My Boyfriend Broke Up With Me…. and I'm Thankful.

In middle school, I desperately wished for a relationship. Each night, I would kneel next to my bed and pray for a boyfriend. “I just want to know what it feels like,” I would tell my God. “I don’t care if it ends. I just want to know what it’s like.” Tears would well in my eyes, and my nose would start to burn. At the time, low self esteem made me believe that having no romantic partner meant that I was unlovable.

Male suitors sprouted as I approached high school, but I worried that my previous prayers had been too selfish and had cursed my love life. I felt frustrated by how fleeting my admiration seemed. I would get bored or restless after a month or two and no longer wish to be tethered down by superficial romance. When these relationships ended, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Long term boyfriends eventually came and, usually traumatically, went. That felt more difficult. The more attached I became to a person, the harder the cut. I had an incredibly difficult time letting go of the people I loved, which led to turbulent off and on relationships involving me begging to make things work and then feeling worthless when the relationship continued to crumble. As each relationship throughout my young adulthood came to an end, I became more and more negatively affected by my perceived inability to keep a boyfriend.

When my depression worsened in my mid-twenties, my self hatred made dating even less bearable. I often found myself shying away from physical touch and emotional connection. I hated texting. I hated first dates. I hated when people talked to me and hated even more when people attempted to flirt with me. I was jaded and trying to resolve my loneliness through one night stands, and I became a professional at “ghosting.” I was also afraid to get hurt, and I thought the easiest way to avoid disappointment was to take myself out of the game altogether.

About a year ago, I began my wellness journey. I started exercising, went to therapy, medicated my depression. I ate healthy and made active efforts to do things that made me happy. My self worth and self esteem increased dramatically, and I felt more stable in my life. I was generally happier and more hopeful. I still felt lonely, but my mindset changed. I felt I wanted a romantic partner, but I didn’t need one.

In therapy, I worked really hard to become open to dating. “You have this goal of settling down and starting a family, but the fear of failure is keeping you from actively seeking this,” My therapist said, “I’m wondering how you’ll achieve those goals if you don’t try and put yourself out there.” My therapist helped me reduce my fear of vulnerability enough to be able to start engaging with others in a more serious manner. After talking to several people through online dating websites, I finally agreed to go out on a date with a real live human being.

Our first date was fun. We went to a comedy show and had a drink. We talked and laughed as he walked me home. We had good conversations and identified some common interests. I felt attracted to him both physically and emotionally- he had enough experiences to have lived three lifetimes, and that intrigued me. At the end of the night, we planned a second date for the following week.

Our relationship continued like that for about another month and a half. We had so much fun together. He laughed at my jokes, said nice things, and cooked for me. He introduced me to his friends and invited me along to parties and dinners. I felt included and cared for. Eventually, we agreed to make our relationship official.

I was content with calling him my boyfriend. I finally felt that I could be my true weird self, something that I had struggled with in previous relationships. Although there were some situations here and there that caused me to wonder if he was a person that I could spend my life with, I was so comfortable that I brushed them aside. In fact, I felt so comfortable that I barely saw it coming when, after about three months of dating, I heard the words, “I’ve been having hesitations and have been thinking more and more about ending our relationship.” With this, we began a discussion where we both laid out our concerns about why our relationship b may have not been working.

I thought I would be devastated when our relationship ended, but instead I felt a pressure lift from my shoulders and experienced a strong sense of freedom. When he rode away on his bike, I felt…. happy. The feeling confused me. I kept wondering, “Why don’t I feel upset?” I sought insight from my sister who had a simple answer to my confusion: “Because he was NOT the person for you.”

I learned that my sister and brother-in-law had apparently been struggling to find the opportunity and strength to tell me that they actually hated my boyfriend. During a recent family gathering, my sister noticed a plethora of unfavorable qualities, such as how he spoke down to people, appeared controlling, and lacked appropriate boundaries. Some of these qualities I did notice, but foolishly chose to ignore.

In retrospect, I can identify moments in our short relationship in which I was truly not enjoying my time. As we would spend more and more time together, and I would find myself struggling to balance my relationship with my life. I would sleep over his house almost every night, wake up late, rush to get ready for work, and feel disorganized. Although there was awareness in the back of my mind, I was too distracted by engaging in fun “couple activities” to realize that falling behind on my self care was having an impact in my mood. I wanted to do so many things- write, draw, meditate, run, do yoga- and yet, I felt that I was lacking the time to do them. When the Break Up Talk was in progress, I actually felt excited for him to leave so I could be myself and plan which activity I would do first.

Along with the feeling of excitement, I felt a sense of strength and growth. The ease with which I accepted the transition from “in a relationship” to “single” is evidence that I am learning to let go, and that makes me incredibly proud. For so long I felt that I needed to hold on to relationships, even if they weren’t exactly what I wanted, because I feared I would grow old alone. Now I realize that I have so much love for myself and from others that that fear is nearly diminished completely.

I can also now acknowledge that I must continue to work on finding balance. Where everyone must make some form of sacrifice in a relationship, it is not fair to put my wants and needs on the back burner, simply because I feel the desire to dive into romance. I am important, and my goals and needs are important. A good relationship should encourage me to achieve my goals, not distract me from them.

I also feel a great sense of thankfulness toward my new ex-boyfriend. I am thankful that he had the courage to create a space in which we could both explore our thoughts about the relationship. I’m thankful for my sister and brother-in-law, too. They validated my thoughts about the red flags that I had seen throughout the relationship. Even though I’m still learning how to trust my own instincts, I know that I can trust their guidance.

My father often jokes, “You sure know how to chase them away!” or “You’re just too picky!” When I was younger, this would sting, because I had believed there was something wrong with me. An increased sense of self worth has made me realize that yes, I may be picky…. and it’s important to be.

How to Stay Motivated

My dad always says, “Find something that puts a fire in your belly.” Teenage Me would often roll my eyes, turn up the volume on my latest self-burned punk/emo mix CD and let Travis Barker’s drum beats muffle the unappreciated wise words of my father. As an adult, I can finally understand the sentiment of embracing motivation and passion while pursuing goals. I can also recognize a possibly unintentional deeper meaning here- if left without fuel, fires burn out.

Establishing a goal is the easy part. Hard work comes with actually following through with the steps required to achieve that goal. Maintaining motivation can be difficult, and I always say that building motivation is somewhat of a catch-22. The best way to increase motivation is to just do it (insert Nike symbol here). We feed motivation by reflecting on how we feel as we complete steps toward a goal. Even if the motivation begins as a small flame, we can turn it into a bonfire. Here are some tips for building and maintaining motivation while working toward goals:

  1. Remind yourself of your goals.
    • Write your goals down and display them in a place you look at often. Make sure they are specific and detailed to better organize steps necessary. Take away the “Oh, right, I forgot I wanted to do that” moment and shoot directly for goal achievement. Goals can be easily pushed to the side and forgotten about if we don’t make a point to keep them in our focus.
  2. Discover the WHY.
    • Any task has a number of good reasons behind it. Even small things can be analyzed to find something good. Consider washing dishes. We don’t complete the task for no reason- we complete the dishes in order to have a greater sense of cleanliness and organization (and it helps keep little pestering pests away, but that’s a different blog post). It’s all helpful in creating an image of the bigger picture we are striving for.
  3. Partialize your goals.
    • If we view our goals as one large chunk, it can become overwhelming and cause a person to shut down or give up. By breaking goals down into smaller pieces, we can more easily set targets and obtain a greater sense of achievement. Additionally, developing a deadline for each step can be crucial in maintaining momentum.
  4. Acknowledge your achievements.
    • Track your progress and celebrate benchmarks along the way. Congratulate yourself when you have completing a smaller chunk of the overall goal. Acknowledging progress made toward your goal can propel you forward to the next step.
  5. Be flexible.
    • I have said this so many times that I feel like it should be my new tag line, but: BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. If something is not working, be flexible and try it a different way. If you find yourself frustrated, stressed, or overwhelmed, be flexible enough with your deadlines that you can allow yourself a moment to step away and regroup. Achieving a goal looks differently for every person. Don’t just find a process, find YOUR process.

What helps you stay motivated?

10 Morning Hacks for the Non-Morning Person

I didn’t get the nickname “Little Bear” in college for no reason. In the morning it takes me about 1 hour, 1 cup of coffee, 1 giant plate of breakfast, and a whole lot of self-encouragement to start feeling like a human. In fact, I love my mother, but my biggest complaint about her parenting was that she talked to me in the morning- the horror!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of being a morning person, and I actually find myself enjoying the quiet mornings to myself if I have a day off. It’s the pressure of having a schedule to keep that causes me to roll out of bed with my hair a mess and grunt to myself as I struggle to don my big girl garb and start the day. There just never seems to be enough time in the morning, and no matter how hard I try, I still find myself consistently running 5 minutes late. One might think that I could simply wake up earlier, but your girl loves her sleep. Therefore, I can offer these helpful tips that might help- excuse my French- unfuck your morning as well as they did mine.

  1. Pick out your clothes.
    • I tend to take this tip to the extreme. Every week as I am putting away my laundry, I put together my outfits for the entire week (or more if I’m feeling extra adventurous). This way, I can just pull something ready-to-wear from my closet. I’m not suggesting that anyone take things to that extreme, but it is a huge time saver to have an outfit prepared. I also notice that I always feel better if I’m wearing something I like, and I rarely create an outfit I like if I save the task for the busy morning.
  2. Prep your lunch.
    • I like to make this part of my nightly routine. Before I go to sleep, I’ll my lunchbox together, so I can just grab it out of the refrigerator before I leave in the morning. Not only does this save time in the morning, but it also gives me time to make sure I’m packing a healthy and well balanced lunch.
  3. Have a routine.
    • Part of making the morning easier is not thinking-just doing. Having a good routine in place can save time, increase productivity, and increase a sense of accomplishment. For those like me who used to forget her lunch, office keys, etc. at least once a week, it can help to ensure you’re not skipping over any important morning tasks.
  4. Say it with me: SLEEP WITH YOUR PHONE AWAY FROM YOUR BED.
    • There is truly not much to say here that I haven’t said already. If you want to catch up on my reasons behind religiously adopting this hack, you can read all about it here!
  5. Stretch in bed.
    • The hardest part of the morning for me is peeling myself away from my cuddly cat/sleeping buddy and unraveling my cozy blanket burrito. After doing research on stretches that can be done in bed, I found that not only did this satisfy my desire to stay in bed longer, but it helped my body feel more awake and motivated to get my morning routine going strong.
  6. Make your bed.
    • It may seem small, but making your bed can set the mood for the entire day. Starting off with completing a task can lead to a sense of accomplishment that can only snowball into a bigger form of motivation. Coming home to a tidy area can also decrease any residual stress from the work day.
  7. Save scrolling for later.
    • Anyone who has read my previous posts already know my view of social media and cell phones- if you allow it, your electronic device can be a giant waste of time. So, save the scrolling for later and minimize anything that might distract you from a productive morning. The memes will still be there after you’re all dressed and ready to start the day with, hopefully, time to spare.
  8. Look forward to food.
    • Okay, this one might me more tailored to me, but it works. I find it way easier to crawl out of bed if I know I’ve planned a breakfast I can look forward to. (Even better, I’ll meal prep it, so I can go straight to the rewarding part).
  9. Make your morning more enjoyable.
    • It may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to lose ourselves in the rush of getting ready for the day. We can’t forget about our needs. Whether it’s yoga, a morning walk, or reading a chapter, take a little bit of time and engage in an activity that will make your morning feel like yours! It doesn’t even have to be the same activity each day.
  10. Listen to music.
    • I. Love. Music. In my 28 years of existence, nothing has been able to captivate me as much as music. It has been, and probably always will be, a huge part of my life (but that’s a post for a different day). For me, and maybe for some of you also, there’s no better way to wake up the body than to start by waking up the soul.

Although weekday mornings are a struggle, I am really focusing on making them effective and productive. It simply makes me happier and more energetic when I feel good about my mornings. I am always trying to make Rise and Shine Time easier and less hectic, and I always love to hear feedback and start a conversation. What are some of your go-to morning hacks?

Why I Stopped Sleeping With My Phone Next to my Bed

Sometimes our cell phones seem like an extension of ourselves. They are useful little boxes that remember our appointments, stay in contact with our friends, and share our memories with the touch of a button. It can be difficult to think of cell phones as what they are: a tool. So, I decided that if I don’t feel the need to sleep with a hammer next to my bed, I don’t feel the need to keep my cell phone there either. Here’s why:

Late night cell phone use can lead to lack of sleep.

We’ve all been there: we turn the lights off, settle into our blankets… and then scroll in Instagram for the next hour instead of closing our eyes for some well-deserved snoozing. Further than that, using cell phones in the dark can more intensely expose our eyes to blue lights, potentially causing damage in vision or interfere with our ability to fall asleep.

We are not yet aware of potential health risks.

While there has not been research that proves cell phone use causes cancer, we do know that cell phones emit small amounts of electromagnetic radiation, which can lead to tumor growth. However, since they are such small amounts, cell phones are safe to handle for individuals who are not more vulnerable to radiation. This being said, clear links between cell phone use and health risks are not yet clear—which makes me want to be more safe than sorry.

I wake up more easily in the morning.

I am not a morning person. In fact, I have been known to set my alarm early just to hit snooze for the next hour. A few months ago, I started sleeping with my phone across the room from my bed, and I initially felt resentful that this little music-making pile of metal was dragging my lazy bones out of bed on the first ring. It slowly became much easier to wake up in the morning at the first chime of my alarm.

My mind is clearer as I’m drifting off to dream world.

Incorporating an hour of phone-free time before bed each night has helped me make the space to check in with myself. Having the opportunity to read, journal, or simply reflect has allowed me the space to get any leftover thoughts from the day out of my head before putting my head onto the pillow.

Disconnecting from my phone on a regular basis has allowed me to use my time effectively. Although, I still find myself frustrated sometimes that I have to crawl out of bed to get the loud noises to stop. Overall, I’ve felt positive in my decision to start sleeping disconnected with my phone—and it seems that my brain and body are thankful, too!

I Quit Social Media and This is What Happened

The power of social media can be an amazing tool. Through the click of a button, we can share ideas, connect with friends and family, and facilitate political change. Although it’s a useful tool, it can also be a dangerous one. Excessive social media use can lead to addictive behaviors, increased mental health concerns, and challenges in time management. It may be important to explore the role that social media plays in our lives to better determine the purpose it serves. After noticing myself grow increasingly frustrated with social media, I decided to take a break. I deactivated all of my social accounts. This is what happened:

1. I stopped comparing myself to others.

  • People only post the best parts of themselves on social media. Realistically, I know this, but that didn’t stop me from noticing the feeling I got seeing other people’s perceived happy lives flash on my screen consistently (getting married, growing families, buying homes). It seemed impossible to not feel behind. After deactivating my accounts, the invisible clock stopped ticking. I could more easily focus on accomplishing my goals without putting unnecessary pressure on myself. 

2. I lived in the moment.

  • The most significant change I noticed was that I spent less time posting about what I was doing and became more engaged in what I was doing. I no longer had to show that I was having fun, but I could simply focus on doing just that: having fun. I engaged more with others, stopped using my phone as a distracting crutch in uncomfortable situations, and felt more connected to my surroundings.

3. I put my phone down.

  • If there is one thing I already knew before starting this project it’s this: social media can be a gigantic waste of time if one allows it. And I allowed it. Oh, boy did I allow it. Being unable to fill my spare time with Facebook scrolling, deep diving profiles, and the like allowed me to fill my time with more productive tasks. I redecorated my apartment, read books, listened to more music, and procrastinated WAY less.

4. I connected with others in a more genuine way.

  • In therapy, I made my own connection between socialization and my mood. I am a person who really benefits from quality time spent with others. It’s my love language, if you will. I realized how distant social media had made me feel from my loved ones—like I was watching their lives scroll by from the outside.  By taking social media out of the equation, I found more effective ways to keep in touch with my loved ones. With my friends and family, I stayed connected through phone, text, or in person, and I felt growth in my relationships that I largely contribute to taking a more active role in maintaining them.

5. I embraced my authentic self.

  • I have always been the weird drama kid with tie-dye shirts, lime green jeans, and Chucks thrown together into what I used to call “fashion.” I have never been the person who cared for others’ opinions and have always prided myself on marching to the beat of my own drum, but somewhere I got lost. As I grew older, I started focusing more on how I was perceived by others, and it took doing this experiment to notice that social media played a significant role in that. I am already someone who puts a ton of pressure on myself, and by comparing myself to others on the internet, that pressure grew even bigger. After putting my phone down, I stopped caring. It made it SO easy to focus on myself, my hobbies, and my goals. 

It has been about two months since I have logged into my Facebook account, and I don’t see myself scrolling in the near future. Of course, social media can be a great tool and resource for staying connected to others, and I can only speak from my experience in learning that social media impacts my life in a way that is not always so great. If anything, this experiment has taught me to be more mindful of how I am spending my time, and I encourage others to examine what aspects of their daily routine may not be serving the best purpose. Have any Wellness Warriors out there eliminated anything in their lives that turned out to me more hurtful than helpful? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

How to Overcome Regression Toward Goals

Picture this: It’s been a months-long streak of hitting wellness goals. You go to sleep at a normal time and sleep well, embrace a healthy diet that a few years ago you would have scoffed at, and actually find yourself LOVING engaging in regular exercise. And then, boom—you go on vacation, your car gets totaled by a deer, stress builds. Routine goes out the window, and it feels like all of the progress that was made is quickly crawling away from the fires that have engulfed your once safe little nest. 

The thing about fires is that they go out eventually. The flames may burn us, but we can avoid the spiral of negativity and douse the fire with water and positivity until we are left to lick our wounds and move forward. Most of us know how difficult it can be to get back on track when life happens.

Here are 5 powerful strategies to moving forward after hardship attempts to derail progress.

  1. Identify the root of the backslide
  • Before we can find a way back, we need to identify what contributed to our slide in the first place. This can include increased stress from life changes, self-defeating mindsets and behaviors, illness or injury, challenging or more frequent life events, and/or challenges in time management. For example, my car recently got totaled. Working out daily was impossible when I needed to spend my free time looking at cars, talking to my insurance, taking my car to various inspection sites. Attending to my car had to become my priority, given that I commute to work by driving.

2. Try a different approach

  • Maybe while you were exploring the root of the backslide, you discovered some real barriers to working toward goals. Maybe you’ve been planning to exercise in the mornings, but can’t go to sleep early enough? Maybe you’re finding difficulty keeping up with a healthy diet due to limited variety of fresh foods at the grocery story you go to. Achieving goals may require some changes in approach, and that’s okay! Methods are going to look different for everyone. It’s all about finding what works best for you and using that to your advantage.

3. Create a schedule

  • I love schedules. I mean it— I LOVE them. Nothing makes me feel more organized than having a plan—even if it’s just loosely followed. My Sunday routine includes sitting down and planning the week—exercises I want to focus on, meals I want to eat, self care activities I want to do, and other tasks or errands that need to be completed. I create a schedule based on what my week looks like and then try my best to stick with it—but life happens, so I’m always gentle and understanding if my schedule changes in small various ways as the week goes on.

4. Find accountability

  • Studies show that the more people that know about your goal, the more likely you are to work toward it. Working toward holding yourself accountable is monumental in achieving goals, but better yet, finding other people who can hold you accountable creates a whole new layer of support in actually doing what you say you’re going to do.

5. Be gentle with yourself

  • Imagine me shouting the following from the tallest rooftop: Embracing positivity toward self and challenges can make or break the ability to overcome obstacles. Understand that backslides happen. Working toward a goal will not always be a forward motion—sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. Negativity and frustration toward self or circumstances can cause one to shut down and can be a deterrent to finding motivation to work through failure. If needed, go back to the basics until you start to feel your groove again.

As Wellness Warriors, it’s important to put more emphasis on the sense of accomplishment we have when achieving a goal and decrease the focus we may put on barriers. We can choose to interpret hardships as an opportunity to utilize healthy coping skills and celebrate our strength, resiliency, and power. 

Happy Tuesday, Wellness Warriors! Here’s to hoping that the schedule I have outlined for myself allows me the ability to port more consistently now that my car fiasco is resolved!

Creating My Happy Place

This week, I had one goal: plan and create a mini oasis in my tiny, tiny backyard (or backcloset, as I say). This would be a place to read, meditate, drink wine, and relax. The ultimate self care corner!

This is what my little backyard space looked like before the project:

I started the week religiously geeking out over IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart trying to map out the perfect outdoor space. Trying to find a way to utilize the small space was tough, but well worth the time spent brainstorming.

When the weekend rolled around, I started my Friday night with Goodwill in the suburbs. If I was going to take on designing a small, relaxing space, I was going to do so on a budget. If you’re near Philly, you know that the suburb thrift stores are where the goods are, and it truly did not let me down. I left feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, uplifted by that thrift store adrenaline rush. Here’s what I found (photobombed by a curious, handsome fluff):

Saturday morning, I got started bright and early at my happy place: IKEA. I spent two hours stuck in the euphoria that is Home Goods Heaven, and another two hours back and forth between Home Depot and Walmart.

I slowly hit a point where I was both satisfied with my purchases and anxious to get back home and out of the Saturday store scuffle that many people experience in the city (too many people for a considerable amount of time truly tests my patience!!).

When I got home I went to work building, organizing, making sure things were going perfect. That is, until a freak thunderstorm decided to rain all over my parade and all over my oasis.

When the rain cleared, I resumed my work. I set up my little hammock chair, placed my plants how I wanted them, and hung up lights. Here was the end result;

I am so happy with how it turned out! I got to sit outside last night and drink wine and relax. This is the PERFECT little Self Care Space, where I can drink tea, meditate, listen to the birds. Although my mom thinks my backcloset looks like a burial plot, and my brother-in-law joked about this being smaller than a prison cell, I am so happy with how it turned out! These are some snapshots from last night’s relaxation time during my first night of having my little oasis:

This post serves as my encouragement to design yourself a comfortable space where you can relax and recharge. And if you already have, please share! I’m always looking for interior and exterior design inspiration. Happy Sunday, y’all!!