12 post-surgery life lessons : part II

Relax copy
 
 
A few weeks ago, I had surgery for the first time and last week I wrote about some of the life lessons I gained from the unsettling and unpleasant experience of undergoing surgery and facing some of my biggest fears — namely, anything related to doctors or medicine! (Check out PART I here.) It's been a challenge to get back to the point where I'm able to do work and write again, but I'm so happy to be getting better day by day. Keep reading to discover some of the lessons I learned from having surgery and spending weeks recovering from it...
 

7. VERY FEW THINGS ARE AS URGENT AS THEY SEEM. 
 
Before surgery, I never would have dreamed of taking a week to respond to an email or asking to push off a deadline for a month. When it comes to work (and even to simple things like text messages), everything always seemed urgent to me. I had to respond as soon as I could. I had to complete a task before it was due. I had to text back right away. But now — after rearranging my workload, getting back to people when I felt up to it — I've realized that there is very little in this world that's urgent. Almost everything can (and does!) wait if you allow it to. That's not to say I will be putting things off (that goes against my Type A nature!), but I'm hoping I'll learn to chill out a bit more now that I've seen first-hand that not everything needs to be taken care of ASAP. 
 
 
8. BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU READ. 
 
When I'm faced with an unknown situation, my first instinct is to gather all of the information I can about it. Having a better understanding of a subject makes me feel more secure and prepared. So, of course, when I found out about my condition and the surgery I'd be having, I began Googling like a madwoman, gathering all the data I could so I'd know what my doctor was talking about and, more importantly, I'd know what to expect. This was both good and bad. On the bad side of things, I read some horror stories that made me more anxious than necessary. But on the good side, I got some great post-surgery tips that really helped (and that my doctor failed to mention) and I had some idea of what to expect. For example, I knew that there was a good chance I would have to have more than one surgery so, when I met with my doctor for my post-op checkup, I wasn't surprised (or upset) when he told me another surgery would be necessary. Information is powerful (in a good and bad way) so be mindful of what you read. 
 
 
9. YOU WILL LEARN AS YOU GO. 
 
Surgery has taught me that you'll learn things you never thought you would need to learn (like how to pull up your pants when you can't properly bend your legs!). You'll learn how to do very unpleasant pre-op prep. You'll learn how to follow post-op instructions from your doctor. You'll re-learn how to do basic things, like showering and sleeping. And you'll learn to do things you'd never heard of before — and you'll become good at doing these things. One of the great things about humans is how amazingly well we adapt to new circumstances. Things that seemed really difficult right after surgery are now second nature to me. Things I once thought of as gross don't even faze me now. I've learned, in a very short time, how to take care of myself in new ways and it's shown me that, no matter what we're facing, we can and will adapt. 
 
 
10. JUST TAKE EVERYTHING 10 SECONDS AT A TIME. 
 
If you're an avid Positively Present reader, you probably know how much I love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (read my post about it here), and the show taught me a very important life lesson that proved invaluable in the face of pain and fear: take it 10 seconds at a time. In the show, Kimmy gets through difficult situations by telling herself that she can get through the next 10 seconds...and the next 10...and the next 10. This little trick can be a lifesaver when you're in pain (emotionally or physically). When faced with pain that feels as if it will never end, it's so helpful to break it down to 10 second bits of time. You can do anything for 10 seconds, and when you think about it only as surviving through that short period, whatever pain you're facing becomes more bearable. 
 
 
11. LITTLE VICTORIES SHOULD BE CELEBRATED. 
 
Who knew that simply taking a shower could be considered a major accomplishment? After surgery, I quickly learned that it was important to celebrate the little victories — no matter how small. Even the act of getting out of bed was something I could be proud of! Instead of focusing on what you can't do (as I often found myself wanting to do since I felt immobile and unproductive), celebrating the little things you can do is a way to shift the focus away from complaints and toward gratitude. While there was a lot I wasn't able to do, I was still able to do somethings and, as I recovered, I was able to do more and more things. Celebrating this little victories — even if it was just with a "Look at you! Good work!" — helped me feel as if I was making progress. 
 
 
12. DO WHAT YOU CAN WHERE YOU ARE. 
 
The most important lesson I learned while recovering from surgery was this: do what you can while you can. Throughout my recovery, I was very frustrated by the things I couldn't do, but I tried to transform that frustration by finding things I could do. For example, I was able to get a lot of reading done, which I loved. Due to the beauty of my iPhone, I was able to respond to emails while lying in bed and even draft this post! I downloaded some apps for my phone to keep me busy (like Colorfy and Boggle) and allowed myself to do some research for future work projects. I wasn't able to do much, but I did the best I could to fill up my time with what I could do and this served two important purposes: (1) it distracted me from my pain at times and (2) it gave me a feeling of productivity. While I'm not saying we should always be doing something, I was glad to learn that, even when stuck in bed, there are ways to make the most of your time. 
 
 
Whether you're going through a situation like mine or just looking for some inspiration, I hope theses lessons have inspired you in some way. I'll leave you with one final thought that helped me get through recovery: try to envision yourself healthy again. As I was stuck in bed, I sometimes found my mind wandering to a negative place, thinking thoughts like, "I'm going to be in this situation forever." or "I'm never going to be well again."
 
Of course, those kinds of thoughts are immensely unhelpful when it comes to recovery and I knew it. So whenever I started to think this way, I'd remind myself to calm down, focus on the moment, and keep in mind that this was just one chapter of my life. As a greeting card I got from a friend said, "This is but a crappy chapter in your amazing life story." When I focused on that thought — reminding myself that I would get better, eventually — I found it much easier to cope with the pain and frustration.
 
So if you ever find yourself in a tough spot in life, remember those words: This is but a crappy chapter in your amazing life story. It really does help to remind you that one day you'll be in a another chapter and whatever you're struggling with right now will be nothing but a memory.  

 

 
PPGTL-Get-the-BookWant to explore how to have a more positive, present life? Pick up your very own copy of my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)


positively present picks: july 24, 2015

Strong
Source

 

Quote-of-the-week

"We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong.
The amount of work is the same."
Francesca Reigler

 

Links-I-Love

Secrets of Happiness in 60 Seconds : a great, quick little video

Love Yourself! : get inspired with my Pinterest self-love board

17 Coloring Books Every Grown Up Needs : in love with coloring!

What To Do When Life Throws You a Curveball : excellent wisdom here

Perfect Words to Start Using : love these made up (but accurate!) terms

18 Reasons to Be Happy : such a lovely little reminder from Buzzfeed 

Why Busy Isn't the Same as Productive : and what you can do about it!

Choose Happiness and Excitement : this post really inspired me

37 Things You'll Regret When You're Old : so much truth in these

Blinding Radiance : what happens when you get through big pain

The Power of Saying No : always saying yes? read this. 

It's Not Too Late for Summer Reading : check out my books here

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Against the Grain" — Hudson
"Semantics" — The Mynabirds
"Life Underwater" — Flagship
"Julia" — Al Bairre
"Leave a Trace" — Chrvches
"Berlin" — Paper Lights
"Blue" — Marina & the Diamonds
"On the Frame" — Beta Radio
"Fire in My Bones" — Fleurie
"Pages of Gold" — Flo Morrissey

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

The Secret Life of Violet Grant
Beatriz Williams

Everything I Never Told You
Celeste Ng

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


12 post-surgery life lessons : part I

Take-Care
 
 
About two weeks ago, I had surgery and I'm finally feeling a bit like my old self. I still have a while until I'm 100% back to where I was before (and I have the joy of another surgery to look forward to as well. ugh.), but I'm happy to say that I'm here and I'm writing again. YAY! 
 
As you can imagine, I've learned a lot over the past few weeks — about myself, about facing fears, about staying positive and present even when it's really difficult to do so, and, importantly, about what it's like to face a situation in which I was forced to spend days and days in bed, recovering and taking care of myself. 
 
It wasn't easy, focusing on taking care of myself. I felt completely and utterly unproductive. I felt bored and useless. And, of course, I felt the oh-so-unpleasant pinches of physical pain. But, as challenging as it's been, I have to say it's been a great eye-opener in terms of life lessons on self-care. I've learned so much from facing my fears (though I didn't really have a say in the matter, as surgery was my only option!) and about managing my (often negatively-skewed) mindset. 
 
As I was lying in bed for days on end, ideas and lessons came to mind and, as they arrived, I'd type them into the Notes app on my phone so I could recall them later. (Because, I'll be honest — those pain meds can do a number on your brain!) Some of these lessons relate specifically to life after surgery, but most of them can apply to any difficult situation. 
 
 
 
1. A BREAK IN ROUTINE CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU. 
 
I'm a huge fan of routine. I love creating patterns and sticking to them. It gives me a sense of peace and order in a sometimes chaotic world. However, when a health issue presents itself and there's no other option that to have a surgery that involves a six week recovery, routines pretty much get thrown out the window. Like it or not, you have to adapt. And I've discovered that this can actually be a very good thing. Breaking my routines helped me to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems I'd been having. Changing things up forced me, in little ways, to change myself. 
 
 
2. ACCEPT THE MOMENT MAKES IT MUCH EASIER. 
 
Nothing is worse than being in a situation you don't want to be in. A couple of weeks ago, I experienced one of my worst fears — having an IV put in. In the past, I'd thought to myself, If I ever need an IV for any reason, I'm just going to run away. I don't need medicine. I'll be fine so long as I don't have to have a needle that stays in my handEven now, thinking about it, I feel a little shiver of fear run down my spine. But I had no choice but to be in that moment, to experience one of the things I'd most feared. (And, as it often happens, what I feared that most really wasn't all that bad!) Staying in moments like that one was difficult, but the more I focused on acceptance, the easier it was to cope. 
 
 
3. THERE IS ALWAYS GOOD IN A BAD SITUATION. 
 
Having surgery is no walk in the park. It's not fun and it's hard to make it seem fun — but! there are some small joys to be found, even in the most unpleasant of situations. For example, I got to spend a lot of time resting and reading. Reading is one of my favorite things to do and I can't remember a time before now that I felt completely guiltless spending an entire day just reading (other than when I was on vacation, which was always prime reading time!). Instead of focusing on what I couldn't do — work, for example — I tried to enjoy the down time, to embrace all the words I got to read, and do be incredibly thankful for wonderful parents who took care of me day in and day out. 
 
 
4. SOMETIMES THERE ARE GREAT LESSONS IN PAIN. 
 
While I was resting, I started daydreaming about how I would spend my time once I was back on my feet. I'd go running! I'd take my dog on walks in the woods! I'd have more dance parties! I'd go on more adventures! All of these grand (and active!) plans were very un-me, but after lying around for so long, all I wanted to do was get up and move. I realized that this new desire to move around, to hunt down adventure, might be a lesson.  I'd been spending a lot of time on my couch, watching Netflix and reading. Back when I was well, I'd been spending a lot of down time on my couch by choice. But when I was forced to be on the couch and it wasn't a choice anymore, I realized how much I'd been wasting my health lying horizontally on the sofa. Surgery taught me this lesson in a way I might not have learned otherwise. 
 
 
5. A NEW SITUATION CAN BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO CHANGE. 
 
Health has never been a huge priority for me. Exercise is something I'd rather not do (though I did get into a lovely habit of yoga, which I hope to resume as soon as I'm better). Eating healthy always seems to take too much effort. And caffeine and I have become soulmates over the years. But when I was forced to change — to spend my time focusing on my health and recovering — I managed to make some great changes. I started eating healthier, incorporating vegetables and fruit into most of my meals. I cut my caffeine intake way down. (What did I need caffeine for if I was just going to be lying on my bed reading?) This unfortunate situation was the kick in the pants I needed to change some of my bad habits. 
 
 
6. TRUE COLORS SHINE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE. 
 
Wow, did I learn a lot about the people in my life when I went through this tough time! People I hadn't spoken to in years reached out to me; people I see on a weekly basis said nothing. Some people sent gifts and texts and checked up on me. Others rarely inquired about how I was doing. When you're going through a tough time, you learn a ton about the people around you — and some of that knowledge will be really surprising. Sometimes it will hurt. Sometimes it will erupt in unexpected joy. It's an incredible way to see the people around you for who they really are. Those who are there for you are the ones you should devote your attention to; those who are not should not receive much of your time and energy. I will never forget the way people treated me during this time and it will forever shape how I view the character of others. 
  
 
 
Thinking of these lessons and trying to find the positive in a negative situation was extremely helpful for me while I was going through this. And, to be honest, I'm not sure if I would have been as focused on having a positive, present mindset if it weren't for the knowledge that there are people out there like you, reading what I write and seeking inspiration from my words. You might not realize it, but just by reading Positively Present, you've inspired me to be more positive and more present. So, thank you. Thank you for inspiring me to write these words and thank you for reading. 
 
Stay tuned for PART II of this post next week! Once it's been published, you can read it here.

 

 

 
PPGTL-Get-the-BookWant to explore how to have a more positive, present life? Pick up your very own copy of my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)


positively present picks: july 17, 2015

Oscar Wilde

 

Quote-of-the-week

"There can be no happiness if the things we
believe in are different from the things we do."
 
Freya Stark

 

Links-I-Love

Gratitude : the latest (and greatest!) self-help trend

I Dwell in Possibility : loving my new necklace! thanks, Laurel Elliot!

40 Ways to Let Go of Anger Right Now : let it gooooo

Printable Post-Its : I love this idea of customized Post-Its

Cloud Classifications : I love this visual reminder of cloud types

21 Positive Expressions : use these to attract a better life

Find the Right Therapy for Your Sign : mine (Virgo) was spot on

Lessons from Clueless : great life lessons from a film I used to love

Breaking Up + Getting Back Together : how to end the cycle

7 Ways to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed : love this inspiring advice

Dreams with No Action Are Fantasies : you need to have a plan! 

Turn a Horrible Day into a Positive One : eight great tips here

Conscious Optimism : absolutely adore this concept

7 Things You Gain When You Let Go of Control : love #1 so much

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Grow" — Frances
"Golden" — Szymon
"Regret" — Everything Everything
"Lost Track of Time" — MNTS
"Honeymoon" — Lana Del Ray
"Into the Dark" — Amarante
"Forces" — Japanese Wallpaper
"Drifting" — Nate Eiesland
"Clean" (Cover) — Travis Altreo
"All We Do" —Oh Wonder

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Tiny Beautiful Things:
Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

Cheryl Strayed

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


positively present picks: july 10, 2015

Swing
Source

 

Quote-of-the-week

"Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin,
and a single courageous step would
carry us clear through them."
 
Brendan Francis

 

Links-I-Love

Project Semicolon : such great inspiration for those feeling hopeless

17 Ways to Conquer Negativity : battle negative thoughts with these tips! 

Don't Take Any Shit : excellent advice from Danielle LaPorte

8 Types of Toxic Friends : have any of these? get rid of them ASAP

How to Help a Friend Who Is Grieving : when you don't know what to say...

19 Songs That Will Calm You Down : turn these on for stress relief! 

5 Reasons to Stop Ignoring Negative Emotions : facing them is much better

Purpose Is the New Bottom Line : love this inspirational talk

10 Times It's Okay to Be Lazy : go on -- do nothing for a bit! 

How to Waste Time Properly : if you want to be lazy and productive

Colors! : this short video starring color makes me happy

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Bad Blood" (Cover) — Madilyn Bailey
"Tired of Talking" — LEON
"Wings" — Birdy
"Landslide" — Oh Wonder
"Low Brow" — Chelsea Jade
"Stay Coloured" — I Know the Chief
"Bird of the Summer" — A Fine Frenzy
"Fears" — MTNS
"Beating Me Up" — Rachel Platten
"Who You Are" —Hannah Susan Crane

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

In the Unlikely Event
Judy Blume

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


6 steps for coping with fear

Fearful

 

Last week I wrote about how to find the positive when you're not feeling well, something I've been struggling a lot with recently. After having had two minor surgeries over the past week (one of which was very unexpected!), I'm actually feeling better than I have in quite some time. However, though my physical pain has subsided somewhat, my emotional distress has increased immensely over the past week due to the more serious, under-anesthesia surgery I'm scheduled to have this week. Having never had "real" surgery before — and also being very iatrophobic — I've been struggling a lot with staying positive and present in the face of fear. 

I've never encountered a fear like this before. I've faced my share of fears, but they've always been more abstract and emotional — fear of not succeeding or having my heart broken or taking a big career risk — and much easier to overcome. This fear is incredibly tangible and forceful. It's physical and has a deadline with a very specific date and time. It's doing its best to trample my attempts at staying positively present.

But, scared as I am, I'm determined not to let it take over. I'm trying as best I can to make the most of the time I have between now and my surgery date without letting fear rule my life. I know I won't be able to completely eradicate the fear, but I can learn to cope with it. Here are some of the steps I've been taking to cope with my fear. (Note: Though these are highlighted by my specific upcoming-surgery experience, these six steps apply to coping any kind of fear!)

 

Step 1: Recognize that you're afraid

The first — and maybe most important — step when it comes to fear is realizing you're afraid. Fear can manifest itself in all sorts of forms that may make it seem like something it's not. Personally, I've found that a lot of the time when I seem angry or annoyed, I'm actually afraid. It's not always easy to identify the source of fear, but if you spend time thinking about it (much you as might not want to!), usually the root cause of the fear will be made clear. Also, fear is something we usually want to avoid so sometimes we ignore it or downplay it in order to convince ourselves (or others) that we're brave. Remind yourself that being afraid isn't a weakness, and the sooner you recognize the fear, the sooner you can discover ways to cope with it (and hopefully move past it).  

 

Step 2: Get to the heart of the fear

After you've identified what you're afraid of — for example, for me, I'm afraid of having surgery — it's time to dig a little deeper and define why you're afraid. For me, the fear of surgery is actually due to fears of (1) not being in control, (2) not knowing exactly how I'll feel when I wake up, and (3) not having experienced anything like this before (aka, fear of the unknown). When trying to get to the root cause of fear, it's helpful to ask these questions:

  • Have I ever been afraid of this before?
  • What are you really afraid of?
  • What makes you feel more afraid of it? Less afraid? 
  • How do you feel when you're afraid? (Physically and mentally)
  • When are you most likely to feel afraid? 
  • Does your fear have a purpose? 

Recognizing what causes the fear, when you experience it most, and what's at the heart of it will help with the coping process. Also, sometimes simply understanding why you're experiencing something can make it a bit easier to manage, making the coping process a bit easier. 

 

Step 3: See fear as an opportunity

Fear is no fun to experience, but it's often presented to you as an opportunity to take on a challenge, overcome a difficult situation, or grow stronger and braver. (Cliche, I know, but I swear it's true!) In the midst of fear, it can be difficult to find the opportunities there, but it's worth considering what they might be, especially because this is an excellent exercise in striving to find the good in a bad situation. For example, in my situation, I've spent my entire life being iatrophobic, terrified of doctors, needles, any sort of medical procedure. Though I'm currently still quite scared, I'm hoping this experience will make me braver and make it easier to cope with any medical situation I encounter in the future. I also know for a fact that this situation has made me so grateful for my health and once this is all over with I'll have grown more appreciative of what it means to be healthy. 

 

Step 4: Focus on your body

The way your body reacts to situations and thoughts can give you a lot of clues about how you're feeling, especially when it comes to fear. For example, you might tense up when hearing unpleasant news before you've even actually processed what it means. Or your heart might start racing when you think about an upcoming presentation. Our bodies give us so much information about our emotions, and we can use that information to our advantage. For example, if your palms start sweating and your mind starts racing when you start thinking of something you're afraid of, it might be a good time to try the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Or if you find your heart beating really fast, you might want to try progressive muscle relaxation. Paying attention to the body's reaction to fear is useful because you can then counteract those reactions with more positive ones (deep breaths, relaxing muscles, etc.). 

 

Step 5: Distract yourself from the fear

Last week, I wrote a little bit about distraction in my post about finding sunshine when you're under the weather, but I'm bringing it up again now because it's been a lifesaver for me lately. Seriously, if I didn't have a ton of great distractions, I'd probably be curled up in a ball shaking in fear for the next few days! Fear and anxiety can spiral out of control very quickly if they're allowed free reign in the mind,  and one of the best ways to keep it under control is to focus on something other than the fear. Over the past week, I've become a master at distraction, doing anything I can to focus on anything other than my upcoming surgery. Here are some of my favorite distractions: reading, writing, watching movies (especially old favorites), grown-up coloring books, jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, and being around other people. When I'm distracted, fear doesn't completely dissipate, but coping with it is much easier. 

 

Step 6: Visualize the best case scenario

One of the most scary things about my upcoming surgery is that I don't know exactly what kind of surgery I'm having until the surgeon begins the procedure. There are a variety of situations that could happen, ranging from not-too-bad to ugh-whyyyyy. My mind has, unfortunately, been wandering toward the negative side of things, imagining what will happen if I have to have the more complex surgery (that often involves additional surgery), but thinking this way is doing me no good. What I need to be doing is focusing on the best case scenario and visualizing that as my outcome. I read this quote recently and it's so true: "Worrying is like praying for what you don't want." Instead of focusing on what's the worst that could happen, it's much better to take a look at your fear and ask yourself this, "What would it be like if everything goes perfectly?"

 

Though I'm admittedly still battling a lot of fear about my upcoming surgery, these six steps have really helped me to better cope with my fear. If you're facing any kind of fear or change in your life, I hope these steps will help you too!

I'm not sure exactly how long I'll be in recovery so if you don't see posts from me in the next couple of weeks, don't worry — I'll be back as soon as I can sit up and write again! In the meantime, I'll probably still be posting over on Instagram (@positivelypresent) so follow along over there for some daily bits of positivity. :)

 
  

 

Finding-Self-Cover

Facing fears can offer up a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself. Start some soul-searching with the Finding Yourself workbook. Discover more about yourself, and uncover what you want most by downloading a copy of the e-book Finding Yourself: A Soul-Searching Workbook for Surprising Self Discovery. Filled with inspiration, questions, and activities to get you thinking about what it means to be you, Finding Yourself is a must for learning more about who you are and about what matters most to you. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own soul-searching copy here.


positively present picks: july 3, 2015

Freedom

 

Quote-of-the-week

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.
I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."

Abraham Lincoln

 

Links-I-Love

The Magic of Emotional Clearing : get rid of all that emotional clutter

23 Emotions People Feel But Can't Explain : loved learning these words

When You're Feeling Low : this 7-year-old's song is uplifting and good

Anxiety / Self-Care Temporary Tattoos : I absolutely love these

Love the Necessary Hard Work : I love the gratitude behind this

10 Ways to Lift Yourself Up : whenever you feel you've fallen...

You Are a Grown Up : that means you can do what you want!

The Native Society : check out my interview with The Native Society

Say "I'm Proud of You" : you'll absolutely make someone's day

Inspiring Desktop Backgrounds : love these freebies via That Noise Gal

10 Affirmations to Recover from Disappointment : lift yourself up

PURPOSE Jewelry : this jewelry line gives back big time. love that!

When You Feel Like Giving Up : 15 reminders to get you back on track

Grown-Up Coloring Books : so good for reducing stress!

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"American Girl" — Tom Petty
"Warm Blood" — FLOR
"American Girls" — Counting Crows
"Rearview" — Andra Day
"Irrational" — Fjord
"American Oxygen" — Rihanna
"Wildfire" — Scavenger Hunt
"Firework" (Cover) — Jenny Lane
"July Flame" (Remix) — Laura Veirs
"Free" —Ryn Weaver

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

You Can Think Differently
Caterina Rando

The Picture of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


how to find sunshine when you're under the weather

Be-Ok

 

 

For the past month, I've been struggling with a not-so-fun health issue. I've never in my life had any issues with my health (other than the average cold) so it's been an eye-opening experience to wake up day after day not feeling like myself and dealing with constant pain. And, to be completely honest, it's been very difficult to stay positive. Not feeling good sucks, and when it starts impacting your whole life — where you can go, what you can do, how much work you can accomplish in a day — it goes from unpleasant to frustrating to depressing real fast. 

The best way to handle this unpleasantness would be to do my best to stay positive and present. The more I focus on how lucky I am (the issue I have, in the grand scheme of life, is relatively minor), the easier it becomes to cope with the situation. And the more I strive to stay in the moment (rather than dwelling on how long I've felt this way or wondering how much longer until I'm well again), the easier it becomes to avoid the downward spiral of self-pity. 

Of course this is much easier said than done.

For the first couple of weeks, I was optimistic. "I can get through this!" I thought. "This really isn't that bad," I told myself. But as the days multiplied, it grew more and more difficult to be cheerful. Every day I woke with hope and every day I still wasn't better. I was frustrated, upset, and physically in pain. Online I read about others who recovered quickly and I envied them. "Why wasn't I better?" I wondered. "Why was it taking so long for me to feel well again?"

I got my answer last week when, at the doctor's office, it was discovered that my issue was actually something more serious. Minor surgery would be needed as soon as possible with a real surgery needed soon after. I scheduled the first surgery for the following morning. On one hand, I was relived that my pain had been validated. I wasn't being a complainer or a baby — this pain was legit. But, on the other hand, I was terrified. Even though the procedure was routine and, in the eyes of the medical world, probably nothing to even blink an eye at, I'd never before had any sort of medical procedure. 

As I left the doctor's office blinking back tears and telling myself to be brave, I reminded myself that this was the perfect opportunity to practice what I preach. Here I was, coping with a difficult situation and faced with an upcoming procedure that made me feel downright terrified. If there were a time to be positively present, it was right now. 

And so I sat down at my computer and asked myself, "What would I tell someone else in this situation? What advice would I offer to someone who has been struggling for awhile and now has to confront a scary situation? How would I suggest finding the sunshine when you're under the weather?" What I came up with was this...

 

1. PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST. 

When you're not used to worrying about your health, it can be difficult to make it a priority. For the weeks I was sick, I had to spend a lot of time taking care of myself and it was tough. I felt like my whole day revolved around doing all the things the doctor advised me to do, and that left little time for working — let alone socializing! But as the days passed, I quickly learned how important it is to put your health first. Whatever the doctor says, do it. And listening to your body is key, too. When I first started feeling bad, I tried to ignore it, pushing my body passed its limits. I don't know if this made things worse or not, but I do know that I felt a lot better on the days I put my health first. Yes, it was hard to cancel appointments and postpone deadlines (two things I try never to do at work), but I kept reminding myself, "This is the only body you have. You have to take care of it. It has to come first." 

2. GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE TREAT. 

When you're feeling crappy (emotionally or physically or both), a little treat can go a long way. On the days I was feeling particularly bad, I tried to indulge a little in things that made me happy. Some of the things I treated myself to: I picked up my favorite dessert at the market. I spent a few hours watching a beloved Disney film. I happily obliged when my mom offered to treat me to some new books. I slept in on a weekday. I ordered in pizza instead of making it. I bought a fun new photo editing app to play with. Each of these acts was small, but they gave my mood a little boost when I was feeling low. Of course a lasting sense of happiness has to come from within, but when you're struggling to feel well, a little external mood-booster never hurts. 

3. FIND A GOOD DISTRACTION. 

When it comes to dealing with difficulty, I'm not a fan of sweeping things under the rug, but when you're having a tough time physically and you've done all you can to try to make yourself feel well but you still feel terrible, it can be helpful to find a good distraction. It could be anything — a new book, a favorite funny film, a friend stopping by — so long as it takes you away from your pain for a little bit and gives you a positive feeling. One of the best distractions I had when I wasn't feeling well was a friend coming over and listening to podcasts with me. It sounds like such a simple thing, but it made me forget about being in pain for awhile and inspired me to think and talk about things other than how bad I was feeling. 

4. KEEP THINKING OPTIMISTICALLY. 

Our thoughts are so powerful. As tempting as it was for me to think, "I'm never going to get better," every time I had a thought like this, I reminded myself just how powerful my thoughts were. Instead I told myself, "I will get better. Maybe not today, but soon I will be back to my old self." I'm not going to lie — at times it was frustrating to repeat this mantra and continually wake up feeling bad, but I do think there's something to be said about optimistic thinking when it comes to health. In fact, studies have shown that positive thinking can improve recovery times post-surgery, and some people even claim that thinking positively helped cure serious illnesses. Whether or not positive thinking actually does make you well or not, it certainly doesn't hurt and, at the very least, it improves your mental state!

5. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. 

Yes, I felt terrible at times and my mental state was far from ideal, but when I started thinking about all of the other health conditions in the world (and all of the other places in the world where good medical treatment isn't available), I started to feel incredibly lucky. Here was, suffering from something relatively minor and with the means to have it taken care of by an award-winning doctor in one of the best surgery centers in the world. All things considered, I was pretty darn lucky. Focusing on this made it much easier to cope when I was feeling extra bad. Every time I was in pain or feeling frustrated by my situation, I reminded myself how lucky I was and my mood instantly brightened. 

6. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO. 

My condition made what I could do very limited, which was frustrating. I love being productive and laying on the couch all day (fun as that sounds!) gets really old, no matter how much you love reading or the Internet. I found myself wanting to cry sometimes in frustration because I didn't feel as if I could do much of anything for weeks and weeks and weeks. But at some point I realized I had to snap out of that mindset. Yes, I was limited in what I could do, but there were still things I could manage and it was time to take advantage of them. I could do lots of reading. I could still think of ideas and do some writing. I could research things on my phone while I was laying down. I could watch films I'd been wanting to catch up on. I couldn't do all the things I wanted to do, but focusing on what I could do make it easier to feel as if I was making progress (even while resting!). 

7. SPEND TIME WITH OTHER PEOPLE. 

When you're not feeling well, it's tempting to hole yourself up at home and stay there until you feel better. When you have a common cold, this works well (also, it's kind of necessary so you don't spread germs to others!), but when you're unwell for weeks at a time, this plan doesn't work so well. It only makes you feel more frustrated, lonely, and unhappy with your current state. If possible, get out of the house. (I forced myself to do this even when it was physically tough to do so.) If that's not an option, invite people over or chat with friends on the phone. As an introvert, social interaction isn't my go-to cure, but it really does help to spend time with others. It gets you out of your own head and provides a welcome distraction from focusing on physical pain.

 

After this experience, I've learned just how important health is, and I've also begun to feel a much deeper sense of compassion for people in general. Now that I've been out and about in the world while feeling miserable, I've become more aware of the fact that you just never know what someone else is going through. Now when I encounter people who are rude or in a rush, I have to wonder if they're in some sort of pain. You can't always see the pain others are experiencing and, now knowing what it's like to have to carry on day after day while not feeling well, my eyes are opened to the possibility that others might be struggling too. 


positively present picks : june 26, 2015

Positive vibes

Positive vibes print via A Beautiful Mess
 

 

Quote-of-the-week

"To handle yourself, use your head.
To handle others, use your heart."

Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Links-I-Love

Tumblr Lovin' : been spending a lot of time over on Tumblr lately

Summertime Desktop + Phone Backgrounds : love these Free People freebies

You'll Do It When You're Ready : love this (via Danielle LaPorte)

50 Ways to Be Happy Right Now : honored to be featured in this! 

Enjoy the Process : I'm loving this temporary tattoo by Tattly

Three Words You Should Stop Saying Right Now : they really serve no point

5 Things that Happen When You Embrace Being Alone : love that solo time!

Strategies for Dealing with Toxic People : 'cause you can't always avoid 'em

How to Stop Being a Slave to Your Emotions : don't let them control you

20 Small Ways to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone : go on, try something new

Steve Jobs on Focus + Saying No : wow. these are powerful words. 

10 Ways to Stay Positive in the Face of Negativity : #1 is so important

How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem : now's the time to love who you are!

31 Ways to Appreciate the Present Moment : so many mindful ideas here

Love Brigade : a wonderful and inspiring subscription box

4 Types of Productivity Styles : figure out yours to get more done

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
 

"Bad Blood / Never Getting Back Together" — Taylor Swift
"Earned It" (Cover) — Madilyn Bailey
"Distance" — The Violet feat. Van Ward
"Tom's Diner" — Giorgio Moroder feat. Britney Spears
"Midas" — Malibu State feat. Holly Walker
"We're Gonna Be Alright" — The Runaway Club
"Hollow Home Road" — Brolly
"I Want to Feel Alive" — Lighthouse + the Whaler
"Master Pretender" — First Aid Kit
"Goodbye, Goodbye" — Tegan and Sara

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

All the Bright Places
Jennifer Niven

Radical Self Love: A Guide to Loving Yourself and Living Your Dream
Gala Darling

I wrote a book too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

 


on summer + 6 ways to celebrate its arrival

SummerQuote

 

As of yesterday, summer has officially arrived where I live! Summer's grand entrance in the suburbs of Washington, DC means: too-hot days trapped inside rooms made too-cold by overcompensating air-conditioning, humidity so thick you can practically grab hold of it when you walk outside, an invasion of insects in search of human-flavored meals, and a pretty good chance of getting drenched in an afternoon thunderstorm. 

Rereading that sentence, I realize just how negative I sound. (This is a perfect example of when someone I know in real life would look at me and say, "Are you being Positively Present...?) I used to like summer -- I really did -- but the older I get, the more I start to understand why I liked summer. As a kid, I loved the warmth and the freedom and the fireflies. (My greedy, present-loving self also loved knowing my birthday was arriving at the end of August.) As a teenager, I loved the long break from school and the lazy days spent flirting with boys by the pool. In my youth, summer always symbolized freedom.

But now -- as a thirty-something adult (how did that happen?!) -- summer doesn't spell out freedom the way it once did. There is certainly something freeing in the lengthy days (so many more hours of daylight!), and it does often seem that work slows a bit in the warmest months (not so this year, when my planner is jam-packed with tasks!). And, of course, there are the pleasures of sun-kissed skin and melting popsicles and fireflies winking in the grass at dusk, the brightly-colored flowers and the green, green, green of everything. Summer has some nice traits, it does, but it doesn't symbolize what it once did.

Instead, I now see summer as a stepping stone to autumn, the time of year when I feel most in love with the world outside my window. But as the founder of this little positive and mindful corner of the internet, it's my duty to (try to!) appreciate all seasons, to embrace the goodness in every day (regardless of the humidity or the heat index!). After all, that's really what Positively Present is all about -- finding the a way to embrace every situation, especially the ones that aren't our favorites.

[Though, I must note, a little thing like not loving summer is, in no way, a difficult situation that must be overcome. I might be whining a bit here -- perhaps as a reminder to myself that I'm human and not some positivity-promoting machine who is unaffected by life's little annoyances -- but I know with absolute certainty how shockingly lucky I am to experience summer in the way I do, to live in a place where I generally feel content and safe, to be free to do as please (for the most part!), and to continue existing season after season after season.]

Though I know it's silly, I find myself growing less and less attracted to summer with each passing year. Like an old love that keeps coming back, with each return I find myself more and more irritated with summer's presence. But, despite my disgruntled state, I certainly don't want the coming months to be filled with me griping about the weather or shutting myself indoors to avoid the sticky sweat and bug bites. (As you can clearly see, I've found myself heading down this path!) Like it or not, summer is here to stay for awhile, and I plan to do what I can make the best of it. Here's how I plan to embrace the season I once loved (but can only kind of now tolerate).... 

 

  1. GET OUTSIDE IN THE FRESH AIR. 

    It's hard for me to tear myself away from my computer, my TV, my indoor comforts, and go outside. In general, I'm an indoor kind of girl. But summer is a great time to go outside and take part in outdoor activities (even if by "activity" I mean laying by the pool and reading...). While it's tempting to rationalize (as I did last weekend) that it was perfectly fine to spend a beautiful Saturdays indoors because I had "things to do," this is not a good way to embrace summer. 

  2. PAY ATTENTION TO NATURE.

    Already I've seen a few yellowed leaves fall from trees and they reminded me that summer will be over before I know it. Though it's not my favorite time of year, it's worth taking note of all the beauty it has to offer. I need to take note of the bright blue summer sky. I need to take note of the brilliant sun (that I'll surely be missing in winter!). I need to take note of the flowers still in bloom and the trees bursting with greenness. Summer has some great things to offer, nature-wise, and a great way to celebrate the season is to pay attention to it.

  3. ENJOY THE SUMMERTIME FARE.

    Summer offers some delicious options (and a great opportunity to stay present with some of the five senses!) in the food department, and there are certain things I eat in summer that I rarely have any other time of the year -- watermelon, corn on the cob, popsicles,  ice cream cones, to name a few. To celebrate the season, I plan to indulge in some of these summertime favorites on a regular basis, while they're still in season.  It could be another year before I'm likely to eat them again so now's the time to take advantage of them and enjoy them in all of their summertime glory!

  4. WELCOME THE WARM (LIGHTER!) NIGHTS. 

    Now that the nights are warm and it gets dark so much later, I'm out late, wearing flip-flops and shorts to walk the dog. Already I've grown accustom to summer's warmth and it's easy for me to forget about all the nights in winter where I had to bundle up in a big puffy jacket and boots just to take a quick, freezing stroll around the block. The joy of summer is that all I need to do is slip on my flip-flops, grab the leash (and dog!), and go. Celebrating the summer means remembering how freeing it is to leave the house without a jacket, to know I won't have to brace myself in preparation for a cold blast of air when I open the door. While they're here, I'm going to do what I can to appreciate the warm summer nights. 

  5. TAKE A LITTLE STAYCATION.

    I work for myself so it might seem like I could easily take a day off to enjoy a beautiful day, but it's much harder to vacate from my "office" when time off isn't paid. (No vacation days for a writer and creator!) Even so, life's too short not to take some time off to enjoy the season of summer. This year, I'm looking to the Regina Brett's quote for inspiration: "Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds." I might not be able to take a true vacation, but that doesn't mean I can't embrace a bit of summertime laziness!

  6. MAKE USE OF THE LONG DAYS. 

    Often when I finish work in the winter, it's dark. And darkness, to me, signals time to sleep, making it really hard to get motivated for post-work activities. But in the summer things are different! It's light so late and one of the best ways to celebrate summer is to make use of all those wonderful extra hours of daylight. This year I'm determined to make good use of the long afternoons, planning some outdoor activities, dining al fresco (in daylight!), and taking my pup on nice long walks in the evening. The long days are one of the best ways aspects of summer and they're certainly worth celebrating!  


If you made it all the way down to the end of this post (and through my ugh-it's-summer rant!), hopefully you'll have a better understanding of my default-negative-but-striving-to-be-positive brain works. It would be much easier for me to just complain about summer, stay indoors as much as possible, and pine away for autumn, but I'm trying my best to focus on making the most of summer, celebrating it and seeking the positive as much as I possibly can!