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Conquering Holiday Social Anxiety: Your Comprehensive Guide

Social anxiety can be a formidable adversary during the holiday season. With an influx of social gatherings, increased expectations, and the general chaos of this time of year, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

This comprehensive guide is here to arm you with practical strategies and tips to navigate through the holiday season with confidence and joy.

Understanding Social Anxiety

Social anxiety, also known as social phobia, is more than shyness or a fear of public speaking. It’s a persistent fear of being observed, judged, or scrutinized by others, causing significant distress and impairing one’s ability to function in social situations.

Common Symptoms of Social Anxiety

Social anxiety symptoms can be psychological and physical, varying from person to person.

Common psychological symptoms include:

  • Fear of interacting with strangers
  • Worry about others noticing your anxiety
  • Fear of physical symptoms like blushing or a shaky voice
  • Avoidance of situations where you fear embarrassment
  • Anticipation of the worst outcome in social cases.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate

A person with social anxiety may experience some or all of these symptoms, and their intensity can fluctuate based on the situation. Understanding your specific triggers and reactions can help you develop strategies to manage your anxiety.

The Impact of Holidays on Social Anxiety

The holiday season is often a time of increased social activity, which can exacerbate social anxiety symptoms. The pressure to attend large social gatherings, navigate unfamiliar social situations, and handle potential triggers can make the holidays less cheerful.

Moreover, with the COVID-19 pandemic in recent memory, many people are finding it challenging to reintegrate into social situations after extended periods of isolation. The sudden return to large gatherings and parties can trigger a spike in social anxiety symptoms.

10 Strategies to Manage Social Anxiety during the Holidays

While social anxiety can be daunting, especially during the holiday season, you can use proven strategies to manage your symptoms and enjoy the festivities. Here’s a roundup of 10 practical strategies to help you conquer holiday social anxiety.

1. Educate Yourself About Your Social Anxiety

Understanding your social anxiety is the first step towards managing it. Familiarize yourself with your specific triggers and reactions, recognize the physical and psychological symptoms, and understand how they impact your daily life.

2. Define Your Boundaries

Having clear boundaries is crucial when managing social anxiety. You don’t need to accept every invitation that comes your way. Determine which events are important to you and only commit to those.

3. Bring a Trusted Friend

Having a trusted friend or “wing(wo)man” at social events can help you feel more comfortable and less anxious. They can facilitate conversations and provide a sense of familiarity and security.

4. Request a Task

If bringing a friend is not an option, ask the host if there’s something you can do to help during the event. This can give you something to focus on, reduce feelings of being observed, and provide opportunities for easy conversation.

5. Prepare Conversation Starters

Having a few conversation starters up your sleeve can help alleviate the stress of making small talk. Think of neutral topics or current events that you can discuss.

6. Take Breaks

If you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to take a break. Step outside for fresh air, take a quiet moment alone or engage in a brief mindfulness exercise to help you re-center.

7. Be Honest About Your Feelings

It’s okay to acknowledge your social anxiety. If you feel comfortable, let others know that you’re feeling anxious. More often than not, people are understanding and supportive.

The holiday season can be a challenging time for individuals with social anxiety. However, you can navigate the holiday season confidently and grace by understanding your triggers, setting boundaries, and employing effective coping strategies. Remember, asking for help and caring for your mental health is okay. After all, the holiday season is all about joy, peace, and well-being.

Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT.  Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional—instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.


National Institute of Mental Health – Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness

New York Times – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Holiday Social Anxiety

Envision Wellness – 7 Ways to Manage Social Anxiety During the Holidays

Sharecare – How to Survive the Holidays When You Have Social Anxiety

Personal Empowerment: Unleashing the Power of Agency

The journey towards self-improvement and personal growth is a winding road laden with opportunities for self-discovery and self-awareness.

 In each stride, you make choices and decisions that shape your path and influence your future. The concept of personal agency is a fundamental aspect that propels this emotional journey.

Personal agency is the control you exert over your life, your ability to influence your thoughts and behavior, and your confidence in handling diverse tasks and situations. 

This article is a comprehensive guide on understanding and fostering personal agency, thus helping you feel more in control of your life and work.

The Core Concept of Agency

Personal agency, also called self-agency, is the feeling of control you experience over your life and your capacity to influence your thoughts and behaviors.

 It’s the belief in your ability to impact your future. People with high agency have profound control over their lives and can make decisions to meet their needs and wants. 

They harbor an inner power that allows them to act upon their desires, make plans, and execute actions necessary to realize them.

Conversely, individuals with a low agency often feel that external factors such as luck or fate manipulate their life trajectories. 

They may feel powerless to alter the course of their lives, fostering a sense of helplessness and complacency. Understanding ourselves as agents of change can help us set goals, take steps to improve our personal and professional lives, and discard feelings of powerlessness.

The Building Blocks of High Agency

Albert Bandura, a prominent Stanford University professor of psychology and a pioneer in agency research, proposed that we start developing our sense of agency from birth.

Infants learn to interact with their surroundings and discover ways to alter their environments through their caregivers. Children learn to regulate their behaviors by observing their parents and caregivers. 

As adults, our sense of agency continues to evolve, influenced by several factors, including access to resources and the environment.


Intentionality is the proactive commitment to change your life or environment. It means you consciously decide to act and take control instead of letting external factors dictate your actions.


Forethought allows you to envision the future, set goals, and motivate yourself. It guides your actions in anticipation of future events and outcomes.


Self-reactiveness is your capability to act on your plans, monitor your progress, and make necessary course corrections if you stray. It means you need to be deliberate in performing towards reaching your goals and not simply waiting for results to appear.


This attribute lets you contemplate and evaluate your motives, values, and life goals. Self-reflection allows you to address any conflicts in your motivations and choose to act in favor of one over the other.


Self-efficacy is your belief in your ability to succeed. It’s as crucial as your actions in developing a sense of agency. How people perceive themselves and their environment influences their ideas about what is possible and determines their level of personal agency.

Transitioning from Low Agency to High Agency

Transitioning from low to high agency involves fostering a shift in mindset and embracing strategies that inspire personal empowerment.

Re-evaluate Your Beliefs

Begin by introspecting your beliefs about your sense of agency. Do you perceive yourself as someone with high agency or low agency? 

Do you feel a high sense of agency in some regions of your life, like your career, but a low sense of agency in others, like your personal relationships? 

Reflecting on where you want more control can help you set future goals.

Cultivate Intentionality

Start by setting small, achievable goals for yourself. It could be reading a specific number of pages of a book each week, organizing your workspace, or incorporating a new habit into your daily routine.

Understand Your Environment

High agency requires resources like time, money, knowledge, and skills. Evaluate the resources you have that can help you create and act on your goals. Identify the resources you need and the avenues to acquire them.

Seek Support

Consider seeking support from coaches, mentors, supportive family members, or friends. They can provide invaluable guidance and encouragement on your journey towards self-agency. 

If you believe traumatic experiences or mental health struggles are impacting your agency, seek support from a licensed mental health professional.

The Journey to Personal Empowerment

Remember, feeling in control of your life is not about controlling every aspect of it. Instead, it’s about exercising more control over your aspirations, understanding your sense of agency, and letting go of feelings of powerlessness.

Embracing personal agency is about believing in yourself and your capabilities. It’s about recognizing that you are the pilot of your life, steering it in the direction you desire. 

So, take the reins of your life, set your course, and embark on the journey to personal empowerment.

After all, as Albert Bandura rightly stated, “People are producers of their life circumstances, not just products of them.” It’s time to be the producer of your life and embrace the power of agency.

Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT.  Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional—instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.

Gratitude Amid Trials: A Beacon of Hope and Faith

Sometimes, life seems like an endless cycle of trials and tribulations. When we’re caught in the midst of adversity, the idea of cultivating gratitude might feel like a tall order. 

However, as challenging as it might be, expressing thankfulness in all circumstances is not just a noble gesture but also a transformative tool that can change our lives for the better.

Gratitude, in its simplest form, is acknowledging the good in our lives. But it’s more than just enumerating our blessings. It requires us to change our perspective, look beyond our current circumstances, and see the silver linings even in the darkest clouds. 

This shift in perspective enables us to experience peace and joy even amid trials.

Gratitude is not just an emotion; it’s an act of faith. It calls for us to trust in the unseen, to believe in the promise of better days, and to hold on to hope even when our situation seems hopeless. 

Gratitude is a testament to our belief that all things work together for our good, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

The Healing Power of Gratitude

Gratitude has a profound healing effect. It soothes our souls lifts our spirits, and broadens our perspective. It allows us to look beyond our pain and see the blessings within our trials. 

It helps us understand that our trials are not punishments but rather opportunities for growth and self-realization.

In uncertain times, gratitude becomes a beacon of hope. 

Focusing on what we are thankful for can provide solace and strength when our future seems unclear and our path fraught with obstacles. Even when we can’t change our circumstances, we can change our reaction to them. 

By choosing to be grateful, we see life not as a series of problems but as a journey of learning and growth.

Transformative Power of Gratitude

Gratitude holds a transformative power. It can turn trials into blessings, sorrow into joy, and despair into hope. It can change our hearts, our minds, and our lives. 

It’s not about ignoring our problems or pretending that everything is perfect. It’s about finding beauty and goodness amidst the chaos and difficulty.

Gratitude is a catalyst for change.

It sparks a shift in our mindset, helping us to see the world and ourselves in a new light. It encourages us to focus on possibilities instead of limitations, on strengths instead of weaknesses, and on solutions instead of problems.

Gratitude inspires us to become the best version of ourselves, to aim higher, and to strive harder.

In times of grief, gratitude can be a source of comfort and healing. It reminds us of the love, joy, and beauty we’ve experienced, even when we’re currently enveloped in sorrow.

It provides a sense of perspective, helping us to remember that even in our darkest moments, there is still light to be found.

The Role of Faith in Cultivating Gratitude

Faith plays a crucial role in cultivating gratitude. Faith reassures us that we are not alone in our struggles and that there is a higher power guiding and supporting us.

It encourages us to trust in the process, believe in life’s goodness, and hold on to hope even when it seems elusive. Gratitude and faith are intertwined, each one strengthening the other.

Life is full of trials and tribulations, but it is also filled with blessings and miracles. 

Gratitude helps us to see and appreciate these blessings, even amid trials. It encourages 

us to shift our perspective, to focus on the positive, and to trust in the promise of better days. Whether we’re facing a minor setback or a major calamity, gratitude can guide us through. It can heal our hearts, lift our spirits, and transform our lives. 

Let’s embrace a spirit of gratitude, not only in times of abundance and ease, but also — and perhaps most importantly — in times of trials and adversity. 

Because it is in these moments, when we are most challenged, that we have the greatest opportunity to grow, to learn, and to become the best version of ourselves.

Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT.  Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional—instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.

Embracing Autumn: Nurturing Your Mental Wellbeing in the Fall Season

Autumn is a season that is often associated with cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, and vibrant foliage. However, the season also brings a unique opportunity to reflect and prioritize our mental health.

I. The Significance of Autumn: A Time for Transformation and Reflection

With its changing leaves and crisp air, autumn symbolizes a time of transformation. This transformation is seen in the environment and can be an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection.

Just as trees shed their leaves to prepare for a new growth cycle, we, too, can use this time to let go of old habits or beliefs that no longer serve us, making way for new possibilities. Autumn encourages us to embrace change and adapt, much like the resilient leaves that change color and fall to the ground.

Moreover, the arrival of autumn also signifies a shift in our daily routines. As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, we often retreat indoors, giving us more time for introspection and self-care.

II. Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As we embrace the autumn season, it’s essential to acknowledge that this time can also bring challenges for some individuals. One such challenge is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression typically occurring during fall and winter.

SAD is often characterized by sadness, low energy, changes in appetite or sleep, and loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It is thought to be triggered by the decrease in sunlight during the shorter days of autumn and winter, which can disrupt our internal body clock and lead to changes in mood.

While SAD can be a significant hurdle for many, understanding its triggers and symptoms can empower us to take proactive steps toward managing our mental health during this season.

III. The Role of Self-Care in Nurturing Mental Health in Autumn

Taking care of our mental health is crucial throughout the year but becomes particularly important during the fall season. One way to prioritize our mental well-being during this time is through self-care.

Self-care refers to activities that promote our physical, mental, and emotional health. These activities can range from ensuring enough sleep and maintaining a healthy diet to setting aside time for relaxation and hobbies.

Here are some tips to incorporate self-care into your routine this autumn:

  • Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: As the season changes, it’s essential to continue maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating nutritious foods, and engaging in regular physical activity.
  • Embracing Mindfulness: Autumn is a great time to practice mindfulness, which involves focusing on the present moment. Whether it’s taking a few deep breaths before starting your day or spending a few minutes meditating before bedtime, mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
  • Staying Socially Connected: Despite the cooler weather and shorter days, staying socially connected is essential. Whether catching up with friends over a cup of hot cocoa or spending time with family, social connections can significantly enhance our mood and overall well-being.

IV. The Power of Nature in Promoting Mental Health

One of the greatest gifts of autumn is the beauty of nature it brings. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can positively impact our mental health.

Being in nature can help clear our minds, reduce stress, and improve our mood. Autumn provides a perfect opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, apple picking, or simply walking in the park to enjoy the vibrant colors of the fall foliage.

V. Using Autumn as a Temporal Landmark

Autumn can serve as a ‘temporal landmark’ – a psychological concept that refers to events that change how we perceive time. Temporal landmarks can help boost our motivation to pursue goals and make positive life changes.

For many, the arrival of autumn feels like a fresh start, much like a new year. This can be an excellent time to set or revisit new goals. Whether starting a new exercise routine, learning a new skill, or setting mental health objectives, use autumn’s energy and motivation to propel your personal growth.

VI. Therapy as a Form of Self-Care

Taking care of our mental health often involves seeking external support, and therapy can be a powerful form of self-care. Therapy provides a safe space to express our thoughts and feelings and gain insights into our behaviors and patterns.

Therapists can provide us with tools to manage stress, anxiety, or symptoms of SAD effectively. They can also guide us in setting and achieving our personal goals, further promoting our mental well-being during the autumn season.

VII. Maximizing the Mental Health Benefits of Autumn

To make the most of autumn’s mental health benefits, it’s essential to maintain a positive perspective and take proactive steps toward nurturing our mental health.

Here are some strategies to maximize these benefits:

  • Embrace Change: View autumn’s changes as an opportunity for personal growth and transformation.
  • Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities promoting physical, mental, and emotional health.
  • Stay Connected: Maintain social connections to boost your mood and enhance your well-being.
  • Spend Time in Nature: Harness the power of nature to clear your mind, reduce stress, and improve your mood.
  • Seek Support: If you’re feeling down or experiencing symptoms of SAD, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy can be a powerful tool for managing your mental health this season.

VIII. Coping with the Onset of the Holiday Season

As autumn transitions into winter, the onset of the holiday season can bring additional stress. It’s important to continue prioritizing your mental health during this busy time.

Ensure that you carve out time for yourself amidst the hustle and bustle. This could involve maintaining your exercise routine, ensuring enough sleep, or taking a few minutes daily to practice mindfulness and relax.

IX. Fostering Resilience: Preparing for the Winter Blues

As we enjoy the benefits of autumn, we must also prepare for the challenges the upcoming winter might bring. Fostering resilience – the ability to bounce back from adversity – can help us navigate the winter blues effectively.

Resilience can be built by maintaining a positive attitude, practicing self-care, staying socially connected, and seeking professional support. As we prepare to face the shorter, colder days of winter, let’s carry forward the lessons of adaptability, self-care, and resilience that autumn teaches us.

X. Embrace Autumn, Nurture Your Mental Health

Autumn is more than just a season of changing leaves and cooler temperatures. It’s a time for reflection, transformation, and focusing on our mental health. By embracing autumn’s changes, prioritizing self-care, staying connected, and seeking support, we can navigate this season with a happier and healthier frame of mind.

Written by Sarah Edwards, Project Associate of TPCT.  Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional. Instead, someone sharing real-life experiences and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps.

10 Simple Acts of Kindness You Can Do Today

As a society, we tend to focus on our own needs and wants, often forgetting about the simple acts of kindness that can make a big difference in someone’s day. 

Kindness is the act of being friendly, generous, and considerate to others, and it is something that can have a profound impact on both the giver and the receiver. 

acts of kindness

In this article, I will discuss what kindness is, its importance, and 10 simple acts of kindness you can do today to make someone’s day.

What is Kindness?

Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It is the act of going out of your way to help others without expecting anything in return. This can be something as simple as holding the door open for someone, giving a compliment, or offering a helping hand to someone in need. Kindness is a positive trait that can have a ripple effect, inspiring others to be kind as well.

Why is Kindness Important?

Kindness is important because it helps to create a positive and supportive environment. When we are kind to others, it not only benefits them, but it also benefits us. Acts of kindness can help to reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve overall well-being. Kindness can also help to bridge cultural and social divides, bringing people together and promoting understanding and empathy.

Kindness Quotes to Inspire You

Here are some inspiring quotes about kindness that will motivate you to be more compassionate and caring:

  • “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
  • “Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” – Scott Adams
  • “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain
  • “The greatest gift you can give someone is your kindness and attention.” – Debasish Mridha
  • “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart

The Benefits of Being Kind

Being kind has numerous benefits for both the giver and the receiver. When we practice kindness, it can help to:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Boost happiness and well-being
  • Improve social connections and relationships
  • Promote empathy and understanding
  • Increase self-esteem and confidence
  • Create a positive and supportive environment

10 Simple Acts of Kindness You Can Do Today

Here are 10 simple acts of kindness that you can do today to make someone’s day:

1. Smile and say hello

A simple smile and greeting can go a long way in brightening someone’s day. It only takes a few seconds, but it can help to create a positive and friendly environment.

2. Hold the door open

Holding the door open for someone is a small act of kindness that can show consideration and respect. It can also help to make someone’s day a little easier.

3. Give a compliment

Giving a genuine compliment can help to boost someone’s confidence and self-esteem. It can also help to create a positive and supportive environment.

4. Help someone in need

Offering a helping hand to someone in need can make a big difference in their day. Whether it’s helping someone carry their groceries, offering directions, or simply listening to someone who needs to talk, small acts of kindness can have a profound impact.

5. Pay it forward

Random acts of kindness can help to create a chain reaction of positivity. Whether it’s paying for someone’s coffee or leaving a kind note for a stranger, paying it forward can help to spread kindness and compassion.

6. Volunteer your time

Volunteering your time for a cause you believe in can help to make a positive impact in your community. It can also help to promote empathy and understanding.

7. Send a thank-you note

Sending a thank-you note to someone who has helped you or made a positive impact in your life can show your appreciation and gratitude. It can also help to strengthen relationships and create a positive and supportive environment.

8. Offer words of encouragement

Offering words of encouragement to someone who is going through a tough time can help to lift their spirits and provide support. It can also help to promote empathy and understanding.

9. Listen without judgment

Listening without judgment can help to create a safe and supportive environment. It can also help to promote understanding and empathy.

10. Practice self-kindness

Practicing self-kindness is important for our overall well-being. Whether it’s taking a break to relax, treating yourself to something you enjoy, or simply being kind to yourself in your thoughts, small acts of self-kindness can have a big impact.

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

Here are some additional random acts of kindness ideas that you can do to spread positivity and compassion:

  • Leave a kind note for a stranger
  • Buy a meal for someone in need
  • Donate to a charity you believe in
  • Offer to pet-sit for a friend
  • Send a care package to someone who could use a little extra love
  • Offer to help a neighbor with yard work or house cleaning
  • Give someone a hug or a high-five

Kindness in the Workplace

Practicing kindness in the workplace is important for creating a positive and supportive environment. Here are some ways you can practice kindness at work:

  • Offer to help a coworker with a project
  • Give a compliment or words of encouragement to a coworker
  • Bring in treats to share with your coworkers
  • Listen without judgment when a coworker needs to talk
  • Offer to cover for a coworker who needs to take time off

Teaching Kindness to Children

Teaching kindness to children is important for promoting empathy, respect, and understanding. Here are some ways you can teach kindness to children:

  • Model kindness and compassion in your own behavior
  • Encourage children to help others and practice acts of kindness
  • Teach children to respect others’ differences and promote understanding
  • Read books about kindness and compassion with children

Kindness in the Digital Age

In today’s digital age, it’s important to remember to practice kindness and compassion online as well. Here are some ways you can promote kindness in the digital world:

  • Use social media to spread positivity and compassion
  • Avoid cyberbullying and negative comments online
  • Practice empathy and understanding when communicating online
  • Use technology to connect with others and promote understanding

In conclusion, kindness is an important trait that can have a profound impact on both the giver and the receiver. 

By practicing simple acts of kindness, we can create a positive and supportive environment that promotes empathy, understanding, and compassion. So take a few minutes today to do something kind for someone else – it may be small, but it can make a big difference in someone’s day.

So, which act of kindness are you going to do today? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

From Plate to Mind: How Sharing a Meal Can Boost Your Mental Health

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of a shared meal. Essentially, opting for quick and convenient options instead. But have you ever considered the profound impact that breaking bread with others can have on your mental well-being


The simple act of eating together fosters a sense of belonging and connection. It provides a natural antidote to feelings of isolation and loneliness. 

Dive into the fascinating science behind this phenomenon and discover how embracing the age-old tradition of sharing meals can nourish not only your body but also your mind. 

Embark on this culinary journey with me. Let’s unravel the secrets to a happier, healthier, and more connected life – one plate at a time.

Personally, after becoming a Christian I had an entirely new viewpoint on food. My taste buds and mind was shifted into a new fascination with food resembling more than just nutrients. 

Not just in the antidotes provided in Scripture but the act of fellowship itself, the bonding ties of doing an act that for myself and many others has become chore like, and downright redundant. Yes, food has always been an essential part of our daily lives. It sustains us.

But it also brings us together, and can even have a significant impact on our mental health. 

Don’t worry, we will also touch on hosting dinner parties. And potlucks to build social networks (seriously, my favorite thing has become hosting). By the end of this article, you should have a greater understanding of the importance of shared meals for better mental health.

The connection between meals and mental health

It is not surprising that the food we eat can have a significant impact on our mental health. After all, our brains require various nutrients to function correctly. And a well-balanced diet can help provide these essential building blocks.

Research has shown that a well-rounded diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders. Such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, have been found to play a vital role in maintaining and improving:

  • brain function
  • mood, and
  • overall mental well-being

However, the connection between food and mental health goes beyond the nutrients we consume. The act of eating and sharing a meal can also have a profound impact on our mental well-being. Particularly in terms of fostering social connections and promoting a sense of belonging. 

In fact, studies have shown that individuals who regularly share meals with others tend to have lower levels of stress and depression. As well as higher levels of overall life satisfaction.

The importance of social connection in mental well-being

Social connection is a fundamental human need

We are social creatures, and our brains are wired to seek the companionship and support of others. Research has shown that strong social connections can boost our mental health. It can increase our resilience to stress, and even improve our physical health. 

Conversely, social isolation and loneliness can have detrimental effects on our mental well-being. It increases the risk of depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline.

One way to promote social connection and foster mental well-being is through shared meals. 

Eating together is an age-old tradition that transcends cultures and geographical boundaries. It serves as a powerful means of strengthening relationships, fostering a sense of community, and building social networks. 

By sharing a meal, we not only nourish our bodies but also our minds. Especially, as we engage in conversation, share stories, and create lasting memories.

How sharing a meal fosters social connection

There is something inherently social about eating together. Whether it’s a casual lunch with coworkers or an elaborate family feast, sharing a meal creates a sense of togetherness and belonging. When we eat together, we are more likely to engage in meaningful conversations. We are more likely to share experiences, and form bonds that can last a lifetime.

Sharing a meal also encourages us to be more present and mindful in the moment, as we focus on the food, the company, and the atmosphere. This mindfulness can help reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness, and promote a sense of gratitude for the food on our plates and the people in our lives.

As someone with severe anxiety, staying present feels almost possible, but when I am sharing a meal or in an atmosphere with others revolving around a seated space, I actually feel present.

An underlying benefit is shared meals can help create a sense of routine and stability. When I have a terrible work day, or am battling a state of very high stress, I find an ease gently into the expected comfort of sharing a meal with my husband.

The comforts of freshly baked bread on a Wednesday night laced with the scent of cooking wine, and real wine of course, can remind us what matters. We are alive another day. We are given the ability and gift to eat. And we are with the ones we love. 

When we share a meal with others, we have the chance to discuss our feelings, share our experiences, and offer support and encouragement to those around us. This can help create a sense of camaraderie and understanding, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Moreover, the act of eating together can also promote feelings of trust and cooperation. When we break bread with others, we are more likely to feel a sense of shared responsibility and a desire to work together towards a common goal. 

This can help strengthen relationships, build social networks, and contribute to a sense of community and social cohesion.

Nutrient-rich foods that promote mental health

While the social aspect of shared meals is undoubtedly important for mental health, it is also crucial to consider the types of foods we consume during these gatherings. I have chronic health conditions and over the years I’ve come to learn and appreciate deeply the power of food.

Educating yourself on foods that can work from the inside out in a positive way can have a profound impact on changing your life in a significant way.

Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods can have a significant impact on our mental well-being, providing the essential building blocks for optimal brain function and mood regulation.

Some key nutrients to consider for mental health include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, as well as in nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flaxseeds, these essential fats are vital for brain function and have been linked to improved mood and reduced risk of depression.
  • B vitamins: Found in whole grains, legumes, leafy greens, and lean proteins, B vitamins play a crucial role in energy production and neurotransmitter synthesis, helping to support mood regulation and cognitive function.
  • Antioxidants: Found in colorful fruits and vegetables, as well as in nuts and seeds, antioxidants help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can contribute to mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Fiber: Found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, fiber can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which can have a significant impact on mood and energy levels.

By incorporating these nutrient-rich foods into shared meals, we can not only promote social connection but also nourish our minds and support optimal mental health.

Cooking meals together as a bonding experience

The act of preparing a meal can be just as important for mental health and social connection as the act of eating together. Cooking together can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows individuals to bond, share knowledge, and create lasting memories.

For adults, cooking together can provide an opportunity to unwind, engage in meaningful conversation, and strengthen relationships with family members, friends, or romantic partners.

Moreover, cooking together can help individuals develop essential life skills, such as time management, problem-solving, and teamwork. By working together to create a delicious and nutritious meal, we not only nourish our bodies but also our minds and relationships.

A few tips for deeper meal times!

Regular family or even single mealtimes can have a profound impact. Studies have shown that families who eat together regularly tend to have stronger relationships, better communication, and higher levels of overall life satisfaction. This can include establishing a routine for yourself!

  • Establish a routine: Aim to have family meals at the same time each day, creating a sense of predictability and stability for all family members. For yourself, a routine of eating can help promote the other parts of your routine (hygiene, workouts, cleaning).
  • Make it enjoyable: Keep mealtime conversations light and engaging, focusing on positive topics and avoiding conflict or criticism. If you’re solo, this also includes the content you consume on social media, or watching negative shows/news.
  • Minimize distractions if you’re in a group: Turn off the television and put away electronic devices, creating a distraction-free environment that allows for meaningful conversation and connection.
  • Try new foods: Encourage children and adults alike to try new and varied foods, expanding their palate and promoting healthy eating habits. If you’re single, order from a new place or cook a new meal!
  • Make it a priority: Prioritize family mealtimes, even if they have to be quick and simple. Remember that the act of eating together is more important than what is actually on the menu. By yourself? Feed yourself. When I was on the grind in NYC I would commonly skip meals and this was only having a negative effect on my body – and I wasn’t giving myself rest. I was feeding a high workaholic nature.

Hosting dinner parties and potlucks to build social networks

Don’t freak out. As someone with social anxiety and more introvert tendencies, I get it, this is scary. But I found this was one of the best things I could do for myself! Learning how to host, and inviting people into a shared space – especially since I consider myself someone who is more isolated than others. 

Hosting dinner parties and potlucks can be a fun and rewarding way to bring people together, share good food, and create lasting connections.

To host a successful dinner party or potluck, consider the following tips:

  • Plan ahead: Decide on a theme or menu and make a shopping list in advance. Consider any dietary restrictions or preferences of your guests. Sometimes coming up with a theme really helps!
  • Keep it simple: Don’t try to prepare a complicated or elaborate meal. Stick with dishes that are easy to prepare and can be made in advance. Or dinners and recipes that you know very well, and are comfortable making.
  • Create a welcoming atmosphere: Set the table, create a cozy ambiance with candles or soft lighting, and consider playing some background music to set the mood.
  • Encourage conversation: Provide conversation starters or games to help break the ice and encourage guests to engage with one another.
  • Allow for flexibility: Don’t stress if things don’t go exactly as planned. Allow for flexibility and go with the flow, enjoying the company of your guests and the shared experience of a meal together.

Whether it’s cooking together as a family, hosting a dinner party, or simply sitting down to a meal with friends, sharing a meal is a powerful means of nourishing both our bodies and our minds. So the next time you sit down to eat, remember that you are not just nourishing your body, but also your relationships and your mental health. Bon appétit!

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Unleashing Your Potential: How Focusing on Solutions, Not Problems, Transforms Your Communication

Do you ever find yourself drowning in a sea of problems, unable to see the shore of possibilities? In a world where negativity often takes center stage, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the issues we face. But what if we could shift our perspective and focus on solutions, not problems? This seemingly simple change can have a profound impact on our communication, relationships, and overall well-being.


So, let’s dive in and discover how focusing on solutions, not problems, can transform your communication and unleash your full potential.

The Power of Positivity in Communication

The way we communicate not only reflects our thoughts and feelings, but it also shapes them. 

When we express ourselves with a negative, problem-focused attitude, we inadvertently reinforce our belief that things are hopeless and insurmountable. 

This mindset can cloud our judgment, hinder creative problem-solving, and ultimately, drag down our mood and relationships.

On the other hand, adopting a positive, solution-oriented approach to communication can be truly transformative. 

By concentrating on what can be done rather than dwelling on what’s wrong, we open ourselves up to more possibilities and create an environment where collaboration, innovation, and growth can flourish. 

This positive energy can be contagious, inspiring those around us to adopt a similar mindset and work together toward common goals.

In essence, positivity in communication is about more than just conveying a cheerful demeanor; it’s about actively seeking out solutions and emphasizing the potential for improvement. This optimistic outlook not only helps us navigate challenges more effectively but also fosters stronger, more supportive relationships with others.

How Shifting Your Mindset Improves Relationships

Our mindset plays a crucial role in determining the quality of our relationships. 

When we focus on problems, we often get stuck in a cycle of blame, defensiveness, and resentment. This negative energy can create barriers between us and our loved ones or colleagues, preventing us from truly connecting and working together effectively.

However, when we choose to focus on solutions, we cultivate an atmosphere of cooperation, empathy, and understanding. This shift in perspective allows us to see past our differences and work together to overcome obstacles. By emphasizing the potential for positive change, we empower ourselves and others to rise above challenges and grow together.

In addition, a solution-focused mindset can help us foster more meaningful connections with others. 

When we approach conversations with a genuine interest in finding solutions, we demonstrate that we value the other person’s perspective and are committed to resolving issues collaboratively. 

This mutual respect and trust can form the foundation of strong, lasting relationships, both personally and professionally.

Strategies for Solution-Focused Communication

Developing a solution-focused approach to communication requires practice and intentionality. Here are some strategies to help you cultivate this mindset and transform your interactions:

  • Reframe the problem: Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, try to view the issue as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Ask yourself, “What can be learned from this situation?” or “How can we turn this challenge into a positive outcome?”
  • Ask solution-focused questions: When discussing problems, steer the conversation toward solutions by asking open-ended questions like, “What steps can we take to resolve this?” or “How can we work together to overcome this obstacle?”
  • Listen actively: Show that you value the other person’s perspective by giving them your undivided attention, reflecting their feelings, and summarizing their ideas. This demonstrates your commitment to finding a solution and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.
  • Stay positive: I get it. As someone with mental health and anxiety this is a tall order. Focus on the potential for positive change and express confidence in your ability (and others’) to find solutions. Encourage and celebrate progress, no matter how small. I find I can still do this if I am mindful despite my severe anxiety.
  • Practice empathy: Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their feelings and perspective. This can help you approach the problem with a more open mind and find solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

Overcoming Common Barriers to Solution-Focused Thinking

Despite our best intentions, we may sometimes struggle to maintain a solution-focused mindset. Here are some common barriers and how to overcome them:

  • Fear of failure: The fear of failing can make us hesitant to explore new solutions or take risks. Remind yourself that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that each setback brings you one step closer to success.
  • Negativity bias: Our brains are wired to pay more attention to negative information than positive information, which can make it challenging to focus on solutions. Counteract this tendency by consciously looking for the positive aspects of any situation and expressing gratitude for the progress you’ve made.
  • Perfectionism: Ugh, my enemy. Perfectionists often fixate on problems, striving to achieve an ideal that may be unrealistic or unattainable. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself that progress is more important than perfection. ← I have this as a sticky note on my laptop.
  • Resistance to change: Change can be uncomfortable, and it’s natural to feel resistant at times. Embrace the uncertainty and view change as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Developing a Positive Communication Style

A positive communication style is key to fostering a solution-focused mindset. Here are some tips for cultivating a constructive, solution-oriented approach to communication:

  • Use “I” statements: Express your feelings and thoughts using “I” statements, rather than placing blame or making accusations. This encourages open, honest dialogue without putting the other person on the defensive.
  • Be assertive: This word gets a bad wrap. But assertive does not mean rude, aggressive or unkind. It clearly and respectfully expresses your needs, opinions, and boundaries. This demonstrates your commitment to finding a solution that works for everyone involved. It also shows you care!
  • Avoid negative language: Choose your words carefully and avoid using negative language that can bring down the mood or hinder progress. Focus on what can be done, rather than what can’t. I started keeping a tally on my notepad every time I said something negative outloud, and was shocked at my count!
  • Offer praise and encouragement: Recognize the efforts and achievements of others, and offer praise and encouragement when appropriate. This helps to create a positive atmosphere and motivate everyone to continue working toward solutions.
  • Be open to feedback: Ask for and be receptive to feedback from others, and use this information to improve your communication and problem-solving skills.

The Impact of Solution-Focused Communication on Professional Relationships

In professional settings, solution-focused communication can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and job satisfaction. By concentrating on what can be done and working together to find solutions, teams can overcome challenges and achieve their goals more efficiently.

In both contexts, a solution-oriented approach to communication contributes to stronger, more supportive relationships built on trust, respect, and shared goals.

Tips for Maintaining a Solution-Oriented Mindset

Maintaining a solution-focused mindset requires consistent effort and practice. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

  • Set realistic goals: Establish achievable goals for yourself and your relationships, and celebrate your progress along the way. I have a lot of articles, worksheets and even a masterclass about this! This is a BIG ONE.
  • Surround yourself with positivity: Surround yourself with supportive, solution-focused individuals who can help you stay positive and focused on growth.
  • Practice gratitude: Regularly express gratitude for the progress you’ve made, the lessons you’ve learned, and the support you’ve received from others. I have a gratitude notepad and set of sticky notes to write down little things in the day!
  • Stay open to learning: Embrace new experiences, ideas, and perspectives, and view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Reflect on your progress: Regularly review your communication habits and strategies, and consider how you can continue to improve your solution-focused approach.

While it may take time and effort to develop a solution-focused mindset, the benefits are worth it. By reframing problems as opportunities, asking solution-focused questions, listening actively, staying positive, and practicing empathy, we can build a communication style that promotes growth, collaboration, and positivity.

So, why not take the first step today and start embracing a solution-focused mindset in your communication and relationships? 

You may be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your life and the lives of those around you.

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

Overcome Your Inner Critic: The Ultimate Guide to Silencing Voices of Doubt and Unlocking Your Full Potential

Every individual inevitably faces moments of self-doubt and criticism throughout their life. It is during these instances when our inner critic, a voice that questions our abilities and worth, emerges. This internal monologue can be detrimental to our self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being. However, with the appropriate tools and mindset, it is possible to silence these voices of doubt and unlock our full potential.

inner critic

The inner critic is a natural part of the human psyche, serving as a defense mechanism to protect us from perceived threats and failures. While it can occasionally be helpful in pushing us to strive for excellence, the inner critic can become overly harsh and unrelenting, hindering our personal growth and development. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding the origins of self-doubt, recognizing common traits of the inner critic, and implementing strategies to overcome these limiting beliefs.

We will also discuss the impact of silencing voices on personal growth, building resilience against negative self-talk, and unlocking our full potential through self-compassion. Success stories of individuals who have conquered their inner critic will be shared, as well as a discussion on when to seek professional help. Ultimately, this guide serves as a reminder to embrace our journey to self-acceptance and success.

Understanding the origins of self-doubt

Self-doubt often stems from a combination of past experiences, societal expectations, and personal beliefs. To effectively silence the inner critic, it is important to understand the various factors that contribute to the development of self-doubt.

Childhood experiences play a significant role in shaping our inner critic. For example, overly critical or unsupportive parents, teachers, and peers can instill feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Additionally, experiences of bullying or rejection can have a lasting impact on our self-esteem and confidence.

Societal expectations can also contribute to the formation of the inner critic. We are often bombarded with images of perfection and success, leading to the belief that we must adhere to these unrealistic standards in order to be valued and accepted. This can result in a constant fear of failure and a persistent need for validation from others.

Lastly, personal beliefs and thought patterns are crucial in the development of self-doubt. Negative self-talk and all-or-nothing thinking can perpetuate feelings of inadequacy and hinder our progress towards personal growth. By identifying these beliefs and challenging their validity, we can begin to dismantle the inner critic and silence the voices of doubt.

Recognizing common traits of the inner critic

In order to effectively silence the inner critic, it is essential to recognize its common traits and manifestations. The inner critic can take various forms, including:

  • Perfectionism: The belief that anything less than perfect is unacceptable, leading to a constant fear of failure and procrastination.
  • Comparison: Continuously comparing ourselves to others, resulting in feelings of inadequacy and envy.
  • Self-sabotage: Engaging in behaviors that undermine our success, such as procrastination, neglecting self-care, or avoiding new opportunities.
  • Rumination: Obsessively dwelling on past mistakes or perceived flaws, preventing us from moving forward and focusing on the present moment.

By recognizing these traits, we can begin to identify the specific instances when our inner critic is at its loudest and develop targeted strategies to silence these voices of doubt.

Impact of silencing voices on personal growth

Silencing the inner critic can have profound effects on our personal growth and overall well-being. By freeing ourselves from the grip of self-doubt, we can cultivate greater self-confidence, resilience, and self-compassion. This, in turn, allows us to pursue our goals and dreams without fear of failure or rejection.

Additionally, silencing voices of doubt can improve our relationships with others. When we are no longer consumed by our own insecurities, we can be more present, authentic, and empathetic in our interactions with friends, family, and colleagues.

Moreover, by overcoming the inner critic, we can tap into our innate creativity and resourcefulness. Without the constant pressure to conform to unrealistic expectations, we can explore new ideas and possibilities, ultimately unlocking our full potential.

Strategies for overcoming the inner critic

a. Mindfulness and self-awareness

Cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness is a crucial first step in silencing the inner critic. By developing a greater understanding of our thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, we can identify the specific triggers that exacerbate self-doubt and begin to implement targeted strategies to overcome these negative thought patterns.

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, journaling, and deep breathing exercises, can be helpful in fostering self-awareness and promoting a non-judgmental attitude towards our thoughts and emotions. By observing our inner critic without judgment, we can create distance between ourselves and our negative self-talk, reducing its power over our actions and decisions.

b. Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs that contribute to self-doubt and the inner critic. This process can be facilitated through tools such as thought records, which involve documenting triggering situations, the associated thoughts and emotions, and potential alternatives to these negative thought patterns.

By systematically challenging and reframing our negative self-talk, we can begin to develop more balanced and rational perspectives, ultimately silencing the inner critic and fostering greater self-confidence and self-compassion.

c. Affirmations and positive self-talk

Incorporating affirmations and positive self-talk into our daily routines can be an effective strategy for combating the inner critic. By consistently reinforcing positive messages about our abilities, worth, and potential, we can gradually rewire our thought patterns and cultivate a more empowering and self-compassionate mindset.

Affirmations can be tailored to address specific areas of self-doubt or insecurity, such as career success, relationships, or personal growth. By consistently practicing positive self-talk and affirmations, we can counteract the damaging effects of the inner critic and unlock our full potential.

Building resilience against negative self-talk

Building resilience against negative self-talk is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and practice. The following strategies can be helpful in fostering greater resilience against the inner critic:

  • Strengthening self-compassion: Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding, particularly during moments of self-doubt or failure, can help to cultivate a more resilient mindset.
  • Developing a growth mindset: Embracing challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning can foster greater resilience.
  • Establishing a support network: Surrounding ourselves with supportive and understanding individuals can provide a valuable buffer against negative self-talk and reinforce our inherent worth and abilities.

By consistently practicing these strategies, we can build greater resilience against the inner critic and protect ourselves from the damaging effects of self-doubt.

Unlocking your full potential through self-compassion

Self-compassion is a powerful tool for silencing voices of doubt and unlocking our full potential. By treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and empathy, we can create a safe space for personal growth and development.

Self-compassion involves acknowledging our mistakes and shortcomings without judgment, recognizing that we are only human and that imperfection is a natural part of life. By embracing our imperfections and treating ourselves with compassion, we can foster a more supportive and empowering internal dialogue, ultimately unlocking our full potential and achieving our goals.

Practicing self-compassion can involve a variety of strategies, such as:

  • Mindful self-compassion: This involves acknowledging and validating our emotions without judgment, and treating ourselves with kindness and understanding.
  • Self-care: Engaging in activities that promote our well-being, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature, can help to cultivate self-compassion and reduce the impact of the inner critic.
  • Self-acceptance: Accepting ourselves for who we are, flaws and all, can help to counteract the damaging effects of self-doubt and cultivate greater self-compassion.

By practicing self-compassion consistently, we can overcome the inner critic and unlock our full potential, both in our personal and professional lives.

Success stories: Individuals who conquered their inner critic

Many individuals have successfully silenced their inner critic and achieved their goals, despite facing significant challenges and setbacks. These success stories serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for those currently struggling with self-doubt.

One such individual is J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. Rowling faced numerous rejections and setbacks before finally finding a publisher for her first book. During this time, she often struggled with self-doubt and the inner critic. However, through perseverance and self-compassion, she was able to overcome these challenges and achieve incredible success.

Another example is Oprah Winfrey, who overcame a difficult childhood and numerous obstacles to become one of the most influential figures in media and entertainment. Winfrey has spoken openly about her struggles with self-doubt and the inner critic, emphasizing the importance of self-compassion, resilience, and a growth mindset in achieving success.

These success stories demonstrate that silencing the inner critic is possible, and that with the right mindset and strategies, we can achieve our goals and unlock our full potential.

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! https://liinks.co/setapartcompany

The Power of Spending Time on What You Value & How

In a world where time is our most valuable commodity, it’s essential to spend it wisely. However, with hectic schedules and endless to-do lists, it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This creates a dynamic where we are spending time on things that are outside of our values.

Sometimes I don’t notice time. My hands chained to a computer screen like breathing. The sun goes up, and back down, and I do it again.

I learned the hard way that we often prioritize tasks that don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, leaving us feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

Years ago, I was a workaholic. While I still have the tendencies to overwork, I changed my mindset on time, and a lot of changes organically followed with it. 

Over working isn’t just one culperite, but social media, consumption, or an excess of mindless tasks. As an escapism from my job

I asked myself this question: What if I shifted my focus to spending time on what I value most?

Understanding the value of time

Time is the one resource that we can never get back. Being younger, it can be easy to slip into this feeling of immortality. However, having faced loss and health crises since childhood, I’ve always had a heightened sense of its fleeting pace.

Unlike money, relationships or possessions, time is finite. Once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. 

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the value of time and how we choose to spend it. 

Every moment we spend on something that doesn’t matter to us is a moment we’ll never get back.

We need to start thinking about how we’re spending our time and whether it’s aligned with our values. When we prioritize what matters to us, we’re more likely to feel fulfilled, energized, and motivated.

Spending Time on Identifying what you truly value

The first step in spending time on what you value is to identify what that is. Many of us live our lives on autopilot, not taking the time to reflect on what’s truly important to us. 

To identify what you value, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What brings me joy and fulfillment?
  • What do I want to achieve in my life?
  • What makes me feel energized and motivated?
  • What do I want to be remembered for?

I know what you’re thinking. These seem like rudimentary questions. But it’s amazing how often we don’t actually take action on these thoughts, or check in with our answers, as we change often.

Take the time to reflect on these questions and write down your answers. You may be surprised at what you discover. Once you’ve identified what you truly value, you can start to prioritize your time accordingly.

But that’s easier said than done, right? I remember my life was a jumbled mess before I figured out my own values and workflow. It feels overwhelming, maybe even impossible.

But I’ve learned that instead of starting with all the things you should be doing, you need to take some time to figure out what you shouldn’t be doing.

Common time-wasters: Limiting Spending Time

Before we dive into how to prioritize your time, it’s essential to understand common time-wasters. These are activities that consume our time without providing any real value or benefit. Some common time-wasters include:

  • Social media scrolling that goes from intentional to auto-pilot/escapism 
  • Watching TV or movies in constant or high quantity
  • Procrastination out of fear
  • Multitasking instead of deep focus sessions
  • Overthinking to the point of inaction
  • Distractions that can be controlled by you, but go unchecked.

Did you know I cover all of these things in my classes? I’d encourage you to check-out my 4 Day Creative Reset, to totally break down all of these things.

The impact of time-wasters on your life

When we spend too much time on activities that don’t align with our values, it can have a significant impact on our lives. We may feel unfulfilled, drained, and unmotivated. 

Time-wasters can also lead to increased stress and anxiety as we struggle to keep up with our responsibilities.

It’s essential to recognize when we’re spending too much time on activities that don’t matter to us and make a conscious effort to shift our focus.

Tips for prioritizing your time

1. Create a schedule

One of the most effective ways to prioritize your time is to create a schedule. Schedule your time around the things that matter to you, including hobbies, relationships, and work-related goals. This will help you ensure that you’re spending your time on the things that truly matter.

Do you want your own personalized workflow? Take my most popular class with over 2,000 students!

2. Say no to things that don’t matter

Learn to say no to things that don’t align with your values. It’s okay to decline invitations or opportunities that don’t resonate with you. Saying no will free up your time and energy for the things that do matter.

3. Setting goals to align with your values

Once you’ve identified what you value and how you want to spend your time, it’s time to set goals. Goals are essential because they provide direction and motivation. When we set goals that align with our values, we’re more likely to achieve them.

When setting goals, make sure they’re specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This will help ensure that you’re setting goals that are aligned with your values and that you can achieve them.

Strategies for staying on track with your priorities

Staying on track with your priorities can be challenging, especially when there are so many distractions in our daily lives. Here are some strategies to help you stay focused:

1. Use time-blocking

Time-blocking is the practice of scheduling your day in blocks of time. This helps you stay focused on specific tasks and ensures that you’re spending your time on the things that matter.

2. Set reminders

Use reminders to help you stay on track with your priorities. Set reminders on your phone or computer to remind you to take breaks, focus on specific tasks, or prioritize your time.

3. Create accountability

Find an accountability partner or join a community that shares your values. This will help keep you motivated and on track with your priorities.

The benefits of spending time on what you value

When we prioritize what matters to us, we’re more likely to feel fulfilled, motivated, and energized. 

We’re also more likely to achieve our goals and feel a sense of purpose in our lives.

The key is to stay true to your values and remember that you’re in control of how you spend your time. Learn to say no to things that don’t align with your values, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries.

Remember to set goals, stay focused, and don’t be afraid to say no to things that don’t matter. With these strategies, you can start living a life that’s fulfilling and purposeful.

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! @setapart_company

Sacrificing for a Happier Relationship: How to Make Sacrifices That Count

Sacrifices are essential in a relationship because they show that you care about your partner’s happiness and well-being. As someone on the newly married path, all I can say for sure: This (sacrificing) is everything.

Understanding the Importance of Sacrifices in a Relationship (seriously, you won’t regret taking time to understand this)

Sacrifices are essential in a relationship because they show your partner that you care about them and their well-being. Relationships are a two-way street, and both partners must be willing to make sacrifices for each other. Sacrifices can come in many forms, such as giving up your time, compromising on decisions, or making financial sacrifices.

Making sacrifices is not always easy, but it is necessary for a happy and healthy relationship. When you make a sacrifice for your partner, it shows them that you are willing to put their needs before your own. This act of selflessness can strengthen the bond between you and your partner, leading to a more fulfilling relationship.

Sacrificing Quotes to Inspire You – because frankly sometimes we need the short and sweet to hold into our brains.

  • “Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation.” – Osho
  • “The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.” – William Saroyan
  • “True love is selfless. It is prepared to sacrifice.” – Sadhu Vaswani

These quotes remind us that love is not about possession or selfishness. Instead, true love requires sacrifice and selflessness.

How to Identify Sacrifices That Count

Not all sacrifices are created equal. Some sacrifices may be insignificant, while others can have a significant impact on your relationship. To identify sacrifices that count, you must first understand your partner’s needs and desires.

One way to identify sacrifices that count is to ask your partner what they need from you. This can be a simple conversation that can help you understand their priorities and expectations. Think beyond singular objectives. What types of communication do you need? Ways of spending time together? Get detailed.

Another way to identify sacrifices that count is to think about what you would want your partner to do for you in a similar situation.

Effective Communication in Making Sacrifices

Effective communication is crucial when making sacrifices in a relationship. It is essential to communicate your needs and expectations to your partner and to listen to theirs as well. When making a sacrifice, it is important to do so willingly and without resentment or bitterness.

One way to communicate effectively when making sacrifices is to use “I” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You never make time for me,” say, “I feel neglected when we don’t spend time together.” This approach can help your partner understand your feelings without feeling attacked or criticized.

The Benefits of Making Sacrifices in a Relationship

Making sacrifices in a relationship can have many benefits. Firstly, it can strengthen the bond between you and your partner. It shows that you care about their happiness and well-being and are willing to do what it takes to make them happy.

Secondly, making sacrifices can lead to a more fulfilling relationship. When both partners are willing to make sacrifices for each other, it creates a sense of balance and equality in the relationship. This can lead to greater trust and intimacy between partners.

Sacrifices vs Compromises: What’s the Difference? I used to not know.

Sacrifices and compromises are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. A compromise is a situation where both partners give up something to reach a mutual agreement. 

Sacrifices, on the other hand, are more significant than compromises and often require one partner to make a bigger sacrifice than the other.

For example, a compromise in a relationship might be deciding to watch a movie that neither partner loves but can tolerate. A sacrifice, on the other hand, might be giving up a job opportunity in another city to stay with your partner.

Common Sacrifices in a Healthy Relationship

In a healthy relationship, both partners make sacrifices for each other. Here are some common sacrifices that partners make in a healthy relationship:

  • Giving up personal time to spend time with your partner
  • Moving to a new city to be with your partner
  • Making financial sacrifices for the benefit of the relationship
  • Compromising on important decisions such as where to live or how to raise children
  • Giving up bad habits that may be affecting the relationship

Making Sacrifices Without Losing Yourself – My longest lesson

While making sacrifices is essential in a relationship, it is equally important to maintain your individuality. You should never make a sacrifice that goes against your core values or beliefs. It is essential to communicate your boundaries and expectations to your partner, so they understand what is and isn’t acceptable.

One way to make sacrifices without losing yourself is to set boundaries. For example, if your partner wants you to spend more time with them, but you need personal time to recharge, you can set aside specific times for yourself and communicate this to your partner.

When Sacrificing Becomes Unhealthy – yes it’s a thing

While making sacrifices is essential in a relationship, it is essential to recognize when sacrificing becomes unhealthy. Sacrificing should never lead to resentment, bitterness, or a loss of self. If you find yourself constantly making sacrifices without getting anything in return, it may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

It is important to communicate your feelings to your partner and seek professional help if necessary. Remember, sacrificing should be a two-way street, and both partners should be willing to make sacrifices for each other.

Here are a few final sacrificing quotes to remember:

  • “Love is not a feeling of happiness. Love is a willingness to sacrifice.” – Michael Novak
  • “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs
  • “Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Written by Sarah Edwards. Want to get to know me? Say hi! @setapart_company

Forgiving Yourself: The Path of Letting Go

I used to think forgiveness was reserved for those “monumental” moments. The big mistakes or emotionally charged experiences. But forgiveness can be used for forgiving yourself.

I’ve come to realize that the deep forgiveness, the ruminating, nagging, little voices, was the real monster, and that I personally had many of them.

I was complaining about a recurring truth I had been grappling with and I realized my inability to move forward was I hadn’t forgiven my past mistakes yet.

The significance of not forgiving ourselves is oftentimes it morphs into a deep, strong fear that prevents us from making the steps forward.

The most dangerous, least-serving thing you can do, is live in the “victim mentality.” 

By blaming others, or the world, and avoiding seeing the pain inside yourself, you are just prolonging your healing, and the lessons you need to learn.

Seeing where we need to forgive ourselves is one of those methods of finding lessons that need to be realized. 

Forgiving yourself is one of the most challenging things to do, yet it is one of the most important steps towards healing and personal growth. Despite the contrary, learning lessons about who we are or what we need can be the most powerful thing we do to invest in ourselves.

We often hold onto past mistakes, regrets, and failures, allowing them to define who we are and how we live our lives. 

However, in order to move forward and find inner peace, we must learn the path of letting go. But how do we do that? I had no idea, and frankly, it felt impossible.

Whether it’s a minor mistake or a major life decision, forgiving yourself is crucial in order to embrace your true self and live a fulfilling life. 

Understanding Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the process of letting go of anger, resentment, and negative emotions towards someone who has hurt you.

It means accepting what has happened and moving forward without holding onto grudges or seeking revenge. However, forgiveness is not just about forgiving others, it’s also about forgiving ourselves. 

Self-forgiveness is the act of releasing ourselves from the guilt and shame of past mistakes and failures.

I realized I was holding onto shame of my past mistakes and it made me fearful of trying again or even bothering in the future.

Why Forgiving Yourself is Important

Forgiving yourself is crucial for your emotional well-being and personal growth. When we hold onto past mistakes, regrets, and failures, we carry a heavy burden that affects our mental and physical health. 

We become trapped in a cycle of negative self-talk, self-doubt, and self-criticism

This can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Forgiving yourself is about breaking free from this cycle and embracing self-compassion and self-love. It allows you to let go of the past and move forward with a sense of peace and freedom.

The Negative Effects of Holding onto Regret

Holding onto regret can prevent us from living in the present and enjoying life to the fullest. 

It keeps us stuck in the past, reliving the pain and disappointment over and over again. 

This can lead to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and despair. Regret can also lead to self-blame, self-pity, and self-loathing. 

It’s important to acknowledge the past and learn from our mistakes, but it’s equally important to let go of the negative emotions that hold us back.

The Benefits of Letting Go

Letting go of past mistakes and failures can lead to a sense of freedom and inner peace. It allows us to move forward without the burden of guilt and shame. 

Self-forgiveness can also lead to improved relationships with others, as we become more compassionate and understanding towards them. 

It can also lead to greater self-awareness and personal growth, as we learn from our mistakes and become better versions of ourselves.

The Process of Forgiving Yourself

The process of forgiving yourself is not a quick fix, but rather a journey that requires time, patience, and self-reflection. In other words, this is the BIG KAHUNA as I like to call it.

It starts with acknowledging the mistake or failure and accepting responsibility for it. Yikes. Sounds like a lot?

But, It’s important to remember that we are all human and we all make mistakes. Avoiding your mistakes, denying them, prevents you from healing. You have to acknowledge to forgive. 

I found that what helps is openly explaining, in appropriate conversations, my mistakes and failures. It allows me to take a retro-reflective approach, and come at it from almost an analytical angle.

This makes me sit in the seat from students to teacher, now separating my mistake in the past from myself, and simply as a lesson.

Shifting Your Perspective

You can change your mistakes to lessons to move into a seat of compassion and power.   

Moving forward with self-acceptance means embracing our true selves, flaws and all. As a Christian, personally, this means I can give my sin and shame over to God. I find peace is knowing that we, and the world, is a broken place.

I don’t strive for perfection anymore. And I don’t need to be the perfect wife, daughter, friend or sister. Rather, I strive to try and make the best decisions I can in each moment, and be a hyper-aware individual.

I strive to know empathy, compassion, and the language of kindness over being perfect, and always presentable.

Self-acceptance is about treating ourselves with kindness, understanding, and compassion, and that requires you to make mistakes. It requires you to feel the weight of your fears and failures.

You can coexist with these negative emotions without letting them control you.

It’s important to set realistic goals and expectations for ourselves and to celebrate our successes, no matter how small.

Letting go of past mistakes and failures can lead to a sense of freedom and inner peace. It’s important to acknowledge the past and learn from our mistakes, but it’s equally important to let go of the negative emotions that hold us back. 

So, take the first step towards self-forgiveness today and start living a fulfilling life.

Written by Sarah Edwards, TPCT Project Coordinator – you can say hi at @setapart_company!

Mental Health and Relationships: Balancing Love and Emotions

I was pretty terrified to enter relationships. For years, I avoided all things dating. I had low self esteem, and major anxiety at the idea of someone getting to see my various sides of mental health and physical health challenges.

It’s undeniable that mental health and relationships are interconnected. Mental health issues can impact your relationships, and your relationships can also affect your mental health. 

When you have a mental health condition, it can affect how you relate to others. 

I hate to admit that, but I’ve come to learn that facing that truth can actually be a benefit. I am understanding my landscape, and being honest with myself in the area of relating to others really took me a step forward.

Realizing this is not admitting you are a burden, or unworthy. As I’ll say over and over, everyone has a mental health landscape. Understanding how yours impacts your relationship experience (in any type of relationship) is a form of advocating for yourself.

Similarly, relationships can also affect your mental health. A supportive and healthy relationship can improve your mental health, while an unhealthy one can make it worse. They can arise due to various reasons, such as stress, trauma, or triggers.

As someone who has battled the subtype “relationship” in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the first year of my serious relationship was a minefield of different triggers, intrusive thoughts and conversations.

However, this is also the man I married, so it’s possible to navigate successfully, and I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned with you today.

In short: mental health can have a significant impact on relationships, affecting both partners. This statement used to make me feel shameful, but now it makes me feel prepared. Everyone has a mental health journey. Both you and your partner. 

Accepting that how you process emotions and thoughts, and how you respond to them, has a role in the relationship is key to sustaining a healthy relationship. Here’s a few reasons why. Please note all of these are things I’ve experienced only.

Communication Breakdown

Mental health conditions can cause communication breakdowns in relationships. For instance, anxiety can make it difficult to express yourself effectively, while depression can make you feel withdrawn and unresponsive. This can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, causing further strain on the relationship.

Lack of Understanding in Relationships

Mental health conditions can be challenging to understand for those who haven’t experienced them. This can lead to a lack of understanding from your partner, making it difficult for them to support you. Conversely, if your partner has a mental health condition, it can be challenging to understand what they’re going through, leading to a lack of support and empathy.

Strained Intimacy

Mental health conditions can also affect intimacy in relationships. For instance, anxiety can make it difficult to feel comfortable and relaxed during intimate moments, while depression can cause a loss of interest in sex. This can lead to a strain on the relationship, as intimacy is an essential aspect of a healthy relationship, especially if physical touch is your love language. Which, I recently learned is mine.

So before you freak out on me – you probably want to know – what do you do about it? I’ve had couples come to me in the past, even though I am not an expert and very fresh in this game, this is the first thing I say:

Prioritize Communication in Relationships

Communication is essential in any relationship, and it’s even more crucial when mental health is involved. Open and honest communication can help you understand each other’s needs and emotions, leading to a healthier relationship. Make sure to express yourself effectively and listen actively to your partner’s concerns.

What does it mean to do this?

Choose the Right Time and Place

Choose the right time and place to have a conversation about mental health. It’s crucial to have this conversation when you’re both calm and relaxed, and there are no distractions. This will ensure that you can communicate effectively and without interruptions.

It also means respecting your partner’s processing times. I am a quick processor and problem solver, so I want to break down everything in that moment. Whereas my husband prefers to take longer to think through everything. Both of us need to respect those needs,

I wrote an article about resolving conflict through communication that I totally reccomend you check out.

Use “I” Statements

Use “I” statements when discussing mental health in your relationship. This will help you express your feelings and needs without blaming or criticizing your partner. For instance, instead of saying, “You never understand me,” say, “I feel like you don’t understand me sometimes.”

Even better than that, I like to use the “I” statements to ask for help in problem solving, such as, “I have been feeling this way lately. I’ve been trying to figure out why. Do you have any thoughts on what’s contributing to this?”

This actually increases intimacy because it invites your partner into the conversation to work with you, and shows them that you trust them. It also demonstrates that you care about their opinion, intellect and that they are experts on you.

Listen Actively

Listening actively is crucial when discussing mental health in your relationship. Make sure to give your partner your undivided attention and listen to their concerns without interrupting or judging them. This will show that you value their feelings and are willing to support them.

If you have a lot of unfinished conversations; storming out of the room, walking away, staying silent, this can have bigger consequences than the initial conflict itself.

Be Empathetic and Supportive

Empathy and support are essential in any relationship, but they’re even more crucial when mental health is involved. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand what they’re going through. Be supportive by offering help, listening actively, and providing reassurance. It’s also okay to come up with a plan and offer up ideas as a team.

Set Realistic Expectations for your Relationships

Setting realistic expectations is vital in any relationship, especially when dealing with mental health. Understand that mental health conditions can affect your partner’s mood, behavior, and ability to function. Be patient, and don’t expect them to be perfect. Instead, focus on progress and improvement.

For example, I struggle with social anxiety. We’ve had to set expectations for needs and conversation when we go to events together. We both have to make sacrifices. 

Connect with Supportive People

Connect with supportive people, such as friends or family members, who understand and support your mental health. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can improve your mental health and well-being. We personally like to connect with members in our church and have meetings with older, married couples to get extra thoughts and advice.

Written by Sarah Edwards, TPCT Project Coordinator – you can say hi @setapart_company!

Your Goal Refresher: Steps to Reach Goals and Increase Daily Action for May!

Hey all! A quick and clear refresher to start your week AND NEW MONTH (woo) strong!

Here are three important refresher steps you can take to help you reach your goals & more!

1. Set clear and specific goals: Make sure your goals are realistic, measurable, and have a clear deadline. This will help you stay focused and motivated.

2. Create a plan of action: Once you have clear goals, it’s important to break them down into smaller, manageable steps. Create a schedule or a to-do list to help you stay on track.

3. Stay motivated and accountable: Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you. Celebrate your progress and stay positive, even when faced with setbacks. You can also consider finding an accountability partner or coach to help you stay on track and hold you accountable. Remember, small daily actions lead to big results!

Small daily actions can have a big impact on achieving your goals. Here are some refresher examples of small daily actions that can make a big difference:

1. Practice gratitude: Take a few minutes each day to reflect on what you are grateful for. This can help you stay positive and motivated.

2. Exercise: Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can help boost your mood and energy levels, and improve your overall health.

3. Learn something new: Whether it’s reading a book, watching a tutorial, or taking an online course, learning something new each day can help you grow and develop new skills.

4. Plan your day: Take some time each morning to plan your day and prioritize your tasks. This can help you stay focused and productive throughout the day.

5. Connect with others: Take time to connect with friends and family, whether it’s through a phone call, text, or video chat. Building strong relationships can provide support and motivation as you work towards your goals.

Remember, small daily actions can add up over time and help you achieve your goals.

It’s important to remember that everyone has value and is worth investing time in, including yourself. Here are some strategies that can help you start to see your own worth and value:

1. Practice self-care: Make time for activities that you enjoy and that make you feel good about yourself. This could be anything from taking a relaxing bath to going for a walk in nature.

2. Challenge negative self-talk: Notice when you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself and challenge them with positive affirmations. For example, if you catch yourself thinking “I’m not good enough,” try replacing it with “I am worthy and capable.”

3. Celebrate your accomplishments: Take time to acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. This can help boost your self-confidence and reinforce your sense of worth.

4. Surround yourself with positive people: Surround yourself with people who uplift and support you. Avoid people who bring you down or make you feel unworthy.

Remember, it’s okay to be kind to yourself and invest time in your own growth and development. You are worthy and deserving of love and respect, including your own self-love and self-respect.

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

Unlocking the Secret to Increase Happiness: 5 Activities You Need to Try Today

As a society, we are constantly seeking ways to increase happiness. 

increase happiness

We look for happiness in our relationships, our jobs, and our possessions. We often believe that happiness is something that we can obtain or achieve, but the truth is that happiness is something that we create for ourselves. In this article, I will share with you the secret to happiness and five activities that you can try today to increase your happiness.

Why is Happiness Important?

Happiness is important because it affects every aspect of our lives. When we are happy, we are more productive, more creative, and more resilient. We are better equipped to deal with stress and adversity, and we have better relationships with others. Happiness also has a positive impact on our physical health. When we are happy, our bodies produce less stress hormones, and we have a stronger immune system. In short, happiness is essential to our overall well being.

Happiness is a combination of positive emotions and a sense of purpose in life.

Happiness is not just a result of external factors, such as wealth or success, but also of internal factors, such as our mindset and our habits. This means that we have the power to increase our own happiness through our thoughts and actions.

One of the most effective ways to increase happiness is through activities. Activities can help us to cultivate positive emotions, such as joy and gratitude, and can also give us a sense of purpose and meaning. Research has shown that engaging in activities that we enjoy can increase our overall sense of wellbeing. The key is to find activities that are meaningful to us and that bring us joy.

Five Activities to Try Today

Mindfulness Meditation

One of the most effective activities for increasing happiness is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment, without judgment. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can also increase feelings of calm and contentment. To practice mindfulness meditation, find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back to your breath.

Gratitude Journaling

Another effective activity for increasing happiness is gratitude journaling. Gratitude journaling involves writing down the things that you are grateful for each day. This can help to cultivate feelings of gratitude and appreciation, which can increase overall happiness. To practice gratitude journaling, set aside a few minutes each day to write down three things that you are grateful for.

Physical Exercise

Physical exercise is also an effective activity for increasing happiness. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that promote feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Exercise can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, and can improve overall physical health. To incorporate physical exercise into your daily routine, try going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or going for a run.

Spending Time in Nature

Spending time in nature is another effective activity for increasing happiness. Research has shown that spending time in nature can improve overall wellbeing and reduce stress and anxiety. To incorporate nature into your daily routine, try going for a walk in a park, spending time in your garden, or taking a hike in the mountains.

Practicing Kindness can Increase Happiness

Finally, practicing kindness is an effective way to increase happiness. When we do something kind for others, we experience a sense of connection and purpose, which can increase overall happiness. To practice kindness, try doing something kind for someone else each day, such as holding the door open or offering a compliment.

Joy Activities for Adults

In addition to the five activities listed above, there are many other joy activities that adults can engage in to increase happiness. Hobbies, creative pursuits, and socializing are all effective ways to cultivate positive emotions and a sense of purpose. To find joy activities that are meaningful to you, think about your interests and passions, and look for ways to incorporate them into your daily routine.

How to Make These Activities a Habit

To make these activities a habit, it is important to incorporate them into your daily routine. Start by choosing one activity that you would like to try, and commit to doing it every day for a week. Once you have established a habit, you can add another activity to your routine. Over time, these activities will become a natural part of your daily life, and you will begin to experience the benefits of increased happiness.

Measuring Your Happiness Progress

To measure your progress in increasing happiness, keep a happiness journal. Each day, write down your overall level of happiness, as well as the activities that you engaged in that day. This will help you to identify patterns and determine which activities are most effective for increasing your happiness.

Happiness is essential to our overall well being, and we have the power to increase our own happiness through our thoughts and actions. By engaging in activities that bring us joy and purpose, we can cultivate positive emotions and a sense of meaning in life. So, embrace happiness and try one of these activities today. You may be surprised by how much happier you feel.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and family. And don’t forget to let us know which activities you tried and how they worked for you!

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

5 Tips to Eliminate Distractions and Increase Focus During The Creative Process

I used to think refining my process was a waste of time. But then I discovered that investing time into the way I work gives me back significant time in the long run. This investment helped eliminate distractions that normally took away from my creative process.


While figuring out our to-do list and daily schedules is extremely important, it can create a shadow over the achilles heel of the creative process. 

Achilles heel: Having an inability to focus, or keep distractions under control, that is specific to you, your environment and your mind.

In short, a weakness is when a creative individual or productive worker doesn’t take the time to study the things that interrupts their workday. They allow the cycle to keep repeating itself. They don’t study the changes that need to be made for a greater output.

Now, I am a big advocate for not feeding the hustle, workaholic culture that Western civilization has tossed into modern play. The intention of discovering this part of ourselves is not to become these idolatry-productive gods, rather, give us time back. 

I want you to spend time with your families. I hope you shut the computer every night and get excited about the evening hours, or the weekend plans.

Identifying distractions and focus inconsistencies can be one of the most game changing things you can discover about yourself.

By getting the things done, structured under healthy standards (reasonable goals and tasks) you will end your day increasing your self-satisfaction and mental wellness.

This does not include consideration for any mental or focus related conditions, but I imagine that in conjunction with a mental health professional, these supplements can help. 

As someone with severe Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), the below has really helped me learn about how I operate.

I’m going to walk you through 5 Steps on what to do moving forward to help resolve distractions and increase your focus. These will be your exercises for today, Day 4.

Step 1 – Knowing The Mind and Body Connection

It’s no secret that your body’s health plays a role in your mind’s functionality. Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes at this, and it’s understandable, we hear this a lot. But have you actually done something actionable about this tip? When I got honest with myself, I sighed. I really needed a change.

The reality is: Many of us get comfortable with our own complacency that we are slow to change, or make no change. For example, you’ve accepted you are unable to get reasonable sleep, and you’ve built your life around that to accommodate that “truth.”

Now, sometimes we are in temporary situations where yes we can’t make a change. For example, new parenthood. However, I think many of us can identify physical/body health elements that we’ve slacked on. These impact; energy, focus, space and time for creative thought, research time, discipline, and good habits.

Accepting Bad/Poor Habits & Distractions

When we accept a bad habit, we are also accepting that we are able and allowed to make another bad habit. As a creative person, you’re often seeking new ideas and inspiration, “Why can’t I find it!” Is a phrase I used to ask myself mentally a lot. But I realized that a lot of my “ideas” and “inspiration” were buried under poor habits. 

Poor habits take up more time in the long run then healthy habits.

Let’s look at an example. If you skip eating meals, you’ll start getting agitated, or your blood sugar will crash. You get hungry. Maybe the hunger strikes when you’re mid-paragraph in a profound thought or drawing. But you stop, get up, and abandon the thought. 

Something else in the kitchen distracts you, and suddenly an hour goes away. You realize this, rush, grab something unhealthy, and head back to the writing element. You inhale your unhealthy snack.

And then get frustrated because not only did you forget your thought process/idea, but you feel guilty for eating your unhealthy snack, and you ruminate. Now you’re thinking about that, and you’ve completely derailed your energy. Then your body crashes again an hour later.

I want to say, by the way, unhealthy snacks are totally cool in moderation. But I find food-guilt and body goals are something many of us have to a capacity, so this is a common example. It overlaps a lot.

Sometimes my productivity is an excuse I use to not take care of myself.

I’ve learned that is not a good enough reason because taking care of ourselves is productive, healthy and more important than your to-do list.


  • Before your next big creative undertaking. Do a check-in with yourself, and get honest. 
  • What physical elements for your body could you shift, add or remove in your day? Do one of those changes this week. 
  • Try changes one at a time, instead of piling on a bunch, unless they are closely related. This can be a big or small change. The trick here is picking one and just do it. You’ll prove to yourself that you’re worth the investment.

Step 2 – Taking Inventory of Distractions You Can Control

There’s going to be distractions you have zero ability to handle, prevent or monitor. We don’t need the most peaceful days, or perfect environments, to achieve something or be creative. Sometimes high stimulation helps people; such as in busy environments. 

But I am talking about distractions. You know, the text messages. The phone is being picked up every 45-seconds. Music that works against you, not with you. Or even picking your workspace everyday (we’ll cover that more later).

Remember that the more you give into a distraction, or the more you accept its existence, you are picking that experience over your creativity.

By checking Instagram every two-minutes, you are telling yourself that it’s more important than your writing assignment.

Sure, maybe it’s more engaging, or relaxing, but is that your equivalent to important?

You might think, “OF COURSE!” But ask yourself, if you don’t finish your writing assignment or goal, is that going to make you feel better or worse at the end of the day? 

Let’s assess some of the things & distractions you can control.


  • Cut out an hour and do a reset of your distractions – first identify them. 
  • Add in focus settings on your phone notifications or apps. 
  • Really take inventory of music that works better for you at different times of day, or working types. Or invest in noise canceling headphones.
  • Put do not disturb around meetings if you need too to prevent excess conversations
  • Schedule or use a timer for working sessions and breaks
  • Add in a reward or a more relaxing type of working session (I’ll cover this more in the next tip).

Tip #3: Swallow Your Frogs First

Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Having a productive hierarchy has been my new crucial element in my workflow process.

Productive hierarchy is the process of assessing the weight, value and time of your tasks. This allows you to counterbalance them with specific parts of yourself.

For example, as someone with anxiety, and knowing I work better in the mornings, I will do my most laborious, stress-inducing tasks earlier in my day, then later. It gives me peace of mind during the rest of the day, and I work faster in the morning to get it done.

I know I also hit an energy slump around 2:00pm, so I’ll incorporate a relaxing break or a relaxing working session.

You can speed up your mind or slow it down with your body, like breathing; you don’t need to always “power through” everything.  

You may be wondering, what is a relaxing task/working session?

This is something I’ve created, which may or may not work well for you. So experiment.

Essentially, I identify tasks that are very sumientry, or don’t require a ton of thinking space. For example, cleaning dishes, deleting emails, or scheduling social media posts. 

Maybe I’ll put on an episode of my favorite show while I do this, or get a fresh cappuccino and sip while I work. Other times it’s a podcast episode, or taking fifteen minutes to read while a video exports. 

Your lighter tasks are great opportunities to slow down. But it’s important to keep going if you can with the small tasks. These guys can add up throughout our week, then overwhelm us.

Tip #4: Reinvent Your Workspace to Work For You, Not Against You

This is a game changer guys. For so long I was making a crucial mistake, and that was not investing time in refining my workspace. Before COVID-19, like many, I was handed a workspace, and I forced myself into it, and slowly adjusted it to serve me.

Most of us are working in a space that is losing our energy, focus and time.

But now, we’ve learned we can control our environments more, regardless if you’re back in the office or not. One of the biggest investments you can make in your goal/success journey is to invest money or time into your workspace.

This is like picking the soil before you plant. Having water available, it’s all crucial to growth and consistency. 

A workspace should have three main components:

  • It should be the path of least resistance. 
    • Meaning, you can get to it easily, and get to work easily. If you have a ton of hurdles, you’re going to lose energy and focus fast. You’ll also feel discouraged and skip out on consistency.
  • It should have tools within it that lessen the need for you to do extra tasks. 
    • For example, your chargers are all plugged in, and fastened to your table, so you don’t need to go searching for them everyday. Or, you get cold often, so you have a pair of slippers in the room.
    • To take this a step further, incorporate tip one here. Invest in a chair that doesn’t harm your back, or a water pitch to stay hydrated. You can even put packaged healthy snacks in reach to limit temptations for other foods.
  • It should have your ownership
    • Even if you have a small desk tucked in the corner, it should be yours. Meaning you have the control to clean up at the end of the day, so you can start fresh, and keep your items and system together. You waste processing energy with decision fatigue if you constantly need to move things around, and make space to work.

A few examples:

  • Create a workspace in your home. Therefore you have a place to work that doesn’t require commuting or traveling far.
  • Untangle chords, buy extra chargers, and plug everything in so it’s a sit-down, get up, procedure (not running around).
  • Organize drawers, baskets and storage
  • Have water nearby, and healthy snacks to prevent you from getting up all the time
  • Close the door, or block it off, so it’s your space only, not communal, if possible

Tip #5: Set Reasonable, Smart, Goals, To Increase Self-Satisfaction

If you don’t set reasonable expectations, or goals, you’ll never feel satisfied with your creative process.

Part of fleeting motivation, and energy to complete a task, does rest in understanding your goals well, and setting healthy goals. 

If you want to read more about this, check out one of our most popular articles! 

In the above article we cover a mindset shift, and I would encourage you to indulge so that serves as your action

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

What Changing Seasons Can Teach You About Healing From Unseen Pain & Trauma

There’s a short beauty in the transition of the seasons — and it’s a type of beauty easily overlooked. Through it, I learned one of my most important lessons. And the biggest tool in my toolbelt for mental health and relationships.

The Spring Season

The air slowly increases a degree or two warmer every passing week as we enter the spring season. Two weeks go by and suddenly you crave sun on your skin and can sleep with the windows open. 

But you don’t realize this until you notice the top of your air conditioner has collected dust. You realize how fast time has passed since last summer. 

The tree’s gently buds new leaves, practically unnoticeable, and uncaptured by your eye and camera.

The sun gives a few minutes back every day, but it escaped your notice. You light a few candles, flip a switch, disregarding the few minute difference. Until, suddenly you are shocked at the day’s sudden longness. Which is full of opportunity.

The day turns into a deep inhale, instead of a quick breath. 

You wonder where the time went. But we’re adaptable creatures, so we move past it. We embrace the days to come, romanticizing the smell of grills and the sound of birds in the morning.

The Transition of Spring Season to Ourselves

While the transitioning of the seasons is sometimes like falling asleep next to someone you love, seamless and with little remembrance of the moment when you slept, or for how long in your comfort and safeness — this can have a bigger magnitude with the harsher moments of life — the unseen gaps that creek beneath our heavy steps before the floor gives out.

Two things:

  1. As forward projecting beings, the transitions and smaller details of life may go unnoticed. That is due to the bigger moments or romanization we envision about the future. We then become more prone to disregard the smaller pains, moments and conversations in our days.
  2. We are adaptable, survivors, with grit and willpower. Oftentimes we have a strength that we do not give ourselves enough credit for, but it is there nevertheless. While useful, powerful and brave, we also develop an achilles heel. Of flying past the smaller pains, details and moments that will eventually become our vaster, bigger, enemies.

The “Small Wounds”

I refer to these pains as “small wounds”. If you have any suffering, anxiety, trauma or trials, I’d encourage you to take a moment to reflect on this idea of small wounds.

Small wounds, metaphorically, for me are in the moment not as dangerous as the big, sudden, catastrophic wounds. But, just as dangerous when mixed with time. Small wounds can compound, and create resentment; confusion, fear, triggers, anxiety and so on, and eventually, become more complex. 

By recognizing this, we can prioritize the importance of healing from small wounds. Don’t worry, I’ve learned that the seasons provide us the wisdom we need to address this. And put in efforts into a detailed and more aware mindset.

Something “Minor” Can be Something Big

I’ve grown up with a lot of health issues, and I’ve let a decade of minor daily nausea control me, but in subtle ways. I didn’t think this was a big deal. I would cancel plans, eat wrong food choices, arrive late to class, or have my mood be affected for years.

Each time, I would adjust and adapt. Eat different foods, eat through stomach discomfort and make excuses. Eventually the issues started compounding and I got sicker and sicker until some days I was in bed all day, terrified of what was happening to my body. 

Multiple doctors appointments later, we realized I had a big ball of yarn to untangle to get to the core of the problem.

The Importance of Our “Small Wounds”

In other situations, I would be “small wounded” by the words of a loved one. I would repeat the words over and over again in my mind until they triggered new words, bitter thoughts and changed my perspective of them. 

I would be triggered in other, unrelated, conversations and let the emotions build up until I imploded. Creating a new wave of issues and things to work through and talk about — having to invest much time and tears into resolving them.

I’ve learned it’s the small wounds that turn our neck slowly. Taking us a few degrees off path each passing bit of time until we end up at an entirely new destination. Suddenly autumn becomes winter. And we aren’t prepared for winter. Or spring becomes summer and the days are sweltering.

Imagine your small wound as a physical one, that requires attention. Perhaps, it’s a conversation with someone to express how you felt after they said something hurtful. 

Or, it’s apologizing to someone after a heated text message was sent at that moment. Maybe, it’s journaling, to write down how something stressed you out or made you doubt yourself.

Seasons are Meant to be Looked at in Detail

I’ve learned this is very true with trauma. Learning about my small triggers is just as important as my big triggers to find a more impactful way of healing. It’s also given me the grace I need to understand that the conversations that harm me may be due to my past. And that is okay.

I have taken the power back and set up a stronger future due to acknowledging that truth.

The seasons are designed to be gradual in many places — and while this is not true or possible for all climates, nature has an art form. Thanks to our loving God, to display the importance of small details and microlessons. 

The temperature change slowly provides signals to the trees and small animals to begin certain tasks, and prepare for the season to come.

Small adjustments and time can create big things for you, including in your healing process.

Moving Forward with Understanding

My friends, sometimes God uses small wounds to prepare us for big sufferings and trials in life. While this isn’t as cheery as the spiced latte you are now surely craving (sorry) it’s TRUE. 

Not all good things are exciting, beautiful, and warm. Sometimes they are scary, and that doesn’t automatically make it bad. It might just mean we need to take action.

For those that don’t know me personally, at the time of this article I am engaged. This is a sweet and fruitful time, and I can say that with confidence, because I taste the sweetness due to the bitter days. I know it is fruitful because some of my sins and struggles have rotted. 

Tearful conversations have been had, small wounds have been made but also addressed and we are soon exiting the season to marriage better prepared, more in love and more sanctified because of this time. I would not trade it, return to go, or reverse the clock.

Like the small animals stretching their legs for summer, the seasons can prepare us, strengthen us, and bring attention to something that needs our time and love. 

It signals us to have the hard conversation, to notice the pressure points in a relationship or situation.

What small wounds have you had recently that you should take time to address or reflect on?

Oh, did I mention you get a free month of Skillshare when you click the link?

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

“Intrusive Memories” A Slam Poem in Honor of National Poetry Month


I remember the sweet scent of chocolate oatmeal cookies,

carried by the warm summer breeze through our loving home.

How I panicked if the gas from the oven will cause a corruption,

absolute destruction,

and if I don’t check that it’s off three times,

my family will die,

and I’ll be the reason they’re not alive.

I remember a rubber band on my wrist,

instead of friendship bracelets,

because the self-inflicted pain was less intense,

then the uncontrollable rumination in my head.

Which led me to dry heave for eighteen years and kneel on the cool tile


of an underfunded academic institution,

whose people sent me to the nurses office and said I was just a little


The words mental health were never mentioned.

The bullies enjoyed a girl already on her knees,

little did they see,

they were hurting as much as me.

I remember while my parents went to the grocery store,

i’d call my Dad’s phone four times, thinking they’ve died,

In some tragic car collide. But it’s all in my mind.

I remember the stains of colored markers in art class,

Imagining a better life, free from the clutches of an unknown God,

controlling my every obsessive thought.

I’ve never known the freedom of child-like immortality,

Irrationality was my nationality, and my whole identity,

When could someone set me free?

It wouldn’t be until I accepted the trinity.

I remember I locked myself in a bathroom for three days,

thinking the police were after me,

because this unnamable scream, so to speak,

convinced me I committed a hit in run.

That I ran over a woman on 8th street,

but in reality…It was all in my head,

Intrusive thoughts whispering lies even in the crevasses,

of everything I am.

So, I drank the tap water.

I remember when we were gifted itchy knit sweaters with high


but now, grown, I throw my hands to my neck,

with the fear of strangulation,

from my intrusive thoughts of suicidal ideation.


it’s over but I swear it never even begun,

I function like a combat soldier In a war zone,

intrusive thoughts were like grenades

tossed in-between the bookshelves,

where I clawed the pages of worn school books,

looking for a name to this thing that doctors didn’t care to explain,

but they only had three books on the state of the mind,

one of them even said,

a woman is just hormonal as a teen and the rest isn’t worth defining.

I remember I went to the doctors again,

they said they could only give me eight minutes that day.

They had me circle a bunch of smiley faces,

but none of them looked like me,

Please God tell me which face resembles someone that:

Checks the gas three times,

kneels in bathrooms and cries,

thinks their parents will die,

and thinks they took a life?

When the worst thing that they’ve done is tell a little white lie,

To surprise their mom for their birthday?

How could I be lovable?

If I’m something so destructible.

America, I know we’re the land of the free,

but so many of us are chained in a mental health calamity,

mine was OCD,

and that’s actually treatable to a degree.

Yet it took twenty-one years to be diagnosed properly.

I needed someone who was really listening,

not just looking to bandaid another part of this society.

And that starts with me.

What do you want to remember?

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator

Defeat Procrastination: Design Your Own Personalized Creative Workflow 

Do you have unfinished projects? Are you anxious or feeling unproductive? And tired of procrastination?

Hey friends! My name is Sarah Edwards, TPCT’s Project Coordinator! I wanted to share, with you, that I designed a productivity/procrastination class on Skillshare, a creative learning platform. Because I designed this course with mental health in mind, I wanted to give you all access! 

By clicking the link below, you get a FREE MONTH of Skillshare, an amazing creative and lifestyle space. Information and trailer on the class below!

Class Link!

Welcome to the class that puts an investment into the thing that matters most: you. You are the changemaker, creator, visionary, designer, and builder of your life. From the stories you tell, the experiences you have in this work, to the things you create. Therefore, you are your most valuable asset for creativity. 

If you’ve been facing any creative roadblocks lately, this class is for you. 

As creatives, the first thing we tend to throw out when we’re stressed are ideas. We abandon our work because we don’t know what we’re trying to achieve, how to handle doubt, or know the detailed steps to reach the finish line. 

When I faced this for many years myself, I became determined to find a solution because I recognized my lack of process was also creating a lack of success in my creative endeavors. And the further I dug down, the more I uncovered the ecosystem of what I like to call, “universal creativity”. I also uncovered common things in the working culture. Which has led me to think that we need to relearn. Which I’m here to do today.

Neurodivergents Can Be Successful!

As a neurodivergent, I discovered quickly as a child that I wasn’t like a lot of other people. So I’ve had to work differently from a lot of other people. 

I’ve grown up with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (c-PTSD), and am a suicide survivor as well as various physical handicaps and chronic illnesses. And it’s taught me that despite those conditions, we all actually, regardless of makeup, need to work in our own way. We need our own process. 

I believe success is possible for every creative. The question is, do you have YOUR process to get there – not just a process? I discovered in most education systems, workflows are designed for us by teachers. And our job is to follow them. The same can be said for households, families and jobs. 

Oftentimes, we’re not directly taught how to build our own workflow. So, I took years of work, self-discovery and creative failure (and a little success) and over the last five months compiled it for you today. Together, we’re going to build a strong, lifelong, and personalized workflow that can change your life. As well as give you a daily system that will guide you to success and alleviate mental pressures for any creative project of any length or size.

Workflow: Defeating Procrastination

A workflow is simply a structure that helps you reach milestones, goals and deadlines, but its simplicity touches everything, and it’s the line between completing your next creation and it never being more than an idea. 

So in addition to workflow we’re also going to learn new methods of brainstorming so you can turn thoughts into big ideas. Become your own project manager who can handle all types of creative endeavors. 

Teach you the secret sauce to creative success to crush procrastination. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and make them your superpowers, and hopefully overcome burnout while being mindful of your personal mental health and wellness.

I want you to feel empowered that when you hit a roadblock or receive a rejection, you don’t have to see it as a no. Just not yet. Instead, it’s a problem to solve, and today, I’m going to teach you how to redefine failure so that falling excites you because you have a dependable plan in place

I’m not only going to teach you the lifelong skill of breaking down a project and finding your workflow, but to give you the mindset to always be taking active experiences and teachings to adjust and add to your process to continue your personal and creative growth. And with that, I think it’s time to get started! Are you with me?

Crush Procrastination in My Class

Together, in this class packed with extensive tools and a workbook, we’ll help you:

  • Build a strong, lifelong, and personalized workflow that can change your life.
  • Give you a daily system that will guide you to success and alleviate mental pressures.
  • Learn new methods of brainstorming so you can turn thoughts into big ideas.
  • Become your own project manager who can handle all types of creative endeavors big or small!
  • Teach you the secret sauce to creative success to crush procrastination.
  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses and make them your superpowers!
  • Overcome burnout and overthinking once and for all!
  • Incorporate your personal needs and mental health into all your project planning.
  • AND most importantly, get you to your next finish line.

Not only will you get a 35+ page workbook, but I’ll also introduce you to an optional new software that I currently use for all things creative – such as personal projects, professional clients and even my own wedding planning! As a bonus, we’ll also cover workspace tips; eliminating distractions, having grace and redefining failure and success!

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

3 Questions to Help Free Yourself From Work Related Stress and Burnout

Do you know when a movie character makes a huge life-altering decision and a fun montage plays? They pack moving boxes, or throw their phone away with a smile. A carefree/anti-burnout music track swaddles the background so that you, the audience, are too busy dreaming that it’s you in the movie to not think about all the logistics. 

Logistics. I said a dirty word. It sounds so fun to say, so proper, but it’s a kick in the stomach over and over again in real life. 

Also, their hair always looks great, like all the time. But, it’s not fair. Because even good hair takes logistics. Planning, time management, decision making, skill and the biggest thing, discipline. 

The Burnout and Stress was Real

I looked anything but great.

I cried every night. Talked my husband’s ears off. And I poured myself over financial spreadsheets; bank statements, and cringed at every Uber Eats order I made in the last month and cried some more. 

I said ‘what if’ so many times, it was the new slang in our house. I drank red wine faster than ever (if you know me, I am a prosecco girl to my core, so red wine is a shocker). 

Opening up the bottles gifted from our wedding is something I did to cope. For us to cope. Because I was a lot, really, I can’t believe he agreed to marry me. Now, freshly off the altar I was going to have us walk through a major uncertainty. My wedding dress was still fresh in its bag.

What better way to test a marriage?

“I can’t do this anymore, I don’t recognize myself.” My words were on repeat, until his words shook me to my core. “I don’t recognize you either.” 

That was it, that was all I needed to hear.

I shot up and scrambled for my work laptop at two in the morning. Under the glow of our bedroom television, I typed my resignation letter. I also deleted a draft of a project, turned down a side opportunity, all in the span of thirty minutes.  

There was a rise in panic attacks and nightmares. I flipped in bed so much I could’ve been the replacement for Shamu.

I stayed up most of the night thinking about logistics, logistics, logistics. 

But it didn’t matter how much I ruminated on all the scenarios, the words, the potential pitfalls of a risky decision; I didn’t know who I was anymore. My attitude had changed, my energy, and almost everything I talked about was negative. I was being consumed. 

But in that moment of removing things off my plate, it felt like someone turned on an oxygen mask and attached it to my face. I felt this sense of relief, and terror.

The Realization: Stress & Burnout

I had placed too much on my plate. Too many commitments, projects, and ideas – all of it overflowed like a heaping mess. They’re the perfect ingredients to burnout. It was spilling out onto other life buckets like; sleep, exercise, my inability to finish a load of laundry.

My chronic health conditions flared up like a Christmas tree in July. So I started working in bed, for weeks. 

I realized I had no direction anymore, and I didn’t know why I was working so hard.

Impacts of Burnout, Stress, & Too Much Being on My Plate

When I woke up in the morning I had a sinking feeling of anxiety and dread, even on a Sunday. I was constantly exhausted and was known as, “the canceler,” in the social circle. I couldn’t commit to anything anymore. 

My phone eventually got silent, people stopped asking if I could spend time with them.

The isolation kicked in – it was work, sleep and repeat. Ordering food or opening a window was my way of feeling connected to the world.

Moments of Self-Reflection: Coming Back from Burnout

But a single thought got in my way for months. Did quitting a company, or a project, mean I couldn’t handle it? Was I weak? Were other people just…stronger? Do I just sacrifice the other things in my life? 

My pride got in the way of change. It tends to happen for most of us. We cling onto a salary, a job title, a bragging right, or imbed our entire identity into what we do, not who we are. More on that later.

It’s not what you’re doing, it’s why.

If you’re feeling constant pressure and you have the self-awareness that you’re changing in your health, your mindset and your actions, it’s time to start asking why.

This is the part you’ll be tempted to skip. Pride.

Ask Yourself these 3 Questions

First, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way right now?” List out all the reasons that you know, or can predict.

Do the work, if you don’t reflect you don’t get answers. It’s that simple. Oh, and yes, I was a prideful person when it came to the idea of reflecting and journaling once. It’s not stupid, it’s science.

Second, ask yourself, “Why do I want / feel the need to work hard?”

What drives you? What makes you passionate? It may be a project, an outcome, a large or small goal, a dream, a culture, a group of people, and so on. Write it down.

Third, compare these two responses. What do you notice? Is anything connected? 

Most importantly, what responsibilities, either a job, or a project, is no longer serving you anymore?

Based on what drives you, and what’s getting in the way, you’ll have your answer.

Changing for Ourselves & for Who We Are

So now we start the montage. The span of time where you begin to take action, make micro or macro changes, plan and prepare for change.

Just because a change is hard, uncommon or risky, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. The hardest changes usually have the biggest impacts.

When I was studying abroad in Italy, an older italian gentleman and I were talking about life, sitting on a curb, we were strangers. He asked me who I was, beyond my name. I rambled about what degree and what I did for work. 

He waved his hands in the air, “You poor Americans.” 

He sighed, “When we ask who you are, we want to know who you are, not what you do. What you do is not who you are. It might reveal who you are, or what you like, or what interests you, but they are separate.”

It’s been six years since then and I still am struggling with that question.

So I’m on a journey, starting today, to figure that out.

Do you know who you are?

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator.

3 Exercises to Understand Your Joy

I am going to cut to the chase. I’ve been struggling with identifying things that make me happy, and bring me joy.

This matters to me because I’ve been going through a season of being very unhappy. While I can point to things I have gratitude for and love deeply, like family and friends, my unhappiness has a louder voice.

My lack of happiness or wondering of its origin has become so loud it’s like a squeaky wheel that needs oil, or like something constantly rubbing against my skin. I’ve sat there pondering in the gaps of my day trying to untangle this idea of joy, and why I have so little.

Now, I have a variety of mental health conditions, and of course, these are major factors to consider my circumstances. I also need to consider anything physical; health problems and the time of year impacting my body. But I want to move past that momentarily and think rather of joy being something maybe I’ve understudied

Survival Mode

If you’re someone that’s dealt with a lot of trauma, big changes, or more aggressive life moments (in any life bucket), you may have slipped into survival mode. 

Maybe you’ve been there for a few days. Maybe you’ve been there your entire life.

As someone who has spent a lot of time in survival mode, that means I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on things like; solutions, speed, work, necessities, and controlling emotions. 

Therefore, I’ve spent a lot less time; studying, resting, reflecting, indulging and exploring my emotions.

Mix that together with the normal obligations and distractions most humans have to experience *cough* life responsibilities, well, you’re looking at basically an exercise routine in repeat. You’re strengthening certain emotions over others.

This is hypothetical, of course. I thought about it more. I was shocked to realize I didn’t know how to ignite my own joy.

My Reaction, Thought Process, & What I’ve Learned About Joy

This resulted in an evening of running into the kitchen to my innocent husband and panicking, “Am I a fun person? BE HONEST! I need the truth, right now!” Followed by, “Can you teach me how to be fun, you’re a teacher, come on what would you say?”

Poor guy. And he’s signed up (to me) for life.

I learned in our conversation that subconsciously a lot of people:

1. Want to be known for some sort of emotional pattern

2. And, have different definitions of what is considered joyful, fun, etc. 

For example, some people want to be known as leaders, to be in control of their emotions or posed intellects. 

Moving Forward

Regardless of how we hold ourselves and our natural demeanor, I would say joy is uniquely universal because we all want to have it, experience it, and know it well. Yet so many of us spend no time getting to know it.

So introducing my imperfect journey of trying to figure out my joy, and the three exercises I landed on that were most impactful after a lot of trial and error.

Inspired by these exercises, I’ve created printable joy cards that are a great supplement to these exercises. Check them out! I designed them to prompt myself, but now I want to share them with you.

Exercise 1: The Five Senses

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand my five senses due to my mental health conditions and intrusive thoughts. My five senses used to be an enemy for me – aka, the things that get triggered. Therefore, creating an anxiety-induced experience. 

But then I realized that they hold positive abilities to understand my joy. So I started using them to work for me instead of against me.

The Exercise

  • On a document or piece of paper, make a section, column or page for each of the five senses (touch, sight, sound, taste and smell). 
  • In each section, write down a memory from the past and present while using that sense. A memory that brings you joy. It can be big or small.
  • Once you do that, I want you to circle back to each section and write a future memory. A joyful moment, within your future selves reach, that you imagine would bring you joy.

The Result: Joy vs. Expectation

By doing this exercise I understood that being more present or being more aware and using my five senses opened me up to new possibilities of joyful moments, even in the mundane day. 

I kept thinking that joy came from very specific or planned moments (i.e. a vacation), not day to life. 

I also learned things that I am emotionally attracted to. The smell of coffee, or a certain type of conversation. This will come in use especially for our final exercise.

Lastly, I’m understanding through each exercise that I do have expectations and excitements about my future. These will give me clarity of what lifestyle or experience I want, and help me build goals or conversations to achieve them. 

Exercise 2: Taking Inventory

This exercise feels similar to the first but I think it has more cognitive weight too. This one might take you some time, or is an exercise you may want to circle back too and take breaks with – it’s okay to work at your pace.

The Exercise

  • On a new piece of paper or document, make a bulleted list of recent memories that have brought you joy. This can be as long or as detailed, or as short and sweet as you’d like it to be.
  • Next to this list or in another section, write down a few bullet points of things that have hurt you or taken your happiness recently. This can also be a long term circumstance as well, not just singular moments.

The Result: Finding Joy

You’re giving yourself practical and real examples of things that bring you joy, but also things that have gotten in the way of it. A lot of things in life we can’t control. But by analyzing your list, you may see patterns of things that have gotten away from you.

What do you need more of in your life? What do you need to sacrifice in your life? Where do you need to say no more? Where do you need to invest more?

Some of these conversations may be hard, or may impact more than just you (your coworkers, family, and loved ones). But I’ve learned that these conversations, while difficult, are worth having. Joy can invite us to a shared experience together, and benefit people around us as much as ourselves. 

Exercise 3: The Path Forward

This is the most important exercise of the three and compiles the last two together into your plan for actionable change. It’s the one I am even still revisiting and refining. But it’s given me a compass to more joy.

The Exercise

  • Review and reflect over the outcomes of your last two exercises. Identify and sort patterns, or highlight ideas that stand out to you.
  • In a new document, or space, write down or journal what your future looks like with all of those joys, senses and moments realized. Where are you living? What do you do for work, or where? What does your family do? You can get as detailed or as simple as you desire.
  • The last step is the biggest, and most important. This would require you to spend a lot of time here, but invite loved ones to do this with you. What are the steps it would take to get there?

The Result: Joy in the Future

Thinking about the future and having aspirations to change or implement more grounding thought is a huge step for change.

You are empowering yourself to make changes in your present to impact your future.

The reality is, if you don’t invest this time in understanding your joy, understanding yourself, or making changes, you will struggle to see changes in your future.

This exercise helps you realize that you are worth the investment today for a brighter, more fruitful tomorrow. 

However long this exercise(s) takes I hope it leaves you feeling s bit more in tap with your joy. So I ask you, what’s something you’re going to do today about it? 

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), Project Coordinator for TPCT.

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional. Rather someone sharing real life experience and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps needed for them.

4 Steps to Freedom: Overcoming Feeling Trapped, Bad Habits & Intrusive Thoughts

Have you ever felt trapped before? Trapped in a health condition; a job, a toxic relationship, a way of thinking, creative burnout, a series of repeated mistakes, and so on? 

Did you know you have the power to change that?

I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me that was suffering for years in all buckets of life. I’ve had to sit and stare this idea of freedom in the face, as I’ve spent many seasons chained to a metaphorical ground in my mind, like a flightless bird with clipped wings. My repetitive thinking, worry and stress makes me feel that I am living half my life. The other half is missing, broken off, or gone. 

But I found a way to unchain myself, in all areas of my life that were in pain, and finally, move forward. It’s a single mindset shift, and while I am still in the self improving phase and perfecting this, it’s changed my life.

Now to be gentle and open, I understand some people are in threatening and uncharacteristic circumstances, and while these upcoming steps may not be a solution this mindset shift might offer some elements of peace in other areas.

To start, we need to really think about this idea of freedom, and the definition of it.

Step One: Understanding Your Freedom

Ask yourself: What does it mean to become free from something? In this broken, imperfect world, and in our imperfect bodies, is absolute freedom from something possible, or is it an ideal we strive for to keep us going?

Write down what you view freedom to look, sound, and feel like for you. While this might seem childlike or silly, it is often the childlike paths in our minds that have the least amount of built up hurdles from the “real world” and can provide clarity.

You need to go head to head with what you’re envisioning that version of your life to look like – taking it out of the romantic thought and putting it on paper for you to have a conversation with, and understand. 

Be honest with yourself. You only harm yourself when you are dishonest. Honestly is the act of being vulnerable, and being open. This is how we make room for change and insight.

I’ve often wondered what I would be like, what life would be like, if I found and recovered that other half. I envision a much better version of myself, comparing my present self to her and disliking myself all the greater, catalyzing my pain. Hence why we need to get it on paper, and break the comparison cycle. 

In reality, romanticizing who I should be and comparing myself just enabled me to believe I didn’t need to take action on change, because it seemed impossible or out of reach.

Now, by definition, freedom is the power to act and speak without restraint.

So, in the art of reverse engineering, we would need to, 1. Identify what we are trying to do, and 2. What is restraining us from meeting our goals?

Step Two: The Action Breakdown

Take that version of yourself and break it down. If you wrote it out, place it to the side and create two columns. The first column is a list of some of the traits you wrote down from this free life (some of the five senses, the location, the adjectives, etc).

The second column is the main or biggest action or change that needs to occur to make that first column a possibility. You should write an action next to each item on the list you made in the first column. Actions might be tangible things, events, habits, or mental shifts.

Now, if you’re like me, you probably notice that a lot of the actions have to do with yourself. Perhaps it’s setting boundaries, adding a new positive habit, or having a hard conversation. Sometimes it’s even deeper, like getting honest about a bad habit, a personality trait you’re not proud of, or will require sacrifices. 

Absolutely there are instances where things are entirely out of our control, and don’t worry, I am going to get to that. 

Bottom line? Oftentimes we are the one’s retraining ourselves, getting in the way, from our “free” or improved self.

Step Three: Identifying Intrusive Thoughts

Maybe, you’re like me, and you’ve spent weeks, months, years and decades plagued with intensive anxiety and negative thoughts. Perhaps you’ve broken a sweat trying to solve an unsolvable problem, and you can’t rest until you’ve reached an almost-good-enough conclusion. 

Or you’ve ruminated to the point of total exhaustion if, like me, you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). 

But worst of all is when the intrusive thoughts scare you to your core. When you begin to believe them. These irrational whispers in the back of your head that suddenly drive your beliefs about who you are, and your worth. 

To ease them, you do compulsions. A series of thoughts or actions that disprove the thoughts, like triple checking that the stove is turned off. 

An attempt to regain control, to know the certainty of your outcomes, despite the intrusive thought being entirely irrational most of the time.

Intrusive Thoughts Happen to Us All

Now regardless if you have OCD or not, intrusive thoughts happen to us all. Our compulsions might vary or take the form of something else, like repeating a bad habit. For example, ordering the takeout again, even if you’re on a healthy diet, because the diet feels unachievable, and you aren’t worth it or aren’t capable. 

By ordering the food you are gaining comfort and certainty in your outcome, your current reality. 

Intrusive thoughts are involuntary thoughts that occur in our minds, at random times. These thoughts are usually negative, and can be distressing or disturbing in nature. 

On another piece of paper, write down common or recurring intrusive or negative thoughts you have about yourself.

Why? By acknowledging these intrusive thoughts you now have the power to let them go, not just let them keep your life on repeat. Intrusive or negative thoughts can exhaust us or prevent us from taking action in our lives. What does letting go look like? We hit that in our last step.

[If you are in high distress often I would encourage you to seek an OCD Specialist or mental health professional to provide treatment options and help. I recommend starting with The International OCD Foundation to search for board-certified professionals. 

Understanding how intrusive thoughts operate can change your life, and can become a tool for the rest of your life. Ignoring how this cycle works might be what’s holding you back.

Step Four: Catch and Release for Freedom

Now that you’ve done the work it’s time to come up with a plan. But, we often kick ourselves because we try to solve all life buckets, negative habits, at once – and fail. Duh. We are only human. Not fictional characters, or God, or in a movie. We don’t get the change montage in three minutes or two chapters.

Pick one thing and implement it this week – what is the main action you wrote down? Take it further, plan it out, figure out all the steps. Then do it. 

By the way, you don’t need to wait for “the start of the week” to start a habit. That’s a form of resistance and excuse. I fell for it a lot. Cross check this plan with your intrusive thoughts, what thoughts might discourage you from making a change?

Letting Go

One of the biggest things we can do in our life, after we come up with a few acknowledgements and actions, is letting go of the rest. 

Tell your intrusive thoughts that you don’t actually know the outcome or the answer. It could be true, or not true. Regardless, you don’t care. You don’t need to prove or disprove. You don’t need to repeat a bad habit or compulsion for comfort. It’s not worth your time.

It’s also important to acknowledge the many life things that are out of your control, and letting it go. For me personally, I am a Christian, and the most freeing thing I can do is give it over to my Creator, my God. 

Everytime I start to get overwhelmed and continually worry, I ask myself, “Where could I be effectively putting my energy instead?”

It’s also important to let go of this “pure and ideal self” you have in mind. You want progress. Happiness, fulfillment and freedom come from progress. Investing in yourself. Reaching your goals, not this perfect moment or person. 

Want to read a bit more about happiness? Checkout my other article on Navigating Happiness with Mental Health.

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator

Disclaimer: Sarah Edwards is not a certified or licensed mental health professional. Rather someone sharing real life experience and findings for others to find commonality and seek actionable steps needed for them. 

Navigating Happiness with Mental Health

Happiness is almost always for me in the small, mundane moments of life. The moments you will miss if you don’t stop and be present for them. The smell of rain and a warm breeze through the window. The laughter of your best friend, or even not overcooking your favorite pasta. When I think about meaning, I like to parallel that with thinking about value. I think the small moments for me take a lot of steps to achieve. I’m naturally am not a present person. I’m an anxious overthinker. So if I’m able to achieve gratitude for a single life moment, that might be one of my biggest accomplishments of the day.

Which makes me want to ponder on how valuable happiness is. Especially why so many of us are yearning for the experience. How much do we think about happiness? As someone with or without mental health challenges, happiness can seem hard to come by at times. Happiness is so precious when it does come by. 

To be honest, I’ve spent a chunk of my mental conversations trying to uncomplicate the idea of happiness. I think a lot of us are chasing, gripping, holding onto happiness in some way, really everyday, and are trying to decide if happiness is a hypothetical, fantastical construct or if it’s something we actually have control over.I think I obsessed more over why I wasn’t always happy or desired to elongate my happiness that I totally hop-skipped over those small joyful things, and missed out.

I believe it is in our nature as humans,  and a deep desire to become perfect. If we’re not happy the moment we wake up or during a “beautiful day” or “event”, we think we’re broken, or something is wrong with us. Ask yourself:

  • How often do I think I miss out on good moments? (Because I’m too obsessed with wanting to make it last longer).
  • Why do I not experience a happier feeling in the first place?

That was and sometimes is still an issue I have at least.

I have friends as well that cling onto happy-memories, and try to replicate them. For example, something from childhood. Then we feel continuously let down that it’s not the same experience or feeling.

Many of us try to cram real happiness in a space in our mind that is compared to our fantastical happiness. We put it next to an unreasonable expectation. Or a comparable time when we were different, or in a different season. We set our happiness up for failure. 

I used to get so upset that many mornings I didn’t wake up energetic and happy, and that’s because I was influenced by constantly seeing “peaceful” or  “perfect morning routine” on social media to the extreme where I thought I was supposed to be like that all the time. So instead of waking up, acknowledging my weary, discontent, maybe stressed emotions, I got angrier and more upset because I wasn’t joyful. When really, all I had to do was acknowledge those emotions then choose to be happier to the best of my ability. 

The key here is the best of your ability in that moment, not your imaginations ability. Which is probably a lot higher of a bar and a standard.

By choosing my happiness, and not expecting to just feel a certain way, I became actionable to implement things that made me happy. Such as, taking a break in my work day, making my favorite food, calling a friend or saying no to something I didn’t want to do. Therefore, I created my own happiness. Not based on what’s in my head, but the reality of what I could conjure up that day.

Saying no to something or even saying no to an emotion doesn’t automatically cancel out the potential joy you can have in an experience or day! Sometimes, I have a lot of built up thoughts or anxiety, and I just say, no. I’m instead going to go do, insert activity, or be productive to assist my anxiety. I tell myself I will readdress those emotions after. We don’t need to solve all our feelings in one moment.  I’m not saying the emotions or thoughts don’t exist, I’m not denying the need to be cared for, I’m just prioritizing my tasks or potential joy over them, as best I can.

To be aware of where you are in a day and then creating change or choices based on that and not your desirable, escapist mind (where we can get so distracted imagining the better) made such a big difference. It’s made me more observant and grateful because now I’m in the present actively looking for good things. So I notice beautiful flowers when driving, when the sun pops out, when my friend says something encouraging.

Instead of chasing happiness I am constructing happiness. You don’t need to chase happiness, you have it instilled in you already! Give it the environment and the right soil and the water to grow it. Take a moment to see the season, the day, the sun and you base your choices and thinking off of that, and not your assumptions as to what the weather will be like, and how people are going to treat you.  

If you have a fun idea, or something that will bring joy to someone’s heart, I encourage you to go do it! Plan it, be actionable, and make friends with your happiness. You don’t need to wait for what society deems as an “important moment.” Every moment is important if you want it to be.

Ask yourself – How much happiness am I losing by fantasizing a false expectation that I’m in a certain season of my life when I’m not? What amazing joys am I not appreciating now because it’s not perfect joy?

Sometimes we need to go through the weeds to find our bits of happiness. To find joyful things. Even when stuff just…sucks. Going through the weeds is not reserved only for the “bad days” but every day in my book. It requires us to get painfully honest, and hold up a magnifying glass in order to be more aware of these gifts, of the blessings, and to re-define what makes me happy. To renew my heart in realizing that so many things and blessings have the potential to put a smile on my face, and my heart. Instead of always wanting more.

As a spiritual person, I also pray deeply for others’ happiness. But for the non-spiritual, this is similar to thinking about elevating others happiness. Doing an act of kindness or planning an activity (or small moment) in the day to bring them higher. This takes the attention away from ourselves, the pressure, while remaining actionable about thinking through joy and small moments.

Imagine what the world would evolve into if we all focused on not just our own happiness, but how we can create happiness for others?

But hey, let’s get real. There are days, moments in a day, when joy seems so far. When intrusive thoughts are so overpowering, we feel broken beyond repair. I also find myself falling into the constant thought process that my emotions impact others deeply, and that makes me anxious. That I have to be happy in order to be loved, to be desired or wanted around. I overthink, and over-read others reactions to my emotions or how I act in a day. This creates a pressure cooker mentality, I start clawing for happiness, and panicking when I’m not for the sake of my relationships. 

I’ve really tried to grasp onto this idea of a new day. With mental illness, a new day used to feel truly useless. I would say, “I have a chronic illness. Who cares about a new day?” I would fear sleeping, and waking up and the cycle would continue. This is in reference to the throws of my deeper Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (hOCD). 

But when a new day comes, new opportunities and moments present themselves. New laughter, small jokes and fragile seeds. And with every passing day, wounds, big and small heal. So that terrible day you had? Where you fear you may have negatively impacted another person? Where you fear you’ve wounded yourself beyond healing? It’s already far away in their minds, and it should be in yours too. But I find negative thinking, and even the strongest moments of mental health are temporary. It’s slipping away, like sand on a beach. It’s probably smaller than your mind is ruminating it to be. Our minds love to make everything feels like everything is a big thing. Because we are the center of the universe, in our heads. But we have the power to change that narrative.

People don’t observe your happiness with a fine tooth comb, because they’re already trying to do it for themselves. 

You don’t need to be embarrassed. You don’t need to feel like you need to conceal your suffering. It took me a long time to learn this. I often need to remind myself that an “unhappy” version of myself (or day) is just a day of growth and learning. We’re all emotional in our own ways and trying to find that bit of happiness – and broken and imperfect. However, in those cracks are beautiful lessons, experiences and moments of joy. Go find yours.

Written by Sarah Edwards (@setapart_company), TPCT Project Coordinator

Social Anxiety and Shame During the Holiday

“Oh, you’re like a delicate little flower who always needs gentle care. It’s okay, honey. You’re just fragile,” a family member once cooed to me in a baby voice. She held my hands with a confident smile, as if what she said would not bring shame and would soothe my worries like a hot cup of cider.

I’m sure she had the intention of being encouraging. But, all it did was crush my “delicate” petals.

Fighting Battles: Mental Health & Shame

As someone with Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Severe Anxiety Disorder, and a newly developed Social Anxiety Disorder, I feel like anything but delicate. You can read how I learned to live with my mental health diagnoses here. The unseen battles I fight on a day to day basis — and the energy and courage it takes to do what is seemingly normal to someone else — has given me a calloused heart. 

If you have a mental disorder, you probably feel the same way. However, the shame I started to feel at social gatherings grew so strong that I began to believe in what shame was whispering to me in between the holiday music crescendos. The hardest part of it all is that shame often puts you in a lose-lose situation. 

Hypothetical Examples & Options

Here’s a hypothetical example that I have experienced the likes of, time and time again:

You spend some time at a gathering and run into triggers and stressors. This causes you to react, and now you have all of this worry and fear that you are “a burden” or “bringing the mood down.” So what do you do?

Option 1: You Power Through it All

You slur in a few apologies or explanations, further exposing your struggles to the people around you. You remain in your distress, and feel like you need to keep saying sorry. As the shame gets stronger, you start to wonder if you even belong. People might start treating you differently in an attempt to accommodate, which leaves you feeling humiliated. Or worse, they say something that is actually a bit insulting. You compare yourself to the other people in the group who are “normal” and seemingly having a good time. You use the last of your energy to mask all these feelings, and aren’t mentally present to what’s going on in the room.

Option 2: You decide to remove yourself from the event or group.

This can look like leaving early or not going at all. At first, you have a sense of relief that you can “run away” from revealing more of your disorder, receiving more judgment, or avoiding even more triggers. Then, a tidal wave of sadness hits you. You didn’t actually want to be alone — you wanted to be with your friends and loved ones. And wanted to do that activity you were excited about. You start to have FOMO, or fear of missing out.

You panic and imagine the surrounding people having a great time. And you feel the envious emotions creeping in. Worst of all, you begin to believe that perhaps you not being there is best. You are a burden anyway, so without you, they can have more fun. The remainder of your day might be ruined. And you start to question who you are to others. 

The Aftermath of Both Options: Anxiety & Shame

No matter what you choose, you ultimately wonder if you’re missing out on life. Both options make you fill with envy and confusion. And this is even more jarring during the holiday season, when you’re expected to be full of cheer. The long term damage of this shame is that you start to constantly contemplate who you are to others. Shame convinces you, that because you experience these public moments, other people only see you as the “anxious” or “depressed” person. Then, you relay the events in your mind on repeat; even months later. All of which impacts your decision making about social ability during the holiday season.

Tips on Navigating Anxiety & Shame

For me, despite being an extroverted character, my anxiety disorders have made me feel exhausted after long periods of time with others. This eventually accumulates to me feeling physically unwell, and because of that, I have spent a lot of time meditating and practicing solutions that I’d like to share. 

1. Be aware of when you’re overbooking yourself.

Saying “no” or leaving an event early is okay. Acknowledge that social gatherings are a lot to deal with, especially after experiencing a pandemic. You are completely normal for feeling overwhelmed at times, and know that you’re not alone. Check your calendar and commitments to find if you are overworking yourself socially or spreading yourself too thin with other obligations. Some of your anxiety may be because you have overcommitted to too many things and need to spend more time with yourself.

2. Know when to say no to “anxiety builders.”

Even after you have decided to attend an event, you are still allowed to turn down something that may increase your discomfort and stress. If you feel pressured to play a group game you don’t like or eat food you don’t want to try, know that it’s okay to not participate. 

3. Find someone that makes you feel safe.

Don’t be afraid to bring a plus one to the event that can help you feel more comfortable. Work together to enjoy the gathering, and if able, let them in on the triggers you may have so that they can help you navigate them.

4. Plan when you will leave, especially if you’re going with other people.

If you’re going alone, create an end time for yourself. If you’re going with other people, have a discussion so that you can agree on what time to leave together. We all hit social limits, and your limits should be respected just as much as someone else’s. Be detailed with your plan, including methods for how to temporarily remove yourself if needed.

5. Investigate the itinerary beforehand.

Before committing to a gathering, don’t shy away from asking the host what’s happening. By knowing the schedule, you won’t be surprised or feel stressed by any sudden plans. This will also help you decide if you want to commit to the event, politely decline, or prepare accordingly.

6. Offer to host.

Offer to host an event this season if it brings you a sense of excitement. For some people, hosting is a nice way to control the narrative, but moreso, be in their own space. You can decide what food and activities to plan, and have the comforts of your home around you.

7. Make time for self care before or after the event.

Don’t be afraid to cut out time to unwind or prepare for an event. Plan something super relaxing ahead of a busy day ahead, or do an activity you love as a reward for when you’re done. I love writing even the smallest rewards in my planner (like a face mask), because we deserve to love ourselves.

8. Create a safe space for everyone to talk about their mental health.

If you feel comfortable, open the floor to discuss mental health topics. It doesn’t have to be super clinical. For example: “What is something you’d like to learn about yourself this season?” “Is there anything you’re worried about during the holidays that we can help with?” “Are you missing someone this year?” Finding common ground allows us to help one another, and brings in the reality that many of us are struggling with something.

9. Address judgmental comments.

If you feel hurt by something someone said — whether at the event or in the past — set aside five minutes with them when you feel safe and prepared. Explain that you are not placing blame or accusing them, but that you want to inform them about how their statement made you feel. By pointing out hurtful comments, you can remind others that their words can cause unintentional harm. Create a space for forgiveness, and provide some statement examples that may be more encouraging or helpful. 

10. Do an act of kindness.

When in a state of stress, I find a great antidote is to shift the attention from myself to someone else. You can offer to help clean the dishes or decorate before the gathering. Sometimes, I like to bring little handmade gifts or letters to make my friends feel recognized and appreciated, and to start comforting conversations and memories.

11. Reflect with a gratitude list afterwards.

Regardless of how the event went, I find there is always one little thing I can write down and be grateful for. 

12. If you decide not to attend an event, it’s okay to prioritize something else.

Just because you have time to go to an event, doesn’t mean you have the energy to socialize. Turning down invitations doesn’t make you less than or incapable, it just means you’re choosing to put your limited energy into something else. This could mean deciding to rest, because that’s just as important as being social. Remind yourself that the other people at the event will miss you, and a lot of the intrusive thoughts you have about how they perceive or feel about you are untrue. By establishing more boundaries and limits, you can find yourself enjoying the time that you do spend together.

Reminder to You!

Remember, you are not a burden, and you do not need to defend yourself to others. Spend time with your mindfulness exercises, a therapist, or a professional to sort through the shame and intrusive thoughts that can make social experiences difficult for you. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, educate yourself, and bring love to the front of these gatherings. And who knows, your experiences may allow you to help someone else this holiday season. 

– Sarah