Author

Sarah Russ

Sarah Russ

Sarah Russ, LCSW is a mental health professional in Miami focused on practical, actionable therapeutic strategies for mental well-being in a world of overstimulation and misconceptions about what constitutes true self-care. Sarah received her Master of Social Work from NYU and has been working in mental health for seven years. She specializes in healthy coping strategies and crisis management for those with chronic illnesses, substance use, and anxiety. You can follow her @mentalhealthformillenials or schedule a session with her at Arvon & Associates in Aventura, Doral, or Virtually by calling 305-936-8000.

Empathy and Unity
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Lifestyle

Empathy is Unity

This past year has been, well, a ride.  No matter what your opinion on any of it, no doubt you have encountered someone on the other side who you just did not understand. Or maybe someone who was unkind to you about your opinion.

This can take a toll on your mental health, relationships, and self-esteem.  So where do we go from here?  A great place to start is with empathy or trying to put ourselves in someone else’s position emotionally.  All of us have probably felt the same way about this year: fed up, misunderstood, maybe angry at some point. Start there.  Start with an emotion you know is universal regardless of peoples’ opinions. Likely even the people who have gotten under your skin the most have felt these emotions as well, and knowing this common ground may help soften some of your frustration.

Take a minute for the relationships that matter most to you that have been strained. Family members, long-time friends, or people you expected to always be close to. Write down their best qualities, or better yet, write down a time they were there for you that meant a lot to you. Remember that this is why you have a relationship, and why you want it to stay strong regardless of differing viewpoints.

Remind yourself that you are not a mind-reader.  We have all been guilty of assuming we know why people have chosen to believe what they do.  Sometimes they tell us out loud, but often they do not.  Try to notice when you are making an assumption about a belief and remind yourself you would not want someone to do the same to you.  This might help you feel more at ease with a differing opinion. Just like with anxiety when we jump to the worst-case scenario we tend to feel overwhelmed and emotional, but when we think of the many other possibilities of why something is happening, it becomes a much more manageable situation emotionally.

Expression is okay, aggression is not.  When you feel yourself start to get aggressive with your own opinion, check yourself.  It is good to be passionate, however often when we are aggressive with our thoughts and feelings, we tend not only to not convince others, we tend to alienate others.  Think of this especially when talking with loved ones. With the many difficult subjects on the table in the last year, this may take patience, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.  So thinking for a moment about how others feel is the key to coming back together.  In order to bridge the divide, we have to do the work of remembering how it feels to read an upsetting comment before we post our own comment.  

Let’s talk about the uncomfortable truth: some of us may be so frustrated and exhausted we have stopped caring how others feel to a certain extent. It is okay to feel this way for a time.  This is human. Emotional fatigue is real, so take a break.  Turn off social media, don’t engage with someone who triggers you, limit your headline intake, whatever you need to restore that side of yourself. Be very honest with yourself so that you can take care of yourself if you need that.  When you start to feel less frayed, you can re-engage with more empathy and less frustration.

Take care of yourself. If you have had to forget yourself during this difficult year because of a job loss, a death, a difficulty of any kind, remember you deserve self-care. Find small ways to nourish yourself; a short meditation, a walk in the sun, a nice cup of hot tea at night, and build that habit back. Caring for yourself will allow you to feel more love for others.

Metta Meditation is a practice in sending peace and kindness to yourself and then others that helps remind you that we all essentially desire the same things in life.  Check out a nice guided beginner meditation for Metta that can help build empathy for others in your life.

This past year has been, well, a ride. No matter what your opinion on any of it, no doubt you have encountered someone on the other side who you just did not understand. Or maybe someone who was unkind to you about your opinion.

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Massage Luxe Miami

Massage Luxe - A New Luxury Wellness Experience in Miami

New-Year-New-You Season is here, and if you are looking for ways to refresh, renew, and practice quality self-care, a place you might want to consider is Massage Luxe. The Massage Luxe downtown Miami salon offers massages and facials on a one-time purchase or subscription basis. I gave them a try and was not disappointed.

I tried out the “Glow and Go” facial which is a 30-minute glycolic peel, that fit perfectly into my after-work schedule. My skin was softer for days, and some of my small breakouts essentially disappeared afterward. Even with great results, there was minimal redness and no downtime. The esthetician, Jennifer, also did an assessment of my skin and made personalized recommendations based on the issues she saw.

*RELATED Miami Named Healthiest City in America

Jennifer was knowledgeable about general skincare questions as well as the line the salon uses, Repechage. The name is a French word referring to the second chance competitors get in sporting events when they didn’t win their heat. So uplifting vibes are in the name, but more than that, the line uses natural and organic ingredients that are meant to be easier on the skin than synthetic options. Also, the products are at a range of prices that can fit into most budgets.

I also had reflexology, which is a special type of massage based on the energy meridians used in Eastern medicine practices like acupuncture. The therapist, Jesid, noted that he has clients with many different complaints ranging from migraines to back pain to digestive issues which can all be treated with reflexology. This is just one of many types of specialized massages like prenatal, trigger point, and hot stone that are offered at Massage Luxe.

After my treatment, I was able to use their Hydroluxe massage bed, which is included with the subscription package. It is a heated water massage for 15 minutes that members can use daily. It was a nice complement to the treatment.

Overall, the experience was everything you would want from an establishment with such a promising name; friendly front desk staff, a quiet lounge with water or tea to start, knowledgeable professionals working with you to treat your specific needs rather than cookie-cutter treatments. I was relaxed after and happy with my results.  The packages and membership options available make this an affordable way to commit to yourself in the upcoming year. This is definitely a place I will return to and recommend. 

The Massage Luxe Miami salon offers massages and facials on a one-time purchase or subscription basis.

Crave Clean Miami|Salty Donut Wynwood

Treat Yo’self Right: How to Enjoy Holiday Eating Without Guilt

Onestressor that comes up for a lot of people around the holidays (especially ifyou are health conscious) is all of the wonderfully yummy food choices thatbombard us from October 31st until all the leftovers are finallygone probably sometime in January.

Having anxiety around eating can range from mild disturbance to full-on eating disorder and can negatively affect your mental health as well as get in the way of those lovely moments in life that are meant for you to enjoy.

*RELATED Where Do Your Favorite Miami Trainers Chow Down For Their Cheat Meal?

Dr. Gabrielle Fundaro, nutrition scientist and diet coach of Renaissance Periodization encourages clients to reframe their two weekly “cheat meals” each week to “free meals” or even better “treat” meals. Understanding that you deserve the balance of having a few meals that are purely for enjoyment can help get you through those episodes of stale green Christmas tree cookies in the breakroom while you diligently get your veggies in.

Many people simply give in to an all or nothing mentality with holiday eating, skipping exercise sessions and indulging at every opportunity then shaming themselves after. Remember that you can choose to start or stop eating at any point that you realize it is not serving you, so if you are eating something that feels like it is not worth the extra calories, put it down, there is no rule that says you must finish. Also if you feel you are over-restricting to save calories for Thursday, and you feel hungry, let yourself eat more. Sometimes people even punish themselves with excess exercise after a big eating day.  

*RELATED 6 Ways to Relieve Stress During the Holiday Season

“There are different schools of thought on this, so it's really about your reasoning,” says Fundaro of a post “treat” exercise session. “If you're doing it to celebrate your extra energy and hit some PR's of some sort, totally go for it! If you're doing it because you feel anxious or guilty, or like you need to undo/work off/compensate for your eating the day before, I'd recommend just doing your normal workout. Compensatory behaviors like that can really ingrain that cycle of restriction/purging after eating something 'bad.’”

Whatever you are celebrating, holidays tend to have culture-based comfort foods that get trotted out only once per year and are filled with good memories and made by loved ones. Viewing these foods as beautiful opportunities for greater connection can reframe the thoughts around these dishes.

*RELATED 10 Tips For Staying Fit During The Holidays

In that same train of thought, remind yourself that not every indulgence will really be worth all of the stress around it. Generic store-bought goodies from someone you don’t know well? Thoughtful, and definitely worth a thank you, but consider sharing these with others who will not stress about it. Your grandmother's incredible pound cake you have been thinking about since the last holiday gathering? Go for it. Then plan for most of your normal meals to be healthy and continue your regular exercise routine throughout the season.

Also, avoid talking excessively about your holiday food choices with others unless asked. Conversations about calories around a festive dinner table tend to kill the good vibes and just makes you more focused on how “bad” you are being. Having a grateful attitude toward your ability to indulge while still staying healthy through your everyday habits will allow you to get through the big meals without so much stress.

You can follow Dr. Fundaro for more evidence-based, balanced nutrition advice @vitaminphd on Instagram.

Having food anxiety during the holidays? Learn how to indulge on you favorite foods without feeling guilty the next day. Some great advice.

Is 2020 The End of Superficiality?

Living in Miami we all love a good lewk…even at the gym. Hair, nails, face, the whole nine. Before this year, the trend has been moving more and more towards a perfectionism that almost seemed unreal, between updates in aesthetic surgery, photoshopping, Instagram filters, as well as curating specific photographs for your Instagram feed, superficiality appeared to be a new religion.

I’d like to pause here to define superficiality. Superficiality is not just the enjoyment of the surface things; the material, fashion, image, money, looks, but the elevation of the surface over the internal. It isn’t necessarily that people individually were doing this, but it seemed that society was moving in that direction. There were certainly examples of counterculture questioning the race to Lambos and lipo, but it was getting undeniable that the airbrushing and the keeping up with that famous K-family was getting more and more prevalent among everyone we knew. Instagram influencing was becoming the new norm, and most of us were thinking, why not just embrace the false eyelashes and over-the-top flashiness of this new 2019 life.

Then 2020 rolled in. Suddenly a mask on your face meant that half your makeup wouldn’t be seen. Half of your social life wouldn’t even happen. Half of your workouts might not even happen. Your hair might not get done, it might not be safe for your nail tech or you to get your nails done as often. Or maybe you lost some (or all) of your income and you just had to reprioritize what parts of your routine really mattered. And maybe it turned out, you didn’t actually miss getting your nails done. Maybe you felt better not fretting over putting your full face of makeup on every day. Maybe you remembered you actually like your face without some of the goop. Guys seem to be experimenting with home barbering and facial hair out of boredom and curiosity.

RELATED The Toxic “Hustle Culture” Has Left the Discussion

Another thing that has happened since the year has gone full-on Jumanji.  Previously preoccupied with full social lives, full employment levels, secure health and stable economies, social injustice may have seemed in the past like it would work itself out. Or at least that was what most people who were unsettled by different current events told themselves when no action appeared to be taken en masse against large corporations or corrupt people who did wrong against one another. With time on our hands to spare, and glaring reasons to speak up, we have had to reexamine what really matters in our society, causing us all to ask, is it time to go further than skin-deep?

What’s funny is, and I am sure that females reading this piece will understand instantly, is this is a debate that feminism has had for ages: enjoying the visceral things in life and the deep spiritual things in life are not mutually exclusive. Meaning: you can wear a full face of contoured makeup and fight for social justice. The question I am posing here is this; Are we ready as a culture to stop elevating the visceral at the expense of the deeper conversation? Or even more important; Are we ready to stop pitting the two against each other?

The last several years have been not only superficial with looks but also superficial with labels. People tend to label people who are into their looks, fashion, or fitness as stupid or vapid, and I would encourage everyone to look again and try to drop those stereotypes and labels. Spirituality and inner depth tend to get a bad rap of being hokey and “woo-woo” but it doesn’t mean those people can’t have major drip on the gram too. Being one dimensional is almost impossible, and as much as we want to call each other out, we need to try to see how we are alike and try to come together and go deeper.

RELATED 2020 Can Still Be Your Year. Here's How

Enjoying fitness is so much more than enjoying looks as STAY FIT 305 so often talks about, and enjoying lewks is great too, because image is a part of who we all are, but it may be a healthy thing for our society to be moving away from the elevation of the outer being over all else. A healthy integration of all of the parts of ourselves, including looks, body, personality, emotions, values, and relationships can help balance us internally and mentally.

The external is so easy to compare that it can easily create a question in your mind of your value. However, the internal is intangible and invaluable. The internal is available to fight battles on behalf of the struggles of others. The internal is something that can be questioned by others but cannot be defined by others. In this way the internal counters the external so that if you begin to question your value based on someone else’s image, you remember the intangible value of both of your inner existence and remember there is no real comparison, you both have an intangible value as humans, and no longer see each other as competition, but as companions in this wild ride. 

Image is a part of who we all are, but it may be a healthy thing for our society to move away from the elevation of the outer being over all else.

5 Tips on How to Achieve True Emotional Gainz

We are used to being sore after the gym. Sometimes we even get excited about it, earmarking some new exercise or class after we feel a good burn the next day so we can try it again and get gram-worthy results.

But think about it, were you always this way about your fitness? I bet there were some days in the beginning that the soreness made you want to stay home the next day and chill in sweatpants (back when home in sweatpants was not mandatory).

What about the famous runner’s high? How many awful runs did it take you before you actually attained it? Because I’ll tell you, I had many cramps prior to hitting that elusive endorphin kick. Emotional and mental health progress akin to those gym gains, you have to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable in order to see the results. try these concepts for some real emotional growth.

Just like fitness, it's great to start small and build up slowly.

Take, for example, a mental concept we’ve heard a lot about lately: boundaries. When you return to the office, you can start by simply saying, “Hey, Susan, I think we should probably not talk shit in the break room, it got me in trouble last time.” A simple, honest statement that does not blame the other person and sets a clear boundary, and gives your work buddy a chance to show you that they respect your boundary is a great place to start. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, but it allows you to also establish your needs, and you can work up to telling your fun cousin you have to stop lending him money for his business ideas----once you have built up your boundary muscles.

Try, try again.

When you are practicing a concept, like meditation for example, and find it is difficult, rather than giving up, do what works for you in fitness. Try finding a podcast, YouTube video, group, or coach to guide you. There are many teachers to help you on your way, you don’t have to flounder on your own, and just like fitness trying different methods can help you find works what is best for you.

Find a buddy.

Just like a good workout buddy, think about having a friend or family member you can count on to be objective about your mental state and let you know if something seems off, and vice versa. Being open about mental health can be scary and is often stigmatized but it is so important that it is worth the initial uncomfortable conversation. Find someone you can be comfortable enough to start slowly expressing what your normal looks like so that if you start to feel off, they can help you get back to home base. You don’t have to disclose every feeling at once, and you don’t have to open up to everyone, certainly not anyone you don’t trust. Just start slow and see how they respond, a good friend will be receptive, and likely will feel comfortable starting to share with you as well.

Sometimes, you need a break.

Sometimes there are going to be difficult emotions by nature of making progress with mental health. Realizations about unhealthy relationships you need to let go of, habits you have to change, even moving, or taking other opportunities can bring up sadness, regret, and resentments that you may need to express and process. It may feel bad at the moment and may even cause you to question whether you are doing the right thing, but it is a normal part of progressing mentally and emotionally. Just like soreness does not mean you should stop working out, uncomfortable feelings do not mean you should stop progressing with emotional growth. However, similarly to working out, where the actual pain is a clear time to take a break, intense negative emotions are a sign you are at a stopping point and it may be time to set a solid boundary with a particular person or take a break for a day or two from something.

RELATED The Toxic “Hustle Culture” Has Left the Discussion

Find an expert to help.

When things are really overwhelming, seeing a therapist to help you work through it in a systematic way is similar to having a personal trainer who can guide you through physical growth. They help you identify your most important goals and are well trained in the best ways to get you to them so that you can alleviate that stress. All therapists have higher education in theories and treatment modes that help clients to meet objectives, and many of these theories have been backed by research. Like trainers, you can look at their backgrounds, specialties, and philosophies to see which one will be a good fit for you. Much like personal training, not every session will be enjoyable, but sessions will bring you closer to the progress that you want to make.

Keeping your mind fit the same way you keep your body fit will hopefully be the way we look at mental health in the future, and so much information is out there to get you started, so start small, find a buddy, a coach, a therapist, or start wherever makes the most sense for you.  Just keep in mind that just like fitness, any goal worth reaching is not going to be without a little struggle and sweat, but trust me, you will like the results.

Emotional and mental health progress akin to those gym gains, you have to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable in order to see the results.

Beat the Burnout and Come Back Better With These Tips

Burnout is rough, and it feels like 2020 is going down in some serious flames. If you weren’t feeling burnout already, it’s likely you are now. If you are in a high-stress or helping profession, burnout just comes with the territory and can affect the way you perform at work. But we get mixed messages about how to deal with it and often mishandle it or just suppress it altogether.

The first step is to recognize the warning signs of burnout. Often people cannot tell burnout is coming on until more pronounced behavioral changes occur like irritability, changes in sleep patterns or appetite, headaches, or increased alcohol intake. However, you can start to track earlier signs. If you start to notice a small drop in productivity over a couple of days, a few days in a row of tardiness to work or a late start to zoom meetings or notice that you are starting to forget what you are doing mid-task, these are all early warning signs that you are starting towards a bigger burnout.

If you can halt the progress earlier on, we can avoid some of those later, larger problems which tend to come with bigger consequences. How do we halt early burnout? If you have receptive managers, this is always a plus; start by letting them know you may need to either rework your schedule to allow for a longer lunch break or start later to get a bit more sleep to recharge or need assistance with smaller tasks.

If it is absolutely the type of work you must do yourself, it may be something that you either need to A) power through and finish so you can have a day off at the end of the week or B) take a day off so you can focus better once you’ve recharged. That sounds counterintuitive if you feel like you already have more work than you can handle, but if your mind or body has already given you signs it is shutting itself down, not taking a break at some point soon means you are bound to crash and burn.

What if you are already in full burnout mode? If you are already snapping at coworkers, showing up an hour late, working through lunch, staying on your work computer until 8 pm, and pulling your hair out, drinking whiskey in the backyard in tears? That is a harder nut to crack, but not uncrackable.

First, you really need to evaluate how you got there. Boundary setting has got to be something you consider from here on out in any job and from now on if you choose to stay in this one. The first person you must set boundaries with is yourself. You have to show up on time, you have to eat lunch and recharge, you have to take on projects you have the energy for and be honest when you are completely overwhelmed. This will be difficult but will be the only way to dig yourself out of the hole.

Now, beyond what you do with your coworkers, it’s also important what you do with yourself and your loved ones. Sure, whiskey tastes great, but endorphins last longer. You have to make time to exercise and get your heart rate up 3-5 times per week. COVID-19 has seriously decreased the amount of exercise people have been doing, which has increased the amount of anxiety mental health professionals have seen immensely. Make it a point to do 30-45 minutes of cardio at least 3 times per week, no matter what.

Limit the booze, especially on a stressful workday. Drinking during stress reinforces alcohol as a coping mechanism and creates a habit of dependence on alcohol versus other healthier coping mechanisms when you are feeling overwhelmed. Choose hot tea, fizzy water, or one of the new sober-curious elixirs like Kin, or Ritual as a substitute while you journal, color, or do a puzzle with the family to take your mind off of the workday.

Actually eat meals and do not do it while you are working or multitasking. Eat breakfast at your table sitting down before you open your computer. Try not to do your work in the same place that you eat. Designate a different area of your house for work if you can. If you go into an office now that the quarantine rules are relaxed never eat at your desk. Even if you feel pressure to do so from your coworkers or boss. Even a 15-minute break away from the desk will do wonders.

For that matter, leave your phone at your desk during that time as well, just sit and eat, outside in the sun if you can. Think about the breeze on your face, the taste, and texture of your food, the smell of the food or the fresh air, the time it took to cook, or the crispness of the veggies in the salad. Turn it into a mindfulness exercise, going through each of the five senses until your break is over. Expanding each flavor into a meditation will create space in your day you never knew you had and will make lunch so much better than shoving your UberEats in your face while you mindlessly send another email back to accounting.

When you head back to work try to stay as focused as possible on only work, but if you find yourself with your mind wandering, don’t scroll through your phone every five minutes then back to your computer alternating for hours and barely do a thing, leaving work left over for tomorrow, that will only stress you out more. Use a timer app to help you stay on task and use the grayscale setting on your phone to make it less distracting, then when you’ve spent 50 full minutes of productivity give yourself a 10-minute stretch, meditation, or bathroom break to recharge. Then look back at how much work you achieved and take stock.

Congratulating yourself helps reinforce good habits and keeps you on track. It also keeps positive energy going counteracting feelings of overwhelming. A small piece of chocolate, a shot of Cafecito, or a quick gif to a friend about what a badass you are before you do your next 50-minute stretch can be a good productivity reward.

When you go home for the day, or when you have finished working for the day, put all of your work paraphernalia out of sight. Mentally close the book on the workday and prep yourself for personal time. Remind yourself that you will have plenty of work time during the next shift to get any other work items done and that you are capable and competent.

Make sure you plan pleasurable activities for yourself throughout your workweek solely for enjoyment. Not because you should study more or be a better person or because mom thinks you should learn a new language or whatever, but because you genuinely enjoy it. Life is meant to be enjoyed.  

Beat the burnout and come back better.

In high-stress or helping professions, burnout comes with the territory and can affect the way you perform at work. Here are tips to beat the burnout.

The Toxic "Hustle Culture" Has Left the Discussion

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things in our social landscape. One trend that tried to hang on, in the beginning, was the toxic idea that if you are not working 16+ hours per day, it’s your fault if you don’t succeed. I would argue that letting go of the toxic “Hustle Culture” that was recently on the rise, is one of the best outcomes of the pandemic so far.

"Hustle Culture" tried to hang on at the beginning, with many posts on social media saying, “If you don’t come out of this with something new, you lacked motivation, not time.” From a mental health perspective, staying busy is one of the best ways to keep yourself sane, but I've already shared how "shame" is not a good way to motivate yourself (or anyone else) to change. It creates a negative aura around a positive change and basically spoils the whole thing.

*RELATED - Before and After: Why You Don’t Need to Shame Yourself into Change

Luckily, as the crisis wears on, I am seeing less and less of these types of posts. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to let go of "should," in favor of things that actually energize you and make you happy. That could be working hard on things you love and want to be successful at, and other times that could be taking a nap or making some cookies. The quarantine is teaching us this the hard way.

Most of my life I’ve held more than one job, started projects that my bosses didn’t ask for, and generally filled my calendar with things to do. But it is important to note that I am naturally one of the most extroverted people you will ever meet. These are things I chose because they energize me. But, when I realized this pandemic was here to stay, I had to acknowledge that maybe this meant I was supposed to slow down. I stepped back, took a break from social media and side-hustles, and really did whatever it was for myself at that moment that felt right.

And guess what? It felt good. I didn’t lose any massive opportunity by taking a break. I didn’t disappoint anyone or fail at my career. I was not disappointed in myself. I didn’t miss Instagram notifications or struggling with my website (I am not very tech-savvy for a millennial). And guess what else, all of those tasks were waiting for me when I decided to pick them up and start working on them again with renewed energy. Basically the world kept moving and didn’t leave me behind.

This is why mindfulness and meditation are such powerful and popular tools - getting in tune with what actually feeds you mentally and spiritually, while disconnecting with external societal pressure. It is wonderful to be ambitious and connect with people in your field, but it is okay to take breaks and do things simply for pleasure and not for the sake of your future empire.

*RELATED Meditation Tips for Beginners from Miami Instructors

I am hopeful, that even after the pandemic subsides, that we take this piece of wisdom with us; to enjoy our lives now alongside our ambitions. It is important to remember that pleasure and success are not mutually exclusive. It is also my hope that we can all become a bit more understanding of each other, and not feel the need to shame each other into reaching our potential, but instead support each other in a balanced life that creates more success and more joy.

The takeaway is this: hustling is not a bad thing. Feeling like a bad person for not hustling 24/7 is unhealthy, though. That’s whether you are on lockdown or not. Staying busy is great until you’re tired, and then you need to rest. It sounds like a no brainer, but this quarantine is a perfect time to practice accepting this simple truth. Get really good at listening to yourself, because when this ends and the din of social pressures gets loud again, you will need to still be able to hear your inner voice telling you what is really important for your life.

I would argue that letting go of the toxic “Hustle Culture” that was recently on the rise is one of the best outcomes of the pandemic so far

2020 Can Still Be Your Year

Remember when I said to build in extra time for your goals for emergencies? While no one could have predicted this, emergencies always happen. That is nothing in the face of a tenacious person ready to change. That being said, I know how it feels to be gaining momentum in a certain direction and find yourself stalled; My goal for this year was to start live mental health workshops for people looking to shift their anxiety into action. Clearly that might not be something I pursue right now, but there are about 150 other things that can lead me in that direction in the meantime; working on my website, setting up an LLC, creating branding, build my audience, the list goes on.

I am here to tell you that you do not have to wait until2021 or even the end of quarantine to start becoming the person you know isready to emerge. I had a friend ask me this week how I was able to reach someof my goals in 2019 despite job stress as a social worker; the answer is bothsimple and difficult: just keep going. For a long time, my boyfriendtouted a motto to me used by lots of fitness junkies that I poo-pooed, disciplineover motivation. I love motivation, I love positive affirmations andself-help books, am a lover of life coaches and manifestation podcasts. But Ihave to admit, there are times that no matter how much love I feed myself,sometimes I just did not want to study or workout or meditate. But I did itanyway. And now I am a total believer in both discipline and motivation.

The miracle is that despite all of the nonsense that isgoing on right now and how bad I may feel internally, every time I make myselfsit down for fifteen minutes to get closer to my goals, I feel better. I feelmore in control, I see progress, and I remember, the world is what I make it.Some people (and I used to be one of them) see proclamations like that and say wellif that were true I could just *poof* happy hours and social life back toexistence, so clearly you can’t just think up your reality. This is wherethe skeptics and the motivational world collide for infinite power: have thediscipline to change everything in your scope of influence the way you want it,and your reality will change for the positive, despite the scope of realitythat you cannot actively change. These changes create proof positive of youragency in life and give you more motivation. It’s a beautiful upward cycle Iwant you to jump into with me. We can meet for happy hour later.

Chances are, whether you are starting at just getting yourlife together, or you are making big, ambitious moves, you have a myriad ofgoals you want to achieve. Now is the time to whip out that list from Januaryand reprioritize. You can also change the steps you were going to take; maybeyou are running outside or hiring a virtual personal trainer to lose weight,maybe you are starting to get fluent in a new language instead of taking in-personclasses toward a new certification. Spend some time contemplating what you cando right now. There are probably many more things than you think.Brainstorm with a mentor if you need help or search for blogs of successfulpeople in your industry.

As we settle into this new, weird reality, you may change course, but don’t give up. Do not take this as a sign from the universe that you were not meant to reach your goals. You know how I know it isn’t? Because it’s happening to the whole world. You know what else happened across this Country? Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Great Recession, and guess what, some people gave up and lost fortunes and other people thrived and came out better on the other side. Not all of that was totally fair, but at least some of it was based on the determination of the individuals who succeeded. Some of those who succeeded were totally on the up-and-up and made like Beyoncé and made some damn lemonade. Maybe with a little moonshine in it.

We are still some of the luckiest people on earth; with air-conditioned homes with internet connections, games, video streaming services, food delivery, pet food delivery, Roombas, a variety of disinfectants, video conferencing, online courses, telemedicine, and IG live workouts. Take time to be grateful and really look at your resources to map a new course to the things you want. Where you see a roadblock, look for another route, don’t take it as a sign to give in. And when you see a roadblock for many people you can help fix, chip in. Show your pals your progress and encourage them to do the same. Not to get all Rosie-the-Riveter but we really can do this. We can make 2020 our year and show the generations before and after us that we can weather a storm, and maybe even come out better for it.

We can make 2020 our year and show the generations before and after us that we can weather a storm, and maybe even come out better for it.

Yoga

The Emotions of a Crisis. How to Get Through Challenging Times

It is becoming overwhelmingly apparent that COVID-19 is shifting the way we live, likely for a longer stretch than two weeks. Full disclosure: I am the quintessential extrovert, I gain energy from being out of the house, around others, and despite my rational knowledge that this will be fine, this has been an emotional time for me considering the time away from others is the safest thing for everyone right now.

*RELATED How to Deal with COVID-19 Cabin Fever

I won’t pretend to be an expert in this vastly different landscape, but I can tell you that for me, this feels like a huge loss, and I can guide you through a loss. The loss of our daily lives as we know them.

Recently the internet made fun of Sam Smith for having a bit of a breakdown, but let’s not be judgmental of one another and how we each are handling this major shift in culture.

If we can find ways to be supportive of each other right now, more of us will get through this in a positive way and come out better on the other side.

My hope is that very few of us face hard losses through this, but realistically many of us now face job or income loss, loss of at-risk loved ones, and loss of the activities in our lives that keep us emotionally healthy, and it is important in our switch to survival mode we allow ourselves space to mourn those losses, big and small. I am not encouraging wallowing, just acknowledging your feelings without judging yourself.

It is a wonderful thing to see so many people on social media rallying to try to stay positive and encourage one another, but if you do have a freak-out moment when you realize a favorite establishment is closed or your bestie got laid off, that is okay. Give yourself space to just feel the emotion, cry, journal, breathe into a paper bag, and let the emotion express itself naturally. If you let it run its course, you will release it and feel better. Holding onto emotions will only make anxiety build, and as we have seen, new changes are coming all the time, do not let them build up. Feel the emotion, let it go, and then move on.

If you are feeling stir-crazy, resist the urge to go out unnecessarily, yes it may ease your anxiety temporarily, but it is what the CDC is warning would increase the spread, so it will only increase the length of time we are needing to shelter in place. Be mindful of those around you and try to find closets to clean out, games to play with family or roommates at home, books to read, bodyweight exercises to try, or finally make the Duolingo owl STFU. Clean out the trunk of your car, find a guided meditation online, wash your windows, wash your dog, download a new game, write a murder mystery novel, color with your kids, do not let yourself think that going out and doing things due to boredom is safe or smart.

If you are seriously struggling contact a therapist, or sign up for BetterHelp, TalkSpace, or other telehealth counseling services. You do not need to wait or try to white-knuckle this. No one has been through something like this in our lifetimes and it is normal to need guidance. Most insurance companies are also allowing traditional therapists to conduct business via telehealth or phone if needed.

If you have to go to work during this time, be respectful by washing your hands before you leave and when you get there, using tissues for coughs and sneezes, staying home if sick, stay in your own office/avoid seeing coworkers in person if you can, wash hands often, and designate a place in (or outside of) your house for shoes, scrubs, work clothes, etc to go immediately to avoid spreading anything to your loved ones. If you are working during this time in literally any sector: THANK YOU.

We are so lucky to have this crisis in a time when there is an abundance of food and staple goods, delivery available, home entertainment, easy ways of communicating remotely, and so many other wonderful things, but that does not mean this will not be hard on you. Do not judge yourself for having a hard time. Acknowledge and express your emotions, and when you’ve finished a corona crisis, do something you are grateful for, like FaceTime-ing a friend to remind yourself we are still so amazingly lucky to be alive right now. Remind yourself you aren’t alone, we are all working through this too, and when you see someone struggling hard, try to lift them up.

If we can find ways to be supportive of each other right now, more of us will get through this in a positive way and come out better on the other side.

pets mental health|Relax

How Your Pet Can Help Boost Your Mental Health

One benefit of staying home this week? More time with your furry friend. Animals have been shown to improve mental health and even lengthen the lives of those around them. And that isn’t just related to owning a pet, people who work with animals experience the same benefits. Here are the ways it can help, and some ways you can get in on this animal action.

A study on people with mental illness working with farm animals showed improvements in self-efficacy as well as reduced anxiety measures.

This is great news for people who have tried traditional therapies or medications and want some added benefit without having to add to their treatments. This is also great news for those of us with busy lives who may not have time for a traditional pet. You can volunteer to work with animals at the Miami-Dade Humane Society, or seek out volunteer opportunities at places like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Horse sanctuary, see links to these below.

The ever-popular Emotional Support Animal, though often used to get a pug on a plane, has roots in reality. In a study out of Australia that reviewed highly-trained psychiatric companion animals for those with mental health diagnoses, all of the participants felt positive benefits and reduction of their symptoms. Keep in mind, that here in the U.S. there is no requirement for formal training of an Emotional Support Animal, so be sure you vet any organization claiming to train pets for emotional support. Some of them do a wonderful job of training dogs (and other friendly creatures) for those who suffer from anxiety, PTSD, and depression.

If you already have a pet, who may be a very good boy but not trained in emotional support, how do you make the most of the psychological benefits? First, spend time with them! See if your office will let them come in every so often, let them tag along to brunch, or make a family day at a pet-friendly park. (Bonus this is a free afternoon at one of many parks in Miami Dade). Dedicate more time to their daily walks. Walking outside in fresh air with your pup will compound the positive psychological benefits. The trifecta is to leave your phone at home to help you do as your dog does and stay in the moment. If you have a cat or other critter, dedicate a half an hour of play or cuddle time with them to increase the joy you share together.

*RELATED The Pressure to be Happy. How Not to Fall in the Happy Trap

If you are interested in getting a cuddly critter, first consider the amount of time you have and the needs of the animal so you are sure you can commit. Check with your landlord about any restrictions. Talk to your therapist or psychiatrist about whether they feel you would benefit from an Emotional Support Animal before you make a decision if you do have landlord restrictions.

Do some research regarding what personalities each prospective pet has, as well as costs associated, and reflect on what you think would fit your life as well as benefit your mood. Unless you are purchasing a trained companion, I would also discourage you from working with a breeder if at all possible in order to help those pets who need a home in shelters.

Still unsure? Ask if you can petsit for a friend or help out with their pet’s care from time to time and see if it’s for you. No need to commit, but it can’t hurt to try out, and your friend will definitely be grateful for the help.

Sources:

Animals have been shown to improve mental health and even lengthen the lives of those around them. Here are the ways it can help, and some ways you can get in on this animal action.

coronavirus cabin fever|Yoga

How to Deal with COVID-19 Cabin Fever

While the main hope is that all of our friends and families are safe, luckily most of us will just experience some inconvenience. That will likely take the form of self-quarantined Cabin Fever. Safety is key and it is best to follow all CDC recommendations. Wash hands often, avoid unnecessary contact and contact the health department if you have symptoms, and stay home if you have that option.

Here are more tips on how you can manage your COVID-19 cabin fever.

Stay Positive

This whole issue feels very scary, so it is important to mitigate fear and try to reframe the situation in a positive light. If your company or school is having you work remotely, think of the positives; you get to wear cozier clothes, be around pets more during the day, and maybe even work outside if the weather is nice. Avoid keeping the news on in the background while you are home. Get the main information you need and move on for the day. Beyond the simple facts and advice for safety, repeated reports and panic will not serve you.

Find the Silver Lining

If you missed out on toilet paper or some other staple before it got wiped out, try reframing it as a test of your resourcefulness and your survival skills. Get to know a neighbor if you really need that roll of Charmin, and maybe offer them your extra bottle of Purell in return. Treat your nightly dinner routine as a Chopped challenge and try to make the best of your cabinet and freezer. Get creative with other options, although Tito’s has made it quite clear it cannot double as hand sanitizer, maybe some traditional rubbing alcohol forgotten in your cabinet will work. (And the Tito’s might get you through a particularly boring Friday night in.) See how many life hacks you can emulate from Pinterest to get you through without an extra trip to scour yet another store for supplies.

*RELATED How to Prep Your Kitchen for a Coronavirus Pandemic

Catch Up on Chores

Make a list of things you have needed to get done for a while, that you have not “had time for” that you can do from home. Launching a website, deep cleaning behind the stove, setting up a meditation nook, all could be fun and time-consuming projects that will make you feel productive and soak up some of your excess restless energy.

Get Creative

Speaking of energy, if you are into exercising you will have to get creative. For right now, you can keep attending your gym, but sanitize hands and machines before and after. Don’t go if you have any symptoms. Don’t shake hands, kiss or hug, but give workout buddies verbal support instead. If it gets to a point where you can no longer attend in-person classes, now might be the time to invest in an Echelon bike or mirror, or try out a streaming service on Netflix or Prime to get a great home sweat.

Mix it Up

Try designating different areas of your house and yard for different activities or parts of the day. It might be tempting to stay in bed all day, but breaking up your routine by having breakfast in the kitchen, answering emails in your office, taking a lunch break on the patio, and doing yoga in the living room can make the day seem less monotonous. You might also choose to get dressed like you are headed to work to help yourself focus and change into cozy clothes when you’ve finished the day’s assignments.

Stay Connected

Stay connected to friends and family. This is a time when connecting through technology is definitely preferred. Facetime the folks you really would love to see in person but are at higher risk, like grandma and grandpa, or any friend with underlying medical conditions. They will likely need some extra love during this time. You can also start an online book club, have a virtual girls’ night in, and actually attend those Zoom meetings for work. Human interaction will combat the loneliness of being cooped up.

Enjoy Self-Care

Use this time to get the rest you may have been needing. While you may have the same amount of work, your commute likely equals 1-2 hours of your day that you can now spend on self-care. Take luxurious bubble baths, use that massage gun that’s been collecting dust, start a stretching routine. You may choose to make it a point to get a full eight hours a night when you would normally only have time for six, which will help restore your body and boost your immune system. If you use that extra time thoughtfully it can feel like a bit of a staycation.

*RELATED 9 Ways to Boost Your Immune System

Lastly, when this all settles down, use this as a reminder that being home all of the time is not actually what you want. It is easy to fall into the apathetic mindset that you don’t want to go to work in the morning. But if you end up home for two straight weeks, you might realize you actually enjoy being out and about.

Shifting your mindset from fear and panic to seeing the upsides and being grateful for those hidden bonuses, will cause you less stress and make this time a bit easier on you and your mental health.

These are some tips to help you make the most of your time during social distancing and hopefully prevent feelings of cabin fever.

International Women's Day|

6 Tips to Support and Hype Your Fellow Women

In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to take a moment and talk about how we as women can support each other, try any or all of these fun and positive ways to get going!

1. Assume the best!

Take a few minutes to ponder up the best values and virtues you want the women in your life to have, then make it an active practice to assume that these are the reasons other women behave the way they do. It is likely true anyway. Friend starting her own business? It’s because she’s smart and ambitious! Coworker getting a promotion? It’s because she wants to be a great leader! Sister taking a break from her job to travel? She is practicing good self-care! Assuming the best inwardly will begin to make positive vibes flow and start to inform all of your interactions with other women.

2. Ditch negative judgments about other women whenever you can. 

Society and mass media would have us believe that catty is the way to go, but that type of interaction has never served to further the female cause of equality. When you catch yourself thinking something not-so-savory about a sister, try to think of something different about the person that is positive. When you catch yourself starting to gossip, change the subject and talk about a woman you really admire rather than one you can’t stand.

3. Hype other women up!

When you see someone killing it on social media, in their business, at the gym, or at work, tell them. Out loud, right then! If you aren’t an extrovert, you can also quietly send an email to their boss mentioning their accomplishments, repost their blog to your story, or send them a congrats card. There needs to be more conversation about women’s accomplishments in a range of industries. Start with what you know and like and amp up what you think is particularly noteworthy.

4. Remember that physicality, looks, and fashion can be super fun but do not define us.

Praise women of all sizes for who they are first. The more we focus on other women’s personalities, intelligence, character, and accomplishments, the more the rest of the world will be forced to take a look, too. It will also be a boost to your own self-esteem each time you give a compliment to someone’s integrity or book smarts because you will be reminded of the importance of the complexity of a woman.

5. No need to hate men to love women.

Of course, women still have a-ways to go to gain equality, but focusing on the negative just drags you down and tends to detract from the cause of helping and supporting one another. The idea of feminism itself is that men and women are all the same, so even if you have experienced sexism on a personal level, don’t level that resentment at every guy you see. This one is really to support yourself, as forgiveness is incredibly healing.

6. Be a mentor to younger women, or connect women you know would be wonderful friends with each other. 

Grow the spirit of supporting others by actively showing the next generation that you are here for them. Some companies have mentorship programs, or you can join a mastermind group like Girl Boss to help others in a similar industry or to find yourself a mentor if you are in need of some guidance from a sage woman.

Check out some of the following resources for severaldifferent aspects of womanhood:

  • How Women Rise, by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith (professional advice for women)
  • A Tribe Called Bliss, by Lori Harder (a step-by-step guide to building your own mastermind group)
  • https://leanin.org/together/women  Resources for connecting and interacting as powerful women, there are also resources here for allies/men.

In honor of International Women's Day, here are a few of the ways that women can support other women, not just today but every day.

Pure Barre Coral Gables|

The Pressure to be Happy. How Not to Fall in the Happy Trap

We've addressed some performance pressures in the January series about goals, but there’s a more insidious pressure in life that tends to be more damaging and ultimately less attainable; the pressure to be happy.

*RELATED Goal Getters: How to Set Goals You Are Sure to Smash

People use it as a justification for others when we don’t understand someone else’s life choices, Well, as long as it makes them happy. But what is happiness to start with? Most people associate it with feeling contented, at peace, not wanting for anything else. But isn’t that a mighty tall order for anyone to fill? Basically most descriptions of happiness seem to imply enlightenment or nirvana, but we wouldn’t go around saying, well I wouldn’t date that guy but if you achieve nirvana I suppose that’s okay. I am sure you can see the flaw in that logic.

*RELATED The U.S. Drops to No. 19 in World Happiness Report

We manage huge life decisions like changing careers, moving cities, and the fates of our relationships based on whether we feel happy in them. While a good job, relationship or environment does lend itself to feeling content most of the time, the expectation that we should be happy during 100% of a job … in meetings, on lunch breaks, during an interaction with a tough client, is pretty absurd. Likewise in a relationship. Sometimes you are just going to be lying in bed next to each other while scrolling on your phone. Is that bad? Not really, is that wildly happy? Probably not that either.

However, a lot of people would look at that activity and think, something’s wrong, let’s spice this up. We often focus so much on “fixing” our negative or neutral feelings, the focus seems to shift from the happy times to the less happy ones.  In the effort to be happier, we end up focusing on our "happiness failures."  As my bedside-scrolling-partner likes to say, the key to happiness is low expectations.  

It isn’t that you shouldn't be happy, it's more that you should not expect to be happy all of the time.

The range and depth of human emotions enhance your experience of life. Being content is a wonderful emotion of course, but so is the feeling after a good cry. We were all happy after the Hangover and Pineapple Express, but they don't win Oscars, poignant dramas do.

But when it comes to having “all the feels” it seems like we shy away from those other feelings or push through them. Think of the albeit hilarious, but cringe-y selfie-films of girls crying and still trying to post on social media proving that they are still okay. Why not just cry? Emotions will not kill you, and of course, you will still be okay. The upside of those videos is seeing that most of Instagram is just a highlight reel, it usually doesn't include tears and we need to remember that tears are meant to happen at times.

Now let’s tackle the harder problem: some emotion in the middle. Extreme feelings like infatuation, sadness, anger…those are easier to understand and identify, and you can often pinpoint their origins. But if you are anything like me, the feeling of meh is more perplexing. My mind starts trying to make sense of it (and admittedly overthinking it) asking inane questions like why aren’t I happy, am I doing something wrong?  And that’s where it all spirals.

Most people feel the need to either be happy or cite some legitimate reason for being unhappy, this is the source of many unnecessary woes. Why do you think Karen starts drama in the break room? Or the woman behind you in line starts complaining about the Starbucks employees who are within earshot? Likely because they are trying to explain to themselves why they aren’t happy even though they have a secure job, and delicious coffee. We all have little ways of doing this, or perhaps you don't do anything outward, but you keep asking yourself, what's wrong with me, why can't I be happy?  The thing is, this sabotages our okay days and categorizes them anew as bad days simply because we aren’t elated at life. 

Try to shift your focus using mindfulness in order to just experience the environment and emotion at had without labeling it good or bad.  Journaling about what certain emotions feel like physically is also a good way of making them more objective.  Try not to judge your emotions, and don't confuse behaviors for emotions, behaviors can be helpful or hurtful but emotions are just feelings that naturally come up. 

Try out any of the following resources for relieving the pressure to be happy all the time:

  • The Antidote: Happiness For People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Little Book of Stoicism: Timeless Wisdom to Gain Resilience, Confidence, and Calmness by Jonas Salzgeber

There’s a more insidious pressure in life that tends to be more damaging and ultimately less attainable; the pressure to be happy.

cleaning mental health

Here's How Cleaning Can Put a Spring in Your Step

Spring is around the corner and even in the land of eternalsummer, Spring signifies renewal and rebirth, and for most people the need fora good deep clean. As a reformed messy person, I can attest to something Idenied for a long time; cleaning is therapeutic.

Until recently cleaning was a relatively awful chore for me, because I would wait until so much clutter had accumulated, cleaning would be a full-day project. Slowly I realized that I owned far more than I ever used and that cleaning absolutely had to be a habit to keep it from becoming overwhelming.  

Marie Kondo has popularized the idea of only having things in your home that spark joy. Regardless of your method of deciding what makes the cut, it is highly likely that if you decreased the number of items you have, your home will be more organized and less cluttered. Clutter has been linked to increased stress and even cortisol levels in some studies. Clutter tends to weigh on our minds the way that organized items do not. Think about it, is there a drawer in your house of unread mail? What that really means is there are probably bills you are ignoring and information you need to address just piling up. It isn’t just paper, it’s a stack of unorganized responsibilities. Once you open them and make a plan to deal with them, even if you don’t address every issue right away, you’ll feel the weight of the clutter lift.

Doing an annual or semi-annual review of your clutter, throwing out what isn’t needed, and making plans for the things you need is cleansing. This is also a great way to remind yourself to use the things you really love. Most of us get so caught up in our need-to-do tasks, we forget about the things we own for pure enjoyment. Pull out that paint set from the back of the closet and put it in a more accessible place. Organizing should not only be about the functional needs of the house but the emotional needs of its inhabitants.

The act of cleaning in and of itself is also helpful by giving you a sense of control over your environment.  You end up with a tangible representation of your productivity which you are able to see, smell, and feel. It is also moderately physically demanding, and distracting, which allows you to take the focus of more stressful things like work or relationship issues. If you make it a regular habit, you get these benefits over and over and likely less fighting over whose shoes are in the hallway.

If you are a mess addict like myself, a deep clean probably seems as daunting as rehab, but you can start small. You can approach a thoroughly deep clean in one of two ways; start with the worst area first and get it out of the way, or, start with the easiest area to build momentum. You may even want to enlist family members with specific tasks or invite a friend over whose organizational style you admire to give you pointers. Watch Marie Kondo’s streaming series to get inspired or take cues from Pinterest pages you love. If you take some time to psych yourself up, it will feel less like a chore and more like a fun project.

The real magic of cleaning is that all of your tasks become less stressful. We all know the feeling of needing to do something and not being able to quickly find the tools we need to do it. If your home, office, and car are all organized, any task you need to complete will be simpler. If every task is easier, your whole life is easier, and that is where cleaning is really powerful. You won’t be embarrassed by your home when your in-laws stop by unannounced or a coworker needs a ride. You won’t track down your tax information come April, or have to hunt for an aspirin when you have a headache. If you change your environment, you change your life.

As a reformed messy person, I can attest to something I denied for a long time; cleaning is therapeutic.

Art Basel Yoga

Self-Love is the Best Love

Advice about self-love is so cliché. Put your own oxygen mask on first, you have to love yourself before you can love someone else, etc, etc. We are our own worst critics, even if outwardly we are superficially overconfident.

Practically speaking, self-love sounds very simple, but usually ends up being very complicated because of all of the ways we often do damage to ourselves. We talk negatively to ourselves often, as we visited in our article about avoiding shaming yourself into change. Shifting the way we talk to ourselves is a simple way of starting the complicated process of loving ourselves.

You can start by naming things you love about yourself, then slowly turning negative things you say to yourself into their opposite, for example, if you constantly tell yourself you are stupid, start saying to yourself how intelligent you are. This might feel forced at first and is more effective if you can say it genuinely when you feel you really did something smart. Check out The Book of Afformations by Noah St. John for ideas on how to start.

Forgiving oneself for things you have done or experienced is a good way to ease into the more complicated way of loving yourself. My personal opinion is the mantra of having no regrets is too simplistic and not realistic. The purpose of regret is to help inform changes you want to make, and once you have made those changes, it is only useful as a reminder if a similar situation arises. Work to forgive yourself for the things you don’t love about yourself, and use these as points to change if you so choose. Not every regret, though, is something entirely within your control, so be aware that not every regret requires an action, and just forgive.

Therapy and support groups are wonderful tools forparticularly painful regrets that you need to work through. If you findyourself struggling with things you cannot forgive yourself for, reach out forassistance. Your insurance, employer EAP plan, or United Way 211 all haveinformation on therapists available to help you work through it.

These are processes, that you will need to go through again and again, but even just starting, it will help you remember the things you love about yourself. You can expand your self-love by continuing beyond just being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself, you can choose to incorporate things you truly enjoy into your life. Make appointments for yourself during your week to do things that you feel better afterward, like art, walking, talking with a best friend, sports, fishing. You don’t have to get a hobby for the sake of it, but you do need to make a point of enjoying your life in a way that really pleases you.

Finally love yourself by setting boundaries. You don’t have to ghost someone or give a rude dismissal speech to do this. You can set boundaries at the beginning of relationships and at various points throughout friendships in a kind way that respects the other person, and still allows them the opportunity to respect your boundaries. You do not have to accept treatment that is rude or damaging to you, make sure you clearly explain how you feel about the behavior, forgive the actions, and if they continue to behave the same way, you can reduce or end your contact with that person. Our culture these days is quick to jump to “blocked” or “canceled” but that will not help you grow either. Give people a chance to understand your self-respect, and to mirror that back to you.

As a way to help you extend your self-love outward when others are not as loving, try Metta meditation. There are many guided versions online, as well as wonderful resources in our community like ModernOm, BK Meditation Center, and Sacred Space that feature spiritual guides who can help you employ this type of meditation. This type of meditation is aimed at remembering those fundamental human needs and to wish them for yourself as well as those around you.

Loving yourself so you can love others is a wonderful endeavor.But remember, amidst all those well-intentioned inspirational quotes, it isalso okay to love yourself for the sake of loving yourself.

Amidst all those well-intentioned inspirational quotes, it is also okay to love yourself for the sake of loving yourself.

Miami's Best Yoga Studios

9 Ways to Tackle Anxiety

Anxiety is so pervasive, and with good reason. We are sooverstimulated by media and cold brew, with access to emails and work 24 hours,plus pressure to maintain the kind of abs and travel routines that used to onlybe reserved for celebrities, but thanks to Instagram appear to be the standard.

Self-Care is the word du jour, but good self-care is aroutine like daily meditation, with results that build up over time afterconsistency. What do you do in the moment in a bout of anxiety right now? Hereare some tips to try out for some short-term relief.

First, acknowledge whatever you are anxious about needs to be put on hold at least for a short time. Anxiety tends to convince it we must focus on the thing and simultaneously stops us from being productive at it. Stepping away for 20 minutes to an hour will allow you to relieve some stress and perhaps gain some additional perspective on it.

Next, pick something else to focus on to break the cycle. Try one of these options out:

  • A vigorous workout: Even ten minutes of high intensity interval training can reduce the anxious energy in your system. A fast run, a kickboxing session, or intense spinning class can deplete that extra stress energy. It will also force you to take a relaxing shower after, bonus!
  • A complicated, but nonconsequential, distraction: like a live sporting event, an interactive activity like playing pool, or a pickup basketball game, anything that commands some attention. Anxiety usually ends up putting the same thoughts on repeat, doing something that demands attention will break up the topics in your head and give you some relief.
  • Cook a new recipe: cooking or baking is time-limited with a predictable outcome, which will give you a sense of accomplishment and productivity. If it’s a shareable recipe, it might also give you an excuse to drop by a friend or neighbor’s place to give them a few cookies and see how they are, taking the focus off of yourself and how you are feeling.
  • A small household project: put together a bookcase, deep clean your garage, or weed in the garden. This again engages you physically and mentally in something that has a timeline and ends with a productive outcome. Do something that is relatively simple, save the complicated Ikea desk that’s missing a part for a time you are more relaxed.
  • Groom your pet: get yourself focused on something somewhat complicated that involves the little furry friend that brings you joy. If you get outside for a walk and let them get dirty first you will feel extra energy from the outdoor activity.
  • Limit your use of substances. Anxiety is a tricky problem, so keep in mind that many things you think will soothe anxiety actually exacerbate it. Nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana all increase anxiety over time. This is because the withdrawal from any substance is the opposite of the effect it initially provided. So, if you get stress relief from a substance, when it leaves your system your anxiety naturally increases.
  • Limit your caffeine intake. Try to stick to just one regular cup of coffee in the morning instead of an energy drink or triple venti concoction. Caffeine and other stimulants increase anxiety as their primary effect. If the extra energy just goes to worrying, it’s not as helpful as you think.
  • Commit to working out 3-5 times per week whether you feel like you want to or not. Remember, a mildly annoying thirty minutes on the treadmill will probably pay off by making it easier for you to enjoy the other 23.5 hours in your day. Skipping exercise when your stressed often seems like a great way to chill out, but often we have worked in a sedentary position all day while our nervous system has been repeatedly activated by emails and tasks we need to complete, providing no relief from the build-up of stress. Exercise puts good use to your stress-energy and provides a better sleep pattern which can also reduce stress levels.
  • Schedule Self-Care. I am not saying you need a pricey massage every week. I am saying you need small, enjoyable, relaxing routines that don’t cost extra money daily. Start with coffee on the porch for five minutes in the morning without your cell phone. Take a bath instead of a shower every other day. Have a healthy dessert like berries with a bit of chocolate hummus to savor. Listen to classical music on your commute. Find several ways to soothe yourself on a daily basis and try to time them so that you get many bursts of relief on a regular basis.

Try out some of the methods on this list or try other things until you find what’s most effective for you. Be patient, and pat yourself on the back for making the first step toward a lower-anxiety life.

What do you do in the moment in a bout of anxiety right now? Here are nine tips to try out for short-term relief of that anxiety.

Workout + Workshop

Before and After: Why You Don’t Need to Shame Yourself into Change

If you are active in the fitness community, or even just active on Instagram, you are familiar with the before and after picture. These can be wonderful markers of success and an easy way to show our community what we have accomplished. When used appropriately, this type of image can help people to maintain their weight loss or muscle gains, and inspire others to change. But what happens when this kind of imagery induces the ever-popular shame spiral.

Shame is such a visceral emotion, that it is common to try to harness it to make big changes, but it can easily backfire. Shame happens at times to everyone, but the constant repetition of it to yourself is unhelpful. Have you ever seen this kind of “motivational” advice? I once saw a post that said, "If you want to lose weight, eat in front of the mirror, naked."

The message is that there is something shameful about you. What if you don’t lose the weight you intended to? It sticks you with negative feelings about yourself that can only seemingly be resolved through massive physical change. The point is, it is okay to want to change and to also love who you are in the meantime.

It is important for us to be honest with ourselves about the very real health consequences and self-esteem consequences that can come with being overweight. However, adding to the mental health consequences of a few extra pounds by berating oneself, or moralizing every food choice you make is more likely to make you less motivated.

If you use shame, your inner dialogue is very likely to include a lot of negative statements about yourself. Negative self-talk is one of the biggest contributing factors to mental health problems. Therapists call this rumination and sometimes people ruminate on negative experiences, but it is even worse if you personalize it and tell yourself you are bad for not being perfect.

If you have something negative on repeat about yourself long enough, the chances of it shifting from a simple 'You have got to get to the gym', to an insult like 'You slob, go to the gym'. Once you cross this line, you are no longer just making the thing you are trying to change “wrong”, now you are wrong. You cannot, nor should you try, to change yourself completely, and we have already talked about not trying to change things that aren’t in your control. You are inherently valuable as a human being with life. The thing you want to change is just a variable in that life. Not good or bad, just a variable.

Shame also triggers stress. and stress is a known contributor for increased cortisol which can trigger fatigue and increased appetite, which are known contributors for skipping workouts and ordering DoorDash on repeat. Adding stress to the difficult task of getting in shape (or any goal really) is likely to thwart your efforts. Then what do you do a month later when you still haven’t lost the weight? Out of habit, you say even worse things to yourself.

Weight is weight, it is not positive or negative. There is a range of weight that is healthiest for each person’s height. Despite social media and other advertisers, there is not an actual perfect body. Perfection is not real. What you need from your body is one that you feel confident in, does not endanger you with chronic health problems, and that moves you around in fun ways. That being said, if your body is not doing some of those things for you, shaming yourself will not help. Positive self-talk, help from a physician and/or nutritionist, and exercise specialists in your area of interest can all help.

It is wonderful to want to have that transformation Tuesday, and to make a goal for yourself that you feel will make you feel accomplished and happy. Just remember that the person in the before picture made the decision, had the determination, and did a lot of work to get to that after picture, so they are to be valued and not shamed.

If you are active on Instagram, you are familiar with the before and after picture. These can be an easy way to show our community what we accomplished.

Art Basel Yoga

How to Release Control: Type A Success with a Type B Approach

January is the time when everyone talks about the habits they want to start, the weight they want to lose, the smoking they want to quit, all the things they can control. But sometimes we put things on that list that really don’t belong: get the perfect job, find the perfect real estate deal, have a transcendent meditation experience. These things are not really in our scope of direct control. So how do you still achieve a big goal that you have no actual influence on? The deceptively simple answer is stop trying to influence it.

*RELATED Goal Getters: How to Set Goals You Are Sure to Smash

It is age-old dating advice (of the most eye-roll-inducing sort) that if you really want to find someone, stop looking. Type A personalities, and very driven people, particularly hate this kind of advice because there is nothing to actually do. This kind of advice for a goal-oriented individual could be likened to telling an angry person to calm down.

Well, the advice is right and wrong. Yes, stop focusing onit, but you cannot stop focusing on something by just stopping you’ll constantlyreturn to the thought and how you are supposed to be ignoring it. Stopping theenergy is just one step, you then need to refocus on something that you cancontrol in order to put your energy to work and release the stress ofdesperately trying to herd the cats that are your uncontrollable goals.

What areas in your life do you want to change but just don’t seem to be budging? Are these things you obsess over and have tried multiple different ways of approaching it without success? If so, this is a great candidate for the something you can’t control title.

When we focus on the things that we really can control weshift our energy and our awareness. For instance you want to buy a house butcannot afford it yet, and despite all of your efforts, you have yet to figureout how to amass a down payment or find neighborhood you are 100% on. Somethingyou can absolutely control in the meantime, is loving where you live now. Youlikely have also probably been neglecting that topic out of frustration ofwanting to save money or request yet another list of real estate agentreferrals from your friends. You cannot force yourself to win the lottery tofinish your down payment.

However, you can force yourself to deep clean the place your renting, hang up some prints you get at the upcoming Coconut Grove Arts Festival, burn some sage, and maybe hit up your landlord for some nagging repairs. If you are focused on loving where you are right now, the anxiety about buying a place will likely subside, and you won’t have the attention span to have such a tight grip on whether it happens or not and how. When you relax yourself around the topic of saving and open houses, you will be more open and aware, maybe leading you to suddenly see a foreclosure sign in front of a cool house on your way to work that you had missed the last several months.

Focus on the things that are maybe related, but not directattempts to control what it is that you want to happen. If you feel youdesperately need a new job, but have done indeed searches, networking, resumemail-outs, the works, take a step back from the actual hunt. Focus instead onhow to use your current position to beef up your resume, is there a project youare interested in? A committee you want to join? This triggers new creativityand removes the intensity from the search, leaving you open to newopportunities and gives you the chance to polish a new skill that will be handyto mention when the perfect interview comes along.

Or focus on a different part of your life entirely; maybeeven though your uncontrolled goal is not going well, you feel like you havenever been more into your workout routine in your life. Is now the time tofocus on a new fitness goal like an obstacle race or marathon? Sometimes justreprioritizing the things that are already going well can make us more gratefulfor what we have and reminds us that everything is not wrong. It allows us toput more trust in ourselves that no matter how it all works out, it willall work out in the end.

Letting go is not just helpful in finally letting us hit the goal we have had a hold on, it will also make us happier, calmer, and more patient people in the meantime.

So how do you still achieve a big goal that you have no actual influence on? The deceptively simple answer is stop trying to influence it.

workout smarter

The Obstacle is The Opportunity: How to Change Your Perspective on the Things In Your Way

Often when we start on a difficult journey, seeing a roadblock can make us think we are meant to stop, often in frustration and defeat. However, inner obstacles can help us to push passed our insecurities or even disprove them.

Obstacles outside our control can either be removed altogether, or help us to challenge our ingenuity. If you can shift your perspective from seeing an obstacle as a sign to stop, to questioning what it is there to teach you, you can really start moving.

First let’s talk internal obstacles:

Some people call these “blocks” and we all have some. One of mine was I don’t want fit people in the gym to judge me when I use the equipment because I might do it wrong. If you already know the thought you have that stops you, you can address it. With insecurities about the gym, I took more classes and started asking questions to the instructors, utilized the gyms “free first training session” to get a general overview of how to structure a workout, and sometimes made myself try just one new machine during my visit.

Sometimes an internal obstacle is harder to pinpoint. You may feel a swell of anxiety about scheduling a study course for an exam, even though you know you have plenty of time to prepare. When you are unsure about the why, the first step is to push through and do the thing you are anxious about anyway.

This may sound odd coming from a mental health professional, but I say this for the following reasons:

  1. Continuing to procrastinate only serves to deepen your anxiety about it making it harder when you try to work up the nerve to click “register” the next day.
  2. You will learn a lot more about yourself going through the process that makes you anxious, than you could ever learn trying to figure out “why.” Sometimes anxiety does not even have a specific cause, which can make analyzing it counterproductive.
  3. When we push through an internal obstacle or bout of self-doubt, we often see that our anticipation of the event is much worse than the event itself, which is a liberating and anxiety-reducing discovery.
  4. During all of this lovely self-discovery and anxiety reduction, you will be busy accomplishing your goals in the meantime, which serves to boost your confidence and reinforce the advantage of diving in rather than worrying about starting.

If you try to push through and find you are overwhelmed to the point that you cannot move forward, try free association journaling to see if something specific does come to light and helps guide your next steps. Or you may consider scheduling time to speak with a therapist to help.

Let’s talk external obstacles:

The easiest route is to literally remove them. Got a friend who invites you out to happy hour every weekday? Stop texting back. Can’t stop watching the television in your bedroom? Put it in the guest room. Can’t stop snacking on processed carbs? Stop keeping them in the house. Just placed your fifth UberEats order this week? Delete the app.

In a study in 2011, a team of researchers tested the willpower of participants and found that their “willpower” had less to do with their personality type, and more to do with the amount of temptations in their environments. The people who felt they were able to stick to their regimens better, were the ones who removed the obstacles around them. They weren’t necessarily any better at resisting picking up the cookie, they just did not put themselves in situations involving cookies.

One lesson here is that it isn’t you or your willpower that is the problem. Most times it is the environment, and that is comparatively easy to change. Also, it takes the shame out of it. You aren’t bad because you couldn’t resist temptation, most people can’t. You can just adjust your route on the way to work so you don’t drive by that Starbucks every morning, and poof! You are a whiz at willpower.

What if the obstacle is something in between the two; maybe you feel guilty leaving your dog at home while you hit the gym. Try out a few different strategies, like alternating days of gym with a long walk or run with your dog. Or hire a dog walker so you know your pup is taken care of while you get your sweat sesh on. Maybe that course you need to take to further your career, but it’s out of your price range right now. See if the institution providing the course offers any scholarships or ask if your company will reimburse you for professional development. Get creative, and if you see someone with seemingly no obstacles, ask them how they do it. Chances are the answers are more simple than you think, and that type of person is an excellent role model to have around.

Try looking at an obstacle at all angles and you might start to see them as doors to growth, self-discovery, and bridges to a new self. Your obstacle is your opportunity.

Try looking at an obstacle at all angles and you might start to see them as doors to growth, self-discovery, and a new opportunity.

attainable goal setting

Goal Getters: How to Set Goals You Are Sure to Smash

So everyone is familiar with the New Year’s Resolution, which has a reputation for showing up, demanding all of your attention and energy, and then like the cute guy you met at The Wharf, he is suddenly gone by the end of the month, only to show up again, randomly, when you would rather not be reminded that you had him around in the first place. So how do you make a goal more like the guy you want to bring home to the parents? Stable, committed, always on your mind. See if these tips help get you closer.

Ditch the January 1st/Monday Mentality

You can start goals and end goals whenever it is convenient, be it tomorrow or next week, or your birthday or anniversary. You can start on a Wednesday, on a Saturday, or December 15th. The idea that goals are reserved for specific times, limits our ability to keep progressing. That being said, while the topic is on your mind - New Year, New Decade - are opportune moments to reflect and decide what we want to achieve for ourselves.

RELATED 3 Tips on Self-Evaluating Your Year, and How to Win Next Year

Pick Things You Really Want For Yourself

Start by picking a few things that you really want for yourself. Things that have real deep emotional connections. Picking things, like training for a half marathon, just because your pals are doing it, can lose their appeal fast because there is no real emotional anchor for you. Start with what you hold most dear and aim for two-to-five goals to work on.

Identify Goals That Are Actually Attainable

Make sure you are picking goals that are attainable. If you are 250 lbs and your ultimate goal weight is 150, it may be possible to lose 100 lbs in a year, but make sure to work with a professional to ensure you are working in a sustainable way, not just the fastest way. Or there might be some certification you are working toward that would be recommended to do over the course of two or three years. Don’t kill yourself to try to do it in one. Follow the guidelines that work for most people and make concrete deadlines for the steps required to work toward the goal, even if it is not completely smashed by January 2021. Progress is progress, it all counts.

Go Big As You Can Within Reason

Don’t go too small though, go as big as you can within reason. A miserly goal will instill laziness and won’t hit your emotion the same way. The idea is to pick something big enough that you know you have to put in a consistent ongoing effort to achieve, in order to keep momentum.

Think about it: If you set the goal far too big 100-pound weight loss and get overwhelmed in the first month because you couldn’t meet the first month’s weight loss goal of 8.3 lbs (which is very hard to do!) you might give up and not even keep trying like the old resolutions in your past.

If you aim too small, 10-pound weight loss you might procrastinate, forget or put in less effort than you really need in order to reach it because it just does not inspire anything.

RELATED 15 Miami Fitness Trainers Share the Secret to Goal Setting

Not All Goals Should Be Treated Equal

Prioritize. Know the goals that can be pushed to the back burner if you have an emergency, and know the goals that are absolutely non-negotiable. We say life is unpredictable, but it is very predictable that some other obligation you did not factor in will come up in the middle of the year and derail some of your plans. Allow for this by being as flexible as you can. Try not to throw your hands up and give up. Instead, figure out what parts of your non-negotiable goals can be reworked and which secondary goals can be delayed. Don’t just delay inevitably, though, pick a date in the future to revisit and restart your delayed goals so they don’t just evaporate over time.

If You Fail to Plan, Then You Plan to Fail

Plan it out! If a goal sounds very large, break it down into reasonable steps, and aim to get those steps done fast. If you think a goal has three steps, and each step would likely take about 1-3 months to complete, schedule it out with time for maybe 1.5 months for each step. Don’t give yourself a full three months if you don’t really need it, that allows too much time to lose steam, but factor in extra time in case of emergencies. If this is something that requires portions you need appointments for, go ahead and call or go online and make the appointments while you make the plan. Put reminders in your phone for different steps throughout the process, or use an old school pen and paper planner to keep your steps organized.

Write Your Goals Down

Write out your goals often. If you start your day by scribbling down your top five goals for the year it will keep those things at the front of your awareness. If opportunities come up to help you along toward those goals you will be more aware of how they might connect and help you. Also, if you are being diligent with your plans, you might find that you start to write something you have already completed, which is an amazing feeling.

Maintain Positive Self-Talk With Yourself and Others

Talk to positive people about your goals. Find a workout buddy, a mastermind group, an alumni event, something where other goal smashers are happy to hear what you are trying to do and help you achieve it. You do not have to share your goals with those who will not respond well. Those that do respond well, however, will give you little bursts of energy along the way to keep you moving. Try any tips that others give to you about your goals that resonate with you. Unless it’s something dangerous or illegal, it can’t hurt to try different methods to get to the same goal or even integrate a few ideas together.

Celebrate Wins and Show Gratitude

Lastlycelebrate the completion and show gratitude for each and every completed step.This will remind you of your progress, confirm your capability to complete thenext steps, and create space for soaking in the accomplishment. Go smash 2020,Miami!

For time management when scheduling the steps to your goals, I recommend anything by Laura Vanderkam https://lauravanderkam.com/.

Get tips on how to set attainable goals in the new year that will help you level up.

self-evaluating

3 Tips on Self-Evaluating Your Year, and How to Win Next Year

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The new year tends to conjure ideas of our greatest selves; six-pack abs, big promotions, and other general glow-up type things. Setting goals to improve yourself is a wonderful way to guide yourself. But while it’s still 2019, take time to reflect on the year gone by.

Reflection is Key

If you are going to set achievable, helpful goals, reflection is key. It is great to look back and see what you have already accomplished and congratulated yourself on it. Did you kick some bad habits? Forge ahead on your side hustle? Get around to more visits with the people you love most? All worth a celebratory toast at midnight. More than that, though, it’s a great way of reinforcing the fact that you can set and keep goals in the new year.

Reflection also gives us a chance to stop and be grateful for all the things and opportunities we have received in the past year. Gratitude gives us perspective on the abundance that is in our lives and reminds us of the joy this life has brought us. It reminds us that we have it good already, and any additional achievements would just be a bonus.

Give Yourself Credit

Anotherreason to look back is to consider what has worked in the past to move youtoward your best self. Was it a deadline that got you moving? Was it adding anaccountability partner? Or maybe it was the financial component of coughing upthose extra bucks for a personal trainer. Take a closer look at what happenedto make those goals you followed through on special and try to replicate someof those aspects if you can.

Something else to consider is a goal you have made year after year to no avail. Is there still something nagging at you that you are almost sick of telling people you are going to change? If so, take a look at the avenues you have already tried and did not seem to work and be honest. Did you give up on something before it had a chance to work, or was it 110% effort with no results? But also, give yourself credit for the ways have you already made some incremental changes in this part of your life. You probably have made more progress than you are acknowledging.

Have a Cringe Session

Reflection is also a great time to decide to let go of things in your life that are already passed, and you have already changed, but seem to still make you cringe when they pop into your consciousness. Make a point to have a final cringe session, write it out and burn it, do a sage-smudging ceremony, or go to group meditation and cry it out-whatever works for you. But make peace with the fact as an imperfect human being you will mess up, even as your best self. Forgiving yourself allows space for growth. You cannot change your past, but you can thank it for teaching you to love yourself.

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Setting goals to improve yourself is a wonderful way to guide yourself. But while it’s still this year, take time to reflect on the year gone by.

YOLO

The Genius Behind YOLO, and How it Can Improve Your Health

When Drakedropped his magnum opus, The Motto, even he said he was not expecting itto catch on like it did. We have heard it now as an excuse for every stupidbehavior in the book, from the mundane of ordering pizza again, to thestraight irresponsible like going to LIV on a weeknight.

The thing that we are missing in the meantime is the pure genius behind the reminder that we really only live once.

Use that motto to your advantage by doing some truly amazing things while you have the chance and not just to increase your cholesterol and/or chances of liver disease.

Learn to Say "Yes" More

A lot of us avoidusing our vacation days in order to cash them out at the end of the year and bethe “good guy” at work who never leaves on vacation, meanwhile we burnourselves out until we are snapping at the receptionist when he forgets to addus to the lunch takeout order. Or maybe we avoid doing something mildly riskybecause we are worried about a possible injury, but then sit in awe of theperson in the break room telling tales of skydiving and ziplining in sceniclocales.

When you get that text from a friend that says, “Hey this destination marathon in a few months looks amazing,” and you automatically feel jealous that they will probably end up loving every minute of it and you will later scroll through their good time on Instagram later, take a pause. Give yourself a little reminder of, “YOLO,” that a random adventure in Iceland with a good friend probably won’t be an opportunity that arises often in life and consider saying yes. This is how amazing lives worth living happen. Not by doing everything you want every minute of the day, by draining your bank account on random nonsense that does nothing for your soul, but by saying yes to a handful of truly amazing experiences as they present themselves.

The Benefits of Meaningful Experiences

Not to mention,if you are regularly having mostly responsible nights, with a few meaningful,inspiring occasions throughout the year, you are much more likely to feelfulfilled in the long term. Enriching connections with friends and family in aonce in a lifetime venue or activity, like a hot air balloon ride, or jumpinginto a hot spring, or learning to surf or ski, will mean more than 100 nightsout could ever achieve.

These types ofexperiences also spur creativity because they revive us and energize us in waysour regular environment cannot. The theory of hedonic adaption conceptualizesthat after a few days of enjoying some new part of your environment i.e. ahigher floor or a new leather couch, you will settle back into your same stablesetpoint of happiness. So everyday upgrades tend not to be as meaningful overtime.

That’s not to say you must drop every somewhat normal activity you have, you should enjoy your day to day as well, but be willing to go all out on those moments that you will never get an opportunity to do again.

So the next time something unique and a little scary presents itself, hit that Spotify search, and repeat The Motto to yourself until you think of a way to fit that 16-day hike through the Silk Road route into your calendar. You can always hope for reincarnation, but it might be better to just live during this life in the meantime.

The thing that we are missing in the meantime is the pure genius behind the reminder that we really only live once.