|12.28.18 The day he proposed|
As a new year begins, I thought I would reflect back on my first full-year "cancer-free" as 2018 was a pretty big year for me. I can only hope to manifest this exponential growth to carry into the new year for all of us! Although a lot has happened, I thought I would reflect on the positive changes that I made along the way with hopes that maybe you will feel inspired to start small and do the same. I hope you enjoy!
Switching to a vegetarian
Perhaps the biggest change I made last year, for the better, was changing to a vegetarian lifestyle. This change came about in late January after watching a few documentaries and scaring myself into not eating meat. It sounds dramatic, but this would go on to be the change that set the tone for the rest of the year. Even if these documentaries are false or persuasive to one side, changing my diet has led me to research more and to question everything.
Did you know animal meat is considered a type 1 carcinogen? The World Health Organization categorizes meat in the same compartment as tobacco and asbestos. The saddest part? The American Cancer Society almost promotes the consumption of meat in their suggested recipe section on their website (probably because big meat farms like Tyson offer them a pretty penny with their support).
You are only given one body and in loving mine the best I can, I only want the cleanest and healthiest foods to nourish it with. (Of course I still fall to the occasional piece of cake or Hershey Kiss, but I'm also still learning what works best for me.) With this change, I now read labels more, find out where my food comes from, and strive for balance. It all boils down to the fact that I was never given a reason as to why I had cancer, so my short-term response is to treat my body like the temple it is and prevent anything further from happening to me.
Cleaner, greener products:
One of my emerging passions in 2018 has definitely been consuming cleaner, greener materials. Going off of the last positive change from 2018, I have questioned and researched more than my food. From skin care, to make up, to even my own toothbrush, I have tried to make the switch into more natural and safe products for both myself and the earth. My latest switch is to a bamboo toothbrush -- one that is naturally antimicrobial, eco-friendly and biodegradable. The amount of plastic we use as a planet is heartbreaking for not only the safety of our environment but also our own bodies. Something as simple as switching to natural cleaning products can also help your pets! Not to mention, the packaging on your snacks or shampoo can seep into the product and ultimately end up in your bodies. No thanks! I plan to make a separate article about going green for yourself and the planet very soon!
Making my bed first thing every morning:
A simple, understated change I've made is making my bed the first thing after waking up. Even on a lazy Sunday, or a busy Monday when you know you'll crawl right back in bed after school, making your bed can make your room look and feel more put together. I am such a product of my environment and notice I can get a lot more done in a space clean and well made up. Try it!
I probably don't have to say this one as everyone has adult-y changes in life, but my finances have quickly become a priority, and making this transition in my hierarchy has been a very positive one. With moving to Wyoming this upcoming summer and looking toward a house in the future, I have surely impressed myself with my saving habits. More importantly, in saving for the move, I have really shaped my financial responsibilities of every day and learned a lot more about budgeting, mindful spending, living simply, and owning a future house. Even with my obsession with home decor and shopping trips, I now look at my possessions with a mindful eye and ask myself if each item serves a purpose or brings me joy. If not, out it goes or on the shelf it stays.
Exploring your emotional intelligence and even who you are as a person is an ever-changing, ongoing commitment. I believe the best way to accomplish these tasks, and also to be more productive as a result, is through self-care. This past year has really taught me that I need to slow down and care for myself so that I can maintain my productive mindset (and sanity). Some favorite self-care methods I've established include writing, bubble baths, manicures, making lists, hair masks, face masks, watching Netflix or football with Christopher, retail therapy with my mom and spending time with my dog Darla.
Building off of my switch to better self-care, 2018 has really been a year of better sleeping habits. I credit most of what I can accomplish to the fact that I don't cut corners with sleep. I'll admit I sometimes miss out on exciting things for the sake of getting my 9 hours, but overall I wouldn't change this habit if I had the chance to go back. My goal going into 2019 now that I have established sleep as a higher priority, is to try to rise and fall at the same time each day. If this seems like a stretch to your lifestyle, my tip to you is to try to at least wake up at the end of a full sleep cycle (which typically lasts about 90 minutes). Even if you are working for a deadline, the best thing you could do for yourself is to sleep for periods divisible by an hour and a half!
Saying 'No' more:
This might not be a surprise to some as I love to stay home and get cozy. But all jokes aside, saying 'no' used to be a difficult thing to say for me. Throughout the year I have learned to say 'no' more in order to fully dedicate myself to the project at hand or the more important things in life. I still have a ton on my plate as far as projects and jobs go, but I no longer commit to things for the sake of adding it to my resume or keeping my planner full. I'm slowly but surely learning to be okay with the gaps in my schedule to rest, recharge, and prioritize my time to those who deserve a little more.
Saying 'Yes' more
On the flip side, I have also learned to say 'yes' more. Without this change this year, I wouldn't have been able to do half of the things I have accomplished this year. From helping create content for a published book, to taking part in research with two professors and now on my own, learning to say 'yes' to things that matter to my heart and matter to my personal growth has been life-changing on its own.
Advocating for myself:
From a negative experience with my oncologist in 2017 came another positive change I've made in 2018: truly advocating for myself. I no longer sit in doctors' offices waiting for their passive, unclear answers. I no longer wait for phone calls or test results. And I no longer take "we don't know" as an answer. Although I admit to being a little paranoid here and there (always), I have really learned to listen to my body and monitor every ache and pain. This fall I was having a weird pain in my lungs and ended up getting a CT out of it (the scan came back clear.) I knew my oncologist, who specializes in female anatomy, wouldn't have the best answer toward this pain, but I also knew that one of my chemotherapy drugs has an increased risk for lung cancer. Silence isn't an option for me, even with small pains or aches associated with stress or a busy schedule. Multiple cancers, including the one I had, are often symptomless and are caught too late. Advocating for yourself until you find the answer and the care you deserve could save your life, and to me, has been the most positive change I've made this year.
I hope this post has inspired you to make a small change in your life as these small changes have turned into large changes for me. Regardless of it all, I hope you take care of yourselves and your loved ones this holiday season and have a great new year!