Traveling with Anxiety

Lil disclaimer to get us started:  Gonna get incredibly real with y’all in this post so beware.  Anxiety is something I NEVER talk about on a public platform because I know there are people much much worse off than me so I strongly avoid complaining about it openly.  

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Sorrento, Italy

Anyone even remotely close to me knows that I have always struggled with anxiety.  You name it and it probably makes me anxious.  Social events, making big purchases, going to work, leaving the house, yep, yep, yep, and yep.  I’ve ruined experiences for myself and relationships with others as a result of this issue and I’ve learned A LOT about myself and how to cope through these kinds of challenges.  I’m kind of granola (aka scaredy cat) when it comes to medicating and refuse to put anything stronger than ibuprofen and a little caffeine in my body so the only option I’m left with is teaching myself to cope the best way I know how (though if you are someone who needs to medicate more power to ya- no judgment).

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Charleston, SC

I have learned that bottling up how anxious I am feeling does nothing but hurt myself (and others if they are affected by it without knowing the reason) so in recent years I have learned to be a little more open about how I’m feeling and fortunately, the people who matter to me have continued to accept me for I am and I am forever thankful for those people!

Now that I’ve clued a few more important people in my life into this issue, a couple of them have asked me how I’ve stayed so calm with all of our travels (past and upcoming) and the answer is easy – I haven’t!

2018 was a year FULL of traveling!  Stephen lived in Washington, DC for three months, we made several trips to Charleston, honeymooned in a three-stop Italy trip, road tripped to Manhattan with some friends, ate our hearts out (literally) in Nashville, and rang in the new year in Paris just to name a few!  Our 2019 travel plans so far include Chicago, NYC, Iceland, London, Amsterdam, and Greece and I am trying to convince Stephen to add more to the list.  He doesn’t start his job until September and we are trying to fit as much travel as possible in while his schedule is still moderately flexible.

 

One of the reasons we’ve been able to fit so much in so little time is that Stephen and I are absolute pros at hitting the ground running as soon as we reach a destination and not stopping til we’re on the plane home – we are exceptionally good at fitting in a LOT in just a LITTLE time.  Fortunately for me, oftentimes we are so busy trying to fit so much in that I am kept TOO busy to be alone with my thoughts and get nervous.  We approach each trip as if it will be the last opportunity we’ll ever have to go there (which, let’s be honest, it very well could be!) and spend hours researching the must-do’s of each destination then pack our trips full from sun-up to sun-down each day!  Anyone else struggling with anxiety can probably relate to the fact that staying super busy is a great way to keep those negative feelings at bay.

 

There are some aspects of traveling where anxiety just can’t be avoided.  When we fly I usually spend the night before or the morning of heaving into a toilet (told you we’d be getting real here!);  I don’t mind flying really, but get terrified of the unknown so every time we go somewhere I’ve never been (especially if there’s a language barrier) I worry worry worry about all that I don’t know.  Are we prepared enough?  Do we have enough money?  What if one of us gets sick or hurt?  What if I can’t find anything to eat?  How are we going to communicate?  Questions galore race through my head and I hate not having the answers.  I am pretty largely in charge of planning when we travel (Stephen really prefers to fly by the seat of his pants which obviously doesn’t mesh well with an anxious person- love you babe 🙂 ) so I feel completely responsible for everything that happens when we travel and am terrified that I will have forgotten something important; wracking my brain for potential mistakes I’ve made takes off and gets out of hand very quickly!

Once we’re at our destination I get anxious before every mealtime; I am an embarrassingly picky eater and I also get painstakingly terrified when I don’t know the layout of a restaurant (Do we wait to be seated?  Do we go up and order?  Do we pay here or at the counter?  Sounds kind of amusing but these are actually REALLY upsetting questions for me and I really hate not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing- maybe it comes from working in the service industry for four years and being used to knowing these things?  Who knows!  Anxiety knows no limits.).  One time in Rome Stephen and I tried to split a pizza and got yelled at in Italian!  You can imagine it just about sent me into an anxiety-ridden stupor when we were there (Note to all those thinking about visiting Italy: if you’re sitting at a restaurant you better be ordering your own entrée if you don’t want to get yelled at!).  We’ve also been yelled at in French while at a Parisian restaurant, but that’s a longer story.  These are the kinds of things that usually do me in.  I am a Type A rule-follower and anything less than following the rules and the status quo is honestly debilitating for me; I basically lose the ability to talk or listen to others because I am sitting there, lost in my thoughts, regretting my actions, wondering how I could have done things differently to avoid this situation.

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Rome, Italy

It sucked.  There I was, sitting in one of the most amazing cities in the world, and I was completely blind to it because something had happened where honestly, the person yelling at us probably went about his day and didn’t think twice about that interaction.  That’s just it though, we can’t choose what makes us anxious and anxiety has no rhyme or reason.

So how did I get past it?  Like I said earlier, I really didn’t.  If I’m being honest I still really cringe about it and if I think hard enough about it I can sort of shut down because I feel so icky about the interaction.  You can’t just turn anxiety off.  What I have learned (and am still actively learning to do) is suppress it the best I can by being open about what I’m feeling and after acknowledging it, focusing on how lucky I am to be where I am.   I know how disappointed I would be with myself if I realized it was time to leave our destination and all I had been able to focus on was how anxious I was feeling.  I know how guilty I would feel if I hadn’t been fully present with Stephen in these places that we may never get a chance to return to.  I have to remind myself to stay focused on the many many positive and exciting things happening all around me when we are traveling.

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Paris, France

It is work…hard work at that. But traveling is a priority for us in this season of our lives.  It is a top priority for us.  Our adventures fuel us as a couple, but to be able to fuel us I first need to fuel myself.

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Sorrento, Italy

The fact of the matter is it is OKAY to feel anxious;  if it wasn’t I would be in a really rough place because the reality is I will probably never not be an anxious person – it just is what it is.  Traveling will probably never be in my “comfort zone.”  It’s not comfortable!  It’s scary and exciting and exhilarating and oftentimes, yes, uncomfortable.  But it is important to us.  Really, really important to us.  And guess what?  I have yet to regret a single adventure we’ve been on.  Every time we travel (internationally or not) my heart comes back feeling ten times more full than it was when we left.  Despite being uncomfortable at times, Stephen and I have incredible amounts of fun when we travel and it has brought us closer than ever because of the communication and compromise we’ve had to learn when traveling (his patience and understanding have been a help too!).

The more I force myself to face my anxieties and kick myself out of my own comfort zone, the easier it is to do so.  I acknowledge that I am nervous and then I make myself move on and focus on what we’re doing and where we are; acknowledging it is half the battle.  ‘Anxious’ is not a mindset; if it was, it would be possible to change.  ‘Strong’ and ‘brave’ are mindsets that I choose to utilize in my life and in my travels and it is through this that I am able to cope and why I will be able to continue to travel and enjoy doing so.

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Gonna end this by saying I consider myself lucky that despite never being able to completely get rid of my anxiety, through a lot of hard work (which continues every. single. day.) I am able to get past it in order to enjoy things far beyond my normal comfort zone and I know that many people would not be able to say the same.  I encourage everyone to be open with themselves and others about any mental health struggles they may have and not to hesitate getting help if needed.  We aren’t going to end the stigma by staying silent 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!

Sydney

Chronicles of a 30 Day Instagram Cleanse

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As of today I am wrapping up a 30 day Instagram cleanse!  Last month I realized I was relying wayyyy too heavily on my Instagram app and it started to feel like a pretty toxic thing;  I always told myself I would never reach that point and that I would stay in control of my social media usage but lo and behold, reach that point I did, and it sucked me in to a dark place that I needed to get myself out of.

I chose to do this cleanse because Instagram had lost its original purpose for me– rather than it being a place for me to keep up with friends, fashion, classroom trends, home decor, and weddings, it became a perpetual reminder of the clothes I didn’t have, the wedding amenities I wouldn’t get, the features my classroom lacked, and the gatherings I wasn’t invited to.  The problem with Instagram is that unlike the photoshopped magazine pictures we’ve been trained to stop comparing ourselves to because they aren’t real, the pictures on your Instagram feed are so frequently of people you know, which makes you feel even worse because you constantly find yourself wondering, “If this person that I know has clothes/a wedding/a life that looks this perfect, why can’t I?  What’s so wrong with me that I can’t have an Instagram-worthy life like that?”

I found myself in a pretty constantly sour mood and it wasn’t long before I realized there was a correlation between the amount of time I spent looking at Instagram and how bad my mood was.  It just made me feel inferior to be seeing all of those images; inferior as a teacher, female, bride, friend, human being…you name it– and I felt that way constantly.

I thought the cleanse would be a super challenging thing to do since I relied so heavily on it before, but it was surprisingly easy; I deleted the app off my phone and was hardly tempted to check it over the course of my 30 day commitment.

Did it work?  The short answer is YES. I absolutely noticed how my moods were increasingly positive throughout the duration of the cleanse.  I didn’t think removing an app from my phone could have an impact on my life at all, but believe it or not the impact was profound and long-lasting.

Not only was my mood lifted significantly, but my wallet also felt the positive impact of removing Instagram.  Because I wasn’t inundated with other people’s beautiful clothes and accessories, I hardly found myself being tempted to browse my regular online shops and wasn’t constantly feeling compelled to purchase a new outfit daily.

I found myself being more present with Stephen and with my family because I had no idea what social gatherings were going on that I wasn’t being included in and I found that the need to be included which I had felt so strongly in the past was virtually non-existent.  Who knew all it would take to strengthen some of the most important relationships in my life was removing a social media app?

Taking time off from Instagram was also taking time off from scrolling through perfect bikini bodies and feeling like such a loser because I look nothing like that (the pressure is even more intense with the upcoming wedding!), or feeling like my wedding will be lacking because I can’t afford to spend $10,000 on flowers like the brides on Style Me Pretty can.

So what next?  I think I’ll get back on Instagram but this cleanse has definitely changed my view of it.  I haven’t downloaded the app on my phone yet and I’ll be allowing myself to check it on the computer once or twice a day.  If I do re-download it on my phone, it won’t ever make its way back onto my home screen which I highly recommend!  You’d be amazed how easy it is to forget an app even exists if it doesn’t reside on your home screen.

I totally did not understand people who went “social media free” for even a weekend, much less did any sort of weeks-long social media cleanses, and to be honest I saw them as people who were just trying to prove something and show off that they could do something like that.  This has completely changed my opinion of that!  I HIGHLY recommend doing a cleanse of some sort even if you don’t find yourself with low self-esteem as a result of social media; I think you will be amazed at the changes you notice in yourself, your stress level, and in your relationships.  This has honestly been a life-changing experience and I am REALLY glad I made the month-long commitment!

 

Life Update + 2018 Goals

Haaaaappy January and happy snow day!  I have been snuggled up on the couch in my pajamas all day with a glass of chocolate milk in my favorite mug (pretending to be a grown up with this mug but I hate hot drinks!) lesson planning, wedding planning, and watching Netflix and loving every second of it.

Can you believe it is 2018?! And you know what that means – IT’S WEDDING YEAR!  When Stephen and I first got engaged, 2018 seemed like a million years away, yet here we are and it feels like no time has passed at all.  I have a feeling 2018 is going to be a BIG year, and not just because I’m getting a husband (though that will be a huge part of it!).

There have already been some big changes in the works that I wanted to fill everyone in on!

First of all, I GOT A JOB! How fitting that my last post was about sitting back and letting my plan run its own course and then literally the next day I was offered my dream job – lesson learned!  I will be starting my job as Highcroft Drive Elementary School’s newest 2nd Grade teacher on January 22nd.  While I am heartbroken about leaving all my nearest and dearest friends at Alston Ridge, I know that we are given life in seasons, and while one of the greatest, Alston Ridge was but a season in my own life — a season that I will look back on fondly for the rest of my life and that will follow me forever with the lasting friendships I gained in my time there.  2nd Grade has always been my end-goal, so this job feels like a huge accomplishment to me!  I can’t wait to dive right into the 2nd Grade team at Highcroft!

On a less-but-increasingly-more-definite note, Stephen has become aware of some internship and externship prospects that are making it more and more likely that he will have to move to another state for a period of time — when, where, and for how long is very much up in the air (but that’s what keeps life interesting!), but there is a real chance that a portion of our first year of marriage is going to be long-distance!  Stephen and I have never had a long-distance relationship before so it will be interesting and challenging, of course, but life with Stephen has always been an adventure and we are totally up for it!

We have our first travel plans of 2018! I splurged on two tickets to the Eagles concert so in March we’ll be road tripping to Tennessee to see my very favorite band in concert! We’re not sure yet if Stephen will be able to go so it may just be me and my sister but either way I am SO excited! Fun fact – the day after I splurged on these concert tickets the Eagles announced concert dates here in Raleigh, but at least this way it’s more adventurous!  Of course we’ll be heading to Charleston throughout the year (we really try to go every 3-4 months), and we are hoping to add at least a couple other stops to our itinerary for the year as well, but with Stephen’s crazy schedule you just really never know, but traveling (cheaply) is definitely on our priority list.  Of course, if he moves out of state, that will open up a whole new set of adventures for us to go on…

New Year, New Goals

2017 was a year full of goals — some achieved, some not, but setting goals throughout the year has led to me coming closer to achieving my best self, and what more can you really ask for?

With that being said, I’ve started thinking about my goals for 2018! Here are just a few of the biggies:

  • Stop comparing myself to others
  • GET MARRIED
  • Pay off remaining wedding vendors (oh, boy)
  • Make more time to build on and harvest friendships (old and new)
  • Read more
  • Prioritize my marriage above everything else
  • Save more
  • Show my whole family how much I appreciate them more
  • Travel
  • Work on my fitness
  • Be more present in my own life

That list is definitely going to stretch and mold and change probably before the month is even over, but it is definitely a start!

I am so ready to get started on my goals for 2018!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sydney

Learning Patience in a Time of Waiting

Friends, I have a confession to make.  I am probably the world’s most impatient person.  There, I said it.  When I make my mind up about something, I want it to happen nownowNOW.  Not the most flattering or selfless trait, I admit.

And I have found that, especially for people of my generation, the tunnel-mindedness of being impatient runs rampant in a lot of us– probably more than we’d like to admit.  The truth is it’s easy to be impatient because if you think about it, we don’t really have to wait  on many things these days.  Any song, recipe, picture, even person, is available at our fingertips and our discretion so why would I even want to learn patience?

I am learning that while true patience may not be needed very often, when it is needed, it is very important and very, very difficult to master and accept.  It’s hard to wait.  It is especially hard to wait on things you don’t know yet, on questions you not only don’t have the answers to, but you don’t even know when you’ll get the answers.   And the only reason I know this is because I am currently struggling with it in my own life.

To say that I am in a season of waiting in my life right now would be an understatement.  I am waiting, but there are a lot of things I don’t even know that I am waiting for.  The most obvious thing in my life that I am waiting for is a job.  I am in that not-so-sweet spot  in life of having graduated but still looking for a job.  And let me tell you, the pressure. Is.  ON.  From all different facets of my life I am feeling the pressure of finding a job but perhaps the most pressure I feel is that of which is coming from within myself.  I have always been hard on myself and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in myself for not already having something lined up, despite the fact that it has been completely out of my own control.

In my impatient time of looking for a job I am realizing that I am sacrificing being present in the parts of my life that were important to me before this time of waiting began.  One example of this would be my current job.  Sure, it’s not the job I ever intended to stay in forever, but I have 19 Kindergarteners counting on me to form each day into a block that will be added to the foundation of their educational careers.  That can’t be taken lightly.  In constantly looking ahead (in this case constantly checking my phone and email for interview opportunities), I am forgetting to look right in front of me.

Patience in Wedding Planning

As of right now our wedding day is 4 months, 16 days, 8 hours, 15 minutes, and 3 seconds away (but who’s counting, right?).  It is crunch time.  Deadlines are coming up, invoices are coming due, and I am starting to feel like I am completely out of control and completely unprepared — two things I swore I would never let myself feel during the wedding planning process.

Most of the stress is financial-related, of course, and I am constantly looking for where our next source of income is going to come from.  I’ll be getting a second job (yes, even if I get a full-time, post-graduation job) to try to fill in some of the gaps in our budget in January, so of course my mind is already racing and my fingers are already buzzing as I search the Internet for potential evening and weekend positions.  It’s a tough position to be in to be searching for a job in retail or food service at 23 years old with a Master’s Degree, but if nothing else it keeps you humble.

I digress, in thinking about money and getting another job and getting our invoices paid off, I am missing out on my very favorite time of year — the holidays.  Nothing makes me happier than sitting back wherever I am at this point in December and taking in all the Christmas spirit and warmth that fills our souls as we prepare to spend time with our loved ones, and I admit to you that I have been so stressed, so busy, so impatient that we are now one week away from Christmas and I feel as though I haven’t felt my beloved “Christmas Cheer” even once.

More important than Christmas cheer, though, is that I am forgetting to relish this time as I prepare to become a wife.  This should be a joyous season of waiting as I prepare my heart to pursue a Christ-centered marriage and life with my soon-to-be husband.   Now more than ever I need to focus on making Stephen my priority and looking up from my computer more than just occasionally to see how he’s doing and if I can be helpful to him in any way.   No matter how busy we get, we need to be putting in the effort now to be preparing my marriage for later.  My granddaddy says marriage is like a box.  You can’t take anything out of a box until you’ve put something in it.  In marriage both partners put things into their box (companionship, forgiveness, trust, empathy, and commitment, just to name a few) and both partners take things out (as life gets tough and you run into obstacles as a couple); but if you take more things out of your box than you put into it, your box is empty.  Keeping your box full takes work and a lot of it.  And I need to focus on filling our box now rather than later.

Still there?

So, what can we do?  What will I do?  I will learn patience in this time of waiting.  I will accept that I’m not the one in control of my plan and that my only purpose right now is to be present in my own life.  It is impossible to be content in such a stressful time of life if I am trying to take control of a plan that isn’t mine to change.  The job will come, the wedding will get paid for, and I will get the answers I have been looking for in His time.  To be impatient is to rob yourself of your own joy.  As Brittney Moses so beautifully stated, “In every season it is God’s will that we are matured and equipped for the next.”

So rather than lounging around in my own bitterness and discomfort, I am going to trust that what’s going to come will come, and I am going to do the only true job I have at the moment — I am going to be present in my own life.

And I hope you can too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sydney

10 Fun Facts About Me & Stephen

Happy Friday!  As of today I am tracked out for the next three weeks which makes me one happy student teacher!  I don’t have many wedding updates to share (though I did order my bouquet for my bridal portraits!), so I figured I’d do something fun instead!  Here are ten things you may not know about me and Stephen:

  1. Our favorite thing to do together (and the thing we have missed the very most by saving for a wedding) is going out to eat! We love trying new places and becoming regulars at our favorites.  Eating out is seriously OUR LIFE so I can’t wait to start doing it again regularly after the wedding is paid for!
  2. Our second favorite thing to do is go on adventures of any magnitude.  Our first summer together (back in 2012!) was full of adventures ranging from going to Sunni Skies Ice Cream in Angier late at night to going to Disney World! Since then we’ve made a point to stay adventurous and plan on going on our biggest adventure yet when we go on a delayed extended honeymoon after Stephen takes the NC Bar!  We have plans to explore different destinations in Europe and Greece and we can’t wait!202519_10151123984239884_227798032_o
  3. We get mistaken for twins…a lot.  We’ve chosen not to delve into any deeper meanings behind why we’ve ended up with partners that apparently look exactly like ourselves (lol) but I personally see zero resemblance! We surely are amused when we get asked if we’re twins after holding hands or kissing in public!IMG_7766
  4. Children won’t be on our radar for a few more years (we have too many adventures to go on first!), but we already have all our kids’ (first and middle) names picked out! They are all family names with the exception of one from one of my favorite pieces of literature and are all unisex as we plan to keep the genders a surprise when that time comes! We will also be keeping the names a secret (even from our families) until they are born!
  5. We are both OBSESSED with spicy food.  Obsessed. We tend to find the spiciest thing on the menu when we go out to eat and always ask them to make it even spicier…then we are almost always disappointed when it isn’t spicy enough! Stephen’s dad’s hot sauce company has been amazing because we finally have a hot sauce that is spicy enough for us! We put it on pretty much everything.
  6. Before I met Stephen I had never left the Carolina’s! I was so lucky his parents were willing to take me to Daytona Beach back in the summer of 2012 and we haven’t really stopped traveling since! We’ve been to California, Florida multiple times, Indianapolis, New York, and so many more places! I love that Stephen’s traveling heart loves to wander as much as mine!
  7. We are both total nerds at heart! We both love to read and I love to write and I think if it didn’t cost money we would both take classes for the rest of our lives! We love to be educated and have intellectual conversations about pretty much everything under the sun.  We aren’t afraid to disagree with each other and I think that’s a good thing! We are constantly challenging each other to stretch ourselves to learn more and assume less!  On the same note, we are total Star Wars geeks! Ask me any Star Wars question and I can assure you I will answer it correctly!
  8. Speaking of which…I have officially brought Stephen to the dark side — he is 100% a cat person because of me!  While we both still love dogs, I don’t think we’ll ever feel as passionately about them as we do cats.  We found our cat Myrtle under a bush at Stephen’s grandparents’ house in Vanceboro, brought her home, and our lives have never been the same since!  She and her brother Mac are our lives!
  9. Our hearts always have and always will reside in Raleigh.  There’s a reason Stephen decided to propose to me with the Raleigh skyline in the background and that it’s also featured on our guestbook alternative!  Raleigh is home to some of our most cherished memories and we fell in love with it and each other simultaneously during our first few years there!   It houses our favorite restaurants, shops, and places to walk around (hello, NC State campus!).  A lot of things are changing in the next year or so as Stephen interviews for jobs, but I pray that we can end up back in Raleigh some day and raise our children in the same amazing city we fell in love with!
  10. Despite our many shared physical features, Stephen and I are total opposites in about a million ways. Our personalities could not be more different – Stephen is very quiet and reserved and I tend to be a little more lively and vivacious (or ‘crazy’ as Stephen likes to call it🤷🏼‍♀️). He loves social events (good thing he’s the attorney!) while I am more of a homebody. He likes to go to bed at a semi-reasonable hour while I am always up until all hours of the night. I am more creative while Stephen is more practical. Stephen focuses on the big picture while I become obsessed with tiny details. I could probably go on about how different we are for days, but somehow it works and it works beautifully! I think our relationship is the perfect example of balance, which I think is so important not only in relationships but also in life! And I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂 I seriously couldn’t imagine a better partner to walk through life with and I feel so blessed it’s Stephen!

    Photo courtesy of Six Foot Photography❤️

Thanks for stopping by!

Sydney