5 Low-Key Coping Skills For When You Can’t Walk Away

Ever get stuck in a spot where your anxiety is sky-high, but you’re surrounded with no real exit strategy? Maybe you’re at a work meeting or a concert with friends and the chances of you being able to slip away are slim to none. Yeah, me too. The trapped feeling that is quick to follow only makes things worse and harder to handle. 

When it happens to me, it’s usually when I’m at work. My job can get pretty damn stressful at times and it takes all I have not to freak out. There are also times where it is calm and leaves me time to think. Sometimes when I think too much, my anxiety skyrockets but most times I still can’t walk away. 

Having a coping skill with you everywhere you go can be the best way to combat anxiety and it might be easier than you think. To have a coping skill with you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to physically have something with you and let’s not forget that not every coping skill will work for every person–everyone is different, requiring different things to calm them. 

That being said, here are five low-key coping skills to try next time you can’t step away…

Deep Breathing

This is a coping skill that is widely overlooked. Truth is, taking some deep breaths could be just what you need to keep yourself calm. Sometimes this is all I have at my disposal at work and while it definitely isn’t my first choice of coping skill, I make it work!

Deep breathing can help lower heart rate as well as relax the body’s muscles. Try following the inflating shape, syncing your breathing!

Fidget Cube

Fidget cubes are perfect for work meetings when you start getting restless but need to pay attention. They are discreet and can be used under a desk or table to keep from distracting others! I don’t currently have one of these but I really wish I did!

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is whimsical in nature due to its true variability. Different scents can trigger different responses. Carry a small spray or scent roller (or hand sanitizer in my case) of whatever scent gives you the relief you’re looking for! Some scents that promote relaxation and stress relief are lavender and eucalyptus. I, personally, carry eucalyptus spearmint hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works with me.

Neck Rolls

Built up stress and anxiety can contribute to muscle tension along with everyday activities such as driving or working on a computer. Taking a minute to stretch and roll your neck can help relieve that tension and even improve your mood once that tension is lifted a bit!

I find myself stretching out and rolling my neck a lot lately so it definitely wasn’t a surprise when I got a massage last week and the masseuse told me my neck and shoulders were extremely tense and full of knots. However, when I do stretch it feels better at least for a little bit. 

Slime/Putty

Slime may be a fun craft to do with kids, but I, a 25-year-old woman, love me some slime. In fact, I recently made some slime for myself with one of my best friends because she had bought a kit and we were bored! Now I use that slime all the time.

This is a coping skill that can help keep your hands busy and your mind focused on something other than what is around you. It can be made or bought in small batches so it has easy portability! I bought a mini one that I keep in my backpack!

Personally using four of these five coping skills, I am confident that they could work for others! All you have to do is give them a chance! The girls I work with use all of them, though they tend to tell me to shove it when I suggest they try deep breathing…

I’d love to hear what coping skills work for you, especially those for when you’re in a situation you can’t walk away from! Drop a comment below ↓ 

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie ♥ 

To The Person Lost Inside Of Their Own Head

They say you’re supposed to be safest with yourself. But what if inside your mind is the most dangerous place?

You’re an over thinker. You think of every single possible outcome but you tend to focus mostly on the negative ones. In your mind, good things don’t happen to you–or when they do, something bad is surely not far behind.

That negativity seeps in from your mind to your body and you don’t do anything remotely productive for days. Staying in bed, going in-between sleeping and binge-watching Netflix, seems like the best thing in the world because you just can’t bring yourself to get up.

When you do get out of bed, you’re rundown and tired but try to compensate with exuberance. Except that doesn’t always work out. You put on a front and act as happy as possible because that’s how you want others to see you. Happy.

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Your thoughts get so loud that the anxiety peeks out as tears show up uninvited, but you’re in public so you try so hard to hold them back that it physically hurts. You’ve gotten pretty good at hiding it, but sometimes you can’t stop them so you excuse yourself because crying in public is frowned upon.

Due to all of this, you’re pretty sure you’re just crazy despite several others telling you the opposite. Your mind rallies behind the negative thoughts and feelings until you feel as though there is no positivity left within you.

If any or all of these sound familiar, know that you are not alone. I know all of these things to be true because they’re me, too. I get so negative in my mind that I’m all but fully convinced that I’m going to be stuck for the rest of my life. Stuck in one place, doing one thing, with just one person: myself.

Being alone in the present isn’t what freaks me out. Being alone for the rest of my days with 20+ cats for company is the scary picture in my mind. I fear I’ll never get to see all that I want to because I’ll never get out of the financial hole I’ve found myself in. I get stuck on the thought that I’m not good enough to do or be anything but what my life and self currently are.

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I think I’m crazy because my thoughts won’t stop and won’t gravitate anywhere near positivity. They consume me and make trying to do anything else an intense struggle. I meditate, work out, write, and more to try to distract my mind into motivation. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does long enough for me to forget about the things that stress me out for a bit.

You may have gone through some shit to get your mind where it’s at or you might not…and let’s not forget that everyone’s definition of “going through some shit” is different. For me, my last relationship really messed with my head from the verbal/emotional abuse and manipulation. I’ve been struggling long before that, but a part of me broke over the last couple years.

If you are someone who knows a person lost in their head, please be patient. It’s a tough road to journey on and it doesn’t help to have others saying things like “suck it up, it gets better” or “you’re just being crazy, you’re fine”. Instead, be supportive and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Honestly, most of the time the answer will be nothing. It’s literally the thought that counts! Everyone needs a little help now and then even if it’s just needing a shoulder to cry on.

If you’re like me, we are stronger than we think. These feelings are not forever and will fade with time and work. How much time is impossible to say. It sucks now, but finding your way through is all you can do.  Whatever we’ve gone through, it’s happened and we can’t change that no matter how much we want to.

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We are all different. Find what works for you and your mind. Meditate every morning or throughout the day if needed. Watch a sappy movie with your favorite wine (or in my case, tequila) and get a good cry in. Check if your employer has an employee assistance program that offers free therapy sessions.

This blog is a safe space for everyone and especially those on their road to self-recovery. Comment anonymously if you choose, but remember that we are worth every bit of effort to get our minds back on track! Together we can lift each other up during our lowest times to thrive and live our best times.

Love always,

Caitie♥

8 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Zen

In my opinion, for all it’s worth, yoga is a fantastic way to either start or end the day. For me, I have been doing my best to do 15-20 minutes of yoga every morning after/while drinking my smoothie. I’m not a huge breakfast person but I know it’s, as they say, the most important meal of the day so I drink a nice, big green smoothie.

I have a pretty high-stress life right meow, so I’ll try pretty much anything to help myself relax a little. So I started poking around the web, mostly on Pinterest. I had done yoga before, although that was to a class that could probably have passed as yoga for bodybuilders.

While I’m no expert, I’ve done quite a bit of research on different yoga poses to implement into my own routine to help de-stress. Here are my 8 favorites that help me improve my zen:

WARRIOR I

All of the warrior poses help to build stamina and strength and Warrior I is a great place to start. This pose helps open up the hips while working to strengthen the core and legs. The slight backbend really allows the body to open up and stretch out.

CAT/COW

This is technically two poses, but they make such a good combination that they really should just be lumped together perminately. This combination pose is great for people with back pain as it helps to stretch out the spine and hips.

DOWNWARD FACING DOG

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This pose is the pretty much like the king of yoga poses. It does it all; arms, shoulders, hips, spine, and legs. Enough said.

PLANK

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I. Hate. Planks.

However…this pose is AMAZING for helping build core strength. I do it for that reason alone because core strength is an area I need to work on. This pose also helps build strength in the wrists, arms, and shoulders.

SEATED FORWARD BEND

Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend yoga Pose) for Beginners (1)_1

If your hamstrings and calves need a good stretch, this pose should be in your yoga routine. I’ve had this in my own routine and it definitely burns the first few times. But having done it almost every morning for a little while now, I can feel a difference.

CHILD’S POSE

Again, for those with back pain, this is a good pose to practice. By extending your arms out in front of you, it allows your spine to stretch out and get some relief.

TREE POSE

This pose is great for improving balance and I definitely need help with that! A good tip is to find a spot straight ahead of you and focus only on that spot while you take deep breaths. It helps me from falling over at least!

CORPSE POSE

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It might sound silly, but sometimes it’s good to just lay down and breathe. That’s exactly what this pose does. I find it best to end my routine with corpse pose to give my body and mind a quick break before moving on with my day.


I won’t say that some days I struggle with the motivation and desire to do yoga in the mornings. Most recently, I’ve struggled to even pull myself out of bed. So if my darkness gets the better of me, I always try to get some yoga in at some point in my day, even if it’s late at night.

Basically, don’t sweat it if you’re low on motivation sometimes. It happens and it won’t last forever. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself!

I’d love to hear what your favorite yoga poses are! Leave a comment below!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

Why You Should Make a Vision Board

Figuring out life goals and keeping them in focus can be a struggle. I know I struggle with focus and motivation regularly. That’s why everyone should have a vision board! Check it out!

Figuring out life goals and keeping them in focus can be a struggle. I know I struggle with focus and motivation regularly.

A vision board is a tool to help put chosen life goals into perspective and provide a visual representation of those goals. This week at work, one of the group therapy sessions was to create a vision board for how the kids wanted to improve their mental and physical health.

Tools Needed:

  • Magazines
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Paper/poster

First thing you’re going to want to do is think about what parts of your life or daily routine you think could use a visual cue to help you stay focused on your goals.

Next you go through the magazines and look for things that inspire you and fit the idea you’ve thought up in your mind. Don’t worry if some things that catch your eye don’t make sense…that’s part of the fun!

Cut those things out. Since the kids at work can’t have scissors, we ripped out the pictures. I actually like the look of the ripped paper, too!

Glue everything on in the placement you want and voila! I got a little extra and doodled in the empty white spaces that hadn’t been covered by magazine pieces.

Let’s disect my vision board. Some things I put on there simply because they make me happy; the corgi, panda, cats, and smiley balloon. The word ‘awesome’ honestly just looked cool and fit with the aesthetic of my board.

Phrases like ‘make life unexpected’ and ‘miraculous experience’ help remind me to live life to the fullest and not take it for granted. ‘Portion control’ and ‘refresh’ help me to remember to eat healthy and not stress eat. And by stress eat, I’m talking a whole pack of Oreos!

The yoga chick represents my newfound love for yoga. I’ve implemented it into my morning routine to help keep myself relaxed and balanced.

Your vision board is exactly that…yours. Make it how you want it and hang it up somewhere you know you’ll see it every day. I put mine on the mini fridge in my room.

If anyone decides to make their own vision board or already has one, I’d love to see them! Drop a comment below!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie

Self-Care Is Key

I have mentioned before in a couple of previous posts that I take self-care very seriously. I implement it in my every day life probably would not be a very nice person without it! My self care routine can also change. I have also mentioned before that due to recent events in my life, I no longer find music an effective self-care tool. At least not like I used to.

Losing the love of music, when music has always been a go to for me, was particularly disheartening. I love to sing (by myself) in the car to anything that fits my mood. However lately, I’ve found it significantly less helpful as a coping skill. Having left a negative and abusive relationship left me more upset after listening to music on the radio or even most of the stuff in my Spotify than relaxed or happy. At first I would cry when I was in my sister’s car because I felt like I couldn’t ask her to turn the music off when a particularly hard song to listen to came on. That has since gotten easier. However, when I’m in my own car, I still don’t listen to music. Instead, I listen to audiobooks. Honestly I truly enjoy listening to audiobooks, especially the Harry Potter series. On long road trips I would often prefer to listen to Harry Potter than music.

Self care has several levels that goes beyond finding things you enjoy to de-stress. Taking care of your body will in turn help your mind and soul. This section of self-care is easier to figure out, as it is pretty universal for everyone.

  • Get Enough Sleep…sleep is a crucial part to having a healthy body. I have been trying to ensure I get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Only one night every 8 days do I get less sleep (more on that later). Now that I have been doing that for a few months, my body has adjusted to the sleep schedule and I now only set an alarm as a backup. I pretty much wake up on my own now, well ahead of my alarm. Lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies have even shown that sleep problems can more severely affect those with a mental health diagnosis than those without one.
  • Eat Well…this is the part I struggle with the most. I am a HUGE stress eater. This is most prominent in my love for Oreos. However, lately I have been doing my very best to implement more healthy options into my food choices. I’ve broken out my Nutri-Bullet and make myself smoothies to go with my lunch. I’ve also started drinking chai tea to help boost my system in the mornings with breakfast. Breakfast is something I hadn’t really taken seriously, but as the doctors say… it’s the most important meal of the day! I have a love for avocado toast so that makes breakfast pretty easy. I don’t really tire of it since there are so many ways to change it up. A healthy diet is another huge part of having a healthy body and mind. In fact, there have been studies about how having a healthy diet can lessen the risks of severe depression.
  • Implement Physical Activity…while I have always enjoyed working out, finding the motivation to do so has forever been a struggle of mine. I have noticed recently that I am very out of shape, getting winded going up just a couple of flights of stairs. This especially carries over into my job when there is some physical requirements at times. I have recently started yoga in the mornings to try and help with my flexibility as well as my general fitness. I have also done quite a bit of research on how yoga can help your mental health as well. It’s actually a lot more involved that I ever though, but that is what makes me more intrigued to continue with it.

I never exactly went into detail on how my work schedule works. It’s not the most conventional of schedules but it works pretty well for me. I have a rotating schedule where I work for four days then I have four days off. So basically my days off are always changing, which means that I get some weekends off. Working in the direct care field usually mans that having weekends off is a luxury. I work 40 hours; 2:30pm to 10:30pm for the first three days I work and 6:30am to 10:30pm on the fourth day. Having a 16 hour work day has definitely proved difficult at times to stay awake. So as I mentioned before, the night before my long day at work I don’t get quite as much sleep as I would like since I get home close to 11pm and have to wake up by at the very latest 5:30am the next morning. However, implementing more body-based self-care practices into my life have helped me to have more energy.

I also definitely haven’t done away with my de-stressing self-care habits either. For example, Saturday was my long day at work and it was pretty awful. Long story short, by the end of the night I had been bitten, kicked in the jaw, and a sore back. All of this made me one not very happy Caitie. But I can’t let that show around my kids at work. I have to retain my emotions and keep them in until I leave for the night. When I got home that night, I got an ice pack to try to avoid having a gross bite bruise and settled in at my

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computer to kill some orcs and protect Middle Earth. I’m taking a break from my usual favorite, Dragon Age, for my new love Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

I find it extremely de-stressing to sit at my computer and just let myself go into this other world that is so very different from my own. I typically gravitate towards games in which I can create my own character from looks to personality to abilities. However, the game play of Shadow of Mordor is so good, I couldn’t care less that I can’t create my own character. So Saturday night I spent a couple of hours immersed in Middle Earth while my dad snored away on the futon in my bedroom. He had just returned from a trip to the beach and wanted to spend the night at my place so that we could spend some time together the following day.

Yesterday was a mental health day for me meaning that I did pretty much nothing but relax. I stayed off social media for the most part, only going on to scroll through Instagram or Facebook for a little. I got breakfast with my dad at a really cute little café in town where I had salmon eggs benedict and pretty much died over how good it was. I enjoyed my time with him since I don’t see him as often as I would like. Then he went to drive home after dropping me off and I took a long nap. I felt so rejuvenated after that nap. I then made myself a chicken caesar wrap and binge watched The Crown on Netflix. This portion of my day also included a lot of cuddling with Albus. Probably the best part of my day, though, was beating my moms in a grueling game of Scrabble! My mom boasts about her superiority in the game so it’s always nice when I manage to beat her!

Waking up today, I felt much better both mentally and physically. I took my time getting up and moving this morning, which I am happy about as my mom now wants me to go out and do yard work with her! If nothing else, please take away from this blog the sense that you are worth taking some time out for. You can’t even start to truly help others if you cannot help yourself first!

Until next time!

Love always,

Caitie♥

The Reality of Vicarious Trauma

Honestly, vicarious trauma sucks ass. Too many people think that vicarious trauma is a myth that people use as an excuse. Truth is, it’s real and it’s too easily overlooked by society. By definition, vicarious trauma is the result of continuous interaction with those who have experiences trauma and by association, highly stressful situations. If left alone, the effects of vicarious trauma can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, my job is about 85% stressful situations. I have chosen a career path that has me interacting with a lot of children who have dealt with way more shit than they ever deserved or should have experienced. I read their files and hear their stories and it breaks my heart. Then, to see the effect it has on the kids is even worse. I have interacted with countless children who have had and currently have self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideations. They want to die because of what happened to them. They ask to talk and try to process their feelings with me and other staff at times.

If that’s what they need, then I am happy to provide a set of ears for them. Most of the time, I am confident in my responses and do my best to put their minds at ease at least for a time until they can meet with their therapist. But sometimes, I just don’t know what to say. And that makes me feel absolutely horrible. If I don’t have anything to say to them, then what good am I? How can I be good at my job if I’m at a literal loss for words when the kids need me to say something that will help them not want to hurt themselves or end their lives. My own therapist tells me that it’s okay to not know what to say and to tell the kids that. Deep down I believe that, seeing as how I am not a licensed therapist. I didn’t endure the years of school and learning that requires. But on some level, I still feel worthless to the kids that I have no words for. I know they appreciate me just listening to them, but I wish there was more I could do for them. For now, I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can.

There are a lot of signs and symptoms that can lead to the conclusion that someone is suffering from vicarious trauma. I’ve noticed several of them in myself over the years. If you notice them in someone around you, don’t be afraid to speak up and be supportive!

self-care

Physical

* Unusually tired, even after taking a rest

* Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping

* Irregular headaches or body aches

Emotional

* Increased anger and irritability

* Lasting feelings of grief and anxiety

*More easily distracted

Behavioral

* Increased isolation

* Increase or decrease in eating habits

* Avoiding work or other responsibilities

Burnout is a huge part of my job. My first weekend of work at the program I’m at now, an incident occurred with several girls that led to three staff quitting. Some people just aren’t able to handle the stress of the job and that’s okay. However, it’s frustrating when they all realize that at once and split, leaving the rest of us to figure it out. It ultimately leads to more stress on those of us who tough it out. The above symptoms and the associative stress is what leads to such a high burnout rate among mental health workers.

Unfortunately another part of my job includes physically restraining the kids when they become self-harmful or aggressive. The proper term is Emergency Safety Physical Intervention. No one enjoys doing this, but it necessary at times. The last week or so, one of my girls at work has been having a hard time with self-harm. We’ve had to intervene several times and it definitely takes a toll both physically and emotionally. The ESPIs can lead to vicarious trauma as well. It is extremely stressful to be holding a child who is screaming at you to just let them kill themselves. There have been several nights where I’d like to just throw in the towel and be done. But as much as I hate my job sometimes, I love it, too. It can be very rewarding when you see a kid make progress and eventually make it home or wherever their next step is. It definitely isn’t something I will do long-term; I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I think that’s part of where my dream of a nomadic and free lifestyle comes from.

My previous job as a foster care case worker in Massachusetts put a lot of emphasis on self-care. We even, at times, had whole meetings on the subject. Self care was hard for me while in Massachusetts. I dealt with the stress of my job during the day and went home to the stress of my fiancé at night. I literally never had a break. It usually doubled up with my ex texting me and calling me all day while I was at work to complain about one thing or another. I was burning out fast and everyone at my job took notice. No one really said anything because they weren’t sure how to help. I made two friends while working there who I know will be close friends for life. I talk to them regularly and they have been a huge part of me getting through leaving my ex and moving away.

Now that I don’t have that extra stress at home, I am able to focus more on myself and my own well being. I can come home and escape into one of my video games or take a long shower then relax with Albus without anything getting in the way. I think that, for sure, helps me be better at my job. I’ve talked a little about my main self-care components before and I plan on doing a bigger post about the topic in the future. It is something I take very seriously and preach to my girls on a daily basis. The biggest piece of advice I give them is that, from experience, it always gets worse before it gets better and that now is not forever. I have told every single one of my girls this and I have heard them repeating it to their parents and other kids in the program. I like to think I am making a difference in the lives of these girls and I truly hope that I am.

Everyone go home tonight and take some time for yourself. Sit for ten minutes and practice deep breathing. Go for a walk. Blast music and dance without a care. Do whatever works for you. You’re no help to anyone if you can’t take care of yourself.

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie♥

Music As a Coping Skill and Why It’s Okay If It Doesn’t Work For You

Music, in my opinion, is probably the most widely used coping skills. My experience in the mental health field thus far has had me meet a lot of teenage and young children. I’d say with confidence that about 90% of them used music as a coping skill. Hell, I’ve definitely used music to get through a shitty day. Music can not only improve your mood on a gloomy day or soothe your soul in a time of grief. I’ve seen its effectiveness in action on countless occasions. Check this out…Music-Therapy-Graphic

When people say music is powerful…they mean it. However, that doesn’t guarantee it’s the solution for everyone. Every person’s mind and body are different and thus need different things to keep them together.

I gathered up the courage to leave my emotionally and verbally abusive ex the day after this past Christmas. Christmas night, my mom and I had a conversation about making a plan for me to leave in the near future. Unfortunately, the following day escalated to the point where I couldn’t even function at work and I knew it had to be right then. My mom drove up that night. My mom wasn’t going to get to Massachusetts until very early morning, so I went home to pack a bag, get Albus, and went to stay at a close friend’s apartment. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He was there and was not happy because I had stopped responding to his verbally abusive text messages earlier that day. At first he acted confused, saying that he didn’t know why I was leaving. I told him that if he didn’t know why, then that was part of the problem. Then he did what he always did. He got angry. In came the name calling and the insults. That, in my mind, just reassured why I needed to leave. I needed to leave while I could before things continued to get worse.

On the ride back to Pennsylvania a few days later, I had a panic attack in my car going 75 down the highway. I managed to call my mom and pull over. That was the first time my mom told me to turn on some music and it will get better. So I got in my car and turned on the radio. You know what I heard when I turned to my go-to stations? A shit-ton of love songs. Songs about new love, past love, lost love, and true love. The exact opposite of what I wanted to hear. I couldn’t listen to hip hop because that’s all my ex ever listened to. So turning on the radio only made me think more about everything…made me cry even more than I already was.

For the first month after leaving, I didn’t listen to any music at all. In the car, I would listen to Harry Potter audiobooks. After that, the only music I could stand listening to was Disney music. I love singing to Disney songs in the shower. I think it was easier for me to listen to Disney, even though they are quite a few love songs, was because my ex would always put me down and tell me how childish I was being when I sang to it and that I needed to grow the fuck up.  And let me just say that I have a wide variety of music that I listen to…pretty much anything except country music. Not exactly sure why but I just can not stand country. But when I want to sing in the shower to de-stress after a long day, I turn to Disney. And I have absolutely no shame in that.

That’s pretty much still where I’m at with music. However, I’ve stopped getting uncomfortable when music is playing while I’m in other people’s cars. I am confident I will get back to jamming out to whatever suits my fancy on my way home from a hellish day of work because audiobooks just don’t cut it some nights and I end up going to sleep stressed out and anxious. At first I would get upset and mostly angry when someone would tell me to just put on some music. I’ve pretty much gotten over that, too because it happens much less frequently. My mom said it to me several times in the beginning, but I expressed to her my feelings towards the topic and she hasn’t since. It wasn’t just my mom who had done it, just the most frequent so unfortunately my frustration come out on her a little bit. She and I have had an up and down relationship since I came home, but we’ve patched it all up and are doing very well.

So right now, music just doesn’t work for me as a coping skill. And that is perfectly okay. Even if for some reason I never listen to music the same way again, that would be okay too. Maybe a little frustrating, but okay if I need to avoid it best I can in order to have a healthy mind. I still and will always continue to encourage the use of music as a coping skill if that is what works for the person. I’ve seen it work wonders with some of the kids I’ve worked with and could never doubt it’s ability. But not everything is going to work for everyone and that is perfectly okay.

Until next time.

Love always,

Caitie♥