Life Lately: Excitement & Doubt

Grand Canyon with Colorado River

I feel like these two words pretty much sum up the last several weeks. I finally got confirmation yesterday that I will be able to move to Alabama and keep my current position with my company. As of right now, I am planning to move back in late February or early March 2018. My dad needs time to get things set up and I need time to wrap my head around the reality of actually moving! (And also, winter is the best part of Phoenix, so it makes sense to enjoy that part before heading east!)

Reality is already starting to set in. I’ve committed to moving back to and being involved with my family. There is a big part of me that feels like I’m jumping from the proverbial frying pan right into the fire. Do I really, really want to do this?? Truthfully, no, I don’t. But my grandmother needs me right now and I need to get out of Phoenix. This is just one step forward down the path I’ve finally chosen. That last sentence has become my mantra…

I’ve also just recently come to realize how much power authority involvement in my firm I will be giving up. Right now I’m in the office most every day. I can see what goes on, interact and build relationships with my coworkers, play office politics, help out with various issues, join staff meetings, bake birthday cakes, etc. etc. When I move, I’ll be a one-woman show most of the time. I’ll no doubt be back to Phoenix for a few weeks during the year for meetings and big holidays, but it’s definitely going to be a very different dynamic. I know this is a sacrifice that has to be made if I’m going to move forward with my master plan, but I don’t for one second think it’s going to be easy.

I will miss all of my coworkers, but especially my dear, sweet friend M. We do stuff outside of work on a regular basis and there’s not a single day we aren’t in each other’s office to chat about things. We’ll still chat every day (online), but it won’t be the same. I’ll also miss my Phoenix friends outside of work. I’m going back to my childhood home, but I really only have one friend there that I’m still close with. So this is going to be a pretty drastic change in social life as well. I know how this is going to sound, but it’s my truth – I would almost prefer a clean break than a half-break. Right now this is just a separation before the divorce – all of the components are still there as a reminder of what was, which is bittersweet at best.

Clouds reflected on pond with reeds, Alabama

I know that with time all of this will be the new normal, at least until the next change. I know that I’ll grow, make friends, maybe (hopefully) strengthen my family relationships, and eventually move on to the next big change. All of that calms me down when the panic sets in. I did, after all, choose to make this happen. It was, and is, my choice. I know that for my health and happiness this is the right move.

But I also feel like hiding the doubts beneath the excitement is disingenuous. May 2018 would mark 10 years in Phoenix. I haven’t lived anywhere nearly so long since I left my dad’s house. This place, these people, deserve reflection and perhaps a little remorse, for I doubt very much that I will ever move back here. As various friends have moved away over the years, I’ve been struck by how difficult it is to be the one left behind. I’d forgotten how equally hard it is to be the one moving away.

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Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

I’ve wanted to create a more tailored site for my photography for a while now. It’s been a slow, frustrating business trying to get everything perfect – and to be totally honest, I’m not 100% happy with my efforts yet. But I’ve decided to go ahead and put it out there anyway – I don’t think we’re ever totally ready for new endeavors. This beloved space certainly wasn’t perfect upon its creation; in fact, it wasn’t meant to be! I love being able to come here and write whatever I want (hence the name).

Separating out the travel stories and photos will give me greater license to write whatever I want here while giving me a more “professional” space for something I’ve wanted to try for a while now (and will disclose in some future post). In the meantime, I plan on writing here as inspiration strikes and sharing (aka “reblogging”) posts from ptiphotography so no one misses out on the fun! (smile)

PTI Photography

I first saw a photo of Antelope Canyon in college. I remember thinking that it must be a place in some far flung corner of the world – I was actually pretty surprised when I realized it was in Arizona! When I moved here almost 10 years, I immediately put Antelope Canyon on my Arizona “Must See” list. It took me 9 years, but this May I finally checked it off that list.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located just east of Page, Arizona on the Navajo Reservation. The only way to access the canyon is with an organized tour. There are several options available, and I would recommend checking TripAdvisor for reviews. There are two areas to choose from – Upper Antelope Canyon (aka the Crack) and Lower Antelope Canyon (aka the Corkscrew).

Upper Antelope Canyon is the most frequently visited by tourists as its entrance and entire…

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Writer’s Block

Broken vase fragment

I mentioned in my last post that I had some ideas for blog posts. I wasn’t lying, I just can’t seem to get the ideas to translate into words. I’ve written and re-written posts, but they all seem to sound…hollow. Writer’s block – gotta love it.

My only concern is that I’ve had some form of writer’s block for months now. This blog used to be my favorite place to come and share, but then it took a turn. At first life got in the way, then I got in my own way. I’m not sure exactly why, but my patience for writing seems to have expired.

I think this is where having a blog theme comes in handy. If this was strictly a travel blog, all I would have to worry about is sharing travel stories. Likewise, maybe, if I had a set calendar. But I can’t seem to create an editorial calendar that inspires me to actually write!

If I’m totally honest, I’m having a lot of trouble finding anything inspiring about life right now. I’ve gone on some amazing adventures this year, but every time I’ve found myself dreaming about being back here at home doing what I always do, which these days isn’t a lot. I was meant to go camping this weekend, but the trip was canceled due to technical difficulties. I was actually rather relieved truthfully. And I didn’t cancel my PTO for today. Instead I’ve had a lovely (if somewhat toasty) three-day weekend and absolutely no regrets.

There is no real point to this post, other than as an effort just to write. I apologize for the disjointed thoughts here; it’s just so frustrating! I think I’ll leave this now and come back later to clean it up. I shall persevere, even if it takes a while to get back in the groove…

Life Lately: Heat Wave

Phoenix weather forecast

June 20-25, 2017

OMG you guys… I went on my adventure to Spain last week with my friend, had a lovely time, then returned to the deepest level of hell. My dad would say that’s being overdramatic, but there was one day where flights were canceled because it was too hot to operate the planes!! Ugh.

Monday morning I walked into the Orange County, CA airport with a sweater on; I walked out of the Phoenix, AZ airport and lost my breath. It was so hot my eyes felt like they were shriveling up in their sockets. Yes, it is a “dry heat” – ta! for the reminder – but let me enlighten you a bit on that “dry heat” – go and turn your oven on to 400 degrees (350 will also work for a 110 example; 400 is needed for the 120 effect). I’ll wait…… When pre-heated, place your face near the door and open it. That woosh that happens when you first open the door, that’s what it felt like walking out of the airport.

And Monday wasn’t even the hottest day this week! Tuesday flights were canceled because it was too hot for the planes to operate (seriously)! By Friday there were pictures all over social media showing various things melting. Luckily, the heat wave is supposed to break tomorrow, but summer is only just getting started…

So, why am I still here? Excellent question. This will be my 9th summer in Phoenix. When I first moved here, I was actually a fan of the heat. It was, after all, a “dry heat,” which at the time was much better than the tropical humidity of Miami, FL. All I really cared about was that it was warm, sunny, and free of major natural disasters. Phoenix is my shining example of that whole “be careful what you wish for” adage. Unfortunately, every year the summers are a little more difficult for me to take. I know what’s coming, but the temperatures never fail to surprise me somehow. I suspect it’s those lovely winters that do such a fabulous job of lulling me into complacency. I have a growing respect for the methods of the snow birds (summer in the north, winter in the south).

I find that the extreme temperatures wreak havoc on my body now days. I suspect the FM is to blame for that, but I’m mostly left counting down the days til there may be a break in the heat and dreaming of winter destinations. My whole outlook on climates has done a total 180 – bring on the snow! Although I’m calling this a lesson learned and heading to more temperate climes. I can always visit colder – or hotter – places, but there’s no need to live in one or the other.

Tossa De Mar, Spain

Along the Spanish coast

Yes, ladies and (perhaps) gentlemen, after almost a decade, I finally have a plan for my future that feels right, even exciting! Tentatively, this plan is to move back home to my dad’s house early next year. In an interesting turn of events, I will be keeping my current job and working remotely. If things work out okay, we may even open an east coast office; we’ll see how that goes. My five year goal is to get myself back in grad school for an MA in English Literature. Law school was my family’s dream for me; my dream was to be an English Professor. I tried their way, now I’m keen to try my own. I also have about a hundred ideas for things to do in the meantime, thinking of which keeps me sane during the long hours of intense sunshine. I have finally landed on a plan that I’m sure about – I haven’t felt this way since college to be honest, and it’s so nice to be excited about the future again!

I think I’ve needed to take a step back to reevaluate for some time now, but I had to wait until I was ready to understand what that meant. This plan allows me to stay in my comfort zone just enough to not be afraid to move forward with it. I’ll be able to help with my grandmother, and I’m hopeful that this will be just enough change to alleviate most of the stress that triggers the FM flares. It won’t be all rainbows and butterflies, I know that. I’ve resisted moving back for 15 years; I’m well aware of what awaits me. But I’m willing to give it a go, to take this step back in order to better see what my next step forward will be. The fact that I’ll have seasons again (even if not quite so pronounced as they might be elsewhere) is just a huge bonus! (smile)

Roadway through the painted desert, Arizona

My first “featured” photo on Instagram! @instagramaz

So life lately has been a combination of naps in cool places (heat fatigue is real), daydreaming about the future, and trying to appreciate every final moment here in the desert. There’s been a fair amount of travel in there as well (smile), but that will die down now until September (yay Alaska!).

Oh yes, I suppose there’s one other thing I wanted to share today… I’ve created a photography website! I’m not quite sure to what end exactly, but I felt compelled to create a separate space for my photos. It really all started with Instagram (as things do) and snowballed from there! The site doesn’t have much on there yet, but it’s been fun getting everything set up! I’ve got quite a few post ideas for this space, which I’m planning to share now that the travel is done for awhile. Then again, they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I wonder if that’s how I ended up here?! (ha!) Probably best to put those good intentions into play and actually post lest I land myself in another heat wave! 😉

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Wild Ideas

Black and white tree with horse, Alabama

Have you ever had an idea come to you, seemingly out of the blue, that just totally makes sense?? The last couple of trips back to my dad’s house, I’ve had this idea nibbling away at the back of my mind. I’ve thought about it here and there and even discussed it with my dad a bit, but never seriously. It just didn’t seem to make sense. But this last trip, the whole plan finally just fell into place.

I can see every detail – how it would work, why it would work, and what it would take to make it work. I even sat down to sketch out a business plan of sorts and every single detail just slotted in ever so neatly. I’ve heard of this phenomena before, but I’ve never experienced it first hand. Frankly, it seems a little too easy to be realistic! And therein lies the problem. I’m a skeptic by nature and anything that seems easy is just too good to be true. I wonder how many brilliant, wild ideas have fallen to the wayside thanks to skeptical thinking…

This idea seems easy because, in truth, it’s been percolating for some time now. I’ve also lived and traveled around the world picking up little ideas and/or tidbits here and there that, when all combined, bind all the little details together. Looking back over my outline I can see influences from Miami, Phoenix, London, Ireland, Morocco, several Asian countries, etc. It seems a bit of a stretch that so many components could work together successfully in small town Alabama, but I have faith that it not only could work, but that it would work really well.

It’s only by traveling to these places, meeting so many different people, and having such a wide variety of experiences that I can even now contemplate the idea of moving back to Alabama. Apparently that whole travel the world to find home right where you left it thing has some wisdom behind it. Who knew? But now I know what’s out there. I’m much more confident that adventure is out there waiting for me whenever I choose to look, but I no longer need to live it every moment of every day. My home base no longer matters quite so much, or rather it does but in a different sort of way – i.e., home base no longer has to be an active part of the adventure, it can instead be a retreat. I need a retreat in my life (a lesson I suspect the Universe has been trying to teach me for some time now!).

Clouds reflected on pond with reeds, Alabama

I almost feel bad about not expounding on what this crazy, lightbulb-esque idea actually is now that I’ve gone on about it so. When it works out, I’ll share it – likely in more detail than anyone cares about. But the actual thought isn’t what my mind is focused on in writing this post – instead it’s about acknowledging how things can change, accepting that, and then deciding what to do about it. In the grand scheme of things, I may move from here to D.C. to London to Johannesburg and not get around to this brilliant scheme for another decade. It’s satisfying, regardless, to know that I have a place waiting for me with so many exciting options just wanting a bit of effort to reach fruition.

I left my dad’s house when I was 18 years old and haven’t lived there for more than a few weeks at a time since then. It’s only been in the last year or two that I have come to appreciate what it means to have a home, to have land, that’s a part of you because it comes from your family. I have not been sensible to that or appreciative of it – I couldn’t find those notions without some hard won perspective. Now it’s difficult to express my gratitude that it’s all still there, waiting. My poor dad. We don’t always get along, but he’s persevered and held it all together hoping for the day my brother or I would wake up and appreciate all his efforts. Well dad, the gratitude is definitely here now. We shall see what the future holds beyond that – small steps. (smile)

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Life Lately: Keeping Options Open

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

I’m writing this from my dad’s house in Alabama. My BFF’s son turned 1 this week, so I took a long weekend to fly back for some friend time and forest bathing. My friend and I have been friends, quite literally, since kindergarten, and times like these make me realize how fortunate I am to still have her in my life. Now I have my “niece” in California and my “nephew” in Alabama – I’m all set!  (Ironically, their mothers both have the same name, so now I just use their kids’ names to differentiate 🙂 )

I admit that I’m normally not terribly excited to come back to Alabama. My family and I have some major differences of opinion, but it’s a relief to see those mellow a bit with time. I felt like I needed this trip – I needed to see green things, put my feet in the grass, listen to the birds sing, and just breathe. So that’s where I’ve spent all my spare moments these past few days between grandparents and birthday celebrations and it’s been lovely.

So lovely, in fact, that I’ve found my thoughts going in a wholly surprising direction. It’s not a big secret that I’ve been wanting to move east. I’ve been looking at opportunities to do just that for almost a year now, but nothing has felt quite right. Recently, however, I’ve happened upon some potential options much closer to home that started me thinking about moving back here. As in back to my dad’s, as in the place I swore up and down for over a decade I would never live again (at least until retirement, and then only maybe). I have officially gone mad.

But the more I’ve thought about it this weekend, the more right it feels. There would be several ways it could play out and all of them potentially beneficial to myself and to my family. My grandmother really isn’t doing well since my grandfather’s passing, and it would be nice to be able to help her more. She’s been my mother figure since I lost my own as a teenager; I would love to be able to help her out even a tenth as much as she’s helped me through those years. There’s potential that I could even keep my current job and work east coast projects. At least until I am ready to make the transition into this other thing I have in mind…but that’s getting way ahead of myself.

I must be crazy. Absolutely mad. I have to be to even be considering this. Yet I’ve talked it over, in part anyway, with my dad and he seems on board with the idea. He has a lot of room here on the farm and there’s another dwelling that could be all mine with a little paint and TLC (okay, a lot of both but still). It would be a bit of a reset, a slower (and cheaper!) pace that might really be what I need to try to get some stress and my health concerns under control. My biggest con (among a well sorted and on-going list) is my pride – I’m not sure I could come back here and not see it as a negative set back instead of a simple step back. I would have to face up to and accept a lot of things I’ve been avoiding for many, many years. It could be the best idea ever or a total failure. Who knew moving home would be a leap of faith??

Anyway, all of this is just speculation at this point. I have a lot to think about and there are still several things that need to play out before I can make any final decisions. I haven’t given up on D.C., I’ve just opened up another option. We shall see which one plays out best in the end – I leave it up to the Universe!

Upper Antelope Canyon, Arizona

In other news, I’ve officially checked off almost every item on my Arizona bucket list! Last weekend we made it up to Antelope Canyon for a photography tour and can I just saw – wow! I was super impressed with the canyon (obviously), but also with the number of tourists up there (in a slightly different way). My first trip to Page was nine years ago and it was almost a ghost town. Too bad I didn’t visit Antelope then! I’m happy for the town and all of the lovely sights in the area that are getting their due attention. I just hope that they can figure out the best way to grow together sustainably. Anyway, I’ve been editing photos and hope to share more very soon!

Next month, I’m off on a very impromptu girls’ trip to Barcelona! My California friend and I have been talking about Spain for years, so it’s hard to put into words how special it is that we’re going together. I’m more excited for this trip than I have been in a long, long time!

I’ve also been feeling inspired to write again. I’m hoping the long, hot days of summer bring an opportunity to ease back into some personal pursuits. I feel like other things have taken priority for far too long – I’m looking forward to reevaluating and getting back into those things that make me happiest! That also includes reading more – one of my secret bucket list items has always been to read the classics, so I (somewhat randomly) downloaded this list and the fun has already begun! I feel like it’s a bit ambitious, but it’s a life goal so there’s time. (smile)

Toadstools trail, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Utah

Life is funny. You can go round and round (and sometimes quite literally around the world) only to find the answer you’ve been looking for right where you started. Apparently there was more to The Alchemist than I gave credit for… Perhaps it’s time for a re-read while I’m busy trying not to overthink some major decisions. But you know, as long as change is finally and indeed coming, I find I am content.

P.S.
As always, feel free to check out my Instagram for the latest adventures!

P.P.S.
You may have noticed a change in my Instagram name – all part of a new venture I hope to share very soon!

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Life Lately: Spring Madness

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

I’ve decided not to issue any apologies for being away for a month, or for totally failing to stick to any sort of schedule in this space. I am sorry that I haven’t had time to keep up with posts – to read, enjoy, or interact with my virtual buddies. I’ve really missed that more than anything, but I suppose in some cases catching up in fits and starts has it’s advantages (e.g., when there’s a serial-style story going on and you get to binge).

Spring here in the desert is often short and chaotic; so far this year has not been any different. The wildflowers erupted into a riot of color most people wouldn’t believe possible here in the desert, and we’ve been lucky in that the green has stuck around just a bit longer than usual. There was a week there in March where temps reached almost 100 and everyone seemed to think we were done for! Luckily a windstorm blew through and cooled things down just a bit. Some places have that last minute snowstorm, but here we just get a summer preview! I expect it to be a long, hot summer here in Arizona this year, and I’m not looking forward to it – at all.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

My life has also been a riot of chaos these last couple of months. Work has been absurdly busy (especially for the time of year), I’ve had ongoing health issues, and I was without a phone for a few weeks (the last being the worst of the three I think – #firstworldproblems).

All I will say about work is that it’s work. Any thoughts or feelings beyond that are better left for my private journal or perhaps another day. The health stuff is a combination of work stress and biological quirks – not fun, but also not life threatening. I’m really grateful to be one of the ones with good health insurance and awesome doctors. I think of that every time I go – just how lucky I am to be able to access top grade health care. But that’s also another story for another day, maybe.

The phone thing though, I will share (likely in more detail than anyone cares to know). Back around the holidays, my phone screen randomly cracked. I didn’t drop it and I hadn’t dropped it (at least not recently), but crack it did. Given my undying love for my particular phone (and the fact that it’s been discontinued – don’t even get me started on that), I opted for screen repair. Half a new phone later, the screen was whole again. Then a week later, the phone stopped vibrating. Now I can’t tell you what my ringer sounds like, but I can hear that bad boy vibrate from a building over (sad but also true). So in it went again – luckily the part was covered by warranty – and we were in vibrating business once again.

Until I noticed last month that my power button didn’t work right. Closer inspection revealed that the precious, uncracked screen appeared to be popping out of the frame. So back to the repair shop we went – where they told me the battery was expanding (!!!) and pushing things out of place. They ordered a new battery and I got to suffer through two weeks of waiting (the first battery was mysteriously “lost” in transit). I could see notifications pop up on the screen, but I couldn’t unlock the phone or reply. I can’t decide if that was better or worse than no phone at all – probably better, as at least I still had a watch of sorts. Anyway, they eventually replaced the battery and we’re like new again! I sincerely hope that’s the last problem for my dear phone because as far as I’m concerned we’re working on a three strikes you’re replaced situation here. And that would just be tragic for all involved parties…

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

So there you go – terribly exciting story, no? It sums up my life pretty well at the moment. (ha!) I suppose I can say that while my laptop was my only connection to the outside world I did manage to get moving on some personal goals. Those have pretty much taken up my limited non-sleeping personal hours, but I think they will benefit all of us in the long term. I need a change for the better – all around.

P.S.
While I may not show up in this space as much as I’d like, I’ve had better luck with consistency over on Instagram – feel free to follow along there for more frequent randomness! 🙂

P.P.S.
Photos are from Tonto Natural Bridge State Park (AZ).

Anxiety Advice

Recently, I shared my own mental health story with you guys. That was a difficult post to hit publish on, but I’m glad I did. Today I thought I’d share a few of the different methods I personally use to control my anxiety in particular. Most of these have the added benefit of helping with my depression and/or fibromyalgia, which makes them all win/win/win in my book!

yoga mat, Mindfulness in Plain English

1.  Diet & Exercise: Above and beyond anything else, changing my diet has made the biggest difference in the way I feel. I didn’t make any immediate or drastic changes, but rather I started with the small things – for example, I drink one caffeinated drink in the morning before switching to water or herbal tea for the rest of the day. Cutting out the excess caffeine cuts down on the anxiety and drinking more water keeps me better hydrated. Fun side note – I’ve discovered that no matter what’s wrong with me, drinking water helps 99% of the time. Turns out dehydration can cause all sorts  of chaos I’d never known about, but luckily I’ve discovered the secret to “drowning” it out – haha.

Exercise is the next best treatment. Let me be frank here, I hate exercising for a purpose. I don’t enjoy pushing my body to its limits, particularly if it’s just to meet some arbitrary social standard. I can, however, get behind the whole deal if it makes me feel better. So, I walk – a lot. I also start most mornings with 20-30 minutes of yoga. I hike on the weekends whenever possible. All of these gradually keep my body strong but also have the added benefit of soothing me mentally. You have to find those things you enjoy, that make you happier, that aren’t an even bigger challenge to you than the worry you’re trying to combat in the first place! The most important thing is to keep moving.

2. Meditation: Of everything on this list (with the exception of talk therapy), this is the one that’s hardest for me. If you suffer from anxiety/depression/etc., spending “quiet time” in your own mind seems like an oxymoron. There are all sorts of apps out there now that assist with meditation (the free version of Headspace is awesome by the way), but none of those are necessary. Do a bit of background research – there are all sorts of different ways to meditate. You can do the version that follows a voice (aka guided meditation; your breath (aka breathing meditation); a sound (like a gong, mantra, etc.); a candle / light of some sort; or any one of many other versions. You have to find what works for you!

I’m going to share a secret with you today that really helped me. When I first tried meditation, none of these worked for me. I was just too distracted and more often than not, I ended up more frustrated at the end of the 10 minutes than when I started. Then someone told me about an exercise that can help – a warm up if you will to prepare yourself for a more traditional form of meditation.

For 10-15 minutes a day, leave your phone in the other room, turn off the tv and any other electronic distractions, put your book down, find a quiet place free of interaction with any distraction, and just sit with yourself. Let the thoughts come, but don’t argue with them – just notice what they are. There will likely be boredom and a bit of panic, but sit through it.  If you can help it, don’t daydream or allow yourself to focus too long on any one topic – let your mind run the gamut. It’s an incredibly difficult exercise that often doesn’t feel as worthwhile as it is. You see, once you’ve done this often enough, you become familiar with yourself and the thoughts you might typically encounter. So when you venture into a more typical form of meditation, you know what to expect – the thoughts, the feelings, etc. – so there are less surprises. You’re better prepared to view them dispassionately and to just let them pass on a more subconscious level. it takes the pressure off and allows for a more relaxed meditative state. And there’s nothing quite so nice as a 10-minute break from yourself… (smile)

3.  Essential Oils: This one is my favorite. You can use essential oils in a number of ways – aromatically, topically, internally, etc. I will say that they do take a fair amount of research though. First you need to find a reputable place to buy them as they are not all created equal. I can make some recommendations, but the biggest things to look is where the oil comes from (not every plant on this earth should be grown in the U.S.) and it’s Latin name. These two indicators generally give you a good idea of quality. The ranking in the descriptions isn’t regulated, so it’s hard to depend on. And quality becomes a really important factor if you decide to use the oils topically or internally.

Aromatherapy is my personal favorite. I have a couple diffusers set throughout my home. Depending on how I feel, I mix and match the oils to get the effect I want. At first I didn’t believe this would work, but even in my darkest mood, certain smells can make me happy. Some days it even makes me a bit non-plussed at how well this works, but it does work, so I can’t really complain! Find what works for you and go with it – everyone has a different preference.

Topically and internally are a bit trickier for essential oils. It’s almost never a good idea to apply an oil directly to the skin or to put it on your tongue. In both cases the oils should be mixed. For topical application, a carrier oil (coconut, argon, grapeseed, etc.) is used to dilute the essential oil. Likewise for internal use the oil should be mixed with water, juice, etc. In both cases there are some oils that are just no go. For example, wintergreen is one of my favorite smells, but can be quiet poisonous if applied to the skin or taken internally (improperly, which it almost always is outside of candy, etc.). It’s really important to do your research.

4.  Vitamins / Supplements: Other than diet and exercise, I’ve noticed the most long-lasting and consistently positive results from taking a specialized cocktail of vitamins and supplements. The vitamins involved, the brands, the dosage, all of that has been a series of trial and error, but luckily my doctor was there to help me through it all. If I miss a day of any one of these I don’t immediately notice a difference, but I try not to miss more than one a week. It seems like vitamins and supplements really need to be taken consistently to be most effective. My blend comes from both my doctor’s recommendations and my own independent research. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the holistic journey, it’s how to research. (smile)

I will say that much like essential oils, this can be a tricky treatment option. In the U.S., vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated like prescription drugs. This means that products vary wildly and there are no consistent standards across brands. Furthermore, some vitamins can have negative interactions with prescription drugs. Allergic reactions can also occur. For all of these reasons and so many more, it’s incredibly important to discuss any vitamins or supplements you may consider taking. At the very least you should ensure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of which ones you take regularly so they can warn you of any possible interactions. I’ve found both to also be good sources for finding reliable brands and for figuring out the proper dosage. And that brings up another point – most vitamins and supplements contain way more of an item than you may need. In some cases, taking the recommended dosage from the bottle can even lead to an overdose for your system! Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions of those in the know.

5.  Therapies – Talk & Massage: Of all these options, therapy of any sort is my least favorite. I’m uncomfortable talking about the cause of all these issues, especially in being pressed on ways to change the situation. I also get really tired of hearing the same advice over and over. I’ve studied enough psychology in school to know the basic techniques and frankly not only are the conversations uncomfortable, sometimes they can also be downright boring. It’s like repeating a conversation I’ve already had in my head a thousand times out loud – it can be frustrating. I also have a bad tendency to tell the person what they want to hear in order to avoid deeper conversation. Because of this tendency, this is usually one of my first confessions to the good doctor. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when they then later fail to realize this is what I’m doing. But that’s neither here nor there – the important point is to find someone you like. In order for talk therapy to be useful, you really have to connect with the person you’re talking to. My favorite therapist was someone who would totally call me on my BS – it perturbed me at first, but then I really grew to appreciate her style. Those sessions with her have been the most productive of any of them, and I always feel better after.

Massage therapy may be a bit of a surprise, as most people enjoy massage. I, however, don’t like to be touched – particularly by strangers. The idea of stripping down and having hands all over me does not, therefore, really rock my boat. However, must like the talk therapist, you just have to find someone you connect with. I still get really tense, but I’ve found that focusing the massage only on certain areas really helps relieve and limit the tension. Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about float therapy, where you float in a pod of saline water. I haven’t tried it – yet – but it’s definitely on my radar. I’ll let you know how that goes!
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You’ll notice that these are holistic options – that’s because drug therapy is so unique to each individual. I’m not a doctor and so I have zero basis for recommending any one drug over another. And in all cases, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about any therapy you wish to integrate into your treatment, particularly if it involves a major life change.

Anxiety Advice: A Holistic Approach to Dealing with Anxiety

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