5 Ways to Find Peace Despite Chaos

5 Ways to Find Peace Despite Chaos

The world is a strange place right now.

Here in Wisconsin, the governor ordered closure of all bars and restaurants earlier this week.

If you know anything about Wisconsin, it’s that our population relies on its dense population of bars and churches to survive.

And churches across the state closed their doors over the weekend.

Last week, nursing homes across the state made the incredibly difficult decision to close their doors to visitors.

The public school system has been shut down.

Sports stadiums everywhere are silent.

Companies are finding ways for their employees to work from home.

These are truly unprecedented times we are living in.

Life as we have come to know it is changing rapidly.

Amidst all the crazy toilet paper buying, doomsday prepping, and constant media coverage, anxiety is at an all-time high.

We have no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring.

The realities of preparing for the coronavirus have impacted most aspects of my own life. It feels like everywhere I turn, there are new reasons to stress.

It all feels very overwhelming.

Getting swept up in the madness is so easy!

But is that really how you want to live your life? At the mercy of whatever crisis the media is currently fixated on?

Or would you rather take charge of anxiety, grounded in peace that you, in fact, can handle whatever life throws at you?

You do have a choice. Either be consumed by anxiety. Or choose peace.

Lately I have been focusing on how to find peace despite the chaos.

And the great news? You can too! Here are 5 ways to get started today.

1. Find peace despite chaos through time spent with loved ones

In the midst of chaos, routines are turned upside down.

Soccer practice? Cancelled.

Your after-hours work event? Cancelled.

Cheerleading? Cancelled.

But do you know what hasn’t been cancelled?

Family dinner.

A walk through the neighborhood.

Game night.

Although we would never have expected our social calendars to suddenly clear, is it really such a bad thing?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like my schedule is filled with obligations rather than meaning.

It can often feel like I say “yes” to things because of what others want me to be or do. I forget to listen to my own voice. And if I don’t prioritize my own time, there’s no one on this earth who will do it for me!

There is also a tendency to take the time spent with friends and family for granted. We can get lulled into thinking they will always be there waiting for us.

It’s far too easy to get caught up in the mundane of the routine and forget to connect with those around us.

If there’s anything the uncertainty of the past couple of weeks has taught me, it’s that the time is now.

We can’t take anything for granted because we have no idea what’s coming tomorrow.

Uncertainty reminds us that being intentional about our time and creating meaningful connections with others are both incredibly important.

The silver lining in all this social distancing is actually a brand new start. The slate is wiped clean. We are free to start all over again with a better understanding of our goals and priorities.

Including, and especially, our loved ones.

You have an amazing opportunity to both reconnect with your loved ones and to find peace despite the chaos!

And thanks to technology, you can both reconnect and maintain social distancing guidelines.

So take a step in the right direction today. Give someone you haven’t spoken with in awhile a call. Reach out and make a connection.

After all, what better conversation starter could there be than a gigantic, nationwide toilet paper shortage? It really couldn’t get any easier than that!

2. Turn off the news

Yes, the news is important. It has a vital role in keeping all of us updated on happenings both local and around the world.

But they also want to keep you coming back for more.

They want you to choose them over every other news channel (or website) out there.

And how do they hook you?

By feeding into your emotions, namely fear.

Remember the principle of fight or flight? Biologically speaking, fear triggers an incredibly strong chemical response within your body.

The fear response is stronger than the response garnered by most other emotions.

The news media keeps you hooked by triggering your fear response. Over and over and over again.

They are making sure you continue to tune in by scaring you.

I am all for being updated on the facts of various occurrences.

But I am not about to be fed sensationalized versions of facts whose only purpose is to scare me into continuing to watch.

And my advice to you? Figure out exactly what it is you need to know and then locate an organization focused on the facts.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the most up-to-date information on travel restrictions and ways to stay healthy.

Local county health departments are tracking the latest statistics on people impacted in your area.

Neither source will give you sensationalized accounts of how everyone in America will eventually succumb to the virus and 50% of those people will die.

They will simply give you facts. Nothing more, nothing less.

Why would you ever need anything more than that?

3. Search for the positive amidst the negative

When everything goes haywire, it’s incredibly easy to focus on what’s going wrong.

Especially when the changes are as surreal as those happening right now.

If you had told me a year ago that a virus would close down the public school system indefinitely, I would never have believed you.

Likewise, I would never have believed that I would shop my local Wal-Mart at 7 a.m. and find the shelves as bare as I’ve ever seen them.

Or that those same Wal-Mart shelves would be completely devoid of toilet paper.

Changes this dramatic are very unsettling.

But focusing on the negative will only get you to a place of deeper anxiety.

As strange as all the recent events have been, it will all eventually fade into our memories.

Restaurants will open back up again.

Kids will complain about playing basketball in gym class (or maybe that was just me!?).

You will once again be able to meet up with your bestie for coffee without regulation that you sit at least 6 feet apart.

Believe it or not, good things are coming out of all this madness.

One example in my own life is my daycare’s decision to close, coincidentally at the same time my in-laws went on vacation out-of-state.

We have never relied too heavily on sitters so our list is incredibly short. Unfortunately, our usual sitter was already committed elsewhere.

My friend put out a Facebook post that her teenage daughter was available to watch kiddos. I decided to reach out and give it a try.

And do you know what happened?

The kids loved her! They had a great time and now our sitter list is just a bit longer.

Although it takes effort, we can choose to look for the positives in an otherwise negative situation.

Be a positive force in an otherwise chaotic world.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to get yourself into a positive mindset.

4. Find peace despite chaos through rest

I am guilty of completely over-booking myself. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

Between home, work, and my very limited social life, I feel compelled to constantly be doing something.

My house could always use some type of attention, whether it’s laundry, the floors, or the messy bathroom.

And based upon the piles of dirty laundry which appear every week, I swear to you that there are at least 3 extra people living in my house who I’ve never met. Which begs the question … why aren’t they helping with their laundry?

Also, would it kill them to sweep the floor once in awhile?

Work has also been a challenge as within the past year, I have transitioned to the new role of nurse practitioner. And when you take on a new role, there’s always an abundance to learn and improve upon.

Especially during such an unpredented time as this.

I do have to admit that my social life is essentially non-existent at this point and the virus is not entirely to blame. Between work and home, I simply have no extra energy left to devote to its revival.

Although I have never been someone with a wide social circle, the people I do consider friends are very near and dear to me.

And many of them are also in the midst of figuring out their own work/life balance.

But I have always felt that I could do a better job of staying connected with friends despite my very introverted tendencies.

I am constantly lying to myself about the possibility of a break. “I’ll just keep going until xyz and then I will take some time for myself.”

But when xyz happens, I never take the promised break.

And then I wonder why I’m constantly so exhausted.

Sometimes, we just need a break. And maybe this is God’s way of forcing a break on all of us.

Anxiety feeds off fatigue, exhaustion, and overhwelm. Stop anxiety in its tracks by taking a nap, a Netflix break, or by picking up a good book.

Take advantage of this moment to stop “being” and to instead just “be.”

5. Have faith

At a time when even churches have closed their doors, the world may seem a very hopeless place right now.

Although there are changes sweeping the nation and the world, we have to remember that we have never really been in charge anyway.

Whether it’s coronavirus or some other crazy disease threatening the world, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

We can only do our very best to do what we can with what we have and leave the rest in God’s hands.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5: 1-2

Anxiety never changes tomorrow’s outcome but it does steal today’s peace.

My challenge to you today is to choose peace. Reject anxiety.

Focus on the good. Make a difference where you can. Help someone else out.

And never lose your faith that all will work out according to God’s plan.

It’s Your Turn

There’s no denying the big changes happening everywhere.

Between all the closings, the constant news media coverage, and the empty store shelves, some would have you believe the world itself is ending.

But it’s really not all bad!

Social distancing is a technique useful for minimizing the impact illnesses such as the coronavirus can have on a population.

It’s a way we can both conserve resources and protect those who are most vulnerable.

Yes, it’s definitely unsettling to drive through an eerily quiet city.

But this too will pass.

And by taking these drastic measures, I pray the impact will be minimal.

I can only imagine that we will also have a much greater appreciation for having the ability to once again gather with friends and family.

Seize this unsettling time to find peace despite chaos.

Choosing peace will help you become a stronger and more resilient person, better equipped to take on the next crisis thrown at you.

After all, doesn’t surviving a toilet paper shortage equip you to overcome basically anything???

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post below! What are you struggling with right now and what has helped you find peace despite chaos?

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

5 Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

Have you thought about learning piano as an adult but are not sure whether it would be worth your time?

Maybe you attended lessons when you were younger but never took it seriously and have since forgotten everything.

Or maybe you stuck with lessons for several years and still remember a bit but are now confused about where to pick up again.

I have had countless conversations with adults who tell me they would love to be able to play piano but feel that it’s simply too late to learn.

Each and every time I encounter this situation, my advice is the same.

It’s NEVER too late!

In fact, there are several benefits to learning piano as an adult versus as a child. (I believe there are way more than 5 but for purposes of keeping this post at a manageable length, I had to limit myself!)

In this post, I will be sharing the benefits of learning the piano as an adult, common roadblocks keeping you stuck, and resources for continuing your piano journey.

If you’re already confident that you’re ready to begin learning piano, check out this post.

Benefits of Learning Piano as an Adult

Music has the ability to transport us to a completely different place and time. It has the power to evoke a long forgotten memory or bring out emotions we have tried our hardest to avoid.

Try to imagine watching a movie without music. Pretty tough, isn’t it? Music is the unseen character adding life, passion, and humanity to each and every scene.

Music inspires and motivates on a deeper level than can be achieved in other ways.

And the ability to make music? To breathe life into the melody running through your mind? That is something else entirely!

1. Anxiety and Stress Reduction

I will be the first to raise my hand and admit I have anxiety.

Give me some type of vaguely hypothetical situation and I will concoct a compelling reason why you should be afraid. Very afraid.

Unfortunately for me, anxiety + creativity = excessive worry about completely ridiculous situations.

My tendency to allow anxiety to slowly creep in and eventually take over is one of the reasons I love playing piano the most.

When my brain is busy transferring notes from the page to my fingers, it doesn’t have space left to perseverate.

The integration required between the instrument, my brain, and my body is too complex to allow for any extraneous thoughts to creep in and take over.

And when I’m not fixated on anxiety-provoking thoughts, relief from the sometimes all-consuming anxiety follows.

Interestingly, research has shown that the act of making music is enough to interrupt the normal stress response which is triggered by anxiety.

Even beyond the physiological effects of the stress response is the fact that making music is simply fun!

You may also enjoy reading Elegie in Eb Minor.

2. Playing Piano Boosts Cognitition

Playing the piano is a complex task which requires integration of the motor system and multiple senses.

The pianist’s main goal in balancing all of this is to convey emotion through their artistry.

I don’t say this to intimidate you in any way but rather to encourage thought about the complexity involved in translating writing on a page to an emotional idea.

And where there is complexity, growth follows.

Multiple studies have shown differences in brain structure between people who study music and those who don’t.

This has most dramatically been noted in studies of cognition in the aging population.

In short, cognitive function is better in adults who study piano in comparison to adults who do not. If you’re curious and want to learn more, check out the study results yourself here.

Memory also improves among adults who play the piano.

Although adults typically aren’t taking math and reading tests on a regular basis, studying piano has also been shown to boost scores in these areas.

It may just be the compelling reason you need to inspire your kids to start learning piano as well???

3. Playing Piano Instills Discipline

Getting better at any type of activity requires doing more of that activity. The more we do something, the better we get at it.

Learning to play the piano is no different.

It requires a certain amount of dedication.

Consistent, high-quality practice results in progression of your skills.

The good news is that learning piano as an adult often requires a degree of discipline that you already have.

Chances are good that you have learned how to excel in various areas of your life. In order to excel, you have already figured out how to put in the work to see the pay-off.

And if discipline is an area you struggle with, there’s good news for you too!

Setting a practice schedule (and sticking with it) can set the stage for discipline in other areas of your life.

Once you have figured out consistency in this area, it’s easier to apply to other areas.

If you are looking for more tips on piano practice, check out this post.

4. Improved Ability to Handle Feedback

Getting feedback from someone else can be hard!

If you struggle with emotional vulnerability, the natural response to feedback often comes across as defensiveness.

And nothing shuts down open communication quicker than being defensive!

But sometimes we need the perspectives of others to make positive changes.

We need input from employers, spouses, and friends to become better versions of ourselves.

Unfortunately, daily life often doesn’t provide a safe space to practice receiving feedback.

Unless you’re learning a new skill under the direction of someone who is more advanced.

A new skill like learning to play the piano.

Learning a new skill takes the pressure off getting feedback.

As a beginner, you’re not expected to know anything. At the same time, feedback is exactly what you need to improve.

Piano lessons are a great way to practice getting feedback in a low-pressure situation. You can then apply this skill to other areas of your life and watch your ability to communicate with others improve as well!

5. Playing Piano Increases Confidence

Although it may seem contradictory, learning a new skill can actually increase your overall confidence.

Learning something new encourages a sense of curiousity. When we are curious, we are far less likely to be overly self-critical.

Our energy is instead focused on learning and growing. As we begin to see improvements, we become more and more confident.

The confidence from one specific area of our lives can spill into all other areas.

Especially if this new skill involves an element of performance.

And whether you are by yourself practicing, playing through a piece for your teacher, or giving a recital, music is performance.

Confidence is an essential aspect of musical performance and is incredibly useful in daily life.

Roadblocks Keeping You Stuck

Now that we’ve covered the top benefits of learning piano as an adult, let’s talk barriers.

Despite the benefits, I know there are a few things still holding you back from getting started. Let’s break them down, one-by-one.

Piano Lessons are for Kids

Although it is true that many people begin lessons as kids, learning as an adult actually has several advantages.

The first is that as an adult, you are choosing to learn piano. No one is setting a practice timer for you. You’re not getting grounded for skipping your lesson.

You call the shots.

It’s up to you to find a teacher you mesh well with. You also get to decide the instrument if you don’t already have one. It’s also entirely up to you whether you take in-person or online lessons.

Your success with the instrument rests entirely in your hands.

And speaking of hands … the second advantage to learning as an adult is that your hand-eye coordination and muscles are fully developed.

Learning certain pieces and specific techniques is now possible. Although kids may progress rapidly in their study of the instrument, they can be held back on further progress due to development.

The third advantage involves attention span and critical thinking skills. Both are much more advantageous to effective learning in an adult versus in kids.

Many kids can only sit and concentrate for ten minutes at a time. Their practice is therefore somewhat limited.

Adults on the other hand can focus for much longer stretches of time.

They also have a greater capacity to integrate music theory and analysis to more effectively learn music. This is one aspect of playing where I continue to feel somewhat disadvantaged.

Although I did have elements of music theory in my lessons from a very young age, I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was older. By that time, I feel that I had already developed my own specific way for learning pieces without the theory component.

I continue to accommodate for this deficit today and am making progress but feel that learning piano as an adult is a major asset in this area!

Time (Or Lack Thereof)

I get it. Your day is busy. Maybe even crazy. I’m sure there are days which pass so quickly you are left wondering where the time went when your head hits the pillow at night.

I have those days too.

But do you really want to spend your days wondering where the time went?

Or would you rather use the time you have been given to pursue your biggest goals and dreams?

Learning piano as an adult may seem like it will take an enormous amount of time and energy.

Depending upon your goals, it will.

Guess what though?

You don’t have to expend all that energy in one day. Practice is actually more beneficial if broken into small, very intentional, chunks of time.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to find more time in your day.

There are days when I only have 10 minutes to devote to practice.

But I make the most of it and look forward to the days when I’m able to practice more.

Every minute adds up to better and better playing.

The time will pass anyway. You might as well make the most out of it!

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to be more intentional with your time.

Finding a Teacher

Thanks to technology, the days of traveling to your piano teacher’s house for lessons are gone.

Maybe.

There are still plenty of teachers who continue to offer lessons this way.

And learning this way continues to be the preferred method for many people.

But what are your options if you don’t have a teacher nearby? Or if you don’t have time to devote to driving to the teacher?

You could choose to attend lessons online or subscribe to a membership website dedicated to helping people learn to play piano.

One such membership website also has a Facebook group for others who are also learning to play.

I am personally part of one of these websites and have found it a great supplement to my existing knowledge.

You may also find this website helpful if you already have a solid foundation in piano basics but are looking to start again.

It’s a great option if geography or time limits your lesson options!

Check out an example of the lessons contained in the membership website here.

Finding an Instrument

Not having an instrument is an obvious barrier to learning piano as an adult.

In order to make progress, you will need consistent practice. Practice will require an instrument.

Luckily, you also have several options in this area.

Many people prefer an acoustic piano. Acoustic pianos come in several different sizes and in quite variable price ranges.

You can find a spinet (a smaller acoustic piano) for free on Craigslist. There are also many perfectly acceptable instruments out there for less than $1,000. Keep in mind that in many instances, you get what you pay for.

In the beginning of your studies, you can make progress with a lower quality instrument.

Investing less up front can also take the pressure off later if you decide that piano isn’t for you.

I definitely recommend working with a piano tuner to find an instrument within your budget. They will be able to give you an accurate estimate of the instrument you are considering. Piano tuners can also tell you whether any major work on the instrument is required.

An electronic keyboard is another option if space is limited. A great advantage of these is the option to plug in headphones. You can then practice any time of the day or night.

Keyboards also offer many different setting and recording options. They also come in a wide range of features and prices.

Let’s Get Started!

And there you have it! Five benefits to learning the piano as an adult and the common roadblocks holding you back. For even more information on getting started, check out this post on how to learn piano as an adult.

I truly hope this post inspires you to get out of your comfort zone and go for it! You never know where this one decision will take you. So get out there and get started!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and whether it inspired you to take the first step!

Achieve a Positive Mindset … Achieve Your Goals!

Achieve a Positive Mindset … Achieve Your Goals!

I have a confession to make. A deep, dark secret which is tough to admit even to myself.

The secret is that a negative mindset has destroyed progress toward so many of my goals in life.

Goals such as getting (and keeping!) my house organized. Expanding my piano repertoire by learning new pieces. Becoming more intentional about my time by saying “no” to people pleasing.

The Root of the Problem

The problem isn’t that I don’t have a strong “why.” It also has nothing to do with being unaware of how to get where I want to go.

For me, the problem lies with negativity.

There have been so many times when I make actual progress toward a goal only to wake up one day with a negative mindset. Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before. Or maybe I missed my morning run.

Whatever the initial reason, negativity sinks its teeth in and takes over.

It all starts with doubt which causes me to question the validity of my goal.

Accomplishing the goal suddenly seems impossible, unattainable, and even a waste of time.

Something which once seemed absolutely worth doing loses its meaning in the face of negativity.

Does this sound like you? Have you ever started passionately chasing a goal only to be stopped in your tracks by a negative mindset?

A Cycle of Negativity

A negative mindset, however small it starts, can be powerful enough to send me into a cycle of self-sabotage.

The cycle goes something like this …

I get excited about a new goal and figure out which small, daily steps will help me accomplish it.

At first, I’m so excited about this goal that nothing can dissuade me from believing I will acomplish it.

Taking those small, daily steps is simple at first because when you start from zero, seeing progress is easy.

Regardless of the goal, progress gets tougher at some point.

The initial excitement of having a new goal begins to fade away. You hit a wall and are forced to either learn and adapt or abandon ship.

Growth is required to move beyond the starting point. And growth never comes without some type of turmoil.

Seeds of Doubt

And for me, that turmoil usually involves a tiny seed of doubt.

It typically boils down to perfectionism and (admittedly) unattainable standards.

The lie of perfection feeds thoughts of inadequacy and stalls progress. My mindset suddenly shifts from positive to negative.

It quickly becomes easy to find every excuse in the book to stop taking action toward my goal.

After all, with a husband, 3 kids, and a full-time career I don’t have to look very far to find an excuse!

Armed with an excuse rationalized as quite validly justified in my mind, all daily actions stop. And my goal withers away to nothing.

The tiny seed of doubt, watered by ridiculous excuses, soon grows into a huge tree preventing personal growth.

“We are all gardeners, planting seeds of intention and watering them with attention in every moment of every day.”

Cristen Rodgers

Goals, Mindset, and Success

If going after goals is so difficult, why do it? Why not just stay exactly where you are right now? And what does mindset have to do with any of this?

I am a firm believer that growth is essential to life itself. We are constantly evolving into different versions of ourselves.

Goals provide a framework and a direction for growth. There are a million different ways we could choose to grow. But chasing all of them at once means never making meaningful progress in any of them.

It’s only when we focus our attention on a specific goal that we see progress. Whatever has our attention sees progress.

Our mindset ultimately determines success or failure in the areas where our attention is focused.

If we don’t pay attention to keeping our mindset positive, overwhelm, self-sabotage, and a tendency to remain stagnant can easily creep in.

We remain stuck where we are if we don’t keep pursuing goals. We ultimately fail to accomplish what we set out to do.

And even beyond the disappointment of one failed goal is the pattern of quitting which can quickly establish itself.

A negative mindset can set you up to fail time after time. After awhile, negativity can convince you that trying again one more time is simply not worth it.

Awareness: The First Step Toward A Positive Mindset

We need positivity and small achievements here and there to encourage us to keep going even when it’s tough.

The abilites to enjoy life, experience happiness, and achieve success depend upon mindset. Achieving a positive mindset is crucial!

Are you ready to learn how to transform your mindset from self-sabotaging negativity to one of goal-conquering positivity? Although incorporating the following tactics does require some consistency, each one is actually quite simple.

As with most things in life, the very first step is awareness.

Pay attention to your thought patterns. Are the conversations you have with yourself dominated by motivational self-talk? Or do they tend to have negative overtones causing you to question yourself?

Capture your thoughts on paper by spending some time writing them down.

Can you identify any common themes to your thoughts? Can you figure out the root cause behind the negativity?

In many instances, self-defeating thoughts are driven by a random negative comment made by someone years ago. Or a past situation which you perceive as having ended poorly.

Our brains tend to drudge up negativity from the past and automate it into self-defeat or other negative thought patterns.

It’s only when we take the time to process through our automated thinking that we begin to make connections and positive change.

I have found that it’s incredibly easy to let my thinking go on auto-pilot. When on auto-pilot, the mind brings forth patterns of thinking which have developed over long periods of time.

Patterns which may be based upon completely false information but which evoke feelings of low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and defeat.

Challenge Your Thoughts

Transferring your thoughts to paper gives them an element of reality which is otherwise difficult to capture. Seeing the words in black and white gives you the opportunity to analyze and even dispute the negativity.

Patterns of thinking can become so ingrained into your thought life that they are nearly impossible to identify unless they are written down.

And yet these patterns are powerful enough to hold you back from your full potential and stop personal growth.

Once you have started writing down your thoughts, you can begin to challenge them. Is there any truth whatsoever behind those self-defeating thoughts? Begin to focus in on where the thought originated from and then work to re-frame it.

Through writing down my own thought patterns, I have discovered that perfectionism often holds me back from progress. I have held onto the false belief that everything in my life has to be absolutely perfect for my life to have meaning.

Perfectionism is a lie which has kept me stuck in a negative rut.

Unfortunately, growth is messy and imperfect. Mistakes and missteps are a prerequisite to finding the right path.

There is no perfection in life and continuing to believe this lie would forever keep me stuck.

Uncovering the source of my negative mindset has been incredibly helpful in moving toward a more positive one. Learning or doing something new requires mistakes!

My need to live up to some skewed definition of perfection has so often caused me to abandon goals and remain stagnant.

But the good news is that through awarenss, I have now been able to identify exactly where my goals derail. Instead of letting myself go down the perfectionism trail, I can use various other tactics to keep myself going toward growth.

Find a Mentor

Adopting a growth mindset is often easier when you are surrounded by others who have a similar mindset.

Seek out the company of others who are also interested in personal growth and maintaing a positive mindset.

Consider finding a mentor or coach to assist you in attaining your goals. This is especially helpful if you are looking to advance your skills in a particular area.

Finding a coach has been pivotal in several areas of my life, most notably in one of my favorite hobbies.

A few years ago, I decided to pursue a type of horseback riding called dressage. I grew up riding in a completely different discipline but had always been intrigued by dressage.

And so, I looked around for an instructor.

A couple of weeks later, I finally found someone with not only a great deal of experience in the sport of dressage but who also has a growth mindset herself.

It’s been 4 years and I continue to take so much value from not only the lessons themselves but their application to life in general.

Finding an instructor with a positive mindset has been such a blessing in my own life! I highly encourage you to find that person in a relevant area of your own life.

Accountability and learning from others propels growth in ways which are otherwise difficult to achieve.

Your Physical Health

And speaking of personal growth …. maintaining a positive mindset is nearly impossible if you’re not paying attention to your physical health.

The food you put into your body, exercise, and sleep all have a profound impact on your mental wellbeing and simply cannot be ignored!

The Gut-Brain Connection

Believe it or not, there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut.

Think about the last time you did something which made you nervous. Maybe it was a job interview, presentation, or even watching your daughter’s big soccer game. Did you have butterflies in your stomach?

If so, you have experienced the gut-brain connection firsthand.

Although we are only beginning to understand the science behind the connection, the fact that there is a connection simply cannot be disputed.

When your brain is stressed and in a negative mindset, your stomach is impacted. You may even experience abdominal pain and cramping during times of high anxiety and depression. Likewise, when your stomach is in distress, signals with the potential to darken your mindset are sent to your brain.

The great news is that there are certain foods which can reduce anxiety and therefore minimize abdominal distress.

Foods high in vitamin C, healthy fats, and magnesium work in different ways to naturally reduce stress hormones and elevate your mood. Look for ways to add foods such as pistachios, salmon, oranges, and avocados to your diet.

Move Your Body

I know that exercise may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but it does wonders for your brain health!

Exercise actually releases feel-good hormones in your brain, elevating your mood and giving you a sense of accomplishment.

Beyond the natural release of hormones which comes with exercise is the focus required to do it.

Shifting your focus to completing a physical task often leaves little mental space to ruminate yourself further into a negative spiral.

It gives your brain an opportunity to shift the focus elsewhere and to stop the tendency to spiral further.

One of the reasons that I love dressage so much is that it requires a great deal of both mental focus and physical energy.

Great riders make it look completely effortless but the truth is that the sport requires the rider to constantly adjust the horse into “effortless.”

The rider must always read the horse’s movements and transfer that information into physical movements communicated back to the horse.

In short, dressage requires intense focus combined with physical prowess and there is little room left over to ruminate on the negative.

It completely engrosses me and by doing so, gives me a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment that few other activities do.

I highly recommend that you find some type of physical activity which mentally and physically challenges you. You will find it much easier to develop a positive mindset by regularly exercising!

Sleep Perks

Somewhere along the line, we have developed a distorted view of sleep.

In today’s world, it’s all about how much can be accomplished on the least amount of sleep. Society today wears sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.

Everywhere you look, there are ads for energy drinks, supplements, and caffeine-filled products guaranteed to help you stay awake for days.

Meanwhile, there are equally as many ads for medications and supplements guaranteed to put you to sleep when you’re struggling with insomnia.

The reality is our bodies NEED sleep. It’s the reset button which brings us back to neutral and refreshes our minds and bodies.

There is no positive mindset without adequate rest.

And we are making sleep way too complicated. Caffeine, screen time before bed, and unrelieved anxiety all work against quality sleep.

Simple adjustments to your daily (and nightly) routines can do wonders in helping you get a good night’s sleep. Check out this post for more tips on getting restful sleep at night.

Calm Your Mind

Learning how to calm your mind can also have a dramatic impact on your ability to attain a positive mindset. One way to do this is through meditation.

This ancient practice helps you become more aware of your thoughts. You can then begin to control your thoughts and learn how to manage negative feelings.

I was sceptical of meditation until trying it a few months ago.

Meditation does require practice however I immediately began noticing positive changes. It helped me develop an awareness of my thoughts and the need to stop thinking on auto-pilot.

I have also learned techniques for avoiding negative chatter in my mind. Negative chatter, fueled by insecurity and overwhelm, can swirl into a perfect storm of anxiety.

Although it can feel as if we have no control over our thoughts (and especially the negative chatter), we absolutely do.

Meditation clears space for peace and introspection within your mind, essential components to developing a more positive mindset.

Meditation is an essential piece of developing a more positive mindset!

If you are completely new to meditation, I highly recommend this app. I can’t say enough about the positive changes I have seen since I started using it!

It’s Your Turn to Work on a Positive Mindset

Goals are important because when done consistently, they build into habits. Habits form the backbone of lasting change and goal attainment. Without small goals performed consistently, goal attainment is impossible, even more so without a positive mindset.

I hope you have found these tactics helpful. You can do hard things! But you must work to establish a foundation based upon positivity in order to do so.

Developing a more positive outlook doesn’t have to be difficult. Take small action every day to see bigger changes down the road.

I’d love to hear your thoughts below on what you found most helpful! Until next time …. keep chasing after those goals! Remember, the only failure in life is quitting.

The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

After a particularly long and stressful day a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. It suddenly hit me that I am a working mom. Not a very timely epiphany as my first child is 9 and I worked before and after her birth. But an epiphany, nonetheless.

There are times when navigating a full-time career and managing a household feels incredibly overwhelming. In these dark moments, the questions in my mind arise.

“How can I possibly do everything that needs to be done in a day?”

“Is it selfish to take time for myself?”

“Am I taking anything away from my kids by also having a career?”

“Could I be a better mother if I devoted more time to it?”

“Why am I so hopelessly disorganized?”

These are the moments when I question everything. Maybe these questions have also arisen in your mind?

And although I do consider myself to have perfectionist tendencies, I am a terrible planner. I put very little thought or effort into thinking ahead about certain things. Life has a way of happening and I’ve always emphasized the big decisions while letting the smaller ones go.

But working mom life is tough! So tough that I wonder whether it is possible to excel in one’s career and at home. All while staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, excercising, socializing, and staying sane. Basically doing all the things.

How do you do all the things as a working mom? Are there other moms out there who feel the same way?

It begs the question of how I even got on this crazy path.

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.

Past and Present

Whether or not I should work has never been the question. Even after having kids, I’ve always felt a strong pull to contribute to my family financially. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I learned very early on that work is simply a part of life.

The act of working in and of itself brings me a great deal of satisfaction. But my career path has taken twists and turns that I never expected.

If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far, it’s that life is unexpected and forces you to pivot.

After graduating with a fine arts degree in music, I found myself living in a tiny Wisconsin town. If you know anything about tiny Wisconsin towns, you know that they are basically comprised of bars and churches. Bleak job prospects for a newly graduated music major. And although I did take a position playing Sunday services for a couple of area churches, I didn’t make nearly enough to support myself.

You may also enjoy reading Stop Caring What “They” Think.

I needed a new plan.

Luckily, I had completed a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in college and decided to apply for a position at a local nursing home. This one decision launched an entirely different type of career path than I had ever considered before.

A path which would eventually lead from CNA in a nursing home to nurse practitioner for people residing in a nursing home. Throw a marriage, a daughter, divorce, a second marriage, and two sons into the mix and here we are today.

But until recently, I had never sat down to think about HOW one goes about managing a career and family. What does this actually look like and can the two be meshed together in some type of cohesive way?

Career and Family

All great questions. My working mom epiphany was starting to lead me down a path of discovery. And so I did what I usually do whenever I have a curious thought which won’t go away. I looked for a book which could help me better understand this concept of working while raising a family.

The book I found was a collection of individual stories of women who work and also have children. Stories of women who climbed the corporate ladder and those who ultimately chose to adjust their careers around their home life. Women juggling PTO, sick days, vacation, and wardrobe malfunctions all in the name of excelling at work and at home.

An entire book all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a working mom.

And to be honest, the book was initially a letdown.

I didn’t need some book to tell me that mom guilt about being at work versus at my daughter’s school event is real. Or that a morning routine (or lack thereof) can make or break your day. I truly wasn’t looking for a story about another woman’s husband chipping in at home so she could work.

It was answers I was after. Answers about how to manage the overwhelming chaos of working mom life. Easy-to-follow checklists for taming the daily disarray. Hints about fitting self-care into a tumultuous schedule. Encouragement that yes, things will in fact get better.

Stories are nice but they aren’t answers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m super happy that Susan’s husband vacuums and scrubs the toilets. But how did she get him to take on these tasks?

And congratulations to Lindsay on cutting back to part-time hours! But what about the options if your family’s economic stability depends upon your full-time hours?

It’s amazing that Cheryl was able to negotiate her employer into allowing her some time to work-from-home. But how is this story beneficial when your career is not amenable to working from home?

I was beginning to think that there simply were no answers to the questions I was asking.

More Questions Than Answers

Despite my initial disappointment in the book’s inability to answer my questions, I kept reading it. Mostly because I was 50 pages in at that point and already invested.

After all, it was possible that the answers I was looking for were in the very last chapter. Or in some type of bonus chapter. It was also entirely possible that the secret to managing my working mom life was in an exclusive online book resource.

I had to keep reading to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything that all the other working moms somehow knew. Working mom life would be much easier if there was a secret to making it all balance. If not a secret, then maybe a magical fairy or elf.

Picture this. It’s been a long day at work, you’re tired, and your toddler screams all the way home from day care. And then continues screaming because you won’t let him lick the soap dispenser at home. His older brother, slighted because you asked how his day went, quickly joins in the screaming. Just to top it all off, their older sister starts yelling because she is annoyed at the screaming of the other two.

You’ve been there before too, right?

In this moment, wouldn’t it be great if you could tap into some deep well of knowledge? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you could suddenly feel calm, cool, and collected about all areas of your working and home life? If you could simply let the stress of the work day melt away amidst the screaming tantrums of your kids.

Admit how great it would feel if you could drop the constant feelings of competition between work and home. The feeling that because you work, you’re somehow dropping the ball at home. Or the feeling that because you take time off to care for a sick child, you’re slacking off at work. And on and on and on.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was looking for reassurance. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one feeling the constant conflict between work and home life. I needed to hear that I wasn’t the only one with more questions than answers.

The Working Mom Secret

It wasn’t until I was almost through with the book that it suddenly hit me.

I wasn’t the only one questioning how to make it all work! There was no magical “one size fits all” answer for achieving balance in your working mom life.

And do you know what else I learned?

There are forces beyond my control influencing my thoughts, feelings, and responses to “balancing” working mom life. Forces contributing to my feelings of overwhelm and constant questioning.

These forces run deep. Some are rooted in society’s expectations about male and female roles both inside and outside the home. Others stem from the influences of social media and comparison. Still others are deeply personal and come from your own expectations of who you ARE versus who you SHOULD be.

And let’s not forget the expectations of your spouse, friends, family, and coworkers. The unsolicited advice about how to learn more, be more, and do more. Advice on how to make all the bits and pieces of your life come together into a pretty picture.

In short, working moms are struggling against a plethora of outside forces. This struggle only sets us up for more and more questions.

Unless we stop and consider what is truly driving our feelings, emotions, and actions, we will never come to a better understanding of the issue.

And how does one come to a better understanding of an issue?

By asking questions, seeking out information, and sifting through one’s deepest underlying thoughts and beliefs.

The secret to a better understanding of working mom life is to ask more questions.

I know this may not be the answer you were hoping for. Believe me, I completely understand your frustration in now having more questions than answers.

But at the end of the day, working moms all have completely different hopes, dreams, and goals.

We are all individuals. Each of us has a unique perspective to contribute.

What’s Your Perspective?

By this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, great. But now what? How can I apply this in my own life?”

You can start by ditching the concept of “balancing” home and work lives. The word “balance” means equilibrium. Equality between two separate entities.

In working mom life, there is NO. SUCH. THING. as balance.

Life is unexpected. You will constantly need to make tough choices. Choices which result in favoring one thing over another.

This is just the nature of life. Accept that there will be times when you need to choose family over work. And vice versa. It’s ok.

Know that all working moms wrestle with these questions. If not these same exact questions, then eerily similar ones.

None of us really knows what we’re doing. We’re all just doing the very best we can with what we have. Approach each new day with the faith that you are making progress. Forgive yourself.

Talk with other working moms who may be going through the same struggles as you. Working moms are a community of incredibly strong, resourceful, and resilient women. We absolutely need to avoid tearing each other down but rather stick together!

And stay curious. If you’re struggling, look for resources. In today’s world, there is an abundance of information out there. Don’t keep yourself in the darkness of overwhelm when all you need to do is simply reach out and turn on the light switch.

Keep asking questions until you find the answers you’re looking for! Or at least until you get to the questions which get you to the root of your hang-up.

If you’re looking for a starting point, check out the book which inspired today’s post here. This book triggered so much emotionally for me and inspired my belief that the answer to this issue is complex and actually lies in the questions.

If a podcast is more your style, check out one of my personal favs below!

  • Do It Scared with Ruth Soukup
  • The Confidence Podcast with Trish Blackwell
  • Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis

And always remember that you’re not on this journey alone. Life with kids requires a complete transformation. You cannot live the same way you did before having kids. And my guess is that you wouldn’t want to. Kids add an element of fulfillment unmatched by anything else!

And now it’s your turn. What are your current challenges, questions, and stresses? Where do you find yourself constantly getting hung up? What are the forces beyond your control which are currently impacting you in a big way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this and more below!

Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Christmas is done, the new year is upon us, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. My husband and I have been married for over 6 years now and take a very laid back approach to the day. Marriage comes with its own set of trials and tribulations and we’ve certainly had our fair share since we said “I do.” A mortgage payment, several job changes, graduate school, and three children all in 6 years is enough to exhaust anyone. The truth is that a healthy marriage requires effort and at a certain point, figuring out how to rekindle the romance becomes crucial.

Daily life is stressful and has a tendency to blur out memories of the person you initially fell in love with. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait to get a text or call from my husband. Flash forward to last week when feelings of intense annoyance bubbled to the surface after he called and asked me to stop at the gas station after work. The nerve! He might as well have asked for my left kidney. I would have rather given him an organ than stop anywhere after a long day at work.

And yet, there was a time when I had butterflies at the mere thought of him. A time before the accumulating daily stress of work and managing a household. That brief moment in time when we could do no wrong in the eyes of the other.

After 6 years of marriage, is it possible to get back to that place?

My belief is that love grows and evolves over time. You’re not the same person you were when you first met and fell in love. Your relationship has been strained and tested in 1,000 different ways and yet, your love remains. You’ve seen your spouse both at their best and at their worst. Through it all, you continue going to sleep and waking up next to them each day. Although it’s easy to lose sight of the beginning, those early days laid the foundation for where you are now.

Take advantage of the birthdays, anniversaries (even the cheesy Hallmark holidays!) to remember where you came from and where you are now. Strengthen the bond with your spouse and deepen the love you share for each other. It is in this spirit I give you ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse.

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.

Conversation is Key

In my house, there are a bazillion barriers to having an actual adult conversation. Kids, sports, and a general sense of chaos unfortunately tend to distract from meaningful communication. Conversation where each person is totally invested in what the other person is saying. The type of conversation where you are looking each other in the eye.

Exactly the opposite of the conversation where you are simultaneously watching television and breaking up fights between kids.

In thinking back to the early days of our relationship, it is the 100% focused attention during conversation that I miss most.

I’m going to put this out there and you can decide whether or not you agree. Electronics and a constant sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are at least partially to blame for the pathetic state of our conversational skills. Thanks to technology, we’re constantly plugged in to what’s happening online.

Gone are the days when it took 10+ minutes to boot up the ol’ Mac and wait for the internet dial-in to check Facebook or respond to email. I believe that if we still had to sit and listen to the modem dialing in each time we wouldn’t care as much about the online world. But alas, technology has sophisticated EVERYTHING and we’re now only a fingerprint and swipe away from the latest sports stat or profile update. We are at the beck and call of that tiny device we can’t imagine living our lives without.

So … what can we do to get back to 100% focused conversation?

Commit to setting aside time either on a daily or a weekly basis to spend in conversation with your spouse. Turn your phone off and keep the laptop shut. Spend some time truly focusing on what your spouse is saying. Get into their world. Channel yourself back to that time when your spouse was the most fascinating person in your world.

And if you find yourself struggling to focus, check out this book which changed my entire outlook on distraction. It’s a game-changer!

Focus on the Positive

After the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon wears off, real life can begin to take its toll. Regardless of whether you lived together before marriage, chances are good that your spouse will have aggravating habits. Maybe they constantly leave every light in the house on when they walk out the door in the morning. Or perhaps they leave their clothes on the floor, inches from the laundry basket. Maybe you’ve even found yourself hitched to the ultimate sports fan, watcher of every sport EVER.

Whatever it is … your spouse will get on your nerves at some point.

It’s so easy to give in to the negativity and fixate on their most irritating quirks. But focusing on the negative does nothing beyond driving a mental wedge between you. Negative thoughts when left unchecked can quickly spiral out of control. What starts out as a minor irritation can morph into darker and more destructive thoughts. Similar to a cloudy day, negative clouds begin to obscure the sunny aspects of your marriage.

Instead of dwelling on your spouse’s annoying habits, look for the positive in the situation. Any challenge can inspire personal growth when handled with a positive mindset. Use your energy to instead actively seek out the positive. In many cases, the flip side of the irritating trait may have been what attracted you to the person in the first place. Maybe their complete lack of awareness regarding home energy usage comes from a laid back personality. And maybe this personality perfectly complements your incredibly intense type A personality.

If you’re really challenged to find the positive, it’s time to step away from all the daily stress. Planning a weekend get-away or even a date night 100% without responsibility can do wonders to rekindle the romance! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you have a perfect excuse to plan a romantic getaway!

Give of Yourself

Marriage is full of ruts. Our brains love routine and settling down into daily life with someone else is full of them! Despite sharing a life with someone, there can be a tendency to get absorbed into your own world. This is especially true if there hasn’t been intention toward creating deeper intimacy through conversation, time together, and other activities (you fill in the blanks here!).

It’s easy to forget about the needs and desires of your spouse amidst the daily demands placed upon your time and energy.

Everyone feels love in slightly different ways. We may think that we are showing our spouse love by cooking their favorite meal or showering them with gifts. In actuality, they may simply need to hear those three little words.

What can you do to rekindle the romance through giving of yourself?

Read this book. Have a conversation with your spouse. Figure out how each of you feels the expression of love and be intentional with acting it out. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant because even something small done with love can be powerful.

Another way this can be acted out is by simply asking your spouse how you can help them today. After hearing their response, go do that thing. Their answer may or may not surprise you but either way, you are filling their cup.

And if you need help getting out of your routine, check out this post for tips on ideas easily adapted for couples.

Fill Your Own Cup

Up until a few years ago, I was terrible at filling my own cup. I went through all the motions of home life and work but always felt something was missing. Anxiety and depression were constant companions. It was tough to give much of anything to anyone because of my constant internal struggle.

And then one day, I got mono. Getting mono in and of itself was not especially noteworthy. Mono is fairly common and most people get it at some point in their lives. The eye-opening part for me is that although mono is typically accompanied by bone-crushing fatigue, this symptom didn’t prompt my urgent care visit.

I was living in a such a state of constant fatigue that getting mono wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Did I really want this to be the state of my life?

The short answer is no.

And so I began to take a tough look at my daily habits. I had no sleep pattern, my diet was all over the place, and I was exercising excessively. My schedule was too full to pursue anything I was passionate about and my job was sucking any remaining life out of me.

It’s no wonder I was constantly fatigued, anxious, and depressed!

It’s true in marriage as it is in life itself that you must fill your cup first. You absolutely have to apply the oxygen mask before you help anyone else with theirs. If you don’t, there will be nothing to give. This is especially true if you also have children because there are even more demands placed upon your time and energy.

Although it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, you can’t rekindle the romance until you pay attention to your own self-care.

Curious about how I turned my sleep situation around? Check out How to Get Better Sleep Tonight.

Get Into Their World

Is there anything better than sharing an activity you love with someone? Whether it’s running, a concert, or cooking, the joy is always greater when the memory is shared. This is especially true when the person you’re sharing with is your spouse. And doubly so if you involve yourself in something they’re crazy about.

I have to confess that this is an area I’m not great at.

My husband is a sports fanatic. He knows every obscure sports stat there is to know about basketball, football, golf, and baseball. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, he has some type of sport that he obsessively follows.

One of our running jokes is that despite his passion for all things sports, he couldn’t have married someone less interested in sports. The minute a game comes on, my brain checks out. I never played sports growing up and have zero interest in now watching others do so. I’ve actually walked out of multiple live sporting events having no clue who won.

But my husband has made it clear that he would love nothing more than for me to express some enthusiasm for his favorite teams. For him, the way to rekindle the romance is for me to cheer on the Timberwolves. It makes him incredibly happy when I sit down and watch with him. Even more so because he knows that I’m doing it for him.

There is an element of self-sacrifice when involving oneself in a spouse’s interest. It makes the act infinitely more meaningful and speaks volumes about your love.

Find the Humor

Life is no fun when taken too seriously. Marriage, work, kids, and running a household are stressful! Even in the best of circumstances, you will have days when you just want to sit down and cry. There can be a tendency to take the negative out on those around you instead of finding other ways to defuse.

Assuming your self-care is where it needs to be, laughter is a great way to boost your mood. As with most things, laughter is always better together!

So whether it’s a funny movie, recounting the humorous event which unfolded today at work, or a meme which had you laughing for days, share a laugh! You’ll never regret time spent laughing, joking, and having fun with your spouse. Look for ways to incorporate laughing and joy into your marriage to rekindle the romance.

It’s Your Turn to Rekindle the Romance

I hope this post has inspired you to look for ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse! Marriage is a marathon filled with hills and valleys. Always remember that your spouse is your partner; they’re on your team. Sometimes all it takes to rekindle the romance is shaking things up and getting out of your comfort zone. At other times, laughter is simply the best medicine. Whatever your marriage needs, take advantage of this upcoming Valentine’s Day to rekindle the romance!

Don’t forget to drop a comment below about how you plan to rekindle the romance with your spouse!

New Year’s Resolutions For Any Time of Year

New Year’s Resolutions For Any Time of Year

Can you believe that we are about to turn the calendar over to 2020 and are already talking about new year’s resolutions? I’m not sure about you but 2019 flew right by me! My 2019 was a year of both endings and new beginnings. It was the year that I finished the graduate nursing education journey I had started 3 years prior. But it was also the year that I said goodbye to a position with a company which felt like home.

Graduation meant taking a leap into an entirely new position within a completely different organization. An opportunity to embrace the change and grow in new and completely different ways than had ever been possible before. I am a firm believer that life is about the journey and not the destination.

But the belief in the beauty of the journey rather than the destination has taken me years to embrace. I never fully understood the value of implementing the wisdom in living my life this way until recently.

The reality is that while facing the daily challenges of balancing family, work, and school, my mindset shifted. I began focusing on graduation and moving beyond the daily stress of class and meeting homework deadlines. The phrase, “when I’m done with school” constantly crossed my mind and lips. My mind began to focus on the utopian future which would suddenly descend upon me once I held the diploma in my hand.

I stopped looking for the joy in my daily life.

Past New Year’s Resolutions

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.

You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with your 2020 new year’s resolutions. Let me explain.

Looking back over the past 5 years, how many new year’s resolutions have you kept? Following through with resolutions is incredibly difficult if your focus is on the destination instead of the journey.

It works like this. As the new year approaches, you begin thinking about how great life would be if you were 15 pounds lighter. You’d actually feel like exercising, it would be easier to make healthier food choices, and you’d look amazing in your clothes. You would be unstoppable!

January 1 rolls around and you hit the gym, make yourself a salad for lunch, and turn down dessert after supper. You and your new year’s resolutions are off to a great start! All you can think about is how great life is going to be in 15 pounds.

Two weeks later, you hit a wall. You’ve been battling a cold, mornings come way too early, and you are just worn out. You’re running late for work and decide to just hit the drive through instead of packing a lunch. Slowly but surely you slip into your old habits again.

Fueled by the frustration of drifting farther and farther from your health goals, the guilt and shame of failure sets in. You feel further than ever from that elusive 15 pounds and at this point, it might as well be 50 pounds. Focusing on the destination has delivered you to the place where you once again put your goals on the shelf until the calendar flips over a new year. And repeat.

A focus on the destination will fail every time because our goals are often too big to sustain us through the daily grind. Achieving any new goal requires change in mindset and routine. Changing these areas of your daily life to achieve the goal can often be the toughest part. It’s incredibly easy to slip back into your old ways when the work required to change feels harder than the pay-off of the end goal.

Focus on the Journey

But what happens when you flip the mindset and instead focus on the journey? What does focusing on the journey actually look like?

In terms of new year’s resolutions, focusing on the journey means breaking the larger resolution down into daily action steps. It then means adapting each action step into your life in a way which is both motivating and satisfying. And most importantly, it means giving yourself permission to fail occasionally but the grace to move beyond the temporary setback.

Yes … you read that correctly. Set yourself up for success by actively planning for and moving past moments of setback.

Let’s take a look at my previous example of losing 15 pounds. Focusing on the journey means breaking down the steps you will need to take to accomplish this goal. Maybe you decide to hit the gym 4 days a week, pack healthy lunches for work instead of eating out, and cut back on dessert 3 days a week. These are the daily action steps needed to get to your goal.

Now to find ways of making these daily action steps both satisfying and motivating.

Maybe you are challenged with having 5 books on your “must read” list and no time in which to read them. This is a perfect opportunity to reward yourself with gym time by downloading an audio book app and only listening while working out.

Or maybe you are highly motivated by statistics so you find an app which tracks your workouts. You can then derive satisfaction from seeing all the miles you’ve racked up since you started.

There are any number of ways to satisfy and motivate yourself to continue the small, daily tasks required to accomplish larger goals. It’s often a matter of figuring out what motivates you individually.

The last piece of making your new year’s resolution a permanent part of your life is planning for setbacks. Setbacks are inevitable. No matter how satisfying and motivating you make your daily action steps, life happens and there will be times you need to take a step back. Keeping a new year’s resolution is not about whether you screw up but rather what your next step is when you fall off the wagon.

Do you miss a day at the gym, immediately feel incredibly guilty, and then decide to double down by having cheat meals for the next 10 months? Or do you give yourself some grace for being human and get back on track the next day?

To accomplish huge goals, including new year’s resolutions, you must take a series of small, daily steps which inch you ever closer to where you want to be. There will be days when you are not able to take those steps. But make up for it by choosing to take steps at the very next opportunity.

Focusing on the journey means actively seeking out the joy in your daily life. Choose to live in the now instead of chasing after the imaginary paradise of the destination.

Enjoying the journey rather than continually chasing the destination gives you the opportunity to figure out where you’re headed and whether this is the journey you actually want to be on. It gives you the power to evaluate and adjust your course regardless of where you’re at in your journey. You can make positive changes regardless of whether it’s January 1st or October 10th. The power is in your hands.

And if you’re looking for ideas on where to begin, I’ve got you covered! Check out the list below for simple new year’s resolutions divided out by category.

Physical Health

Work out 3 days a week. If you’re looking for an activity tracking app, check out this one which motivated me to log almost 400 miles this year!

Replace your usual lunch with a salad 3 days a week. Make packing easier with this bowl designed for lunch on-the-go.

Drink more water. This water bottle takes the guess work out of incorporating drinking more into your already busy lifestyle.

Sign up for a fitness class with a friend to increase your accountability and to make the class more fun.

Reduce your daily sodium intake to decrease your blood pressure and your overall cardiovascular risk.

Cook at home instead of eating out so you can control what goes into your meals. Find a new crockpot recipe and tame the supper chaos!

Increase your daily step count by taking the stairs instead of the elevator and by replacing a work break with an outside walk. Doing so will not only provide instant health benefits but will make you more refreshed and efficient when you return to your desk.

Drink less soda. The caffeine in many types of soda can interrupt your sleep while the sugar adds empty calories that are often unnecessary.

Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet on a daily basis. Check out this cookbook for fresh recipe ideas.

Cut back on alcohol. Excessive intake can negatively impact the heart, brain, liver, and immune system.

Emotional Health

Schedule time every day to pursue a hobby or activity which you find meaningful.

Incorporate a simple meditation exercise into your daily routine. Check out this app which has helped me better understand my thinking patterns and reduced my anxiety and overwhelm.

Learn strategies of relaxation to improve your mood, sleep, and to reduce certain cardiovascular risks.

Release yourself from something which has been weighing you down. We often put too much pressure on ourselves in certain areas of life and this leads to anxiety, overwhelm, and a general state of unhappiness. If you are having difficulty letting go, seek out a counselor.

Laugh. Every single day.

Limit the time you spend on social media. Although it has its perks, too much social media can suck up your time and depress your mood.

Say no more often. If whatever you’re being asked to do doesn’t light you up with joy, do yourself a favor and politely decline.

Relationships

Prioritize date night with your significant other. Spending time alone together gives you the opportunity to connect in ways that our often busy lives do not provide.

Drop the mom guilt. Do the absolute best you can and don’t worry about the rest!

Spend the last 30 minutes before bed talking with your significant other instead of losing yourself on your phone or computer.

Family game night. Need I say more?

Commit to device-free dinner, even if it’s only one night a week.

Plan a lunch date. Connecting with your partner at an unexpected time of day can create connection and leave you feeling energized for the rest of the day.

Say “I love you” more often. It’s a simple act but is something which can easily be lost in the craziness of daily life.

Set aside regular time to spend with each of your children to plan an afternoon date or participate in a fun, creative activity.

Spend some time figuring out whether you and your partner are speaking the same language. Check out this book for help.

Consider the language you use to convey messages to your partner, especially during disagreements. Use of the words “always” and “never” generally cause defensive feelings, never a positive when trying to resolve a complex situation. Seek the help of a counselor if you feel issues are continually unresolved.

Faith

Read the Bible daily. Make reading even easier with this great app which also includes all types of reading plans.

Prioritize prayer. Try setting a daily phone timer to prompt you to include this vital activity into your life.

Incorporate gratitude by writing down something you are grateful for each day.

Attend weekly church services.

Join or start a Bible study. Fellowship with others strengthens your faith and is a source of support during both good and bad times.

Volunteer your time or talents to a cause you find meaningful.

Increase your charitable donations.

Finances

Pack your lunch instead of eating out. Meal prep like a pro with these awesome containers!

Clearly identify your financial goals. Do you have debt to pay off? Looking to increase your income this year? Student loan debt piling up? The act of writing down your goals solidifies and clarifies them, making it easier to hit your target.

Track your expenses for a month to determine whether your spending aligns with your priorities.

Pick up a side gig to create another income stream.

Set up or get serious about contributing to your retirement account.

Switch to brewing your favorite drink at home instead of hitting up the drive thru line.

Cut down on both your bill and mindless screen time by cancelling your cable services. Imagine the financial possibilities with an extra $150+ a month in your account!

Career

Eliminate distractions from your work day to improve productivity. Check out this life-changing book for more on how you can take action today.

Focus on improving your self-confidence.

Read a personal development book. Or you could even aim for one per month.

Further your education. Whether you attend a formalized program or individual classes, education is a valuable asset applicable in many areas of both life and work.

Attend local networking events to expand your professional circle.

Spend some time updating your LinkedIn profile.

Find a career mentor. My greatest mentor is someone who consistently motivates and inspires me to be a better nurse today than I was yesterday.

It’s Your Turn!

And there you have it … simple habits you can incorporate into your daily life to move the needle further toward living your best life. New year’s resolutions don’t need to be complicated and in fact, the simpler, the better. Whether it’s January 1st or November 17th, you can make small changes which will add up to a more fulfilled and purposeful life.

Please drop a comment below about your own positive changes as I’d love to cheer you on!

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day? If you’re a mom, I’m willing to bet it was probably sometime before your first pregnancy. My own struggles with sleep started during my first pregnancy 9 years ago. The constant daytime sleepiness actually progressed to a point a couple of years ago when I was convinced I had a sleep disorder. It was at this point when I started getting serious about how to get better sleep at night.

A sleep disorder seemed the only logical explanation for why I dozed off minutes after sitting or even a few times while standing. The sleepiness I experienced on a daily basis was excruciating. All I wanted to do in any given moment was lie down and take a nap.

Testing for the particular sleep disorder I was absolutely certain was to blame for my daytime sleepiness involves an overnight in a sleep lab. The test continues with a series of timed naps the following day. And then the waiting for test interpretation by neurology. It seemed to take forever to finally get the answer I was waiting for.

The call came in the middle of one of my graduate nursing classes one day. I quietly stepped out and listened as the nurse told me that I in fact did not have a sleep disorder. Everything was perfectly normal. Great news, right?

Wrong. I was devastated by the news. Although it sounds terrible, I desperately wanted something to blame for how awful I felt on a daily basis. I was looking for an easy, cut and dried solution to my sleep deprived existence and this was definitely not it!

The nurse asked whether I had any questions and fueled by the injustice and hopelessness of it all, I immediately demanded an appointment with the neurologist. Surely, there had been some type of mistake. An honest, human error perhaps. Or maybe my results were actually borderline. Either way, I would get to the bottom of this.

Finally the day of my appointment arrived. At that point in time, I was still honestly expecting some type of explanation or retraction of normal results from the neurologist. I desperately wanted to feel like a normal person again. Instead, I felt like some type of demented zombie, aimlessly wandering the earth looking for its next meal. In fact, “painfully tired” was the word I would use to describe my daily existence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the neurogist entered the room. He brought up my test interpretation and described the perfectly normal results. A fact that was tough to dispute in the face of graphs and pie charts. There was clearly nothing borderline here. Still desperate for some relief, I asked for his best advice on how to combat my constant fatigue.

We spent the next 15 minutes discussing a variety of contributors to my constant sleepiness. Below are a series of questions based upon this conversation. Take a few minutes to answer these questions for yourself and you will discover areas where you can improve to get better sleep at night.

Using Routine to Get Better Sleep

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) Do you stick to a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends? Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets up a strong routine. It sends a message to your body that this is either a time to sleep or a time to be awake. No more in between times of dozing off during the day or nighttime sleeplessness.

Setting up a regular sleep routine is also incredibly beneficial for your kids! Instilling these skills in them while they are young ensures better sleep habits as they grow older.

If you have an infant, establishing a sleep routine at this point in your parenting journey may not be a feasible option. If this is you, I can completely relate! None of my 3 children actually slept through an entire night until they were at least a year. I felt as if this stage would last forever! Try to be patient … your little one will be sleeping through the night before you know it!

2) Do you nap during the day? Napping disrupts your body’s natural rhythm and can actually make it tougher to sleep at night. It may seem counterintuitive but try to avoid daytime napping if possible.

Although it’s best to avoid napping altogether, there are two major rules to follow if you absolutely must take a nap. The first involves the amount of time you should spend napping. Limit the nap to between 15 and 20 minutes. It may not seem like enough time but it’s actually the perfect amount of time for a mid-day recharge.

The second rule is to get the short nap in before 2 in the afternoon. Any later than 2 and you risk not being sleepy enough when bedtime rolls around. If you are used to taking long weekend naps, it may take a bit to incorporate these rules. But I promise that if you follow through, it will allow you to get better sleep at night!

3) Are you getting regular aerobic exercise? Exercise triggers the release of adrenaline among other hormones which in turn promotes wakefulness. This means that although you should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, aim for earlier in the day. When performed too close to bed, the hormones produced by exercise can interfere with your body’s ability to wind down and fall asleep.

Getting regular exercise has been a game-changer for me! I have found that I sleep much deeper on days when I get my run in. Although it can be tough to get up early enough to hit the gym, knowing that I’ll sleep better that night is often the only motivation required.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

4) Do you have a regular bedtime relaxation routine? Consider activities such as journaling with a gratitude practice, a warm bath, reading (an actual book, not a tablet), yoga, or gentle stretching. Meditation can also help to clear your mind of distraction.

Developing a regular bedtime routine with activities designed for relaxation sends a message to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Set a daily alarm on your phone to signal you that it’s time to shut down and get into bedtime mode. This tip is also extremely beneficial for kids. My weeknights go incredibly fast and I have found that if I don’t set an alarm, the night gets away from me. Before I know it, the clock hits 9:30 p.m. and the kids are still awake. Yikes … the perfect recipe for a cranky morning!

5) Are you getting outside during the day? Exposure to sunlight early in the day alerts your body that it’s time to wake up. If possible, go for a run or walk outside early in the day to easily incorporate both tips into your daily routine. Gradually decreasing your exposure to bright light, including artificial lighting, as the day progresses encourages your body’s natural sleep rhythms to activate. Incorporate this tip into your bedtime routine by dimming the lights in your house in the hour or so prior to bed.

Environmental Changes

6) Do you keep your bedroom temperature cool? Ideally, this temperature should be between 68-70 degrees to promote more restful sleep. Studies have shown that keeping a cooler temperature at night minimizes unnecessary awakenings due to being excessively warm.

7) Do you spend time on your phone or watching television right before bed? Screens from cell phones, televisions, and other electronics emit a blue light which interferes with your body’s natural sleep hormone production. The light interferes by sending a message to your body to wake up instead of to wind down.

Consider incorporating this tip into your bedtime routine to get better sleep at night. If possible, sleep in a completely different room than your phone to avoid being mindlessly pulled in to using it. Social media is designed to suck you right in and significantly contributes to anxiety, depression, and feelings of overwhelm. Even aside from the biological impact of the blue light on sleep hormones, the stress caused by social media in itself is enough to interfere with sleep. If you are interested in learning more about how to stop the mindless scrolling, check out this book.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt.

8) Is your bedroom a dark, quiet and peaceful atmosphere which invites you to fall gently asleep at night? Excessive light can cause you to wake frequently at night. Pets and kids should optimally be out of your bed to promote your best sleep. Although I am currently struggling with the kid situation, I do aspire to have all 3 children in their own room at some point.

Unfortunately after years of being a mom I sleep very lightly and easily awaken to even the quietest of noises. Psychologically I always feel the need to be alert to attend to the needs of my kids even though they are well past the stage where they can’t tell me what they need. I have found that periodically giving the responsibility of listening for the kids at night to my husband is helpful in releasing the psychological burden and getting better sleep at night. Sleeping in a completely different room is also helpful in achieving better sleep at night.

Food and Drink Modifications to Get Better Sleep

9) Are you consuming caffeine within a few hours of bedtime? If so, consider reducing or stopping intake altogether at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine hides in a variety of foods and drinks but can seriously impair sleep quality. If you are struggling with either falling or staying asleep, carefully examine your afternoon and evening intakes for caffeine.

10) Do you generally eat supper right before bedtime? The work involved in digesting fatty or spicy foods is enough to keep you wide awake at night. Not to mention the risk you run of acid reflux if you lie down too soon after eating. I have found that eating heavy meals right before bed also results in crazy dreams!

If possible, try to have your evening meal in the late afternoon. If you find that you need a snack before bed, focus on lighter foods. Eating foods with dairy and protein can help promote a restful night of sleep. Examples include yogurt, cheese or half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Avoid foods with lots of sugar because when your body’s blood sugar level drops later on in the night, your sleep will be interrupted.

11) Is your sleep interrupted by getting up to use the bathroom at night? You may consider stopping fluid intake a couple of hours prior to bed to reduce the need to interrupt your sleep at night. Although alcohol can initially make you sleepy, it interferes with your ability to stay asleep all night long. When you want to get better sleep at night, avoid alcohol altogether before bedtime.

Positioning Matters

12) Do you generally wake up with back and/or neck pain? After my third pregnancy, I began noticing that I was consistently waking up with lower back pain. It was also at that time when I began attending physical therapy to get my abdominal muscles back. My therapist recommended that I sleep with a pillow between my legs to provide better low back support. I have slept with a pillow between my legs since that time and have not once woken up with lower back pain. It’s an incredibly easy fix which gets your day off to a much better start!

13) When was the last time you replaced your pillow or even your mattress? If you are consistently waking up with headaches or generalized discomfort, your pillows and/or mattress may be to blame. These items are not designed to last forever and do wear out with time. Although a new matress is a financial investment, the return will be improved alertness and productivity during the day.

Still Can’t Sleep? Try This.

14) What is your next move when you don’t fall asleep within 5-10 minutes of lying down? Do you continue to lie in bed, thinking about how late it is and how tired you will be the next day? Or do you turn to your phone or late night television? Hopefully you don’t do either of the last two options after reading #7 above! Your best bet is to actually get up and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy once again. You may consider keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed for those times when your mind is racing. The act of transforming your thoughts to black and white on the page can be extremely liberating.

Another option is to read a book. Lastly, consider meditation or an app designed to help you fall asleep. Although I have not personally tried the app option, I have had several people tell me that listening to a monotonous voice reading a dull description of landscape is quite soothing. I will have to keep you posted on this option the next time I am looking for assistance on getting to sleep!

15) Do you take any type of medication to help you sleep at night? Even certain types of over-the-counter medications can have a rebound effect and actually make it more difficult to sleep after a period of time. Sleep medications can also be extremely habit-forming and may create issues for you down the road. Consult your primary care provider for advice on using medication for sleep as they are able to provide a treatment plan individualized for you.

Time to See a Professional

16) Have you considered counseling for management of underlying anxiety and/or depression? The stress of being a mom is real regardless of your individual situation. If stress continues to run rampant in your life, your sleep will be negatively impacted. In many cases, anxiety or depression left unmanaged significantly contributes to poor sleep, zaps your energy, and leaves you feeling fatigued during the day. Either one can make falling or staying asleep challenging. Counselors can help you sort out your feelings by providing non-biased perspective on your individual situation. If you find your racing thoughts and negative feelings are keeping you awake, please seek assistance in this area!

17) Have you tried all of the above and are still waking up exhausted? Then it’s time to see your primary care provider. This is especially true if you’ve been told that you snore or have trouble staying awake during the day despite adequate sleep at night. You may have a sleep disorder and left untreated, sleep disorders can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, and other significant health concerns. But with treatment, sleep disorders can be managed and you can start to feel more rested and productive during the day.

I sincerely hope you have found helpful advice within this post! Discovering how to get better sleep at night is an invaluable part of your overall health and wellbeing. Each of the above tips has contributed to my own journey toward feeling more rested during the day. Although there are areas that I continue to work on, my sleep quality has dramatically improved.

Now it’s your turn! Please let me know which of the above tips were most helpful for you in the comment section below. Are there areas which are particularly challenging for you? Also, does anyone know how to get a 3-year-old to sleep in their own room??? Any helpful advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated!

Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom guilt has haunted me since I first became a mom 9 years ago.  My daughter made her appearance mid-semester of an intense nursing program.  I had been nervous about the impending birth since the positive pregnancy test.  It wasn’t necessarily the birth itself I feared, it was not graduating from the program.  Nursing programs have strict attendance policies (for good reason!) and I was terrified that I would miss time and be forced to drop out.  To make matters worse, I lived an hour away from the school I was attending.  This meant two hours tacked onto each class or clinical day.  Two hours of essentially non-productive time spent away from my daughter.

Mom guilt, fueled by a lack of sleep, school stress, and the pressures of adjusting to being a mom, elevated daily.  I had been driven to build this career long before her birth but it now seemed a selfish use of my time.  Wouldn’t she be better off with me constantly tending to her every need?  How many moments with her would I miss while learning to care for complete strangers?  What was the point of putting myself through the torture of the commute, school, and clinicals?  Would it really pay off in the end?

Mom guilt is real and crippling.  It is an insidious negativity which clouds your thinking and steals your joy.  For many moms, guilt is at the root of anxiety, feelings of overwhelm, and depression.  Even worse, feelings of guilt can drive behaviors such as addiction and perfectionism in an attempt to relieve the discomfort they cause.  But what causes mom guilt?  And more importantly, what can you do about it?  This post explores both topics and gives you actionable steps to take in healing from mom guilt.

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.

Cause #1: Role Juggling

Wife, mom, employee, chief cook, home organizer, family coordinator and the list goes on.  And on and on and on … indefinitely.  Moms today juggle SO MANY ROLES.  Each role comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges.  There’s simply no way to give your all within each individual role without impacting the others.  Conflict between the roles is inevitable. 

And then there are the expectations.  Everyone has an opinion about expectations related to the various roles you hold.  Your employer expects you to produce quality work.  Maybe your husband expects you to cook supper every night.  And your children expect help with their homework every night. 

You might also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

You also have expectations of yourself.  Expectations which hold your performance in all these roles to a certain standard.  The expectations you have for yourself can be heavily impacted by the expectations of others.  And in many cases, all these expectations are not rooted in reality and are completely unattainable.  The gap between expectation and reality is only worsened by the next cause, social media.

Cause #2: Social Media

Take a minute to look through your favorite social media feed.  Chances are, you will see flawless selfies, free of blemishes or wardrobe malfunctions.  Smiling kids and laughing babies.  Married couples smiling as they enjoy yet another date night free from conflict and petty arguments.  In short, you will see perfection.

But social media is not reality.  Behind those photos are filters, fighting kids, and the same expectation conflict you face on a daily basis.  We are all waging the same war between who we are and who we think we should be.  It’s just that this side of ourselves is often conflicted and not as pretty as any of our other sides.  This side never gets posted.

The constant exposure to everyone else’s “perfection” adds to the already unrealistic expectations you hold for yourself.  If left unresolved, all this pressure eventually leads to guilt.  It seems as if everywhere you look, moms are crushing it.  They’re packing organic lunches, volunteering for field trips, and taking strong positions against screen time for their kids.  Their home-based businesses are thriving and they’re vacationing multiple times a year.  Meanwhile, you’re left trying to remember whether you washed your hair this morning and arriving late to work.  AGAIN.  Social media leads directly into the next cause, comparison.

Cause #3: Comparison

Seeing perfection wherever you turn naturally leads you to stop and examine your own life. And let’s face it … being a mom is hard! It’s not as if we are magically handed parenting instructions at the birth of our babies. I had never even changed a diaper prior to the birth of my daughter. There were so many aspects of being a new mom that I felt completely unprepared to face. Not to mention the fact that all of those personal struggles you feel which are totally separate from being a mom are still there. You’ve now just added more uncertainty to the existing pile.

You might also enjoy reading 4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset.

Uncertainty piles on top of uncertainty and you soon find it difficult to be sure of anything anymore. Influenced by the expectations, opinions, and false perfection of all the other moms out there, you begin to question EVERYTHING. Your choice to continue working, how your kids spend their free time, your relationship with your spouse, and even your ability to take time for yourself.

Given the influences of social media and the comparison factor, it’s no wonder mom guilt is such a pervasive issue today. But what can you do about it?

Mom Guilt Solution #1: Self-Care

The first step in kicking mom guilt to the curb is self-care. You NEED to make time for yourself. I know what you’re thinking. Your schedule is packed as it is. If you’re anything like me, your plate is already brimming with tasks from the break of dawn through well after dark. How can you possibly add something else to the mix?

I get it. Your gigantic “to-do” list seems way more pressing than taking an hour out of your day to workout. Work was crazy busy today and you’re exhausted. The kids need help with homework and dinner is in an hour. Taking time for you feels selfish in the face of all that needs to be done. Will taking time out for you really make a difference?

Absolutely! Taking time out for yourself on a daily basis will change your outlook. It will boost your mood, give you confidence, and improve your ability to deal with stress. Taking the time you need reminds you of the person you are deep down inside. It revives the woman you were before anyone called you “mom.”

Although the concepts are the same, self-care looks a little bit different for everyone. We all benefit from a relatively balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep at night. But the piece that really sparks life and meaning for me is following my passions. Remembering to include time for activities which are meaningful to me makes me a better mom. When I have time to pursue these pastimes, I am calmer, more self-assured, and can face the stress of the day. In fact, identifying meaning in what you do is so important that it’s the next solution for combatting mom guilt.

Mom Guilt Solution #2: Find the Meaning

Our tendency to juggle so much as moms leads us to hone in on only those aspects of a situation which need to be fixed. If we focused on every single detail of every situation, our minds would explode. Although our brains like the automation, focusing on the negative naturally tends to block out the positive. After awhile, this can impact your entire mindset.

But there are simple ways to flip the guilt into useful energy. The first is by becoming aware of your thoughts. Often mom guilt manifests itself as intensely vague feelings disguised as anxiety, fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, and depressed mood. It’s only when you take the time to clearly identify and work through these feelings that you can begin to heal.

Journaling can be incredibly helpful in getting the vague thoughts and negative feelings out of your head. The act of writing them on paper and seeing them in black and white adds a dose of reality that attempting to process in your head simply can’t. Incorporating a daily practice of journaling either right away in the morning or before bed allows your brain to release the negativity.

Journaling can also help you to begin identifying negative thought patterns, themes, and triggers. After seeing your thoughts on the page, look for the influences of comparison and unrealistic expectations. At this point, ask yourself whether there is any truth behind the source of guilt. Once you’ve identified the answer, flip it to the positive. Here’s an example illustrating the technique.

After my daughter was born, I struggled with the decision to continue the pursuit of nursing. It felt selfish and caused intensely negative feelings which clouded all my thoughts and significantly impacted my joy. I fixated on the amount of time I was away from my daughter as a negative and refused to acknowledge any possible benefits.

The truth of the situation is that although I was required to spend time away from her, I was also pursing a meaningful career. It’s simply not realistic to think that you can spend every waking moment from now through eternity with your child. Role modeling the importance of pursuing goals, making a contribution to society, and the value of an income are incredibly important. In this situation, focusing on the meaning of what I was doing eventually helped me overcome the vague mom guilt which tried to creep in.

You might also enjoy reading Find Your Why.

I love journaling because it’s an individualized activity. It’s time for you to work through the core of whatever is triggering mom guilt for you. Keep in mind that mom guilt triggers are incredibly variable from mom to mom. An incredibly strong trigger for one mom might not even phase another. This is because moms and families in general are unique. This brings us to the next solution.

Mom Guilt Solution #3: Do You

No one else in this world has had the experiences you’ve had. There isn’t a mom on this earth who has the child(ren) you do. Is it then realistic to think that what works for one mom is reasonable or acceptable for you?

There are obviously many common themes to parenting and the ability to check in with other moms who have had similar experiences. But at the end of the day, you have the ability to take in the information and make the best possible decision given what’s in front of you. What works for one mom may not work for you.

Let go of comparison. Stop the social media scrolling. Remember all those unique things which make you and your family special. Revel in those. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Make the best possible decisions you can make and don’t worry about the rest. Always look for ways to be better but give yourself grace in the process. Know that you are doing your best and simply let go of the rest!

Goodbye Mom Guilt!

As long as there have been moms, mom guilt has been a very real thing. We have been given a huge gift in our children but this comes with responsibility. It’s not something to be taken lightly. But we must also remember to enjoy the gift. Laugh, love, and find the joy. Stop fixating on the negatives. Although all moms experience some degree of mom guilt, it is possible to not only overcome it, but turn it into something useful. Besides journaling and becoming mindful of your thoughts, here are a few more actionable tips in transforming your thinking.

  • Find other moms you can relate to. It’s really important to have support in your journey. Parenting is so hard! Chances are, there are moms out there who are just like you who can provide encouragement, laughter, and boost your mood.
  • Find a counselor you feel comfortable talking with. Counseling is incredibly helpful because it provides an outside perspective on your inner world. Sometimes we get too tied up in our own thinking and are unable to see the other side. Family and friends often have their own perspectives and expectations of you. They generally mean well but are therefore unable to provide unbiased opinions on your inner world. A counselor can help you sort through your mom guilt in ways other people can’t. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression rooted in mom guilt, please reach out to someone. You don’t have to struggle alone!
  • Journal about your feelings on a regular basis. It’s important to get your negative feelings out but it’s equally helpful to look for what’s going well. Where are the areas you are excelling? What are you proud of? Where are you growing? Keep these positive thoughts at the forefront so you have a bank to draw from when your thoughts trend toward the negative.
  • Take time to pursue activities which are meaningful for you. If you’re not sure what that is, try something new. Sign up for a class. Read a book. Get into a Facebook group about a topic which interests you. Life is about getting out there and trying new things. Becoming a mom doesn’t take away your right to continue growing as a woman!
  • Stop the mindless social media scrolling! Social media can add value to your life but only if you’re mindful about how you’re using it and the impact it has on your outlook.

If you’re looking for even more advice on how to overcome negativities in your mindset and outlook, check out this book. It’s full of motivation and inspiration encouraging you to overcome whatever is holding you back! There simply aren’t enough words to describe the impact this book had on my own life and my ability to re-frame mom guilt. It’s a life changer!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful on your journey toward leaving mom guilt in the past. The truth is that all moms struggle with guilt at certain points but what matters is what you do with the struggle. You can let it overwhelm you or you can reach out and get help. There are ways to turn it around but you have to make the choice.

I’d love to hear about your experience with mom guilt! Do you have helpful tips and tricks on reversing the negativity? Comment below with your thoughts on this post. Now go out there and be the awesome woman and mom I know you are!

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” This timeless quote by Eleanor Roosevelt dares you to embrace adventure! Adventure is great if you’re Captain Jack Sparrow but what if you’re a mom just trying to make it through the day? Is there any benefit in embracing this mantra? And if so, how do you break out of your routine enough to enact it in your everyday life?

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.

Mom Life is a Circus

If my roles as a wife and busy mom who works full-time have taught me anything, it’s that life is crazy! On most days, keeping up feels completely impossible. It’s almost as if I’m juggling 7 balls while trying to hula-hoop and jump rope simultaneously.

Needless to say, the circus act which is my life often transforms itself into anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. When these feelings take over, my natural tendency is to attempt balancing the anxiety of the chaos with routine. Routine feels safe. It adds an element of predictability which is otherwise difficult to find amidst the chaos of life.

Routine is my antidote to anxiety.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

I often find myself equating something new or different with bad and scary simply because the outcome is unknown. Routine on the other hand tends to involve the same elements. Mixing the same elements time after time equals the same (or similar) outcomes. Routine = predictability.

Or at least that’s how it theoretically works in my mind. Logically, I know that life is unpredictable. We can never plan for all the possible unexpectedness we’re hit with on any given day. Nonetheless, routine continues to be my response to the constant change inevitable to life.

Consistency, Routines, & Success

Although there are drawbacks to being a routine-oriented person, there are also definite benefits. The biggest actually involves success. The truth is that success always requires effort. True success doesn’t happen overnight and has nothing to do with luck or chance. Consistent effort performed over time transforms itself into routine. Success is then built on the routines constructed from consistent effort. See how that works?

Consistency in small actions snowballs into bigger routines and eventually, huge successes.

Here’s an example of the consistency, routine, success cascade in action. Let’s say you want to get back into shape again after a long gym hiatus. You set a start date for your new goal. You’re committed to break out of your routine of skipping the gym. Obviously new running shoes and workout clothes are a necessity! As is the renewal of your long expired gym membership. Your schedule is crazy busy already but you decide that your gym time will be at 5 a.m.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

Your start date finally arrives and you roll out of bed at 5, tired but excited about your fitness goals. You get dressed and head out the door. The drive to the gym is a short one and after parking, you select the latest episode of your favorite podcast and walk inside.

As it’s been awhile since you last worked out, you’re hesitant at first. You soon hit your stride and motivated by your podcast, have a great workout. You’re feeling slightly more energized than before and feel proud that you were able to break out of your routine.

Although day one went well, you know that the journey doesn’t end here. Unfortunately, it will take more than one day to return to being able to easily run 3 miles or lift without feeling completely spent the next day.

When you initially begin chasing this goal, you will need to make the conscious choice to wake up and sweat. After a period of time however your conscious choice simply becomes something you do. Hitting the gym in the morning will start to feel automatic. It builds into a routine which eventually transforms your health.

If you are that person who thrives on routine, it can be much easier to transform an activity into another piece of your routine. But if you happen to be that person who tires easily of doing the same things day after day, you need to be much more creative in figuring out how to consistently incorporate something new.

Same Old, Same Old

Routines are such a theme for me that my day even begins with eating the same exact breakfast. To be honest, part of the reason why I eat the same thing is because then I don’t have to try to come up with something different. I go through periods where I struggle with meal planning for my family and my kids have eaten way more happy meals than I care to admit. As my kids generally prefer to eat breakfast at school, I definitely do not want to put the time and energy into planning something new for myself. After all, I have gradually adapted my breakfast over the years into the ultimate ratio of protein and carbs to keep me full until lunch. Why mess with something that works?

But could there actually be a benefit in figuring out how to break out of your routine?

Research suggests that our brains are wired to form routines because forming pathways of familiar behavior frees up space for processing other types of information. 

When considering it from this angle, it probably is a good thing that I eat the same exact breakfast because I have plenty of extraneous questions and information to process thrown at me by my kids prior to 7 a.m. every morning. 

“Mom!  Where are my library books?  More milk!  I don’t want to wear that!  Is it going to be warm enough to wear shorts?  But I don’t want to wear pants!  Did you sign my folder?  Can I have candy for breakfast?  My tablet isn’t working!  More milk! Fix my tablet!  I can’t find my library books!  But I don’t want to wear underwear!  More milk!”  All this in the span of about 15 seconds from all 3 of them simultaneously. 

My brain has clearly decided that in order to survive and get myself as well as 3 children out the door every morning, a certain amount of automation is necessary.

Break out of Your Routine to Avoid Feeling Stuck

Stubbornly clinging to routine is not always protective though, especially when it blocks us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. Routine can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. It can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from meeting new people, exploring different interests, and leading awesomely fulfilling lives.

Routine feels safe and gives a false sense of control over our lives. I once read a statistic that most car accidents don’t occur on unfamiliar roadways but rather those that are only within a few mile radius of one’s house most likely because we let our guard down due to this false sense of security in the familiar.

Breaking out of routines helps prepare us for the unexpected in a way that the “same old same old” never will. Another bonus of leaving the familiar behind is that trying new things becomes easier and easier. I can tell you that since I’ve started actively looking for new experiences, especially those that scare me, it has become less and less scary to say yes.

Stepping outside routines also improves creativity because it challenges us to think in new and different ways. So how does one go about breaking away from their deeply ingrained routines and comfort zone? Surprisingly, it can start with only a few very small changes. You never know how the incredible ripple effect of trying something different may impact your outlook and life until you give it a try.

So go ahead and give something a try! There are 70 ideas below to spark your creativity. Some are big while others are small. A few can easily be incorporated into your daily routine while others are perfect for weekends. Most can also easily be accommodated adapted for kids. There are also plenty of ideas if you’re looking for fulfilling self care practices. Check it out now!

70 Ideas to Break Out of Your Routine

  1. Drive to work by a different route.
  2. Ask a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile to meet up for coffee or dinner.
  3. Take an art class.
  4. Read a book. If you’re looking for recommendations, here is a suspenseful read from one of my favorite authors. Here’s another one which has a completely unexpected twist at the end. And if you’re looking for a series, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. I had a seriously hard time putting it down!
  5. Start a blog.
  6. Try a restaurant you’ve never tried before.
  7. Spend an afternoon in the park.
  8. Go for a run in an area of town you’ve never been before.
  9. Get a group of friends together and sign up to play a sport you enjoy.
  10. Strike up a conversation with a neighbor you haven’t met before.
  11. Learn to play an instrument.
  12. Actually get your kids together for a play date with someone you’ve always talked about doing it with.
  13. Get involved in a small group at your church.
  14. Volunteer somewhere.
  15. Go for a bike ride.
  16. Make a quilt.
  17. Start a scrapbook.
  18. Bake cookies for your neighbors.
  19. Cook something completely different for dinner.
  20. Go to a concert.
  21. Try out for a play.
  22. Involve your kids in an activity you enjoyed as a kid.
  23. Make a smoothie.
  24. Take a yoga class.
  25. Plant a garden.
  26. Take your kids to a movie.
  27. Take a week-long break from Facebook and connect with your friends in person instead.
  28. Spend a day in a city you’ve never been to before.
  29. Start looking into your family history.
  30. Take a family trip to a county fair.
  31. Listen to a personal development podcast.
  32. Go for a train ride.
  33. Commit to shutting off all electronics and spending quality time with your family each day.
  34. Start a home-based business.
  35. Find a coach.
  36. Tell your family how much you love them.
  37. Pay for a stranger’s coffee.
  38. Support a friend’s home-based business.
  39. Plan, shop for, and cook a dinner with your family.
  40. Go for a jog with a friend.
  41. Hire a babysitter and have a date night with your spouse.
  42. Plan a vacation.
  43. Get a massage.
  44. Have a family game night.
  45. Call a family member you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  46. Take your family bowling.
  47. Go for a trail ride.
  48. Re-create your favorite coffee drink or restaurant meal at home.
  49. Take a nap.
  50. Find a personal trainer.
  51. Visit a museum.
  52. Go to a play.
  53. Start keeping a journal.
  54. Start your day by listing 3 things you’re thankful for.
  55. See a movie in theaters.
  56. Take a class about a topic or hobby that interests you.
  57. Try meditation.
  58. Find a new workout routine.
  59. Join a club.
  60. Make a craft with your kids.
  61. Do a puzzle.
  62. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  63. Come up with a family (or personal) mission statement.
  64. Paint that room in your house which has been begging for an up-do.
  65. Transform your hair with a completely new cut and/or color.
  66. Have your make-up professionally done for date night.
  67. Go through your closets and donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.
  68. Plan out and cook a 3-course meal for your family.
  69. Look for opportunities to use your talents in a meaningful way.  Check out Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig.
  70. Sit down and color with your kids.

It’s Your Turn!

I hope this list has inspired you to try something new and break out of your routine!  Even small changes can have huge impacts on your outlook!  I am an introvert by nature and reaching out for new experiences has also encouraged me to open up and get to know others in ways that I have never done before.  As humans, we need the support and encouragement of others but cannot just sit around and wait for this to magically happen.  We need to take action toward building our own supportive tribe and growing as individuals otherwise we will forever remain where we currently are in life.  Now go out there, break out of your routine, and let me know how this article has impacted your life in the comments section below!

Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Identify Your Strengths to Improve Your Impact

Wisconsin roads in the winter are a nightmare. Snow-covered ice means finding yourself spinning your wheels without going anywhere. Life can be exactly the same way. There are so many directions to take but which will make the greatest impact? Clarifying your direction starts with the ability to identify your strengths.

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.

“If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.” – Tom Rath, author of Strengths Finder 2.0

Gain Clarity to Identify Your Strengths

The act of gaining clarity on ourselves is tough. This can be especially true when trying to identify your strengths. Maybe you feel constant conflict within yourself. You have a vague sense of your natural strengths but also feel misaligned. It’s almost as if lacking clear definition causes unspoken imbalances elsewhere in your life. You wonder why you feel like a square peg in a round hole.

It may seem counterintuitive but you simply can’t solely rely upon yourself to provide feedback. You need outside input to provide a more clear picture of yourself.

Ideally, this feedback comes from a trusted source; someone who has your best interests at heart. Someone who is insightful and motivating. The type of person who has a thorough understanding of the various types of strengths and their applications. Although you may be lucky enough to have such a person in your life, many people do not.

If you are one of the lucky ones, cherish this relationship. Chances are, you have both seen benefits from insight provided by the other. Use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as a tool to help each other identify your strengths. Motivate each other to actually apply the information in your lives.

Building Upon Strength vs. Overcoming Weakness

Growing up in America, I have always been conditioned to believe that anyone is capable of accomplishing anything. All you need to do is put in the work and you will see the reward. There are countless movies and books highlighting the heroine whose only desire is to accomplish that one huge goal.

The heroine is the underdog who no one expects to win and must overcome almost insurmountable odds to accomplish her goal. In many cases, the heroine spends her time overcoming some type of weakness. The significant disadvantage interferes with her ability to earn the degree, win the match, or land that leading role.

But what if all this effort toward overcoming a weakness is a waste of energy? Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with an area of strength rather than attempting to overcome weakness?

Let’s Look at a Case Study

Take Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde. Throughout the movie, Elle’s passion for all things fashion and lifestyle is evident and she initially enrolls in a fashion merchandising program.

Unfortunately, her boyfriend dumps her and heads off to study law at Harvard.

Determined to win him back, she puts in an incredible amount of time, effort, and energy to earn a spot in the same Harvard program.

She flips her life upside down to pursue the ultimate goal of winning her boyfriend back. Elle does this while pursuing a degree polar opposite to the one she had initially enrolled in.

Elle successfully graduates from the program and realizes that her ex-boyfriend was actually a selfish jerk the whole time. Despite the ending, I have always been left wondering whether she truly was happy in her decision to become a lawyer.

I know what you’re thinking. The movie is typically known as a light-hearted comedy. Is there really a bigger message to take away from it? But hang with me for just a minute.

Although a degree in law is a distinguished and often lucrative career, is there a tiny part inside of her which wonders whether she made the best choice? Would she have been happier pursuing a degree more in line with her strengths and interests? Or whether she could have attained even greater heights?

Fashion was the crossroads of talent and passion for Elle. She put forth incredible effort to overcome her weaknesses in the pursuit of law. Just imagine how a career in fashion, an area of strength, could have blossomed! Imagine the impact you could have if you clearly identify your strengths!

Put a Name to the Strength

Prior to discovering the Strengths Finder 2.0, I had never taken the time to name my own strengths. I chased after various pursuits with only a vague sense of my strengths.

Chasing after anything and everything means you say “yes.” All the time. Lacking clear direction significantly contributes to anxiety and fear of missing out. After all, what if I say “no” to that one thing which could be the game changer? The result is feeling pulled in a million different directions without significant impact.

Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes to be truly great at something? Not just mediocre or moderately acceptable but absolutely outstanding in one particular area? Think Olympic athlete. Your favorite author. Rob Thomas (we can agree to disagree if he’s not your fav …).

The most talented people in the world are generally only known for one thing. It’s not typical for someone to be known as both an enthralling musician AND a captivating author.

Greatness requires hours upon hours of intense focus and a desire for growth. Depending upon the goal, tough decisions, sacrifices, and saying “no” to anything not in line with the ultimate goal are also required. As is correct identification of one’s initial talents and skills.

Using StrengthsFinder 2.0 to Identify Your Strengths

The need to correctly identify your strengths to improve your impact is clear. You may, however, be wondering how the StrengthsFinder 2.0 can help. This book contains a link for an online quiz which reveals your individualized strengths. Following the quiz, refer back to the book for insight on how to incorporate your strengths to increase your impact.

My personal experience with StrengthsFinder 2.0 began with a podcast. I was immediately intrigued and knew this had the potential to improve my impact and provide clarity to my direction.

After taking the assessment, I was shocked! The results put words to what I had always vaguely known about myself. I would compare the feeling to the satisfaction of finding a missing piece of a puzzle. You know it’s there. It’s distinctive shape fools you into thinking it will be an easy one to find. Hiding amidst the jungle of other pieces it just continues eluding you. You have almost convinced yourself that it’s missing; gone forever. Suddenly, you spot the piece and with satisfaction, tap it into place.

Take this opportunity to put another piece of your own puzzle into place.

If you’re not yet convinced about the need to identify your strengths, consider this. Think back to when you first learned to write. Most of us are naturally drawn to write with either the left or right hand. If you spent your time in line with your natural tendency, your attention could then shift to learning how to write letters. Eventually you can focus on the improvement of your handwriting. If, however, you spent your time fighting your natural instinct to be left-handed and attempted to switch to the right, all your time and energy would be spent forcing your hand to accept the role thrust upon it. It would take much more time and effort to get to the point of improving your handwriting.

It’s Time to Take Action

Unless you have taken time to shed light upon your strengths and weaknesses, you will have a vague sense of where you are naturally drawn. But in my experience, vague is completely useless. Vague gets us nowhere.

Be the heroine of your own life. Start with your strengths. Stop trying to overcome weakness. Think about how much farther ahead you will be simply by starting with areas in which you already excel. Stop being the square peg in the round hole.

Take this opportunity to learn more about who you are and what makes you amazing! Check out this post for inspiration on making decisions and this post for my best advice on how to stop caring what everyone else thinks. I truly hope that you find the StrengthsFinder 2.0 as life-changing as I did and would love to hear all about it in the comments below!