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Wait, is this a tension headache? WHY

As a lifelong holder of the”maybe you could chill the fuck out a bit” badge I know a thing or two about headaches.

I had them on an almost daily basis as a child until one day a dentist looked at my teeth and was like “hey, where are your canine teeth?” (*spoiler alert: I’d ground them away in my sleep like a hobo chewing on roots in the woods trying to talk to birds*).

Since then I’ve slept with a mouth guard every night of my life even while camping, even with boyfriends, even while making out sometimes cuz nothing says sexy like excessive saliva. The headaches got better and even though I still get them more frequently than I’d like, they are manageable.

But something has happened in the past few weeks. I’ve welcomed a new melody to my catalog of headaches. At first I thought it was the usual, good-old-fashioned almost-migraine headache. But something was different. It was like I was wearing an invisible baseball hat. Made for babies. Baby ants.

My scalp felt like it was shrinking up against my skull.

Since I have a history of my hair falling out (see previous post about my hair falling the fuck out) I’ve been worried that my tight-scalp is going to restrict the growth of what little hair I have left…or something else super scientific.

Either way, I’m positive I’m gona end up looking like one of these guys:

beetlejuice

(sidenote: such a classic right?)

But as it turns out I’m just suffering from a timeless Tension Headache cuz cheese and crackers let’s just throw something else at the emotionally crippled girl, why don’t we??

I started a new freelancing job a few weeks back which, though I’m loving, has rattled my sense of routine. Jared and I are going on a big trip soon (raise your hand if you also lose sleep fixating on whether or not you’re going to have an anxiety attack on a 9-hour flight!!) and I’ve been sitting at my computer for 10+ hrs/day which means my bones and muscles all hate me.

But still, I kinda can’t believe my body is still finding new ways to make me feel weird. You know? I’m thirty, shouldn’t I already know the drill by now?

Like everything in life, I worry I’m not good enough. I worry I’m not trying hard enough. I worry about what I should have done differently in life. I worry about what I might do in the future (like get diarrhea on a 9-hour flight).

No wonder my scalp is shriveling up like a raisin.

**special thanks to my childhood cat, Lucky, for helping personify how my head is currently feeling. RIP lil’ buddy. (sorry for smashing your face like that)

Breaking Habits We Don’t Even Know We Have

In my suggested readings section of this site I mention the book “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I read this book for the first time in the fall of 2014 and I am still a believer. The gist of this book is: change one habit, change your life.

But what if we aren’t even aware of some of our habits? Shit, man, what then?

After I first read “The Power of Habit” I literally only changed one habit from my days and by God it worked!

For years I had a small novel bouncing around in my head, but hadn’t gotten around to writing it. So the one habit I changed was how I spent my lunch break at work. Instead of dicking around on the internet or wandering around the office kitchen I would grab my laptop the minute I clocked out, go to the next door coffee shop, and write for an hour. Every.single.day. And I eventually wrote the little book.

I think of this anytime I feel helpless in life. It’s not always the massive, earthquake-sized shifts that can change our life. It’s often just the small, repeated tasks we do everyday. Small, unassuming, viciously powerful tasks.

But there are habits I’m less aware of and feel less capable of shifting. For example, I struggle hardcore with transition times and criticism. I can feel my anxiety spiral during these moments in life and usually feel incapable of stopping it.

This can pop up when we try to date, as well. More than we probably even realize.

My first few attempts at relationships were not super successful. Somewhere between the lazy-eyed musician who clearly had never been interested in me in the first place and the lazy-eyed recovering addict who happily went months without contacting me I had to take a long hard look at my heart-patterns and my heart-habits. (Also, I guess I have a thing for lazy-eyes).

The problem with patterns and habits is that they are super fucking hard to break. And the experience is generally very uncomfortable and unsettling. Our body, conditioned to a certain experience (good or bad) will probably react in a negative way to new stimuli. Even the most free-spirited of souls are still creatures of habit and will burrow deep into their routine of coziness. We want to stay in warm spot on the couch. It’s comfy, okay?

I know it was hard for me to break my dating habits. For example, dating a man who liked me was HARD at first. Like, genuinely uncomfortable for me. I could feel myself resisting it. I could feel the confusion. The uncertainty. The lack of trust. Every other man I’d lusted over in life had possessed a steady degree of detachment….what was this new “certainty”?

Withdrawal from bad habits is often just as painful as the bad habits themselves. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

Try to identify heart-habits you might have and might want to break. Then take small, powerful steps every single day that bring your closer to the life you dream. Dammit I’m telling you it’s possible.

 

10 Ways to Calm Your Internal Mama Bear

The other night I got mad. Real mad. I came across something online, something someone said about a person I know, and the mama bear in me raged. I wanted to act. I wanted to chase someone up a tree. I had my response and was ready to throw it like a pine cone.

Anger is an emotion we all have and we constantly are learning to navigate. I grew up around several individuals who had tempers and therefore I associate anger and being upset as “bad” emotions. I’m still learning how to be better at being mad. It is natural for things to upset us. It is okay for things to upset us. It’s how we handle them that makes the difference.

Anxiety is particularly good at stirring up our anger. We are prone to negative thought patterns, obsessive worry, and increased irritability. If you struggle with anxiety odds are you also find yourself struggling with angry emotions from time to time. But there are ways to help yourself through these moments…

1. Acknowledge That You’re Angry

Listen, telling yourself you’re not angry is not gona work. Plus, fully ignoring the anger and bottling it up is just like shaking a soda can and hoping that calms everything down. For your health and for your growth, accept and acknowledge that, yes, you are angry. Simply be in that anger for a few minutes.

2. Check-In With Your Body

If you live with anxiety, you know how it can affect your body. The same goes for anger. Spend a few minutes identifying the ways in which your body is reacting. Maybe you feel tension in your neck and jaw, your legs are restless, your arms and hands are tingling, your heart rate has accelerated…do you quite literally feel like you’re ready for a fight? Mama bear.

3. Breathe Dammit

If you’re body is gearing up for a fight no one has time for such trivial shit as breathing! You’ve got more important things to do! But this is exactly what you should do. Seriously. Because most likely you’re not breathing (what I mean is you’re probably taking very shallow, unhelpful breaths). Consciously breathe in through your nose while counting to 4, hold the breath as you count to 3, then release slowly. Repeat.

4. Identify Your Thought Patterns

Hey, what are you thinking right this second? Because if you’re angry, more likely than not you’ve got a broken record looping around in your head. And that record is also sitting in a pot of boiling water and it’s getting hotter and hotter and loopier and loopier. STOP. Force your brain to think of something new. Anything new. Preferably something with which you have positive connotations.

5. Turn on Some Tunes

Music is powerful. One way to re-track your thoughts and physical response is by putting on some mood-adjusting music. Whether you want loud music that matches your current mood or calming music that helps mellow you out, let the music help you through this moment.

6. Watch Some Funnies

Hop onto the internet and watch your favorite funny clips or start finding some new ones. Do you love watching kids fail with epic proportions as they try to do all the sports? Watch some of that shit. Do you enjoy cats sleeping in the sun? Dig up a few of those videos, I think the internet has at least, oh, 5,000 of those.

7. Move

Help get some of the arterial tension and frustration out of your system. Move. Take a quick walk, do a few sit ups or push ups, stretch out your muscles. For long-term benefits, pick up a regular activity that helps you stay aligned with your physical being. Start a kick-boxing class, yoga, or take a walk every day after work.

8. Dig Up The Roots

“Where is this anger really coming from?” the cliche therapist asks its client on another daytime TV drama. But really, ask yourself this. Have there been multiple little things adding up for a while? Did you have a challenging day at work so your patience was already worn thin? Try and figure out why your reaction today is what it is. Anger is a wonderful way to tap into things in your life that need to change.

9. Write Things Down

Sit down for a moment and write a letter to the person with whom you feel upset. Outline everything you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, and how you wish it would change. Don’t hold anything back, no matter how small or ugly. Next, try to see things from their perspective. Do your best to try and understand where they are coming from. Then, tear the letter up.

10. Go Easy On Yourself

People with anxiety are very talented when it comes to being their own worst enemy. We are awesome at seeing our failings, our faults, and our shortcomings. And if you find yourself losing your temper, saying something you wish you hadn’t, or thinking negative thoughts it’s easy for us to quickly turn on ourselves. But remember that you are human and anger is an integral part of the human-emotion-spectrum. It will exist whether you want it to or not. So instead of beating yourself up, take a deep breath and tell yourself you are going to learn and grow.

When I was mama bear’ing the other night and was ready to fire off my thoughts, I told myself to get a nights sleep first. If I woke up and still felt the same way, then I was welcome to proceed.

It was HARD to turn off my brain and to fall asleep. I wanted action. I wanted it NOW. But the following day I was grateful I hadn’t acted. The situation is not something I want to engage in. While I don’t agree with the manner things unfolded, there are other ways I can support and help the people I care about instead of adding fuel to a fire I didn’t start.

There will be things in life that make you angry. But holding onto that anger is like holding onto Poison Ivy and then complaining that you’ve got this hideous rash.

 

Social Media Sometimes Makes Me Feel Miserable, So I Took a Break

Back in June I started to notice something every time I logged onto Twitter: it made me feel terrible.

I would scroll, I would watch, and I would feel so so lost.

But I am a blogger. I am a writer. I am expected to “build my brand” as an online presence. I need a “platform.” I need to be conscious of my accessibility, my persona, and my level of likability. I’m supposed to gain copious followers. I’m supposed to prove my popularity by my retweets, my likes, my finger on the pulse of the youth. There is so much potential with social media. And I’m the first to acknowledge that it’s done wonders for our ability to share, engage, and help move important causes forward (as well as the all-important abundance of cat videos).

This year has felt rough though, as far as what is going on in the world. While every year, in the history of years, has it’s collections of tragedies, injustices, disasters, and sadness, I’ve felt the weight of 2016 a little more acutely for some reason. I’m not sure why.

It was around the time of the shooting in Orlando, or yet another innocent black citizen being shot by police, or people in my country rallying behind one of the most repulsive voices of hate I’ve ever seen, or the bombing in the Istanbul airport, when I just couldn’t bring myself to log onto Twitter. I couldn’t.

I would see people sharing the phrase “Remaining silent in the face of injustice is the same as supporting it” and I’d feel breathless with guilt.

Because here’s the thing:

I wasn’t speaking out about all these situations that upset me, that made me sick to my stomach, that left me awake with heartache at night.

And if I did? I would be crushed under the weight of the rhetoric and goals of my Twitter.

Maybe I am overthinking all of this, maybe I am “too sensitive” as people have labeled me throughout my life, but for now I don’t care. I need space to breathe. Am I outraged and saddened by things I see out in the world? For fuck’s sake of course I am. Am I personally person choosing Twitter or Facebook as a platform to express these emotions? No. And sometimes this makes me feel like I’m being a shitty human.

I made an offhand comment to a fellow writer the other day about how I was taking a break from Facebook and Twitter and she nodded in understanding. “Do what you need to do to protect yourself,” she said. “Sensitive hearts need to practice boundaries.” It surprised me how nice it was to hear her say this.

I’d been feeling like a failure for not enjoying the social media world. I’d sit there watching literally hundreds of people sharing, connecting, chatting, being witty, being creative, being fearless, and seemingly finding it so easy. Why do I sometimes find it so hard?

I know a lot of you are part of this online community, building followers and hoping to reach higher forms of connection using the online tools at your disposal. How do you keep your sanity? How do you preserve your sense of privacy while staying open and engaged? I’m really asking.

 

 

Why You Should Meet that Online Crush in Person Sooner Rather than Later

I was supposed to be working on my writing exercise. After telling myself I was going to attend a local writers Meetup for over a year I finally dragged myself out into the world and did it. I was at a neighborhood coffee shop, surrounded by eight other women writers from Seattle, and we were doing a 10 minute character exercise. Except I couldn’t concentrate.

I couldn’t concentrate because there was a first date at the table next to me. And they’d clearly met online. And it was clearly uncomfortable for both of them.

To be perfectly honest, I could sit and listen to first dates all day long if I could. I love those first moments of sheer terror, of hope, of uncertainty, of wonder and fear.

One of my first serious, head-over-heels crushes was with a man I met online. Or, we were introduced online by a mutual friend and started exchanging emails. And lemme tell you, hot shit was he dreamy and witty and perfect.  And for the first time in my life I felt genuinely desired by a man, which made me feel more drunk than if I’d been on a cruise with free booze.

He lived in another state. And about two months after we talked exchanging emails (and talking on the phone) he visited with a few mutual friends and we quickly brought out some board games. It was a competitive game, one that required teams and guessing and drawing.

What I quickly realized, with my stomach dropping and my cheeks lightly burning, was that he was not the easy-going, carefree person he’d seemed over email. In fact, he was sort of nasty. His idea of a joke was a cruel stab at his friends intelligence and a mocking comment on another’s slow response. He grew defensive when he got an answer wrong. He argued about the timer, the drawings, the score.

The charming and lighthearted man I’d fallen for over email wasn’t exactly charming in real life. And I found myself wishing we’d met in person much, much earlier. I wish I’d seen the way he rolled his eyes at people. I wish I’d heard his tone of condescension. I wish I’d felt the way he repeatedly told me to “take a joke” as if we were in third grade and the gum I’d just sat in had been my fault.

It was such a bummer of a night.

But you know what? I’m guessing I was also a different person than I’d portrayed online. I’m sure I wasn’t as confident in person, as sassy, seductive and easy-going. I imagine he was expecting someone else, too.

But this is also why I tend to encourage people who are connecting online to meet in person sooner rather than later. While my anxiety and ever-growing-tendency-to-stutter makes me appreciate the chance to clearly communicate my thoughts and feelings via writing, I also know how impossible it is to reflect those subtle personality quirks online. They can’t see the way your smile blooms when you see a dog walk past the coffee shop window. They won’t see the way you gently thank the barista as they hand you your drink. And these moments are what make us truly fall for each other.

Let’s just get the cliche out in the open: actions speak louder than words. That shit’s the truth.

It is exhaustingly scary to plan to meet up in person. But it will also allow you to quickly realize whether or not this is something you want to pursue or if there might be a better fit for you out in the world. Because let’s be honest, anyone who threatens to throw a Taboo buzzer across the room because they got an answer wrong is not sexy.