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The Year of Self-Compassion Goals

The Year of Self-Compassion Goals

Maybe this is the year…

  • You make memories instead of resolutions
  • You count smiles instead of calories
  • You cut the sizes out of your clothes instead of cutting out sugar or bread
  • You sign up for more sleep instead of more fitness classes
  • You step into your own abundance instead of trying to shrink yourself in all possible ways
  • You practice self-compassion instead of shame
  • You move your body how and when you want to and not how and when you think you “should”
  • You get a new friend instead of a new PR
  • You find curiosity instead of judgment
  • You collect resiliency instead of counting failures
  • You find joy in the details instead of stress in the big picture
  • You find unconditional self-love instead of conditional expectation
  • You see your wholeness and strength instead of your brokenness 
  • You recognize your unconditional, unchanging worth instead of the hustling to prove your value to the world
  • You slow down instead of speeding up
  • You breathe into the unknown instead of trying to control all the outcomes
  • You scream for fury, rage, grief, and joy instead of holding it all in
  • You decide to “want to” instead of “have to”
  • You take things OFF your To Do List instead of chronically adding to it
  • You connect with yourself and others instead of metrics and milestones
  • You look back and celebrate how far you’ve come instead of looking ahead at how far you think you still have to go
  • You step into 2024 knowing you are complete, whole, beautiful, and loved, just as you are

Welcoming Darkness

Welcoming Darkness

Have you ever thought about the reality that almost everything that has life began life in darkness? Giant Sequoias began their life as small seeds nestled into the dark, damp earth. Potatoes and carrots start and finish growing inside the dark earth. You and I, we began life enclosed in the soft, rich, and profoundly dark wombs of our mother’s bellies. As I contemplate all the variety of life that I know of, I can hardly come up with any exceptions to this reality: It is in darkness that growth begins.

The environments we all began in were full of everything we needed to develop and progress. They were nutrient-dense lodgings that infused us with all we needed.  Was the darkness a bystander witness to our processes? Or a necessary, intimate part of that development? 

I like believing that darkness is a vital companion in our growth. I like believing that darkness is an insulator, a protector, and space holder for the hard work that is growing. It helps me reframe the sense of foreboding I feel as daylight savings ends and we are officially plunged into the darkness of impending winter. And not to be the harbinger of bad news, but for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we will continue to march toward more darkness until December 21st.

Darkness is the hardest part of winter for me. I can handle cold and wet and ice and snow. It’s the darkness that feels the heaviest to hold. 

But maybe darkness isn’t something that weighs me down but rather offers to enfold me? Maybe the darkness isn’t a foe or force that is somehow “against” me, or something to endure. Maybe the darkness is actually a companion and source of potential growth? Maybe it’s in this space that more growth awaits and invites me? 

It is cliché but often true, that the most profound growth always happens in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives. Darkness offers us the most beautiful gifts this way. Darkness believes in us and holds us as we do the work that is ours alone to do. 

We’ve all heard the quote spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. said, “But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Stars are found in the vast galaxies of space. They are far beyond our solar system and realm of existence. We have to be plunged into darkness to find them. In this metaphor, it is the darkness that reveals them. It is in darkness that we connect to these inspiring, expansive sources of wisdom. 

Darkness is here. Instead of wishing it away or fighting against it, I am going to let it hold me and invite me toward my work. May we all pass these upcoming months with less suffering in this way. May we be gentle with ourselves and be held in the darkness that encourages our growth. May we all look up on cold, dark winter nights and breathe in the stars revealed to us.

The Nature Fix

The Nature Fix

We have entered my absolute favorite season of the year for hiking. This time of year, the earth really likes to show off her colors! If you know me, you know that I have to get into nature at least once a week as a baseline need for my self-care. I have found nothing else in the world provides me the psychological benefits that mother earth provides.

Stress Reduction: I stress out a lot. Too much. Hiking in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, significantly and quickly reduces my stress levels. Research has shown that exposure to nature lowers cortisol. The sounds of birds chirping, the rustling of leaves, and the sight of natural, beautiful landscapes have a calming effect on our overly active brains. 

Enhanced Mood: This is probably my main reason for hiking. As someone who has a history of mental health concerns and a vulnerability to them, I take managing my mental health very seriously. Nature is a space where my mood feels the lightest, most peaceful, and happiest. Hiking triggers the release of endorphins, which can lead to an immediate mood lift. I took my daughter on a hike this weekend, and she commented on how friendly everyone was on the trail. I told her, “Yes, nature just makes people nicer and happier.” 

Improved Mental Clarity and Presence: The simplicity of hiking – putting one foot in front of the other – helps me be more present and work through my life’s demands without constant stimulation and distraction. Being in nature also helps reduce my problems to their “appropriate size.” I am certainly culpable of inflating the importance of my life’s “problems” and demands. Nature reminds me of my space in the world and helps me hold all of these things more lightly.

Connection to Nature: Hiking transports me into a world so much vaster and bigger than myself. Specifically, I feel connected to our incredible Earth and feel so grateful to be on this journey of life. I hold the paradox of feeling a deep sense of belonging while also feeling small and unimportant. This paradox and connection to something so profoundly incredible as our Earth enhances my sense of well-being. 

Social Connection: Sometimes, I hike alone when I need to decompress and work through internal concerns. Other times, I really enjoy hiking in the company of others. Hiking provides a unique space where we aren’t distracted by our phones or anything else in life pulling for our attention. As a result, some of my life’s best conversations and meaningful connections happen hiking with friends. Group hikes offer opportunities for shared experiences, new memories, and meaningful conversations.

Boost in Self-Esteem: When I hike, I have a unique experience of both being completely embodied, and forgetting about my body. I do not hike for specific metrics like distance, or elevation gain, etc. I hike for the experience of beauty and connection. That said, I also feel a deep sense of satisfaction when I arrive at an incredible vista, summit, mountain lake, or waterfall. Hiking provides a sense of accomplishment that can boost self-esteem and self-efficacy. These feelings of accomplishment extend beyond the trail and positively impact self-worth.

Hiking is not merely a leisure activity; it’s a therapeutic journey. Unlike any other therapy, nature offers, in one combination package, the power to reduce stress, improve mood, and connect to ourselves, others, and something profoundly bigger than ourselves. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or new to the trails, I hope you’ll venture into nature to experience these benefits for yourself. Your mental health will thank you. 

Social Media and Body Image: A Quick Checkup

Social Media and Body Image: A Quick Checkup

In today’s world, social media is a big part of connecting and communicating with others.  While it can be a helpful tool for those purposes, when left unchecked, social media can become problematic to our well-being.  Here are a few areas to quickly check-in and determine how healthy your relationship is with your social media platforms! 

Comparison: 

Do you often find yourself thinking about how you compare or measure up to what you are viewing on social media?

Social media platforms often present an idealized and curated version of other people’s lives, including their appearance. This can create a sense of pressure to measure up to these standards, leading to negative feelings about your own body. Constantly comparing yourself to others on social media can create a wide range of challenges- from fostering feelings of envy, inadequacy, and low self-esteem to inspiring disordered eating. 

Filters and editing: 

Do you feel comfortable posting unedited, unfiltered images of yourself online? Why or why not?  

When viewing images of others, are you allowing yourself to consider how those images may have been edited and filtered? 

Social media provides access to numerous filters and editing tools that allow people to alter their appearance, often beyond recognition. Seeing others post photos that have been heavily edited or filtered can create unrealistic beauty standards and make people feel like they need to change their own appearance to be more attractive or desirable. 

Body shaming and criticism: 

Are the communities you are interacting with online full of kindness and support, or are they critical and aggressive? 

What is your reaction when you see comments shaming bodies? 

Unfortunately, social media can also be a breeding ground for negative comments about people’s bodies. This can come in the form of direct criticism, such as fat shaming or body shaming, or more subtle comments that still perpetuate harmful beauty standards. These comments can be hurtful and contribute to negative feelings about your own body.

Perfectionism: 

After you have been online for a little bit, bring your awareness to how judgemental you are feeling about yourself.  Do you find yourself feeling inadequate? Like you are not good enough? 

Have you noticed an increase in perfectionistic tendencies as your time on social media increases? 

Social media can also promote a culture of perfectionism, where people feel like they need to present a flawless version of themselves to the world. This can lead to a focus on appearance as a key part of your identity and self-worth, which can be damaging to your relationship with their body.

It’s important to be mindful of how social media affects your own relationship with your body and to take steps to protect your mental health and well-being.

Finding the Balance Between Rigidity and Flexibility

Finding the Balance Between Rigidity and Flexibility

Throughout my life, many people have described me as a “go-getter” type of person. Although that may sound like a positive personality trait, I realized that my “go-getter” personality was infused with other, less helpful, habits such as being overbooked, overstretched, with high expectations for myself that were both overwhelming and unrealistic. I realized that the rigid thinking patterns that I was being praised for created patterns of avoidance and feeling inadequate regardless of what I had accomplished. I realized that although my intention behind the rigidity was to be the best version of myself, those same rigid patterns had inherently impacted my ability to grow as an individual and allow myself to live in the present moment.

As I reflected on my current thought patterns, I also explored the concept of flexibility. Flexible thinking embodies the ability to change direction and adjust to unanticipated circumstances. And although my rigidity served me in many ways, I knew that balance was what I needed to embrace the unpredictability and chaos that life throws at me. 

My experience in incorporating both rigid and flexible thinking patterns into my life got me thinking about how both rigidity and flexibility serve a purpose in recovery. The ability to balance the two incorporates the idea of a recovery mindset that is not possible when falling too close to one extreme. Being able to balance the two means having clear expectations and goals, while also being able to adapt when faced with unforeseeable circumstances. 

Here are 5 journal prompts that you can use to explore balance within your own life:

  1. How do I define success?
  2. What is the difference between feeling panicked and feeling prepared? 
  3. What is the first sign that I have become imbalanced? 
  4. What do I need to let go of that is out of my control today?
  5. What would my day look like if I were more present? 

Regardless of where you fall between rigidity and flexibility, there is always room for continuous growth towards where you want to be. 

Listening To The Nudge Inside You

Listening To The Nudge Inside You

Have you ever felt stuck in an old box? A box that once felt safe, but is no longer creating peace in your life. It is okay to be curious and brave to step outside and create a new space that serves the awareness that feels true to the person you want to show up as.

I have been working on creating peace in my mind, body, and spirit for the last few years. During this time, I have felt these little nudges, specific feelings of what I should work on to create the peace I desire in my life.

During this work, I have felt this nudge to work on authentically using my voice. Over the years, my voice has changed. I have grown and challenged my beliefs about my mind, body, and spirit. But using my new voice was a whole new ball game. I have created so much fear that if I use this new voice that feels truthful and authentic to me, I will be left and not understood anymore. Instead of being authentic to myself, I have suppressed my new voice.

But suppressing that voice left a feeling that felt heavier and heavier over time. I knew I could no longer live in the box with those old beliefs that once served me. I have learned new thoughts that could create peace in my life, and I was proud of those new beliefs. So I had to put the fear down, and thank that old self that once served me. I’ve learned it’s okay to step outside that box and become curious to all the new changes I’m experiencing. And it’s okay if those around me don’t understand. So here’s your invitation: you can step outside of your old box and into a new curious world that creates the peace you desire. 

A New Perspective on Body Image Concerns

A New Perspective on Body Image Concerns

As I write this blog, I am 37 weeks (9 months) pregnant. I have felt lucky in the sense that pregnancy and motherhood have, for the most part, been incredibly healing for my relationship with my body. I’ve learned to respect and appreciate my body in ways I never did before, and I’ve had some beautiful moments of true body love as my body, and I have worked together to bring my children into the world.

This pregnancy, however, has thrown me more body image curveballs than I’ve had to deal with in years. My capacity to respect and honor my body as it has changed and expanded (and expanded, and expanded!) has been challenged. For the past nine months, I’ve felt pretty grumpy in my body. I’ve felt frustrated with the physical discomfort, exhaustion, and limitations brought on by this pregnancy. I’ve officially outgrown some of my maternity clothes, and choosing outfits has sometimes felt stressful. At times, I’ve felt very uncomfortable with my body’s appearance, and haven’t loved seeing photos of myself or catching my reflection in the mirror.

Even though the physical and emotional discomfort with my body has felt challenging at times, I’ve also felt increased commitment to being kind to my body during this time. For me, kindness has meant getting as much rest as I can, continuing to feed my body the foods and portions that taste and feel good, and slowing down significantly on physical activity. I’ve also chosen to step on the scale backwards at all of my doctor’s appointments, because I know that being aware of my weight has the potential to make it harder for me to fulfill my intentions to care for my body’s needs. My body is softer, rounder, fleshier, and probably heavier than it has ever been. Even though these changes have made body image more of a challenge, being patient with and kind to my body is more of a priority now than it ever has been.

I share all of this for a couple of reasons. First, I want to normalize body image struggles. I am a licensed therapist who specializes in supporting clients with eating disorders and body image concerns. Generally, my body image is pretty good! And, I am not immune to occasional body image woes of my own. I have enjoyed full recovery from my own eating disorder for years, and I still have some ups and downs with body image. If you have body image struggles, know you’re not alone. (An important note: I do live with body privilege because of my body type. My privilege doesn’t exempt me from body image struggles but is a factor in how I and the world around me experience my body.)

Second, it’s important to acknowledge that body image struggles can exist alongside respectful, caring treatment of our bodies. Yes, you can feel uncomfortable with your body’s appearance, AND you can choose to continue to take care of your body. You can feel upset by how your body looks, and not try to force it to change. It’s possible to feel multiple ways about your body at the same time. Mixed feelings about your body are to be expected because having a body is an inherently complex experience. Here are a few of the mixed feelings I’ve had about my body during this pregnancy:

I don’t really like how my pregnant body looks sometimes. I’m also awestruck by the amazing feats my body is capable of.

I feel frustrated that my body is uncomfortable, in pain, and exhausted. I also know my body is doing her best for me and for my baby.

Part of me wishes to be in a smaller body. I am also committed to nourishing and respecting my pregnant (and postpartum body), even if I don’t love how it looks.

Sometimes the harder parts of “mixed feelings,” the ones that lead you to criticize yourself and feel like you need to change your body, are easier to notice than the kind, accepting parts. If you are struggling with your body image, and feeling the pull of dieting or disordered eating, please remember that you don’t have to go there. You can remind yourself that your body is doing amazing things for you, constantly, and deserves your respect and care. You don’t have to love how your body looks in order to be kind to it. You can be struggling with your body image, and still remain committed to recovery and body respect. Body image can be full of challenges, but it doesn’t have to pull you off track in your recovery.

Colder Weather and Mental Health

Colder Weather and Mental Health

As the weather changes and winter begins, many of us find ourselves adjusting and staying indoors in effort to avoid the cold temperatures. Although there is comfort in that, there is also value in getting outside and honoring your mental health throughout the winter season. When the daylight becomes shorter and the temperatures drop, you may find yourself needing to challenge your current habits to create a healthier mental make-up throughout the season.

Find ways to celebrate winter and express gratitude for the season while it is here. Being in the sun increases the release of a hormone called serotonin in your brain that can aid in mood regulation and the regulation of your circadian rhythm. Making changes to your daily routine can assist you in avoiding a decrease in serotonin levels and a change in mental soundness.

Here are 5 things that you can do to explore honoring your mental health throughout the season:

  • Bundle up and get outside. Whether you go on a hike, engage in winter activities such as sledding and skiing, or take a walk around your neighborhood. 
  • Open your blinds and sit by the window. Enjoy the sun within the comfort and warmth of your home.
  • Keep your social relationships active and stay connected. Plan a get together with coworkers, friends, or family, and engage with your ability to connect throughout the season.  
  • Enjoy a warm beverage to celebrate the colder weather. Try the new holiday flavors and get a taste of the winter season.
  • Get on a sleep schedule that is compatible with your needs. Not getting enough rest hinders your ability to perform daily tasks and keep up with your mental and physical well-being. 

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms that are heavy and overwhelming as the weather changes, seek out a therapist that can support you in working towards a healthier mental make-up.