Self-Care: Where to Start


I can't even tell you how excited I am to co-host The Circle link-up with the one and only Kiki from In Its Time blog. I'm even more excited than excited because this month the topic is self-care, something I am SUPER passionate about.


How many of you have high stress jobs in your lives? I'm guessing most of you said amen to that question. Whether you're a teacher stressing about lesson plans, a financial somebody dealing with multi-million dollar deals, or a mom trying to make it through the day without pulling her own hair out, I think we can all agree that we all are stressed. Sometimes I wonder if "stress" is the American way. When I graduated college in 2013, I was offered a nursing position at a top pediatric hospital in the region. I was (and still am) blessed to land the job, but quickly realized that being at a top hospital meant seeing the sickest of the sick. Within weeks of starting my job, I began to see what kind of patients I would be taking care of including sick kidney and liver transplants, badly burned patients, and kids with seizures so severe we sometimes had trouble stopping them. It was high stress, high intensity, and the steepest learning curve I'd ever had in my entire life. 

Nurses joked that in their first year of nursing on our floor they would go home after work each night and cry... except they weren't actually joking. I explain all of this to say that I was faced with a high stress job and quickly had to figure out how to take care of myself so that I wouldn't crack under all the pressure. I've written numerous posts on this subject already (that you can check out here), but want to address how to take care of yourself during a season of change. 

I recently announced that I am now a full time graduate student pursing my master's degree to become a family nurse practitioner. I still work full time, my husband works two jobs, and we will likely be moving out of state in the next few months as my husband seeks to attend physician assistant school. It's a lot of change, but I've established a good routine of taking care of myself that is making this transition a lot easier. I'm hoping that you'll be able to learn from my mistakes and my experiences so that you can take care of yourself better.  

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. 
If I could only give you one tip for self-care, this would be it- prioritize taking care of yourself. It's not going to happen if you don't plan it, schedule it, and prioritize it. Even if it's just two hours on the weekend where I relax on the couch scrolling through Facebook, I make sure to schedule some "me" time. The first few times you do this, you'll probably feel guilty and/or antsy that you should be doing something more productive. Let me tell you friend, the two hours you take for yourself will help you be more productive in the following two hours, I promise. Just keep telling yourself that over and over (I do!)

I know for you mamas, this scheduling thing can be tough. It's a lot easier for me to shut my computer off than it is for you to shut your kid off. If you can, try to arrange an hour where Dad watches the baby, Grandma babysits, or you exchange kid-free time with a fellow mom. Whether you use your hour to shop at Target kid-free, take a nice long uninterrupted shower, or sit and paint your nails, an hour alone will make you a better mom. I can't speak to this myself challenge myself since I'm not a mom yet, but my own mom modeled this self-care behavior in her own life and I promise it's worth the effort. 

Develop a few core routines.. 
In one of my posts on self care, I shared about a book that has changed my life called "God in My Everything" by Ken Shigematsu. This book talks about a "rule of life" or routines that ground you spiritually. I have developed a couple core routines for myself, that no matter how much change or stress I'm going through, these stay the same. For example, on my days off I get up and make myself a cup of coffee and sit down and spend about 30 minutes reading my Bible and praying. This half an hour of a slower morning rejuvenates me beyond belief. In fact, I really struggle if we are going somewhere super early that causes me to miss out on this precious time. This is a routine that I've kept for over two years now, and it's really worked to keep me grounded. 

Another core routine I follow is allowing myself about half an hour at night to just spend time with my husband. Some nights it's more than half an hour, but it's always at least that much (we don't have kids- I know this is a luxury). Doing this allows me to feel more rested for the day ahead, and helps me continue to nourish my marriage which is a hugely important part of self-care. 

Whether it's a daily quiet time, a weekly walk, or a monthly date with yourself, establish some routines that are consistent and that can be kept no matter the time of life. Sometimes there is enough change that these routines need to be adapted and that is okay (see the next point about being flexible). The important thing is that you adapt the routine instead of just forgetting or dismissing it. 

Be flexible. 
Perhaps the most vital component of self-care is having an attitude of adaptability. Every week I have a different work and school schedule and as much as I would like to say that every Saturday morning from 8AM-10AM is "me" time, that's simply not realistic with my sort of schedule. I try and take a few minutes at the beginning of each week to plan out the next few days including blocking out a couple hours of "me time". Flexibility is the biggest asset to you during times of change. No two weeks are exactly alike, and what worked last week may not work this week. It's making self-care a priority and adapting to each week that will allow you to effectively take care of yourself.

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As I've developed a self-care routine over the past two years of having an intensely stressful job, I've seen the benefits over and over. I'm not feeling burnt out like many of my other coworkers, I usually feel mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to fulfill the demands of my job, and perhaps most importantly, I feel like I've become a better person through all of it. 

Taking care of yourself is hard, and gets harder when there's change- whether it's a new baby, a move, a new job, or any other circumstance that heads your way. The important thing is to make it a priority, establish some routines, and at the end of the day be flexible with your self-care routine. Don't give up on it friend, I promise the time spent taking care of yourself makes you much more effective in the world. 

What is the hardest part of taking care of yourself? The easiest? 

Share your thoughts on self care in the comments below and then add your own post to the linkup! 





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Project 12: September

{Our second anniversary dinner celebration. Quality photo, I know}

Welcome to Project 12- a fun little monthly post where I get to recap my month and you get to tell me about the highlights of yours! 

DATES/TRAVEL

1. Hyden, Kentucky for graduate school orientation. Now that my secret is out, I can talk freely about why I was in Kentucky (which I mentioned last month). The program I'm attending is a hybrid program based out of there- hybrid meaning I will visit Kentucky twice (once was in August/September) and then I'll visit again for clinical intensives in about a year. The hybrid part comes in because I am able to do most of the coursework and clinicals in my home community. Talking about my trip to Kentucky really needs to be its own post because it was so amazing. I realize that sounds cheesy but I have never ever left a place after only 72 hours with the sense of community and pride that I felt after leaving Kentucky. It was truly amazing and I still feel like I'm processing it all. 

{This was nicknamed "The Barn" because it used to be one, and it was where  most of our 
classes were held during orientation}.

2. Tucson, Arizona, Guajardo wedding. This was a wedding for the history books y'all. I flew straight from Kentucky to Arizona and was ready to get my wedding on. This wedding was extra special to me because it had my best friend in it, she looked gorgeous, her groom cried harder than she did (awwww), and it was just a beautiful day. I was also the matron  maid of honor (I'm going with maid because matron just sounds so old), and even though I was nervous for the extra responsibility, it was SUCH a privilege to be by her side. Carrying her 20 pound train around for pictures though.... (just kidding Carolyn, I loved it). There was good company, great food, good drinks, and a fun dance... really, what more could you ask for in a wedding??

{The glowing bride}

{I've got the best wedding date around}

4. Basalt, Colorado. My old college roommate and I hopped in a car and drove to the beautiful mountain town of Basalt Colorado. It was a bittersweet weekend as we reunited with old college friends but under tragic circumstances. It was so good to get out of the city and we saw some beautiful fall colors! 

{Those mountains though!}

5. Girl camping in Frisco, Colorado. A friend from work and I spontaneously decided to go camping one weekend so that we could see fall colors. We only went for one night but it was oh so fun and beautiful! The weekend was full of good conversation, beautiful colors, and yummy food (do you notice a trend here?) I am the biggest fan of spontaneous one night camping trips in the mountains! 



NOTABLE EVENTS

1. I FINISHED MY WEDDING SCRAPBOOK. That achievement deserves every single bold and italic letter that it can possibly get. A year ago in my "Fall Goals" post, I challenged myself to "begin my wedding scrapbook". Months and several failed attempts later, I found myself totally overwhelmed with $30 of scrapbooking supplies and no idea where to start. Cue, grad school. I knew that if I did not get this scrapbook done before starting grad school, then it wouldn't happen until I finished which is at least another two years. That means that I'd be close to my 5 year wedding anniversary without having printed a single wedding picture. That definitely didn't sit right with me so I forced myself to buck up and get to work. 

{The front cover!}

Now, here's the real truth. I hate scrapbooking and only did it because I like the finished project. I LOVE how it turned out, but I still hate scrapbooking. I truly feel like I spent all of September working on this project. If you'll notice, Alex and I didn't go on very many dates this past month and it was because I would be trying to finish a page or two of the scrapbook and then it would be too late to go anywhere. He was totally understanding about it, but it definitely cut down on the quality time we had together before school started. I am so thrilled that it's done though- it's a huge relief and I've had a blast showing it to family and friends. I eventually hope to put it on the blog, but I've gotta show a few more people in person first :) (Thanks for all of you who encouraged me to keep at it. Amanda, thanks for all the help!) 

2. Our 2nd Wedding Anniversary. Our second wedding anniversary was this month and you can read the letter I wrote to Alex here. We both thankfully had the day off from work and were able to spend it together. We took an early morning walk in a park by our house and sat by some fountains while we reminisced over the past couple of years. We then enjoyed breakfast together followed by one of our favorite dates- walking around at Costco and Ikea. We enjoyed Panda Express for lunch, went home and napped and played some games and finished off the day with endless shrimp at Red Lobster. If it sounds like all we did all day was eat, well, you're kind of right. It was a simple day full of delicious food and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

{The view on our morning stroll}

{You haven't had a cinnamon roll until you've had this one from Denver Biscuit Company.
 This should be enough reason for you to come visit me in Colorado. I'll be waiting.}

3. I ate the biggest pizza I think I've ever seen. But really, check it out! In case you're wondering, it's some sort of stuffed take and bake madness from Papa Murphy's. And our friends helped us eat it. 

{It's more like a pizza-calzone or pazone if you will}

BOOKS/MOVIES

There are none to tell you about because I literally did my scrapbook every.single.waking.hour.

SOME FAVORITES 

This surprise wedding dance will always and forever be my favorite. 

One of the most controversial things I've ever posted, but something I felt/feel super strongly about. 

This study only reinforces what I've been telling Alex {and anyone else who I can get to listen} this whole time. 

And finally, need a laugh? For some reason, this video cracked me up

P.S. Before I sign off, I just wanted to let you know that I'm co-hosting The Circle this month with Kiki from In Its Time Blog. If you guys have never joined in, either with a post of your own or by reading the posts, you are seriously missing out. Also, if you don't know Kiki you really need to. She is encouraging, great at creating community, and one of the greatest people I've met in the blog world. This month our topic is self-care- how do you take care of yourself and make sure that you don't get stressed out? Blog? Do mani-pedis? Go run? All of the above? It's a topic I'm super passionate about so I hope you'll make your list and join us on Wednesday October 21st! 

How was your September? 

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Chasing a Dream - The Announcement


I still remember where I was when I decided I was going to become a family nurse practitioner. I was 15 years old and sitting in my high school counselor's office looking through a book called "100 Career Ideas". Seems like a totally ridiculous way to find your life's calling right? 

Well, it was that book that introduced me to the career of a nurse practitioner but it was the long line of nurses in my family that first inspired me to pursue nursing in the first place. My Grandma was a nurse for over 40 years and as a teenager I was partially responsible for taking her to her doctors' appointments. Almost every place we went, I heard "Oh that's Blanche?? {My grandma's name} She was a GREAT nurse." These were people that she had worked with decades before that still remembered her. I don't know about you, but that is the kind of legacy I can only hope to leave. 

That book in the counseling office that day introduced me to a whole other side of nursing that I had no idea even existed. As I read more and more about the opportunities that nurse practitioners have, I decided that that's what I wanted to do. 

That dream started 9 years ago and it's a dream that has stayed in my heart ever since. At the beginning of this year, I had a conversation with one of my best friends that would change my life. You see, the timing of me going to graduate school didn't seem to be right; Alex was still finishing up his radiology technologist degree and looking at applying to graduate school himself in the near future. 

10 months, several conversations, a lot of research, and many prayers later, I am thrilled to announce that today is my first day of graduate school. The decision was not made lightly and it's a journey that will take me somewhere between two and three years to complete. Not all of the pieces make sense (yet), but I/we are going into this journey excited and ready to take it on. There have been several specific events over the past few months that have confirmed our decision to have me head back to school, and that in itself is super comforting. 

I hope to write a couple of posts in the near future that talk in more detail about how Alex and I approached making this decision as it was one of the more difficult we've had to make as a couple. I'm not sure what the future of this blog will look like with graduate school added on top of work but for now my goal is to keep it around, with the goal of posting once a week. I hope you have a great Monday and I'm off to start on homework!

{Linking up with Ember Grey and Grateful Heart Monday}

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