Mental Wellness pt. 2

You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA from Wellness Wednesday for a few weeks. In fact, the last Wellness Wednesday wasn’t even written by me. It was Gina’s article on mental health. This is because I’ve been taking some time to take our own advice and work on my own personal mental health.

While I haven’t yet been to a therapy session as Gina suggested, (although I am interested!) I have taken some time to ponder the areas of my life that I’m most unhappy with, and how I can correct them. Unfortunately, no amount of soul-searching will bring my dad back. However, this doesn’t mean the rest of my life also has to suck. I’m over being miserable. I’m tired of spending any portion of my life unhappy, especially 33% of it. Life is way too short.

So I quit my job.

The job itself wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was tediously boring and completely unfulfilling, but I loved the people I worked for and 90% of the people I worked with. I enjoyed the math parts of my job and I learned a lot more about cars and the glorious DMV than I ever expected to know. However, what I really couldn’t tolerate was the drama that accompanied the job.

Before working in this office, I was an EMT for a private ambulance company. I distinctly recall a shift my 19-year old self worked early in my career there. It was the first time I had ever worked a cardiac arrest and I was alone in the back of the ambulance with just my knowledge from the 3-month training course I had just recently finished. I can still remember every detail of doing chest compressions on the frail body of my 80-year old patient, the sound of his ribs cracking, the tears streaming down my face and the terror of knowing that this man was dead and my best efforts would never be enough to bring him back.

That’s about a quarter of how dramatic this God forsaken office is.

If there was no existing drama, drama was created. The pot was constantly being stirred.

The drama and gossip were not always about me, but when it was, it was often related to my personal life and family. Even when it was about the other girls, it upset me to know my friends were being spoken of with such disrespect and a lack of professionalism. It created an environment of bitterness and stress. I felt that I was constantly walking on egg shells, desperate to avoid finding out that I had been the most recent topic of catty gossip. I began thinking it was in my best interest to remove myself from the situation.

After consulting my sister, boyfriend and closest friends*, I decided that no amount of money was worth the dread and elevated blood pressure I was experiencing daily. I only have a year left until I become an RN, so I thought it may be in my best interest to spend my energy on school work and enjoying my free time – not worrying about the pettiness of a toxic work environment.

I will be going back to a restaurant where I worked part-time last summer. While I am taking a pay cut, I look forward to the new opportunities for happiness that this job will present. After the hell that my family and I have lived since 2015, it’s about time I begin my search for happiness again.

I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who reads this should quit their jobs… but please remember that this is your only life. You don’t have to spend it trapped in a miserable job. There are always other places hiring. You never have to stay in a toxic relationship, even if it’s with a manager or coworker.

 

*To Gina, Matt, Other Gina, Kevin, Jacqueline, Tara and Alexa – Thank you for reminding me that my happiness is worth way more than the $2/hour difference and for supporting my decision to leave.

**To my mom – Thank you for not at all thinking this was the right decision, but not making that big of a deal out of it 🙂

Running – For People Who Don’t Run

I am not a runner. In fact, I am a hater of all things running-related. However, a few months ago, I stupidly signed up for a Tough Mudder with Gina and a friend/coworker.

Fear not, loyal readers. It’s a half-length Tough Mudder, which means I will most likely survive with minimal lasting injuries (except for my pride), as opposed to the unavoidable death which would no doubt await me if I attempted the full event. 

With this race rapidly approaching, I – your friendly, neighborhood out-of-shape wellness expert – have compiled a few tips to help running suck a little less.

1.       Get an app – To prepare for this and other running events I have done in the past, I find that it is easiest to use an app like Couch to 5k. It is overwhelming and exhausting to both your body and your mind to try to run 3+ miles after a lifetime of running 0+ miles. Couch to 5k and programs like it provide audible instruction, alternating between running and walking – progressing weekly until ultimately, it’s all run, no walk.

2.       Get an audiobook – I like music as much as the next person who kinda likes music… but sometimes I feel like there is no song on earth that can distract me from the physical torture that is running. No rock, rap, death metal or Mariah Carey can drown out the voice inside my head telling me to go home because this really really sucks. I had a theory that this was because it wasn’t mentally engaging enough. I figured if my office plays music while we work, it probably isn’t a big enough distraction to prevent us from crunching numbers. There is a reason that offices have radios and not TVs – because TV shows have story lines and story lines are much more distracting than a song could ever be. So, I put my theory to the test and tried listening to an audiobook (Gone with the Wind, if you were wondering) while I ran and found that I was able to run further and longer because I was less focused on the burning in my legs and the boredom of running past the same houses for the 3rd time that week. After all, your brain usually quits long before your body physically has to.

3.       Get outside! – Related to my last point, running can be boring AF. Don’t make it any more monotonous than it needs to be. Get off the treadmill and run outside! Running in a nice area on a beautiful day is almost cathartic. There is nothing better to help you decompress after a stressful day at work than gasping for air. Also, if you’re training for a race, running in conditions similar to the conditions of the actual event is extremely important. I made this mistake once before – I trained for an early spring event all winter by running on a treadmill inside my nice, warm gym. The actual run was held outside on a 45 degree morning with whipping wind. Needless to say, I did not do well. My lungs burned for a week. Seriously.

4.       Get a foam roller – This is seriously the best thing I ever did. The first time I tried to get into running, I ultimately quit because of terrible shin splints. I did everything I could think of – ice, stretching, different sneakers, changing my running form, changing what surface I was running on – and still, I could not get rid of the tearing sensation in my shins with every step I took… whether during a run or in the days that followed a run. Until I bought my foam roller. I ended up buying a fairly expensive and bumpy one, but at the time, they weren’t as common as they are now, so I didn’t have much selection. However, I have noticed them recently in Target for much cheaper and with varying degrees of bumpiness. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, a foam roller is a tube that you roll on your muscles, kind of like a deep tissue massage, to break up areas of tension. Since I started rolling and intensely stretching after every run, my recovery is much quicker, and my shin splints are non-existent. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I hope my cynical comments about gasping for air, running sucking, etc. didn’t discourage anyone from adding running into their lives. What I should have said is that running is challenging. Because it is – mentally and physically. However, I also think it’s worth it. There’s no better feeling than running past the place you had to stop [to pass out] yesterday. It’s kind of like cardio, lower-body toning, and therapy all in one.

Here’s a weird picture I took in 2015 of me and my homie, ~The Foam Roller~

Sam vs. Deb

Good morning and happy Fourth of July, my friends! Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely day (probably) off from work, and I especially hope you’re enjoying America!

On a completely non-holiday related note: Are you ready for my realest post yet? Because here it is. The story of how I fired my nutritionist, the lessons I learned from her and, most importantly, the lessons I learned from my experience with her.

Maybe I should preface this by saying I didn’t actually fire her. I’m just ignoring her calls and not making a next appointment. This is most likely not the most mature route but it’s easier for me, and as I am the main character of my life and this blog, that’s all that matters.

My early experience with the nutritionist was positive. It was exactly what I had hoped for. She gave me meal ideas and stressed the importance of having snacks to prevent myself from making “hungry decisions.” Genius! I love snacks!

We barely even discussed the celiacs because I know what has gluten in it and what I need to avoid. If I ever wasn’t sure, there’s tons of apps and good ol’ Google to help me figure it out.

Life was good, but, alas, joy in this life seldom lasts.

As we went a few months of seeing each other weekly, I began to feel that she was reaching for topics to discuss in order to continue our weekly meetings… and her weekly payments. I started to feel like I was being ripped off. Not only was I paying a $35 copay for a half hour appointment, but she also insisted I buy a powdered vitamin supplement through her for $80 a month. I guess the $7 bottles of vitamins from Target aren’t good enough? It was exactly like the time I got roped into the dark and terrifying world of Shakeology (but that’s a post for another day, I guess). The nutritionist insisted that I would feel more energy after taking them for a while, but I don’t. (Also, this is disturbing, but I was basically peeing highlighter green after taking the vitamins, indicating that my body was not absorbing them. What a waste! ……although, it was kinda cool….)

So much of what I had wanted from seeing a nutritionist was to help me transition to all natural foods and away from artificial supplements. I’m no longer interested in protein powders, Shakeology, “greens” and, of course, powdered vitamin supplements.

And then…. The worst part… she wanted to get to the bottom of my food obsession. I tried to tell her I just like food. I’m from a long line of good cooks and, where I come from, food means love. Is this healthy? No! But there are much worse vices to have. Like crack. At least I don’t do crack.

That’s my logic at least. Deb, on the other hand, assumed and insisted that my love for food must have come from some emotionally traumatic experiences or even… the dreaded ~repressed feeling~

So, she assigned me self-help books about learning to love your flaws… but jokes on her because I don’t have any. Really though, I tried to tell her that I’m quite cocky and confidence is certainly not my issue.

Next, we tried meditation to get to the root of my issue (again, the issue is just that I love food). Meditation is not for me. I like yoga, I can do yoga. But meditation is just not my thing. I just can’t seem to settle myself down enough. I’ve tried every guided meditation on YouTube, every Tibetan Singing Bowl and Shaman Drumming video, every candle on Long Island and still, my mind wanders (not to bad or stressful thoughts, just curiosities. Like, why can’t dogs walk with socks on? Or, who would win in a fight – a pack of wolves or one lion? The important stuff.) I like to think it’s because I have a big, strong brain that can’t be tamed.

I’d like to reiterate that my experience with Deb wasn’t all bad. The tip about more frequent snacking has allowed me to avoid hunger and make food choices with my brain instead of my stomach. This has helped me to steer clear of gluten and also make healthier choices all around. I feel much healthier now and my conversations with her have encouraged me to take control of my life again, make time to exercise, trust my intuition and put myself first.

However, my newfound intuition is telling me that it’s time to branch out on my own and not spend all my money on crappy vitamins and weekly copays to discuss meditation with a nutritionist.

Getting Out of the Work Week Rut

You know what sucks? Mornings. Mornings are horrible. There is almost nothing worse than dragging yourself out of your nice, warm bed, getting into a shower that is never quite hot enough, eating the same old boring breakfast that you have everyday, and then driving to work (rushing, just to be late as usual) … only to stare at a computer for 8 hours.

And yet, this is the routine that most of us have five days a week. Did you ever think about that? Five. Days. A week. Five out of seven days. You spend more time doing stuff you hate than stuff you like. How is this what life has become? It doesn’t seem fair.

A year or so back, I had this crisis the first time. I still have it every Sunday night, but the first time was definitely the worst. It was at that point that I decided to apply to nursing school. My reasoning was that I would find being a nurse much more fulfilling than working in an office. At least I would have the satisfaction of knowing that I was helping others in their times of need rather than just paperwork and filing. Plus, a much more flexible schedule to get myself out of that 9-5 rut.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of a massive career change- so what else can we do to liven up our work weeks and stop living for the weekend?

I’m trying this “optimism” thing that I’ve heard so much about. Positive vibes and such. I’m waking up about an hour earlier than normal and trying to hit snooze a few less times (also, side rant… Apple products need to up their game. The snooze time on an iPhone is 9 minutes with no way to change it, which is exactly enough time for me to fall back into a very deep sleep. The only way I’ve been able to combat this is to set multiple alarms for 3 or 4 minute intervals). I’ve been using the extra time to do about a half hour of yoga and then actually spend some time on my hair and makeup. As I’m sure all our lovely female readers know, the better you look, the better you feel. Shallow, but true.

As I wean myself off the snooze button, I’m also trying to incorporate a more exciting breakfast- maybe even scrambling some eggs instead of the usual gluten free waffle with peanut butter (and chocolate milk, obviously). I also find the extra time allows me to take it easy on my drive to work, so I’m much less frantic and angry when I get to the office.

I feel like the morning really sets the tone for the rest of the day, so it’s important to have as positive of a morning as humanly possible. That said, I’m also trying to sprinkle a little excitement into the rest of my dull AF day. Hold on to your hats kids, because I like to get really wild around 11 am and have… tea. Yes, I know, how rambunctious of me. Sometimes I even have a cup of coffee if I really feel like being a loose cannon. I know it sounds silly but my God, office life is boring. That is literally what I look forward to, please don’t judge me.

The bills aren’t going to pay themselves, but if you have to spend 40 hours a week at work, you might as well try to be as optimistic as possible. Also, don’t forget to have fun after work! Go to dinner, take an exercise class, catch a movie with a friend. Life is too short to spend five days waiting for two.

Off The Island

This week, On The Island spent some time OFF the island, in my second favorite nautical location: ~Connecticut~. Now you may be thinking “Sam, who cares. It’s just a ferry ride away. It’s basically the same place!” But it’s slightly different and I love it and it’s my blog so I’ll write what I want, thank you very much.

Anyway, while the port towns of Long Island feel very beachy and yacht club-esque, I find that across the sound, the port towns have a more lobster-fishing and whale-watching vibe. Which is great because there is nothing on this earth that I love nearly as much as I love sea critters.

From what I gathered at Mystic Seaport, Connecticut has a rich history in whaling. Normally this would upset me (again, I love whales a weird amount) however, the Seaport has taken many of the old ships used to hunt, and restored them into a beautiful way to sail the Long Island Sound and watch these awesome little fellas in their natural environment. If there is anything I love as much as whales, it’s history so I love that the old ships are still being used and that part of history can live on in a more positive way.

History seems to still be thriving in the parts of southern Connecticut we visited. In addition to the Seaport continuing to celebrate the maritime past of the area, multiple museums pay homage to the Native American history. Unfortunately all of these museums were closed on Mondays, the only free day that we had for this trip. I was pretty disappointed, but it is definitely giving me an excuse to go back ASAP!

Of course, no trip to Connecticut would be complete without a visit to the casinos. We actually stayed at Mohegan Sun during this trip. Our main focus for this trip (well, Matt’s main focus at least) was the Barrett-Jackson car auction that was held at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so I figured it was best for us to stay as close as possible. Plus, I think the hotel there is beautiful and so convenient for being right in the middle of the action. While we certainly are not gamblers by any means, we did spend a few dollars on some machines. We kind of considered it more entertainment than gambling- the way you would spend money to play games at Dave and Busters or Chuck E. Cheese. Or how I spend a ton of money going to Mets games knowing that no one I want to win ever does. But we had a ton of fun and that, my friends, is #winning in my book.

Look at all these chickens…

You are Who You Surround Yourself With

Remember all the cliques and labels from high school? How all the athletic kids were buddies on and off the field while all the punk rock kids listened to Nirvana on skateboards all weekend? If you don’t remember the insane amount of anxiety caused by trying to fit into a high school clique, you were probably one of the elite popular kids… congratulations (sorry about the rest of your life though).

But how does that happen? Do all the Nirvana loving kids have telepathy and instinctively know to hang out with each other? Or – and this is my theory – do friendships blossom naturally and gradually, you adopt the interests and some characteristics of the people you surround yourself with?

I think that the people you spend the most time with impact your life in ways that you can’t even detect. It’s almost like how a little kid picks up his older brother’s mannerisms. Except it tends to be on a larger scale as an adult.

If you surround yourself with friends who are constantly out at bars until 3 am, odds are, you will also be out at bars until 3 am – staggering half asleep into the office the next day. On the other hand, if all your friends are bookworms, you might end up staggering into work because “one more chapter” turned into finishing the book.

Of course, it seems logical that you would adopt the hobbies of your friends, but I think it goes much deeper than that. I think you also start to absorb the personality traits of those friends, your family and… the dreaded coworker. Oh yes, if you’re spending 40 hours every week with these people, you may very well be bringing some of them home with you. Did you ever catch yourself complaining about how much Nancy-three-desks-over complains about EVERYTHING? Because I have. It is a terrifying realization.

However, maybe we can use this to our advantage. After I realized I was adopting some of “Nancy’s” characteristics, I started to think of positive qualities that I would love to have myself and started reaching out to people that I’ve always admired for having these qualities. Maybe if I could spend more time with an exceptionally hard working, financially-savvy friend, she would be a positive influence in my life. And maybe if I reached out to my cousin who always loves learning new things and improving herself, her personality will help prevent me from becoming stagnant in my own life.

I believe that the number one factor influencing your quality of life is your perception. The person who feels blessed to live in a basement apartment will always be happier than the person who thinks her mansion is too small. But I also believe that the number one factor influencing your perception is the mindset of those around you. Happy people cause more people to be happy. Choose who you surround yourself with wisely, you may become more like them than you think.

Traveling with a Food Allergy

Now that it’s been a few months (weeks? Who knows!) I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of eating gluten free, at least at home. It gets a little trickier going out to eat. But, since I refuse to live a miserable existence for the next 90 years, I won’t be letting that get me down.

I figure, if I could learn HOW to eat gluten free at restaurants, I won’t miss out on any of the more social and fun aspects of going to restaurants and traveling. Especially because June is a crazy month for me. I went to a weekend bachelorette party in Boston, I’m currently doing a week in Disney and in two weeks, I’ll be spending another few days in Connecticut.

I’ll start by saying I’ve been blessed enough to not be so sensitive that cross contamination is an issue. I have, however noticed that I’ve started having actual physical reactions to eating obvious gluten. I ate a graham cracker recently (I know, of all things to waste a gluten-ing on) and felt terrible. But of course I’m stubborn, so I assumed it was a coincidence and I tried a piece of flatbread while I was in Boston. Literally, I almost died. I think i finally learned my lesson… maybe.

The trip to Boston was certainly a challenge. I found we were eating in a lot of gastro-pubs that didn’t necessarily cater to the celiacs of the world. I had a lot of burgers with no buns. However, the day I left, I found a place that had gluten free buns and I was able to have a burger WITH a bun. It was an exciting day.

Disney, on the other hand, has made eating gluten free so easy I actually don’t even have to think about it. I called Disney about a week before we came and told them about my allergy. I also told them we were celebrating my moms birthday and asked them to sing to her at every restaurant. She has not been pleased.

Every restaurant we’ve been to has given me an allergy friendly menu and offered to have an Allergy Specialist come to the table to discuss my needs with us (aka, with my mom). The allergy menus have almost exactly the same food, prepared gluten free, dairy free, nut free, whatever you need, they have it. There’s even awesome dessert options, which is great because many desserts are made as gluten-y as possible.

All my meals have come out with cool “allergy” toothpicks to ensure nothing gluteny goes in my dish. Since I’ll be coming to Disney at least once a year for the rest of my life, I think I’ll save the toothpicks and build my future home out of them.

The waiters and waitresses have also been fantastic. We had one waitress who looked near tears when she told my mom and sister the soups of the day, and then explained none of the options were gluten free. While I appreciated her sympathy, it was 94 degrees and I really really had absolutely 0 interest in soup. The same waitress brought my mom a complimentary dessert for her birthday and made sure it was gluten free so we could all share.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I totally can eat out, but it’s important to go with a plan. Googling menus and communicating with the waitstaff is key… something I didn’t do in Boston but have had a lot of success with in Disney. I’ll let you know how it goes when I try it in Connecticut!

Allergy toothpicks… aka the building supplies of my future home.