All of us have a unique relationship to our emotional response to the messiness of life. Read the following behaviors and consider which relate to your current habits.
Before your inner shame troll starts to yell at you for having any of these emotional responses, know that all of these responses are natural and protective. These ways of coping often began to form when you were very young. It's important to know that even though these responses have a positive intention (often a sense of safety and control) overtime they can limit your ability to access your authentic expression and therefore your authentic enjoyment in this messy life. The benefit of releasing these old ways of coping with difficult emotions and experiences is so you can release the stress that gets blocked in your mind and body. When the stress accrues overtime, you may find yourself going through periods of despair, hopelessness, and/or hyper vigilance. You can learn new ways to break current and conditioned emotional responses and move towards authentic expression and integration.
In order to develop a lifestyle that supports your well-being and authentic expression, begin seeking environments where your vulnerability can be experienced nonjudgmentally, safely, and compassionately.
If your current environments or relationships do not provide that for you, (and you don't see that changing anytime soon) it may be time to find a support group, a therapist or a coach to explore your authentic expression. We are relational creatures that require loving relationships to access healing.
There is hope that the relationship to your emotions can evolve.
When you develop more resources to feel and process your emotions, you will find yourself accessing more vibrancy and fulfillment in your daily life. Not only will you be able to tolerate and honor the challenging emotions but you will also be able to stay present with the more enjoyable emotions more and more often... that sounds pretty dang good to me :)
Tis the holiday season and one thing that often coincides with the holiday cheer is the holiday stress of having to navigate interactions with individuals that choose to focus on your weight and appearances as a social buffer.
The prevalence of diet culture marketing and normalization makes it hard to see any possible reasons why we shouldn't be commenting on weight and appearance, but there are plenty. Comments such as "Wow you look so good, did you lose weight?" or "I heard you have been going to yoga. Good for you for getting in shape!" may be said with good intention but it’s time we break this social norm and bring in more supportive ways of connecting and relating to one another.
Next time you consider making weight or appearance comments without having an intimate understanding of that individuals story consider this...
Here are three alternative questions you can ask instead of commenting on someone’s weight.
You have the capacity to support the shift of cultural norms to create a more just, loving, and inclusive atmosphere. Start this holiday seasons by sharing this blog post with someone who may be open to a new perspective.
If you were to write out all your thoughts down on an average day, would the majority of your self-talk be positive, neutral, or negative?
Negative self-talk is so common for so many that it isn't even considered problematic. Perhaps it is even recognized as an appropriate response to your actions.
What if I told you that pervasive negative self-talk is a detriment to your ability to accomplish tasks and experience sustained well-being.
Would you believe me if I told you that compassionate self-talk is an accessible daily practice you can do to reduce pervasive negative self-talk?
Imagine what your life would look like if the majority of your thoughts become compassionate, kind, and motivating.
Now, try to imagine what our world would look like if the majority of people experienced thoughts that were compassionate, kind, and motivating.
Is it a world worth creating?
Dr. David Burns created a list of 10 common cognitive distortions, which he named Twisted Thinking. These twisted thoughts lead us to believe that our negative experiences are true.¹ When you begin to recognize these thoughts as twisted you can start to do the work of untwisting them so that you can give yourself appropriate self-care.
The process looks like this:
Use the guide below to begin to incorporate more compassionate, kind, and motivating thoughts and self-care practices into your daily life. You deserve it!
Definitions, Examples, and Alternatives
All or Nothing Thinking is looking at situations in absolutes. You put things in black-and-white categories.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I never accomplish my goals. I am always going to fail! I might as well give up, and binge watch tv for the rest of the week.”
Try to replace it with this, “That was not the success I was hoping for, but I did do ______ pretty well. I am going to rest, watch my favorite show, and then reevaluate a new plan to achieve my goals.”
Over-generalization is viewing a negative situation/event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “My body is always sore. I am terrified that I have a muscle or neurological defect!”
Try to replace it with this, “My body is sore, I am going to take a warm shower, take a break from high-intensity workouts for the rest of the week, and then see it how it feels after.”
Mental Filter is when you ignore all the positives and only focus on the negatives.
When your first thought sounds something likes this, “I am so gross, ugly, and undeserving of love.”
Try to replace it with this, “All humans are inherently worthy, and that includes me, what are a few things I feel grateful for today?”
Discounting the Positives is a similar distortion where you insist that your accomplishments or positive attributes do not matter/count.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I was just lucky that I passed that class and graduated from college.”
Try to replace it with this, “A few things I learned that helped me finish assignments and study for tests include…”
Jumping to conclusions is when you conclude that everything is bad without having any evidence. This includes assuming that people are reacting negatively towards you (mind-reading) and predicting that things are going to turn out badly (fortune-telling)
When your first thought sounds something like this, “Everyone is looking at my funny, they must think I am so stupid.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am going to ask a friend or teacher for feedback after my presentation to see where I can improve.”
Magnification or Minimization is when you blow things out of proportion or make them seem less important.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “It’s okay that I didn’t eat dinner the past few nights, it’s just a meal.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am going to spend 15 minutes meal planning for the next week because I don’t want to make a habit of skipping meals.”
Emotional Reasoning is when you over-identify with your feelings at the moment.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I feel so hopeless, I must not be worthy of joy.”
Try to replace it with this, “Even though I am struggling with feeling hopeless right now, I acknowledge that this feeling will not last forever. Just like there was a time I didn’t feel hopeless, there will be a time in my future when I no longer feel hopeless.”
Should Statements is when you criticize yourself or others with “shoulds,” “shouldn'ts,” and, “musts.”
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I should do all the things on my to-do list, and if I don’t I am not healthy.”
Try to replace it with this, “I could do the things on my list today, but, instead, I am going to take it easy today and pick one thing from the list that is most approachable/enjoyable.”
Labeling is when you define yourself by a behavior.
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I ate all those Oreos today, I am disgusting.”
Try to replace it with this, “I am feeling gross because I decided to eat all those Oreos. I am going to call a friend to release some stress and eat a balanced dinner because my body is always deserving of a meal.”
Blame is when you take responsibility for something that you were not entirely responsible for
When your first thought sounds something like this, “I have no self-control and am incapable of reaching my goals.”
Try to replace it with this, “What are some external factors that are making it hard to reach my goals?”
The hope is that with the increased awareness of Twisted Thinking and the practice of compassionate self-talk, you will begin to see a positive transformation in your self-care practices. When you take proper care of yourself, you may also begin to see improved clarity of purpose, passions, and relationships.
So go! Be gentle and kind to yourself on your journey. Set the intention to unconditionally love and accept yourself even as you struggle, fumble, and fail. You are deserving of quality self-care, everyday, regardless of how you look or feel.
A common misconception around healthy eating pertains to the quantity of food an individual needs to consume on any given day. This often occurs because we have been misled by diet culture to ask the wrong question.
Consider the difference between these two questions:
We have to navigate messages everyday that suggest weight loss is equivalent to improved well-being so it is no wonder why most people default to the second question rather then the first!
Asking the question, "what does my body need to consume to lose weight" leads people to adopt behaviors such as calorie tracking and excessive exercise, and unfortunately, long term dissatisfaction with body size and food preoccupation. One study even showed that women, on average, go on a diet 130 times in their life! 😳
It is common for individuals that are not under the directive of a physician or dietician to be consuming between 1000-1800 kcals per day.
I was eating this way for YEARS, largely because a phone app and an online influencer told me it was how to be healthier. I truly believed that I was eating in alignment with my body's needs and yet my health and quality of life steadily declined. I, like many others, was misinformed and misled by diet culture.
When you are underfed, your body's regulatory systems becomes malfunctioning which can lead to...
Frankly, I don't care what that one influencer on Tiktok has to say about skipping breakfast or the app that tells you that white rice is bad... I want you to EAT! I want your stress hormones to regulate! I want you to enjoy meal time! I want you to feel liberated mind, body, and soul! I want you to stop feeling like you are doing everything "right" yet still feel like sh*t! I want you to be well nourished 🎉🤤🍲
It's time more people hear about diet culture deception so that they can be guided towards supportive health behaviors and mindsets. It's time we start nourishing our bodies with nutrient and calorically dense meals so that all of our cells can thrive and perform optimally.
So how much can I eat?!
If you download any diet tracking app, they will suggest a low calorie diet for your body type, simply based on your weight and your height, but friends, they have this equation all WRONG.
To be honest, I don't know how many calories your body needs today.
But guess what... Neither does that app on your phone!
Your body is complex; the amount of environmental and genetic factors that contribute to your unique caloric needs creates a complicated equation that you simply don't have to figure out.
All you need to do is start eating.
Pay attention to your satisfaction and satiation signals, consistently eat a variety of food groups everyday, and eat more than you think you "should" be eating.
Another supportive tip is to find hobbies, activities, and pleasurable experiences to engage with that are unrelated to food and diet. Food preoccupation will not help you in your nourishment journey.
Set boundaries with yourself around when to think about meals (ex. planning/grocery shopping/meal prep) and when to eat meals/snacks. When it is not those times and you find yourself thinking about food, redirect yourself to other thoughts and connect back to your current environment.
For some people, caloric tracking becomes a coping skill that helps them gain a sense of control amidst an environment that seems chaotic or unpleasant. If this is your story, let me break down some steps you can take to release this habit.
Lastly, if you have been underfeeding yourself for awhile, it will take time for your body to regulate and trust that it is no longer at risk of famine/starvation mode. There is some great literature out there to support individuals on this weight-neutral and health-focused wellness journey.
See if you can find any of them at your local library or bookstore:
Body Respect by Lindo Bacon
Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison
The F*ck it Diet by Caroline Dooner
You are not alone on this journey. You are loved, worthy, and enough. I am here to support you if you have questions or insights as you walk your unique path.
This month, I want to shine some light and love on the Health at Every Size model (HAES). I will be giving a digital presentation with the official HAES curriculum on August 14th, check out this link to learn more and sign up.
I am so excited to share this enriching and inclusive perspective on health and wellness. This curriculum will support you in releasing food preoccupation, body dissatisfaction, and stress while guiding you towards inner peace, self-acceptance, resiliency, and health.
I was browsing through Barnes & Noble magazine ailes, casually enjoying the variety of topics, pictures, and illustrations on display when I came across the food and health section of the display. I couldn't help but roll my eyes and grow firey with frustration reading the messages that were propagandized, such as,
THE BEST FLAT BELLY FOODS
BURN FAT, LOOK GREAT, & NEVER FEEL HUNGRY
JIGGLY FAT DISSOLVES
Media and advertising play a huge yet often unrecognized role in how we shape our beliefs and values. The American writer and advocate Jean Kilbourne, who is known for her research in advertising and its connection to major problems in society such as addiction and mental health disorders, shares that...
“We are each exposed to over 3000 ads a day. Yet, remarkably, most of us believe we are not influenced by advertising. Ads sell a great deal more than products. They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be. Sometimes they sell addictions.” - Jean Kilbourne
A critical part of your wellness journey will be to develop discernment because, unfortunately, there are a lot of wolves in sheep's clothing in the health and wellness industry.
If we do not challenge the dominant messages, they may lead us to unconsciously adopt self-limiting and self-deprecating beliefs that become some of our GREATEST hurdles to actualizing our health and wellness goals.
For example, if we believe that hunger is the enemy of health and well-being, as some of these ads suggest, we would spend many parts of our day falling into fear, frustration, and shame cycles. If instead we recognize that hunger is a naturally occuring and healthy cue that our beautifully designed human regulation system gives us then we will welcome the experience as a guide to peace, relaxation, and fulfillment.
Developing discernment is a radical act of self-care.
So how does one take the steps towards becoming more discerning? I propose these five simple steps that can support this process. Next time you notice yourself criticizing your body or shaming yourself for not doing xyz, take these steps...
Despite what those ads may have you think, you are worthy, loved, and enough just as you are in this moment. I wish you well as you practice the art of discernment as a self-care practice.
Just the other day I began packing up my bookshelf to get ready for my upcoming summer vacation and move to Maui. I was reminiscing on all the different chapters of my life that led me to read these books. I find it amazing how books offer us an affordable inside look into some of the greatest minds, thinkers, and creatives.
I have decided to load up on books this summer to complement my free time. I invite you to join me and read along whichever one sounds supportive of your current phase of life.
Whether you are an avid reader or just wanting to explore a new past-time, in this blog post I am sharing with you my summer reading list.
I have organized the books by the different dimensions of wellness. I referred to these eight dimensions in my January blog post, check out here. In brief, our health is determined by an interconnection of eight dimensions:
The act of reading is in itself an intellectual exercise because of the combination of critical thinking, analyzing, interpreting, and integrating required as you read along. Many of these books fall under a few dimensions of health but I have highlighted each one with respect to the dominant theme(s).
I welcome hearing from you if you add any of them to your reading list :)
This first book hits multiple dimensions of wellness for me, but I am choosing to highlight it in the physical & emotional category.
Physical & Emotional: The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy
Dieting and restriction weight loss takes a HUGE toll on our physical and emotional well-being, and despite the influences, many of us grew up receiving, the toll is not for the better.
I will be interning at an eating disorder treatment center next school year and this book was recommended by another clinician in the clinic. I have already read the first chapter and highly recommend you pick this read up for this summer. It is easy to read and packed with support.
It may just be the catalyst you need for lasting change and well-being.
What to expect when reading this book?
Support and scientific evidence about why dieting never has and never will work as a long-term health care solution AND the hope that is possible when you get yourself out of a famine state (restriction, reduced calorie, fear-driven eating).
Here is an excerpt from the book about how your daily life may look when you commit to feeding and nourishing yourself without restriction:
If this sounds far-fetched and impossible to you, know that, I too, struggled with believing food freedom was a possibility for me, yet I stand here today confident that it is possible because of my recovery from disordered eating. I pray for all of this and more for your eating experience moving forward. Buy your copy now: The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy
Spiritual: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
When I am feeling depleted, lost, hopeless, or confused I find respite in the poetry of Mary Oliver. She speaks truths of our common humanity so effortlessly while also weaving in the magic of the mundane. I am looking forward to keeping this book on my nightstand this summer and spending mornings meditating on the pure wisdom of her words. Purchase your copy here: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Environmental A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
Our nation and our world have a long way to go to recover from the injustices of the past that are still creating negative health outcomes in marginalized communities.
This book seems to be a powerhouse of information about the injustices that have and are affecting communities of color and those living in poverty. To grow as a nation and global community, we must get honest with ourselves about what has happened so that we can create effective solutions.
Purchase this book with me if you are ready to understand the HUGE role environment plays on one's well-being and how we can fight for justice in our communities. Buy your copy now: A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
Social/Relational: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Brene Brown has been one of my role models for several years now. I have enjoyed many of her videos and podcasts, and so I am thrilled to dive deeper into her written work. This book is one of her best sellers. In it, she breaks down how to live a wholehearted life. When are living a wholehearted life, our relationships with others can flourish with genuine love and respect. Buy your copy now to read along with me: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Occupational: Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
We use the term burn out A LOT in the social work profession. Likely because we are asked to be the frontline support for the various crises, which takes a toll on one's well-being. I have experienced various stages of burnout in the past year as a second-year graduate student and know I am not alone in this stress cycle.
I heard about this book in Brene Brown's podcast, Unlocking Us. She had a great conversation with the authors of the book who happen to be two sisters. I was wooed by their message of resilience and compassionate boundary holding. I know this book is going to be full of great information about proactive stress-relief practices. Buy your copy here: Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
Financial: The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness
Most people cruise through life with little insight into how their behaviors are impacted by their core beliefs. Even though these core beliefs drive our daily choices and lifestyles, most people let them stay in the unconscious. When our daily choices or lifestyles begin to feel misaligned with what we want or need, it may be time to explore those core beliefs. I am fascinated by psychology and the stories that make up people's way of life. I have studied this topic of wealth, greed, and happiness and so I am excited to lean into this book. Perhaps I may uncover more about my personal financial blocks and beliefs. Buy your copy here: The Psychology of Money: Timeless lessons on wealth, greed, and happiness
Leave a comment or send me a message to let me know if you will be reading any of these books along with me this summer!
Licensed Massage Therapist & Wellness Coach
If you have worked with me for any amount of time, you likely have heard me refer to the "wellness journey." I want you to walk away from this blog post with more clarity about this phrase and a feeling of commitment to your personal wellness journey.
To be on a wellness journey is to have daily encounters with choices that will impact your overall well-being. Everyone is on this journey, but only some choose to be conscious, intentional, and self-aware of their choices. Some days will be filled with positive choices for your well-being and yet on other days those choices feel so out of reach. When you embrace the ebbs and flows of this process, you are stepping into your unique wellness journey instead of a prefabricated definition of what wellness looks like.
My favorite metaphor for this journey is the labyrinth.
While many of us wish there was a quick fix or a strait and narrow path towards well-being, the truth is being human is complex and the sooner we embrace our complex nature, the sooner we can enjoy it.
A labyrinth is like a maze full of intricate pathways. Unlike a maze, the labyrinth does not have dead ends or deceitful paths. You enter from the outside and step by step you will make your way to the center. Navigating the journey through the labyrinth requires your patience and commitment. You may feel disoriented or like you are moving farther away from your goals with each step, but, if you stay committed, the labyrinth will always bring you one step closer to the center.
Begin to consider your wellness journey as a labyrinth.
It is intricate and mysterious and uniquely yours to walk.
It is on this journey you will come to learn what works for you.
You will come to understand why you developed behaviors and habits during one part of your journey, only for them to have no place in the next leg of the journey.
Some examples of behaviors and habits that may have once served you but may no longer serve you in your journey to the center of the labyrinth include perfectionism, restricting or bingeing foods, high-intensity jobs and relationships, yo-yo dieting, information overloading, criticism and judgement, over-analyzing, abusing substances, numbing or distraction from emotional experience, pessimism, or dissociating.
We adopt these behaviors in an effort to help ourselves feel well given the resources available at the time but eventually, we find that we can gain new resources that will lead us closer to the center of the labyrinth.
At a certain point, you must listen and trust your own inner guidance.
It may be scary and confusing letting go of the rules or behaviors that have helped you navigate the paths in the beginning, but in order to open up the pathways to the center, you must commit to deep honoring and listening.
The poem below by Mary Oliver illuminates this turning point. It takes self-awareness and self-discipline to decide if you are at the point of your wellness journey to dive deep and discover your innate wisdom.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you want support on this wellness journey. Recognizing behaviors that are holding your back can be confusing and scary. My experience has shaped me to be a nurturing guide for others. Together we will discover what may be holding you back and what resources you need to be empowered to move closer to the center of your labyrinth.
Many people suppress or deny their emotional experience because they have not been taught how to experience and incorporate them in such a way that improves their relationship to self, others, and the world. I have been reading from Bill Plotkin's book Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche and I came across a teaching that I believe will be valuable to us all: The Four Steps of Emotional Assimilation.
Western cultures suggest that the rational as the superior human experience while emotional experiences are inferior. The truth is that when you learn how to celebrate and honor situations that stir an emotional reaction, whether you perceive them as a negative emotion or a positive emotion, you can develop a richer and fuller life experience.
Begin to see every emotion is a teacher and a support to live in alignment with your mind, body, and spirit's true expression.
If you were not given the chance to learn how to express and incorporate your emotional experience as a child, now is the opportunity to learn how to let your emotions serve you and your relationships. It is never too late to invest in your emotional intelligence.
Bill Plotkin's describes his work in relation to the four cardinal directions, but for this blog I will not be going into depth about the associations with each direction.
The South. Experience the emotion as it is expressed through your body. Emotions are experienced mentally as well as somatically so allow the emotion to express itself in your hands, face, core, legs, voice, posture, etc. Do not interpret here, simply let the physical expression take place.
The West. Ask yourself what this emotion is suggesting about yourself? What values, boundaries, expectations, needs, wants, and desires might you have? Be curious and self-compassionate as you reflect.
The North. Share your emotion to others using nonviolent and compassionate communication (word and action) so that you can establish balance in your social world again or celebrate what is already going well.
The East. Reflect on how this emotional experience fits in with your bigger picture life story. Know that by being apart the collective humanity, you are never alone in this wild adventure of being human.
It's never too late to invest in your emotional intelligence
Here is a brief example of a situation in which one might go through the four steps of emotional assimilation...
Situation preceding emotional reaction: A woman gets cut-off while driving.
Step 1: She experiences a visceral reaction, an urge to curse, grip her hands tightly on the wheel, followed by a trembling in her hands and mouth. She allows both to be expressed and brings an awareness to both.
Step 2: She reflects on how she expects drivers to contribute to a safe experience on the road and was angered because she felt like the driver put herself and her passengers in danger when they cut off her off.
Step 3: She shares with her passenger how scared and angry that experience made her feel and asks if they need anything to feel comfortable again.
Step 4: She recognizes that she responded appropriately overall and was glad her anger didn't put anyone else in danger because that is not aligned with her values.
When the majority of the people in the world learn how to experience and respond to their emotional process, we will have more harmony and collective healing. Let me know if you found this to be a helpful tool. I always love hearing from you :)
Licensed Massage Therapist & Wellness Coach
The concept of the 5 love languages has revolutionized how we talk to our romantic partners about our intimacy needs, but have you explored how this concept can make a difference in your relationship with yourself?
The 5 love languages is a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman. He was motivated to help couples understand one another better and communicate their intimacy needs. There are quizzes available for you to understand how you give and receive love based on the 5 love languages: Take the Quiz!
Soon after I learned about the five love languages, I began thinking about how this concept applies to a wide range of relationships, not only romantic partners. Sure enough, as the five languages grew in popularity, more and more quizzes, articles, and books became available to relate the five love languages to various relationships (parent/child, friendships, adolescents, etc). My favorite ways to apply the love languages with my self-care and self-love routines.
One of my dearest friends and mentor taught me the saying, “you cannot pour from an empty cup.” This resonated on such a deep level because it was my tendency for so long to please and prioritize others' well-being before my own. It's paradoxical what happens when you prioritize yourself... you'll inherently want to give back graciously and generously to those in your life.
So how do you ensure your cup remains filled?
Reflect on the five love languages and consider which one helps you feel most at ease or energized. Take note that the love language you have for yourself may be different than the one you prefer with your partner or other relationships. I have created five lists of things to do in relation to each love language. Check them out and see which list excites you most!
The five love languages, applied to the self include:
Physical Touch: Things that help your physical body feel good and experience pleasure. Words of Affirmation: Having access to words of encouragement and support. Acts of Service: Finding things that bring more ease to your daily routine.
Receiving Gifts: Spending money on things that bring you joy or creating things for yourself just for fun. Quality Time: Spending time alone doing activities that you enjoy.
Sometimes the best way to fill your cup is calling up a friend to go on a hike, facetiming family members, organizing a date night, hosting a dinner party, etc. That is why the practice of self-love is a journey. As you get to know yourself better and commit to developing your self-awareness, you will know what kind of love you need at any given moment. Now how to ask and assert your needs is a matter for a different blog post. Until next time...
Wellness Coach & Massage Therapist