Neurobiology and Behavior self-development

Setting goals you’ll actually reach

One of the biggest problems with how most people set goals is they fail to realize in order to get X, they have to re-imagine their lives as someone who has X. Then get to work developing the skills and knowledge required to have X.

Learn to set long term goals that level up your life. Read more at

Let’s start with an example:

To achieve a health goal you have to look at the ripples of change required to sustain effort and progress over time. Imagine you’ve met your goal – how do you shop, cook, sleep, play, work differently than you did before you set your goal?

Sometimes this happens accidentally – I was significantly constrained financially when I first started learning how to cook for my family. Eating out, buying the pre-made version, etc was out of reach. I had to get our food budget planned out down to the last dollar for every month in order to make sure I was squeezing every bit of value out of our budget (which was around half the size of the average family’s food budget). I became a person who cooks mostly from scratch and emphasizes nutrient density because there was zero room for empty calories and I learned we could get more variety if I made it myself. Now we have more space in our budget…but I still cook everything at home. Eating out doesn’t even occur to me because my environment forced me to think and live a different way.

If you choose not to constrain yourself to this degree, it will take a lot more pre-strategy on how you will reinvent your habits around whatever area you hope to change.

Here are my tips for goal-setting that, I hope, go beyond the usual way of approaching things. I like Lara Casey’s method for reflection and daily tending on long-term goals. But I’ve found that I have to infuse that method with a little extra work to fit my own brain so I’m jotting down the result.

Think of this as a bit more of an analytical approach. It won’t work for everyone because nothing ever does – just like the many other methods I’ve tried don’t really work for me. I aim to provide a more systematic approach that incorporates the (un)predictable nature of the brain amidst change and hope you will be able to pull a few insights for their own planning. We are all a mish-mash of methods tailored to our own context. Strict following of anyone else’s plan is not a guaranteed success.

I do not consider this to be complete. It’s not a product I’m trying to sell. I’m sharing because I get asked and I thought it’d be worthwhile to write down what I do (and a bit of why).

Disclaimers aside…

The first part will address the initial selection of goals, the second how to stick with goals that are a ways down the road – we worked for 5 years to buy our Tesla, we’re on a 10 year term for our current financial goal, and I’m in a year in to a 5-ish year career goal. Through each of these experiences I’ve gotten more comfortable with things taking consistent effort over a long period of time. Setting goals is not trivial – because failure has a high cost on the individual and the family – but sustaining yourself until the goal is fully accomplished often feels like more of a black box that I’m going to try to parse out.

Setting goals

Goal setting is a skill. People often achieve long-term goals, like a graduate degree, but it’s also common to see they’ve let a lot of other things slip in order to make it – they didn’t manage their stress well, their relationships suffered, etc. It’s like in college when people tell you, “there’s fun, good grades, and sleep…you can only pick two.” Maybe the way we’re currently equipped to self-manage makes that true, but I don’t think we’re actually limited in that way. A goal can result in a holistic upgrade to your life. I’m attempting here to capture how.

  1. Any vision of the future you could have is separated from you by a series of skills you haven’t yet acquired. It’s up to you in the design phase to parse out those skills and map them to your life. Every skill has a knowledge component – learning more about your body in order to take better care of it, etc. Then there’s the deep practice (habits) – like performing air squats until you can do them properly without thinking, skipping snooze, preparing meals with enough protein, etc.
  2. Any goal ought to tie in to what you want your future self, family, environment to be like, anticipate the needs and obstacles – how can you get yourself ready to meet them?
  3. There needs to be a pull – a planned benefit that is personally meaningful. Just forget the goals you set because you “should” set them. What do you actually care about. You may end up circling back but get some success first before you tackle the stuff you can’t decide you want yet.
  4. Instate milestones that bear load – meaning if you don’t achieve them it actually means something. 
  5. I suggest the milestones be clustered closer together for the first 3-5 if it’s a goal where your life will look significantly different on the other side. Big goals like that can feel intangible, you need to make progress right away that a) builds confidence and b) moves the present “before” a little further on so you can more easily imagine a future where you are a different person and in a different life. Grad school is a bridge that will usher me (and consequently my family) into a new phase of life that is sometimes tough to imagine ever actually happening. So I have to build in milestones that make it easier to believe we will actually get to that imagined life.
  6. Don’t be afraid to iterate and refine as you go. It’s not always possible to anticipate what your future self will need – but you can get started in a direction and once you reach a couple of milestones you’ll have more information to go off of – adjusting course if needed.
  7. Turning vision into action is, itself, a skill – it’s one thing to design a goal, it’s another to break those goals up into little pieces and scatter them effectively over the next few months. It will take experimentation to find a method that works well for you and you might discover a method doesn’t work because you don’t make any progress – that’s ok! 

Goals can – and should – be thought about on different scales. One of my current goals is getting my PhD – I expect to be done sometime in the next 3-4 years…and I originally set the goal in late 2016. However I think of graduation as more of a placeholder because the real purpose is to become a PhD. It can mean different things to each individual but when you spend somewhere around 2000 hours per year over 5 years thinking, strategizing, experimenting with a (sort of) singular focus, you change. Holding a degree doesn’t do that, putting in the effort does that, letting go of what you thought you knew and who you thought you were does that. The 2017 version of me was not capable of what I’ll go do at work this week.

Progression over time doesn’t come through single large jumps from milestone to milestone. Instead it’s the accumulation of daily, weekly, monthly, etc action. When something is going to take years we aren’t really even jogging…we’re walking. One step at a time. Besides work-related development, working on my PhD is a time frame for developing a number of other skills, habits to fill in the picture of the 2023 version of me. What habits has she developed to handle stress of more responsibility? How does she dress, present herself, etc? What’s her relationship with her kids like?

Daily – 

Each section depends on the goal you’re working towards. At a minimum you’re recalling + envisioning the future state you’re moving toward on a daily basis. The more time you spend with your future self in mind, the more you’ll start to make daily decisions for that person. Your present self gets a lot of attention each day – food, clothes, hygiene. Many parts of your day can either share attention or be more focused on what gifts you’re giving to your future self (whether it’s a month from now or further). Exercise and food choices are two such categories. Part of becoming someone new over the next few years requires a set of daily choices that will benefit that person (you!) beyond the present moment.

Monthly and beyond –

How you set milestones and choose which skills to develop is very contextual. Once I started my grad school I made choices about classes and my personal goals based on job searches for what would come next. Career goals can be structured around what a person who gets hired is capable of doing. Job descriptions are helpful. You should also consider the “soft” or otherwise unspoken skills that people who get hired have — network connections, physical presence, communication in multiple mediums (email, written, casual phone or in-person, more formal “talks”, etc), effective improvisation, etc.

Even if your goal isn’t a career it’s still possible to design your milestones using other people (I recommend going further than what your hero shares on instagram). What is life like for people who have what you’re aiming for? What problems do they face? What skills do they tap into on a regular basis? 

[A few words on comparison: get over it. Yes, there are a lot of people who are better at X than you. And you’ve got some things figured out that still other people don’t. That’s life. This becomes obvious when you transition to thinking in terms of skill development. You can choose to learn from others, stealing what is useful and discarding the stuff that is context-specific, or you can stay stuck simply because you weren’t born with some of the skills “she’s” got. Any person consists of a set of skills. If you want something they have, reverse engineer the skill and decide if the cost is worth the effort.]

That’s all I’ve got for the moment – not complete, but a starting point. Throw your questions in the comments – I’m happy to be more detailed where it’s needed.

If you take away only 1 thing – take note of how often the word “skill” comes up. If you don’t see life as a series of acquired skill sets you will continue to struggle with achieving long-term goals.

Neurobiology and Behavior Self Care

Turning 28

Today is my birthday.


For most of my life I’ve struggled with birthday expectations (and later, mother’s day expectations). I know I’m not alone here – it feels good to be celebrated and especially good when someone else did the planning.


Last year I wanted things to be different. I began asking myself what a really good birthday celebration would look like – one that isn’t all about getting a break from responsibility or attention from others.


Birthday tradition: How did you grow in the last year? What new skills or experiences made the year unique?


What I came up with is a simple tradition I’ve now enacted on my own birthday as well as mother’s day and my kids’ birthdays: How have you grown and developed as a person? How has the last year been put to use? [On mother’s day I ask myself that question with special focus on how I’ve changed in motherhood – the effects my kids have had on my life and who I am because I’m a mom.]


This is designed to be a gratitude practice. And what I found last year was that my daily work, that was still there even though it was my birthday, became a worshipful experience…it all became a way to see in detail how I’ve used the last year to be more of who I want to be.


Secondarily, it has helped me become more comfortable with celebrating myself rather than waiting for someone else to do it for me. Last year I made my lists intending to share them but never getting around to it – despite no one else seeing them, I felt more satisfied on my birthday than ever before.


I thought I’d share my list this year. My 28th year was very different than any other year…so this list will reflect some of the shifts I’ve made:


  1. Competing in my first Crossfit Open – overcame a lot of mental and physical barriers in the last year and I’ve gained a lot in terms of conditioning, skill, and strength, grateful to get to test it now.
  2. Strength: Overhead squat 145lbs, Snatch 115lbs, Clean 160lbs, 15 strict pull ups, 1 strict ring muscle up, 12 strict handstand push ups, Deadlift 300lbs, Back squat 255lbs, 60lb DB snatch, 140lbs Split Jerk.
  3. Physical skills: handstand pushups, handstand walk, chest-to-bar pull ups, double unders, 1 kipping ring muscle up.
  4. Learned how to wake board and ice fish.
  5. Uncovered the bigger vision I’ve been working toward the past handful of years – now able to take more deliberate steps toward making it reality.
  6. Translated that vision into writing to be seen by graduate admissions (super challenging and vulnerable)
  7. Submitted applications for PhD programs – and endured one rejection after another.
  8. Developed a deep interest in technology – and acquired capability in 3 programming languages.
  9. Uncovered previously-unrealized patterns in my mental health and have been able to reach a new level of mental and emotional strength.
  10. Grew a successful garden – we are still eating some of the surplus!
  11. Strengthened my internal work ethic – less reliant on imposed expectations or pressures.
  12. Becoming a better + faster learner – more focused on personal understanding and identifying essential ideas.
  13. I’ve reached the “competent” level of development in my ability to clear my mind when I sense overwhelm or anxiety. Less likely to sit in it, proactive in regaining my footing.
  14. Along with that I’ve grown in how I communicate about my internal environment – giving those around me a way to interact with and support me when I’m in a state of anxiety or depression.
  15. Also related: relationship with Eric and my kids has gotten richer as I’ve continued working on overcoming barriers to connection.
  16. I’ve leveled up on home management – where I can stop thinking about some things and they still run in a state of control…particularly personal habits like house cleaning, budgeting, meal planning and preparation. Always room for improvement but it’s continued to develop since last year and I’m very happy with the track I’m on.
  17. I have become a significantly more positive person. Still a long way to go in developing this skill but so grateful for the changes that have already happened.


I intentionally only gave myself 30 minutes to do this – I wanted to make sure it happened but also have many things to do today. This year has been very full – I’m grateful for the experiences that continue to shape who I will become and for the growing sense of power I have in directing my own evolution.





movement Neurobiology and Behavior

Getting Stronger in 2018

Last year was a big year for me all around. Deciding to go back to school brought a slew of things to do and think about which, in itself, would take several blog posts to unpack. A second major area of growth was in my physical training – I got a whole lot fitter.


Tired of making the same fitness goals year after year? This post is for you. Read more at


If you follow along on Instagram then you’ve seen various snippets of PRs and workouts. You’ve probably also observed that I went “all in” on the Crossfit framework. In the past I’ve done bodybuilding, general strength training, hiit, and powerlifting – all of which play a role in crossfit programming – but I’ve seen an increase in intensity and volume plus the addition of monostructural (running, rowing, jump rope, etc), gymnastics (kipping pull ups, handstand push ups, etc), and olympic weightlifting movements. In the past I have dabbled but no real time spent acquiring skill.


With all that new stuff 2017 was filled with trying a lot of new things and getting stronger in order to be more successful (and stable) in those skills. I also had to adapt quickly to the intensity part. I humbly scaled weights and exercises for workouts, confronting my “I’m fit!” mentality for one that respects my current limitations and seeks effective ways to expand my capabilities. And I also pushed hard against my long-time avoidance of sustained elevated heart rate.


Despite stepping out of my personal training business over a year ago I continue to field questions and send out recommendations for programs and tutorials whenever I’m asked. Because of that, and in an effort to externalize what I’ve been thinking about in terms of strength goals and skill development, I’m going to spend some time over a series of blog posts talking about how to systematically gain strength in 2018.


Why getting stronger is more than finishing a program

While it’s tempting to view getting stronger as simply following a designated program – indeed, that’s how it’s often done – I think it’s important to note that you can complete a program without acquiring the skill of strength training. Just as you can take an algebra class, pass, and remain to recognize when and how to use it in everyday life.


What’s the outcome of finishing a program without understanding the concepts?

  • Making the same goals for your health year after year.
  • Continuing to go to the gym and feel insecure in your ability to effectively use the equipment / space.
  • Not being able to tell if you made any progress despite getting through the workouts.
  • Meeting your goal followed by a drop in consistency and re-gaining weight / losing muscle mass or strength.


Big idea: If you’ve tried various diets and workout plans but you still ended the year feeling like all your work hasn’t added up to significant change then you need to take a different approach altogether. One that emphasizes understanding *your* body and the relevant concepts to physical transformation.


One of my personal goals with coaching was always to produce clients who could make progress independently. There are plenty of reasons to use a coach or program, but you cannot outsource understanding your own body and its capabilities. This takes time and can happen faster through the help of a high quality coach focused on equipping you [rather than focused on making money off of your shame triggers] however you must fully engage in the process.


In order to have power and autonomy in your body you must have a framework for developing your physical capacity and transforming your body as you desire. To have a framework would mean you have to have a system of concepts and methods for getting the outcome you desire for your body. It would also mean that you can effectively problem solve when you come up against something like increased bloating when you change food intake or failing to see physical changes during a program.


A quick look at what a framework in strength training might include (not in any particular order nor all-inclusive):

  • Anatomy and physiology
    • Muscle, nervous, and skeletal system – knowing both their individual components as well as how they coordinate to produce force that can move a load
    • What muscle groups are being targeted in each movement? Where do they attach? How are they activated? What joints and movements do they drive (i.e. extension versus flexion)
    • What does proper movement look and feel like?
    • What are the important ingredients / players in each system? Where do they come from? How are they activated?
    • Key terms like hypertrophy, aerobic versus anaerobic,
  • Physics of movement / force output
    • What does it mean for the body to get stronger? How are each of the above systems changed? How does a change in 1 affect the other?
    • What determines the level of difficulty in a movement?
    • How does each system respond to stress/overload?
    • Why do we squat, press, pull, hinge? What are each of those anyway? What movements should be included in a movement?
    • How does weakness in one area (like the core) affect force output and susceptibility to injury?
    • Pain: Sign of injury or sign of progress? Back off or push through?
  • Other-system factors – how they affect outcomes
    • Nutrition
    • Stress
    • Sleep
    • Support / Community
    • Mindset
    • Cross-training (conditioning, accessory, mobility, gymnastics, brute strength, etc)
    • Menstruation, etc
  • Metrics
    • How do you know you’re on the right track?
    • How do you know when to add weight?
    • What kinds of changes should you expect and in what time interval?
    • What landmarks make sense for each stage of experience?
    • What do other markers, like sleep quality and heart rate variability, should be tracked throughout the day?


A framework gets developed over time with experience

If that list seems overwhelming, take a deep breath. Reality is that I can’t definitively tell you all you need to know about each of those items. And no doubt there are many more I could include. This gets at a major element of gaining skill: recognition that it’s a never-ending process. There are always more layers to uncover. There are countless movement variations and science cannot yet explain how all the various systems interact. So rather than feeling overwhelmed, see it as an opportunity – an area of your life that can provide endless exploration throughout your life.


As I progress through this series it will be a personal challenge to put out two or three stages of strength training skill and the concepts a person should understand at each stage (e.g. beginner, competent, proficient). I think that is about the most useful “download” I could give you. Over time I will develop similar downloads for nutrition and mindset as well.


What’s coming next

I intend to publish on the subject a couple of times per month until I’ve covered all I’d like to cover.

To end this first installment, I invite any questions you have about the above framework. Is there are particular area you’ve found to be difficult to understand? Any areas or concepts I didn’t mention that you’d like to hear about?


Finally, I’ll be making a resources page that I’ll keep updated with my recommendations on coaches, programs, and products I’ve found to be trustworthy.


Next time I’ll get into the essential skills of learning skills progressively.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Science Neurobiology and Behavior

Growing through stress – GRE reflection

Three weeks ago I took the GRE general test. As I move on to the next stage of applying for PhD programs I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what helped me perform well.


Staying emotionally + mentally engaged throughout the pursuit of a goal can be tough. Here's a case study of how mindful preparation helped me on the GRE as I head toward my goal of starting my PhD.

You could classify me as an anxious test-taker. Especially when it comes to reading comprehension, stress kicks into high gear and I find myself reading passages over and over again unable to decipher any meaning. So six years ago when I took the GRE for the first time, I knew I would put up with whatever score I got because there was no way I’d ever voluntarily take a standardized test again. In fact, it’s been a lingering thought in my head ever since, knowing I was likely to see my scores expire before I made it to grad school – what could I go on to do after my kids grow up a bit that doesn’t require a GRE score?


So it was surprising when, last January, I made the decision to return to my previous intentions of PhD programs in molecular biology. I was someone who wrote off a career dream in forensic pathology because I couldn’t imagine taking the MCAT. But here I was choosing to take a test that involved math I haven’t studied in 10-15 years.


I realized something as I weighed the options…taking a test doesn’t have to be dreadful (surprise!). And I don’t have to keep living the same story I’ve lived most of my life – where I’m the girl who says no to things that matter because the journey looks too hard. Even in entrepreneurship – heck, even in college – I would see people who were willing to go the extra mile to get what they wanted. People who would stay up all night studying (I tried it for a few weeks, wasn’t worth it) or burn the midnight oil because their day’s list wasn’t done…working to the point of adrenal fatigue even! But in the end the got what they set out for…And I couldn’t understand it – how do they get themselves to do that? No I certainly don’t want health problems but I would like to be able to be productive after my kids are in bed. The struggle here is one of the reasons for lingering shame over my own business journey…yes my decisions make logical sense, but did I ever really go “all in”? How would it have turned out if I had?



Now I could go on listing all the complex pieces of those decisions or follow the trails of questions and predictions my mind takes when I read that last sentence but that would take me away from the point which is that while a GRE itself isn’t a significant part of going to graduate school, it was my first step in writing a new story. One where my goals are not short-circuited by my fear of failing. One where, with eyes open to the cost of this pursuit, I push all my chips in and maintain a thoughtful, intentional approach to success. I have no intention of shutting down my self-awareness and pushing to the point of exhaustion or relational stress. I do intend to use mindfulness to both take care of myself AND maintain a relentless pursuit of my goal.




With the rest of this post I want to look at what helped me push my test-anxiety to the side and perform well on the GRE. I’ve spent a good chunk of these last 6 years trying to understand stress and habit formation – I used it to write a program helping clients push through the struggle to change their bodies and I’ve used it in my own life to get closer to who I want to be. So here are a few principles that I applied as I prepared for my test:


Switching from fight-or-flight to thoughtful engagement

I grew up playing sports…eventually sticking with soccer as my primary pursuit. My team had all sorts of pre-game rituals to get us into the game-time mindset from music to drills to handshakes. Moments before the whistle blew to signal game on I would get my jitters out with one more personal ritual…nothing special, but it was my private agreement with myself to put my energy into the game. It was how I coped with anxiety…because it was always there, no matter how insignificant the game.


At the time I didn’t know that I was teaching myself to combat my fear by transforming it into a challenge response. While I didn’t receive much mental game training, I unconsciously habituated my body to engage in the problem causing the stress rather than run from it. Now, this was a very crude first attempt that didn’t really transfer itself into other areas of my life, but it gave me something to look back on when I came across Kelly McGonigal’s book The Upside of Stress.


It took me a long time to actually sign up for my test date. I was taking practice tests and setting score goals but fear was keeping me from actually solidifying game-day. When I finally did it, I had about 3 weeks to prepare. My mind started racing and I was tempted to do what I’d done throughout high school and college – study like a chicken with its head cut off. But the last several years have brought awareness to this tendency and a way to calm things down so I can approach the stressor with a level head.


The ability to step out of the fight-or-flight reaction of the brain is largely due to practice in slowing down. Some call it riding the cortisol wave (rather than getting pulled into the rip tide). As I would start to feel anxiety rise when I sat down to practice math I would feel the draw to distract myself with other things – or jump all over the place in an “I’m not enough” frenzy – but instead I treated it like I treated a soccer match. See the anxiety as normal, expected even, and channel it toward my work. In the last few days I worked through hundreds of math problems – including an entire GRE math review book – in the little pockets of time I had. The old me would’ve watched tv while telling herself she was studying (or that there was no point in practicing).


The effect: Stamina. I had a plan going in on how I would attack the test, and I had a plan for how to stay calm. Despite a time crunch I remained engaged throughout the entire test. I saw an increased mental endurance where my last section was just as focused (if not even more) as my first section. Previous experience told me to expect a dropping off – a growing disinterest in my performance as the 3.5 hours wore on.



Using my stress response to focus in on what mattered


Brain chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin serve a very important purpose. You wouldn’t intuitively know it based on our modern culture but they actually serve to focus our attention. They are involved in our pursuit of survival and help to highlight what we need or determine the focal point of a moment.


Imagine you’re sitting in a meeting or think back to your 10am college class – what happens when you realize you’re hungry? If you don’t attempt to override it, you will naturally start planning your next meal. You’ll envision the food you want to eat, where you’ll find it, how long it will take to get there, etc. That’s dopamine. Once you’ve determined a plan, you may even start to feel happier…yup, dopamine does that. It is released in the brain in anticipation of the reward.


Dopamine also plays a role in memory – which scientists believe was used to remember where food was found (or hidden). Nowadays these happy chemicals can get a little jacked up – the brain interprets stress the same whether we are getting yelled at by our boss or we are getting chased by a lion. This can mean we spend most of our day trying to “survive”, which tends to play out as putting a lot of energy into feeling good rather than what really needs our attention.


When we realize this tendency, we can start to use it to our advantage. When my kids are not listening and fighting at every turn my first response is to internalize the “I’m a failure” mantra. But that doesn’t really solve any problems, it instead puts my attention on feeling better about myself leading to disengagement from my family. Instead, with practice, I can override this reaction and choose a second response – to look at the needs of my kids, practice compassion, and choose to engage THEM, not just how I feel about them.


In preparing for the GRE there were endless opportunities to practice directing my attention to what needed to happen rather than get caught up in the shame gremlin storm. When it came down to test day, I was focused and ready – then I ran out of time on the first quantitative section. In the past this would have sent me into a panic on the next sections. But instead I was able to let go of what was now past and use the unavoidable brain chemical surges to prepare for the next thing.


Effect: Didn’t get caught up in my mistakes during practice – instead I gave my attention to understanding my errors + practicing more. During the test I didn’t let stress over previous sections hijack my attention.



Bringing my thoughts to WHY

I believe that I’ve spent most of my life letting fear be my reason why I do what I do. You could also call it a need for survival. In some cases maybe I could’ve told you my fear was driving me but for the most part, I think it’s our unconscious + automatic behavior as members of the animal kingdom.


“Know your why” is a popular phrase amongst business coaches, entrepreneurs, motivational speakers, etc. We like to blame our lack of knowing for why we get stuck, procrastinate, get moody, fail in our efforts, lose interest, fall off the wagon, and on and on.


Now in reality there are plenty of people in the world who have no idea why they do what they do (in an ultimate purpose sense). They make it by just fine. But they also probably don’t feel like they have much control over their emotional and mental state. Life is one deadline or needy person after another. They might feel compelled to serve, create, etc. but what actually helps them accomplish things is the external forces on their time and energy.


Charles Duhigg, in his newest book Smarter, Faster, Better, looks at what it takes to maintain motivation in the face of struggle (using Marines as one of his case studies) and identifies that answering their own why question helped them continue through perceived limits and struggle. There is something about manifesting an image of what matters most to you – perhaps the future you hope to bring to reality through your actions – that redirects your energy and attention to the present moment.


I have found this “why” question to be particularly useful when facing mundane or painful experiences. It reminds me that I have control over my mental state – to be frustrated by all the laundry or anxious over practice questions I struggle to answer is ultimately up to me. Like many people I am prone to disengagement when something feels uncertain. Almost especially when I realize it’s all up to me.


Effects: Envisioning what life might look like in the next 18 months and what lies beyond graduate school was a major contributor to staying emotionally involved in the process of studying. I think about graduate school every single day. Throughout my preparation I looked for ways to improve my thinking rather than simply memorizing or cramming. I see the reason behind this as taking control of the situation – rather than being enslaved to a test or the expectations of a university, I established my own terms. This made it easier to engage as it was not something being done TO me but BY me.



Remembering to breathe

I’ve written before about the “email apnea” hypothesis. Basically it is the observation that people tend to shorten or hold their breath when they are reading their email. Likely started in anticipation of stress, it can actually induce stress. If you start to notice that you become rage-y or anxious throughout the day it might be a good idea to look at how you approach your email, task list, etc.


I knew going into my test that I would be tempted to rush through. I’m usually a “get it over with” kind of girl. But that also tends to translate to holding my breath and just barely making it through alive. There are a few scheduled breaks – 60 seconds between sections and 10 minutes at the halfway point. My plan going in was to take all that time to recover and refocus. I would sit still, close my eyes, and take deep breaths for the entire minute.


Effect: I felt myself let go of whatever happened in the previous section and re-engage in the next. Almost like a small refreshment period I could re-imagine why I was sitting in that chair and I believe this is what helped me stay present and in game day mode.




I don’t expect that every person reading this is in the throes of a big test. It’s my hope that you can use these examples to think about and visualize what staying mindfully engaged in your goals might look like. It’s a mistake I often see in myself and in others to expect things to get easy at some point…nothing worth our obsession is easy. There is always a new level we can climb to in order to stimulate growth – and that requires pushing beyond our perceived limits.


I’d love to hear from you – how are your goals going? Are you seeing fruit from the above habits? Perhaps a different one? Are there any unexpected positive effects from your pursuit?



Also, if you’re not signed up for my email list you can do that here. Tomorrow I’ll be sending out a supplementary reading list on the brain chemistry / psychology of stress so if this topic has piqued your interest and you want to read more, I’ve got you covered!


Mindfulness and Cognitive Science Neurobiology and Behavior Raising Capable Kids

Why I quit my business

Back at the start of 2017 I went through a long process to uncover what this next year would look like. I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I kept working toward and what I value most were in conflict. After identifying the sources of my self-contention I made the decision to step out of the online business highway so I can live better aligned with my own values + my family. This post is to tell the story of that decision and what’s next over here at

Warning! The following content contains radical ideas such as: People should think; Empathy is addicting; And leveling up requires discomfort. Proceed at your own risk.


If we’re being entirely honest here, my story isn’t really the point. I want to disclose what I’m up to as I still intend to use this website but there are a handful of key principles that I think I’ll just lay right out:

  1. A willingness to let go of what you thought was true in the face of new [evidence-based] information is an invaluable skill.

  2. Your rate of success on reaching whatever goals you set for yourself largely hinges on 2 things: 1) how well you can make yourself do the stuff you don’t want to do and 2) how well you understand the system you’re working in…not on a specific [procedural] formula.

  3. A guru or expert will never be able to replace the role of you doing your own thinking…even if they claim they can. They can provide a framework for how to think about their domain. They can give you the working principles and the language. But you will still have work to do. If they claim otherwise, run away…They’ve spent their time on the wrong stuff and you’re not going to see sustainable change.

  4. The brain’s survival mechanism works against us in the above 3 points. Letting go of what we felt certain of, doing the stuff that’s hard + painful, relying on our own thinking…they all leave our brain screaming for happy chemicals. So we go running back to the “experts” or pick a new one since “that just didn’t work for us.” New = dopamine rush. Community = oxytocin rush. Both have the potential to keep us stuck.

  5. Community and empathy are great. But they don’t necessarily help you solve problems. So you may walk away from a webinar or girls night feeling all lit up and understood, but that doesn’t mean you now have what it takes to face your life tomorrow. The good feelings, however, can mask that reality and you’re back to square 1 trying to figure out why you still have low motivation, low follow-through, and no plan for how to change things.


Now is where I’ll go into a bit on life right now and what I’m working toward but that up there is the meat + potatoes. It’s what I’ve always wanted people to understand through my coaching. My frustration over how many women don’t seem to understand that you can’t talk about how you want to be fit/mindful/happy/successful and then keep thinking the same way you always have is part of what kept me in coaching…I wanted to do my part to bring change. But as you’ll read, I’ve chosen to let go of that as a “career” goal. It’s deeply rooted in who I am, no change there. But right now running a business around that is not what I’m going for. I think there is a better way to apply my passion and skills.


A final word as I dive in, where I’m at today is because I stopped resisting the reality of that list up there. I’m no more immune to survival brain as anyone else. So it’s my hope that in sharing some of the story you will have an example to think of as you seek to embrace them for yourself.


The original intent: January – May 2016

Originally I created to be my first step into coaching creative entrepreneurs on how to maintain their mental + emotional health while scaling their businesses. It was my transition from in-person personal training to online business. However, as I began I started to see there was a cost to that path that I wasn’t interested in paying. I don’t think details are all that important right now – I simply believe it’s my responsibility to continuously analyze how my current actions will affect the future. The future before me didn’t interest me enough to apply my energy in that direction and worse, my trying to force a fit was sucking energy away from my family. Self-contention will do that.


So on to the next idea: September – December 2016

I began interviewing women last Fall who were in positions that demanded a near-constant outpouring to other people. Teaching, Nursing, Ministry, Motherhood, etc. I wanted a better picture of where these types of women were getting stuck and how to come alongside them using my experience in wellness and my interest in high performance living. I assumed developing a coaching program would be the next step. And I was certainly moving in that direction, taking a course on marketing and reading up on programming methods.

But yet again, as the New Year approached and I started thinking about goals, I looked at what I could have accomplished by 2018 with my current path and I was just not interested. Somewhere along the way my trajectory was getting pushed off target. It was frustrating, to say the least. I could identify my hang ups but the glaring question of what to do with this passion of mine made me uncomfortable. [I’m sure I’ll look back at those journal pages and laugh one day.] So I did what I’ve learned to do when things don’t feel (or look) right – I pressed pause. Midway through an email sequence with my subscribers introducing them to new services. After already taking on my first beta coaching client. Talk about a rush of cortisol. But cortisol always subsides eventually and my priority was to understand the self-contention I was experiencing so whatever direction I went in would get my best effort. I didn’t want to go searching for a new idea that would send  my dopamine surging…the “crash” after was too familiar: Hustle, hustle, hustle. Experience exorbitant amounts of self-doubt, anger toward my family, and soon-to-follow emotional flatness / depression. I couldn’t do it again. There was something off and I had to get to the root cause.

Warning: I’m about to get on my soap box.

Pressing pause helped me learn something important about myself. Or more accurately, helped me stop denying something about myself: I don’t want to help people obsess over their health. And I definitely don’t want to enable people to stay stuck.

The marketing course I was taking stopped me in my tracks as it described the kinds of businesses that are especially successful: Businesses that teach people about money, relationships, health, and spirituality. [All major shame triggers.]

Get clients addicted to your content then profit off their cortisol/dopamine fluxes.

Now is that what everyone is consciously doing? No, of course not. I have no doubt there are many who are actively trying to help people overcome obstacles and encourage them to think for themselves. I would argue they tend to be found on a different level (and that what looks like helping is actually not). Overall, you are being promised something, and perhaps you get a taste, but for the majority, all it really ends up being is enough dopamine to tide you over until you get stuck again…you haven’t gained any real new insight into how to solve your own problem. Instead you’ve created a habit loop that tells you to go running to these “experts” every time you feel uncomfortable.

People are addicted to encouragement, quick fixes, shiny objects, over-spiritualized nonsense, and survival-based language that puts up the brain’s panic antennae and induces stress (the stupid-waste-of-time kind). The system actively inhibits a person’s ability to truly move forward in their lives. Instead it encourages obsession over the stuff that should be the background of our lives…the food we eat, our clothing brand, if we sweated enough, if we ate too much, if our self-doubt and anxiety is a sign of not enough prayer/grace/dependence/surrender, etc!

I get that people want examples and they want empathy. But empathy is also addicting. You don’t need 100 strangers empathizing with your self-doubt or #adulting struggles. You need to turn your brain on, learn how to learn (which is more than reading obsessively, btw), get curious, and expect yourself to do more with your life than live on survival-mode repeat. Which is what the majority of people are doing. Yes, even if you consider yourself “woke.”

You don’t need another person telling you how to meal plan or giving you 10 more jumping jack variations (#stopit). All the choices are eroding your confidence + hijacking your brain’s ability to think critically.

I see people blindly following “experts” (don’t get me started), demanding to know the brand of their leggings, exact meal ingredients, and how they got their hair to do that….as if morphing their exterior into this other person will restore confidence and purpose to their lives. They are caught on loop – try one thing, works a little, see people doing something else, get anxious over “doing it wrong”, try new thing, repeat.


My years steeped in the science community have integrated into my way of thinking well enough that I can’t willingly participate. I just can’t hand you a quick “superfood” recipe, sprinkle some happy dust, and send you on your way. But “it’s more complex than that!” and “it may take years!” and “the things you believe are probably wrong!” and “you’re going to have to get really uncomfortable!” don’t market very well on their own. They intrigue a small percentage of people who are sincerely pursuing high performance and accomplishment in their domain. So to continue in the direction I was going would require that I either choose to alter my values (and my priority scheme) or dissolve the goal.


So what am I doing now?

Surprise! I dissolved the goal.

My current path began with a question I’ve asked multiple times (in slight variations) at this point. “What if I took coaching off the table.”*

[*The past few years of business iteration (and motherhood) have afforded me ample opportunities to practice abandoning ideas or flipping the way I see something. As I grow in my ability to analyze and predict how a situation will play out I also see a growing openness to paradigm-shifting information. A much-welcomed skill.]

Taking coaching off the table allowed me to then consider what best aligns with my family and with my desired growth trajectory. I don’t want to participate in the deep rut of the current system. It’s not good for my own life (I feel the tug toward “quick fix” just as strongly as anyone) and it’s physically painful to see women miss the point over and over again. Seriously – anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension, etc have all decreased substantially as I’ve released my grip on trying to force my methods into the current wellness climate.

Instead I’m returning to what I’ve always wanted to do but had stopped letting myself consider it (while in the SAHM-entrepreneur box). I’m in process for starting work on my PhD in Fall 2018.


Now we have reached present day.

I’m in the process of preparing my application for PhD programs in molecular biology** – studying for the GRE, refreshing my mind on the basics as well as exploring where research is at right now in my desired domain, making my list of schools to apply to, etc. And I’ll tell you, it’s not easy to step back in to this field after so many years away but, despite an increased amount of discomfort + uncertainty, staying focused on the goal has felt effortless in comparison to what I experienced trying to wedge my way into the wellness industry. It’s been 6 months of consistent growth + attention to what matters most to me.

[**If you know my motherhood story then you probably know that I had already finished applying to PhD programs when I found out I was pregnant. I received an invitation to interview at the U of M a mere two days after I took a positive pregnancy test.]

When I tell people about grad school their typical next question is what will I do with the kids…will we put them in school? And the answer is that we still intend to homeschool. Knowing that I am going to be dramatically increasing my load, I’m using these next 15 months or so to systematize our home life. Coming to grips with the brevity of my remaining time as a full-time SAHM has given me a new perspective on our current arrangement. I’m diving in deep to fully enjoy this waning season with my kids and working hard to prepare all of us for what is coming.


So then what is happening with

I mentioned above that trying to influence the current system from where I’m at right now doesn’t work. I also mentioned that I’m not immune to the siren call of quick fixes and ample empathy. So as I tune my ears to the sweeter song I intend to keep writing. About what? I will maintain this site on a more personal level. Documenting what we’re doing to prepare for the next season and providing insightful information to you as you seek to improve your own environment. My hope is that I can provide an example (not a step-by-step blueprint) to living intentionally in the direction of real accomplishment.

Namely, I expect there will be articles related to my various personal aims in the following sub-identities:

  • wife + mom seeking to provide a good environment for my family as we learn, grow, work, and rest together.
  • athlete seeking ways to push my body + mind for the goal of being as fit as I can within my current constraints (I subscribe to the Crossfit approach to defining “fitness”).
  • aspiring homesteader cooking 90-95% of our meals at home (active on Pinterest but also making my own recipes as I experiment), developing my gardening skills, and always looking for ways to increase the quality of what we produce + consume.
  • woman who has struggled with mental health issues since the 6th grade – I’m seeking to better understand my body + mind across scientific domains so I can cultivate habits that bring mental clarity, energy, self-awareness, emotional balance, etc.


These articles will be written for the purpose of consolidating my own understanding and passing along a more synthesized look at various topics. There will also be the more nitty-gritty posts about systematizing our home life – self care, nutrition, movement, homeschooling routines, etc. As per the above rant you can expect that my writing invites you to think critically about your own life and environment. I write so you can walk away actually being equipped to think about your problem effectively + take action…not so you can blindly copy what I did and not know what to do the next time you get stuck.

My previous few blog posts provide a taste of what I expect to produce. If you’d like to keep in touch, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. I’ll be resurrecting it in the next few weeks (after my GRE test date) to provide reading lists and a more personal approach to helping you grow (I can’t help it…). That is also where I’ll be best available to answer questions or chat about your own aims.
If you don’t yet follow me on Instagram, I play around a lot with Stories to document our day to day life and sometimes talk about things that are on my mind.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Science Neurobiology and Behavior Nutrition and Meal Prep Self Care

How to have a happy holiday

The holiday season is not a black hole. It’s not the proverbial Vegas where anything goes and we’ll just pretend it didn’t happen. But we kinda pretend it is, don’t we? Things like nutrition, movement, and good connections often get pushed aside as we work really hard to enjoy the season. How’s that for paradox.

As if personal life wasn’t enough, five years of marriage to an entrepreneur + running my own business has taught me something else about holiday season: Mid-November through December is always a battle. There’s a lot to do week-to-week and that doesn’t just stop because we got the perfect snowfall or there are Christmas movies that need watching.

So things like nutrition are thrown off but the need to perform remains the same (or is perhaps even raised since available time decreases). Nutrition and human connection are vital assets of quality performance – giving you energy, focus, mental clarity, and stamina. Poor nutrition choices can not only leave you feeling “blah” but also set you up for being down & out in the aftermath. So how do we make this work?

Or perhaps the better question, how do we use the holiday season to our advantage – strengthening the relationships that keep us grounded, celebrating the big and small of the year, and throwing love and hope around like confetti? All of which serve us and our community in the long run but often get stifled by the poor habits that come out when family, food, and stuff enter the picture.

We all want time with our family and friends to feel happy and meaningful. Perhaps overeating and little squabbles feel like a part of the package - but they don't have to be. Here are 12 ways to be mindful during your holiday season and a happier and healthier you. Read more:

So how DO we make this work??

We prepare, my friend.

This post is going to be full of lists. And that’s because it’s going to be full of tools for you to take with you on your holiday vacation, your office party, your neighbor’s open house, New Year’s, and beyond.

To start, let’s set our intention for the holiday season:

  • I will not overstimulate my mind + body with excessive decisions. I will prepare now so I can be present + engaged then.
  • I will use this extra time with friends + family to foster deep connection. I will choose my people over food, comfort, activity, etc.
  • If time with family is usually difficult: I will intentionally spend time with people who love + support me [from grocery shopping to laundry folding to a small holiday party] so I can go into family events anchored to truth even as the tensions rise.

Next list. Here’s what I know about the holidays:

[Getting a handle on the common pitfalls and weak points can help us know where to focus our energy for best results.]

  1. Nostalgia is exciting — and comfortable. We love comfortable and it very quickly becomes the unseen goal of the season if we are not careful.
  2. Food gets a lot of attention. Planning meals for 30 people for 4 days will do that! Unfortunately that leaves many people with guilt, shame, frustration instead of joy.
  3. Scarcity mindset runs rampant – holiday favorites from food to movies to activities, we want it all right now before it’s too late. It becomes an excuse to eat way past full – we lose our minds trying to take it all in [quick!].
  4. Family time dregs up all sorts of memories we want to forget driving us toward our usual numbing habits to stifle connection and sterilize the environment. Social media, sarcasm, overly competitive, food, drink, vegging out, passive aggression, perfectionism – we armor up and coast through at surface level.

It doesn’t have to be that way. So to help you I’ve compiled my best strategies for staying mindful and optimizing for connection during social gatherings. This is straight out of the nutrition portion of my coaching program where I help women establish a habit of moderation in all circumstances.

To begin, here are 6 ways to prepare for successful holiday gatherings:

  1. Picture the people you will see, think about how you want them to feel during the holidays, and especially after they spend time with you. Hold that image in your mind and compare it to eating your favorite dessert or dish – mentally remind yourself that people > food.
  2. Practice mindful meditation – take 10-20 minutes to focus in on your breath, letting thoughts and emotions pass you by. Tuning in to the present will help bring awareness to your decisions and your behavior — your best shot at avoiding old habit pathways. If you’re new to mindful meditation, the free app Headspace has a 10 day intro. Apps Calm and Insight Timer also have lots of free + short meditations.
  3. Prepare a few meaningful questions to ask the people you sit with at dinner or while you’re sitting around or playing games. Especially during meals, having a conversation about an adventure you want to take in the new year or a habit you want to develop can help everyone stay more present and eat slower. Now you’re getting real connection AND you’re more likely to stop eating when you feel satisfied.
  4. Meditate on an abundance mantra as you drive to your event. “I am satisfied”, “I have enough”, “My life is full of blessings”. Focusing your attention on contentment and satisfaction can help you stay sober-minded about food or other habits you have when you’re feeling rushed or not enough.
  5. Alternatively, play a game in the car of naming as many things you’re truly, deeply grateful for as you can. Go 2-4 layers deeper than “my car” or “my family.” Get really specific and say WHY.
  6. Finally, and this is really practical, if it’s an evening event – like a work party or neighborhood party – eat a small meal beforehand. A bowl of soup or chili to take the edge off your hunger. It will be easier to be selective about what you choose to eat if you’ve already gotten some protein + fat in your system. [Also, drink plenty of water.]

To wrap up our holiday lists, here are 6 ways to stay mindful while you are at your holiday gatherings:

  1. If you have a past of restrictive dieting, don’t tell yourself an outright “no” about anything. You are more likely to hyperfocus on it. Instead, I’ve got a couple of guidelines to help you enjoy in moderation:
  2. Neghar Fonooni’s 1st bite rule: Every bite should be as good as the first. As soon as it no longer does, choose to be done. (This means you are paying attention to + tasting every bite). This goes for all kinds of food or drink.
  3. Jill Coleman’s 3-bite rule: When it comes to dessert, take 3 bites and move on. Skip the part where you say “I could never do that!” I promise you can. It will take practice, of course, but you’re bound to have plenty of opportunities in the next few weeks.
  4. Avoid filling your plate full, even for meals. Take small portions and take a break between helpings. Give yourself space to start digesting and make a mindful decision about what you will eat. Remember: it might feel like this is the only time you can eat mashed potatoes, but it really isn’t. You can make them (or buy them) any day of the week.
  5. Make a personal game of telling as many people as you can 1-2 things you like about them specifically or why you are thankful for them.
  6. Lastly, remember that the mind plays tricks (not on purpose…): we have a harder time saying “no” to colorful food – use it to your advantage with vegetables and beware with Christmas cookies. Also, your brain will try to tell you that food (or Instagram) will help you feel less awkward/lonely/uncomfortable. It won’t.


These strategies are designed to pull your attention into the present moment to maximize human connection while minimizing poor nutrition choices. If you can increase the quality of your holiday gatherings, you will return to your work engaged, inspired, and ready to face new problems.

I so deeply hope your holiday season is filled to the brim with connection and meaning. But I know that is hard to come by so these strategies are my gift to you so you can have moments that are filled to the brim. May this be a time when you forego assumptions or putting on a face that garners praise in exchange for real human connection that will take you further into the New Year than anything else.

Mindfulness and Cognitive Science Neurobiology and Behavior Self Care

16 signs you’re nearing burnout

Does it sometimes feel like you have to hit bottom before you can really change? You can see the warning signs…the negative effects of overcommitting yourself are probably pretty predictable. But how do you take action now? (As opposed to when your body forces you to or when the next break gets here).

Burnout often happens in a cyclical fashion. With unsustainable habits it’s always just a matter of time before your tank dwindles down to empty again. But it’s difficult to make changes to those habits when it feels like you have to choose between having fun and sustainable energy.


Burn out can be difficult to recognize >> we've acclimated ourselves to a lower level of wellness. As if uncontrolled eating or constant overwhelm is the "normal" we must accept. Learn 16 signs you're habits are unsustainable PLUS 3 steps to start making changes. Read more at


Hold up, do we really have to choose between FUN and WELL? Screw that. I think the choice lies elsewhere, in fact, I demand it lie elsewhere. We just might have to dig a little bit to find it.

Recognizing the patterns

The cool thing about habits is that they can be easy to spot. Trigger >> routine >> reward. It’s always the same pattern. And your patterns, though unique to you, are also easy to spot. You just have to be looking. I’ve compiled a list of common signs of burnout. These physical, mental, emotional, relational behaviors signal you’re reaching the breaking point where your system (being your life) can no longer withstand the stress of the environment. You’re a bridge just waiting to collapse.

Signs you’re approaching burnout (based on research + personal experience):

  1. Trouble sleeping / falling asleep
  2. Tension in back + shoulders
  3. Headaches
  4. Hard time waking up in the morning (even after a full night’s sleep)
  5. Lack of interest in normal activities
  6. Low energy
  7. Trouble focusing / easily distracted
  8. Trouble regulating behavior (outbursts, losing chunks of time to scrolling social media, unable to stop eating or turn off the tv)
  9. Reversion to “default” behaviors (previous transformations start to unravel)
  10. Easily overwhelmed
  11. Down / depressed mood
  12. Easily frustrated
  13. Prone to ruminating on interactions with others
  14. Crying more than usual
  15. Trouble identifying “why” you feel sad, angry, tired, etc.
  16. Pulling away from friends / family

And I’m certain I’ve missed some.

Now if you’re experiencing these “symptoms”, there is no need to panic. This is a diagnosis or anything like that. My hope is that by looking at this list you will see that some of the things you do that are just a “normal part of life” are actually signs that you aren’t handling the stress you’re under well.

See, it’s not a choice between “fun” and “well” – it’s the decision to raise the bar on what fun really is.

Take action

Don’t let this be something that becomes “oh that’s interesting” and on you go. Choose right now to set a higher standard for the “fun” you let in your life.

The greater the responsibility you have to perform at your best, the more resolute you must be in your standard for wellness. From your nutrition to your free time, the stuff you do needs to set you up for better performance. Your classroom, your clients, your patients – they need you operating at your capability. Which means they need you well, not the bare minimum of “functional.”

  1. Take time to write down your personal signs of declining wellness and what you currently do to cope with it — scrolling, tv, declining invites, dessert, hyper-cleaning or organizing, etc
  2. Choose one of your go-to habits for coping with stress and get curious about it. Every time you see yourself doing it or feeling the compulsion, ask yourself why that might be happening and observe does this actually make me feel how I want to feel? Am I really getting what I’m looking for?
  3. Develop a routine or ritual to go through when it’s been a long day – something that will help you feel the way you really want to feel. Read more about this step here.
Neurobiology and Behavior Raising Capable Kids Self Care

How to transition from work to home

Life doesn’t stop just because you chose to pursue wellness. In fact, trying to maintain momentum during the busier times of life can often feel like the hardest part, right? Your wellness journey does not exist in a vacuum where you have ample energy, time, and resources to devote to your goal. Instead, you have to apply strategies to ensure that even on the longest days you aren’t defaulting back to where you began.

One such strategy is to focus your efforts on the places that will do the most work. You could heave a giant boulder by pushing on it with all your might or you could use a pole and apply leverage. Which would you rather do after a long day?


Are you tired of setting goals only to abandon them after a long day or a long week? It doesn't have to happen like that. Read on for strategies to help you transition from work to home PLUS a free guide containing 8 steps to RECLAIMING your evening after a long day. Read more:


My guess is you’d prefer to use leverage. And today we’re going to talk about a huge way you can leverage your efforts for more effective action even in the midst of a full season. Because here’s the thing: If you wait until life “slows down” then you will likely never actually give your wellness the attention it needs…and you will end up on the burnout cycle over and over again.

Transitions provide space for escaping survival mode

As a mom I have learned the importance of transitions – of helping my kids move from good morning snuggles to breakfast to getting ready to leave the house, etc. When I apply my energy to helping them transition I am helping them move on to the next portion of our day with purpose rather than an aimless wandering.

I have to do the same for myself too. Without attention to the transition between putting the kids to bed and the rest of my evening, I end up scrolling on my phone instead of reading the book I was planning on.

Routine comes in handy during transitions.

As a routine becomes a habit it becomes automatic. My brain comes to expect it so I can skip over the “what should I do now?” and go right into my routine. All the actions that form my routine are grouped together – so instead of needing the willpower to do each individual thing, I complete a series of tasks.

For instance, a routine you might already have is to check social media when you wake up. You don’t have to tell yourself to go from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to Email. You follow the steps automatically.

What if we used that to help you set a higher standard for your wellness on a day-to-day basis?

The evening transition from work to home is a very important transition. If you work all day it is likely the only time you have to do things outside of your job. But how often does a long day lead to eating whatever is easy in the fridge, skipping the workout you intended, and sitting on the couch the rest of the evening?

I know. Happens to me too.

In fact it’s one of the phrases I hear tossed around the most whether online or in person. It’s hard to do more than stare at the wall or binge watch Netflix.

Honestly? It’s so common we turn it into a verb and make jokes about it.

Heck, it’s so common Hulu uses it in its advertising! And we just smile + nod, “yes I do need Hulu Plus so I can binge watch tv instead of doing something valuable with my time.”

To be clear, “valuable” is not working overtime on your couch. I actually mean carving out real time to do the things you say you want to do – like learning a new song on the guitar or coloring in one of those books you bought 6 months ago or finally having that girls night. Those activities are highly valuable for rejuvenating your mind and spirit. They serve to help you become the person you wish you were.



So how, then, do you transition from work to evening?

An effective transition routine is going to involve attention to three parts: your body, your mind, and your connections.

Let’s dig deeper:

How to help your body transition

Give your brain time to catch up – by zoning out.

All throughout the day you were taking in new information and your brain was trying to process it. This includes how events or people made you feel and your personal thoughts on a new project or team member. At the end of the work day, your brain needs to catch up. The tendency however, is to fill space with a screen of some kind. This ramps up the stimulation – overloading the brain. You need to stare out the window or walk in circles around your yard – just don’t try to direct your thoughts anywhere. No meditating or focus. Just let your mind go. (this takes practice).

Respond to physical needs: hydration, nutrient-dense foods, and restorative movement.

Drinking water and eating a good meal – whether it’s a snack right when you get home or if you go right into dinner preparations – will revive your body. The lull you feel after work might seem like it requires a boost of caffeine or sugar but between letting your brain catch up and nourishing your body, you will experience a revival. Note: if you don’t, you actually might need a power nap.

Restorative movement includes things like yoga, stretching, or a walk around the neighborhood. After a day of sitting it’s important to bring alignment back to your body and increase blood flow.

Finally, you might opt for a harder form of exercise

Rigorous movement can serve an important purpose in expelling pent up emotion and stress. Rather than wasting energy mulling over workplace drama or social media posts do some sprints, a quick kettlebell routine, or hit a punching bag. Trust my experience – it feels amazing. And you’ll walk into your evening feelings more powerful and alert.

How to help your mind transition

A mental download can help you clear the slate from the day’s problems or worries.

Perhaps after zoning out you realize you have a conflict you need to think through, verbal or written processing can help you determine a course of action and move on.

Schedule (or eliminate) tasks that didn’t get accomplished today.

Don’t let unfinished work hang over your head. It can lead to numbing behaviors or agitation toward others if it is allowed to go unchecked. Let this time also serve to redirect your focus. Is the task relevant to your priorities? Can it be saved for later? Can it be passed off? Why do you keep avoiding it? Can it be broken down into more actionable steps? Sorting through your list can save you time and energy later.

Finally, write down your plan for tomorrow

Include any preset appointments, the big tasks you need to get done, and any self-care you plan to do (exercise, time with friends, etc). This is a must-do item. Having a plan for tomorrow is a major way you can keep the stress of today from carrying over into the morning.

How to build connections

Re-establishing a connection with your own purpose and your important relationships is essential to recovering from stress. You are free to make decisions and spend your time in a way that aligns with who you really are and who you want to be when you are connected.

  1. Do a short check-in with yourself
  2. Celebrate the ways you stayed on track or moved forward in your goals
  3. Spend time doing creative expression – color, cook, read a favorite book, write for fun
  4. Remind yourself that you aren’t alone by reaching out to a friend.This is more than fishing for encouraging words or compliments, it’s an opportunity to get a new perspective. It’s valuable to pick your head up and see what’s going on outside of your own life – beyond what someone chose to publish on Facebook for the day.
  5. Encourage someone else.Whether you write a note, send a text, or make a phone call, choose to be what you want others to be for you. Refuse to isolate yourself from the burdens of others and instead remind them that YOU are there for THEM. Because we’re all in this together.

Making this YOURS involves experimentation.

No need to try to do everything at once (or ever), as you get to know your own needs you will start to see what is most valuable in helping you transition from a long day at work to an intentional evening. The most important piece is that you refuse to accept a dud evening as normal. Might still happen occasionally (I recommend going to bed early then) but you can still raise your baseline. This isn’t a step away from grace for yourself after a long day, it actually shows greater self-love when you refuse to let the stress of today carry over into tomorrow.

What to do next:

Click the image below to get this blog post in step-by-step format. You’ll also be signed up for the Lab Notes Community where we do things a little differently. I’m not going to fill your inbox with fluff – we’re going to work together to move you toward your goals and shift you into action. Click below and get your first taste of survival mode freedom.