Are carbs bad for you? and other things: a story of prioritizing personal well-being

Are carbs bad for you? and other things: a story of prioritizing personal well-being
By Heather Nelson

Note: this article is part of a series. Heather shares her journey into a healthy lifestyle — body and mind — and invites you to take part in your own. 

If you’re thinking about or have thoughts of suicide or are concerned about someone you know or just need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with their counselors here. If you think that you or a loved one may be suffering through an eating disorder please check out the resources here or call the National Eating Disorder Hotline 1-800-931-2237. (All resources are FREE.)

I remember the sun. It was hot. Bright. A promise of another day. A fresh start.

The people, too, were like that Florida summer sun. Bright, glowing, never-changing, full of hope…. And me? I felt dark. Like the black sheep. An anomaly.

Didn’t I trust God?

1,600 miles from the comfort of home, the uncertainty started to wear on me. I never felt so desperate before. I looked for any answer, a solution. I never needed a sleep-aid. Now, I took a handful of night-time pain relievers to fall asleep. I felt numb. The weight of a life-changing decision hung on my shoulders. “I’m too busy to worry about this,” I thought. I tried my hardest not to worry — I “trusted” in God.

For five weeks, I stayed busy: collecting phone numbers, sifting through passages of scripture, kneeling for hours in the chapel, note-taking, and, occasionally, lounging on the beach. I thought long walks in the chokingly-humid air or staring at the sunset would clear my mind. Or maybe ignoring the problem would suffice? How about speaking with a few trusted friends? A priest? Nothing seemed to fix what I was feeling, and I convinced myself that it was normal and that I should move on.

I convinced myself that becoming a missionary was something that I needed to do. I’ve always wanted to help people, and becoming a missionary seemed like the perfect fit. I’d devoted the latter half of my college career to bible studies, spending time in prayer, and hoping to transform lives through God’s word. I started to think that I made the wrong decision. My declining mental health and the uncertainty fueled the increased worry. Why couldn’t I just be happy like everyone else? Why couldn’t I stop worrying? Why couldn’t I turn my brain off?

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Vanderbilt Beach in Florida, just one of the beaches where the missionaries of FOCUS spent weekends. 

***

Three days until the end of training. Three days until I’d return home. Three days until I could no longer hide.

“I’m thinking…I think I might want to die, like, I want to kill myself,” I whispered to a friend. Moments passed.

My friend looked at me, sadness in her eyes, paused, and asked, “Why are you feeling this way?” I sat for a moment, tears welling up, a choking feeling in my throat.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “It’s, like, I think about death a lot, and how much easier it’d be if I just didn’t wake up one morning.” I told my friend about the sleepless nights, about the weariness…. Later, I spoke to a priest and explained the same thing. And then, confided in another friend about the extreme sadness I felt.

The consensus following my consultations: Trust in God. You can do this.

One month later, I’d finally become tired from lying to my boss about the amount of work I’d completed (and how lousy I felt). I wasn’t ready to support myself on campus: financially or emotionally. One night I answered his call ready to talk about everything. I told him about the suicidal thoughts, the lack of motivation, my inability to merely move from bed. And still, I was convinced that a drive to Springfield, Mo. would change my mind. It didn’t.

Several conversations (and days) later, I’d:

  • quit my job
  • spilled the whole story to my mom
  • called a therapist

The weight of not knowing slowly slipped away. I decided to take care of myself first. I finally trusted myself to make my own decisions. I slowly learned to care for myself (mentally, physically, emotionally) again. With the help of my therapist, I understood the inner workings of my anxious brain and how to care for myself. And I began to live a happier life again.

To be continued…

The change didn’t happen overnight. I’d felt these feelings of despair before, but I thought it was “normal” to contemplate death often. I didn’t know that I was anxious or depressed. I figured I’d always feel rundown or unable to function.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Through the years, I’ve discovered what sets me off, or sends me into a frenzy. I fear not knowing what the future holds. I stress when I’m unorganized. I lose sleep when there’s “too much” to do.

I’ve learned the different tools and forms of self-care that I need to calmly move on or to prepare for when crisis strikes.

Whether you suffer from a mental illness or occasionally feel rundown, here are some forms of self-care I’ve found the most beneficial:

  • a hot bath, with a calming Spotify playlist
  • lounging on a couch (or lawn chair) with a book
  • physical exercise (for me: running or weight lifting, yoga)
  • meditation (via headspace)
  • baking / trying a new recipe
  • meal planning/prepping
  • spending time with a friend
  • making a to do list of small tasks — checking them off is satisfying!!
  • booking a massage

You may share my forms of self-care, and you will certainly have your own.

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My forms of self-care include reading, trips to Trader Joe’s, and heading to the gym.

Below is this week’s call to action! 

You may’ve heard the word “self-care.” Maybe you’ve heard it described as treating yourself to a shopping spree or something of that nature. Self-care is much more than that. It’s an activity meant to take care of our well-being, our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. A good self-care routine means improved mood and less anxiety. It’s a way to “refuel” ourselves.

If you don’t have a self-care routine, create one. It’s important to take a few minutes for yourself each day — yes, even if you’re busy. You must actively plan for self-care — it’s not meant to be random. When you plan things out, you’re able to respond to situations instead of react. It’s also beneficial to have a mapped out routine before you’re in a time of crisis.

    1. Ask, “Am I taking care of myself? Do I take the time to care for my own needs before anyone else’s?”
    2. Consider the areas of your health: physical, mental, emotional. Start listing out a few things you can do to care for yourself in each category. An activity may even overlap between the three categories. (Example: exercising is my form of self-care for my physical and mental wellbeing.)
    3. If you already have a routine, take time to assess. What’s something small you’re doing for yourself each day? How could improve or add to your current routine.
    4. Reach out to a trusted friend. Find an accountability buddy. Check in with them (and have them check in with you) as often as you need. Change takes time, but it feels a little easier with structured plan to guide you.

 

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

The clock struck midnight — February 1. My 25 birthday; halfway to 50; a quarter of a century, if I’m lucky enough to live 100 years. I half-expected a Cinderella-esque transformation at that very stroke of midnight. Instead, I slept. My 25 birthday? Like any other day. I should’ve dropped birthday expectations long ago, but there’s something about birthdays that excite me. You’re another year older, another year wiser?

I don’t consider myself an expert on anything, especially life advice, but I thought I’d share a few things I learned in my 25 years of life.

  1. You can’t plan the future (and, yes, sometimes that’s scary). 

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “planner.” It eases my anxiety a great deal to know (and prepare) for my next moves. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to schedule out every second of life. It’s something that I’m still figuring out and accepting.

 

2. It’s hard to keep in touch with all of your friends/acquaintances…

but make sure to keep the good ones around. The ones that stick with you through the hardships in your life and are there to celebrate life’s joys with you, too.

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Some of my best friends (not all of them are pictured) live far from me. I miss them every day, but am thankful for Facetime, texting and social media.

 

3. Assess your values and establish them as priority.

It’s important to identify your values and prioritize them. You’ll refer to these values when developing friendships, relationships, starting new jobs, etc.

 

4. It’s OK to ask for help.

Seriously. Anytime, anywhere, any situation. Ask for help, if you need it.

 

5. Single life isn’t all that bad.

It’s during the times that I’ve been single that I’ve learned the most about myself. I’ve focused on self-love, my health (all aspects) and finding time for my passions. Embrace your single-ness, it’s not the worst thing ever (even if it feels like it sometimes).

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The joke is … I’m the single one in this picture.

6. Take time to discover yourself and your values/beliefs. 

This doesn’t happen overnight. And this might be something that you take time for regularly.

 

7. There’s not ONE right way to pursue wellness. 

Some prefer yoga, others prefer lifting. I’ve found that running helps relieve stress. After I picked running up a year ago — I took a long hiatus post-high school — and since then I’ve signed up for a number of runs to keep myself motivated. Find what works for you. Research. Talk to your doctor. There’s a plethora of ways to eat and exercise, you’re bound to find something that works.

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This is me at my first half marathon, which I ran in October 2017.

 

8. Pursue what makes you happy, not necessarily what will make you the most money. 

I will never forget this piece of advice my dad gifted me.

 

9. Find time to travel/explore.

Go beyond your comfort zone. Learn something new. Be a tourist.

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Saberseminar & Fenway & amazing friends.

 

10. Support a cause. 

Do some research and donate your time or money (or both) to something greater than you.

 

11. You don’t have to be religious to be moral/a good person.

 

12. Vote. 

Please.

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Me posting voting in the 2016 election. 😦

 

13. Regularly take “me time”. 

See above. It’s important to just relax and spend time treating yourself.

 

14. Learn to let things go.

It’s not worth hanging on to hatred towards someone or something (unless it’s the Yankees). Once I started to move on from past grievances, I felt better about myself. Also see: Kesha’s song.

 

15. Perfection isn’t real.

Still accepting this one. More on that later.

 

16. You never stop learning (if you keep an open-mind). 

My favorite thing, in the last year or so, is to check out non-fiction books from the library. Reading non-fiction allows me to expand my knowledge on a topic I already appreciate or want to know more about. Keeping up on current events is quick way to learn information about the world around you.

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I took time on my trip to Boston to visit several historical spots in the city. This included learning more about one of my favorite historical figures, John F. Kennedy.

 

17. Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels champions.

It’s never let me down.

 

18. Mental health is REAL.

Mental health is real. Mental health is real. Mental health days are real. Mental health should be treated like physical health. Mental well-being is important.

 

19. Conflict is a part of life. 

How does that saying go? “Life isn’t always easy.” …or something like that.

 

20. Take risks, even if you fail. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed when trying something new, but I suppose that’s a part of life. It’s like in basketball when you’re trying to shoot a three-point basket, but you actually airball.

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KU doesn’t know anything about missing a shot or two….

 

21. Don’t compare yourself to anyone.

Social media is super deceptive. It’s not hard to see someone’s life and make assumptions based off what is shared. Remember that every person is unique. There’s no “timeline” to life.

 

22. Don’t harbor regret.

It’s like the saying, “live and learn.” There’s a reason for everything — even if that reason was solely to teach a lesson.

 

23. Let ’em talk. 

Like the Kesha song.

 

24. Trust your gut.

Because it’s probably right.

 

25. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

Bring your ideas to life and act. Waiting for the “perfect” moment will get you nowhere.

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The University of Kansas was my dream school. Yes, my dream school. I let no one AND no thing stop me from attending. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.