An Open Letter to Anyone Who has a Love/Hate Relationship with Alcohol

Dear friend,

If you found your way to this part of the internet, chances are you’ve been doing some thinking about your relationship with alcohol. You might be here for Dry January after an indulgent holiday season. You could be one of the many people who are becoming more curious about drinking less in general. Or, maybe you know for a fact that you don’t want to drink anymore at all, but you have no idea where to start.

At first, it can seem really scary and foreign to consider a life without alcohol – but trust me when I say that a sober life truly can be the most awesome life. I promise you that it does not have to be not a boring life where you have to miss out. You can still participate fully in all of the adventures that life has to offer – just without the hangover or alcohol-induced anxiety.

But before we get into some of the good stuff that you can look forward to, let’s talk a bit more about what brought you here.

If you’re asking a question about whether or not you should be drinking as much alcohol, then you probably already know that you want to be drinking less alcohol.

You’ve probably tried to be more intentional about moderation, but it just hasn’t done the job. You still feel anxious when you do drink (hello hangxiety) and it takes days to feel 100% again, even after just a glass or two.

You are pretty sure you want to cut back on drinking – but you have no idea where to start, or if it’s even a thing to stop drinking without going to AA or calling yourself an alcoholic. Historically, these have been the only options known to people who choose not to drink. Your drinking might not even appear problematic by most people’s standards, which has led your options to appear extremely been limited.

So, you’ve continued to roll the dice on moderation and feel regularly disappointed in the outcome you’re getting. You’re met with recurrent anxiety; disturbed sleep; mood fluctuations; sluggishness; and maybe even regrets after a night out.

Herein lies the problem with moderation. Once you commit to being a “better moderate drinker”, the quest to moderate ironically becomes a very time-consuming, energy sucking, and oftentimes, losing game.

This isn’t because you have done anything “wrong.” Alcohol is an addictive substance that usually wins (even if you are not technically “addicted to it”).

Moderation goes against the way your brain is designed to work, which is why it’s so hard to succeed at. (It’s not you, it’s alcohol!) Our brain is wired to pump our system full of dopamine when we have an enjoyable experience – and because alcohol rushes your system with feel good neurotransmitters, it codes that experience as “necessary for survival.” Your prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain that logically says, “I don’t want to drink as much,” and unfortunately this part of the brain gets overpowered the next time you are presented with alcohol. The survival brain floods your system with messages about how you need to drink, because it is falsely linking alcohol with survival. Cue the losing battle.

You certainly could spend your life continuing to seek moderation. Some people actually can moderate well and feel perfectly content with their relationship with alcohol. There are no sweeping judgements here that everyone should stop drinking – this is a personal choice and there’s no “wrong” answer! If you choose to drink regularly and it works for you, by all means – do you.

However, to consistently achieve that “sweet spot” of “just enough, but not too much” is a bit of a unicorn phenomenon that takes a good amount of effort for many people.

Most people say that it feels like a gamble as to how they will feel emotionally and physically the next day after one too many drinks. Maybe 9 out 10 times, things are “fine” – but that 10th time of one too many always ends with “I’m never drinking again.” However, this is quickly forgotten when the weekend rolls around again, and it’s way too easy to jump right back into dopamine rollercoaster that alcohol takes you on.

The reality of it is, if you’re in a pattern of having to think pretty hard about how much and how often you’ll drink, moderation is most likely already an uphill battle. While you could certainly try to plug away at the moderation effort, and possibly even succeed at it, another very important question presents itself.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life thinking so much about alcohol?

When your main goal is to drink less of it and have it become a smaller part of your life, it seems counterintuitive that moderation would you lead to think more about drinking – but this is what tends to happen.

When you are trying to moderate better, you are constantly evaluating when, how often, and how much you will drink. Even if you only have one drink all night, chances are, you are spending a lot of mental energy on keeping it to that one drink. You are constantly in a state of making decisions about drinking, and a lot of your time is spent in indecision on this topic.

“Should I have one more? Should I drink Friday and Saturday or just one night this weekend? Should I do liquor or just beer? Should I have water between each drink? Should I space my drinks out more so that I can drive home? Should I take a few weeks off? Should I try organic wine instead?”

And so it goes.

Indecision is one of the greatest thieves of joy. And making a hard decision (like not drinking at all) can be much more rewarding for some than living within a cloud of constant indecision.

When you consciously decide that alcohol isn’t in the picture for you anymore, all of that energy can go toward living and enjoying your life and being the highest version of yourself.

Whether it be your inner peace; your mental health; the health of your relationships; your bank account; your skin; or the time wasted not feeling well after one two many; there are so many parts of our lives that even moderate drinking impacts.

And even when you logically know these things, it can seem terrifying to breakup with alcohol in a society that is completely obsessed with alcohol. Every event is infused with alcohol, and historically, the only people that stop drinking are people who are labeled as being alcoholics and hit a big rock bottom for all to see.

Society puts people into two categories: people who are addicted to alcohol or the people who “drink responsibly.” This is an outdated, and frankly, unhelpful way to conceptualize who is “allowed” to stop drinking.

What you need to know is that there is a huuuuuuuuuge spectrum of reasons why people are questioning their relationship with alcohol. The above-mentioned categories are just two bookends of that spectrum.

You don’t have to label yourself or put yourself in a certain category to do that (unless you find a sense of community, healing and purpose in a label – many do, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for everyone).

Here’s the truth: you can actually stop drinking for ANY reason you choose. It’s way less taboo than you think.

Here are other, less talked about reasons:

  • People who want to stop drinking for the health of it.
  • The guy who wants to run a marathon next year but can’t train hungover.
  • The woman who is building her business from the ground up and needs a clear head to do it all.
  • The college student who has high aspirations for the future, and keg stands on the weekend aren’t going to get them there.
  • The new mom who subscribed to “mommy wine culture” during the stress of the newborn phase and now recognizes how much drinking when the baby is asleep is giving her crushing anxiety.
  • People who have chronic health conditions that want to heal.
  • The person who has anxiety and depression and wants to stop messing around with their brain chemistry with alcohol.
  • People who just don’t like the way alcohol makes them feel anymore and don’t want to. Period.
You’re at a crossroads now where you get to decide if a life of constantly thinking about moderation is worth it to you, or if you would rather double-down on your own potential and take a chance that could change your life.

An alcohol-free life is going to ask a lot of you. It calls you to question everything you’ve been taught about life and yourself. It is hard work.

The payoff is SO worth it.

  • You get to be 100% present and clear for every moment of your life.
  • You wake up with no regrets every single Sunday morning.
  • Your body is healthier – the “sober glow”
  • Your sleep is better.
  • Your bank account will thank you. You could save thousands of dollars a year not drinking alcohol. What else could you spend that on?!
  • Your neurotransmitters will no longer take a hit from the chaos that alcohol introduces to your brain, which equates to better mental health.
  • There’s a major respect factor for not drinking.
  • You get to experience a full range of emotions without numbing yourself. This means you can face the hard stuff head-on, and also experience more profound joy.
  • You have more time and energy for hobbies.
  • You get to feel proud of the life you are building and your ability to do really hard things.

As articulated by Briana Weist,

“Your new life is going to cost you your old one. It’s going to cost you your comfort zone and your sense of direction. It’s going to cost you relationships and friends. It’s going to cost you being liked and understood. It doesn’t matter. The people who are meant for you are going to meet you on the other side. You’re going to build a new comfort zone around the things that actually move you forward. Instead of being liked, you’re going to be loved. Instead of being understood, you’re going to be seen. All you’re going to lose is what was built for a person you no longer are.”


Resources to get you started
(…and there are SO many more).

News

The New Sobriety (New York Times)
Generation Sober: 10 Reasons Why Millennials are Opting out of Booze to Socialize (Forbes)
Why Gen Zers are Growing Up Sober Curious (BBC)
The Rise of the Sober Curious: Having it All, Without Alcohol (The Guardian)
Millennials and Gen Zers Embrace “Life Can Take You Higher than Alcohol” (NPHIC)

Blogs

In 2021, What Even is Sobriety? (Sober Black Girls Club)
The Big Chill: How to Tell People You’re Not Drinking (Laura McKowen)
OCD and Alcohol: Why You Should Not Mix Them (NOCD)
Hangover Anxiety: How a Night of Drinking Can Tank Your Mood (New York Times)
Top 25 Recovery Blogs (Annie Grace)

Quit Lit

We Are the Luckiest, by Laura McKowen
Quit Like a Woman, by Holly Whitaker
This Naked Mind, by Annie Grace
Sober Lush: A Hedonist’s Guide to Living a Decadent, Adventurous, Soulful Life, by Amanda Eyre Ward & Jardine Libaire
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober, by Catherine Gray
Sober Curious, Ruby Warrington

Online Support Groups/Memberships

The Luckiest Club
Sober Black Girls Club
Sober Mom Squad
This Naked Mind


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How to Stop Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

This photo was taken a few weeks ago up in the Adirondacks, one of my family’s favorite spots. Before sitting down for dinner, we set my son loose in a big open soccer field to “get his ya-yas out” first. We all ended up laughing a lot as the toddler repeatedly face planted in the grass (clearly still getting used to his new sneaks) and would just get right back up and keep running and giggling. In this moment I was thinking, “this is perfection,” which was closely followed by “…now when will the other shoe drop?”

The conundrum of joyful moments is that they are often entangled with a shadow of fear lurking around the corner. The “what ifs” and “when will it” and “how will I cope when it does” whispering in the background when everything in that moment is “right.”

When we let our guard down to joy, anxiety leaps into the foreground in an effort to protect us from an imagined threat that has not happened (and may not ever happen).

This is our wiring, our biology, intended to help us survive. What do we do about these moments? How do we enjoy life while managing this voice in the background?

First, start by gently acknowledging that your anxiety is actually meant to be a protector that is trying to help you. Sometimes that protector is in overdrive due to your life experience, genetic predisposition, or combination of both.

Anxiety tends to latch on to things we care about and create a lot of false urgency around the need to fix, solve, plan, and prevent. When we attempt to stop thoughts from being there, our stress increases. When we engage in behavioral compulsions, rumination, or mentally review a situation repeatedly – we don’t ever close the loop. We might feel better temporarily, but then the anxiety comes back, full-fledged. We create suffering.

While we can’t control what thoughts will pop into our brains, we can influence the extent to which we suffer as a result of them.

As the saying goes, “what we resist, persists.” The more you try to suppress thoughts, the stronger they get. Instead, it better serves us to meet our anxiety head-on.

The second step is to observe what thoughts are surfacing. When we can observe our thoughts in a nonjudgmental and nonreactive way, we can then start to make decisions.

Once you have identified what is making you anxious, ask yourself, “What things are within my control that are sensible to give to attention to?”

One challenge that people with anxiety often experience is discerning what is a reasonable worry vs. what is irrational. It can help to ask the question, “what would 90% of people I know think or do in this situation?” Asking this question can help us to properly discern when our thoughts are unreasonable, and this can help us to take the next reasonable action.

For example, if you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming meeting or presentation, you could think about specific action steps you could take to prepare for this. It is reasonable to have an appropriate amount of stress about public speaking. This allows you to properly plan, prepare, and complete the task effectively.

Once you have prepared sufficiently, any further rumination or worrying would be treated by increasing your tolerance to the uncertainty. Obsessing about the situation then enters the unreasonable realm, as you have already done everything within your control.

The antidote to obsessive worrying is NOT to convince yourself that the bad thing won’t happen.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound, the response that will help you the most in the long wrong is to build your tolerance to the unknown and accept that there could actually be a less than ideal outcome!

You might say things like, “maybe I will mess up, maybe I won’t, but I trust myself to handle whatever comes my way.” When there is a problem to address, you will solve it then. This strategy is the foundation of Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy, which research has shown is one of the most effective treatments for OCD and other anxiety disorders.

When a shoe does drop (it will, this is life) – you must learn to trust that future you can solve whatever problems come your way. 

When we can radically accept that uncertainty is a part of life and learn to tolerate this, rather than try to fix or plan our way out of it, we experience relief. We must accept that many things in life are out of our control. The bad thing might actually happen at some point. We have to understand that this is the nature of being human and that all that we can tackle is what is right in front of us today.

Try saying it out loud or writing it down on a sticky note. “I trust myself to handle tomorrow’s problems, whatever those might be.” Visualize those worries of later or tomorrow like leaves floating down a stream that you are sitting next to. Watch the thoughts come and go without picking them out of the water and then creating a story about them. Thoughts are simply thoughts and do not necessarily mean anything. As you coexist alongside your thoughts as they float by, bring your attention to what’s happening in this moment. 

Here are some questions to get in the habit of asking yourself when you need to hop out of your worries and back into this moment:

  • What are the facts of what’s happening right now? How can I reasonably respond to those facts?
  • Is this a problem that needs my attention right now, or is this something I need to postpone worrying about until I have more information?
  • What do you feel, see, hear, smell, & taste? Scan your environment for something that can ground you and help you savor beauty in the present.

This way of looking at life, of working with our anxiety (as opposed to fighting against) is a constant practice. It takes repetition, moment after moment, day after day, year after year.

This work is hard work, but it does get easier in time. Eventually, you build your tolerance to the unknown and to uncertainty with repeated practice. Your fears will still pop up, but you learn to respond to them in a completely new way that no longer interferes with living your life. Treatment works and there is hope.


If you or someone you love is struggling with anxiety, intrusive thoughts, or any other mental health crisis, here are some resources below:

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

988

OCD Support

https://www.treatmyocd.com/

Six Mindfulness Principles for Navigating New Motherhood

I initially typed in a few alternative titles for this blog post, including: “six tips for anxiety in motherhood,” and “ten strategies to take care of your mental health.” Those titles just didn’t land; maternal mental health is so much more complicated than those bullet points.

If six quick and simple strategies were going to work, you would have already done those things yourself.

Quick fixes are routinely promised all over the internet, and this simplification of what it takes to make motherhood easier tends to further fuel the guilt and shame that moms feel. Social media would have you think that someone else has it all figured out, and that you’re the only one who just can’t crack the code.

Rather than quick fixes, we are going to talk about principles to help guide you in navigating new motherhood through mindfulness; acceptance; patience; and presence.

If new motherhood has been really hard on you, you aren’t doing anything wrongbeing a mom requires a Herculean effort.

If you’ve already struggled anxiety and depression prior to becoming a mom, you are predisposed to experiencing it during the postpartum period and beyond. This is a product of increased stress; constant hypervigilance as you assess for threats to your child’s safety; way less sleep; less time for self-care; hormones; and not to mention the massive identity shift that you undergo while trying to get to know a new little person who has suddenly become the center of your universe.

When you become a parent, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – changes. Your life as you knew it is gone, and your new life contains so much more intense emotion. The depth of every feeling has grown. Some days are so amazing that the joy physically hurts, and other days the exhaustion runs so deep that you aren’t even sure how you are continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

You’ve changed from the inside out, but you don’t even have the time to really figure out what that means – because bottles need to be prepared, diapers changed and the nap schedule is calling.

There is an undercurrent of confusion that hums in the background of your daily routine about all of life’s big questions (that you once thought you knew the answers to).

Many moms feel overwhelmed and frustrated that they don’t have more time to address these questions and “solve” the riddle of what it means to exist as both an individual and as a mom. It is nothing short of an existential crisis trying to figure out how to exist with a piece of your soul now living outside of your body.

It is, of course, important to carve out “you” time to renew your sense of self: time for that therapy appointment, the yoga class, the hot shower, and the date night. But the reality is, as a parent, that your time is limited, and those brief self-care hours aren’t enough.

There is another path forward that doesn’t involve creating hours in the day that don’t exist. Finding more joy in motherhood is to learn how to approach your daily moments in a radically different way.

Yes, I’m talking about when food is thrown on the floor, naptime isn’t going well, it’s raining outside, the plans got cancelled, the dishes are overflowing, and the laundry is everywhere.

It is in this moment, now, where you can find relief – not tomorrow when things go according to schedule.

That “good” day may feel better temporarily, but it’s more important to adopt a new mindset pertaining to how you look at each and every moment or your life (especially the hard moments). This is where you can sustain long-term growth that will help you experience less stress, more ease, and more joy.

Here are six principles to guide you in finding more ease in new motherhood:
  1. Remember that every single thing is temporary.

    The weather, the runny nose, the nap schedule, and the sleep deprivation. It will all keep changing. Just as soon as you’ve figured out this age and stage, it changes again. This can be freeing when you realize that you are along for a ride with a lot that you can’t control. Submit to what is, rather than what you wish it was, and trust that things will get easier in time. Parenting is lifelong, but you will not be a parent of young children forever. They will grow. You will sleep more. You will have more time again.


  2. Refrain from labeling things as “good” or “bad.”

    Pay attention to how you label things that happen (or don’t happen) throughout your day. If your baby doesn’t nap on time, instead of labeling this as bad, try adopting a more neutral attitude about it without a big story about what this means. Your mind might habitually go to a place like this: “oh great, he didn’t nap and now he’s going to be cranky and our whole afternoon is shot.” Try instead: “He wasn’t in the mood for a nap today. Oh well. Let’s pivot and get out of the house for a bit. Whatever happens today, I can handle it, and tomorrow is a new day. How I can make the rest of the day?” Maybe baby missing the nap means you get to catch more time in the sunshine on a walk, that you otherwise would have missed. The same goes for a really good day. Although celebrating wins and savoring the moment is important, try not to become too attached to labeling something “good.” This can lead to more frustration when the good runs out. Work on the skill of cultivating equanimity and a balanced, non-reactive attitude to inevitable ups and downs.


  3. Redefine what is extraordinary.

    You will romanticize your old life. That is normal. You can also learn to redefine what is amazing and exciting by practicing connecting to your senses. When you go on a walk with your little, can you notice all of the signs of spring? How beautiful is it when the sun rises over the trees, the magnolias are in bloom, and a gentle breeze comes through? If you learn to savor these moments, you can find beauty in the most unexpected places. These moments can breathe life back into you on your hardest days, and bring tears to your eyes as you’re reminded that this life is beautiful.


  4. Decide that some level of mess is okay.

    Even if you spent every hour of every day cleaning and doing laundry, the work wouldn’t be done. If you can accept that some mess is always going to be there and learn to tolerate that sometimes things will just have to be untidy, you will reduce your stress immensely. Sometimes there are eggs thrown at the wall and I won’t get to it for a while. I’ve learned to laugh about it, because that toothy grin and belly giggle when the eggs are thrown is a sign of the health and happiness of my child, and I would trade everything for that.


  5. Take your kids to things you enjoy (not everything has to be child-centered).

    Bring your baby along to places that make you feel good. Babies love a change of scenery and looking at new things. Go get your favorite coffee and walk around Marshall’s. Point things out to your baby and teach them about different words, colors, and shapes. When your baby gets to experience your world, they get to learn, and as you’re checking out some summer clothes, you might even catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and feel like you again. Your baby is entertained, and you get to do something for yourself. Win, win.


  6. Reevaluate every single aspect of how you spend your time.

    The people you talk to, the places you go, the shows you watch, the books you read, the accounts you follow, and the list goes on. If something, someone, or someplace does not bring you joy and add to your life, you do not need to spending time there. Put down the book if it’s bad. Don’t say yes if you don’t want to go. Be okay with letting people down; not living up to others’ expectations; and even quitting something when you need to. Every moment of your free time is a precious gift and should be treated as such.

Integrating these principles is a practice. It involves becoming very clear about matters; becoming extremely intentional about where you direct your focus; and continuingly reminding yourself of transient nature of all things.

These principles take work and willingness. You may have to give up some things in order to make room for what will serve you better in this next chapter.

When you clear out old ways of thinking and open yourself up to some new ways of existing in the world as a parent, you can connect to the whole world in a more joyful, present way.

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10 Ways for Busy People to Find Time for Self-Care

When you’re struggling with chronic stress and anxiety due to a busy schedule, it can feel impossible to find time for self-care to help you manage it all.

You might be learning lots of coping strategies during your therapy hour; however, it can feel so daunting to practice these skills outside of your session when it seems like there is no time.

It is such a frustrating struggle. You know you need to do something differently to keep yourself from completely burning out, but you can’t seem to find the hours in the day.

After all, life truly is so busy. Whether you’re a student with a demanding class and internship schedule; a mom juggling all of the household and family tasks; or a person with a busy full-time job… it’s a lot.

And even if you had the time, you might not even know where to start with stress management.

You aren’t alone in this struggle. We all have times where we feel like we can’t keep up with the pace life demands from us.

You aren’t failing. The fact of the matter is, you do have a lot on your plate, and it’s really hard to juggle it all.

There might be phases in your life where you truly do not have time to get out of the house for your self-care. Going to the gym after work isn’t possible because your family needs dinner and the bedtime routine awaits. Going to bed early might not be an option due to a night class or needing to do your schoolwork.

There are valid reasons as to why you don’t have time.

Some things might be out of your control right now; and, even so, it is important to think about what lifestyle choices you can make in the future that will grant you more opportunities to rest and find time for you. It is essential for your long-term physical and mental health.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with where to start, first take a moment to zoom out on the bigger picture of your life. The hope is that these super busy times are seasons in your life – not forever. Keep the current struggles in this context as you remember that things are temporary.

Now that you’ve reminded yourself this current struggle won’t be forever, we can start working on creative solutions to help us to take better care of ourselves.

You would be surprised at how many opportunities you can find throughout your day that take one or two minutes at a time.

Add those minutes up over the course of the day, and you might end up with a full cumulative hour of self-care that you didn’t know you had time for.

The key here is using transitions during your day as opportunities to use mindfulness and stress management strategies. Transitions provide a natural opportunity to pause and think; to take inventory of the choices available to us; to pivot if we need to; to check-in with our minds and bodies; and to intentionally take a few seconds to attend to any needs we might have.

There are countless transitions available to us throughout the day; here are ten of them, with some examples.

Ten transitions to use your coping skills:

  1. Getting out of bed in the morning
    What choices are you making in the first 60 seconds of your day? Are you scrolling with one eye open before you get out of bed, or are you moving out of bed slowly; taking a big stretch; and starting with a big glass of water before you hustle through the rest of your day?
  2. Taking a shower
    The shower is a great time to become intentional about the mindset you are bringing to your day. It’s easy for our brains to launch into the negatives; the worst-case scenarios; and the things you “have” to do today. Change-up this pattern by thinking about things you GET to do today, like: be alive, move your body, feel the sun on your face, have your favorite cup of coffee, or hug someone you love. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong today, use this time think about what could go right.
  3. The drive to work
    Listen to something inspiring or energizing on your way to work. You might have a playlist of songs that put you in a good mood or some podcasts lined up that can get you thinking.
  4. At the top of every hour
    Try setting an alert on your phone every hour (or every few hours) with a reminder to check-in with yourself about your needs. Am I hungry? Thirsty? Do I need to stretch? Walk around for a minute? Take deep breath?
  5. During your lunch break
    Back in my agency days, I remember lunch break being a time when everyone got on their phones while they shoved food in their mouths for ten minutes and kind of talked to each other but mostly scrolled. Can you put the phone away and really focus on what you are eating in a mindful way? Can you find a coworker who wants to have some genuine conversation?
  6. During a meeting
    Meetings can be a great time to practice body scans and relaxing your muscles. You can practice relaxing your shoulders away from your ears; releasing tension in your jaw; and relaxing your hands. No one will know you are doing it, and it helps build the skill of having a calm body (which contributes to a calm mind).
  7. The drive home
    What type of transition do you need for your drive home? Some people love to talk on the phone while they drive and debrief their day. Others (me) prefer to blast music and just let the stress from the day ventilate.
  8. Walking in the door
    When you arrive at home, think about how you can leave any bad vibes from the day at your doorstep. Exhale all of that out before you turn the door knob. Ask yourself, “what type of energy do you want to contribute to the household tonight?” One of my favorite quotes: If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.
  9. 30 minutes before bed
    Instead of scrolling and TV, try out some things to help your nervous system turn down. Throw your legs up the wall for a few minutes (this a great yoga pose for the nervous system) and then read for a bit before lights out.
  10. Getting into bed
    Take some gratitude notes on things that went well today (whether actually written down or in your mind – writing is preferred as it helps things solidify). If sleep is troublesome, you can try listening to a sleep story or guided meditation before bed.

In summary…

Life is busy and stressful.

You’re doing a great job managing it.

Everything is temporary.

(And if it’s not, you can make choices to change it).

You will survive this busy season.

You can be creative in finding time to take care of yourself.

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Resilience During Difficult Times

As this year is starting to wind-down, I am painfully aware of the exhaustion, disappointment, fear, grief, sadness, and anxiety the community and world are feeling.

As a mom, a helper, and a human, I continually search for ways to help myself so that I can be there for others.

I do the meditating and the exercising and the (trying) to eat healthy and the breathing and the list goes on.

These coping strategies help, but on these things alone, the gas eventually runs out and the engine sputters.

They can take the edge of the moment, but sometimes they fall short of touching the depth of what we’ve all experienced the past few years, and continue to experience.

I’ve been doing some exploration to see why those coping skills are missing the mark for us and asking, what exists at that edge between coping skills running out and the freefall?

At that edge is resilience.

Resilience is what we are made of when our tank is on E.

Resilience develops throughout the course of our lives as a complicated interplay of nature and nurture.

It can also be cultivated and grown through the courageous act of showing up and answering the call to be fully present for each moment of our life.

The ultimate coping skill for us all is really learning to just be there with what’s happening, with our bodies firmly planted in the moment, without creating a narrative about it.

Instead of making up stories about what’s happening or trying to create a future that we don’t know yet, we can take inventory of this exact moment with questions like:

What’s happening in this VERY moment? What things are actually okay right now? What do I see, taste, smell, hear, feel?

When we want to pace and ruminate and Google and catastrophize – instead, we make a cup of tea and pay attention to the temperature of the water on our tongue.

Instead, we ask for a hug, bury our face in a familiar shoulder and feel our heart rate go down.

Instead, we stop ourselves in our hurry to the coffee pot in the morning, just long enough to glance out the window to catch a surprisingly pink winter sunrise.

Instead, we remind ourselves that we don’t know about tomorrow, but we do know about today, this moment. (We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow).

Because that’s all there is right now (and always).

Resilience can be grown, and is a renewable resource.

It will ebb and flow for us all in different seasons.

The greatest gift we can give one another in this season, and moving forward, is borrowed strength.

When others around us our suffering, we can’t pretend to know, but we can allow the strength of our presence to be borrowed by someone else who needs it.

Through a kind word, through offering to take something off of their plate, and sitting with them without jumping in to fix or solve too quickly as they move through their own hard emotions.

And on those days where our own fire might go out, we can count on someone else to lend us a match.

We can work on skills to help take the edge off of the hard things in the world right now.

But we might have to dig deeper than that, and that’s where resilience comes in.

In this digging and excavation, we can discover the indestructible power of being present; being here now; and facing the realities of our lives with acceptance, openness, willingness, and hope.

And when we’re on E, we rely on one another.

As the year winds down, let’s ditch the resolutions and instead make this the year of giving and receiving help from one another without reservation.

May this new year, 2022, ring in with gentleness and grace.

Social Media and Mental Health: Why We Can’t Stop Scrolling

Have you ever found yourself feeling upset at someone on Instagram you don’t even know? Or felt offended that one of your friends did not “like” your most recent photos? Or maybe even felt jealous of a stranger’s feed showcasing their seemingly perfect life?

Social media has created a second world for us to navigate, in addition to our already busy and complicated in-person lives. Navigating world #2 is not only time-consuming, but also psychologically confusing for people.

On the one hand, your online world #2 can’t be touched or quantified – it’s vague, elusive, and exists in your head. On the other hand, the emotional experiences that occur as a result of what happens on social media are completely real; these “events” cause physical and neurological changes in our bodies. What can be particularly troublesome about this type of stress is that it has become a baseline for people that lurks in the background of our day-to-day.

Social media creates a constant anxious and uneasy feeling that can only be quelled by logging in again and hitting “refresh.”

I did a little research on my Instagram stories to learn more about how people are feeling about social media lately. The percentage of my followers who participated was pretty astounding, and was the most responses I’ve ever received when doing polls. This tells me that this topic is definitely on people’s mind.

The results were as follows:

  • 99% of people who participated have questioned if social media is good for their mental health.
  • 76% of people try to set limits on social media.
    • Less than 1% said these limits always work.
    • 39% said that the limits either rarely or never work.
  • Less than 1% of people indicated that they consistently feel good after going on social media.
    • 16% of people almost always feel badly after.
    • Most people experienced a mix of both good and bad experiences.
  • The top two reasons for staying on social media were not wanting to miss out on resources (47%) and wanting to stay in the loop with friends and family (35%).
  • When asked about the biggest drawbacks of social media, 42% identified that social media is addictive.
  • When asked about what gets in the way of spending less time on social, the top choice was that it’s hard to break the scrolling habit (76%).
  • 73% of people feel that the negatives of social media outweigh the positives.
  • 99% of participants were open to hearing about how to meet their needs in ways other than social media.

(Disclaimer: these polls were VERY informal, and by no means are formal research. There are GAPING deficits in this if you were to critique this from a research standpoint! However, the results tell us some things that are worth talking about).

What I gained from these polls was the following: a LOT of people are questioning if their social media use is good for their health.

The biggest issue that people have with social media is that it is addictive and difficult to stop.

Limit setting works for some, but not others. People often don’t feel good after spending time on social media, and this can be luck of the draw. You don’t want to give it up because there are valuable resources they enjoy, and you want to keep in touch with friends and family….But you still feel the negatives largely outweigh the positives. And here is where we get stuck.

Many people asked for boundaries and tips to help with this; and I have good news and bad news about this.

The good news: There are strategies that can be effective. These strategies are going to work well for the personality type that is good at moderation.

The bad news: most of us are NOT good at moderation when it comes to things that are designed to be addictive, thus beginning the Russian Roulette. Most of the time, things might go fine for us; but all that it takes is one scrolling and comparison bender to bring you back to that anxious, uneasy, and unhappy feeling.

Your love/hate relationship with social media is not your fault, nor is it a sign of a personal weakness. It actually makes perfect sense.

Social media is designed to keep us coming back (thus creating addictive habits) through intermittent reinforcement. Intermittent reinforcement is the most likely to produce repeat behavior when we are rewarded only some of the time, at an unpredictable frequency. This is how slot machines operate, to give you context. And most of the time, you don’t win.

Sometimes when you post on social media, you get lots of likes and comments. Other times, you get fewer. And the kicker is, there is no true rhyme or reason as to why. Number of likes is not indicative of value of your post because of the infamous “algorithm.”

The algorithm rewards content that drives more users to their platform – not things that are particularly meaningful, or even true. Whatever is going to keep people clicking and scrolling is going to be showcased. You might be going on social to scroll through what your friends were up to, and all that you see are reels of people doing viral dances or ads for products from celebrities you follow.

This is not to say that there isn’t truly valuable content rewarded by the algorithm – I follow quite a few mental health professionals on Instagram who post some fantastic stuff, and they go viral. They are good at what they do and their content is great. My point here is that this is not always the case. I see a lot of highly questionable and unethical things posted by mental health professionals as well, and some of my trusted colleagues and I definitely raise an eyebrow and sanity check one another about what we are seeing.

Social media has always been problematic for mental health because of the fact that it leads us to constantly evaluate ourselves through others’ eyes.

Add in Instagram changing the rules of the game without giving you the rulebook, and you have a recipe for anxiety and low self-esteem.

Now let’s go back to social media being world #2 for us to navigate. In this world, it’s like a fun house with mirrors all over, and you can’t really tell where you are going. You fumble around, and some moves work, but a lot of moves don’t. You leave feeling confused and unsure if you really want to do that again.

This is inherently stressful for us.

Our brains were also not designed to manage such a large “circle of concern” (aka people and things that matter to you).

So, what do we do about this?

In order to make decisions about our time spent on social media, we need to become clear about what matters to us – and then make decisions based on those values.

I could very easily give you “ten tips to reduce screen time.” But the thing is, you’ve probably already tried these things, and you’re reading this blog because they haven’t worked. That’s because when we implement a one-sized-fits-all approach to our habits without careful consideration of our values, these methods end up falling flat.

When you take inventory of what is important in your life and then decide how social media both adds and detracts from this, you will have a workable foundation from which to make changes.

Next on the docket will be an IG video that will cover the following:

  • How to identify your core values
  • How to decide how to spend your time according to these values
  • Habit hacks and strategies for implementing these decisions

In the meantime, if you are eager to get started on some more material about how to have a healthier relationship with social media, two books that can get you started are Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport, and How to Break Up with Your Phone: The 30-Day Plan to Take Back Your Life, by Catherine Price.

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The Healing Power of Telling the Truth in Therapy

I was recently listening to a podcast called “Tell Me Something True,” hosted by Laura McKowen, author of “We are the Luckiest” and founder of “The Luckiest Club,” a sober support space. Laura hosted Dr. Anna Lembke, Chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford University. Much of this blog post is inspired by thoughts shared by both Dr. Lembke and Laura on the episode called “Our Dopamine Nation.”

In the episode, Laura and Dr. Lembke talk about the role of therapy in recovery from addiction; how social media has become both an addictive and sometimes toxic space for people; and the healing power of being able to tell the truth in therapy. There are tons of interesting ideas that came up in their conversation. I’ve chosen three that stood out to me to expand upon here.

1. Therapy is not just about someone listening to us talk about our problems. It is about being able to tell the unfiltered truth (maybe even for the first time).

Therapy provides us with the unique opportunity to tell the unfiltered truth to someone. These may be unspoken truths about ourselves or difficult things that have happened in our lives. These truths need not even be “big things;” they could be a series of small things that we deny to ourselves (consciously or subconsciously) because they are just too painful to acknowledge. They could be white lies that keep repeating themselves, and we aren’t even sure why.

Not telling the full truth to ourselves and others is often not intentional – it’s just this thing that can slowly happen over time as a protective mechanism from pain, and this eventually starts to erode our sense of congruence.

Truth telling starts as a slow process in therapy. As we start to piece together our stories with a supportive professional, the truth weaves itself into a more cohesive narrative. We might not even know truths about ourselves until we start to say our stories out loud. When we are able to speak the truth, Dr. Lembke states that we are able to “put the world in order.” Putting the world in order helps our lives to make more sense to us. When our stories don’t make sense, and the puzzle pieces don’t quite fit, this can lead to a sense of unease and anxiety.

2. Unless we really know why things happen, we can’t make informed decisions. Therapy helps us understand the “why” so that we can figure out what do to next.

Figuring out the “why” often involves taking a trip back in time to our formative years: childhood, relationships with our parents, romantic relationships, friendships, and significant events that have happened. It is crucial to understand the “why” in order to contextualize our current behaviors (especially ones that we wish to change). If we can understand how things came to be, we can learn more about things that presently trigger us. Knowing our triggers allows us to better utilize a “pause” button to respond as things happen, rather than reacting in the heat of the moment. We can make better decisions going forward in our lives when we understand our “why.”

3. When we tell the truth, people are drawn to us and this promotes intimacy. Therapy is a safe place to practice this.

Time and time again, clients have voiced to me their fear that they are unique in how much they have screwed up in their lives, and it is terrifying to acknowledge the truth out loud. This is actually not a unique experience; we all think we are more f*ed up than the person next to us, when that is seldom true. Everyone has their own version of problematic in their lives. Therapy becomes an amazing space to test out vulnerability with someone who we can trust not to judge us (or repeat what we say). When we share our struggles, we ease our suffering. We are reminded of our shared humanity and that we not in it alone.

When we can share our unfiltered truth and test out being more honest about our feelings, we can experience being accepted fully for who we are. Therapy is so valuable because our most impactful experiences almost always happen in context of relationships. Reading self-help books and doing work on our own absolutely has its place; but in my humble opinion, there are some types of healing that can only happen through the process of being truly seen and accepted by someone else who knows our truths. When we can learn to tolerate emotional intimacy and vulnerability through truth telling in therapy, this translates to all of the other relationships in our lives. We learn to create more depth in our relationships; to show up as our authentic selves; to pursue our goals and dreams with confidence; and to seek out healthy, loving people in our lives.

In summary, telling our true stories is an essential part of our growth and healing.

When it comes to our mental health, all roads lead back to the willingness to be radically honest about our lives. When we are honest, we are lighter – even when the truth isn’t pretty. It simply feels better not to hide (from others or ourselves).

Whether you seek out this opportunity for honesty and truth telling through therapy, a life coach, your journal, or a trusted confident; all that you can do is start somewhere. It will be messy, uncomfortable, and imperfect. But if you can continue to put one foot in front of the other and go all in on the process, the benefits are immense.

How can you bring the concept of truth telling and honesty to your life today?


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On Transition

As the sticky summer heat fades into chilly fall mornings that greet us with the crunch of leaves under our feet, we are reminded of how temporary everything is. We wait all year for summer, and then it’s over in a blink. We savor the brief interlude of fall’s beauty before winter comes through with its darkness and chill.

This fall season, nature’s transition, becomes an opportunity to reflect on our own personal transitions, like starting up work again; ending a relationship; moving; going away to college; or having a baby.

When transitions occur, we make lots of arbitrary rules for ourselves in an attempt to get some ground under our feet.

We impose strict routines, rigid schedules, and abide by fixed ideas that place things into neat and tidy categories.

On the one hand, these structures can be building blocks for sound mental health. They are stabilizing, grounding, and help us simplify our little corner of a complicated world.

However, there is a shadow side to this intense structure. When we are beholden to these fixed habits, routines, and rules, we may unintentionally be going against the natural current of our lives.

This rigidity might be avoidance of our inevitable encounters with new versions of ourselves that are born of transitions.

When our lives change, we change. The fabric of who we are becomes newly woven with experiences that shape us into someone different.

There is a new you that emerges with each new chapter. In one lifetime, we will meet many different versions of ourselves.

Anxiety can result when we cling in desperation to who we were before, when that “you” isn’t there as it was before. We experience internal tension when we fight this newness and attempt to return to what was before.

After all, it’s scary to change. We spend a lot of energy curating and cultivating the person we want to be. When our lives and circumstances change and we find ourselves becoming someone we don’t recognize in the mirror, it is unsettling at best and more likely terrifying.

We are reminded that a lot of the control we *think* we have is really an illusion and an attempt to feel safe in a truly unpredictable life.

This is not to say that who you were is gone when things change – but rather, more colors are added to the fabric of your identity and threads of wisdom are gifted to us.

An antidote to anxiety in the face of transition is radical acceptance, which means that we accept reality for what it is, rather than willing it to be different. When we let go of the illusion of control that we all so desperately seek, we can experience a huge exhale, like the one that happens after a good, long cry. The relief of this exhale comes from acceptance of the flow of life’s seasons and chapters – rather than resistance.

My heartfelt message to you is this: It can feel scary to change, but it’s healthy (and inevitable) that we change.

If you can hold on through the feelings of groundlessness that accompany these transitions, there can be something beautiful on the other side. This is not to say that all routine and structure be thrown away; rather, it can be helpful to use these methods as tools to ground you as you make room for new things to emerge.

Breathe through the changes, be gentle with yourself as you adapt, and keep an open mind as you get to know new parts of yourself through these transitions. While change might start out as feeling scary and unwanted, it may just be the beginning of a beautiful metamorphosis.


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Combatting Depression through Relentlessness

You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.

Elizabeth Gilbert

I adore this quote by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s a reminder of how temporary and transient moments of happiness or feelings of “arrival” can be. As soon as we feel like we have achieved it, completed it, or gotten “there” (wherever “there” is), the moment fades. Other feelings, like sadness, stress, unworthiness, and fear might creep in. This is normal- this is life. And it can feel 10x more intense if you suffer from depression.

When we think about depression, often the first thing that comes to mind is chemical imbalance (particularly serotonin). A lot of research has been done about what causes depression, and evidence points to the idea that the relationship among brain chemistry, mood, thinking, and behavior is such that the arrows of causation point in both directions, not just one (Kirk Strosahl & Patricia Robinson, The Mindfulness & Acceptance Workbook for Depression).

Put simply, this means that behaviors impact brain chemicals, and brain chemicals also impact behaviors. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

It’s really difficult to say that depression is exclusively caused by a chemical imbalance- because how we move, what we ingest, what we watch on TV, and what we think about all directly impact our brain chemistry on a daily basis. It’s both.

We all have genes that we are born with that predispose us to certain things, which include mental health conditions; however, your environment on daily basis directly impacts how these genes are expressed. You can start doing things today to change how your genes express themselves. Through meditation, for instance, your brain waves change. They enter a more restful state that allows for healing to occur in the body and for stress hormones to calm the heck down. How cool is that?? Our brains are amazing. 

This is good news for those suffering with depression.

How you behave impacts your brain chemistry- meaning that you do not have to be a passive bystander to the current state of your brain and what’s going on in there. This means that there is something you can do about the way you feel, rather than committing yourself to the belief that your brain is unchangeable, and that you have to live with these feelings forever. Our brains are plastic and ever-changing.

In order to cultivate more joy, happiness, and freedom, sometimes it requires being relentless in the pursuit of feeling even just a little bit better.

Some days you might just wake up feeling mentally or physically horrible. Take note of the feelings, offer them non-judgmental acceptance, and be open to what messages your feelings carry. Give them space to be.

AND…When your feelings have had their time (whether that be hours, days, weeks, or even years), eventually you will reach a moment where you might decide it’s time to shift gears and focus on even small steps in the direction of healing.

That’s when the RELENTLESSNESS comes in. Some days, that might mean taking a few deep breaths and telling yourself you’re doing great. Other days, that might be yoga, singing at the top of your lungs in the car to the emo music you loved in high school (Empty Apartment by Yellowcard is my personal favorite song to belt out in the car when I’m stressed) or journaling all that hard stuff out. Sometimes it’s all of those things, repeatedly, in order to get through the day. And maybe you cry a few times throughout that process because damn, this shit is hard, and painful, and it’s not easy. Maybe every hour you have to take a second to give yourself a pat on the back for getting through.

Let me be clear- depression and any form of mental illness is a battle every day. It’s not as simple as just “trying harder to feel better.”

Because no one chooses these feelings. What I hope you take away from this is the idea that there are things you can intentionally and strategically do to improve your mood state even just slightly. I doesn’t mean it’s simple or easy. But the bottom line is, we have to start changing this myth that we are passive receivers when it comes to our health.

We can do things every day to impact our health, change our brain chemistry, boost our immunity, and strengthen our bodies.

You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.

Back to my girl Elizabeth G. for a minute. We have got to participate relentlessly in our lives, every day, in order to cultivate more goodness. It’s not a passive act. It’s not luck. It’s repeatedly doing the hard thing. And when you keep doing the hard thing, and pushing the limits of what you think you can do, and learning new ways to take care of your mind and body, you start to see change. It creates a domino effect that can lead you to places you never thought you could go.

Part of my job is to share novel ideas, cutting-edge research, and information about how we can take charge of our mental & physical health, and ultimately our lives. Stay tuned for the next post with some tips about how to be relentless in your pursuit of feeling better, and I would love to hear from you if you need some support in this process.


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Strengthening Your Mental Health during the Global Pandemic

There are no known mental health experts in pandemics right now – because all of the people alive at this moment have never lived through one. In one sense, we are all grappling through this together and figuring it out one day at a time.

However, there are some genius experts in the field of trauma. A pandemic is categorized as a trauma, and there things that we can do proactively right now to maintain our mental health during this unprecedented time.

On Thursday, I attended a webcast put on by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of “The Body Keeps the Score” and one of the leading trauma experts in the world. This post is a summary of what I learned in this training, and 99% of these ideas are credited to Dr. van der Kolk. I hope this offers you a sense of validation about things you have been thinking about, while also providing you with practical tools that can help you to remain active, empowered, and hopeful.

Disclaimer: Doctors, nurses, others on the front lines, and people whose families or businesses have been directly touched by Coronovirus are experiencing something that far surpasses the what I’m writing about today. While these tips can still be helpful, I think it’s worth noting that there are varying levels of how this pandemic is impacting people. For the heroes who are out there on the front lines, your experience is going to be vastly different from those of us at home, playing the waiting game. There are supports available to you tailored to your unique experience, and I would recommend looking into EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy). You can search for therapists on psychologytoday.com that specialize in this- there are plenty out there.

Bessel explained that much of the world is in a pretraumatic state; that is, a state of “holding our breath.” We know what’s coming, we know social distancing and isolation is taking a toll on us, but we are in the eye of the storm right now and don’t know exactly what is on the other side. It’s actually quite unusual to have the complete cognitive awareness that you are in the midst of something that could traumatize you. This pandemic is a drawn-out process. While this is undoubtedly a disorienting experience, it’s also positive that we are afforded the ability to have this awareness and proactively do things to buffer the impact of this event on our mental health.

A friend of mine talked to me yesterday about anticipatory anxiety: “I’m okay right now, but will I be so obsessed with germs that it creates distance between me and other people when this is all over? Is this experience going to have long-term consequences such that we don’t want to shake hands with new colleagues or hug old friends anymore?” She has never had anxiety and this has never been a thought for her. The uncertainty and not knowing is a really uncomfortable place to be right now.

Not knowing exactly how this will fully impact us yet is hard to wrap our minds around. Especially when our day-to-day is usually planned with such meticulous attention to detail. Google calendar runs our lives, and the calendar has gone blank. We force our lives to be just so, and then in an event like this, we realize that much of the control we think we have is illusory.

Whew, so that’s a lot to digest.

But stay with me: here’s where hope comes in. There are things we can be doing every single day to maintain resilience, strength, connection, and health that will help us all to recover from this, mentally and physically, when this is all over. And it will eventually be over.


First, we must develop awareness of what is happening.

Then, we must put it into words.

Lastly, we make intentional choices.

Dr. van der Kolk identifies seven preconditions for trauma that we are experiencing right now. Below, you’ll see a brief summary of each condition, and then some specific tools that Bessel recommends to empower you and protect your emotional, physical, and social well-being.

Preconditions for trauma and action steps:

  1. Lack of predictability. Routine, order, and plans are very stabilizing to our psyche. For many of us, our routine has completely turned upside down.
    • Action steps you can control to make things more predictable:
      • Plan your day and plan your week. Print off a paper calendar you can decorate and hang up. Make dinner plans with your family or virtually with friends and family, plan a hike, plan your exercise times and virtual workout or yoga classes. Create schedules that include things you can look forward to, even if it’s just one week at a time.
  2. Immobility. Our stress hormones are up. Usually when this happens, our body prepares to fight or flight. Our movement is limited right now due to staying home and less ability to “do.” These means that the stress hormones need a place to go and we have to get creative about how we can do that.
    • Actions steps you can control to increase movement:
      • Cook meals, build things, run, walk, yoga, cleaning projects, yoga.
      • Dance parties!! Turn on your favorite music and just dance around, either alone or with your “quan-team.” There are plenty of virtual dance workouts that are streaming live so that you can feel connection to others while also moving around.
        • Online Yoga Resources: virtual classes through local studios to support local, Yoga with Adriene, Nike Training App (Alex Silver Fagan)
  3. Loss of connection. It is unnatural to be staying in your house or apartment for days and weeks on end. We exist in contexts of our relationships with other people. Trauma always involves a sense of not being seen and not being heard. This is why it is so important to make regular video contact with family, colleagues, classmates, friends and neighbors.
    • Actions steps you can control to increase connection:
      • Visual connections are recommended as opposed to just audio – using apps like Facetime or Zoom. On a biological level, comfort and safety is found in the rhythm of conversation and attunement through facial expressions.
      • Wave to your neighbor and make eye contact while you are out walking (even from 6+ feet apart!)
      • Tactile connections, like petting your animals
      • Family meals, games, dress up, story telling, music making (creating music and share it on social media!)
      • Meditate on peace and healing for the world
  4. Numbing out and spacing out. It is natural when overwhelmed by terrible to things to numb through TV, drugs, or alcohol.
    • Action steps you can control to reconnect to yourself:
      • The way to feel alive is via your body- Moving, breathing, dancing, singing to music.
      • Mindfulness and meditation help you to notice and observe what is going on, both in and outside of yourself. Without noticing, you are just reacting.
      • Once you can notice yourself, you have the ability to observe and make choices.
      • Friendships, relationships, and therapy can also help you find words for the internal experience when you are having trouble on your own.
        • Meditation and mindfulness resources: Insight Timer (Sarah Blondin’s meditations are great), Sanvello, Mindsight.
  5. Loss of sense of time. A core trauma state is a sense of timelessness and feeling like this will last forever. Our spring and summer plans are all up in the air, and when every day feels the same, this can be really disorienting.
    • Action steps you can control to reconnect to yourself:
      • Write a few lines in a journal each day. Write about five lines, including: what happened that day, something your grateful for, something that troubles you, or anything else on your mind.
      • We must live with a sense that every moment is different from the next. Light a candle, open the window and let a warm breeze come through. Notice how the wick burns down and light changes as it gets later in the day.
      • As you walk through your yard or walk down your street at dusk, notice flowers blooming.
      • When you meditate, notice uncomfortable sensations (ow my leg hurts) and thoughts (I’m bored). Then you notice thoughts shift to something else (the leg cramp went away) and (when I breathe deeply, I feel a little better).
      • Time may feel like it is standing still in the world with absence of plans, but we can create this sense of changing time in very small ways within our own homes and our internal being.
  6. Loss of safety. The pandemic is a threat of illness and safety. When we feel unsafe, it is hard to focus on anything else.
    • Action steps you can control to increase sense of safety:
      • Being connected to those in your household, and also having privacy and boundaries. Have a designated space where you can withdraw when you need alone time.
      • Pay attention to good news. People are recovering and getting better. Google acts of kindness.
      • Take good care of your health through basic things like getting enough rest, eating well, and hydrating.
  7. Loss of sense of purpose. Much of our lives are built around our work and career. Many of us spend more time at work than with our families. Now working from home, or perhaps not even working at all, many are are left with the question: “Who am I without the role of who I am in my workplace, among coworkers and colleagues?”
    • Action steps you can control to increase sense of purpose:
      • Think about how your role extends beyond your job. Parent, sister, brother, friend, spouse, creator, music maker, writer, etc.
      • Identify things you can get lost in, and do more of those things to feed your soul. Reading, music, writing, knitting, cooking, whatever it may be.
      • Can you use this time to uncover more about who you really are, what you want, where you’re going, where you need in the future?

In summary, I read a quote on Instagram yesterday that really resonated with me.

“We are all in the same boat, but we are not in the same storm.”

We are all in this together, but each of us is experiencing this pandemic to varying degrees. For some, working from home feels like a break. For others, the anxiety about the virus is crippling. Then there are the frontline heroes, it’s every waking moment of their day. There is no “right” or “wrong” experience, but it is important to reflect on how you honor your own experience while also honoring and respecting your neighbor, community, and the world.

“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”

Nelson Mandela

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