2020 Goals and Why Blogging Has Taken a Backseat

Lifestyle

It’s been a little more than a year since I started my blog.   I got into it after seeing the success of “influencers” on Instagram:  Young women who were posting about beauty, fashion and everyday life. It looked like fun. I have always considered myself to be fashionable despite not having deep pockets, and was the go-to for my friends and sorority sisters for make-up advice and assistance. Plus I have always liked to write.   I was in desperate need of a hobby- there was a deployment pending and I needed a positive way to fill my time. I figured, why not give blogging a try!

The first couple months of blogging were great.  I had a full closet of clothes to choose from, a tropical vacation on the horizon, and my husband/photographer at my side encouraging me every step of the way. We were able to hunt for new places to take pictures and explore our city together, making it that much more fun, like mini dates. When Jake left for the Middle East in late June, my life drastically changed. I moved to a new state and set up a new home.  I started a new job that I eventually quit (because it was awful), then I started another new job. I have been hit with many curve balls during this time apart from my hubby, and have experienced a roller-coaster of emotions all while balancing our household. Through all of this I have tried to keep up with Instagram posts and blogs, but I was failing miserably. I was no longer putting out content that I was excited about.  Rather, I just was trying to get something out…just to say I posted something. I was beating myself up and comparing myself to other bloggers with thousands of followers who consistently were posting, on stories, sharing sales and giveaways and blogs, and always looking flawless. As a perfectionist I was so upset with myself. I always– no matter how unrealistic it may be, want to be perfect, and will make myself sick worrying about perfection. My page wasn’t perfect. I was so disappointed in myself. I wanted to balance it all and do it all. I expected myself to be superwoman, but due to all of the upheaval in my life I was extremely anxious and exhausted.  Correction:  I AM extremely anxious and exhausted. It is a constant state I cannot seem to shake. I am at the point in Jake’s deployment where I am just done; absolutely worn out. On my days off I want to wear sweats and not do my hair and go to the grocery store and clean my house without feeling like I have to go take pictures. I was putting too much pressure on myself and came to the realization that I wasn’t having fun with my hobby any more.

I was pushing myself so hard, trying to be at the same level as these professional bloggers who have been doing this for years…bloggers who have managers, PR companies, and brands that pay them to wear their clothes and promote their products. Bloggers who can afford to frequently go on extravagant trips with their husbands and girlfriends. I had to have a “Come to Jesus” moment and remind myself that this is not my job. I have a satisfying and demanding full-time job. I don’t work from home.   I do have a budget, and I cannot constantly buy new outfits. I had to remind myself that I started my blog and IG page as a fun, positive hobby. I had to reexamine my expectations and needed to get back to that original mindset.

So, with that (very) long-winded explanation, my goal for 2020 is to get back to a healthy outlook.  As this deployment draws closer to the end, I am really starting to feel the effects of the months of stress and constant anxiety. I have not given myself very much grace nor much time to breathe. I want to focus 2020 on self-care and curating a healthy lifestyle with less stress. Honestly, I am not sure how I am going to accomplish this quite yet, but I do know that blogging and IG will have to take a bit of a backseat until my husband returns. I want to get back to sharing content that I’m excited about, and share things that truly inspire me and that I have a passion for. That might mean a little less fashion and more beauty, product reviews, and home décor. Who knows?! I am looking forward to finding out!

I want to genuinely thank all who have been supportive through this crazy year of ups and downs. I know there is a good chance that I will lose followers, but it has never been about numbers for me. Please understand that I am not going to stop blogging or posting on Instagram, just taking a moment to catch my breath and take some of the pressure off in the hopes of bringing you all better content.  Thank you to those who are still along for the ride – Cheers to 2020!

XOXO, Cait B.

Getting Around Anxiety

Lifestyle

*Disclaimer, this is not like my usual posts. I wanted to get a little deeper with you all. Stay tuned for more posts on our usual lighthearted content.

For the longest time, for almost as long as I can remember–I have suffered from anxiety. The first time I remember it happening was in first grade. Ryan Jensen’s boy/girl Halloween party. I remember being excited but hesitant since there were going to be boys there who were not my cousins. I was in my angel costume, my roll-on glitter on my cheeks and my Dr Pepper Bonnie Bell chap-stick on my lips, but suddenly I was panicked. I was breaking out in a cold sweat and was sick to my stomach. I felt scared. At the age of six I had no idea what was wrong. All I knew was that I felt sick. I guess my terror was pretty obvious because my mom recognized something was wrong as we pulled up to Ryan’s house; I was quite tearful and white as a sheet. She was concerned enough that she called Ryan’s mom to let her know I would not be coming to the party after all.  She gave me ginger ale and saltines, but that was not what miraculously cured my stomachache. As soon as she hung up with phone with Ryan’s mom I felt like a weight was lifted. Although I was kind of sad that I was missing out, my six-year old mind was relieved. Again, at this point I had no idea what this was. I did not have the name for this uncomfortable “feeling” until I was in high school. I thought I just had a sensitive stomach. Once I did figure out I suffered from anxiety, it was a journey of research and self-understanding.

A huge contributor to my anxiety was my shyness and my need to be perfect all the time. I know, I know…there is no such thing as perfect.  Rationally, I am aware of this, but try to convince my brain of that. Unfortunately, there is no rationality when it comes to mental illness. I always strive for perfection in everything I do, to the point that I would make myself sick and spread myself too thin. If I did something not quite so perfect, like not getting a good grade on a test, I would privately fall apart and be so disappointed and embarrassed with myself. My anxiety and introverted-ness ruined many of my childhood friendships and relationships which was a devastating blow for me. I questioned myself and my self-worth. I couldn’t find the words to express why I did not want to go to parties with them and drink for fear that I would lose control and ruin my ‘perfect persona.’ I had no way to make people understand or make them realize I had no control over my emotions and could not simply “turn off” my worrying. I could not explain why I was this way, it made me feel like something was wrong with me, and did not know how to fix it.

It was the most frustrating time in my life, and I felt like I was failing. Yes, I had some friends and a loving family. I did very well in school, had gotten into my first choice college. I enjoyed dance and theatre and I was good at it. I had no reason to be anxious, but I was, and was not dealing with it well. I felt like I was always playing a role, just faking it to get by. I think I was pretty good at hiding it. No one except my mom and dad were truly aware of how much I was struggling because they would hear me cry in my room when I had a panic attack and would come sit with me, hearing me vent about nonsense. When it was finally time to leave for college, I was miserable. Change was so hard for me because I could not prepare. I hated feeling awkward and shy around my roommates and feeling like I did not know what I was doing, which went against the perfectionist within me. I felt embarrassed all the time and was paranoid that I was making a fool out of myself. I lacked confidence in everything I did. I tried so hard to make myself feel better. I took psychology classes to try to understand anxiety and I joined a sorority to help with my shyness and to make friends. These were good decisions, but they did not fix the problem. And that was it. My epiphany: I had been trying too hard to “fix“ myself. I looked at my anxiety like it was wrong and let it rule me in a way where it was in charge of my life. I needed to work with my anxiety; not ignore it or try to make it go away completely. Embracing that was the first step.

Every day is still a work in progress, but I am dealing with it. I still lack confidence and feel overwhelmed and panicked when I feel like I’m losing control or cannot handle a situation. Although each day brings its own obstacles, I do not let anxiety get in my way. I ignore the “perfectionist” “control freak” and “too quiet” labels and try to work with my Type A personality.

I have tried many things to deal with my anxiety including counseling, medication, exercise and meditation. Many of these did not work for me. I faked it during counseling. I put up a wall and pretended to be perfect. I never got comfortable enough to be real with the therapist. Meditation and exercise was only a distraction. I would not think about my anxiety while doing the activity, but as soon as I was done the intrusive thoughts would come back. Medication does help, but it does not provide total relief for me. The things that have helped include having trusted people in my life who I feel comfortable talking to. This was my mom and husband. They may not fully understand my meltdowns, but they listen and they do not try to fix me. My dog Tilly has also helped me. I do not live in the same state as my parents and when my husband has to travel for work, he often cannot have his phone. Tilly makes me feel less abandoned. She is always there and I can always talk to her.

The other thing that I do is journal, which is kind of what led me here – to this blog. Anxiety is a constant stream of thoughts and worries that never go away. Journaling keeps me from overthinking and stewing on my issues. Writing helps me organize my thoughts and get them out of my head. It many sound a little silly, but I also read quotes about anxiety and depression. It grounds me and helps me realize I am not alone. SO many other people are dealing with this as well! Finally, the last thing that helps me is telling myself I am good enough and that perfection is not needed. This mantra does not always work, but saying something over and over can be calming. I wish dealing with anxiety was simple and straight forward, but as I have said, it is hard to reason with mental illness.

This is obviously not my normal blog post, but this is my life. My anxiety and perfectionism does affect my style, make-up, and lifestyle. I want to be honest with my followers. I find that many bloggers only touch on surface level topics or ignore ‘real life.’ I will always be honest about my mental health and struggles with anxiety, depression and body image. As Jake’s deployment nears, I can feel myself becoming more stressed and anxious. It is hard to feel like I have no control over what is going on or what is going to happen. There will be so much change. I hope to continue to be open about this.

If you are struggling with any form of mental illness, remember you are not alone. As someone who has studied mental health while I was working on both of my degrees, it is important to remember that everyone who suffers from anxiety is different. This is just my personal story. My coping strategies may not work for you- don’t get discouraged. It took me years to get a handle on my anxiety, and I still have issues! Find your way of working with your illness, and do not give up.

This post is in no way sponsored, but if you are feeling down and need someone to talk to, try an online chat with a therapist. Many like http://www.betterhelp.com are free! I hope this post not only gives you more insight into me, but also helps those who are struggling feel more supported.

XOXO,  Cait B.

 

Part I: Fitness Background

Lifestyle

A couple weeks ago I started a fitness program. I plan to write a series of blogs about my fitness background and how I have felt going through the process. This is just the first blog of the series; stay tuned for more!

Part I: Background

Fitness has always been intimidating to me. I was your normal kid, involved in all of the co-ed sports teams you can imagine:  from soccer and t-ball, to swimming and ice skating, you name it, I probably tried it. I also took tap/ballet classes starting when I was three, and finally really committed to dance when I was about 8. Basically, I was a pretty active kid.

I danced until I graduated high school. I was a member of a semi-professional ballet company and also attended additional classes such as lyrical and jazz, so I was dancing 5-6 times a week for hours. With all the time I spent dancing at the studio, I never had to worry about “working out” to stay in shape. When I finally hung up my pointe shoes after high school, I still wasn’t faced with much of a challenge. The university I attended is located on the rolling hills of the Palouse in eastern Washington state where you would get a work out just walking to class up all of the hills. Many students joked that they developed “cougar calves” just by walking around campus, so the “freshman 15” did not really phase me. It was not until I moved to South Dakota that I really started noticing a problem with my weight and lack of fitness.

Moving to the Midwest was a big change. First of all, I was starting nursing school. Most people who attend nursing school have a 2-year practicum split up by a summer break. Since I already had a bachelor’s degree, I opted to attend an accelerated program that compressed the 2-year practicum into 11 months with no breaks. Now, standard 2-year nursing programs are very stressful, so imagine doing it all in less than a year! On top of the intensity of the accelerated program, I was in a new place and I did not know a soul. I also moved to South Dakota in the dead of winter and if you are familiar with the Dakota’s you know that means it is cold. Not just cold, but below zero, freezing, frigid, Arctic cold!  All of these factors mixed with the fact that I had never needed to or really knew how to work out added up. Due to stress, not eating right, and virtually having a sedentary lifestyle for a year (because you really can’t go outside for fear of hypothermia) did not help my physical fitness!  Although I successfully graduated with my Bachelor of Nursing, I also ended up gaining about 20 pounds during my short stint in South Dakota.

I was so discouraged and disappointed in myself, having put my physical fitness on hold while in school, but I felt like I did not know what to do. Like I said, I didn’t know how to go to the gym, and I was so intimidated to go and try to figure out the machines, only to embarrass myself or injure myself. Jake tried to help me–he would try to give me work outs routines to follow but he didn’t really understand that I was a beginner and was so out of shape.  Exercises that he thought were “easy” were so difficult for me, which made me even more ashamed. I recoiled. I hid behind oversized clothes and cried my eyes out sitting on my closet floor so upset that I couldn’t wear the same shorts from last summer. I was beating myself up, feeling helpless.

I tried several different diets: Weight Watchers was great…for about two months. I lost some weight but immediately gained it all back when there was stress at work or if we took a long-weekend away. I felt stuck in a vicious cycle of eating right, just to have one bad day and then instead of getting back on track, throwing all my efforts away and saying “screw it” as I reached for another cookie.

This went on for about a year.  I wasn’t gaining weight, but I also wasn’t losing it. Just one long, demoralizing plateau. Looking back, I think I had just given up and was trying to accept that my physical condition and poor body image were my new reality.  I had such low self-esteem despite the facade that everyone else saw.  I was so, SO depressed.  I decided in December 2018 to turn to blogging because not only do I love to write, but also because blogging/Instagram forces you to take pictures. I was forcing myself to see what I really looked like on a daily basis which was hard and WAAAYYY out of my comfort zone, but it was part of accepting this “new” larger version of myself.  But a funny thing happened…

As I started posting more pictures I did become more confident and accepted that this was “as good” as it was going to get. I have also connected with other women my size, but also with women who had been my size, who have similar lifestyles and were able to make positive changes. I was fascinated with their success:  How were they able to find the time to fit in fitness?  How were they able to stay committed?  What was their diet, and were they miserable just eating lettuce all the time?  There must have been a beacon on my head, as I started getting contacted by all of these “coaches” asking me to join their fitness groups. It was a little overwhelming, and slightly insulting- sometimes it felt like, “okay cool, I really do look as bad as I feel.”  One day I received a casual message from a follower and we just started talking. It was natural and I felt like she actually understood how hard my journey was. She made it less about joining her team and more about investing in myself and my health, which I honestly had never really done. The program she suggested was only 20 minutes in length (6 days a week), which was the first workout EVER that I felt I could actually fit into my very busy lifestyle and I didn’t have to leave the comfort of my living room to accomplish it.  I would have access to an “on-demand” program so I could just follow along and not have to figure out how to ‘gym.’  This all sounded great, but I hesitated when it came to the price. $160 seemed like so much to spend on myself, but she made some good points: First, the $160 was for a year-long membership. It breaks down to about $4 a week or about 44 cents per day. That is far less than a normal gym membership. Two, was I saying that I was not worth $160? Was my health and well-being not worth $160? That struck a chord with me. In the long run $160 is not very much, and I would probably spend that much (or more) on clothes! It was eye-opening. Next thing I knew I was signing up and buying my step-deck at Walmart. I had finally invested in myself.

So. Here we are. I finished the first session of Beach Body Transform:20 program…keep any eye out for my next blog in this series that dives into the workout and how I got through the program!

workout

Part II coming soon! Anyone else starting or in the midst of your fitness journey? What is your motivation?

XOXO, Cait B.

‘Resolution’- Choosing Myself in 2019

Lifestyle

I have never been much for New Year’s resolutions. The resolutions I have made in the past usually involve losing weight which great until March rolls around and I find myself back on the couch with a box of Cheez-It crackers at my side. I found I would fail at my resolutions more than I would succeed, which was discouraging. Therefore, this year instead of making a “resolution,” I decided to focus on what I need to do to increase my happiness and well-being.

2018 was a rough one for me: I started a new job with a steep learning curve, we had to move with only a 30-day notice (thanks Army), and we had to deal with some fairly serious health issues with my husband. It was one thing after another, constantly moving, never really relaxing or having time to vent or really assess all the stress I was under. It eventually all caught up to me. The week before Christmas I suddenly felt like my heart was racing as though I drank a liter of Mountain Dew and was completely wired. I was short of breath and my blood pressure was through the roof. I ended up having to leave work and go to urgent care. Despite being a nurse I really didn’t know what was going on. I felt okay: no chest pain, no numbness or tingling–I did a head-to-toe assessment of myself as I sat shaking in the waiting room trying to diagnose what was going on. After running a couple tests and an EKG (which was normal) the doctor discovered I was having a massive panic attack.

Now, I have always been high-strung and have dealt with anxiety most of my life, but I have never experienced these kind of symptoms before. After finally calming down, I really started to think about 2018 and thought to myself ‘Something has to change. I am 25. I should not be feeling this way.’ I have always been the kind of person to put everyone before myself and my own needs. After reevaluating the year I had, it made me realize I hadn’t taken much time for myself. I was so focused on the people and things going on around me that I forgot to care for myself and listen to my own needs. I was not a priority. I decided that this year has to be different and that I am going to invest more time and energy into my well-being. This may sound a little selfish, but here is my rationale: If I invest more time and energy into taking care of myself, I will end up being happier and healthier and in a better mood which in turn will make things around me happier too.

I have broken down my 2019 goals into a couple categories:

HEALTH
Instead of making weight loss a goal, I think the idea of ‘getting healthy’ is much more realistic. It has less to do with a number, and more to do with the amount of energy you have and how you feel.
-Eat more color: This is not referring to artificially orange Cheetos! By eating more color I mean more fruits and veggies. I was told once that your plate should look like a rainbow!
-Hydrate: I am so bad at drinking water! I get distracted at work and at home and put drinking H2O off to the side. My goal is to increase my intake in 2019. Water helps with your skin and digestion, and staying hydrated can help you lose weight and feel more awake!
-Walk more: This activity is for both mind and body. Walking is, of course, great exercise, but I also believe that getting out of the house into fresh air is one of the best ways to relax your mind, plus getting a little Vitamin D makes you feel better and puts you in a better mood. I am hoping to take Tilly for a walk 3 times a week (she gets a walk with our dog walker daily). I love spending time with my little fur ball so this time with her will also elevate my good mood.

WELLNESS
Wellness is more focused on taking care of my mind and focusing more on my own needs.
-Journal: Writing has always been my best and favorite way to express myself. My goal this year is to take the time to sit down and collect my thoughts in a journal when I am feeling stressed, and not to just push it to the side. I also plan to blog more (a new post at least once weekly.) I love to write and connect with my followers. It is such a great outlet!
-Skincare: I have never had a true skincare routine. I have always bounced around from product to product never really committing to anything. Your skin is your largest organ and does SO much for you, and now that I am in my mid-20s, I think it is time to commit! My goal is to develop a skincare routine that works, is easy to stick to and does not break the bank. I will be searching for new products and recommendations and will take you all along on the journey with me!
-Allow for Small Luxuries: I am not afraid to say that Jake and I basically live paycheck to paycheck. As most young adults, money is always on our minds. We do put a large portion of our earnings into saving in the hopes of kids down the line (or more dogs ha) or possibly a dream vacation. Due to having tight purse strings, I have let some of my own personal care go by the way-side. For example, I no longer get my nails done unless it is for a special occasion, and I had not gotten my hair cut for over 6 months (embarrassing, I know.) I was so focused on saving a few extra dollars that I kind of forgot why we had that money in the first place. I’m not planning on blowing though our savings, but maybe developing a small fund where I put away 10-20 dollars at a time so I can feel like I can indulge a little bit. Getting pampered, even if it means buying a peel off mask and a bath-bomb can be such a great stress relief and can make you feel refreshed! (Don’t worry, Jake has said he is totally okay with this! Make sure to talk with your significant other if you share a bank-account before you start funneling money away!)
-Declutter: Clutter drives me a little crazy. We are usually pretty good at keeping our house clean, but we are awful at folding clothes and putting them away! One final goal I have is to put our clothes away in a timely fashion! This is such a small thing but getting organized can be so satisfying and can make you feel like your life is more in order. If I can tackle our laundry room, I will be one happy girl!

Setting goals and making resolutions can be hard and frustrating. My advice is to be easy on yourself and be realistic! Think of it more as a lifestyle change instead of a resolution. You might have set backs and bad days but do your best to not give up and throw in the towel! I know I will have my ups and downs and will have to remind myself that I am only human. All we can do is try. Remember, if you do not succeed, there is always next year! 😉

What are your resolutions and goals for 2019? How do you plan to stick to them?

XOXO, Cait B.