That Time I Got a Liebster Award (Or, Definitive Proof That My Mom Isn’t My Only Reader)

That Time I Got a Liebster Award (Or, Definitive Proof That My Mom Isn't My Only Reader) | Thanks to the lovely Sydney from Erratic Novelist for nominating me for a Liebster Award! Check out my answers to her questions here - You'll find everything from spirit animals to spelling bees!

Dang! You know you haven’t blogged in a while when you open Wordpress and no longer recognize anything because of all the updates that have occurred since you last posted. So if the formatting of this post is terrible or the links are broken or the entire blog is now in Spanish, then lo siento, mis amigos.

But technical difficulties aside, I’m super excited to pop in today amidst my little blogging hiatus (I’ve missed you guys!) and share that one of my readers, the lovely Sydney from Erratic Novelist, has nominated me for a Liebster Award!

liebster-award

A Liebster Award is given from one blogger to another in “pass it on/pay it forward” style (kind of like those chain emails from the 90s, except way less spammy.) Liebster is a German word that translates to something like “dearest” in English, so individuals presumably nominate other writers whose work they find endearing, and they encourage their nominees to do the same. There are lots of different Liebster Award guidelines floating around the interwebs, but luckily Sydney kept it fun and simple:

Rules

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gave to you.
  3. Nominate as many bloggers as you feel deserve the award.
  4. Tell those bloggers you nominated them.
  5. Create 11 original questions for the next nominees to answer.

So let’s play!

  1. How often do you read? I consume a lot of content by listening to podcasts, and I’ll scroll through my favorite blogs when I have a few minutes here and there; however, I don’t crack open an actual book nearly as often as I would like. My “to read” list seems to grow exponentially with each passing day, but I’ll be honest—after sitting and staring at a computer all day at work, the last thing I usually feel like doing when I arrive home is more sitting and staring. I’m actually considering paying for an Audible subscription so that I can start listening to audiobooks during some of my regular podcast time.
  2. What are some tips you have for other writers? When you sit down to write a first draft of anything (whether it’s an email to your boss or the Next Great American Novel), make like Nike and just do it. Silence your inner editor/critic and get the words out as fast as you possibly can. Don’t stifle your creativity by stopping every 30 seconds to search for the perfect metaphor or ponder the intricacies of subject-verb agreement. Let your work be fragmented, imprecise, and rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes. You can (and should) go back and revise later on, but make this a separate phase in the process. Start by just getting your thoughts on the page. 
  3. What has been your favorite scene to write? One of my favorite writing projects to date is an Autobiography of Minutes that I authored in my high school creative writing class. We were asked to narrate our lives using a series of minute poems, which for my poetry peeps, are essentially 12-line, 3 stanza poems with an 8-4-4 syllable structure. (Purists would also say that there’s a particular rhyme scheme, and that iambic meter is a must, but thankfully my teacher relaxed these rules a bit.) ANYWHO, although the project didn’t involve writing any traditional “scenes,” it nonetheless allowed me to step back and view my life as a novelist, playwright, or any other type of artist might–i.e., as a series of elements that could be arranged and presented in a number of different ways to produce a variety of intriguing results. 
  4. If you could be any animal, which one would you be? According to one of those highly scientific Buzzfeed quizzes that we all love to hate (as well as the input of numerous family members and friends), my spirit animal is a meerkat, which unfortunately makes total sense. And my favorite animals have always been frogs, especially red eyed tree frogs. But let’s be real, if I actually had to be an animal, I’d probably go with something super generic like a horse or dolphin. I mean, c’mon. Those guys are majestic.
  5. Funniest line you’ve written? “Highly scientific Buzzfeed quizzes” (See #4)
  6. Biggest inspiration? I draw a lot of inspiration from powerful quotes, moving music, deep conversations, and weekly mass. Coffee helps, too.
  7. Favorite memory? This nostalgia junkie has about a million, so instead of choosing a specific event, I’ll go with a period in my life: the months surrounding my college graduation in 2014. I was riding the high of an amazing undergraduate experience and was excited to spend the summer with my family before embarking on my next adventure (graduate school) that fall. I also started dating my boyfriend during that time, and there’s just something uniquely sweet and special about the first few months of a relationship.
  8. What are your life goals? I have a lot of exciting plans and projects on the horizon right now, but overall, my life mission is to focus my time, energy, and attention on what truly matters and let the rest fall away, regardless of what everyone else thinks.
  9. Do you have any tricks you can do? I can’t wiggle my ears or hang a spoon from my nose, but I do seem to have that INFJ ability to read people like a book, a skill that is equal parts helpful and creepy.
  10. Where do you see yourself a year from now? Since I just made a big ol’ cross-country move and started my first full-time job, in a year, I actually hope that a lot of things look pretty similar from the outside–while feeling different on the inside. For example, I see myself living in Houston–but with a more nuanced appreciation for the city after plenty of adventures (and probably some misadventures). I see myself in my current job–but with a more robust set of methods and tools for effectively accomplishing my work. I see myself with my boyfriend–but our bond is even stronger after surviving his crazy 3rd year of medical school. I see myself blogging–but in a way that continually evolves to better serve me and my readers.
  11. What is the lowest grade you’ve ever gotten? I once failed a spelling test in 5th grade–and then won the school spelling bee later that year. And you thought Akeelah and the Bee was inspiring. 

And now, I’d love to spread the Liebster love by nominating my dear friend Olivia Sanchez-Felix for the award. Olivia and I met in college and immediately became kindred spirits, bonding over our love of farmers’ markets, global health, and dancing the Wobble. She’s like the cooler, crunchier, British version of me, and she blogs over at oliviasanchezfelix.wordpress.com. Since she’s in grad school, though, I’m going to help a sister out and ask her just 5 questions. She probably has way too much homework to do anyway.

Questions for Olivia

  1. If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
  2. What’s the bravest thing you’ve done in the past year?
  3. What are your best strategies for dealing with stress/anxiety?
  4. What book (fiction or nonfiction) left such an impression on you that you would recommend it to almost everyone?
  5. What’s it like to be the cooler, crunchier, British version of Paige?
Advertisements

Managing Anxiety: 5 Strategies That Have Worked for Me

Managing Anxiety: 5 Strategies That Have Worked For Me | Strategies such as embracing the diagnosis and seeing a trusted therapist can help keep anxiety at bay.

This past January, I visited my doctor to discuss some disturbing symptoms I was experiencing, namely dizziness, chest pains, and a rapid heart rate at the most unexpected and inexplicable times (such as when I was driving, lying in bed, or sitting in church). I walked into her office terrified that at just 24 years old, I was already exhibiting signs of early-onset cardiovascular disease. I walked out with the knowledge that while my heart and blood vessels were functioning just fine, my brain was another story: I was experiencing Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) along with panic symptoms. (Later on I would learn that I demonstrated many symptoms of clinical depression as well.)

In the months since these discoveries, I have taken a number of steps in hopes of improving my mental (and subsequently physical) health. I still have a long way to go, and GAD may be something that I have to learn to cope with for the rest of my life. Nonetheless, I have found a number of strategies and lifestyle modifications to be helpful thus far, and today I’d like to share some of them with you.

Unfortunately, given the relatively high prevalence of anxiety disorders (including panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias, and separation anxiety disorder), it seems quite likely that either you, dear reader, or someone you know and love suffers from one of these conditions. So while the following strategies may not be groundbreaking, I feel compelled to share, if for no other reason than to offer hope for the many others in similar situations. And although I am not a medical professional and am therefore in no position to diagnose or treat anyone else, I do have six years of public health education under my belt, so I intend to discuss the issues in an informed and responsible manner.

I have a total of 10 tips to share, but since I’m nothing if not verbose, I’ll keep this post at a manageable length by discussing only the first half. So without further ado, here are five strategies that have helped me manage my anxiety over the past seven months. And although I’m not focusing specifically on depression in this post, many of these same tactics have helped me tackle those symptoms as well.

  1. Embracing the diagnosis and admitting that I need help. Although the diagnostic labeling of mental health issues can be a controversial topic, for me, discovering that my experiences had a name was immensely helpful. It enabled me to research the disorder and better understand what was going on in my body and mind; it gave me an explanation for my irrational thoughts and actions other than “I’m ridiculous” or “I suck.” It provided me with the vocabulary I needed to communicate my situation to others and helped me to understand that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. And most of all, having a diagnosis forced me to finally acknowledge the gravity of my situation and motivated me to take action and reach out for help. I was no longer just “stressed about school”; I was truly miserable and functioning suboptimally in almost every area of my life, and I lacked the knowledge and resources to turn things around all by myself.
  2. Taking medication. I was initially a bit reluctant and ashamed to take the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that my doctor prescribed. The list of potential side effects made my current symptoms seem like a cakewalk, and since I’ve always been an advocate of making holistic lifestyles changes rather than relying solely on pills, I felt like a hypocrite for taking meds right away without at least attempting therapy first. (Therapy came later; see item #3.) But my desperation drove me to start taking the medication anyway and I’m so glad that I did. My panic symptoms (dizziness, chest pains, and racing heartbeat) have completely disappeared, and I haven’t experienced any noticeable side effects. We eventually upped my daily dose a bit and I’m happy with where we’re at right now. Yay for normal serotonin levels!

  3. Seeing a therapist with whom I really connect. Once I finished the semester and my schedule was more accommodating, I started making the 1-hour commute to visit a therapist who came highly recommended by several people I know. Although I wasn’t expecting to find a perfect fit on the first try, after just one session with Nicole, I completely understood why these individuals had spoken so highly of her. She was warm, funny, and an incredible listener, able to weave the various threads of my experiences together into a coherent picture for me to gaze and reflect upon. I laughed, I cried, and I discussed things I hadn’t even realized were bothering me, and the whole time I felt completely comfortable and respected, even when she pointed out that some of my thoughts or actions might be irrational or counterproductive. I’ve continued seeing her all summer and can’t believe the difference. Whereas my medication has helped alleviate my physical panic symptoms, therapy has helped tackle the thought patterns that send me into a spiral of anxiety in the first place.

  4. Talking and writing openly about my experiences. Initially, I wanted to share what I was going through with as few people as possible–my parents, my boyfriend, and maybe one or two friends. I was still processing it all myself and didn’t know how to go about discussing it with others. So for a while, I waited, avoiding the topic whenever possible and speaking vaguely of “appointments” and “medication” whenever I couldn’t get around it. And that’s totally okay! Eventually, though, I felt that I was ready to share–that in a way, I needed to share. My public health education had taught me many things, one of which was that mental health issues are incredibly common and yet all too often not diagnosed, treated, or even discussed. I had always lamented this reality and wanted to do something about it; here was a glaring opportunity. So I started by writing, and then, with some trepidation, by sharing that writing. Hitting “publish” on my first blog post was both terrifying and thrilling; I was finally being completely open and honest about my mental health, but what would people think? Would friends and family suddenly find me burdensome and unstable? Would colleagues be less likely to trust me with major tasks at work for fear that I might not be able to handle the pressure? Would everyone roll his or her eyes and tell me to get over myself? I was fortunate to receive an overwhelmingly positive response, but I see now that even if I hadn’t had such a warm reception, sharing my experiences was the right move for me. On a personal level, writing and talking about anxiety, depression, fear, perfection, vulnerability, mindfulness, identity, and more have been incredibly therapeutic, and on a professional level, I like knowing that in some small way, I’m helping to fight a stigma that causes so many people to suffer in silence.

  5. Being patient with myself. In some regards, I’m a very patient person; however, when it comes to my own personal development, I often expect myself to have it together at all times, to be good at things on the first try, and to flawlessly and immediately adapt to whatever life throws my way. When I started realizing that I would never expect this level of perfection from a family member or friend, I knew that it was time to start being kinder and more patient with myself. I’m going through a lot of life transitions right now, with graduation, moving, and the search for my first full-time job. It’s okay that it’s taking me more than a day, a week, or even a month to wrap my brain around it all. I also can’t expect managing my anxiety to be a perfectly linear process; there will still be plenty of days when I find myself overthinking the smallest of things, worrying about the unlikeliest of scenarios, or feeling tense and panicked for no discernible reason. I’m aiming for large-scale progress, not day-to-day perfection.

So there you have it! In the next installment, I plan to focus more on health behaviors such as sleep, exercise, and caffeine intake. In the meantime, if you have any advice of your own for managing anxiety (whether or not you have a diagnosed disorder), please feel free to leave a comment and enlighten us!