During my three month stint as a remote worker, I took a few weeks vacation in Brazil. I studied abroad there as a college student (7 years ago) and have longed to return ever since.
While I was only on vacation for just under three weeks, I actually spent a full month and a half in Brazil, working Monday-Friday and exploring on the weekends. Towards the end of my time testing the digital nomad lifestyle, I got lonely. While I wasn’t complaining, my perfect situation would be to end the trip with company… so I did.
I found a cheap flight and my amazing mom decided to come visit on a whim. I offered to pay the ticket to make it really enticing for her. We spent my last 12 days in Brazil together. While I had to work for most of it, we enjoyed three nights in Jericoacoara (aka Jeri), a sandy beach town in the eastern Brazilian state of Ceará.
Mom is the least outdoorsy lady ever, so it was a once in a lifetime experience to see her ride in on a sand buggy– the only way into the national park! This was an adventure; we had to get to the city of Fortaleza, then bus for 7 hours, then buggy in for the final stretch. It was worth the effort to see and feel some of the most pristine freshwater lakes I’ve laid eyes on. It’s a memory we’ll have forever and why I spend my money on experiences over things.
When I first read this writing prompt a few weeks back, I actually got my desk clutter organized, in hopes of showing off my office space.
Describe your “Thinking Space- What do you do, or where do you go when you need to sort through thoughts (maybe you go on a walk, listen to music, or take a hot bath).
Negative Thought Creep
Turns out, this week was hard and this morphed my writing into how to cope. Here are just a few of the thoughts that popped into my mind this week.
The work I do has no impact.
I can be more than this.
I could go on here but as you can imagine, those two are already a full plate.
Thoughts ≠ Facts
Despite the sea of up and down emotions, the important thing to remember is: thoughts do not equal facts. There has been a lot written on using mindfulness to work with negative emotions, which I’m no expert on, but I’d like to share what’s helped me.
Be a friend to yourself
Don’t beat yourself up for thinking negatively. It’s allowed and it’s okay.
But remember, you don’t have to keep it going all day. Step outside of your head. It’s important to allow yourself to feel upset, annoyed, sad, frustrated. These are true legitimate feelings. Once you’ve given yourself time to feel and think through this, it’s also okay to then move onto something else.
My “Letting Go” Space
Go for a walk.
If I’m at work, I love to ask a trusted co-worker to grab a coffee. Sometimes, I’ll be honest and say, “even if you don’t want a drink, I could really use the company.”
Foam roll, stretch, do a few air squats, get your heart beating if you can!
If I’m at home, nothing beats a hot shower.
I like to hide away on a couch at the office, or in a ball at my house, ideally with a warm drink.
Routine as usual. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to NOT go to the gym after work (my usual routine) because of a rough day. While I cut myself some slack if I am legitimately tired or weak, I aim to not fall into this trap. Most times, I always feel better after sticking to my typical schedule and habits.
Table it for later. Heavy emotions can take a lot of focus. You might be better served saving questions like “what am I doing with my life” for after a nice breather- when you have some calm and a fresh perspective.
I try not to think of myself as “too busy.” Life is about priorities; you either choose to prioritize something, or you don’t. I prioritize health, fitness, family, friends and career (this order is mostly right today) even if it means having to say “no” to things that don’t make it as high on my list. While there are exceptions here and there, I’m deliberate about saying “yes” to things that feed my soul.
I aim to go to Crossfit at least 4 times a week and I’m currently receiving Chiropractic care 2-3 times a week. While hangouts with friends are also high up on my list, health and fitness trump it, so if times conflict, I say “no” to friends. Of course, I always try my best to shift my schedule and slot all the things I care about 😃 Stupid simple.
While there are countless apps on how to manage tasks and time, I’m pretty non-tech in this space! Some “things” that help me take care of me are habits & routines, investments in my sanity.
My daily nourishment
I can’t imagine being efficient or pleasant without some food in me:
Bulletproof coffee. I hope I’m not that annoying friend who is always talking about their special Paleo routines but I love the comfort of a nice cup of coffee with ghee, Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil, and Coconut Oil blended up! I have this first thing when I arrive in the office.
Protein. Eggs & my probiotic of choice. Most recently I serve them up with sauerkraut.
Water bottle. Stay hydrated; stay happy. Sometimes I get fancy and infuse with fruit but most times I keep it straight.
Move around! I aim to hit 4 days a week of at least 30 minutes of exercise. To make it happen, I block myself off in my Google calendar. I’m lucky that we have a gym at work, so at a minimum, I stretch and hang out on the foam roller.
Decompression time nightly. I try to do ROMWOD a couple times a week, which is like a Crossfit-branded version of yin yoga. Who woulda thought?! Sometimes, it’s as simple as a warm tea or reading my Kindle.
iPhone 6 Plus. No case! Call me crazy.
Comfy on the bottom workout leggings and professional on top.
I’m old school about to-do lists and goals. I stick to paper and pen. I feel somewhat of a fraud here because I’m not diligent and go weeks without logging anything but the system works for me. I even log my weightlifting PRs in here! But I do have a tad of digital in my life…
I realized that I had a long weekend coming up for July 4th, but yet, hadn’t made any special plans. It sure would have been a waste of precious time off to not get out of Medellín and get to know a new side of Colombia.
Crunched for time, I decided on making a trip to San Andrés Island, a 2 hour plan ride from Medellín. All I had to do was look at a few images and I was sold!
I really want to get SCUBA certified? Can I do it without freaking out?
I quickly learned that San Andrés Island is primetime scuba diving territory! Given that over 70% of the world is water, can I really call myself a world traveler without exploring the underwater world? Getting my open water certification was an exhilarating thought. One of those ideas that I know I want and that I would be so proud of myself for doing, but one I was terribly scared of.
Diving with Anxiety
When I started emailing dive centers, I didn’t really think anyone would be willing to dive with me on my timeline. I needed to get it done Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and it was also a holiday weekend in Colombia…. what are the odds? Luck was on my side but interestingly enough, when I arrived for my first pool training session, I was already thinking I couldn’t do it. I am a confident swimmer and love the pool, but even doing the four laps with the snorkel (no coming up) scared me. My heart was racing the whole time while in a tiny, shallow pool. How was I going to be in open water? This was not a great start but I promised myself I could make it through the pool laps and took it one step at a time.
What am I scared of, anyway?
On day two, I tried to pin point exactly what fear I had. Some might worry that the air won’t work, or even that they’ll see a shark…. so what was my fear? I had full confidence in my gear and identified that I was scared of me. I thought I wouldn’t be able to control my breathing and possibly get a full-blown panic attack under water.
Luckily, this fear is something I have control over; just breathe
Once I thought about it a bit longer, I built confidence I could do this. All I needed was to breathe in and breath out at a relaxed pace. Do-able.
Even the other examples are things you can work around. For example, you test your gear; you know it works as you inspect it several times before going out and so does your buddy! You also practice tons of “what if” scenarios, and while this made me even more worried, to learn about every little thing that could go wrong, I was prepared for the unexpected! If you see a shark; wow, that’s rare; stay calm and enjoy the view.
Diving is quite therapeutic
Once I got the swing of things, I felt at peace, enjoying the beautiful underwater scenery. I felt like an uninvited guest but I was thankful because the sea creatures didn’t mind my being there!
Think about the source of anxiety. What can you do about it? Is it the reward worth the trouble?
Once I thought through the fear, I focused my efforts on what I needed to do… breath in and out and relax. Plus, the beauty of the ocean really helped.
In my case, my heart was set on becoming a scuba diver and the risk was small enough to be worth it. Now, does that mean you are going to find me bungie jumping and conquering my fear of heights? No way, not interested in that one! Am I going to go off and start scuba diving with a buddy or two? No, not that one either. Even though I’m now qualified to open water dive with another fellow certified diver, I’ll be sticking to dives with a scuba trainer or dive master that I can trust until I have a lot more dives under my belt. I will probably even tell the instructor something along the lines of:
I just did my certification but just so you know, I am anxiety prone. Can you pay special attention to me in case I get worried underwater?
I know my limits and will stay within them but I’m thrilled to have pushed past a fear for something I really wanted! You might find me planning a lot of diving focused trips!