Authentic Advice for Moms Going Back to School

Authentic Advice for Moms Going Back to School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Story of Going Back to School as a Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Clear on Your Why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage Your Expectations

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

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

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

Can I let you in on a little secret?

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

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

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

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

Expectations about Work

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

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

Be honest with yourself about your ability to handle both.

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

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

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

Financial Implications of Going Back to School as a Mom

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

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

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

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

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

Evaluate Your Current Schedule

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

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

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

Different Learning Formats When Going Back to School as a Mom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Class Schedules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Your Turn

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

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

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

How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

Have you ever been in that place where you have the best of intentions but just can’t seem to follow through?

You have goals. Big goals that you’ve been working hard to accomplish. But then something happens. Maybe you get sick. Or are asked to put in more hours at work. Schools suddenly close due to a deadly virus and now the education of your children rests squarely in your hands. And by the way, who ever thought that last one would be an actual thing? Definitely not me!

Whatever the cause, you suddenly find your goals pushed off to the wayside.

It’s in these moments that all the hard work we have put toward our goals can quickly be derailed. Our formerly helpful routines are upset and progress grinds to a halt. We suddenly find it difficult to stay motivated.

It happens to all of us at one time or another. The punches life throws seem greater than we can handle. We get knocked down. Thrown off course. Sidetracked.

Illusion vs. Reality

A series of unfortunate events has recently cascaded into my own life, throwing me into a place of emotional angst. Events both at work and at home have taken their toll and I’m just plain tired.

In these moments it’s so easy to let overwhelm take over. It’s tempting to give in to the negative self-talk fueled by anxiety, self-doubt, and fatigue. Giving up on your goals seems like the only reasonable option in an otherwise challenging situation. It even seems as if relief from the all-consuming pressure is waiting just on the other side of admitting defeat.

But is it really?

Or is the relief only an illusion? A figment of your imagination which only exists in the place where it’s created. Is it possible that the relief is only temporary and regret over giving up will soon replace the relief?

Granted, there are situations when we make a conscious decision to shift gears on our goals. Maybe we start down a path only to discover that it’s not the right one for us. Or maybe we don’t actually enjoy doing the thing as much as we thought we would.

Those are not the situations I am referring to.

The situations I’m talking about are the ones where we enjoy pursuing our goals and they fit nicely into our talent set. But life happens and we suddenly decide that everything else is more important and therefore worthy of our time. We lose motivation. Suddenly our goals are tossed aside and no longer prioritized. After a while, we stop actively pursuing them altogether, essentially giving up on our dreams.

Stay Motivated

Let me ask you this…

If the goal was important enough to pursue in the first place, wouldn’t accomplishing that goal feel infinitely better than any temporary relief from giving up?

But how can you get back on track when everything else gets in the way and your motivation is nowhere to be found?

It’s not easy. I’ve been in that place of defeat so many times. I’m a firm believer that the only failure in life is giving up and having given up repeatedly in the past has only served to make me wiser in the present.

If you too are interested in how to stay motivated when life gets tough, I’ve got you covered!

1. Take a Break

Life is busy and some seasons are busier than others. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are finding it difficult to stay motivated, then maybe it’s time to take a breather.

It’s simply not possible to excel at everything all the time. We are human and regularly need rest, even from our biggest goals.

As a type A perfectionist, I’ve had to learn these truths over and over and over again. For the longest time, I equated rest with failure. I felt that if I wasn’t firing on all cylinders all the time then I was failing.

But the truth is that rest can actually make you better. Rest makes you stronger and is a necessary part of growth.

Think about the last time you woke up in the morning after a great night of sleep. Remember that feeling of being able to take on anything? Now think back to a time when you woke after a terrible night of sleep. I’m not sure about you but on those mornings simply getting through the day seems a task of monumental proportions.

Rest and a clear head enable us to take on anything. Sometimes the inability to stay motivated is a clear sign that we are tired.

Taking a break can also help you to see your goal through new eyes. Stepping away can fuel your passion for the project and give you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goals without giving up entirely.

Make a plan for how long you plan to step away and how you will pick back up again when the rest period is over. Planning out your rest gives you accountability and a sense of purpose, essential components for continued productivity.

2. Stay Motivated By Getting Out of Your Head

Have you ever geared yourself up for something and then talked yourself out of it at the last minute? I can’t even count how many times I’ve self-sabotaged this way!

It goes something like this. Let’s say you’re trying to get back into exercising on a regular basis. Tomorrow is leg day and you plan to wake up early to hit the gym. Your alarm goes off at 5 a.m. as planned. But your bed suddenly feels amazingly comfortable and you have zero motivation to follow through in this moment. You begin looking for every excuse in the book to stay cozy instead of hitting the gym.

And so you tell yourself that rest is equally as important as exercise. You reset your alarm and snooze further and further from your fitness goals.

You’re self-sabotaging.

We do this to ourselves so many times and in so many different ways! In those moments when it’s tough to stay motivated we instead give up and give in. We stay in our heads instead of taking action towards our goals.

Going after a new goal requires effort. Goals often demand change and sacrifice. In most cases, you are setting up entirely new routines and in so doing, are going against those previously set.

Ultimately only you can decide whether accomplishing your goals is worth the sacrifice of change. But if the goal is important to you, accomplishment will likely outweigh the discomfort of change.

Make the goal and instead of thinking your way out of it, take action.

No one feels motivated to work hard 100% of the time. Action is what moves us closer to our goals and unfortunately, thinking often gets in the way of action. Stop feeding into the lie that you must feel motivated to take action.

Get out of your head and take the first step.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to stop caring what everyone else thinks.

3. Add Some Fun

Is it possible that your inability to stay motivated could actually be related to a loss of fun?

Although accomplishing any goal requires a certain amount of hard work, no one said it had to be boring!

Sometimes we set goals around activities we enjoy. This is not necessarily a bad thing but when we focus more on the goal than enjoying the activity itself, we set ourselves up for burnout. (I’m talking to you, type A perfectionists!)

It can be all too easy to lose sight of why we started in the first place.

Instead of giving up entirely when your motivation lags, look for ways to add fun back into the equation. Focus on the specific activities which brighten your day and add meaning to your life. Do more of what you love and revel in the feeling it gives you!

4. Stay Motivated by Celebrating Your Wins

If you’re the type of person who simply checks a box and moves on to the next goal, it’s time to consider celebrating your wins. Failure to do so quickly adds up, eventually leading to an inability to stay motivated.

This is a definite area of struggle for me. I find myself tackling one goal after the next without so much as time to breathe in between. After a while, accomplishing goals begins to feel mundane instead of triumphant. Goal attainment can quickly become an obligation instead of a privilege.

Taking time to celebrate even the smallest of victories puts the joy back into what you do. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect back upon all the hard work and sacrifice which went into this amazing accomplishment.

Celebrating wins is a new concept but one I’ve started embracing in my own life. It can take time to get used to looking for wins but if you stick with it, the pay-off is huge!

Start incorporating this practice into your life by attaching a reward to a specific behavior. Going back to the exercise example from above, consider a small reward for yourself after completing a certain number of workouts. After hitting your goal, make sure you actually follow through with the promised reward. It’s not enough to simply tell yourself that you will celebrate … you have to actually celebrate!

5. Find Motivation Outside Yourself

If you are still unable to stay motivated after working through all of the above, it’s time to seek outside motivation.

This may come in the form of advice from a trusted friend or accountability partner. You may find motivation in your favorite TED talk. It may also come from your favorite “stop waiting for life to happen and make your own way” kick-in-the-pants podcast.

Wherever it comes from, there’s a ton of great motivation out there if you know where to look. Sometimes all it takes to get back on track is a quick blog post, a list of the most powerful motivational quotes, or a YouTube video.

The motivation is out there but it’s up to you to go out there and find it.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes to get you started!

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Nelson Mandela

“Well done is better than well said.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.

Oprah Winfrey

You may also enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

Go Out There and Be Awesome!

The truth is that everyone loses motivation at one point or another. But there is one key difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

That difference is persistence.

Successful people know that relying solely on motivation when going after goals will result in failure every time. In order to succeed, you must plan for those times when you simply don’t feel like doing the things you need to do to get where you want to go.

You have to be prepared to never give up because success could be hiding just around the next corner.

I truly hope you have found tips to help you stay motivated toward your goals even in the toughest of times! Look for every opportunity to add a little fun back into your life and to reward yourself for all that hard work!

And don’t forget to share this post if you found something useful or drop a comment below with your main take-aways.

Now get out there and be the awesome person you are!

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

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

Self-doubt is sneaky. It swoops in, stealing your confidence, your productivity, and most of all, your self-esteem.

There are many ways in which self-doubt can show up in your life. You may have vague feelings that you aren’t good enough or that you can’t handle what life throws at you. Or you may have overwhelming feelings of defeat regardless of the goal you are seeking to accomplish.

Self-doubt shows up in my own life as a place of inactivity. It leaves me constantly questioning whether or not to move forward with new ideas and keeps me stuck where I’m at. This negative mindset tends to feed into my perfectionist tendencies and keeps me stuck in the procrastination zone.

I have allowed self-doubt to creep in so many times. Sometimes I wonder how much farther along I would be in certain areas of my life if only I had refused to let self-doubt take over.

But we can’t spend our lives looking in the rearview mirror. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and resolve to do better tomorrow.

There are many reasons why we struggle with self-doubt. We may be carrying false beliefs from childhood. Or maybe we have had failed experiences in the past causing us to lose confidence in ourselves. After all, we failed once. What’s stopping us from failing again?

Whatever the cause, self-doubt holds us back from our full potential.

After realizing just how much self-doubt was preventing my own growth, I devoted time and research into figuring out how to overcome it. Although there are still times when I give in, my awareness of its effects has increased. Self-doubt is therefore much easier to spot early on which means I can quickly deploy tactics to divert it in its tracks.

1. Conquer Self-Doubt Through Awareness

“Being self-aware is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to learn and correct them.”

Daniel Chidiac

As with many things in life, awareness is the very first step. It’s tough to fix something if you’re completely unaware it’s an issue.

But how do you know whether self-doubt is what’s holding you back?

Your self talk often holds the answer to this question. During moments of fear, doubt, and overwhelm, do you find yourself thinking any of the following questions?

  • “I’m not good enough to do this.”
  • “I just can’t do it.”
  • “This is too hard.”
  • “I don’t know how to move forward and even if I did, I would probably fail.”
  • “I’ll never be able to accomplish that.”

If the above comments sound familiar, chances are good that you are struggling with self-doubt. Recognition is powerful. It’s the key to changing this negative mindset.

Because the truth is, you can accomplish things. Big things. Hard things. Seemingly impossible things.

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

Henry Ford

But first your mind has to be in the right place. And being frozen by self-doubt is decidedly NOT the right place.

Practice identifying the subtle negativity hidden in your own self talk. If you are feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt, stop and ask yourself whether you would say these things aloud to someone else.

Chances are good that you wouldn’t. And if you wouldn’t say them to someone else, don’t say them to yourself either.

Stop self-doubt in its tracks by putting a name to it and refusing to feed into the negativity.

Take a vow to stop getting in your own way!

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

2. Get Back to the Basics

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Lucille Ball

Banishing self-doubt requires confidence in yourself. It requires confidence in your decisions, abilities, and in who you are as a person. And there’s no better way to start than by showing yourself some much-deserved love.

Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually is crucial. You can’t build a house without a solid foundation and basic self-care practices form the foundation of success.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are all requirements for success. Without these pillars, it’s almost impossible to move forward.

Although there have been times in my life when I have struggled with all three, sleep deprivation has by far been the most personally troublesome. Whether the lack of sleep was related to new babies or stress, those were some of the most challenging times in my life. Sleep deprivation robbed me of my motivation and hung over my life like a haze.

I can still remember walking around like I was auditioning for the part of a zombie extra in The Walking Dead. Waking up utterly exhausted day after day actually caused me to wonder whether I had some type of sleep disorder.

It was during this time in my life that my self-doubt was at an all time high.

I questioned everything. Each and every seemingly insignificant decision became a matter of life or death. From second guessing dinner plans to what I had chosen to wear for work that morning, everything became a big deal. I was constantly doubting myself.

Although I was eventually able to get my sleep back on track, it was a long road to where I’m at now. The road back did start with sleep testing, a story you can find here. It continued with learning everything possible about how to better manage my sleep patterns.

Even today, I am fiercely protective of my sleep because I know what happens when I don’t get enough. And I never want to be in that place again.

Although sleep is my weakness, you may find that self-doubt creeps into your own life when your diet is off. Or when you stop exercising. You may even find that when you stop taking time to pursue meaningful activities, self-doubt sets up a stronghold.

Take some time today to make sure the basics are present in your life. And if they aren’t, what can you change to make things better?

3. Remember Past Success

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”

Unknown

Our mind plays so many tricks on us. If we listen to the negativity, we are suddenly convinced that we are the only ones in the world struggling. No one else could possibly be going what we’re going through.

And nothing we’ve done has been as difficult as whatever hurdle we’re facing. This is by far the toughest thing we’ve ever encountered. And there’s no way we can overcome it because nothing we’ve done has ever prepared us for this.

But is that actually true?

NO!

It’s a lie fabricated by your subconscious to protect you from the unknown. Our brains are wired to keep us safe. By sticking to what we know, we are lulled into a false sense of security.

But this is absolutely not the case!

It’s in these moments that we tend to forget all our truly amazing accomplishments! The things that you once thought were truly impossible but yet somehow attained.

Moments of self-doubt are the perfect time to recall all of those incredible feats. You have, in fact, done hard things. Very hard things. Even in those times when you did not do what you set out to, you learned. As long as you were able to take something away from the experience, consider it a win.

Write down the actions which have brought pride. Keeping track of your accomplishments and learning experiences will give you a bank to draw from when self-doubt tries to halt your progress.

You’ve done plenty of hard things in the past. And you’re definitely up for the challenge of tackling more in the future!

You may also enjoy reading this post about identifying your strengths.

4. Be You

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E. E. Cummings

You are unique. There’s no one in this world quite like you. And the world needs your exclusive blend of personality, interests, and talents! The authentic you, imperfections and all.

No one needs some watered down version of who you truly are. We need the real you!

And guess what? You’ll never be anyone else so you might as well be the absolute best version of yourself!

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with self-doubt. I know it may seem off topic but it actually has everything to do with this negative mindset trap.

Just as self-doubt has a greater chance of sneaking in when you’re not paying attention to your health and wellness, so too does it creep in when you’re paying too much attention to other people.

Self-doubt often occurs in relation to other people. Situations in which we either compare ourselves to others or situations in which we are too absorbed in what others think of us.

Either situation quickly fans the flames of self-doubt, causing it to rage out of control.

The truth is that you are you. You can never be anyone else. Comparing yourself to anyone other than who you were in the past is a waste of precious time and energy.

People tend to show us their best sides. Their sunny sides. We typically don’t see the storms or secret battles they wage within. There’s no way of knowing just how much they’ve had to wade through to get where they are today.

So stop the comparison trap. You’ll be happier for it!

And stop worrying about what other people think. It’s impossible to simultaneously please everyone in your life. So please the person who actually matters and who you have full control over … you.

Be you!

5. Conquer Self-Doubt by Taking Action

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Self-doubt thrives in small, dark places. It looks for each and every tiny insecurity you have about yourself and grows it from a seedling of doubt into a gigantic, tangling jungle of negativity. After awhile, the jungle of self-doubt chokes out your confidence and so deeply entwines you in its tangles that it’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Self-doubt, if allowed to grow, keeps you stuck where you’re at. And stuck feels safe. Staying where we’re at is familiar. Our subconscious loves familiar because it knows exactly what to expect. There are no surprises. No possible hidden threats.

Except that one big, hairy gigantic threat. The threat of you believing the lies stemming from your own insecurities.

But how do you overcome the tangled jungle of self-doubt?

You take action.

It starts with the smallest possible step. Once you tackle the first step, move on to the second. And so on and so forth.

With each step, your confidence grows. Every step is an opportunity to chop away at that tangled mess just a little bit more.

But the longer you stay stuck in your head, endlessly pondering worst-case scenarios, the tougher it will be to take a step forward. Stop ruminating! Take action! Messy, imperfect, forward, and enthusiastic action.

You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

It’s Your Turn

Overcoming self-doubt is far from easy. It requires consistency and the desire to overcome a negative mindset which is holding you back from your full potential.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain on a consistent basis, it may be time to seek medical care. You may have an underlying condition contributing to your mindset and would benefit from accurate treatment. Getting help just might be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!

And talk with someone you trust about what you’re going through. They may be able to give you insight into the mental blocks holding you back. Chances are, they can actually help you dispel some of that negativity and move you toward taking action.

I hope you have found a few helpful tips on your journey toward conquering self-doubt! Don’t forget to comment below about what you found useful and where self-doubt is showing up in your life.

Now get out there and take action today!

Quarantine Truths: What I’ve Learned So Far

Quarantine Truths: What I’ve Learned So Far

Quarantine … like it or not, it’s been here for awhile now.

It’s hard to say exactly how long it will be around but here in Wisconsin, we’re bracing for at least another month.

I’m doing my very best to stay positive and to continue learning and growing through the chaos.

And do you know what?

I don’t absolutely hate quarantine.

But I do hate bats.

I can handle basically any other creepy, crawly critter out there.

Snakes?

I once killed one with a shovel.

Mice?

I don’t like them but they’re not the worst thing in the world.

And spiders?

I’ve probably killed every single one I’ve ever met.

Bats on the other hand … WORST. CREATURES. EVER.

You may be asking yourself why I’m starting a post on what I’ve learned during quarantine with a rant about bats.

The answer is that I was reading an article about COVID-19 in a medical journal the other day and it is believed to have originated in bats.

Our world is a chaotic place right now, all thanks to a disgusting bat.

And did you know that bats carry rabies?

This is a fact I’ve known since the age of 5 and is probably the reason why I’ve always despised them.

It’s a fact my husband has frequently argued with me as he mistakenly believes rats carry rabies.

I laugh every time he tries to argue the point with me.

He’s obviously got this one incredibly wrong.

He even taped a news segment one time about rabies transmission and triumphantly announced that it featured rats.

Except when we pushed play, the news segment was actually about bats.

Boom.

I win again.

Marriage, like an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway, is the place where everything is made up and the points don’t matter.

Much like our world right now.

You may enjoy reading this article about rekindling the romance in your relationship.

My Work Life

Quarantine has changed the way we live.

My husband and I are both considered essential employees and as such are still going to work every morning.

Just like before.

As a nurse practitioner who sees patients in the nursing home, my position involves working with one of the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19.

My husband’s position as a nursing home administrator also places him squarely in the center of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Those of us who work in this setting are doing our very best to make decisions which are in the best interest of the population we care for.

But this is not an easy task in the midst of such an unprecedented event.

The rules are changing rapidly.

Sometimes even on an hourly basis.

Quarantine = Change

And the truth is that no one really knows with 100% certainty what should be done right now.

Although I am new to the position of nurse practitioner, I was a nurse for 9 years prior to graduating with a doctor of nursing practice degree.

In terms of practice area and personality, there are many different types of nurses out there.

But I am the type of nurse who thrives on organization and structure.

I appreciate consistency and clear guidelines.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing right now.

Everyone is in survival mode.

Every morning when I walk into work, the only thing I’m certain of is that there will be some type of change.

Sometimes these changes are big, such as when nursing homes made the very difficult decision to prevent viral spread by prohibiting visitors.

I had honestly never considered a world where families couldn’t visit their loved ones.

And having had a multi-week hospitalization during my last pregnancy, I can tell you how much those face-to-face visits meant to me.

But I do know that the decision to lock down facilities was not made lightly.

On other days I walk in to small changes.

Fewer people to see on a daily basis because hospitals are limiting elective procedures and there are fewer people sent for rehabilitation in the nursing home.

The need to wear masks all day long.

And having my temperature taken upon entry to the building every single morning.

Change is tough!

Especially when uncertainty hangs in the air like a thick, black cloud.

Despite the rapid pace at which these changes are made, I’m surviving.

I’m learning that I can survive, no matter what.

Quarantine Means New Opportunities

Each day brings a new opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and to become a stronger person for it.

And guess what?

You too are surviving massive change.

The world is a different place right now but it’s not all bad.

Pollution over major cities has decreased dramatically.

We are spending more time with our families.

Embrace this time we’ve been given.

If you, like me, are that person who loves structure and organization, now is the best time to practice adapting to change.

Because if you can make it through this with even half your sanity, you truly can make it through anything!

You may also enjoy reading this article about finding peace despite chaos.

My Home Life

Quarantine has impacted my work life in big and small ways but has definitely not spared my home life either.

Two of my three kiddos were in school and the third was happily thriving in daycare prior to the ensuing chaos.

Unfortunately my daycare closed at the exact same time school closed.

Thankfully we have been able to find several awesome sitters to watch our kiddos while we truck off to work each morning.

I couldn’t be more thankful for these wonderful sitters who bring structure and creativity to my kids.

Because my husband and I have no energy left at the end of the day to engage them in any type of project, creative or otherwise.

My social media feeds are filled with pictures of kids actively engaged in learning at home.

I am not that mom.

Household Homeschooling Coordinator

My aspirations have NEVER included homeschooling.

And I have zero confidence this will change at any point in the near future.

Unfortunately, yesterday we officially received word that schools (in Wisconsin anyway) would not open back up for the remainder of the school year.

Bummer.

Up until now, I had been coasting by on the thought that in all probability, schools would be back in session at some point this year.

Surely my kids would not have to depend upon my half-hearted efforts to replicate a lesson plan which resembles those of their talented teachers.

Teachers who have spent considerable time, energy, and effort to hone their craft.

Dedicated men and women who actually enjoy and excel at engaging kids in learning.

Have I mentioned how much appreciation and respect I have for teachers?

I recognize how tough but important their job is and feel ill-prepared to assume anything which resembles teaching.

I’ve been engaging my kids in activities only deemed educational through a very large stretch of the imagination.

Example …

The other night, the moon was huge.

I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a science lesson.

Because anything involving the moon is science, right?

So I called my kindergartener over and pointed it out.

It took a minute but he finally spotted the gigantic moon through the neighbor’s tree.

He gazed at it for a bit before he asked if he was bigger than the moon.

My obviously very intelligent response (sarcasm) was that the moon was much, much bigger than him.

I’m not sure whether he accepted my answer or not but he shrugged his shoulders and headed off to bed.

As he walked away, I had a moment of guilt and defeat.

“I should have planned out some type of fun learning activity for him instead of letting him sit in front of the TV tonight. Why am I failing at this?”

Parenting Through Quarantine

But the truth is that we can’t do and be everything to everyone.

We have all been given certain talents, time, and energy.

And we have to make the most out of what we’ve been given.

Living in a place of guilt and defeat is not the best we can do.

Figuring out how to use our strengths to the best of our ability is the place we need to strive for.

So what does this mean for my newly appointed status as household homeschooling coordinator?

I am striving to intentionally interact with my kids in ways which also stimulate their minds.

This may be as simple as reading books with them or including them in the preparation of meals.

Going for walks and throwing out math problems are also included.

I am trying to make everyday activities more educational but also giving myself grace to just enjoy my time with them.

If you too are freaked out by the pressure to assume the household homeschool coordinator role, dial down the pressure.

Your kids will be fine, even if school doesn’t start up again until next fall or later.

Do the best you can to be present with them and don’t worry about the rest!

Let’s take this opportunity to support ourselves and do what works for our families.

You may also enjoy reading this article about overcoming mom guilt.

It’s Your Turn

Quarantine is the perfect opportunity to evaluate your own life.

What makes you happy?

Are there aspects of your life which are completely draining you emotionally?

Where are the areas you need change and adaptation to keep moving forward instead of remaining stuck?

How can you become more of the person you were meant to be?

And where do you need to give yourself grace?

Quarantine is a reset button for all of us.

Take this opportunity to celebrate areas of your life which are going well and to re-evaluate areas where change is needed.

Always remember that you’re stronger than you think you are.

You will make it through this a better person than you were before because with each day that passes, you’re only getting better!

Don’t forget to comment below on what you’ve learned since quarantine!

I’d love to hear the big and small changes quarantine is bringing out in your own life!

Imposter Syndrome Is Holding You Back

Imposter Syndrome Is Holding You Back

Imposter syndrome shows up in our lives in various ways.

It holds us back from reaching our full potential and is, unfortunately, incredibly insidious.

I have always remembered feeling as if I didn’t deserve the successes I’ve had in life.

As if somehow luck rather than skill has been responsible for where I am today.

Last year, for example, I graduated from a fairly intense 3-year doctor of nursing practice program.

Despite getting all A’s other than one A- (thank you first semester pathophysiology!) in graduate-level nursing classes, I was unable to shake the feeling that I wasn’t smart enough to succeed in this field.

As if I made it through by chance instead of by working hard.

And everyone around me was smarter and way more capable than I.

Graduation day!

Mysteriously Vague Feelings of Being an Imposter

I have always been a high-achiever with perfectionist tendencies and have trouble acknowledging my own success.

It’s tough to feel good about something when you live in constant fear that you will, at some point, be discovered as a fraud.

Or when your standards are so high that it’s not humanly possible to live up to them.

These feelings are tough to talk about with others out of fear that I truly will be discovered as a fraud.

Besides that, I had a hard time describing how I was feeling in a way which would make sense to anyone else.

Because by all regards, I was successful.

After graduating with a fine arts degree, I worked my way through an associate’s degree in nursing.

Then a baccalaureate degree before being accepted into the doctoral program.

All while working as a nurse.

And raising little ones.

My kiddos.

My feelings of being a fraud only solidified these feelings even more.

After all, successful people don’t feel this way.

They wake up every morning, live their awesomely successful lives, and revel in the lives they’ve created.

No doubt, no fear, just confidence and success.

All day, every day.

Imposter Syndrome is a Real Thing

And then one day not too long ago, I was listening to a podcast.

It was about something called “imposter syndrome” and it perfectly described the feelings I had been experiencing for so long now.

I was truly shocked to learn that there was an actual name for what I had been feeling.

Even more shocked to learn that imposter syndrome affects a wide range of people from all walks of life.

And that it is especially common among people who are, in fact, successful.

Hearing the podcast was life-changing for me.

I finally had a name for what I had been feeling.

And if I had a name for it, there was hope I could do something about it.

Hearing the podcast started me on a path of self-discovery.

What exactly is imposter syndrome?

And what causes it?

I started looking for answers.

Imposter Syndrome in High-Achieving Women

And found out that imposter syndrome was first observed by two female psychologists, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

Their work with high-achieving women in the 1970s uncovered patterns of thinking which revolved around feelings of fraudulence.

Women with advanced degrees and professional recognition who also felt that luck, and not intelligence, had gotten them where they were today.

Their paper, published in 1978, outlines the collective experiences of over 150 women from diverse fields including nursing, medicine, and academia.

They discovered that although some of these women also had co-existing anxiety and depression, many had no mental health diagnoses.

Clance and Imes even discovered that imposter syndrome was not exclusive to women.

Differences Between Women and Men

Although imposter syndrome impacted men, it was to a significantly lesser degree.

To explain this phenomenon, the researchers turned to the work of another woman researcher, Kay Deaux.

Deaux’s work hypothesized that society plays a role in the differences in perceived ability between the sexes.

In her work published in the mid 1970s she describes that society is conditioned to have lower expectations of women.

Women therefore often have lower expectations of themselves.

And are then more likely to attribute their own success to luck rather than skill.

Men, on the other hand, are conditioned to go after success less cautiously than women.

And are then less likely to attribute success to anything other than their own ability.

The work of these three women was eye-opening for me.

It provides a possible explanation for the themes which run much deeper than I ever anticipated.

Mom Guilt

In my life, I often feel like I’m fighting a variety of battles that I don’t completely understand but am doing my best to overcome.

Mom guilt is one of them.

I’m constantly feeling pulled between work and home.

Always trying to check one more item off my daily to-do list, whether I’m at work or at home.

And never quite feeling like the end result is good enough.

Or even if the end result is great, that it was simply luck.

Could it be that mom guilt also has its roots in faulty societal expectations of women?

That on the one hand, women are expected to successfully raise a family while working.

And are also expected to stay in great shape, continue socializing, and maintain their own self-care.

But on the other hand, and in light of their status as women, are expected to perform poorly at all these things.

Are we simply set up for failure from the very beginning?

And I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never heard of dad guilt.

Is that even a thing?

You may also enjoy reading this post about the secret to life as a working mom.

A Tale of Two Families

Even beyond societal gender expectations lies family dynamics.

Clance and Imes identified two separate family dynamics which can be used to explain why imposter syndrome occurs.

Family Dynamic #1

The first involves a scenario in which a sibling has been designated as the “smart” one while the daughter herself becomes known as the charming one.

The daughter then comes to feel torn between the belief that she is really just a pretty face and the desire to prove herself as otherwise.

She begins working even harder to prove herself academically yet her family refuses to acknowledge her as such.

At that point, feelings of fradulence begin to emerge.

Doubt sinks in and she wonders whether the beliefs of her family are in fact true.

Family Dynamic #2

The second family dynamic in which imposter syndrome begins to creep in involves the daughter being viewed as perfect in every way.

Whether it’s academics, sports, or music, her skills are viewed by the family as second to none.

And not only are her skills exemplary but she doesn’t have to work hard to achieve any of it.

Everything comes easily to her.

This is the dynamic which is intimately familiar to me.

The point at which imposter syndrome began to creep in was when something actually didn’t come all that easily to me.

It was the point at which I actually had to struggle when I began to doubt my own family’s assessment of my talents.

Maybe I wasn’t as gifted as they believed me to be if everything didn’t come easily.

And maybe I’m simply fooling everyone with the success I’ve achieved thus far.

Natural talent only goes so far and there comes a point for everyone in which hard work is necessary to go further.

Regardless of which family dynamic was present during the formative years, imposter syndrome is a sneaky belief system which is tough to pinpoint until you become aware of its subtleties.

It’s a faulty thought process which holds you back from your true potential.

Now that we have a better understanding of imposter syndrome and how it starts, what can we do to change it?

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

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

Although it seems contrary to what you feel, talking about your feelings with others can discredit your fears.

Talking about your feelings aloud with someone else can help you identify how truly false imposter syndrome actually is.

As an example, if you studied for a test, there’s a greater probability that you passed due to preparation than by luck.

Unfortunately, we have learned to doubt ourselves and have an easier time believing luck and not preparation was responsible.

Getting an outside perspective can help ground you until you begin to change the negative thought patterns associated with imposter syndrome.

After all, in many cases, imposter syndrome is based on “feelings” and not on reality.

When you boil it down, imposter syndrome is a false interpretation of actual events.

Until you speak those feelings out loud, they will continue to have power over you.

And you will continue to misinterpret the true source of your own success.

Root Cause Analysis

Likewise, journaling can be extremely beneficial in something I call “root cause analysis.”

I can’t take credit for this concept as it is one which is attributed to the field of nursing, among others.

It essentially involves dissecting a situation to determine the true cause of an error or dysfunction.

As an example, root cause analysis is frequently utilized in the nursing home setting after someone falls.

The ultimate goal in this scenario is to prevent future falls.

But you can really only do that if you figure out what caused the fall in the first place.

Did the person slip because they were barefoot?

Was their drink out of their reach?

Or were they trying to get to the bathroom by themselves?

Once you figure out the root cause, you can theoretically prevent future falls of this nature.

The same process can be applied to anything you deem a “failure” in your own life.

Spend some time thinking about a particular situation which didn’t go according to plan.

Determine which factors contributed to a lack of success.

In many cases you will find that those factors were actually outside your own control.

And if they were out of your control, how could you possibly do anything about them?

Never Give Up … Never Surrender!

We simply have no control over so many aspects of life and need to stop continually beat ourselves up for them.

Conversely, it is equally important to record your successes as a reminder that you are smart and capable.

You are deserving of success.

And even in the face of setbacks, you are constantly learning and growing.

Do you want to know a secret?

No one really knows what they’re doing.

The most successful people in the world experience imposter syndrome from time to time.

It’s not as if you reach a certain level of success and suddenly know everything or are confident 100% of the time.

But the difference between success and failure is never giving up.

Successful people never let feelings of being an imposter hold them back from taking the next step.

They take feedback from each and every experience and instead of letting it defeat them, they learn and grow from it.

And become more confident the next time because of all they’ve overcome to get where they are today.

You may also enjoy reading this post about the secrets to success.

It’s Your Turn

I really wish that I had some type of magical secret to immediately and permanently overcoming imposter syndrome.

But I don’t.

All I have is the gift of awareness.

Because once you become aware of something, it forever remains a part of you.

Once you have the knowledge, you can take steps to change it!

Take this opportunity to analyze your feelings and determine where you can make positive changes.

You don’t have to live in constant fear that you will one day be discovered as a fraud.

Because you’re not.

You are so much more smart and capable than you give yourself credit for!

Now … go forth and be awesome!

Don’t forget to comment below on your big take-aways from this post!

Where are you struggling right now and how are you going to take steps forward?

Have You Seen These 8 Binge-Worthy Shows?

Have You Seen These 8 Binge-Worthy Shows?

As I write this, we are in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis, the likes of which we have never before seen.

Our lives have been impacted in so many unexpected ways.

I am doing my best to keep the faith but the world feels like a dark and heavy place right now.

Although I don’t always recommend zoning out in front of the television for hours on end, it has its place and time.

And with nowhere to go and nothing to do, what better time can there be to discover a new obsession?

But enough with the doom and gloom …. time to bring on my list of binge-worthy shows!

Each and every one is capable of distracting you from dwelling upon the ever growing list of terrible headlines greeting you each morning.

You may also enjoy reading this post about choosing peace over panic.

Enjoy and don’t forget to let me know what you think by commenting below!

1. Tiger King

After seeing nearly everyone I know posting about this one on social media, I had to join in on the obsession.

And I was NOT disappointed.

I mean, there are more than a few disappointing aspects of this show but its ability to keep me hooked was NOT one of them!

Tiger King can be described as True Crime meets Joe Dirt meets Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.

This show has an incredibly diverse and colorful cast of characters.

And I’m not just talking about the animals!

You will initially be left wondering how these people function in real life until you realize that they actually don’t.

And despite their crazy antics, the show brings forth incredibly important issues which deserve attention.

Thus my comment on the disappointing aspects.

I was horrified to learn about the widespread issue of exotic animal ownership in this country.

Prior to the show, I had no idea it is so prevalent in America.

Did you know that there are more big cats in captivity in this country than in the wild?

Incredibly disappointing.

Regardless of your personal thoughts on whether individuals should be allowed to own these animals, there are definite safety issues.

For both the animals themselves and for other humans.

I, for one, do not want to be mauled by an escaped tiger.

And seeing a tiger behind bars at some dilapidated “zoo” does not excite me either.

I am all for greater awareness of important issues and on this point, the show does not disappoint.

So … if you’re looking for big cats, felons, mullets, missing teeth, and shirtless, tattooed men missing teeth, tune in to this one.

You can find it on Netflix.

2. The Crown

Forbidden romance, sibling rivalries, national crises, and of course, politics.

Who knew that the British royal family was so fascinating?

Of all the binge-worthy shows on my list, this one is definitely the most elegantly crafted.

Claire Foy is outstanding in her portrayal of the young Queen Elizabeth II.

She brings relatability to the monarchy, a tough feat for anyone.

In episode after episode, she gracefully portrays the agonizing balance between family and duty.

And she does it with such grace and elegance that you have no choice but to consistently root for her.

I loved her so much in this role that I was dismayed to learn she would only appear in the first two seasons.

As the series is limited to 5 seasons and depicts the Queen throughout her life thus far, it makes sense they would need to replace the cast.

But I just wasn’t prepared to embrace a new Queen.

When the third season hit Netflix, I actually put off watching it.

And then one day, I dove back in.

I was immediately surprised to find myself drawn into Olivia Colman’s portrayal of the Queen.

She was equally relatable and added a layer of maturity to the character which only serves to pull you in even further.

And speaking of getting sucked into characters … Helena Bonham Carter is unforgettable as Princess Margaret.

Together Colman and Carter make season 3 a stunning continuation of the story started in the first two seasons.

If you haven’t yet seen it, add The Crown to your list of binge-worthy shows!

You can find it on Netflix.

3. Arrested Development

“I don’t understand the question and I won’t respond to it.”

“Watch out for bridges and hop-ons.”

“I’ve made a huge mistake.”

“There’s always money in the banana stand.”

Arrested Development is packed full of one-liners which I love subtly inserting into everyday conversations.

And with a host of hilariously outlandish characters, there are plenty to choose from!

I have been a huge fan of this show since it initially came out in 2003 and have watched each episode more times than I can count.

It is hands down my favorite comedy of all the binge-worthy shows on this list!

One of the best aspects of this show is that it gets funnier each time you watch it because you pick up on more of its sly humor every time.

And who couldn’t use a little extra humor right now?

The show itself portrays an incredibly dysfunctional family navigating daily life.

Each member of the Bluth family pursues their own selfish motives, blissfully unaware of the impact they have on the others.

All trying to live their best lives in the midst of chaos, rivalries, and hilarious escapades.

Except for Michael … the one son trying to keep every one together.

The only semi-rational one in the bunch who is clearly NOT living his best life.

Their all-star cast includes Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, and David Cross, among many others.

Together, they weave intricate webs of subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle humor which earned the show several awards.

This one is sure to distract you from even the most pervasive of pandemics!

You can find it on Netflix.

4. 90 Day Fiance

This is one of those binge-worthy shows that you just can’t look away from.

Although TLC has done several spin-offs, it essentially portrays people who fall in love with someone from outside the U.S.

It’s reality TV at its finest.

Each season has its share of “normal” couples but also delves into total train wrecks.

I’m talking arrests, secret criminal records, and of course, undisclosed marriages.

Drama, drama, drama.

The show’s producers also do their best to dredge up drama among family members.

And it would seem that most family members of the American automatically assume the love interests are after a green card.

In many cases, this is blatantly obvious.

But there are other cases where love between the couples does appear genuine.

Part of the intrigue of this show is seeing where all the drama leads.

In many cases, it does lead to marriage.

But in others, the relationship ends in a fiery storm neatly captured on camera for you to watch in the comfort of your home.

Because there’s nowhere else for us to go right now.

So sit back, relax, and watch the drama unfold as you forget all about the virus taking over the world.

You can find it on Hulu.

5. Grace & Frankie

Grace is a tightly wound, highly successful businesswoman.

Frankie despises organization of any kind but does love a good cheese platter.

It would be tough to find two people more different than Grace and Frankie.

And yet, both are thrown into an incredibly unconventional situation when their husbands divorce the women to instead marry each other.

What follows are a series of unimaginably comedic adventures as both families adjust to the new normal.

This is one of those binge-worthy shows which is a breath of fresh air among so many others with impossibly stale plotlines.

I mean, does the world really need one more cop show?

Or medical drama?

I know it definitely does not need yet another court show.

Reality or otherwise.

But it does need a unique friendship between two people who couldn’t possibly be any more different.

Because don’t we all need the reminder that people are people and if we are to survive, we need each other?

Grace and Frankie is a beautiful reminder of the simple value of friendship.

You can find it on Netflix.

6. Santa Clarita Diet

Before I start on this one, I just have to put it out there that I’m not typically into blood, guts, or zombies.

Other than in my career as a nurse, I could really do without any of the above graphically portrayed on my screen.

And to be clear, I have never encountered a zombie throughout the entire course of my nursing career.

But for whatever reason, this show hooked me in from the very beginning.

Joel and Sheila are a normal couple working as real estate agents and just trying to make it through the day.

Somewhere along the way, life has become monotonous.

Predictable.

Mundane.

Boring.

And then one day something happens.

Sheila becomes violently ill and wakes up the next morning to find that life has now become anything but ordinary.

She has suddenly become undead.

But it’s not all dramatic as the show seamlessly balances zombie storylines with a healthy dose of comedy.

Timothy Olyphant, who plays a relatable and endearing Joel, does his best to be a supportive husband to his now undead wife.

And Sheila, played by Drew Barrymore, acknowledges Joel’s queasiness and tries her best to leave him out of her sprees.

Hilarity ensues.

If you’re looking for comedy with an edge, check out Santa Clarita Diet.

You can find it on Netflix.

7. Portlandia

If sketch comedy is your thing, Portlandia is the show for you!

In this one, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein portray a wide variety of characters in and around Portland, Oregon.

And yes … there is a great deal of satire in this one.

Thanks to their comedic creativity and witty dialogue, each episode flies by, leaving you wanting more.

Although quirky, the characters they create are also oddly endearing.

I found myself wanting to book a stay at a bed & breakfast.

And with the sudden desire to explore an old bookstore.

Even wanting to try some trendy new restaurant.

Of course, all of those things are impossible right now so the next best thing is obviously watching it on television!

Portlandia definitely wins the award for most quirky among all my binge-worthy shows but do yourself a favor and check it out anyway.

You can find it on Netflix.

8. Documentary Now!

Ok, I lied.

The award for most quirky on this list of binge-worthy shows is actually a tie between Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

Oddly enough, Documentary Now! also features Fred Armisen who is joined by Bill Hader.

The pair have used their comedic genius to create a series which mocks documentaries.

My hands-down favorite episode is the very first of the series which is a spoof of an actual documentary entitled Grey Gardens.

Although I had previously been unaware of Grey Gardens, I was immediately drawn into the world created by Hader and Armisen in ‘Sandy Passage’.

And they, of course, nailed depictions of the mother and daughter duo featured in the actual documentary.

I know this because after watching ‘Sandy Passage’ I just had to check out Grey Gardens.

Comedy gold.

Hader and Armisen re-create a host of other documentaries which are sure to keep you entertained for hours.

They may even inspire you to check out the actual documentaries upon which these mockumentaries are based.

Since my list of binge-worthy shows started out with a somewhat serious documentary, I thought it only fitting to end it on a lighter note.

And who knows?

Tiger King may just end up on Documentary Now! before too long.

Seriously … how can it not???

You can find it on Netflix.

It’s Your Turn

And there you have it!

My list of 8 binge-worthy shows capable of getting you through even the most depressing of social isolation scenarios.

How many of them have you seen and which ones am I missing out on?

Don’t forget to drop a comment below with your favs!

And here’s to hoping we can all safely go out in public again sometime soon!

5 Secrets of Successful Women

5 Secrets of Successful Women

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.

Money, fame, achievement. Everyone craves success on some level.

And everyone’s definition of success is slightly different.

As a working mom, my definition of success includes separate achievements for work and home.

Both realms are demanding and it can sometimes feel like I’m treading water rather than making any real progress.

I certainly could decide to simply maintain status quo. It seems much easier to maintain rather than gain.

Maintaining is especially appearling when there are so many demands both at work and at home!

But this thought just doesn’t sit right with me. Something inside keeps pushing me toward bigger and better things.

After all, there are examples everywhere of successful women excelling both at home and at work.

What are their secrets to success?

And how can you achieve success in your own life?

The obvious answer is that it depends upon what you’re trying to achieve.

If you want to be a bestselling author, you have to write a book.

And if you want to be the CEO of your own company, you need to first start and grow said company.

If you’re looking for a more organized household, you have to figure out a realistic daily organizational schedule. And stick to it.

Although the steps required to achieve success vary depending upon the specific goal, success requires certain key attributes.

Successful women everywhere are proof that success is achieveable if these key attributes are central tenets in their lives.

You may be asking yourself exactly what these key attributes are.

Don’t worry – I’ve got you covered! Read on to find out.

Successful Women Work Hard

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.”

Estee Lauder

Rachel Hollis is one of my all-time favorite successful women. She is both motivational and inspirational but also delivers honesty.

Brutal honesty at times.

In one of her recent podcasts, she made a statement which has stuck with me ever since.

“Success is supposed to be hard.”

On some level, I already knew this. But to hear someone say it was oddly comforting.

Sometimes I get lulled into the assumption that if something is hard, I must be doing it wrong. As if ease somehow guarantees the correct path.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Accomplishing anything requires time and effort. Repeated over and over and over.

Early mornings. Late nights. Sacrifice.

Successful women are not born that way. Success is merely the pay-off for all the work they put in towards their goals.

Although wildly successful now, Rachel definitely didn’t start out that way.

Her book highlights her struggles with anxiety, self-confidence, and carving out her own career path.

A path paved by long hours of volunteering alongside her regular job to learn what she ultimately knew she needed to know to succeed on her own.

She is adament that success doesn’t randomly find you. Rather, you must put forth the effort to find it.

Successful Women Never Give Up

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

And speaking of putting forth effort … successful women never give up! No matter what.

Success requires persistence.

Extreme persistence.

The persistence of a woman with a spark of an idea for something bigger.

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds including divorce and raising a daughter on her own, the spark grows.

And she writes. She continues fanning the flames of inspiration despite struggling to make ends meet.

Five years after the spark of an idea initially comes to her, she finishes the manuscript.

And the manuscript is rejected by 12 different publishers before finally being accepted by one.

Her persistence pays off and she eventually becomes author of the best-selling book series in history.

J. K. Rowling achieved remarkable success, at least in part thanks to her unwillingness to give up.

Remember all that stuff about working hard? A big piece of working hard is refusing to give up.

We just never know what life will throw at us next. And we have no way of knowing what’s around the next corner.

Success is a funny thing in that it requires an incredible amount of undefined effort.

In other words, when we decide to take action toward a goal, we have no idea exactly how much effort it will require.

We have no idea which big push will result in major pay-off.

But giving up on your goals virtually guarantees failure. And failure of this type is completely non-productive.

Successful Women Fail Forward

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

J. K. Rowling

Successful women embrace failure as a tool for growth.

Failure is actually a more effective teacher than success because the lessons learned are infinitely more memorable.

If you choose to see failure in this light.

Unfortunately, our own egos tend to get in the way of learning from failure.

It can be all too easy to latch onto the negative emotion accompanying failure rather than sort through to find the value.

Ultimately the negativity can morph into bitterness over time.

You may have heard of fashion designer Vera Wang but did you know that she grew up figure skating competitively?

Vera skated in the 1968 U.S. Figure Skating Championships with her sights on making the Olympic team.

Unfortunately, she didn’t make the team.

At that point, Vera had a choice. She could allow this failure to define her and overshadow every other good thing in her life.

Or she could learn from it and choose to move forward.

And move forward she did.

Vera ultimately chose to pursue fashion and became one of the top household names in the industry today.

I will be the first to admit that I know nothing about fashion. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

And even I recognize her name.

Would the same be true if she had made the Olympic figure skating team?

There’s no way to know for sure but what can be gained from this story is the fact that you can choose to learn and grow from failure.

Failure in life is inevitable.

Don’t ever let it define you!

Successful Women Have a Plan

“Plan your work for today and every day. Then work your plan.”

Margaret Thatcher

Imagine getting into your car one day with the intention of going somewhere.

You have no idea where you want to go but have a vague sense there is somewhere you are supposed to be.

Your “to-do” list is a mile long but those things can certainly wait. After all, many of those tasks have actually been on your list for months now.

So you turn the key in the ignition and back out of the driveway.

What follows are 3 hours of aimless driving before you realize that the car is low on gas.

You pull into the gas station to fill up and suddenly realize where you were supposed to be.

At work giving a presentation.

Three hours ago.

Yikes!

Whether it’s a plan for the day, for your future, or for next week, successful women know the value of planning.

After all, how can you possibly know when you’ve achieved what you’re going after when you have no idea what you’re actually aiming for?

Planning gives you a sense of purpose and a road map to your destination.

You may also enjoy reading this post about time management for busy moms.

Successful Women Choose Gratitude

“Developing an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.”

Amy Morin

Life is unpredictable.

You can put in all the back-aching, up-all-night, totally exhausting work towards your goals and still face setback after setback.

And despite the setbacks, you can make the choice to learn and grow rather than letting them overwhelm you.

Sometimes all the planning in the world can’t even prepare you for what’s coming next.

I mean, seriously.

If I told you a year ago that in March of 2020, the entire United States would essentially shut down to prevent the spread of a virus, would you have believed me?

Probably not.

I wouldn’t have believed it myself.

And yet … here we are.

Despite the craziness, you still have control over one thing.

Your attitude.

You can still make the choice to wake up each morning seeing the rain either as a vital necessity or the horrible thing which cancels your parade.

Successful women actively seek out areas of their lives which are bright spots and express gratitude.

Taking this perspective shifts your focus off the negative of any given situation and instead allows a more productive thought process.

Learning to express gratitude rather than wallow in self-pity takes effort but is ultimately worth the work.

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

It’s Your Turn

Although the definition of success varies from woman to woman, the secrets to achieving any type of success are similar.

Expect to work hard regardless of your goal. If success was easy, everyone would attain it.

Never ever give up! You just never know when you will break through the other side of whatever you’re trying to accomplish.

Learn from failure rather than letting it overwhelm you. Failure may be trying to point you down a completely different path than you have ever considered before.

Make a plan. Chances are, you’ll need to revise it on a regular basis. But it’s much easier to steer something that’s already in motion than to get it going in the first place.

And lastly, prioritize gratitude. There’s always something to be thankful for! Get in the habit of regularly looking for those bright spots in your life.

I hope you have come away from this post feeling a little more motivated and inspired to achieve success in your own life!

I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

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!

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

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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!