What’s your Achilles’ heel? Mine is Anxiety


Honesty time.

Anxiety is my Achilles’ heel. Meaning? There’s nothing that can trip me up, pull me ten steps back, and completely derail my health goals faster than a bout of anxiety. I’ve tried so many things over the years to manage my anxiety to make real progress, but some things in life are big, and no matter what self-care, breathing exercises, and positive thinking skills I employ, there is just real anxiety that is a lot to contend with.

For me, the stress and anxiety of pregnancy… and pregnancy loss have sent me like a yo-yo through good times and rough times when I can’t seem to pull myself forward. It’s been about 3 months since my last loss and for the most part, I’m doing okay. I’ve even had some really great bursts of anxiety free energy! I finished a full round of the 21 Day Fix Extreme and lost 9 lbs and 8.5 inches, more importantly I was feeling STRONG, HEALTHY, and POWERFUL in my body. It was amazing to feel such ownership of my body again after the alienating feeling of betrayal and confusion following another miscarriage. But, I’m human.

I may have AMAZING tools at my disposal for managing my anxiety and staying on track physically… but I’m still healing and I’m still figuring things out. In this second round of the 21DFX, I haven’t been doing very well. I’ll admit it. My mind isn’t in the game this round. We’ve made so many big changes in our lives since April, losing the baby, moving across the country back to my hometown, changing our work situations (I now work from home full-time), and all the costs and challenges that these things bring… I think it’s all starting to catch up to me all at once and it’s been rough.

I know that the stressful times are a great test for any lifestyle change. If it doesn’t work for you even through the worst of times, is it really a lifestyle change or is it just a diet? I’m finding that for me, right now, I’m so grateful to have found my Beachbody family. I may not be making perfect progress at the moment, but I’m still moving forward, and doing so is one thing that can help me with my anxiety. Every time I force myself to press play, or at least get up and go for a walk outside so that I can participate in my accountability group, it helps lighten my mood. It helps give me even just the slightest lift so that I can see out of my anxiety haze. Knowing I have challengers watching and relying on me to be an example and a motivator helps me manage the urge to eat my emotions. I may not be making perfect progress every month, but I’m living my real story and being honest as I go.

I’m grateful that with Beachbody I have a ton of options to choose from, and even though right now my anxiety is too much and I am not up for pressing play on a hardcore boot camp style workout everyday, I’m grateful for the light-hearted options that allow me to workout with less pressure and lower impact. Sometimes all you need is a good dance, a little laugh, and to just get moving.

So, my weight loss story may be a little up and down, my ‘after’ photo may still look like a ‘before’, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come in managing my hard times. I’m proud that despite wanting nothing more than to curl up in a ball under the covers, this community has pushed me to be the kind of person who gets up and gets moving.

So, despite my Achilles’ Heel, I’m finding ways to keep moving forward.

This got me thinking, for many of us who struggle with our weight and our fitness, there is something that trips us up and keeps us from successfully making the lifestyle changes necessary to allow progress to happen. But, if we are able to identify our greatest weakness. If we are able to figure out what triggers our self-destructive behaviors, maybe we can prepare ourselves to confront them more effectively.

Knowing what sets you off course means you can plan ways to try to keep the negative cycle from continuing.

For me, when my anxiety runs high and I want to hide and eat everything, the number one thing I need to do on those days is to get up and get moving. If it’s not my workout video, than it needs to at least be a walk outside. By breaking the downward spiral, often, I can start to pull myself back up.

On that note, time to go press play.

Rainbow on its way- The first trimester

PregnancyAnnouncementReadySetSarahBlog

We’re pregnant!

It was somewhat shocking to find that just one cycle after my miscarriage we are already expecting again. Along with the joy that came with the news, our initial reaction was also weighted by our still fresh pain, and fear of what could happen. But we had to believe the best, and we haven’t stopped believing. We’ll see this little one through, hopefully all the way till they’re in our arms safe and healthy! I took the first test before work and Brian and I both looked at the faint positive line in disbelief… so on my lunch hour I walked up to the drug store to get one more. No denying it this time!

Didn't believe it until the second test!

Didn’t believe it until the second test!

A rough start

Things quickly became more complicated when, once again, I began to spot at about 7 weeks. At 9 1/2 weeks, due to a heavy, heavy, bright red bleed over our Anniversary weekend in Traverse City, we spent our first anniversary in the ER expecting the worst. We were overjoyed and shocked when the ultrasound showed a healthy developing baby with a strong heart beat. It was determined by our OB at follow-up that we had experienced a subchorionic hematoma that had bled out. I continued to bleed lightly through the week, as the doctor warned us would happen. But it slowed to a stop by the end of the week.

The following weekend at 10 1/2 weeks I woke in the middle of the night to another rush of fresh bleeding… again, to the ER. We were again happy to find an even bigger growing baby and strong heart beat… But this time my cervix had begun to dilate. Crossing our fingers and praying to G*d we left the ER on rest until our follow-up appointment.

Baby Betsky at 9 1/2 and 11 weeks

Baby Betsky at 9 1/2 and 11 weeks

A long, worried wait

At our follow-up appointment we learned that the Subchorionic Hematoma (SCH) was still there (despite the 2 big bleeds), and that we would just need to wait it out and see if it would heal and reabsorb or bleed out on it’s own. From what I understand, there’s not much that can be done to treat a SCH. Some doctors believe that bed rest is the only treatment to help keep it from getting worse, others don’t buy it.

Our doctor put us somewhere on the spectrum at taking it easy, with no running, jogging, or general exertion. Brian and I weren’t going to take any chances. We read as many studies as possible and made our own decision. I spent the next month mostly seated or laying down. I’m telling you, MAD PROPS TO BED REST MOMS. It was seriously hard to stay inactive… especially not knowing if it would really help. The big fear with the SCH is that it can lead to serious complications later in the pregnancy if it doesn’t go away (miscarriage, premature labor…etc). Brian dutifully drove me to work everyday (to avoid the uphill walk from my parking lot), and I did everything I could to keep rested. The bleeding kept up for weeks (sorry for the gross factor of this post, if you’re grossed out by this stuff). But from what we can tell, the rest and time got us through.

Good to go- 20 weeks and counting

Now that we are on the other side of the first trimester (and midway through our second), I feel grateful that we didn’t have something worse to contend with. It felt like the world could come crashing down at any minute. The emotional stress was probably the worst part of it all. I’m amazed now how many small little things have to go right to get a person here. It makes me grateful that we have made it this far. I’m in awe of the seemingly “easy” pregnancies some people have (I know, I know, no such thing as easy), but grateful for every minute of this one.

We were fully cleared last week. The hematoma is gone and our little one is growing and kicking and making their way to the world. I started prental yoga and it feels like a little of the weight has been lifted. There may still be clouds lingering, but we can see this little rainbow shining through. I can’t wait to get to February to meet the little one!

First Trimester Cravings: not much… string cheese, cucumbers, carbs. Lots and lots of carbs. Really goes well with inactivity (hello miraculous multiplying booty).

Learning to Breathe

At the very beginning, when I had just started this blog I mentioned that I wanted to learn to keep a mindfulness meditation practice.

Here, years later, I haven’t quite gotten around to that yet. But I’m getting closer.

My mind goes a million miles a minute, and often my mouth goes faster. I type quickly, I text quickly and my thoughts jump ahead of me. Especially when I am in stress or conflict.

I very often find that in moments of intensity (whether intense concentration or intense emotion), I am holding my breath. When I am nervous, when I am angry or worried, when I am deep in thought; what all of these moments share is the discovery that I’ve pressed my tongue tight up against the back of my teeth and that my head is a bit dizzy from lack of breath.

There have been many breathless moments this year. With work and home life moving full speed ahead, and the familial stress-test of wedding planning, this is no surprise. At the intersection of expectations, hopes, family histories and futures, things can get a little crazy.

My mom and I have had a particularly challenging road this year. I know lots of brides and mother-of-the-brides have their bumps, but I am really close to my mom and I hate it when we aren’t able to find our groove together.

A few weeks ago she started telling me about a woman she met at a seminar at the Eselan Institute in Big Sur, CA. She always tells me about people she meets who have a connection to Michigan (Probably because like most coast-dwellers with no family connection to the middle states, we are always a little surprised that everyone else seems to have roots here). This time she had a met a psychologist who also practices meditation and who happens to live right in my area. Excitedly, my mom encouraged me to call her. I didn’t immediately, with a full-time job, life to manage and a wedding to plan I felt too short on time to take on another obligation. Eventually, just days before the Dr. Donna was scheduled to leave town for a while, my mom reminded me one last time to give her a call.

Breathe_ReadySetSarah

Image via Ready Set Sarah

It seems to me that when there are significant shifts in my life, moments where I can feel my emotional energy shifting, everything slows down and gets more vivid. The light is brighter, the contrasts of shadows and light are striking and the beauty and complexity of everyday things strike me as important details to be remembered and studied.

When I pulled up to Dr. Donna’s house the next Monday I was happy to be off work a little early, but also a bit nervous that I was meeting someone new. Pulling around the winding driveway to Dr. Donna’s house I took in my breath, this time with excitement as I absorbed the moment. The light broke through in rays and bounced of the white puffs of pollen floating gracefully down from the stately trees. I could see past the mid-century modern home and through the tall triangle of the windows, that it sat on the edge of a quiet lake.

I was early, but Dr. Donna was ready to for me and welcomed me through the tall heavy doors and into the spacious living room. We started with some friendly discussion of my mother, and a bit of background about Dr. Donna and her professional and personal background that led her to practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation. I listened hungrily and grew eager at the chance that this might actually be the beginning of my practice. Self-conscious at moments that she might think me a total mess, I cautiously shared my desire to find some release from my hyper-vigilance over life.

In those moments listening to her talk, sipping ice water from a mason jar and watching the pollen float past the window in this idyllic scene, it was so much clearer to me how desperately I’ve longed for a release from my anxiety and stress. How desperately I’ve missed being present in my life.

With just a few weeks left in our wedding year, I can feel the moments slipping past and I want to hold on to each one. I’ve let life and comparisons and internal dialogues distract me from enjoying the happy moments and memories this year. I don’t want to miss any more.

The urgency of these desires heightened the emotionality of the moment and my resolve that I was exactly where I was meant to be that day. As Dr. Donna took me through the parts that make up a mediation practice, breaking down the breath, sitting and the meanings and options in mediation practice, I could feel my body unravel and relax.

Dr. Donna taught me that when I meditate I should simply notice my thoughts when they arrived or when I caught myself thinking, and that in that moment of recognizing the thought for what it is, I am already returning to the focus on breathing and sitting. Most surprising in this was that I found it really difficult to breathe steadily and naturally. I realized how shallow my breathing is, and how uncomfortable I was with deep and slow breathing.

As we practiced, I could feel my breaths get deeper, longer and slower, and in time with my breathing, my emotions responded with calmness, and joy. At the same time as I was relaxing I felt an energy that seemed to stem from my heart. I haven’t felt that natural verve for life since winter settled down over us and the days got short.

The one thought I had that made me smile and well-up before I labeled it thinking and returned to my breath- This is my mother’s gift. This is my mother’s way of being with me this year. This is her way of being the my mother-of-the-bride that I couldn’t ask for because I didn’t know that it was exactly what I needed. And just like that I could feel that even from across the country and from difficult places in our lives, my mother is still my closest friend.

Sure, we have had our bouts since that day, but it was in this moment that I realized that she was supporting me in her own ways, and I love her for it.

I’ve also used a few of the techniques Dr. Donna taught me that day, mostly to notice my reactions and try and bring my breathing back to a slow and steady rhythm when I find myself winding up. It hasn’t always worked so far, but I’m sure I’ll get there.

Love,

Sarah

Toughing it Out

Source Unknown (not my image)

Sometimes in life you run into a personality that just doesn’t mesh well with yours. It’s the worst when this is someone you have to collaborate with on a regular basis, or someone who makes you doubt your own capabilities. I’ve taken to having the Sunday-night-worries each week about how I will deal with the impending challenging conversations and tasks with a sense of calm skill, confidence, grace and dedication.

To help prep myself to deal with the coming week I’m going to share a few of the (un-vetted) quotes that I aim to remember and live by during my most challenging days…

Source from here

Source Unknown from here

I keep this one over my desk to remind myself when I most need it-

Image from here

I want to hang this where I can see it – Source Unknown

This one is important. It’s not about what I think of the situation – it’s about how I behave when confronted with difficult situations.

Image from here

The hardest part.  Image from http://www.lylaandblu.com/#5

I feel a bit more equipped already. I may need to make a habit of this on some Sundays to get my anxiety in check.

Have a fabulous week!

Sarah

Mindfulness Challenge

Today was one of those days This has been one of those WEEKS where it just felt like the world kept piling on. The difficult encounters, challenging assignments, things to do and the incredible heat that pressed down on me all week was beginning to bubble out of my ears and spew from my mouth as hurtful, negative babble. As it often does.

Image by hamner_fotos via Flickr

I came home from work exhausted. Partially from keeping long hours, and partially from walking home though the heat (which a friend described as “living inside someone else’s  mouth”). I grabbed my mail on the way in, happy to find my monthly Elle and Vogue, and headed upstairs to the semi-relief of my window unit ac.

After pacing back and forth for a while trying to decide which of the seemingly important tasks I should tackle first (packing, unfinished work, emails, packing), I finally cleared the half packed boxes and strewn clothes from my bed and crashed with my magazines.

Now, I may have been ripe for the intrigue, but I found myself fascinated by two articles.

The first (Hey- Wanna live forever? by Joseph Hooper, ELLE August 2011) described the discovery of, and current research on the enzyme telomerase. Shout out to UC Berkeley where the researchers who identified the role of the telomerase enzyme hale (and my home turf).

The job of telomerase (from what I understand), is to protect the chromosomes in our cells from damage. Particularly our reproductive cells. It was not the possibilities of harnessing the enzyme for a magic anti-aging elixir that grabbed me, but the statement that “A fast growing body of studies tells us that shorter-than-average telomeres are associated with a far greater risk of dying from heart disease or cancer”. The article also seems to suggest that, like with many other aspects of health, there are lifestyle factors that effect your telomeres length. This reminded me of what I’ve learned about the effect of high levels of stress on health and wellness, i.e. bad for you.

The second article (Soul Provider, by Rachel Rosenbilt, ELLE) was about a young New Yorker named Gabrielle Bernstein who is gaining a following for her “post modern spiritual” coaching. While I was drawn to some of the messages expressed in the article, and a few quotes from miss Gabrielle, I wasn’t sold on her as my personal role model.

Image by AlicePopkorn via Flickr

What I  did really like about the article, is that it reminded me of what I’ve been planning to do since I left California for grad school 2 years ago, to learn and adopt the practice of mindfulness meditation.

OK, so at this point it may be obvious to you how these two articles are connected. The ELLE editors likely devised it this way intentionally when planning the issue. But, for me they couldn’t have come at a better time.

My mother said (probably many times in my life) that when the world wants you to see something it will keep introducing it to you until it gets your attention. Well, I guess I’m ready to start paying attention.

I am a serious worry wort. I don’t just mean about realistic stuff (I didn’t get the nickname Worst-Case-Scenario-Sarah  for no reason). I’ve been concerned for some time about the effect that my continuous hyper-concern, exhaustion, and self-imposed pressure is having on my health and longevity. I even started trying to take action at one point to battle my anxiety (which sometime bubbles into venomous internal rages at people who stress me out). After one all day retreat at Spirit Rock in Marin County, CA, I fully intended to take what I had learned about mindfulness meditation and mold myself into a centered, organized, unbreakable powerhouse of zen… and two years later I’m ready to take this challenge on.

I’ve thought about trying to ease meditation into my life… but as a worry-prone planner, I think it’s best I try this in an organized way.

So, what’s the plan?

I am going to find three guided meditation videos on YouTube. One for morning, one to do during my workday, and one for in the evening. I figure by planning guided mediation breaks into my day this might actually catch on.

Video 1, Morning Yoga Meditation with Elena Brower – YogaEarth

Video 2, Mid-Day : 10 Minute Guided Body Scan (uploaded by MeditationCoach)

 Video 3, Evening: Guided Meditation – Breathing Meditation (uploaded by OnlineMeditation)


I’m going to start this tomorrow morning and will do my best to keep it up for a month. I’ll check back later with updates. Best of luck to me (and any future reader I might acquire who decide to try this too)!