Monday, May 6, 2019

How I manage travel anxiety

I’ve had a couple of trips this spring that required air travel. I’ve flown before, of course, but it’s maybe only one flight a year on average. I don’t particularly like it. In fact, it makes me nervous. It should come as no surprise. Most things do. I’ve been fairly transparent about battling anxiety. And because I’m an educator, I wanted to share how I deal with travel anxiety. Secret: the following tips have nothing to do with breathing techniques.

1.     I pray for protection
Let’s be real about flying. The fear of it really isn’t that irrational. I mean, you have 150 people or so in an enclosed space in the sky with no means of escaping if something goes wrong. Besides the flying itself, you also have tons of travelers around you who might suddenly have their own medical emergency in your vicinity. There’s a lot of valid stuff to freak someone out. That’s why I meditate on Psalm 91 in the scriptures. It’s a Psalm of protection. It lists all the things that might cause fear and highlight that God grants protection from them all. What better promise than that?
2.     I listen to uplifting playlists
In the same vein of focusing on my faith to protect me, I also create travel playlists. During takeoff or whenever I’m particularly anxious, it’s gospel and worship songs for me. After I settle a bit, I might switch to my usual fun throwback pop and R&B hits. Music really does create a mood and you can choose what mood it is.
3.     I track my journey through group texts
Another way I deal with the stress of travel, especially when I’m alone, is by keeping a text thread to select family and loved ones. Airports can be lonely and overwhelming when you have a bunch of strangers rushing by. Texting my people throughout my journey reminds me, 1) I have people who love me and 2) I carry them with me wherever I go.
4.     I focus on the destination
Now, I know common advice in life is to enjoy the journey and not think about the destination. I think that’s crap. The journey is uncomfortable. Many moments on it are solely to be tolerated. I deal by closing my eyes and waiting to get to the good stuff. I focus more on where I’m going and the joy to be had, than the discomfort that comes with trying to get there.
5.     I reward my bravery
A final practice I use to cope with anxiety of any kind in life is to reward myself. I’m brave. I deal with fear like a boss. So much so that most people don’t even know it’s a struggle. Such bravery deserves reward. Bubble baths, yoga flows, treat yourself as you see fit. You did something hard for you and should remind yourself as much.

Here’s the thing with people who deal with anxiety. While you shouldn’t expect it to just always be there, a permanent part of your identity, neither should you expect to be 100% peaceful and calm about all situations. Some circumstances might always feel a bit unsettling- like being enclosed with people for hours 35,000 feet in the air. That may never feel like a walk in the park to you. But by focusing on faith, friends, and the fun you’ll have when you get there, you can find courage to get through the hard stuff. When you do, don’t forget to treat yourself. Those who daily face fear are the bravest ones of us all. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A case for happy

A cheerful heart is good medicine but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 

If you grew up in the church or know about Christian faith, you’ve probably heard people clarify the difference between joy and happiness. It usually goes something like this. Happiness is temporal. Joy is eternal. Happiness is based on what’s happening, but you can have joy despite your circumstances. I partly agree. Things don’t have to be going that great to still possess a positive attitude and outlook. Here’s a huge point I think this teaching misses though. Joy and happiness are virtually synonymous and, dare I say, it’s God’s will for us to have both!

Now before the Pharisees boo, hiss, and throw tomatoes at the stage, let me explain. It is not solely God’s will for us to be happy. He’s way less interested in us being comfortable and pleased everyday as He is growing us in the character and likeness of His Son. With that said, God is a good Father and He delights in blessing His children. He beams when we sing, dance, laugh, and love, all behaviors more easily done with a cheerful heart. He loves when we recognize His work in our lives and appreciate what’s been given. That’s what brings Him glory. What doesn’t bring Him glory is a bunch of curmudgeonly Christians mean mugging through life talking about the superiority of joy over happiness. No one’s buying it, people. The world certainly isn’t.

I know it’s bleak out there. We see reasons every day to lose faith in humanity. Nevertheless, let’s make it our diligent pursuit to smile big and mean it. Laugh hard at wholesome humor. Crack your own jokes here and there too. Stop to play a little every day. Life is undoubtedly tough, guys, but gritting through it won’t make it any easier. Vow to savor every morsel of righteous goodness you can find. When it comes down to it, happy and healthy go hand in hand. 

Additional References:

Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
Proverbs 15:30

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
Proverbs 14:30

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Crap sandwich

Have you ever heard of the crap sandwich? Actually, there’s another word for it, but to avoid anyone becoming offended by the language and missing the valuable lesson, I’ll call it the crap sandwich. This is a concept I first learned when reading Liz Gilbert’s book, Big Magic. She, in turn, got it from writer, Mark Manson. The idea is this: Everything sucks some of the time. In order to get what we want in life, we have to learn to take the bad with the good.

How revolutionary is that? Consider how many of us falsely believe if we’re living our truth, finding our bliss, and sparking our joy, then life will be sunshine and skittles. It’ll be #GoodVibesOnly and #NoBadDays. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even the biggest dreams of our heart, come with undesirable aspects to them.

For instance, if you want a relationship, you also have to take conflict, misunderstanding, and learning to compromise. If you want a baby, you have to tolerate sleep deprivation, blowout diapers, and the possibility of projectile vomit. If you want to be your own boss, you also have to accept variable pay and financially lean years as you grow your business. If you want to be a world traveler, you put up with flight delays, occasional turbulence, and lost luggage from time to time. Everything has a price. But if you truly want it, you’ll see it as worth it.

Since learning the crap sandwich concept, I find myself mentally saying, crap sandwich, as a means of accepting the unwanted parts of what I asked for. We all have to eat crap from time to time. If you absolutely can’t, then perhaps it’s not something you want badly enough. But when you can take your crap sandwich, throw some hot sauce on it, and eat it with gladness, then you know something’s really worth it. What’s that thing for you? What makes you willing to accept every moment of possible bad for all the overwhelming yumminess of the good? Crap sandwiches are part of life. Start asking for fries with it.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Gems from therapy: Is loving even worth it?

For the second installment of Gems from Therapy I thought I’d do a love edition…what, with it being love month and all. And let me tell you, my therapist, “Reba” got straight to the heart of the matter in our last session. What she said brought me to tears.

It started with me sharing a story. That’s usually how counseling starts. A client tells a story and then the counselor draws out all feelings around it. I told her that yet another couple close to me had bitten the dust. By all appearances, they would divorce. Maybe it’s my age, but last year alone I saw four marriages and about double the amount of splits. That’s just in my personal life. That doesn’t even count all the clients I’ve counseled with marriages in crisis. As someone who hasn’t been married yet but desires to that scares me. How could it not?

I shared as much with Reba, and in turn, she shared her own story. You see, Reba lost her husband to cancer ten years ago. Around the same time one of her sons was deciding what to do in his dating relationship. He had just lost his father (her husband) and he too had witnessed a seemingly happy couple married for years suddenly part ways. He went to her one day and asked pointedly, “What is the point of getting married if it only ends in tragedy? It’s either death or divorce. There’s no other way out. Why bother?” Reba looked at me pointedly and without giving me her response she asked, “What would you tell him?”

It would be a whole other blog post to comment on how masterfully executed that counseling intervention was. Suffice it to say, her son’s question was exactly what I had been pondering but hadn’t articulated. What is the point? Pain is the only way out of love. It took me a few moments to compose myself enough to respond. I shrugged and said with a meager voice and tear-filled eyes, because it’s worth it. There’s so much laughter and joy and love to experience. Even when it ends, you are better for having experienced it.

I said it and meant it. Risking is worth it. Hoping is worth it. Trying is worth it. Giving is worth it. Opening up is worth it. This view lessens the fear because the outcome isn’t nearly as important as the process. When it’s all said and done, if you can look back and say, I loved, then it was all worth it. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wear it like you mean it

Honestly, it all started with a quip turned Tweet: Anxiety should count as cardio. It had been a particularly rough week for me on the mental health front and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. No, I wasn’t startled and nothing particularly stressful had happened. It was just anxiety doing its thing, leaving me feeling like I just ran a 5k, minus all the lovely endorphins.

I shared my thoughts with my partner who had already been toying with the idea of an apparel line. Then after some back and forth, The Wellness Collection was born. It’s an apparel line dedicated to spreading the gospel of mental health. We figure, we’re all in this together. Why not offer encouragement to everyone on their unique journey toward wellness?

It’s been a process to accept my own struggles with emotional wellness. But self-compassion and a touch of humor have gone a long way. Therefore, allow us to give words to things that are hard to say. Your only job is to wear it like you mean it. 

For more information on The Wellness Collection visit

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Gems from Therapy: Feelings Edition

It’s a new year and I imagine a lot of you are considering therapy, perhaps for the first time ever. If so, good. I’ve been intentionally transparent about my own mental health experience and how, yes, even counselors need counselors too. I do that to normalize and demystify the process so you start to view it as any other form of self-care.

Not only is therapy great for giving you space to be and feel; it also teaches you a lot. In fact, every time I leave a counseling session I walk away with some valuable gems, a new way to look at things. That’s why throughout this new year I’ll offer periodic blog posts on gems I’ve learned from therapy. First up, is my counselor’s wise overview of feelings. For the sake of her privacy, I’ll call her Reba. Tell me if you’ve ever heard a more succinct way of understanding the complex world of human emotions.

Reba defines the primary emotions we experience in the following ways:

This is the emotional reaction when things aren’t as they should be.

This is the emotional reaction to feeling physically or emotionally unsafe.

This is the emotional reaction to loss.

This is the emotional reaction when things are as they should be.

According to Reba, each feeling has an action to resolve it. If we’re angry because things aren’t as they should be, we should fix it. We should find whatever is in our control to solve the problem. If we’re afraid because we feel unsafe, we should take steps to restore our sense of safety. (Note: It’s possible to feel afraid and still be safe). If we’re sad because of real (or perceived) loss, we should grieve it. Finally, if we’re happy because things are as they should be, we should embrace it and give thanks.

How does that overview help you? How does this perspective help you navigate your feelings? In light of what you feel right now, what will be your response? 

Stay tuned for future Gems from Therapy. I promise you’ll want to schedule with a therapist right away. ;)

Monday, December 17, 2018

I stress, eustress

As we get ready to wrap up 2018, I can’t help but think of all the changes there have been in my life in the last year. Most of them have been really great. Here are some of the big ones.

1.     I quit all my jobs and got a salaried position. This year when Christmas break arrives it will include paid time off for the first time in four years.
2.     I took a sabbatical from my wellness business. I needed to prioritize personal happiness over professional greatness. I had the entire summer to travel, attend special events, and truly enjoy my life rather than just stage it for social media.
3.     Probably the biggest change of all is that I fell in love this year. Swoon. If you know my story, you know what a huge flipping deal that is.

Basically, the last 11 months have been like a movie montage with Natasha Bedingfield in the background singing, “Feel the rain on your skin…” 2018 has been one of the happiest years I’ve had in a long time. Insert freak out right about here.

Freak out? Why, you might ask. Well, it’s all because of eustress. Eustress is stress that we subjectively experience as positive. It usually comes from exciting changes such as the ones mentioned above. But, you have to realize that eustress makes you stress too.

Have you been there before? Maybe it’s the anticipation of the holidays. It could the energy around your goals for the new year. It could be life transitions such as marriage, children, graduation, or relocation. These are generally seen as good things that we welcome into our lives. But they still mess up your homeostasis for a while. So, what do you do when you stress because of eustress?

1.     Understand that when things change it takes time to adapt. It doesn’t mean you’re not happy. It just means you need time to adjust to the new. Consider talking to a counselor to help you wrap your mind around all the amazing changes that are taking place.
2.     Create a new normal. Just as you developed various rituals and habits to cope with your previous life, you can do it again in your new circumstances. It also helps to carry over old grounding techniques to remind yourself that you’re still you in the new situation.
3.     A final tip to manage eustress is to intentionally practice gratitude. No, your old life is no more. Yes, you have to make room for the new. But doesn’t the blessing of the new outweigh the familiarity of the old? When you keep the blessings of the new season in mind then you can navigate them with a heart of thankfulness.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Life is crazy and hard and scary. It’s also amazing and exciting and unpredictable in the best way. When the tide turns and you experience a season of the latter, embrace it. Hold on tight with both hands. Just give yourself tons of grace and compassion if it takes time to adjust to the new. It’s okay. I stress, you stress, we all stress because of eustress.