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

Doggie Stress isn’t so Different from Human Stress

Good Morning,

Today I want to share how my morning started off with being overwhelmed. I slept in a little bit longer as I stayed up a little bit later. Julean was up before me as he is on a time crunch for work. I got my things together ready to go to the gym, and took Benji outside. Then I noticed while I was outside, I left my keys and my phone inside the condo. I go to the front entry way, call my phone several times hoping Julean would pick up. After he didn’t, I scrolled to see if I could find a neighbor to let me in. Luckily, I was able to have someone let me in.

When I got back in, I asked if he heard my phone, and he got defensive and said no. I brushed it off at that point. Then, I notice a canvas print of us on a vacation was no longer hanging up. I automatically assumed he walked in with Benji annoyed and brushed the picture off the wall and didn’t care enough to pick it back up and re-hang it.

As I was meditating this morning at the gym, it made me reflect on the private dog training session we had with Benji last week. The dog trainer talked about how Benji is an anxious puppy, since it appears he was injured by one of his litter mates. (He has a tucked ear). Therefore, he always assumes other dogs are dangerous until proven otherwise, and gets very anxious around them.

The dog trainer explained something to me called “trigger stacking”. This concept is where Benji would go on a walk, and see one dog, and cortisol would be released. When he sees the next dog, he will have an even more anxious response since the cortisol did not have enough time to process through his body. The cortisol is stacked on top of the previous stress response with each dog he sees on a walk. This was eye opening to me as a few weeks ago we took Benji to the CHS’ Dog Day at the Saints Baseball game. I thought it would be a good idea to take Benji rollerblading prior to the event to “burn off some energy”. However, this was the opposite of the right thing to do for Benji. Rollerblading released cortisol as he saw other dogs on the path. Benji was at a heightened state of stress when he brought him to the game.

Full circle back to how I was overwhelmed this morning. Perhaps we as humans aren’t quite so different from our animal friends. My stress started as I slept in a little bit later than normal. This wasn’t a huge stressor since I welcomed the extra hour of sleep. I soon became annoyed because Benji didn’t eat his dinner last night and it was still on the floor. I try to brush it off and realize he probably really needs to go to the bathroom and that’s why he’s not eating. Being at my own heightened state of stress, I did not have the rationale to remember to grab my condo keys. Then, more stress is released as I realized I forgot, and Julean doesn’t answer my phone. Take it one step further as I notice a valued print is on the floor, my rational thinking it completely out the door at this point (no pun intended originally, but kind of punny!), and I make the assumption that it was Julean’s carelessness.

Then, I notice the 3M hook the canvas was hanging on is no longer on the wall. It was neither of our fault’s.

I’m currently working through Headspace’s series called, “Letting Go of Stress” and today’s guided meditation was exactly what I needed to hear and to reflect. I was definitely overwhelmed by stress this morning and it affected the way that I reacted. I have to constantly remind myself I need to respond to stressful situations instead of reacting. I’m interested and excited to keep going through Headspace’s series and see how I can grow my skill of responded to stress, letting go of stress, and not being overwhelmed by it.

We’re not so different from our animal friends, are we? Please share your thoughts! Have you ever experienced trigger stacking?

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

Exactly What I Needed

I am so happy I have a job that allows me to take bereavement leave. This past week has been up and down, time of sorrow and time of joy. As I wrote before, my life always has a way of evening itself out.

Thursday night, I attended an event that I was on the brink of bailing. I was making up excuses and reasons as to why I shouldn’t go, and made up my mind to do something else. Just as I was about to leave the house, I get a message from a friend that was leading the fitness event asking if I would like to be on stage. That was the spark I needed to help me make the decision to go to the event.

I honestly cannot put into words how much this event was exactly what I needed. It was Fitbit Local Minneapolis’ event where it was a combination of HIIT training, Dance, and Yoga. I moved my body, endorphins were released, and ending with yoga put me in a place of peace. After the class, I had so many people come up to me and tell me how I crushed the workout and they were impressed. One guy even said, “Way to be a role model up there for the rest of us”. I was honestly shocked when I heard that. I was thinking, “Who, Me?”

This concept brought me full circle, and remembering why I am doing this fitness journey. I got certified as a personal trainer because I want to help people live healthier lives, and not live their life in pain. I want others to realize they can do all the things, just like I can. I’ll leave you with some amazing pictures from the event.

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