Spring Cleaning

As April hits, I always get an itch to do a little Spring Cleaning. Not just the cleaning around the house, but the mind, body, spirit get-rid-of-all-that-clutter type of cleaning! The kind of cleaning that makes you feel like you can breathe a little free-er and a little deeper. 

Phase 1: De-clutter your house

I am a firm believer that having a clean living space helps a person feel better and more at peace about their life. It doesn’t have to be spotless by any means, but well-kempt and clutter-free. Many people are more stressed, anxious or unhappy when their house is a wreck. Begin with implementing 15 minute cleanups each day. You might want to do one room at a time or one chore at a time—whatever works best for you! The mess may seem overwhelming at first, but eventually you will see positive change as these 15 minute cleanups become part of your daily routine. As for the junk that needs to go, leave a bag in one of your closets. As you come across clothes/toys/gadgets that you don’t want or need anymore, drop it in the bag. Once it’s full, take it to donate!

Phase 2: De-clutter your mind

 Honestly this is something that should definitely be done more than once-a-year, because it is so important to our overall functioning. We must get rid of the mental clutter so we can live a more healthy, happy life. Some steps you can take to do this include:

1)   Jot it down! Start a journal where you can just dump your brain and all the thoughts, fears, and questions that you encounter. Don’t hold back! Sometimes, when I have clients who are journal-resistant, I have them do simple 60 second journal entries. Reminder for all you English peeps out there…a journal is personal. It does not need to include grammatically correct sentences and perfect spelling. It can be a list of words, emotions, or song lyrics or it can just be drawings. Do you!

2)   Forgive yourself. What guilt and shame are you still holding on to? I hate to break it to you, but that junk isn’t doing anything for you. Period. We all mess up, but if we don’t let go, the guilt reeks some pretty crazy havoc in our lives. So give yourself a break, repent and forgive yourself.

3)   Let go of grudges. I just have to ask, “what good is that doing for you?” I’m not saying to be best friends with the person who did you wrong. In fact, you may need to set firm boundaries that include leaving them out of your life. But, let it go. Don’t let the perpetrator have that control over you. It’s a win to simply release the wrongdoing.

4)   Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Be aware of your negative thoughts throughout your day. For every negative thought you have, you must find a positive thought. If it’s hard to find something positive out of a negative, find something you can be grateful for instead.

5)   Keep it simple. Stop cramming your days full with activities every hour! Ain’t nobody got time for that! If you’re honest with yourself, you don’t even enjoy all the things you’re doing. How can you when you’re busy thinking about the next thing you have to run off to? Give yourself time to stop, breathe and notice the little gifts life daily gives.

Phase 3: De-clutter your body

 What you put into your body affects every aspect of your life. Is there something that you eat or drink regularly that you know without a doubt makes you feel lethargic, foggy-headed, or bloated? It could be alcohol, soda, fried food, or your daily sugar intake overall. If you are having a hard time identifying the culprit, keep a food/drink journal for at least 2 weeks where you can track your intake and your symptoms. Find those triggers and get rid of them! Some of you are thinking, “I know exactly what I need to get rid of” but you’re just not stepping up and doing anything about it. I challenge you to go without that “trigger” for 2 weeks and just see how you feel.  If you notice a positive difference, than it might be beneficial to cut it out completely or at least allow it be a treat every once and awhile. A second step to take in order to de-clutter your body is to drink more water. Most people do not get enough water each day. In fact, the average intake is 3.5 glasses when it should be more like 6-8 glasses depending on your weight and activity level. Water has many benefits—it increases energy levels, flushes out toxins, boosts the immune system, and improves skin complexion just to name a few. Who doesn’t want those things?! Some easy ways to increase your water intake…Take a water bottle to school or work with you so you don’t have any excuses, set an alarm every couple hours to remind you to refill your bottle, and put a glass on your nightstand so that you can drink it first thing when you wake up.

Phase 4: De-clutter your spirit

What is holding you back from experiencing freedom and joy in your inner most being? Is it an object, a negative thought, a person, or a bad habit that’s keeping your spirit weighed down? Or maybe it’s something important like community, quiet time or meditation that is missing because your schedule is too busy to allow for it? If you’re not sure, start a daily mood journal. Put an alarm on your phone to go off to do a check in 3 times each day—morning, noon and night. When you check in, briefly list your current mood and what happened to help you feel that way. Do this for 2-4 weeks to help identify what is encouraging and discouraging in your life. Start and end each day with something that you are grateful for from that day. A little gratefulness goes a long way for our soul!

Detox, De-clutter, spring cleaning—whatever you want to call it—embrace it this month to clean out and make room for more peace, freedom and joy!

 

Mindfulness

Everybody’s talking about mindfulness these days! As a child I remember being told to be mindful of what I say or do, as in “mind your manners young lady” or “mind where you are going.” That’s about as “mindful” as it got! However, today we hear about being mindful in a whole new way…it’s a state of being that increases our self-awareness and allows us to have more positive experiences overall.

But what really is mindfulness and why is it gaining such popularity? Most definitions will tell you that mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. In our world today, we are constantly running around from one place to the next, planning for the next week, the next vacation, or the next assignment. We are hardly ever present anymore. All of a sudden it’s Monday morning and we are asking ourselves what happened to the weekend…how on earth is it already Monday? Mindfulness allows you to fully enjoy the present moment by focusing on the here-and-now. It teaches non-judgment and acceptance of what you are experiencing. Naturally your mind will begin to wander, but that’s normal and okay. It teaches gratefulness because you can fully experience the beauty of life around you. It allows you to be fully aware of your negative thoughts so that you can work on integrating more positive thinking. It makes you more conscious of your body and how it responds to stress, pain or excitement, which allows you to make a better mind, body connection, and therefore make healthier choices.

Here are a few simple exercises to increase mindfulness during your week:

Breathing—the first exercise is in breathing. Set an alarm for 3 minutes to begin. (Time will increase as you practice.) Get comfortable and close your eyes. Start to focus on your breath. Notice breathing in and out. If your mind starts to wander, just notice it and bring your attention back to your breath. Do not judge whether or not you should be thinking other thoughts. Continue focusing on your breath until the alarm goes off. This is a great daily exercise to do during your day for a little break. Once you’re comfortable with 3 minutes, start increasing up to 10 minutes.

Another good breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 Breath. Dr. Weil has a great video demonstration on this exercise. You will breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7 counts and breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. Your tongue will be held the entire time at the roof of your mouth, right behind your teeth. The breath in will be quiet. The breath out will be loud. I usually suggest 3 times in a row to begin.  This will help reduce anxiety and induce sleep among many other benefits. 

Mindful Walk—take a walk outside (sans headphones!) Before you begin, take a second to breathe a few deep breaths as you let go of any stress or distraction. Set your intentions and begin to walk at a slightly slower pace than normal. As you walk, take in all the sights, smells, and sounds. Be cognizant of how you feel, how you breathe, how you walk. When your mind begins to wander, just notice it and then bring it back to your walk and the rhythm of your breathing. Once finished, say a prayer of gratefulness for your experience.

Mindful eating—this is a simple exercise that allows you to focus on what you’re eating. First, select a simple food that you want to practice with. This can be a piece of fruit, a cracker, or my favorite, a dark-chocolate covered almond! Remove all distractions such as TV noise or phone. Close your eyes and take your first bite. Notice all the sensations such as the taste, the noise of the biting and chewing, the way it makes you feel. Keeping your eyes closed, begin to savor and appreciate this bite. When you’re ready, take your next bite and continue until it’s finished. As with the previous exercises, just notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to your eating without judging yourself. At the end, reflect on what your learned from the exercise. How did it change your attitude towards eating? What did mindfulness add to your eating experience? For more information and how you can take this a step further, visit our article on emotional eating.

Mindfulness can be difficult at first because we aren’t used to focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. But with practice, you will start to see changes in the way you handle stress, sleep, eat, and view your surroundings. To learn more about mindfulness research and its benefits, visit Greater Good through the University of California, Berkeley. They also have an awesome mindfulness quiz that is based on the Philadelphia Mindfulness Scale that you can take to see just how mindful you are! If you feel like you need more direction in the beginning, there are many mindfulness apps that you can download on your phone. Click here for an article on the best mindfulness apps of 2016. 

Happy breathing!

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Beating Emotional Eating

How many times have you eaten that third donut only to regret it minutes after you scarf it down? Or, you think to yourself, “Well, I’ve had a rough day today at work, so I deserve a bigger bowl of ice cream tonight!” So many of us have a hard time with eating to fill an emotional need, and, let’s face it…it’s difficult to stop that habit once you start. The struggle is real y’all! We need some guidance, a little encouragement and a whole lotta accountability to help us make better decisions when it comes to eating.  Ain’t no shame in that! We all need more support in our lives.  

When working with clients who struggle with eating issues, I emphasize balance and mindful eating.  We work on eating intuitively. You can enjoy foods that our culture would deem as ‘unhealthy’ as long as you don’t overdo it. And I promise you will delight in them even more because you won’t feel guilty or upset afterwards. Food is good and is designed to be enjoyed. So, let’s figure out how to do that!

The first step in this process is what I call reflection. It’s when you start thinking about heading to the fridge, pantry, or break room to find something to munch on because that last meeting didn’t go as well as you hoped or your mom just yelled at you, or (insert personal reason here), and you are so dang upset! This is when you need to reflect on your motivation for eating. Are you hungry, or are you eating because you are upset? If you determine that it’s hunger, how do you know? Is it that your stomach growls, you get a headache, or you feel like a zombie because your blood sugar is low? Cultivate that mind/body connection to know how your body is speaking to you. If you cannot determine if it’s hunger or emotion, wait 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. If you are emotionally eating, determine what happened just prior to trigger that desire and write it down. Keep a log of emotional triggers to increase self-awareness and plan ahead for similar events in the future. Have a list of other things you can do to replace the emotional Eat-A-Thon!

After you determine that you are actually hungry, it’s time to practice mindful eating. To practice mindful eating, you need to make sure you’re not doing anything else but eating—no phone, no TV, no work, just plain and simple eating. Enjoy your food and eat slowly. Take pleasure in every bite and be grateful! It’s amazing how much more we can enjoy our food when we aren’t running around or doing a million other things while eating. We might also realize that we don’t need to eat as much because we are satisfied with a smaller amount when we eat at a slower pace.

The third step is the practice of gratefulness. A lot of us say prayers of thankfulness before we eat, but I’m going to switch it up and have you practice gratefulness at the end of a meal or snack. (Or you can do both and just be extra grateful!) The idea behind this is to promote a healthy relationship with food. When you mindfully eat, you will be more likely to not overeat. This is great; however, some of us have developed really negative thought patterns regarding food in general. No matter what we eat, even if we don’t overeat, we still might have an ingrained feeling of guilt. In order to combat this, we practice gratefulness. We replace any guilt or judgment with thanksgiving.

These steps are not the easiest to accomplish on your own! Intuitive eating is a practice that takes time to learn, support from others, and, most importantly, a commitment to YOU. If you need it, I’d love to come alongside and help you make peace with food once and for all. No more fad diets, beating yourself up and feeling guilty after a meal! Can you imagine?

Food and freedom can coexist!

People Pleasing

I've struggled with people pleasing my entire life. It's part of my personality as an ENFP to want to say yes to everyone. I absolutely love making people happy (good thing since I'm a counselor!) but even to the point that I am hurt in the process. It hasn't been until the last ten years though that I've realized just how damaging saying yes to everyone and everything truly is. I can't possibly be and do everything that is asked of me. It's positively silly that I ever thought I could. I mean, I'm not God, right?! The fact that I think sometimes that I have to do something or else it will all fall apart is just pure vanity! A lot of that comes from my need to control things, which is a whole other post that I will leave for another day. 

Let's look at some of the many reasons why people have a hard time saying no:

1. They are afraid of what the other person will think of them.

2. They need to be in control. 

3. They will feel guilty if they don't say yes.

4. They are afraid of being called selfish.

5. They are conflict avoidant.

6. They feel responsible. 

7. They feel like it's the "Christian" thing to do.

8. They like the attention and praise.

9. They please others to feel good about themselves. 

10.They please others to feel loved. 

Have you felt any of these? I know I sure have. And I know they're not a good reason to say yes, but, what can you do about it?

Here are some steps I use for myself and my clients who struggle with people-pleasing. 

Step 1: Don't give an answer right away. Tell them that you need to think about it, pray about it or take a look at your calendar before you decide whether it's something you can or should do right now. This is one of the most effective ways to start getting your people-pleasing under control. Plus, it gives you time to actually go through the next steps and feel better about your final decision.

Step 2: Determine the motivation. What is your motivation behind wanting to say yes? Figuring this out typically helps clear up any question. Use the checklist above to help identify any negative motivation. If your heart is truly in the right place, and you have a peace about it, then generally you will feel really good about your "yes." However, if your reason comes from a place of insecurity, fear or selfish gain, it's probably not a good reason to do something.  

Step 3: Prayer. When in doubt, always pray about the situation. Ask for guidance and wisdom in what you should do. Ask the Lord for peace and confirmation. He is not a God of confusion...He wants you to have the answer and He will give it to you if you take the time to ask, read His Word and listen! 

Step 4: Seek counsel. Find a friend, mentor or family member that you trust and can go to for advice and wisdom. Ask them what they think you should do or what they would do in this situation. Many times it just takes an outsider's perspective to help clear things up for you. For bigger decisions, you might consider seeking counseling. Counselors will help you become more self aware and ask questions to help you figure out what is best for you at this time. 

Step 5: Find an accountability partner. Everyone needs an accountability partner in life! Find someone whom you can trust and confide in about your struggle with people-pleasing and check in with them on a weekly basis. They will help you stay on the right track, listen to you and pray for you. Warning: Choose an accountability partner who doesn't struggle with people-pleasing!! Otherwise, you won't be held accountable because they won't want to hurt your feelings by calling you out when you're not doing what you're supposed to do. This won't work well, so save yourself some time and trouble and find that friend who has no problem saying no! :) 

Hopefully these steps will help you become more confident about saying NO. Boundaries are important to protect ourselves, our families and those around us. They are GOOD. I repeat, "BOUNDARIES ARE GOOD." Feel free to reach out if you need some extra help in this area or have further questions. Believe me when I say, I get it. It's no piece of cake but it is possible to overcome. 

Finding Contentment

Can you think of a time in your life when you were really content? How did you feel? Where were you and what were you doing? Were you more self-confident? Did another person in your life help you feel content? Take a second to reflect on that time and be grateful for it.

Contentment is not having what you want but wanting what you have. It’s choosing to accept and be okay with your life regardless of the flaws and imperfections. Here are some steps to help you along in your journey of contentment:

Step 1: Stop comparing yourself to others.  ‘Comparison is the thief of joy and death of contentment’ they say. When you compare yourself to others, you will find things you don’t like about yourself or things you wish you had. It makes you discontent in the majority of cases. Being grateful and mindful of your strengths helps to curb the risk of comparison, which leads to the second step…

Step 2: Practice thankfulness. Gratefulness is a state of mind. When we are grateful, we cannot be envious or jealous.  Thankfulness breeds contentment and contentment, joy. We all want joy, right?! There’s a reason we see so many cute little pictures or journals in stores these days that say, “Start each day with a grateful heart!” Because when you do, your day is really so much better.

Step 3: Watch for negativity. Be aware of when your mind starts to drift and become negative. Catch yourself before you entertain those thoughts. When you start to compare yourself to others or think negatively, concentrate on what you’re grateful for or what is good in your life. Make this be your automatic reaction so that those thoughts don’t bring you down.

Step 4: Create a habit of giving. Whether it be giving money to those less fortunate or giving your time to serve others, giving helps create contentment. Although the motivation should not be selfish, giving to others makes us feel good--like we are playing a part in something bigger. It’s hard to not feel content when we see others benefitting from our generosity.

Hopefully this helps you develop a spirit of contentment in your life. Take each step and spend a week or two at a time applying it until you feel good about it and then add in the next step. It’s a journey that takes time and attention but one that is so valuable and will help you grow significantly. As always, please let me know if you have any questions! 

Detoxing

Detox seems to be a popular word these days in almost any social circle. We all need to cleanse from time to time. We need to rid ourselves of the negative junk going on in and around us and focus on what is real, authentic and good. When you Google the definition of detox, you read "to abstain from or rid the body of toxic or unhealthy substances." Anything that produces negativity or toxicity in your life needs to go, because, let's face it, "ain't nobody got time for that!" 

There are four important areas to consider detoxing: Mind, Body, People, Spirit. I'll give you some ideas about each area that you can then build on for your own detox journey.

Mind

How many negative thoughts go through your mind each day? Negative thoughts can easily take over our lives and influence our emotions if we let them. The great thing is that we can choose to let those toxic thoughts in or kick them to the curb. It's a difficult task to train the mind, but with dedication and accountability, you can take back control over your thoughts! Identify three things that you need to rid your mind of and write them down on 3 separate sticky notes. Keep one in your car, one on your bathroom mirror and one in your office. You may know three things right away, or you may need to take some time to reflect on it. It could be body shaming every time you look in the mirror, reading too many magazines that make you feel subpar, or feeling like a failure in various areas of your life because you're constantly comparing yourself to others. Make a concerted effort to cleanse yourself of these toxicities each day. One way to do this is to come up with a statement, personal mantra, scripture, or prayer that you memorize and speak routinely when you catch yourself thinking negatively. Breathe and let it go. Tell a trusted friend about what you're doing and ask him/her to keep you accountable. Accountability is key and that will be helpful in all four areas we look at.

Body

You only have one body and it's where you will live your entire life, right? I'd say that makes it pretty important, huh? Are you taking good care of it? It's not about the latest diet fad or cleanse that all the celebrities are doing, it's about treating your body well. It's about filling your body with good, nutritious food so that it can have sustained energy throughout the day. It's about waking up feeling rested and ready to take on the day. It's about feeling empowered after a good workout. It's about feeling good in your clothes and confident in your own skin. It's not about the numbers on a scale or obsessing over every little thing that you put in your mouth. Food and exercise are here to be enjoyed not exploited. Spend some time thinking about how you treat your body. Do you treat it with respect or with disdain? What steps can you take to love your body more and cleanse from unhealthy patterns? Maybe it's drinking more water each day or actually trying to eat more greens? Maybe it's taking time to enjoy your food instead of gulping it down before you rush off to the next activity? Maybe it's making a commitment to go to work out three times each week because you love the way you feel afterwards. Identify a couple things you can start doing this week to get rid of the junk that makes loving your body more difficult.

People 

You're probably thinking, "People? What on earth is she talking about?" Well, I'm talking about creating boundaries and protecting yourself from the negative people in your life--those friends that gossip, body shame or just never have anything positive to say. I'm not saying to just cut people out and never speak to them again. But take some time to think about your friendships and how they make you feel. Do they leave you feeling encouraged and happy? Do they keep you grounded and focused on what is truly important in life? Consider limiting your time with the negative people in your world or possibly even confronting them about their negativity. It's possible that they don't even realize how negative they are being, and it needs to be brought to their attention. If you need help setting boundaries, I highly recommend reading "Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No" by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It really helps the Christian individual understand the importance of boundaries and how to create them in their own life. You've got to protect yourself from the Debbie Downers in your life so you don't get taken down with them!

Spirit

It's necessary to get rid of the junk in our lives that block our spiritual growth. In my opinion, this is the most important area to cleanse. When our spirit is weighed down, every other area of our life is consequently affected. We feel overall crummy, heavy and negative. When our soul is sick and filled with toxins, we have a hard time seeing good and experiencing the freedom we are supposed to be living in. Take some time to pray and ask God to reveal to you the things that nourish your soul and the things that damage it. Go to the bible or a spiritual leader for answers if you have questions concerning what is good and right. Make a list of these things or keep them in a journal and commit to doing more of the things that water your spirit and fill you with joy. Ask God to help you be more mindful of those things that hurt you spiritually and give you strength to abstain from them. Finally, I'll leave you with one of my favorite scriptures, Philippians 4:8. It's a great checklist to help in detoxing. If it doesn't fall in one of the categories below, get rid of it!

Worry

Do you ever wonder why people worry? I mean, we know worrying doesn’t solve anything and nothing good comes from it…so why do we engage in it so often? I come from a long line of worriers. It’s like a second job in my family. We believe that God is in control of everything and we trust that He is good. We know He says to not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6-7) that he cares for the birds so of course he cares for us (Luke 12:24-34), and that he gives us peace and rest when we bring our worries to him (Matthew 11:28-30), yet, we still find ourselves going back to that comfortable enemy in our life time and time again. We’ve made worry a habit. We have allowed our emotions to control us, and we need to take back that control.

So, how do we do that? Here are some steps I go through with my clients who have a lot of worry, anxiety or negative thought patterns.

Step 1:  Be aware. The first step is being mindful of the fact that you’re worrying. Most of us have made it such a habit that we’re 5 minutes in with half our nails chewed off before we even realize we are worrying. Pray that the lord will help you remain aware of your thoughts.

Step 2:  Take that thought captive. Once you have realized you’re worrying, tell yourself that you are not going to give power to the worry or negative thought. Come up with a short prayer (lord, take this worry from me and replace it with joy), bible verse (check out blog post on comforting scripture here) or mantra (I choose to live more and worry less) that you can say to yourself or out loud if possible.

Step 3:  Refocus. Once you are aware and have taken the thought captive, it’s time to refocus on what you were doing. Tell yourself you will revisit this during worry/prayer time (see step 4 below.) So many of us do stuff all the time but our mind isn’t present on what we are doing. We are thinking about what we need to do when we get home, what we want for dinner, or how we are going to possibly get everything done this weekend? Let’s try to practice being present.

Step 4:  Worry/prayer time.  If you can get through steps 1-3 and get your thoughts under control—YAY for you!!  That’s awesome and I’m pretty impressed. For the rest of us, we might need some actual worry time. I know you’re thinking, “Huh? I thought that not worrying was the point to all this?” Yes, one of the main goals is to decrease your worrying, but another goal is to gain back control over your thoughts. So with prayer or worry time (whichever you choose to call it) you are putting your worry time into a controlled environment. You are still in control but you’re allowing your concerns to be voiced. Here’s how it works:

1.     Choose a neutral location. This needs to be a place you don’t spend much time in. Most often my clients choose their parked car or a closet. I know that sounds silly but it helps to be in a spot where you will not be disturbed.

2.     Choose a time where you know you will typically be home and available to spend 10-15 minutes alone. Make sure you do this at least 30 minutes-1 hour before bedtime. We want to make this a routine.

3.     Grab a pen and paper as well as something to keep time. Try to avoid taking your phone but if you have to use that for a timer, commit to not answering it during worry/prayer time.

4.     Set the timer for 15 minutes to start. During this time, you can write your thoughts out or speak them aloud. See what works for you. Make them a prayer and ask the lord at the end of your time to take all these concerns and/or negative thoughts from you. Some people like to take their worries and rip them up and throw them away, some like to keep them in a journal to look back on as prayers are answered.

There are many ways to modify this exercise, so figure out what works for you! However you do it, try to commit to doing it for at least a month. This is not an easy task. It’s difficult to change habitual patterns in your life, but you will find that if you stick to it, you will start to actually take back control of your thought life, worry less, and live more abundantly!

Motivational Quotes

Everyone needs a little inspiration and motivation sometimes–a little something to lift you out of that gloomy state and make you feel good. Here’s a few quotes that I love to reflect on during those times. Take one and memorize it or make some wall art with it so you can be reminded of it!

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. ~Confucius

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. ~Confucius

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have. ~Vince Lombardi

Put your heart, mind, and soul even into your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.~Swami Sivananda

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. ~Thomas A. Edison

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. ~Og Mandino

Either I will find a way, or I will make one. ~Philip Sidney

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. ~Theodore Roosevelt

Learn from yesterday, live for today, and hope for tomorrow. ~Albert Einstein

If you can dream it, you can do it. ~Walt Disney

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ~C. S. Lewis

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life, the evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with a prophetic ray. ~Lord Byron

Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. ~ Pope John XXIII

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. ~Vince Lombardi

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. ~Francis of Assisi

Just because your world is falling apart doesn’t mean you have to fall apart. When everything seems crazy, you be calm. Don’t let the outer chaos you are facing get inside of you. ~Bryant McGill

Hope is the dream of a soul awake. ~French Proverb

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. ~Maya Angelou

It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. ~Aristotle Onassis

We know what we are, but know not what we may be. ~William Shakespeare

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself,changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever. ~Neil Gaiman

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.Psalm 27:4

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?Romans 8:31

Conflict Resolution

Conflicts happen to the best of us all the time and everywhere. How we respond to them is a true testament of our character. It’s easy to emotionally react, but a thoughtful and considerate response will yield much better results. Below is a list of steps to take into consideration when confronted with a conflict. Although written with a teenage audience in mind, these steps are applicable at any age.

Step 1: Face the problem
Pretending it’s not there won’t help the conflict go away. Bottling up your emotions will cause more harm than good when you eventually burst.

Step 2: Communicate directly
Don’t send another friend to do your dirty work. You need to speak face-to-face with the person you have a conflict with—no texts, and NO social media!

Step 3: See the other perspective
Before getting defensive and arguing with the other person, try to put yourself in their shoes and see how they view the conflict.

Step 4: Be respectful and listen
Allow the other person to talk and actively listen to them when they are talking instead of just thinking about how you are going to respond.

Step 5: Stop and breathe
Before reacting emotionally to the other person, take a second to take a deep breath and think about how to respond appropriately.

Step 6: Be assertive
Assertiveness involves speaking calmly and confidently. It is thoughtful. It is not passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive.

Step 7: Use “I” statements
If you start a sentence with “you” the other person will immediately feel criticized and get defensive. Starting with “I” keeps the conversation open. Ex. “I felt upset when _______.”

Step 8: Learn to negotiate
Give a little, take a little. Try to come to a resolution that you both can live with. This includes the option of “agreeing to disagree.”

Step 9: Remain in the present
Don’t drag in old issues that have already been resolved. Leave the past in the past. This will only add fuel to the fire and will not get you very far.

Step 10: Learn to say you’re sorry
Mature, well-respected people are able to apologize and admit their mistakes. We all make them but those that can own them will go much further in life.

Comforting Scripture

Here are some of my go-to Bible verses that bring me peace and comfort:

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
~John 14:27

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
~John 16:33

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
~Philippians 4:6-7

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.”
~Isaiah 54:10

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
~Romans 15:13

“LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.”
~Isaiah 26:12

“The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.”
~Psalm 29:11

The Armor of God-One of the coolest things my mom did for my sister and I when we were little, was to teach us the armor of God. We put on the armor each morning in the car on the way to school or wherever we were going. We even had hand motions for it that I use and remember to this day! Putting on the armor meant preparing myself for the day and anything that would come my way. I will always remember it and plan on teaching it to my kids.

Ephesians 6:10-18
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Psalm 91-This chapter always gives me peace as I know and trust that God is my protector and defender. He goes before me to defeat my enemies. Fun Fact: It also was inspiration for Mend Counseling!

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge– then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”