We know what it takes to create physical wellness for ourselves, but what about the mental? If you’re someone who runs anxious, stressed, or can find themselves blue, having a solid wellness foundation can be really helpful. In this pep talk, I share two things to do to create a foundation of mental wellness that can help you navigate the ups and downs of life.
Do you procrastinate? If you feel stressed around all you have to do or are someone who tends to put things off, I’ve got a mentor tip for you. It’s to create what I call an “ick list,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like.
listen to the pep talk here:
I created this technique when I had a lot of adulting to do that I kept putting off. The ick list is for the tasks that aren’t fun, pile up, and stress you out over time. I see this kind of stress show up for college students or anyone going back to school. You kind of just want to veg and enjoy the rest of your summer, but you also have a lot to do to get ready for the new school year.
Whenever there’s a transition involved, I always feel like it takes a little more energy to do your regular stuff. I believe this for two reasons: one because you burn extra energy in transition. For example, if you’re a freshman going into college you may feel like you’re using a lot of energy in the anticipation of what’s next. There is a lot of mental energy that goes into anything that involves planning or change.
Secondly, I think that sometimes procrastination can be a nervous system defense mechanism. It can be related to fear and it’s a pattern that we can shift.
This is where the “ick list” comes in. I get out of piece of paper and I write out, not type out, all the things I have to do that are bringing me stress and anything I’ve been procrastinating on. I basically write down all the tasks that are making me feel icky. After I’ve written everything out, I take a look at the list and I pick out the three things that are bringing me the most stress. When that’s complete you pick one of the three things and just get it done.
There’s a little bit of mentor self-discovery here too. For myself, I learned that what causes me stress is how long something has been on my list not how big the task is. The longer I put it off, the more stress it brings me.
Also, when you start something, you build momentum around it. Once you figure out what task you’re going to get done first it helps build flow for the others. There’s also alchemy in taking something out of your head and putting it on paper. It can kind of neutralize to some of the feelings around all the things you have to do floating in your head. And that is how the ick list works!
dr. habib sadeghi’s purge emotional writing
Over the summer, I started having sleep issues. I’d fall asleep fine, but wake up in the middle of the night worried. Forget about being able to go back to bed. I knew I needed to do some waking hours work to process feelings and that’s how I found Dr. Sedeghi’s technique in his book The Clarity Cleanse.
Even though there’s Thanksgiving break coming up, it’s still stress season with finals and end of the year projects looming on top of an already wacky year. This practice, called purge emotional writing, helps you move out of worry and overwhelm and into calm and clarity. Bonus: it only takes 12 minutes.
- Grab a pen and paper
- Set a timer for 12 minutes
- Write anything and everything. Dr. Sedeghi says to write about anything that’s “disturbing your peace.” I just write whatever’s in my head.
- After 12 minutes, stop writing, and do not go back and read what you wrote.
- Burn the paper in a safe outdoor space like a driveway or patio. If you’re a college student or live in an apartment, do not burn your paper! Rip up your writing into a teeny, tiny pieces and throw it away outside not in the house.
A huge part of this exercise is that you do not go back and read what you wrote. You are not trying to ruminate or get into a loop thought. It’s about getting stress out.
Some extra major mentor tips!
- Do this exercise at the same time everyday. I do it right when I wake up. If you wanted to use it before you go to bed that would be good too.
- A timer tip: I play meditation music, ambient sounds, or piano music when I write and set my timer to “stop playing” to signal the end. After 12 minutes instead of a jarring ring or beep, the music just stops playing to let me know it’s time to move on.
- After 12 minutes stop writing. You’ve done it. You’ve completed what you need to complete; then immediately burn or throw out the paper. I LOVE this part. I can say whatever I want and burning it really lets it go for me. It truly gives me freedom to say whatever it is that I need to say.
- **extra credit** I think it would be a really great idea to do a meditation after the writing exercise like this grounding practice or an acceptance meditation.
This ritual is PERFECT during finals or if you’re swamped at work. You just kind of spew out all the things you have to get done. Anything weighing heavy on your heart you just let out on the paper. I’ve been doing it every morning and can attest to it’s magic.
advice for people pleasers
A few weeks ago, I read a blog by one of my favorite psychologists on people pleasing (something I see a lot in my private practice) and **boom** she struck a major chord. I find that when you’re a sensitive empathetic person, you’re able to pick up on the needs of other people and if you want that other person to like you, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to be what everyone needs.
As a recovering people pleaser, I understand this and it’s more than just being overly nice. It’s when you:
- Make yourself very available
- Do what everyone else wants to do
- Feel bad saying no
- Take responsibility for how other people feel
- Are an over-giver
A big breakthrough I had about people pleasing is that it’s a control mechanism. People pleasers are secret control freaks. You try to control how people feel about you, but really all it does is make you resentful, burdened, and unhappy.
People pleasing can happen when you hang how you feel about yourself on how other people feel about you. I don’t know about you, but I for sure, don’t want my perception of myself to hang in the hands of someone else. It takes away all of my personal power. How I feel about myself is my responsibility. Seeing people pleasing as a control issue really helped me shift it. You assess where you have control and where you don’t.
Two things that help with this:
Ask yourself why? When you make plans or are going to do anything for anyone else, ask yourself why? If it’s to get them to like you or not be upset with you, maybe that’s not a good reason.
Second thing I think about:
What parts of myself am I giving up to fit in or to be friends with this other person? Now there was always compromise when it comes to any kind of relationship, but there can be over compromise where you become less of yourself. I want to hang out with people who want me to be full of myself and not like in an arrogant way, but want to be full of my authenticity. This is how you get people to like you. People like you when you’re being your full self. They like you when you’re authentic.
I don’t like when my sweet, lovely, people pleasing, friends try to appease a situation. I like it when they’re being themselves. My mentor Gabby Bernstein says when you shine, you give other people permission to shine. If you have an opinion or boundary, it inspires me to be able to do the same thing and then you can be friends with other people on a more authentic, grounded level.
I totally get the community is a necessary human instinct part of our lives and that when we feel like we’re not in community it can feel really really uncomfortable. Being authentic is going to attract the right people into your life and that is how you’re going to build a really strong community of support.
When it comes to how to get people to like you the answer is stop people pleasing, figure out your own boundaries, cultivate a full sense of self, and make friends that are attracted to that version of you. This is a big life lesson too. You’re not going to do it all in one day. Start with the why. Why do you do the things you do? See if it’s to control someone’s perception of you and then maybe ask yourself what do you really want to do. What do you want for dinner? What time do you want to hang out? How do you want to spend your time? How do you want to make yourself available? Take some the power back to being full of your truest self.
self-care tips for students and recent grads
When you first go away to college, and also this happens in your early 20’s, sometimes you’re painted a picture that these years are going to be the best time of your lives, but, like most situations that involve a lot of growth, it honestly has a lot of ups and downs. One minute you absolutely love it and the next minute you can’t believe you’re squeezed into a shoebox-sized room with a stranger you don’t know as a roommate.
A few years ago, I mentored several girls at different schools who were pre-med at the time. They were totally stressed out by the workload. I thought it was synchronistic to see students dealing with the same issue at once. It made me pay more attention. I remember I was always asking them what they had been doing to have a little fun and the answer was always nothing. When we’re really busy, stressed, or anxious the idea of indulging in something fun can seem unproductive and undeserved, but usually it’s exactly what you need. When I feel my world getting really heavy, I ask myself:
What sounds fun?
I don’t ask it in a sarcastic way where I’m like a vacation sounds fun or a million dollars. I’m really asking, what can I do to take care of myself in this moment? What would be something that could add levity to what I have going on? The goal is to try to get to your know your inner needs!
Almost always when I ask myself that question, it’s usually something really small that I can do to add some relaxation, levity, or joy to whatever it is I’m spinning through at the time. Some of the things that come up for me when I ask myself what sounds fun is to:
- go for a walk
- call a friend
- move my body
- grab a coffee
It’s never something that’s over complicated or too crazy, but here’s where the mentoring comes in: you have to ask yourself the question then ACTUALLY go do the thing. It’s easy to get stuck in whatever’s going on and don’t do the thing that will make us feel better. If what sounds fun is a mentoring session (and trust me they are fun!!), you have to put in the time to actually schedule and go to a session. If what sounds fun is stretching your body then you need to actually get on your yoga mat. You deserve to treat yourself well. You deserve to have fun. We’re here on this planet to be of service and purposeful and you can’t do that if you’re not allowing yourself the joy of being alive. Even if you’re going through a time, you are totally worthy and deserving of moments of joy throughout your day. Fun is a form of self-care. What sounds fun is a way to take care of your inner self. Secret bonus, joy makes tackle your to-do list or get through anything hard a lot easier.
Two Tips for Managing Perfectionism
So many of my students are perfectionists and I really relate to this because I’m hard on myself too. If you put a lot of pressure on yourself this is the right episode for you:
I was at a dance class once and we did an improv warm-up. The teacher was like, “move like you’re sad, move like it’s sunny, move like it’s windy, move like you’re happy.” She had all these different prompts and then I made a joke that we should move like you’re thinking about something weird you did in 2007. Everyone laughed because everyone related to bringing up something in your mind that you’ve done wrong before and replaying it in your head.
My mentor Megan McDowell always tells me that sometimes I don’t want to accept my humanness. All that means is that I have limitations and that as a human I fall short at times. It’s not even really that you’re falling short it just is that you are human. I did an interview with Megan here that’s on feeling big feelings and if you’re perfection-y I am SURE you’re working through some big feelings:
If you’re someone who ruminates on things you’ve did wrong or something that you feel bad about, remember shortcomings are part of being human. Your limitations make you human; not something to continue to beat yourself up about.
When I’m being hard on myself, I find it really helpful to just identify my own humanness. I name the mistake as my humanness and in recognizing it for what it is, it sort of dissipates. I don’t hold the same standards for myself that I was the moment before I pointed out my humanness.
An exercise I do when I’m getting in a perfection-y rumination spiral is I have a chat with the 80 year old version of myself so it’s Grandma Maggie in my head. I have a conversation with this older wiser version of myself that has lived more life than I’ve lived right now and I kind of see what she has to say about it. Whether it’s through journaling or meditation. She NEVER tells me to beat myself up more. She mostly just tells me to let it go. It’s always really helpful to have this loving conversation with the older wiser version of myself. You could even see it as maybe talking to your higher-self.
If you’re someone who identifies as a perfectionist I am holding space for you and I get it! Sending everyone so much love!
how to deal with anxiety
Have you ever felt anxiety begin to creep up and then you start to worry about feeling anxious on top of it? I get it. I’ve been there too. This anxiety checklist is what I go to first when I feel anxiety coming on. I take a look at this list, make some tweaks, and am able to help myself feel better.
Here’s the meditation I do when I feel anxious:
When I went away to college it was the most freedom that I had experienced up to that point. As exciting and new as that was, it was also overwhelming. Students today are more stressed than ever and it’s totally scary to go to college not knowing how to take care of yourself.