lifestyle and schooling process isn’t for me. I’m letting that go, because holding onto that feeling isn’t helpful. I have to remember what I want, not just career wise, but life wise. Ultimately, it comes down to trusting myself.

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I haven’t been really active on social media lately, which has been a positive thing. I’ve used the space to create a better sense of awareness of my goals versus being stuck in the image I’ve held for myself out of comfort. I’ve been spending my free time hiking, running, journaling, lifting, with friends, and reading. I feel like I’m “re-finding myself”. This may sound crazy but I think the last time I was in treatment, while it was extremely beneficial in terms of staying on the path of recovery, I lost a bit of who I am. I lost touch with the free-living, easy going, open, never quitting, curious, passionate side of Sarah. I still had the same interests but the way I approached life was safer.

I learned how to protect myself from relapsing, which in part translated to protecting myself from the world. I’ve been too comfortable, which has lead to extreme discomfort in my life. I’m not saying I have a bad life, I don’t by any means. I’m extremely grateful for all that I have, and the opportunities I’ve been given. But with all the positives I’m not content with what I’m doing. For too long now I’ve been doing what I feel I “should” be doing. While some “shoulds” is essential for getting though college and into graduate school, abandoning many dreams in the process should NOT be part of the equation. This safe avenue has lately been seeminly another way to not live in a way which is allowing me to thrive. I feel out of touch with myself. I’m doing great by the standards of society, acing my classes, working three jobs, sleeping 5-6 hours a night, working out most days, having volunteer positions, but honestly it feels off. I’m excelling in my academics, but they aren’t helping me to find myself. I’m not happy with what I’ve been doing academically and that is beginning to take a major toll on my mental health, between the time commitment and financial investment. Additionally, I feel as though I’m not pursing my real goals.

Stop taking pride in your ability to destroy yourself.” – Michelle K.

I believe personal experiences change people. For me, I’ve definitely learned a boatload about myself throughout the past four years with the past six months likely being the most notable. I’ve been hiking a lot since July. More than in my 23 years all together. It’s been and is an amazing experience. It is teaching me so much more about myself, my values, and my goals that I could ever imagine. I’ve never discussed much of my past on this blog besides that I’ve competed in jumprope and adventure races and am in recovery from a decade long eating disorder. That’s about it. Growing up my family camped a lot – tent, camper, cabin, you name it. We did a lot of outdoor activities – hiking, kayaking, general exploring. I loved it. I participated in softball, soccer, cross-country, jump-rope for sports. Other things I enjoyed were outdoor trips organized by my home town recreation department. We would go on weekend long trips once or twice a month, from snowboarding, camping, bike riding, horseback riding, farm maintenance, to hiking. I loved being outdoors. It was freedom.

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I’m a neuroscience major. It’s cool, yes, but not my passion. When transferring from community college to my current four-year university I decided on neuroscience versus kinesiology or nutrition because 1. I wanted to be a doctor and felt this major would be the best preparation, and 2. I was still in the treatment of my ED and was very interested in the neurobiology of psychopathologies. I don’t find myself learning what I want to be learning. I have enjoyed some of my classes thus far, they are “cool”, but I’m not gaining skills that I foresee myself utilizing much in the future if that makes sense. I’m excelling in my coursework, however I think I’m able to succeed not because I love the course material, but because I’m a disciplined and focused student. While not easy, they aren’t a real challenge either.

I’m tired of being comfortable. I’m tired of the safety net I’ve created. I’m sick of being anxious, depressed, irritable, and angry. I miss feeling amazing and like I could take on the world because I was living true to my own world. I want to explore my dreams again, because by doing so they could be more than dreams one day. I miss just going with the flow, accepting things, and seeing what comes from life. I hate being comfortable… there’s no growth, no newness, no change. It’s this stange viscious cycle.

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For a while I was feeling really stuck and still am to a degree. Althought by spending more time with friends and outdoors I feel better overall. I’m rekindling my relationship with myself, and while I have miles to go the progress at this point feels true to Sarah, not true to what society finds normal. I’m working to make note of the things which make me truly happy long-term, not superficially. I want to understand why I find myself more anxious in certain situations and have the strength to let go of them if need be. One main thing I learned in treatment was to let go. While I may have become too safe in my general approach to life, letting go is a skill which will likely come in handy. My goal at this moment is working to get back to my roots, and living in a way which feels both effective, supportive, and sustainable for me.

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice