2020; a Year of Mourning

Many people think of grief as something you go through when someone you know dies. While this concept has validity, grief encompasses so much more than a loss of life. I define grief as a point in time where something significantly changes, and you view it as a divide. What once was, and now the present.

It’s safe to say 2020 has been a year of mourning for all of us. The pandemic certainly brought a divide, along with ambiguous grief. The feeling of uncertainty is quite unsettling. We may be fearful of our health, our jobs, our social health, our friends, our loved small businesses closing, certain industries being strained, etc. Closing, re-opening, “dialing back”, are all phrases we are too familiar with, along with the phrase “unprecedented time”. This season of life we are in is ever changing our and evolving. “New normal” is a phrase that has stigma as well. I heard opinions say they reject the idea this is the new normal and are waiting for things to go back to what once was. The reality is, we may never go back to what once was. It is on us to accept the time it is as now, and try to move forward each day. Whether it is day by day, hour by hour, or even minute by minute.

Not only has the pandemic brought a divide, the tragedy of George Floyd has certainly brought a season of mourning.

To tie it up into a pretty bow, we had our most significant election yet.

2020 has brought a season of significant changes that will be documented in history books. That has been something I’ve been pondering recently, how 2020 will be transcribed and taught to future generations. What as a society are we learning from this?

I think the biggest thing I’m learning is how to cope with grief. I’d like to admit that I’m an expert on grief as it relates to my own personal life. I have lost many loved ones, and have had a significant amount of large life changes, specific to 2020. I rented my condo and moved to Raleigh, I lost my aunt to a tragic heart attack (and was unable to attend her funeral due to the pandemic), I quit my full time job, I chose to dissolve my long term relationship, I moved back home to Minnesota, I got a job as a server as soon as I got home, and now with the shutdown I am not employed there currently.

2020 has been a year. For everyone, not just me. I think we all can relate to the struggle 2020 has brought to all of us. The uncertainty, the mourning and loss, the pain. We are all in it, we all feel it.

So what can we do about it? This is a time where we need to unify and come together, instead of pointing fingers. If we take a step back, we may realize we are not so different after all. We are all human, we make mistakes, we have emotions, and everything you may be feeling about 2020, has validity.

I wish I could say at the stroke of midnight on December 31st all our problems would be taken care of. Since we know that isn’t the case, here are some of my personal tips for coping with grief that work for me.

  • Have real, meaningful conversations with trusted individuals about your feelings. Make sure you trust this individual to validate your emotions and truly listen to you, rather than jumping to conclusions trying to “fix” a problem.
  • Set boundaries with others. Grief can drain you, so energy conservation is vital. A simple “that makes me uncomfortable,” or “I don’t have the (time, space, capacity, etc.) to discuss that right now” works well.
  • Take care of yourself. Seek movement each day. Don’t get hung up on setting extremes where you must be on a strict diet or training regime. Your energy may be low and setting too strict or high of plans could set you up for failure, and may result in low self esteem.
  • Be mindful of what you are putting into your body. At meal times breathe slowly, practice gratitude, and chew each bite thoroughly.
  • Seek an activity that ignites your sense of “play”. This is hard due to circumstances now, but play can be found in coloring or doing something creative, reading a fun book, playing a game with a family member or friend, getting creative in the kitchen, doing a project, etc. Find something you enjoy doing, and relish in that feeling.
  • Ground yourself. This means practice being present in the moment. Breath work is great for this. If yoga is feels good, try that. A friend recently suggested a really great way to implement a new habit of grounding yourself if it isn’t something your used to. He asserted a way to make a new habit stick, is to apply it to one that’s already there. For example, ground yourself while brushing your teeth. Focus directly on teeth brushing, or maybe listen to a specific song you enjoy, or try repeating positive affirmations in your head. The act is do something intentional each day that reminds you that you are here, and the time is now.

I hope you find value in my tips, and am very grateful that you have read my post. Feel free to leave a comment on any tips that you’ve tried that works well for you. I know I will use all the advice I can get considering the year I’ve had!

Love, light, warmth, and positive vibes,

Annie

P.S. Looking for some accountability, a trusted health professional, and a cheerleader for your health and fitness goals? Schedule a FREE discovery call that works for your time and schedule using the button on my services page!

Mental Health Update

Hi my dear friends. It’s been a while.

Yes, a while meaning the last blog post I wrote was day before my mother passed. My mother passed on July 20th, 2019. It has taken me this long to go through a season of mourning.

This season was probably one of the most tumultuous times that I have ever endured. I have recently been tuning into Brene Brown’s Ted Talks, specifically her talks about the Power of Vulnerability. So if you’re with me, check-in, lock up, and get ready for one of my most powerful, authentic, vulnerable posts yet.

Something you can always expect from my writing is that I will always be 110% unapologetically me. I write from my heart and soul. I use writing as a form of coping. You may be wondering why it has taken me this long to get back to posting on my site, or why I described this season of mourning the way that I have. The answer is revolved around my personal mental health. Upon my mother passing, I slowly slid down the treacherous path of depression. Grief is difficult to deal with, and when you add depressive symptoms to that as well, things get 10x harder. Layer in the season of winter in Minnesota, where the days get shorter, and less sunlight is available. Another thing I deal with is seasonal affective disorder otherwise known as SAD. (Fitting acronym, right?) As my season of mourning continued through the fall, I was finding it extremely difficult to give myself compassion to feel what I felt. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to snap out of my grief, my depression, and just let it go. My depression came in forms of withdrawing from friends and activities. I stopped doing the things I found joy in. That is why I describe depression as a treacherous slope. Personally, once my depressive symptoms hit, it is a slippery slope. I found little joy in doing things that I used to love doing, therefore, I stopped doing them. I had this dark cloud over my head, and at times, it was difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning. I stopped working out, I stopped nourishing my body with the food it deserves, I stopped reaching out to family and loved ones. It was truly the hardest season of grief and mourning I have ever endured.

I often thought, “why is this so difficult?” I knew this was coming. My mother battled a horrible, wretched disease for at least 8 known years. Her days of pain and suffering are no more, and she has been set free. So why was it so difficult for me to get over my grief and depression?! I have dealt with significant loss in my immediate family before. I thought since I dealt with my oldest brother’s passing, the grief for my Mom would be a walk in the park. Boy, I was wrong.

If you know me, you likely know my role in my mother’s life for the last years that she lived. I was her legal guardian, and power of attorney. I played this large role in her life, one I like to call a caretaker. I often felt like I was not just a caretaker, but also a peacemaker between my family. Depending on the day, there would be intricacies of who is on speaking terms to whom, and I would have to carefully craft my communication in order for it to be well received. When my mother passed, I not only am grieving her, but I am also grieving this large role I played in her life. I took this role for granted, and often was annoyed that I was placed in this role. Looking back, it gave me a sense of purpose and pride. When this sense of purpose was stripped from me, I was left barren, confused, and alone.

You may be wondering how I am writing you today and what brought me here. Very reluctantly, I knew things had to change. I had to “fake it until I make it”. (Even though I truly hate that saying, what if I don’t want to fake it? Now what are you going to tell me to do?? I digress…) What I ended up doing was a little soul searching, and tried to remember the things that brought me joy in the past. I ended up joining a women’s volleyball league, I started exercising more, I started meal prepping again. I ended up hiring a nutrition coach, because believe me, I am the first to admit I need help and know the value in a coach and someone that cheers you on. I started therapy, and that has brought so much value and growth to me. It made me process my feelings in a productive and healthy manner. It has given me tools to succeed and helped me realize my patterns and habits. Truth be told, I have perfectionist qualities. Identifying as a perfectionist was a hard pill for me to swallow. I have a very hard time admitting that I have “something wrong with me”.

A reality that is even more difficult for me to accept, is something that I have dealt with my entire life, and just this past week, decided to accept that it is real and a part of me. I am living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I never wanted to admit this in the past. Previously when I sought therapy, a counselor suggested I had this disorder, and her mere suggestion literally threw me into a full blown panic attack. I have only ever had 3 panic attacks in my life, but I can replay those tapes and feelings as if it was yesterday. My ego did not want to admit I do have something wrong with me. I felt like if I admit this, I am assuming defeat. This rolls back to my perfectionist tendencies. I don’t want to admit that I am not perfect. I do need to admit that this is a real disorder that is affecting my life. This disorder makes me feel on edge, and stressed out all the time. So much so, the stress is affecting my sleeping habits. In fact, I am writing this right now at 1:32am. I have been waking up in the middle of the night due to elevated levels of cortisol (stress hormone). This is typical for someone who has the symptoms of chronic stress. Yesterday, I discovered the emotional reality that my disorder is responsible for the chronic stress I undergo.

DEEP BREATH

That is something I am really practicing to help cope with GAD. Breathwork, meditation, and relaxation. I have the hardest time trying to relax. I often feel like I am wound up so tight, if you say something to me that I could perceive with malintentions, it can push me over the edge and I can be sent down a spiral of negative self talk.

I have my cousin to thank for telling me to, “lower my ‘give a f*ck’ level”. When she first told me this concept I was thought to myself, “but how?!” I cared so greatly about what other people think of me. I wanted to appear perfect on the outside. Slowly but surely, I am certainly trying to lower this level and take a deep breath.

During this time of healing, growth, and self compassion, I have decided to not take on any clients and make my own health a priority. I want to come back better than ever, so I can serve clients that are going through similiar mental health struggles with empathy and compassion.

That’s all for now, thank you for taking the time to read through this in it’s entirety.

Love, light, and in gratitude,

Annie

My Competitive Journey

My competitive journey has been a whirlwind of ups and downs. After competing last night and my goal coming to fruition, I have a lot to say about this sport.

First, I must thank my supportive tribe of individuals. My boyfriend has been with me day in and out, witnessed my struggles and gave me the encouragement when I needed it most. My coach Lucienne has the ability to coach me on the level I needed. I think that is what makes a coach great – to understand your client’s personality and learning style, and then adapt your coaching to them. I must thank my family. My Dad has been my biggest cheerleader no matter what I do. He was there at my figure skating competitions. He was there at my volleyball games. He was there at my graduation. Any large accomplishment I have achieved, he’s been there right by my side lifting me up. I have several supportive friends that I plan on reaching out to individually, but I must say if you’re a friend of mine and are reading this, please know I could not have done this without you.

Now, I’ll get onto talking about show day. I am pleased and honored to announce, I WON Bikini Novice Tall at Mr. And Ms. Natural Minnesota. This is what I set out to do, and I have achieved it. I interviewed my coach on New Year’s Eve in 2018 and told her my intention was to compete in this specific show. Two weeks previous, I also competed in Natural Iowa. This was a great idea of my coach, to compete in more than one show knowing all the time, dedication, and hard work this sport requires. It was perfect that Natural Iowa was two weeks before the competition in Minnesota. I was able to get my “first show” jitters out, and I knew what to expect at my second competition. My head was in a much better place during my second show. Not to say my first show didn’t go well, I am pleased to announce I placed second in Bikini Novice Tall.

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I think the biggest thing most people from the outside looking in miss, is how this sport is much more mental than it is physical. From the outside, you see competitors spending hours in the gym, being diligent with their diet, saying no to donuts in the office, getting a soda water at happy hour, but you don’t see the incredible hard work of training your mind.

It’s easy for an outsider to see the social media posts about training at the gym and think, “Wow, that must be hard”. I’m here to tell you, being in the gym is what kept my sanity during the past 6 months. It was a constant in my life that I knew I could count on. To be honest, I’m already back at the gym right now writing this blog post as I am incline walking. An outsider may perceive this as me being a “fitness freak” but I am happy to wear that title loud and proud. This is what keeps me, me.

Over the past 6 months I have dealt with a lot personally. In March, my incredible Grandfather passed away. A few short days after, I found out one of my Aunt’s dogs that I love dearly, passed away. My mother went back into hospice. I’m currently training a puppy (enough said there). My mother fell and broke her hip. My brother and I had to make a hard decision of surgery or treat the pain as her guardians. I get news that my Aunt’s second dog (they were brothers) also passed away.

The night before my first competition I read an email from my mother’s hospice nurse informing that my mother had a fall in the shower, and had a contusion on her left cheek bone. A week later we get notice she had another fall. (Thankfully, her hospice nurse has ordered a new wheel cheer to accommodate now). Last Thursday my boyfriend’s childhood dog also passed away.

Deep breath. There it is. In sequential order. Now layer dealing with the psychological effects of carbohydrate and calorie depletion of a competition prep. The cherry on top is dealing with naysayers that don’t understand why you’re competing in this type of sport.

Now you may understand why I think being in the gym is the easy part. Here’s a funny full circle moment, I like the sport of golf because it is a humbling, mental game. Maybe this is why I was able to thrive in competitive bodybuilding. Honestly, I think I had a lot of things from my childhood and upbringing works in my favor for this sport. Growing up a competitive figure skater, I was used to competing as an individual. I was the only one on the ice and felt the pressure of all the eyes directly on me. I had the years of training to appear graceful and elegant on the ice. My mind was already being trained for competition at a very early age. My Mom even open enrolled me in a different elementary school that got out of school earlier so I could make to the higher level ice time with my coach. Thinking back, my competitive figure skating years resemble competition bodybuilding prep. I figure skated before school, after school, and my during my “off days” I was still training, off ice. I practiced ballet and dance to work on my presentation.

I have reflected several times “what could have been” if I kept up with figure skating. As I have trained my mind, I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and the Universe delivers you exactly what you need, at the right time. Figure skating delivered me incredible skills that I am able to translate not only to other sports, but in my everyday life.

This has been a long reflective post so if you’re still with me and reading this, THANK YOU.

Everyone is now asking me, “What’s next?” “When’s your next competition?” “Are you going to eat (insert a non-nutrient dense food item here)?”

This is what I can say today. Yes, I ate donuts, chocolate, a cookie, a burger and sweet potato fries, and had wine last night. I have yet to decide if I’ll compete again, and I am a 100% okay with that. I do know I will always value health and fitness as it has such a positive mental effect for me.

What’s next? Do you want to know more? Comment below, reach out to me via email, or through social media. I am a personal trainer, and am certified in Fitness Nutrition. I have the capacity of understanding how hard it is to change habits. I am happy to announce I am accepting clients for online and in person, personal training, nutrition coaching, and being an overall health coach. Let me guide you to not only look better, but feel better physically and mentally.

In sincere gratitude,

Annie

Day 24 – Tiger Blood

Today is Day 24 of my Whole30.  I wish I could say I am feeling absolutely fantastic like I typically am days 20-30, but in reality, grief is taking over my typical tiger blood feelings.

It’s been a rough weekend/week for me.  Friday, I get the news my Grandfather passed.  Saturday, we get news that my boyfriend’s relative passed, and we went out of town Sunday – Monday.  Tuesday I went into work and explained what happened, and was granted bereavement for the rest of the week.  Wednesday I go to the gym, and get news that one of the dogs that I loved dearly also passed.  What is it with this week?  How much grief can a girl deal with?

This is definitely impacting how I meal prep.  It is hard for me to find the motivation to determine what I want to make as recipes, and then make my grocery list, shop, and prep.  My hardest part is coming up with the ideas for meals and recipes, usually once I have a list and know what I’m going to make, it is smooth sailing from there.  I guess most of my brain capacity has been commanded by grief.

I am fortunate that the gym I go to has a cafe that is capable of making a Whole30 meal, which is what I had for breakfast on Wednesday.  Tuesday was a hard day eating wise for me since I just came back from out of town, had to explain what happened to my coworkers, and then take Benji to puppy training class.  I was really crossing my fingers that Cub Foods had a “Just Bare” rotisserie chicken left over for me.  However, by the time I got there, around 7:30pm, there wasn’t a single rotisserie chicken left.  I felt a little crushed.  I did decide just to grab a few chicken breast fillets and grill them at home on my little grill pan, and toss with buffalo and ranch (whole30 compliant, of course).

It’s times like these that make Whole30, even more hard.  Whole30 is definitely hard to begin with, but when you had layers and layers of stress onto it, it can guide you off a cliff. Today, I am fully aware of what is happening.  I guess I was always aware of what was happening but I was just letting it happen the past few days… However, today is different.  I will be figuring out a meal plan, I will be grocery shopping, and I will be setting myself up for success.  It’s 100% okay that I am feeling grief, but something that will help me cope and make me feel better, is fueling my body with nutrient dense foods.

Plus, I need to feed my body to keep crushing my goals at the gym.  Below I’ll post a few videos from Wednesday.  This probably isn’t the type of post you’re expecting, usually the last week of Whole30 is more of “oh I feel so absolutely great, here are all of my non-scale victories, everyone I know and their Mom should do a Whole30!”

I try to be as honest and consistent as possible with my posts.  I pour my heart out into these and I explain exactly what I am going through.  And again, I would like to thank you so much for reading.  I am honored you spent time to understand what I am going through.

And now, Wednesday’s Workout Videos:

My last post was absolutely accurate, this is what keeps me, me.  If I wasn’t working out, I would not be in a good headspace for sure.

That’s it for today, have a wonderful day.

What Keeps Me, Me.

Life always takes us by surprise. Just when you think everything is going great, there is something that pulls the rug out from underneath you. It knocks you of your feet and you need to figure out how to stand back up again. I’ve noticed my life is a little bit of a rollercoaster, that somehow balances itself out. I say this because whenever something very bad happens, something equally good happens in a short time proximity.

This past week I have been dealing with a lot. I always am dealing with the hardship of my Mother, as her mind slowly gets taken away from her. Piece by piece, day by day. It’s hard to out into words how you witness such a strong beautiful woman who had it all together, decline into a form where she no longer can go to the bathroom.

Layering on that, my Grandpa has been declining rapidly on a slippery slope. And with a heavy heart, I will share he passed away on Friday night.

Grief is such a vast topic, everyone grieves differently and there’s different types of grief. With my Mom, I call this ambigious grief. I grieved her the day she got her diagnosis, and every day beyond that.

I had shocking, sideswiping, rug pulled out from underneath me grief, when my oldest brother passed away. I couldn’t believe it, and went through a longer denial stage of grief.

With my Grandpa, I’m not saying it was any easier, but he was 95 years old, and his last week was in the hospital. We knew his time has come.

If you search grief in Google, you’ll maybe discover the Kübler-Ross model, otherwise known as the 5 stages of grief. They are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These are general stages, I do not believe everyone grieves in this perfect order. I do firmly agree with the model on the last stage of grief is acceptance.

With my Grandpa, it was much easier to get to acceptance. I think what made this easy, is the night of his passing, he visited me in my dreams. This was so very special and I absolutely cherish it.

Thinking about my brother, it took a long time for me to get to acceptance. Even when you may think you’re at acceptance, that doesn’t mean you will never have a STUG: Subsequent Temporary Upsurge of Grief.

For example, whenever I hear the band Green Day I think of him. Funny enough, when I hear someone say the word “moron” I think of him. There are other things I could list out, but I believe you get the point.

Grieving my Mom is very hard to explain. Her physical body is still here, and I am her legal guardian. I don’t have a Mother I can go shopping with, or talk about boys, get pedicures, etc. I do have my Mother’s physical body here on Earth, and I’m not sure where her mind and spirit have gone.

This is why I call her grief ambigious, it truly is hard to explain. I’m at acceptance in the sense that I know Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death, there’s no cure, no treatment, and we know little about the disease in general. What is interesting is how I am grieving her soul and spirit, and I will have a different experience when her time comes.

To wrap all of this together, I want to bring up the concept of a Mind-Body link. Your mind is 100% linked to your body, and will affect your output if your mind isn’t in a good stage. For me, there’s also an inverse relationship of this. It helps keep my mind at ease, if I push my body. I cope by keeping up with my workouts, meditating, and nourishing my body with foods that make it happy.

I let my coach know what happened Friday evening, and she was surprised I was at Sunday Conditioning. Without hesitation, I said, “This is what keeps me, me”. I know who I am, and I need to workout to keep my mind right. I have two short videos to share of the workout I did Saturday morning.

This was a special workout since I was working out not just to get stronger, but to focus my mind, and to cope. I video-ed some Step-Ups and Glute Abduction.

I also have good metrics to report on my check-in. This is Check In #3, and while I have lost a total of 2 inches, and the number on the scale went down short of two pounds, I will post my pictures because that’s where I do see the true body composition change.
Weight: 142.5 lbs

  • Chest: 36″
  • Waist: 27.5″
  • Butt: 37.5″
  • Thigh: 22″
  • Bicep: 11″

Again, I’d like to close with gratitude. My last post about fear preformed really well. I am honored and grateful you have read this. Thank you.