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

Recenter Yourself

This year has started off as a whirlwind of emotions. Happiness, sadness, anger…anything you could think of have been packed into this first week.

We are in the process of closing on our very first home which comes with financial restrictions, stress, anxiety, excitement,… There are two things you should know about me: 1) I am not a patient person – I like things with instant gratification 2) I am a planner – I don’t like when a lot of variables are up in the air.

With that being said, My entire life has been flipped upside down for the last week or so.

I need to find my center in the chaos. I need to refocus my energy into peace and positivity.

Things are tough right now, but I need to focus on the big picture – this will all be worth it when we are living in a home that we own with my husband working as an RN and our financial situation being more comfortable. We just need to push through these next couple of years. We have been through some really tough things and we passed through it all; this will be no different.

My body has been yearning for exercise. I have been sick most of the past month, but I am feeling stronger and healthier now. I hope that running and exercising will help me to relieve some built-up stress and frustration.

Hydration is a huge focus for me right now too. It is something I have been doing quite well at and I am excited to continue treating my body to what it needs most.

It’s time for some deep breathing, meditation, and hope. Every little thing is gonna be alright.

How has your new year started? If things haven’t been as glamorous as you’d hoped, what are you going to do to change that?

You got this.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Downsizing

This year has included a ton of downsizing for us. I have donated about a dozen bags of clothes, a bunch of books, movies, and other miscellaneous things. There are still a lot of things that I would like to donate, but I think it’s been a great start.

We started by going through our entertainment belongings. We gave a number for each type of item (DVDs, games, books,…) and we were only able to keep that amount. For example we limited ourselves to twelve movies. We each picked six movies that we would want to watch regularly and the rest were donated.

When it came to clothing, we took everything out of our closet and thought about how often we wear each item. If it wasn’t something that I regularly wore, it was donated. I got rid of things that I would wear “if” I lost weight, had an event, or went to a destination. Let’s be honest, if I’m not wearing it regularly now, it’s not worth the realty in my closet.

You could also have a capsule wardrobe which would be done similarly to how we went through our entertainment stuff. By limiting your wardrobe to 5 shirts, 5 pants, 5 accessories… there isn’t the stress of figuring out what to wear. We normally wear the same few things over and over anyway.

Make sure to donate your gently used items instead of throwing them in the garbage – by donating them, you are giving your belonging another chance at life and decreasing your impact on the environment.

Living a more minimal lifestyle is about little purges that we do regularly as much as it’s about purchasing things with intent.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Silent Nights

A lot of people in the world struggle with depression. The winter season especially affects people who deal with mental illness (and even those who typically don’t). It gets dark earlier and is bone-chillingly cold out there. With less vitamin D intake, some people struggle to keep their moods stable. This would contribute to seasonal depression. Don’t forget that the holidays aren’t a happy time for everyone. For some, the holidays are a remembrance of loss. There are people who don’t have families to celebrate with or homes to celebrate in. Some people have lost love ones this past year and will be experiencing a slew of firsts without their beloved family member or friend.

December has always been a difficult month for me. I always find myself stuck in sorrow and negative self-talk during the twelfth month. It’s almost like clockwork. I have family to spend the holidays with. I have a home to spend the holidays in. But yet, I can’t get out of the December funk.

Here are some things you can do to help your mental health this month (and every month):

  • Start your grateful journal: List 5 things that you are grateful for every day.
  • Exercise: Go for a walk around the block, jog on your treadmill, go to the gym, do some push-ups and sit-ups, jumping jacks, jump roping…whatever you do, get that heart rate elevated and those endorphins flowing. They are the natural mood boosters!
  • Eat healthy meals: There is nothing worse than feeling bloated and gross after binge-eating all of the holiday sweets you could get your hands on.  Sure, those things are fine in moderation, but don’t forget to eat your fruits and vegetables too! (Oh, and Vitamin D fortified foods such as almond milk and tofu)
  • Positive Self-Talk: Spend a minute each morning when you are getting ready for your day to look in the mirror and say a positive affirmation to your reflection.
  • Meditation: Spend at least 5 minutes per day meditating or enjoying silence without activity. Take a few deep breaths and enjoy the quiet. Listen to your body and feel it’s energy.
  • Communication: If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t keep it bottled up. This is something that I struggle with at times. I sometimes feel scared that if I tell someone how I feel, they will not understand or they won’t be able to handle what I’m saying. Be vulnerable and let out your thoughts and feelings to someone you trust. It’s okay to cry and speak your mind; you will feel so much better afterwards.
  • Give a loved one a hug: long hugs release hormones that lower the levels of cortisol in the body and, in turn, decrease your stress. The same thing goes for cuddling! So hug your loved ones!
  • Do something you enjoy: Spend time every day doing something that you love. Whether that’s reading a book, playing a video game, crocheting, baking,…spend time making yourself happy and relaxing.

 

I know that this is a tough time for a lot of people, but we can do this. We can make it through this and you will be so glad that you were strong. We are in this together.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Settling for the Best Life

Today I want to talk to you about not settling for what already is and working toward living your best life. This can start small such as your kitchen cabinets or can be a larger issue like not having the time or money to do what you love.

I recently decided that it was time to reorganize our kitchen. I always dreaded cooking in our kitchen because it was difficult to find the things that I needed. We had most of our spices in a plastic bin in the cupboards over our sink. Some were on a spinning spice rack on a shelf under our kitchen island. The rest were in jars in our dining room where we kept our wine glasses. I hated having to dig through three different places when cooking to find what we needed. So instead of accepting that this is just how things have to be, I decided to move everything around. We ended up moving our canned goods and putting all of our spices in the stacked cupboards on the wall. Having all of our spices visible and in one place helps us to decrease our time searching and increase our time enjoying our food and time together. This is something little that has decreased my stress in a big way.

I have the unfortunate habit of biting off more than I can chew. I love to be busy and, at times, my commitments have overwhelmed my schedule. When I was in nursing school I was not only doing school full-time, but also had a part-time job as a home health aide, part-time over night job as a private aide for a person at a senior living facility, and worked as a photographer part time in my own business. We were making ends meet, traveling, but I never had scheduled time to rest. I ended up leaving my over night job so I could focus on school more and sleep from time-to-time. It meant less income for our household, but we made it work and with the extra sleep I was much less stressed. Ultimately it was the best decision for my relationship, education, and health. Life is all about balance.

Money is something that stresses a lot of people out. My husband is currently in college full time working toward a degree, so we are down to one income at the moment. I have done a ton of research on budgeting and money management which has helped us to not only build our Emergency fund to over two grand, but also decrease debt which in turn helped our credit scores. If money is something that you worry about, it’s okay. There is so much you can do to positively influence this part of your life while still having fun. I am going to be posting tomorrow about budgeting specifically.

Pinpoint what is affecting your happiness and stress levels. Do what is within your control to positively influence and whatever is out of your control, try not to dwell on.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference in your comfort and happiness.

You are worth the effort.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Week-long Vacations on a Budget

Weekend get-aways are awesome, but do you know what’s even better? A week long vacation! Yesterday I shared some tips and tricks for a weekend vacation, but today I want to talk about longer vacations and how to save money while having an amazing experience.

I am going to be pulling experiences from my Maine 2016 and 2018 vacations to the Rockport/Camden area. If you ever have the opportunity to to visit that area, I strongly suggest it.

  • Both times we rented a cabin from Megunticook campground. The campground is right along the water, so we spent breakfast along the sea and watched the sunset over the water. The cabins have electricity, so when we went at the end of the season in 2016 (saved money because it wasn’t busy season), we brought our own electric space heater which was a life saver. I will post the campsite’s website below.
  • Just like a weekend away, we plan ahead for our meals. When we know what we will be having for each meal, we will save money from bringing food from home and not eating out every night. We plan our meals according to what will last the longest and what will need to defrost. For example, if we pack frozen veggies and regular produce, we will eat the regular produce before eating the frozen foods because they will thaw on their own in our cooler. Another lifesaver for us was bringing our electric burner on our 2018 trip to Maine. This allowed us to boil water and cook without constantly having to make a fire.
  • While we are talking about food, you will probably get hungry during your drive if you are traveling far from home. For our 2018 trip I packed a reusable chopping bag with snacks such as almonds, fruit, granola bars, mints, and water. When we got hungry, we would just grab a snack from the bag at my feet instead of stopping at a rest stop and eating junk food or having to go through all of our packed food for a treat.
  • If you are traveling on a road that has tolls, be sure to bring a little sandwich bag or mason jar full of quarters. Even if you don’t think you will have to pay tolls, bring quarters. You never want to find yourself at a toll or paying for parking without any small bills or cash on hand. Oh, and don’t forget to notify your bank that you will be out of town! There is nothing worse than getting your cards or bank account frozen while on vacation.
  • Do some research about local events/museums/scenery… in the area that you will be traveling to. My husband and I love museums, so on our 2016 trip we visited a lighthouse museum and on our 2018 trip we visited several art museums and a transportation museum. Be on the look-out for museums that are linked with other attractions. Some museums’ tickets will grant you access to other museums in the area (like The MET in NYC). Some other great (free/cheap) options are swimming at beaches, finding lighthouses and hiking at state parks. During our 2018 trip we found an adorable beach along the coast and decided to eat our packed lunch there. We also found a ton of cute little shops to browse through. We even found the cutest little bakery with delicious pastries that were affordable and amazing (this trip was pre-vegan). Do your research, but don’t make yourself stick to a plan. Have ideas of what you want to do, but if you find something you like better, do it! Live in the moment.
  • We also plan what meals we will eat out instead of cooking ourselves. Usually we will eat breakfast at a little diner the day we leave our trip. We also picked one lunch and one dinner to eat at a local restaurant. Oh, and one night that we went out just for drinks after dinner! By talking with local people you can find great food for a great price.
  • Drive around aimlessly. Remember that beach I told you about? We found that on accident. We also found antique shops, lighthouses, bakeries, pizzerias, breweries, and museums just by driving around. Don’t rely strictly on Google searches for your vacation. Not only will you find awesome places to experience, but amazing views. One of my favorite things about that area of Maine is how much lavender grows wildly. The stuff is everywhere! It is so beautiful and it took everything in me to not come home with bunches of the stuff.

 

MEGUNTICOOK CAMPGROUND https://megunticookcampgrounds.com/

 

Planning is a great way to get your cost-efficient vacation started, but don’t forget to live in the moment and enjoy your time to relax and recover from daily life.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Minimalist Fashion

Minimalist fashion… But aren’t those things opposites? How could you be fashionable without having unlimited outfit options? It’s all about the quality and functionality of the pieces that you have. Keeping fashion staples in your closet helps to be able to transform pieces into dozens of outfits. I am going to be posting photos on my Instagram account @love.always.elizabeth and Pinterest at “Love Always Elizabeth” just in case you would like some visual aids. Here are some staple pieces for a minimalist or capsule wardrobe:

  • Denim Jacket – These are very versatile pieces. They can help to dress-up leggings or keep a dress looking casual. I’m even guilty of wearing denim-on-denim at times when pairing my jacket with jeans. Don’t even get me started about a denim jacket with a maxi skirt.
  • High-Waisted Jeans – I am convinced that they look good on everyone. The best part of all is that they are easy to dress down for running errands or dress up for dinner with friends. You can tuck your shirt in to accentuate your waistline or leave your shirt untucked for a more relaxed feel.
  • Maxi Skirt – Not only are maxi skirts super comfortable, but they are also extremely versatile. I have even worn a maxi skirt as a dress before. Because they are looser fitting articles, I tend to pair them with a tighter shirt or a cropped jacket.
  • Solid colored dress – This is something that you could wear not only as a cute outfit with your jean jacket for an everyday look, but could be easily dressed up with heels. Having pieces that can be worn to several occasions is what makes a minimalist closet successful
  • Long Sweater – This could be worn with or without leggings (depending on the length). You could also pair these with high-waisted jeans with the front/side tucked in or knotted. It’s all about the versatility!
  • Accessories – Having a short, mid-length, and long necklace ensures that you always have something that can work with an outfit. Scarves are my downfall and although I recently downsized my collection, I still have several. If you are in the same boat as me, make sure you have a cute patterned scarf, a warm scarf, and a solid colored scarf.

 

I’m not asking you to look in your closet and donate everything that you haven’t worn in the past two weeks. That is a daunting task and I, myself, am still working on downsizing my wardrobe.

The first step is to stop buying new clothes. If you “have to” buy something, tell yourself that if you buy that new dress (or any other article of clothing), that you will have to get rid of one from your closet. Also think about how many times you can see yourself wearing this piece of clothing. If you think it would be cute, but that you might only wear it a couple times, maybe you should hold off on buying it.

While I have you thinking, what is the quality of the fabric? If it seems like fragile or poorly-made fabric, maybe you should pass on this purchase. I have learned that it is more important to have a few articles of clothing that will last a long time and be worn frequently (and sustain the test of time) than a bunch of clothes that you will wear once (or not at all) and/or will be damaged easily in day-to-day wearing.

Oh, and look at the care instructions. For me, if the clothing isn’t machine washable, I should not get it. Although I would love to say that I have all my clothing dry cleaned or hand wash them, that just isn’t realistic for me. And I know that my husband would unknowingly end up throwing those clothes in the washer anyway.

Once you stop buying new clothing, start by going through your closet. If you haven’t worn those clothes in the past month (account for change of seasons with some clothes- if you don’t remember yourself wearing that piece the last relevant season), put it in a garbage bag or large tote with a date either 2, 4 or 6 months from that day. If you do not have to go into that tote at all in the time before the date written on it, donate the clothes. Don’t go through them or “just check.” You will end up putting clothes back into your closet (trust me on this one). Just go directly to a local donation bin and drop them off.

You did it! You read through this blog post and now have the knowledge to start down-sizing your wardrobe. When your closet is filled with a few pieces that you love, getting dressed in the morning is so much easier and enjoyable!

De-stress your life by de-cluttering your closet.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Everything Happens for a Reason

I don’t know if you believe in God. Honestly, I’m not sure what I believe in myself. What I do know is that everything seems to happen for a reason. I might not understand it at the time, but eventually the events in my life all start to make sense. If you have been following my blog, you know that recently I had a medical issue and have not been feeling well.

My doctor contributed the seizures’ reappearance to stress and anxiety. He said that I should not be driving and that my neurologist will probably suspend my license for a year. If I can go one year seizure-free, I will be able to get my license back. With my current job coming to an end and my new job (within walking distance of my house) quickly approaching, there has been a lot of transition and stress in my life.

If you know me, I have a hard time admitting that I’m not okay and asking for help. I continued to try to work through these health issues. My body has continually been getting tired and weak with stress, medications, and anxiety. Not even two weeks ago I felt so strong and healthy. It’s crazy how quickly things can change.

A few days ago my job gave me the opportunity to leave my resignation early. I will be taking a sort of leave-of-absence for health reasons and will be released from my resignation date on a good standing with the company. This news lead me to tears. I have been so worried about how I am going to be able to schedule my upcoming appointments without taking time off. I have been desperately trying to figure out transportation to and from work. I knew that I needed to take time to help heal my body and mind, but didn’t know how to make those opportunities happen.

In the next month I will be focusing on my physical and mental health. This isn’t what I asked for, but it is definitely what I needed.

Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others when you are broken yourself.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Just Say No

I have a challenge for you. This will be your first step toward minimalism and a simpler life. Pick one surface in your home that seems to collect clutter easily. For us, it is the top of our cabinet near the front door. When we get home, the things in our hands and pockets tend to get placed there. Keys, pens, mail, change, and water bottles are the typical culprits. For one week I want you to focus on only having 3 items on that surface at all times. If you have  a dish to put your keys and such in, that counts as one item. All other things need to be taken care of or put in the space that they belong. If you can accomplish this for 1 week, you are on your way to a less stressful life.

 

Today I want to talk about minimizing your stress and responsibilities. If you are like me, you have a hard time saying no when people ask you to do something. There is nothing wrong with that. If you have the ability to do something when someone asks for help, it’s great that you are one of the first to say yes. But I want you to learn that it’s also okay to say no sometimes.

 

Overwhelming yourself with commitments that you don’t actually want to partake in is a sure way to burnout. For years I have found myself working full time jobs while juggling school, my own businesses, and events that I felt obligated to attend. Eventually, I felt myself spread so thin that I wasn’t able to give my all to the things that I valued most. I didn’t have time to spend with the people I love. I didn’t have time to clean the house regularly and I definitely didn’t have time to take care of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing most of the things that I was doing, but when I was overwhelming my schedule, I started resenting those things that I loved because they became less of a passion and more of a task.

 

This is what happened to my photography. It started as a curiosity in high school.Then I became passionate about photography by the time I graduated. It began to take over any free time that I had. I loved how busy I was, but I eventually stopped photographing the things that I loved and only photographed what clients requested. Eventually I lost my artistic passion for capturing moments and began thinking of it only as a business. About six months ago I decided that I needed to take action. I have taken a break from my photography. By doing this, I had to say no to countless opportunities. But it felt good to say no. I was taking back my time and filling it with things that I loved (like family time, writing, and taking care of myself.) More recently I have had the yearning feeling to photograph again. Not as a business, but as a passion. I am now in the beginning stages of a project that I will be doing for my photography. Not because  I have to or because I was asked to, but because it something that I want to do. I want to continue to have passion for the things that I love most and I am excited that I am on the right path. No matter how many times that path may mean saying no.

 

Fill your life with things that you are passionate about and that you want to do. It is okay to help people or fulfill commitments, but never feel obligated to say yes if it means that you will regret your commitment or overwhelm your schedule.

 

Take care of yourself and find your passion.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Journaling

Have you tried journaling yet? If not, what is stopping you? It doesn’t matter how good (or not good) you think you are at writing. It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t have anything important to say. I promise that it doesn’t matter how bad you are at spelling. Your journal is your sanctuary to voice your opinions, struggles, frustrations, and achievements without criticism. Are you stuck or wondering where to start your journey? Don’t worry, I have your back. Here is a list of things that I find myself writing about in my personal journal.

 

 

  • Gratitude: This is where my journal started last year. I was in a dark place emotionally and someone in my life suggested that I start a gratitude list. I wrote five things that I was grateful for every day. (It takes about 28 days to make a routine, so stick with it!) Sometimes I had to try hard to find those five things, but every day I made sure to complete my list. At times, my list included small things like leaving the house, getting a kiss from my puppy, or having food in the house to eat. No matter how pathetic I thought those gratitudes were, it helped me to realize how fortunate I am and I eventually got past those hard times. We all have a lot to be thankful for.

 

 

 

  • Hopes and Dreams: Sometimes I have a hard time talking about my hopes and dreams for the future. I get scared that they are far-fetched and that people will know when I fail. Journaling has been my way of developing my thoughts about the future without being scared that other people will find it silly. It doesn’t matter if my aspirations change over time, but journaling gives me the opportunity to look back at my plans and see how my dreams have altered.

 

 

 

  • Frustrations: Do you ever find yourself frustrated in a situation or upset with someone? I definitely do. Instead of continuing to talk it out with the people in my life, I tend get it all out onto paper. When I write things out and voice my frustrations in a private space, I can figure out how to handle the situation after de-escalating my emotions. It is one way for me to figure out how to talk through a situation without talking out of anger. This has, in many occasions, saved me from saying nasty things to others in the moment which has resulted in less stress and awkward situations. Next time you find yourself mad at someone, write them a letter. When you finish the letter, rip it in a million pieces or put it through your shredder. Getting those feelings out makes you feel better a million times better (even if they never know how your felt). Being angry and bitter toward people doesn’t affect them and only hurts you.

 

 

 

  • Sadness: Fergie was wrong, big girls do cry. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Crying can be a healthy way to deal with things in your life that make you sad. It is not healthy, however, to bottle those feelings up. For me, writing out how I am feeling and why I think I might be feeling that way is a way to be more aware of my emotions and to gain closure. When I lost my pregnancy, journaling was a lifesaver. I was able to say how badly I hurt without feeling guilty for talking about it to others or putting them in an awkward situation. There is nothing wrong with being sad, but you need to take care of yourself and not carry those feelings around constantly.

 

 

 

  • To-Do: More recently I have been writing recipes that I want to try, blogs I want to read, and errands I need to complete in my journal. Writing these things down not only helps me to remember them, but also makes me more apt to do it. If I take the time to write out a recipe in my journal, I get excited about making and eating the food. If I write about the things that I need to get done after work tomorrow,  I am more apt to make sure they get done so I can reflect on it later. Even if that simply means I feel more accomplished about what I completed, it’s time well spent.

 

 

What do you like to journal about? If you haven’t started journaling yet, what is making you hesitate? Go to the contact page to answer. Even ten minutes of journaling a couple times a week can offer you closure, acceptance, and peace in your life.

 

Love Always,

Elizabeth