Our Reptilian Brains

The human brain is brilliantly complex. Our species contains countless languages that allow us to communicate diversely among each other. We can think abstractly, feel a variety of emotions, and comprehend the rhythm in music along with millions of other amazing opportunities that our brains give us. But not everything is as it seems.

In certain situations, our brains switch into survival mode and a lot of our reactions are no longer because of deliberation and planning, but instead out of shear reaction.

This was the topic of conversation at work on Wednesday. My manager had been to a two day training about handling heated conversations and she was giving us a summary of what the training entailed. We talked about that switch from rational thinking to natural instincts that sometimes makes you say things that you don’t mean or react in ways you typically wouldn’t.

We also discussed perception and how much our perception of things affects how we interpret people’s words. When we are in the moment and emotionally charged, we can sometimes make assumptions about what people mean instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt and hearing them out.

When you are in a stressful situation, remember to take a step back, evaluate the situation removed from emotions, turn your reptilian brain off, take a deep breath, and communicate logically. It’s harder said than done, but being aware of when you might be misunderstanding or overreacting in a situation is the first step to better communication.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

 

Happy Birth Month

I spend most of my days (Monday through Friday) asking people to verify their birth dates to either give them test results, complete their appointment intake, discuss treatment options, or talk about anything confidential. Birthdays are bitter-sweet for many people. It’s a day to mark when our earthly journey began and to celebrate the lives we have lived so far along with the life we have yet to live. As you get older, birthdays sometimes become lackluster and lose their appeal. Many people decide not to celebrate them at all. I have always been a birthday enthusiast and celebrate the whole month of September as my “birth month”, but as I have gotten older (my last birthday in particular), I found it difficult to get excited about the day’s arrival.

When you are a kid, birthdays mean gifts, parties, and attention. When you reach the age of ten, you are finally “in the double digits”. Being a twelve year old means being a preteen. Thirteen is the beginning of teenage years. At sixteen you can get your driving permit. Being eighteen years old means that you are “officially an adult” and being twenty-one makes you legally able to drink and go to clubs (not that that has ever been my choice location to inhabit). But after that, birthdays kind of lose their meaning to some people. I have seen women worry about their 30th birthday approaching…and then their 40th. Working with women who are older than me means that I have heard all about “the change” that is menopause and any mid-life crisis that may arise. We focus so much on youth and beauty that sometimes it can be overwhelming to have your birthday as a reminder that your youth is slipping away.

Whenever I tell someone about my over-the-top celebration of my birthday, they are shocked and ask why. Let me tell you why…Because every year that I get to celebrate my birthday is another year that I made it out of this crazy whirlwind alive. It’s another year of love, laughter, happiness, tears, sadness, anger, frustration, heartbreak, excitement, growth, and so much more that I have accomplished. It’s another year of meeting new people, learning new things, and spending time with the people that I hold dearest to my heart. Sure, I am getting older, but why is that a bad thing? Some people aren’t lucky enough to ever make it to my age. I know that I almost didn’t. I could have been stuck as my sixteen or twenty-year-old self in the memories of those I have met, but instead I get to celebrate the life that I am so incredibly fortunate to live. I get to kiss my husband goodbye every morning, be frustrated and then in awe of my Mia puppy, pay bills for a house I call a home, and do my best to help the people around me. No, the sun doesn’t shine brightly every day, and yes, there may be rain clouds that curtain my perspective at times, but I am so grateful to be able to have those bad days because that means that I know what good days feel like too.

So this is my plea to you…please celebrate your birthday. Hell, celebrate your birth month, because life is too short to care about being older and too precious to not appreciate the little things. You have made it another year here on this planet and that’s worth celebrating.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Media Beware

We are our own worst critics. I have met so many women (in my personal life, professional life, and through my photography) that see themselves in the mirror in a much different light than the rest of us see them. Why is that?

How we view the world is largely impacted by what we surround ourselves with. Social media, movies, magazines, advertisements, and the people around us are large influences in our self-image.

Last year I realized that I was following a person on social media that are beautiful and kind, but for some reason would trigger bad thoughts about myself. I tried to adjust my frame of mind, but I was still struggling with self-image when seeing this person’s posts and I decided that it was time to unfollow her profile. I had decided that my mental health was more important than viewing the images of someone I didn’t really know. At first I felt guilty, but then I realized that it was the best decision for me.

A lot of the movies that are screened involve a love interest that is thin and tanned. Magazines include covers with women in revealing clothing to show their petite bodies. Advertisements include celebrities that very obviously train regularly to achieve a particular body shape. Many people (men and women) either repeatedly verbalize their own body insecurities or mimic others due to their bodies. Although all of these women are gorgeous, only seeing one or two body shapes being celebrated continuously can negatively affect anyone’s self-esteem and you need to decide what is/are the most important change(s) that need to be made to improve your mental health.

It’s okay to admit that something in your life affects your mental health. What isn’t okay is to ignore how it makes you feel and continue to allow those things to negatively affect you. You deserve better than that.

Take care of yourself.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Goodbye January

February has arrived. Now is the time to reflect on how the previous month went for you. Were your actions in alignment with your goals? How will you modify your goals for this month?

January was a whirlwind for me. I mourned the loss of two grandmothers, was (and still am) in the process of buying our first home, and finished it off by being quite ill. With that being said, I have so much to be grateful for. I am lucky to have a supportive and loving family, the ability and finances to purchase a home, and an understanding workplace that doubles as my doctor’s office.

I took the first month of this year to focus on bettering myself. This is one thing that I plan to continue throughout the next eleven months. I have almost completed my first self-help book of 2019 and it has definitely helped to recenter my life.

My habit tracker for January consisted of blogging, reading, exercise, cleaning, meditation, hydration, sleeping 8 hours, clean eating, photography, and pampering myself. After evaluating my performance for the past month, I have adjusted my tracked habits depending on things that I either did really well and don’t feel necessary to track or did poorly in and find it not a priority at this time. This month I am going to focus on blogging, reading, doing 1 minute of planks per day (to help strengthen my back from previous injuries), hydrating, pampering myself, making our bed, doing dishes, clean eating, meditating, and not using my phone until after 8am. I am hoping that these things will become habits when I prioritize them for this month.

I am determined to make 2019 the best and most positive year yet. Sure, it’ll take some hard work, but it will be worth it.

So reflect on the past month, plan for this month, and keep on moving. You can do anything you put your mind to.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Help Yourself to Help Others

Being busy can be a great thing, but it can also be a dangerous habit. I have always been a person who has a million things going on at one time. I love being busy, but it felt like I got to the point where my identity/self-worth was correlated to how busy I was. I didn’t have time to step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy life.

I’ve slowly cleared my plate of extracurricular activities because I am trying to focus on myself more and outside things less.

It’s been bittersweet. I have been incredibly grateful to have the time to work on myself, but I also feel empty at times. Over the years, I have learned to correlate my self-worth with how busy I am. If I’m not filling all of my time with productive activities, I tend to feel like I am wasting my time. This is something that I am working on in my life.

So let’s fast-forward to yesterday. I have been sick for over a week and yesterday it got worse. I ended up seeing a provider in my office at the end of my shift and was sent home. My stubborn self went back into work today just to be sent home when I get there. I was honestly uninterested in going home. I told my manager that I didn’t want to go home because I didn’t know what I would do all day and she reminded me that rest is sometimes just as important as productivity.

If we are going to be the best versions of ourselves, we need to know when it’s time to relax and rest. Our body and mind need that valuable time to recuperate (especially when we are sick) so we can give our best self out to the world.

Have you ever been on an airplane? Even if you haven’t, I’m sure you know about their safety speech that is given before each flight. In the event of issues with air pressure when in flight, oxygen masks are released. They tell you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others because if you can’t breathe, you won’t be able to help others.

This is the same logic that they teach you for shooting situations at hospitals. They teach us that our firsts priority is to run out of the situation. If we are killed, we can’t help to treat the injured when the situation is diffused.

This is something that I have to work on. Sure, I was out of work for one day, but I wouldn’t have been incredibly productive today at work with how tired and short of breath I was feeling. Instead of ending up in the hospital and out of work for an extended period, I took one day to start recovery.

So take that sick day or mental health day if you need it. You can’t help others if you are not well yourself.

Oh, and being busy doesn’t equal being successful. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. You are strong, but you are also human and there are only so many hours in the day.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Let’s Talk IRL

Communication is an incredibly fluid item in our society. We have reached a time when we have the opportunity to not only speak with others face-to-face or via phone call, but can also text, email, instant message, and DM. This is both incredibly convenient for our busy lifestyles and potentially risky for our social skills.

When speaking with someone in-person, there are countless non-verbal ques to be interpreted. If someone has their arms crossed and eyebrows furrowed, they may be frustrated or upset. Even when you are on the phone, you can hear the person’s tone and volume to help translate the conversation’s meaning.

Now let’s think about texting. It’s such a fundamental part of many people’s days. With conversations via text messaging, it’s difficult to interpret meaning at times. For example, the word “okay”. If you are speaking with someone in-person and they respond with “okay” in a cheerful voice and a smile on their face, you will interpret that the conversation is going well. On the other hand, if you are texting and someone writes “ok” in response to your remark, you may think that they are being short with you or are irritated when, in actuality, they may have meant it as a simple response. There is so much left to assumption and previous encounters with a person when text messaging.

Sure, there are punctuation and emoji options, but everyone has a different perception of what those mean. For example, some people (yes, I mean people like me) tend to add exclamation points consistently throughout messages. I worry that if I don’t add that particular punctuation in my responses, my messages will come across as too serious or uninterested. Other people, however, never use exclamation points in their text messages. The same goes for emojis. Oh, and don’t even get me started on abbreviations. For example, “TBH I’m ROFL RN. I just posted the video.” may make sense to you,  but for someone who doesn’t know that TBH= to be honest, ROFL= rolling on the floor laughing, and RN= right now, it might just be a bunch of random letters mixed into your conversation. (Abbreviations aren’t my thing -for the most part- but I definitely know people who text like this and sometimes I have no idea what they are trying to say). Everyone has a different interpretation of the appropriateness of these additions to sentences and the frequency in which they should be used. This can lead to misunderstanding in conversations.

Technology makes it incredibly easy to connect with people around the world, but there is no connection quite like a real life in-person relationship. I 100% prefer a face-to-face conversation over a written one. This leaves much less to the imagination and is exponentially more personal. The written language is a very powerful tool, but I think we have a social obligation to uphold which includes containing more spoken word in our conversations.

The increasing success of electronic forms of communication have not only decreased human contact, but have also negatively affected the social skills of the most recent generations according to Liberty Classical AcademyNew York Behavioral Health, and The Odyssey (to name a few).

What will this mean for the generations to come? Do you prefer in-person or virtual conversations? Why do you think that is? Did you always have this preference or has it changed over time?

Break outside of your comfort zone today and have a (face-to-face) conversation with someone new.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Choose Happiness

I don’t know about you, but I look  forward to garbage day. It’s the day that we rid our home of the trash that we have collected over the past week. I always feel more relaxed on those days (Thursdays) because I feel like my life is less cluttered. This got me thinking…what if I could treat every day like garbage day? No, I don’t mean that I want to put trash bags on the curb every day and pretend that the truck picks them up. What I mean is that maybe our physical trash is more like our emotional trash than we realize.

I want 2019 to be the year that I really buckle down and work on myself. I’m slowly learning that the “issues” in my life are largely perceptual. I tend to have a negative perception on certain things in my life and it often results in frustration. So what would happen if I made a conscious decision to not allow those things in my life to affect me so greatly?

Today was my first day toward a less stressful lifestyle. I kept to myself the best that I could – with the least amount of sarcastic remarks that I could handle. Whenever I felt myself getting frustrated, I would close my eyes, take a deep breath in, envision myself breathing in ocean air while watching the waves, exhale, and then open my eyes. And guess what…it worked. When I opened my eyes, I felt calm and knew that I could tackle whatever was coming my way.

It was almost like a mini vacation that lasted only a moment, but helped me to recenter myself.

A coworker of mine has been working on self-peace too. Her uncle recently passed away and she states that has made her feel like a change is needed. Honestly, seeing her at peace has motivated me to be more aware of my emotions. We are both very excitable people and I’ve been thinking to myself “if she can do it, maybe I can too”.

I don’t remember who said it, but I do recall someone telling me at an early age that hatred and anger only hurt the person who feels it. Feeling frustrated in a situation will only affect me negatively and will do nothing at all to change the issue. So here I am, twenty-three-years-old,  feeling as if I am learning how to be myself all over again. It’s honestly an exciting feeling.

I can be anyone I want to be and right now all I want to be is happy.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Outgoing Introvert

I always felt as if I didn’t fit into a category of introvert or extrovert. I thought that if I wasn’t one or the other – then what was I? It takes me a little while to figure people out and get comfortable with them, but once I know you and like you…you can’t get me to be quiet. I’m sarcastic and energetic, but can be analytical and calculating too. I don’t put myself out there to meet new people, but I do hold those that I know closely. Sometimes I am spunky and other times I’m reserved.

Recently I heard someone talking about a book that they read about parenting a spirited child. She said that the book outlined what it means to be an introvert versus an extrovert. This is the kicker: it’s not about how you are around other people, it’s about how you recharge yourself. That made complete sense to me. Some people find comfort and inner peace by being surrounded by other people while others need time to be alone.

This had me reflecting a lot on my life.  When I have had an overwhelming day, I don’t want to talk or be touched or be around other people – I want to have space to reflect on my day and boost my energy. Once I feel relaxed and recharged, I am ready to face what life has coming my way. And that’s okay. Oh, and it’s okay to be an extrovert too! And it’s okay to be a little bit of both.

Ultimately it’s not about fitting into a category and knowing your place in the world, but instead it’s about self-actualization and knowing yourself.

Do you know what makes you emotionally well? What helps you to recharge?

Take care of yourself and find what makes you happy.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Knowledge is Power

I have always been the person with a million questions. From the time I was a small child, I was curious about everything in the world. As I got older, I often became afraid to ask questions. I worried that if I asked a “stupid question,” I would seem unintelligent or naive. Although I do still wonder how things work and have many questions about the world, I have to sometimes nudge myself to ask what’s on my mind.

This segues into my next thought – how dangerous is it to be afraid to ask questions? Well, let’s think about this for a minute. If you are unsure about the kind of oil your car requires, but find yourself afraid of seeming naive by asking a sales associate, you could damage your vehicle’s engine. If you are afraid to seem unintelligent by asking a question about material being covered in class, you could negatively impact your next test score. If you are afraid to question pricing of an on-sale item at checkout because you may seem “arrogant”, you could end up paying more than you anticipated on tomato sauce. Asking questions is a great way to ensure you understand what you are getting yourself into. If asking a question is going to make your life easier in the long-run, it’s worth the chance of feeling foolish.

A few months ago I started a new job. Let’s just say I was not short of questions to ask about my position on the team. However, on my first day, they told me about the potluck they were having the following day. I obviously wanted to bring in a dish to share with my new coworkers. For a moment I thought to ask about food allergies, but I figured that they would list allergies on the sign-up list, so the moment passed. I made a new-to-me Mediterranean salad with pomegranate, lemon, lime, cucumber, and a bunch of other delicious ingredients. So let’s fast-forward to the day after our potluck. Someone mentioned that one of the doctors is extremely allergic to citrus foods. Of course she is. All I could do is hope that she didn’t eat any of the food I brought (please don’t kill the doctor, Liz) and kick myself for not asking about allergies. Thank goodness she is a cautious person and didn’t eat anything she wasn’t sure was safe. So yeah, I almost killed a doctor on my second day working there all because I was too timid to ask an important question.

Moral of the story: There are no stupid questions. If you think the answer to a question could benefit your understanding of a situation, just ask it!

Love Always,

Elizabeth

I’m a Pusher, Cady

Have you seen the movie “Mean Girls”? If not, where have you been the past ten years?! Do you remember the part where the teacher tells Cady that she is “a pusher” and wants Cady to do her best? (And then Cady turns the teachers words around to make it sound like she’s a drug dealer.) Anyway, I’m a pusher (but not a drug pusher). I always push myself to work harder, longer, and better. I expect myself to function at my peak performance from the time I wake up until I go to sleep. No pressure..

It’s great to have high expectations for yourself and to work to a high standard, but everyone has a limit and it’s important to recognize when you are reaching your limits and begin to stretch yourself too thin. The last few weeks have been incredibly tough for me with deaths in the family and trying to buy a house. The past week or so, I have realized that I am starting to feel emotionally and physically drained. I can feel myself reaching my limit and I worry that my mental health will be negatively affected. So what will I do? I have been trying to take a moment for a deep breath when I feel myself getting overwhelmed. I remind myself that this feeling is temporary and it will pass.

I was hoping to get a part time job on the weekends (my days off), but I am going to give myself grace and patience. I need to focus on taking care of myself right now while I am dealing with this stressful time in my life instead of trying to be the most productive person possible. If I don’t take care of myself, how am I supposed to take care of the people around me? If I am already stretched thin, how can I find more of myself to help others?

One of the most important things that I have learned in the past five years is to recognize when I am pushing myself too much and how to help myself. Sometimes it just takes a moment to close my eyes and take a deep breath, but sometimes it takes a few hours (or even a day) to let myself relax and do something that I enjoy to recharge my energy. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Just because you can’t see your emotions and stress doesn’t mean that those things don’t matter.

Stress affects everyone differently, but it has the potential to not only affect your mental well being, but also your physical health. When I was about fourteen years old I had some stomach issues. I went to a GI specialist and he found an ulcer in my stomach after completing an endoscopy. He said the ulcer was from stress and he was shocked that someone at my age had enough stress to affect my body in that way. Stress can make your hair fall out, give you a rash, elevate your blood pressure, lower your immune system,…just to name a few.

Start paying attention to your body and how certain situations affect you. Take a mental note when you feel frazzled and if you feel like you are emotionally unwell. Is there something you can do to alleviate the stress?

It’s okay to say no if you feel like you are stretching yourself too thin. Hell, it’s okay to say no just because you don’t want to do something.

Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.

Love Always,

Elizabeth