My realization of what freedom REALLY means

This weekend, I taught an awesome Chair Yoga class and went to a Disney-themed bridal shower.

Aside from the lighter moments of my week, I also came to a sad, but life-changing realization.

For pretty much my whole life, I thought that “freedom” meant having ALL of my options open to me–in my career, romantic relationships, how I spend my money, where I move, and so on. I would feel tortured by choice paralysis (a term I learned from a lovely friend and follower) because if I made a choice in one of those areas…that meant the other options weren’t available to me anymore, and what if I got trapped or stuck in the choice I made?

Source: http://mamademics.com/the-beyonce-playlist-every-teacher-can-relate-too/

So I just wouldn’t make choices. I would date people, but keep them at arm’s length and never commit to them. I would freak out when applying to jobs because I was so scared that I would get trapped in something I didn’t like. I would refuse to consider areas in which I’d like to live, so I’d just stay where I was. I wanted all of my options open to me at all times, which in my head, was freedom.

But a few nights ago, I realized that refusing to make choices has only given me a false sense of freedom. I tweeted this:

Having all of your options open to you does NOT give you freedom. Making decisions and living life gives you freedom. FINALLY LEARNING THIS.

Not making choices isn’t allowing me to live life. Sure, I have all of my options in front of me, but that means I’m just watching my life and not living it. It’s a very empty, lonely, and exhausting space to inhabit–no deep romantic relationships, feeling stagnant, obsessing about possibilities, a lack of connection to myself and what I really want, lack of focus because there are so many choices with what to do with my time, how do I decide?

If we want to engage with life and have experiences, then we need to start making choices–knowing that we always have the ability to change our minds if a choice doesn’t feel good or really give us what we want.

I’m still figuring this out, but I think true freedom means that we live our lives, have experiences, and know that we can always make a change, and that no matter what happens, we can handle it and we’ll be okay.

Stay tuned for more on this topic–I’m still wrapping my mind around it.

How to move forward after the election

My heart is slowly healing and my fear for our country’s future is slowly dissipating…because there is no other option except to heal and move forward, sooner rather than later.

However you feel about this election–devastated/stunned/neutral/hopeful/pissed/happy/scared–I invite you to feel inspired.

If this election has taught us anything, it’s that we have control over so few things and it’s a humbling and sobering experience any time we realize that.

What can we actually control? Ourselves. Our choices. Our reactions. Our thoughts. Let’s focus on that. That gives us a lot to work with. Remembering what we can control has given me a lot of hope this week.

Now more than ever, we need to live from that perspective, from what we can control. It’s time to take a hard look about what we’re doing in our lives now, and how we can show up more powerfully–so that these next four years are wonderful and productive, regardless of what happens in White House.

It’s time to take action on those goals–academic, personal, professional–we want to accomplish, but we keep putting off.

It’s time to drop the negative beliefs we have about ourselves (“I’m too much” or “I’m not enough”) and get to work on what we want to accomplish and experience in this life. Those beliefs keep us small, hold us back, and prevent us from doing the stuff we want to do.

It’s time to get out of our comfort zones in small and big ways.

It’s time to just do things a little differently, to just act and create instead of thinking and talking.

What does all of this look like in regular life? Maybe it means committing to going to yoga at 6am 3 times per week, and actually getting out of bed and going. Maybe it means telling people how you really feel instead of trying to make everyone happy. Maybe it means replacing the time you spend Youtubing reruns of Girls Next Door (ummm me) with an uplifting podcast. Maybe it means looking for a job that really fills you up and is more in line with your passions. Maybe it means going out on dates now, not putting your love life on hold until you lose weight/fix something about yourself.

There are so many ways we can play bigger in our lives. There are so many ways we can be active and powerful. And when we do that, we give others permission to go after their goals and dreams too. And then we awaken the whole world.

Let this election–regardless of how you feel about it–inspire you.

My FAVORITE tools to release anxiety

As you probably know by now, I’ve dealt with (and still deal with) my fair share of anxiety. Last year, my anxiety became so debilitating that I FINALLY took it seriously and got help. Since then, life has been so much more peaceful.

If you’re struggling with anxiety to any extent–maybe you get anxious when you have a lot on your plate at work or school, maybe you have a hard time just getting out of bed, or anything in between–know that there is hope. You canand will feel more calm and peaceful. Things will get figured out.

To help you move forward in your journey with anxiety, here is a list of my favorite ways to help you manage and release anxious thoughts. When you use these tools and practices, you’ll feel a little lighter and stronger.

1. Water. Drink water all day, especially in the mornings. When you have anxiety, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released in the body. But guess what? You pee out cortisol! Drink a lot of water to prevent all of that cortisol from building up in your body.

2. Words from Eleanor Roosevelt: “With the new day comes new thoughts.” I LOVE this quote because it reminds us that our current thoughts and state of mind is only temporary. As time passes, things get better.

3. Face masks. Doing face masks gives you something really easy, fun, and tangible to focus on. They’re good for you skin and make you feel luxurious. My fave is Catastrophe Cosmetic. Or just plain, full-fat/low-fat Greek yogurt. Smear it on your face. It’s amaze.

4. Journal or legal pad. Freewriting/brain dumps really help ease anxiety because they get everything out of your head and onto paper. When you externalize your thoughts, you begin to dismantle their power over you. Your anxious thoughts aren’t you. Journaling helps you see that.

5. Timers. I love Medivate and Marinara Timer because they keep me focused at work. When I get more work done instead of trolling Youtube, I feel powerful and calm, definitely not anxious.

6. Exercise. Oh my gosh this is a big one. When you move your body, you release stagnant energy and cortisol. You also tire out your body, which helps you sleep better. And your thoughts soften. Exercising is crucial. This is one of my fave workouts to do at home.

7. Therapy. Find a good therapist and stick with it. My therapist is bomb.

8. Self touch. Duh, masturbation is a big stress-reliever, so I encourage it. But other than that, try gently pressing on your bare stomach with your hand in the morning or night while you’re lying in bed. Skin-to-skin touch is very soothing.

9. Plan Better Live Better Planner. I know I talk about this a lot. When you get stuff done, you feel productive, which makes you feel powerful and less stressed out. This planner helps you remember and schedule everything you have to do–in a peaceful way!

10. Comforting books, blogs, and podcasts. I’m loooving Let it Out: A Journey Through Journaling; Food Psych; Mind Body Musings; Girl and the Good.

That’s my easing anxiety toolkit for now! I’m always adding things, so expect another toolkit comin’ your way.

Comforting words from Eleanor Roosevelt and what I was doing this time last year…

It’s funny how my Memorial Day weekend 2016 was so peaceful and fun, when that time last year—Memorial Day weekend of 2015, I could barely get out of bed.

I had lost my full-time job, was just beginning The Happy College Girl, and was the most anxious and confused I’ve ever been in my life. I was faced with many decisions about what job to get next, whether I should focus on The Happy College Girl full time, and when/where/if I should move to another city. I was mulling over all of the pros, cons, and what-ifs 24/7. I would commit to a decision one day, only to reconsider and go with the complete opposite decision a few hours later. It was so tortuous because I never knew what was guiding my decisions—my intuition or anxiety.

During that exact weekend, I was sleeping in the basement (it was much cooler than my bedroom), bawling, and watching reality tv that wasn’t even entertaining. My dad had to coax me out of my cocoon of sleeping bags, promising me that getting out of bed would make me feel a little better. Whew, it was such a dark time.

This year is much different. Thanks to a serious commitment to mental health, a new job, being courageous with The Happy College Girl, and some personal-life details hammered out, I feel much more peaceful and confident. And over Memorial Day weekend this year, I’ve been happy to wake up, get out of bed, and be in the world.

I’m sharing this with you because if you’re going through a dark time, I want you to know that there is hope. I know this to be true because Eleanor Roosevelt said so:

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

This is my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quote (I have many of her quotes plastered all over my desk). She reminds us to just keep going because things really do get better. No matter how down, dark, anxious, and depressed we feel, there is hope. You really do get closer to finding clarity and calm, and accomplishing your goals with every passing day—even if all you’ve managed to do that day is get out of bed (like me last year). You get a little stronger and smarter every day. Just trust that, okay? The new day is fresh, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

Even if thoughts and decisions and deadlines loom over you and torture you all day, please trust that you are moving in the right direction and things will get better soon. Just hang on to those words.

So, if you are in the thick of something dark and all-consuming, or if a part of your life is just nagging you and giving you a bit of grief, lean on Eleanor:

With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.

You can lean on me too.

How to: Find your life purpose with fun and ease! (Also, I got a smartphone!)

Okay first things first. I FINALLY got a smartphone. Check it:

New smartphone

Alright now on to the juicy content. It’s really easy to freak out about finding your life purpose. It’s easy to look around you (cough, social media, cough) and feel like everyone else is living this amazing, purpose-filled life while you’re just going through the motions of the day. It’s easy to think you’re doing things wrong or not living life to the fullest if you don’t feel particularly passionate about anything. It’s easy to freak out about that stuff and get down on yourself. I do that too.

BUT. It’s totally okay if you’re confused about what to do with your life or what goals to create for yourself. Actually, freaking out about that stuff makes it harder for you to get clear on what you want. So it really is okay…and crucial for you to be easier on yourself. I’mma show you how to do just that.

Here are my two tools to help you get clear on what you want in your life:

1. Make JOY your priority. This tip comes from Gabrielle Bernstein. When you focus on bringing more joy into your life, you dwell in really high energy and vibes. And when you’re in that space…amazing opportunities come your way. You meet new people (or reconnect with peeps you know), have new experiences, and generate creative ideas. Plus, doing joyful things quiets all mental chatter in your brain. You’ll be able to get quiet and still, hear your intuition, and make decisions easily. Joy creates all that is good. So do things that create joy, happiness, and fun in your life. Follow joyful people on social media (like me!). Have dance parties. Spend time with friends and family who lift you up. Light candles. Paint your nails. Make everyday a little more joyful. You really will get clear on your life purpose.

2. Pray for/set the intention for the highest good. I did this ALL last summer and still do it today. When you have no idea what you want or are flip-flopping about stuff, just pray for/be open to the highest good. Focus on your life unfolding in the best way for you. You can use a mantra “I trust that my life/this situation will unfold for my highest good.” Whenever mental chatter or confusion comes up, just take a breath and say that mantra. Focusing on the “highest good” is so helpful because you don’t have to know what you want, but you’re still doing something proactive about living your best life ever. Plus, you’ll feel more surrendered and relaxed, which makes it much easier for your life purpose to present itself to you.

Don’t stress out about finding your life purpose. When you use these tools, your life purpose and goals will become clear. And you’ll have a much more fun and relaxed life in the meantime!

Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com and tell me one thing you’re going to do to bring more joy into your life!

Quick Guide: Goal Setting when you have no idea what your goals are or what you want

This week I talked to my therapist (yeah I see a therapist and she’s bomb) about how our culture is obsessed with goal setting, intentions, vision boards, and inspirational quotes on Instagram. We’re bombarded with messages about living our best, most blissful, radiant life. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of that, too.

But what if we’re not sure what we want our lives to look like? What if our vision of our dream life keeps changing? What if we’re unclear about our life purpose? Setting goals and “visioning” then becomes tortuous because we’re so scared about choosing the wrong goal or not feeling super passionate about our goals and then never experiencing our “ideal life.”

I felt this way pretty much every day last summer. My anxiety skyrocketed because I put so much pressure on myself to live my best, most ideal life. But I was so confused about what I wanted my “ideal life” to look like that I became paralyzed. Every time I started to take action on something, like apply to a job, my mind future-tripped immediately about how that job may not give me my “ideal life.” And if I wasn’t living that “ideal life,” then I was wasting my life. Omg it was an exhausting and guilt-ridden season.

Can you relate to feeling so much pressure to live an ideal, Instagram-worthy life that you freak out about setting goals for yourself?

I can tell you from (very recent) experience, that you DO NOT have to worry that you won’t live your ideal life or that none of your dreams will come true…even if you’re not sure what those exact dreams are.

You can relax. You will get clear on what you want in your ideal life and you will live the life of your dreams…if you shift your focus when setting goals.

So here’s what I want you to do.

Instead of focusing on the external stuff in your ideal life—the man, the job, the kids, the wardrobe, the travel—first think about how you want to FEEL in your ideal life.

When you imagine yourself living your ideal life, how do you FEEL? What kinds of feelings do you embody and experience most of the day? What are the most important feelings and states of mind that you want to feel?

Make embodying and experiencing those feelings your goal first. Those feelings become your priority.

Then, set personal, academic, and professional goals for yourself based on those feelings.

For example, the feeling that I want to experience every day is inner peace. No matter where I go or what I’m doing, I want to feel peaceful. That’s my first goal–to embody and experience that feeling.

Now that I know how I want to feel every day, I can make decisions about the things I do, places I go, and people I see that will bring me that feeling of inner peace. I can set goals for my life that are oriented to my #1 goal of feeling peaceful. Maybe that means I set a goal to forgive someone. Or set a goal to stay up late to finish a work project because that will make me feel peaceful in the morning. Or set a goal to communicate my feelings in my next romantic relationship. Or set a goal to move my body every day because it calms down my brain.

Goal setting becomes so much easier and calmer when your top goal is a FEELING instead of a THING.

Want some help choosing your top FEELING goal?

Email me at sarah@thehappycollegegirl.com and tell me you want to schedule a 30-min strategy session with me. We’ll identify your feeling goal and create a customized plan of action for you to experience that feeling every day!

An acronym to remind you that you’re a hustler

What up, college peeps! I’m super jazzed right now because I just got home from seeing the amazing Lauren Berger speak at my Alma mater (holla Terps!). I literally discovered Lauren LAST MONTH and then she was suddenly speaking in my area. Cray!

This girl knows her sh*t about how to get internships as college students…and how to handle post-grad life, including job searching, work attire, networking, asking for a raise, goal setting, so much!

Lauren gave us such useful content tonight…and I have to share something that really stuck out to me, an acronym that Lauren taught us and one that she used while completing her 15 internships during college. What the what!?

Here ’tis:

F.I.O. Figure It Out. This acronym makes me feel like such a hustler (or a Diva, a la Queen Bey). Lauren encouraged us to figure out a way to get what we want, even if we’re being told “no” or if something seems out of our reach. We can MAKE something happen and achieve our goals by using some creative problem solving. Want work for a certain company and they’re not hiring? F.I.O. Cold-call the company and pitch yourself. Want to work in NYC for a summer? F.I.O. Make a list of companies you’d like to work for in NYC and contact them! These are both examples from Lauren’s life, btw.

This acronym reminds me that we have the power to create anything we want in our lives. We just have to figure it out. Get creative. Be bold. Contact people. Speak up. Tell others what we want. I know that feels scary, but it’s also empowering.

You a hustler, girlfriend. So go F.I.O.