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?

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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!

Fighting Gloom with Gratitude

Have you ever had one of those weeks where it feels like the universe is everything but on your side? A beautiful vacation in Michigan with my family was followed by a series of unfortunate events. I was about 20 minutes into my trip back to Philadelphia when a small deer attempted a dance with my car, resulting in the car doctor’s diagnosis of “most likely totaled.”

After scrambling to find a way back to Philadelphia, my brother graciously lent me his car. I drove home, left for a 6 mile run with a friend, and that was it. I ran home through a rain storm with the challenging moments of the week behind me, or so I thought.

I arrived back to work the next day, fresh faced and ready to roll, to be greeted by 31 voicemails and 53 emails. As I dug through, I learned of a series of client crises that had occurred while I was gone (one client suicidal, another in crisis, another arrested). I dealt with them with stride, taking things one step at a time. When the day was done I felt stressed and slightly overwhelmed but satisfied with the job that I had done.

As I parked my brother’s car that night, I let out a sigh of relief. Even through the heavy rainstorm I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, which for me, included a quick dinner and some HEAVY relaxation time. The next morning I was ready to do it all over again: work, relax, repeat. I soon found myself standing in soon parking spot… where my brother’s car used to be. I looked around, noticing all of the street cleaning signs that read “VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED.”

I felt my anxiety rising, hands shaking, talking to myself as I looked up the phone number for the City of Philadelphia while simultaneously texting my brother to get his license plate number, etc. I began walking back to my apartment when I saw it: the silver Dodge Dart that so beautifully stared at me from across the street where the tow company had relocated it. I repeated another, though stronger, sigh of relief as I clicked the unlock button to ensure that this was, in fact, my brother’s car.

On the way to work, I found my mind racing with the “What will be next?” thoughts. “Bad things always happen in threes,” I irrationally told myself. “I wonder what horrible thing will happen next.” I was able to catch myself by acknowledging that, although these events were unfortunate, they could have been so much worse. The more rational side of my decided that this is the perfect day for a gratitude list. So here is what I am grateful for:

  • I was not injured at all in the accident with the deer
  • I was close enough from my mom’s house that my dad and brother were able to come get me after the accident
  • My car is still able to be driven (regardless of the lack of reliability for the three hour trip back to the city)
  • My brother’s car was simply moved down the street and not to an impound lot, where I would have had to pay multiple hundreds of dollars to get it released
  • My brother-in-law offered to go car shopping with me if the insurance company agrees that my car is totaled
  • My supervisor is incredibly laid back and empathetic to my situation in needing an extra day of vacation to tend my car
  • I have delightful coworkers who helped to address the crisis situations at work while I was on vacation and supported me as I worked to follow up after my return
  • I have incredibly supportive people in my life in general, friends, family, etc. I could not have gotten through these events without being able to lean on them for guidance

Last but not least, I am grateful for this platform through which I can openly evaluate my negative thinking and reframe into more positive thoughts. I want to thank those who have engaged through follows or comments. I love the feedback. While on vacation, I did a lot of planning for this site that I hope to work on while life calms down. This blog helps hold me accountable, because if I am not being a Wellness Warrior myself, then how am I able to encourage others to be?  

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!!

8 Ways to Find Balance

A person’s ability to achieve a health balance between professional and personal life directly contributes to overall happiness and job performance. According to Small Business Trends, 66% of full time employees believe they lack a healthy work-life balance. For employers, this relates to poor productivity, low morale, and high turnover. For individuals, this means missing out on spending time with people and at events we enjoy. Even scarier, long term effects of an unhealthy work-life balance may include higher risk of depression and anxiety and higher risk of heart disease or stroke. Family Living Today and Now Sourcing investigated statistics across the globe, ranking the United States 30th out of 38 countries in work-life balance.

Recent statistics show that 11.4% of Americans work over 50 hours per week. As someone who still sometimes gets stuck in the whirlwind of the working world, I’ve compiled a list of methods in which we can all adopt a lifestyle that promotes a healthy balance between our work and ourselves.

  1. Figure out what a work-life balance means to you. As individuals, we all need different things to regroup and recharge. Some may need more alone time, while some may benefit from more time with loved ones. Identifying what exactly we need to feel a greater sense of balance is the first step in achieving it.
  2. Set manageable goals. Having a realistic idea of how much work we are able to manage in a day is crucial in avoiding setting ourselves up for failure. Create goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound).
  3. Prioritize. Create a daily to-do list and start with the tasks that need to be completed that day. At the end of the day, if there are things that need to wait until tomorrow, they will be things that can wait until tomorrow.
  4. Learn to say no and delegate. We all want to be good at our jobs, but part of being a productive employee is recognizing if something will be biting off more than we can chew. Instead of saying yes, try: “Although I would love to be a part of that project, but I feel it may be best to focus on my current projects at this time. Maybe we can assign this to project to someone who can put the time into it that it deserves.” Be honest. Chances are we would rather be great at one job than just okay at several jobs.
  5. Be more productive at the office. Turn the cell phone off. Minimize distractions. Do what is needed to do in order to allow yourself to get the job done, which may help you……
  6. Leave work at work! This is the best advice I’ve gotten from a supervisor: “After work, allow yourself the time to process and reflect on the day as you collect your things and walk to your car. As you shut your car door and drive away, leave the work day where it is: behind you.” In addition, by being more productive in the office, we can limit the amount of work we are doing from home. Small Business Trends reported that 40% of employees believe it is acceptable to answer an important work email at the dinner table. Part of having a healthy work-life balance is making a clear separation between work and life.
  7. Take more mental health days. I hate taking days off, and sometimes I feel like I need “TAKE MORE MENTAL HEALTH DAYS” written in big, flashing letters above my desk. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the fact that work goes on without me when I’m not there, and it’s hard to return and feel like I need to “catch up.” However, the more I allow myself a mental health day, the more I find myself in a better mindset to tackle the tasks ahead of me with ease.
  8. Have more fun. It’s hard to avoid spending time away from work simply gearing up to resume the grind. We can’t forget to have fun! Go outside, spend time with family, hit the gym. Social interactions and healthy self care skills have a direct positive impact on both mood and productivity.

Most importantly, we must be gentle on ourselves. If we find ourselves burnt out or overwhelmed, we can reflect and ask ourselves, “How have I been balancing lately?” It’s hard to navigate between wanting to be good at our jobs and wanting to be good to ourselves, but hopefully some of these changes in daily routine can help to alleviate some of the imbalance.