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.





Self Care

Taking responsibility: self-care

If you’ve been with me for the last year you might already know this but I define self-care in a special way:


self-care is the action you take to prepare yourself to keep going


After living in survival mode [as a new mom working the opening shift at Starbucks while my husband worked side jobs + started his business] I came to realize that the urge I felt for a break…that itching sensation that felt like it would only be satisfied by a whole day of silence…was my body and mind calling for a change in habits. Fast forward 4 years later and while we’re no longer a family of ships passing in the night, life is still pretty full. And self-care has evolved into a philosophy.


Self-care is more than how you pamper's a way to think about our daily actions from our work environment to how we play. Read more:


If you’re anything like me you’re not a huge fan of the damsel in distress storyline. But often our habits as women who are constantly pouring out is to run ourselves so deep into the ground we need someone to reach down and save us. We need someone else to recognize our desperate state – to look past our crabby face and unwashed hair – and give us permission to sign out for a day [or 10].


The problem is that getting to that point – where you can’t speak a kind word and all you can think about is how badly you need a break – is a lagging indicator. Meaning it’s one of the last symptoms of your overstressed system. Like a heart attack or arthritis, we’ve missed the opportunities to avert disaster and the compounding effects of our behavior (and systemic failures) have chosen our course.


I can’t tell you for certain what your first symptoms are – I’m not sure I even know mine yet. But I know that [for me] a symptom that is somewhere in the middle is looking at my phone at any moment of silence. Or when I can’t imagine picking up a nonfiction book to read. If I get to the point where I can’t laugh at my kids’ antics I’ve gone too far and immediate action must be taken.


Our jobs as mothers, project managers, bosses, teachers, employees, caregivers, sisters, friends, etc is three-fold:


Bring awareness to the earlier signs burnout

I wrote a post on signs of burnout a while back to get you started. Awareness builds with questions – asking why we might be doing something and getting curious about the chain of events. Taking the opportunity to look into ourselves in order to understand our truest motivations can tune our attention to notice when things are out of sorts. The sooner we can detect stress, the easier it will be to give our minds and bodies the care they need. It will also become more apparent what behaviors need to find their way into your everyday life.


For example: Play is an essential part of my daily life. Not necessarily getting down and playing whatever pretend game my kids think up but getting out of my head and into my body is extremely therapeutic. So much so I’ve ceased to see it as optional. Similarly, morning yoga + journaling is a habit I’ve been working on re-establishing for the last month as I’ve seen the positive effects in externalizing my thoughts on a topic and letting it guide a personal exploration (and the negative of not doing it).


Choose to break the cycle – developing a plan of action for recovering so we can keep going


It is not enough to be aware of your symptoms. You have to choose to take action. But here’s the thing – even ugly habits like rage, lethargy, or workaholism came to be for a reason…they feel good on a chemical level. Really, in terms of biology, there isn’t much difference between anger, sadness, or joy. They each raise your heart rate, narrow your focus, increase your breathing rate, etc. It’s the fixation that tends to be different. You must learn to change how you think about these states of being so you can take action even when, in the moment, you don’t really feel like it.


The best strategy I’ve encountered in regard to disrupting the habit pathway for these habits that perpetuate fatigue, negative affect, lack of motivation, self-doubt, etc. on a daily basis can be found in my free guide on reclaiming your evenings. I wrote it specifically for recovering from a long day at work (and avoiding the slippery slope of throwing away your time on habits that don’t serve you like mindless scrolling, crappy food, and netflix bingeing) but the strategies can be implemented at any point in a day to break you out of autopilot and use your time more mindfully for recovery and satisfaction.



Keep a weather-eye on the horizon for the emotional and mental struggles that can short-circuit our efforts and put us right over the edge (think shame triggers, loneliness, deadlines, etc)


In the past few weeks my family and I have enjoyed a bit of vacation. My entire family got together at my parents house for around 5 days then we were in Brainerd for the 4th living the lake life for a few days. Finally, we had my sister + her kids at my house for 4 days. It was a wonderful time. But as it came to a close I knew I had to be on the lookout for the kind of hangover that can come after an extended amount of time with extra people – lethargy, loneliness, and the mind-body confusion of being out of routines.


Think of the various things that put extra stress on your system – events that may sneak in some emotional disruptions (like swimsuit season? Seeing vacation pictures on social media? Spending a lot of time with family? Or heck, your monthly cycle?).


When you can predict these additional stressors and either side-step them (because you don’t have to look through 300 pictures from her Hawaii vacation, right?) or mindfully move through them (celebrating the time you spent with family while also experiencing the grief of saying goodbye), you are keeping things like burnout from sneaking up on you.


Looking into the future and simulating how various life events that are coming and not necessarily within your control is some serious self-care. We have the foresight function, so use it. You don’t need to be thrown into survival mode every time your mother-in-law comes to stay. Predict the stress, determine a plan for coping effectively, and practice mindfulness all the way through.


Finally, what’s makes an action “self-care”? Let’s look at some examples…

  • House cleaning:
    → Using it to stay rooted in your body, focusing entirely on your breath and your movement.

    → Using it to zone out and let your mind recover while you think about nothing in particular and scrub the dishes/fold laundry.

    → Using it to direct your attention to gratitude, compassion, or introspection (how am I feeling? Why might that be?).

  • Exercise:
    → Rooting yourself in your body (as above), focusing your attention on muscle contraction and lengthening, your breath, etc.

    → Practicing mental toughness as you push through the cardiac and muscular distress.

    → Using movement to release false stories and bring in truth.

    → Zoning out (as above) and just enjoying the feeling and sounds of a pounding heart.
  • Time outside:
    → Use a hike, a run, a walk, or a bike ride to either zone out or contemplate a new perspective.

    → Play a sport with friends, connecting over movement and experiencing a lighter side of life together.

    → Just sit and watch the birds go about their work.
  • Intentional, engaged conversation with friends
  • Cooking good food and staying present throughout entire meal
  • Journaling through issues + searching for the information you’re missing as you try to find a solution.
  • Reading a good book (trips to the library are my favorite).
  • Trying something new with a friend (get out of a rut, initiate some forward momentum).


What is NOT self-care?

  • Using any of the above as opportunities to ruminate on disatisfaction, comparisons, past hurts, regrets, etc.
  • Going through the motions without engaging your mind + body — journaling to externalize your heart + mind while also checking your phone every couple of minutes is not gonna do the work you claim to be looking for.
  • Disengaging from the moment to numb out the stress of the day (eating past satiety, making a movie or show about pretending the day didn’t happen, drinking in excess)
  • Using time with friends/loved ones to dump your stress on them in an effort to relieve the building tension in your heart + mind.
  • Turning play into over-the-top competition (your worth is not in proving you are better than someone else)
  • Avoiding vulnerability as you spend time by yourself or with others
  • Avoiding time with other people because you don’t want to have to practice compassion for them when they are struggling too.
  • Trying to escape your real life instead of engaging problems head on.


Only you can determine if you are cleaning your house out of a perfectionist mindset or one of calm gratitude and autonomy. A good rule of thumb is to look at how you feel afterward – ready to engage or still clamouring for relief from negative emotions? Finally, one question you might consider is: what is your first reaction when negative emotions arise? That is most likely what your brain has habituated for escaping uncertainty/vulnerability. This doesn’t mean that if house cleaning has long been an escape you now ditch it entirely, but practice going into it mindfully and choose to not run immediately for the duster when you see negative emotions come up. Leave space for the cortisol to ebb and flow, then make an intentional decision about what is actually going to help. Cleaning can come at a different time.


Wrap up questions for you:


  • Which of the 3 responsibilities is the most difficult for you to embrace?
  • Have you encountered any tell-tale signs that you’re trying to get relief through numbing or withdrawing techniques?
  • What forms of self-care have been most effective in helping you step deeper into your life?


I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Mindfulness and Cognitive Science Self Care

How to install rituals into your everyday life

Everyday life is full of routines. Mind-numbing routines, sometimes? Don’t you think it’s about time we make those routines do work for us? What if folding laundry was more than getting your clean clothes into your drawers or washing dishes more than a clean kitchen? I honestly believe it is this practice of transforming routines >> rituals that allows me to a) get my house work done in less time, b) actually enjoy it?! and c) feel ready to do my most important work for the day.




When I first stepped into the wellness industry, back in 2010, I came through the door of bodybuilding. I’ve never done a competition but it was a thought at one point and I’m not a stranger to those kinds of workouts / meal plans. I’m very grateful for that introduction – I gained strength and muscle mass quickly, which kept me motivated and inspired me to keep learning. Plus it was a good match for my body type. It still plays an important role in how I choose to fuel + move my body [And I’m pretty damn proud of the body I’ve built] But it (like most things) has its downsides.


When I became a mom and chose to pursue being a personal trainer, I started to look at the industry from more of a removed point of view and was startled by it. “How does anybody live a “real life” while pursuing health goals?” I asked. Because what I could see is that once you converted to a “healthy lifestyle,” you became obsessed…and it became a part of your identity, from your way to make money to what your friends know you as.


Now granted, filtering has a lot to do with my perception. I’ve no doubt there are plenty of women who came before me, saw the same trends, and chose a different route, while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But with social media, it was easy to feel like I had to make this all-or-nothing choice: either I’m a fitness girl [ruled by workouts and meal prep], or I’m just a regular jane [always wishing to be healthier but never having the time].


That does not have to be the choice, my friend.


This is why I so heavily emphasize the USE of wellness. Not as the be-all, end-all of life but a vital tool. Every bit of “everyday life” can be used to restore energy, cultivate curiosity, and release the toxins that threaten to distract our minds + bodies from doing good work.

So today I’m going to walk you through how to be more intentional with these everyday moments – how to use them to center your mind, release negative thoughts/emotions, and bring your attention back to what matters – so you can walk into your work ready to dig deep and solve whatever problem comes your way.


It’s likely you’ve heard of the concept of a ritual. It conjures up mental images of ceremony…sacredness. I’ve experienced it in church, my college fraternity, and before every soccer game.


A ritual, when boiled down, is a habit loop. Some kind of cue sets off a chain of actions that results in a reward. The difference between a ritual and a routine (also a habit loop) is the mental component.


Routines + rituals are important for gaining new habits…they are raised up by any given health coach as the way to eat better, work out more consistently, and the reason all that is so hard to begin with. Routines and rituals are slightly different from each other. Routines involve autopilot – we back out of our driveways the same way every time, without thinking about it. There isn’t much “intention” behind it. But a ritual draws our minds + hearts to a focal point and is, then, a tool for bringing the mind out of autopilot and into mindful living.


Transforming routines into rituals is a pathway to living your everyday life more intentionally.

Whether you work at home or an office, care for kids or live alone, there are some tasks that are common between us. Activities such as laundry, brushing your teeth, and cleaning up your kitchen are prime opportunities for infusing your day with more mindful action.

Guidelines for rituals:

  • Have a baseline (most important, bare minimum)
    If your morning ritual lasts 2 hours and you wake up late, it’s more likely you will skip everything. However, if instead you know what the most important elements are, you can trim the fat when necessary without losing the effect of the ritual.
  • Start with 1 at a time
    It’s great to have an evening ritual, morning ritual, and little pockets of mindful action throughout the day. But setting it all up at once is going to overload your brain. Choose one, give it some time to settle in, then begin to work on another. I recommend starting with your evening ritual first because when that is in place it becomes easier to start waking on that little bit sooner to have a more intentional morning before work/kids.
  • Know why you’re doing it
    If you don’t have a reason to wake up an hour earlier than you need to be ready for work, you will hit snooze.
  • Check in + evaluate progress
    It’s not enough to enact a ritual, you need to know if it is doing its job. Evaluating weekly, monthly, and even quarterly if you are seeing the results you want.
  • Cut it out if it’s not giving results
    Trying to do too many things before your kids wake up? Green smoothie habit not feeling worth the effort? Gym too far from home? Don’t force things that aren’t working, or worse, are causing unneeded problems. Of course you can assess your expectations and try to problem solve. (For example, green smoothies don’t have to have a bunch of fancy ingredients to give you extra servings of veggies + an energy boost). But just because you start something doesn’t mean you have to keep it.
  • Tie together a physical action with the mental care
    This is key to building a “ritual.” It’s not about going through the motions of your morning routine, it’s about engaging your mind + your heart in the doing. Whether it’s folding laundry or preparing dinner. As Ruth from Gracelaced says, “learn to love what must be done.”
  • Tie daily “chore” task with self care
    • Finish dishes > drink glass of water
    • Fold laundry > close eyes + take deep breaths
    • Make dinner > stretch or sit in a squat while it simmers

      These may not scream “self care!!” to you but taking time to nourish + care for your body in these simple ways will do a few things: a) get you in the habit of using your spare minutes more effectively, b) bring your attention to often-neglected needs, and c) bring other goals like fat loss or more movement into your everyday tasks…that kind cohesiveness breeds consistency.
  • Replace running through your mental to-do list with mindfulness
    It’s common to use showering or making breakfast to tally through the day’s task-list but that can put us into a state of anxiety leading to snapping at family or feeling rushed. Instead, let the task list be a part of the evening and morning rituals so you can be present + engaged in the moment during other activities.


Now that we’ve established guidelines, here are a few ways you can cue a ritual:

  1. Time of day – this is your ritual when you first wake up or as you prepare for bed. Also includes nap time if you are home with kids.
  2. Certain activities – what you do before you open your computer or while you wash dishes.
  3. Core habit that leads to domino effect – you probably head to the bathroom when you first wake up so that already-established habit can lead to a domino of other behaviors like brushing your teeth, washing your face, and drinking a glass of water.
  4. Jolt awake – setting an alarm on your phone can turn a normal moment into a ritual as it calls your attention back to the present. It’s as simple as “When my 9:45 alarm goes off I ______.”


Finally, here are a few ideas for rituals that will help build good mental + physical habits:

  • Brushing teeth >> running through how you want to feel today + what you’ll do to feel it (morning) / what DID YOU DO to feel that way (evening)
  • Prepping breakfast or folding laundry >> gratitude list
  • Driving >> deep breathing
  • While showering or washing dishes >> ask yourself questions
    • Where has my mind been today? What am I dwelling on?
    • How am I feeling? What’s causing that?
    • Is this how i want to feel / think today?
  • Set alarms for typical “trouble’ times to reawaken using a phrase or mantra
  • If you’re home with kids, choose healthy + indulgent activities for the first piece of nap time or post bed time.
    • Stretch while watching a show
    • Walk around your house while eating a piece of dark chocolate
    • Go take a short nap or just close your eyes and zone out for a bit. Set an alarm if you have things you need to do.


To close out here I want to point back to what I said in the introduction:

“I honestly believe it is this practice of transforming routines >> rituals that allows me to a) get my house work done in less time, b) actually enjoy it?! and c) feel ready to do my most important work for the day.”

For those who don’t know, I spend my days at home with my kids, whom I homeschool. While my husband runs a startup software development company from our home office, I act as lead problem-solver on the home front…a role I took on very reluctantly. However, over the past couple of years I’ve learned to live out what Ruth from Gracelaced often exhorts: “Learn to love what must be done.”

So instead of spending so much of my mental energy telling myself I don’t have time to do laundry or thinking about how much I despise folding or dishes or vacuuming, I started to remind myself of how important these mundane tasks are to my family’s ability to focus on bigger things. And I started to talk to myself about the habits I’m building – becoming a person to follows through, who does things that aren’t flashy, who steps fully in to each piece of her role even if it isn’t fun. I knew that’s the kind of woman I wanted to be…so I became it. And now every time I wash dishes I’m reminded of those thoughts and that purpose…and I start to enjoy it. And I’m faster at it, because I’m not looking for distractions from the work.

And because I’ve used the time to remember what my most important work even is (which looks like raising strong + capable kids while providing space for my husband’s work life to flourish in this season), I can step into that role prepared for it rather than simply worn out by the never ending task list.


movement Nutrition and Meal Prep Raising Capable Kids Self Care

20 Ideas for Winter Self Care (fight the blues + prepare for spring)

Winter in Minnesota can be brutal. We are currently enjoying a short break from the bitter cold but it almost makes it harder – because we know very well that winter can last until June so it’s going to get cold again soon.

That being said, winter is also an opportunity. And I kind of love that it’s in the midst of winter when the New Year comes with all the looking at our progress and the freshness of resolutions. Winter is the perfect time to let go of all the stuff that was draining us dry. Summer and fall often bring lots of commitments and late nights but winter draws us inside where we slow down, cultivate our meaningful relationships, and get more sleep.

Ahhh, I love the rhythm of the seasons.

20 practical ideas for self care during the winter months - action steps for your mental health, relationships, fitness, nutrition, personal development, and home life. Read more:


We need to tailor our self-care to honor the pulling in of winter. I’ve said it many times but it’s always worth reviewing – self-care is about taking the actions that will help you do good work. No matter what occupies the bulk of your time – be it raising children, teaching students, health care, business-building, public service, etc – you need your “down time” to be about replenishing your energy stores and pointing you to your values + intentions. The categories I consider when I brainstorm ways to practice self-care include: general health (including mental health), nutrition, movement, self-development, relationships, and cultivating a life-giving environment.


20 Ideas for winter self-care

General Health (including mental health)

  • Start a bedtime ritualArianna Huffington talks bedtime practices in this Business Insider article and her most recent book, The Sleep Revolution.
  • Start a simple morning ritual – include light movement (yoga, stretching, bodyweight circuit), meditation (use Headspace to get started!) and drinking water.
  • Keep a houseplant (or 10) – select from this list for plants that can help purify your air.
  • Find a conservatory or zoo with indoor exhibits – the rainforest room and Koi pond at Como Zoo and Conservatory are frequent haunts for us as we start itching for spring! Seriously, it’s my therapy.
  • Say “no” to more commitments – practice filtering social engagements and opportunities through your values and goals before committing. Is it a relationship you are purposefully cultivating? Is it a cause that’s important to you? Is FOMO or guilt behind your “yes”? I recommend The Best Yes by Lisa TerKeurst to read more about this idea. Ultimately if you pack all of your down time with obligations (that don’t reenergize you) you are choosing the road to burn out.


  • Shake up your breakfast with nutrient dense + delicious foods I’ve pinned some make-ahead breakfast ideas that will give you a great energy boost as you step into your morning.
  • Increase your greens intake – Like this Kale-Pineapple green smoothie from Lindsey at Nourish Move Love.
  • Take a break from the sweets so you can better tune in to what your body is really craving. Whether you go so far as to do a Whole30 or 21 day sugar detox or not, creating new habits in place of the 2pm sugar-fix can help you with mental clarity, consistent energy levels, and boost your immune system.


  • Try a new workout style or class – keep your interest high by changing things up when the weather outside can make you want to skip everything.
  • Start a Saturday morning movement ritual with a friend! Hold each other accountable to fitness goals with a joint workout then spend a slow morning over coffee + breakfast! Fellow fitness-lover + coach Britany of Define Fettle has an awesome tradition of “burpees then brunch” (she even made a tank about it!). That’s a tradition worth stealing!


  • Say “yes” to more quiet reading – try a new genre or re-read a favorite fiction series instead of watching Netflix.
  • Learn a new skill just because you can – guitar, knitting, painting, your personal style, how to cook Indian food, mastering a new coffee brewing method, etc.
  • Pick an everyday task and turn it into a ritual – washing dishes becomes 10-20 minutes of listing everything you are grateful for, work commute becomes mindful preparation for your day, evening Netflix with roommates or significant other becomes an intentional point of connection before hitting “play.”


  • Initiate a weekly or monthly gathering with friends – trade off hosting – with emphasis on hospitality and deep connection – Shauna Niequist wrote a great book to both inspire + equip you in this area.
  • Start saving money for a summer vacation with friends – give yourself something to look forward to that doubles as incentive to be more thoughtful about your spending.

Life-giving environment

  • Declutter your spaceslet your mantels, corners, and countertops breathe (it doesn’t have to be forever)!
  • Try your chemistry skills: make your own household cleaners, makeup remover, body scrub, etc.
  • Buy fresh cut flowers – one of the beautiful things about our modern culture is a bouquet from California sitting on your kitchen table when it’s snowing outside.
  • Diffuse essential oils into your home – the olfactory nerves make your sense of smell the only sensory input that goes straight to the brain, making it the fastest physical sense to calm or energize!
  • Plan a garden for spring – we’re all thinking about the changing weather anyway so make use of it! Try planting some greens from seed or growing herbs in your kitchen window!
  • Get a head start on spring cleaning – tackle a room per week (or biweekly!) with deep cleaning. No doubt it will give you fresh eyes for your spaces! It may be “work” but it’s also very therapeutic to get rid of dust bunnies. Trust me.


As you can see, I consider a wide-range of activities to be self-care. I mean fresh cut flowers and spring cleaning in the same list?? But after 5 years of shouldering a start up business, becoming a mom, dealing with depression, anxiety, and general low energy – I’ve found that self-care is not the obvious things you think of when you’re on the cusp of burn out. Yes, a massage or weekend away can be helpful but it’s the stuff you do every day to align your life with what really matters that keeps you moving forward despite the responsibilities, stress, and fear. These are what fight against the winter blues, loneliness, and cravings most effectively.

The main roles we play in our lives require us to show up. Solving problems, nurturing people, making wise decisions – they can’t be done well when your time spent alone / away from work is a hodge podge of poor habits and trying to escape stress. Any one of the ideas up there can act as a catalyst for becoming a stronger, more capable woman.


I would love to hear about where you begin. Comment below with one thing (on or off the list) you are going to incorporate into your life in 2017 for better self-care.


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 Nutrition and Meal Prep Self Care

How to embrace the limits of the season

We walk through grocery aisles that give us any food we want at any time of day. We scroll websites and find clothes ready to be sent to our door. Hop on a plane and experience a summer day in the middle of your winter. Each one a [mostly] beautiful development in our society that can serve to simplify our lives and widen our gaze beyond our individual contexts.

And easily transformed as the channel through which we expect to have everything we want as soon as we think of it.


Sustainable wellness can only come if you're willing to embrace - not resist - the present. Read more:



What’s the quickest route to overextending yourself? Start seeing life through the “never enough” lens.

As a North Dakotan-turned-Minnesotan, limiting seasons like winter have always been in my life. It’s a rhythm we have to embrace because we cannot will the weather to comply with our hopes and dreams. For a large part of the year, it is dark and cold and windy. We find alternatives to Vitamin D and eat a lot of soup with root vegetables.

What if instead of trying to turn your winter season into summer, you embraced the limitations and let them do the work they are meant to do?

At our house, winter is a time to slow down and get close. We build fires, feed birds, read lots of books, and learn new skills. All things we start to move away from (or do differently, at least) once we can be outside [without 5 layers] again.

I can easily transfer this concept to any area of my life. I’ve had seasons of motherhood where I’ve needed to pull in – huddle closer to just the essentials in order to preserve my energy + focus for going deep and heavy into raising little people.

As a family we have been in seasons of setting limits on our time and the types of things we do because we’re working together to grow a business into a sustainable living.

If we choose to zoom in on the stuff we can’t do, then we will grow to resent the present. We will try to force the season to be different. We will say yes to things as if the commitment somehow makes our lives different. Overextension, overcommitment, always reaching for what we think we must have right this second.

But what is winter, really? Sure, on the surface we see dormant trees and green >> brown. We see creatures go into hiding. But why do they do that? To gather their strength. To prepare for a new season of extension and outpouring when the necessary resources are abundant.

If you’re in a season where the stuff coming in is more limited, by necessity, let that change your level of output. It’s not giving up. It’s being human.

The giant oak tree drops its leaves and goes quiet in response to the waning hours of sunlight and decreased access to water. It knows that trying to produce acorns in January would likely lead to death (“knows” being a loose term, of course). But by flowing with its environment, it can come forth again to do what it is designed to do >> provide beauty, shade, and make new little oak trees.

Rather than lamenting what you can’t do, look instead to what you can. Living simply – a well-worn path to sustainable wellness – includes doing the work for today that will, little by little, prepare you to plant new seeds and reap new harvests. In the time that is allotted.

Nodding your head with me? Read these articles to get started:

  1. A call to wellness: How you see yourself matters
  2. How to start a wellness journey
  3. How to transition from work >> home
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.