365 Days Ago I Graduated College

One year ago today, I celebrated the biggest life accomplishment I have made. 365 days ago I earned my BA in Performing Arts: Dance and my certificate in Psychology from California State University Channel Islands. I earned this along with University and Program Honors. To this day, I am still overwhelmed by what these accomplishments all really mean.

Let me tell you a little bit of history about how I got to this place. Starting off with the fact I didn’t actually know if I wanted to go to college or not. I grew up thinking the only thing I was capable of ever pursuing was my theatre career, because I was afraid of being seen as smart due to the restrictions society made me believe I had. I was a cheerleader, I had a pretty face, and I was amazing on stage…I didn’t see or understand the need of being educated. However, my parents wanted more for my future. They didn’t go to college, so they wanted to help me have the opportunity no one in my family ever did. So, I applied to colleges as a way to get out of the town that felt too small and continue to build my acting career. Mind you, I didn’t get into my top college choices because of my poor grades. So, it was between CSU Channel Islands and University of the Pacific. I knew after stepping foot on CSUCI’s campus, that was going to be the place for me.

Located near LA and a small performing arts program meant I had many opportunities to shine. I soon became aware that performing arts wasn’t about shining, but about the power behind creating art and the good that you could do for the world. This is where I fell in love with dance, and this is where I would begin to learn that being a pretty face no longer made me feel good about myself, but that becoming educated in so many fields on so many issues made me feel empowered. I started taking harder classes, being told by professors that I have an intelligent mind that deserves to grow and flourish. This is how I discovered my love for psychology and developed my Capstone thesis and research.

I presented my Capstone theory, research, and actual findings on Dance/Movement Therapy that changed the way others thought about how artists can change the way the world views and treat mental health. I ended my college career with a 3.65 GPA and earned University Honors for my academic achievements. I also earned Program Honors for Performing Arts for both my academic and humanitarian accomplishments. I was never prouder of myself or more excited/terrified to be in the “real world.”

After graduation, I was still working for YMCA as I had been for the past 2 years. Through this job, I developed a passion for creating communities and helping families build strong bonds. I loved that going to work meant changing lives, and I decided that performing was no longer going to be the career path I followed. Instead, I came to the realization that this world needs to incorporate finding a balance between a healthy body and a healthy mind to help with communication, expression, and emotional behavior. I found that working with the youth of YMCA, I was able to practice these skills. I loved working for a company that allowed me to do what I loved while also grow as an individual and professional.

What I failed to mention before is that during my first year of college, the beginning of a 4 year long stalking and sexual harassment incident that changed my life forever. It began slowly, and as time went on, became worse and worse. Police and Title IX became involved, and things still continued to get worse. It is extremely hard to go to school when someone watches your every move and claims that you are their girlfriend in both a sexual physical and romantic way even though you’ve never had any romantic or even overly friendly contact with them. It is hard to focus in class when he is sitting outside waiting for you to come out. It is hard to even finish school when your stalker and harasser is ALLOWED to roam around campus and continue to violate agreements and faces no consequences. But that story is for another blog post; for another time when I am strong enough to have fully overcome what gave me ptsd. I mention this because it not only played a huge role in my academic career (one point I almost dropped out from feeling so unsafe, and my grades slipped noticeably in the middle of a semester) but it also was a part of what happened after graduation.

I was working my usual summer position at the Y, and although I had graduated, we were still working on the case I mentioned above. There was a lot that went into something like this, a lot of time, unanswered questions, interviews, and exhaustion. I began to not only just have anxiety, but showed signs of ptsd. I was afraid of being alone, scared of him finding out where I worked and lived, but most of all, I was afraid of the school and town that had become home because he was there too. I knew I had to get out, but I was working that summer. So, I began applying for jobs at other Y’s away from CSU Channel Islands in hopes that I could escape.

That’s when I was hired to be a full-time Residence Life Coordinator at a camp not far from my hometown. This would get me away from the pain and fear, and give me a newer beginning. This job, I thought at the time, would be THE JOB. You know, the one you get right out of college that seems like a dream because of have a fancier title, get benefits, and feel like an actual adult. I was only at this job for 3 months due to a long chain of unfortunate circumstances and realization that this was not what I wanted to be doing.

During those 3 long months, I did learn a lot about myself. I learned I was stronger than I believed, a really good person, and capable of pushing myself in ways I never imagined. I made some lifelong friends (s/o to Laura, Lizz, Gabi, and Thomas) who I still tell everything to. But I also learned that my anxiety and fears couldn’t just vanish by running away to live in an awful cabin in the middle of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I found out the closing statements of my case from college. They were not what we had hoped for, but I had won the case. However, this sent me spiraling in ways that I didn’t know I could. I began eating terribly once again, never wanting to move or even get out of bed, and I lost my passions because I didn’t know my purpose anymore. I honestly gave up for awhile. I was unemployed, feeling at loss, moved back in with my parents, and absolutely miserable.

Then, in December, I found my place in the dance studio world. I began helping run one of the studio locations and then started teaching. I had fallen in love with movement, dance, communities, and connections again. I started becoming happier with myself and my life. I started researching more and more about grad school and what I wanted to do with my future. Although I am still unsure about what I specifically want to do, I have a better idea now.

I am currently still at the dance studio, but I also signed a year long commitment to volunteer at a local hospital where I am working on bringing more communal aspects, as well as the arts, into patient long term care. I started this blog after having the idea for months and finally saying, “screw it, I want to write and share my life!” That lead me to finding online health/fitness coaching where I am able to help others with their goals while also being on my own journey. I have strong friendships and bonds, and knowledge that although my future is unknown, I am working hard to make it bright and beautiful. There is a lot I still need to discover about myself and heal, but that personal journey is incredible and truly humbling.

365 days have past since I made the biggest accomplishment of my life thus far. 365 days of emotions, changes, irrational and rational decisions, and finding myself after not being in school for the first time in my life. There is no guidebook to tell you exactly how that first year will be, but this is how my first year out of college went and I couldn’t be happier that I have amazing health, a wonderful job, and ambition for the future, even if it took a lot of hard times to get here now.

Future and current college graduates, let me leave you with this: you are going to have a hell of a first year. Your life is going to change, and it will be different from what you have now and probably what you think it will be. There is no shame in not knowing what the right path is. This is tryout time to try everything and anything out! This is your time to apply what you learned in school to the real world by taking on jobs with flexibility so you can travel, create a life for yourself, and discover what it is like to no longer be a student! This year is going to take you crazy places, but you will get through it all and find so many things out about yourself if you just hold what knowledge you gained tight!

I had a tough year, but I also had a year that allowed me to become a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better teacher, a better role model, and overall a better person. Yes, there were MANY downs and rock bottom points, but where I am now is worth every single one of those low points. Believe in the power of your education, believe in the power of your journey, and believe in yourself. Cheers and namaste to my one year anniversary since completing my under grad studies and becoming a CSU Channel Islands Alumni!

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But you’re so happy and outgoing!…You don’t have anxiety.

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Photo by: Makena Volzing

If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me, maybe I would have enough money to better educate others on mental illness. I am overall a happy and positive person, but that does not mean that I don’t have my own struggles with mental illness. I think sometimes we truly believe that those who help others and take the time to smile at strangers do not have struggles. I am often told that because I want to be in the mental health field, I should have full control over my own mental health. Yes, that is partially true, but I am only human and I can only do my absolute best. I have never been one to fully speak out about my anxiety, but at this time in my life, I know that by speaking out about it, I can help others. This is my story; I am in no way saying that this is the only way anxiety affects us, but this is how it affects me and my life. This is my anxiety; this is my mental illness.

As a young child, I showed various symptoms of anxiety. I was highly emotional, unable to control myself, I panicked in situations most children do not, and I had fears that were unexplainable. I can remember how upsetting it was to not understand why I felt the way I did. It was frustrating for my family, especially my parents, because I would become hysterical but none of us understood why. Eventually, my parents took me to both group and solo therapy sessions. I was about 9 years old when they finally said it was clearly anxiety. However, this did not mean that I was going to miraculously get better. It meant that the fight and the journey was only beginning.

I do not remember a ton of exact details. But I do remember in 6th grade my anxiety symptoms started becoming physical. I had this fear of going to school, and I would almost daily get a nauseated stomach ache, go to the office, and get picked up by my mom. I would then feel completely fine when I got home. I remember just being afraid of leaving my house, and this is also when I developed my number one fear: vomiting. I am terrified even now as an adult of anything having to do with throw up (yes, this is a challenge while working with kids.) I was afraid of getting carsick, I was afraid of throwing up at school, and I was afraid that anywhere I went, someone would vomit.

I eventually was told by my parents and the school that I could not be going home anymore. So I started seeing the school counselor…almost everyday. I would be fine one second, then go running to the office crying and demanding to see her right away. What was even scarier was not understanding why this was happening to me. I remember we tried to use a mediation tape that would help guide me through breathing exercises to calm me down. But I also remember just being such a wreck all the time and my parents being just as clueless about why this was happening as I was.

Things did start to get better, I started learning how to deal with my fears a little better and I had less hysterical moments. However, my anxiety shortly turned into me becoming easily manipulated by others because my head told me I needed as many friends as possible. No, I never did anything absolutely awful, but I did do a lot of things to other people that I regret. But it was because I allowed myself to befriend others that made me feel like I had an abundance of people around me so that I could feel supported. Sadly, I didn’t know that a majority of my “friends” were actually tearing down my self-esteem which in turn, allowed my anxiety to creep back up and be extremely present my senior year.

Then came college; a new city, new people, and a new chance. This triggered my anxiety for obvious reasons, but also for reasons that weren’t easily detected. I had a really tough time with roommates my freshman year and I would constantly feel like I was losing my mind. I had the same symptoms as I did in middle school: I wanted to go home. But I was an adult, I knew I had to learn to push through. But, as most of you know, pushing through is not healing; pushing through is not the solution to the overall problem. So, I again knew I needed extra help and saw the therapist on campus. I am so grateful to this day for her compassion and understanding when she asked me to just tell her what was going on and I immediately broke down sobbing. She confirmed that what I was feeling was valid and that we would find solutions together. So we did. She helped get me out of my completely toxic living situation as well as proactively checked in on me. As an adult, you think you can and should do it all on your own but without my therapist, I would have definitely dropped out of school. I finished Freshman year strong, and I felt better.

Then, things changed in my life again. Something else I do not often speak out about is the Title 9 case I went through during my college career. It is still very much a fresh, open wound and I cannot yet put into words the amount of destruction it had on myself as well as others in my life. This case made my mental status go from knowing how to get through the anxious moments to never not being anxious. This was because I was afraid of being on campus, which meant I was afraid of going to classes and going to my on campus job. But this time, it was different. This time, my anxiety was 110% caused by something that was very, very real. I was afraid of these things because I was afraid of a person. My anxiety continued to get worse and worse as this case continued to get worse. I would have panic attacks in the restroom, leave classes when triggering topics were brought up, and constantly call my parents when things were just too much. It was truly dangerous, and it continued to be a serious problem even after graduation. Although this case is now officially “resolved” on paper, it still deeply effects who I am and how I act in certain situations.

This past year, I was able to start to really control my anxiety again. I was able to return to happier mindset and breathe in the good while breathing out the bad. However, recently, I have been experiencing more and more panic attacks. In fact this past Sunday, I had one on an airplane. In case you’re wondering, no, I do not have a fear of flying. However, I do fear flying because I still fear vomit. I get carsick, and sometimes planes can cause me to get pretty motion sick. Not to mention, other people around me have thrown up on planes so it really makes me extremely nervous when it comes to my vomit fear. Sunday, my flight was 45 minutes of pure turbulence…and I mean extreme turbulence. I have never been so terrified on a plane and the fact that I could not escape made it even scarier. I was shaking, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and the entire plane was jumping up and down. What’s worse is that I cannot just avoid flying for a little bit, but I have to fly this upcoming Sunday from California to New York. So yes, I have some emotions to work through and things to figure out.

I am not sure the true reasons why I have been feeling this way, but I do know that ultimately I am in charge of what I should do. I know that psychologists and counselors can help me, but I also know that it is tough to admit you need to see someone when you are working on studying to become a therapist. I think that is the really tough part for me in this state and time; knowing that I have the tools to help others work through panic attacks, but not being able to use the tools on myself. But I know that I need to be gentle and kind to myself. I know that I need to do whatever I can to try to get in tune with my mind and get to the bottom of this. It isn’t easy, and it does not happen in a day, but I am willing to put in the same amount of work into my mind that I put into my body.

Somethings that help me work through my anxiety on a daily basis include:

  • Dancing it out. Dancing connects your body and mind, creating a state of equilibrium and allowing you to work through your emotions. It also raises endorphins, boosts your mood, and allows you to focus on movement and music rather than your anxiety. Just turn on some of your favorite songs and move how ever your body tells you! Trust me when I say to dance it out; I did my Capstone on Dance/Movement Therapy.
  • Essential oils. Lavender, lemon grass, and peppermint have become my best friends. I have a blend that I put on constantly, and I also put it in my diffuser to help release their powers in my room. Lavender reduces stress, lemon grass is a natural mood booster, and peppermint helps with the physical side of anxiety such as nausea and headaches.
  • Being open with my friends and family. Sure, they will not all understand, but when you explain to those who are close to you that you are having a tough time, they could surprise you and help you. If you aren’t comfortable with this, trying seeking help through your doctor or support groups. You do not have to go through anxiety alone, and that is such an important thing to remember.
  • Being honest with myself and giving myself time to heal. I used to bottle up my anxiety until it exploded into full blown panic attacks. I’ve noticed that the more I allow my emotions to release and give myself time to take deep breaths and focus, the better I am in the long run. Let yourself cry, let yourself scream, let yourself laugh. Allow your emotions to run their course. I do this often in the shower and in my bedroom while I am alone and letting myself be vulnerable. However, I am also know to release emotions and stress during yoga. No, I do not scream, but sometimes I cry a bit because I am letting my body fully release all toxins.
  • Relaxing. Make the time to relax. If you are like me and almost always on the go, you need to make a change to your life. You should schedule at least 30 minutes of your life to be just yours. It isn’t selfish, it is practicing self-care. Whether it be 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 at night, or all 30 minutes during a lunch break…unplug and do something for you! I like to practice yoga, paint, meditate, cook/bake, and pet my sweet puppy. If I am out and about I like to treat myself to lunch, fit a spot to lay in the sun, go on a walk, or even just go on a drive.

Now, I realize that these options are not going to get to the bottom of your anxiety, and I do not think that they replace seeking professional help. However, I do think that these are ways to help yourself learn more about you and your anxiety. I believe in therapy and counseling (I mean, it’s my future career) but I also believe in taking time to get in tune with yourself and the power that can have on your relationship with your body and mind.

If you have anxiety, please know that you are not alone. Yes, your mind is uniquely yours, but you do not have to go through this feeling lonely. If you need help, call a friend, family member, or the Panic Disorder Information Hotline: 1-800-64-PANIC (72642). Reaching out is the hardest step, but when you do, you are already making so much progress. Anxiety is something that you will always have inside of you, but you can get to a place of control. Always remember, your health (both mental and physical) is the most important thing. You cannot be you without your body or mind, so allow yourself to come first.

5 Basic Essential Oil Blends

My Relationship with Essential Oils

img_6261-2.jpgI first learned about essential oils in college. I suffered from really awful migraines (you know, the ones where the light burns and you vomit from dizziness and pain…) after having multiple concussions (cheerleading and car accidents…). It was starting to affect my dance class attendance and my professor one day handed me a roll-on bottle. She told me to rub it on my temples, neck, and upper shoulders. This worked almost instantly. I had been prescribed so many pain killers that I ended up being allergic to, told to take way too much ibuprofen, and just rest when I didn’t feel well; none of those solutions worked. But this bottle of magic changed my life. I would feel a migraine coming, roll some oils on, and continue my day. Pure. Magic.

I then started exploring other uses for essential oils and my professor would tell me as much as she knew. I started using lavender oil to help me calm down, unwind, and get some sleep. I used eucalyptus oil on days my allergies would kill me. I was obsessed within a few months. In college, I also took a course on Alternative Medicine and Therapies, which of course included a lecture on essential oils. I was happy to share what I knew and to learn even more from that point. I started convincing my friends and family to try them out too. At first, my family was very resistant, but then one day my mom asked if she could try something for her sinus headache. My mix was the only thing that helped her.

I think we turn to medicine too quickly. I 110% believe in doctors, hospitals, and modern medicine (I take hormonal birth control pills and have a prescription nausea pill that are in my life) but I think there are a variety of ways to heal our bodies without always turning to medicine. Alternative medicine is all about what you put in, on, and around your body. It matters what you eat, it matters what chemicals are on your skin, and it matters what air you breathe in. This is exactly why I started my wellness journey, so I could discover ways to heal my body without putting harmful chemicals or pills that give me awful side effects in my body.

I am writing this article based off of what works well for me. I know there are a lot of people out there who share their own knowledge of essential oils, so I am here to share what I know and what I have found to be best for my body. I invite you to try what I have discovered, and tweak anything if needed! Let me know if you do, because I am always to try new things.

Ways to Use Essential Oils

  • Aromatherapy: This is probably the most common way to use essential oils because it is simple and makes the room smell amazing. Essential oil diffusers are designed to mix water and oils to create a mist of essential oils. The air will be full of wonderful scents and all the benefits. Simply fill your diffuser with water (making sure not to get any cords wet), add a few drops of your oils, turn it on, and enjoy. I’ve had a few diffusers that only seem to last a couple of years at a time (mind you I use mine for at least 10 hours a day). I am currently using my little brother’s old one (see, I turned my family on to oils) and I actually love it. Here is the link on Amazon. Mine is dark brown and has pretty decent settings!
  • Topically: Essential oils are immediately absorbed by the skin because they are fat soluble, however you should never apply them directly to the skin without being diluted first. This was a mistake I used to make and I actually damaged my skin, so be careful! To dilute or mix your essential oils, use a what is called a carrier oil. A carrier oil is cold-pressed and do not evaporate like essential oils. I personally use coconut oil or castor oil, but I know others who use almond oil, grape seed oil, jojoba oil, and avocado oil as well. Be sure to buy a carrier oil that is all natural and if possible, organic. I will tell you more about the different places to apply your oils later in this article, but some common place are your wrists, temples, feet, neck, and abdomen.
  • Steam inhalation: This usage is great if you are using oils for colds or allergies. They can also be beneficial to your skin! To do this, boil about 3 cups of water and transfer to a bowl. Add 3-6 drops of oil to the water. Place the bowl on a steady, flat surface. Cover your head and bowl with a towel and never get closer than about 10 inches from the bowl. Slowly, inhale the steam and take deep breaths.
  • Ingest/Internal Usage: If you have good quality oils and they are appropriately marked, you can actually ingest your essential oils. Adding oils to water is a great way to get the benefits while also drinking a flavored drink that keeps you completely hydrated. You can also add them to plain sparkling water for a customized fizzy drink, use them in tea for even more flavor, and even in cooking/baking. I once made delicious lavender/lemon cupcakes that were fully flavored from essential oils. It is a great way to get benefits and be creative!

5 Basic Essential Oil Blends

In this post, you will see I use Plant Guru essential oils. This is my preferred, all natural brand, so please keep negative comments about my choice to yourself. I know everyone has their own preference and this is mine! I love how high their potency is and the therapeutic grade quality of the oils! You can find them on Amazon; this pack is a great deal, and a really great place to start. I just went over this with my girl Kara today (;

  1. Goodnight Blend- Lavender, Frankincense, and Sweet Orange This blend is IMG_6256-2what I use in my diffuser on most nights. I recently featured it on my Instagram story for those who follow me there (@wellnessandwelldrinks). These oils all help relieve stress and add calmness to the room as I sleep. Lavender oil, one of my favorites, reduces stress/anxiety, helps improve sleep, and can cure headaches. Frankincense oil can help focus the energy in the room, and help with your sinuses. Sweet Orange boosts your immune system, eliminates toxins, and helps brighten your mood. I also use this blend in a spray bottle with water that I mist over my bed before I sleep. I find myself waking up less in the night as well as waking up feeling refreshed instead of groggy.

  2.  Shark Week Relief Blend- Lavender, Peppermint, and Frankincense Ladies, IMG_6267this one is for YOU! I just told my friend about this wonderful blend and I’m excited to hear back about her results! We just learned that lavender can relieve stress, and that includes stress on the body caused by cramps. It will help your body relax and ease the tension. Frankincense is also really great for relieving inflammation, which is what causes a lot of the cramping and pain during your period. Peppermint is the BEST pain relief oil! It cools and relaxes your body and provides great pain relief. I apply this topically with coconut oil on my lower abdomen a few times a day.

  3. Breathe Blend- Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Lemon Grass Cold? Flu? IMG_6266Allergies? Feeling like you need to open your sinuses or lungs? This is a great blend for you. Peppermint’s strong scent helps relieve headaches and sinus pressure almost instantly. Eucalyptus has many benefits, but in this case will help relieve decongestion. Lemon Grass, if you knew me in college, you know I often use this as a perfume because I love the scent so much! In this blend, it helps kill off the bacterias and viruses that could be making you feel crummy. I like to use this in my diffuser on nights I feel a cold coming on, as well as apply to my temples and neck topically. I also use steam inhalation with this blend to relieve symptoms when I have a cold or bad allergies.

  4. Warm and Cozy- Clove Bud, Orange, and Cinnamon Okay, so this one doesn’t IMG_6260-2have a specific benefit, but it does make your room smell like a beautiful autumn day. If you are in the mood to get cozy and feel warm, this is a great blend.  Orange is a mood booster, Clove refreshes your senses and kills bacteria, and finally cinnamon decreases inflammation as well as helps relieve depression. So maybe there are some benefits, but I only use this in my diffuser when I’m missing Halloween season. I am also highly allergic to Cinnamon when used topically, which is why you should always test these out before spreading them all over your body. Cinnamon will stay in my diffuser and away from my skin!

  5. Post Workout Blend- Peppermint, Clove, and Eucalyptus Sore after working IMG_6262hard? Try making this blend! All of these oils will help aid in recovery and relax any sore muscles. I love putting 2-3 drops of each in a small dish, mixing it with coconut oil, and applying to my shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings after a hard workout! I love how it allows me to keep going during the day, and if I need it, I will apply again at night and allow my body to really get some rest! Be cautious about applying after a shower as the peppermint will become cooler the warmer you are. It can having a burning sensation and nobody wants that after a tough workout!