On Anxiety as an Unwanted Relative

When you think of anxiety and how it sneaks up on you sometimes, it’s easy to become afraid of it. You wonder when the next anxiety attack will happen or if you’re ever going to be able to break the thought patterns that have caused you to spiral in the first place. But, if you dig deep down and discover what you’re actually overthinking about, the things that you are scared of, you can reason with them. You can regain perspective on them. 

At first, your anxiety might seem like some sort of terrible monster who has come to destroy your life, with fangs and claws that it’ll use to eat away at you from the inside out. It’s foreign; it’s terrifying; it’s something that you want to avoid at all costs. 

But, if you sit with it for a little while, it becomes more of a visit from an unwanted, distant relative—maybe an aunt. We know who she is and what she likes to gravitate towards when you’re in conversation with her. Perhaps she’ll start by asking you how things are with your significant other and if you know that most relationships don’t last nowadays. If you don’t interrupt them, her negativity only persists and festers in your mind like cockroaches in a public pool locker room. Hopefully, none of you have heard this from an actual relative, but maybe it’ll ask you something along the lines of what if you’re not good enough to be in your current position? What if people start to perceive you as an anxious person again? Do you think they’ll leave? Oh, but don’t worry if they do, dear. Auntie Anxiety will never abandon you. 

The trick is to stop her before she starts spinning lies into truths, and you start believing her. Perhaps you’ve spent enough time with her to notice the things that keep her quiet. Maybe she likes a cup of warm herbal tea, some yoga to refresh her body and spirit, or a 10-20 minute meditation to sit with the uncomfortable thoughts before she starts putting them in your head and makes you think that they’ll be willed into existence. 

When you have calmed her down and given her time to iron out her thoughts, it no longer seems that she’s here to attack you. On the contrary, you realize that she thinks she is protecting you by preparing you for the worst. That’s when you need to place your hand gently on hers, let her know that you have heard what she has to say, that you appreciate her concern, but that thinking about what might happen to affect you in the future negatively isn’t serving you and that you’re okay in this moment. 

Only when you start to live with her in the moment does she realize that it’s time for her to go, that she’s not needed there. She might be back for another visit in the future. You are related, after all. But, when she does come back, you’ll be better equipped to be in control of your interactions with her and stand your ground with the knowledge that in the grand scheme of things, what she has to say does not affect you.

On New Beginnings

What a year! There is so much for you to be proud of because you’ve made it through all of your bad days in 2020—the year that felt like it would never end. Now that we are in 2021, I invite you to let go of all of the bad days, all that went wrong, all of the tears. You are bigger than what happened to you, and it is easier to let it go and embrace the new than to hold onto the past. 

For whatever reason, our minds tend to think that the bad things that happen in our lives have such an immense hold on us—that they drag us down and dictate what we can or can’t do. What if we flipped the script this year? What if instead of focusing on the negative, we zeroed in on all of the positive things that have lifted us up in the past and will continue to make us soar in this new year?

That goes for our expectations, as well. Often, we are so rooted in all of the things that could go wrong that we forget to consider what could go right or how we could benefit from the new situation that we are putting ourselves in. It seems that impermanent storm clouds seem to conceal the permanent sunshine underneath; even in the darkest days, the sun will always rise and shine again. 

Tomorrow is the first day of my new 9-5 job. I knew that I got the job in late November/early December; I have had many days and nights to dwell on everything that could go wrong. Instead I have focused on clearing my mind entirely and focusing on how grateful and excited I am to be working in a new field and gearing up on breathing techniques and grounding exercises that I can keep in my arsenal in case my anxiety creeps up on me. 

Maybe you have a week or two more to relax and kick your feet up before whatever awaits you in the new year. Or, perhaps you’re in a position where just rolling out of bed is a challenge in and of itself. It doesn’t matter if you’re approaching a new job or a new school semester; what matters is that you arrive each morning ready to face the unknown, always willing to give what you have to offer to others and receive what the day will bring to you. 

The big picture can sometimes be overwhelming when we consider the 365 (361 by the time this is posted) days and opportunities that we have to show up for ourselves and others before this new year comes to a close. Instead of focusing on all of the great things that we will do this year, why don’t we take it one moment at a time? I completed day two of Yoga with Adriene’s “Breath” series, and she talks about taking each breath as an opportunity to arrive at the moment and having every inhale and exhale ground us. In my experience, the heart likes to speed things up when I put myself in uncomfortable situations—the ones that have undoubtedly allowed me to grow. This year, I’m following my breath instead. 

You can use the comments section to drop the things you don’t wish to carry into the new year with you or tell me about something exciting that awaits you in 2021. Let’s create some positive energy together. Happy New Year, followers. I can’t wait to hear about all the great things you’ll do this year.

On Navigating Change and Approaching the New

New things can often be scary because we are used to sticking to our routine and aren’t sure what to expect. This leads us to become anxious or nervous, and sometimes our perspective might not be the most realistic. No one has ever gone on a first date thinking, “Wow, they’re going to love absolutely everything about me.” And no one has ever walked in on the first day of a new job thinking, “I am overly qualified for this position, and I will be confident and comfortable in every situation that they put me in.” People wouldn’t like us very much if we walked around with such arrogance. 

However, we can often dehumanize people, not necessarily in a negative way, but we assume that everyone else has had their lives figured out since they graduated from college. We sometimes misconceive that people arrived at their place in life by sitting in a room for thirty years, and when they walked out, they immediately became the CEO of a company with a gorgeous, brilliant wife and a baby on the way. It’d be pretty sweet if life worked like that, but fortunately—for them and us—it does not. People often have to face uncomfortable situations and make many mistakes to grow, learn, and get to where they want to be in life. If you’re like me and you’re at the beginning of your journey, you might be a little uncertain of where it is that you want life to take you. However, if you’ve been on your horse for a while now, and you’re still curious about roads less traveled and doors that you wouldn’t have opened at the beginning of your career, I commend you. 

This is the part of the blog post where I explain where I’ve been because whatever is happening in life always influences what I write for my blog. As some of you may know, I’ve only been working part-time in a remote position since June, and I’ve been searching for a full-time job in the chaos and desert land that is the job market that COVID-19 created. I interviewed through a first and second round for a communications position for a medical society in my area, and I got the job!!!

Of course, my family and I were thrilled when we heard the news. I wish that I could have started right away and that I could halt my overthinking. But, my first day is after the holidays, and that is enough time to think myself crazy about whether or not I’m qualified (I am) and whether or not the job will make me happy (I wouldn’t have applied to it if it wouldn’t make me happy). 

If you’re an overthinker, like me, you might like to concoct fake scenarios in your head about what a new situation will be like, before you get a chance to experience it in real life. As a reminder for myself and to offer help to some of you, here is a list of things that I like to do to prepare myself before transitioning into a new situation: 

  1. Meditate – Meditating is a great way to keep some of those anxious thoughts at bay. I’m the biggest advocate for the Headspace app because not only does it help me clear my mind when I meditate in the morning, but it also has sleepcasts, wind-downs, and more to let you slip into a deeper night’s rest.
  2. Journal – Journaling for my over-active mind is like letting all of the air out of a balloon of worries and realizing that it’s not so big after all. I’m not an active journaler, but when something new is happening, I like to list all of my fears and create a separate list either reasoning with why those fears are illogical and a game plan of what to do if my fears become reality.
     
  3. Prepare – Whether it’s filling your car with gas before your first day, packing your lunch until you find out what other food options there are, or getting accustomed to your new sleeping schedule by practicing the week before, the more prepared you are, the better you’ll feel. No one likes to have their schedule interrupted haphazardly, so instead of jumping headfirst into a significant change and new situation, see what small changes you can make for a more effortless adjustment. In general, it also helps to know as much about your new position as possible. Knowledge is power, baby! (Lex, never do that again.)
  4. Plan Your You Time – Maybe you’ve started dating someone new, or maybe you’ve entered a new school semester with a new class schedule. Whatever the case may be, you have to find time to break away from the new and recharge. You might not be able to pursue your passion projects during your work or school day, but it’s essential to set aside some time for self-care, whether that be watching some TV, reading a book, or getting creative with some drawing or writing.
  5. Get Out of Your Own Head – If you’re someone who likes to create unrealistic expectations for yourself or unrealistic scenarios about how something is supposed to be, find a way to step outside your own head. We jump ahead of ourselves when something is new to us, but we just need to learn to take things one day at a time in reality. If your first day on the job or the first five minutes of your date doesn’t go as planned, don’t get caught up in what you could have done better; just seek the opportunity to make things better in the future. Being in control does not mean that you can control how everything will go because if something goes wrong, you’ll crumble. Being in control means that you control your own emotions and how you navigate situations and can find stillness in yourself even when things are constantly changing. 

Changing and breaking out of your routine can be one of the hardest things, which is why the pandemic has been so challenging for a lot of us. You’re allowed to feel scared, anxious, or sad that you’re departing from the old and into the new. What matters is how you manage these emotions, that you recognize that new situations aren’t easy at first, but will be something that you will adjust to, and that your inner piece will clarify that these changes do not define you, but will shape you into the best you that you can be.

If you’ve recently started something new, I’m proud of you. And if not, maybe this is your time to break your routine and plan to make a change during the new year. What are some healthy ways that you cope with change and approach new things? 

On Not Apologizing During Thanksgiving

*TW: Discussion of eating disorder and weight loss

The day before Thanksgiving, I stepped on the scale for the first time in weeks. Instead of going up a few pounds, I found that I had actually lost two more pounds, which means that I am now 12 pounds down and 12 pounds from my first goal weight. I am not losing weight at the speed I would like to, but this is the longest I have been able to sustain a healthier weight. I am not solely focused on calorie count but on creating healthier habits, as well. 

The first time I struggled with being overweight, I was a child. I was in the seventh grade and struggling with childhood obesity until my mom took me to a nutritionist, and she helped me create a personalized diet that would help me healthily lose weight. It liberated me to realize that I didn’t need to emotionally depend on food the way I once thought. But with this liberation came an unhealthy obsession with gaining others’ approval of how I look and fitting into smaller dress sizes. I starved myself until I was at a healthy BMI, and then I kept going. 

I come from an Italian family, and food brings us together during each holiday. When I wasn’t eating enough, they started to notice. A dark voice in the back of my mind would say that I had more than enough to eat and that I probably shouldn’t have finished what was on my plate in the first place. 

Luckily, by the end of high school, I started to notice that I had less control than I thought and that my eating disorder had become a sort of puppet master who dictated when and how much I could eat. Though I was never underweight, the way my ribs and hip bones protruded from my stomach and the dark circles under my eyes were tell-tale signs that I was undernourished. 

It didn’t happen overnight. It wasn’t like I woke up from a seven-year coma, broke every rule that I had set for myself, and fell in love with food all at once. But, I slowly started to give the invisible parts of me—my mind, my soul—more value, and it didn’t feel like my body held such a significant impact on how others saw me. The voice in the back of my mind quieted, and I became more powerful as I grew to love myself more. 

While I am trying to lose weight now, it is in a healthy and happy way. There is no dark voice that scrutinizes all of my little flaws or restricts me from eating to my heart’s content. I am no longer exiled from the holidays because I have dismantled the power that my physical appearance has over me. 

While some of you might have stayed on track this Thanksgiving, and I applaud you, I’m not apologizing for: 

  • Having an extra helping of sweet potato mash 
  • Drinking too much of my grandpa’s homemade wine 
  • Indulging in champagne to celebrate my cousin’s acceptance into college and my first full-time job offering 
  • Devouring every last bit of stuffing that I put on my plate 
  • The lazy day that followed
  • Tasting the fresh apple pie that I made on my own and brought to the table this year 
  • Letting food bring us together after being socially isolated and spending time apart. 

This year, I am grateful for the food on the table, my loved ones, and the time we share. My recovered mindset gives me hope that my relationship with myself and food will continue to improve, and the thoughts in my head will focus on what’s important: how much love there is at each meal.

What do you refuse to apologize for on Thanksgiving this year?

On Remembering Thanksgiving

I am friends with many people on Facebook and follow many on social media who jump from Halloween to Christmas at midnight on November first. I’m sure that you, reader, know people who start to hang Christmas decorations and put up their tree before setting the table for Thanksgiving. In my mind, there is the act of giving and taking during Halloween and Christmas. There is pressure to buy materialistic things—whether it be candy or presents—and the selfish anticipation, instilled in us from childhood, of what we will get in return. 

However, so seldom do we pause, acknowledge what we have, and give thanks. This might not be the best post to write, seeing that the election is currently causing anxiety for those in the US. Or, maybe the timing is just right. Amid the chaos, things start to feel more in our control when we acknowledge what we have and give thanks for what is good. 


We’re still in the middle of the pandemic. I have family members in Sicily who are in lockdown again because there is an increase in the number of cases. After all of the college students return home for Thanksgiving and Christmas break, certain states might go into lockdown again too. But, my point is that we have been living in chaotic and unprecedented times since March. We have all faced darkness without the glow of a lantern to lead us out of the cave. 

Some of us have lost our jobs, some of us are still looking for jobs, some of us may be in uncomfortable living situations, some may be struggling with adjusting to the hybrid/e-learning system that schools put into place, and the list goes on. The virus has affected every single person I know. Weddings, proms, graduations, baby showers, and other celebrations have been either downsized or canceled altogether. And, I know you’re saying, “Lex, you’re pointing out all of the bad stuff that I’m already aware of.” 

But you’re still here. No matter where you are right now, and no matter what you’re struggling with, you are allowed to take this pause and read through this blog post at your leisure. You might be looking forward to sharing a table of food with your loved ones at Thanksgiving, or you might be dreading the conversation with your republican uncle who talks while he chews. Either way, if there is food on your table this year, be grateful for the way it brings us all together. Maybe, you might even go the extra mile and pass it forward by inviting someone who has less than you do this year. 

Remember that Thanksgiving is there for a reason before you rush into Christmas. Every year, I make my family go around the table and say one thing that they’re grateful for. But, as the days turn more quickly into cold nights, I’m encouraging myself to get out of the rut of seasonal depression that I so quickly fall into and acknowledge one thing I’m grateful for throughout the day. 

What’s one thing you’re grateful for today?

In the Belly of the Beast

I remember the way Grandmother’s silhouette grew behind the sheet. For a moment, I thought that maybe the shadow deceived me, as shadows often make things appear bigger than they are. But, when he tore off his bonnet, I saw his ears pointed and torn, and when he turned to the side—his tongue licked the chops of his snout. It wasn’t until he used his claws to tear away the sheet that I saw his jagged, yellow fangs and the way his bloodshot eyes darted at me as I tossed pastry after pastry his way on the floor. 

On all fours, he prowled towards me. His tail wagged slowly behind him as if this had become a game for him. I can’t imagine that Grandmother fought as he removed her glasses and placed them on her nightstand, before devouring her limb from limb. I didn’t intend to give up so easily. 

“Grandmother’s waiting for you inside, my dear,” he growled. He used his paw to push my ankle out from under me and knocked me to the floor. He sniffed around my red cape, not to see if I had any sweets left, but to smell the scent of his next meal. “My favorite thing about children is that I can swallow them whole. Would you like that, dear? To say goodbye to Grandmother one last time?” 

“Get AWAY FROM ME!” I shrieked. “The sheriff won’t let you get away with this!” 

I kicked at him as he moved closer to me, but he let out a high-pitched, hyena-like laugh. 

“Fear on humans is like honey on toast, my dear,” he said. “Inexplicably sweet—the more, the better.” He took a deep inhale, and I froze, paralyzed against the corner of the room. I tried to focus on the pie Grandmother had baked for me, the picture of Mother hanging on the wall when she was a girl, the way that Grandmother and I would have spent our afternoon together if it weren’t for this monster. “In we go.” 

I let out a scream, loud enough to alarm the neighbors, loud enough to echo off of the walls of his dark cave of a throat as he gobbled me down. I tumbled down his esophagus and landed on the bouncy floor of his reddish-brown stomach, amongst the arms and legs of faceless people. I moved through the sea of limbs, careful not to lose my balance. And, when I came across Grandmother’s severed forearm, I hugged it close to my chest. I held her hand, ran my thumb over her silver wedding ring, and sobbed. I didn’t want to see her face or the way that he left the rest of her, but I was happy to hold her hand in the dark of the monster’s stomach. 


I cried in the dim-lit hell that the wolf banished me to. There was no sun to tell me whether it had been hours or days that passed. My voice was hoarse from screaming, but I tried again. 

“HELP!” I boomed. “IS THERE ANYONE HERE THAT’S ALIVE THAT CAN GET ME OUT OF HERE?” 

Only silence responded in the belly of the beast. 

I felt the beast’s body vibrate as he let out a laugh. Something gold tumbled down his throat and clinked off of the bones on the floor. I took Grandmother’s hand with me as I moved closer to it. 

When I picked it up, I could feel five points on the sheriff’s star-shaped badge. I imagined it was something of an appetizer to the human meal that would follow. All the blood in me rushed away from my head, and I collapsed in the pile of strangers’ arms and legs. Although I was still living, my hope drained from me and died among the rest of the departed. 

Run Don’t Walk & Other Weight Loss Tricks

I recently hit a weight loss milestone. As of this Friday, I am officially down ten pounds. (WOOHOO!) I mean, of course, I made some pie after hitting the apple orchards with some loved ones. But, today is Monday, and we’re back on the right track to my first goal. For a while, the scale was stuck. I was eating all of the right things and getting 10,000 steps in almost every day. I even stopped drinking wine during the week with dinner, which was a huge deal for me, seeing that my parents are massive winos. But, for some reason, the weight just wasn’t coming off. 

I’ve been on Noom since late July, let’s say, and after losing my first five pounds, I was only able to maintain the weight. This was due to drinking with friends, having more than one cheat day per week, starting to go out on the weekends more often, my birthday celebration, and going on vacation to Cape May. I wasn’t gaining weight because I was still exercising, but hitting a plateau after seeing some progress was equally disappointing. 

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my body. But, it feels good to know that I’m making my way to a healthier weight, my way to looking better in pictures with friends, my way to shedding the weight that I put on due to personal and national trauma. In the last two weeks, I dropped about three pounds, and here are some tricks that have helped me: 

  1. RUN – In July-September, I took long walks to reach my daily step goal and listened to audiobooks, but walking doesn’t elevate my heart rate or make me breathe as heavy as I would when running. In the past fourteen days, I have run at least six times. As you do it more often, it becomes almost unintentional. You strap your running shoes on, and before you know it, your feet are hitting the pavement harder and faster than you thought they would that day. Your body craves the release of adrenaline and serotonin, and it’s more than okay to indulge. I definitely recommend creating a running playlist that will get you hyped up. I’m almost positive I have a reputation in my neighborhood now for running while lipsyncing.
  2. DRINK – No, not tequila, sadly. However, you should be making sure that you’re drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. Some people find it easier to buy a gallon of water and set hourly drinking goals for themselves, and others find their own way to get fluids in. I use green tea to kickstart my metabolism in the morning, but some people hate the taste, so there is a green tea extract pill that you can take that works just as well. I found a detox on TikTok of warm water, lemon, and cinnamon that makes for a slimmer tummy. The acidity of lemon helps burn fat, and cinnamon is known to aid in weight loss.
  3. BREAKFAST – My boyfriend is not a breakfast person, and I don’t understand it in the slightest. I’ve always found breakfast to be the most important meal of the day because not only are you creating a self-care ritual, but you’re also taking a few minutes to settle into your day instead of haphazardly jumping on your laptop. I’ve tried intermittent fasting before, which included skipping breakfast. However, as soon as I broke my fast, I found that I was reaching for the wrong foods and stuffing my face with more calories than I would have if I just made some avocado toast. If you have breakfast, when lunch rolls around, you’ll be more prone to make more logic-informed and healthier choices.
  4. PORTION CONTROL – Do. Not. Eyeball. Your. Portions. For a while, I wasn’t weighing my food or using measuring cups, and looking back, it hindered my progress. However, my dad recently started a new weight loss journey, and he’s been taking out the scale during every meal. Not only am I eating the right portions, but now when I go out to eat with friends and when my scale and measuring cups aren’t available, I have more of an idea of how much I should be eating.
  5. GET BACK UP – If you’re trying to lose weight, weighing yourself will become a daily or weekly practice. Some days, you’re not going to like how it looks, and it’s going to discourage you. You might feel like giving up some days, and it’s human to lose motivation. But on those days, you have to remember why you wanted to lose weight in the first place and measure your progress, not by the number on the scale, but by the healthy habits that you’ve formed and how they’ve helped you grow. It’s okay to fall down—what matters is whether or not you get back up again. 

What’s one of your weight loss tricks or healthy habits?

One-Liner Wednesdays: 2

“It’s okay to be a glow stick: sometimes we have to break before we shine.”

—Jadah Sellner

What’s Your Favorite Love Poem?

A friend of mine from church recently asked me for a favor. She is friends with a couple in their nineties, and the husband was diagnosed with cancer. While it is hard enough to navigate the world as an older person during a pandemic, it is even harder to sit next to your partner, knowing that your days together, in the life that you built and shared together, are numbered. This couple enjoyed visiting the theater and going to museums, and now, they don’t have that to look forward to or distract them anymore. 

Instead, my friend has been collecting handwritten love poems for them. They have been reading them to each other as a means of escape from reality. As a writer, I hope my words provide the same solace to readers going through a difficult time. However, I am struggling to choose a love poem, as I want it to be as meaningful and deep as their love. 

Readers, could you help me out and point me in the right direction? What is the love poem that resonates with you the most?