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Just roll with it

I’ve spent more time than I can count looking out at the ocean, but it’s always mattered more to me when I’m in it. A few times, swimming near the break, I’ve been rolled in a wave. It’s a pure-instinct terror, no matter how well you know the right steps. But when you are quite literally flipped end over end, the only thing that matters is getting your head above water.

We, as humans, have a remarkable ability to detect which way is up even when we feel like we’ve got no clue. So you push, and find the surface. And nothing feels as wonderful as that first breath. Until the next wave hits.

But this time, hopefully, you were ready and scanning, and can dive mostly under the impact. More breaths. Eventually, you make enough progress to move in past the break and then the waves can actually help you to shore.

Of course, I’m not just trying to teach a water safety course here (though seriously, don’t mess around with the ocean — she is unpredictable). Life can feel that way for a lot of us sometimes. It definitely has for me lately.

The last couple of weeks have been… a lot. Like, story-all-about-how-my-life-got-flipped-turned-upside-down a lot. But minus the sitcom happy ending every half-hour. I could’ve crumbled. I felt like it on several occasions. I could’ve acted like everything was fine. I’m not very convincing at that. So instead, I’m trying to be as honest as possible about how chaotic life can sometimes feel, even when you know that ultimately you’ll be okay.

Sometimes adulting is about just putting one foot in front of the other, even when it’s hard, and even when every part of you wants to be laying on the floor and avoiding complete sentences. There is, of course, a balance to trying and giving yourself room to rest and to breathe. But the only way out is through — even if progress takes a while.

So here’s to every step forward, every second with your head above water. Here’s to facing the next wave, and knowing you’re strong enough to swim through.

A lot of folks I know are dealing with a lot right now, so instead of a question to wrap up, I’d love it if you took a moment to post a small encouragement or a quote that’s helped you persevere in the comments below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

P.S. This pic is from my favorite beach in the whole world — the water is very cold, but it’s held some of my best memories.

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Fixing up flesh wounds

Being the brilliant athlete that I am, I completely trashed my knee playing softball yesterday. Got a base hit, ran, and right at first I fell for exactly zero reason. Impact. Slide. Roll. My knee is not a pretty sight right now.

Which made me realize that, on the off chance you haven’t learned by now, proper first aid and handling of injuries is a vital emerging adult skill.

I’m going to organize this by symptoms, but it’s really important to note that a lot of these can go hand-in-hand, even if you wouldn’t expect them to. (For example, after I fell yesterday, I was pretty queasy for a few minutes and had to address that well as my banged-up knee.) Your body is a system made up of systems, and everything is connected.

Also, though none of these descriptions will be graphic, if you’re especially sensitive to this kind of stuff, might be best to stop reading here. Last disclaimer (I promise): I’m obviously not an expert in all this, but I am remarkably injury-prone, so I do speak from ample experience.

Bruises:

  • Take a minute to assess for all the other symptoms below. If any are present, attend to those first.
  • Gently check your range of motion, particularly if you bruised a joint. I spent a lot of last night carefully stretching and bending my knee to ensure it didn’t end up too stiff and to encourage blood flow to the area (it might make the bruise look worse, but will help it heal better). Just be sure to stop when it hurts — you don’t want to make it worse.
  • Reduce the swelling. The top three tips for this are always ice it, elevate it, and take some ibuprofen.
  • IF YOU HIT YOUR HEAD, be very, very careful. Concussions are serious and can’t always be spotted immediately. If you are having trouble with balance for more than a minute or two, get sick, or are having trouble remembering/forming sentences, go see a doctor. Have a friend drive you or call a ride, and do not go to sleep. This is not an option, this is not a time to prove that you’re tough. Your brain is really delicate, and you’ve only got one.
    • If you don’t show any signs of a concussion, follow the steps below for nausea and lightheadedness and have a friend keep an eye on you for at least an hour or two. If any of those signs show up, see above. If not, take it easy the next couple days anyway.

Cuts and scrapes:

  • Assess the bleeding. If it’s just a tiny bit, pat it and move on to the other steps. If it’s bleeding quite a bit, apply pressure and change the cloth/bandage when it gets soaked.
  • Clean it. This is so important. Remember when people used to die all the time from simple infections? Yeah, me neither — because we realized they were easy to avoid. Wash the wound with water (tepid or warm is best, just nothing too hot or too cold) and if it’s got much dirt or debris in it, be sure to gently clean that out with a cloth or tweezers.
  • Protect it. Add some Neosporin or your antibiotic ointment of choice to avoid anything funky happening to it down the road.
  • Cover it. Find the appropriate bandage for the size of the injury, or even improvise one if necessary (facial tissue, or even toilet paper, and Scotch tape will always do in a pinch).
    • Bonus “Should I change my bandage?” cheat sheet:
      • If it’s soaked (with water or anything else) à
      • If it’s otherwise super dirty or gross à
      • If it was a deep cut à Change every 24ish hours for the first few days, then at your discretion.
      • If it was a teeny tiny cut à You can remove after 24 hours.
      • If it’s scabbed over, or been more than a week à You’re probably safe to remove it and go about your business.
      • Of course, every time you do change it, clean it again and add some antibiotic ointment.

Upset stomach and/or lightheadedness:

  • Sit down. You’re body’s clearly processing quite a bit, and making it stand or walk (or heaven forbid, run) will only make this worse very, very quickly.
  • Tell someone. Particularly if you’re lightheaded or lightheaded and feeling sick, get someone to keep an eye on you and provide any help you need.
  • Sip water slowly. Notice I said slowly. If you guzzle it, it will likely have the opposite effect.
  • Go to the bathroom. I know it’s weird, but it helps. Just trust me on this one.
  • Close your eyes. Having your eyes open opens you up to a lot of extra stimuli that your body doesn’t need right this second.
  • Lay your head back if you can. It’s a little odd, but helps the same way closing your eyes does.
  • Splash some cool or cold water. This is especially helpful for your face, neck, hands, and wrists (ankles too if possible). Those are areas where bodies really like to release heat, and cool water touching your skin, then evaporating, will help you feel better while your body deals with what it’s got going on.

Sprains and “I can’t tell if it’s broken”:

  • First, take it easy. Very gently, very carefully, explore your range of motion and see if it gets better over 15ish minutes (more if you feel comfortable).
  • If it doesn’t get better or gets worse, go see a doctor. No joking, no delays. I fractured my wrist in 8th grade and made the injury worse by not going to the doctor for 5 days because I thought it was only a sprain. Not smart. Get that ish checked out.
  • If it does get better decently quickly, still be gentle. You can wrap it or get a brace/support for it, and be sure to rest it often and use it in small increments to avoid stiffness.
  • Either way, ice it, elevate it, take some ibuprofen to help the swelling, and compress the area (the brace or support mentioned above).

Pulled or otherwise tweaked muscles:

  • Rest it. Muscle stuff is weird because it mostly has to fix itself — your job is just to give it the time and space to do that.
  • Ice, elevate, and ibuprofen. Just like a bruise or sprain.
  • A heating pack or some IcyHot can work wonders, as the heat gets the muscle to relax and loosen. (Same thing with soaking it in water.)
  • Massage it gently. You can gently rub with the muscle direction (might need to Google that) or in small, circular motions, but if you don’t know what you’re doing in this area, set up an appointment at a massage place that specializes in physical therapy and muscle problems.
  • Stretch it out. As always, when stretching or exploring range of motion with an injury, stop when it hurts. Don’t be mean to your body. But gentle stretching and using a muscle can help it recover when mixed with the other aids above.

For all of these, be sure to give your body plenty of time to rest. Our bodies are weirdly, impressively good at healing, but they need time and rest to do it.

If you are ever in doubt about the extent of an injury, please see a medical professional. Note that urgent care is usually less expensive (and occasionally faster) than the emergency room. Many hospitals and medical providers also have a 24-hour nurse hotline for advice on non-emergency injuries or questions.

If the cost is really prohibitive, there may be free or cost-reduced options in your area. Take some time to look them up before you really need them. Even if you aren’t insured, most places will let you pay cash for treatment and an emergency room will not deny you care.

Slightly different request for the end of this post — if you have any links for the resources I mentioned in the last two paragraphs above that aren’t region-specific (so national or international), I’d love to add them in! Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because y’all don’t want to see my knee.)

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I accidentally went on a health kick

That headline is 100% serious. I am (for myself) firmly against diets and not really into New Year’s resolutions. But somehow over the last month, a variety of small choices and practices have developed into a fairly holistic health focus — probably the best I’ve done in that area a while. This was all spurred by a variety of motivations that all center on the idea of health: for my body, for my head/heart, and for the planet.

This post should probably start with a disclaimer that this post is a lot more “me-focused” than I usually go for here. None of these things are meant to be prescriptive, but hopefully they spark ideas regarding how you can prioritize health in your own life.

Physical

  • Going to yoga class with my best friend (almost) every week. That’s tonight (yay)! I’m not big on group exercise, but attending yoga classes has been sooooo beneficial for my muscles, stress, and overall well-being.
  • Trying to walk and generally move around more. Especially since winter weather restricts most of the exercise I like to do, this one has proven challenging. But I’m doing alright with it, and it will get easier as the weather warms.
  • Paying attention to my muscles and the ridiculous levels of tension they build up. I carry stress in my neck and shoulders, and boy does it stack up. A few at-home tools to help get knots and tension out — as well as stretching throughout the day and occasional massages — have really helped. Oh, and lowering my dang shoulders whenever I notice they’re up by my ears.
  • Getting enough sleep. This is one to be careful about because oversleeping can be harmful, but if I’ve done everything I need to do and feel really tired or sleepy, I just let myself rest.

Mental and emotional

  • Engaging more intentionally in conversations, and bringing extra kindness to interactions. Especially as an introvert, I’d sometimes like to ignore the existence of the outside world instead of putting in the effort to engage with it. But I know how much small kindnesses from other people brighten my day, and I’m trying to get better about doing the same thing.
  • Listening to a poem on my morning commute as a meditation of sorts. There are also apps and other methods of doing this, but I’ve found this is the easiest one for me to be consistent with.
  • Reading anything I want. Sometimes it’s an article or Twitter thread, but I’ve actually blown through several books in the last few weeks (much faster than my rate the last few years) because I stopped bothering with what I should be reading and just started reading stuff I felt like reading. (Surrendering to the idea of reading two books at once also helped this.)
  • Noticing when I feel anxious or drained, and responding to that. Sometimes life or my brain or who knows what other factors get to me more than I’d like. This is less of a recent thing, and more another step in the long process of learning to identify how I’m feeling and what’s behind that, to talk myself through it and reach out for help as needed, and to be patient with the reminder that it will get better and I’ve got what it takes to keep going.

Nutrition

  • Drinking more water. I really can’t emphasize how big of a difference this one makes for me. Seriously, my skin is clearer, I get fewer headaches, and I have more energy. My body needs way more water than I used to give it, and making sure I always have a cup or my reusable water bottle on hand means I don’t have excuses not to.
  • Eating more vegetables and less junk food. I like dessert. I still eat it when I want to. But making sure I toss veggies into at least 1-2 meals a day and switching to a healthier breakfast (a grainy bread, toasted with almond butter) have made it easier to over-processed foods and junk I don’t need to be eating.
  • I gave up meat one day a week. This is less for personal health reasons than environmental ones — meat production takes a big toll on the environment, which humanity has done a pretty crap job taking care of the last 200 years. I love steak and burgers and bacon, and haven’t given them up completely. But intentionally not eating meat 1 day a week (it’s really only in about half my meals anyway), and swapping in more sustainable options when possible — like turkey tacos instead of ground beef — is a step I know I can do to help protect the planet we can’t afford to lose.

These are small things, but they add up to a big difference. I know what it’s like to work to the bone and to not take care of myself, and I’ve let that pull me down too many times. What works for you might be a mix of these things, or involve something totally different. The most important thing is to make sure it’s a healthy practice for where you’re at, and to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

What small things have you done to take better care of yourself and your surroundings? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this is the kind of stuff that motivates me to stick with the whole health thing.)