New you, new year

New Year, New You

Are you wanting to create a “whole new you” in 2019?

I had the same brilliant idea two years ago as we were ushering in 2017. In fact, I even encountered this sign as I was biking near my house just before that new year. New year, new me!

It was like a sign that I was headed in the right direction. I even laughed at God’s sense of humor that He had sent me an actual sign. 😂 (I don’t think we give God enough credit for His levity.)

I was so inspired I posted it on Facebook with my loftiest declarations in full hashtag mode.

And I feel like I largely did create a whole new me.

After being part time in mental health for several years while working full time in my corporate marketing career, I decided it was time to pick something and go with it.

I knew in my heart that mental health represented a much bigger future than what corporate America could offer me. But getting paid every two weeks is a pretty attractive feature, too, and with a kid in college, doing anything different was a scary option. 😳

As we were waiting for 2017 to dawn, I just couldn’t do it anymore. The corporate gods had aligned to make my job pretty uncomfortable, and I felt almost guilty that I was just biding my time for a paycheck.

There I was, sitting among the 70% of Americans feeling disengaged and trapped at work.

That’s not what I’m about. I’m very much a “learn or die” kind of gal, so this wasn’t a good place for me to be and I wasn’t a joy to be around.

After much banter back and forth with my husband and more than a few late night Chips Ahoy!, I decided it was time.

So in March 2017 I quit my marketing and communications job and shifted out of the career that had given me so much and opened a lot of doors for me for more than 20 years.

I left behind a decent salary, benefits, and a somewhat predictable future (and I think I left my Rubik’s cube in my desk, too!).

But I was ready to embrace my new identity as a mental health professional. 🙋🏻‍♀️

All mental health, all the time. I was a walking tagline.

I felt like Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air. I was gonna make it after all!

I realized at the time that I was creating a new professional identity and really had to rebrand myself. All the things I was an expert in were about to shift.

I always love this part!

I dug in and learned a ton about insurance, working with people from all walks of life in community mental health, and putting my own paychecks together as a fee-for-service counselor.

The way I worked was completely different, and the work I did was largely up to me.  After 20 years of taking direction from others, this was a paradigm shift.

I think that’s what made it feel like a whole new me. I was doing it!

But honestly, two years later, I think I was wrong about this “whole new you” thing.

While I’ve learned a lot, I’ve also put a ton of pressure on myself in the last two years to create a whole different version of myself.

  • I set too many goals that were too big for where I was in the process.
  • I started and stopped many, many things. Not finishing something is the devil for me because I use it as ammo against myself on the tough days.
  • I compared myself against what I had done before.
  • I berated myself for finding ways to be lazy in spite of being more engaged and chasing a new identity.

But I rationalized that I had jeopardized a not-so-terrible career to do this, ya know? I had to make it work — for me and my family.

Go big or go home, right?

And the reality is that I really have made it work.

I remind myself every day to look back and see how far I’ve come in just two years.

But not in any big, amazing way. Just in a million small ways, one foot in front of the other. 👣


If I’m honest, I’m disappointed that the “whole new me” is still out there in front of me. I think she’s probably pretty cool, if I can just catch up with her. 💃 (<—Apparently she’s blonde, too!)

Alas, I’m still just regular old me, albeit with some enhancements and a fair amount of newly-discovered discipline.

But that’s a lot to work with.

What can this mean for you?

As you start considering what kind of goals you want to set for next year, it can be tempting to upend the whole apple cart.

We have so much information available to us today that we can literally change anything about ourselves by doing a smattering of research. Keep a few things in mind, though:

There really is no “whole new you.” Just you, only better.

Please know that you can change your habits, perspectives and goals, but the person you are right now is the foundation for all of it.

If you don’t like who that person is, you should do some work to discover ways to acknowledge the good things about you. (I can recommend someone. 😉)

No amount of “go big or go home” is going to fix that deep-seated need for approval and significance.

Learn how to appreciate the qualities and talents you got right out of the baby chute.

The science people tell us that our personality is really set early in life. What we do from that point on is build on it to find our strengths and learn how we can use our unique skills to create opportunities for ourselves.

This is exciting because it means you’re like a Lego set. You can add a few new pieces and come up with something different every time.

It may not look like what’s on the box, and you’ll probably lose some of the pieces, but it’s a unique creation with room to add even more.

And Lego sets are really never done, are they?

Don’t underestimate the power of small changes over time.

Big changes are scary and can cause you to quit if you don’t have a plan for what might go wrong.

Taking change in bite-sized chunks makes the challenges easier to swallow.

There is no “magic you” behind door number two. Trying to make sweeping, wholesale changes all at one time (like, in January) is setting you up for magnificent failure. And that will get you nowhere fast.

February will come and you’ll be quite literally besotted with disappointment. Time to break out the Chips Ahoy! (Man, I really want cookies right now. 🍪)

Decide to just be a little better at something, and do that little bit every day. You won’t miss the time, I promise.

And be sure to document it in some way so you can see the line trend up when you look back. 📈

This will give you enormous motivation to keep going when you just can’t see it.

Pick one goal that can change many things in your life.

Focus on a goal that will give you tremendous benefit in several areas of your life. This is like low-hanging fruit to supercharge your life.

For example, losing that extra weight your doctor keeps harassing you about can result in:

  • improved appearance
  • more productivity at work
  • better sleep
  • improved physical health
  • more energy for sex
  • a longer life to enjoy your family

That’s infinitely better than trying to just learn a new productivity method or shop for the perfect wardrobe.

Take an inventory of the things in your life that you wish were better and see what common theme they all share.

Then focus on making changes inside that theme.

I know that 2019 will be a year of growth and accomplishment for you.

Just make sure to trust in who you already are and start building an awesome new year!


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How to use exercise to battle holiday stress

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Use exercise to battle holiday stress -

This may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it also can be the most challenging in terms of staying on track with the things that help make your life work.

Exercise, good nutrition, sleep and routine (see also: the components of the anxiety and depression toolkit) all suddenly find themselves beneath the trash heap of the merry and joyous eating season.

For me, the most tempting thing to do is give up exercise. I’m busy with added social events, and opportunities to spend time with others. I love that!

But after all that eating the last thing I want to do is move. Like, at all.

So that late day workout I swore allegiance to gives way to “just one” delicious buckeye and yummy barbeque sliders with friends.

Another workout busted.

It creates a bit of a cycle, I’m afraid.

Exercise matters and it matters big time.

Focusing on exercise is one of the first things I mention to people struggling with anxiety and depression. It’s one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to affect your mental health.

And it’s a great place to start because everybody can absolutely do something.

Exercise has a direct effect on your mood, helps reduce anxious feelings, increases serotonin in the brain, which can help you sleep, and increases your resilience to stress, which I think we all agree can go through the roof this time of year.

The American Psychological Association has coined this the “exercise effect.” In fact, the APA is encouraging mental health providers to make sure they include exercise as part of their treatment plans.

I consider exercise really a non-negotiable.  Apparently, I’m a broken record on this one.

Yet even as the words are coming out of my mouth to my clients, I realize I am just as crafty in my excuses to duck out of it during the holidays.

So with all the added activity and pressure of the season, how do you make exercise work for you when you need it most?

Don’t stress it. Make some simple changes to ensure you do something and don’t just go to zero effort.

Do it when you have few legitimate obligations.

Don’t roll your eyes, but really, it’s true that exercising in the morning is a great solution. It’s not the easiest to get started, but you have a better shot of making it happen before the day breaks.

You really do.

Unless you have some graveyard-style job, you always have the option to get up a bit earlier.

You won’t die from it, I promise.

For the time crunched, this is really the best way to find extra time in your day. Everyone else (hopefully) is still asleep, and the world hasn’t started its vicious merry-go-round yet.

Then, you are done! Yes!

The whole day is in front of you, and you are mentally and physically poised to handle whatever the day may bring.

And when unexpected plans come up, you can just go and not feel guilty about not exercising yet again.

Focus on doing something every day.

It’s great to try to hit physical activity a certain number of times a week, but right now that kind of contained thinking may create too much anxiety for you.

That’s just one more thing to track during the busy season.

Don’t make it a formal thing.

Instead, break it down and focus on just doing something today.

Anything. It all adds up.

  • Take a walk.
  • Go for a bike ride.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Go for a quick swim.
  • Do some yard work (assuming your yard isn’t full of snow. If so, grab a shovel, my friend.)
  • Do some yoga.
  • Dance. I hear that’s a thing.
  • Try an at-home exercise program (there are a million of them streaming on Hulu, Roku, etc.)

When you’re done, high five yourself. You did it!

Then just do that again tomorrow. That’s it.

No pressure.

Me after my Monday morning workout. See how happy I am? 🙂

Pardner up.

There is power in leveraging others to help you with this. Having someone hold you accountable to exercise works because nobody wants to be the one who “no-shows” in the relationship.

I would suggest picking the person in your life who is not afraid to challenge you (in a good way, of course).

Set up time to exercise with someone else and simply don’t leave ’em hangin.’ Once you get together, you’ll have a good time, I’m sure.

Honestly, today I was so tired, it’s Monday, and it’s raining. I felt like these things gave me some very high moral ground to stay in bed.

But my husband and partner in all things life wouldn’t let me. He’s also a mental health practitioner so he gave me zero wiggle room on this.

I needed that.

And when I was tempted to slack off a bit during the workout, he was there to cheer me on.

Hopefully I did the same for him.

Don’t overthink it; just do it.

Of course, you may want to set good, hard goals for exercise in the new year, but you don’t have to wait for January.

That’s just another excuse to not take action right now.

It’s not a terrible time to start exercising if you haven’t been already.

Don’t go crazy or injure yourself.

Keep it simple.

Just get (or keep) moving during the holidays.




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