My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the month “June, 2016”

Contentment, not joy

I think I can now safely say my recovery is going well. Like any good teacher, I’m going to give myself a bit of a report card on my mental health.

My process:

  • Taking my antidepressants every day.
  • Going to therapy bi-weekly or weekly as needed.
  • Working out more.
  • Eating less sugar and fewer grains, (both of which make my anxiety worse.)
  • Spending more time with friends and family.
  • Giving myself more downtime.
  • Meditating a few times a week.


  • I feel stronger each day. I feel anxious less often.
  • I feel more confident.
  • I’m sleeping better.
  • I’m laughing more.
  • I’m not fully joyful yet but I feel contented. I think I’m on my way to joy.


Grilled Strawberries


Summer is coming and my BBQ is ready to go. For a light, fruity dessert in minutes, try grilled strawberries.


Fresh strawberries

1 TBSP Chocolate balsamic vinegar

1 tsp white or brown sugar

Wooden skewers

Fresh whipped cream



Make sure your strawberries are well washed and dried.


I used dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. You can actually use any balsamic vinegar but I recommend something sweet.


Soak your skewers in cold water for at least 10 minutes.


Add the balsamic vinegar to your strawberries.


Toss to combine.


Add sugar to strawberries.


Toss to combine.


Thread strawberries onto skewers.


Grill on medium heat for 2 minutes per side.


Serve with more balsamic vinegar and whipped cream. Enjoy and happy grilling!

Stop, Breathe & Think

Recently at an educator’s conference, a colleague told me she’s been using an app called Stop, Breathe & Think in her class to help her students self-soothe and meditate. I thought this might work for me and for my students with anxiety so I downloaded it on my phone. Get your copy at Stop, Breathe & Think.

The app is made by a not-for-profit called Tools for Peace. According to the company’s mission statement, “TFP has partnered with over 20 organizations, universities and schools, and continues to strengthen and support emotional and social intelligence as well as academic success,” (

The app itself is free and comes with a list of fifteen free meditations, as well as articles that teach the user how to meditate and a progress tracker. Extra meditations are available in packs of three for a few dollars each. The proceeds from the app are then used to foster more programs through Tools for Peace.

Well, this app looks like a great fit for me. I’m going to try it myself for a month and if I like it, I’ll try it with my students next. I’ll keep you updated as I work away at this. Feel free to grab the app and follow along. Happy meditating!

Fake Anxiety

So on my path back to health things are often bumpy. As I’ve mentioned, I have generalized anxiety disorder. One of the ways I combat my anxiety is to look at the cause and then try to step back from the emotion a bit. I try to be really logical about it. For example, if I’m upset about something that happened at work I might meditate or do some yoga and then talk it out with Nick. He helps me decide when I’m falling prey to my anxiety and he tries to help me get a grip on how I’m feeling. This is usually a pretty effective strategy.

Right now, the difficulty is that I’m getting what I call ‘fake anxiety’. This is when my body goes into fight or flight mode for no obvious reason. My heart races, I get short of breath and my skin crawls, but nothing is causing it. Sometimes it happens when I’m actually having a really good day. The other day, I got an attack when I was making dinner and chatting with Nick about taking a hike. There was no reason for me to be upset and I was feeling pretty good right up until I had a panic attack.

The only thing that works when this happens is for me to sit down or lay down and breathe through it. Because this anxiety has no root cause, all I can do is calm my body and wait for it to pass. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, sometimes as much as an hour. I’m going to just keep chipping away at this problem. If any of you have a good technique, let me know and I’ll give it a try.

Taking a Break

I will be taking a two-week break from the blog for personal reasons. My posts will resume on June 21st. Not to worry, I’m fine. I just need a rest.


My new workstation

I keep hearing that sitting is the new smoking. I’m no doctor so I’m not going to speculate on how bad sitting is. All I know is that as a teacher, I don’t spend a lot of time sitting down. However, in my new role as a special education support teacher I have to do a lot more paperwork than I used to. I found that sitting to do it was hurting my back and neck.

Image found at

I created a better work environment by putting a paper box on my desk and placing my laptop on top of that. It wasn’t perfect but it got me a lot closer to the proper posture for working standing up. Plus I found I was a lot more productive working standing up.

Luckily, my principal was understanding when she saw how much standing up while working was helping me. She agreed to buy some stand up workstations for the department.


I really like my new workstation. The legs are adjustable so I can get the perfect height. Besides, this is a much more professional look for my office. Hopefully it will help me stay more active at work.


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