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- in fact, I'm pretty sure that would be a terrible idea. 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 in the Twin Cities.

If you're ready to take the first step to start counseling, I'd love to hear from you. Contact me to get started!

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. Comment below if you pick one up, I've love to know!


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.


*Twin Cities graduates*

BRAVE is your chance to meet fellow recent grads and get support, guidance, and clarity around postgrad life. Join me this July for BRAVE- a group designed specifically for college grads.


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? Let me know in the comments!


Minneapolis graduates! Join me this summer:

Coming to Minneapolis this summer- BRAVE: a group for young women who want clarity on life after college. Over 8 weeks, we'll talk about finding your purpose, getting clarity, discovering your identity, and everything that comes along with the postgrad life. This group is specially designed for young women 21-24, who have graduated college in the past year. Have questions? Ask me anything or reserve your spot here! Space is limited to 6 group members- sign up by July 15!


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. 

There are so many podcasts out right now, and these are just my favorites of the moment. What do you listen to during your commute? 

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. There are so many version of a digital detox and no "right" way to do it. I would LOVE to hear if you've been inspired or what kind of results you've had with your own detox. Comment below to let me know!

And now I'm turning off my computer and headed to do some yoga- gotta practice what you preach!

'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)


Have you done a digital detox? If not, do you want to? Comment below and I'll check back in January!

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 twentie

  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 ;)

Let me know how it goes in the comment section!

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


No app is a substitute for seeking mental health treatment. Apps are an excellent resource to use in between counseling sessions. If you're wondering about therapy, or want to know how to find a good therapist around New Brighton or anywhere in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area, let me know! Even if I'm not the right counselor for you, I'd love to help you get connected with someone who is. Send me an email or give me a call at 612-547-9040


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. 

Fall is a great time for new beginnings- if you've been thinking about doing the important work of personal growth, I'd love to talk with you about how counseling can help. Contact me below to get started!

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Choosing your postgrad living arrangement- mindfully

After college, you face so many decisions. Not only are you making choices about relationships, finances, and your career, but you have to decide on where and how you will live! Emphasis on the word decide.

So many recent college grads end up living somewhere out of convenience, or find themselves somewhere that was just supposed to be temporary. Making a decision, whatever it is, can be empowering. Some decisions are based on finances, some are based on relationships, and others are based simple preferences. It's also important to take your mental health into consideration.

Are you someone who tends to isolate when feelings of anxiety or depression are intense? Maybe living alone wouldn't helpful. Or maybe you don't have a great relationship with your parents, but they're offering you a place to live, rent-free. Is the financial savings worth it to you? Do you feel anxiety about beginning your postgrad life, and staying at home just seems less scary? Are you choosing your home based on fear? These are all questions to ask yourself when deciding what living arrangement is best for you.

No matter what you find yourself living, allow yourself some grace. Any decision you make doesn't need to last forever. If you decide after a year of living alone that you'd actually rather have roommates, make that change! If you are overwhelmed by having roomates around all the time, maybe it's time to find your own place. Whatever you choose, make sure to enter into that situation mindfully. Take the time to consider the pros and cons of each situation.

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Moving back in with your parents

According to a study by the Pew Research Center, more young people (18-34) are living with their parents, compared to any other living arrangement. Almost a third of millennials live in their parents' home, as of 2014. Half that number live alone or with roommates. It is a common social trend to move back in with your parents after college- but that doesn't mean it's easy!

Enter this arrangement intentionally, instead of sliding into it as a default. If you and your parents are on the same page regarding expectations (will you be paying rent? will you be contributing to groceries? should they expect you for dinner?), the transition back home is more likely to be smooth. 

Understand that this is a transition for everyone. It's not unlikely that your parents still think of you as the younger version of yourself- maybe 17 or 18, when you last lived at home full time. It'll be important to show them how you've grown since then. This might mean adjusting your lifestyle a bit. If everyone is on the same page, this can be a very sweet time for all of you.

Living on your own

In an individualistic culture like ours, living alone can become some sort of holy grail. If it sounds like exactly what you're looking for, take some time to consider what it might actually be like. It could become easy to stay in most nights and get into a hermit routine. If you're more of an introvert, this probably seems like paradise! And at the same time, it's so important to maintain your relationships. As an extrovert, you might have the opposite situation. Being alone might feel uncomfortable and lonely. Be sure to attend to your social needs, even when work and life get busy. 

If you choose to live alone, be intentional about keeping up with friends by scheduling social events. Whether it's a weekend brunch, a weeknight yoga class or happy hour, make sure you're getting out on a regular basis. It's okay to guard your free time- schedule that in as well as your social events, and you'll feel internally and socially balanced.

Living with roommates

Transitioning from having college roommates to postgrad roommates can be a fairly seamless transition. And at the same time, there are some pretty significant differences. Even if you choose to live with the same people after college, your lives are different now by nature. Your typical college Saturday night may or may not look like your postgrad Saturday night. One isn't better than the other, but be clear with your roommates on how you want to live your life. And, allow space for your roommates to disagree. 

On a practical level, try upgrading a few things to make your place feel more like your postgrad life, instead of an extension of college. It's not necessary to trade in all your belongings, but by having a few new things for your postgrad life, you're signaling to yourself and your roommates that this is a transition, the beginning of something new. 

Wherever you choose to live, make sure self-care is a priority. If you're more of an extrovert and you live alone- make sure you're getting out enough to fulfill your social energy needs. If you're more on an introvert and living with others, consider scheduling alone time in order to make sure it happens. You do you ;)

How did you choose where and how to live after college? Did you consider your temperament and mental health when making your choice? Let me know in the comments!

Postgrad anxiety + your career

If you're like a lot of recent college grads, you're feeling some (maybe a lot) of anxiety about the future. You've left the comfort and familiarity of your college campus. Maybe you're feeling anxious about being able to find that perfect job. Maybe you've landed your first job, and you're feeling nervous and overwhelmed about performing well.

Career anxiety is real, and if left unprocessed, can start to impact other areas of your life. That's the thing about anxiety- it is very easily transferable. Anxiety in one area of your life can easily be transmitted to another area. If anxiety about your career and life after college is starting to impact the way you want to live your life, read on:

There's a lot of pressure to put that degree to work and get a great job in your field of choice. But hear this- the first job (or jobs) you have after college will not define the rest of your career. CNN suggests that millennials on average have 4 jobs before they turn 32. It's okay to take a job that isn't everything you'd been planning and hoping for. Maybe you'll take a job in an industry unrelated to your degree. Maybe you don't love the job, but you decide to take it because it pays well. That's totally okay! There's a cultural message right now that recent college grads should hold out for a job they love- which can be a hard message to absorb if your priorities are elsewhere. You know, if they include things like being able to pay rent. It might seem like everyone else is doing what they love. It's okay if they are, and it's okay if you aren't. 

It's helpful to have a general idea of what you'd like your career to look like long-term, but sometimes it can be less-than-helpful to think too far into the future. Does looking too far into the future seem to cause you anxiety? Focus on the present moment. Practice yoga, go for a run, get our your coloring book. It's okay to not have your life figured out. Having it all together isn't actually a thing.

Beware the dangers of job FOMO. Picture this: your college roommate posts on social media about her brand new high-paying job, working at some swanky firm downtown. What is your first reaction? Are you irritated? Happy? Proud? Frustrated? Jealous? All of the above? Notice your reaction to other people's success. Pay attention to those feelings, especially if they lead to negative self-talk. Ultimately, you are in charge of your reactions. If you're noticing feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, or envy, consider taking a few moments just for yourself. Take a step back and ask yourself where those feelings are coming from and how you would prefer to feel. Whatever your feelings are, that's okay. It's what you do with those feelings that counts.

Looking for career inspiration? Here are a few career resources for young women:

Career Contessa: I especially love this article on post-grad anxiety.

Levo: Check out this article on the stress of job-searching.

Gen Y Girl: Here's a blog post about the danger of comparing yourself to others.


Making- and keeping- friends after college

Why college was the perfect place to meet your BFF

As a counselor for young women, I often hear about the struggles of making friends after college. Recent college grads land their first jobs or move to new cities with the idea that making friends will be just the same as it was in college. When that ends up not being the case, many young women feel frustrated, lonely, and begin to doubt themselves.

The traditional undergraduate experience is a great breeding ground for making friends. Research shows there are a few crucial aspects to close friendships: proximity, repeated, and unplanned interactions. Think about the experience of living in a freshman dorm. At the beginning of the year, everyone is a stranger. Most people are eager to make new friends on campus- and the conditions are perfect for that. Whether you're walking to class with your roommate, going to events and parties together, or hanging out in each other's dorms, you're spending a lot of time in close proximity with these people. Repeat this for a few years in college and many strong friendships are bound to be made!

The importance of keeping your college friends

Your college friends were there for you during a special time in your life. You were witnesses to each other's milestones. You were there for each other during midterms, finals, semesters abroad, break-ups, parties, and making decisions about your futures. Nothing can truly replace that.

There are good reasons your college friends are here to stay. They knew you before you had a job title, before you got married, before you started thinking about things like your 401(k) and paying off student loans. But instead of keeping those friendships rooted in the past, consider doing things together to keep your relationships fresh. If your college friends are actually local, do things together that aren't exactly what you did in college. Sign up for a wine and painting class. Go to Saturday morning yoga followed by brunch. Try learning a new language together. Start a book club- maybe over Google Hangout if your friendships are long distance. Switching it up helps bring your old friendships into your new stage of life.

It's important to be intentional about your friendships. After graduation, friends scatter across the country (maybe even the world)- so much for that proximity! The distance alone makes it hard for those repeated encounters to happen- you're feeling lucky if you get to see your college girlfriends every couple of months. And if you're really spread out, there's little to no chance of unplanned interactions. In fact, it takes quite a bit of coordination to get everyone together in the first place!

How to make friends after college

Maybe you've decided it would be great to make some new friends. But between working 40-5o hours each week at your new job, having downtime for yourself, and balancing family functions, you're finding it more challenging than ever to make friends. Chatting with your coworkers is fine, but meeting new people organically just isn't happening like it used to. Perhaps it's time to step out of your comfort zone. Here are a few quick ideas on meeting friends after college:

  • Strike up a conversation with someone after yoga class. It doesn't need to be anything groundbreaking, maybe even just commenting on how relaxing that flow was, or how much you like the instructor. Could this be your friendship meet cute?!
  • Get involved in something you care about- whether it's serving at your church or volunteering with a nonprofit you're passionate about, you're bound to meet like-minded people! Meeting people who care about the same things you care about is key when making new friends. Plus, it feels pretty good to give back to your community. 
  • If your coworkers are organizing happy hour, go along! Whether or not you drink, spending time outside of the office with your new coworkers can be a great way to take your work friendships to the next level. 

If you can prioritize making and keeping strong friendships now, that will set the stage for life-long relationships that are enjoyable and good for your health. Research shows that people who have strong relationships are more likely to feel happier, live longer, and be less stressed.

If you want to hear more about making friends after college, check out MWF seeking BFF: My yearlong search for a new best friend. The author of this memoir chronicles her experiences of making new friends after moving to a new city- I highly recommend it!

What is your experience with making friends after college?


Life after college: The transition from college to postgrad life

I'm excited to share a new blog series! Over the next five weeks, I'll be talking about the ins and outs of life after college. New jobs, new living spaces, new relationships, new routines- handling all these changes can be overwhelming- even if the transitions are good. If there's anything in particular you'd like to see, let me know in the comments.

The playing field is pretty level in college- everyone is taking classes and working toward the same goal- earning that degree! Things change after graduation when people start to have different goals. 

The important thing is to stay out of comparison. Take some time this summer and consider what you actually want out of life. Are you applying to law school because you want to, or because you think you should? Do you want to get married because everyone else is, or because you and your partner actually want to do that? It's okay to do things at your own pace- in fact, it's more than okay. Focus on your goals and stay the course.

Stay in the moment and focus on yourself- as challenging as that can be. People around you are doing all sorts of things- traveling the world, starting new jobs, beginning grad school, getting engaged and starting families. It's easy to compare yourself and your life to everyone else's- especially with social media. But, remember there's no one right way to handle life after college. 

Are you a recent college grad in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area looking to do the important work of personal growth? Consider making an appointment for counseling. Curious what it might be like? Shoot me a message and we'll talk!


When you have summertime depression

Mention "seasonal depression" to someone and you could get a response like, "Yeah, winter can be a hard time for a lot of people." 

But actually, seasonal affective disorder can be present in the warmer months as well- in fact, about 10% of people who experience SAD report their symptoms to be during the summer. Symptoms tend to be a little different compared to winter seasonal affective disorder- people who experience summer depression might have more anxiety, insomnia, and weight loss.

Why you might feel depressed in the summer:

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), heat exposure is a major contributor to summer depression. The hormone prolactin appears to play a role- this hormone is stimulated by heat, and high levels of it can make you feel tired. Also, prolactin suppresses dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and happiness. Thyroid hormone is also part of the puzzle- it is suppressed by heat, and low levels of it can lead to lower energy.

A summer lifestyle change can also be a factor in summer depression. Many of us try to cram so much in during these months, trying to take advantage of the sunshine and warmth. We stay out later at night and make sure to get outside be active on the weekends. We travel for family vacations, reunions, and weddings. So much travel can lead to feeling anxious and unsettled. Even with all the fun and excitement, it's no wonder so many of us feel exhausted during this season!

Here are a few ideas to help yourself this summer:

1. Be realistic about your summer bucket list. Pick a few things you want to do, but don't overbook yourself. It's okay to say no to parties, happy hours, family events. Staying at home can be just as fulfilling as be out and about.

2. Stop romanticizing the season. We tend to put summer on a pedestal- especially here in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, because it's quite chilly most of the year! But putting too much pressure on yourself to have the best summer ever can lead to disappointment. 

3. Be careful about spending too much time in the sun. Beach days can zap your energy and leave you feeling fatigued. Trade the sun for a movie theater, coffee shop, or museum!

4. Make a self-care plan. This might include things like taking a walk after dinner, reading that book that's been on your list, getting a pedicure, or giving yourself permission to take a nap on Saturday afternoons. 


You may have tried these things and have found summer depression has been lingering. Maybe you've been thinking about meeting with a counselor in the Twin Cities. If you're ready to start working through things like anxiety, self-esteem, confidence, or perfectionism, let's chat! I'd love to talk with you about how counseling can help. 


How to deal with comparison during wedding season

It's MAY! This is a big deal for us here in the Minneapolis area. It's true that our winters can last well into April, but it's rare to have snow in May. For those of us who don't exactly have an affinity for winter, the start of May puts a spring in our step and a sense that it is finally going to stay warm. Today it was a lovely 65 degrees, and people are walking around outside in shorts and sleeveless shirts. We really love spring here. But I digress.

If you're a 20-something, there's a good chance this time of year has become synonymous with wedding season. Weekends are filled with bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and of course, actual weddings.

Weddings can be absolutely delightful- from the ceremony to cocktail hour to the reception, there are old friends to catch up with and a fresh new marriage to celebrate.

But wedding season can also be a breeding ground for some pretty heavy duty comparison. You know what I'm talking about....

She looks so good after just having that baby... why can't I get my act together?

She just got another promotion and I'm stuck in this dead-end job.

*smiling and nodding after the 689th person gushes about their fabulous new job/car/house/boyfriend/vacation/baby/dog.*

I love this quote from Teddy Roosevelt. It's so true, isn't it? Really think about it. Has there ever been a time when you've compared yourself to someone and it resulted in joy? Either you come to the conclusion that you are somehow less than the other person, and you begin to feel bad about yourself, your life, your body, your relationship... etc. Or it's the other way around, and you decide you are somehow better than someone else. Walking around with a spirit of superiority makes it difficult to connect with others and actually be attentive to your own needs. Comparison indeed is the thief of joy.

So, what can be done? Wedding season is just getting underway. Be intentional about shifting your focus elsewhere in order to ditch comparison:

1. Focus on the couple. If you find yourself in a comparison trap, try moving your attention to the bride and groom. Notice their joy and lightheartedness. And if you're in a group conversation that involves comparison, make the choice to steer the conversation back to the newlyweds. You cannot change other people, but you can change what you do.

2. Focus on yourself, in a positive way. Silently repeat positive affirmations. You are enough, just as you are. And, give yourself a reality check. Is it helping you to compare yourself to another person? Does it really matter what anyone else is doing? Probably not. So, focus on what you are doing. Stay in your lane.

3. Focus on your surroundings. Whether you're at a bridal shower or a wedding reception, you're probably surrounded by all sorts of beauty. Notice what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Pay attention to all the details. Practice gratitude for all you are experiencing.

Finally, consider where you are getting your sense of self-worth. For example, let's say you're catching up with an old friend during cocktail hour and she is telling you about the fabulous new condo she just bought. And let's say being a homeowner isn't something you can financially swing right now. If your sense of worthiness is caught up in achievement, you could start feeling envious, and less than this person. You might start to question your own financial goals, your own life, and your own SELF. When this becomes a pattern in your life, it can be helpful to work through it with a counselor. If this sounds like you and you're in the Minneapolis - St. Paul area, contact me to talk about how counseling could help.

How do stay out of comparison during wedding season?

Why your post-grad life needs spring break

It's about that time of year again- the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is full of college students headed south for spring break. It's midway through the semester- time to press the pause button on normal responsibilities and unplug for a week. 

But what happens after college? Unless your job has built-in breaks (maybe you work in education), it can be difficult to take time off early in your career. A recent study showed that almost 60% of millennials feel shame when they take a vacation. What's worse, millennials themselves admit they are the ones doing the shaming! The study also found that almost half of surveyed workers felt the need to justify using their vacation days to their boss- even though they had earned them.

If you do find yourself on spring break, you're likely connected to work anyway. Research is showing that millennials are the most likely group to continue working on vacation, and they are returning to work feeling less productive. Maybe it's a fear of being perceived as unreachable (read: unreliable) by the boss and coworkers. Or perhaps young people aren't great at work-life balance after all.

Just because you're not in college anymore doesn't mean you don't need a spring break. In fact, here are a few reasons that you do:

1. You will be a better employee if you go on spring break. You'll be more productive and more creative after a vacation if you truly disconnect. 35% of millennials say they work every day on vacation- one could argue it's not actually a vacation if you're working every day. Consider this: most employers would probably prefer their workers to return with increased productivity and creativity, at the expense of having regular contact with them while they're away.

2. The process of planning a trip is very enjoyable. Some research has shown that the planning stage is even more pleasurable than the trip itself. Spring break trips are especially alluring to those of us in the North- it's cold almost 6 months out of the year! If you're feeling stressed at work and gloomy because of the dreary weather, consider what it might feel like to plan the details of a beach vacation. Just thinking about being in the warm sunshine can do wonders for your mood.

3. Sunshine, glorious sunshine! After months of mostly gray skies and cold temperatures, your mind and body are craving the warmth of the sun. Research shows that the brain produces more serotonin (a "feel good" chemical) when you're in the sunshine. A boost in serotonin can make you feel happier and less anxious.

Perhaps just thinking about taking a vacation is anxiety-producing for you. Pay attention to those feelings. What about it is leading you to feel this way? Do you have perfectionistic tendencies that are getting in the way of taking time away? Maybe you're completely overwhelmed with work, and going away just doesn't feel feasible. Or maybe you do feel like you could get away, but financial stressors are making that difficult.

If anxiety is getting in the way of your life, know that help is available. Counseling can help you feel more calm and less overwhelmed. If you're in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and ready to take the next step, let me know by contacting me HERE. I would love to hear from you!

3 awesome videos to explain your anxiety

Oftentimes it can be difficult to explain your experience of anxiety to someone else.

Anxiety can feel different depending on the person. People who live with generalized anxiety have a distinct reality from people who experience social anxiety. Some people have physical symptoms, while others primarily experience anxiety mentally and emotionally. 

Enter these videos. These are some quick explanations of anxiety that could be helpful for you in understanding your own experiences. You can also use them as an aid when you try to explain anxiety to others. Have yourself a watch and let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Explaining Anxiety to People Who Don't Have Anxiety

What Social Anxiety Feels Like

Drawing What Anxiety Feels Like

 

If you're in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and looking for anxiety counseling, I would love to hear from you. Click below!

What Chipotle taught me about mindfulness

What's better than free Chipotle?

Free Chipotle that teaches you a lesson!

The other day I had some free time and a free Chipotle coupon, so I went down the street to Chipotle, ordered chicken tacos, and sat myself down at a window seat. And then I ate.

That's it. No phone, no book, no laptop, no magazine. Just me and my tacos.

At first it was uncomfortable. It felt unnatural to sit there and just eat. Even as a counselor who regularly uses mindfulness. But after a couple minutes, it became enjoyable. Peaceful, even.

Because my attention wasn't split, I was able to completely focus on the here and now. I noticed the differences between the hot chicken and the cool sour cream. I heard the music playing, and paid attention to how my body felt sitting on the stool. I became aware of my mood changing.

I left Chipotle feeling calm, centered, and fully present. My mind wasn't already moving on to the next task. I was noticing the present moment. This is mindfulness. Paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose. Yoga mat and meditation cushion optional ;)

What is one thing you can do mindfully today?

5 ways to love yourself on Valentine's Day

What comes to mind when you think of Valentine's Day? There are so many perspectives! Some of us go all out with treats and decorations, while others of us attend Singles Awareness Day parties. Some of us are disinterested in the commercialization of love, and others find it charming to dedicate a whole day to the idea. 

Whatever your thoughts on Valentine's Day, I am challenging you to take another perspective. What if you could decide it was a day to practice self-love? What if you declared a cease-fire on all that negative self-talk? What if you stopped the hustle, and allowed yourself to just be where you are? 

It might feel self-indulgent, decadent even, to take this time just for yourself. But, a gentle reminder: you cannot give to others what you yourself do not have. If you truly want to give love to others, you must first love yourself.

5 ways to love yourself on Valentine's Day

1. Take yourself out on a date! This is so important, regardless of your relationship status. Really sit down and think about what you'd like to do- what makes you feel fully alive? What do you value? For example, my idea of a great self-date is going over to the Minneapolis Institute of Art and then having coffee at Spyhouse. Just thinking about it makes me excited!

2. Give yourself permission to re-evaluate some friendships. Some people come into our lives for seasons, and others are around longer. Are you holding onto some friendships just for the sake of longevity? If a relationship is toxic (read: you feel worse after spending time with this person), it's time to take a good long look at your reasons for staying.

3. Practice yoga! It's no secret that yoga is wonderful for your mind and body. But sometimes it can feel painful to be in savasana when that to-do list is racing through your mind. Lean into that discomfort. Notice what feelings emerge. Allow yourself to tend to your mind and body during a solo yoga practice.

Maybe you're not exactly feeling the love this Valentine's Day. Try this lovely sequence by Yoga with Adriene:

4. Write down your thoughts. Even a few moments of journaling can be eye-opening. The act of putting your thoughts down on paper forces you to slow down. This way you can really notice the quality of your thought life. Is your inner voice is more critical or compassionate?

5. Start prioritizing your mental health and make an appointment with a counselor. You don't need to be experiencing a crisis to benefit from counseling. Think of it like preventive maintenance, or going in for an annual physical!

 

What is your favorite way to practice self-love? Comment below!