My past behind me like a ponytail (and other mantras that get me through the hard times)

The subject line of this post is from my absolute favorite Drake song. I love this line because it reminds me to take life a little less seriously and to stop beating myself up for choices I made in the past–so that I can focus on my goals in the present. Also it makes me want to whip my ponytail around in a sassy way. Oh Drake, you get me.

Aside from the above Drake lyric, I use lots of mantras and sayings to help me move through moments of discomfort.

Mantras help stop our thoughts in their tracks–so that we create new neural pathways in our brain that help us create more peace and happiness in our lives. Essentially, the negative thoughts we have on repeat in our brains are like bad habits, and mantras help us break them. Here are some of my favorite mantras. Use these and feel better!

  • The person next to me isn’t attainable; only my best possible self is attainable. (my yoga teacher said that once)
  • I accept the things I cannot change. (from the Serenity Prayer)
  • I love myself more than obsessing about this past/future situation/person.
  • What if we decided to never wonder about what could have happened? We’re missing what’s happening when we do. (from Grace Smith)
  • I can see peace instead of this (from Gabrielle Bernstein)
  • I am safe.

These mantras/sayings give me so much comfort throughout the day.

Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing

We’ve talked about FOMO here before. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I’m one of those people who tend to measure the worth of what they’re doing based on what their friends/family/people on social media are doing.

Decisions tend to be tortuous for me because I’m always wondering what other people have decided so that I can make up my mind. Even simple things, like deciding how to spend a weeknight, can turn into a mental back-and-forth of what my friends/acquaintances are doing and how what I’m doing measures up. For example, if I choose to take a long walk in the evening, I might wonder if I should be taking a kickboxing class, going out for drinks, working on my business, joining a club sports team, going on a date, or putting in extra time at work instead. I tend to assume that everyone else’s choices are better than mine.

I often find myself thinking: Why is it so easy for my friends to just be cool with and focused on what they’re doing, and I’m always wondering whether I’m keeping up, fitting in, and not getting left behind? Why can’t I just do my own thing and be cool with that?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m living for my friends/family/social media acquaintances…or me.

Can you relate to this? Do you constantly question your choices, or make choices based on what other people are doing? It’s exhausting! And I’ve discovered that making decisions based on other people leads to the following things:

  • Living in the past (harboring resentment, keeping old, uncomfortable situations alive when they should’ve been dead years ago) while everyone else is moving forward, accomplishing goals, having new experiences
  • Disconnecting from your true self, desires, and beliefs, leading to confusion and doubt about what goals you should really focus on
  • Feeling disappointed when your friends seemingly forget about you to live their own lives. (they haven’t forgotten about you–they just don’t factor you in to the significant degree that you factor them in…because they’re doing what they want!)
  • Constant worry and anxiety, no lasting peace and ease.

Whew, that’s a pretty tiring way to live. And the hard truth is…in our quest to keep up, live the best life ever, and make decisions based on what our friends are doing, we actually end up living a rather empty, boring life that keeps us small. We don’t take risks or go for our dreams because we’re too busy worrying about other people’s goals and dreams, and making sure that we’re not getting left behind.

What’s the answer to living a full, exciting life that’s true to ourselves?

You must reconnect to you.

I’m still working on this, but expect more tips on how to stop worrying about what other people are doing, and start focusing on you.

How to figure out what you want

As you know, decision making is hard for me. I go back and forth about all of my options, future trip, and exhaust myself almost every time I have to make a choice of some kind. It’s not fun, and I’m working on it.

Today, I was listening to  the Lady Lovin’ podcast while taking a walk around my neighborhood and got a wake up call on how important it is to answer this question that impacts our decision making greatly:

What do you want?

The topic of this particular podcast episode was money, and the amazing Nicole Lapin emphasized how important it is for people to figure out what they want so that they can plan their finances accordingly. For example, if you want to have kids down the road, own that you want that, and factor it into your spending/savings plan (depending on your age) so that you have the money that getting pregnant/raising kids require. In fact, Nicole said that studies have shown that women who plan a narrative for their lives, i.e. a general, loose plan of their goals and when they want to achieve them, are more successful in accomplishing those goals.

Aside from increasing your success in accomplishing goals, answering What do you want? is pretty much the first thing you have to figure out when you begin any type of plan or program to improve any part of your life. For example, if you hate your job and want to find a new one, you have to figure out what you want, i.e. what type of environment you want to work in, the kinds of projects you want to do, your desired location, etc. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll either apply to a bunch of random jobs that may not work for you or you’ll stay in your current job because you don’t know how to move forward.

Full disclosure. I HATE thinking about What I want because I never know what I want…so I usually avoid answering that question in many areas of my life, specifically in dating, money, and career. But refusing to grapple with that question hasn’t really been moving me forward–it’s just kept me in the same place, with vague goals and hopes for my future, and little motivation to take action.

To help myself get clear on how I want to move forward in certain areas of my life, I’ve decided (yay, a decision!) to take conscious actions toward figuring out what I want. And I want you to join me.

Here’s a plan to help us figure out what we want:

  • Journal once a day for 10 mins. Let’s write What do I want? at the top of the page and let our pens move freely–no edits or judgement. Let’s just begin facing this question and seeing what’s inside of ourselves.
  • Acknowledge the areas of our lives where we make quick decisions with conviction. Food, body, and health are areas where I feel super comfortable and confident making decisions. It’s important to celebrate the areas of our lives that just flow and move forward–it gives us motivation and hope that we can experience the same flow in other areas of our lives, too.
  • Make a decision and see how it feels. If I can’t tell what my body wants to eat for lunch one day, I don’t stress about it. I just eat foods that I typically like and trust that my body will absorb the nutrients it needs, and give me a clearer answer about what it wants for dinner. I think we can do this in other areas of our lives, too. For example, maybe we’re not sure whether to go on a dating app, and we go back and forth about it forever. Let’s try making a decision to either yes, sign up or no, don’t sign up, and see how it feels for a few days. If we want to change our minds, we can. But actually making decisions gives us information we can use to make more decisions in the future, which eventually makes decision making easier.

I still hate the What do you want? question, but I’m seeing how crucial answering it is to moving forward in life. Let’s do this together, okay?

My fave products, podcasts, and songs

Confession. I’m feeling kind of empty and still right now, and I’m working on taking The Happy College Girl in a new direction. Instead of writing a coaching-oriented blog as per usual, I thought I’d just give you a rundown of what I’ve been listening to and doing for the past few weeks.

Stuff I use and like:
Milk Makeup Holographic Stick in Golden Peach. Someone at Sephora recommended this to me and I LOVE it. I put it on my cheeks, eyelids, cupid’s bow, under my nose, and on my chest and shoulders. It makes my skin shimmer, makes me look more put together and polished, and helps my very pale skin look good in pictures. This is becoming pretty much the only makeup I put on now.

Milk Makeup Flex Concealer in Fair. This stuff is easy to put on and lasts for hours and hours. It makes my face look bright and fresh, and gives me natural-looking coverage on my acne/blemishes.

Speaking of acne/blemishes…Dandelion Root by Nature’s Way. I take 9 of these babies every day for my skin, as per the recommendation of my family’s naturopath. My skin and I are going through a thing. It’s frustrating and I hate it. Trying to stay peaceful…also because stress contributes to skin craziness.

Invisible Shield daily sunscreen by Glossier. As I said above, I have very pale skin, so I’m suuuper conscious of wearing sunscreen, hats, limiting time in the sun, etc. Obvi we all do this in the warmer months, but we also need to protect our skin from UV and infrared light all year round. This sunscreen’s light, gel-like formula goes on so easily and doesn’t mess up any makeup or do anything weird to my moisturizer. I just put it on my face and arms before I leave the house and my skin is protected. Plus, the creator of Glossier, Emily Weiss, was on an episode of The Hills. She was the “super intern” from NYC whaaaat.

Stuff I listen to and like:
Kesha’s Praying is giving me the feels. It’s so nice to hear her actual, raw voice. She’s back!

The Lady Lovin’ podcast kicks ass. I binged on it during my recent drive to and from home. Those girls just make me feel happy and inspired. They talk about boys, beauty, health/wellness, feminism, food, sex, and so much more. You gotta listen!

Holy crap and Summer Innanen’s latest podcast episode with feminist marketing consultant Kelly Diels CHANGED MY LIFE. These girls talk about how some online female lifestyle brands co-opt female empowerment (mostly with innocent intentions) to make money, exert control, and promote a specific feminine ideal (ahem, white, thin, pretty), instead of leading and actually creating change in the world, as they say they’re doing in their marketing. This episode is helping me look at The Happy College Girl with a much more critical, social justice-oriented eye. Wowza.

P.S. Kelly Diels talks about how black feminist writers bell hooks and Audre Lorde arguably invented the idea of “self-care.” White women (myself included) talk SO much about how self-care impacts our lives and the world, but that very idea was pretty much invented by bell hooks and Audre Lorde to help sustain other black women, feminists, LGBTQ folks, and other marginalized populations in their fight for equality. Mind. Blown. So. Humbled.

Let’s end this blog on that high, awakening note, okay? Just recapping all of the stuff I’ve been using/listening to has me inspired!

Beat procrastination with this tip!

Isn’t procrastination the worst? Maybe we’re stalling on a work or school assignment, running a boring/tedious errand, doing something around the house, working out, or calling someone back. When we avoid something, it festers and hangs over our head, getting bigger and scarier every minute we do something else (um like watch clips of RHONY and Watch What Happens Live) instead of what we should really be doing. Ick just thinking about procrastination makes me nauseous because I get so freaked out by the tasks that I procrastinate on that just get even more overwhelming. Gah!

Today, for example, I did some typical things: cleaning, laundry, organizing, etc. But I was avoiding working out. I kept watching clips of reality TV and doing stuff around the house instead. My body wanted to workout, but I couldn’t decide whether to take a walk, do yoga, lift weights, whatever…and I stayed in that indecisive, procrastinating place for most of the day. Then, a lesson from the amazing Gabrielle Bernstein (via Yogi Bhajan) came to me:

When the time is on you, start and the pressure will be off.

This lesson offers so much peace because it reminds us that when we have a goal or task in front of us, all we have to do is take one simple step: start. We don’t have to worry about what the “what ifs” or how things will turn out or how we’ll feel during the process. When we just start, we’ll feel a sense of relief. That task, project, or goal immediately becomes less scary and more manageable.

As soon as I thought of that message–start and the pressure will be off–I got off of my bed, put on my workout shoes, grabbed some music, and took a walk around my neighborhood. I started, didn’t worry about whether I was doing the “right” workout or what workout I would do tomorrow, and now I feel great that I accomplished something I wanted to do today!

Other ways you can start so that the pressure will be off:

  • Set your timer for 5 mins and pick up the clothes on your floor. Just getting into that mode of cleaning/decluttering can give you energy to vacuum, wash your sheets, clean your bathroom, etc.
  • Take a shower to shift your energy. Showering helps us feel refreshed, renewed–feelings that energize us to accomplish something/get started on a task or project.
  • Make a weekly master To Do list. Grab a pen and paper and write down everything you need to do this week. Just getting stuff down on paper makes you feel more organized and motivated. Then, pick one of those tasks, set a timer, and do it!
  • If you’re trying to stop binge eating, the next time you binge, take a deep breath (even if you’re in the middle of chewing), go into the kitchen, and have a glass of water. These simple actions shift you out of binge eating mode and into a more peaceful state so that you’re less likely to continue your binge.

Let procrastination ease away–just by starting.

Why You Should Celebrate Your Birthday Everyday

I celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks ago with many friends and quesadillas. It was great!

When I woke up on my birthday, I felt so excited, special, and happy, and felt that way all day. All of the texts, FB messages, calls, and gifts I received made me feel great. In that space of feeling special and like my life mattered, my anxiety about other areas of my life decreased. My typically anxious, nervous thoughts shifted into something much more peaceful. I noticed that I was telling myself: everything is going to be okay, you can do anything, you’re much stronger than you think you are, you can handle anything. Cool, right?

Do you have those moments on your birthday too? There’s something about acknowledging the day you were born and became part of this world–and having others acknowledge that too–that makes us feel special, important, and confident.

That’s why I think we should create more of those moments in our lives. We shouldn’t have to wait once a year to feel special; we can create that feeling every day, which then motivates us to live kick-ass, super productive lives.

Unfortunately, society conditions us to downplay our special-ness and enslave ourselves (especially the ladies) to self-deprecation. But how far has that really gotten us?

Our world is no more productive or peaceful with people being afraid to acknowledge their attributes, worth, and special-ness. For example, in the area of body image, people, institutions, and thought systems that make people feel ashamed if their bodies look different from the social ideal–for the purpose of motivating them to make “healthier” choices–don’t actually motivate those people at all. When we feel bad about ourselves, we don’t have the motivation or sense of self worth to make positive changes in our lives–we just crawl deeper into our hole of shame and wither away, commit acts of violence on others, etc. We have to tell ourselves that we matter–as we are NOW. Only from that space do we have the sense of self-worth and motivation to elevate our lives and the lives of others.

So, my beautiful friend, you have my permission to feel special and lovable all the time. You have my permission to feel like it’s your birthday every day!

When we feel special and important, we want to get out into the world and do good work. That’s what our world needs right now.

How to surrender your desires and take guided action

As a hardworking, ambitious, and amazing college or post-college girl, you have a lot of goals and desires. And sometimes, it’s super confusing to know how exactly to get what we want, or achieve what we want to achieve. For example, if you want to have a more fulfilling romantic life, where do you start? Do you sign up for a dating app? Which one? Do you break up with your current partner? Or work to create what you want within the relationship? Similar questions come up when we think about our career. If you want a more fulfilling professional life, do you quit your current job and start a blog? Do you switch your major? Do you go for internship in your desired industry? Do you do a bunch of informational interviews?

Regardless of the area of your life that’s confusing you right now, questions, confusion, and mental back-and-forth always come up.

But what if there was an easier way to achieve your goals and get what you want? What if you could relax a bit, take guided, peaceful action, and have a little more fun, too? Good news–that’s totally possible!

I’ve been reading Gabby Bernstein’s The Universe Has Your Back and it is rocking my world. In my life, I’m working on surrendering money and love, and so far, I feel more peaceful and hopeful. Good things are on their way.

Surrendering our goals doesn’t mean we relinquish our power or stop working hard. Surrender simply gives us space from all of that mental chaos that drains our energy and makes decision-making hard and ineffective. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental chaos in a certain area(s) of your life, I invite you to surrender it and clear the path for a peaceful, guided way to achieve your goals. Use my tips below!

1. Connect with God/The Universe/your intuition more often. Surrender requires us to get quiet and connected with ourselves so that we can hear the higher guidance that’s waiting for us. Instead of waking up, rolling over, and checking Snapchat (um, me), sit up in bed, close your eyes, and take ten deep breaths through your nose and out your mouth. Do the same thing in the middle of the day. Try to go to a private place (like a bathroom stall), and just breathe deeply. Before you go to sleep at night, take those deep breaths again. Breathing floods our brains with oxygen and connects us with our bodies and inner voice–all things that make our intuition louder. Plus, connecting with a higher presence makes us feel more protected, which helps us open up to new ideas that our “logical” brains may deem stupid, scary, or impossible.

2. Get clear on how you want to feel in your desire/goal. How do you want to feel when you’re in that new romantic relationship? Connected? Loved? Excited? Passionate? How do you want to feel in that new job? Focused? Relaxed? Stimulated? We get so caught up in how we’ll actually get that new boyfriend or professional achievement, but that just creates mental chaos and actually drives away those things. Instead, try embodying how you want to feel when you reach your desire or goal. Experiencing connection and passion, for example, in your life NOW actually draws more of those things to you. Like attracts like! Plus, focusing on how you want to feel is often easier than worrying about how you’re actually going to get that thing.

3. Pray/say a mantra throughout the day. Whenever you freak out about that goal, desire, or area of your life, ask your intuition/God for help. Try saying: Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?  Just say this whenever you get a pang of worry, fear, or anxiety throughout the day, and experience the calm that sets in. And if calm doesn’t set in, trust that you’re moving towards a sense of calm, along with your desires.

Just give surrender a try. It makes life easier, richer, and more fun.

Pack These Essentials for a Peaceful Road Trip

Recently, I (with my amazing parents and a U-Haul in tow) drove six hours to my new-ish place of residence. Leading up to my move, I’ve been pretty anxious about whether I’m making the right decision, what others will think, and all of those questions that our brain comes up with!

So to make my car ride down to my new place a little more peaceful and not so anxiety-ridden, I packed a few essential things:

1. Lots of water. Water moves excess cortisol (the stress hormone) through our bodies. The more you drink, the more you get rid of the cortisol that’s making you anxious and experience symptoms like increased heart rate and short breathing.

2. Calming podcasts and audio books. During my drive, I listened to The Universe Has Your Back and a few episodes of the Kate and Mike Podcast. They kept my thoughts focused on positive, self-development things and gave me some great tools to practice in my life when I reached my destination.

3. Deep breathing. It’s so easy to forget to breathe! And when we’re anxious and thinking about the past or future, our breath gets really shallow…which just makes the anxiety worse. Every 30 mins or so, I made a point to take 10 deep breaths through my nose and out my mouth. This returned me to the present moment (where true peace lies) and helped my body calm down. Set a timer on your phone to take breathing breaks, or make a point to take deep breaths when a podcast ends or you finish one chapter of your audio book.

The best part of my peaceful road trip packing list? All of these things are cheap and/or free!

Did You Just Binge Eat? Do This Next!

Once upon a time, I had a blog called College Kid Yoga, and I wrote a lot about yoga (der) and body image. Since body image is a topic that’s so close to my heart, I want to share a post I wrote about binge eating. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this post before, but binge eating was a huge, chaotic, and destructive part of my life throughout my college and post-college years, and if you can relate, then I want you to read this post closely!

Here it is!

Today, I’m writing about what to do immediately after a binge, as in the few minutes after we put the food down and the reality that we’ve just binged sets in. In those moments, we often recoil in horror as we assess the empty food cartons, half-empty bags of chips or gallons of ice cream, and the half-eaten loaf of banana-chocolate chip bread. Unfortunately, the post-binge horror, shame, and embarrassment that we inflect upon ourselves is counterproductive. If we wallow in those feelings, we hit the food again, and often harder than before.

To avoid a second binge and to restore our minds and bodies to a peaceful state, here’s what you do:

You just move on. You binged. Acknowledge that. Then go on with your day (or night).

What does it mean to “just move on” look like? Specifically, it looks like taking a small, simple action to get yourself out of binge mode and into mental and physical calmness.

Here’s a list of small, simple actions that you can take to shift your entire day or night after a binge (I did all of these myself today):

1. BREATHE. Amidst all of the food wrappers and crumbs. Take 3-5 deep breaths.

2. Sip on a glass of water. No, I’m not talking about warm lemon water with cayenne so that you can detox immediately in a desperate and ill-advised attempt to lose weight fast. Just fill a glass with cool or room-temp water. Sit down and drink it. Hydrate your body.

3. Research something cool/interesting/productive on the internet. Watch a TED talk. Plan your dream vacation; look up all of the cool places to visit. Today, I opened my laptop and did some job research. I found a couple of jobs that I want to apply to. This stuff takes your mind off of your binge, giving your body freedom to digest and your mind a break from post-binge anxiety.

4. Shave your legs. I know the last thing you want to do after a binge is see yourself naked. But I took a shower and made a point to shave my legs really well. Afterwards, I felt clean and a little sexy and summery. Not in a bingeing mood, that’s for sure.

5. Say really sweet things to yourself. Today I said (in my mind and out loud), “I love you. You’re doing great. You’re okay. I’m so proud of you. Everything will be okay. You’re doing the best you can, Sarah ol’ girl (a la Helga Pataki).” Say that stuff to yourself. It really does make you feel better.

6. Promise yourself that you will keep going and fighting. It’s so easy to wallow in self-hatred and hopelessness after a binge. But that mindset just sets you up to binge again. Make a promise to yourself that you WILL overcome bingeing, that you will never give up on yourself, and that you WILL live binge-free.

7. Do something with people. Post-binge feelings are smothered by positive social interaction. I went to the pool with a friend today and am going out with more friends tonight. Make a date with one or more people who make you feel happy and relaxed. This not only gets you out of the house (isolation increases the likelihood that we’ll binge), but it also takes your mind off of your body and food. My friends, and most of them don’t realize this, have pulled me out of my darkest post-binge feelings.

Take this list seriously. If none of this resonates with you, generate your own list of small, manageable actions that you can take SECONDS after a binge so that you avoid another binge and feel peaceful.

There you have it. My three-year-old blog post that still resonates for me (and hopefully you!) today.

Let’s Create Our Bucket List for 2017

Summer has officially begun, and my fave blogger recently posted her Summer Bucket List, i.e. a list of the stuff you want to do, experience, and/or accomplish over the summer.

I looove the concept of the Summer Bucket List because it encourages us to get out of our comfort zone and take action on our goals. And as you know, when we’re out of our comfort zone, we realize that we’re actually stronger and more capable than we thought…which gives us confidence to continue experiencing and accomplishing new things…which helps us create a life of our dreams! Plus, the Summer Bucket List encourages us to explore many of our interests and dreams, rather than focusing on the stuff we typically obsess about (weight loss, food, our bodies, etc., for example).

I’m still crafting my 2017 Summer Bucket List, but here’s what I got so far:

  • Read three fiction books.
  • Do an FB live for my Facebook group once a week. I did one all about summer bucket lists a couple weeks ago!
  • Do some volunteering.
  • Think before speaking (oy, this is an ongoing goal for me. I’m using this to help).

I wanna know what’s on YOUR Summer Bucket List for 2017! Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com!