Mostly because I want to make this point: You do “do” Self-Care, but likely in ways that you don’t think of, and if you start thinking of them as Self-Care, you will appreciate them even more.
Self-care is such an overused term and I borderline don’t even like it anymore if I’m being honest. And yet, despite there being millions of articles written on the topic, here I am writing another.
Mostly because I want to make this point: You do “do” Self-Care, but likely in ways that you don’t think of, and if you start thinking of them as Self-Care, you will appreciate them even more.
When we look around and can’t find a single moment in the day to pour into our own cup, it can make life seem even more overwhelming than it already is. It’s frustrating and adds to the “what about me?” feeling that a lot of us (*ahem* I’m looking at you, working mamas) carry. It is draining not to care for yourself at all.
But I want you to pause and reframe what Self-Care is, and maybe see that you are taking better care of yourself than you think, and that you deserve credit for the work you are doing.
2 Types of Self-Care:
First, there are the types that make you feel good! These are the mani-pedis, spa day, stop and get the $7 latte, treat-yo-self things that many people actually feel guilty for doing but also what mainstream pushes you to do (because, capitalism).
Sure, I can get on board with calling this Self-Care if, even for a moment, you feel like you are giving yourself something that you don’t normally get. Feeling pampered is awesome. Feeling relaxed and refreshed is definitely good for the soul. Unfortunately, this Self-Care is very temporary and can be pretty expensive. And again, often leads to feeling guilty, which isn’t good for Self.
I also feel like, because this is the typical way society tells us we need to be Self-Caring, if you haven’t done anything like this for yourself lately, it can make it feel like you haven’t done ANYTHING for yourself, which makes you think you need to do it even more. What a cycle!
Fortunately, these are not the only (or best!) ways to Self-Care! Let’s take a look at an even more important type.
The types that don’t make you feel good:
These are the things that mostly get overlooked and don’t feel like they qualify as Self-Care, but they should. Before I go into the list, let’s talk about intentions and intentionality.
When I do something that I don’t necessarily want to do but I know it’s good for me, I can be very intentional with telling myself why I’m doing it and it changes the way I feel about it. If I intentionally say, “Self, I’m doing this because I love you and the long term impacts are good for you. This is how I’m caring for you today” that feels MUCH different than just grumbling about doing something that I’d rather not do and going through the motions.
All of these Self-Care tasks deserve fo you to be intentional about it being for you, even if it doesn’t feel good at the moment. If you have that little talk with yourself before or during the activity, it’s like you're making sure the drop in the bucket counts.
Financial responsibility- when I contribute to my 401K, I’m caring for my future self, even though my current self wants to spend that money. Every two weeks I should be intentional about letting that fill my cup. When I stick to a budget, that’s Self-Care. When I say no to spending money on something that the bill for would stress me out more than it would make me happy- that is Self-Care! Sometimes NOT spending is better Self-Care than treating myself! So, sometimes get the $7 latte, but equally caring of self is making a cup of tea at home and enjoying it with intention all the same. (Yes, I just basically said a “we got food at home” talk with yourself absolutely counts :)
Eating- Yes. Every time you eat, you are taking care of yourself. I’m not going into the topic of clean food vs junk food here; that’s too much to unpack and not the point I’m trying to make. But every day you eat, you are caring for yourself on some level. If you pause before you drink the water, tea, coffee, coke, and say, “My body needs fluids, so I’m taking care of a need!” Cool! Give yourself that credit! Every time you sit down for a meal, pause and remind yourself that, no matter what hurry you are in, your intentions are to take care of yourself. (Side note: What shift could you have in mindset if you found gratitude for feeding yourself rather than shame, guilt, judgment, etc. that so many people feel? Another blog for another day…)
Sleep- Omg please sleep. Sleep good. Sleep long. Sleep regularly. Sleep deep. If you give yourself the gift of good sleep you are doing so much for your body! The research on sleep and longevity and overall health is astonishing. I would prioritize sleep over exercise, it’s that important. Tuck yourself in, even when you have things you need to do, and tell yourself, “This is for you, babe.” As much as I love to sleep, I also know how difficult it is for a lot of people. Both scheduling and actually falling asleep. Every time you prioritize sleep or make a change to better your sleep hygiene, you are offering yourself major Self-Care.
Going to therapy- I’m a therapist and I know how much therapy sucks sometimes. It’s not necessarily a feel-good type of self-care (at least not the day of). But it’s needed and it’s worth it and it’s definitely a long term investment in yourself that has a lifelong impact. Go to therapy.
Setting boundaries and saying no- So hard. So uncomfortable. So good for your mental health. Again, it sucks in the beginning and holding boundaries is even harder than setting them sometimes, but your future you will thank you, and it should be counted as Self-Care every single time you do it. Again, it’s not usually thought of as Self-Care (and can even feel selfish if you aren’t used to doing it!) but it is and you deserve the credit for it!
These are just 5 things that I can come up with off the top of my head that I know people are doing and aren’t giving themselves credit for. If everything time you ate, slept, made a wise financial decision, went to therapy, or set a boundary you stopped and intentionally said, “I’m Self-Caring right now” I promise you, your cup will feel more full.
What other ways can you think of that you do Self-Care that aren’t typical?
"I want to give my body the best possible chance to feel as good as it can, for as long as possible. "
I had a client ask me this question last week: “Julie, how do you stay motivated to go to the gym?”
I’m not going to lie. I didn’t exactly know how to answer her question at first. Partly because talking about myself to my clients always feels weird (it shouldn’t- we were just trained to not share ANYTHING and that, in my opinion, isn’t good for the therapeutic relationship), but mostly because I didn’t know what the honest answer was.
I responded by saying something along the lines of, “I’m NOT always motivated. I don’t rely on motivation to get me there, because motivation is a feeling that comes and goes. If I waited to feel motivated, I’d never be consistent.”
But not the entire truth. In fact, that’s someone else’s response that I have read before and really appreciated, but I don’t think it tells my whole story.
A more accurate answer, now that I’ve spent some time thinking about it, is that I AM motivated. Consistently. But not to go to the gym.
Being fit is not my goal. Being a gym rat is not my goal. Being skinny is not it either (anymore). Rather, working out is a byproduct of my real goal- that I am absolutely motivated to work towards- and that is to take really good care of myself in this lifetime.
Making the decision to “take good care of yourself” is simplistic, vague/general, and also life changing. It means different things at different ages. It changes and evolves over time, depending on your needs. It’s a mindset more than anything quantifiable.
For me, it came from years of valuing results, but not valuing myself, and eventually realizing that my goals were hurting me. 149. That was the number I always wanted to see on the scale. Once a year, I had to hit 149. That was my rule for myself. When that was the object of my motivation, the pathway I got there was super unhealthy, both physically and mentally. I’m talking weeks of cutting out entire food groups and doing endless amounts of cardio, coupled with a drill sergeant voice in my head yelling at me for eating one piece of cheese or chocolate.
Somewhere in my journey that started to shift and I began to realize how much I hated this goal. I loathed the number 149. My motivation left because it wasn't sustainable or built on the right things. And somewhere between the birthdays adding up and my body involuntarily changing (insert chronic nerve pain, bulging discs, and all the fun things being in your thirties brings) I began to value taking good care of myself more than anything aesthetic.
I remember writing this in my journal a while ago:
I want to give my body the best possible chance to feel as good as it can, for as long as possible.
I spent a long time working through this and, I can’t necessarily explain the steps of how I got here, but taking good care of myself became bigger than just a number. Maybe some of the motivation is fear- fear of becoming like the older adults I used to see during my hospice career that had to be taken care of because they didn’t take care of themselves. Maybe it’s the fear that my nerve pain will one day impact my mobility and building muscle now feels like something I can control to combat that.
But it’s also driven by love, and this is still a work in progress. Now my motivation isn’t to go to the gym, it’s to love myself well. Which also means working to let that drill sergeant go, stop dieting, start doing the movements that feel good to my body, sleeping more, going to therapy, and all the other self-care things that aren’t fancy or fun. Learning to love myself enough to do what’s needed over what society tells me I should care about has been a huge part of the journey.
To answer the original question, I don’t have to feel motivated to wake up and go to the gym anymore because the gym itself isn’t the goal. Now I know it's what I need to do, because it’s one piece of a larger goal. I don’t ask myself if I want to go to the gym, because so many days the answer would be no. I check in with myself on whether I’m really giving my body a chance to thrive in the short amount of time I have on earth.
So before I go to sleep, I set my 5:30am gym alarm without looking for or requiring motivation (and then of course I take my preworkout first thing after rolling out of bed to feel like doing it, before I can talk myself out of it).
"Fear breeds smallness. It knocks out the chance for (calculated) risks. It robs us of our purpose and our potential."
That’s the word that keeps coming to my mind today. Maybe it’s the season changing and spring bringing forth new life, but I feel a sense of renewed hope, change, and a push to grow.
I have known since last summer that I would be moving offices this year. I had long outgrown the space I was in, and I knew that, but it is easier to stay in the comfort of what we know, even if it’s uncomfortable itself. So when the building owner let us know that he would be selling and we needed to plan to vacate, I found myself making plans for a change that I didn’t necessarily choose.
I never found myself nervous, but did find myself wondering what the potential was with this new opportunity.
Change is good- but yes, it’s also hard.
How do you approach it?
There was a time in my life where this would have just caused me stress. Where would I go? What would it cost me? Would I have trouble getting anyone to understand? Would I lose clients because of it?
Change was always dominated by fear- of loss, of scarcity, or of failure. When people ask me why go to therapy? Why do the work? THIS is a good example of why.
Had I not done my own work and faced some of my fears, I would not have been able to do what I have done. Fear breeds smallness. It knocks out the chance for (calculated) risks. It robs us of our purpose and our potential. I probably would have seen this as a nightmare rather than an opportunity.
If I had let those fears drive me, I would have made very different decisions. I would have gone for the easiest, cheapest, and least stressful solution. That would have been signing another lease in a building close by, renting one room focused solely on the budget, giving little consideration to who I would be working next to, and, worst of all, I would have compromised on a lot of dreams I have for my practice.
Instead- I did the harder thing. I picked the location I actually WANT to be in, even though it’s a bit of a longer commute. I went with an entire suite so that eventually I can have people join me in the office who I can hand pick (to avoid bad officemates, because I’ve been there before!). I was able to put a lot of love and thought into the space that I got to design myself, instead of just accepting what was already established by someone else.
And it feels good. Now I walk into my office every day with a new sense of ownership of the direction of my practice, gratitude for the blessings God continues to pour out on me, and excitement for what changes are next. I promise you, two years ago I would not have been able to make these moves because of my fears. How do I measure my growth? Today, I’m doing it by just looking around in amazement.
In hindsight, I still see room for growth. We’re never done growing. I knew I needed to make a change but I was complacent and I waited for someone else to make the decision for me. How long would I have stayed there if the building hadn’t sold? Now I’m exploring what other areas of my life I am aware that I could be doing more, but I’m content with being small where I am.
Here’s to seeing change as an opportunity to be ventured rather than a nightmare to be suffered through.
He is so big and we are so small, and yet he cares about the most trivial things in our lives, each and every day.
I’m convinced that is why He gives us the gift of parenthood. So that we can understand what it is like for Him to be our Father, based on how we see our own children. We are infants to Him in comparison to our understanding.
When we have babies, we know how dependent they are on us, how little self-control they have, how helpless they are. And we don’t expect them to be anything else! When babies poop because they can’t control their bowels, no parent is shocked or angry. We know it’s part of our role in their lives to clean them up, make them feel comfortable, put on a fresh diaper, love on them, and totally expect they willl do it again in a few hours.
God is fully expecting us to make messes of our lives. He knows we don’t know how NOT to. He WANTS to clean up our lives, give us fresh new mercies every day, and love on us after every mess.
Of course, He wants to see us grow into toddlers, meaning we start to have some new understandings of life and change as we grow in our walk with Him. Maybe we potty train and he doesn’t have to clean up THOSE messes anymore. But look at the new messes a toddler makes! They wreak havoc in totally new ways.
And He knows that, is prepared, and doesn’t love us any less for it. Even mature Christians are hot messes. He will gladly clean up our mistakes from childhood to our last days because we will undoubtedly continue to make them.
Now imagine a toddler who won’t let their parent help them when they are in a bind. Imagine a toddler who is stubborn and insists on doing everything their way….(insert the strong-willed child) ….but one who also has free will. What a disaster. A toddler running around doing everything their way, making messes, trying to clean it up themselves, and never turning to their parent for help.
God gives us the choice to run our own lives and will not intervene unless we ask. We have to accept His offer to clean up through surrender, repentance, and obedience. Not out of feelings of shame for our mistakes, but out of relief that we have help.
Use your free will to choose God as a father and invite Him to continue teaching you His way. Invite Him to continue cleaning up your messes- I promise you He is happy to do it if you will let Him.
Julie Hilton is a Christian therapist in Alpharetta, GA. To schedule a free phone consultation, call 678-329-9129.
I have gone from not properly feeding myself out of guilt/fear at times in the past, to a fresh new variety of guilt for having a thought that ... idk, maybe I'd like to fit back into last year's shorts? It's beyond annoying.
I am going to be honest with you- this is a super frustrating topic for me and I'm going to try my best to make this is a helpful read, rather than me just ranting (not making any promises though). More than anything, I have a feeling you will probably just understand where I'm coming from and be able to relate. I will also be honest and say that I don't have all my own thoughts and feelings sorted out on this one, because I'm not immune to the BS that is constantly being fed to us (mainly, women). The entire idea of weight loss has become so overwhelming, emotional, divisive.
Weight loss, or rather the desire to lose weight, has gotten so complicated. "Non-scale victories, food freedom, intuitive eating, orthorexia, low-carb, macro counting, meal delivery services" ... everyone has an opinion on how you are supposed to approach your weight and an argument for how you'll ruin your life if you do it any other way. I constantly vacillate between which offender I'm fighting off each day in my mind. I feel like you can't win for losing! So here's the question that I land on: Can desiring to lose weight ever not be bad for your mental health?
Two groups seemed to have formed in the last few years. "Diet culture" (this is nothing new, it's old school but just being labeled as bad instead of good for the first time) and "diet culture shamers". The first group uses shame to profit off of telling people (women) to change their size in order to have (more) worth and that skinny = loveable. Yes- I agree that is damaging. But isn't the other group using shame, in the same way, to further its agenda too? Nowadays, if you want to change your body at all, they'll try to convince you that you must not love yourself or you wouldn't want to change! You must be a victim of diet culture and hate yourself deeply. You should* just accept where you are right now.
This message is equally destructive.
I have gone from not properly feeding myself out of guilt/fear at times in the past, to a fresh new variety of guilt for having a thought that ... idk, maybe I'd like to fit back into last year's shorts? It's beyond annoying.
It shouldn't be this complicated. It shouldn't be this judgmental. Or heavy, or opinionated, or black and white. The more polarized something becomes, the more money is being pumped into those extreme views in my humble opinion, because someone is profiting off of your/our pain. And when this becomes apparent to me, the more time I believe each individual needs to spend reevaluating who/what they are being influenced by.
So as of late, I've decided that I am personally steering clear of those extremes. I am ignoring every single rule/idea anyone else has for me about my weight, my health, and my body. When did so many people suddenly have degrees in mental health counseling AND nutrition AND health sciences AND eating disorders... all at the same time? Sheesh...
Y'all are not qualified, IG influencers.
If you tune out the crowd, I think you probably know what's better for yourself much more than you actually give yourself credit for. *Be very leery of the word should. No one else can tell you what you should do unless they have a medical degree (and even then...be selective with what you do with that advice).
Tracking food really helps some people. It becomes obsessive and hurtful for others.
Weighing consistently is an important and helpful piece of information for some folks, while it becomes detrimental for others.
Not everyone who wants to lose weight hates themselves. Not everyone who tracks their foods has an eating disorder. Having feelings about your size is normal. Wanting to change is not bad.
Everyone does better with boundaries, this I know to be true. However, healthy boundaries can be complete opposites for two different people, depending on how they are wired, their patterns, and their behaviors.
The most important piece (that most people miss) is knowing yourself really, really well so that you can know what your healthy boundary is. You can't look to a single person on the internet to know yourself. Not to me, not to your personal therapist, not to a physician. It doesn't work that way. You have to spend time with yourself and have some really honest (and potentially hard) conversations. These are the ones that lead to being free.
Are you avoiding having those conversations? Maybe that's the place to really needs attention. Perhaps you don't want to do that alone. I understand and that IS where expertise outside of yourself comes in. As a therapist, I never tell someone what is best for them. I help them discover their own truth that they decide for themselves. If you are ready to start that journey, send me a message today. I'm here to help without telling you what you should do.
Julie Hilton, LCSW
Julie is a clinical therapist specializing in helping women increase their Self-Worth, decrease their anxiety, and learn to live the life they were created to live! Locate in Alpharetta, Georgia (right outside of Atlanta!) while also offering Telehealth services to all Georgia and Florida residents. Call today for a free consultation! 678-329-9129
Knowing my Self-Worth empowers me to be sure of who I am, what I deserve, and even what I have to give to others. It allows me to set boundaries and knowing my limitations enables me to give to others freely within my abilities. And that feels really good, by the way.
I’m trying to work on taking better care of myself, but I just can’t fight the feeling that it’s selfish to put myself first! Every time I have to say no to someone or try to do what I want to do I feel so. much. guilt. and like I disappoint everyone around me. How can I take care of ME without feeling like it’s selfish?
I’ve been wanting to do my blog “Dear Abby” style for a while now and it’s so crazy to me that this is the first entry because I literally just had this exact conversation in my office with a client before reading this! Maybe it’s a sign … a sign that we need to talk about the word selfish.
If you have a question, a topic you want me to cover, or something I can help you sort through- comment on this post, fill out the contact form on my website, or text me at 678-551-5016!
Apparently you picked the word of the day to discuss: Selfish. It seems like it is coming up for a lot of people lately, so for starters, don’t feel like you are alone here.
I think this boils down to words, definitions, how we feel about those definitions, and how we were raised to think about them too. For instance, most of us were raised to think being selfish is bad (I agree with this) and that we should feel guilty for being selfish. Take a look at this:
Definition of selfish according to Webster’s Dictionary:
2 : arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others
Look at this definition. It is the second half of the sentence that is the problem. In disregard of others. Exclusively concerned about self.
"Arising from concern with one’s own welfare"? Not necessarily a bad thing.
It is okay to be concerned with yourself. That, by itself, is not selfish. Does not make you bad. And does not warrant guilt. The problem I often see is that we are taught that instead of being selfish, we are to be selfless, and that this is a good thing! But I’ve got a problem with that. Let’s look at the definition again:
selfless : having no concern for self
No concern? At all? You mean the only way to be “good” is to not care at all about my own welfare?
No thank you.
Here’s the thing: most people, if given these two options, are going to opt for being selfless because that appears to be the less painful of the two. It has been ingrained in us to avoid selfishness, so we know there are consequences attached to it, but most of us weren’t taught the consequences of being selfless.
I equate being selfless to having no sense of self. Not just putting the needs of others before your own, but not even knowing what your needs are. Not knowing who you are. Literally having less self. Your identity is what other people want it to be in an attempt to avoid seeming selfish.
It is lonely and isolating and unfulfilling. Being selfless can be as detrimental as being selfish.
So...there’s GOT to be another option! One where you can love yourself, know yourself, and care about your own welfare. Have a voice. Set healthy boundaries for yourself and your needs. AND deeply and genuinely care for others, their needs, feelings, and care for them even when it doesn’t benefit you.
What is that third option? I think you might have to think about what word feels right for you here, but for me it always goes back to Self-Worth.
Knowing my Self-Worth allows me to be sure of who I am, what I deserve, and even what I have to give to others. It empowers me to set boundaries and knowing my limitations enables me to give to others freely within my abilities. And that feels really good, by the way.
I can take care of myself without feeling guilt because I feel confident that I don’t make decisions without regard for others. I also don’t make decisions that go against who I am, cause me to feel guilt or resentment, or jeopardize my relationships.
It is because I know my Self-Worth that I don’t need to be selfish OR selfless.
I hope you find this helpful and that you continue learning to release the feelings of guilt, because I know how heavy they can be.
Julie Hilton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and owner of Empower Counseling & Consulting of Atlanta, LLC. For a free phone consultation with Julie, call 678-329-9129
“Nostalgia is a seductive liar” - George Ball
Do you ever get stuck reminiscing about the past, longing for how things used to be? A time when life was easier, more fun, less complicated. If only things could be like they used to be. If only you could go back to college and relive those days- fully appreciating them this time before life got so….hard.
Well I’ve decided to call BS on that.
“Nostalgia is a seductive liar.”
Today I want to share a piece of my own journey and the things I’m learning about myself right now. What I’ve realized, in a nutshell, is that my memories are deceiving AND they have been holding me back from living my best life.
I am 33 years old, I’ve been married for 3 years, last year we bought a house and moved to the suburbs. I have 2 bonus kids, 2 dogs, a 9:30 bedtime and an ever increasing amount of grey hairs that I’m covering up. Sometimes I look around and I barely recognize my life. I’m extremely happy and blessed, but it seems like life changed so drastically that I can barely keep up with it at times.
For over a decade, my identity was being this young, slim, independent, career driven, never-settling-down, city-loving, fun girl (at least, this is how I thought of myself). Compare that to the list above of what my life is now and it just seems night and day. I’ve found myself feeling like I’ve lost who I am and almost desperate to get it back.
Over and over again, I say to myself, “I’m not as ___ as I used to be.” (in shape, fun, exciting, sexy, driven, independent, etc.) How did I become this boring, middle aged (that’s an exaggeration), homemade bread baking, mom?? My confidence has taken a big hit because of this and it honestly wears on me a lot.
Until...one day recently I randomly looked at my old Facebook account (I’ve been off FB for about 3 years and it’s been glorious). I went through all the pictures of my twenties and had a response mixed with absolute horror, laughter...and so much happiness. Here are some things I realized:
1- Your girl was struggling. The outfits. The piercings. The tattoos. The fake tans. The EYEBROWS. It’s not at all what I remember. I died laughing, tears streaming down my face, and it was so good for my soul. I’m reminded that we remember things the way we experienced them and I thought I was hot stuff at the time. My memory has deceived me. I have so much peace knowing that aging has been SO good to me. I don’t want to look 21 again.
2- I forget the pain I was in. That’s another thing about memories- I tend to hold on to the good and release the bad. But looking through those pictures, I remember being in the club, posting pics while deeply in pain over some boy, but trying to show the world I was fine. My coping skill after a bad fight or break up was to get attention somewhere else and never, ever let them see you cry. I’m reminded how many times I cried alone though- something I haven’t done in 4 years now. I’m filled with gratitude. The idea that things were easier then is inaccurate.
3- I had a shallow confidence. Here’s the thing-- 20 year old girls are told that they have permission to be confident and, let’s be honest, vain, if they are skinny but curvy, pretty yet natural, sexy, independent, and fun. I knew I could be confident because I was getting validation from all around me. I was so self-absorbed back then. I realize it’s totally normal for that age and stage of development, but I bet I was so annoying to those around me (sorry everyone). Part of why I struggle now with confidence (and yes, I do sometimes) is because I’m not sure what 30 year old's are “supposed” to be confident about. Our bodies have changed. Our lifestyles have changed. Our priorities are completely different. I think this is a huge problem for women that we need to discuss more openly. But I do know- I don't want that old confidence back.
4- And finally, as I’m looking back at these pictures, all I can think is... Man, I love that girl. 20 year old Julie was doing the best she could to navigate growing up, getting hurt, finding my path, and making the best with what I had to work with in a world that was telling her lies about who she was created to be. I was a hustler. I am proud of her.
But I am not her any more. I’m a grown ass woman now and those pictures helped me to stop romanticizing the past. I can’t tell you why it was so impactful for me but I felt an immediate release of the “I’m not as ___ as I used to be” because... it is so true.
I am better now.
I am wiser.
I see the fruit of the spirit in my life.
And I am still growing.
THIS. This is what gives me my confidence now and I am fully giving myself permission to lean into that confidence this year. 2021- my year for growing and glowing.
What memories are you holding onto that are holding you back?
"I am now living what I preach about restrictions with diet being a huge problem. I’m eating the damn donut this January... Best. Resolution. Ever."
I freaking love New Year’s Resolutions.
I don’t care how cheesy they are or how cliché it is. I love the idea of fresh starts, new visions, and renewed hope.
We need that more than ever right now. After a year like 2020, when our resolutions for the year were ripped from our naively hopeful hands (like, seriously. Can you even remember the excitement we felt for the new decade to start this time last year??), we need a reset. We need something to look forward to.
The problem is, because of Covid, things are still so out of our control that we need to be careful to align our resolutions with reality. And reality is that there are still massive amounts of unknowns for the foreseeable future. But that certainly doesn’t mean we can’t have hope. It just means shifting our resolutions away from the typical achievements we want for the year and focusing a little more inward- towards the things we can control.
This year my resolutions are shifting and I actually think they will be ones that are easier to stick to and more beneficial than ever before. Instead of specific goals, I’m making a list of habits that I want to incorporate more often, things that I want to be a bigger part of my life. I’m sharing a few ideas here that I am hoping to implement more of during the next 12 months. I would love to hear your ideas below!
1. Worry about work less.
This year I used a lot of my newfound and unwelcomed down time (because no celebrations, cancelled vacations, closed pools, and limited socialization) to worry. Maybe obsess is a better word. I would “run the numbers” on my business and 5 minutes later- literally run them again. I went through every possible “What if” scenario that could have happened. I would spend hours changing the most insignificant things on my website just to feel like I was doing something...anything. It was out of control and pretty unhealthy if I’m being honest with myself.
Next year- I’m saying forget that! Notice I’m not saying I will work less or care about work less. My business is my baby and I put a lot into it. I will never not hustle- but I won’t spend any more time worrying.
2. Make healthier health goals.
I usually start the year with a round of January Whole30 (which I have recently promised myself to never do again). I spend the first two-ish months of the year “reeling it in'' and going bananas in the gym. I have always had a certain weight that I force myself to be at by spring. It’s always my first resolution on my list. That is no longer my goal and it feels so freeing!
First of all my relationship with fitness has changed and it’s so much better. We cancelled our gym memberships and built a home gym instead, so there is a different feeling towards working out for me. My resolution is more about getting stronger with slow progression of basic compound movements, then spending as much time sweating as possible.
Second- I am now living what I preach about restrictions with diet being a huge problem. I’m eating the dang donut this January... Best. Resolution. Ever.
Does that really sound like a healthier health goal? Maybe not to you- but for my perfectionist personality, it is going to be a huge win!
3. More weekend trips.
We had a trip planned to Iceland in 2020 and unfortunately had to cancel it. We have 3 years to redeem the plane tickets, but honestly it doesn’t look like that is going to happen in 2021 either. So since international travel is on hold, my goal is to take weekend trips as much as possible next year! What’s the point in being a business owner if you can’t truly enjoy being able to set your own schedule? The beautiful thing about my job is that I can work from anywhere! So I really plan to put some miles on the vehicles next year and strike out for 2-3 night trips whenever we can! Even staycations will be on my list. I plan to be more intentional with giving myself a change of scenery because I know what it does for my mental health and happiness!
4. Take up a pointless hobby.
I’ve been overworking myself for so long that I barely know what hobbies are. Or maybe it’s because I’ve just never given myself permission, who knows. If I’m doing something in my free time, it’s usually a side hustle, something fitness related (which feels like an obligation even if I enjoy it), or it’s something that benefits my family (like yard work or cleaning- the dog hair is endless at my house). This year I want to find something that I just simply enjoy doing that serves no other purpose! After reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection (which I highly recommend) I now see the value of play and want to incorporate more of it into my life.
This feels more difficult to me than it sounds- I can’t really take classes right now because of Covid, so things like pottery (which I love) are out. You might catch me knitting at my house by the end of the year- who knows? But I want to find something just for fun!
5. Spend more time sitting with gratitude.
This is my #1 goal. Gratitude is good for the soul. Countless studies have been conducted on the benefits of having a gratitude practice that are fascinating to me, but it’s important to be consistent and intentional with it, which I’m not always the best with.
I have started a gratitude list that I'm already working on making a daily habit. Each day I list 3 things I have gratitude for and I do my best not to repeat the same thing twice in a month. So, that means I'm coming up with roughly 90 things to have gratitude for each month! I love this idea because it forces you to get very specific and creative to come up with that many things- so you end up looking for gratitude in the small areas of life.
Aligning my heart with the gratitude I have for all the blessings God sees fit to provide me with is a major 2021 goal. It draws me closer to my Creator, it calms my anxious heart, it puts everything into perspective and makes all my relationships so much richer.
2021, if nothing else, is going to be a year filled with gratitude.
I was recently interviewed for a really cool new platform called Shoutout Atlanta. It was an awesome experience and I can't wait to share more about it soon! Their purpose is to highlight local entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and professionals who are active in their communities and working to make a unique difference in any shape and capacity. It was a really cool honor to be a partner with their organization.
The process was unique- they gave you several topics to chose from to discuss. They aren't necessarily dealing with your career, but more general, interesting, life questions. I chose to share about work-life balance because it's so close to the work I do with women every day who are struggling to find happiness and fulfillment in their lives. Here's a bit of the article I wrote for them, and I'm interested if anyone can relate to the ups and downs of finding balance between work and life:
"My work-life balance, even as a mental health professional, hasn't always felt balanced at all. I graduated from undergrad at 20 and grad school by 23- all while working full time in an attempt to keep myself out of student loan debt. I immediately started pursuing my clinical license, additional certifications, working multiple jobs, etc. Somewhere along the way, I had fully bought into the crazy rat race of life and the idea that "I'll sleep when I'm dead" and "the grind never stops." I was totally burned out and didn't even know it.
Then I suddenly moved out of state and, for the first time since I was 16, I couldn't find a job. I was unemployed for about 7 months and I hit a rock bottom with my mental health that I had never known before. I quickly realized that too much of my Self-Worth and identity had been tied to how hard I was working, what I was achieving, and where my career was headed. I had to take a serious look at how to untangle my worth from my work.
After doing some much needed internal work (with a therapist), I began to redefine what drives my Self-Worth, what brings me happiness, and how to live more in the moment. I realized my perfectionist tendencies constantly drove me to work harder (not always necessarily smarter) because overworking myself felt like my way of proving I was "good enough." It has not been an easy journey and doesn't always feel resolved, but I have much better awareness of when my life is off balance based on my anxiety levels about work/my performance and where I am looking for validation. When I start to notice that work is becoming too intrusive, I'm better able to recenter myself and quicker to make (often tough) decisions that get me back on track with what is truly important to me.
How do I think about the balance? I think society tells us having balance is selfish or maybe lazy or, at minimum, isn't feasible. I think most companies want employees to be scared to ask for balance. I think for many folks it doesn't feel like balance is even an option. And I think every single person reading this should reject that idea. My personal growth has empowered me to turn down several 9-5 jobs that I didn't feel would allow me to have the work-life balance I need. It wasn't part of their work culture and I wasn't signing up for that again. Balance has helped me to be more confident in saying "no" when I need to, without guilt or FOMO on opportunity. It has helped me advocate for myself, my family, and my mental health. In fact, it's even pushed me in new ways to make different (more balanced) goals for myself that have paid off fantastically for my career!
Yes, it can be scary, intimidating, and seem impossible, but I think this is one thing that you can't afford not to figure out. And if I can offer one piece of advice- don't try to do it alone. There are people that can help you navigate this- and you deserve it!"
My stomach turned and I wondered how I could email my way out of this. I think if she hadn’t walked out at that exact moment to call me inside (because no waiting rooms during Covid!) I would have bailed.
“When did you know you needed to reach out to a therapist?”
Well...5 minutes before my client was due to arrive in my office, I found myself frantically trying to wipe away tears, fix my mascara, and make it look like I hadn’t just been bawling at my desk. That’s when.
This particular client follows my (professional) IG account and I know she had seen me post earlier that week about the loss of a dear friend, so I’m sure she would have been understanding if she saw me having a moment. In fact, I think it’s important to let clients see that we are human and we don’t have our emotions under control every second of the day. However, we are trained to pack our stuff up and leave it at the door to be fully present with them, and I happen to believe I do it very well. In fact, I love being lost in someone else’s story so that I don’t have to think about mine sometimes.
Here’s the thing: If you are a therapist and you haven’t done your time on the couch yourself, I worry for you. Not every profession requires you to have worn the shoe on the other foot. You don’t have to have experienced a heart attack to be a good cardiologist for example. But with our profession? I think it’s needed. So needed. And I think we are better therapists when we know what that level of vulnerability feels like.
I pulled up psychology today and narrowed down my preferences. I’m fully aware that I only know my preferences because I know all the different options there are. I cannot imagine starting the journey of looking for a therapist without all the knowledge I have. The process is overwhelming.
This unicorn I was looking for didn’t exist, I was being way too picky. In fact, it didn’t populate a single therapist who I didn’t already have a professional relationship with. I had to let go of a couple of my expectations, and eventually landed on a therapist that is in the building next to mine who had an opening next week. Step One: Done.
I spent the next week feeling absolutely silly and crazy. What did I even make the appointment for? There is nothing wrong with me. I shouldn’t need this. I’m actually fine. I don’t really need this. My life is not that bad. I seriously do not want to practice what I preach here.
But nonetheless, I pulled up outside her office on Tuesday (with one minute to spare because I absolutely hate being early for appointments. It gives me anxiety) and I think for a moment “Wow- the people that come to see me are incredibly brave because I 100% don’t want to do this right now.” My stomach turned and I wondered how I could email my way out of this. I think if she hadn’t walked out at that exact moment to call me inside (because no waiting rooms during Covid!) I would have bailed.
She leads me inside and I sit on her couch. I notice things I’m sure most clients don’t. How her chair is positioned closest to the exit for her protection in the event the client (me, right now) becomes violent. How the lighting is too bright in here and I pat myself on the back for the soft lighting I’ve set up in my office. I’m looking for something to tell me I’m not completely vulnerable here and somehow a slight criticism helps? I wonder what clients have criticized me for.
I even notice how she sits, her body language, how hard she is trying to smile from behind her mask to make me feel comfortable. I immediately like her and I’m so relieved. I’ve seen two therapists in the past who I totally ghosted after the first session because I got a bad vibe from. Actually, they were probably perfectly nice, normal, and competent, but I wasn’t ready to be there. One lady exclaimed that my wedding ring was so “purdy” and I immediately wanted to end the session because I didn’t want to connect with her or her country accent. How insanely judgmental we can be when we are uncomfortable with ourselves.
“What brings you in today?” There’s that big, open-ended question where I have to start somewhere when I have no clue where to start. I took the easiest way out and replied, “Because...2020?” She laughed, nodded in understanding, and gave me some validation. I thought back to what I wrote on her intake forms 30 minutes before I arrived (I’m a do-it-at-the-last-minute kinda client) which is for her biopsychosocial, but also to get me thinking about what I want to get out of therapy. The best way I can sum up what is bringing me in today is grief. 2020 has felt like loss after loss for me and the tears at my desk make me think that maybe it has finally caught up to me.
The conversation flowed, but I was ready for the hour to end. I talked about things I didn’t expect to talk about- therapy works that way sometimes. I walked away with a lot to think about and a good feeling about seeing her again.
Reaching out for help is hard. Getting started is hard. Opening up to a stranger is hard. But I know it is worth it. If you have found yourself wanting to do this but a million things have gotten in the way, I encourage you to reach out to me so I can help walk you through the process. I don’t have to be your therapist- I’m happy to help you find the best fit for you somewhere else. But I can certainly be a resource in helping you on this part of the journey.
On the ride home I thought about several of my long-term clients who now walk in and say “OMG JULIE GUESS WHAT HAPPENED??” before they can even sit on my pink couch. They almost can’t wait to fill me in on their lives and they are so excited to share with me. I’m reminded that wasn’t how their first session was either and how long it’s taken for them to get there. And I wonder if one day I will be bouncing into Kristi’s office, ready to share, comfortable enough to cry, able to let her see me. For some reason the thought of that possibility makes me smile :)