Managing Travel Anxiety: My Best Tips

Managing Travel Anxiety: My Best Tips

So I’m headed to Austin tomorrow for my bachelorette weekend (eeeek!!). As excited as I am, I have to admit I’m a little anxious too. Leaving home for an extended period of time always makes me feel a little on edge, and so does flying. Not a huge fan of either, yet I manage to do a lot of both haha. You’d think I’d be more used to it by now, but, every time I’m about to leave, saying goodbye is always so hard. Especially when I know I’m about to board a plane. Flying with Dan is at least a little easier since I have some extra support with me, but then I worry about the animals more. When he’s home with them I know they’re good, so at least I’ve got that peace of mind. This is turning into one long ramble- basically what I’m saying is that I love traveling and seeing new places, but leaving home and flying are a bit tough for me. I feel knots in my stomach leading up to it, but once I’m at my destination I’m ready to have the time of my life lol. Can anyone relate? If so, here’s some tips I’ve learned along the way for managing travel anxiety: 

RESERVE TIME FOR A PROPER FAREWELL

I know when you’re in a rush, taking the time to say bye to the fur babes can seem a little silly. The pilot won’t wait for you just because you needed an extra 20 minutes to say bye to your cat (this is a joke but also I’d argue it’s necessity). Whenever I’m about to leave the house for a trip, I always find each fur baby and give them a little love and tell them I love them, I’ll miss them and that I’ll be back soon. When I haven’t set time aside for this I feel rushed and bad about how I left, but when I do set aside time I’m able to really be present with them and that actually helps calm my anxieties about travel- seriously animals are so therapeutic. This also allows me extra time to go over my checklists to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Then you can leave to the airport feeling at ease, with plenty of time to make it to your gate. 

ENJOY A GLASS OF WINE 

Okay so this isn’t something I do every time I travel; it depends on what my destination is looking like, but I will say it does help when the nerves are really kicking in. Sometimes I’m able to hop on a flight with a healthy dose of anxiety that I’m able to quiet down, but for those times when that little voice of doom just won’t shut up, a glass of wine really does the trick. It helps me get out of my head and release control, so that I can take a nap, talk to another passenger, or watch a movie, without a second thought. 

BRING ACTIVITIES FOR AIRTIME 

One issue I had with flying was the lack of things to occupy my brain with while I’m in the air. If I think about the fact that I am literally in a chair flying ridiculously high up in the air (doing myself a favor and not even looking at how high that is actually) then I’ll be borderline panicking the whole freaking time. That’s not fun for me, the person next to me, or anyone for that matter. This is actually one reason I prefer to sit in the aisle seat now. I know it sounds creepy, but if I’m not amused by my own activities, it’s a much better spot for people watching. Plus, I like to observe the flight attendants. I figure that if they have a panicked look on their face, I probably should too. Otherwise, we’re smooth sailing. Some activities I enjoy while flying are reading books or watching movies, but both need to be fictional and happy. I can’t watch some super stressful action movie or I’ll really be a mess.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BREATH

That last point brings me to watching your breath. When we’re in situations that we feel are threatening, we tend to respond with short, rapid breathing. We may not realize it at first (I know early on in my anxiety journey I had NO idea), but before long we’ll be feeling lightheaded, a little tingly; kinda like we’re about to have a panic attack. I had this happen while watching a stressful movie on a plane once, and learned my lesson real quick. Surround yourself with some happy, inspirational material and focus on taking full, slow breaths, and you’ll be in a much better place than you would be otherwise.

BRING COMFY THINGS

Whether it’s a certain fuzzy blanket, a picture of your cat, a favorite movie or essential oils, bring whatever is going to get you to a happy mental place as quickly as possible. If there’s turbulence or an annoying person next to you, this is the thing that will help you through. I personally have my three favorite movies downloaded onto my iPad. They are as follows: Crazy Stupid Love, This is 40, and La La Land. All of these are about everyday real life where nothing that terrible ever happens. They bring me back to planet Earth (figuratively, since I’m actually flying way above it) and put me in a pleasant mood. I also bring an essential oil roller ball and put that on my inner wrists. Whenever I start to feel myself tense up, I hold them up to my nose and take a big inhale. This also reminds me to focus back on my breath- sometimes that means stopping the movie to ground myself and breathe. 

It’s also helpful to remember how safe flying really is, and that, though leaving home can be hard, it’s also a very healthy thing to do. We can’t live our lives holed up in our homes forever; there is so much to see and experience in the world! I know some of you may be struggling with leaving home and flying more than others, especially as we emerge into a post-pandemic life, but either way I do hope you find some of these methods helpful. I really only became an anxious traveller about 4 years ago, so this is still kind of new for me too, but my last piece of advice is to not let the anxiety stop you. There were so many times I questioned going somewhere because I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with the worry, but I went anyways and had the BEST time. We’ll miss out on so much if all we focus on are the things that could go wrong. Think about how much fun you’ll have on your travels and let that fuel you to keep going. Managing travel anxiety is just like riding a bike, you get better as you go. So keep going. And safe travels! 

Do you have anxiety around traveling? Have any of the above methods worked for you? What other tips do you have to calm yourself?

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How To Deal When You’re Sentimental AF

How To Deal When You’re Sentimental AF

This past week I felt pretty sluggish. There’s been a lot of emotions to process with all the wedding festivities starting to happen/getting closer and it’s making me a bit of an emotional wreck to say the least lol. Not totally in a bad way, I’m just super sentimental and I spend a lot of energy trying to soak in every last drop of every special moment I possibly can. It adds a lot of pressure to these moments; before during and after. And I hate it. But at the same time, I appreciate the perspective of knowing these moments won’t happen again and wanting to be fully present for them. The fact that I’m like this when the wedding hasn’t even happened has me thinking I should really prioritize finding the balance between soaking it in and letting it flow. Here’s what’s helped me so far, on how to deal when you’re sentimental AF. 

  1. Prepare accordingly and manage your expectations. Instead of ruminating over every little detail that could go wrong, or obsessing over making sure everything goes perfectly, try letting go and lowering your expectations instead. That doesn’t mean just assume it’ll all go wrong (cause that’s real depressing), but more so trust that it’ll all go perfectly, regardless of whether or not it goes exactly how you thought it would. I know this is something I’ve been writing about a lot lately, releasing control so you can find joy. Clearly it’s something I’m still working on and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a lifelong thing. 
  2. When the event has finally arrived, and you find yourself in the midst if it, try to remind yourself that what is happening is very special. In other words, bring your full awareness to the present moment. Doing this keeps me from getting lost in the rush and grounds me so that I really can appreciate everything for the fleeting moment that it is. Which leads me to…
  3. Take a moment alone if you need. I’ve heard this advice a lot leading up to our own wedding; that a favorite memory from many weddings was the time couples snuck away, just the two of them, to observe everyone enjoying themselves on their special night. I 1000% plan to do this with Dan, and I think it will help me a lot during the comedown afterwards. If you don’t take those moments to slow down, the whole event will fly by and be over before you know it, without you ever taking the time to let it sink in.
  4. TAKE PICTURES/VIDEOS. Anyone who knows me will confirm that I’m taking way too many photos on any given day at any given time. I love to capture moments so that I can look back on them whenever I want and remember the feelings in those frames. Same goes for videos. Whatever helps you relive the memory and cherish it forever! 
  5. Try not to stress it. I know the sentimental life can be a tough one, but better to have these worries now than 10, or however many, years down the road when you can’t get those memories back. Sure, I may be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to sentimental stuff, but I have no shame in my game. I want to remember all of the special things that have happened in my life, even the most mundane, tiniest little treasures. I mean, why not? Life is hard and if I can keep things around that remind me of my most magical moments, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

These pieces of advice are easy to dish out when I’m sharing them through writing, but actually implementing them effectively in my own life is quite another thing. Our wedding is 5 weeks away now, so wish me luck on this journey. From now until then, and for as long as I live most likely, I’ll be learning how to deal when you’re sentimental AF. 

Are you super sentimental? How do you handle big events? What do you do to enjoy yourself and take it all in?

 

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What Is Meant For You Will Always Find You

What Is Meant For You Will Always Find You

You know the feeling when you want something SO bad and you hope and pray it works out exactly like you’ve dreamed? Question… has it ever worked? Has it ever turned out EXACTLY like you pictured? Was it worse? Or.. was it better? Life is full of lessons, but one of my favorites (and most challenging to accept) is how little control we really have. We spend so much energy worrying about things with the illusion that this gives us more control than if we were to just let it all flow. And yet, it doesn’t give us any more control at all. I actually think this whole life thing becomes much more enjoyable when we do learn to let go and realize that it’ll all turn out how it’s supposed to; that what is meant for you will ALWAYS find you.

When I think of finding this level of acceptance within myself, I know it’s already there; even if I don’t currently feel it. The last summer I spent in Portland is a great example of this. I was 23, had just moved back in with my parents, was finishing up my Bachelor’s degree and spending lots of time having fun with friends and enjoying life. I didn’t have much, but I actually remember that being one of my most enjoyable summers. I found myself in a state of complete trust in the universe and, though I didn’t have a whole lot and there was so much to look forward to, I was so. damn. happy. I just kinda got in the headspace of trusting my path and knowing that, even though I wasn’t where I dreamed of being at the moment, that this was a necessary step that would make more sense and that I’d be grateful for one day.

I didn’t have to wait too long to reach that day. Even though moving home didn’t sound like the most exciting thing ever at the age of 23 (after being out of the house for 5 years), somehow I knew it was the right move. I felt so loved and safe and close being at home with my parents. It was fun to be back in their house with so much new perspective. How much more appreciation I had for them!

And now that my Dad is gone, it makes so much sense why that step was truly the biggest blessing. I was able to spend a year of my adult life with my parents; an amount of time that most might spend with their families over the course of many years during their adulthood. And, had I not been able to accept exactly where I was, I would have wasted all that time wishing I was somewhere else. 

You never know where life will take you, or what you’ll have thrown your way. We’re all on borrowed time and it’s our job to make sure we use it well. Where you are right now may not be exactly where you want to be; that’s NORMAL. If you were exactly where you wanted to be and had no dreams or aspirations for your future, that’d be another problem. But there’s something pretty special about being able to see the bigger picture, and cherish the chapter you’re in for exactly what it is: a necessary stepping stone that one day you might look back on with extreme gratitude and fondness. And there’s quite a bit of magic in trusting that whatever is meant for you will come your way. 

Whether it be a wrong turn while you’re driving, a new home, or a new relationship with someone special, everything that comes your way is meant for you. It may not be meant for you forever, but it is there to teach you and help you grow. Trying to control it doesn’t change anything but make your own experience worse. So whenever you find yourself wishing things were different, remember that where you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be. It will be more difficult to do some times than others, but seeing a world where things happen FOR you instead of TO you, is a much better place to be if you ask me. Remember: what is meant for you will always find you.

When was the last time in your life that you’ve felt that kind of trust in your journey? What tips do you have for getting back to that headspace? 

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Let Fear Move Through You, So You Can Move Forward

Let Fear Move Through You, So You Can Move Forward

A little while ago I wrote about staying open and practicing mantras. I’ve been reading the book The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, and it’s gotten me thinking a lot about what it means to “stay open.” I feel like that’s such an easy thing to say you should do, but how do you actually practice it? How do you stay open, and what exactly are you staying open for? This book does an incredible job of breaking down such a vague, easily misinterpreted idea into actionable steps you can implement at any time. The lesson that has stayed most with me since beginning this book (if you couldn’t already tell), and that I work to practice daily now, is staying open. Not just for the good stuff, but to things like fear as well. It all has to flow for us to be in flow. You must let fear move through you, so you can move forward. 

This kind of staying open requires us to let go. When unwanted thoughts/feelings, such as judgment, jealousy or fear come up, we don’t have to follow them and mindlessly go along for the ride. The second we give attention to these thoughts/feelings, we’re sucked into their grasp and all of our focus goes there. Instead, what if we saw these emotions arise, sat back and let them come and go? Acknowledge them for what they are and let them pass through, without giving them any more energy than that? 

Usually we choose to close when these feelings come up. We separate ourselves and spend all this time in our minds trying to solve all the issues we think we, or others, have. Our intent is to think our way through to the solution, when all we’re actually doing is trapping ourselves with all these negative feelings with nowhere else to go. This is what it means to close, in this context. But what if you didn’t attach to it? Or go inward with it? Just relaxed into it, and kept yourself open for the next feeling to arise? 

When we relax and observe in the face of tension, we’re creating space between us and it, which is one of our greatest superpowers. To recognize that we are not the negative thoughts/feelings, and neither is reality. The moment I realized that my thoughts did not actually reflect an accurate reality, nor did they need to determine what reality was, I was able to begin managing my anxiety. But what really did it for me was when I realized that I could accept and heal from these feelings instead of fighting them, and that the more I did that, the more at peace I’d become. 

For example, I used to get so anxious on Sunday’s because I knew a new week was about to begin and I didn’t know if I was ready for it. I didn’t trust that more good times would come, all I could see was the dread I felt for a Monday morning. I would ruminate on it all day, and on the Sunday’s I didn’t feel that way, I would make sure I did everything I could to keep it that way. My reality focused around my feelings of unease, instead of just moving through the day and taking in each moment for what it was; trusting the ebb and flow. 

We don’t have to get caught up in the stories we tell ourselves. Our minds can be a very busy place, but we can learn to quiet them. When fearful or negative feelings come up, relax and observe. Let them pass through. Try not to attach or identify with them; they are not you. They are created out of the very limited construct of reality you’ve used to protect yourself with. But all it’s doing is closing you off and trapping you in the negative. Stay open, and, if you start to find yourself closing with unwanted thoughts/feelings, relax and observe. No need for judgement or analysis, just watch it pass by. Practice this regularly, make it a habit, and watch your inner and outer worlds transform. 

Is this something you practice? What else do you do to stay open?

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Living With And Healing From Health Anxiety

Living With And Healing From Health Anxiety

I remember the first time I realized that something could be really wrong with me and I’d possibly have no idea until it was too late. I was probably about 18 years old and, ironically enough, my Dad was the one to comfort me as this reality set in. We had been discussing something else and all of a sudden the unpredictability and unfairness of life hit me HARD. My Dad understood where I was coming from, but he simply said “You just can’t think like that.” He was right. We’ll drive ourselves mad if that’s all we ever think about, so I barely revisited the idea until about 6 years later; when living with and healing from health anxiety became my everyday experience and endeavor.

If you’ve been following along for a bit now, you’ve heard that my Dad’s cancer felt like it came out of nowhere. I had just moved to San Diego in March, and by May the cancer had been detected. He went through surgery to remove a kidney and we thought that was that. Then in November the cancer came back, and that’s when he was given a year to live. I, not for a single second, saw it coming. I thought he’d just have surgery again (if his not feeling well even had anything to do with cancer) and we’d all be back on our way to normal. 

Unfortunately, this was not the case. Instead, we watched him go through all the trials of someone with a serious cancer diagnosis. Never did I think that this would be our life, but it was. Here we were and nothing could change it. 

During this year, I travelled between San Diego and Portland fairly often. I felt grateful to have a life elsewhere; one where my Dad was not dying and life was just going on as normal. And as guilty as I felt for those feelings, I think it was all in God’s timing for it to happen that way because it allowed me to be so fully present while I was there, and it made those moments so much more special and meaningful. 

One day, while I was in Portland, I went to a bookstore and picked up When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. If you haven’t heard of or read this book, I would HIGHLY recommend. It’s written by a man who, at 36 years old, and while training to become a neurosurgeon, is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. When he finds out his time is limited, he begins to write this book. 

Feeling particularly close to this part of the life experience at this point, I was fascinated in other’s experiences with it too. Many of us have never helped walk someone to the end of their life, let alone experienced it ourselves. To read the words of someone who knew they were dying; what an eye-opening experience. And what a gift for him to leave us with, a raw look into what makes life meaningful. 

But, as fascinated as I was, reading this book made me EXTREMELY anxious. It was another reminder of how unpredictable and unfair life can be. I had already been struggling with my health anxiety coming back, but this definitely didn’t help. A few months earlier, I’d experienced my first (and only, so far) panic attack. About a month after that, my doctor had me go in for an ultrasound to examine a lump in my breast. I was convinced I had breast cancer and that I’d die soon. Or that I’d have a blood clot and I’d die in my sleep. Even as I type these things I’m somewhat embarrassed and I do understand how ridiculous they might sound to some, but this was my reality. My Dad had been given a year to live, and as far as I was concerned this was just how the world worked now. I needed to be aware of every single little thing happening in my body because my awareness and obsession over it would save me from dying too soon. 

Of course, this drove me mad. I was in ultimate fight or flight mode constantly. Any little pain I felt in my body meant something terrible would happen. I was afraid to be home alone because I was worried I’d die and no one would be there to help me. It was terrifying… but eventually, with intentional healing, I was able to crawl my way out, for the most part. Here’s what helped me live with and heal from health anxiety:

  1. Remember that your thoughts are not your reality. The second I truly recognized that I didn’t have to give attention and power to every single thought I had, my whole world changed. I could disassociate from a panicked spiral and talk/breathe myself through to the other side. 
  2. Ground yourself. When you do start to feel those thoughts speeding up and becoming darker and darker, you’ll start to feel disassociated from reality. You’re so in your head that you’ve lost touch with what’s real and what’s not. All that matters is what’s happening inside, and that’s a quick way to a panic attack. To combat this, think about your 5 senses and name something you are currently experiencing with each one. Right now, I feel my fingers tapping on my keyboard, I can see my screen and the letters appear as I press each key, I can hear cars driving down the road I live on, I can taste the sip of water I just drank, and I can smell the lotion I put on earlier. Focusing your attention on these things helps to redirect and bring you back to the present moment. 
  3. Develop a relationship with your body to build trust. When my health anxiety came on full force, I became inspired to take better care of my body. Here I had felt so disconnected from it that I had no trust for it at all. I felt it would betray me, which accomplished absolutely nothing other than just making the situation worse. So I began being even more intentional about the kinds of foods I put in my body. I began reading ingredients lists and taking supplements. I also started working out more regularly which made me feel more in tune with my body and more connected to it. 
  4. Become your own advocate and be proactive about your health. Go in for your annual check-up’s, and if you do feel that something’s off, get it checked out. Staying on top of these things won’t make it so scary when you do have to go to the doctor or when you do feel something’s off, because you’ll be more in tune with what’s already happening.
  5. Identify what is truly driving your fear. Is it a fear of lack of control? Of being sick? Of disappointing your loved ones, or not seeing them grow? Of not living out your purpose or using your time how you’d always wanted to? Putting your finger on exactly what it is that’s causing the anxiety will help you get to the root of it. Instead of wasting time trying to not feel your feelings, see what’s driving them and counteract it. If you fear a lack of control, do what you can do make peace with that and be intentional about letting things flow more in your life. If it’s of being sick, start treating your body better. If it’s disappointing your loved ones or not seeing them grow, have an open and honest conversation about this with them so that you both can make sure you do special things together while you’re all alive and healthy, and so that you can hopefully understand that in no way are you a cause for disappointment if anything were to happen. Keep that open dialogue going so you never leave what’s in your heart left unsaid.
  6. For me, I was afraid to get sick and die before I’d done something with my life that felt purposeful to me. So I’d say, if you’re in the same boat, try to make peace with the idea that you don’t have control and that someday yes, your life will end. Let this fuel you to use your time wisely and do what gives you purpose. Once I began using my time for things I was passionate about I started to feel like I was fulfilling my purpose and that even if I died tomorrow, at least I would have left my mark in the way I was meant to and that could potentially help someone, even when I’m gone. 
  7. Give yourself time. I know it’s so damn scary, especially in the beginning, to experience severe anxiety in any form. There’s no amount of reason or logic that can pull you out of it. I know it feels like it will never go away, but I promise you, if you are intentional in working through it, it will. And in my experience, the longer you deal with it, the more power it loses. Once you see your worst fears never manifest as you thought they would, you can apply that same information the next time those fears arise. 

While I was in this place in my life, all I wanted was to feel normal again. I couldn’t stand that all I saw was the worst, most negative outcomes in every scenario. I missed believing and trusting in my journey and feeling like I had support through it. Not necessarily support from friends and family, I had lots of that, but more so support from the universe and whatever greater things were at play. I think if we can see the bigger picture: that we are here for a reason and we won’t leave before that’s complete, we can begin to make more peace with the unpredictability of life and that eventually, it will come to an end. We can’t control that part. What we can control is how we use the time we have. Use it to do what you love with who you love; it’s a small but powerful start in the right direction of healing from health anxiety. It’s not about living forever, it’s about feeling good, both mentally and physically, while we’re here. And I think, with that in mind, my Dad’s advice is pretty spot on: at the end of the day, we really just can’t think like that. As often as we possibly can, we must choose to see and trust the good in all things.

I would also highly recommend seeing a therapist if you have the resources to do so. If not, find a trusted confidant you can confide in. I know being able to talk my feelings out has helped (and still helps) get them into the light, so I can truly deal with them. This is an ongoing process and having that support can make such a positive difference. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional and the above suggestions are merely what has helped me in my experience. 

Have you dealt with health anxiety? What did you find helped you most in those times? 

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28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years

28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years

Isn’t it strange how, as we age, we stay relatively the same inside? Of course, we gain more experiences and through them new perspectives and growth and change, but I know I can say that (at least for me) we generally stay who we are throughout our lives. Our internal dialogue and who we know ourselves to be continues on this journey in the same way, never minding that our bodies are continuing to age. Physically, our bodies may show the lines and spots we’ve acquired on our adventures. Mentally, our brains may process certain things differently based on past experiences. But our souls, the true core of who we are, never changes. And I like to think that if that’s what we remember and pay attention to, we’ll always feel freeness to be our best selves, through all the years we spend here on Earth. 

I still feel like 24 year old Sarah in many ways. Sure, in the years between now and then, I’ve moved to two different states, earned a Master’s degree, gotten married, made a career pivot and too many other things to name, but she’s still here. Her and I are one and the same, observing and processing all these different experiences we’ve had. And it’ll still be that way for as long as I’m here. When I’m 80, the same internal self who was experiencing the age of 24, will be right there, experiencing 80 too. Thinking about aging and our lifetimes this way helps me realize that, though so much can and will change as we move through our lives, internally so much stays the same. I take comfort in that. This is one of the many things I’ve learned in my 28 years of life. Here’s a list of some more; 28 things I’ve learned in 28 years:

  1. It is possible (and completely acceptable) to feel sadness and gratitude at the same time. 
  2. The most important & meaningful parts of life are often the simplest.
  3. We have control over very few things in life; perspective is one of them. Your life will be exactly as you see it- approach your perspective wisely. 
  4. Pain can be transformed to power to help others. Do not fear it; it is part of your journey and will make you the person you’re meant to become. You will make it through. 
  5. You are NEVER alone. Reach out to help others and connect; in doing so you will heal too.
  6. Creating boundaries is important; you are not a selfish person for instilling them. 
  7. If you love animals, don’t eat them. Also, if you don’t love animals, don’t eat them. 
  8. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. 
  9. Food is fuel- but definitely partake in all the pleasures a table of good food with those you love around it can bring. 
  10. Feeling sad does not make you a lesser person and will not keep you from having a wonderful life. Let it move through you so you can move forward. 
  11. Everything is an ebb and flow; things cannot and will not always be wonderful, but always remember more wonderful times are coming. Stay open and receptive to them.
  12. Find whatever it is that helps you process your feelings. They will not leave until you’ve allowed them in. 
  13. Life is short, but it’s also long. You have time, but don’t forget how precious it is. 
  14. People are too worried about themselves to analyze you in the way you think they might. 
  15. Don’t let what others think of you stop you from being exactly who you are.
  16. In fact, your truest, most beautiful purpose here on Earth is to be the most you you can possibly be and share your gifts with the world. Do that.
  17. Paying attention to your breath and experiencing stillness on a regular basis provides so much clarity and peace. 
  18. Your words are powerful, be mindful of how you speak of yourself and others. 
  19. Spend time with your parents. Ask them questions. Learn about their experiences in life. You’ll be so glad to know them in this way; what they were like before you. 
  20. Set goals- you don’t have to accomplish all of the them within a certain time frame to be proud. Setting goals in general will lead you to accomplishing goals you didn’t even know you had.
  21. Don’t put so much pressure on things. It’s more fulfilling to have fun.
  22. Release yourself from the outcome- go after your dreams even though they may not work out. Something better is on the way and you’ll be a better person for taking the leap. 
  23. Vulnerability is the most powerful tool for connection and healing. 
  24. That ache you feel when you realize things won’t be how they are forever is normal. Don’t run; embrace it. Life becomes even more beautiful when you acknowledge how temporary it is.
  25. Taking care of yourself and learning what you need to feel good is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself, and to the world. 
  26. Create the relationship with yourself that you wish to have with others. You’ll attract the best people that way.
  27. Stay open to all possibilities. Life will likely not work out how you envisioned it, but if you trust your path it will lead you somewhere more beautiful than you ever could have imagined. 
  28. Do not let the fear of time passing get in the way of you enjoying your life and where you are in this moment. Time will pass regardless, may as well dive in. Stay present.  
  29. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be; no time can be wasted when you trust in the process. 

Okay so I added one extra in there.. it’s just that I’ve learned SO DAMN MUCH. And there’s so much more I could add. Funny thing is most of what I’ve listed here are the things I’ve learned within the past 3-4 years. Between my Dad’s passing, dealing with my own anxieties and quitting my full time job to figure out what the hell I want to do with my life, I’ve found my way to many self-development resources and insightful conversations with amazing human beings.

I’ve learned so much about the world and about myself in such a short amount of time, and there’s still so much more to learn and grow from. I never in a million years would have guessed that this is where my 28 year old self would be. There’s been a lot of heartache, but there’s also been so much love. And no matter what, I know I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. And so are you. My greatest lesson is that, so long as you stay open to opportunities and love yourself and trust the universe, incredible things will happen for you. I’ve only just started this journey and, whether you’re starting from right where you are reading this now, or you’ve already been on it for a while, I hope you feel that knowing deep inside, that this very moment is meant for you in your journey to becoming who you’re meant to be. And you’ll learn everything you need to know along the way.

Would love to hear from you; share your greatest life lessons in the comments below!

What Makes Life Meaningful?

What Makes Life Meaningful?

Part of the human condition is to find meaning in our existences- we’re hardwired for it. And when we don’t feel we have it, things tend to go downhill (or feel that way, at least). We lose interest in our days and our journeys and we kind of go into auto-pilot. In my experience, the times I felt I’ve had the most meaning are the times in which I’ve felt super busy and overwhelmed. During these times all I wished for was for it to end, so that I could move on with my happy, easy life. The funny thing is, as much as we long for a life of no turmoil or hardship, those are some of the very things that make us feel alive. That make life meaningful. 

Kind of sound like a broken record as of late with all the “pain is necessary” talk, but it applies to so much, and realizing it and truly taking a moment to let in sink in can be… life changing. Because when you stop running from your pain, you can begin using it. For good. For making life meaningful. 

Yesterday started like any other day, and then I hopped on my phone to find a tribute video for a dog that had been rescued (after his owners had left him by the ocean to drown) and lived his last 15 months of life happy and loved. His back legs were paralyzed and his nose was covered in a cancerous tumor, but when they gave him some wheels, nothing could stop him. The man who rescued him said that, even with all this dog had been through, he was the happiest dog at his shelter. That dog made a lasting impression on so many in such a short amount of time, including myself. 

Before I knew it, I was sobbing to myself uncontrollably about this damn dog; the hardest I’ve cried in a LONG time. I couldn’t stop. It was like this river that had been blocked just suddenly started flowing again. Like I’d been disconnected from my own pain for so long and suddenly the connection was restored and all the feels were rushing through. 

I often get discouraged at the fact that there’s so much pain and suffering in the world. It begins to overwhelm me and I start to feel hopeless and frustrated. I start to numb myself to it (by choosing not to think about it), so I can be a “normal” person and function within the usual constructs of society. But then I see a video of a sweet little being with so many reasons to hate the world, yet he has so much love for it instead. And it reminds me that we may not be able to change every single thing that ever happens in the world for the better (although I’ll always wish for that as my superpower), but we can certainly change ourselves. THAT is our superpower. 

Our society has taught us that the horrors of the world are “just the way things are.” That there’s too much to even begin to attempt a resolve and that we should just accept it for what it is and go on about our mundane existences. That just focusing on work, online shopping and whatever else we can distract ourselves with, will bring us eternal happiness and peace. What the hell is up with that? How can we just go to work, come home, and spend our only free-time spending money on material things that we won’t even like in a year? We’re constantly chasing our “perfect” selves in our “perfect” lives. 

Getting stuck on that hamster wheel is what makes it all meaningless. And I’m not saying going to work and buying things are bad- they’re not. What I’m saying is that we’ve been conditioned to think that those are the most important things and in actuality we’ve been convincing ourselves of that because it’s a solid distraction from the fact that millions of humans and animals are suffering, in pain, and dying from preventable things Every. Freaking Day. 

We’re all on this planet as souls having a human experience (that’s what I believe), and the thing is, this place is imperfect. I also believe there is a place where things are perfect, and that we’ve come here to learn. After all, there’s no learning in perfection. I heard once that “life is sandpaper for the soul.” I love that idea so much. Like as souls we want to come here and experience all the hardship because we know we’ll be better for it on the other side- whatever that is. 

It helps me to think we’ve chosen this path, and it encourages me not to run from it. Life becomes meaningful when we find purpose and connection. As Glennon Doyle says in her book Untamed, “We all want purpose and connection. Tell me what breaks your heart, and I’ll point you towards both.” 

Let us continue to normalize paying attention. To running towards pain to hold and sit with. And to helping one another do the same. To making this world a better place for all living beings; one loving, compassionate moment at a time. 

What do you feel makes our lives meaningful? Would love to hear your thoughts!

The Moment That Changed Life As I Knew It

The Moment That Changed Life As I Knew It

December 2017 was when we found out my Dad had a year to live. The moment that changed everything. We had already known of his cancer. He had undergone surgery back in May to remove his kidney, where they thought the cancer had been isolated. Things seemed to be going alright, life moved forward after that without much thought or talk about it. It was never on my radar that it might turn into something more. 

When I visited home for Thanksgiving that year, my Dad could not make it to dinner. He was too sick. Still, it never crossed my mind that it might be because of something life threatening. That the cancer had come back.

I remember my Mom calling me often about emergency room and doctors visits. She would sound so worried and I couldn’t understand why. I could not process the idea that something might really be wrong. With my Dad… The strongest, most wonderful person. The person who made the world feel safe, suddenly no longer could. 

Then the real call came. Well, actually, it was me calling them. I knew my Dad had an appointment that day to figure out what was going on. I knew it could be bad, but still hadn’t truly processed it. Still had no idea what I’d do, or what we’d do, if it was. It felt silly to think about when I just “knew” everything was going to be okay. 

But then I made that call. With knots in my stomach because it was weird they had not yet called me. Something was off. My Mom was the one to answer the phone. Actually, I don’t remember anymore if it was her or my Dad. I don’t remember the small chit chat anymore. I just remember my Dad getting on the phone and sounding so sad. So defeated. They had been told the cancer had come back- aggressively. And that he only had a year to live.

A year to live???

How does one even go about processing that? What do you do with that?

Guess it depends on the person.

He kept apologizing to me and I couldn’t understand why. This isn’t you fault? You didn’t chose this? Why are you sorry? It’s you this is happening to. Not me. 

But that was wrong. It happened to us all. My family dynamic changed forever. 

My Dad lost his Dad when he was about 19, if I remember correctly. He passed from an aggressive cancer as well, in his 50’s. I think my Dad somewhere deep down thought he might endure the same fate. He never spoke of it much, but it seemed as though this was not the first time he had thought of it as a possibility. 

I did not understand then, but do now, that he was apologizing because he knew what it felt like. To lose a parent that young. Here I was a hopeful, reckless, uninhibited 24 year old. Just moved to San Diego and had started my first job out of college. I was hopping on planes to fly across the country for 36 hour trips. I was meeting new people, experiencing new things, enjoying the newfound freedom of a first year out of undergrad. 

And then he got sick. It breaks my heart to remember that conversation. To think that he felt the need to apologize. It wasn’t his fault. 

When you’re in this situation, you think you’ll act a certain way or know what to say and do. But you don’t. Nothing makes sense. Everything hurts. It’s impossible to feel normal. 

But I’ve come to learn that normal is boring. Normal doesn’t do great things. Is normal even a real thing? I don’t think so. But whatever my “normal” was before- I don’t want it. I should be more specific- I want everything back about my normal life except the old “normal” me. I want my Dad here with my Mom and to call them and laugh with them and surprise them by flying home and jumping in their bed at 2am. 

But the old me can go. She was a little self-absorbed. It hurts to learn the pains of the world, but I’ve come to believe it makes for a better human. 

I know there are others out there struggling with losing a loved one. More than at pretty much any time in modern history. 

I want you to know I am sorry. I know it sucks. So much. Nothing anyone says can possibly make it any better.

I want to encourage you to take care of yourself. Seriously. Even when you don’t feel like it. Just do something that will make you feel good. Even if only for a second. Creating those moments, and trusting that they will still be accessible when you need them, will get you through. And the more often you create them, the more often they’ll begin to show up on their own.

I think of a girl in her 20’s who’s just been informed her parent might die. Or a girl who’s already lost someone. I think of me and what I needed in those moments. A place to connect. To feel understood. To learn new ways to be me again. To find the new me and to accept and appreciate every ounce of her. If that’s you- thank you for being here. I am honored to be of some service in this gut-wrenching, transformative time in your life; when life as you knew it, has changed as well.

Let The Bad Days, Be Bad Days

Let The Bad Days, Be Bad Days

This past Sunday was a weird day. I wouldn’t say it was bad necessarily, just a little off. It seemed like everything that I tried to do just didn’t go as planned. Nothing major, but when the small inconveniences build up it can still get a little overwhelming. As I was stumbling my way through running errands that evening (since I was literally making everything difficult for myself) I remembered something I’d been told many times before: Life isn’t meant to be easy.

I feel like that’s one of those cliche’s you hear all the time, but never really give any real thought to. Or at least I hadn’t. I’d hear someone say it or read it somewhere and nod vigorously in total, unwavering agreement. Yet, when it really came to applying it in my everyday reality, I’d always forget about it.

But this Sunday was different. Because while I was having an off day, I suddenly remembered this simple, incredibly helpful, fact. For most of my life I had it easy (in most ways, I still do). But once my Dad became sick I kind of had to have a come to Jesus moment with the fact that being alive meant things like this would happen too. And that it was pretty much completely out of my control. What a freaking thing to have to come to terms with in such a short amount of time. In all honesty, I think I am just now getting around to realizing what it means to truly understand and accept it.

My response to it at first was to try with all my might to control it. Or at least predict it. I’d worry endlessly about someone else I loved, or myself, becoming ill, getting hurt, or dying. When someone would refer to the future with such certainty, as I would have in the past, it suddenly didn’t feel right. How could you say so confidently that “there’s always next year?” I’d almost feel that I was jinxing it by saying something like that, so I kept my mouth shut and just prayed for the best. 

Brené Brown says that joy is one of the most vulnerable things you can feel. And now I really understand that one too. I used to feel joy without a doubt in my mind. Now I feel it and immediately follow up with the fact that it won’t last forever. It’s exhausting, always stunting your joy before you’ve even really had a chance to feel it. 

All of this need for control totally took away my ability to just feel happy and relax. Attempting to control everything that happens to you and your loved ones and everyone else in the world, and wanting everything to be perfect and for everyone to feel safe and loved, is a lot to place on your shoulders. Not only is it a lot, it’s setting yourself up for complete and utter failure. And massive disappointment. 

This past Sunday, when I remembered that life is not meant to be easy, it finally sunk in that I do not have control. And that it’s actually really beneficial to find acceptance with that. It doesn’t mean you accept the bad things that happen, which is what I think I’d thought it meant all this time. It means that you have to accept that regardless of how hard you try to keep it from being so, bad things will happen. To you, to your loved ones, to the world. Bad things happen everyday. But so do good things. A LOT of good things. And trying to predict and avoid any and all possible things that could go wrong, tear away any opportunity you might have to experience everything that could go right. Plus it distracts and discourages us from doing good in areas we may be able to actually help change, too.

Take it from me, someone who has tried to control everything and has constantly “waited for the other shoe to drop,” life changes for the better when we release our attempts to control things that are already, and unchangeably, completely outside of our control. Bad things can, do and will happen. There’s no way around it. But our reaction to it and how we choose to live our lives in spite of it, is what really helps us through. When we acknowledge that life is actually meant to be a struggle, we won’t be blindsided when shit hits the fan. AND, when shit is not hitting the fan, we also give ourselves permission to fully immerse ourselves in and feel those moments of joy. We realize that no, those moments won’t last forever, but that it’s a privilege to have them at all. When we stop trying to make everything perfect, we can see it for the perfect that it already is. And when we see its perfection we can trust it more fully and live in a way that makes us feel truly alive. Appreciating every little moment, knowing nothing lasts forever. 

You Are Loved. You are You. You Are Perfect.

You Are Loved. You are You. You Are Perfect.

I’ve been reading the book, Untamed by Glennon Doyle. If you’ve read it, or are familiar with it, then you know it’s a story about a woman who colors within the lines, or tries her darnedest, for a majority of her life. Then, something magical happens. She decides to be unapologetically herself and unapologetically happy for it. Naturally, this has me thinking a lot about my currently over-apologetic self and how I came to be this way.

You see, society conditions us (men and women, but for these attributes I’m speaking specifically to women) to be seen and not heard. To be polite and pleasant and always put others before ourselves. We pride ourselves and base our entire worth as a woman on how helpful we are, or at least how helpful others perceive us to be. We feel guilt the moment we share an opinion that might come off as “too strong”, or when we want to do something that might disrupt our own, and others’, comfortable way of living. If we speak too loud, hurt someone’s feelings, do something for ourselves over doing something for someone else, we are pushed into a shame storm that lasts until we can finally redeem ourselves and someone by the grace of God comes along and tells us just how “good” we actually are. That feeling of validation for being someone society wants us to be, is exactly what keeps the vicious cycle going. 

The idea of jumping off this wild carousel ride feels intimidating, almost impossible. As humans, we so badly want to be “liked.” We want others to think we are good. And we’ll do anything to get that stamp of approval. Of course, we don’t want to be running around like a bunch of assholes, but to what extent is making others happy causing us to lose ourselves? If we aren’t careful we might just end up as shells of humans with pretty hair, pretty smiles, and our entire existences spent searching for the next validating moment that tells us that we, indeed, have succeeded as the figure of a woman society so happily constructed for us. 

I find myself lately asking for validation way more than I’m comfortable with. Way more than I think many of us would feel comfortable with. Confirmation to ensure that I’m not being too much, but also reassurance that I am still enough. A tight rope I’ve walked my whole life, that I have only brought myself to question a handful of times. I have put the responsibility of making sure others feel comfortable, that others feel happy, before myself. I will feel uncomfortable, I will feel unhappy. So long as others around me don’t. So long as they think I’m nice and pretty and pleasant.

But within those lines is not where great things happen. Life, real life, cannot happen there. There, we do all the things we think we’re supposed to do. The things we think we “should” do. And then a whole life passes and you look back and realize you never really did anything you actually wanted. You never really lived your life for you. 

We’re told that we can’t be contradictory or controversial. Everyone is much more comfortable with us being calculated, careful. But we can make mistakes and still be good. We can have strong opinions and stick by them even when it makes others uncomfortable. We can exist in our fullness without being sorry for it. What we cannot do is survive in a life where every little action and reaction is given all of our energy to think through it first in fear of how it’ll be perceived. Or where we would rather live with caution, never putting ourselves out there, in fear of rejection. 

Our existence is not purposeful in making others feel comfortable. Our existence becomes powerful when we give others permission to live their lives fully, by living ours fully too. I can think back to many times when society has tried to keep me locked in a perfectly finished little box. It still does. And I still feel the pressure of those walls. Every time I think of myself as lesser I am reminded that they are still there. But there’s a way out of that box. It’s not locked. We can choose to challenge those thoughts and feelings and decide that we are both not too much and more than enough, all on our very own. 

We are all capable of amazing things. No favors are done by shrinking into “should.” It is a great disservice, to yourself and to the world, to be anything but you. A you that lives life how they want, on their terms. A you that loves themselves, unconditionally and unapologetically. We must forgive all the apologies from our past, people-pleasing selves, and trust ourselves enough to make way for the new, shiny, unapologetic being that’s been here inside us all along. Just waiting to break free.

She is loved. She is you. She is perfect.

<3,

Sarah