storytelling

Social Media and Mental Health

Taking a break from social media is sometimes extremely needed for your mental health. But what do you do when social media is part of your job? Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay and that is something very close to my heart. I have struggled with anxiety and depression for about 7 years now and I have had extremely close friends struggle as well.

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Content creators, social media managers, and entrepreneurs spend their days scouring the internet and digging through content, reviews, and blogs. It can be hard to unplug and get away from the triggering and depressing news or comments. I wanted to put together a list of five ways to handle social media while taking care of your mental health.

Meditate Daily

Meditation can help clear your mind, reduce blood pressure, and help with your anxiety. There are several apps that you can download to help with this. Carly from Carly the Prepster put together a great post on the effects the app Headspace had on her. I have not had the chance to try it but meditating on my own has been very effective as well in making me more productive and resilient.

Set Limits

It is important to limit your screen time and limit the accounts you are seeing. Instagram has a new feature that lets you see how long you have been on the app and how many hours you spend on it a week. Take control of that. Set reminders to put your phone down. If you take baby steps in the right direction, you will start to notice a freedom you haven’t experienced before. You can also set limits on comments. You can change your settings so that no one can comment on a specific post or you can block certain phrases and words. This will help keep the negativity off your feed. You can add words that trigger you to this list and no longer see comments from trolls and bullies. Also, make sure you are limiting yourself to only follow accounts and hashtags that bring you joy. If an account makes you doubt yourself or feel less than happy, hit that unfollow button.

Give Your Brain a Break

Take a break and take a workout class. You cannot be on your phone while your spinning or lifting weights. You won’t be able to check the apps and that will help clear your head. Your feed will still be there an hour later and your endorphins will have risen. Elle Woods said it best, “ Exercise gives you endorphins; endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”…. or their phones? Not sure how to close that one out but you get the point.

Self-Care Goals

Set goals for yourself to accomplish. Your goals can be simple like an exercise class weekly like I mentioned above, or picking up a new hobby like journaling or painting. Writing them down and keep rack of them. I personally have set goals to drink more water and take my medicine every day. They are simple but definitely things I need to work on. I will even be your cheerleader if you want to tell me your goals. I will keep up with you and check in now and again to see how you are doing. Just leave a comment or shoot me an email. Let’s do this together.

Ask for Help When You Need It

Well shit. Easier said than done, I know. Little by little it is something that we can work on. It is also important to recognize those around you that won’t ask for help on their own. You should make sure to reach out. It can be as simple as grabbing a coffee or asking if they are okay. Open the door for conversation if you recognize the following; difficulting concentrating, exhaustion, stomach issues, difficulty sleeping, or muscle tension. A change in mood is also extremely common. Be there for your friends, family, and coworkers and they will be there for you in return.

It is safe to say you all know I am not a doctor so remember if you are feeling depressed, the best choice would be to reach out to a doctor, a loved one, or even me. I am here to talk to any of you at any time. This is a safe place to speak your mind.

Band of Dads

I am going to start by saying that the show ‘A Million Little Things’ has been amazing so far. We are only two episodes in and it has been so so great. Episode 2, ‘Band of Dads,’ really got me thinking last night. And for those that came here looking for the reason in posting that Instagram picture last night, it may not be obvious but those two little ones were their with dad and it hit me right in the feels. The moment I captured this picture, she was calling out to him and all I could do was think of the adventures my sister, dad, and I took on the regular. I felt like I was looking back at a movie of my own life. Definitely a special moment for me.

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There were so many times when my mom stepped in to take my dad’s place while my sister and I were growing up. She didn’t need a band of dads however, it was so helpful that there were always those men that my sister and I knew we could count on. Yes our family (uncles and grandfathers were and continue to be more than amazing) but a few other men stood out to me as well while I was digesting the episode.

My Uncle Chuck. Not a real uncle but that is the easiest thing to reference him as. When we were little, my sister, dad, and I were part of a group called Indian Princesses. It was a father-daughter group that would have meetings and go on outings once a month. Skiing, camping, haunted hayrides, bowling, beach houses, the works. Some of my absolute favorite memories from childhood are on those trips. Once my father passed away, my sister and I didn’t think that we would have the option of going. We didn’t want to have to be the girls who brought their mom (although now that seems crazy since Karen rocks) so our Uncle Chuck, who always brought his twin daughters, brought us. He cared for four girls instead of two. He always made sure we were included and could attend each event. He participated in each activity four times instead of two and he cared for us like his own. He is the reason that we got to continue living with the smallest bit of normalcy and that was huge to a ten year old. He doesn’t read this and I don’t think anyone else that knows him, other than my mom, does but he deserves some recognition.

There are two other men that never got to know my dad but were willing to step in even though they didn’t have to. At my high school, there is this thing for seniors at the end of the year called The Last Dance. It is a mother-son/father-daughter dance that used to be (I can’t tell you if it still is) taken seriously. My sister’s best friend lost her father as well so they chose to have their own fun their senior year. When my year rolled around, I knew my mom would take me, no questions. She had to stand up and fight for a ticket which is absurd since it was 2010. Clearly every family is different and a child should be able to bring either parent regardless of the situation but she eventually got her way (per usual hahaha) and got our tickets. I hadn’t told either of my best friends yet but both of them immediately texted me asking if I wanted to go with them and their dads. Abby and Dani’s fathers both offered for me to attend the dance with them so I wouldn’t feel out of place. Instead, my mom came and the six of us had the absolute best time. I still have pictures from that night and I still am so thankful for both of those men to be so considerate to share their special night with me as well if I needed.

I am lucky that growing up, my mom has always stepped in. She filled the shoes of my father very well and I never felt like I was missing out or that I needed my own band of dads per say. It is just nice to know that these men are there in case I did need one to step in.

Even Birds Need Nests

Okay so I wrote this post in May of 2017 after attending the Create and Cultivate conference in New York City.  I am clueless on why I never posted it.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that there is not really a take away for all of you.  (or that I don't think I ever really finished it?) Either way, I think its something that still rings true.  I'll let you read it first and then explain my thoughts.

Gloria Steinem spoke at the conference I attended a few weeks ago and she totally blew my mind. Throughout the day, when speakers were presenting, people were still dilly dallying and talking in the background at different booths. It was irritating but I understood that every speaker was not going to be everyone's cup of tea. I was just hoping that by the time Ms. Steinem took the stage, the other women would quiet down and boy was I pleased because the moment her name was announced, the several hundred women went silent. She has an incredible stage presence that draws you in. We were clinging to every word she said.

I had a few takeaways from her time on stage. A major key was that it is okay to be a "hopeaholic." You can hang on to hope and believe in yourself and others because sometimes, that really is the only way you're going to make it through (whatever it is your stuck in). You have to have hope that the future is brighter and that change will happen if you believe in it. Steinem called herself a hopeaholic and I am pretty sure I am one as well.

Another key that Steinem spoke of really hit home for me. She said "even birds need nests." And boy did I almost cry. For some reason I have been extra emotional lately and her saying that struck that cord in me. You may interpret what she means differently than I did and that is great however, this is what I got out of it; it is okay to go home. Wherever or whomever you call home, it is okay to miss it. Home is the place you feel safe and sheltered and sometimes, that is all you need. You can fly anywhere you want and explore the world but you will always have a place to go back to.

Besides the fact that I am indeed a "hopeaholic," I think I was trying to get at that it's okay to miss home and want to go home.  It is human nature (or bird nature? not sure) to have a home base.  You can be a nomad, a traveler, and explorer, but there is always that place or those people that you will want to go back to.  Even birds need nests.

February 24, 2013

Weeks passed and we began to see each other every day.  I started taking new routes to class just so we could walk together and he began getting to campus earlier so we could grab lunch together.  He became my white picket fence.  The perfect finishing touch to my life.  The little extra something I needed to get by.

As my gymnastics season continued, he developed an interest.  He wanted to know what I was spending the majority of my days practicing and what I spent my weekends were consumed with.  February 24th, we had a meet at Southern Connecticut.  It was a close enough drive that he could make the trip alone.  I was knock-your-socks off ecstatic for about 36 seconds and then it hit me.  My mom never misses a meet.  In fact, my aunt visiting from England is going to be there as well.  Even better, this gym is set up stadium style so I will be 20 yards away minimum as they interact for the first time.  This was going to be swell.

He walked into the meet, roses hidden inside his jacket, and smile creeping onto his face.  My chest tightened.  I was drowning in butterflies when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of my own mother and aunt in a pair of cardboard crowns that you find at a fast food restaurant.  The only thing that I could do was shrug.  If he was going to be a part of my life, he would have to become a part of the crazy.

Lucky for me, he did.  I got back to the campus late at night and he was waiting with a question and more importantly, my favorite ice cream.  He was asking me to be his girlfriend.  He wanted me out of every girl he knew to be his.  I was flabbergasted.

HERE TO HELP

There are many things in this world that people forget to tell you.  They'll forget to mention that your first heartbreak won't be the hardest and that if you happen to lose a friend unexpectedly the "what ifs" will be ingrained in your brain.  You won't be told that maybe your thought out timeline for life needs some major adjusting or better yet, it should just be thrown out.  People don't explain that it does not matter where you are or what you do, if you are not happy in your mind, you will not be happy somewhere new.  Moving from place to place to find happiness does not work.  And one of the worst things that you will not be told you ask?  Having to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive.

That is what I am here to tell you though.  All of those things, albeit painful and heart wrenching, you are still breathing.  You can shout from the mountain tops and hold your breath under a giant crashing wave.  You have a life to live and a life to love.  There is always beauty in the broken and you will come out of that broken resilient.  Now if you are any bit like I am, there is one question you have right now.  Why?

Your second heartbreak will hurt more than the first because that second person first had to put your heart back together and then re-break it.  They had to break what you took months rebuilding and you know the hard work it took to get where you did.  You will realize that you will have to build yourself up all over again and that is what will really hurt.  It won't be the boy leaving you because we can live without them, it'll be the fear that you won't be able to make yourself feel okay again.  Losing a friend is something I wish upon no one.  Death is a terrible thing and it is known for destroying childhoods and stealing futures.  It will suck the life out of loved ones and there is nothing you can say or do to make them feel better.  You just have to let them feel.  They will dehydrate their eyes and spend nights sleepless but they will get through it.  You do not get over a loss that significant but you get through it, some way or another.

Now for that timeline you created of how your life is supposed to look?  Get rid of it because no one has an eraser large enough to edit it as much as you will have to.  Things will happen with no rhyme or reason and you will have to learn to adjust your sails and adapt to change.  It won't be easy if you are not a go with the flow person but it will be necessary for happiness.  This brings me to the next explanation, your happiness.  Searching for happiness anywhere other than within is not going to help you find it.  It is not hiding somewhere in a clothing rack or pair of shoes.  It is not at the top of the corporate ladder or the bottom of a bag of chips.  It is inside you.

Note that I said losing someone who is still alive is just one of the worst because, quite frankly, these are all shitty things to have to learn on your own.  They each are dreadful in their own ways and this is no different.  Losing someone who is still alive will eat at you until you bite back, which will inevitably happen.  You will be able to walk by them without cringing and you will be able to say their name without stuttering.   You will no longer care what they are thinking or if they miss you as well.  You will survive.  Just as you always have.  You will be resilient.

 

EMERGENCY ROOMS, SALADS, AND EXCEPTIONS

So here we are, sitting in my car trying to figure out what to do about my date.  Panicked, influenced by friends, and in a hurry, I invited him to come to the Emergency Room with us and to everyone's surprise, he said okay.  I picked him up from his car and he hopped right in.  All I could think was, oh hello, it is going to be you.  You are for sure a keeper.

After a few hours in the ER and I was hooked.  Like really really hooked.  I wanted to know about his family and what his childhood was like.  I wanted to hear his laugh to be the soundtrack of my life.  I wanted to break down on the side of the road so he could be the one to rescue me.  I wanted to be chased by some creature through the woods so he could protect me.  I wanted to find my way into his heart.

We were able to make it to dinner after everything was sorted out. (No worries, my teammate's hand is perfectly fine now, my heart? Not so much.)  Have you ever heard the saying that no great story ever starts with eating a salad? Well, once again, he and I are the exception.  I, naturally, ordered buffalo chicken because that is one of my five major food groups.  He on the other hand, ordered a salad.  Yes, a salad.  He has since told me that he wanted to make a good first date impression but honestly, he could have ordered anything and I would have still been enthralled.

At the end of the date, he was a complete gentleman and walked me up to my room.  For those of you that know, you must be escorted around the building I lived in at the time so I was apprehensive about the situation.  Once he kissed me goodbye though, every worry disappeared.  A single peck and my head was exploding with fireworks. The end of the date for me was perfect however, I have come to learn that on his sneak out of my dorm he was stopped by the student at the desk.  He was questioned over and over but all he replied with was, "I just walked a girl upstairs after our first date.  You are not going to ruin it and make me go get her."  It worked.  The universe made another exception on our behalf, something that would begin to happen often.

FINDING NEMO

The snow really began to fall once I got back from class so I thought it would be a brilliant idea to go get snowed in at my teammate's dorm.  We sat and dilly dallied for a while and came up with another brilliant idea, bunk beds.  We decided to bunk their beds because who doesn't want more room for activities?  After a long debacle of stacking the beds wrong and leaving no room for the bottom bunk, we figured it out and we were practically delirious.  Clearly, that meant it was the best time to Facebook message my crush.  That's right, you read that correctly, Facebook message.

I then sent a line to him that I have yet to live down, "So likkkeeee let's be friends."  Exact quote right there, no joke.  Thankfully, he responded in the best way saying he thought I would never ask.  The rest is history.  Haha kidding.  We both ended up snowed in because of the blizzard that hit, Nemo.  Saturday came and I found out that my meet was cancelled because, although the roads in Providence would be cleared, the other teams could not make it to Rhode Island.  At this point, we had exchanged numbers and he said that we should still meet up and go out on Sunday.  I died-then obviously said yes.

The only thing standing in between the me and going on this date was shoveling my car out of the parking lot.  Except, first, I had to find it.  My teammates and I ventured out into the waist deep snow to find my little car.  Twenty-five minutes later, we were able to locate it under a heap of snow.  With help from the girls and my RA, we were able to get it out in a little over an hour.

With the mess behind us and our bodies defrosted, we woke up Sunday morning to sunshine.  I was as happy as a seagull with a hoagie, it was date day!  For some reason though, when my teammate woke up, her body didn't completely thaw and I got a phone call that I had to take her to the emergency room.  The emergency room?  But it was date day!!

FROM INSIDE MY INSTAGRAM | ONE

It's easy to feel invisible in a world with over 7 billion people. It's easy to think you aren't seen or heard. It's easy to get lost in the everyday commotion. But, I'm here to tell you that You are noticed. You may be heart-broken or hanging at the end of your rope but I will help you bandage your heart and I will tie a knot at the end of your rope so you can hang on. I will help you be kind to yourself. I'm here to tell you that I see your sparkling eyes and hear your soft-spoken words. The only thing I want you to think is invisible is the wind.

MAGIC

"Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." Roald Dahl

This is important. 

You are going to live in your own mind for the rest of your life.  You need to make sure it is open.  Open to others and their opinions.  Open to seeing things differently and seeing people differently.  Your mind needs to be open to having faith in yourself and other people because that faith, is magic.

Not only should your mind be open, but it should be curious.  You should want to discover each and every crevice of this world.  Explore the possibilities that life has handed to you and search for the secrets it's hiding.  For those secrets, they are magic.

Make sure your mind is also alert.  For one day, it will no longer be able to watch the world as it carries on around you.  Soak in all the magnificence while you can because eventually, that will be all you are left with.  Those memories, they are magic.

SINGLE AND FAILING TO MINGLE

The child in me was giddy.  I could not believe his body was next to mine somewhere other than my dreams.  I started creating scenarios inside my imagination of what the future might hold.  I was suddenly snapped out of my own thoughts when the professor called out, "Caitlin James."

I nearly choked on his words.  My peers immediately started oohing and ahhing.  I quickly shot my hand up and said, "I'm here! But it is Caitlin Elliott."  I was as red as a scorching sunset on a hot summer night.  Lucky for me, when I glanced in his direction, he didn't seem to mind that the professor just practically announced us as husband and wife. 

I probably shouldn't get ahead of myself though.  We still had a three hour class ahead of us to speak to each other.  PSA:  we probably only said about 30 words to each other.  I could not remember how to flirt or even speak to the opposite sex.  I had been in a relationship for two and a half years and suddenly I was single and failing to mingle.  All I could think was that I had to get my shit together if I wanted to make this man mine.  


Fast forward two or three weeks and we were sitting in class working on an assignment.  My usual ride home was finishing up but said that he wouldn't be done for another thirty minutes.  I knew that sounded suspicious but I wasn't going to rush him just so I wouldn't have to shuffle the five minutes back to my dorm.  I dramatically decided to wait for the shuttle by the door and knew that my handsome friend would have to walk by and see me (#sneaky).  How could a such a polite person walk by poor little me who is about to trek through the snow?  He couldn't, obviously, so the plan was a success. 

He walked out of class and saw me waiting for the shuttle and asked if I needed a ride.  I jumped at the chance and hopped into his car.  At this point he definitely wasn't a stranger and he wasn't luring me with candy so I figured it would be fine.  He knew I was on the gymnastics team and asked me about the upcoming meet.  To my surprise, he already knew it was at Brown on Sunday and internally, I was squealing.  

He pulled up to my dorm and I was gathering my belongings.  He looked me right in the eye and said, "See you Sunday."  My jaw laid on the sidewalk as he sped away leaving me in a cloud of angst and yearning for more.

JUST LOVE

I love holidays.  Each one brings a different emotion, awareness, and meaning to the day.  Whether it's Christmas or Groundhog Day, there is still something to be excited about.

A personal favorite would have to be the holiday that celebrates the special man in my life.  The one that has never let me down.  He will pick me up when I am out with friends and need a ride at 2am.  He may not always be in the same state as I am but I can always count on him to answer his phone.  He was at every gymnastics meet he could be at and he has never stood me up for a date.  This man lends me money when I need it (I have a terrible habit of leaving my wallet in the car) and he always pays for dinner.  He has seen me at my best and at my worse and you bet he still loves me unconditionally.

I can almost guarantee that you all assumed I was speaking of Father's Day.  It's funny how a description of a holiday can be so closely related to another yet people bash one and not the other.  Yes, that's right.  I am speaking about Valentine's Day.  You could also change out those pronouns in the paragraph above and I could be speaking of Mother's Day.  That's the thing.  Valentine's Day is supposed to be about someone you love just as Mother's and Father's Day are.  They are essentially all the same and putting down Valentine's Day will not change the way the rest of the world celebrates it.  I know you all are questioning why I am comparing these right now so I am going to dive into this unpopular opinion. 

I no longer cherish Father's Day the way I do Valentine's Day because I simply have no reason to.  If you have been keeping up, you are aware that my father passed away when I was ten.  Since then, I have also lost both of my grandfathers.  However, you will not find me disapproving those people who celebrate Father's Day or telling my friends that it is a meaningless holiday.  I choose to spend Father's Day how I do every other day of the year and that is okay.  I challenge you all to look at Valentine's Day the same way.  Just because you are single, it does not mean that you are suddenly entitled to calling the holiday and those who partake in it foolish.  Some of us cherish this holiday because we do not get to celebrate other "Hallmark Holidays" the way they are supposed to be honored.

So, while I celebrate the one I love this February 14th, you can either go about your day or you could try celebrating the love you have for yourself, your family, and your friends.  No whining, no social media rants, no bad mouthing, just love. If you disagree, that's fine, but remember when Father's and Mother's Day roll around, some of us do not have the privilege of enjoying those holidays as much as you do.

FORGET HEARTS, WE WEAR OUR STRENGTH

People who wear their strength on their sleeve are the best type of people.  They know what they want and go after it.  Everyone knows that they have been through hell and that is the brilliancy of it.  They went through hell and didn't drown down there.  They made it out alive and have the scars to prove it.  There is no holding these types of people down.  There is no holding Jordan down.

The bravery I have acquired over the last year has to give some credit to Jordan.  She does not let obstacles hold her back and I think that is why I am so enamored by her.  The ability that Jordan has to make others feel important is admirable.  You will never feel hopeless by her side.

People like her are so important in today's world where you can be so easily torn down.  Feeling hopeless is something that no one should feel.  It is so refreshing to know that Jordan is out there in the world making a difference in all of our lives. Go be a Jordan, y'all.