Self-Care

IMG_5173.JPG

When I first looked into the phenomena known as “self-care”, I was pumped. Who doesn’t want a reasoning behind more bubble baths, a glass of wine after work, or a $60 candle? I quickly got carried away in the practice. Paying $150 for a Hydrafacial? SELF-CARE! Taking a yoga class where a sweaty man literally sat on my back and told me to breathe through my chakra? SELF-CARE (also kind of gross)! Brunch at 3pm on a Sunday and binging “The Office” for the rest of the day? SELF-CARE!

I found myself doing more things that I enjoyed, and I liked putting an emphasis on “me time”. But I was perplexed when I didn’t find myself feeling more valued, or more at peace with myself. I felt pretty much the same, but with better skin and more flexible limbs.

I was making a homemade clay-drink creation (if you value your insides, don’t do this) when I started thinking: maybe my self-care isn’t just outward action, but internal practices I had long left behind. I decided to carefully study myself over the next few days and observe my own internal thoughts and how they materialized in my life.

I was about four hours into this exercise when I couldn’t ignore what was happening. My negative self-talk was through the roof. Just about everything I did, I attached a personal, negative emotion to it. When I tried to get up from the couch and felt a little gimpy, I scolded myself for not working out more. When I checked Twitter for the 6th time that day, I mentally noted how lazy and unmotivated I was. When I got dressed, I frowned in the mirror, knowing I wouldn’t ever look like the long-legged girl I saw on Instagram that morning. Even when I was eating lunch, I thought “take smaller bites you animal!!!”. It’s like a judgey Italian Grandmother was living in my head, commenting on my every move.

I noticed over the next few days how prevalent negative self-talk was in my life. It hindered how my day went, how I felt about myself, how I interacted with others. I was the Regina George of my own brain. The way I spoke to myself was unkind, judgmental and showed no signs of gentleness. I realized no matter how much self-care I practiced, none of it mattered, because I didn’t really care about my inner self, and how it was being looked after.

Self-care is many things. It is laying down for a bit when you’re feeling anxious and tired. It’s choosing to stay in and put some clay on your face. It’s spending an afternoon at the library, with you and only you. It’s calling a friend for a good laugh. There are so many ways to slow down, and check in with yourself. But no mud-mask in the world can hide the effects of negative self-talk. Why do we allow our inner voice be so mean? Is it because we feel unworthy of the kindness we so willingly give to others? If another person spoke to me the way I spoke to myself, they would be gone faster than this $6 Lavender Blueberry scone I’m eating in the spirit of LOVING MYSELF.

It’s true that I never feel fresher than after I’ve spent a day at the spa, having my muscles pounded into the ground, lounging around guzzling cucumber water. I speak to myself like a damn goddess when my limbs are sprawled out on a daybed, taking another sip of my Oolong tea. I usually enter the week calmer, with more confidence. But what if I could mentally check myself into my spa-safe-haven every morning, choosing to speak to myself with kindness? For starters, I would save a ton of money. For the past few weeks, every time I went to negatively speak to myself, I refrained, and rephrased. Instead of “You didn’t get to the grocery store today, you’re so lazy”, I would check in and say “I did not make the grocery store a priority today. I did some other really productive things instead”. Or one of my brain’s classics: “you will never look as effortlessly gorgeous as that girl on Instagram”, I will take a second to remind myself “her beauty does not take away from my own.”

It’s been a real challenge to reshape the way I think, and it’s something I work on every day. Self-care can present itself in a multitude of ways. I love buying a luxe face mask I’ve been saving up for or lighting a new candle. But I will not allow companies to capitalize on my need to love myself, if I truly cannot achieve that on the inside. I’ve got a long way to go- and I know I can’t totally get rid of that Italian Grandma living in my head. But instead of a judgey one, I’m trading her in for one that always tells me I need to eat more, grabs my face and tells me how lovely I am.

Take Your Time.

I'm officially back from a little writing hiatus, and to say I've been busy is an understatement. I'm planning my wedding, my mom's wedding, I'm the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding, AND I started binge watching "House of Cards"! How does she do it?! 

When life gets busy, I tend to feel like someones pressed fast forward (and not that weak 2x sh!%, but the lightning speed you use when you're with your parents and people start getting naked), and I'm just catching little moment here and there. I know I'm not alone- I know a lot of people get this way. Between work, friends, family, trying to be healthy, and keeping your house from looking like an episode of "Hoarders", how are you supposed to find time to slow down and appreciate the little things? 

We usually don't. Until we have to. 

A few weeks ago, I went to the dermatologist for some laser treatment for a few scars on my back. I had noticed lately that my underarms had gotten extremely dark, and I casually mentioned it to my doctor. I was sure it was some sort of allergic reaction to a new deodorant or just my Italian genes catching up with me. He took one look at it and said I needed to go see my Endocrinologist right away- that it was something internal causing this sudden darkness. It's like I got the Voldemort of armpits. I still thought nothing of it-until I did the worst thing you can do- I got on WebMD. Cancer! Tumor! Divvy up your things and say "Goodbye"!! I wouldn't admit it, but I was scared. But- I had been down this road before, thinking the worst and all it ended up being was a bad hot dog. I wouldn't worry until I had something to actually worry about. 

I got into the Endocrinologist the very next morning. She gave my underarms the once, twice, three-times over. She asked me a plethora of questions, got on her computer and got very quiet for what felt like hours. She admitted she was completely stumped- I didn't have any symptoms other than my dark underarms. I didn't match the criteria for someone that usually has this (BTW, it was diagnosed Acanthosis Nigricans . No need to bore you with words I can't pronounce). She took my hands and looked me square in the eyes: " I don't want to scare you, but I want to seek out if this is symptom of a tumor". And now I had something to worry about. 

I couldn't breathe. 48-hours-ago all I cared about was what I was going to wear to my bridal shower, if my room needed a new rug, and if Mike would be mad at me because I watched-ahead on Netflix. This can't be true. The doctor is just being careful. I feel absolutely fine. What if I'm not? I didn't sleep that night, and was exhausted when I showed up at my Internist the next morning. For the third day in a row, I was looked over, my eyes meeting those of a confused doctor. I took a blood test. To my relief, it came back 100% normal. I thought I was in the clear. If something really was wrong, it would have showed up on a blood test. Nope- now I was sent to my gastroenterologist, to get an upper scope, and look around for some scary, WebMD predicted tumor. That feeling of relief was over quicker than my "Crazy Bonez" addiction when I was eight.

My Internist, one of the smartest, most kick-ass women I know, assured me that the chances of an actual tumor in my gastrointestinal tract just doesn't feel likely. It just wouldn't add up, but let's do this test to be safe. She put my mind at ease, taking away some of that crippling fear when you have to think: "but I haven't done anything yet". 

Last week, I had my upper scope- and it came back 100% clear. I burst into tears as soon as my doctor told me. Also I was not fully off anesthesia yet and I was having a dream I met Nick Jonas so things may have gotten mixed around. 

It's no secret that life moves fast, and it can change in the blink of an eye. After my appointment with the Endocrinologist,  I laid in bed that night with Mike, crying, thinking I hadn't appreciated enough our dinners together. Or morning walks. Or doing the dishes together.  I hadn't taken the time in the little moments to realize they are the big ones. That life is good even when it's Monday, even when I'm not on vacation, even when I'm up to my eyeballs in work. If we do not take the time now to appreciate the people in our lives and the moments they create, what are we living for anyway? It's not the clothes, the new beauty products (can't deny they bring me overwhelming joy, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT!) or the Instagram moments. It's the everyday, mundane things with people you love that will fill your life. There's a real argument to be had for the in-between. 

So what's the takeaway here? IF YOUR ARMPITS SUDDENLY BECOME DARK DON'T JUST RUB LEMON ON THEM BECAUSE MARTHA STEWART SAID TO. GET THEM CHECKED OUT. Okay, no. It's something more important. I know it's impossible to be grateful and appreciate everything every minute of every day. Some days are really really tough. But this is your reminder, your sign, if you got off track like I did, to not sweat the small stuff, and to use that extra time to enjoy your boring, beautiful life. Don't wait until it's Instagram levels of excitement to enjoy it. Speak kindly and with purpose. Realize that true love is not just reserved for a significant other, but for your family and friends as well. And let them know.

I feel so unbelievably blessed that my results came back clean, because I know there are so many people that aren't granted that same relief. This entire ordeal has forced me to slow down a little bit and realize that the things that keep me from enjoying life, aren't important enough to give them that power. So wedding flowers, take a back seat. I'll be enjoying this boring-ass episode of Jeopardy curled up my couch while I yell out the wrong answers- and loving every minute of it. 

*Photo by Ava Ranger Photography 

 

 

Equilibrium Pilates Challenge: It's Only Just The Beginning.

 

360 Pilates classes- that’s what I’ve been up to for the past three months. Well, I’m on the other side now, and am doing a little "Mulan" style ~reflecting~ on how my life, body, and mind have changed in the last 90 days with Equilibrium Pilates Studio.

I’ve said it a thousand times, I am not athletic. You’re looking at the Assistant Manager of every single basketball, softball, and volleyball team from Middle School to High School (yes, I tried out for each one- CAN’T STOP ME). It mostly has to do with my orthopedic disability from birth defects.  I also am just extremely uncoordinated, and in a game of H.O.R.S.E, I’m usually out faster than you can say Kobe. Or is it Lebron now? SPORTS.

So when I entered this path to Pilates, I was understandably nervous. I equated Pilates to tall, perfectly slender dancers, moving through each exercise with more grace than “Swan Lake”. It was much to my surprise, that most people in my classes at Equilibrium were just like me, and the teachers, although slender and graceful (but also with bad ass muscles that could crush a man), didn’t make me feel for one second that I wasn’t just like them. I never felt out of my league, or like I didn’t belong. The teachers were kind, helpful, instructive and supportive. They helped me move through each class with the same grace I reserved for dancers and people who can walk with books on their head. It makes me tear up to think about one teacher, Rachel, who literally held onto my waist, supporting me, and moved me through a standing position on the Reformer, as I was physically incapable of completing the move myself. The kindness, patience and understanding that was shown to me at Equilibrium was not just good for Pilates, but I found it resonating in my life in so many other ways.

Did I wake up every morning, leaping out of bed like a kid on Christmas, ready to roll to Pilates? Hell naw. In the first few weeks, my mind still equated Pilates to a “workout” which translated to “burden”. But by the end of the challenge, I was itching to get to Pilates every day, and missing it when I couldn’t attend. I found that my mind needed it as much as my body did. Walking into the studio and knowing I had an hour to work on me, free from work or other obligation was an absolute game changer. Some people do their best thinking in the shower- I would now like to think I do mine on the Reformer. The low-impact (but high results) of Pilates make this workout anything from a burden. I actually found myself choosing Pilates over Happy Hour- and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know then I don’t know what to tell you. It’s some of the best work I do all day.

Now for the physical results. Let’s be totally open here: I went into this challenge at 98 pounds- which is far too low for me. I was weak, no muscle tone, frail and scared that if I fell, I would be the youngest person that ever screamed “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!!!”. In just three months, I have more muscle than I’ve ever had- 7 pounds more of it to be exact. Moves I couldn't do in the first week, I was doing with ease on the last. I feel strong, capable, and safer on my own two feet. Again, for the sake of being honest- this wasn’t an easy adjustment. I felt AMAZING. But seeing weight get put on your body, even when it’s good weight, can be tough. Society equates being thin to being fit. And even I, fell victim to this archaic notion. I had, wrongly, associated my slenderness with having a “good body”, even though one big gust of wind and I was out of here. When I started to get more muscle and put on weight (which was the necessary thing for me to do), it took adjusting. I had to really come around to appreciate this new, stronger, healthier body. Like most women, I am hard on myself. Every lump and bump and dark spot I am critical of, to the point of stressing myself out over the smallest of things. Through Pilates, I’m learning to appreciate my body not because of its size or weight, but because it is mine, and for the first time in a long time, it’s healthy. It’s an ongoing effort, and I truly encourage you all to do the same. Equilibrium has jump-started the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with my body, and that in itself is priceless.

Maybe you’re thinking you want to try Pilates, but like me, you’re a little unsure. Do you have stretch pants? A pair of socks? Well then honey, you’re in! To ease the “first class jitters” of starting a new form of exercise, the wonderfully kind people of Equilibrium are offering a FREE Pilates barre class with me! Here’s the info:

SATURDAY, JUNE 3RD

8:30am

Equilibrium Pilates Studio, Birmingham

189 Townsend Street #100 (just go down the stairs and you're there!)

Email JessicaP@Equilibriumstudio.com to sign up! 

 

If you even have a HINT of “I want to try this”, please join me for this class. I don’t promote anything I don’t fully support, and I can promise you this could be the start of something really, really great for you. It’s a low impact class, so don’t be nervous! You’re going to get through it thinking you’re basically the Calvin Johnson of Pilates (Again, SPORTS??). And then 24 hours later, you’ll be wondering while you’re so sore. Those are your muscles, and they’re back, baby.

I would sincerely like to thank Equilibrium for the gift of this partnership. The kindness of the studio and its staff has made this a life-and-body-altering experience, and I am forever grateful. I plan to continue practicing Pilates for a long time to come, until I’m frail when I’m actually supposed to be.