Maintaining Balance on Vacation, A Two-Parter

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re on vacation. You might get to ignore the emails and messages, but your body is still your body and your health & wellness still deserve attention.

I returned recently from a 5-day vacation to Nebraska. I know, right? Who vacations in Nebraska? Well, when you have good friends getting married in Lincoln and your best friend lived in Omaha for years, you do.

That’s exactly what happened — close friends held a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so I spent two days hopping around that cute little town. Loves: cheap whiskey! Actually, cheap everything – it is so much cheaper to eat and drink in Lincoln (and Omaha) than it is in Portland! This is unsurprising, but it was awesome.

creighton university

After the wedding, I spent 2 days in Omaha, where my best friend went to college (Creighton University). He showed me all of his old haunts and basically How to Be a Tourist in Omaha. It was the first and probably only vacation I’ll get this year, so I made the most of it. We walked all over the city, spent an entire half-day with our fellow from-Portland friends at the famous Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, walked the pedestrian bridge that shares a border between Nebraska and Iowa, saw Oceans 8 at a $2 movie theater, and hit all of the coffee shops and dive bars that we could.

bob kerry bridge

Since life doesn’t stop while we’re on vacation, I had to commit to intentional choices and mindfulness around two specific goals: stay healthy and stay grounded. I battled a lot of internal anxiety on the trip (this comes in cycles for me and July is almost always one of those times I really feel it). Determined to a) not feel like shit by eating and drinking too much, and 2) not feel like shit from being a ball of cortisol for five days straight, here’s what I did to stay grounded and balanced over these five days:

Part One: Maintaining Healthy Habits on Vacation While Not Overthinking It

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This is always my first rule for everything. I brought a water bottle with me and I refilled it when I could. Here in Portland, when you go out to eat, getting a glass of water as soon as you sit at the table is a given. Not in Nebraska. We had to remember to ask for water, but we made sure to just about every time.
  2. Walk! So much walking. We walked to and from the wedding ceremony. We walked to and from the bars and restaurants and antique shops in Lincoln. We walked all OVER Omaha, including about 5 miles at the Zoo alone. Bring good shoes, check that FitBit or whatever app tracks your steps, and get those steps in.
  3. Stretch. I stretched in airports, on street corners, and in hotel rooms.
  4. Balance. But don’t be too strict. I followed a pretty decent 80/20 (maybe 70/30) rule for food choices. The first thing I got to eat when I got off the plane was a veggie heavy veggie sandwich from an Omaha coffee shop. This just felt like it set the tone for me. From there, I just tried to find balance. We’d share pretzel bites and a big salad. I took myself out for dinner alone one night and enjoyed an Omaha steak with fresh, local green beans. I made sure the diner breakfast I chose had a bunch of veggies and protein. We snacked on fruit and nuts, but had hot dogs & nachos at the zoo. This one isn’t too hard for me because after a carb-rich meal or two, I am CRAVING plants, so I’ll seek them out.

Part Two: Managing Anxiety on Vacation AKA Staying Present Will Save You

  1. Admit you’re feeling anxious. “Are you ok?” “No, but that’s ok.” I had this conversation a few times, and I tried to stay honest when I really wasn’t okay.
  2. Breathe. I exhaled a LOT. TM teaches that noticing giant exhales during meditation is a sign of stress leaving the body, so hopefully that means I got rid of a lot of stress. I took a lot of deep breaths. I had to take breaks every once in awhile to sit or stand still, take a few deep breaths, and then continue on.
  3. Play. There was a carousel at the Zoo and I bee-lined for it the second I saw it. Channeling that inner child brought moments of joy. Watching grown-ass human adults on brightly-colored horses and chickens and dinosaurs made me laugh. Even if short, these little moments of joy can help shake off the tension, even for a second.
  4. Move. Even when I didn’t feel like it, I danced. Built up adrenaline needs a place to go, so every once in awhile, I’d just shake it out, or twirl, or jump up and down.
  5. Use your tools. For me, this includes medication sometimes. I made the choice to feel my way through the discomfort first, because some of my triggers are messages from my body and my mind about changes I really do need to make. Actions I do need to take. So, I’d allow myself to feel the discomfort. Once, I grabbed my notebook and a pen and a beer and sat in a bar and just wrote for a few minutes, trying to get the mess out of my head. But once or twice, I relied on the fact that I have a prescription that can jump in and take over when meditation, writing, moving, playing, and other attempts at chilling out just don’t cut it. And that’s ok, that’s why we have a whole tool box.
  6. Know your difference between mood and mental health. I was in a great mood, the entire trip. I loved playing tourist, I laughed, and explored with my usual wide-eyed excitement at seeing the world. I was happy. But, there was an outer layer of anxiety over me the whole time — a persistent sense of tension and heaviness that co-existed with the fun. That’s entirely possible.

What’s next for me?

I’m home now, so I return to the things that I know ground and re-ground me. I need to work out hard to give the adrenaline a place to go and move the cortisol out of my body. I need to replace those stress hormones with endorphins. I do yoga to remind myself to stay present and remember who I am. I’ll meditate to stay in communion with the divine around me and for the reminder that I am one and the same with the rest of the world around me. And I’ll get to work.

The pictures I posted on my trip are the things I want to remember — the way clouds move over Midwestern skies, my best friend’s favorite spaces, playing tourist in hidden passageways and arcades, and the way jellyfish move (aquariums are so cool!). But we all know that what we post isn’t always the whole picture, and my whole picture includes admitting that I struggled through my own anxiety the whole time.

Life doesn’t take vacations when we do, so I believe we have to learn how to create and cultivate habits that we can pack with us when we go, so we can stay healthy and grounded especially when we’re not in our familiar spaces.

How do you manage your ‘baggage’ when you travel, when you’re out of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear from you.

golden bubble

How to Protect Your Energy When the World is Falling Apart Around You

Hi!

Wow. Lots of emotions out there right now, huh? I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to manage all of these feelings without totally imploding and while keeping a sense of peace and calm around me. I figured out a few things that help me in the management of my own energy, and that’s what I’m sharing here today. Oh, and there are references to Hocus Pocus and Harry Potter, and I make laser noises at one point, so it’s a fun ride.

First, some background.

The Curse of the Ambiverted Empath

I work full-time in a restaurant, in a role that’s highly focused on first impressions and the guest experience.

Aside from the service of food and beverage, a “soft skill” of mine is the management of everyone else’s energy and expectations. From guests to colleagues, my job includes creating and amplifying positive experiences while simultaneously preventing and/or diffusing negative ones.

As an ambivert-y empathic-type, this can be simultaneously invigorating while also having the potential to be totally overwhelming. The energy of the room can fuel me (yay! Humans are beautiful and nuanced and complex!) just as much as it can overstimulate me (hello, I can feel all of your feelings and whoaaaaa that’s too many feelings).

A colleague suggested at one point that I find a way to manage my own energy so as not to let the energy of literally every other person throw me off my game.

I explained this to my own health coach (spoiler alert: she’s now a super bad ass shaman) at the time.

First of all, I have to acknowledge how much I appreciate her validation of my existence as a highly-sensitive human who genuinely cares about the well-being of her coworkers and the experience of her guests.

I am! I do!

Her approach wasn’t to change me by encouraging me to dull that shine or to close that openness.

I know that this open-heart of mine is one of my super powers.

She did too. So the question became, how do I channel that energy and keep a calm and open heart in the process?

She, magical shamanananan that she is, equipped me with my very own Golden Bubble.

Hocus Pocus

This, a sparkly beautiful ball of gold light I could wrap around me and protect me from the energy of everything around me. I could see energy and interact with energy, but I didn’t have to let it in my field.

So, I employed that Golden Bubble during every shift. I still do. It’s one of my favorite tools. I don’t even have to close my eyes (probably a good thing, being in a restaurant and all)!

I just imagine my magic sparkly fingers conjuring up a Golden Bubble big enough to protect my lil’ frame, and it follows me around. I can see and read your energy, but I don’t have to absorb it. I can deflect it!

Pew pew pew!

Pew! Pew!

But also, real life.

The Golden Bubble, as it turns out, is incredibly useful in every day life just as much as it is in restaurant life.

Sometimes (this week amirite?), The World seems to be going to absolute shit all around us. Some days are hard. Some weeks are excruciating. Our hearts are breaking. Our endurance is tested.

But! I am here to tell you that you — yes, you! — also have the power to tap into your own Golden Bubble. You have the power, nay, the responsibility!, to protect your energy as we go all Order of the Phoenix on this bish.

I’m not saying we ignore or numb the pain, or that we don’t take a stand or that we look the other way from injustice or oppression. Not at all. But in the spirit of “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” we have each got to be in a place of our own stability as we prepare to take this on.

I, personally, find myself very easily derailed (spiritually, mentally, emotionally) when I let myself fall down the various rabbit holes of talking points and whatabouts.

But I find myself empowered, vocal, strong, resilient!, when I have a Golden Bubble in place, when I can ground my own energy in truth, love, compassion, and kindness.

So, beyond the really useful visual aid of existing in a beautiful gold ball of light (it’s nice here), here are 5 actual, tangible ways you can protect your energy when the world is going to literal shit.

1. Know what grounds you and do it daily.

For me, this is meditation.

Yoga helps. Amplifies it. A good strong workout helps. Journaling helps. Laying off the wine helps (ugh, I know, literal buzzkill).

But what I can come back to every single day in any moment ever, is a meditation practice. This connects me to my Self, the Consciousness, God, the Goddess, the Universe, whatever you want to call her. This connects me to the knowledge that there’s no reason why we can’t fight injustice, we can’t oppose oppression, we can’t call out bigotry, no reason in the whole Universe that we can’t do this and also do it with some fucking love, man.

2. Stay hydrated.

Seriously! When we’re dehydrated, we are tired, groggy, unfocused, and exhausted. Staying hydrated keeps our minds sharp, our bodies functioning, our digestion digesting, and our energy up. We’re gonna need it to smash the patriarchy. Hydration! For feminism! And human rights! And common decency!

3. Have a pressure-release plan.

What do you do when you can’t STAND it any longer? When you’re so angry or so frustrated or so exhausted? Is it cardio? Church? Whiskey (not recommended long-term, but I do understand the effectiveness of it).

Have an escape plan, one that allows you to get that energy OUT without amplifying it. Hike, run, crush some weights at the gym, call a friend or family member and vent or cry.

Find or create an outlet.

4. Know your limits. AND HONOR THEM.

Only then can you really start to push them.

For me, this is knowing when to walk away from an argument that’s going nowhere. When we’re not listening to each other anymore and everyone’s just arming themselves with the next talking point or “fact check” post, it’s over. Walk away.

Know when you’re not going to “win” (spoiler alert: there is no winning) an argument, and re-focus your energy. These conversations can go in circles forever. You will not change their mind. Say your piece, keep your peace, and let it go.

Put your energy elsewhere.

5. Put your energy somewhere.

Put it FORWARD. It is dizzying to waste your time in futile arguments, but it is productive to put that energy into doing something for the positive good, for the forward movement.

For some of us, that’s being very,very vocal.

Dropping knowledge bombs on the Twitterverse because you have the platform to do so and your perspective and experience and hot take on it all really does influence people and contribute to actual dialogue and/or calling out the bullshit.

For others, it’s money. Donations. Like, “I’m not sure what I can do alone, but here’s this organization that is strong and has momentum and here take my money!”

Pick your cause(s) and throw your money at them HARD (if you can).

For me? Right now. It’s being visible.

I’ve sat on the sidelines for a real long time, and I have watched the world around me argue and fight and have largely stayed out of it for fear of ruffling feathers.

:::ruffles feathers:::

As it turns out, I’d rather be uncomfortable and standing for something than uncomfortable and complicit.

“To remain neutral is to side with the oppressor.”

For me, it’s not about winning an argument or being able to Politifact-check the most talking points. It’s being in a position where I simply speak up.

For me, visibility is about clarifying my own thoughts and words and then saying those things out loud, proudly, even in (especially in) sight of people who will disagree. It’s about working really, really hard to do these things in love, compassion, kindness, and patience.

Wrap it up, D.

So, to recap: five actual, tangible ways to protect your energy as you bravely, confidently stand up for what you believe in (whether that’s human rights or food label transparency or whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich (no) or the dress is blue or gold (both) or it’s Laurel or Yanni (Yanni)):

    1. Know what grounds you and do it daily.
    2. Stay hydrated.
    3. Have a pressure release plan.
    4. Know your limits.
    5. Push those limits.

No, go forth and smash! I like to think of my Golden Bubble as a sort of Sonic the Hedgehog force.

What’s your Golden Bubble? What do you do to stay sane amid chaos?