Self-Care Series pt. 2: Exercise Often & Eat Well

Taking care of your body is important.

Often times I focus on the mental aspect of self-care: last week I talked about rest and the importance of setting time to re-energize yourself. But this week, I’m breaking down the more physical side of self-care, which includes exercising often and eating well.

On Exercising

I’m not a natural fitness junkie. I wouldn’t call myself a gym rat — I’m not a lifter or a runner or anything in-between. But several years ago I found a form of exercise I love and stuck with it: rock climbing.

I love rock climbing because it’s a great way to get my heart pumping, but it feels like a less traditional workout. It’s an easy way for me to make new friends and connect with others. It’s strategic and fun and not like any other workout I have ever done.

I have close friends who feel the same way about running — it’s a good way for them to break a sweat and also build relationships. Or some friends feel the same way about group workouts like Camp Gladiator, Crossfit, etc.

In my non-expert opinion, I think as long as your body is moving and you’re frequently active, it doesn’t super matter what kind of workout you’re doing. I notice differences in my energy level and overall psyche on weeks when I don’t climb. I feel more lethargic and less connected to my climbing community.

Exercising often is important for your body (and mind). If you don’t have a favorite workout or workout often, I would encourage you to try to find something you enjoy that simultaneously challenges you. I’d encourage you to find time in your schedule to workout, and stick to it.

On Eating Well

I’m also not a natural health junkie. I don’t count calories or weigh myself often, I’m not into fad diets and cooking is a struggle for me. But when I do eat well — which involves less sugar, less junk food, less eating out, and more fruits & veggies, more healthy snacks, more homecooked meals — I notice a positive impact on my energy level. It also helps me have cleaner skin!

My schedule doesn’t allow me to cook every night, nor do I really have the energy to. But I do like to carve out a few nights a week where I cook a healthy meal. Lately I have been on a salmon kick and throwing salmon and veggies on a sheet has been easy and delicious. I personally haven’t dived into the meal prepping game, but I hear that is a great way to avoid unhealthy or impulsive eating, too

Once again, I have a non-expert opinion, but I do think it’s important to remember you are what you eat. When I eat junk food, I feel like junk. When I eat healthy, I feel healthy. Eating well is important for your body and mind, too. We have to treat our bodies well, and a part of that is caring about what we consume.

Self-Care Series pt. 1: The Importance Of Rest

Rest is important.

Boom, bang, done. If there’s anything I want you to glean from this post, it is the importance of rest and taking the time you need to re-energize and re-fuel yourself.

For someone who is a rest advocate, I will confess I am not great at prioritizing time to rest myself. It is easy for my calendar to fill up quickly, to find myself running from here to there, and to realize I’m drained after it’s too late.

Take it from me — don’t be like me! Carve out time to rest. Whether it’s physically sleeping, or just sitting in silence, your body needs to rest.

Some ways I rest include:

  • Power naps (20 minutes or less, or else I feel groggy)
  • Putting away social media for a dedicated period of time
  • Cuddling with my pup Jack on the couch while listening to music

Maybe some of these resonate with you, maybe some of them don’t. I would encourage you to find what works best for you, find what makes you feel rested and what helps you reset mentally, physically, and emotionally.

It is easy for us to get caught up in the whirlwind of life — to get sucked into obligations and commitments and occasions. But let’s remember that in order to help and serve others, we also have to help and serve ourselves. And part of helping and serving ourselves includes giving our bodies the time they need and crave.

Let’s do it! Let’s do nothing. Let’s rest.

Older & Kinda Wiser: Takeaways From Year 26

I turn 27 this month.

27 years!!! 27 years of growing older and kinda wiser, of making mistakes, finding joy, and seeking Truth. 27 years of laughing at myself, rejoicing and weeping with others, and finding out who I am.

Year 26 was a big one: I moved into and out of my parents’ home, I started and left law school, I was promoted to a fulltime position at Summit. I went on a few trips and turned into even more of a homebody. I let some people in and put up walls for others. I started weekly clay facials and my skin is thanking me for it.

Year 26 was filled with some monumental moments and memories. Here are some takeaways from this year:

  • Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and that’s OK. The past several years I dreamt and planned to be an attorney. I never thought I would start and leave law school in just half a year, but I did. And I don’t regret it.
  • Everyone deserves a second chance. Year 26 tested some of my friendships. While it may be easier to walk away, I’ve found it’s better to forgive and pursue others with kindness and grace.
  • It’s OK to make the same mistake twice: we can learn and fumble and learn again. Sometimes we don’t quite fully learn a lesson the first time, and we need to relearn it down the road.
  • It takes a village. A lesson I am constantly appreciative of: I could not and would not be where I am today without the support of my community.
  • Kindness matters. Similar to what I mentioned before, it may be easier to walk away or be unkind or short with someone, but it’s much better to pursue others with gentleness and compassion.

This list is by no means exhaustive, I’m sure I could think of at least twenty or thirty other lessons. For example, I also learned that free tacos are not always a good excuse to go on a date. And a clean dog isn’t really a happy dog (hi, Jack). I learned ice cream heals all wounds and lake time is good for the soul.

While the past year hasn’t been the easiest, I am still thankful for what it was: challenging, growing, stretching. It toughened me up and sharpened my edges. Year 26 made me re-dream and re-plan and remember what matters: Jesus, kindness, community, and my pup Jack.

I am looking forward to Year 27 and to the new takeaways I’ll have this time next year.

Year 27, show me what ya got!

It Takes A Village: On Finding Support & Community

It takes a village.

This is a common theme I believe in and swear by and state often.

I would not be where I am today (feeling healthy and whole and happy) without my village. It’s a village made of home group members, family, baristas, climbers, coworkers, and bloggers. It’s a village of wonderful folks who have cheered me on and invested in my mental health and spoken kind words to me.

Here’s what I believe:

I believe a community of supporters and cheerleaders can empower and enlighten and encourage you. I believe in the importance of lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. I believe comparison is nasty and individualism is beautiful. I believe loving others helps you learn to love yourself.

It took me a while to find my village.

The first few months and even year or so back in Dallas were lonely and isolating. I was struggling with severe depression and I kept to myself. I was insecure and anxious and devastated. I didn’t practice self-care and I didn’t pursue friendships.

It was awful.

A couple years in I found a new church community, invested in climbing gear and a membership, and attended a blogger meetup. All of a sudden I was surrounded by like-minded believer, encouraging athletes, and inspirational creatives. It was a drastic change for the better.

The right village always stands behind your mental health and well-being.

This weekend I had plans of a night out on the town with my girl gang. We planned to dress up and eat fancy food and drink fancy drinks and listen to live music.

But I decided not to go. It was a hard decision and I genuinely wanted to see my friends, but the past few weeks have been stressful and packed and wild, and I just needed time to myself.

So I stayed home, cuddled my dog, and got dumplings delivered to my door. I took a nap and I still went to bed early. I listened to music and watched Kim’s Convenience. It was a restful, easy, peaceful night. It was exactly what I needed.

And instead of shaming me, instead of calling me a flake or talking down to me, my friends encouraged me and offered to pray for me. They affirmed me in taking care of myself and they offered a listening ear and virtual hugs.

My village is amazing. They are kind and encouraging and supportive. They listen well and pray hard. They dream big for me, they hug me, they cry with me. They celebrate and rejoice with me. They mourn and grieve with me.

Do you have a village like that? Because if you don’t, I encourage you to find one. I encourage you to pursue the right people and right relationships. You won’t regret it, I guarantee.

Healing: The Journey, Not The Final Destination

Healing is a process.

If there is anything bipolar has taught me, it is that healing is a process and a journey. There is no specific destination, no specific time and date that we are fully healed–not in my experience, at least.

When I look back five years ago to my diagnosis, I was devastated and confused and hurt. I did not understand what was happening and I faced severe depression and anxiety.

When I look back at the past couple of years, I feel encouraged and excited and whole. These years have been full of bliss and peace, they have been practically depression-free.

But I would not consider myself fully healed.

Even though I have come a long way from 2016, I still experience down days and anxious moments. I still feel over-exhausted and run myself thin. I still have to regularly assess my needs and habits and adjust them as needed.

My gut response is frustration and confusion, “Why don’t I ultimately and forever feel better? When will I be fully healed?” But when I think about my mental health journey, I realize it’s been just that: a journey. And with journeys, although sometimes there are final destinations, many times they are just an ongoing process of learning and discovering.

Honestly, I don’t want it any other way.

This journey mindset reminds me to learn and discover and work toward healing. It gives me hope and joy and pushes me forward. If there was a final destination, I would be wondering why I haven’t arrived by now. I’d be wondering when my emotional and mental fulfillment would finally come.

So if you have been hurting or lost or upset for a while now, if you feel like you’re running thing or scrambling for hope, I would like to offer you this bit of wisdom: healing is a process, a journey. You are doing a great job as you chug along and do your best. I’m proud of you and I’m rooting you on!

The Secret to Self-Care: On Sleep, Mood, & Energy Checks

Self-care is important.

Lately I will admit I haven’t been great at it. I’ve been running nonstop and not checking in with myself. But I’m trying be better at this!

I like to check three things when I’m assessing how I’m doing: sleep, energy, and mood. Let me walk you through how I check in on each one:

How’s my sleep?

Am I getting the amount of sleep I need each night to wake up rested and ready to tackle a new day? Have I experienced any bouts of insomnia? Am I restless during the night?

It may sound extra, but ideally I need at least eight hours of sleep each night to feel fully refreshed for the next day. Sure, I technically can run on less, but it is not good for me or my mental health to do so.

What’s my energy?

Similar but not the same to sleep, I like to assess where my energy is at. Is it high or low? Do I feel like I’m bouncing off the walls? Do I feel like no matter how much rest I get, I can still barely lift my head up? Am I skipping around the gym? Or am I dragging my feet?

Ideally, I want my energy to be a healthy balance in-between high and low. An energy that’s too high might suggest I am feeling hypomanic (which is a less severe form of mania), and an energy that’s too low might suggest I’m having an off or depressed day.

What’s my mood?

How have I been feeling lately? Am I happy, sad, or mad? Do I feel excited or anxious or grumpy? Do I feel a mix of several emotions? Do I feel nothing?

Through lots of time and therapy, I have learned (and am constantly re-learning) there is no ideal emotion. Feelings are just feelings, and we are all created to feel things.

As someone who has battled bipolar disorder, I have not faced the stereotypical mood swings that many do. My moods are often somewhat steady and may dip or increase over days, not within hours or moments. But changing and unstable moods are something I still need to monitor.

Another lesson that has come through time and therapy is the importance of allowing myself to feel my feelings: to just sit and soak in whatever I’m feeling. Usually I like to journal or pray or pause and reflect. It helps me validate my feelings, assess how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.

I hope you take care of yourself.

I hope this little breakdown assists you in monitoring your self-care, too. If you ever have any questions about self-care or self-check-ins, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you!

Five Years Of Bipolar: On More To Come

Five years ago, on March 18, 2016, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

This diagnosis came after a very serious manic episode that resulted in a hospitalization. It came after a week of insomnia and scattered thoughts and concerning ramblings.

Every year when March 18 rolls around, I pause and reflect. I stop and think about how my life has changed. Before my diagnosis, I was living in Nashville, a new city that I was growing to call home. Before my diagnosis, I was on the path to work in the nonprofit field. Before my diagnosis, I struggled with pride and ego and thought I had my entire life together.

For the longest time after I was diagnosed, especially during the thick of devastating depression, I could not help but always be aware of my diagnosis. My mood, plans, and friendships changed. My life changed. I could not help but mourn and grieve the life I used to know and fear what was to come.

When I built new friendships, I feared coming out as bipolar and wondering how they would respond. When I started to think about law school, I feared how bipolar would affect my studying. When I considered dating, I feared no one would want to be with someone who struggled so deeply.

But these days, my diagnosis is not at the forefront of my mind.

My mind is much more occupied with other things. When I build new friendships, I want to know how to invest and love that person deeply. When I look back at law school, I am thankful for what it was when it was, and how my mental illness did not affect my studying. When I consider dating someone, I am prayerful about opening up about my illness, and no longer live in fear.

Getting to where I am today–embracing my illness and sharing my journey–did not come easy. It took time and energy and tears and therapy. It took medication and emotional support and prayer. But here I am today, thankful for where I am and how I’m built, thankful for how I got here and eagerly looking forward to where I will be.

My disorder has taught me there is always more to come.

When I was first diagnosed, I feared my life was over: that I would lose all of my friends, that I’d never fall in love, and I would not be able to fully function again.

But that was hardly the case. The first couple of years were tough and excruciating and painful. The first couple of years were filled with devastating depression and hopeless thoughts and extreme anxiety.

But there was more to come. The past couple of years have been lovely and life-giving and liberating. They have been encouraging and beautiful and wonderful.

I never thought I would have a job. I never thought I would be able to handle it. I never thought I would get into law school. I never thought I would mentally be able to manage the workload. I never thought I’d fall in love, make new friends, enjoy living in Dallas.

But I did! And I’m glad!

I’m glad that Jesus Man loves me. I’m glad that he provides a path for me. I’m glad he hasn’t left me despite my changing moods and fickle heart.

I’m glad that law school happened, even though I didn’t finish. I’m glad to work at Summit and cultivate community there. I’m glad to make new friends and keep the old.

Dear Reader & Friend,

Whatever you are going through now, whether you are at the highest of highs or lowest of lows, I hope you know there is always more to come. There is always goodness and hope and joy around the corner.

My mental health journey proves this to be true. If you are well, be glad in it. If you are struggling, know there is hope.

I’m rooting for you!

2020: A Year In Review

It was a weird and hard year to say the least.

Honestly, that is a major understatement: it was a wild, wacky, devastating, life-changing, year. From start to finish, it was a long twelve months.

This was the year of COVID-19 and heightened systemic racism, but it was also the year I started law school and became a dog mom. This year I wrestled with singleness, but also gained wonderful friendships. This year I was out of a job for nearly two months, but I eventually returned to the climbing gym–a job I absolutely love!

This year I was reminded of the intermingling between joy and sorrow, love and loss, mountains and valleys. I was reminded Jesus is good and loyal and loving toward us no matter our struggles, battles, or hardships. I was reminded that giving while we grieve helps even while we hurt.

2020 had its highs:

  • Getting into and starting law school!–the journey to becoming an attorney has been filled with ups and downs, but I am so grateful that I committed to pursuing this dream.
  • Becoming a dog mom!–my sweet pup Jack has changed my life for the better–his unconditional love and never-ending cuddles fill up my heart.
  • Learning how to lead climb– and continuing to practice this special type of climbing. Saying no to fear and yes to bravery and yes to trying new and hard things!
  • Celebrating one year on desk at Summit–a job I enjoy and excel at and love! And landing a promotion over the summer was a wonderful surprise.

2020 had its lows:

  • Getting rejected by plenty of law schools (but ultimately winding up at the one that was best for me was a high).
  • Moving back home–I love my family and am grateful for their generosity, but I miss my alone time and being messy! Hehe.
  • Coping with systemic racism–I live a very privileged and blessed life, but I know that is not the case for every American (or person, for that matter). It’s been a learning and growing and mourning process, it’s been an eye-opener to consider my colored friends and their daily struggles and hardships.
  • Surviving COVID-19–just like everyone else, it’s been a hard and life-changing year: having to adapt to wearing a mask everywhere, to staying at home as much as possible, to taking virtual classes.

Despite this weird year, I feel blessed.

I feel blessed to have made new friends at the gym and welcomed so many new faces into our climbing community. I feel blessed to have built new relationships, but kept the life-giving ones. I feel blessed to have consistency in my life: with Jesus, with my family, with my well mood.

I feel blessed to have learned and grown and refined who I am. I feel blessed to have loved and lost. I feel blessed to have grown in strength and independence during a year of singleness. I feel blessed to have continued writing stories and sharing my life and learning more about content creation.

It’s been an odd and life-changing year, but I am grateful and thankful and happy and whole! I hope that despite the lows and recognizing the highs, you feel grateful and thankful and happy and whole, too!

But if you do not, I hope you know you are not alone in sadness and struggles. You are loved, you are treasured, you are a delight in the Lord’s eyes. Go in peace and love, go in grace and mercy, and may you have a better 2021.

The Monthly Update: November

November highlight:

A big highlight from last month was competing in Summit’s Pumpkin Spice Open bouldering competition. It was my first comp since September, and even though I didn’t necessarily go HARD, it was lots of fun hanging out with friends, encouraging each other on the wall, and getting some good sends in.

November lowlights:

I experienced a COVID scare, which put me out of working/climbing, and placed me in quarantine for a couple of weeks. It was a bit scary and overwhelming, but thankfully, my results were negative. Praise!

This month, I was filled by:

  • I had my first therapy appointment with Chelsey in a long time; even though I was only touching base, it was still good for my soul to talk through life and law school and lessons with her.
  • I started attending couch church–where I watch church from my home group leader’s couch–which has been a good way to keep accountable to tuning into Northway’s services. It is also a great way to start my week!

This month, I was emptied by:

The time away from the gym during my COVID scare was tough–I missed my work friends, climbing community, and just climbing in general.

In December, I am looking forward to:

  • I began the She Reads Truth Advent devotional at the start of the month. It has already been a source of encouragement and delight, and I cannot wait to continue diving into God’s word with this resoure.
  • Dressember is here! We are nearly halfway through the month, and I am three-fourths of the way to my goal of $1250. I am thrilled to participate in this challenge again, and to continue to advocate for human trafficking victims.

Come Together: On Celebration & Mourning

There is a lot happening right now, lots of emotions swirling around.

Some people are anxious and terrified of coronavirus. Some people are angry and infuriated by systemic racism in our country. Some people are sad, some people are mad, some people are feeling both, some people are feeling neither.

Responding to both the pandemic and heightened racism is a lot for me to process.

I feel anxious and overwhelmed regarding the pandemic. I feel a righteous anger and undeniably upset about white supremacy.

I believe there is a divine mingling between joy and sorrow.

Growing up, I used to think I had to be happy all of the time. I used to think sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. were bad emotions. But through plenty of therapy and many life lessons, I have come to appreciate my feelings–all of them and for all reasons and seasons.

Maybe it is because of my mood disorder, or maybe it’s just because I am a human, but sometimes in the sweetest of moments I cannot neglect a feeling of sadness and melancholy, too.

For example, leaving my adult job and starting a position at the climbing gym was perhaps the most bold and bittersweet decision I have made to date. I was excited to try something new, to pursue a passion, to leave a toxic situation. But at the same time, I was sad to leave familiarity, to close a chapter, to end an era.

These days, I think there almost has to be some bitterness simultaneously mixed in with sweetness. We cannot fully appreciate the highest of highs without experiencing the lowest of lows. We cannot feel pure delight without knowing utter sorrow.

Will you celebrate and mourn with me?

Advent is a season of hope and expectation: hoping and expecting a Savior to be born, hoping and expecting a King. But it is also a time of longing and craving: longing and craving our Savior to return; longing and craving peace on earth as it is in heaven.

The holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, but also a time we miss a loved one’s face at the dinner table or around the Christmas tree.

I hope you feel delight in this season, I hope you feel peace and excitement. But if you do not, or if you do not entirely, I hope you know it’s ok to feel sadness, too. It’s ok to feel anxious and to struggle.

Let’s come together. Let’s build each other up, not break each other down. Let’s mend our hearts, heal our pains, and celebrate and mourn together.