Boundaries are a Wonderful Thing

The holidays can be incredibly triggering. There are toxic family members lurking around every corner and “friends” that you have been trying to fade away for entirely too long coming out of the woodwork. You spend all year trying to figure out how to avoid these people, but I am here to talk to you about something that can be super controversial in a civilized society –

You are not required to spend time with anyone that you don’t want to.

Sit with that realization for a minute. Think about all of the moments you’ve spent dreading, agonizing, and worrying about all of your obligations all on in the name of politeness. Think about all of the time that you have spent thinking about everything that you HAVE to do. Stop. You don’t have a voice and a choice, and it’s up to you to use it.  

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Family stuff can feel tremendous and be very hard to deal with. Not all families are safe, and going back home for the holidays can feel enormous. It can trigger very big feelings resulting in a not so joyous holiday. Family does not always equal safe, and not all childhood homes are filled with happy memories. You have permission to say “no” when it comes to seeing your family. You do what YOU want to do. Set your boundaries and make it your choice to spend time with them. By doing this, you take so much of your power back. If you choose to travel to your family’s home, you’ve already set a more positive tone by making it your decision.

Before you go – prepare, prepare, prepare. How long will you stay? Where are you going to sleep? Where can you go if you need to leave? Are public transportation and rideshares (Uber, Lyft) easily accessible? Will you need a car?

Learn to coexist in the same space as your family. You don’t need to feed into any drama, participate in any gossip, or engage in any arguments. Acknowledge that despite a shared history and being genetically linked, you may have nothing in common. Graciously accept this fact and choose to appreciate them for who they are and accept what they never will be. Just because a person isn’t good for you doesn’t make them a bad person. It just makes them not for you, and that’s ok.

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On the other hand, you may have a family member or friend who you share a complicated history with. The same rules apply. It’s not likely that you will get the happy ending that you were hoping for. You are allowed to outgrow a relationship. Appreciate the time you spent together, keep the happy memories, and lovingly let that relationship go.

Honor yourself. No one is going to love you and take care of you better than you. Be conscious of your physical comfort and mental wellbeing. Take breaks – go for a walk, bring a book to read, download some meditation apps, find some AMSR YouTube videos, or get down and play with any kids in your family. If you’re feeling peaceful and playful, the time is so much better spent.

Plan self-care activities and make fun plans for when the holidays are over. Treat yourself to a massage, manicure, or even a luxury spa day. Plan a fun night out (or in!) with your people. Take that class you’ve had your eye on or finally start that side-hustle you’ve been thinking about. You spent so much time focused on surviving its time to move on to what is going to get you to thrive!

The Beauty of Failure

I can’t imagine how boring my life would be if I never failed at anything. My biggest mistakes are so integral to my story and woven into the fabric of my being that I am confident that I wouldn’t have much of my success or be the incredible human that I am without them.

Failing is hard, and it sucks. It brings up all kinds of big feelings – shame, embarrassment, anxiety, sadness, disappointment, and anger, but Learning to cope with these feelings is necessary to move forward. Lucky for me, I’m a therapist and have no shortage of skills to help me move past my big feelings. Once we’re able to build healthy coping skills to deal with the emotions, we can sashay past them and get to the part where we learn the beautiful lessons and create a brilliant new path.

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There is a way to make this failing thing graceful. You own it and appreciate it. You don’t hold on to it or get all cringey when you think about it. It doesn’t define you or make you who you are, but it is a part of your story. You need to feel all of your big, uncomfortable feelings rather than try to escape them. This will empower you to work harder to find a better, more beautiful path than the one you were on. Feelings are temporary. Embrace them – even the shitty ones. You will be okay.

 

Develop healthy coping skills to move past the big, bad feelings. Things like practicing self- care, going for a walk, calling a friend, working out, a yoga class – anything that is going to help you to cope with what is happening without escaping your reality. Coping skills are personal, find something that works for you. Failure is neither all of your fault or none of your fault, so take a good hard look at what happened. Playing the blame game will prevent you from growing and learning. Look for explanations rather than excuses. Focus on what you can do differently next time.

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The idea of failing is scary and typically prevents us from even taking a chance. I have about a million things that I’ve avoided because I was afraid it wouldn’t be successful. At some point, I decided that I wanted to be the kind of person who didn’t want to live with any regrets or unknowns, so I’m putting myself out there just like I’m encouraging you to do.

How boring your life would be if only you were defined by your beauty! You are far more interesting because you fell on your face. Your scars tell the world that you are fierce. That you survived and thrived. You climbed your way out of a hole and made it fabulous. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed about where you’ve been. Meet them eye to eye and proudly share the tales of all of your significant fuck-ups. They have taught you the most valuable lessons that you will ever learn and have shaped you into the powerhouse you are today.

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

Today is my birthday!!! It is my New Year. It’s when I sit and reflect on the year behind me and focus on my goals, intentions, and plans for the coming year. Today, I want to have pancakes, watch my favorite movies, and work on my vision board. In honor of my birthday, let’s talk about what it means to be yourself and how to get comfortable in your skin.

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I have a tough time taking criticism. I think this is in part because I’m sensitive and partly because I have yet to meet someone who can provide useful feedback in a productive way. It’s because of this that I’ve flown under the radar for so long. If I wasn’t calling attention to myself, then no one can get to me.

My personal social media pages are pretty sparse, and no one I know follows my professional Instagram. As a matter of fact, when my IG started to grow, I got a little overwhelmed, and I actively avoided it, scared of the possibilities.

It took me a long time to get comfortable with taking up space in this world. I needed to be satisfied with who I am, what I believed, what I stood for, in my skills and my knowledge. I am never going to be the smartest or best, but no one has the heart and soul that I do. My level of empathy runs deep, and I go above and beyond for my community.

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I’m happy with where I am and so grateful beyond words for the life that I have. I’m primarily focused on the next 6 -12 months as I am getting married, starting this blogging adventure, and continuing to build my therapy practice. I’ve never been one to sit still for very long, but I am entering this season of life where I crave routine and stability.

Getting comfortable with who you are, takes time and a lot of work. No listicle is going to give you all of the answers but here are a few things to try –

  1. Stop seeking validation from others. Stop with the thirst traps on Insta and attention-seeking Facebook posts. The amount of likes and followers that you have does not measure your worth as a person. Practice self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love.
  2. Work on your shit. You’ve been dealing with your issues for way too long, and it’s time to move forward. Digging up all of your dirt is really hard and a lot of work but, I promise, it is better than dragging your unresolved emotional baggage all over town.
  3. Stop worrying about what people think about you. What people think about you is none of your business. I know that this one is tough, but think about it this way – what a person thinks about you is more about them than you. It reflects their experiences and interactions with you and everyone that came before you. For most of the people you come across, they have minimal information about you, so their opinion is useless anyway.
  4. Practice gratitude. I already have a whole post about gratitude so I won’t harp on this point at all.

I am more comfortable and confident than I’ve ever been. I worry less about what people think about me and worry more about how I can make sure you don’t care about what anyone thinks of you. I no longer have a desire to hide behind others. I want my voice to be heard. I have so much to say. I’m so glad that you found me and look forward to forming this little community that is developing!!

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The Power of Gratitude

With the holidays coming up, I thought that this was the perfect time to talk about gratitude. It is so easy to slip into a negative space and think about everything we DON’T have. We’re busting our asses 40 hours a week, side hustling, plotting, and planning, only to have to pay so much in student loans, high rents, childcare, and medical costs. No wonder it takes so much effort to see the bright side of things. Rather than getting all complainy, let’s challenge ourselves to appreciate everything that we have.

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for everything that you have and all that we receive. It is strongly and consistently associated with increased life satisfaction and happiness. We have one day a year where we go around the table and discuss what we are thankful for. But what if we made this a regular practice?

Thanksgiving stylish table setting in new season colours, blush pink and white.Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, enjoy experiences, improve their health, manage challenges, and build meaningful relationships, just to name a few. The benefits are practically endless. People who practice gratitude are happier and experience more love and enthusiasm. They are better able to cope with negative feelings like frustration, disappointment, and anger.

Grateful people experience more joy, love, and enthusiasm, and they enjoy protection from destructive emotions like envy, greed, and bitterness. Gratitude also reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, and it helps people managing those challenges to heal and find closure. Practicing gratitude is one of those miracle practices that completely shifts your mindset.

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It’s no secret in my circle – I’m not a fan of constant complaining. I struggle with wasting our most valuable resource – time -by bitching and moaning rather than focusing on a solution or in what ways we can grow from the experience. I love a good vent session, but then it’s time to move on. I put together a list of ways to experience and practice gratitude. Some are pretty obvious and typical, but others allow you to take a conscious step outside of yourself in the moment which is the most empowering way to promote change and growth within

  1. Wish everyone around you a good morning.
  2. Notice and appreciate the beauty in nature each day.
  3. Make a conscious choice not to gossip or badmouth anyone.
  4. When you have a negative thought or find yourself about to complain, consciously stop yourself and shift to try to see the positive side in the situation.
  5. Commit to one day a week when you won’t complain about anything.
  6. If someone does something kind for you – pay it forward.
  7. Say thank you for the little things and the big things your loved ones do for you, things you might typically take for granted.
  8. Embrace your challenges and turn them into opportunities to learn and grow.
  9. Send love to people who you don’t get along with.
  10. Be thankful when you learn something new.
  11. Appreciate the growth opportunity in your mistakes.
  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Jot down all that you’re grateful for every day.

 

Every night, I recite the following (out loud and to no one in particular) to express my gratitude for the beautiful life that I live:

“I am so grateful for this incredible life that I get to live. I am in awe of the beauty of the world around me. Today, I am grateful for –

  1. The roof over my head.
  2. The food in my belly.
  3. The family that loves me unconditionally and supports me endlessly.
  4. My fiancé who supports me, understands me, makes me laugh uncontrollably, and loves me fiercely.
  5. Every person who I crossed paths with today – whether they assisted me, challenged me, or didn’t even notice me.
  6. My job that allows me to continue to be there for people when they need it the most and mentor others trying to make a difference.
  7. My niece and nephew who make my heart feel like it is going to overflow with love and happiness.”

Get Organized and Improve your Mental Health

When someone comes to me and tells me that they are looking to improve their outlook on life, the first assignment I give them is to clean out their closets. I know it’s annoying and frustrating that something so simple can be so powerful, but I stand by the impact getting organized can have. If your feeling out of sorts, out of control, or like you need a significant change, start by clearing out the junk, tossing the clothes that don’t fit or you don’t wear, and organize your space so you can quickly access your garments, shoes, and purses. White hangers on pastel pink background

When we’re surrounded by clutter, piles of laundry, and countless projects, it significantly impacts our mood, attitude, and overall mental health. You’re surrounded by a real-life, in-your-face to-do list that you can’t seem to manage.

Once your space is in order, it gives you an instant boost of pride and self-satisfaction that helps you to feel more confident and capable. You have slain the clutter dragon and should feel empowered! You’ve also set the stage to dramatically improve critical areas of your life that you probably didn’t even consider.

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  • Your relationship will improve – I know how crazy this bullet point is, but I swear I’m not bullshitting you. Clutter creates conflict. There is shame and embarrassment surrounding having a mess, which can create an emotional boundary between you and your partner. Decluttering gives you space and energy to focus on your relationship.
  • You will experience reduced stress – Less mess equals less stress. Ruminating over all of the things you need to get done but can’t ever seem to get done is a stress inducer. Clutter is a constant reminder of everything that you’re not doing and can quickly make you feel like you’re failing. Clearing your space allows you to relax your mind and body and decompress from other stressors in your life.
  • Your sleep will improve – Your more relaxed at home because the piles of shit have been cleared out. You’re able to relax without feeling guilt or shame. Creating a habit of making your bed and washing your sheets makes luxuriating in bed so much more attractive.
  • You will make healthier choices – Your space is looking gorgeous, which means that you’re feeling beautiful on the inside. You’ll want to keep this momentum going by making more mindful choices about your health.
  • Eases your symptoms of anxiety and depression – If you’re one of the millions of people living with anxiety or depression then you know that clutter and mess can exacerbate your symptoms and make you feel like things are even more out of control than they are.  I don’t want to mislead you into thinking that organizing your space will miraculously make your depression and anxiety go away. It won’t. Take a deep breath and start one step at a time. Do what you can when you feel like you can and it will definitely help you.

Dressing closet with pink clothes arranged on hangers and shelf.YouTube: Get Organized and Improve Your Mental Health

This task is simple enough, but the real challenge comes with keeping it that way. Keeping your space organized frees up your time and energy to focus on what is most important to you and has a real impact on your overall quality of life. Focus on small projects at a time. Anything longer than an hour or so will leave you feeling overwhelmed and depleted.

Being organized doesn’t have to take a ton of time or effort. Don’t worry about being perfect or getting everything done all at once. Focus one eliminating items that no longer serve you and removing distractions. Stay consistent in your efforts, and you will notice significant changes in no time. Modern wooden wardrobe with clothes

I’m really doing this.

Welcome, Dear New Friend,
I’m Dana. I wear a lot of hats in life, but the one I get the most intense response to is when I tell people that I’m a therapist. I do therapy things. I work in mental health. I lead with this as a description of myself mostly because I feel like it gives me the most credibility. I do something meaningful that required education and THOUSANDS of training hours and people generally either think that’s cool or are afraid that I’m analyzing them. This doesn’t make me a more qualified human, but it gives me a different perspective.
Sometimes being a therapist is like a superpower and sometimes it really interferes with my desire to blindly rage. I prefer vulnerability over curated perfection. New friends, I am not perfect. Let me say that again for those of you in the back – I’m not perfect. I’m bored by the idea of perfection and with pretending that life is supposed to look a certain way.  My reality shines infinitely more fiercely than anything I can dream up as a content creator.
I’ve got a lot to say about some things, and I’m excited that I finally decided to do this. I mostly keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t like being told my business or subject myself to a forum in which I can be criticized in any way.  I mean, who in their right mind wants to be bullied on the internet? I’m in awe of the people who are able to manage that aspect of their lives and really wish that we could do better as a community of people.
Recently, I had my very first Instagram troll, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought – but it was only one out of many potential jerks trying to tell me that I’m wrong. I’ve been resistant to putting it all out there because I don’t want to be told that I’m wrong or to have my mistakes pointed out because someone needed to make themselves feel better. I think I have a lot of valuable things to share and it’s time that I do that.
Life is already so messy and complicated, and while I haven’t figured it all out yet, I have life experiences and a career that make me somewhat of an “expert” on life. I mean, as much as anyone can be an expert on life. I’ve felt like I’m on top of the world and I’ve felt like a crumb. I’ve felt like I was kicking ass and taking names at this life thing and then I’ve not wanted to get up out of bed for days.
When I was a teenager, and grown-ups would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, in my brain, I would always say “Happy.” I feel like the topic of happiness deserves its own separate post, but I also think that gives you some insight into who and what you’re dealing with here. It’s always important to know what you’re getting yourself into.
I don’t really want to talk exclusively about therapy and mental health things here, but since it’s a part of me, there is no way to escape it. This is more about life and what we’re all doing to just flourish in it. I, for one, am sick and tired of complaining about nothing and continuing to allow myself to live in a negative headspace. There is this whole beautiful, amazing, sunshiny world out there and I am determined to thrive in it.
I don’t know more than anyone, and I’m never the smartest in the room. I know different things than you and you know different things than me. I love to hear from people with different perspectives.
I’ve spent a good number of years walking this Earth in search of SOMETHING bigger than me. For years, I’ve had this feeling in my chest that feels like a cross between fire and anticipation. I can’t ever seem to find what it is that I’m looking for, but here I am, ready to search and maybe even just create the damn thing myself.
Full disclaimer, beautiful people – everything that I say is my opinion, personal belief, or experience. Absolutely nothing here should be used as a substitution for obtaining mental health services. I am always happy to provide resources on where help can be found.