Sunday, September 15, 2013

Facing vulnerability

Brene Brown - one of my favorite people (Photo Source)

For the past week or so, I've been thinking a lot about the concept of vulnerability.  If I had to sum it up in my own words, vulnerability is about letting go of your need to be perfect, letting your guard down, and courageously working through the parts of our lives that make us feel uncomfortable.  Why?  By pushing through the discomfort, you can find greater connection and love with others, and yourself.

My interest in exploring vulnerability started with my friend's recommendation to watch a TED Talk video by Brene Brown about the power of vulnerability.  I was already familiar with Brene Brown's work, through reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection (which is one of the best books I've ever read).  I watched the TED Talk video on Tuesday morning and it really moved me.  I was so excited about the messages throughout the video that I decided to share it with a few friends and dive in a bit more....

Last night I had my friend Rachel over for dinner.  I was glad Rachel was able to come over because I had been feeling anxious and down inside that day, and needed the company - especially on a Saturday night.  I shared with her about about the video.  We sat there for 20 minutes and watched it, and afterwards we engaged in one of the most authentic, real conversations I'd had with anyone in a LONG time.  Rachel shared with me about her challenges with work and dealing with terminally ill patients - and having to be strong all the time in order to care for them, and bottling up all of her pain and empathy that she felt for them.  Rachel shared stories about a few patients that brought both of us to tears.  I was able to share some of my worries and pains as well.  I was so grateful that this conversation happened.  It needed to happen - for both of us. 

The coolest part of last night was that after Rachel left, I no longer felt sad or alone.  I felt at peace, happy, content, and relaxed.  I went to bed and got the best 9 hours of sleep I've had in a weeks.  I woke up this morning feeling confident about the day ahead.  It was as if my anxiety just went away.

How often do you try to numb the painful or fearful emotions you have inside?  What do you think would happen if you stopped the numbing and leaned into the discomfort?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sober September updates: finding my stomach


Today is Day 10 of my month long alcohol free challenge.  It has gone really well and I'm feeling very proud of myself for sticking to something that is difficult for me, and believing I can do it (the latter I've learned is the most important thing).

I've had two key observations this week about this challenge:

1.  You have to learn how to face "end of the day stress" with your heart and mind, not alcohol (or whatever your go-to-not-as-healthy habit may be). 

The last two days of work have been pretty brutal for me.  I have a lot on my plate and have been working under a major grant deadline and planning for my organization's annual fundraiser.  On my drive home from work on Tuesday, I felt absolutely drained and thought "I could really use a drink." I was on my way to a book release party for a family friend, John Hamilton, at a really fun bar in Ballard with great beer and cocktails.  I am pretty sure I was the only living soul in the bar without a drink in hand during John's reading and celebration.  It definitely took some mental power to not order a drink, but I stuck to it, talked through my feelings with my parents, and on my drive home I was happy I wasn't running on a pint and got to bed on time. 

2.  I am starting to really feel my abs.

One of my insecure body zones is my stomach area.  My stomach is simply my go-to fat storage area on my body, and that's okay, but it's frustrating.  One of my biggest hopes in this challenge is to lose fat/inches around my waist area - both for my personal confidence and for my health.  This morning I put my hands on my waist and could feel my muscles WAY better than I could last month.  I thought, "this is why I work so hard to do abs at the gym - so I can actually feel them!"

Happy Thursday!  More later...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Facebook revisited


On May 9th, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account for a number of reasons - primarily, for greater privacy in my life and better use of my time.  I can't believe that it's already been 4 months since then!

Lately I've been asked by a lot of people if I'll ever rejoin Facebook, and my response is consistently "I don't know."  I've been happy with my experience, but I miss having Facebook specifically to communicate with close friends and relatives who live out of state.  With my Seattle friends, I can see them whenever I'd like and don't need Facebook for photos and regular life updates.  I also miss not being in the loop about events going on.  While my friends have gone a pretty good job keeping me in the loop, I've missed receiving invitations to a variety of events.  I really enjoyed organizing events with friends on Facebook, especially during the holidays and the Summer months. 

As far as what I've learned or do know - I know who my closest friends are.  The concept of Facebook "friends" is truly an interesting one - A majority of my "friends" on Facebook have not communicated with me since I gave up Facebook, and I'll admit I haven't reached out to them either.  While I do think that there's something to be said about Facebook serving as an actual tool for regular communication these days (ex: some people prefer Facebook over email), I have discovered the friends who have taken the time to call or email me to ask how I'm doing, or invite me to events going on.  To no surprise, these are the same group of people I imagined would follow through when I went into this whole thing.  Kudos, my friends.

Who knows...if I do go back, I will be doing a significant "friend" detox and I also will be more conscientious about the time I spend on Facebook, and not allowing negative energy to transpire.  It's just not worth it!

Until next time...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A new challenge: alcohol free living

 Photo Source

This post is dedicated to my friends Shawna and Anna :)

On this blog I've talked about "scaling back" on a number of things - Facebook, sweets, TV time, junk food, and more.  However, I've never talked about nixing the big A.  This Tuesday, I started what I regard as one of my most interesting personal challenges of 2013.  You may laugh, but I'm totally serious.

If you know me or read my blog, you know that I love beer and wine...and not just tasting it - I am actually passionate about beer and wine.  I love learning about the process of making wine and brewing beer.  I pride myself on having a great palate - I can identify almost any varietal of wine (or beer), can easily choose pairings for meals.  I love coming home from a long day of work and sitting down to enjoy a glass of wine and reflect on my day.  As Benjamin Franklin (supposedly) once said: "Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried with fewer tensions and more tolerance" (Source).  Well said, Mr. Franklin.

I also love the stories and moments formed in the presence of wine.  From wine tasting with friends in Sonoma, the Willamette Valley, and Colorado, to celebrating birthdays and holidays with loved ones, to toasting to the end to a major event at work, to my earliest wine memories (aka "Franzia days") in college - I smile thinking of these precious memories.  A lot of laughter ensues when you're having a glass of wine with friends, and it's hard to put a price on that.

Despite all of this, this year I started becoming more and more curious about the role alcohol plays in my life, and what could be the result of taking a break from it.  I thought about how often I "encounter" drinking - whether it's a birthday party, summer BBQ, wedding, vacation, dinner with my family, an evening work meeting, or happy hour with friends.  I realized that since most of these occasions happen every week, it's rare to find a day where I'm not presented with an opportunity to drink.  I also discovered that it's rare for me to pause and thoughtfully consider whether or not I really want and need a drink - it's more of a habit that I've become accustomed to.  In short, I wondered if the "too much of a good thing" theory might be relevant.  As my mind continued to wander, I felt more and more inspired about the idea of challenging myself to give up drinking for a significant period of time.  Suddenly I found myself committed to going for an entire month sans alcohol. 


WHAT I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO

I've thought a lot about the potential rewards of this month if I honor my commitment - fingers crossed the following will happen:

1. Re-learning how to make drinks a treat - not a daily indulgence.

2. Getting better sleep.

3. Losing weight (as a healthy eater and exerciser, I am fairly certain that cutting the alcohol calories will do me this favor).  More importantly - shrinking my waistline (I took measurements last weekend).

4. Processing and addressing how I'm really feeling without the effects of alcohol.

5. Having clearer skin.  As someone who's been blessed with nice skin for as long as I can remember, this year has not been good.  While it may also be hormonal, I speculate that nixing booze may help  my cause.  I came across an article about the effects of alcohol re: your skin: "Drinking regularly will depress your immune system and it is your immune system which helps keep the acne bacteria under control.  A weakened immune system will make it easier for bacteria to build up in your skin pores" (Source).

6. Challenging myself to be creative with the way I spend my free time.  It's not as if drinking consumes all of my free time, but as I mentioned earlier, it's the reality of most social and work plans.  I'm excited to experience more activities that support my wellness, like yoga classes, walks outside, and reading a book at the park.

7.  SAVING $!  Alcohol costs a ton of money, and I need to be saving more of it to begin with.  When I purchase wine at the grocery store and pay for drinks when I'm out to eat, it all adds up.  I love the idea of saving money and spending it on more meaningful things that will help me take better care of myself, such as treating myself to a manicure, or nicer produce at the store.

Over the next month I will most likely be doing a few blog posts highlighting my progress and what I've learned.  In the meantime, here are my findings thus far:


WEEK 1 FINDINGS

I started my alcohol detox on Tuesday (Sept 3rd) and it's honestly been a very interesting week.   The main thing I've appreciated is becoming more aware of my habits.  When I got home from work on Tuesday, I did my usual routine of setting my things down and heading into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of wine.  I stopped, paused, and said "wow." I realized that for the next month, that routine would end.  Instead, I poured myself a glass of cucumber basil water and sat down to hydrate and reflect on the day.  Later that evening, I went to my friend's house and had dinner sans wine while she had wine - another change.  I'll be honest in saying that I didn't feel the best that night and had a difficult time sleeping - and have thus far. 

Other "aha" moments this week have included getting an evening massage and coming home to drink water instead of wine, watching my favorite TV shows without wine, and passing on a happy hour with friends to run errands, go home, and take care of myself.  I've also lost 2 lbs and my skin is already looking better! Tonight I went out to the bar with my friends and stayed strong, even after the owner offered to buy me one on the house.  It was weird, but felt really rewarding driving home, not having drank anything and knowing I'd feel a lot better in the morning.

I know that the rest of this month will be much more challenging when I introduce football games, social events, and other evening meetings, but after just 4 days I can happily say "bring it on!"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Practicing gratitude


The other morning I was at the gym reading an old issue of Natural Health magazine.  I came across an article called "Count your blessings," which started with: "how regularly do you really see and celebrate the little gifts you're receiving - a glass of water, a huge, a ride, a smile - and count them as blessings?" (Natural Health, November 2010, p 15).  The article talked about cultivating the art of gratitude, and the benefits of it: "Gratitude works because it recruits other positive emotions - like joy, contentment and hope - that have direct physical benefits" (16). 

I loved this article because it reminded me how important it is to stop, pause, and reflect your blessings throughout the day.  I was at my gym on a machine facing the gorgerous waterfront view and thinking how lucky I was to afford a gym membership that I love, to live in a beautiful place, and to be of good health.  That same week, I had been a bit bogged down with some of my challenges, and realized how easy it is to get wrapped up in the negative if you aren't actively reminding yourself about the positive. 

The article had some energizing suggestions on how you can practice gratitude.  Two that I particularly liked:

1) You can keep a gratitude journal.  This is where each evening, your replay your day and write down the things you are grateful for.  I like the idea of taking time before you go to bed to think about all you are grateful for, and ending on such a positive note.  I hope to start this practice by starting small, and perhaps writing down just one thing each evening, such as a friendship, a great run, the food I ate for dinner, my job, something I learned, or whatever else comes to mind.

2) Celebrate Thanksgiving every day.  The author of this article talks about how before dinner, his family does a "what I'm grateful for" activity daily.  He said it has a positive impact on the rest of the meal and his family in general - I like it!

To close, I wanted to revisit a favorite quote of mine that reminds me of the larger purpose of gratitude:
 
“Count your blessings. Once you realize how valuable you are and how much you have going for you, the smiles will return, the sun will break out, the music will play, and you will finally be able to move forward the life that God intended for you with grace, strength, courage, and confidence." 
-Og Mandino (Source)