Prioritize your needs

Hi all! As promised I’m back with a post between the spring semester ending and summer classes beginning. I literally cannot believe another semester is done. It feels like just yesterday I was frantically deciding whether to change my major from Neuroscience –> psychology or outdoor education and last minute sneaking my way into classes.

The decision was made and I’m good with it. While I’m extremely interested in a outdoor education, having a solid background in outdoor adventure groups and communities growing up it’s something that I’m really passionate about. On the other hand, it isn’t something that I felt like I wanted to major in “enough” to put myself in a position of taking that many more classes. The way I see it is, if that is the direction my life is meant to go it will happen regardless and psychology is also a great background to have for the field of outdoor ed/adventure therapy.

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Throwback to Mt. Isolation (september 16′). 12 miles, 5k vert gain. One of my favorites thus far. The suck was real but so was learning to love the process.

One year left, one year left. I keep telling myself this on repeat and it helps. It’s not that I’m “bad” at school. I’m for the bulk of my college career a straight A student minus the period I attempted balancing school + work + treatment. Rather, it doesn’t feel right. I enjoy learning, I love it and feed off of it. Increasing my knowledge base and understanding of both the material I’m studying and the world in general makes me feel grounded. However, sitting in a class full of other students with numerous stimuli and distractions doesn’t jive well with my brain. I can rarely focus and while that was okay the past two semesters, I’ve been apprehensive about the upcoming school year. So I’m doing something about that and choosing to be proactive and supportive of my needs rather than just being in la-la land and pretending I’m a perfectly productive student in the classroom.

. Four FULLY ONLINE summer classes. There is the money honey. I honestly dig online classes, I feel that I’m able to grasp the material equally as well if not better than in-class lecture format because I’m not wasting time sitting in classes unfocused and angsty only to go home to teach myself everything I supposedly just learned in class. I feel very uneasy in classes/on campus which fascinates me because it’s only been like this throughout my time at my current university. It could be the school (size), it could be that my mental health is in a different place now than before and I tend to actually feel my feelings, not feeling like I fit in AT ALL, a combination, or none of the above.

Life is said to be this balancing act – a see-saw if you will. I agree with this, there are good days and bad days, days of growth where you thrive and break down walls, then there are days when the going gets tough and honestly I think the best way to manage these days is being able to take care of yourself. Life isn’t giving in or giving up. It’s not hiding from the world or holding yourself back. It’s owning up to yourself, being present, and showing up in the world.

As I mentioned in a couple posts back when discussing the process of overcoming an injury, “count your rainbows not your thunderstorms.” – Alyssa Knight

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In addition to this, I think it’s being capable of accepting and honoring where you are at now, which may be an entirely different place than a month ago, a year ago, or two months in the future. As human beings we constantly are growing, evolving, and increasing our depth of understanding – having the mental flexibility to allow this and accept/be okay with it is HUGELY IMPORTANT.

I am not where I though I would be at 23, almost 24 years old and that is okay. There is no universal law saying that I need to be doing X or have accomplished Y by the time I’m 24. These are my own self-imposed guidelines/goals/expectations. They are the feelings that strip enjoyment out of life. The feelings of being a failure because I decided that I don’t want what I once thought I did, or wondering why I’m unable to roll with the punches the way society expects me too.

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I’m not abnormal. Heck, what even is normal?! I’m working with who I am to develop the best version of me.

There are days where I have to take a step back from everything and just try to enjoy the little things. Focusing on small stuff helps keep the big stuff more manageable. In the past year I’ve come a ways in terms of being able to recognize when I need to do this instead of keeping pushing through which inevitably leads to either becoming burnt out and/or increased anxiety/panic attacks.

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Enjoying the little things – favorite space in my bedroom – lilacs, star dish with sea shells and tea bag quotes, a few pictures, my globe (in the back), and a card a dear friend gave me.

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Close up. Oh hey Panda 🙂

SO what have I been up to in my week off from school? A whole lot of nothing. I’ve worked pretty minimally, enjoyed the sunshine and warm temps, spent time with friends, and given myself space to prepare for the hefty load of classes in my near future (tomorrow!).

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Sports psychology/mindset reading

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I biked and she ran 🙂

I think that while I still deal with anxiety on a regular basis I’m much more accepting of it and I understand it better than I ever have. Taking time to just be and really pursue the things which light my soul on fire have been absolutely essential to my mental health. That and forcing myself to do things which while sometimes uncomfortable are only going to help me grow. I believe that there is a difference between doing things which are uncomfortable but promote growth versus things which are just not good for our personal needs (e.g online vs. in-class courses). I believe understanding where to draw the line for yourself and prioritizing this is the base of the pyramid in terms of self-care.

Prioritizing is knowing what you stand for. What are your goals? What makes you tick? What are you willing to put up with, sacrifice, leave behind, etc. etc. Learn to maximize everything that will help get you to your end goal. Look at the end goal and determine what needs to happen to get from now –> then. Focus on that stuff.

“Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos — the trees, the clotuds, everything.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

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

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

Lifting yourself up

Hi guys! How are you? I’m really happy to be posting again – three times all within a two week period. Impressive considering I haven’t been awesome about getting content onto the blog lately. But I’m doing better and actually enjoying school (shocker, I know) so that also makes me more inclined to post and discuss. While I do talk about my struggles, I much prefer to be discussing them in past tense versus present tense. It’s substantially easier and more comfortable (read: safer) to talk about what I’ve overcome versus what I’m working on overcoming. I’d rather sound like I have my shit together instead of having about 5% of an idea of what I’m actually doing. But, let’s be honest for a hot second – who actually has their shit together? If you do, feel free to pat yourself on the back or give yourself a high five. Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who actually gives myself a high five Winking smile

SO anyways, in my last serious talk post I was telling you all about how I’m really struggling with my anxiety lately and have been dealing with some nutty hearing hypersensitivity. Well, I still am. And it’s not an overnight quick fix. It developed slowly and my anxiety as I described in depth has been present for years. I’m working on it. There are good days and there are not so good days. There are times when I’m in class and want to walk out the door because someone is chewing gum or making some strange bodily noise. But it hasn’t happened yet this semester and I’m taking that for a win. By this time last semester I had dropped two courses. I’m currently in five and I’m managing five.

I like the word managing. It’s like saying “I’m handling my struggles to the best of my capabilities”. I’m not pretending they aren’t there because they most definitely are present daily. I’m also not allowing them to completely rule my life, because if that were the case I’d be living inside a giant real-life bubble. Lately it’s learning how to be flexible in my ways. Sure I might not want to discuss my struggles and needs for accommodations with my profs for their classes, but it is pretty much essential for my success this semester. Therefore I have already met with two of them and to my surprise, both of them were rather understanding and open to helping. I think that when we are honest with ourselves, and able to be honest about ourselves with others, the world seems a little less scary and things seem to flow a little bit better.

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After last semester didn’t go as planned I knew I needed to find a way to get by. Part of the reason I think it was so rough was because while I knew there were things that needed attention and to be worked on, I wasn’t ok with being open and forward about them. I wasn’t ok with accepting that I still had a lot of self-work to do to get to a place where I am able to roll with the punches. I’m still not there, but accepting that is helpful beyond measure. Staying positive is the best method of action and helps keep your head in the game. The following quote is also helpful beyond measure.

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I’m being serious, coffee + rap = recipe for success. Give it a go. Let me know how it goes.

For me, right now I’m focused on living as normally as possible. I’m working to keep my cool even as my stress will undoubtedly increase as the semester continues onward. I have my strengths and I definitely have my weaknesses, but part of lifting myself up is accepting that having weaknesses isn’t a bad thing. I’m dedicating this period of the next few months to the pursuit of bettering myself, wherever that ends up taking me.

“You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want.” – S.E. Hinton