Surviving Tragedy

Things happen. That’s the unchangeable, unrelenting, and (more often than not) unapologetic fact of life. If you are like me, you might even give it the punchier little platitude of “shit happens”. People say it everywhere, and they say it like that makes what’s happening better. As though, if you can shorten a national, personal, or even minor seeming tragedy into a tiny little bundle of letters, a simple phrase no longer than two words, if possible, if that length and simplicity can be achieved than the massive, world-changing and life shaking event doesn’t have to touch you.

I live in America, and have for most of my life, born and raised all over this country because my father was a career Marine. I’ve been involved with the military both on the fringe and as a spouse through a significant amount of my adult life as well and have the gift of never existing in a bubble. I have never lived anywhere long enough to only have the opinions or experiences of that area and my friend groups have never been completely one-sided in belief.

We are hurting today, as a nation and as a people. We have been suffering for a long time, longer than any person’s political career has lasted, and longer, probably, than we have been a country. We are hurting, and while it would be easy for me to use whatever kind of voice I have right here to delve into my opinions on the presidents handling of the massive string of devastating hurricanes followed by this horrific act of violence, or how much I would love to talk about gun statistics and why I am fundamentally for against what I am, I won’t today.

Maybe soon I will have the energy and will to write about why I believe that things are mentally devastating for American in general or about how to survive the political climate and remain a full and okay human being, but today I want to discuss how to continue through tragedy and continue to be empathetic and healthy human beings, how to both give your all and still manage to not feel like everything has been drained from you.

In a very short amount of time America has suffered three major hurricanes, unusual earthquakes, and now this devastating shooting in Los Vegas. On a personal front, this year I lost my grandfather that was very close to me, and my life has moved into a state of transition that is terrifying and has forced me out of any kind of stability. Each time I feel myself looking to my old habits for comfort. Whether that is overeating, laying around and sulking, losing my forward movement. It’s easy to just be sad, to feel hopeless.

It’s a cycle, don’t be lulled into it.

When you give up, when you give in, when you let all of your control slip to you hurt yourself for longer. So, the best thing I thought I could do today, while I feel so down, is to share how I keep it together when things are feeling pretty bleak.

 

  • You are entitled to your feelings

Everyone handles stress differently and pretending you don’t feel the way you do, or that this doesn’t affect you is damaging. When something bad happens in the world it can seem like if you weren’t in the direct line of time, you aren’t allowed to have a feeling. It is human nature to respond to trauma in the world and it keeps us living. It doesn’t make you selfish or attention seeking to be sad that bad things happen. This is a world you are a citizen of, you should care.

 

  • Don’t ignore it

It’s okay to step back from the news for a moment, collect your thoughts and your breath, clear your mental state. It’s not irresponsible to stop watching the news for a few days. What is irresponsible is pretending this isn’t happening. I, personally, find it disrespectful to the victims of a tragedy to pretend it just didn’t happen. It happened and the world is changed because of it, whether that is the whole world, the country, or just your world. Turning yourself to ice and shutting it out only prolongs the pain. In order to continue in a healthy way, you have to feel the pain of tragedy. Feel it and move forward.

 

  • Be Proactive

There is a guilt in the world of loss and tragedy. The surefire, never fails, way to cope with the anxiety of the guilt of not living through a disaster when it is happening is to help. There is a surplus of prayer in the world when disaster strikes (and if prayer is your thing, it is a great starting point), but what the world really suffers from is a great deal of prayer and small amount of action. Volunteering and donating when you can is such a massive help. Even if you don’t have money, donate old clothing, donate a craft you can do (knitting, crochet, sewing, building, anything). If you can’t volunteer where the tragedy took place then volunteer somewhere else. In addition, if you are able to give blood, please do. This is a quick and simple way to make a huge life and death impact on a life for purely altruistic reasons and you can never go wrong balancing your karma a little with some altruism.

 

  • Practice Gratitude

Write what you are grateful for. Write it over and over, add to it when you can, make massive lists. Tell the people in your life you love them, and mean it. Apologize to those that have wronged you and reconnect. Call your mom and tell her that you are grateful she protected you in a world where children are so often hurt by their parents, call the ex you parted with on good terms and let them know you appreciate who they were in your life, call a friend you don’t speak with as much anymore and tell them that even though you lost touch, you love them and they matter in your world.

 

A little bit of light can show the way in the dark. Love and compassion is never a bad thing and is always in too short of supply. Americans and the world are suffering and we are all in this together, we will get through this and I am proud of all of you for surviving the best you can.

Keep your chin up, buttercup.

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Fitness Hyperfocus and How to Handle the Fallout

 

Sometimes in the eternal struggle to find a way to be healthy and get fit we find ourselves in a unique position, one that at the time seem’s like a godsend. You know what I’m talking about, you’re working out constantly, you’re feeling that burn in all the right places, you aren’t even complaining about it because hey, ‘No Pain, No Gain’ or how about ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body?’ You’re eating all the right things, the perfect blend of protein and vitamins, you’ve found some fancy named diet that makes you feel like you are on the very cutting edge of science and nothing is going to stop you! You wake up and eat, breathe, scream fitness! It’s during that phase that your instagram is flooded with workout selfies, sweat pouring down your face as you grin defiantly into to the iPhone, and your facebook is full of comments telling you how proud they are of you and how great you are looking! It’s addictive. Everyone around you hears what you are eating and why, you meticulously track every calorie on intake and when burned. You buy new pieces of exercise equipment and by god, you use them! This is the high point of fitness.

Some people call it the honeymoon phase, I call it…

Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is a term I learned when I began to deal with my adult ADHD, simply put it is a period of deep and intense concentration. You find something you love and enjoy and the rest of the world becomes a big grey blur. In ADHD this can be anything, large chunks of time expressed in doing one activity on repeat. Art, video games, writing, cleaning, it can be anything and you aren’t satisfied until it is fully completed, and therein lies the problem with hyperfocus and fitness. You cannot complete fitness. There will never be a giant finish line to cross.

Hyperfocus in fitness isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at least not at first. Usually you find yourself making a lot of commitments and holding yourself accountable in ways that you might not otherwise. That is a positive thing! Commitments, friends, accountability, a community, those things will hold you through the inevitable fallout that you will have with your blooming storybook love with all things smoothie and barbell related comes to an end. I’m not here to discourage the intent laser-like focus we get on fitness right away, instead I would like to remind you, that it will slow down. You cannot maintain at 100% forever, it’s simply impossible. So while you feel passion, feel it, really feel it. Love it, soak it up. You get out there and join communities, you start those commitments and hold yourself accountable!

Once you hit the point where suddenly it’s not so exciting to eat another fruit bowl or make another protein shake for breakfast, when you want a waffle or a Pop-Tart instead, once you would rather go out instead of work out, or you just need a day to lay on the couch, once those things happen another thing usually happens. Guilt. You feel guilty for not working out, for not eating right, for not doing absolutely everything you could. I think we all know by  now that guilt and fitness are not great friends, they are the kind of friends that keep hanging out, but just tell all their other friends the other ones dirt. We can’t be guilted into loving ourselves, into fighting for our better selves. We have to want it, really want it.

So enough of telling you what Hyperfocus is and where it inevitably leads, here is how I combat it.

How to fight it

MODERATION:

I’ll be the first to admit that I have Borderline Personality Disorder so extremes are in my nature. I am all in or all out and I struggle with that with physical health more than anything else, so I have to be especially diligent in my all in phases. So instead of letting myself push for absolute perfection, I force moderation. Now, everyone will tell you how important moderation is, and when you are in the honeymoon smoochy phase of loving that runner’s high and convincing yourself that kale tastes great, the word moderation seems like a dirty word. “Why be moderate when I CAN be perfect?” You might ask yourself. Reasonable question, so here are some good ways to trick your brain.

  • Metabolism is a fickle mistress and if you eat a specific caloric intake all the time you can make yourself plateau. The way I have burst through that plateau time and time again seems counter-intuitive. I cheat. One day a week, I don’t count a damn calorie. Usually it’s a day when I’m going to get drunk and the idea of counting empty alcohol calories makes me want to cry, so I just don’t. I eat what I want, I may or may not work out, but I simply let myself be for one day. I don’t preplan the day, it’s not the same day every week. It just happens. Organic is the key here. If you want to wake up and eat a waffle and six strips of greasy bacon. Do. it. You have six other days to eat right.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to the detriment of a social life. If your friend makes her super special brownies once a year and she brings them to your house. Buddy please, eat the damn brownies. One day will not break you. Guilt over one day can!

SELF EVALUATION:

 I have to talk to myself. It’s nine pm, I already took a shower, it’s too late to work out, I had a heavy dinner. So what? Just do it. There isn’t a time at which you are not allowed to work out, showers can be taken again, next time hit the workout video before dinner. Just do it this time, you will feel better. That’s the real thing I have to tell myself every time. You will feel better for having done this. It has never been a lie. Even laying on my yoga mat, shirt soaked with the always attractive boob sweat, and gasping for air, I feel good. 

BRIBE YOURSELF:

Deep down we all like material stuff, and we are all still five years old. You might think, why bribe? I can just get what I want? I’m an adult. Absolutely, you sure can. Don’t though. Make goals, weight, fitness, food, inches any of those things you can make goals about. Make a list of goals and then assign a prize. For example, I could go get my nose pierced right now, nothing is stopping me. I have the money, I have the time, the gas is in the car, but if I get it when I hit my next milestone… it’ll mean something more to me. So here I am waiting for this thing I really want. You can do it, too.

Above all else remember this, love the hyperfocus while it exists, but be realistic with yourself. Don’t set yourself up for failure by pushing so hard you get injured or that if you miss a day you can’t get back on the horse. You will fail, you will fail a lot, and that is okay! You can always start fresh, and we are all waiting for you when you are ready to hop back on.

What do you do when you hit that wall at the end of hyperfocus? How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you even deal with that beginning hyperfocus? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

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Starting Always Sucks

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It really does. Starting anything sucks. Even worse? Starting something over, especially if it was something that at one point in time you were fairly successful with. Education, a new diet, cleaning a room you cleaned two days before but is magically destroyed again by the unknown forces of destruction that cohabit with you, and my personal (least) favorite; starting to work out again.

I am an adult woman of a spry twenty-eight years old, four years ago my husband and I moved to a place called Twenty-Nine Palms situated conveniently nearly two hours from the nearest Target, and at least forty minutes from the nearest Walmart, were the average summer temperatures can melt your car tires into asphalt if you are cautious of where you park. I had no friends when we moved there, a two year old, and began therapy for the first time in my life. I was quickly diagnosed with a panic disorder, agoraphobia and this awesome little thing called ADD. My doctor controversially started my on adderall as an adult and it changed my entire life. Suddenly I could get off the couch, I wasn’t depressed eating non-stop and I started something I never expected. I started running, in the high desert. The altitude is one of the hardest ones to run in, it was often impossibly warm even at night when I ran, and my running path was full of hills that I am fairly certain only went upward no matter which way you took them.

There I started using a paid app called Zombies! Run 5k, which was a precursor to running with the main app Zombies! Run. It was fun and engaging and I managed through shin splints, and bad shoes to complete the program. After my first solid three miles of running I was on top of the world.

And then I quit.

I don’t know why I quit, I assume it was because we were in the middle of moving to another state in the middle of Christmas time, stopping for a few weeks in Kansas to visit family and ending up breaking down in a strange state and having to buy a new car for the first time in our lives. Essentially things lapsed. When we arrived in our new home in Jacksonville, NC I struggled to get back into fitness in general and for some reason, unbeknownst to me, I never sought out a therapist until I hit a very serious mental low, something I am sure I will discuss at a later time.

I spent years off of adderall because of this mental low point and being sure that it would only increase my mental issues. As it turns out, adderall has been essential to managing my anxiety. Without it I lay around and can’t make my brain focus on anything long enough to complete a single activity. So now, after the birth of my second child, recently back on my medication I look around and see that the body I struggled so hard for in that high desert, running which I could see rattlesnakes and coyotes, sweating through massive elevations just because I felt strong and empowered has slipped away because I didn’t take care of my mind and my body.

So here I am, four years older, with a, nearly, six year old and a baby. Finally consistently struggling to begin something I started four years ago.

Every time I work out I feel the shake in muscles that once felt so solid and strong, and they are so weak and loose now. I try every time I finish a workout to remember that this is a process, and even if the process happened faster when I was younger, it is still one I can participate in.

So here we are, starting over sucks. It’s a rough, sometimes painful, and usually ugly, red-faced mess, but one day it won’t suck quite so hard!

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