“Let go of the idea of perfection – you are not perfect, you are real. Let yourself be flawed and allow yourself to make mistakes. Recognize that you’re not always going to have it all together” – Unknown
This quote is from a piece of writing that continuously resonates with me because I struggle to accept where I am in my life and am often comparing myself to others. A lot of people, sometimes even the ones closest to us, seem to have it all together. The perfect clothes, perfect job, perfect family, and ideal life is what some of us consider to be “having it all together.” The truth is there’s no such thing as perfect. I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world who has it all together.
The question “where do you see yourself in the future?” is often asked as we get older. I get nervous when asked this because, truthfully, I have no idea where the road ahead will lead me. Take the year-long pandemic, for example. Jobs were lost, weddings were canceled, companies closed, and many people lost their loved ones. All of these unfortunate circumstances were unexpected and couldn’t have been foreseen in someone’s future. So, when asked the question of where you see yourself, don’t respond based on where someone expects you to be. Instead, respond with where you are and where YOU want to be, and if your journey takes a detour along the way, then embrace it with everything you have.
The month of May has approached in the blink of an eye, and my graduation date is finally approaching. I say finally because my plan to graduate was initially in 2018. The past few years have been especially challenging when my many friends and classmates have graduated, started families, and seemed to figure their whole lives out. While finding myself comparing my success and setbacks to others, I have come to realize that every one of us is on a different path, and even though it may become longer or change completely, we’re right where we’re supposed to be for a reason. Unfortunately, when you learn to accept your life for what it is, you start forgetting what life “could” or “should” be.
The month of May is Mental Health Awareness, and a time to reflect on our lives and be proud of the person we are. Zen habits lists 7 techniques you can implement into your daily routine to enhance your self-acceptance. Below are a few of my favorites that I’ve implemented into my life that I encourage you to try!
Welcome what you notice
Practice being more aware of your thoughts. When you think something negative about yourself or current situation, try to find the positives and at least one good thing to be thankful for or happy about
Have compassion and forgive yourself
Be aware of judgements about yourself and correct them! Work on reminding yourself of everything you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come no matter where you are.
Practice acceptance not only to others, but to yourself.
Love yourself for who you are, and don’t let the journeys of others make you feel like yours is any less special.
… and finally, live your life for YOU and not for anyone else.
We’re all living our own story, and each on our journey. One that shouldn’t be compared or contrasted to another. LIVE the life YOU love and LOVE the life you live” is something we are all capable of doing and encouraging others to do as well! ☺
Trying to make sense of my life situation at the end of 2020, I chose to dive in and gain some perspective on life by reading The Power Of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. Like most of us, I was trying to make sense of the pandemic and all the loss that we all experienced in 2020 (and continue to experience as the pandemic continues). If you are struggling to accept your current life situation, I highly recommend reading this book because there are many eye-opening perspectives that I will not cover in this blog post that are essential for staying connected to the flow of abundance.
Surrendering to your life cycles
Like many of us, I have been trying to accept the shortcomings of 2020 and all the losses that occurred. Whether you lost a loved one, your job, had to move, couldn’t see your family, no longer attend your workout class, didn’t have in-person graduation, or had to close your business, we all experienced loss. While some losses are much more life-impacting than others, all of society can relate to the feeling of loss. One thing I have struggled with the most this past year is acknowledging that loss and accepting where I am now. Easier said than done, and we are STILL in a global pandemic, so it may be hard to fully grasp our losses until we can look back on the pandemic. However, life is still moving forward, and not knowing when, or if,life will return to normal again, I urge you to practice accepting the Now.
One concept I have come to understand on a deeper level thanks to the writings of Tolle are life cycles. By ‘life cycles’ I do not mean life and death but cycles that occur in our lives, periods we see as ‘bad’, and others as ‘good’. Part of the problem is seeing the lows as “bad”, for example, you have not been happy for the past five months because you have not found a job, or you have a job, but you hate it and it brings you no joy. We feel these situations are bad and try to push against them, lose hope or happiness, and stop ourselves from seeing all that we have to be grateful for. If we accept these situations we are in, not as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, just as is – then we can fully live in the present and fall into the mindset of abundance. Tolle writes, “There are cycles of success when things come to you and thrive, and cycles of failure, when they wither or disintegrate and you have to let them go to make room for new things to arise, or for transformation to happen. If you cling and resist at that point, it means you are refusing to go with the flow of life, and you will suffer.”
I could not get past the point of suffering in 2020 because I had not accepted the flow of cycles in my life. Having come out of four years (or more really) of successes and wins in college and graduating, I was in a ‘good’ cycle. Things came easy to me, I manifested many opportunities for myself, and in my mind, I was ‘successful’. Yet after completing one of the greatest accomplishments of my life so far – graduating college – I felt like a failure for not securing my first job. I was used to the easy flow of the ‘good’ cycle and then things stopped coming to me easily. I applied to many jobs and applied for a scholarship that would take me abroad, but nothing came of any of my hard work – at least that’s what it felt like. I did not want to give up or admit that things were not working out for me, I didn’t want to be a failure or a quitter. The hardest part was understanding I was not any of those things, no matter the fact that I still haven’t found my first big job.
I had to surrender to my life circumstances. I had to accept where I was at this point in my life. I had to let myself feel the emotions I was avoiding, emotions of sadness, failure, fear, and despair, to allow myself to move on and start anew. From reading The Power of Now, I was able to take a step back and recognize that this is just how things are right now, they won’t be this way forever, but there is no point in living in a constant unhappy state because things are not working out how I wanted. We must make peace with the present to progress forward and step into an abundant mindset.
How to break away from lack and move into the mindset of abundance
One thing I know for sure is you cannot be aligned with the flow of abundance if you are focused on what is missing from your life. To step into abundance you must be grateful for all the blessings you have now. You must make peace with your past and understand it does not define you now. You must surrender to the now. Once you are at peace with your life situation, this can be both feelings of peace with what is outside of you and within you, then you can finally start to raise your vibration to match the frequency of that of which you desire.
Everything that I am talking about is internal work. Work on your mindset, how you talk to yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you choose to use your power. Focus on yourself and your needs and you will raise your mindset to be more in the flow of abundance.
Here are my tips for getting into the flow and staying there:
Acknowledge where you are. Do you operate out of trust or fear? If you feel yourself constantly scrambling because you think things will not work out, then you are operating out of the idea that there is a lack of support in your life. The best thing you can do right now is to acknowledge your life circumstances. Surrender to what is.
Gratitude. The first step in attracting more abundance into your life is being grateful for all the abundance you already have. I recommend writing down three things each day that you are grateful for. Again, this is how you work on shifting your mindset from ‘lacking’ to abundance. You have so many things to be grateful for every day, starting with, you woke up today – that’s amazing!
Developing trust with the Universe. I refer to the energy source of abundance as the Universe, please use whatever word or idea that works best for you. Once you have surrendered to the now and made peace with where you are at, start to develop a way to connect with the source of abundant energy. Accept and encourage the flows in your life. This may be through a guided meditation or listening to affirmations. Practice this connection daily and you will build up trust that things will work out for you. This is one way to do positive mindset work and control your thoughts. If you believe your life is abundant, suddenly things begin to work themselves out. Above all else, you must trust!
Self-care routine. If you feel weirded out by the discussion of the Universe and source energy, and it’s just not for you, I’d recommend focusing on self-care and self-worth. Another way to step into abundance is by taking care of yourself. If you don’t value yourself, how do you expect great things to happen for you? This is a reminder that self-care is day-to-day work, it is taking time to do something kind for yourself. This may look different for everyone, so it is important to look within and pay attention to your own needs. Self-care is a great way to align with abundance because once you value yourself and your time, you will see how worthy you are of a life of abundance. Let the abundance flow, you are worth it and YOU best support yourself by taking care of yourself.
Affirmations. Daily affirmations are another great way to raise your energy vibrations and connect with the flow of abundance. This can be a great addition to your self-care routine or something you do after meditation. Using positive ‘I am’ statements daily will help you build up self-worth and trust in the Universe. You can choose affirmations that align with you, make you feel good, and cater to your needs. We ALL need a daily reminder that we are enough.
Manifestation. If you want to take the flow one step further, manifestation will help you attract what you seek. Once you have created a routine practicing staying present, your thoughts have shifted from lacking to the abundance mindset, and you are able to practice daily gratitude, manifestation will help align you with what you desire and bring it to you. The easiest way to manifest is getting clear about what you want your life to be. Once you know, write out your manifestations with ‘I am’ statements instead of ‘I want’. Connecting with the flow of abundance will help you manifest the life you want. Visualize you at your best! In your dream job, with you dream relationships, in your dream house….with whatever you desire! Let the universe know what you want and it’s already yours.
We are now in spring and we will see the abundance of rebirth and growth with the change in our physical environment. Let this be a reminder of the many cycles we see in our world. Change is always possible. From cold darker times of despair, growth and opportunity are born again.
“Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another, we’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” – Serena Williams
I called her mother, “mom.” I had a toothbrush, clothes and my own bed at her house. I was counted in all family vacations. People would call us if they couldn’t get a hold of the other one because they knew we would be together. If I ever went out with friends and she wasn’t with me, they would ask what was going on and why we weren’t together. I had found my best friend and there was no doubt in my mind we would be lifelong friends. I knew we would be at each other’s weddings, child births, and every milestone in between. We were inseparable.
But then the texts became less. I told myself that we were best friends and I just needed to communicate directly. I did. Things got better fleetingly. Then it would happen again. Each time I felt I was forcing her to maintain the friendship but I comforted myself by believing that this was all normal and it was a time and would pass. It did not pass. Things that I would normally let go were all of a sudden huge red flags. I tried as hard as I could to maneuver around them because I was terrified of what I would find if I faced them head on. At one point though, the red flags became so large that it was draining me physically, emotionally and mentally to try to avoid them. That is when I realized that I was holding onto something with everything I had, for someone who wasn’t even willing to communicate with me.
When I accepted that fact, everything else became clear. All the times I would feel something was off in the way I was treated, I passed it off as us friends being too close. When my beliefs were met with criticism, I passed it off as any friendship needed compromise. When I was consistently exhausted from maintaining two personalities, I told myself that any friendship needs to accommodate for the other person’s likes and dislikes. When my accomplishments were met with artificial sentiments of happiness and even criticism, I refused to see it; I told myself that she was happy for me but she was just preoccupied. I had created a friendship in my mind and heart that I so desperately wanted, that I allowed myself to be drained of who I truly was to fulfil the friendship she wanted.
Eventually, I stopped being the only one trying. The thing is when you have a relationship when one person is doing all of the giving and the other person is doing all of the receiving, it comes to the point where there is nothing left to give. At that point, the receiver either switches roles and gives back or they walk away to another source of giving. She walked away. It hurt and I didn’t understand how something that I thought to be unbreakable was all of a sudden nonexistent, and in it’s place was a feeling of betrayal. Betrayal of what we were and what we were going to be.
With time though, I saw less of the negatives of the situations and began to reflect on the lessons. When I met my current best friend, I was extremely cautious. I refused to let her in. I wanted to keep it superficial. I didn’t want to have expectations. But when we were invited to an outing and I said I wasn’t comfortable going, she said to me, “hmm I didn’t even think of that. I don’t know if I completely agree but here is how I see it,” and we talked about it. All the while I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and her to belittle my beliefs. But it didn’t. We talked for a long time. Everytime I pulled back and hesitated, she didn’t miss a beat. She kept talking and gave me space when I needed it. As our friendship grew, I realized how different it was to have someone who supported me and truly and sincerely wanted the best for me. Instead of being exhausted all the time, I was energized, social and overall content. It was clear, having nothing was better than having negativity and letting go of someone toxic, was better than holding onto them just to have someone.
Women often stay in relationships that are toxic because it is easier to stay in what you know than to step out of your safe comfort zone and move forward. It got me thinking about the lasting difference in my best friend relationship, that was built on a genuine care for each other truly made in my life. It made me reflect on how many times this happens to women, not only in friendships, but with work, family, and their communities.
The difference we as women can make by uplifting and supporting each other is limitless. When we step up for empathy, compassion and inclusion, it proves more positively effective than when we attempt to step over each other to get to the top. When we choose to help one another, we are creating lasting bonds to form a chain of solidarity.
It is understandable that since women have to work against continuous obstacles, they are consistently in the mindset of having to push back just to have a seat at the table. I’ve seen family members have to work twice as hard because their coworkers hoard information to put themselves ahead. I have seen friends one up each other for a better grade. We are in a society where we feel we cannot afford to show empathy, compassion and support for one another because we will be seen as weak, and therefore don’t have what it takes to make it. But what if the norm became lending a helping hand to create an equitable playing field instead of tripping each other just to make it to the field? If we as women showed up for each other, we wouldn’t feel the need to stay in toxic relationships. We wouldn’t feel the need to push each other off the last chair at the table, but instead would bring two chairs and force room to be made.
The empowerment of women starts with you.
5 Ways You Can Empower The Women Around You
Know your worth and lead by example
Don’t stay in toxic relationships; reach out to your support system and lead by showing how far a helping hand can go
Share your appreciation and love for the women in your life
Compliment a coworker, share your wealth of knowledge, support mental health
Educate yourself on what an equitable environment means.
Don’t settle for less. And be a champion for other women when you can.
Advocate against injustice.
Stand up for women’s rights. Be part of the process.
Support and donate to women’s empowerment organizations
Find Your Power is launching a new Womxn Rising Fundraising Campaign next week, March 8th!
Women’s empowerment is not an individual effort, it takes a community. Start by uplifting yourself and the women around you. Share this post with the women in your life, and ask them to pay it forward.
“This, is the beginning of loving yourself. Welcome home.” -Unknown
At the foundation of any positive energy, there is love. I believe that in order to respect the act of self-care, you must have an underlying love for yourself and your livelihood. The relationship with you and self-love is a lifelong process and journey.
I am sure you are quite tired of the oversaturated and overwhelming discussion of the current pandemic. Like you, so am I. I am very aware of how exhausting this pandemic has been in every facet of our lives. Because of this notion, it has come to my attention how important it is to be honest with ourselves. We as a society can not be naive to the real effects a pandemic can have on our overall health and wellbeing. The exhaustion, stress, and anxiety that this pandemic has produced comes with consequences. Maybe you no longer have access to your favorite yoga studio, or got laid off from your job so you can no longer afford therapy. Maybe you have to now work three jobs to make ends meet, which means no time for yourself. Whatever the reason may be, I can sense from the collective that we have all had to sacrifice parts of ourselves to make it through the past year. I know I sure have, and it has had lasting effects on my day-to-day mental health and also self-care routine; something very important to me. Since our world has practically turned upside down, routine in general may seem foreign to you. Many of us have lost a sense of routine and structure and possibly may miss the life you had before the pandemic. With all of that being said, it is clear our society could really utilize a little more time in the self-care department. Not to mention, we truly all DESERVE to give ourselves more grace for quite literally surviving this pandemic thus far.
February is often referred to as the month of love and also the most unproductive month of the year. Interestingly enough, these two themes can be applied to how you can revamp, recreate, and set intentions towards a self-care routine that best serves you, your needs, and the life you want to live. It is important to preface that each individual possesses specific needs within their self-care routine. Think to yourself for a moment and take note of what you’re currently doing that relates to self-love and self-care. Are you actively incorporating self-care into your life? What does self-care look like to you? How does it show up in your life? Does it show up at all? Are you truly showing up for yourself?
These questions may be extremely hard for you to answer. And, that is perfectly okay. Personally, I experienced a phase in my life where I completely disregarded any act of self-love or self-care. I completely let myself go. This directly translated into having a nonexistent self-care routine. I was living in auto-pilot and I was not allowing myself to be the main character in my life. As an empath, I can easily let go of myself in order to make others feel secure, loved, and seen. My empathetic heart can create a false reality to how I feel fulfilled. Yes, I am helping others and extending a helping hand to those who desperately need it in my life…but, what about me?
This realization took me years to actually process. I was existing in the name of other people’s happiness and completely forgot about mine. This realization can be very difficult for people to accept. I had to become way more gentle with how I approached myself; even with how I talked to myself in my head. Over time, I realized that self-care is not selfish. It is actually a representation of self-respect. I learned that putting yourself first is OKAY and NECESSARY for inner peace and love for yourself. Once coming to terms with this idea and also accepting it as a problem in my life, I then was able to identify the missing pieces to my self-care routine. I quickly learned that self-care can be really simple. It can look different day to day, week to week, which I find really beautiful. It is an ever changing act of service towards ourselves to better our mental health and wellbeing.
Each day can be an opportunity to take a small step into self-care. The beautiful part of the journey towards self-care is that there is no right or wrong answer. This is a very intuitive practice that can also allow you to further align yourself with your true purpose and higher power. You must have compassion for yourself along the way as well. Some days we might not have time for our entire self-care practices or rituals but even ONE of those rituals or acts of service towards yourself can be really impactful. Simply spending 5 extra minutes in the shower to listen to the rest of your favorite podcast, or burning your favorite candle while you do the dishes can make all the difference some days.
For me, (and my type A personality) I am now extremely committed to the ways in which I show up for myself. Self-care is a grounding mechanism for me and allows me space to come back to myself and show some love for the functional and strong mind, body, and soul that I possess. Routines are not for everyone, although some sort of structure to how you appraoch self-care can really be an empowering tool to acknowledge the worth you hold. Each day I allow myself the space and time to show up for myself. Whether that is meditation, journaling, cooking a yummy meal, watching a good movie, a walk alone outside, telling myself words of affirmation, cleaning my room, a nice hot bath, or whatever it may be; I always make a commitment to myself to really do a few small things each day to brighten my mood and make myself feel GOOD. Day by day, I have noticed how these small acts of kindness towards myself have collectively enhanced the way I view myself. It has allowed me to increasingly become more comfortable with unapologetically loving myself.
I have learned that we can not expect other people to fill our cups for us; we must do it ourselves. This act of filling up our own cup each day can also enforce a sense of self-worth, which I believe is the most important aspect to self-care. We all embody a very deep and intrinsic value of worth and it is our responsibility to honor that each and every day, no matter what. Take those small steps by really listening to that inner voice and honor those needs. Here is to a month of love, self-connection, and honoring the beautiful human that you are!
If 2020 was the roaring lion, a thrashing and angry cat lashing out at the world, then let’s make 2021 the fiery and defiant Phoenix. I mean, 2020 really kicked our collective butts. From the frontline EMS workers forced to work sixteen hour shifts, to the grocery store stockers keeping the shelves full, to the lonely office worker drifting off from Zoom fatigue, last year was exhausting. There is no easy way back from being broken. For all of us who’ve felt desperate or dependent on a helping hand that always felt slightly out of reach, it will be a long path to travel back to trusting the systems that failed like one domino toppling another. As I’ve reflected on the last year, and all of its heartbreaks and letdowns, a few things have been pulling on me. It’s hard to have an empirically based hope for next year. There’s too much work to be done, too many items on the to-do list. Yet, trudging forward is all that we can do. But how can we trudge forward, when we’re so exhausted? The short answer is: hope. Now, bear with me for a second, I’m about to take a detour into spiritual mythologies. I promise that it will pay off! If 2020 was a cascading volcano, spewing flame and lava sky-high, then let us, smoldering and smoking, rise from those ashes.
Many of us dimly remember some of the famous Greek myths from elementary school picture books and poorly adapted young adult movie franchises. As December dragged its feet into Christmas and the New Year, I found myself drawn to many of my childhood books at my parents house. One of which was an illustrated book of myths. As I reread through this book of myths, I couldn’t help but meditate on Pandora’s box and how relevant it is to today. The story goes like this: after stealing fire from the Gods, Zeus crafts a box containing all the evil spirits of despair, greed, pride, hatefulness and so on. He then gave this box to the unwitting Pandora, who opens it and unleashes all the evil into the world. But, there was one last spirit that Zeus gave to the world. As Pandora peered into the almost-empty box, she saw a weak spirit named Hope. She picked it out of the box, and nursed it until it was strong enough to fly into the world and fight all of the other evils. Here’s my reminder to you from this myth: hope is still here. It may be at the bottom of the Pandora’s box that was 2020. It may be weak, it may need some time to recover from being squashed by countless bad things. But hope never dies, and it can always be nourished back to health. A meditation that is so very relevant to the year of rebuilding that is ahead of us all.
As I turned the pages of this large book of myths, I came across a full page swathed in red and yellow. It was, of course, a full page illustration of the beautiful Phoenix. The legendary bird that in the course of its life would turn into ash, and then be rebirthed in flame. Through fire, it would remake itself into something new, something better. There’s something so compelling about this image, the image of the fire that creates rather than destroys. I imagined, as I continued reading, that the fires of 2020 could be thought of as a creative force rather than a destructive force. What if reframing my perception of 2020 could help lead me to a productive 2021?
I want to avoid pithy conclusions, fire is fire. It burns no matter what purpose it serves. And while it is good to try and avoid the flame, sometimes you careen into it anyways against your will. Think about your own fires that you’ve faced throughout 2020. Can they be reframed into something new? Can losing your job be an opportunity for a new start? Can losing faith in our societal structure lead to a new imagination of what our country could look like? These are the questions I’m asking myself as I head into the new year. This January is looking like a January of reflection and meditation. Instead of framing it as the end of a long night, I want to look at it as the birth of a new day. From deep ashes grow the strongest forests. Let’s make this January a Phoenix.
With COVID-19 in full swing and the holiday season approaching, some might be wondering “Is 2020 over yet??” The holiday season can really be a stressful and lonely time for many people. And now that we are throwing a global pandemic into the mix, feelings of isolation might be an even more common theme than it already has been. I am right there with you, if you can’t wait for this year to be over. For all of you feeling this way, know that you are not alone! Also know that there are many things that we can do to get out of our holiday season funk.
First of all, let’s start by being kind to ourselves! Know that your feelings of isolation and loneliness are valid and it’s OK to be feeling what you’re feeling. Don’t beat yourself up! Feel those feelings, but try not to sulk in them for too long.
If you’re waking up and automatically feeling dreadful of the day to come, start your morning by thinking or writing out the things that you are grateful for that day. Write as many as 20 things. It might seem hard to write 20 whole things you are grateful for, but they don’t need to be huge things! Something as small as being grateful for hot coffee in the morning or a sunny day will do the trick. Also, don’t you dare start thinking down on yourself. Think about or write down all of the things that you love about yourself! Although these exercises seem simple, they are very effective!
“Do good, feel good.”
We’ve all heard this phrase before. Guess what? It really works wonders. The idea is that by doing something good for another person, you will in return receive what some might call a happiness “high.” You also don’t need to do anything crazy, but something as easy as holding the door open for someone, complimenting someone, or sending a nice text to a friend or family member will do the trick. Doing acts of kindness like these sorts of things will also help you feel more connected to other people. I don’t know about you, but I could definitely use a little bit more connection with people, especially during this pandemic.
In fact, feeling connected to others makes us kind. Research has shown that feeling connected to other people makes us feel happier and healthier. This is something that we wanted to incorporate into our end of the year campaign, Holiday Hope. For this campaign, we wanted to find a way to help out other organizations, while also recognizing the important lady bosses and bad asses in our lives. To participate, we ask you to donate in any amount, in honor of a womxn who has inspired you in some way. We are taking 15% of that donation and donating it to another organization in the Twin Cities that has a similar mission to our own. If you have a ladyboss or badass in your life that you want to acknowledge, this sounds like the perfect opportunity for you!
Another way to help you feel connected to others is through Zoom-ing with family or friends that you haven’t seen in awhile. This is something that I have started to incorporate into my life over the past 6 months. It helps me feel more connected to my friends even though I haven’t been able to see them for awhile. Consider setting up a happy hour or eat your dinner together over Zoom! It feels almost like you’re in the same room. USA Today even posted an article on the best games to play virtually!
I’ve also been connecting with others through Netflix Party. Through a downloadable extension on your computer, you are able to watch a movie on Netflix and instant message with a friend. If you have to pause the movie for whatever reason, it will pause their movie too! If you’re someone who misses going to the movies or misses watching movies with friends, this is a great idea!
We are going to have to get creative this holiday season. Although this might not be the holiday season you were dreaming of, connecting with others through the internet will help make it feel special! In the meantime, work on being kind to yourself and participate in our FYP Connections Through Kindness Challenge.
One random act of kindness + One recurring connection + one spontaneous connection = a deeper connections December.
Happy holidays from us at Find Your Power! We will see you next year!
Gratitude and generosity are more important this year than ever. Right now, it is easy to fixate on the negatives, on the things we can no longer do, and on the things we have had to give up this year. All of our lives have changed in innumerable ways and it can be difficult to do the things we love. Moreover, it is an even larger struggle to spend time with the people we love. Nevertheless, we should not dwell on these changes. During times of struggle, it can be tempting to turn inward, to focus on ourselves and all the ways that we are missing out.
Personally, I have found that this achieves nothing positive and only brings me down. To pull myself out of that negative place, I make an effort to remember the elements of my life that I am grateful for. Last spring and summer, I was stuck at home in my small town after being sent home from time abroad that I had been looking forward to for years. I was feeling quite sorry for myself (which I’m not proud of), and couldn’t help but dwell on all the experiences, connections, and learning I had missed out on. During this time, I began to include a section in my journal about the positive things in my life that I feel grateful for. This has helped me to put problems in perspective, and to recognize the truly wonderful pieces of life that I am lucky enough to experience. When I reflect on all of the ways that I am fortunate in this life, and on the people who care about me, it is much more difficult to remain in a low place. Sometimes, this exercise takes the form of pages of writing, and sometimes it is just a simple list of the things, large and small, that I am grateful for in that moment. For example:
Some things I am grateful for:
Morning coffee with maple oat milk and cinnamon
Small paintings of flowers
A good connection on Facetime
My mom’s cinnamon roll recipe
I encourage you to write down a list like this, to remind yourself of the things you have to be grateful for. Creating a consistent gratitude practice can be amazing for your mental health. To take it a step further, you might look at this list and seek out ways to honor the people and things that appear on it. This will shift the focus from yourself, and spread the positive effects of your practice to others.
If you are looking for another way to deepen your gratitude practice, you can take a look at this app called Gratitude, recommended by our founder, Ivy. It has many journal prompts, and allows you to add pictures to your journal. You can even set a timer each day to help you make gratitude a habit.
Now, not to be contradictory but, I want to acknowledge the importance of gratitude for yourself. This is an important part of a gratitude practice! There is a lot of value in recognizing the things you do for yourself and others, and thanking yourself for doing them. Be generous with yourself too. Treat yourself with a moment to breathe, or an extra hour of sleep, or maybe a sweet from a local business (then you are giving back to yourself and your community!). I encourage you to take care of yourself, as it is difficult to express generosity and gratitude to others when we do not take note of the amazing things we ourselves do in our lives.
Generosity and gratitude are closely related. We can, of course, express our gratitude for someone else’s generosity towards us, but we can also project gratitude out into the world with generosity. The act of expressing gratitude is beneficial for our relationships, and for our own mental health. Be generous with your gratitude. Give it away like you would a smile to a puppy or a kind word to a family member or partner. That is to say, give it away often and with ease. This might take the form of a verbal thank you, or a small gift or note, or it might be a simple act of kindness. Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you, and show it with acts of care and help. Support others in your community and circle. Not only will it brighten their spirits and yours, you never know who might really need your thanks. The same can be said for acts of generosity, in your inner circle and in your wider community. As the weather turns colder and darker, we can all appreciate small gifts, kind words, and help when we need it, from friends and strangers alike.
Minnesota had its first snowfall of the year recently. Although I grew up in a snowy town in the mountains, and have nothing against snow, this was not an event that I was particularly overjoyed about. For me, snow in Minnesota signals cold, dark days in which I struggle to find joy and light, and the occurrence of inches of snow about a month too early served as a reminder of what is to come. However, I have tried to inject some positivity into it by getting into the holiday spirit a little bit early and brainstorming ways I can brighten up the lives of my friends and family. Although I am far away from my family in Washington state, taking the time to think of the ways that I will make them feel special and loved during the holidays is making me feel closer to them. I have been practicing saying ‘thank you’ more often, and appreciating the ways in which people make my life better (and letting them know when they do!). I hope that you will be able to do the same. Gratitude is a skill and a habit, and the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Every week this month, I encourage you to find a new way to express your gratitude to those around you. Get creative with it! You might find that you get just as much out of the act as the person you are appreciating does.
Reclaiming Your Routine: A Proactive Approach to Winter
By: McKenzie Hickey
When creating a healthy routine for yourself it is crucial to remember that your individual schedule may be different than your family, friends or colleagues routine. You should curate the most beneficial routine that will fit your current lifestyle. Maybe you are someone who needs to have the same routine schedule every day each week? Eat the same breakfast each morning, workout in the afternoon each day, and brush your teeth at 10:15 p.m. each night. You also could be someone who needs constant change and variability in your schedule. Maybe Monday is your day off where you take a self care day, sleeping in, FaceTiming your Mom, going on a long walk around one of the 10,000 lakes. Maybe you need to work late hours from 4-10 p.m. when your brain is most stimulated.
Something important to keep in mind when crafting your own personal schedule is rewarding yourself with smaller victories. Making a to-do list helps you stay on track, but it is beyond alright if you don’t check off each individual task for the day. Set small goals and celebrate when you achieve them. Treat yourself to binge watching a show or buying that new makeup palette. I learned throughout college that overfilling your plate tends to leave your tank on empty. I personally struggled with having a balanced social, work and school life. I had a difficult time saying no to opportunities and people, and had little time to re-energize on my own. In order to create the prime schedule for your life, sometimes you have to diminish other areas of your life that are taking up too much time. Maybe it is quitting a job that is no longer fulfilling you, maybe it is slowly backing away from a friendship that is draining you, maybe it is learning to understand that you can’t do it all. We are not unfortunately super humans, we can only mentally and emotionally handle so much in our daily lives.
Find Comfort in the Chaos:
As we are still amidst a global pandemic, it is challenging to face the uncertainty and chaos this world currently holds. Change can be thrilling, but constant change can be draining and difficult to navigate the next steps. I know for me personally, I love the idea of adapting to new jobs, living environment, changing of the seasons, etc. However, adjusting to the quarantine lifestyle was chaos that I was completely shaken by. I had just graduated from college this past December, completely uncertain of my future plans. I was certain I would move away and start this new chapter of my life in a new place, far far away from Minnesota. I applied to at least 50 jobs out of state before I realized that the probability of me landing a job out of state was highly unlikely. It took awhile to accept that I was not being rejected because of my skills for a job, but because of the larger circumstances facing the world.
I began applying for more jobs in Minnesota and around mid June I landed my first job. The most bizarre part about when I landed the job is that after all of that time anticipating, hoping for the right opportunity to come along, I did not feel whole entirely. I had spent many days drained in my self-doubt thoughts of how I would never be good enough for any job and no one would hire me. Many of us get into these dangerous mind games where we think constantly of why we feel like failure and how we can do better. An enigmatic thought occurred that day when I accepted the job: That we are all more than a job. We are more than a college student or athlete. We are more than the expectations that have always been told to us by others. It is valid if you are unemployed. It is valid if you are still unsure what career path you want to take. It is valid if you do not have your agenda filled out for next week.
With all of the uncertainty these past few months, it is about finding unexpected comfort in chaos. Trusting the process and struggle, in hope that what is meant to be for you, will be. One beneficial tactic I learned during quarantine was to make the most of the free time that I had. I slept in, I read, I wrote, I ran outside, I painted, I learned the ukulele, and I had many laughs with two of my best friends who I was quarantined with. For me, it was becoming grounded in the notion that it could take months, or even a year, to find a job after graduating. Instead of ruminating on the fear of uncertainty, I began to find comfort in not knowing what tomorrow brings. I learned how to not plan my life a month in advance or a week in advance. I became entwined with the present day and comforted by all that was to be discovered in the near future.
Taking a Proactive Approach to Winter:
An important approach to staying productive: lessen the attitude that you need to do the most, while we are currently still living in a pandemic. Approach productivity with sensitivity and grace. With this approach, you can see that there is the opportunity to spend more time inside to reduce the contraction of Coronavirus among others.
Winter can be a challenging season due to the colder days and lack of sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to more intense feelings of sadness and little motivation. Two helpful ways that you can create sunlight is by buying a sun lamp, which mimics outdoor lighting. My roommate bought her sun lamp off of Amazon for fairly cheap and loves it. Also taking Vitamin D supplements can help increase low blood levels and help reduce depression.
When we begin to lose our minds while inside during long Winter days, going outside to escape seems less appealing. During the Summer and Fall there are more activities outside that keep our mental energies positive throughout the work week. However when Winter hits, the most we can withstand in the cold is maybe an hour. Therefore we have to get creative with ourselves to organize activities/outings that will keep us all motivated. Maybe it’s having an indoor paint/wine night with a few close friends. Maybe it’s connecting with a few individuals and working together on a creative side project. One of my creative outlets is conceptualizing photoshoots with some of my friends. I visualize a shoot idea and then my friends help bring that visual to life in front of the lens. Photography has been a creative outlet for me the past few years to express my ideas to others who might share the same interests. Maintaining a personal side hobby can truly increase your productivity, so you do not feel like you are only working constantly.
One of the best remedies for seasonal depression is establishing an event/activity to look forward to. A few of my close friends and I traveled to Lusten, Minnesota on Sunday and took a Gondola over all of the fall trees and it was a breathtaking experience to see how vast the fall colors spread across Minnesota. We did this four hour road trip in a day and drove back home the same day to make it to work on Monday. Planning a little road trip or activity each week or every couple weeks provides us the eagerness to stay productive during the work week. Productivity is an awesome way to stay motivated towards your upcoming goals. If you do not have many goals in mind, take time to think about what you want to accomplish before the year ends. Reflect and release any old habits that are not serving you. With productivity, also comes creating a balance between relaxation time as well! Do what aligns best for your needs and prioritize time for yourself as often as possible. Self-care and self-prioritization is an act of self-love and self-respect.
No matter what these next few months bring, always remember that you are only responsible for things you can control. Give yourself some grace and move through these next transitions in life with your intentions in mind. I challenge you to keep an open mind to what may be in store for you and you just may find out that when chaos comes, so does reflection, life-lessons, and new perspectives on self awareness. Take time to enjoy this autumn weather and the winter ahead, and make each day of your life as magical as possible, with small or large acts of self-love; because you deserve it! And you only get one life, so make it count.
“The most beautiful thing in this whole world is not made up of particles. It’s the strength of a person who has seen the collapse of their world, yet every morning, they wake up and build their life, all over again.”
These past six months have been anything but “normal”. What is normal anyway? Normal was not even applicable to my life before COVID-19 and I now realize that is ever-changing. Normal life means different things to different people worldwide. I propose we start reframing what the word normal means. One could individualize this for each person to do in their own lives, in response to what best serves them and their specific needs. Let “normal” define a lifestyle that best serves YOU and your specific needs. Normal should represent a life that allows you to be productive and authentically happy in a way that best suits you and your routine.
Almost all facets of my life have been disrupted in some way over the past several months. Most of these have been completely out of my control. Control and order have always been a strong part of my daily routine—I thrive off of organizing, planning, and scheduling my entire life. For any of you reading who can agree with me on this, this pandemic has been especially difficult, just in this specific aspect of losing complete control—financially, emotionally, and physically. Each week since mid-March this year has brought new challenges, introducing me to different coping mechanisms. I found myself frequently forgetting which day of the week it was or feeling extremely off-center mentally and emotionally. I have learned that that is OKAY and healthy. I believe each of us has discovered something new about ourselves and that may be a silver lining to all of this. I cannot simplify or deny the additional weight this pandemic has put on our backs, but I can easily expand on all of the things it has taught me about myself. The stress of the uncertainty of this pandemic has given many the opportunity to turn inwards and adapt to a journey of self-discovery that is new for some. Additionally, this pandemic has showcased the flaws and successes of our society that otherwise wouldn’t have been highlighted. It has been a learning experience for us all and there is no way anyone could have prepared our country for a catastrophe quite like this one.
As seasons are changing, so are schedules and routines. For me, school is right around the corner and I am getting ready to prepare myself for my last semester of undergraduate. Although this semester is going to look a lot different than previous years, I am choosing to go into this fall with an open mindset and accept change as a positive thing. I am a visual learner in so many aspects, so for me that vision of cyclical change of a new season represents a “reset” button. A notion of quite literally turning a new leaf and expanding my mindset to my new routine and new responsibilities. I am also using this change of seasons as a symbol of welcoming all of my incoming challenges as learning lessons. As we all know, these times are so unprecedented and unpredictable. I challenge you all to try and interpret any challenges that come your way in these next few months as an opportunity to learn and grow. When faced with a problem or unsettlement, try to remind yourself that—“Everything is happening is FOR you, NOT to you.” It can be difficult to not take things personally, I know, but the more you are able to remind yourself that everything that enters your life is an opportunity for growth, you may be able to handle challenges in a way that can help you learn and grow.
A tool I frequently use when starting a new “chapter” of my life is reflection. This can be a beneficial tool for many facets of life and allows you to be very intentional about what brought you to where you are today and how that journey has positively and negatively affected you. Take some time to sit down and be alone with your thoughts. You can possibly journal or create art that reflects how you’re feeling. By physically expressing how you feel may help you notice a shift in your thought patterns. How has this past summer benefitted you? How have you grown from the challenges of this past summer? What have you learned about yourself or your community? What worked for you and what didn’t? By reflecting on our past experiences allows us to better understand the present moment and creates a better understanding of our inner self as well.
After taking time to reflect on these past few months of summer, create some time this week to sit down and set simple guidelines for what you want to accomplish by the end of this year. We are four months away from 2021. Yes, that is crazy, but it just means you have four months to ultimately create a reality that best serves you and your goals for yourself. I am not a person who waits for January 1st to set goals for myself. It is a silly social construct that honestly restricts people from being accountable for their life. Why wait for a specific date to “life your best life”? Why not wake up each day with that mindset? I challenge you to dismantle the idea that you have to wait for a certain date to change your habits, goals, or dreams. Why not start now? I understand with unprecedented times like now that many of our habits and goals have shifted out of our control. Luckily, I have some good news for you. You are able to change and focus on things you CAN control. While taking time to set some goals for yourself during this next season, brainstorm things that are in your control and expand on how those things can help create a stable routine as we shift into a new season of the year.
With the hostile environment around us, it can be so easy to collapse at any moment from the heavy stress life pushes onto us. We may not be in control of what our outer world may manifest into, but we can unlock our inner world of peace and contentment. You and only you hold the key to that. Be intentional about your priorities these next few months, because that is a simple way to stay consistent with your habits and also allows you to break old habits that may no longer serve you. Try to frequently ask yourself “Does this support the life I am trying to create?”
Lastly, be forgiving to yourself and all that you embody. It is so liberating to commit to a life of wholeness instead of perfection. Self-forgiveness gives access to a mindset that is more compassionate and I believe we could all use a little more empathy for ourselves. As the leaves start to fall and the weather starts the change, become intentional about what you want to accomplish in the new season. Your mindset is the key to your success. Below I have added an intention setting worksheet to help put your thoughts onto paper and dreams into action. Here’s to a fresh start and new beginnings!
Be sure to checkout this month’s corresponding 3-day video challenge in our private facebook group, Elevate! + LBL, with our founder Ivy Kaminsky. She speaks on different tools that can take your goal setting and planning to the next level!
Never in a million years did I think that five letters and two digits would change my life so drastically. That I would ever understand what a coronavirus is, how it affects the human body, and feel such a strong mix of emotions every time one strain, in particular, is mentioned.
But here we are.
COVID-19 and the global pandemic that ensued changed the way many people around the world experience life. Plans were cancelled, studies interrupted, families kept away from each other, and the future became more uncertain than it has been in our lifetimes. Coupled with an economic downturn, a civil rights movement, and a presidential election campaign–this summer has thrown everything it has at us. Now it seems as if we’re living in limbo, this in-between place where we’ve grown accustomed to living in this never-ending uncertainty yet always feel stressed about that same uncertainty and what it means for the future, for our “normal” lives.
I can’t pretend to sit here and have the answers to what seem like some of this century’s biggest questions. After all, I have never lived through a global pandemic, and I’m not (unfortunately) a time-traveler from the future ready to tell you everything that happens (trust me, I wish). I can, however, share with you my experiences over the past five years months in the hopes that you may have felt/feel similar things. And maybe, together, we can begin to find ourselves again amongst the chaos of this time in history.
When I think about COVID-19, a mixed set of emotions comes to mind: fear, sadness, loss, confusion, anxiety… to name a few. I had the incredible opportunity and privilege of studying abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this last semester and was there when COVID descended upon the world. My classmates and I watched from afar as this real-life movie played right in front of us: infection rates spiked in the US, apocalyptic images of empty store shelves and jam-packed hospitals flashed across our new feeds, and other study abroad programs were sent home one by one. A Friday call with my sister studying back home in Minnesota started to open my eyes to the severity of the situation. Up until she was sent home from college, COVID didn’t regularly cross my mind. At the time, there were only 11 cases in South Africa, and all of them had come from travelers returning from Europe.
Little did I know, that was the last Friday I would spend abroad.
We got the email on Sunday, March 15th, 2020 at 7:30 PM. Earlier that day I had been surfing in the rain, wondering how I could be so lucky to be living somewhere so extraordinary, marveling at how beautiful life is. All of that is now overshadowed by three words that sit lonely at the top of my journal entry from that night: “We’re going home.”
The next week was a blur of saying goodbye to the new friends I’d made and 30 hours of traveling all boiling down to a hug-less welcome from my family (not because they didn’t love me but because of said 30 hours of traveling) and a world standing still. A country that was already foreign to me upon my return was made even more so by stay-at-home orders and a virus full of so much unknown.
Like so many, my world flipped upside down. I stayed in my basement for the first two weeks quarantining in case I’d caught COVID in an airport on my journey home. When I started classes again, with my professors in South Africa seven hours ahead of me, I was left to teach myself the material via PowerPoints, articles, and independent research. I felt abandoned as a student, but because no one was prepared to teach remotely–let alone remotely across 8,000 miles–I didn’t feel justified with my anger. I didn’t know what to direct it at other than the circumstance.
Throughout all of this turnover and distress, I felt as many others have: a longing for normalcy and a sense of hopelessness at the situation. I didn’t want to be in the country, let alone in my basement disconnected from my friends and all that I had begun to build while abroad. The confidence and understanding that I discovered slowly began to fade as the weeks went by with no end in sight. It was like I was trapped in Jello, stuck in time yet constantly jostled about by forces outside of my control.
What started as weeks turned into months of stay-at-home orders and fluctuating infection rates. Frustration at my reality and feelings of loss and loneliness began to boil over until I no longer felt them at all. After a while of hurting, feeling defeated, trapped, and angry about being home and all that I’d lost, I suddenly felt nothing. Life began happening to me without my intervention, and I didn’t care to stop it. I felt numb.
I love and connect deeply with art and poetry (although I’m not particularly great at either one), and I gravitated towards them amongst the turmoil. While mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed one day, I came across a post by someone I forgot I followed shortly before I left. Morgan Harper Nichols is an artist and poet whose words and style instantly voiced what I was feeling. She put words to what I thought was indescribable, and I slowly started to come to peace with what I went through and the trauma that I experienced. Her words of comfort gave me agency to fight the stuck-in-Jello feeling and apathy that had taken over my reality; they spoke to my soul. I learned to honor what happened, to hold onto the parts that felt magical, and to believe and acknowledge that even in my current state, I was growing. Her words helped center me during a time of chaos, a time when I felt as if I was just floating through space and time, just existing. They helped me refocus and root myself in reality.
Jump to present day: August 2020. It’s now been five months since the world as we knew it disappeared, and although I have begun to move past the initial struggles I had with loneliness and loss, I now worry more and more about the future. What will the next five months look like? How will they affect me, both physically and emotionally? What can I possibly do when all I see and hear are stories of what I can’t do, what I won’t be able to for a while? How can I stay centered in this time of continuing chaos?
One way that I’ve started tackling these questions is by shifting my mentality. Instead of focusing on the negative (which I found myself doing more than I’d like to admit over the past few months), focus on what you can do. This step may seem oversimplified and easier said than done, but it’s where we have to start. Think about all of the little things we can do now that we couldn’t before: we can get food from our favorite restaurant and enjoy the summer weather while eating it; we can successfully get through a Zoom meeting at work without someone’s audio mistakenly being left on; we can work and collaborate from home and in new ways that five months ago were not second nature or comfortable for us at all.
This mental shift may also mean finding that little piece of clarity in the chaos. Clarity for me came from the art and poetry of Morgan Harper Nichols and daily walks around my neighborhood. For you, maybe it’s hearing your children laugh, working out, or listening to music whose lyrics speak directly to your soul. Everyone’s clarity comes from something different; we’re experiencing and internalizing the chaos in different ways. It’s vital that we look for light, however, and don’t let ourselves get swallowed up and tossed around by the circumstances we’ve been given. We need to grab onto something, and each other, to center ourselves and focus on who we want to be.
It’s also okay just to be.
Life is overwhelming, and life during COVID is so much more so. One day you may feel on top of the world, like you’re ready to move past all of the feelings and memories brought up during the last five months and the next you may be back to square one. That’s okay. That’s normal. We’re not designed to “be okay” overnight. It takes time.
And while it’s okay to go with the flow and take each thing as it comes (sometimes that’s even necessary), don’t blindly accept the circumstances COVID has given you if you’re not happy with them. Evaluate where you are right now, and if it doesn’t match who or where or what you want to be, take action. Honor what you went through, the things and experiences that you lost, and center yourself in little things that bring you joy despite all of the difficulties. Plan a weekend trip to the park, daydream about a vacation you want to take when we can travel again, reorganize your bedroom or kitchen, etc. Move your body every day, look at plants (they increase happiness!), and feel the sunshine on your skin. Start with little things and create a reality for yourself that sits within the greater world reality.
Don’t settle for what has changed because of COVID if it makes you feel trapped/helpless or doesn’t bring you joy. Take back your life, plan for the future, and create your own reality outside of COVID’s confines. No matter how much it may seem to, self-growth doesn’t go away during tough times. It increases as we have more time to slow down, reflect, reevaluate, and recenter.
This reality creation does not mean pretending that everything is okay in a toxic, unnatural, or unquestioning way. It means evaluating your circumstances/state of mind, honoring that, and then with that understood and in mind, moving forward to make the best of your situation and reclaim your sense of purpose, motivation, and happiness. This process may not (and will not) happen right away, but it’s important to start making slow progress where you can so that you emerge from this time stronger and more confident in yourself than when it began.
As this time of unknowns continues, reclaim your life from what COVID made of it, and shift your mentality towards focusing on what you can do with the situation you’re in. Find what brings you clarity and grab onto it; center yourself in the lights found amongst the chaos. Even if you need to step back and just be, don’t blindly accept circumstances that don’t fill you with joy. Create your own reality inside of this crazy world of ours, and don’t settle for anything you wouldn’t have before. Although it doesn’t feel like it, you are growing right now. It just looks different. So give yourself the time, space, and forgiveness to foster that growth; find, hang onto, and center yourself in little things that bring you light; and continue your small steps forward through the chaos.
Looking for a place to start? Check out more of Morgan Harper Nichols’ poetry on her website: https://morganharpernichols.com/ or follow her on Instagram @morganharpernichols.