My Favorite Books

I’m starting this post with an asterisk.  It’s never good when a post starts with an asterisk, right?  But, I’m starting it that way because although I love to read and learn new things from books, I don’t have a lot of “extra” time and I don’t really dig listening to books on Audible.  I like to have an actual book in my hand to read.

*When I say I don’t have a lot of time, I mean that.  I work over 40 hours a week away from home, have 2 kids, work a side hustle with Rodan & Fields, try to schedule blog posts (I promise I really do), spend time on starting my own personal growth/development journey, have a 10 year old in travel sports, have a very needy (although also very cute) 5 year old in tee ball and try to keep up with a house, a 7 month old puppy and occasionally laundry.  On a good week, I can get a walk or two in on the treadmill.

So, without further ado….my FAVORITE books that I continuously come back to, year after year.

Reshaping It All, by Candace Cameron Bure.  This book is G-O-L-D!  She wrote this book back in 2010 or 2011 I believe, when she was starting to come back into the spotlight, and I’m telling you; it’s relatable, down to earth, HONEST and something every woman and mother needs to read.  It’s no secret that Candace is, and always has been one of my favorite people in the celebrity world.  I love many of her books, but there was something about this one that clicked with me instantly.  I refer to it all the time, 8 years later!  It contains ways to mindfully eat, a handful of very simple recipes, scriptures related to each chapter’s subject and even touches on getting back into a workout routine and getting your mind back to what’s important.  Go get it or download it!

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  I was reading Self Magazine one day in 2011 while eating breakfast (side note: this only happened because we only had 1 kiddo at the time, obviously haha) and saw the suggestion for this book.  At the time, I wanted to read something new and different, and what’s better than a book called with this title?  Right?  I walked myself into Barnes and Noble and bought it a few days later.  We were living with my parents at the time while our home was being built and the only piece of workout equipment they had was a stationary bike.  So I took the book with me every night while I was on the bike.  I was hooked.  What an amazing book!  And, at the same time, my workout went from 30 minutes to 60 minutes because I literally couldn’t put the book down.  The idea that every month Gretchen implemented something that sparked happiness in herself and in others made me happy as well.  The notion that if you just change things up, start some new habits that are good for your soul and change your perspective on every day occurrences was a little mind blowing to me.  It made me think about what my habits were at the time and how I could change them ever so slightly to become a happier person, and/or make someone else happy.  It’s a book I’ll never forget or get rid of.  Every time I even see it in my book collection I think of happy times.

The Frugalista Files, by Natalie McNeal.  I can’t even remember how this book fell into my lap.  Maybe another magazine suggestion?  Maybe my friend suggested it?  Regardless, it was funny, insightful and enlightening!  Ironically, I remember reading this book while watching the Royal Wedding (William and Kate)…so I mean, basically this concept sums up my life, haha.  As I’m reading a book on how to save money and how this amazing woman paid off over 30,000 in debt, I’m watching a million dollar wedding and getting googly eyes over Princess Diana’s massive diamond ring on Kate’s finger.  All joking aside, this book was awesome!  Natalie, the author, is so funny and honest and gives realistic goals and tips for cutting back on expenses, while being a woman in the workplace that still has a great social life.  It was a fun read and would be good for anyone looking to change up some of their financial habits. Check Natalie and her hilariousness out!

Do you guys notice the word habit keeps coming up?  It amazes me, that even in 2011, changing habits was something I was not knowingly gravitating to.  Habits are obviously the HARDEST thing in our lives to change.  You don’t even realize how hard it is to change them until you try to be consistent to make a change.  Now that I’m slowly stepping into the personal growth/development world, I’m realizing how naive I was before, when I THOUGHT I had good habits.  Friends, let me just tell you, I have a looooooong way to go.  Sorry for the side step from the book reviews, but it’s amazing to me that even 8 years ago…personal development was there, under the surface, screaming to be heard.

Girl Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis.  If you haven’t heard of this book, you are living under a rock.  If you haven’t read this book, you are missing out.  So listen, sometimes we search for something to grasp when we go through hard times.  I was doing this last spring/summer when panic disorder was ruling my life at the time and my anxiety was spiraling out of control.  I was desperately looking for something and someone to relate to.  I would google anxiety help and all kinds of crazy stuff would come up, I would search and search for books on anxiety and OCD and panic disorder and only clinical type books would come up, no matter how I tried to search.  Then, deep, dark in the rabbit hole I had gone down in, I came across someone recommending this book.  Here’s the thing, this book is NOT a book on how to help anxiety.  I think it was more like a red blinking light sent to me from God that I needed to do a deeper dive into the world of all things Rachel Hollis.  When I did this, I found her podcast called Rise.  I had never listened to a podcast and didn’t even know how to work the podcasts on my iPhone.  I came across her podcast from April of 2018 about how she dealt with her debilitating anxiety.  I felt like the world sat still for just a minute….I had FINALLY found someone I could relate to, someone my age, that was a mom, that had been an event planner, that wanted to work, but had bigger plans no matter the struggle with anxiety and that was honest about her successes and failures.  Are our reasons for anxiety the same?  Somewhat.  But, I took the TOOLS in that podcast and in the book that I found and applied them in my day to day life.  Game-changer.  As I mentioned above, the book is not about how to deal with anxiety, but if you are struggling with anxiety and know the red flags associated, then you will find the tools in the book.

This book is about lies we tell ourselves as women, moms, sisters, daughters, co-workers etc. that we have started to believe.  This book is about ENCOURAGING you to live the life God created you for.  Will it happen overnight?  Heck no….God wants us to work for what we want, ya know.  It’s about using our gifts God blessed us with, to their greatest potential.  It talks about getting out of your own way and not caring so much about what people may think of your goals!  It opened up a lot of doors for me; for example, I felt led to talk about my anxiety struggle and knew so many others around me dealt with similar issues, but I just didn’t know how to display it.  Now I use my blog, yep…this little sucker here, to be completely 100% honest about my anxiety battles.  Do you know what that did?  It, in turn, helped other people, which in turn, helped me feel better, helping others.  Then I thought, as silly as it sounds, I’ve always wanted my own platform, and it’s giving me one…albeit a very small one right now, but it’s something.  It encouraged me to keep going, through the panic, through the OCD, through the anxiety and get my story out there.  I have no idea where all of this will lead, but I know where I would ultimately LIKE for it to lead….anxiety and all.  So, stay tuned and please please please, go get this book and subscribe to the Rise podcast!!!

The 5 Second Rule, by Mel Robbins.  I’ll be honest, this was another find on my quest for all things anxiety help last summer.  I didn’t find out about this book until last fall when I had come across something of Mel’s on You Tube.  I, again, like many times, fell down the rabbit hole of listening to her Ted Talk on the 5 Second Rule, then going on to listen to her give interviews with several personal growth gurus and before I knew it, I was following her on social, subscribed to her You Tube channel, ordering her book and listening to her morning coffee talks.  The book is not all about how to get past anxiety.  It’s about learning how to change your brain’s thoughts.  We can retrain our brain, ya know?  It’s about developing habits and staying consistent and doing them anyway even when you don’t.  You hate working out, welp, 5-4-3-2-1- DO IT ANYWAY.  You can apply this teaching to basically any situation in life.  It takes work.  Don’t let the simple concept fool you…because trust me, I’m still working on it.  I have a long way to go before my brain adjusts to accept different thought.  Here’s something to take away though, Mel is one smart woman.  She is a lawyer and is one of the most sought after speakers in North America.  All of her research is backed by science, generally from Harvard or Yale studies and she is hilarious!  Also, she’s a busy mom with an even busier life that still manages to be present and open to new thoughts and ideas.  And yes, she’s an anxiety sufferer as well, but has self taught her way around it.  It’s a great read guys, you should definitely check it out!

Well, there ya have it!  My top reads!  I really hope you will hit up your local library or Target, or hop on Amazon to give these books some love.  I have several others that I have read that are definitely some awesome reads, so I may include them next time.  As you can see, I’m not a big fiction reader.  I really don’t have an answer for why that is.  Maybe because what little time I can devote to reading, I want to read about ways to make my life the best it can be?  That sounds right.

(Side note: I’m 100% positive that Rachel Hollis’ new book Girl, Stop Apologizing will be on the next list, but I just haven’t finished it yet.)

I hope you all have a great day and if you have read any of these books, drop me a note and let me know what you thought of them!!

xoxox

Mary

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Anxiety Series, Post #3: Things That Help Me (Coping Strategies)

**I am not a doctor and do not have the skills to tell someone what medications or supplements/hormones to take**  (Like you didn’t already know….but just in case haha)

As many of you know all too well, having anxiety certainly is a rough road.  Some days are rougher than others.  I think once you accept that you have really bad anxiety, you can focus on what a plan of attack would look like. Though I’ve had anxiety since 4th grade that has progressively gotten worse over the years and turned into OCD and panic disorder (read the whole story HERE), it wasn’t until this year that I really accepted that I had some pretty bad anxiety and only I could take control of it.  Yes, the past couple years, I would tell people that I had OCD/anxiety in hopes they would listen.  I would try my hardest to tell people I had these things and felt these feelings and how they negatively impacted my life, because I so badly wanted people to understand what I was going through.

What I realized this year, was that I was going about it the wrong way.  I have truly accepted I have these things; these panic episodes, the contamination OCD, the general anxiety….but I have not truly pushed through to find and share my voice, my opinion and my story.  The fact is, there’s literally NOTHING to feel bad about, and I shouldn’t feel like I have to get acceptance from others or be ashamed of anything.  Anxiety is all around us.  It affects so many people, on different levels, every second of the day.  This realization of knowing and sharing my own story has actually become a blessing to me, how crazy is that? To be able to talk about these things feels so refreshing.  To share what has worked for me, to share my struggles and to receive the feedback from all of you, has made me so happy.  I feel like I get to use the TEENY TINY platform that I do have (seriously, it’s small), to talk about something that so many people struggle with!

So today, I wanted to share some things that have helped me work through some of this anxiety.  Beware:  they are random and glorious at the same time.  And also, I just want to say, dealing with anxiety isn’t something that you can magically get great at over night.  I know I personally have a long way to go, but I feel in my heart of hearts that some of it has gotten better, which is why I want to share.  I was always on the search for “something”…for years, that I could relate to, or someone I could relate to, that would fill my brain with positivity, so basically I want to be a friend and let you in on what I’m doing.  Some of these may work for you, some may not.  We are all unique!  If these methods don’t work for you, keep trying to find your own!

Here are some things that have worked for me (in no specific order):

**Therapy:  I can’t say it enough.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE BROKEN (or feel broken) TO GO TO THERAPY!  It doesn’t mean you are weak, it doesn’t mean you don’t love Jesus enough to depend on prayer alone (trust me, I love me some Jesus and I pray all the time), it doesn’t mean you are a crazy person.  There are tons of benefits of talking with a therapist.  I really think everyone….that’s right, everyone, could benefit from seeing a therapist regularly.  Here’s the main thing you have to keep in mind while considering therapy:  you have to finding the right therapist for you.  In 2013 when I was diagnosed with OCD, I didn’t see a therapist until 2015.  I had no idea how to find one or what to look for.  All I wanted was someone close to my house or my work, and an actual psychologist, not a counselor.  I had no idea what to expect, and let’s just say, I hated it. I felt like nothing was getting any better and I was paying this lady 130.00 a week to sit and talk about things that weren’t even useful tools to overcome my anxiety.  I stopped going after 7 or 8 months and was completely turned off by the idea of a therapist because I had such a negative experience.  It wasn’t that the therapist I went to was bad at her job, she just wasn’t a good fit for me.

This past (late) winter when I was diagnosed with panic disorder, I knew I had to start my search all over again for a therapist. It took 3 months to narrow options down and get suggestions and recommendations from others, but I hit the jackpot!  I finally found a therapist that was able to target the issue, hit the ground running really hard and actually give me tangible skills that helped me overcome some of the anxiety battles I was facing.  When I started seeing her, I was going twice a week, and am now going once a week, and feeling like there are some weeks I may skip as I continue to progress.  It literally just feels like the weight of the world has been taken off your shoulders when you go to talk to someone who can give you helpful tools to achieve your end goal.

**Medication:  Everyone says this is such a touchy subject, but honestly….why?  If you have a sinus infection, you take an antibiotic to get better right?  So, what’s the difference between that, and having severe anxiety and needing medicine to help regulate some of the levels in your brain that cause the anxiety?  There is no difference.  What helped me the most was getting a genetic test done, that showed what medications would work the best for me, based on my cellular make up.  There are a blue million anxiety medications out there and I think I’ve tried 7 or 8 of them over the past 16 years, but after having the genetic test done, my doctor was able to narrow the playing field a bit and switch up my medicine to something my body would respond to better.  In my case, the test showed I had a receptor block on all SSRI’s, which make up about 70% of all anxiety medicines.  Which, also explains why I showed no improvement with some of the medicines I had been on in the past.  I also had a test done at my hormone replacement doctor’s office that would measure my levels of dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine.  As my doctor suspected, I had extremely high levels of nor-epinephrine, which meant my body was constantly in fight or flight mode.   So, to those out there that say “oh you can heal anxiety naturally, you dont need medicine.”  Cool.  But I DO.  I can’t just use lavender essential oil or some combo of anti stress oils (side note: I love my oils…thieves oil is used every night on our kiddos) or CBD oil, or some natural anxiety supplement and have it all magically go away.  My brain actually produces too much nor-epinephrine and not ENOUGH of the chemical (excuse my lack of medical terminology) that calms my brain down.  So I do take the medicine, and it does help.  But, you should also know that you cannot rely on medicine alone.  To TRULY OVERCOME anxiety, and by overcome, I mean learn which tools help you battle through it, you have to do more than just rely on a pill.

**Meditation and Mindfulness:  Meditation is something that completely took me by surprise.  My therapist suggested it when I first started seeing her, as a way to practice slow breathing and to try and calm my thoughts.  I thought “oh great, how the heck am I going to navigate this one.”  I looked on You Tube and watched a few and wasn’t really impressed.  For whatever reason (because I usually don’t turn to the good ol’ iTunes app store), I found 2 apps that looked like they would be promising.  On the way home from North Carolina this summer, we were at a rest area in West Virginia and I started listening to the free meditations on the Calm app.  I kinda toyed around with it for a few days, trying to start this meditation habit and finding which ones I liked and which ones worked.  There’s a lot to choose from, and honestly, I ended up purchasing the full expanded version of the Calm app.  Meditation was CRUCIAL for me the first 2 months in my journey of battling panic disorder.  Every morning, I would do a quick 10 minute meditation.  I get it now, there’s a reason why people think meditation is all the rage.  You guys, it feels like you are wrapped in a fuzzy blanket, sitting by a place you love the most, thinking CLEAR thoughts.  Meditation puts you in a state of mindfulness.  You are sitting in the here and now and it just feels so great.  No worries, just what’s around you at the time.  It just feels good to start your day with such a positive vibe.  On harder days, I would also do them at lunch.  Just a quick 10 minutes on my lunch break….to reset.  For those of you that don’t know much about meditation, there are meditations for literally everything; self esteem, mindful eating, relationships, health issues, kids, creativity, dreams etc.  You can even fall asleep to nightly meditations.  My psychiatrist was pumped when I told him I was trying to meditate and figure it out.  He and my therapist both kept telling me I had to “get good at it” before I noticed the benefits and had the tools in my pocket.  It’s true.  I did this almost every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, for maybe 3 months and I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it about a month into the practice.  Mindfulness is a key tool in overcoming anxiety and meditation can get you there.  Try it!

**Books that helped me:

~~The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety by Alexander L Chapman, PHD.  My therapist suggested I order this on Amazon before I even began my first session with her.  It “teaches” mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

~~Dare by Barry McDonagh.  I haven’t finished this one yet, but the first 5 chapters introduce the method.  It’s pretty awesome!  It’s a great resource to have handy!

~~Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis.  Yes, it’s a self help/motivational book.  But hear me out, this book led me down a rabbit hole I am so glad I fell down.  Everyone around me was raving about this book.  How great it was, how motivational it was.  The truth is, I don’t have a ton of time to read and I was focused on doing “all the things” to try and get myself out of the panic disorder cycle my body was in.  I ordered the book on Amazon mainly because everyone else did.  Peer pressure haha, jk.  After reading the first couple chapters, I was thinking “man, this chick is pretty cool, I feel like I need to know more, because there are some eerie similarities here; maybe I should check out the podcast everyone ALSO keeps raving about.”  That’s when it happened.  I found Rachel’s podcast (her podcast is titled Rise, btw) on how she handled her debilitating anxiety.  It was all over after that.  Everyone finds a message that speaks to them….that podcast was LIFE CHANGING for me.  Every word out of her mouth, I was nodding my head “yes, that’s me, uh huh, yep, so true, holy cow that happened to her too?!?”  I could have cried after listening to this.  FINALLY, there was someone I could relate to, someone my age, that wanted “all the things” and knew they were made for more, but had to overcome this freaking mess called anxiety.  FINALLY.  Someone who powered through and made the best freaking lemonade life could make out of crappy lemons.  Then I started listening to Dave and Rachel’s daily live streams.  If you don’t watch them, you should.  These live streams replaced the morning meditation for me.  They are typically 20-30 minutes and inspirational as a motha.  So the moral to this story:  for me personally, the best thing I have done for myself in this anxiety relief journey, along with my kick ass therapist, was finding the wonderful Rachel Hollis.

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.  Ok, I can’t comment too much on this since I’m only on page 30, haha.  BUT, if you purchase the book, it comes with a free 31 day mentoring session.  Pretty cool huh!  Mel has battled her crippling anxiety by using her method (5, 4, 3, 2, 1) and fought lots of other battles using the same concept.  I can’t wait to dive in and read the rest of this book.  Also, she does a coffee chat in the mornings that always are about an interesting topic.  These are usually at 9:30 am, so I have to watch them on my lunch hour, or after work.

**Moving Your Body:  It’s true.  Get up.  Move your body.  Walk, do jumping jacks, wall sits, push ups, shake your arms and hands, stretch.  Moving your body makes your brain think about something else.  If you are home, go for a walk outside while blaring some rap or alternative music, get on the treadmill, run up and down some stairs or lift weights!  If you are at work, get up and stretch while taking deep breaths, walk/pace your office or the hallway for a minute or two, do 10 lunges or just shake your body from head to toe for 30 seconds.  Anything that requires a different movement than the normal routine is going to lead your brain down a different path, and some of the anxiety should dissipate.

**Miscellaneous Tools: Find music that brings back amazing memories and listen to it in times of stress or panic.  Journal your struggles and the steps you took to help conquer them.  Journal 5-10 things you are grateful for, because, as my therapist has told me since day one…a grateful soul cannot be both anxious and grateful at the same time.  Pray.  Get your hormones tested and if need be, be open to taking non synthetic hormones to help gain some balance in your body.  Call or text old friends and reconnect with them over coffee or wine.  Find an online community that may be struggling with what you struggle with and look through their suggestions or go do something special for someone.

These are some of the things that have helped me.  Some of these things may work for you, some of them may not.  But, I thought it was important to share the combination of things that worked for me.  Like I mentioned above, just taking medicine, or just meditation is not going to “cure” severe anxiety.  You have to find a combination of things that work for you, and use all of those tools together, to power through.  You know the saying “it takes a village”?  Imagine a village with 30 houses, and each house is a different tool.  You are in control of the tools you use, but it takes the entire village, not just one house.  As I learn and evolve more into my journey, I’m sure my village will get bigger and that’s the hope!

I hope this helps some of you, or leads you in a direction of what different options are available out there to try.  And also, when I say try, I mean really try.  Give them a solid 2-4 weeks to work and for you to master the skill.   Powering through the traffic jam of anxiety is not easy.  If it were easy, no one would have anxiety.  Be patient with yourself and accept that you need a change of habit to change the way you think and to acquire the skills you may need to help you through your own journey.

Xoxoxo

Mary

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