Monday, January 31, 2011


On Saturday I ran for the first time in a long time. I used to run consistently starting in high school all the way through my mid-twenties but when I started graduate school my life got a little hectic. My husband and I got married, I was working full-time (while taking a full class load) and trying to adjust to school again since it had been a few years since I finished my undergrad studies. Needless to say, life had gone from routine to totally new and different (as well as insanely busy) in a short amount of time and working out fell by the wayside. (It’s unfortunate because I’m sure working out more would have been extremely helpful in terms of managing the stress of graduate school).

 Anyway, it was so refreshing being outdoors again this weekend and I was reminded of how confident, healthy and energized I used to feel when I was a regular runner. While I let go of it because I was "too busy" and "too overwhelmed," looking back I feel like the benefits would have far outweighed those concerns. The energy I would have gained from running would have carried over into increased energy for studying and other activities. The extra confidence I would have had from looking and feeling my absolute best would have carried over into all other areas of my life.

We get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we think we don’t have time to do things that we view as simply “just for fun” anymore. Or we feel selfish doing something for our own sake, because so many other people depend on us. But the truth is, these hobbies and self-care techniques are about more than fun! They are about rejuvenation and restoration! It's like how on an airplane we are supposed to put our own life jacket on in the case of an emergency before we help someone else. It's not because we are more important, it's because it won't be feasible to help anyone else if we are hurt too. Same idea here. Take care of yourself so that you can be effective and joyful in all areas of your life! 

Are there any habits you’ve let go of for one reason or another that you’d like to get back into? Whether exercise or some other relaxing/refreshing hobby? Think about reincorporating an old habit back into your life that in recent months or years has seemed less important (a HEALTHY one of course)!

Stay tuned for a new series starting tomorrow! I look forward to "21 days of..."  - come back tomorrow and find out!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Slow Down and Listen

I have had a lot on my mind lately. I had no idea when I decided to start blogging that I would become so invested in the process. But I'm glad I have. It is cathartic in a way to get my thoughts out there in writing; it's a form of journaling for me. And at the same time, it has been fun to receive feedback from friends, family and even those I have never met face-to-face who have reaped the benefit of putting into action something I suggested in a post.

But as I go, go, go with brainstorming, outlining, researching and writing, it's like my mind has become just a tad too full and has been unable to retain all of the information I need to retain in order to keep up with day-to-day life. Perfect example: The ring saga earlier this week.

I was reflecting on this and heard an inaudible message that was so clear it made me stop in my tracks: "Slow down and listen." Have you ever felt like God spoke to you in such a way that you just knew the only response was to act (or in my case, to act by not acting)? It was one of those moments. So I cancelled all blogging plans for the evening (thankfully I had already written my post for that day) and took a bubble bath. The first one I have taken in so long! I also journaled and sat quietly before God. I was filled with so much peace that I wanted to kick myself for not doing that more often! (Although kicking myself might have have contradicted the whole "slow down" part).

Does anyone else have trouble slowing down? Or listening? Or both?

Try it this weekend! Have a great one!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 21 - Final thoughts...

 I have been feeling some serious writer's block today as I try to prepare for this final blog post on anxiety. It's funny because this is not the end all, be all. I have plenty of time to continue posting and even adding to this series as time goes by and yet I am pressuring myself to make my final words today extra meaningful. :)

I think the way I want to end this is on the topic of perspective. I read an interesting blog post recently called Anxiety as a Tool for Growth. I encourage you to check it out but from what I could gather, the main point is: perspective. Anxiety can be used to help us or harm us depending on how we use it and view it.

A good friend of mine, and fellow Life Coach, often says that we need to pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. It is amazing how when we start to do that, it's truly as though they reveal things in the same way another person might. If we sit back and reflect on the circumstances surrounding what we're experiencing, new revelations inevitably occur.

I hope you were able to reap some benefits from this series... strategies perhaps to help control anxious symptoms, insights into the how's and why's of anxiety... as well as a new way to view this unfortunate annoyance in many of our lives.

So your take-away for today is this... what is your anxiety telling you? Is it time to make a change? Are you stuck and ready for transition? Is there a difficult conversation you need to have with someone?

I hope you found the coping strategies and the facts and figures helpful but remember to thoughtfully consider what your anxiety means in your life as well.

Please leave any final thoughts or comments about this series here. I would love to know what you think!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day 20 - Acceptance

I can’t believe this series on anxiety is about to wrap up. 21 days go by quickly! This has been a fun experience for me and I am excited about embarking on a new blogging adventure starting Feb. 1st! Stay tuned for the new topic!

But to finish what I started…  I have done a lot of reflecting on what causes anxiety and worry over the past month. Even more important than employing strategies to control it, is coming to a better understanding of why we face it. It seems like it should be so easy. If there is a quality about us we don’t like, we change it right? But alas, not so much.

I think a lot of what’s behind anxiety, has to do with a lack of acceptance and even perhaps contentment with where we are in life and the inevitabilities life brings. Not all discontentment is bad. Sometimes lacking contentment can drive us toward great change; we may see an injustice and become utterly frustrated and consumed by whatever is taking place that we move into action! That’s obviously not a bad thing.

But more often than not, we simply don’t want to face reality and we believe somehow that complaining, worrying, stressing out and experiencing anxiety will help us gain control. It doesn’t.

There are two main areas I want to focus on:
  • Acceptance of the unknown
  • Acceptance of that which we can’t control
  1. My life is full of unknowns right now and I have tons of friends who are experiencing similar situations. I have a close friend who is scheduled to have a c-section tomorrow. Talk about an unknown… What she does know is that as of tomorrow life is going to look completely different. However, as this is her first child, she has no idea what that really means. What will she feel like? What will it be like to have a baby in the house? How will she and her husband relate to one another now that it’s not just the two of them anymore? The list goes on… As my husband is in law school right now and graduating in a few  years, we are wondering… what will life look like after? Where will we live? Where will he work? Will we have kids by then? The unknown can cause great fear and worry for many people. While we can prepare to no end, there will always be unanswered questions in life and eventually we need to just accept that fact rather than getting bogged down by everything that could happen. Let’s start focusing on what is happening right in front of us today!
  1. Oh how I wish I could control all things…. But sadly that’s not possible. I had a huge emotional breakdown on my honeymoon of all places because the realization hit me that my hubby is going to do things throughout our marriage that I can’t control, and yet will probably be greatly affected by. And vice versa (although that reality doesn’t scare me as much J). I think the fact that it didn’t hit me until after I had agreed to all of the “for better or worse” stuff is in part due to God’s sense of humor (because there wasn’t much I could do at that point) and in part due to my own delayed reactions. Anyway, stressing out about this fact will not change anything. Instead, I have chosen to just live my life and allow my husband to live his without nagging, nitpicking or trying to control him (which at times I do quite successfully and other times not so much). The point is, there are things in life we can’t control and that is okay. Yes we may be affected by things we wish we weren’t, but when that happens you just deal with it. Trying to anticipate or plan for these things to occur will only create a constant stream of worry and anxiety in your life.
One last note on acceptance – I read a grief book this past year and one thing really stood out to me that I continue to think about from time-to-time. The author of the book (called Life After Loss – highly recommend it by the way) talked about the importance of getting to a point where you stop asking the question “Why?” (“Why did this happen? Why do things have to change?” “Why did this person die?” etc.) and instead start asking “How?” (“How do I work thru this?” “How do I learn from what’s happened?”) “How” is more of an action word and when asked, implies a readiness for growth and moving forward. This takes time. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight and particularly with grieving, it’s quite natural to remain in the “Why?” stage for a while. But I liked the distinction between those two words and the fact that they reveal a lot about the state of the person asking those questions.

I know this is long and I am trying to squeeze all my final thoughts into just two more days of posting on this topic. I hope you have enjoyed the series and welcome any and all comments. See you tomorrow for Day 21!

Day 19 update!

My engagement ring. It is even more beautiful now with the matching wedding band. :)
I found the ring! Thank goodness. (It was on the paper towel rack).
Did I spend all day worrying about it? Believe it or not, no. I managed to take my own advice for a change and guess what? It worked! Had I not been intentional about changing my thinking yesterday, I would have spent the whole day worrying about it unnecessarily and ruining a perfectly good day. All I can say is, phew!!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 19 - Practice What You Preach

This wasn’t how Day 19 was supposed to go… I didn’t plan this and I most certainly am not happy about it. But it is what it is…

The first thing I did when I arrived at work this morning was put lotion on my hands. It was at that moment that I noticed something was missing from one of my fingers: my wedding ring. I immediately felt a physical response to this realization in the form of a racing heart and instant nervousness. There are two potential places I could have left it at home: one , on my paper towel rack (random I know, but there is a little metal part that sticks up resembling a ring holder and I’ll put my ring there sometimes when I am working in the kitchen) or two, on my actual ring holder in the bathroom.

I can’t remember taking it off last night. So, if it is not at home where is it? Another thought occurred to me. The only other time I take my ring off (aside from cooking/cleaning at home) is at work when putting on lotion. I recently got my wedding band and engagement ring soldered together in December and so I have been extra careful not to get lotion in between the cracks.  A week or two ago, I stepped away from my desk and when I returned saw my ring sitting there as I had forgotten to put it back on. That is what scares me! Did I do that again? It is nowhere to be found here at work and yet I can’t remember taking it off at home last night either.

So, I called my husband frantically trying to reach him before he left for school so he could check and see if the ring is anywhere at home. He didn’t pick up. I texted him, not one, not two, but three times! No reply. I finally got a hold of him but he was already in the car. Shoot, that means I am going to have to wait all day to find out if the ring is at home! My finger feels naked and I am antsy knowing what a long day I have ahead of me.

My husband lovingly, yet firmly, reminded me of something during our conversation. I have been going on and on about taking control of anxiety the past 18 days. Now it’s time to practice what I preach. Wow. Reality check!

He is absolutely right though. I have been given the perfect opportunity today to do just that. I have a choice: worry all day about whether or not the ring is at home, or set these fears aside and focus not only on work, but on having a good day. I can ask those, often nasty “what if” questions, like “what if it’s gone forever?” or I can ask the more hopeful version of “what if’s” such as “what if I find it when I get home tonight?” That would be amazing!

It’s so easy to have head knowledge about this stuff but when it comes to living it out, it’s a lot harder! But do-able. And today I am making the decision to do just that. I don’t know if I’ll find my ring. I’ll be incredibly sad if I don’t but aside from a naked ring finger, nothing will really change. Sure, I’ll have to grieve the loss of my beautiful engagement ring and the matching wedding band I was so thrilled to pick out a few years ago but the ring itself is merely a symbol. It says nothing of the love my hubby and I share and  without it, we’ll continue to love each other and remain committed to growing our marriage.

*Sigh*… Today is gonna be a long day. I don’t know what’s going to happen… But I resolve to use this day as an opportunity to grow and convert some of my education about anxiety into real life experience.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 18 - Mind/Body Connection

We all know exercise is important. It improves cardiovascular health, increases muscle tone and speeds up metabolism in addition to a myriad of other health benefits. But, did you know it can also play a crucial part in decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety?

When someone is depressed or anxious, they may have a lower amount of certain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, in the brain (seretonine, dopamine and norepenephrine specifically) than those who are not depressed or anxious. One of the goals when it comes to treating someone who is experiencing these symptoms is to regulate those neurotransmitters (which in turn will regulate the person's moods). This is commonly done through the use of medication but research has also shown that exercise can lead to a similar outcome.

Rather than explaining all of this myself I thought it would make more sense to include some interesting articles related to this subject:

1) USA Today, "Exercise Helps Fight off Anxiety, Depression" (4/26/20)

2) Losing it With Jillian Michaels, "Everyday Stress Got your Metabolism Down?"
* This one explains the relationship between stress and weight loss.

My belief is that a multi-faceted attack is most helpful when trying to eliminate anxiety. That's why I have included so many varied topics in this blog series, from the way we think, to the way we feel, and all kinds of other possible remedies in between. From personal experience, I can say with certainty that I feel better when I am exercising regularly. My energy increases, I sleep better at night, I have more confidence and on the whole just feel like a healthier individual.

A few suggestions:

* If you don't enjoy exercising much, find to an activity that's interactive. I have a friend who joined a flag football team that played a few times a week on the beach which was awesome because she met new people and worked out. Another friend who loves to run joined a training group that worked out together on week days and raced quarterly in 5 and 10k competitions.

* My husband and I like to take walks together. When we lived in Newport Beach, CA we would walk around one of the local neighborhoods that overlooked the harbor and had gorgeous homes. Walking is nice when the scenery is beautiful and you have someone to chat with.

* I have another friend who likes to run/walk alone. She uses the time to pray, listen to music and just have some alone time once a day.

* Group exercise classes are fun as well and there is something motivating about being in a room with a group of people, listening to loud, fun music and having a blast while working out!

* It's always wise to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day 17 - Can't we all just get along?

I mentioned this earlier in the series and am gonna dig into the topic more today: Support System. We all need it. We all crave it to some degree. We were created for relationship and designed to live in community. Yet this can be really hard sometimes. In today's individualistic society, with so many options and ways to fill our time, spending quality time with others often drops down on our to-do list. Many people don't see the benefits of cultivating strong, healthy relationships anymore. So today I am going to plead my case and explain why taking the time to develop relationships is crucial, especially when dealing with anxiety (or depression). I'll also address the qualities of a supportive relationship. Here goes...

I can't emphasize enough how valuable my friends and family are to me. When I go through hard times, they surround me with love, unconditional care and support. When my mother-in-law passed away, many of them came to the memorial service and called frequently afterwards to check in. When I experienced a bad breakup many years ago, my friends were available to hear me vent, process and complain about what I was going through. When I moved across country a few months ago I got numerous phone calls, daily text messages and even snail mail reminding me how loved I am. To be close to others is to walk alongside one another through life's ups and downs. It is more than simply seeing them at work or out around town; it is being together through some of the biggest challenges and greatest joys in life.

 Other benefits of having a strong support system:
  • When you know you're loved, you become more comfortable as you are (therefore increasing your self esteem - see Day 14). I have noticed this a lot since I got married. My husband likes certain qualities about me that I can't stand in myself. But as I have begun to feel accepted by him, I have grown more comfortable with those aspects of myself as well.
  • Supportive people validate your feelings rather than making you feel weird or wrong for experiencing emotion. (See Day 15 re: the importance of emotional expression).
  • Supportive relationships allow you to focus on someone other than yourself. You can be there for your loved ones too, allowing for mutuality and growth.
  • Supportive relationships are fun and often consist of shared interests and compatability. We can enjoy life by sharing it with other people.
A few tricks of the trade when trying to develop a support system:

1) Not everyone needs to be in your inner circle. Strong relationships require trust. If you lack trust in someone, they may not be the person you should share everything with. I definitely don't mean cut them off necessarily or hold a grudge against them! But, there are varying kinds of friendships and that includes different levels of closeness as well.

2) Pay attention to the people who have a proven track record. Do they have other close friends who speak highly of them and respect their character? Or do they spend a little too much time around the water cooler gossiping?

3) Find people with similar interests so you can have fun together.

4) If you're dealing with a particular issue, a support group might be helpful. I have led support groups in the past and one of the things participants inevitably mentioned was that it was nice to be around others who "got" them.

How is your current support system? Do you feel accepted and cared for? Can you count on them to be around during life's big moments?

See you soon for the last 4 days of the series! Time flies!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 16 - To cope or not to cope, that is the question

Coping mechanisms... these are the positive or negative ways we choose to cope with stress, anxiety, sadness, grief and all the other yuckiness we inevitably have to deal with in life. Coping mechanisms can be used to avoid what we don't want to face (and can at times be incredibly destructive as well) or they can be positive and adaptive.

First a few boring fascinating definitions and then we'll get into the good stuff:

Adaptive mechanisms: These are positive and wonderful ways to help us cope

Behavioral mechanisms: These change our behavior (duh!)

Cognitive mechanisms: These change our thinking

I'll just stick with those because they make three perfect, alphabetically-ordered points. :) The others are the negative ones anyway!

What are our options when it comes to coping in a healthy, positive manner?
* Problem-solving: Sometimes the issue that we're dealing with simply requires a solution. Either using our own resources or with the help of others we can figure out how to solve our problem and move past it.
* Figure out the root issue: Sometimes we live out patterns that have been ongoing in our lives. These may have existed for weeks, months or even years before we work on resolving them. More often than not, unless we get to the root issue causing the pattern,  we will most likely continue moving forward in the same way.
* Perspective: We can choose to have a positive perspective on our situation and focus on the good versus the bad.
* Growth: We can use our hardships to promote spiritual, mental and emotional growth in our lives.
* Temporary distractions: We can take breaks from our problems by relaxing and caring for ourselves.

When I was in graduate school and working as a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern, a group of colleagues and I came up with a list of "self-care" items. Our professors always hammered this idea into our heads: You have to take care of yourself if you're going to be effective helping others. Then, with this idea in mind, we began to notice a common thread in the clients we were working with as well; many suffered from depression, anxiety, difficulty coping with transition etc. and never took the time to just be, to relax, to have fun and step away from the heaviness of life. So, we came up with a list of all kinds of fun ways to relax and practice the art of self-care.

Some of these ideas are:
  • Take a bath
  • Exercise
  • Journal
  • Watch a sunset
  • Watch and listen to the waves at the beach
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Do yoga
  • Knit
  • Garden
  • Coffee with a friend
  • Eat an ice cream cone (in moderation of course!)
  • Draw, paint, water color
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Watch a movie
  • Get a massage
  • Window shop
What else can you think of? Reminder: These are not replacements for actually dealing with whatever's going on in our lives, no matter how difficult that might be! Depending on which self-care activities you choose, they can get expensive and cause other problems if you're not careful! But, they can also be wonderful ways to enjoy life a little more, cultivate a hobby and nurture yourself.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 15 - Feel what you feel

Emotional expression is a difficult thing and for a lot of us, it does not come naturally. For me, it definitely does not! It is a continual process of growth to become comfortable in my own skin and feel safe enough with others to let them in on how I really feel. There are a number of possible reasons some of us struggle with this:

Fear of rejection: If I let someone see who I truly am inside, will they still love me? In fact, will they even like me?? Personally, I don't always think the nicest thoughts and sometimes my emotions get a little confusing, even for me to understand, let alone others. My husband lovingly calls me, "Beautifully Complex." :)

Fear of looking bad/weird/ugly: You know how Oprah has her "ugly cry?" Well I hate to admit it but we all do! No one wants to be vulnerable and then feel insecure about looking weird at the same time! We have reputations to uphold!

Shame/embarrassment: What if the issue I'm emotional about is not "worthy" of my expression? (Look at that, a "what if" to boot)!

Whatever the reason, expressing emotion is hard... but here's the problem. If you don't, your emotions will still find a way out of you some way, somehow. It could be in the form of a headache, tense muscles, fatigue, irritability, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression or some other equally distressing manner. Holding our feelings inside can be incredibly harmful to our overall health and well-being. In fact, as I mentioned earlier in this series, I think one of the primary causes for my own anxiety was an accumulation of stress and a lack of dealing with the many changes going on in my life at the time.

So what now? How do you get over the fears associated with not only expressing emotion but even allowing yourself to feel emotion?

1) Start by journaling what you are thinking and feeling. Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - censor yourself! Your journal is for your eyes only and if you can't be honest on a sheet of paper, you will have a hard time doing it with other people.

2) Know that emotions are okay. I haven't gotten into spirituality much in this blog but I am going to now. Many people, particularly some Christians, believe it is somehow wrong to feel emotion. Feeling angry or feeling sad does not mean you lack faith or are any less of a Christian. Dwelling on bitterness, anger etc. can cause serious damage to our health and relationships, but to not experience them is to not experience fully who God created us to be; we are people, not animals or inanimate objects, and therefore we are capable of feeling all kinds of feelings. Allow yourself to do that. Check out David's range of emotions in the Psalms if you are still not sure... if the man "after God's heart" did it, so can we!

3) If one of the reasons you hesitate to express yourself is because you're not sure what the heck you feel most of the time, check this list of feelings. I found it online but I have given similar lists to clients many times! Increase your Emotional IQ by referring to this list and making a conscious effort to figure out what's going on inside of you. Trust me, you'll be glad you did!

4) Find a safe person if you don't have one already. A spouse perhaps? A close friend? I'll talk about support systems later but having a confidant is crucial for emotional health. Eventually you'll become more and more comfortable expressing yourself on paper thru journaling and once that happens it would be helpful to branch out to talking with a friend or family member. It is a risk and I'm not denying it is scary at first! But again, worth it. Not only will you feel better/healthier, but being vulnerable with others can help develop stronger relationships.

I get it - emotions are a scary topic. I used to oversee a lay counseling ministry at a church and for many potential counselors taking the class, they had difficulty not only expressing emotion but even sitting with someone else while they did. It can be very uncomfortable for people, even those with a desire to serve in a "helping" capacity. But know... it is incredibly important and could be a missing piece in the puzzle that is your struggle with anxiety.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 14 - I am awesome

Self-esteem is kind of an awkward concept. No one wants to feel like they have low self-esteem. It seems like something teenagers would struggle with, not mature adults. But self-esteem is a struggle for many and can be a big hindrance to experiencing a peaceful, anxiety-free life.

How does self-esteem relate to anxiety? Well, when we have a high sense of self, we respect ourselves. We are confident about our decisions and when we make mistakes, we accept the consequences and move on (rather than beating ourselves up over it). Instead of gaining value from our circumstances or from people, we have a belief deep within us that we are valuable based on who we are, not on what we do. So, when the world is chaotic around us, we are able to maintain peace within us.

If you found yourself resonating with any (or all) of the faulty beliefs explained in the previous few posts you may be able to benefit from some of the below tips to increase your self-esteem and decrease worry and anxiety:

1) Focus on your strengths. What can you do? What are you good at? What are your positive personality qualities? I am a firm believer that we should focus on our strengths rather than trying to turn all of our weaknesses into strengths. When we spend the majority of our time mulling over the things we wish we could change about ourselves, we end up becoming either complacent or depressed. No one is good at everything! When we live in our areas of giftedness we will experience great passion and fulfillment in our lives.

2) Speak kindly to yourself. As the famous psychologist, Albert Ellis used to say, "Stop shoulding all over yourself." Don't judge yourself so harshly. Many of us treat others with great respect and kindness and yet we beat ourselves up constantly for every little thing. Be nice to yourself. Approve of yourself.

3) Take risks. I don't necessarily mean the kind of risks the contestants on "The Amazing Race" take. I mean, take risks in relationships. Trust others with glimpses of who you really are, knowing they may or may not approve. That's okay. You don't need everyone in the world to like you. Trust others with your feelings. Don't share everything with everyone but give it a try with a close family member or friend. Speak your mind every once in a while. Others may disagree. That's okay. Make a decision for yourself. Give it a try!

Did you know...

You don't have to be perfect to be loved.

You are lovable simply because you're YOU.

You are capable of achieving great things.

You are unique, special and there is no one else in the world who is exactly like you.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 13 - Worry much?

Remember those "What Ifs..." from Friday (Day 12)? Well, as I mentioned, the root cause of these two ever-so- frustrating words is, worry. Why do we worry? Well I think it gives us a sense of control. I had a realization a few years ago. I was wondering why I worry and stress out so much when a friend or family member is going through something hard. I concluded that for some twisted reason, I feel like I care more if I think about the situation constantly. And if I let it go or manage to have some fun in the meantime, it means I'm not caring enough. Like I said, twisted. But have you ever thought that before?

I hear this from people dealing with grief (and have experienced it as well). After a certain amount of time has passed, you actually find yourself wanting to have fun again or at least not be sad 24/7. And once the more pleasant feelings begin to crop up, you immediately feel guilty, like it's somehow wrong to feel that way after something so tragic occurred.

Worrying about someone does not mean we love or care about them. Worrying doesn't give us control over anything either. In fact, the opposite ends up happening when our worrying starts to spiral; we start to feel like we're spiraling out of control too. Until we begin to believe  - truly believe - that worrying serves no purpose, it will be hard to stop. Trust me.

I have said it before and I'll say it again, knowledge is power. Becoming aware is the first step. As you consciously begin to notice when any of the negative thought patterns surface, you can replace them with more positive thoughts. You can change negative "What Ifs" into positive ones. You can balance out extreme thoughts with more realistic ones. You can change your shoulds into coulds as Coach Carrie so eloquently commented the other day!

A couple more techniques:

* Write your worries down. Do you keep a journal? Journaling can be a wonderful way to get your worries out of your head and onto a sheet of paper instead.

* Take your mind off your worries by doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation (see Day 5) or the simple, yet effective counting backwards exercise (see Day 6). Not only will these serve to relax your body but they will also help you focus on something other than your worries.

I hope these help! See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 12 - What if?

We've started down this road where we are beginning to connect our thoughts and our feelings. Today I want to focus on one type of thought specifically: The "What If..." thought. These can be killers!

"What If" thoughts are centered around worry and thinking them can spur on a series of worries that are absolutely imprisoning! Some examples:

Money: Those of you who have been to med school or law school (or are married to someone who has) will totally understand this, but money is a big concern when you're in this situation. (My hubby is in law school at Duke hence our move to North Carolina a few months ago). Money becomes tight when you're young, one spouse is new to a career, the other is in school and you're living off one income! Plus add kids to the mix (which thankfully we don't have yet) and things get even more tight. Budget, budget, budget is all you think about! (Or is it just me)? Anywho... the "What If" questions tend to flow out like an unwelcome leak in the faucet. What if we can't pay our bills? What if we never get out of doubt? What if money is a concern forever? The list goes on...

Relationships: I have heard this from so many women and I remember thinking the same thoughts before I got married. What if I never meet someone? What if I never get married? What if I never have kids? What if I am alone forever?

Career: What if I never find the right job for me? What if I never get promoted? What if I make this much money forever?

Why do we ask ourselves these thoughts? There is very little benefit. Yes, it's important to be aware of the varying aspects of a particular situation... in the money example, knowing that there is a chance you won't be able to pay your bills is important and helps you make plans. But to ask yourself these questions constantly does nothing but absolutely freak you (and those around you) out!

Next time you think in terms of "What If" notice what happens to your body. I guarantee you'll feel some changes (increased heart beat possibly, a rise in body temperature, headache or nausea maybe). Try to link your anxious feelings to whatever thoughts are running through your head.

Ask yourself: What if I can pay the bills this month? What if I do meet someone fabulous and get married? What if I make tons of money in a few years once I have moved a few more steps up the career ladder? Aren't these "What If's" just as feasible?

Think about it and have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 11 - Irrational/Distorted/Faulty/Just plain BAD, pt. 2

What did you think of yesterday's post? Did any of those thoughts resonate with you? Again, we all think these kinds of thoughts sometimes. It's normal! Just because the thoughts are bad doesn't mean YOU are! However, if we can prevent some unnecessary anxiety by improving our thought processes, we might as well, right?!

So on to more of those pesky beliefs:

Labeling is when we... well, label someone or something because we're unhappy. For example, a teenage girl wants to stay out late on a date with her boyfriend but her parents say she has to stick to her curfew. She thinks to herself, "My parents are such dictators. I can't stand them."

Feelings are Facts:
Contrary to popular belief we do not have to be controlled by our feelings. Often times we think that because we feel a certain way, it's reality. That is simply not true! Especially for women, this can be a huge struggle sometimes. An example of this is: You're feeling lonely one weekend because you don't have plans and you think to yourself "No one likes me. I must have a terrible personality because I have no friends".

Forecasting is when we predict that things will turn out badly. For example, you go to the doctor to get a biopsy and, before you get the results, think to yourself "it must be cancer."

Judging is when we are critical and often use such words as should, must, have to etc. For example, after writing a blog you think to yourself "I never should have written that. People are gonna stop following me now!" None of us ever do that right?! :)

This is pretty self-explanatory. It's when we blame ourselves for things that are not our responsibility. For example, a woman who is married to an alcoholic might think, "It's all my fault. He wouldn't drink if I was a better wife."

Do any of these types of thinking make you go hmm? Don't stress if you struggle with these! Information is power! Now you know!

What now though? Here is an exercise for you: Write down the 2 you struggle with most on a 3 x 5 card. Tape it to your bathroom mirror to remind yourself not to think like that! You are worth a lot more than your negative self talk leads you to believe! When you find yourself thinking one of those types of thoughts tell yourself "stop" and change your thought around to be something positive.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 10 - Irrational/Distorted/Faulty/Just plain BAD, pt. 1

Today's topic is Cognitive Distortions aka Faulty Beliefs aka Irrational Beliefs aka just plain bad thoughts. :) Have you ever heard of 'em? My guess is, even if you haven't you've probably thought 'em!

Rather than defining these kinds of thoughts I'm gonna go straight to the examples. I think you'll get the point. Think about which ones you find yourself struggling with the most. We ALL think these types of thoughts sometimes! Awareness is the first step in changing them!

Catastrophizing is imagining the worst possible scenarios in a given situation and allowing your thoughts to snowball, creating a lot of anxiety and fear! I've had this problem recently... What I'll do is watch the news and lately we've been having some crazy weather here in the south! So I'll listen to the weather reports and hear all about the snow and ice and how hazardous the roads can be if you're not careful and get totally freaked out! Now the tough part is, there is some truth to my thoughts. The roads are dangerous but the thing is... we all need to be extra careful. And if the weather is bad enough businesses get shut down and we all stay home. I have a tendency to blow things completely out of proportion and imagine all of the worst case scenarios in my mind so I don't even want to leave my house. Not good.

Black & White Thinking:
This is when we think in All or Nothing terms. Things are either Good or Bad, Black or White. There's no middle ground. For example, let's say you were up for a promotion but it ended up going to someone else. You think to yourself, "I'm never going to get promoted now." Never?? Really??

Discounting the Positive:
Discounting is when we disregard anything positive about a given situation and focus only on the negative. For example, a student gets back a writing assignment with comments from the teacher. On the first page the teacher wrote, "Excellent work. Great points!" However, scattered throughout the paper are bits and pieces of constructive criticism so the student can improve his or her writing next time. The student neglects to focus on the overall comments in which the teacher praised the writing and only focuses on the fact that there were suggestions for improvement, which results in disappointment and anxiety about future assignments.

Mind Reading:
Mind Reading is when you make assumptions about what others are thinking based on arbitrary information. For example, let's say you're a mom and you try to schedule a play date with an acquaintance from church. The acquaintance turns you down and seems to be avoiding eye contact. You assume it must have something to do with you or your kids and starting racking your brain trying to figure out if you've ever done anything to upset or offend her. The truth is, she has marriage counseling during the time you suggested and felt uncomfortable because she and her husband have decided to keep it a secret for now.

Do any of these ring a bell so far? More tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 9 - More thoughts on thoughts

Like I said yesterday, our thoughts have a huge impact on our emotions, behavior etc. Many people think that circumstances or emotions control what we think but the reality is, it can be the other way around. Let me explain... I have a friend who has some serious road rage. We'll be driving together sometimes and when a car cuts her off she gets really frustrated! Whereas I could care less (not sure why - it IS a frustrating thing to get cut off - but it's never bothered me much), she cares a lot! She'll say things like "what a jerk" and "why are people so rude?!" etc. I can see her countenance change and it is obvious that her temperature is rising! I tend to remain more calm and try to let it go. In both of our cases, the situation is the same. We were both driving and got cut off. But for her, the situation creates a great deal of anger and anxiety and can even keep her on edge long after the "cut-off" occurred. I can let it go and move on with my day with relatively little fluctuation in emotion.
Our perception of events and what we tell ourselves as a result has a huge impact on how we feel. For those of us who are prone to anxiety, it is crucial to begin to recognize when these negative thoughts come up and stop them from affecting our moods or even our whole day.

Here is the hard part: Many times these thoughts will come up and we won't even realize it. They are actually known as "automatic thoughts" in the psych circles. So what we need to work on is stepping out of stressful situations (by taking some deep breaths or literally even stepping away) and carefully observing the thoughts we think, as well as the effect they are having on our anxiety levels. Is there something more positive we could think instead? Or at least something more balanced? Using the above example, we could think: "Yes I just got cut off and that really sucks. However, I don't know that person's story. Maybe they are on their way to something really important and are in a hurry. I am not going to let this ruin my morning." Or something like that. You get the point. Notice the positive effect it has on your anxiety and emotions.

One final example... I have heard this story many times and it really makes me think. (I apologize if I butcher it. I don't have it in front of me to quote exactly). There is a guy riding on the subway alone and he is next to another gentlemen with two young children. The kids are acting up and really getting on the nerves of  the guy who is by himself. Finally, he angrily says to the gentleman with the two children, "What's wrong with your kids? Can't you keep them under control?" (or something to that effect). The gentleman apologizes profusely and tells the man that his wife, the children's mother, just died and they are on their way home from the hospital. They are absolutely devastated and don't know what to do.

We never know what's going on with other people or why they behave the way they do. Keep that in mind when you find yourself getting worked up and thinking negative thoughts about other people or situations!

See you tomorrow!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 8 - I think therefore I am

Do you have any idea how big an impact our thoughts have on our bodies, behavior and emotions? A lot! Let me give you an example. Maybe you've done this... I haven't but I know people who have. (wink, wink).  :)

Let me set the stage... you wake up one day with a headache. It's not horrible but it's a definite annoyance all day. You don't think much of it. The next day you wake up and the headache's still there. "Hmm," you think, "Oh well. Maybe I'm a tad under the weather." This goes on for days. The headache gets worse. You feel tired. You begin stressing about this. "Why hasn't it gone away?" You go on the internet and look at one of the diagnosing-type websites and learn about all the possible causes for your headache. "Oh no" you think, "This could be serious". Anything from PMS to cancer! The thought is too much to bear! You notice your heart start racing. You cancel plans that night because you're just not up for it. You find yourself feeling emotional and stressed out.

Some circumstances warrant a great deal of concern. Illness can be serious sometimes. But I use that as an example to illustrate how things can snowball.

When was the last time you let your mind run away from you? I'll give you an example from my life. My husband and I moved about six months ago from Newport Beach, CA to Durham, NC. The two places couldn't be more different. I am not someone who enjoys change by nature. It tends to be hard for me. My dad told me that my first year of preschool I cried every day and begged him not to leave me. My second year, I was like "See ya dad, I've got friends to go play with!" (Not sure why I was in preschool for two years but anywho)... For as long as I can remember, I have been someone that takes a bit longer than the average Joe to adjust to new things. So needlessness to say, my impending move caused great stress and worry last year. What's funny though is that for all the time I spent worrying, this has ended up being one of the smoothest transitions I have ever dealt with. You just never know and worrying isn't going to do a thing but add gray hairs to your head!

Have you been stressing out and worrying about anything lately? Have you experienced any benefit from it? Have you noticed anything negative that's come out of it (physically, mentally, emotionally or behaviorally)?

Think about it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 7 - Visualization

The next technique is called Visualization (a.k.a. Guided Imagery). It is a process of relaxation in which you use your imagination to picture yourself in a peaceful place. Use as many senses as you can to create an accurate picture of wherever you "are."

This technique is nothing new... in fact, athletes sometimes use it to picture themselves before a big game. When I ran cross country in high school we did it as well and would spend time before races mentally preparing ourselves by imagining exactly what race day would look, feel, smell and be like on as many levels as possible (and of course winning the race)!

The way to make visualization most effective is by being as relaxed as possible prior to doing the technique. Using some of the previous breathing exercises may be helpful first to relax your entire body before attempting to incorporate your imagination into it.

My favorite way to do this is to envision the beach. For me, that is a safe place. I grew up in Huntington Beach, CA and so I associate the beach with safety, warmth, community and home. Other people may feel that the mountains are the safest, most peaceful place or the forest.

While picturing yourself at your location of choice you'll want to pay attention to everything around you. Take the beach for example:

* What does it look like? Can you see long stretches of sand? What about the ocean? What else do you see around you? What does the sky look like? Are there any clouds? etc.

* What does it smell like? Are there any concession stands nearby? Can you smell hot dogs or other refreshments? Are there any bonfires going? What about the sand and the salt water? etc.

* What does it feel like? Can you feel the warmth of the sun beating down on you? Is there a breeze? etc.

* What do you hear? Are there any kids playing nearby? Can you hear the crashing of the waves on the shore? etc.

You get the point! Visualization can be hard at first especially for people like me whose mind is constantly moving! But when I find myself actually getting to that place of really feeling like I am at my safe place it can be an incredibly peaceful experience!

* Please note: When you finish an exercise like this you may feel a bit drowsy at first, especially if you get to a deep state of relaxation. Don't just jump up and go for a drive or something after!! You need to ease back into "real life". As you pull yourself out of the safe place, take some deep breaths and count down from 10. Get up slowly, drink some water and walk around a little to pull yourself out of it.

See you tomorrow!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 6 - Short & Sweet

I can't remember where I learned this but it has been AWESOME for me! It was helpful during my high anxiety period and continues to be helpful today during times of heightened emotion or even when I can't sleep because I have too much on my mind.

The technique is:

Count backwards from 100 by 3. (100... 97... 94... etc) while breathing in a controlled manner. You can't phone this in because it won't work if you just do it carelessly! Count down... breathe gently... concentrate on the activity... and position your mind and body in a posture of relaxation.

What this intervention does is help you concentrate on something other than anxiety or anger or whatever undesirable thought/emotion has crossed your mind. I love it! Plus while you're doing it you can actually feel your body starting to relax and your mind slow down.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 5 - Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Okay, on to the good stuff! The first technique known to decrease tension in the body is an exercise called Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR. This feels so good!! All it consists of is a process of tensing and relaxing your muscles one by one (or in larger muscle groups if you're in a time crunch) in order to become fully relaxed from head to toe. (Well, really it's toe to head which you'll see in a sec). Anywho, here's how you do it:

Starting with your right foot, inhale and squeeze your right foot muscle as hard as you can (be gentle with yourself but you really want to become aware of how tight your muscle gets). Focus on tensing up the muscle for 8 seconds. Once 8 seconds have passed, exhale, release the squeeze and all your stress at the same time! It feels great! After your right foot, it is suggested that you follow this progression moving up your body all the way to your head:

* Right foot

* Right lower leg and foot

* Entire right leg

* Left foot

* Left lower leg and foot

* Entire left leg

* Right hand

* Right forearm and hand

* Entire right arm

* Left hand

* Left forearm and hand

* Entire left arm

* Abs

* Chest

* Neck and shoulders

* Face

Some tips:

1) Once you have finished, relax with your eyes closed for a minute or two. If you get up too quickly you could faint.

2) Do this between meals rather than right before or after.

3) If you do this in bed there is a chance you could fall asleep so try it in a comfy chair instead.

5) Do PMR in a quiet place with no distractions.

* As always, seek medical advice if you experience discomfort while doing this or have a pre-existing condition.

This can become an awesome habit to get into and a great way to relax!! Try it and let me know what you think!

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 4 - Why?

What causes anxiety? Why are some of us more anxious than others? Is it nature? Or nurture?

I am gonna attempt to answer some of these questions today. There are a number of different possible causes and it varies for everyone. See what resonates for you...

On the first day of this blog series I mentioned one of the possible causes for my sudden outburst of anxiety a few years back. Stress. When we experience a handful of stressful situations that persist for an extended period of time, we often grow tired and sometimes even physically ill. Our bodies aren't made to continually be adding more heaviness, burden and transition without any breaks to actually deal with everything that is going on. Some of what might be considered stressful are actually wonderful life events (i.e. getting married, having a baby, being promoted, graduating etc.). Other situations might be more difficult to cope with such as financial pressures, moving, death of a loved one etc. In either case though, if we keep moving through life and adding stress upon stress it will eventually catch up to us and affect our bodies in one way or another.

Another possible cause of anxiety is heredity. Does that mean you inherit panic attacks somehow from your parents? Not exactly. What we do tend to inherit though is a particular personality type, some of which are more likely to be "set off" in an anxiety-provoking situation. This is actually a case of nature and nurture really though... While we inherit certain personality traits that may lead to greater reactivity in a tense situation, we may also observe such reactions in our parents and begin to pick up on them ourselves. It can be a combo of both.

Nurture continued... Some parenting styles have been shown to produce more anxiety in their children. For example, parents who are highly critical may raise children who have lower self-esteem, lack assertiveness or end up becoming overly perfectionistic. Parents who are highly anxious themselves may raise children who are extremely cautious and fearful of the outside world. Children who are not allowed to express themselves will likely grow up to be adults who have difficulty expressing their emotions as well. This suppression can lead to physical tension, panic and depression.

Biology... Studies have shown that people suffering from anxiety may have an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. Serotonin and neuroepinephrine are two neurotransmitters that help regulate our moods and when our brains produce too much or too little of these chemicals we may experience depression or anxiety.

Finally, we may experience anxiety as a result of certain medical conditions. Menopause has a huge affect on a woman's hormones as does PMS. These hormonal fluctuations may lead to heightened sensitivity and extreme reactions to stressful situations. Thyroid irregularities can also lead to such physical reactions as insomnia, rapid heartbeat and sweating, symptoms which resemble panic and anxiety. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) has also been shown to cause panic attacks.
A quick tip - One of the first things I suggest for anyone experiencing anxiety is to get a medical eval. just to rule out any of the possible medical causes for your symptoms.

Okay, enough research. Do any of these possible causes seem like they fit you?

Let's move on to the fun stuff tomorrow. What do we do about our symptoms? How can we actually lessen anxiety?? We'll start on these tomorrow!

See you Day 5!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 3 - The Facts

The bad news: There are a surprising number of Americans who are burdened by anxiety each and every day.

The good news: No one has to deal with it alone! And, there is something you can do about it! Many things you can do actually and I will talk about some of them in upcoming posts.

But for today... let's learn more about the truth of anxiety in America. These figures come from the National Institute of Mental Health which as I mentioned yesterday is a great resource!

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Approx. 6.8 million adults ages 18 and older suffer from GAD.
  • Affects twice as many women as men.
Panic Disorder
  • Approx. 6 millions adults ages 18 and older suffer from panic disorder.
  • Twice as common in women as men.
  • Approx. one in three people with panic disorder end up with agoraphobia as well. I didn't mention agoraphobia yesterday but basically it is a fear of open spaces, typically causing people to be afraid to leave their homes. Agoraphobia often occurs after someone has had multiple panic attacks and then fears having another. This leads them to want to stay at home which feels a lot safer.  
  • Not everyone who experiences a panic attack will ever have another!
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Approx 2.2 million adults ages 18 and older suffer from OCD. 
  • Tends to effect men and women equally.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Approx. 7.7 million adults ages 18 and older suffer from PTSD.
  • Symptoms often begin within three months of the traumatic event.
  • Tends to affect women more than men.
Specific Phobias
  • Approx. 19 million adults ages 18 and older suffer from specific phobias.
  • Often begins in late childhood or adolescence.
  • Twice as common in women as men.
Social Phobia
  • Approx. 15 million adults ages 18 and older suffer from Social Phobia.
  • Often begins in late childhood or adolescence.
  • Equally common in men and women.
 That's almost 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety! Too many if you ask me! Hopefully this information doesn't stress you out more! I am telling you the facts to get you to see, that you are not alone.

I will talk about some of the causes of anxiety tomorrow and some of the solutions after that. Stick with me 'cause the good stuff's coming!

See you for Day 4!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2 - Types of Anxiety

In the next 20 days a variety of topics will be covered. Part of what I write will come from personal experiences (detailed briefly in yesterday's post) as well as from research and what I have learned along the way in working with others. As each person is different, each post will affect each person differently. For some it will be most valuable to learn the facts and stats. Others will gain more from the interventions I'll outline to ease symptoms. Either way, I hope the next 20 days are helpful.

I found that the knowledge I had about anxiety disorders from my master's degree and my own research was very helpful in dealing with my own anxiety. As they say, "knowledge is power" and when it comes to anxiety, feeling as in control as possible is huge! So today I am going to briefly describe the different types of anxiety and provide resources for further reading.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • As the name states, general anxiety. A sense of worry or dread is with you the majority of the time.  You can still function but can't seem to shake the constant concern you feel. 
  • Some of the symptoms of GAD are: muscle tension, irritability, headaches, sweating, fatigue, restlessness etc. 
Panic Disorder
  • Out of the blue you may have intense fear or panic. These attacks don't last long but they are brutal while they are happening! They can also occur in waves over a period of a few hours.
  • During the panic attack, symptoms may include: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, chest pain, or even fear of dying among others.
 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Characterized by obsessions AND compulsions
    • Obsessions - recurring thoughts or impulses that continually intrude your mind, even if you know they are irrational.
    • Compulsions - things you do to calm the anxiety that comes up as a result of the obsessions.
  • Example: You may be so afraid of germs (obsession) that you wash your hands over and over to the point that your hands become dry and cracked (compulsion) just to avoid contamination.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Occurs after experiencing something traumatic. Symptoms can include:
    • Hyper-arousal symptoms - you become easily startled, have trouble sleeping, are easily agitated etc.
    • Avoidance symptoms - you feel numb or "detached" from others, lose interest in activities you used to enjoy etc.
    • Re-experiencing symptoms - nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic event that took place
Specific Phobias
  • Fear of one specific thing and you attempt to avoid it at all costs.
  • Examples: fear of elevators (so you always take the stairs instead),  fear of doctors or dentists (this can be dangerous if you neglect to pursue medical treatment or necessary procedures) etc. I even saw on the Discovery Channel once that there was a woman who was afraid of her own tattoo.
Social Phobia
  • One of the more common forms of anxiety. 
  • Fear of being humiliated in public.
  • Examples: fear of using public toilets, fear of crowds, fear of speaking in public etc.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. However hopefully it gives you an idea of a few of the types of anxiety.

One more thing - As most medical students can attest to, reading about the body and various illnesses or disorders can suddenly make us feel like we have all of them. We all may experience traits of different disorders from time to time but that doesn't mean we have something diagnosable! I would say a good rule of thumb is: if whatever type of anxiety you are experiencing is interfering with your functioning on a daily basis, it would be wise to seek professional help.

One resource I suggest to learn more about mental health in general but specifically anxiety disorders is the National Institute of Mental Health.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to post them!

See you tomorrow for Day #3!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Less Anxiety in 21 Days

I had a weird experience a couple years ago. Out of the blue, I began suffering from panic attacks. I had never experienced anything like that in the past and it really threw me for a loop. For one thing, I had just finished my master's degree in clinical psychology and was in the process of counseling others regarding their anxiety. Therapists aren't supposed to have these problems, I thought! I had also gotten married that year and was happier and more content than ever. So what was up?!

I still don't know for sure what caused it but I have a theory... After reviewing some of my books about anxiety, I took a stress assessment which really resonated with me. My accumulated stress level was off the charts due to all the changes I had gone through in the previous six months. (The aforementioned among many others). I had been living my life at a speed of 100mph for a long time and hadn't stopped to actually deal with anything, let alone smell the roses. There are a variety of causes for anxiety and whether stress caused mine, or some other reason I am unaware of, I knew I needed to do something!

I decided to become a student of my own situation. I researched and discovered some helpful tools to calm my anxiety and regain control of my life.

We all suffer from anxiety to varying degrees. Some people have all-out panic attacks like I did. Some simply get nervous before speaking in public or in certain social situations. I have discovered that anxiety does not have to be a bad or scary thing. It can simply be our body's way of telling us something.

Now that I have gotten over my own bump in the road, I would like to help others in dealing with it as well. The next 21 days will be devoted to that.


We just got back to North Carolina and I have to admit, it is nice to be home. I never thought I would call this place home but apparently I do now. My whole image of what home actually is has changed a lot in the last year. Originally I thought it was simply being close to where I grew up. College was 45 minutes away... grad school was 15 minutes away... all of my various apartments through the years were within an hour from the house in which I grew up.
But as I ponder the concept of home, I am beginning to feel differently. This is somehow where I feel comfortable now. This is the place my husband and I are starting our life together. We have shared community here. It just feels like a place of contentment for us right now and the perfect place for us to be at this point in our lives. Maybe even for reasons unknown to us right now. Regardless, as Dorothy so eloquently put it, "There's no place like home".