So, if you follow along on Instagram, you know 2020 has been a big year for the Pickens so far. It is weird to be going through one of the most exciting times of our lives while simultaneously the world feels crazier than it has ever been. We announced very exciting news that we are expecting, about a week before social distancing got serious here in Maryland. We had the first 12 weeks to share all of our emotions just with each other and close family and friends. We had been trying to get pregnant so this news was not a shock to us, but the timing kind of was.
I had a visit with my primary care doctor about a cough/cold that wouldn’t go away back in December and during my visit she expressed serious concern about my thyroid being enlarged. She told me to put a hard stop on trying to get pregnant since a lot of issues I was having, lead her to believe that something was wrong. Matt and I were so upset when we heard this news and I started scheduling my follow up appointments and tests immediately so that we could figure things out and get back to baby making ASAP. After already having Crohn’s that played into my fertility and pregnancy concerns, I was terrified of having another hurdle to jump.
Well, I had my imaging done and as I was waiting for my appointment with my endocrinologist we had a little surprise. One weekend after a few glasses of wine at dinner with our friends, I started feeling horrible. I was in bed all weekend feeling exhausted and like I had the worst hangover of my life. I didn’t worry about our boozy dinner out because, well, we had put trying on hold per doctor’s orders. It isn’t uncommon for me to feel like total trash for a few days thanks to my Crohn’s, so there was nothing super alarming about this. What really tipped Matt and me off, was our dog Rhaegar. Usually Charleston is attached to me 24/7 and Rhaegar is a daddy’s boy through and through. Up until this point I was his peasant who cleaned up after him and fed him, but he’s so freaking cute I dealt with his obvious disinterest in me. Well all of a sudden, he wouldn’t leave me alone. He had to be touching me at all times and spent most of our time together just laying directly on top of me. At night he migrated to my side of the bed and just laid on my tummy. At this point I told Matt that I was either dying or I was pregnant because this was so out of character for Rhaegar.
Thanks to his strange behavior I took a test. Well, I took a lot of tests and it was still very early so I had basically a lab set up in my powder room comparing test strips and how dark the two lines were. At first the second line was very light and I thought maybe I was going crazy. I kept taking tests like a crazy person everyday and made Matt go out to get different kinds of pregnancy tests to be sure. Well the ones he got, I read on a mommy blog that they were not the best, so while he was sleeping I ordered 40 more on Amazon. I am not kidding… I ordered 40 more pregnancy tests. So as Matt considered revoking my Amazon priveleges, the new tests arrived and of course, the first one out of the 40 was a BIG FAT UNDENIABLE POSITIVE. I took a few more just to be 100% sure. Now, I didn’t do a whole ‘reveal’ for Matt. He was with me every step of the way, examining my pee sticks, so romantic. But it was for real… we were having a baby!
I made my initial appointments, all the while freaking out because of course this happened the month we were NOT supposed to get pregnant. I was so worried something was wrong with me or the baby. Everything checked out with the OBGYN and my endocrinologist said to put everything with exploring my thyroid on hold until after giving birth. She said to be thankful and enjoy that I was on track with a healthy pregnancy and if there were issues, as long as they weren’t affecting the baby, we were fine. This still really freaked me out, but I understood once she explained if there was something seriously wrong, I wouldn’t have been able to get pregnant in the first place.
It took me a little to get that this was actually real and accept the beautiful fact that we were on track with a healthy pregnancy. With so much anxiety due to my health throughout our whole journey of trying to conceive, it seemed so unreal that this was actually happening.
Our anxiety continued as we would wait from appointment to appointment to make sure our little gummy bear was on track and doing well. It has eased up with milestones like hearing the heartbeat, seeing the baby move, and making it out of the first trimester. Of course, the anxiety still is with us (especially me) but I am learning to cope better and better.
While the first trimester was full of anxiety, it was also full of enjoying our little secret together and even escaping to relax in Hawaii for a couple weeks. I couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone in our lives and especially you all who have been here with me through everything in the past few years.
I’ve had a ton of things I have wanted to share about this journey and I have been taking notes all along the way. I wanted to start sharing all of the details and behind the scenes as soon as we made the news public, but with Covid-19 wreaking such havoc on our world, it took the backseat. After a few weeks in quarantine, realizing this is the new normal, I decided I need to start sharing. It feels uncomfortable talking about anything but the pandemic right now, but I know I have value to share in my experiences and now more than ever us pregnant mamas have to lean on each other.
This is the first post of many and I am going to be completely candid and vulnerable throughout this whole journey just as I am with pretty much everything here. I am beyond thankful to be able to share this story of bringing baby Pickens into the world. If I get too much into it I’m going to start to cry (love those pregnancy hormones) so I’ll put a pin in that for now. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far in this journey and continues to do so. Your kind words and love mean so much to us.
Woah… how things have changed since my last post less than a month ago. Things have quickly escalated and I am writing this now from my 13th day in quarantine. As we go through this challenging time, I’ve been sharing updates along the way on my social media — some about the positive things this self isolation has brought and others focused on my frustrations around how my fellow humans are handling this pandemic. I’ve been trying my best to remain positive and manage my anxiety as much as possible as life has continued to evolve. I decided this afternoon, after my remote therapy/meditation session, that I wanted to use my platform to share some ways I have been coping with #quarantinelife.
I know this time is difficult, especially for those who struggle with anxiety or depression. Isolation can be very triggering as can living life without a set routine. In a time where it can be easy to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, it is more important than ever to be ready when those feelings come up. This has been a common theme in the chronic illness community, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in everyday life. Due to health conditions beyond our control, sometimes we are forced to isolate. I have been able to live an active lifestyle in the past few years, but unfortunately, not all who are suffering from a chronic illness are so lucky. Now the world is getting a taste of the loneliness and fear those with chronic illnesses suffer with everyday. It makes me so sad that more people have to experience this, but we are all in this together. When I think about my darkest days of suffering and being sick, the online community of those in similar situations was one of the things that got me through it. I am hoping now that our fellow humans can now see the incredible benefit of coming together, sharing vulnerabilities, and lifting each other up during extremely challenging times.
I am no expert, but I have three habits I am implementing to help control my anxiety during these unprecedented times. The habits I am sharing are ones that are a bit out of the norm from the usual stuff you will read — exercise, meditation, walking outside — those are all things I am doing, but these dig a little deeper if you are ready to go there.
1. Different rooms for different things
I noticed myself spending all of my waking hours in my living room. My desk and computers are in there, my sofa and main tv are in there, my dogs like to be in there. It is the hub of our house, but spending so many hours in the same place day after day can be agonizing, especially when there is no separation of work and relaxation. I am making a conscious effort to have activities happen in various rooms. For example, when I meditate in the morning, instead of doing it on my sofa, I can do it in my master bedroom. When I take conference calls I can take them from my guest room. When my husband and I watch a movie, we move to the basement. If you don’t live in an environment where it is feasible for you to move around, at least try changing your space. Light a candle or put on different background music to switch up the vibe. You can even just move your chair to a different location or change the seat you usually pick to sit at on the sofa.
2. Set your intention for the day
When I was talking to my therapist, I was explaining that working from home is normal for me and I can do it well. I explained that actually being at home is comfortable for me, so I am fine with that. The anxiety inducing feeling that is coming up for me is not knowing what my purpose is each day. I have my ‘to do’ lists for work and I am knocking them out, but things are admittedly different. The world seems slower, which can be a good thing, but for someone who feels the need to always be in maximum production and self improvement mode, this is dangerous. My therapist suggested I included setting an intention for my day in my morning meditation. Basically I decide what I want to get out of the day and own it. Somedays it is going to be, my intention is rest and I want to lay on the sofa and cuddle with my dogs while we watch Netflix all Sunday….and that is okay. It can feel okay because I am choosing to set that as my intention and owning it. I realized that I naturally do this at the beginning of my work day, but my personal priorities seem to slip from my intentions when work is the focus. Now I will focus on what my intention will be outside of just being a productive employee. Will my intention to be more mindful and take an half hour break to enjoy tea on my back deck? The intentions I set will be around larger feelings than just completing daily tasks. By focusing on these intentions everyday, I can feel accomplished in my own way. I hope that this is a habit I can form and carry on once we resume regular life.
3. Do not feel guilty about sometimes focusing on the trivial things
I have so fallen victim to this mentality. These are really sad times. People are suffering, the world is in an unprecedented state, and yeah, things are really scary. I feel guilty allowing myself to think of trivial things like painting my nails or ordering something online during a time of such tragedy. I realized that this is not helpful and has caused me to just become more of an anxious mess. In order to take care of myself the best I can, I need to make sure I am preserving my mental health. Life hasn’t stopped just because of COVID-19. It is okay to laugh with your friends (via FaceTime) or order some new nail polish to boost your spirits. I cannot punish myself for what the world is going through or take on the pain of everyone else. There are folks who aren’t taking this thing seriously and who actually need to focus more on the gravity of the situation, but is you are taking the time to read this, that probably isn’t you, and you are a self aware gem just trying to cope.
I will provide more frequent updates on this COVID-19 journey via my Instagram. I hope that some of the content I share helps you through this time. As I’ve checked in with other spoonies around the world who I have met, I am heartbroken by what just the domino effect of this virus has done for their lives and health, but at the same time I am so inspired by their strength and positivity that never fades. That is why, even when it is easier to put my head in the sand and try and wait until this passes, I want to put myself out there to be vulnerable about what is going on and offer support to you all in this time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are struggling. We are all in this together.
Written while wishing I was back on a beach in Hawaii.........
I just got back from the most relaxing trip I think I have ever taken. It was also the most needed vacation! Matt and I met my mom on Oahu and we spent a little over a week getting a big dose of R&R at Disney's Resort, Aulani. That is a whole amazing experience to share, but in this post I want to talk about what is lingering over our heads these days when we talk about travel. Coronavirus.
We had planned this vacation far before the threat of coronavirus crossed our minds, but of course as the outbreak and fear heightened, it was very much on our radar to consider when traveling. Especially being immunosuppressed, these are things that I have to worry about. Flying during flu season already peaks my anxiety and requires extra precautions, but a potential worldwide pandemic... yikes. We have to keep in mind that my travel decisions were made a month ago now and the virus/spread has evolved since then. I had to make decisions based on the facts I had and the advice from my doctors. My gastro gave me the green light to continue with my travel plans, since the flu still seemed to be much more of a threat. I was to still move forward with my regular precautions and things should be fine. Matt and I weighed our options and made the decision that we were still going to go.
Since I've been back, I've chatted with quite a few people who have upcoming travel plans and are in the same exact debate we were in just a month ago. Should they go or not? I am in no way a medical professional so all I have are my opinions. The kind of scary thing though is that is lot of the advice that is being given out by medical professionals, opinions. We are finally getting some hard facts or the spread and fatality of coronavirus, but without the depth of studies we have on other viruses, advice stems from opinions. That being said, you have to make the decision for yourself on whether or not you will travel. For me, we weighed a lot of things before deciding. Once we made the decision that we were going, I did everything in my power to research proper sanitation and prevention protocols so we could feel confident we were doing what we could to avoid the virus. If you are traveling in the near future and are looking for some tips, that is what this post is here for. I've done posts before about staying healthy while traveling (vitamins, hydration, etc.) but I have never highly focused on disease prevention, until today. You have probably read similar things on the CDC website, but I'm sharing the specifics on how I navigated the situation in hopefully a lot more interesting and easy to digest way.
WHAT TO PACK
Don't fail to be prepared here! It is better to have some extra items instead of being the one begging fellow passengers for a Clorox wipe. For this trip here are things I brought......
Large pack of Clorox wipes- I went for the large pack because I could use these to wipe down our hotel rooms too. Make sure to store the package in a plastic bag to avoid any leaks in your carry on or purse.
Multiple hand sanitizers - I opted for one easy access bottle on my husbands backpack and a spray sanitizer for my purse. Having the easy access one is perfect for busy locations (like the airport). The spray is super user friendly and very kid friendly since you are less likely to get a ton of extra product on their hands. They also barely have to even rub it in.
Face masks - I know there are mixed findings about whether these are effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus, but I always opt for a mask while flying during fly season. To me, being immunosuppressed, it is worth the extra precaution. These can be difficult or expensive to get your hands on now, but you can try asking your doctor's office if they have one or two they can give you for your trip. This may not work, but it is worth a shot. Luckily we always have a supply of these in our home (who would have ever thought Crohn's would lead me to possess one of the world's hot commodities?!).
Socks- I know I am usually talking about how I need my aloe infused spa socks for long flights. Well, those are still preferred but being completely serious here, you need just any pair of socks, on your feet, at all times. I will explain as we go through things.
Pillow + Blanket- BYOB. Bring your own blanket. You do not want to be asking for the pillows and blankets they give out on flights. As sanitary as you may feel they are, I am not trusting it. You know you are going to have that thing next to your face for the duration of your flight while you try to snooze, so do yourself a favor and bring your own. I found this travel pillow/blanket on Amazon for around $20. It worked out great, and now I can wash it upon returning home and use for my future trips.
GOING THROUGH SECURITY
Okay, so you're in the airport, checked in, hopefully you sanitized after using the touchscreen kiosks, and now you are entering security. I made the mistake of not taking my jumbo pack of wipes out of my bag before going through TSA. They are totally cool if you bring them, just make it easier and separate them for your other belonging before sending them through the x-ray machine. Also, PLEASE WEAR SOCKS. You are walking on a floor that so many toes have been on. Give yourself a barrier and at least wear some socks while you take your shoes off to go through security. Once you pick up your belongings make sure to sanitize your hands. At this point I also wiped down my cell phone. Those things are nasty.
Once you get on the plane and get to your seat, the real fun begins. Whip out those Clorox wipes and get to cleaning. Airlines do the best they can to clean up in between flights, but let's be real, they are not sanitizing every seat. That's your job! Make sure to wipe down the seat, the tray table, the seat belt, the seat belt buckle, armrests, your air vent, and if you are sitting next to the window, the window and the wall. I know this potentially sounds excessive, especially the window/wall part, but listen up... how many times have you caught yourself on a flight with your head against the wall while in the window seat taking a quick nap. Your face is very close to that window and that wall, okay? From what I've read, the best seat for optimal air circulation (hopefully less germs) is the window seat. This in flight positioning also gives you the least contact to other passengers which will help prevent picking up germs. So grab that seat and get to sanitizing. Also, make sure to put your mask on.
WHILE IN FLIGHT
Relax, take a nap, watch a movie. Just remember to try and keep your hands off of your face, sanitize before eating, and sanitize after coming back from the bathroom even though you've already washed your hands. Also, do not go barefoot frolicking through the plane. This is a personal issue I have with unsocked feet on planes, but it also a medical concern. Socks are a barrier between your feet and all of the germs swirling around on the airplane floor, so wear them! I still always put on shoes if I am getting up to walk to the bathroom though. Utilize your self provided pillow and blanket instead of the airline issued ones. Also, make sure to keep your mask on as much as possible (aka whenever you are not eating or drinking).
As I said before, I am by no means a medical professional, these are just the precautions I took during my most recent travels. There is really no full proof way to prevent you being exposed to coronavirus, but we have to do what we can. Even if we weren't on the verge of a worldwide pandemic, these tips would still be relevant for preventing the spread of disease in general. Now more people are just tuned in!
Immunosupressed or not, I am interested in hearing your take on the coronavirus and its impact to travel. Are you worried? Do you think the news has over hyped things? What, if any, extra precautions are you taking?
Since we entered 2020, I've heard a lot of people's New Year's goals have to do with reading. Some are trying to clock more hours with a novel instead of in front of the TV and others are aiming to use the knowledge they gain from hitting the books to help them with personal development. Either way, bravo to you for building a habit that is great for your brain and also a fantastic way to destress (at least for me!). If you follow the blog pretty regularly, you know that reading is one of my favorite ways to spend leisure time. I've worked my way through plenty of self help, fiction, and non- fiction novels over the past year or so and I'm always adding to my list of favorites for my Amazon page or for posts on the blog. Since a few friends have reached out for recommendations, I got the idea to put together some of my top picks that I would recommend to my best friends and to all of you. I broke things down into a few categories so you can skip right to the section or sections that interest you the most.
Pretty much all of these books are available as physical copies, Kindle books, and on Audible via Amazon. I've traditionally been a fan of physical copies of books, but finally made the switch to reading via my Kindle app on my iPad. While it took me a little to get used to the switch, it definitely beats lugging eight different novels around on vacations. My husband who is also a big reader has a Kindle which he swears is his most prized possession. Either way, we both give a big thumbs up to opting for digital copies these days. I also have the Kindle app downloaded on my phone, so if I get stuck in a doctors off or other unexpected situation where I have idle time, I can keep myself busy with whatever I'm reading. If reading isn't your thing, I recommend trying out Audible. You can get all of the great content from your reading list, just delivered easily through your AirPods on your commute, while you clean your house, or while working out. All of these little conveniences make it so much easier to integrate reading into our already hectic, busy, and jam packed lifestyles.
I am also gearing up for a long flight next week, so any recommendations that aren't on my list, please send my way! I love discovering new books and new authors to fall in love with.
It’s the middle of January and, let’s be real, a lot of those big resolutions that were set into motion for the New Year have fizzled out. I’ve been in that boat many times before, not because I haven’t wanted to make big changes, but because the goal was so large and I didn’t have a plan to get there. Now I take a different approach to making changes and especially resolutions. Instead of saying things I am NOT going to do, I choose habits to fill my routine with positive little actions that can add up. To really get specific, I break down the year into three month increments and have specific things to focus on during each of those times. The goal is to have these little changes become habits so every few months I can build on the progress. I pick one to two simple things in a couple different categories: mind, body, spirit, and business. I have a journal that I track my habits in each week and record how I am feeling.
Okay, so lets get into how I actually come up with these small habits. I brainstorm my intentions for the next few months and decide on my top words or phrases that speak to me. For example, my intention statement for these next three months is: “Level up. Comfort. Intention. Building trust and confidence by keeping promises to myself.” Once I am clear on my intention, I can come up with habits or small changes that will help me to get there. The more simple the better, because you are more likely to actually do these things. Making small changes that build over time is way more effective than setting out for a big change without a plan you can execute on. Try things like, “meditate for five minutes everyday” instead of aiming for what might be your ultimate goal of a half hour per day. The more you get used to these small habits, the easier it will be to build on them and get closer to your ultimate goal. It also builds your excitement and confidence when you can actually achieve the goals you are laying out for yourself.
I also find that the way I word my small changes also has a big impact on my mindset around them. This might not be for everyone, but for me it really make a difference. Instead of working the habits as things I have to do, I word them in a way that makes me feel like each action is serving me. For example, if I am trying to work out more, instead of saying, “I want to go to a workout class at the gym x amount of times per week”, I say “move my body in ways that feel good x amount of times per week”. This takes away the feeling of “having to” and also allows for some wiggle room. Having a little wiggle room in some areas is key for me. Life can get crazy, plans change, and especially with my health I need to have ways to adapt that don’t get me down and discouraged. If my goal is to move my body in ways that feel good, that means when I wake up with body pain on a Sunday morning, I don’t just ditch the gym because I can’t do that specific class I was aiming for. Instead I listen to what my body is asking for and can substitute yoga or pilates. I am keeping with my habit and serving my body.
So far since I have implemented this style of making changes and forming habits, I have been really pleased with the results and my overall mindset. This is just an overview of how I set these goals and stick to them, but if you want more details and specifics I can definitely share more. Just shoot me a message to let me know! I can also send you the details on how I lay out my journals.
This is a newer area for me to dive into on the blog, but as I’ve gotten more into achieving better mental health in the way of balance, I have become super interested in things like this. I read a ton of books and articles, which I take ideas and approaches from and adapt them into what works for me. It took me a while to find these specific things that really speak to my soul and just work, so I want to spread the love and hopefully my method can help someone else!
2019 has been a year of transformation for me. Probably one of the most emotionally/mentally transformative years I’ve had. It was a fucking hard year though and I haven’t had one of these “transformative” years since 2009. A decade later I went back on a journey to dig deeper in myself to find more happiness and be a better wife, friend, daughter, sister, and hopefully eventually mom. I became more spiritual in a sense of truly believing in the universe and a higher power’s plan. I’ve reached higher self acceptance and found grace within my mistakes and flaws. I’ve developed more love and understanding for those around me. I believe in myself and trust myself more than I ever had.
2009 was the first time I was strong enough to seek a better understanding of myself. To make a fully committed effort to deal with difficult shit and better my life for the future me I didn’t even know was ahead. Making the choices I did in 2009 set me up for the year of emotional exploration 2019 gave me. And I hope the work I have done this year will set my up for the me I will be in another 10 years. The past decade has given me some of the worst, lowest, and most confusing times of my life but also some of the best, most rewarding times I’ll cherish forever and all of those have shaped me as a person. I feel like we can mostly all say that in regards to a decade, especially one that spans almost your entire 20s.
Looking at the me in 2009 - little, fierce, scared but brave at the same time, confident in the future but so unsure about myself. Then I could never imagine what my life would be today because the journey has had many twists and turns. But now looking back I see the fight and passion in 2009 me and I can see how I made it to where I am. Although this isn’t what I imagined, it is better and what I am meant for in every way possible. I am thankful for the experiences both good and bad that have shaped me these past ten years and I know there will be equally and more emotionally turbulent events that this next decade brings.
Starting this next decade I wish for myself to continue to trust in a higher power, to gracefully accept things I can’t change, to use my passion to do good for others, and to fully appreciate every little gift life bestows me. Instead of going into the New Year with resolutions and things I want to change, my goal is to be the best me I can be everyday and be confident that doing that is enough. I want to leave behind expectations of what I "should" be and appreciate every bit of who I am and who I am becoming.
I hope that as you read this, you are thinking of what you have done to make yourself proud this past decade. I mean, you made it this freaking far, that is an accomplishment in and of itself. I for someone this is an inspiration to channel their strength into dealing with some difficult shit they are going through in hopes of a better future. I hope that someone is reading this and is like YES GIRL I am with you in this journey, because the journey is a beautiful place to be.
I am so ready for the magic this next decade has in store for us and I am feeling stronger than ever as I embark on this new adventure.
December is the craziest month where you actually have to have your shit together. With work deadlines, closing out projects before the end of the year, and navigating social functions, sometimes a few of the gifts you were supposed to order slip your mind. We have all been there, and many of us may actually be there right now. Well thankfully in 2019 we are blessed with the gem that is Amazon Prime. AND there are some really great gift options that can be shipped to your house in time for the holidays. There is still time!
I've rounded up my tried and true options and made this guide super easy to shop. Just click the items below and it will take you straight to Amazon to directly add it to your cart.
Consider this my gift to you. Less time braving the crowds at the mall for last minute gifts, and more time relaxing and actually enjoying your holiday!
December has been WILD so far. In every kind of good way. But it, for real, has been super chaotic. The runner up in the gift guide poll I did the other week was this one! Gifts for Guys! I put together a list of man approved (and Crohnically Blonde suggested) gifts that you can order now and they'll still arrive in time for Christmas.
This one Is a little brief, but pretty self explanatory, so I wanted to get it out to you all before the last shipping date passes us by. You can click through the images below and read my comments on why they made my list.
Also, if you are looking for a super meaningful (but also you are doing it kind of last minute) gift, check out my Guide to Gifting Experiences for some other awesome ideas that will make a big impact and are unique.
Happy shopping and I'll be back with some additional details on what has been happening soon!
Last week I took a poll on what gift guide you all wanted to see next on the blog. The big winner was a guide on gifting experiences or things people will actually use. I have been a really big fan of the whole gifting an experience thing, especially in a few specific situations. With family members that you always find yourself grabbing gift cards for, for couples who you are getting a joint gift, or for your significant other who you literally have no idea what else they need… experiences are great options.
Here’s an example, Matt and I, instead of doing gifts for each other for holidays, we use that money and take a vacation instead. We both love to travel so this allows us to do so and use our money to spend time together instead of just on stuff. The gift is the whole experience and the memories we will have, which top any physical gift we could have gotten for each other.
I think a lot of the times, gifting experience to those who you know well, can help introduce them to something or somewhere new that they may not have thought of! I’m listing a few of my favorite suggestions below. Hopefully they will inspire you to gift one of these or come up with an experience of your own.
A class in the recipient’s city. I love this one for just about anyone. For couples this is a big favorite of mine because there are so many options. Look up local cooking classes in the area or classes that relate to their interests as a couple. A few weeks ago, Matt and I found a candle making/distillery tour class that was so incredibly fun, it is a perfect gift to give. There are also things like cocktail making glasses which can be a great date night and educational.
If you are looking for a family member, significant other, or friend, an easy go to can be their favorite workout spot. You can buy them a pack of classes with their favorite instructor or vouchers to try something new like aerial yoga!
Airbnb in your town. Airbnb has a whole section devoted to experiences in different cities. They have some super unique adventures that allow you to explore your own city in a new way. These are great gifts because often times, we don’t explore our own city as we would when traveling elsewhere. There are a ton of options as far as price range and some of them are a really great deal. They are different in every city so you will have to check your own, but some great ones I’ve seen near Baltimore are wine walks, thrift store tours, and goat yoga!
If who you are gifting to a couple or friend who already has a vacation planned, that makes things EVEN EASIER. You can gift them a tour they have been dying to go on, or a special dinner at a scenic restaurant in the area. These also make really special wedding gifts! If you don’t know exactly what experience they would like for their trip you can always gift them a physical item they can use. Think, a care package for a long flight, AirPod converters for inflight entertainment, or a Polaroid camera to capture their memories.
If you want to stay on the path of experiences but also gift a physical item, I’ve got you covered there too.
Gifting board games/card games is always a fun idea that promotes many family or friend game nights to come! You are giving the gift of all the good times the recipient will have playing that game in the future, and honestly, gifted games are where Matt and I have discovered some of our favorites. Here are a few we love!
Games are also always a good gift for office gift exchanges or ‘White Elephants”. Here are some of the ones I recommend.
If you have a friend or family member who can’t stop reading, definitely think about getting them a Kindle. They are offered at many different price points and are truly the gift that keeps on giving. If they are often on the go, try gifting an Audible subscription so they can listen to all of their must read list while driving or working out.
Let me know if you end up giving any of these experience focused gifts and share your ideas with me! Happy Holidays y’all.
The holiday season means you will, more than likely, be dashing from event to event all December long. From meeting up with friends, office parties, spending time with family, and checking everything off of your pre holiday 'to do' list, chances are you are letting your regular nutrition, fitness, and sleep routines fall by the wayside. With IBD, this can be the time when flares and symptoms can hit the hardest. In my experience, I see this happen due to changes in my routine and added stress. It is also, of course, sick season so the more you socialize the more you are exposed to potential bugs that can knock you on your butt for quite a few days. Every year, I feel like I tweak my routine a little bit and become savvier in how to keep my health in check throughout the holidays while still being able to enjoy myself.
This year I have five tips that I am living by to help me make it through this crazy busy, festive month.
Vitamins and hydration
Holiday season means lots of eating and drinking outside of your normal routine, or at least the option to. I like to indulge a little when I can. Wine night with friends that are in town, dinner out to celebrate a successful year with my team, gluten free Christmas treats..... My usual rule of thumb is to let yourself enjoy what you want, while being mindful of how they will impact how you feel. It is all about the balance, baby. And honestly, this time of year we can get a little off balance and live your best life, and you should not feel guilty. That being said, during this time of the year, proper hydration and nutrient intake can become an afterthought to all of the holiday cheer. Instead of stressing, I am making things easy by sticking to a regemine I can keep conveniently in my purse everyday. I am making sure I drink at least one packet of DripDrop ORS for dehydration relief each day (more than one for sure if I am having a few glasses of bubbly). This is also key for if my Crohn's symptoms start acting up. Even when I can get those under control, the dehydration can keep me down and out for even longer. Mixing in a packet of DripDrop ORS everyday helps to keep me on my A-game no matter what my body is throwing at me.
I also make sure I take a quality multivitamin once per day. I have been taking Ritual vitamins for the past year and a half and absolutely love them. I can feel confident that no matter what weird combination of foods I'm grabbing from our holiday potluck, at least I am getting my core vitamins everyday.
Limit your plans - its okay to say 'no'
This one took me so long to actually live by. There are so many plans happening around the holidays, but you don't have to attend every single event you are invited to. I've realized that it is better to give your all at a few events you are really excited to attend then be half checked out at a laundry list of events that you only sort of care about. I also used to always feel really bad about saying no to events I would get invited to because I didn't want to let down the host. Well, let's be real, the host has so much going on, they probably don't really care one way or another. Not being rude, but unless you are the guest of honor, it is not a big deal. And if the host is a close enough friend, they would probably want you to be relaxing at home if that's what is best for you anyway.
As part of limiting my plans I make a list at the beginning of December of all of the things I want to do/attend and then I prioritize them. By adding the things I really want to do into my planner from the start I have a more realistic idea of what else I can commit to.
Work from home if your office is sick
If there is a bug cycling through your office, do yourself a favor and if you can, work from home. So many people will try to power through their illness and bring all of their germs to work with them instead of laying low at home. As someone with a compromised immune system, this does NOT sit well with me. If I notice something is going around and too many people are dropping like flies in the office, I try to limit my exposure. Whether that means staying in my office or requesting to work from home, this ensures that I can continue to get my work done and hopefully not succumb to the office plague.
Keep your sleep schedule regular
Sleep can be tricky when your social calendar is packed. You might be out late on week nights when usually your bedtime is 9pm or you may find yourself with extra time to hit snooze on your days off. The best thing you can do is keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible. I usually try to have an hour time frame that I go to bed and wake up routinely everyday (including days off!). If I am out at an event, I always set a target time for me to say my goodbyes and call an Uber, so that I can be home in time to do at least some semblance of my nightly routine and be in bed at a regular time. Of course there are exceptions and nights when you are having such a great time, turning in for the evening sounds miserable, and that's fine, stay out! Like I said, all about balance, baby.
If you have PTO take it
I can't tell you how many times I hear my coworkers talking about all of the hours of PTO they are going to lose at the end of the year. A lot of companies have a maximum amount of PTO that you can roll over to the New Year which leaves a lot of hours to be taken or lost. Most of us workaholics rack up time all year just to keep running ourselves to the ground until December 31st then starting all over again. If you have time banked up, please do yourself a favor and USE IT. It is your time, you earned it, don't feel guilty about taking off work to refresh yourself for the New Year. It doesn't matter if you are going on vacation or staying on your sofa watching Netflix for three days, either way, you're doing what you need to do to give you mind and body a break. This will help you to feel less rundown as you tackle the mid winter months, and hopefully help to keep you a bit healthier.
I hope you all have a happy and healthy holiday season full of B A L A N C E.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.