How to cope with anxiety as a bride | Anxiety and Weddings Series

Ahh, weddings! I absolutely love them and always have. I remember being about 12 years old, planning what color bridesmaids dresses I would choose and what sorts of flowers I wanted to carry. Ironically, my actual bridesmaids chose their own dresses from a color pallet, and to keep things simple (and affordable) I opted for baby's breath in lieu of fancy flowers. Turns out, many things change from your middle school dreams to your real wedding.

While I'm certainly no Katherine Heigel à la 27 Dresses, I spent a large chunk of my weekends throughout my 20s celebrating marriages. From bridal showers and bachelorette parties, to rehearsal dinners, ceremonies, and receptions, I've seen it and LOVE it all! Doesn't matter if we're in a church or a bar or a hotel or lakeside, I am here. for. it. 

Of course as a therapist and an INFJ, I'm always observing. One major theme I've noticed is the anxiety-provoking nature of wedding season. Whether you're the bride, a bridesmaid, or a guest, pressure can be high and feelings of anxiety can escalate. And so, over the next three weeks, we'll be talking about coping with wedding-related anxiety here on the blog. We'll talk about being the anxious bride, of course, as well as the anxious bridesmaid and the anxious wedding guest. 

Let's get started- how to cope with anxiety when YOU are the bride. Let's break it down between the wedding planning process and the wedding itself. 

How to cope with anxiety while planning your wedding

1. Delegation is your friend. I promise, the people in your life want to help. Ask them

2. Remember the end goal. All of the hullabaloo is about a marriage- right? Keep that in mind. Focus on what matters. A beautiful marriage is infinitely more important than a beautiful wedding. Go on a date with your fiancé and DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE WEDDING. Seriously. Remember all those things you talked about and enjoyed pre-engagement? Go back to those. Give your mind a rest from all the plans and particulars of the wedding. Enjoy your relationship!

3. With all your important bridal to-do's, make time to care for yourself. Your personal needs are easy to gloss over while planning a wedding- but you need to tend to them. I'm not talking anything fancy here. Literally things like getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, exercising in some way, and eating at least semi-well. 

4. The bridal shower is often a time of anxiety for brides- opening gifts in front of people can be anxiety-provoking. Many people feel uncomfortable with all the focus on them, especially when there is an expectation of a response after opening a gift. This is a very common experience. Remind yourself that you don't need to say anything beyond "thank you" when opening gifts, and that- and I say this as an attender of many bridal showers- people aren't paying that close of attention. We've already seen everything on your gift registry, to be honest with you!

5. Handling the financial part of your wedding can be anxiety-provoking. Oftentimes, the wedding planning process is the first time a couple is looking at their combined finances. This can make for some interesting surprises! If wedding finances are causing some anxiety, consider this your crash course for handling finances in marriage. Money fights and money problems are a leading cause of divorce, so it's in your best interest to learn how to communicate about finances now. I highly recommend investing in premarital counseling as part of your wedding budget- this will give you a structured way to discuss important topics like finances in a non-threatening manner. I often refer clients to Financial Peace University in addition to premarital counseling.

6. Focus on shifting your mindset. Your thoughts have a large impact on how you feel, so it's important to bring awareness to your mental life. Do you notice many thoughts starting with "what if...?" If yes- those are likely fueled by anxiety. Acknowledge your anxious thought, and try shifting it. The anxious thought keeps you stuck. The helpful thought fuels you toward action. 

Here's an example:

Anxious thought: What if it rains during our outdoor ceremony?

Helpful thought: I can't change the weather, but I can make a rainy-day contingency plan.

Hiker copy.png

How to cope with anxiety on your wedding day

1. Eat! I'm not kidding- so many brides skip eating on their own wedding day, because they don't believe they have time, OR because they are so emotional they don't feel like eating. Not having enough food in your belly can mess with your blood sugar, causing you to feel anxious or otherwise not well. Make sure to eat before AND during your wedding! I know a couple who actually ate dinner in private during the reception- that way they were both able to eat their meals without interruption, while enjoying a sweet moment together before joining their guests for the dance. 

2. Drink enough water. Ask a bridesmaid to be on "water duty"- her duties might just be bringing you a glass of water every so often. You'll be so busy dancing or chatty with guests that it might be difficult to get your own drinks. You may also want to watch your alcohol intake- sometimes alcohol can provoke your anxiety, so if you're noticing that happening ask the bartender to make you a yummy mocktail instead. 

3. Step away for a moment. Take five minutes away from the hubbub to just breathe or try a grounding exercise- my favorite is 5-4-3-2-1. Here's how it works: Find 5 things you can see that make you feel calm. Once you have those, find 4 things you can touch that make you feel calm. Then find 3 things you can hear that make you feel calm. Next notice two scents that make you feel calm. Finally, take note of one taste that makes you feel good. Complete the exercise by taking a deep breath in and out.

4. Just like while you were planning the wedding, keep your eyes on the prize. If you find yourself feeling anxious about something happening at the reception, ask someone to take care of it and bring your attention back to the goal of the wedding, which was to get married. If that happened, is does not matter what else might be going wrong. 

5. Practice gratitude. It's very difficult for anxiety and gratitude to coexist. Take a few minutes with your new spouse or a bridesmaid, and just make a list of everything you are thankful for- and don't take it too seriously. Heck yes, you are grateful for not having tripped on your dress while walking down the aisle! Make a list of 10 things and then notice how you feel. Carry this feeling on throughout the evening and see how it changes your perspective.

Wedding Series.png

Your engagement is a sweet time that will be over before you know it. It's not fair for anxiety to steal the show. If worries are taking over and you're not find enjoyment in the wedding planning process anymore, consider asking for support through counseling. You can decide to put yourself back in the driver's seat of this process and learn to soften anxiety's sharp edges. If you're local to Minneapolis - St. Paul, schedule an appointment to get started today.


You have MORE and LESS control than you think

Control. We love it, don't we? We desire control over days, our work, our relationships, our emotions. We are uncomfortable with the unknown. It seems to be part of the human condition.

When it comes to other people, we have less control than we think- and if we're being honest, less control than we would like. Now, most of us aren't out to control other people. But we certainly would like others to behave in ways that suit us and our needs. Our anxiety can get in the way of allowing others to experience freedom- freedom to make their own decisions, freedom to be who they are.

We also have more control than we oftentimes believe. We have control over how we choose to handle situations. We can choose to respond, rather than react. We can choose to take a deep breath before responding to an irritating email. We can choose to smile at the person with a full cart ahead of us at the self-checkout. We can choose to think differently about any given situation. 

We often cannot change the situation- but we CAN change how we think about it. 

Check it out:

Situation: driving to work, lots of traffic, and I'm already running late.

Thought #1: "WHY DIDN'T I LEAVE MY HOUSE EARLIER!? Why in the world is there so much traffic? This guy really needs to drive faster. Move it or lose it! I'll never make it to work on time."

Resulting emotion: upset at other driver, annoyed with myself, generally frazzled

Thought #2: "Weird, there isn't usually this much traffic on this road. Wonder what's going on. Ah well... it's out of my control. I'm going to take a deep breath or two... oooh, now I have extra time to finish that podcast episode I was listening to this morning."

Resulting emotion: calm, at peace, joyful from listening to comedy podcast

Same situation. Different thoughts. Different results. 

Recognizing when you do or do not have control is absolutely key to your emotional wellness.

When you realize you have control in a situation, you are empowered to make a choice, make a change.

And when you understand you have no control over a situation, you may experience a release of that responsibility you were never meant to carry in the first place.

Relax (1).png

Top tips for exercising more control when you have it

  1. Acknowledge that you can make a change- mindset is everything

  2. Consider your choices and potential outcomes

  3. Choose the most beneficial route- how can you act in alignment with your values?

If you feel paralyzed here, that's a sign fear is getting in your way. Avoid making choices from a place of fear- address the fear first, then move forward with decision making.

Top tips for handling a true lack of control

  1. Download the Calm app and use the breathing meditation tool. Game-changer.

  2. Acknowledge your lack of control and practice radical acceptance

  3. Intentionally think about the situation in a new, more helpful way

Control issues are a common issue for many people. If you're ready to make some changes with how you handle control, consider working through this in counseling. Schedule an appointment to get started today. Why wait?


3 things to consider before starting counseling

One thing I've noticed about millennials (per Pew Research Center, those of us born between 1981-1996) is what appears to be a widespread prioritization of mental wellness. Clients often tell me they talk about their counseling sessions with friends and family. It was not too long ago that folks kept their counseling appointments completely secret, so this is a really cool progression.

With more people talking about and interested in therapy, I thought it would be helpful to discuss a couple things to consider before making your first appointment. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you can answer "yes" to all 3, you might be in a good space to start therapeutic work. Here are a few things to consider before starting counseling:

IMG_2570.PNG

1. Do you have the space in your life for therapy?

Counseling is an investment that requires commitment. You will be spending time, money, and emotional energy to process and/or solve problems. Because it is a significant investment, I recommend assessing whether you have the space for it in your particular season.

  • Do you have a space in your schedule for consistent sessions? Most of my clients schedule weekly or bi-weekly sessions. Consistency is key for continued progress.

  • Do you have the finances available to pay for sessions? (and remember, finances don't need to be a barrier to mental health services)?

  • Do you have the emotional bandwidth to process your session content throughout the week? This part is really key. I've seen the best progress when clients have take the time to reflect, mentally organize, and practice new skills in between our counseling sessions. It's one thing to discuss change for 50 minutes each week, and quite another to put things into action each day.

2. Are you ready to be vulnerable and work hard?

I get it. Vulnerability is HARD. Part of vulnerability is trust- which is why your connection with your therapist is so important. You might not jibe with the first (or second) counselor you see. There is no one-size-fits-all therapist. If you're not vibing with your current counselor, I encourage you to assess your needs and find someone who might be a better fit.

Therapy is a lot like other things in life, in that you'll get out of it what you put in. You'll need to put in effort to get results. Working hard means you'll come prepared with a general idea of what you want out of therapy. I recommend coming into session with some thoughts of what you'd like to focus on that day. We'll have a treatment plan to guide us, but the best results will come if you are focused on what you want to process in session. 

3. Are you willing to accept the discomfort of change in order move forward?

You're considering therapy because something doesn't feel right. You want relief, healing, or increased insight. You've got two choices.

If nothing changes, you're stuck with the discomfort of what you're going through now.

If you change, you must deal with the discomfort that comes with a new way of being, feeling, acting, or thinking.

Both of these options require discomfort. It is up to you to decide what is more painful- staying the same, or changing. Please hear me- there will be times that you honestly do not have the emotional bandwidth to handle change. Give yourself some grace here. You will know when the pain of staying the same is stronger than the pain of changing.

If your answers are a resounding "YES" then it's time to get started! Take the first step by scheduling an appointment.


The most common myths people believe about counseling

Over the years, I've noticed many FALSE, yet commonly held beliefs about counseling. Whether it's from a poor portrayal in a movie, or just someone without all the facts on mental healthcare, there's a lot of misinformation out there. I am eager to dispel some of it. Let's go!

5 commonly believed myths about counseling

My therapist will fix all my problems. Unfortunately, I don't have a magic wand. I do not have any special powers to make your problems go away. Counseling is a process, and it's one that takes a significant investment of your time, energy, and finances. We will work together to figure out what goals you'd like to achieve, and then focus on those collaboratively throughout the course of therapy. If you're feeling stuck and unsure where to go, I want you to know that you are not alone. You don't need to figure this out yourself. It is my honor to work alongside women just like you who want to experience greater freedom. 

Counseling is expensive and out of reach. Sometimes finances can be a barrier to seeking quality mental health counseling. Therefore, I do my best to make counseling services more accessible.

In-network health insurance: I am in-network with some insurance companies. Depending on your plan, you may have the full cost covered, or just be responsible for a smaller portion. If you do have a deductible to meet before insurance pays for counseling, you receive a discount from my full fee, just by seeing a counselor who is in-network.

Out-of-network insurance reimbursement: If I am not an in-network provider for your insurance company, we can work around that. You may be entitled to partial reimbursement from your health insurance. I will give you a receipt that you can upload to an app- the good people at Better will take care of everything and send you a check for you are owed. Couldn't be easier.

Open Path Psychotherapy Collective: I am pleased to partner with Open Path to offer discounted rates for clients who cannot afford the full fee or do not have health insurance. I reserve 4 slots for Open Path clients- please contact me to inquire on on current availability.

Groups: Group therapy is a great way to receive low cost counseling services. I offer groups for teens and adults, at $30 per session. If you are interested in group counseling, check out my current offerings here.

Creative thinking: Outside-the-box thinking can be huge here. Do you have family or friends who are able and eager to invest in your personal development? How about your church? Sometimes churches have what are called "benevolence funds" to help pay for counseling. Do you have a dining out habit that could be pared back (temporarily) in order to make room in your budget for counseling? 

Free community resources: For completely free counseling services, check out the Walk-In Clinic. With locations in Minneapolis and St. Paul, they are able to serve individuals who are unable to pay for sessions. This is a great resource in the Twin Cities!

Counseling is for crazy people. First of all, you are not crazy. Second, let's just go ahead and remove that label from our lexicon. It's not accurate, helpful, or kind. That begs that question- who IS counseling for? Counseling is for:

-the 23-year-old woman who is excelling in her career already- but also fears she has lost who she really is.

-the newlywed who can't understand why she feels lonely and depressed when she thought marriage would bring happiness.

-the college student who feels completely overwhelmed trying to balance intense coursework and a social life.

-the professional who feels like she just can't get it together and wonders if she'll ever feel control over her anxiety.

-anyone who wants to experience freedom and a deeper sense of peace.

Counseling is good for people with REAL problems, not like mine. Dictionary.com defines problem as "a question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty." If something is in the way of you living in freedom, it's time to move it. My job is to walk alongside you and help move whatever boulder is in your way, so you can get back on your path. There are many diverse reasons why someone walks into my office, and I've yet to tell someone that their concerns do not warrant sorting through them in counseling. Not convinced? Here are a few common, general reasons people work with me:

She wants to be in a better place emotionally before marriage.

She wants to unpack and process situations and relationships from her past.

She wants to learn practical skills to manage anxiety.

She wants to gain confidence in her identity.

She wants to stop thinking so negatively about herself.

She wants to find ways to communicate better with a toxic boss.

Counseling is uncomfortable. Okay, this one is actually a half-truth. The common belief is that counseling will either be awkward or emotionally excruciating, scaring people off from making an appointment. I get that. And, the reality is that you won't always feel comfortable in therapy sessions. You may be challenged to view yourself or a situation differently. You may be asked to try some new behaviors. But, catch this- this is important: you are never alone in this. My job as a counselor is to create space for you to process, grow, and heal. We will do this together.

IMG_2297.PNG

If you're local to Minneapolis - St. Paul and are ready to start counseling, I'm so excited for you! Take the first step toward healing and freedom by scheduling your first appointment today.


How an actual counselor does self-care

As a counselor, I have the privilege of working with many high-achieving young women. These women are dedicated to careers and families and have high standards for themselves- and often are just BUSY. It can be difficult to carve out time to take care of themselves. And so, oftentimes, part of our work includes creating and maintaining a solid self-care plan. I tell each person that her plan will be unique, tailored specifically to her own needs. After doing this for several years now, I thought I would share my actual plan!

But first, a few disclaimers:

  • I do NOT do these things all the time. This is my Plan A- it's my best case scenario, not what ALWAYS happens. Having a plan helps me redirect when I'm feeling stressed or unsure what to do.
  • These are just things that work for me. You may or may not feel calmed or rejuvenated by these practices. This is just an example to get you started.

How I actually take care of myself as a counselor

5 Senses

The mind-body connection is so strong, and part of self-care is recognizing and attending to this connection. It's helpful to find at least one way to engage each sense to induce a state of calm or energy (whatever you're looking to cultivate at the time). Here are the ways I intentionally use my 5 senses:

Scent: Diffusing essential oils- my favorite is Peace & Calming from Young Living.

Sight: Repeat after me- outer order contributes to inner calm! I knew this intuitively, but when Gretchen Rubin put words to it, it made for an easy mantra. If I'm feeling stressed, it's helpful to clean off my workspace or kitchen counters.

Sound: Listening to sad music actually has a positive impact on my mood- and the research backs this up! Throwing on an Dashboard Confessional album gives me a mood boost. Also, do not underestimate the power of the playlist! Having playlists for different activities helps me to enjoy life more fully. For example, listening to my Frank Sinatra playlist while making dinner instantly turns an everyday task into a event.

Touch: Having ultra soft blankets around the house and choosing non-itchy fabrics in my clothing is key.

Taste: A cup of my tea in the evening (especially during our 5-month winter in Minnesota, ahem) has a calming effect. I'm sensitive to caffeine, so for me, this has to be herbal tea.

TIME

Work: My clients notice I'm not in the office in the mornings or all day Friday. This is intentional. Providing quality counseling is a priority to me, and I know that can't happen if I'm rushed or overtired. This structure doesn't work for everyone, and it may not work for me later on- but that's the beauty of creating your own plan- you have the power to change things at any time.

Personal: I am fiercely protective of my time. This is not a selfish move, but rather an intentional choice so that I may show up fully to the things that matter most. If I'm saying "yes" to things that don't align with my values/are a waste of my time and energy, I have less to give to the activities and people that are at the top of my priority list. 

miscellaneous

Soul: I'm a person of deep faith, which means soul care is incredibly important. I take time daily to pray and read scripture, as well as engage in my faith community. 

Body: I make exercise work for me. I used to go to a gym and it didn't work well for me. I now do my workouts through an app, where I can schedule classes at a time that works for me, from the comfort of my living room. 

Relationships: I've got a lot of long-distance friendships. No two ways around it, this can be difficult. But it also makes for really fun reunions and travel opportunities. One of the top 5 things people regret at the end of their lives is that they didn't stay close to their friends. This is not something I want to regret when I die, so I make the effort now. Sometimes this looks like having a virtual happy hour over FaceTime, and sometimes it looks like driving 6 hours to Chicago for a long weekend with good friends. 

IMG_2291.PNG

There you have it! And just to drive the point home- life happens. Sometimes- a lot of the time- these things don't work out or I get distracted, or something else becomes a priority. That's okay. The idea behind having a self-care plan is so that you have go-to ideas to help yourself feel more calm, grounded, and purposeful. 

Ready to make your own self-care plan? You don't have to go on feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Take good care of your mind and soul through counseling. Get started today by scheduling your first appointment.


When your beach vacation doesn't go as planned (or, what happens when you forget you're a therapist)

A couple weeks ago, I woke up to yet another gray, dreary day. In a funk, I poured myself some coffee and stared out the window.

It isn't fair, I thought. This isn't how it was supposed to be. My sweet husband sat next to me and asked what was wrong. I silently stared out the window, hoping he would just read my mind. 

(Here is the part where I'm happily dispelling any illusion you might have about the personal lives of therapists. Even with years of education and training, we don't always get it right!)

IMG_1940.JPG

So, what was happening here? Why was I in a terrible mood? 

To explain, we need some background:

Minnesota winters are notoriously cold, dark, and long. Average highs in January and February are somewhere around 25 degrees. The sun rises late and sets early. Here in the Bold North (did we all agree on this branding, post-Minneapolis Super Bowl?) we are intimately familiar with winter. We take pride in our hardiness, our ability to deal with snow and frigid temperatures. But there comes a time when a girl just needs a little break from winter.

And so, when my generous in-laws invited us to join them at at Florida beach rental, I started dreaming about sunshine, sandy beaches, and umbrella drinks.

About a week before our trip, I decided to look at the Panama City Beach forecast. I wanted to know just exactly how many pairs of shorts I would need!

Ahem. Reality hit me like a ton of bricks when I saw that Panama City Beach was forecasted to have a full week of rain. 

I wish I could say I took this in stride, but to be honest, I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, the forecast kept changing. My emotions did too. When sun was forecasted, I felt excited and relieved. When the rain was back, I felt resentful and frustrated.

Yes, this is where I seem to have forgotten that I'm a therapist and have all sorts of skills to deal with unpleasant thoughts and emotions.

IMG_4886.JPG

We arrived in Panama City Beach on Saturday evening. The fog was so dense, my mother-in-law was concerned our plane wouldn't be able to land. No kidding, when we arrived at their beach condo, we couldn't even see the see the sand or water.

Sunday came and brought with it torrential downpour. We got caught in the rain and ended up a bit soggy. On Monday, it was still dreary and cool. Two days of being cooped up inside, and let's just say I wasn't my best self.

  My husband on the beach- he had no problem regulating his emotions ;)

My husband on the beach- he had no problem regulating his emotions ;)

If I had recalled any of my training and knowledge, here's what I could have reminded myself of:

In cognitive behavioral therapy, we pay attention to how thoughts and behaviors impact emotions. This means our emotions do not just appear in response to a situation. Rather, emotions are the result of how we think and how we act. 

The weather itself was not causing my foul mood. My thoughts and expectations about what I thought the weather should be like were actually the cause of my mood. My crossed arms and frown certainly weren't helping, either.

Check it out, here's what was happening:

Unhelpful, actual thought: I cannot believe it's gross AGAIN this morning. This is my beach vacation, how could it possibly be so dreary? 

Unhelpful, actual behavior: Crossed arms, frown, surly responses to innocent questions from my husband, overall sense of heaviness and tension in my body

Undesirable, actual emotions: Frustrated, irritated, entitled

IMG_6687.JPG

Here's what I could have been thinking and doing instead:

Helpful thought: Shoot, I was really hoping it would be sunny today. Well- I can't change the weather. I'm so grateful to be here and to spend time with family.

Helpful behavior: Deep breathing, getting directions to shopping center, writing in my gratitude journal

Desirable emotions: Content, grateful, relaxed, energized

IMG_9144.JPG

Wouldn't you know it, the sun actually did come out that afternoon, and the rest of our vacation was filled with warmth and sunshine. 

  Sun after all.

Sun after all.

Here are my takeaways, things I already knew but needed to remind myself of:

1. Being a trained therapist does not make me immune to unhelpful thoughts and feelings

2. The earlier I can identify an unhelpful thought, the sooner I can change my whole experience

3. I can't expect perfection from myself OR from the weather

We all have difficulties with unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. It's part of the human experience. But anxiety and overthinking do not have to rule your life. You deserve to have peace in your mind and in your spirit. If you notice that anxiety is starting to take over more of your headspace than you'd like it to, consider counseling. We can walk through this together, you're not alone.


Self-care does NOT mean treat yo'self!

A video about millennial self-care circulated the internet about a year ago. It was a good-natured jab at the millennial generation's supposed "obsession" with self-care, and how our generation tends to think about self-care in terms of buying fabulous things and living a life of luxury. Example: I'm going to buy these new Louboutin pumps because, self-care! 

Wanting and having nice things isn't the issue. It doesn't even have to be about high-end products or experiences. If you get your nails done weekly or get coffee a couple times each week and consider that self-care, that's great. But when it stops there, it becomes a lesser version of what self-care can really be. There is so much more to the concept of taking good care of yourself. I believe we do ourselves a great disservice when we consider the "treat yo'self" mentality as the end-all-be-all of self-care.

self-care does NOT mean treat yo'self!.png

So, this begs the question- what can we do in addition to our typical self-care? Here are a few ideas:

  • Start saying "no" to things that don't align with your goals or values
  • Ask for what you need at work- is it more autonomy, more responsibility more pay, more vacation?
  • Disconnect from social media for a weekend (or a month, if you dare)
  • Identify toxic relationships and make necessary changes
  • Eat foods that energize you and steer clear of foods that make you feel lethargic

Anxious thinking (you know the type- overthinking, "what if...", lots of shoulds) make it hard to think clearly enough to create a solid self-care plan. I know how feels to have your mind buzzing like a bee, unable to concentrate- even when what you're trying to focus on is taking care of yourself!

I work with women every day who have decided to take steps toward a more calm, peaceful life. If you want in, schedule your first appointment. We can work together to create the life you want. 


3 yoga sequences to manage your anxiety (and 1 for depression!)

This is no longer news but it's so important that I'll repeat myself: Your mind and body are strongly connected. Your emotions are impacted by your physical body, and vice versa. Same goes for your thoughts and emotions. This connection is why we need to pay attention to how our bodies feel during any given emotion. As a therapist, I sometimes ask clients to figure out where they are feeling their emotions- for example, people often say they feel sadness in their chests. 

When I'm anxious, my body is the first to tell me- my shoulders creep up toward my ears, my hands form into fists, and my breathing is shallow. 

This mind-body connection is why I love yoga. Taking time to calm the mind and body simultaneously is enormously helpful. To be clear, I'm not a yoga instructor and have had zero formal education on it- but since I regularly recommend yoga as a supplement to therapy, I thought I'd share a few sequences here.

Yoga with Adriene is my absolute favorite online resource for yoga- I've been following Adriene since 2013 and recommend her to everyone! Seriously- she has something for everybody, no matter your style, age, or ability. Here are my go-to yoga videos to support mental health:

Are you ready to take the next step with the mind-body connection? Counseling is a powerful vehicle for healing and growth, and I often incorporate mindfulness and body awareness in session. Find out more about the mind-body connection by setting up your first counseling session today.


5 tips for busy young professionals

After years of studying and hard work, you did it. You graduated, earned your degree, and landed a job you love. Everything is wonderful. Sound about right?

Maybe, maybe not.

Reality is, you're tired. You work all the time and you miss your girlfriends. Your group chat is blowing up your phone all day but you barely have a moment to read the messages, much less respond. You miss the days when you could bop over to a friend's place at a moment's notice- the days when your personal life didn't take such a back seat.

You get to work early, stay late, eat dinner in a rush, and hop into bed so you can be rested when it all starts again tomorrow. As you drift off, you find yourself wondering, "Is this really it? Is this what I want to be doing?" 

You're grateful for your job and have big career aspirations, but you can't help but think you're missing something. There has to be another way to live... right?

YES! 100x yes. You can choose a different way of living. Even if your core circumstances can't change right now (you are genuinely happy with your career and want to focus on that right now), there are tangible, specific ways to improve your life. Give these tips a try to feel less anxious, more calm, and at peace in your daily life.

Heiman B&B.png

5 tips for busy young professionals

Use all your vacation days. 

Seriously, do not leave vacation days on the table. Before I worked as a counselor, I worked in the finance department of an advertising agency- which is, in itself, a story for another time! Anyway, a lot of people at the agency seemed proud when they didn't take time off. They appeared to flaunt the fact that they were in the office week after week, without a break.

I always thought that was such a bummer- for the person and for the agency. And it wasn't just my agency that had this issue- in 2016, 54% of workers had unused vacation days at the end of the year. Taking all your vacation days is actually beneficial to both you AND your boss/company. When you are well rested, you will bring more creativity and energy to your work. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Eat lunch somewhere besides your desk. 

Even if you can't take a leisurely lunch, do something to make this break in your day completely separate from work. Eat in the break room, walk to get take out, bring your lunch to a nearby park or bench, or if you're in Minneapolis - St. Paul, meet a friend at a food truck- as a sidenote, there are SO MANY delicious food trucks in the Twin Cities! I recommend Dough Dough and Misfit for a treat.

Regardless of where you eat lunch, make sure to give your body a chance to stretch. Give your mind some time to shift away from work tasks. You will feel rejuvenated and will return to your project with a fresh set of eyes.

Schedule in time for self-care... don't cancel on yourself!

Once you believe self-care is essential to your overall wellness, it will be difficult to cancel on yourself. This is an intentional mental shift. Treat your self-care plans with the same amount of seriousness as a meeting with your boss. Practically, this means you will follow through with your plans even if something pressing comes up that day.

For example- you have a wine and cheese night with friends scheduled for Friday evening. Friday afternoon, your boss gives you a project due next week- you're tempted to change your plans in order to get this project done- but since you value taking care of yourself, you keep your original plans and have a relaxing night with friends.

Or, if you're planning a solo night in with a book and a bubble bath, remember that you've set this date with yourself, and you can definitely turn down that dinner invitation.

Knowing yourself is key here- what one person considers self-care can be quite the opposite for someone else. For instance if you are an extrovert, you actually recharge by being around people- which means you need to be social to be energized. Introverts gain energy by being alone, and so choosing a night in would be a great way to take of yourself. 

Find a bedtime routine that transitions you into a restful slumber. 

I know lots of professionals who hop right back on their laptops at night, and then work until bedtime. I suggest finding a different way to spend your evening. Engaging your brain in work projects so close to bedtime is not helpful for quality sleep.

Yes, some evenings you probably will have to (or maybe even want to!) do some work after hours. On those nights, make it a priority to shut down your laptop an hour before going to bed. Then do something to transition into relaxation- my favorite options are yoga, reading something fun, or taking a bath with epsom salts and essential oils. 

Give yourself a break. It's time to stop being so hard on yourself. I've noticed that most people really are doing the best they can. You cannot do it all, and to expect yourself to do otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment. Practice self-compassion, and treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love. 

Does this resonate? Have you noticed your pace at work getting in the way of how you want to live your life? Let's talk. As a therapist, I love working with young professionals to find more balance, more peace, and a better life. Schedule your first appointment to get started.


Practicing gratitude to change your life

The year was 2013. I was finishing up grad school and like many students, was feeling overwhelmed. I was balancing a lot- working on my thesis, counseling students at a local university, taking classes at night, and adjusting to my new life as a newlywed. All good things, all things I was happy to be doing.

However.

I could tell by the tension in shoulders and my increased cravings for Ben & Jerry's that it was getting to be too much. All the newness and change had started to take a toll. There needed to be some unmoving, unchanging routine in order to manage all the newness and change.

I began to look for something to help me feel more calm, less anxious, and able to focus on the present. As a counselor-in-training, I was constantly talking with my clients about the importance of self-care and daily routines to cultivate calm. 

Enter the gratitude journal.

I went out to my favorite stationary store, bought a pretty notebook, and got started the next morning. Now, allow me to interrupt this story to say- a gratitude journal can be highly personalized to whatever you need it to be. There are many ways to do this, and you can truly make it your own. For me, it was best to keep it short and sweet. I made a rule for myself that I didn't have to get fancy or flowery in my language, and that it didn't need to become a full-on, legitimate journal. Instead, I wrote the date and then listed three things I was grateful for.

On tougher days, my entries looked more like this: "I'm grateful for this coffee. I'm grateful that Parenthood is on tonight. I'm grateful for this couch."

Yep. Remember how I said I wasn't going to get fancy about it? 

It didn't take long for me to start looking forward to this morning routine- I actually looked forward to waking up, making coffee, and settling in with my gratitude journal. My short, begrudging sentences became more enthusiastic and genuine. Over time, I noticed myself feeling grateful for small things- someone letting me onto the freeway during rush hour, the different shades of green on the trees outside my window. My focus shifted from the stressors in my life to the beauty that was all around me.

What you focus on, increases. When you shift your focus from what you are lacking to what is already there, you will feel different. Gratitude widens your perspective and opens up your life- it makes what you already have enough. It changes everything.

Research backs this up- studies show the amazing benefits. Practicing gratitude has been shown to have results like increased optimism and happiness, plus improved sleep, self-esteem, relationships, and depressive symptoms. And negative side effects? I'm not sure there are any.

For me, it was best to start a gratitude practice first thing in the morning. Here are a few ideas for how to get started:

How can you practice gratitude?

  • When you first wake up, to start the day on a positive note

  • When you go to bed, to promote more peaceful sleep

  • When you find yourself comparing your life to others, to redirect your focus on your own life

  • When you are stuck in a negative mindset, to intentionally shift to a positive headspace

  • When you feel empty or directionless, to guide yourself in a positive direction

Give it a try this week- make a point to write down three things you are grateful for each day. Notice what changes in your mind, body, and spirit. 

Anxious thoughts and feelings can make it hard to cultivate gratitude. The good news is, it doesn't have to stay this way. Counseling can help. To get started, schedule your first appointment today.


13 things to know before starting counseling

I've been thinking recently about the process of counseling- specifically, what it takes for someone to take the first step and get started. Scheduling an intake session and then meeting with a therapist for the first time takes courage- it's not unusual to have some nerves around these things. I decided to come up with a list of a few things that, I think, could help ease some of the first session nerves.

My hope is that at least one of these will resonate with you and help you to feel more comfortable about coming into therapy for the first time. Without any further ado, here are my top 13 things to know before starting counseling.

1. Your story is unique and deserves to be heard

I've heard a lot of things in my time as a counselor. Before starting in private practice, I worked as a mental health case manager for young adults with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI). Before that, I interned at a local university's counseling services office and worked with undergraduate students. Currently I maintain a caseload of primarily young adults with anxiety and depression. Even though I've heard a lot in my time as a counselor, I want you to know that your story is unique. I don't know what it's like for you to have a panic attack. Yes, I know a lot about anxiety and depression, but I don't know how it impacts you and your life specifically. I'm a big believer in the individuality of all humans- and so our work together will be tailored specifically to your needs and preferences. Although I'm a big advocate for incorporating yoga, deep breathing, and mindfulness into our work, if that doesn't jibe with you, we won't do it. Counseling is not a one-size-fits-all situation. 

2. You are not weird

I think you are unique, just like the rest of us :-) One of the greatest parts of counseling is getting to know you on a true, deep level. There is no need for pretense. It's an honor to hear all the unique parts of you and your life. Many of these things are private and not shared with others outside the counseling room- and so it makes sense that you could think you are alone in your idiosyncrasies. In fact, the more time I spend as a counselor, the more I realize how alike we all are, and how much we keep to ourselves. I'm not saying we should all go out and talk openly to anyone about the things we discuss in therapy. Rather, I'm advocating for us to accept ourselves just as we are- knowing there is nothing weird or strange about these things, but just that there is something unique and lovely instead. 

3. I think you are brave

Counseling is an exercise in vulnerability. You come into a new office, fill out a bunch of paperwork, talk about your history, your family, your life, your struggles. All of this is shared with someone you don't yet know well. And once we start meeting regularly, you'll be sharing more about your experiences, emotions, relationships, thoughts... and that is amazing. Often new clients will say things like, "you must think I'm crazy" or "this is so weird of me, but ____"- the truth is no, I don't think you're crazy, and no, you're not weird! So many people go through life without addressing problematic relationships, mindsets, habits- the fact that you come in and want to work on these things says a LOT about you. 

4. Some sessions will be harder than others

Every session will not be mind-blowing. In the same way, every session will not be light and easy. In general terms, there is an ebb and flow to the counseling process. One session you may be processing a difficult situation, and the next week you may not want to discuss it at all. That's okay. Sometimes you might walk out of my office and feel a sense of relief, peace, or direction. Other times you might leave feeling anxious or tired. That's okay too. The important thing is to keep coming back and lean into the work. After particularly emotional sessions, I might suggest spending some time with intentional self-care afterward. It's important to tend to all parts of your whole self- and so, if you've just spent 50 minutes in my office talking about your thoughts and emotions, I may suggest that you go for a walk or sign up for a yoga class that evening. This is especially helpful for the women I tend to work with- women who have a natural bent toward overthinking and feeling things deeply.

5. It's okay if we sit in silence

Sometimes you won't know what to say. Sometimes I'll hold off on responding for one reason or another. It's okay for there to be silence. Oftentimes we are made to believe that silence is awkward or uncomfortable- undesirable. But I believe there is deep value in silence. Your brain thrives on silence. With all the noise in the world, sometimes you just need a minute (or two) to sit in the quiet. Oftentimes my response will be silence- sometimes it's an invitation for you to continue processing (internally or externally) and sometimes it's a response to a direct question you've asked me. Don't feel like you need to fill the silence. If it feels uncomfortable, we can talk about what might be going on to make it feel that way. My office is a place for you to just be- you do not need to please, perfect, or perform.

6. You will laugh more than you think

People tend to be surprised at this. I've had friends ask if being a counselor is emotionally draining and even depressing. But you would be surprised at how much laughter happens in the counseling room. First of all, humor is a common defense mechanism and so it's often present. Second, looking at your life and situation through the lens of humor can be a great way to cope with heavy emotions. Third, I intentionally use humor to help new clients feel comfortable, and to set the tone. I'm a pretty laid back counselor (and human in general), and so being uptight and serious is not really authentic to me. And because the counselor-client relationship is so important, we both need to be our true selves in session. 

7. I'll probably give you some homework

Most clients I work with come in for sessions weekly, or every other week. In the scheme of your month, that's between 2-5 hours of your time. I believe strongly in the power of counseling (good thing, or else I'd be out a job!) but also know that a lot can happen in between sessions. Research shows that what happens outside of counseling has a huge impact on the success of treatment. And so, I regularly assign homework to my clients. It is tailored to you and your needs, and is never a gigantic time commitment. A couple examples might be: watching a TED talk to discuss in our next session, reading a relevant article, practicing your deep breathing, exercising 3x/week, tracking your mood with an app, or making an appointment with your primary care doctor for a holistic approach. 

8. Having consistent sessions is important for making progress

Counseling is not a one-and-done treatment. Oftentimes people experience a dip in their mood after starting counseling- this is because we're starting to address some of the more difficult things in your life and that can be emotionally and relationally disrupting. It's super important to have consistency in counseling appointments. We can decide together how often is appropriate for you to be coming in. Dropping in once every couple months is usually not a great way to see lasting change in your life- and coming in too often when things are going well for you also isn't helpful.

9. I see you as the expert of your own life

I have a master's degree in counseling psychology and a bachelor's degree in psychology, and have been working in private practice for a few years. However. None of this gives me insight into how YOU are experiencing things like anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt, or depression. You are the expert in your own life. I am not here to give advice. I am here to support you, listen, provide feedback, give perspective and new insights, provide new ways of thinking and behaving, and teach you coping skills too. All of these things work in conjunction with your inner wisdom about what's going on for you internally and relationally.

10. I don't know how long it will take

Length of time spent in therapy varies so much. Each person comes into counseling with a unique perspective, history, and experience. You might come in for a specific reason, and end up processing something different as time goes on- which is totally okay! You may also be in counseling for a season, and then come back a few months or years later. This is another reason it's so important to have a good relationship with your counselor- you want to feel really great about going back to see your counselor, and know that this person will be able to support you in whatever season you are in. Exceptions apply, of course, if you happen to be seeking counseling for a specific issue that your counselor is not equipped to address- for instance, while I do premarital counseling, I don't work with couples who are already married and are experiencing issues. That's one area where I would give you a few great referrals for a qualified marriage counselor. 

11. Each session won't be tied up with a pretty bow 

I do a lot of work around perfectionism, and so this is often something that is addressed. People can find themselves getting frustrated with their perceived lack of progress after a couple sessions. The truth is, it's going to take more than a couple sessions to really make some headway. The first few sessions often include psychoeducation on anxiety or whatever concerns you're bringing into counseling- and we'll also work on coping skills to help you find some relief. But the deeper work will take longer, and it will take a certain amount of effort. If you walk out of a counseling session feeling like everything's not fixed, it could be a sign you're right on track.

12. You get to decide how we spend our time- but I provide direction as needed

These are your sessions, and you are in charge of where we go in them. As an outside observer, I'll oftentimes be able to see situations in a new light or provide new insights on what's going on. I can also gently suggest spending time focusing on specific issues that I'm noticing in session- but you always have the ability to decline or choose to delay those conversations. It's helpful to come into session with an idea of what you'd like to focus on that day, but it's not necessary. I review my notes before sessions so that I'm better able to focus on what needs to be addressed.

13. The first session is unique and unlike a regular counseling session

Whereas a regular counseling session doesn't follow a set structure, the first session, called the intake session, will do that. Different therapists handle the intake in their own way, but here's how it will go if you come to my office: You'll sit in the waiting room until your appointment time, where you are welcome to make yourself some coffee/tea/cocoa or grab a water bottle. I'll come to get you and we'll head back to my office. There will be some initial paperwork for you to fill out, and we'll go over the informed consent- this is a document that lays out all the nuts and bolts of entering into a therapeutic relationship. Next we'll dive into an interview- it's less formal than it sounds, I promise! Essentially I'll be asking you a variety of questions about you, your history, your family and friends, community supports (church, work, communities, etc.) and what you hope to work on in counseling. The last thing on the agenda is to create your treatment plan- your goals. Oftentimes this happens in the second session if we run out of time during the intake. We close the first session by addressing payment and insurance questions, and scheduling your next session.

I help women in their 20s gain freedom from anxiety, self-doubt, and perfectionism. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


The perfectionist's summer reading list

Ah, summer. Maybe it's the longer days, or maybe it's just leftover from childhood, but I tend to do the bulk of my reading during these months. At least, that's my intention!

As a counselor, I work with ambitious women who have perfectionistic tendencies. Perfectionists often have an all-or-nothing mindset, and so, when it comes to reading, many end up not reading at all. Perfectionists often have a stack of books on their nightstands, with every intention of reading them, but have trouble making it happen. It makes sense. After all, perfectionism is draining, often in more than one way. When your energy is zapped by striving and overthinking, it's hard to decide what, when, and where to read.

I'm constantly recommending books to my friends and clients. If you're looking for something inspirational, practical, or something to kickstart your personal development, look no further! Here are my top picks for the perfectionist's summer reading list:

Present Over Perfect: Leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living. Shauna Niequist takes you on a journey from a hurried, fast-paced life to a lifestyle of grace, compassion, and slowness. This is a great pick for anyone who is ready to ditch the heavy load of perfectionism and lean into grace instead. It's one of my favorite reads from the past year. The author has her own podcast, which I also highly recommend!

What kills a soul? Exhaustion, secret keeping, image management. And what brings a soul back from the dead? Honesty, connection, grace.
— Shauna Niequist

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are. This book has laid the foundation for my own personal development, and I use it often in counseling. It's one of my all-time favorites. Brené Brown is an academic who writes in an accessible way- it's not hard to imagine her sitting across the kitchen table from you while reading this. Check this out if you like a blend of story and practical application. For a perfectionist's reading list, it's hard to beat topics like vulnerability and worthiness.

The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.
— Brené Brown

At Home in the World: Reflections on belonging while wandering the globe. Oh my. This one really did nothing to calm my wanderlust. Tsh Oxenreider chronicles her family's 9-month trip around the globe- with three children. The reason this is a great read for perfectionists is twofold. First, it deals with the dualism of deeply loving travel and deeply loving life at home. Often it feels like we need to choose one or the other- either be an adventurous traveler or be a steady homebody. This way of thinking is especially pronounced with a perfectionistic mindset. Second, this memoir sheds light on embracing the messy, unpredictable life of travel. Especially in a world where we splash our travels all over social media, it's refreshing to see the other, less glamorous side.

Two opposing things can be equally true. Counting the days till Christmas doesn’t mean we hate Halloween. I go to church on Sundays, and still hold the same faith at the pub on Saturday night. I shamelessly play a steady stream of eighties pop music and likewise have an undying devotion to Chopin. And perhaps most significantly: I love to travel and I love my home.
— Tsh Oxenreider

Love Lives Here: Finding what you need in a world telling you what you want. Never have I read a book and felt such an attachment to the author. This book includes stories from Maria Goff's life and family, and emphasizes love and grace above all. When the world is telling you to strive for perfection, Maria is here to point you toward warmth and compassion. She also drops difficult truths enveloped in empathy and humility. She is an inspiration for how to live a life full of grace, and prioritize family relationships in the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.

Sometimes we try to forget our past. We mask it, or medicate it, or try to ignore it completely, but we can only outrun it for a while.
— Maria Goff

 

Scary Close: Dropping the act and finding true intimacy. Donald Miller writes about his decision to stop pretending and instead show the world the truest version of himself. Scary Close is all about being authentic with yourself and the people around you. It's about how scary vulnerability is- and how you can end up down a dead end road without it. Perfectionism tells you to put up walls, show the world the pretty, Instagram-friendly version of yourself. Vulnerability tells you to show up and be seen. That's where the good stuff happens. And bonus- this book comes with a free soundtrack. Why don't all books have soundtracks?! What a lovely concept. 

Having integrity is about being the same person on the inside that we are on the outside, and if we don’t have integrity, life becomes exhausting.
— Donald Miller

I hope you enjoy and are challenged by these books. Maybe you're in a place where you'd like extra support and guidance. A place to work out some of the concepts you're learning in these books. Counseling can be that place. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


How to avoid postgrad angst

Congratulations! After years of hard work and hustle, you've graduated college. You've accomplished what you set out to do. You're making the transition from undergraduate student to new professional. How exciting ...or not?

If you're hoping to get started in your career right away, you're probably in the middle of job applications. This process can be exciting, stressful, frustrating, dull... or any combination of those things. It can also be the breeding grounds for some complicated emotions.

It doesn't need to be this way- read on for my top 3 ways to thrive and avoid postgrad angst.

1. Stay in the present moment

You will find a job! It feels like you won't, but if you are diligent in your job hunt, you will find success. In the meantime, you can either enjoy the free time or exist in a state of stress while you wait for the next step in your process.

Take advantage of this time by taking care of yourself and doing what you love. This is an amazing opportunity to explore your city, even if you don't want to or can't justify spending money. For example- Minneapolis and St. Paul were ranked #1 and #2 in the nation for their park systems. Minneapolis is rated as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the WORLD, and Minneapolis - St. Paul were just recently voted fittest city- which confuses me since they are two distinct cities- but I digress. Bottom line, if you're in the Twin Cities and have some time on your hands, get out and explore what we're blessed to have here. It's good for your body, mind, and spirit.

2. Be active- mentally, physically, relationally

Don't get stagnant. With all the parks and green spaces here, you could explore a new spot every day during your job search. It's a great way to see different areas of the cities. It's also a helpful way to manage anxiety- being outside (hello, sunshine and trees!) is super grounding and good for your whole self.

Staying mentally active is key. Your brain probably is craving a break from the intensity of undergraduate studies, but it's still important to keep up on current events and the happenings in your field. I subscribe to TheSkimm, a daily email blast covering the day's news. It's quick, breezy, and informative. Find some online publications that are relevant to your field or interests- this will keep you up-to-date on the last research and goings-on. Plus you could get some talking points for interviews or networking events.

3. Stay in your lane

This one is incredibly important. The playing field is pretty even while in college- everyone's working toward the same goal of graduation. The first summer postgrad in particular is wrought with comparison, competition, and anxiety about next steps.

Your friends and college classmates might be moving to new cities, taking time off to travel, starting grad school or a new job. All these things are valuable and great options. The problem comes in when we start to believe that someone else's choice is better than ours. Focus on yourself, your goals, and what you are doing each day. You'll feel more at peace when you stay in your lane.

Your postgrad life doesn't need to be ruled by anxiety and angst. You can create the adulthood you've always dreamed of. Counseling can be the vehicle for that. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


3 common myths about postgrad life

It's college graduation season and there's a palpable excitement around all the campuses here in Minneapolis. I've been out of college for several years now, but there's still something so energizing about being around academia this time of year. 

One of my favorite things to do as a therapist is dispel myths. Myths about counseling, myths about millennials, myths about anxiety, perfectionism, relationships... honestly the list doesn't end. But today we'll chat about some of the myths surrounding college graduates. Specifically, myths about postgrad life. Let's get into it!

3 common myths about life after college

1. The transition from college to postgrad life will be simple

This is one of the most common myths I hear as a counselor. Fresh off your college career, you, as a young professional, are excited to dive into your new job and lifestyle. Thing seem to be wonderful during the busy, onboarding time. Fast forward just a couple months and it wouldn't be uncommon for you to feel anxious, disconnected from friends, and "old"- this is especially a common feeling when late August rolls around. Your undergraduate friends are returning to campus and settling into the college routine. There's nothing like scrolling through Instagram and seeing your friends moving back to campus to really solidify your new status as a fully-minted college graduate. The transition from college to "the real world" [which is a topic for another day- spoiler alert, it's all the real world] can be really hard- much harder than we oftentimes give it credit for.

2. Everyone else knows what they're doing

FALSE. Very few college grads actually have a solid handle on what they're doing. It's way more common to feel a sense of wandering, indecision, and even head straight into a quarter-life crisis. The more we believe that everyone else has it all together, the less we can actually be content with what we're doing. Millennials are unique in the way that we approach our careers- unlike previous generations, we're more likely to try different positions, companies, and fields. And, we are more entrepreneurial. This means that whatever you have studied in college may or may not be related to your day job or side hustle. It also means that you can change your mind whenever you want!

Older generations often see this in a negative light- they assume millennials are not interested in loyalty or commitment. I choose to see the positive side- millennials are open-minded and we have our identities rooted in things other than our jobs. What's awesome about that? It means if we change a job, we are still our full selves. We can be sad or upset about making a change (voluntarily or not), but we have an idea of who we are outside of our work. 

3. Dating is a fun adventure

Wrong wrong wrong. Dating after college is definitely not the same as dating in college. Pursuing relationships as a student is more simple because a) there is an assumption that everyone is basically in the same life stage; b) your schedule might be more flexible; and c) simply being in closer proximity to many peers makes it easier to find someone to date. 

There is such a wide range of what people are looking for on Bumble (or any of the plethora of dating apps). This is always true, but even more so once you're out of college. Plus, let's not forget about the challenges of starting to date someone when you're also just starting out in your career. Lots of young professionals find it hard to balance doing well in their first jobs while also prioritizing a new relationship. Not to mention keeping up with your existing friendships. Honestly, it can be exhausting and it's okay if you're feeling like dating is not actually a fun adventure right now.

What do you think? Have you believed these myths? If postgrad life hasn't been all you've dreamed it would be, maybe something else is getting in the way.

Anxious overthinking is common, especially during this transitional time. But it does not have to be this way. You can find freedom from anxiety and live the life you want. Counseling can help. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


Podcasts to inspire your commute

As a counselor, I work with many young professionals who commute daily. Whether it's taking the Minneapolis - St. Paul light-rail, driving in rush hour traffic, or walking to the office, millennials are spending a lot of time commuting. It can be a source of frustration- a sense of wasted time. But it doesn't have to be that way! It could be a chance to practice putting yourself in the driver's seat (ahem, pun intended) of life and take control of your day. 

If you know me, you probably have heard me talk about podcasts. I can't get enough! Some are educational, some are funny, and others are inspirational. The best ones are all three ;-) Check out my recommendations on podcasts to inspire your commute:

1. Happier This is the podcast I look forward most to each week! Author Gretchen Rubin and writer/producer (and Gretchen's sister!) Elizabeth Craft spend each episode talking through different aspects of good habits and happiness. They give tangible ideas on how to make your life happier. I love that each episodes ends with a reminder of the life-hacks from that episode and a challenge to try it at home.

2. This American Life A classic, with good reason. The content always varies, but each episode has a topic with one or several stories on that topic. What's really great about this one is that because it's so popular, it's easy to find someone at work to chat about it right away. I'm always leaving TAL feeling better or at least more connected to the goings-on in our country.

3. Eliza Starting at 16 I'm far from 16... and in all fairness, Eliza is now 18. BUT. I'm super into this podcast for a few reasons. First of all- I work with a lot of teens and it's fun to hear teen perspectives on current events. Second, Eliza is so articulate and certainly more mature than I was at her age- awesome to listen to her thought process through each episode. Sidenote, Eliza happens to be the daughter of Gretchen Rubin from Happier!

4. Gilmore Guys I used to have a pretty long commute, about 40 minutes one way. This was my favorite podcast to listen to each day- the episodes range from 2-5 hours (no kidding) and they were putting out two episodes per week! It was a lovely, lighthearted accompaniment to and from work. They do a deep dive into every episode of Gilmore Girls- I recommend this one for anyone needing a good laugh after a stressful day at work.

5. Call Your Girlfriend This is a pretty self-explanatory podcast- two long distance girlfriends talk about various topics each episode. As I mentioned in a previous post, it can be hard to keep up with long distance friends after college. I recommend listening to this with one your friends in another city- not only will it help your commute seem more manageable, it'll give you the warm fuzzies in knowing that your long distance gal pal is listening too. 

Podcasts are great, but they are certainly no substitution for quality mental healthcare. Counseling can help you identify and remove blocks that are getting in the way of your dream life. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


Creating a sense of peace and calm: A technology detox review

Last month, I scaled back my use of technology. I wanted to create my own version of a digital detox- and it was more lovely, energizing, and happiness-boosting than I anticipated! The goal was to stay present and enjoy all the holiday season had to offer.

And so, on the evening of November 30, I deleted every social media app from my phone. I installed Cold Turkey on my computer, which blocked social media websites as well as other sites I find to be distracting- Buzzfeed, CNN, etc. I also decided to be very intentional on what I'd be watching on Netflix- I wasn't looking to cut it out completely (I LOVE watching Christmas movies throughout December) but mindlessly watching The Office for the 10th time was something that needed to change.

December 1 was a Thursday. My typical Thursday morning consisted of coffee and watching the news, while scrolling through social media, personal emails, and work emails, and then getting ready for to head into the office. But on December 1, I woke up, made coffee, and sat on my couch. In silence. While my phone was in a different room. For a full 20 minutes.

It was excrutiating.

Honestly, I had no idea how attached I was to my phone. Obviously it was somewhere on my radar, otherwise the digital detox wouldn't have been needed. However- I was shocked just how dependent I felt on it during that first morning. That 20 minutes felt like an hour. I stared at the television remote for awhile, trying to avoid turning on the morning news. My phone was in another room and my mind automatically thought about all the things I could be doing on it instead of sitting in silence. It was a rough morning!

But it got so much better- by the end of the first day, I felt like a new human being. It truly felt like I was discovering a whole new, non-tech, natural world. I moved slower throughout my day, felt less rushed, and was more productive both at home and at work. The drastic change was a bit unsettling. The best part about all of this is that it lasted through the entire month of December- goal accomplished!

Without any further ado, here are my results and takeaways from my December Digital Detox:

  1. My husband commented on how strange it was to see me reading on the couch with my phone nowhere near me. I was able to get so much reading done without any digital distractions.
  2. Life seemed so much richer! Instead of all that screen time, I got to focus on the natural beauty of life and the world around me. As cheesy as that sounds, it's completely true. Time moved slower, and I was able to soak the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas and the New Year- which was precisely my goal.
  3. I did miss seeing pictures of family and friends- especially all their fun holiday adventures. 
  4. Mornings were SO much more calm! It was a lovely way to ease into the day, instead of rushing into technology and my to-do list. I also completed the Advent devotional reading that was part of my original plan
  5. I made it through 90% of my winter bucket list. A few things didn't happen, but they are things that can certainly be done throughout the next few months- thanks to our extra long Minnesota winters :-) 
  6. I noticed just how much my mood could be impacted by technology. Whether it was reading emails first thing in the morning or right before bed, watching the news, mindlessly binge watching something on Netflix, or scrolling through Instagram... all of it led me to feel tired, drained, and unmotivated.
  7. I learned what makes me feel good- having a clean home, starting my day intentionally, savoring a great cup of coffee, finishing books (seriously, having stacks of half-read books drives me up the wall!), having conversations without my phone in my hand. 

On New Year's Day, I remembered that I could re-install my social media apps. It felt like a chore. It felt like adding something negative back into my life- something I didn't need! And so, I decided to get back into the digital world with a few new guidelines:

  1. I deleted my personal Twitter- I'm exclusively using this counseling account now.
  2. No Facebook app on my phone, plus I've done a lot of unfollowing. That way, I'm only seeing posts from close friends and family. Less distraction from cute animal pictures and cooking videos!
  3. I unfollowed a ton of meme accounts and celebrities on Snapchat and Instagram. Turns out, I don't need to know what Chrissy Teigen is up to on a daily basis.
  4. One that is a work in progress... no phone until coffee, morning devotional, and workout are all complete! This is tough- but necessary for the right mindset each day.

So... did the technology detox do what I had hoped it would do? 100% yes. Here's the breakdown:

Potential benefits of a technology detox

1. Increased productivity and focus (source) - YES

2. Increased mindfulness (source) - YES

3. Increased creativity (source) - YES

4. Decreased stress (source) - YES x100

5. Decreased comparisons (source) - YES

I hope this experience will encourage YOU to try whatever version of a detox works. At the end of your detox, you might notice a few things coming up. This is to be expected, because we often use technology and social media to mask our true emotions and issues. Processing through these things with a counselor can be healing and transformative. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


'Tis the season for a technology detox!

I am SO looking forward to the next 31 days! Starting tomorrow, December 1, I will doing a technology detox. I'm sharing details on what this will look like, but first, a rationale:

Last December was incredibly busy- between work, travel, and trying to see friends for the holidays, there was little time left to reflect on the year or prepare for Christmas. Each day felt like a whirlwind- when I looked up, it was January. I told myself I wouldn't let this happen again- after all, it's the most wonderful time of the year! ;)

I want to be fully present for the next 31 days- present to myself, my clients, my family, my friends, and present to the holiday season. Celebrating Christmas and the New Year is important to me, and I don't want to miss out on real life experiences by being distracted. Social media and clickbait headlines are all going to take a backseat until January.

This is not the first time I've taken a step back. In 2012, I deactivated my Facebook account. For 3 years I was not present on social media and it was glorious! When I had news to share, I contacted my friends individually. Yes it took more time- but it felt much more authentic to who I am- more personal, less email blast-y. Anyway, this time around, I'm not looking to totally disengage from technology- instead, I'm taking the holiday season to pause, rest, and reflect. Here's my plan:

Technology detox guidelines

1. I will remove all social media apps from my phone

2. I will block distracting websites on my computers, using Cold Turkey

3. I will intentionally watch specific movies on Netflix, instead of mindless Netflix-ing

4. I will turn my phone to airplane mode after work each day 

5. I will check emails during my business hours only 

What I'm going to do instead

1. Keep a daily journal of this experience

2. Finish the half-read books on my nightstand (a bigger stack than I'd like to admit)

3. Complete my winter bucket list- things like going for a walk in the snow, baking cookies, sledding!

4. Read a daily advent devotional in preparation for Christmas

5. Revitalize my morning routine- more yoga, less news

Potential benefits of a technology detox

1. Increased productivity and focus (source)

2. Increased mindfulness (source)

3. Increased creativity (source)

4. Decreased stress (source)

5. Decreased comparisons (source)

Are you ready to take your first step toward growth? Counseling can help you become the person you always knew you were meant to be. Schedule your first appointment to get started today.


25 ways to take care of yourself in your 20s

Our culture promotes the idea of hustling, the pursuit of busy-ness, and productivity. But I have to say (and maybe this is because I'm a therapist and talk about this all the time), I've noticed people are craving a slower pace. People are noticing how working too much and resting too little really impacts their lives, relationships, and work.

We’ve got so much to do and so little time that the idea of spending time doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress.
— Brené Brown

In the era of #girlboss, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of having it all. Excelling at work, impressing the boss, eventually becoming the boss, working on your side hustle- all while gracefully maintaining healthy relationships with friends and family. Oh, and maybe add dating to that too. It's fine. Right?

Well. Maybe it's not. Each of us still only have 24 hours in the day. We have work, school, and other responsibilities that need our attention. Our minds, bodies, and souls need time to relax and just be.

In my work as a counselor, I'm constantly talking with young women about the importance of self-care. And how to resist the message that self-care is selfish. And taking a second look at what it actually means to be kind to ourselves. 

One thing about feeling overwhelmed is that thinking clearly often goes out the window. Just when you want to do something to take care of yourself, it's hard to come up with an idea!

Enter this list. I've come up with 25 things you can do to take care of yourself. Some of them will resonate with you. Other won't. And that's okay. Pick and choose what works for you. 

25 ways to practice self-care in your twenties

  1. Go on a social media detox
  2. Take a bath with epsom salts
  3. Read a self-improvement book
  4. Download and use a meditation app (I like Calm!)
  5. Practice yoga at home or take a public class
  6. Make a list of 3 things you are grateful for
  7. Start a morning routine
  8. Get a blowout or manicure just because
  9. Register for a retreat- wellness, nature, spiritual, anything!
  10. Write a letter of gratitude to someone who doesn't know they've impacted you
  11. Cook yourself a meal using nutritious ingredients
  12. Eat lunch away from your desk
  13. Practice mindfulness in public
  14. Take a half day off work and don't make plans
  15. Go to bed 20 minutes earlier than normal
  16. Make a plan to use all your vacation time this year
  17. Buy a magazine outside of your usual interests and read it (credit to Gretchen Rubin!)
  18. Book a massage
  19. Take a solo trip somewhere special
  20. Listen to a complete album, not just the singles
  21. Listen to a non-work related podcast
  22. Organize your closet and donate what you don't need- or like!
  23. Buy yourself flowers
  24. Start shopping for the holidays now to prevent last-minute stress
  25. Use essential oils for calming and grounding

Take a moment and find one thing on that list that sounds restorative to you. Now find (or make) time in your schedule to make it happen. Scheduling something increases the chances you'll actually make it happen- something Gretchen Rubin talks about on her podcast, Happier (and presumably in her books, which I have not yet read). Scheduling is a strategy to use when creating habits- and in order for self-care to become a regular part of your life, it may need to become a habit.

Whether you use a calendar on your phone or a paper calendar, be intentional about scheduling self-care. Make an appointment with yourself sometime this week- and don't cancel!

Counseling is an investment in current and future self. If you're tired of your 20s being consumed with worry and fear, I want you to know there is hope. It does not have to be like that. It can feel so frustrating to see anxiety call the shots in your life. When you're ready to make a change, schedule your first counseling appointment.


Best apps for mental health - 2016

As I've mentioned before, it's important to continue the work of personal growth in between counseling sessions. This can look different for everyone- what works for someone else may or may not work for you. The important thing is to stay engaged and focused on your goals!

As a counselor, I frequently talk with my clients about what they can be doing in between sessions to help ease anxiety and depression symptoms. One of those things is to utilize one of the many excellent apps for mental health. Awhile ago I wrote about some favorite apps and I thought it was time to share a few new ones:

  • Calm

What it is: Calm is a mindfulness meditation app- and offers SO much for anyone wanting to begin or deepen their meditation practice. The free version offers a variety of timed, untimed, guided, and unguided meditations, plus a week-long introductory program called 7 Days of Calm. The app also has a ton of relaxing scenes with sounds, like Fireplace, Foggy Stream, and Pouring Rain. I like to use this feature to help me focus on important tasks.

The upgraded version provides specific meditation programs with themes like sleep, anxiety, happiness, and self-esteem. It also updates each day with a new meditation. I love incorporating mindfulness and meditation into my work as a therapist, and often recommend this app to my clients!

Where to start: Check out the 7 Days of Calm program. This free feature walks you through the basics of mindfulness meditation, at just 10 minutes each day. 

Bonus: There's a book, too! I highly recommend it as a screen-free way to get fresh ideas for relaxation, gratitude, and mindfulness.

Where to find it: WebsiteApp StoreGoogle Play

  • Easy Mood Diary 

What it is: Easy Mood Diary is a simple, clean app that allows you to track your moods over time. Each day, you can go into the app and rate your mood on a scale 1-5, with the option of adding a note. You can track trends over time

Where to start: Just download the app and get tracking! There are no extra steps needed, you don't even need to create an account.

Bonus: There aren't a lot of features here (which is great! Simple is good!) but one thing this app can do is email your mood log to anyone. You can email it to your therapist and use your scores and notes as a way to remember what exactly you wanted to bring up in your session. This is really helpful for when you think of something throughout the week you want to discuss in counseling, but can't remember it when the time comes- a common experience :)

Where to find it: App Store, Google Play

  • Pacifica

What it is: Pacifica is a comprehensive mental health app that includes mood and activity tracking, cognitive-behavioral techniques, guided visualization and meditation, and chat forums. 

Where to start: You'll be prompted to rate your mood when you open the app for the first time, and then you can configure your settings to get daily reminders. Once you do that, hop on over to either the relaxation section or the thoughts section. The thoughts section is a great way to practice cognitive-behavioral skills you might have learned in counseling!

If you upgrade to the paid version of Pacifica, you'll have access to many more activities in the relaxation section, and you'll have the ability to keep a thought journal via text or talk-to-text, along with a few other features.

Bonus: Pacifica syncs with Health for iPhone users! This is a really handy way to keep track of your health data- especially helpful considering the major connection between mind-body health. 

Where to find it: Website, App Store, Google Play

Apps are an excellent resource to use in between counseling sessions, but they are not a substitute for quality mental healthcare. You can find freedom from anxiety and perfection. To get started, schedule your first session today.


Prioritizing mental health in your 20s

As summer is coming to a close, I'm wrapping up the life after college series here on the blog. We've talked about making the transition from college to postgrad life, navigating careers, making and keeping friends as an adult, and finding the best living arrangement for you. Today's post is all about prioritizing mental health in your 20s.

There are so many things pulling for your attention and time after college. Not to mention competing messages from society and people in your life:

Now is the perfect time to travel, take time off to see the world!

Put your nose to the grindstone and excel in your career!

Go to grad/law/med/vet school!

Get involved with Teach for America or AmeriCorps!

Find your future spouse!

Have as much fun as you can, before you have to settle down!

Whew. I'm tired just thinking about it.

Now, there's nothing objectively wrong with going after these things. But trying to please other people or follow a path that someone else has for your life can lead to burnout, and it can lead there fast. Plus, attending to even a few of these things can result in putting your mental health on the back burner. What's the danger there? Neglecting your mental health not only impacts your state of mind, but the state of your body, spirit, career, and relationships.

So! Just how does one go about making mental health a priority?

Prioritizing mental health will look different for everyone! There is no one correct way to go about it. Here are a few ideas. Take what works for you, and leave the rest.

 

  • First, realize that making mental health a priority takes a certain level of intentionality. You will have to choose to put it on your to-do list. You even will have to carve out time to attend to your mental health. As nice as it would be, cultivating strong mental health doesn't just happen by accident. It might be helpful to make a mental health or self-care plan.

 

  • Plan dates with yourself. Everyone needs time to herself, regardless of where she might fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. These self-dates can give you time to take stock of how you're really feeling. Let's say you've been working 60 hours a week for the past few months. You've hardly had time to breathe, let alone take time to recognize your emotional state. Busy-ness can be a mask for any number of things, and it's likely that when you slow down, you could become aware of just how much stress and anxiety you're feeling.

 

  • Trade your phone for a good book. First of all, time away from screen is hugely beneficial. Lots of recent college grads forgo reading for pleasure and instead choose to read books that are pertinent to their career. Note: there is nothing wrong with that! However, consider the difference between reading for work and losing yourself in a juicy memoir or a cozy novel. You may even consider it to be soul care.

 

  • Attend to mind-body-spirit. This 3-pronged approach to life can do wonders for helping you to feel balanced, centered, and grounded. Take stock of where you are with these, and notice if you feel unbalanced. Do you find yourself getting that workout in almost every day, but you keep pushing meditation to the bottom of your to-do list? Or maybe you're stimulating your mind constantly at work, and not allowing your body the time it needs to be exercised in whatever way is best for you. Find what balance feels right for you, and remind yourself of it regularly to keep your priorities aligned.

 

  • Find a good counselor and invest in yourself. When you're looking for a counselor, there are a few things to consider. Location, cost, and availability of appointments are key. One of the most important considerations is how you feel around the counselor. Does the therapist make you feel safe, like you can tell her anything? Do you feel comfortable talking with her? Self-disclosure is a huge part of counseling, and so it's important that you feel good about confiding in your therapist. 

That's great, but I don't think I need counseling... I don't have big enough problems!

Let's just bust this myth right now- you don't have to have "big" issues to come into therapy. In fact, you don't even need a diagnosable mental health condition (as long as you are paying for services yourself, that is). Investing in counseling means you have a space to talk about yourself and your life, to a non-judgmental and empathic person. A space to say what you want to say, even if you don't know how to say it. A space to talk- or not talk. A space to work out some things from your past. A space to discover who you truly are and develop your identity. A space to learn new skills. A space to try out a new way of being, a new way of treating yourself and others. A space to feel truly heard and understood. 

If you're in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area and looking for a therapist, let's connect. My therapy office is just minutes north of Minneapolis and St. Paul, off 694 and 35W in New Brighton, MN. To take the first step toward growth, schedule your first appointment today.