Stress Management Goals

So I started this blog thinking that I would actually update it daily – yeah right.  Soon after creating this “masterpiece,” I started grad school and a new job, both of which took over my life.  Therefore, every waking moment has been dedicated to reading unending chapters of dry text aimed at transforming me into an amazingly skilled counselor.  I will say – I feel I will eventually be said ‘amazingly skilled counselor,’ as reading is not all that I’m doing.  It’s simply taking up the most time.

Anyway, one of my classes has required that I create 3 stress management goals to implement throughout the semester, hopefully teaching valuable stress management strategies, but also the importance of specific and measureable goals.  So, without further ado, here are my goals:

  1. Meditate twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8:30am, for 15 minutes or more.
  2. Walk briskly/jog/run at least four times per week, Monday-Friday, for 15 minutes or more.
  3. Dedicate 3 hours or more per week to leisure activities, such as reading (for fun), watching a movie, cooking/baking, playing games, or visiting with friends, likely taking place on a Saturday or Sunday.

Alright.  Pretty noble and worthwhile goals, right?  So here’s the problem with each:

  1. First of all, I don’t even know how to meditate.  I think it would be really neat to learn and incorporate into my life on a r egular basis, but as of right now, I have no clue what to do.  Close my eyes and rid my mind of all thought?  (Nearly impossible with this OCD brain).  Listen to soothing music?  Engage in visualization?  Yeah, we’ll see how this goes…
  2. This goal is a “cheat” goal, aka one that I know I can accomplish.  I have a dog, who needs at least 2 daily walks…enoug h said.  Plus, I really enjoy running and working out in general.  Basically, this goal was established so that I could be successful in at least one of these – is that so bad?!
  3. Finally, this goal will likely be more easy to accomplish than I previously thought.  I didn’t originally factor into this goal that fact that football season is starting and I will easily spend 2-6 hours per week watching the Packers and/or Badgers crush their competition.

So there you have it.  My semester goals.  I once heard that the more people you tell about your goals, the more likely you are to accomplish them.  So, I’ll let you know how they go.  :) And I will definitely let you know if I ever learn to meditate (I see some Internet research and an email to my ‘zen-like’ aunt and uncle in my near future).

Wish me luck.

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Wolfoon

I hate to be the one to tell you, but no matter how old you are or where you go in life, you will never be able to escape the “ice-breaker.”  Since stepping foot on the beautiful Winona State campus and becoming a part of their great Warrior community, I have participated in more ice-breakers than I have ever wanted to experience in my lifetime.  Not that I don’t enjoy meeting new people – I actually thrive on it – I am just shocked and amazed that so many ice-breakers can be packed into so little time: 2 Truths and 1 Lie (I am 26 years old, a black belt in karate, and can slalom water ski), sharing something “unique” about yourself (I am missing two teeth), getting into alphabetical order by last name without talking (insert made-up sign language and desperate miming), selecting an image that represents you (camera), and this new, crazy animal ice-breaker.

So here’s how it worked.  The professor of my online class asked each of us to select an animal to represent us, and 4 characteristics that we share with that animal.  Not as easy as it sounds.  My favorite animal has always been a cheetah, but selecting it to represent me was far from accurate.  I am not lightning fast, nor am I reclusive, fierce, or willing and able to go for days without eating.  Not much to work with there.

So what did I do?  I Googled “what animal are you?” and took an online quiz, that’s what.  After answering a series of questions, I got – of all things – a baboon.

BABOON.

courtesy of digitalimage.com

Really?!?

Who on earth wants to be a baboon?!  They smell, pick the bugs out of each others’ hair, scratch their butts, and are typically associated with someone who acts like a doofus.  Does not seem like the best way to describe myself to 40+ people I’ve never met.

But I went with it anyway.

Why?  Because after taking the quiz (and reading the little informational blurb that comes with the results to make people like me who get an answer of “baboon” feel better about themselves), I learned that baboons are active, social, affectionate, and have a sense of humor.  I could work with that.

The next step of this insane ice-breaker required us to find someone else in the class that had an animal sharing two common characteristics with our own animal.  We were then tasked with renaming the new animal to complete the activity.  You may have guessed it, but I found a nice wolf to pair up with (also social and affectionate), and the wolfoon was born.

296 online posts later, the ice-breaker was finally complete.  After reading all those posts and ‘commenting’ on all the great, new animals we creative graduate students had come up with (race bird, penguant, swat, and otter-tailed labrador, to name a few), the only thing I wanted to break was my computer screen.

Cool as a Cucumber

This past weekend, I had the privilege and honor of being part of a wedding for two very special friends.  The wedding took place in Madison, WI on one of the most beautiful days of the summer so far.  Not only was the bride – one of my very closest and best friends – the happiest I have ever seen her, but she was also the definition of the “anti-bridezilla.”  And if you knew her in high school, you may have never guessed her to be so relaxed and go-with-the-flow-y on her big day. 

But sure enough, she was cool as a cucumber. 

The other bridesmaids, personal attendant, and I tried to do some worrying for her, and even threw out some just-in-case suggestions.  But she was having none of it.  Not even a late-for-rehearsal best man (and usher….and, ahem, bridesmaid), delayed-flight grandma, early morning downpour, hair and make-up no-show mother-in-law, photo-book-instead-of-guest-book mishap, footprint-stained dress prior to the ceremony, last-minute lack of two-sided (‘nipple’) tape could get this girl to flinch!  It was unbelievable.  And all bride-to-be’s out there would be wise to follow suit. 

She was just too darn excited and happy to worry about any of those little things. 

Which made me think: If on the presumably most important/exciting/special day of her life she could not be thrown or upset about such details, why does the fact that my husband literally steps out of his jeans each day, leaving them right where they land bug me so much??

Needless to say, it was a great reminder that there are so many other important things in life on which to focus our energy that the smaller and more insignificant details are really not worthy sometimes. 

Maybe I should just treat everyday like my….well, my friend’s….wedding day.

The new Mr. and Mrs.

Back To School (minus the new clothes and fun pencils)

This week I started a graduate degree program in school and community counseling.  Yup.  Big life change.  Not only am I taking a full 12 credits of class, but I also gave up my (salaried with benefits, everyday-is-casual-day, greatly autonomous, with occasional product perks) job to do it.

You might be thinking, “what were you thinking?!”

Well, first of all, in addition to all of the characteristics listed above, my job was also incredibly boring.  I worked remotely in a building owned by my customer (read: filled with other vendor representatives, which I was discouraged from socializing with), in a controlling and condescending environment (read: this particular customer is notorious for being demanding and difficult to work with), and didn’t have enough to keep me busy for 20 hours a week, let alone 40 (read: eyes glossing over just thinking about it).  So after only 10 months, I was practically running out the door.

The up side is that I have been awarded a graduate assistant position in the university’s career services office.  Presentations, event planning, and resume critiques – oh my!  So despite the loss of salary, I’ll be enjoying my work much more and will have my tuition taken care of along the way.  I certainly can’t complain.

Now, why counseling?  To make a long story short, I have always enjoyed working with people in a helping capacity.  In a previous role working in college admissions, I was given the opportunity to work very closely with high school students and school counselors.  It was amazing to me all of the hats the school counselors wore and the different roles they played in the lives of their students.  That really appealed to me, and so I started taking some classes.  The more classes I took, the more I became interested in mental health counseling.  Being able to provide support and assistance to troubled adults and families would also be an extremely rewarding and challenging career.  Now, I simply can’t decide which I like more.  So I’m doing both.

However, as part of my program, my classmates and I have all been encouraged to seek out our own counseling.  As the saying goes,

“Every good counselor has a good counselor.”

So that will be my next challenge.  Finding a counselor and getting up the courage to do some serious work in therapy sessions.  And I say courage because it really does take courage.  It’s not necessarily fun – and certainly isn’t easy.  Trust me, I’ve worked with some very resistant ‘clients’ (aka classmates) and it’s like pulling teeth to get anything juicy out of them.  But even so, I’m still excited about the idea of working through life’s issues, big and small.

Lord knows I have plenty of them.  (But really, don’t we all?)

courtesy of chucks-fun.blogspot.com

Itch and scratch

Almost everyday, I read cnn.com to catch up on the news, get the scoop, stay in the know, keep up with the Kardashians, etc.  Well, today, there was an interesting blog post featuring OCD.  I always try to read articles, opinion pieces, or testimonials when it comes to OCD, not only because I enjoy learning about it, but because hearing about other people’s symptoms is usually very interesting and entertaining.  I’m not trying to poke fun at anyone here, but let’s be honest – some OCD symptoms are highly amusing simply because they are so off-the-wall that it is difficult for most people to wrap their mind around them.  What’s more is that people with OCD often come up with extremely creative and innovative compulsions to help relieve their anxiety, thus adding even more intrigue to the whole mess.

For example, the ‘patient’ from the featured blog post was experiencing extreme anxiety hearing and even looking at kitchen or bathroom sinks and anything that resembled a gas tank or nozzle.  Seems pretty bizarre, right?!  I mean, can you imagine covering your eyes every time you pass a sink?  Or breaking out your hand wipes when you drive by the gas station or see one on TV?  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  But to that patient, it is intensely uncomfortable.

To be fair, I will share one of my more embarrassing symptoms, too.  My uncle once told me that it “only takes a tablespoon to drown.”  Now, he has the tallest of all tall tales, the longest fish, fattest turkey, loudest laugh, yet is one of the most loving uncles that I have.  So whether or not this little tidbit is true is still left to be decided.  But to me, it didn’t matter.  If he heard it, maybe it was possible – or even entirely true – in which case, I was not going to take my chances drowning on any of my 64 daily ounces of water.

This little factoid has been burned in my brain since the day he shared it with me.  And although I don’t currently worry too much about it, there certainly have been times when all I could do was dread every sip of water.  I’d reach for my glass, then panic.  Would I breathe in too deeply while trying to take a drink?  Would it go down the wrong tube?  Was a tablespoon really all it took to drown an adult human being??

When thirst would finally win out and I’d take a drink, I would hold the water in my mouth for what seemed like forever.  Scared to swallow.  Afraid to breathe.  Sloshing the water around.  Mentally preparing to send it down the pipe.  Suddenly searching for anyone close by that could administer the Heimlich and give mouth-to-mouth should I happen to mess up a basic human instinct I had been successfully mastering since the day I was born.  I over thought the whole process so much I probably could have drowned!  It was ridiculous.

And not only was I scared that I would drown, but that anyone else who drinks liquid would, too.  I’d stare at my husband as he chugged down whole water bottles in one shot.  I’d lecture him on proper drinking etiquette and safety (his method of filling his cheeks like a chipmunk then swallowing in one big gulp was both disgusting and anxiety-provoking, to say the least).  The simple act of drinking became a major stressor for me, when I can guarantee most of the universe doesn’t think twice about it.

Kind of like the lady and her gas tank.

The psychologist who weighs in on the post describes obsessions and compulsions like an itch and a scratch.  You get an itch, so you scratch it and feel temporary relief.  And just like mosquito bites (and those pesky no-see-ems that are driving me crazy this summer), the itch comes back later.  And itches worse.

But he also points out that if you leave the itch alone, and refrain from scratching, eventually the itch goes away altogether.

Unfortunately, I’m a scratcher.  Bug bites, OCD, it doesn’t matter.  I have an itch, I’m going to scratch it.

Just give me a better bug spray and we’re in business…

My home alone survival kit

I survived the week in my house alone.  May not have been pretty, but I did it.  For some, you may completely understand what I’m talking about.  For others, you may think, “this girl has the house to herself and she’s complaining about it?!  Just wait until she has kids – she’ll be begging for an empty house!”  But for me, a big, empty house is not a sacred, cherished gift from the heavens where I get the full reign of any room, control of the remote, exclusive access to the fridge, and all the covers.

No, a big, empty house is quiet, dark, lonely, and a lot to take care of for one person.  Plus, I rather enjoy the company of my husband and prefer having him around. 

So how did I do it?  I’m glad you asked.  Below are the elements of this week’s survival kit:

  • Riding lawn mower – Monday night was spent zipping around the yard mowing down the 10 foot tall grass that had grown up in one short week.
  • Neighbor’s yard rake – Tuesday night was dedicated to raking up said piles of grass.  Truthfully, this was probably worse than being alone in the house in the first place!  Just one day of leaving grass out in the yard provided the perfect opportunity for giant colonies of gnats and no-see-ems to congregate and attack when I disturbed their new nesting grounds.  Can you say bugs in the eyes, nose, ears, mouth…?
  • Bottle of shiraz…and white z – Not gonna lie, I may have had a few nightcaps each night.
  • Bike and helmet – Went on a great 27-miler with my biking group/ladies’ night friends.  Even better, we stopped at a tiki bar for cold one halfway through.
  • Volleyball – Although the game was at 9:30pm and I really didn’t even want to leave my secure house, I did anyway and had a great time.  We lost, but it was good for me to see all the people who were still out and about so late.
  • Nightstand – It may or may not have been pushed up against my bedroom door one or two nights this week…
  • Facebook – I hate to add this to the list, but if not for Facebook, I would’ve never joined a conversation about must-read books, been inspired to burn a lunch break at the library, paid off my $1 fine, or come home with 3 new hardcovers I can’t wait to crack open.
  • NyQuil – Not only did I have a terrible cold to battle (yes, in the middle of summer), but it also knocks you out pretty quick.
  • Study abroad photos – All I can say is, “Yay!” for Shutterfly’s custom path photo books!  I’ve procrastinated 5 years, but better late than never, right?
  • Roxie – not much of a talker, but a pretty good listener. 
  • Free baseball tickets – Although I missed all 5 runs in the bottom of the first, and waited for-ev-er for my Thirsty Thursday 20 ouncer, I enjoyed the great weather with great company.
  • Netflix – Discovered Mad Men, ’nuff said.

And there you have it, my home alone survival kit.  May not seem like much, but these things held me together for 5 days and 4 nights.  I’m still sick, but I’m alive, the dog’s alive, the house is still standing, the lawn looks halfway decent, and I’m ready to cook a nice ‘welcome home’ dinner for the hubby.  

Come on, 5 o’clock!

 

Walk through the house with me

Ok, so I wussed out yesterday and posted a nice, safe story about the Thunderbirds that was pretty bland and rather un-entertaining.  Today, in honor of having the house to myself all week, I will take you through my house checking routine.  This is something I do whenever I’m home alone, but also when we return from a weekend away, or simply whenever I’m feeling particularly anxious that someone could be hiding in my house.  I essentially go through the entire house and check anywhere that a person could potentially hide.  This is how I walked through it last night:

Enter the house through the garage door into the Laundry Room – deadbolt and lock doorknob handle, check coat closet, half bath, and storage closet in the half bath.  No one is huddling with my vacuum, all clear.

Walk through the Kitchen – check under kitchen desk.  Clear.  Pass through Dining Room into Sunroom – look behind couch, loveseat, and television.  Verify sunroom door is deadbolted and locked.  All’s good.

Walk towards Foyer past the staircase leading downstairs – check in coat closet.  Empty (minus my wedding dress that has still not been dry-cleaned or ‘preserved’ over two years later).  Ensure front door is deadbolted and locked, turn on house lights (because we all know house lights deter intruders, right?)  Walk into Office – check behind couch and under desk.  Nothing, there’s really no good hiding spots in the office anyway.

Walk back past the staircase and go down the Hallway, making sure to keep an eye on the stairwell in case someone is coming up.  Look in hall closet (even though a person probably couldn’t fit).  Good.  Enter first Bedroom – look under bed, in closet, and behind door.  Clear.  Glance at staircase on the way to the Master Bedroom – check under bed, in closet, and in master bathroom (yay for glass shower doors).  Nobody.  Glance again at the staircase on the way to the Guest Bathroom – check behind shower curtain.  No random naked people bathing in my home, good.  Finally, walk to last Bedroom – look under bed and in closet.  Done with the main level.

Walk back to the dreaded staircase.  This is where it has been nice having a dog.  I send her down first, to sort of scope things out a few seconds before me.  That’s not bad of me, is it?  She doesn’t seem to mind being the guinea pig…anyway, once downstairs in the Family Room – turn on all lights.  Check behind couch and television, then in all the deep cupboards.  Most are full of board games, but a person could definitely fit in there.  Next, open door to Unfinished Storage – turn on all lights and check under stairwell.  Nada.  Walk to Downstairs Bathroom and check behind door, in shower, and in cupboards.  A few spiders, but no people.  Cross over to Workshop – open door and send dog in first.  It’s a pretty open room, but I always check behind the fake Christmas tree we leave assembled back there.  Nothing.  Back to the unfinished storage area to check inside the wardrobe before closing all doors and heading upstairs.

House: secure.

Although it seems tedious, the whole process only takes about 5 minutes, and I feel significantly more relieved once I do it.  Once I complete this check, I’m usually in for the night. 

However, last night, I did the check and then went back outside to rake my yard, leaving Roxie in her kennel inside.  I left the garage door unlocked, so I decided to only rake the front yard so that I would be able to see the garage door at all times.  This way I could be sure no one was going to sneak into my secure house. 

But, I really got going on raking and eventually moved on to the side of the house, where I could no longer see the garage.  Once I finished, I immediately wished I had locked the door while I was outside so that I wouldn’t have to check the whole house again.  

But I stopped myself. 

Roxie, who had been in the house the whole time, was acting normal like always, and surely she would be going nuts if someone came in the house.  I decided to let her out of the kennel, and if she didn’t bolt around “looking” for anything, then I would agree to pass on the second round of checking.  Well, you guessed it – Roxie came out of her kennel wagging her tail, being a regular dog, and so I didn’t bother going through the house again.

However, right before going to bed is always anxiety-provoking for me.  What if someone did get in, Roxie just really didn’t care, and they were hiding out all this time until I fall asleep?  What if they come into my room while I’m sleeping and I have no way of defending myself?  To counter all this anxiety, I decided to lock my bedroom door, which is usually good enough.  But for whatever reason, last night it was not.  So in addition, I slid one of our nightstands in front of the door so it couldn’t be opened.  And our nightstands are big and HEAVY!  That was definitely enough to make me feel safe.

So despite the checking, despite the dog’s superior sense of smell/vision/hearing/senses in general, and despite the rational part of my brain assuring me there was nothing to fear, I still needed a blockade at my door in order to fall asleep. 

Just when I think I’m making progress, I slide a bit backwards.  Is the fear real?  Yes.  Is the routine a little crazy?  Yes.  Am I embarrassed to admit I actually go through this routine quite often?  Yes, I am.  But I’m working on it, because what I fear even more than home invaders, is that if I don’t, this routine will escalate to even more crazy and embarrassing levels.

And we just can’t be having that.