5 Sneaky Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time

5 Sneaky Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time

Are you skipping through your day, full of joy, enthusiasm, and boundless energy? Or are you barely dragging yourself out of bed in the morning only to stumble from task to task, completely overwhelmed and exhausted?

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re leaning more toward the overwhelmed and exhausted than the skipping part.

I’ve been there too. Completely drained of energy and doing my very best just to make it through the day.

It’s a tough place to be.

And the more frustrated you become with the situation, the worse it gets. You’re desperate to feel better but are skeptical that anything will change.

Take heart! There are several reasons why you may feel tired all the time and surprisingly simple solutions.

Stick with me and I promise you will be feeling more energized in no time at all!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1) You Feel Tired Because You Have No Boundaries

There’s no denying the fact that diet, exercise, and sleep habits play a huge factor in your energy levels. But sometimes fatigue has more to do with the emotional than the physical.

If you feel tired all the time, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your to-do list.

Is it full of activities which ignite your soul with limitless passion and zest for life? Or is your to-do list full of obligations you dread but feel compelled to do anyway?

We all have those tasks which are necessary but not particularly fulfilling. And life certainly can’t be all fun and games. But if you’re feeling drained, could it be because you’re spending more time living for others than for yourself?

If you struggle with overwhelm and saying “no” to others, it’s time to put up a few personal boundaries!

How You Can Set Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries tell you where your responsibilities begin and where they end. At first glance, this may seem restrictive but it actually means freedom.

It means you have the freedom to say “yes” when it aligns with you and your inner purpose.

It’s the freedom to say “no” when you don’t want to do something.

And it means you have the freedom to sit back, relax, and enjoy your life.

Sounds great, right? But how can you actually implement this in your life?

By starting with a commitment. The commitment to stop people pleasing and to start living life on your terms.

And the next step? Learn how to say “no.” Say no to anything which only depletes you of valuable energy while serving someone else’s purpose.

Learn more about how to stop people pleasing and start living your own life by clicking here.

2) You Feel Tired Because Your Mind is on Overdrive

Another incredibly common reason why you may feel tired all the time is because your mind won’t shut down. Day, night, and all other times in between, your brain is constantly working to exhaustion.

Although thinking in and of itself is not a bad thing, the nature of those thoughts impacts how you feel overall. If there is a positive vibe, you may actually feel somewhat energized and uplifted. But if those thoughts are negative, your precious energy will drain faster than you can ever possibly replenish it.

If you struggle with overthinking, your thoughts are also likely to be dominated by worry, guilt, and indecisiveness. The constant dread created by these types of thoughts is enough to make anyone feel tired in only a short amount of time!

Negative thinking is a definite energy suck but it’s never too late to turn it around!

How to Stop Overthinking

Changing your mindset requires both a commitment to change and a keen awareness of your thoughts. After all, it’s tough to change something you’re completely unaware of!

Step one is simply learning to identify your thought patterns. Start recognizing your thoughts and how they make you feel. One of the best ways to do this is to put pen to paper. Writing down all those thoughts circling in your head gives them a place to go and an opportunity for you to objectively analyze them.

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Find a journal you love and spend some time every day recording what’s on your mind. Is there any truth to your thoughts? Or do they tend to focus on things past and present instead of on the here and now?

Challenge your thoughts! Poke holes in the ridiculous negativity which likely has no basis in reality. Start talking to yourself as if you are your own best friend. Be compassionate and kind to yourself. Take a deep breath, recognize the effort you’ve made toward positive change, and congratulate yourself on your more peaceful inner world.

3) You Feel Tired Because You’re Not Feeding Your Passion

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

Oprah Winfrey

Do you know that feeling you get when you’re doing that thing you love to do? Or even that feeling you get when you talk about that thing you love to do?

Pretty incredible, isn’t it?

We all have something that lights us up inside. Something we totally nerd out about and can’t get enough of.

That passion feeds our energy reserve and ignites our zest for life. It’s what makes life worth living and counteracts all the negativity we encounter in the world.

But how often do you put that thing on the back burner because you simply have too much on your plate? It’s unfortunately all too easy to shove your passion to the wayside while you’re going about the business of life.

I get it. Finding time for that thing feels impossible and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But it could just be the key to your life-changing transformation!

How to Find Time for Your Passion

As a wife and working mom of 3, I know a little bit about time. I know that it slips away all too quickly and is incredibly easy to waste. Other than energy, time is one of the most valuable resources we have but we need to be both mindful and careful in how it’s spent.

Awareness is key. In order to make changes, you must first understand where you are currently spending your time.

Although it can be a giant distraction, my phone also holds one of the most valuable tools in tracking my time. Every week I get a notification of how much time I’ve spent on my phone the previous week and a breakdown of which apps sucked up the most. I take a few minutes every week to review and set an intention for the upcoming week.

If you don’t have this feature on your phone, you could also track your time with pen and paper. Writing down where your time is spent on an hourly basis can be truly eye-opening.

After you have an idea of where your time is spent, it’s time for positive change. Start slowly by slotting off even 5 minutes a day to do something related to your passion. Sometimes starting is all you need to realize that you CAN make time in your schedule if it truly is important to you.

Check out this post for more tips on finding more time in your day!

4) You Feel Tired Because You’re Playing the Comparison Game

Social media is utterly amazing! At no other time in the history of the world have you been able to connect with old friends, instantly catch up with someone you haven’t talked to for years, or find out what your neighbor is up to at this very second.

You can meet someone on the other side of the world or connect with others who share your passion.

But social media has a dark side. I’m willing to bet that you’ve lost countless hours caught up in someone else’s drama at one time or another thanks to social media. Or felt your mood darken after scrolling your feed.

Social media has made it easier than ever to compare yourself to others. Gone are the days where you could go home after a long day and shut out the world. We are now constantly faced with everyone else’s highlight reel while feeling a deep sense of inferiority and disconnection from others. And it’s emotionally draining.

How to Stop the Comparison Game

After going through a period of constant exhaustion, I took a good, hard look at my life and made a few discoveries. One was that I wasn’t getting nearly enough sleep at night. Two was that social media was partly to blame for my poor sleep.

Scrolling feeds at night is a nightmare on multiple levels. The blue light from electronic devices has been scientifically proven to decrease sleep quality. It also keep your mind reeling at a time when it should be winding down and preparing for sleep. And if you have alerts activated, you’re virtually guaranteed poor sleep from the constant beeping ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

Even beyond the ill effects on sleep, I began noticing how negative my mindset was becoming. It seemed that the more time I spent on social media, the worse my self-esteem, motivation, and sense of self became. I knew something had to change.

And so I silenced the alerts. From Facebook to Instagram to email, I stopped them all. No more random beeping in the middle of dinner with the family or movie night. The silence was strange at first but also oddly comforting. It truly felt as if I was taking back my life.

I also picked up this book. Although I have always prided myself on efficiency, this book has been truly instrumental in helping me identify all the unnecessary distractions in my life. I highly encourage you to check it out!

And if you haven’t seen “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix, check it out. It will make you re-think EVERYTHING.

5) You Feel Tired for Physical Reasons

Although the majority of this post focuses on emotional reasons why you may feel tired, don’t ignore your physical self. If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, your diet is terrible, or you’re not exercising, you can’t expect to feel energized and ready to seize the day.

It’s also entirely possible that you have an underlying medical condition contributing to your fatigue. Seeing your primary care provider is an incredibly important first step in your journey toward a more refreshed life. Your provider can have a 1:1 discussion with you about your risk factors for certain conditions and reasons why you may feel tired all the time.

If your provider determines there are no underlying medical conditions, maybe it’s time to see a counselor or psychiatrist. We are living in stressful times and all need an occasional mental health tune-up. Don’t put your health on the back burner. You are too important!

Take Charge of Your Physical Health

If there are one or more areas of your physical health which are less than optimal, start slowly. Make small, positive changes in one area at a time. Success comes from small changes on a daily basis.

If your diet could be improved, find one small area to work on rather than completely overhauling everything. Consider cutting down on sugar, salt, or drinking more water every day as a first step.

Sleep can be a struggle for everyone from time to time. Consider a sleep diary to record what time you go to bed and wake up, how you feel when you get up in the morning, and whether you woke up at all during the night. A diary can be helpful in pinpointing specific sleep issues you may be having, an important first step for lasting and impactful change.

And exercise presents its own unique challenges in the time of COVID. Although typically a faithful gym goer, I have recently switched to working out at home to reduce potential exposure. I do have to say that there are a ton of great online resources for home workouts! Gyms can be intimidating but you can eliminate this barrier by picking up a few free weights and enjoying the privacy of your own home.

The key to any change is to start small and be consistent. You can do ANYthing but don’t have to do EVERYthing all at once!

Bonus Resources

And if you still feel tired after trying all of the above, here are a few bonus resources which have significantly impacted my life!

From the Blog

Inspirational Reads

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I truly hope you have found something helpful in this post! Leave a comment below about why you feel tired and what you plan to do about it! Although frustrating, it can be comforting to know that other people are in a similar situation and that you’re definitely not alone.

5 Powerful Strategies to Ditch People Pleasing Forever

5 Powerful Strategies to Ditch People Pleasing Forever

Is saying no to others, even when you have no interest in doing what they ask, difficult?

Are you constantly seeking approval from those around you?

Do you find yourself subtly changing into a different person when around diverse groups of people?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, people pleasing tendencies may be running rampant in your life.

People pleasing is an unhealthy coping mechanism which keeps you from becoming the person you truly are. It robs you of authenticity and results in exceedingly unsatisfactory relationships.

But you can take back control over your life and halt people pleasing in its tracks. Recognition is the first step.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What is People Pleasing?

People pleasing behaviors can show up in your life in a wide variety of ways. Some ways may be obvious to others (external) and others (internal) may only be perceptible to you.

Internal examples may include:

  • Taking responsibility for the emotions of others
  • Feeling overwhelmed by tasks and obligations which are not even your own
  • Fearfulness that others won’t like or accept you unless you are agreeable with what they say or ask of you
  • Intense discomfort when you perceive that someone may be upset with you
  • Inability to identify your feelings

External examples may include:

  • Agreeing with the opinions of others even if you don’t actually agree
  • Frequent apologies to others for actions or circumstances completely out of your control
  • Inability to say no to others
  • Avoiding conflict with others at all costs
  • Inability to express your feelings to others
  • Intense need to prove yourself to others through your actions

Unless you begin to recognize how people pleasing is impacting your life, change is impossible. And as someone who has struggled with people pleasing, I can tell you with confidence that it’s truly no way to live.

Until I began taking personal development seriously, I struggled with the vague sense that something big was hindering my journey. Something was driving my guilt and irrational need to agree with everyone around me. And something was getting in the way of being able to live life on my terms.

After countless podcasts, hours of self-reflection and journaling, and more discussions with a therapist than I can count, I finally had a revelation. People pleasing was at the root of so much of my unhappiness and negative outlook.

You may also enjoy reading this post about improving your mindset.

What’s Wrong with People Pleasing?

“There’s something very addictive about people pleasing. It’s a thought pattern and a habit that feels really, really good until it becomes desperate.”

Anne Hathaway

At first glance, people pleasing may seem harmless. After all, what’s wrong with making other people happy?

Boundaries

One major problem with people pleasing is a complete lack of boundaries. Saying “yes” to everyone else can unfortunately mean saying “no” to yourself.

What can start as a simple desire to be nice can lead to a cascade of overwhelm and neglect of your own needs. It’s almost as if you become so hyper-focused on everyone else that you completely forget yourself.

The needs of those around you begin to take priority and you slowly lose yourself. Your needs take a back burner as you put out the fires of everyone else around you.

As you slowly assume responsibility for the thoughts and feelings of those around you, your mindset turns decidedly more negative.

And without boundaries, you start to resent those around you for all the work you’re doing and the work they’re not doing. This quickly transforms into resentment and passive aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions.

A lack of boundaries is the fast track to overwhelm, burnout, and stress.

Looking for more information about boundaries? Check out this resource.

Stress

People pleasing often means your calendar is packed to the brim with activities you may not be particularly excited about. It may be so full that you feel as if adding even one more task would absolutely put you over the edge of sanity.

You’re constantly running, running, running but never feel as if you get anywhere. You also lack a sincere sense of accomplishment because instead of setting and meeting your own goals, you’re constantly going after the goals of everyone around you.

Self-care is consistently neglected in the name of self-sacrifice. In fact, you may be completely unable to identify activities which would be good for you because you’re too busy meeting everyone else’s needs.

You have zero free time and no hope that you ever will in the future.

Although stress can be good, too much over an extended period of time can lead to chronic physical and mental illness. It can also lead to low self-esteem and unfulfilling relationships.

Need advice on how to find peace despite stress? Check out this post.

Self-Esteem

Constantly focusing on the needs of those around you means you will completely forget your own needs. As your own needs sink lower and lower on your ever growing list of things to do, so will your self-esteem.

You begin to believe that everyone else’s needs are more important than your own which only serves to plummet your self-esteem even lower.

And as your self-esteem worsens, so does your relationships with those around you. Excessive people pleasing often means you’ve completely lost touch with who you are as a person, the very thing which can actually strengthen relationships with others. The loss of self means loss of connection with anyone else either.

Losing authenticity can further lower your self-esteem and worsen depression and anxiety. A constant sense of guilt and a complete lack of fulfillment clouds your thinking and can feed addiction, perfectionism, and an already negative mindset.

Looking for advice on how to achieve a more positive mindset? Check out this post.

Why Does People Pleasing Start?

In order to understand strategies to ditch people pleasing, you need to understand why it develops in the first place.

Your Early Years

As with almost anything in life, your early years may have had something to do with your current people pleasing tendencies. If your parents were overly critical, or emotionally/physically unavailable, your young self may have adapted a people pleasing coping mechanism.

You perhaps learned early on that if you were “helpful” and “agreeable” then people loved and accepted you. And because we are incapable of caring for ourselves when we are young, we depend upon others to care for us.

Acceptance, by any means possible, means survival.

Although you may have developed people pleasing coping mechanisms as a young child, you are now an adult. You have control over your own life now and can choose to make positive changes, especially if your current mindset isn’t working for you.

Fear of Rejection

This next one relates closely to the previous one in that a deeply rooted fear of rejection drives your people pleasing activities. You have learned that people like other people who agree with them, even if only superficially.

Rather than risk rocking the boat and possible rejection, you simply say “yes” to everything.

And on the flip side, you are seeking approval and validation from others rather than searching inside yourself. This leads to a constant cycle of people pleasing as you seek outside affirmation about your worth which is lacking from within. It ultimately means you end up believing that you need to prove your worthiness to others or face rejection.

Control

At its core, people pleasing can also be about control.

Disagreeing with others feels intensely uncomfortable and you do anything possible to avoid it. Anything includes agreeing even when doing so means you become inauthentic with yourself, your beliefs, and your own needs.

Agreeing means taking control by avoiding conflict. Taking control feels safe and predictable because this is likely a long-standing pattern for you.

It’s a pattern in which you subconsciously assume responsibility for the emotions of others around you and act accordingly.

But you can break free. You can stop living your life for others and instead, starting living for yourself!

Struggling with perfectionism? This post is for you.

How You Can Ditch People Pleasing

Now that you have some insight into what people pleasing entails, why it’s bad, and where it comes from, it’s time to cover how you can leave it behind forever!

1. Listen to Yourself

This first one seems intuitive and almost too simple but if you’ve been living your life for others, it will take time and practice. Start small and pay attention to that still, small voice inside.

Pay attention to your feelings instead of balling them up and shoving them deep down inside. How are you feeling right now? Are you authentically living a life you love? Or are you living the life everyone else wants for you?

How does it truly feel to say “yes” to something? Does doing what you agreed to do make you feel energized and alive? Does it align with your core purpose? Or does it leave you feeling tired and drained?

Practice identifying your smallest, most basic needs. Once identified, take action to meet them and relish in the satisfaction of finally having your needs met.

2. Say No to People Pleasing

No can be a tough word. You’re so used to pleasing everyone around you that it may sound harsh and uncaring. But as a fellow people pleaser, I can say with certainty that saying “no” to others means saying “yes” to yourself.

Start by identifying something on your list which you truly can’t stand. Something which is a huge imposition to yourself or which causes extensive anxiety in a completely useless and unproductive way.

Think about how great it would feel not to have that thing looming over your head anymore. How amazing would it be to get back just a little of your time and freedom?

Pretty incredible, right?

Now say “no” to that thing. Dump the responsibility which was never yours in the first place. Put it back squarely in the hands of the one who should have done it in the first place.

3. Get Help

Working on yourself is hard! Sometimes we all need a little encouragement that we’re going down the right path. We all need affirmation that the tough path is indeed the one we need to be taking.

Whether it’s a therapist, a coach, or a trusted friend, find someone to help you through. Find the person who can give you outside perspective on your internal perception.

Breaking free from people pleasing is tough and you need someone fighting right along with you to ensure your success. Life is meant to be lived in harmony with others in a healthy, positive way. By seeking out help now, you’re taking the first steps towards a lifetime of fulfilling and meaningful relationships!

4. Commit to Improving Your Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem keeps you stuck in people pleasing mode. It keeps you from putting yourself and your needs first. And it encourages you to keep seeking validation from outside yourself.

But in order to be truly happy, you must realize that you, and only you, hold the key to your own happiness. Nothing outside yourself will ever bring the type of truly satisfying and fulfilling happiness that you deserve.

And you deserve happiness as much as anyone else! Your needs, wants, and desires are important. It’s only when you realize this that you can improve your self-esteem and ultimately break free from people pleasing forever!

Struggling with self-love? Click here for powerful strategies to improve your self-love!

5. Set Boundaries

People pleasing is all about blurring the lines. It’s about abandoning your own needs in the name of helping others. And it’s about taking on responsibility which is not yours.

People pleasing is an insidious loss of personal boundaries. It starts ever so gradually but quickly snowballs into completely unmet and unvoiced expectations, passive aggression, and loss of yourself.

Boundaries are important because they tell you exactly where your responsibilities lie. They give you the freedom to stop worrying about things which aren’t yours to worry about. And they give you the opportunity to be amazing in the realm which is your responsibility.

Boundaries actually give you the space to be who you are without worrying about what anyone else thinks. They bring authenticity and with authenticity comes the type of true and meaningful relationships you so deeply desire.

Extra Resources to Leave People Pleasing in the Past!

Even when you understand the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation, truly leaving it in the past can be difficult. Here are a few of my favorite resources in my own journey to ditch people pleasing!

This Book

If you’re looking for a quick, motivational read, look no further than Girl, Stop Apologizing! It’s just the kick-in-the-pants you need to break free from negative thought patterns and to instead head off into your own direction. Entertaining, real, and absolutely one of the most inspirational books I’ve read thus far.

That Book

Although not what I would describe as motivational, this next one is eye-opening. After doing work in counseling, I realized that codependency was intricately tied into my people pleasing tendencies and got serious about learning more. This book has become an invaluable resource in discovering codependency and more importantly, what to do about it.

And Don’t Forget This Book!

If boundaries are particularly challenging, this next one is for you! I also discovered this one during counseling and have read it multiple times to fully absorb the value found in its pages.

And there you have it! I truly hope you have found this post helpful and have committed to leaving people pleasing behind forever! Drop a comment below on what you took away from this post and your biggest struggles in leaving the people pleasing in the past. Have you found tips or tricks which we may also find helpful?

Love Yourself: 10 Tips to Fearless Self-Love

Love Yourself: 10 Tips to Fearless Self-Love

Love yourself. We’ve all heard this timeless yet valuable advice. But how many can say they actually do? How many of us truly love ourselves unconditionally?

I will be the first to admit this has often been a struggle for me.

Learning to love yourself takes time and practice. It requires commitment to shifting how you think about yourself and the world around you. But if you stick with it, figuring out how to love yourself is one of the very best ways to improve your confidence, your self-esteem, and the relationships with those around you.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive right in to how you can love yourself and stop relying on the approval of others!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1. Love Yourself by Caring for Your Body

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

One of the most concrete ways you can love yourself is by taking care of your body. Getting enough sleep at night, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet can make a huge difference in how you feel on a daily basis.

And when you’re feeling great physically, loving yourself comes much more easily.

There have been times in my life when I have been chronically sleep deprived and living off of sugar. Those were times in which I was physically and emotionally drained. Loving myself wasn’t even a blip on my radar at the time because I was in survival mode.

But surviving is NOT thriving. It’s not where I want to be for any length of time.

And I don’t think it’s where you want to be either.

Start taking care of your body today with one small decision. Think about which area is most lacking right now, make a plan, and take action!

You may also enjoy reading ‘Get Better Sleep Tonight!’

2. Journaling

To love yourself, you must first know yourself. And one of the best ways to get to know yourself is by journaling.

Although it can take some practice, journaling is an incredibly diverse exercise which helps you get to the very core of what makes you tick.

Sometimes daily life has a tendency to keep you stuck in your own head. This is especially true if you are someone who tends to the introverted side and who has an active “thought life.”

Getting all those thoughts out on paper not only calms your mind but also provides insight into who you are and what motivates you. It’s especially powerful when combined with personal affirmations such as “I can handle anything that comes at me.” Or “I am worthy of love and respect.”

Journaling is amazing because you can write whatever you want! Whatever’s on your mind or in your heart. It’s a completely judgment-free zone.

Take the first step today by making a decision to journal on a consistent basis. Figure out a time each day when journaling could be incorporated and start writing!

3. Banish the Negative Self-Talk

Have you ever stopped to think about your thinking? More specifically, have you thought about that little voice providing constant commentary to your daily life?

If not, start paying attention to that little voice. Is it typically cheering you on? Or is it telling you to fear everything and that failure is inevitable?

Self-talk is sneaky yet powerful. It quietly permeates every little thought and feeling.

Your self-talk matters. It can either build you up or tear you down.

Self-talk influences your confidence, self-esteem, and how you see yourself. And if you’ve never gotten serious about taking control of your self-talk, now is the time!

Awareness is the very first step in transforming your self-talk and finally loving yourself fearlessly!

You may also enjoy reading ‘5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt!’

4. Foster Self-Compassion

“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

Louise Hay

Love and compassion go together. But if you struggle with negative self-talk, you also likely struggle to be compassionate with yourself.

Self-compassion can be especially difficult if you have perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism often means the expectations you have for yourself are vague and unreasonably high. They are often so high that no one could ever attain them.

And the consequences for not attaining these expectations? Self-directed shame, blame, and guilt.

It’s tough to love yourself when shame and guilt are constant companions.

Ditch the negativity! Give yourself a break the next time things don’t work out as you had wanted. One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself this one simple question the next time your inner critic takes control. “Would I say this comment out loud to someone I love?”

If not, then don’t say it to yourself either. Your inner self deserves both love and compassion.

You may also enjoy reading ‘How to Overcome Perfectionism!’

5. Love Yourself by Finding the Joy

Amidst all the negative self-talk, harsh criticisms, and the challenges inherent to life, it can be difficult to stay positive. But it can also be difficult to love yourself if all you see is the negative.

I have definitely been caught up in the negatives at many points in my life. Overwhelm gradually took over and loving myself took a back burner. Those were times in which I mistakenly thought that if I just focused on work and what I needed to get done, things would eventually improve.

But the harder I worked, the worse I felt.

And then one day it dawned on me that I had completely eliminated joy from my life. I was missing out on all the wonderful things life has to offer by closing myself off to joy.

If you are feeling a constant state of negativity, try adding joy back into your life. Look for opportunities to smile. Laugh. Try something new.

You just might be surprised at how easy it is to love yourself when doing something which brings you joy!

6. Be Grateful

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah Winfrey

One of the keys to fearless self-love is gratitude for all that you have and all that you are. You are you for a reason and have so many unique qualities to share with the world around you.

But only by sitting down and consciously listing out what you are grateful for can you truly begin to appreciate the blessings in your life.

Putting gratitude front and center in your life not only improves your self-love but also your overall outlook. It suddenly becomes much easier to see the good in every situation. Gratitude is a powerful force which can replace even the most persistent negative thoughts.

Commit to starting a gratitude practice today. It can be as easy as writing down 3 things you are grateful for in your journal each morning. A simple, yet powerful way to kick start your day and supercharge your self-love!

7. Focus on Your Strengths

It wasn’t until I committed to figuring out who I was as a person that I was finally able to love and appreciate who I am. And part of figuring out who you are involves determining your strengths and weaknesses.

We all have them. Areas where we both excel and struggle.

And I used to operate under the assumption that my time should be spent developing my weaknesses. That I could indeed excel at everything instead of only in specific areas.

But then I discovered this book and my outlook did a 180. The premise of the book is that spending time developing your weaknesses is actually a waste. You are instead much better off fostering existing strengths as you will be able to make exceedingly more progress.

I also discovered that for me personally, spending time in areas where I do not excel drains my energy. This makes me overall less effective than I would be by staying in my strengths.

Take the first step today toward discovering your own strengths by reading my story here. I highly encourage you to love yourself on a deeper level by starting your own strength finding journey!

8. Learn Boundaries

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brene Brown

Sometimes one of the best ways to love yourself is to say “no” to others. If you’re in a constant state of overwhelm verging on burnout, maybe it’s time to examine where your energy is spent.

It’s so easy to lose yourself under the guise of helping others. And don’t get me wrong … you should help others when possible. But helping others should never come at the expense of meeting your own needs.

You are responsible for you. Being you comes with its own set of responsibilities and priorities. No one else will worry about your self-care or whether you’re making progress toward personal goals.

Freedom comes from knowing your individual responsibilities and saying “no” to anything which isn’t your responsibility. There’s a sense of peace which descends upon you once you stop worrying about things you have no control over.

Setting boundaries takes practice but is well worth the effort! Check out this book and learn how you can start setting healthy boundaries today.

9. Follow Through

Do what you say you’re going to do. Align your inner beliefs with your outer actions. Be true to yourself.

Following through is infinitely easier once you’ve established (and committed to!) personal boundaries. Without solid boundaries, agreeing to anything anyone asks of you is tempting, especially if you are a people pleaser.

Living a life free of boundaries means trying to take responsibility which isn’t yours in the first place. It quickly leads to overwhelm, burnout, and an inability to actually do everything you’ve agreed to do. Following through becomes impossible because there’s simply too much on your plate.

Learning to love yourself fearlessly comes from a place of authenticity. It comes from honesty to yourself and to those around you.

And although it takes practice, consistent follow through will increase the trust you have in yourself which will in turn improve your self-love.

10. Acceptance of What Is

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it … this will miraculously transform your whole life.”

Eckhart Tolle

Acceptance is powerful. We waste so much of our time playing the “I’ll be happy when …” game. “I’ll be happy when I lose this weight.” Or “I’ll be happy when I’m done with school.”

And our culture of comparison only feeds into our unhappiness and inability to truly love ourselves. As does the constant subliminal advertising by companies promising to bring fulfillment and meaning to our lives through a new car or designer clothing.

True acceptance means finding joy and figuring out how to love yourself even when things aren’t ideal. It means learning to accept reality regardless of the circumstances and without blowing your budget on material objects you don’t need.

Wishing things were different instead of accepting reality is futile and a waste of energy. Refusing to accept what is causes untold pain and grief.

But the good news is that you have the ability to decide to accept your reality. Stop fighting against that which you can’t change. Spend your time instead looking for anything you do have control over and be a positive force.

Accept and love yourself.

You may also enjoy reading ‘Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work!’

It’s Your Turn

Figuring out how to love yourself, flaws and all, is a journey. It’s small daily decisions to reject self-criticism and to have more self-compassion. Getting enough sleep, journaling, and being grateful for the blessings in your life also pave the way to greater self-love.

Love yourself on a deeper level and you will find that your love for others also grows. As does your overall joy and happiness in your daily life.

I truly hope you have found this post helpful and have come away with new resolve to love yourself more! As always, I’d love to hear your biggest take-aways below!

How to Build Your Self-Confidence and Improve Your Life

How to Build Your Self-Confidence and Improve Your Life

“Confidence is not “they will like me.” Confidence is “I’ll be fine if they don’t.”

Christina Grimmie

We all know that one person who oozes confidence regardless of the situation. The person who walks into a room and is immediately noticed by everyone. And the person who is so deeply rooted in who they are that they couldn’t care less whether anyone else likes them or not.

We’ve all encountered situations where we wish we were more self-confident. If you’re ready to get serious about how to build your self-confidence, this article is for you! Stick with me as we break down how you can start feeling more confident today!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

What is self-confidence?

Self-confidence is more about perception than any actual skill or talent. It’s all in how you think about yourself and actually has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks of you.

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Henry Ford

At the core of self-confidence is a belief in yourself and your abilities. It’s knowing your unique combination of strengths and challenges. And perhaps most importantly, it’s loving and accepting yourself for the person you are.

Why is it important?

Learning how to build your self-confidence is crucial for attaining success in life. Without it, a host of negative feelings can take over your thinking and your life.

Negativity such as a constant state of feeling inferior. Fearing any attempt to try something new or to possibly fail at anything. Constantly second guessing each and every little decision in your life. And continuously worrying about what other people think.

Living a fearless, awesome life with that type of negative thinking overshadowing everything is impossible.

It’s not the type of life I want. And since you’ve read this far down, I’m guessing it’s not the life for you either!

Taking the time to build your self-confidence results in a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose. You will be more willing to put yourself out there and to set higher goals.

Build Your Self-Confidence by Knowing Your Strengths

Knowing your strengths (and weaknesses) is one of the keys to building your self-confidence. We are all equipped with a slightly different skill set and finding the intersection between passion and talent is part of what makes life so incredible.

You are you for a reason. Each one of us is unique and special in our own way.

Life is way too complicated to be good at everything and there’s a sense of peace which comes with knowing where you excel.

But figuring out where your talents lie can be trickier than you think. Have you ever heard that saying about being unable to see the forest for the trees? Uncovering one’s strengths can be eerily similar.

One reason for this is that we have all these stories in our minds about who we are, what we do and don’t like and about what we should or shouldn’t be doing. All these stories we tell ourselves tend to cloud our thinking and make it nearly impossible to decipher whether something is a strength or whether we simply enjoy doing it.

And although we typically enjoy activities we excel in, this is not always the case. Discovering talent based upon enjoyment is therefore not very reliable.

All this to say that independently deciphering our own strengths is challenging at best.

But there are a couple of ways guaranteed to bring you closer to uncovering this valuable information.

Phone a Friend

The first is by asking someone you know and trust. Ideally someone who has your best interests at heart because both asking for and receiving feedback can be difficult.

It requires vulnerability, honesty and a willingness to embrace the response.

And the response may take you by surprise. Remember those stories we tell ourselves? It’s entirely possible to get so wrapped up into the story you’re telling yourself that receiving feedback to the contrary may be difficult.

Although it may not be the feedback you want, it may be just what you need to move forward. Those stories may be feeding into a distorted perception of yourself which is holding you back from your full potential and sense of self-confidence.

Sometimes self-confidence is lacking simply because we are not sure where our strengths and weaknesses lie. We are, in a sense, wandering around the wilderness without a compass. Gaining an outside perspective is an invaluable part of figuring out where to move forward with confidence and where to seek additional guidance.

Consulting a trusted friend or family member not only serves the purpose of gaining perspective but it also opens a line of communication and creates accountability. It gives you an opportunity to connect with someone on a deeper level which is yet another way you can build your self-confidence.

Combine this feedback with my next suggestion for determining your strengths and you will truly be unstoppable!

Take an Assessment

What if there were a way you could invest less than an hour of your time and in exchange be given a list of your top 5 strengths?

And what if your results were based upon scientific research?

Wouldn’t it feel incredible to approach life with a greater sense of confidence all because you know your strengths?

I can tell you from personal experience that it feels amazing to know my strengths and to be able to take action because of that knowledge! If you truly want to build your self-confidence, taking the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment is a must.

Prior to discovering this resource, I had only a vague sense of my strengths. I was completely unable to put them into words and felt as if I was wondering through life aimlessly.

And aimless is almost the direct opposite of confidence.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 changed everything for me. I stopped wasting time worrying about all the areas where I didn’t excel because I knew there were more important areas to focus on. It gave me a sense of freedom and confidence.

Armed with this valuable insight, I slowly began tackling all those stories I had been telling myself for years. I began putting a positive spin on my own self-perception and stopped the negative self-talk.

One of the main tenets of the StrengthsFinder 2.0 is knowledge allows you to focus your energy where you can move the needle forward. It helps you decipher where your impact would be most powerful instead of leaving you to waste time in pointless directions. It absolutely fulfilled those goals for me and as a result, my self-confidence skyrocketed!

Curious to learn more about the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment? Check out my personal story here.

Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Henry Ford

Failure gets a bad rap. So many people regard it as the worst case scenario and something to avoid at all costs. It even prevents us from trying new things out of fear that we will fail.

But when was the last time you learned a memorable lesson from success? When was the last time you did something perfectly on your very first attempt and felt incredibly accomplished for doing so?

I’m willing to bet never.

Failure teaches us on a much deeper, more memorable level than success ever will. Sure, it’s nice to succeed once in a while. But success often comes only after multiple failures. It requires perseverance and courage.

In most areas of life, failure is a prerequisite for success.

And success is all the sweeter when you have overcome obstacle after obstacle in its pursuit.

Each time you look failure in the eye, stand up, and try again, your self-confidence dramatically improves. No, you may not have had the outcome you had hoped for but you learned something in the process. You came away with some type of information which will only make your next attempt that much better.

I was recently reminded of this a month ago when I encountered a heartbreaking loss which threatened to halt progress in one of my most beloved hobbies. Although difficult, the situation provided me perspective and a valuable lesson on perseverance despite failure. And thanks to the support and generosity of those around me, I’m beyond excited to be starting all over again! Get the full story here.

Build Your Self-Confidence Through Positive Thinking

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”

Mary Englebreit

Nothing eats away more quickly at self-confidence than negative thinking. This includes chronic negativity, self-criticism, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.

Negative thinking is insidious. It slowly creeps its way into your subconscious, clouding your thinking and eating away at your self-esteem. Pretty soon, the world seems a dark and dreary place.

But you have the power to flip the switch! You can stop the negativity and instead, channel positive thinking.

You may also enjoy this post about how to stay motivated.

Develop Awareness

The very first step is awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts and how you are feeling when thinking those thoughts. Are you feeling empowered and inspired? Or are you in a constant state of irritation and overwhelm?

If the latter is true, then it’s time to dive deeper into the source of the negativity.

Maybe you have deeply rooted insecurities driving the negativity. Or maybe you experienced personal trauma you shoved deep down inside and never dealt with. It’s also possible that you picked up patterns of negative thinking during childhood.

Whatever the cause, it’s time to confront it.

A professional counselor is an invaluable resource when trying to get at the root of negative thinking. Just as it can be difficult to pinpoint your own strengths, so too can it be difficult to independently address negative thinking. An outside perspective is often exactly what you need to get back on the path to positivity.

Change the Scene

Once you become more familiar with the negative nature of your thoughts, start looking for triggers. Triggers are anything in your daily life which set off the cascade of negativity leaving you feeling annoyed and depressed.

One of my biggest triggers is social media. Spending too much time on Facebook and other platforms traps me into a comparison mindset. If I don’t take action to counteract it, a vague sense of discontent and dissatisfaction sets in. Typically it’s not about anything particular. But it is enough to darken my mood and leave me open to a full-on attack of negative thinking.

I’ve learned that I have to limit my social media use and be extremely mindful about the time I do spend with it.

Triggers may also be certain people in your life who are, for lack of a better description, “negative nellies.” These are people who always have a criticism about someone and nothing in their world ever goes right. It’s always raining, snowing, cold, or hailing. They are completely unable to see the positive in even the best circumstances.

If you have a tendency toward negative thinking, limit the time spent with the “negative nellies” in your life. Look instead for people who are positive and are able to find the good in even the worst situations. Those people who always have a nice word to say about someone and who also work hard to keep a positive spin.

Surrounding yourself with positive influences is one of the best ways to immediately build your self-confidence. It’s so much easier to see the good when those around you are also looking for the positive.

Build Your Self-Confidence Through Acceptance

I was listening to an incredibly powerful podcast last week about acceptance and how so much suffering stems from fighting reality. So much time and energy is wasted by wishing things were different.

The truth of the matter is that there is so much in life that we have no control over. Life simply isn’t fair much of the time and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Nothing except accept it. Accept that which is. We can choose our attitude and our response to unfair situations.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, we can choose to pick ourselves back up, find a new direction, and move on. We can build our self-confidence by taking back our power over bad situations and negative thinking.

It’s Your Turn

Learning how to build your self-confidence takes time. Figuring out your strengths, learning how to embrace failure, and transforming your thinking from the negative to the positive won’t happen overnight.

But taking it one step, one day at a time is key to lasting and powerful change.

You owe it to yourself to start today.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and where you struggle to build your self-confidence. Are there particular situations where you feel more confident than others? What has made the most difference in your journey toward becoming a more confident person?

One Mom’s Thoughts on The Great School Debate

One Mom’s Thoughts on The Great School Debate

As I write this, we are just around the corner from the start of a new school year. Store shelves are stocked with back to school essentials and kids everywhere are gearing up to go back. In many ways, this year is almost identical to those of the past.

Despite the similarities, this school year is fraught with controversy unlike any we’ve ever experienced.

I would argue that never in the history of public schools have so many parents questioned whether to send their kids back to school. It’s a tough question without a clear solution.

Both sides have valid arguments.

Our Story

My husband and I have wrestled with this question endlessly over the past few months. We both work in nursing homes and feel as if we live, breathe, and sleep coronavirus. Between the constant threat of PPE shortages, potential exposures within the facility, and the social impacts of quarantine on residents, work life is incredibly bleak right now.

Our days are spent figuring out how to minimize risk and maximize quality of life for a population statistically hit hardest by the virus.

It’s not surprising that the constant fear and anxiety about worst case scenarios then follows us home at night.

Home where 3 young kids depend on us. And like countless parents out there, we are doing our best to make the choices we feel are the right ones for our family.

The scary reality is that there’s so much which is simply unknown about this virus. We have no idea what the long-term effects are or which treatments are most effective. There is no vaccine yet or even knowledge about whether immunity would last more than a few months. The medical community can give no reassurance on how to know whether you or your loved ones would succumb to the most severe form of the virus.

Statistically speaking, most people, kids included, seem to recover without incident. But relying on statistics when the consequences are potentially fatal is not reassuring, especially when it comes to your kids.

Especially when your youngest was born prematurely and then spent 3 weeks in the NICU. Or when he has had multiple hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses.

And although he has grown so much over the past 4 years, the terror of almost losing him at several points still haunts us.

Not a Teacher

Despite all the unknowns about the virus, there are valid reasons to send our kids back to school. The most compelling is that neither my husband nor I is an elementary teacher. When schools suddenly closed last spring, I felt completely lost and overwhelmed by resuming their curriculum myself at home.

I felt completely unprepared to teach my third grader 50 different ways to complete one math problem. Or simplify science to the point where it was both educational and interesting for a kindergartener.

Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching my kids a wide variety of useful life skills and knowledge.

But my kids see me as mom. They see me as the person who meets all their basic needs. I’m the one who buys their favorite snacks, does their laundry, and tucks them in at night.

And although our house has boundaries, I’m also the one they behave the worst around. Between the tantrums and the talking back and the fighting, my days are often exhausting.

But as my husband reminds me, it’s a good thing that they feel comfortable enough at home to let it all out. They are typically very well behaved in most other settings which means they have to get it out somewhere. I’d rather have them fall apart at home than anywhere else.

Being mom and teacher adds a level of stress to the relationship which I simply don’t want. And much of this has to do with my own perfectionist tendencies because I know the added frustration would be on me. Although I am working on these tendencies, doing so with the burden of being solely responsible for the education of my kids is not a positive situation.

My sanity and the preservation of my relationship with my kids demands they learn from their highly talented teachers.

Check out this hilarious video for another mom’s take on homeschooling!

Social Skills

Another incredibly compelling reason to send the kids back to school is their socialization. They need interaction with other kids their age for their own development.

My parents kept me home until I was in first grade and I’ve always felt that this impacted me negatively. Interacting with other kids who weren’t family members was terrifying by that point! I can completely understand the financial aspects of keeping me out of day care and don’t blame them however do feel it stunted my social growth.

To this day, I feel that my natural introvert tendencies were greatly enhanced by the delayed introduction to socialization.

I would hate for my kids to be in a similar position.

Although my kids have been in day care basically since birth, our center closed down back in March when the schools closed. The center did open back up about a month later but we opted to keep them out due to our anxiety over the virus.

Because let’s be honest. If there’s one place where you’re sure to pick up a communicable illness, it’s day care. I don’t care how clean the center, kids are kids and put their mouths and hands on everything.

Our kids have therefore been their own playmates for these past few months and are eager to expand their social circles. I am also eager to get them interacting with others again.

Back to School or Bust

My husband and I both work full-time. I’ve never envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom or had any desire to be one. I give all the credit in the world to the moms who are able to make it work but I would struggle without the challenges work provides.

Work challenges are admittedly a bit much at times but I love making a difference in the lives of my patients! And having only graduated as a nurse practitioner a year ago, I’m still eager to learn and grow when I walk into work each morning. I’ve worked tirelessly to get where I am and wouldn’t want to lose that even in the midst of a global pandemic.

It’s funny to think back to when I chose this career path over 10 years ago. Beyond a strong desire to help others, one of the reasons I chose healthcare was for job stability. My young and very naive mind felt that even if the world came to an end, people would still need nurses.

Enter coronavirus.

It’s been more than a little unnerving to watch nurses and other essential healthcare workers laid off. The world has changed dramatically overnight and there’s not much any of us can do about it but hang on tight and see what happens next.

All this to say that I’m so thankful for my job and the opportunity to do what I do. Voluntarily walking away at this point is not an option.

Beyond the fulfillment work provides are the student loans I’ve accrued over the past 10 years.

Our budget relies upon two incomes. And I’m not confident I can excel at both working full-time and homeschooling my children.

The Working Mom Dilemma

Unfortunately the pandemic has thrown so many other working moms in the same dilemma. How do you continue providing for your family without sending your kids back to school?

Yet another example of the constant pull between work and home.

Working moms are unfortunately all too familiar with the juggling act required to keep all the balls in the air. But in this situation, the stakes are much higher.

Families everywhere are being asked to choose between health, education, and economic wellbeing. And unfortunately, the current situation makes it extremely difficult to have all three simultaneously.

It’s especially problematic for those of us who are unable to work remotely. And even for those who can work from home, I can only imagine how productive working from home is when you have young kids. Now throw the added stress of schoolwork on top of everything else and it’s one big recipe for disaster.

But if there’s anything I’ve learned from being a working mom, it’s that I can do hard things. I can make tough choices and provide for my family while being an engaged and supportive mom.

It can even be argued that I’m a better mom because I work. And somehow, in some weird way, everything will work out. Today’s tough decisions will turn into tomorrow’s blessings. We will pull through this.

Check out this post for the secret to making working mom life work.

Make a Decision

There is not a one-size-fits-all decision in this incredibly complex situation. You have to seek out the information that you feel will best assist in your decision-making and move forward.

And just because you make one decision now, it doesn’t mean you can’t later change your mind. Maybe your situation changes in a few months and you have to pivot. It’s not a big deal! Life is always changing which means we have to change with it. We don’t have the luxury of staying where we’re at for too long.

Change is difficult, especially when there are so many unknowns. But all you can do is make the best possible decision based on the information immediately available to you.

Take the time to find the most useful information and filter out the rest. Although admittedly apprehensive about sending my kids back to school, my husband suggested we meet with the school to learn more about their precautions.

And do you know what? I felt so much better about our decision after doing so. Our school is taking the health department guidelines seriously and has implemented so many changes to make everyone as safe as possible.

I’m feeling much more encouraged about their new learning environment and the many benefits that come with these changes. Reaching out for help was all I needed to confirm our decision.

Check out this post for tips on finding peace despite chaos.

We Will Get Through This … Together

Do you want to know what will make getting through 2020 nearly impossible? Blame. Division. Wishing things were different. Spending too much time on social media. As moms, we need to gather together and support each other in our very personal decisions about going back to school.

This has been a tough year for all of us. But maybe one thing we can take away from it is how much we need each other. Maybe this is an opportunity to set a new course, learn, and grow as moms and as women.

After all, there’s nothing like a global pandemic to force us into re-evaluating our priorities. The old normal is gone, never to return. But we have an amazing opportunity to create something new.

This is our time to seize the day! We can create a better world for our kids.

And it starts with shutting off the news, stopping the social media scroll, and truly connecting with our loved ones. Have confidence in yourself and your decisions. The back to school dilemma is a tough one but deep inside, you know what’s best for your family.

It also starts with taking care of ourselves, mind, body, and spirit. Do what makes you truly happy and stop caring what anyone else thinks. Work toward acceptance of any situation. Realize that so much suffering in life is self-perpetuated by failing to accept what we can’t change.

We have no way of knowing what the future holds. But we can’t possibly have any inner peace if we are constantly assuming the worst. Happiness comes from acceptance of that which we can’t change.

Choose gratitude and look for something to be grateful for in even the worst circumstances because there’s ALWAYS a silver lining. Let’s all embrace the positive, band together, and start this school year off on the right foot!

And if you’re the one heading off to school this fall, check out this post for authentic advice on going back to school as a mom.

It’s Your Turn

Are you struggling with whether to send your kids back to school this year? Or have you made a decision but question whether it’s the right one? Maybe you made the decision months ago and are feeling incredibly confident about your decision.

Drop a comment below and tell us about it! I’d love to hear your perspective on how the pandemic is impacting your life. We’re all in this together and maybe your story can help someone else on their journey. As always, thank you so much for reading and I hope you have come away motivated to live your best life!

Authentic Advice for Moms Going Back to School

Authentic Advice for Moms Going Back to School

Are you thinking about going back to school as a mom? You’re not alone! There are so many moms out there who have thought about going back for one reason or another. Maybe you love working but have lost that spark. The passion you once had slowly fizzled away. At this point, simply making it through the day now requires all your precious energy. Your job is sucking the life right out of you and you desperately need a new direction.

Or maybe your career was put on the back burner while having your kids but now you’re ready to get back into the game. You feel that you have so much energy, insight, and enthusiasm to offer! Despite all your talent, getting back into the workforce feels incredibly daunting. Your past educational experiences don’t necessarily align with your current career goals and you need additional coursework.

Maybe you still love what you do but long to level up. You know that you’re capable of so much more but the path to your next step leads directly through a new degree.

The decision to go back to school as a mom is not one to be taken lightly. You’ve already got a ton on your plate and taking on even more feels incredibly overwhelming. You have no idea where to start.

I’ve been there. As a mom who has juggled school and work for the majority of my 9 years as a mom, I completely get it.

And I’m not going to lie about the tough choices you have to make when going back to school. It’s never easy.

But you have goals and dreams and owe it to yourself (and your kids!) to go after them. It’s your time!

My Story of Going Back to School as a Mom

My story of going back to school as a mom starts with a fine arts degree and limited job prospects.

After graduation, I found myself married and living in a tiny town where supporting one solely as a freelance pianist and teacher was impossible. And as someone who had always been motivated to have a fulfilling career outside the home, a new direction was in order.

I began to explore different options, finally landing on nursing for its versatility and job availability. Unfortunately, this meant returning to school for a 2 year nursing degree.

Nine months into the 2 year program, I found myself pregnant with my very first child.

Despite a multitude of challenges, I successfully graduated with an associate degree in nursing 6 months after her birth. Since that graduation, I have divorced, remarried, had 2 additional children, and finished a baccalaureate nursing program.

Although I enjoyed my time working as a registered nurse, I felt driven to do more.

Four months after the birth of my third child, I began a graduate nursing program. Three years later, I completed the program and emerged with a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in my hand.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 9 years, it’s that you CAN go back to school as a mom. It just takes a little bit of faith, lots of hard work, and a ton of patience.

Getting Clear on Your Why

I may have mentioned this earlier, but I am not promising that going back to school as a mom will be easy. In fact, it will probably be one of the toughest things you ever do.

While I was going through the graduate program, there were so many people who told me I would look back on the experience and wonder how I did it. They weren’t wrong.

I have been out of the program a year now and still wonder how I made it through. The only answer I can come up with is that even before the program began, I got very clear on my “why.”

I desperately wanted to make it through the program and emerge triumphant on the other side. Failure was not an option.

I knew this degree would open amazing doors for both myself and for my family so I was going after it with everything I had.

Never losing focus of my “why” helped me through all the papers and the tests and the discussion posts. It carried me through the moments when I thought failure was inevitable.

Take some time to get clear on your own “why.” Contemplate what’s driving your decision to take the road less traveled and write it down. Post it where you can see it every single day and be ready to pull it out whenever your faith begins to fade.

Resolve to never give up regardless of what stands in your way and you too will emerge triumphant on the other side.

You may also enjoy reading this post about staying motivated when things get tough.

Manage Your Expectations

Now that you’ve gotten crystal clear on your “why,” let’s talk about expectations. We all have expectations for ourselves and as moms, sometimes those expectations are crazy high.

I’m talking completely unrealistic, never-in-a-million years unattainably high.

And when the expectations we place upon ourselves don’t pan out into reality, we feel guilty. The mismatch between expectation and reality can then trigger significant anxiety and depression.

Can I let you in on a little secret?

In many cases, we perpetuate our own guilt. Our standards are way too high for anyone to possibly live up to. The very first step is admitting how unrealistic our expectations truly are.

Adding school to your ever-growing list of tasks and obligations will feel overwhelming if you let it. But if you lower your standards and (dare I say it!) relax, everything will be ok. Your kids will be just fine regardless of whether they have homemade mac & cheese or Kraft dinner. Extra tablet time is not lethal nor is letting your kids structure their own play.

The world will not screech to a halt if your sink is full of dirty dishes or if toys are perpetually scattered around your house.

Everything will be ok. Your basic household tasks will get accomplished. The kids will be happy and well-adjusted because you’re a great mom! And you will not only finish your homework but you will graduate to a world of exciting new possibilities.

Expectations about Work

Managing your expectations also extends to your work schedule. Before diving into that degree, evaluate whether your current work schedule will allow you to complete the program successfully. Find out whether students in the program are realistically able to work full-time or whether cutting back is recommended.

There are a ton of different programs out there which can be completed while working 40 hours a week and raising a family. But there are also many which truly can’t.

Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle both.

Although I was able to manage working full-time hours while completing the baccalaureate nursing program, I cut back during the graduate program. Between in-person classes, clinicals, and the extensive academic demands of the program, working full-time was not a reality for me during the program.

I was incredibly lucky to have a flexible position which allowed me to cut back on hours during the more intense parts of the program. Consider whether you may need to find a more flexible position while completing your degree. Cutting back on your workload may mean the difference successfully completing that degree or dropping out.

Have you heard the secret to making working mom life work? Find out here!

Financial Implications of Going Back to School as a Mom

Now is also a great time to evaluate the financial implications of your decision to go back to school as a mom.

Will going back to school result in a pay increase? If so, how much? And if not, is the effort and cost of tuition worth going back? Many people (myself included) return to school to increase their income potential. Others do not place as much weight on this factor in their decision making process. Either viewpoint is completely fine but take the time to uncover your own truth ahead of time rather than look back with regret.

How will going back at this point affect any outstanding student loans? Will you need to take out additional loans to cover tuition costs? Will your income after graduation outweigh your outstanding loans? Does your employer offer any incentives such as tuition reimbursement or scholarships? Are you eligible for other scholarships which could help cover costs?

If you do need to cut back on work hours, how will your monthly budget be impacted? And is it possible to cut back your budget elsewhere so you can work a little less while in school?

Spend time up-front considering all the financial and time implications so you can make the most informed decision possible. Maybe you have too many other priorities right now and don’t feel like you can adequately shift them. That’s ok! We all go through different seasons in life and maybe all you need is a bit more time. Be honest with yourself and you will succeed!

Evaluate Your Current Schedule

Consideration of your why and your expectations in going back to school as a mom are crucial because overwhelm and mom guilt are real. You need to take the time to clarify your own feelings on these topics otherwise it will be very difficult to follow through.

Evaluation of your current schedule is an equally important task because something has to give. I’m guessing that your days are full to the brim with all types of tasks, duties, and activities essential to the wellbeing of both yourself and your kids.

And somewhere in the midst of the chaos, you need to find time to complete the work required for a degree.

Different Learning Formats When Going Back to School as a Mom

In some cases, this may mean allotting time to attend class in-person or it may involve online classes. Depending upon the type of degree you are seeking, it may mean a combination of both.

I have extensive experience with both learning formats and as a general rule, prefer online formats. There are instances when I find classroom more valuable but they typically involve some type of hands-on learning or lab environment which is difficult to replicate online.

All programs have different requirements. Some require clinical time. Others have a heavy emphasis on group projects. It all depends upon the individual program.

Do your research on all the different options out there. Find the program which aligns most closely with your needs and understands the special demands placed upon those going back to school as a mom.

Regardless of the learning format, give yourself time to adjust. Being in a classroom setting after taking many years off as a student can be very intimidating. You may need to completely re-learn how to learn because techniques which worked when you were younger are no longer effective.

Give yourself grace while you figure out how to go back to school as a mom!

Class Schedules

If possible, I wholeheartedly recommend taking one class at a time to start with. Some type of general education course is perfect to ease your way back to school as a mom because those courses are designed with broad learning principles in mind. It’s a great way to practice the skills you will need for success in school.

It can be tempting to load up on coursework to get done faster but this can backfire quickly. Taking on too much too quickly can lead to burnout especially when you have kids.

Although the amount of time you will require to complete homework and prepare for class will vary greatly, you can typically expect to spend about 3 hours out of class for each credit the class is worth. For example, if the class is worth 3 credits, expect to spend about 9 hours a week on activities outside the classroom.

I’m going to let you in on another little secret I’ve learned the hard way. Carefully consider the contribution of the homework assignment or course to your overall goals. Then allot the appropriate amount of time to it.

As a type A perfectionist, I obsessed over every single assignment in ALL my classes. I put so much needless pressure on myself to excel in everything that the price I paid was my own peace of mind.

Anxiety became my constant companion as it slowly sucked the joy out of everything.

Don’t be like me. If the assignment doesn’t really matter all that much in the bigger scheme of things, do what you need to do to finish it and move on with life.

Always choose progress over perfection and you will find a greater sense of inner peace.

You may enjoy reading this post about choosing peace over chaos.

It’s Your Turn

I hope this post has inspired you to consider going back to school as a mom! It’s never easy but taking those first few steps toward a more fulfilling work life is invigorating!

And when work is fulfilling, other areas of your life are so much brighter. Going back to school as a mom means tough choices but it also means being a role model for your kids. It means showing them the importance of being passionate about what you do. Your decision to chase your dreams inspires your kids to never give up on what they love no matter what.

I’d love to hear from you below on what’s holding you back from starting your own back to school journey!

7 Life Lessons from Horses

7 Life Lessons from Horses

Earlier this week, I received the call every horse owner dreads. The call which starts with “there’s been a terrible accident” and ends with uncontrollable sobbing.

Grief and pain immediately take over, leaving you unable to do anything but continuously replay the horrific details over and over again in your mind. In that one instant, all your hopes and dreams suddenly vanish and you are paralyzed with sadness.

Moving on after such an intensely sudden and painful loss feels utterly impossible.

It’s the type of call which causes you to question why you ever got involved with horses in the first place. This one incident threatens to derail a lifetime of passion, perseverance, and hard work.

Even despite the emotional agony, a tiny piece of me yearned for the answer. I desperately needed something to hold onto. Something to get me through the quiet desperation of an unfair situation.

That tiny piece of me needed a silver lining. I needed his legacy to be defined not by his death but by his life and by the value horses have brought into my life.

I’ve heard it said time and time again that horses have the ability to reveal things about ourselves which would otherwise remain hidden. They are a mirror into our inner selves and I sincerely believe this. Every partnership has something different to teach us if we are willing to listen.

In this time of grief, I am choosing to reflect back upon life lessons from horses rather than dwell upon the sadness of his loss. And if you are going through a similar situation, I hope that you too can take comfort in reflecting back upon all the good times. The times which were so incredible that you’d never dream of trading them even if you knew how it all would end.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

My History with Horses

Fortunately (or unfortunately for my husband!) horses have been a lifelong obsession. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by their beauty, strength, and majesty.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around our family’s horses. Although my dad and his brothers operated a dairy farm, we always had a diverse range of horses around. My dad and uncle grew up farming with horses and even after machinery entered the picture, the horses remained.

As did my passion for these beautiful animals. And my own life lessons from horses.

I read everything about horses that I could get my hands on. Subscribed to multiple magazines and watched movies and shows galore. Throughout middle and high school, I rode in 4-H and other open shows. And as a natural introvert growing up in a very small town, horses also served an emotional support role for me.

After high school graduation, my life went a completely different direction. Horses were no longer a central focus and although the passion was still there, it lay dormant for a period of time.

A New Direction in Life Lessons from Horses

About 5 years ago, I began to feel the need to include horses in my life once again. After some searching, I finally found an instructor willing to give me a few lessons in a completely different discipline than I had grown up doing. And I immediately fell in love once again! Since that time, I’ve ridden a few different lesson horses under her careful (and very patient!) guidance, even doing a partial lease on one.

But there’s just something about owning your own horse. Ownership means an opportunity to grow and bond with the animal on an entirely different level.

Although I had seriously contemplated ownership, there were several significant roadblocks (aka my husband) in my path so I eventually resigned myself to leasing.

Until about a month ago when my sister completely took me by surprise with an offer. She had recently acquired a new horse and was wondering whether I was interested in her other horse, Ike.

My sister had purchased Ike about 10 years ago and had gone through thick and thin with that horse. She had taken him from an unruly youngster to a sound and sane partner over those years. Countless hours of patient and persistent work were put into him.

But despite all those hours, Ike simply was never cut out for the type of riding my sister loves. He liked to move out and became bored easily, qualities which do not win in the western pleasure circuit.

But they are qualities sought after in the dressage arena and he was therefore right up my alley.

After about a week of begging and pleading, my husband begrudgingly agreed to the purchase. And I was in heaven! After 5 years of lessons and leasing other people’s horses, I was finally going to have one of my own.

Curious about dressage? Find out more here.

Ike

Although I had ridden Ike a few times over the years, it had been over 5 years since I had last done so. To make matters even more complicated, my sister lives in Kansas, a bit of a trek from my home in Wisconsin. Agreeing to the purchase without even trying him under saddle beforehand was a gamble.

But a chance at horse ownership meant fulfillment of my dressage dreams and even more life lessons from horses. It was a gamble I was definitely willing to take.

After some deliberation, my sister decided to make the trip from Kansas up to Minnesota where her in-laws live on a Thursday and then head to my trainer’s farm the following day.

On that Friday morning, I eagerly waited for her to drive up with my dream horse in tow. Finally, I heard the rumble of gravel and frantic whinnying signaling his arrival.

He was clearly not impressed with the number of hours spent in the trailer over the past 2 days.

Despite being slightly disgruntled, he calmly walked out of the trailer and across the yard to the round pen. After trotting a couple of laps in the pen, he realized there was grass to mow down and he settled right in.

Two days later, I saddled up for the first time and had an absolutely fabulous first ride. I was ecstatic thinking about our future together and the partnership being built.

Little did I know that our first ride would also be our last and in a little over 24 hours, I would be making the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye forever.

Life Lessons from Horses

Although our journey together was incredibly short, Ike’s loss has been a deeply painful experience. I wouldn’t have changed a thing but desperately wish we could have had more time together.

In moments like these, there’s a natural tendency to question why bad things happen. And in truth, we may never get the satisfaction of knowing exactly why things happen the way they do.

But we can make a choice to actively search for the silver lining. We can choose to focus on the good which is present in even the worst of circumstances.

Ike’s loss has driven me to search for the good and the valuable life lessons from horses I’ve gained over the years. He gave me retrospection and the opportunity to appreciate the impact horses have had on my life.

And for that, I am truly grateful.

1. Be Grateful for Life Lessons from Horses

Life comes with no guarantees and tomorrow is not a promise. The key to happiness is appreciating the here and now as the gift that it is.

Too many people in this world spend all their energy wishing for things to be different instead of acknowledging what they do have. I am certainly no exception.

There have been more than a few moments over the past week when I have desperately wished things had gone differently. But no amount of wishing will bring him back again.

And this type of mindset gets you nowhere except bitter and unhappy.

Although there will never be another Ike, there are other incredible horses out there waiting for their human partner. And those lesson horses that I spent the past 5 years riding? They’re still there too.

I have so much more to learn and am incredibly grateful for everything they have taught me thus far.

Choose to be grateful and watch your world brighten.

2. All Good Things Take Time

If you want to truly excel at something, you have to put in the work. There are no quick fixes in life. No shortcuts.

Especially when you are building a partnership. This is true regardless of whether it’s with a horse or with another human.

Building trust takes time and effort.

Things will almost never go according to plan and nothing worth pursuing in life comes easy.

Add in a little patience and you have the recipe for success in the dressage arena and in life.

3. Do What You Love

Want some good news? Opportunity is everywhere in life but it comes with a catch.

Opportunity is everywhere in life.

Confused?

Let me explain.

The world is full of distractions disguised as opportunity. There are choices to be made at every turn. Choices about your work and home life. And choices about how you spend your free time.

In other words, you have to be intentional about your time otherwise you will undoubtedly fill it with mindless distraction.

But if you are truly passionate about something, set your intention and follow it with all your heart.

Life is too short to live in a state of constant distraction instead of with focused intention.

4. Forgive Easily

Any partnership, whether with a fellow human or with a horse, is susceptible to misunderstandings from time to time. We will be let down because no horse or human is perfect.

But if our ultimate goal is a strong partnership, there can be no room for holding grudges. We have to learn to let the small things go for the sake of the bigger picture.

In thinking back to my early days of riding, I had a tendency to hold grudges against my horse for not responding correctly. I would then hold onto this negativity and it would darken the entire riding experience.

Once I learned to let go of perfection and forgive the mistakes, riding became much more satisfying. It took on a lighter and more positive experience when I finally realized that I was far from perfect and should forgive my horse’s honest mistakes.

Forgiveness is central to happiness because bad things are inevitable in life. Learning how to process tough emotions and move on releases us from a cycle of pain and bitterness.

5. Find a Mentor

It’s incredibly difficult to make progress in a vacuum. Finding a mentor is essential if you desire more from your riding, your personal development, or really any other area of your life.

An outside perspective provides unbeatable value when you long for lasting and meaningful improvement.

Prior to starting dressage lessons 5 years ago (and coming from a strictly western background), posting the trot was a foreign concept. Mastering even this very basic technique felt nearly impossible.

Today I am able to not only post the trot but have made huge strides in achieving throughness and collection across all 3 gaits. I have become a much more confident and able rider under the guidance of an experienced trainer.

There’s absolutely no way I would be where I am today if I hadn’t found a mentor.

6. Motivation Comes from Doing

There’s a common misperception out there about motivation. Many people think motivation is the very first step toward achieving greatness.

I disagree.

No matter how passionate you are about something, I guarantee there will be days when you won’t feel like putting in the work. There will be days when you don’t feel like saddling up, hitting the gym, or writing.

Motivation in and of itself only takes you so far and is typically highest at the beginning of your journey. But then a shift happens and you must rely on something else to drive you toward those goals.

At that point, motivation only comes after you’ve put in the daily work.

Doing the work then becomes the thing which motivates you.

Dig deep into your why and saddle up even when you can list 10 different excuses as to why you should skip today’s ride. It’s the small, daily actions which eventually add up to spectacular results.

Check out this post for tips on staying motivated.

7. Life Lessons from Horses Involve Never Giving Up

I’m not going to lie. In those moments after Ike’s death, I seriously contemplated getting out of horses altogether. Losing him so quickly after waiting 5 years to find an equine partner seemed like a sign.

A sign that maybe horses weren’t my path. That maybe I should give up, go home, and just forget about the whole thing.

Except it’s nearly impossible to give up something you’ve thought about every single day of your life.

My earliest memories include horses and even to this day, they are a constant presence in my best and brightest daydreams. Even away from the barn, I am always mentally processing my latest lesson and figuring out how I can do something better next time.

Walking away at this point means giving in to the sadness and letting negativity engulf me. It means completely eliminating something which has brought so much joy and fulfillment to my life. It’s not the legacy that Ike deserves to leave.

And although his life ended far too soon, he was truly loved and that’s really the best a horse can ever hope for.

The silver lining in all of this is that his death has given me the opportunity for reflection and has proven my gratitude for life lessons from horses.

Horses are my passion and I would feel completely lost without them in my life.

If you are going through a similar loss, I hope this article has inspired you to find your own life lessons from horses. I pray that you can take comfort in knowing that your horse was also deeply loved and that the memories will forever live on.

How to Transform Fear into Courage

How to Transform Fear into Courage

“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

When was the last time you were scared to do something? Were you able to turn fear into courage or did the fear overwhelm you, preventing action and keeping you stuck?

The definition of courage would have you believe that courage is facing some type of challenge without fear but my experience is that one cannot exist without the other. Fear and courage are two sides of the same coin.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Understanding Fear and Courage

Step one of transforming your fear into courage is understanding the relationship between the two. And although there are a variety of theories on fear and courage out there, the one which rings most true to me is by Stanley Rachman.

His book Fear and Courage outlines courage as being the ability to overcome a challenge despite the presence of fear. In other words, courage can’t exist without the presence of fear.

Think about it for a minute. What do you consider your most courageous feat in life thus far? Could those feats be considered your most courageous because of how much fear was involved?

In my own life, there have been two feats I consider my most courageous. The first is my college senior recital and the second is finishing graduate school.

Senior Recital

This post describes my decision to pursue a fine arts degree in music despite significant struggles with performance anxiety. As you can imagine, the study of music requires frequent performances for both small and large audiences.

For me, performance anxiety meant sweaty, shaky hands and nausea. I would start imagining the worst case scenario which typically involved making a gigantic mistake and being laughed off stage. A close second was fear of throwing up on stage in front of everyone.

And to make matters worse, my instrument of choice is piano which has a long tradition of performing solo repertoire without music. No music as in completely memorized. Nothing in front of you to help get back in track if you lose your spot.

Although I loved the instrument, I lived in constant dread of each and every upcoming performance.

But I dreaded none of the other performances as much as my senior recital. In music programs, the senior recital is a capstone project or a final display of all you have learned throughout your degree.

It’s typically at least 30 minutes of solo music prepared by the student.

A terrifying proposition for someone with significant performance anxiety. In the months leading up to my recital, fear dominated my thoughts. All I could think about was my upcoming performance and the many ways I could humiliate myself.

The fear was overwhelming.

Finally, the day of my recital came. It was a cold day in early December with all forecasts calling for significant snowfall. And snow it did!

I remember walking across campus in my long dress and winter boots, slipping and sliding on the snow-covered sidewalks which hadn’t yet been plowed.

And I also remember the terror growing by the second as the clock inched towards show time.

In that moment, part of me thought about faking an illness, giving in to fear, and heading back home. But the other part of me knew that I would forever regret throwing away the opportunity to be courageous in the face of intense fear.

And when the clock struck 2, I walked onstage. The old familiar sweaty hands and nausea returned as did the intense fear of messing up. But in the midst of it all was a strange sense of calm in the knowledge that this would all be over very soon. This was the moment of transformation from fear into courage.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to learn piano as an adult.

Graduate School

My career path has been a long and winding road. Although I started with aspirations to teach piano full-time, life’s curveballs sent me down a completely different path.

Shortly after finishing my fine arts degree, I went back for a two year nursing degree. I had a baby, got divorced, married again, had another baby, and finished up my baccalaureate degree in nursing. It was at this point that I set my sights on a graduate degree in nursing.

I remember mailing in my application to the program and being confident that I could tackle this. My grades had always been good so I knew that academically I could do it. Although I was working full-time, my employer was understanding and flexible. I had two kids but as I shared custody with my ex-husband, really only had one on a full-time basis. This program would be a piece of cake.

Ready for the curveball?

Not even a month after mailing the application, the test was positive. We were expecting baby #3.

And suddenly the confidence I had in being able to complete the program plummeted. Two kids plus an infant, grad school, and work seemed utterly impossible! Almost immediately, a sense of fear and overwhelm took over.

Fear haunted me throughout the program. This time around fear revolved around not finishing the program or failing out. It didn’t present in the same dramatic way it had during my music degree but was rather a constant dull ache in the pit of my stomach.

Despite the constant presence of fear, I somehow inched through the program, eventually emerging triumphant on graduation day.

Transforming Fear into Courage

Whether fear surrounds a specific event in your life or whether it’s generalized, courage can’t exist without its presence. We need fear in order to show up courageously. And the greater the fear, the more courage is required to overcome it.

Whether you’re considering a career change, launching a new venture, or going after a hobby you’ve sidelined for a few years, fear can quickly extinguish the flame before it even ignites. It all starts with an idea to try something entirely new and different which suddenly pops into your head one day and you decide to entertain it for a few minutes. Excitement courses through and your mind races with possibility. The “what-ifs” are positive and exhilarating!

But then the “what-ifs” take a different turn. “What if this doesn’t work?” “Will I look stupid?” “What if I fail?” Suddenly, fear takes over and what seemed entirely possible one minute is utterly impossible the next. Your mind races with negativity. All the reasons why it not only couldn’t but WOULDN’T work. And all of a sudden, you freeze with fear.

I have been in this place so many times. The place where even if the idea is positive and will push me in a fantastic new direction, I shut down and overwhelm takes over. Fear crowds out everything and the clear choice seems to be giving in.

Did you catch that? The clear “choice” implying you have a decision among several options. Fear doesn’t control you … you can flip the coin and instead choose courage. It only seems as if fear is the singular option but this is actually an illusion because courage is always there. The hidden path among the overgrown weeds. The lesser chosen option due to obscurity.

Fact vs. Fiction

One of the funny things about fear is that in many cases, we are our own worst enemies. Our mind takes a turn for the negative and begins fabricating all kinds of stories about why something won’t work. We convince ourselves that it’s impossible and then immediately begin looking for evidence to support this outcome.

Throughout my grad program, I had convinced myself that there was no way I would make it through. After a while, even the tiniest inconvenience became a gigantic roadblock which would undoubtedly derail my progress. I had myself so convinced I wouldn’t succeed that the only evidence I took into consideration was the negative.

And do you know what? 99% of my fear was completely made up and not based on any reality. It was a figment of my imagination.

When transforming fear into courage, stop paying attention to the negative. Look for the positive and ground yourself in reality.

Start asking whether what you fear is actually happening or whether your mind is playing games with you. Challenge the negative thoughts and begin actively looking for the positive.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to achieve a positive mindset.

Embrace Fear

In many cases, our fear of fear is worse than the fear itself. We do everything possible to avoid feeling fear and in so doing, make our situation even worse.

I routinely considered switching majors to avoid performance situations required in the music degree. But I love music and knew that if I switched out, I would forever live with the regret of not trying. And although music does not provide a steady income stream at this point, I will always look back on the degree with pride and accomplishment.

We have to learn to not only live with but to also embrace fear. It is a normal part of our lives and everyone experiences this emotion at one time or another.

And in certain situations, fear may actually save our lives. Fear can be a mechanism of protection or warning that something is wrong.

It can also be our subconscious trying to protect us from something which doesn’t even exist. Remember all that stuff about our tendency to dwell on worst case scenarios even when there’s no fact behind it? Our subconscious can’t tell the difference between true and false. In other words, if you are consistently focusing on the negative, your subconscious thinks it’s reality.

Fear is the immediate response because your subconscious is trying to protect you by keeping you away from danger.

But in most cases, fear is only serving to hold you back from trying something new or accomplishing your goals. Fear leads directly to self-sabotage when you try to avoid it rather than face it.

And even though fear is scary, you have a secret weapon.

Choice Turns Fear into Courage

The secret weapon is choice. Every time you choose courage, you get stronger and the fear gets just a bit less scary. One courageous choice leads to another and another and another and pretty soon, courage is the only option.

Your consistent choice to turn fear into courage makes you stronger.

Choose courage over fear because at the end of the day, there’s very little we have control over in this life. We can’t control the weather, other people, or even the stability of our jobs.

But we can control our own actions. We can choose to live in the shadows of fear, constantly stewing over any and all possible negative outcomes. Or we can choose to step into the light, be courageous, and become a stronger person for it.

Choose courage.

It’s Your Turn

The next time you find yourself staring down a fear-provoking situation, carefully weigh out your options but use fear as a compass to instead find your inner courage. Embrace fear and take time to sort through where the fear comes from. And then make the choice to refuse to allow fear to control your life and prevent personal growth. Embrace courage and hang on tight because big changes are headed your way!

And if you’re looking for a little extra inspiration, check out one of my favorite reads!

Leave a comment below about the last time you chose courage over fear and the impact it had on your life!

Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work

Anxiety Relieving Activities Which Actually Work

How are you holding up right now? Are you living and loving life? Or are you struggling with overwhelming anxiety and a sense of impending doom?

Recent events have impacted every single one of our lives, to some degree. Whether it’s the virus, social injustice, or a tanking economy, stress is everywhere you look. Anxiety lurks around every corner.

It seems as if each new day presents a fresh reason to stress out!

My own struggles with anxiety have taken me to dark places in my life. Places where it’s impossible to focus on anything other than fear concocted by my subconscious. And places where peace, joy, and happiness are nowhere to be found.

But you can take back control of your life and tame those racing thoughts! Each of the following anxiety relieving activities has a positive impact on my own life and is worth trying in your own.

Much like storm clouds taking over a sunny day, so too can anxiety overshadow your life with negativity. Make a choice to stop the cycle of negativity and give these anxiety relieving activities a try today.

Before we get into it, let’s chat about stress, anxiety, and how to determine when you need help.

Stress, Anxiety, or Both?

Although people often use the words “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably, there are differences between the two. Stress is typically described as a reaction to something happening in the here and now. Anxiety, on the other hand, is worry about the future.

Let’s break them both down a bit further.

Stress

Believe it or not, stress can result from both positive and negative life changes. The birth of a new baby, starting a different job, and buying a house are all examples of positive life events capable of triggering stress.

Any time you make a life change, the potential for stress exists.

An event that one person considers horrendously overwhelming may have little to no effect on the next person.

The physical and emotional effects of stress are also variable from person to person. You may find it difficult to fall or stay asleep at night. It may suddenly become difficult to concentrate. You may also find that you feel extremely exhausted all the time.

Or maybe you’re so easily irritated that the slightest inconvenience sends you in a rage. Some people react to stress with depression. Still others begin overeating.

Although stress is a normal part of life, when left unchecked, it can wreak havoc on your health and your happiness. It can also morph into anxiety.

You may enjoy reading this post about finding peace despite chaos.

Anxiety

Would it surprise you to learn that approximately 40 million Americans have some form of an anxiety disorder? Anxiety disorders can range from a generalized state of worry about any and everything to specific phobias such as a fear of spiders or of flying.

It is similar to stress in that it affects people to varying degrees. Some people experience only occasional twinges of nervousness about an upcoming interview or work presentation.

Other people, however, obsess about the potential downsides of every little decision. What can start out as stress stemming from a life change turns into a hamster wheel of worst case scenarios. Anxiety dominates every waking thought. Soon it becomes difficult to focus on anything other than fear of the unknown and typically, the unlikely.

Physical symptoms often accompany anxiety and may include chest pain, rapid breathing, or feeling overwhelmingly tired.

Although everyone experiences anxiety from time to time, it becomes problematic when it dominates your thoughts and consistently interferes with your daily life.

Even occasional anxiety can cloud your thinking and put you in a negative mood.

But you can break free! Let’s get into some amazingly effective anxiety relieving activities!

Reframe Your Thinking

In any given situation, you have a choice. You control your thoughts. And there are positives to be found in even the darkest situations.

But once anxiety gains a foothold in your life, your thinking skews to the negative. Seeing catastrophic disaster around every corner can turn into something of a habit. Your brain becomes conditioned to block out any positives and to instead hone in on any little thing which is slightly amiss.

After a while, your entire world turns into one of those cold, dreary, miserable January days. I’m talking January in Wisconsin. For those of you who have never been to Wisconsin, January is the absolute worst! The excitement of the holidays is over and the novelty of snow has worn thin. Temperatures average around 20 degrees but are quite often below zero. Even the sun abandons the state around this time every year. Summer seems so far away that it’s painful to even think about blue skies, warm breezes, or green grass. It’s easier to pretend none of it exists than to acknowledge how long it will be before you can experience the magic of summer again.

See what I did there?

Yes, January is a long, dark month. But there is a positive side to anything in life, even January in Wisconsin. Snow means sledding, snowboarding, and skiing. It means hot beverages after a cold day spent outside.

I can tell you from experience that if you obsess over every little negative, January will crawl by. But if you actively look for joy, it will reveal itself and before you know it, spring is right around the corner!

Start looking for joy in your life and the world will suddenly seem a much brighter, less anxious place.

You may enjoy reading this post about how to achieve a more positive mindset.

Ground Yourself

One side effect of anxiety that I find to be particularly challenging is that my mind races. But it’s not in a helpful way like when I’m constructively thinking through my latest blog post. It’s more like that 3 A.M. can’t get back to sleep because I’m re-living every stupid thing I’ve ever said or done kind of way.

Annoying.

Remember what I said about you having control over your thoughts?

It’s absolutely true.

This anxiety relieving activity stops that hamster in its tracks and gives you an opportunity to regain control.

When our mind is racing, it’s often revolving around things which are either in the past or the future. In other words, imaginary things which we can’t do anything about. Continuing to think about them is pointless! It only serves to fuel anxiety and feed into the sense that we are out of control.

Take back your thoughts by using your senses in this incredibly easy anxiety relieving activity.

The next time your mind is racing, remember that you have 5 senses. Next, use each sense to gather one piece of information.

In this moment, here and now, what is one thing you can see, taste, touch, hear, and smell?

Shifting your focus to something tangible is a powerful tactic to distract you from the imaginary. Take back your power and get back on track!

Avoid the Sugar Trap

This next anxiety relieving activity is all about preventing anxiety before it even starts. And as you may have guessed from the heading, it involves sugar.

I will be the first to admit that I love sugar! There aren’t too many things I can claim as my guilty pleasure but sugar is definitely one of them!

And in today’s world of highly processed foods, you don’t need to look far to find it. Sugar is hiding in everything.

I don’t know about you but when I’m feeling a bit drained from all those racing thoughts, something sweet seems the perfect pick-me-up.

But sugar is a liar. It tricks you into thinking you will feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.

And you may feel that way for a short time. But eventually your body will crash, leaving you feeling worse than ever. Worse than before you ate that gigantic piece of leftover birthday cake. Or that chunk of frosted brownie. Much worse.

Our bodies crave stability and predictability from the food we take in. We function best on nutrients which break down more slowly and cause a more gradual energy spike.

Nutrients such as proteins provide a more effective fuel source for your body. Protein will give you a more sustainable energy and won’t leave you with that “hung-over” feeling.

And if your body is fueled adequately, your mind is more likely to follow suit.

Anxiety Relieving Activities Work Best With Help

Although there are a host of effective anxiety relieving activities out there, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Especially if you feel that anxiety is taking over your life. There are many ways to manage anxiety and some people require professional assistance to do so.

Speaking with your doctor and/or a counselor can be extremely beneficial in helping you manage anxiety. Anxiety can be accompanied by other diagnoses, including depression, so it’s important that you receive the appropriate treatment.

Your primary care provider can determine whether medication on either a long or short-term basis may be the right choice for you. Not everyone who has anxiety requires medication but it can be helpful, especially in the beginning, to get things under control.

The most effective treatment of anxiety involves an emphasis on taking care of yourself, body and soul. If you are lacking in one area, anxiety has the potential to creep back into your life.

And a counselor can help you untangle those negative pathways in your mind which are feeding into anxiety. They can help you set a more positive mindset and challenge the false realities you create for yourself.

This past spring has been like no other. If recent events have left you feeling unsettled and drained, please get help! You’re never alone. And there are people out there who both understand and can relate to what you’re going through.

You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

Spend Time in Nature

“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”

John Muir

Of all the anxiety relieving activities on the list, this is my favorite! I am a firm believer in the power of a little sun and fresh air. There’s just something about getting out into nature which feeds the soul.

The beauty and solitude is a reminder that peace exists. There is so much out there which is bigger than we are. A little sun on your face and the wind in your hair is enough to convince you that everything will be ok after all. And suddenly the anxious thoughts once taking over your mind seem insignificant compared with the majesty of nature.

Although Wisconsin winters present a variety of challenges, there are still ample opportunities to enjoy nature. My favorite winter days often follow the biggest snowstorms. Not nice for driving but freshly fallen snow sparkles like thousands of diamonds. Everywhere you look, the world seems shiny new. Paired with a bright blue sky, this view is like nothing else and will take your breath away!

I especially love pairing nature with exercise! It’s the absolute best way to naturally raise your endorphins and banish negativity!

The next time you find yourself reeling from repetitively negative thoughts, strap on your tennis shoes and get outside. Focus on nature all around you and I promise you will be shocked at how quickly the anxiety disappears.

Funniest Anxiety Relieving Activities

We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine but did you know it’s actually true? Not for everything, of course, but for certain things it’s unbeatable! Especially when you find someone else to laugh with!

Similar to exercise, laughter releases feel good hormones known as endorphins. It also decreases your body’s stress response leaving you feeling calm and relaxed.

Research has also proven there are long-term benefits of laughter which include a stronger immune system and better overall life satisfaction.

The next time you’re struggling with anxiety that you just can’t shake, take a laugh break! I’ll even give you a recommendation to get you started!

I discovered Charlie Berens about a year ago and I have to say that before him, I wasn’t a big fan of being a Wisconsinite. Between the frigid winters, the quirky eccentricities of small town life, and the state’s obsession with the Packers, it seemed like there was nothing cool about being from Wisconsin. In my opinion, it was the most boring state. Except Iowa, of course. I’ve heard Iowa is even worse on the state cool meter.

Anyway, Charlie has a way of spinning Wisconsin life to make it seem much cooler than it actually is. He takes snippets of daily life in the dairy state and by using humor, oddly makes me feel better about living where I live. Not that I was ever particularly distressed about being from Wisconsin but it’s definitely not as cool as being from New York, California, or Florida.

If you’re unfamiliar with Charlie or small town Wisconsin, here are a few videos to get you up to speed:

1) Confused about what goes in a casserole? Not sure what a hot dish is? This video explains it all.

2) Ever wondered what your husband does while you’re strolling the aisles of Target? Find out here.

3) I’ve never been to an Ikea but after watching this video feel as if I get the gist.

4) Curious about how quarantine in Wisconsin is going? Find out here.

5) Tips and tricks on backyard deep frying.

It’s Your Turn

Anxiety sucks. But there are ways to overcome it and I hope you have come away with inspiration on taming the negativity! Stop letting anxiety hold you back from living your best life. And don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you are struggling.

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your tips on controlling anxiety! I’d also love to hear about videos you find hilarious or that keep you sane on a bad day!

How to Overcome Perfectionism

How to Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is sneaky. It often starts as a coping mechanism when we’re young and unable to recognize its lies. Although it disguises itself as a desire for excellence, perfectionism is actually an intense fear of failure.

This fear has the power to destroy confidence, self-esteem, and relationships. It keeps those in its grasp believing that our worthiness comes from achievement. That we could never be valued or loved based solely upon our status as a human being.

Perfectionism is a toxic force which often associates with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even suicide.

If perfectionism is ruling your life, it’s time to set yourself free. Ditch the inner critic and choose peace. Start here.

The Perfectionism Myth

Perfectionism has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s tough for me to recall a time when I didn’t obsess over every little detail of everything I do. Or procrastinate because I believe that I’ll never complete something to my own impossibly high standards.

It’s funny how quickly our own maladaptive coping strategies weave their way into our lives, blinding us to their truly negative impacts.

At least not until something challenges our inner world. Although I have recently had one of those “reality check” moments, I once regarded perfectionism as my super power. Deep down inside, I secretly believed that my success in life was directly related to my perfectionism.

I believed that my tendency to stubbornly cling to ridiculously high standards drove me to greater heights than I could otherwise achieve.

In fact, perfectionism eventually permeated my thinking to such a degree that living any other way was simply unimaginable. My constant need to control every aspect of my life was exhausting but felt safe. It wove its way into my very being, wreaking havoc on my motivation, confidence, and even my self-esteem.

And it all starts innocently enough, often with the simple desire to succeed. But instead of focusing on achieving success, the focus is on avoiding failure.

Over time, the focus continues to narrow in on avoiding failure. It consumes you and soon it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the journey because you’re too busy fixating on failure.

You tell yourself that you’ll be able to relax once you achieve the goal. Except the goal you’re going after is constantly moving. The bar is always being pushed higher.

And there is no celebration because perfection does not exist and you will therefore never achieve it. This is the myth of perfectionism.

You may also enjoy reading this post about overcoming self-doubt.

Signs of Perfectionism

Perfectionism can take many forms. It may show up in your life as rigid, all-or-nothing thinking. Soon this can morph into the desire for greater control. Then follows the nagging thought that if you only had more control, then you could achieve perfection.

Or maybe perfectionism manifests as having unreasonably high expectations of yourself or others. Thus the difficulties with achieving both inner peace and harmony with those around you. After all, it’s tough to have a sense of calm when nothing ever feels good enough.

It’s that voice in your head which points out every tiny mistake in an endless array of life scenarios. A misspelled word here or an awkward interaction there. Such mistakes may cause you to seriously question your worth as a person. How could anyone ever love you after such gigantic blunders?

Maybe you even find yourself feeling completely overwhelmed but unable to delegate anything to anyone else. After all, there’s no one who can do it like you do. No one else has the attention to detail or commitment to the project. It would only result in you needing to do everything all over again anyway.

Procrastination is perfectionism when you put off tasks due to fear of being unable to complete them to your high standards. You’ll never succeed anyway so what’s the point of starting?

And being unable to accept compliments from others is yet another sign perfectionism is ruling your life. Anyone who compliments you is clearly lying because there are a million things wrong with this project. Either that or they’re too oblivious to realize all the mistakes you made in its completion. And at the end of the day, neither scenario is flattering.

Perfectionism Holds You Back

Regardless of how perfectionism shows up in your life, it’s holding you back. It holds you back from your true potential, from authentic relationships with others, and ultimately, from happiness.

Perfectionism is a mask we use to hide our true selves from others. Something which starts as a coping mechanism evolves into a completely skewed view of the world.

Perfectionism has you believing that your worth is based upon your accomplishments. That you have to earn love and acceptance. And that showing your flaws to others will only push them further away from you.

Perfectionism keeps you from trying new things. It paralyzes you with fear of failure. And it keeps you stuck where you’re at.

The worst part about perfectionism is that it lulls you into a false sense of security. It feeds you the lie that you’re in control and as long as you’re calling the shots, nothing bad will ever happen.

But the truth is that as long as perfectionism is running the show, you’ll never be the person you were meant to be.

The person who simply tries their best and is ok with the rest.

Or the person who can actually kick back and relax without fearing the world is coming to an end.

And you’ll never find the inner peace of someone who accepts themselves for who they are, flaws and all.

As someone who has lived the lie of perfectionism for the past 20 years, my greatest wish for you is to find peace.

The Path to Recovery

If any of the above rings a little too true with you, congratulations! You have achieved the crucial first step of awareness. It has taken me years of discovery, self-development, and counseling to unpack the negative impact perfectionism has had on my outlook.

But I couldn’t have done it without opening up to someone. I had to let someone in so I could finally see that all my self-imposed rules were ridiculous. My goals were unattainable. And all the negativity was only feeding into my anxiety and depression.

Perfectionism tends to keep you locked in your head avoiding action. But opening up to someone you trust releases those thoughts and gives you outside perspective.

Although friends and family are great for support, I recommend finding a professional, at least in the beginning of your journey. A neutral third party, such as a counselor, is essential for giving you completely unbiased feedback.

Loved ones mean well but they often have their own opinions about your life. This can actually be counterproductive when trying to break free from people pleasing perfectionist tendencies. Their feedback has the potential to trigger the perfectionism in such subtle ways that in many cases, you will be completely unaware of it.

A trained professional can help you identify these behavioral patterns. They can also help you develop ways to overcome them.

Although I have been known to joke about my perfectionist tendencies, it is a serious issue which requires attention. Just the other day I read an article about a beautiful woman and mom of 3 little ones who struggled with perfectionism and unfortunately, took her own life. Her family was very clear that perfectionism was a contributor to her suicide.

Get the help that you need now to overcome the negativity. You matter!

Stop Comparing

Comparison is a slippery slope to perpetual unhappiness. There will always be someone out there who is prettier than you. Smarter than you. Wealthier than you. And someone who has a better Instagram feed than you.

Their house is bigger, cleaner, and more tastefully decorated. Maybe their kids are better-behaved and their husband does all the cooking. They’re always driving late model SUVs. And they were recently promoted at work.

There will always be someone out there who appears to be further ahead than you are. It’s a fact of life.

The reality is that we all struggle in one way or another. Perfectionism wants you to believe that you are the only one struggling.

It has you believing that you need to look and act a certain way to gain the approval of others. That you will never receive love or acceptance if anyone sees the messy parts of you.

Perfectionism is a liar.

We all have messy parts in our lives. Everyone struggles, fails, and starts all over again at some point in their lives. Not one of us has gone through life without failing at some point.

There is no such thing as perfection. It doesn’t exist.

So stop the comparison trap. Turn off social media. Take time to do those things which make you feel good about yourself and who you are.

Meditate. Exercise. Journal.

Do whatever it is that makes you feel like the person you were created to be.

You may also enjoy reading this post about comparison.

A Word About Self-Talk

Self-talk is the language we use with ourselves. It includes both the easier to identify conscious and the more subtle subconscious.

What does your self-talk sound like? Is it encouraging and uplifting? Or does it sound more like the mean girls from middle school?

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, chances are good that your self-talk is the latter. It’s time to put those mean girls in their place. Middle school is over. You’re an adult and as a human being, you deserve better than that.

Start paying attention to the words you use with yourself. If you’re having difficulty identifying whether or not your self-talk is positive, write down your thoughts and read them out loud.

I had no idea how truly hurtful my self-talk was until I started asking myself whether I would say the thought out loud to a friend. It’s shocking how clear the nature of your self-talk becomes when you use this filter.

And I became immediately aware of just how critical I had become of myself.

Self-talk is powerful. It can either build you up or tear you down. It’s the most frequent voice you hear so you owe it to yourself to make it a positive one.

Mute the inner critic. I promise that you will miss her even less than your 8th grade bully!

Shift Your Mindset

Once you begin working on your self-talk, it’s time to tackle your mindset. Perfectionism has you believing things are black and white. Gray doesn’t exist. There is only success or failure.

Perfectionism is a liar.

There is a gray and it’s the place where the most growth happens.

Failure can never exist if you instead re-frame it as learning.

Whenever something doesn’t work out as planned, you have a choice. You can either allow yourself to be defeated or you can pick yourself up and try again. Learn from the experience and apply those lessons toward a different future outcome.

Perfectionism has you believing that you are powerless. A victim to circumstance.

But do you want to live your life that way? Wouldn’t you rather be the heroine of your own story? The person who never gives up and never surrenders?

I do.

Shift your mindset. Embrace failure as an opportunity for growth. Remember that failure can never exist if you learn and grow from it.

Ditch the black and white thinking and start living in the gray.

You may also enjoy reading this post about achieving a positive mindset.

Live, Laugh, Love

Perfectionism is an evil cloud blocking out the sun in your life. It’s time to get serious about confronting its subtle lies.

You deserve happiness. Life is messy and unpredictable. But you are more powerful than you realize. You are the heroine of your story and can overcome anything, even perfectionism.

Stop hiding behind the lies and start living. Don’t let its lies steal even one more moment of happiness from you.

Get the help you deserve.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how perfectionism holds you back and what you’re doing to overcome it below!