Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.

February 11, 2017

Put on your oxygen mask before helping others. //

I’ve been wanting to write this post forever. I’ve started it in my head countless times. I kept stopping though, I could never get it out. I want to say so much and I want to say it well.

It’s just that the message is so much more important than simply, “You have to take care of yourself.” And yet, that is the message. I hope that saying something will be better than saying nothing at all. I hope that you will read this and that it will touch you to make a change in your life, a change that you very much deserve.

It’s been a month and a half since I found my way out of the darkness, again. The past few years have been a roller coaster in every way. The only constant has been my lack of self care. Sure, there were a few times when I stepped up my game and did something positive or healthy for myself; but all of those attempts fizzled quickly.

The thing about self care is that it’s a massive undertaking. It’s not about one thing, or even a series of short term efforts. It’s about a lot of things: a permanent, holistic picture of healthiness, happiness, fullness, and balance. When I “woke up” at the beginning of this year, it wasn’t so much a matter of wanting to, as it was a matter of necessity. I was literally slowly dying.

Over the past six weeks, everything has changed. It had been so hard to take care of myself for so long, because I fell into the trap that a lot of women (and men) fall into–I believed that I mattered the least. It’s a natural belief, easy to fall into, especially when you are a mother or a caretaker. It’s instinctual to a degree, to want to put your babies or loved ones in front of yourself in every way.

The unfortunate thing is that ultimately, and almost always, it ends in disaster. When we do not take care of ourselves, we fall apart. Our health suffers and our mind suffers. We run ourselves ragged trying to do everything, and be everything, for every one; and even if that works for a little while, eventually, it always falls apart.

Sometimes we think that by neglecting ourselves, we are serving others; but that is not the truth. When we are broken, the love and the care that we give to others is inadequate at best. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

I have found that there are five key areas of nourishment when it comes to self care. If we can meet these five areas, truly and completely, then we are, indeed taking care of ourselves. When we are our best selves, we can also care wholly for the people that we love. In order to effectively, love and care for the people and things in our lives, we must first love and care for ourselves.

There are five areas of nourishment for self care:

  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Nutritional
  • Spiritual
  • Interpersonal

Emotional: First, we must be nourished emotionally. Self-love and emotional wellness are the very basis of self care. If we do not love ourselves, everything else in our lives will be out of balance. The challenge of emotional nourishment often comes down to our beliefs about what we, ourselves, deserve.

When I started my journey of self care, I struggled intensely. For a long time I would start only to stop again quickly thereafter. I finally found lasting success when I began using my self-love mantra, “I deserve to be happy and healthy.” When I feel like I can not (or should not) reach personal success, I repeat my mantra to myself. It empowers me to keep going.

Physical & Nutritional: These two go hand-in-hand. Physical and nutritional wellness are the bedrock foundation on which wellness is built. For some people, these things come naturally. Regular physical activity and a healthy balanced diet are staples in some peoples lives. For others, however, it’s just the opposite. Sedentary lifestyles equate to constant aches and pains. The diet consists of almost entirely unhealthy, processed garbage food.

I could write a novel on this bullet point alone, but for now, I’ll simply say two things.

Exercise–You must do something that stretches your muscles and elevates your heartbeat every day. A brisk walk, a dance party in the living room, a ten minute yoga video on YouTube. Any of these things will suffice. Further, you must exercise hard–until you sweat–between one and three times a week. If you think this sounds impossible, start with a mere fraction of what I am recommending and go from there. It is not impossible. Wherever you are today, just start. Even if you have long forgotten its magic, your body is still a wonderful, powerful temple. It is waiting for you to reclaim it.

Diet–Imagine that your body is a garden. If you want it to grow and flourish, it needs certain things. It’s very simple. We all know that gardens need water, sunlight, and rich soil to grow. Our bodies are similar. We need water, vitamins and minerals, protein, and fiber. There are many ways to achieve this, thousands of diet plans in the world. But most basically, what we need is real, organic food. Fruit, vegetables, lean meat (in moderation or not at all). It’s that simple. Everything else, other than the things that I’ve described here, is garbage. With very few exceptions, all processed food is garbage, loaded with chemicals and preservatives. Cigarettes, alcohol, and drug abuse–would you pour battery acid all over your garden?

Spiritual: Once we are emotionally, physically, and nutritionally nourished, we can turn attention to our spiritual lives. Spiritual nourishment comes from a whole host of areas, and for each person, it means something different. For many, religion plays a part in soothing the spirit. For others, time spent alone in nature is critical to spiritual health. Almost everyone can benefit from art–reading nourishing books, listening to touching music, visiting a museum, watching a moving play, and so on.

When it comes to spiritual nourishment, it’s really simple. Do whatever it is that makes your spirit come alive.

Interpersonal: Relationships are the final piece of this puzzle. Ten years ago, I was in an amazing place in my life. I had just overcome anxiety and depression. I had lost seventy pounds. I was living a life that I had always dreamed of living. At that time, I absolutely loved helping people. I was building my career on my ability and desire to help people. What happened next, however, I never could have anticipated. My desire to help people almost killed me.

I was so blinded by my desire to help that I dove into it headfirst without caution. Both in my professional life and in my personal life. I was so committed to helping and healing others, that I completely forgot about me. I fell so hard and so quickly into a trap and I never, for a moment, realized that in trying to help, I–myself–would be destroyed.

By the time I finally realized what had happened, I was so far gone that I was unrecognizable. My life had fallen apart into a million broken pieces. One day I looked in the mirror and I had no idea who I was. It’s taken me a year and a half to slowly crawl out of that hole. I can finally see the light again.

My point regarding interpersonal relationships is that you have to be extremely careful about who you allow into your life and how. Not every person can be helped. Not every person wants to be helped. It is critical that you choose relationships that nourish you, build you up, and empower you to be your best self. Do not settle for anything less–whether in friendships, romantic relationships, colleagues, or acquaintances. Never, never settle. You do not have to tolerate toxicity in your life, ever.

When I first started therapy, again, I received some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. She said, when you are talking to yourself, speak as though you are talking to your children or to your best friend–to someone who you love very, very much. It took me awhile to fully come around to it, to truly embrace it. I still stumble occasionally, but mostly I am here now. I treat my self with the love and care that I deserve. And thereby, I can love and care for the people around me with a full, strong, nourished heart–which is the greatest love that can be given.

Every morning when you wake up, think of the best compliment that you could ever receive–and then give it to yourself. Say it in your mind. Say it out loud. Say it again, and again, and again. Then say it again at lunchtime. And again when you’re getting ready for bed. Not just today or tomorrow, but every day. Then watch the magic in your life unfold. ♥

Put on your oxygen mask before helping others. //

Put on your oxygen mask before helping others.
You can’t help anybody when you’re dead.


Dealing with Toxic People: Poor Listeners

February 29, 2016

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with the “fortune” of knowing a few toxic individuals. The best things to come from these relationships are the gifts of: patience, understanding, and wisdom. On your end, of course. 😉

It has taken me a lifetime to learn some effective techniques for dealing with emotional toxicity. I’ve decided to share my wisdom with the world. These lessons are painful and hard-earned, but if I can spare even one person the pain of learning the hard way, it will make my own suffering all-the-more worth it. It will also help me in my own journey of healing.

I am going to break up this series — Dealing with Toxic People — into several parts. I could (and just might) write an entire book on the topic, but today I’m going to start with one of the things that seem to affect almost all toxic people — poor listening skills.


Indeed, toxic individuals are almost always poor listeners. It is a part of what makes them toxic. Now, do not be confused here. Toxic people have no trouble hearing. In fact, they hear quite well. You will find that they are quite adept at hearing and will often hear what you say so intently that they will later use your very own words against you — distorted to the point that they are nearly unrecognizable — but your words all the same.


There is a trick to effectively coping with the poor listening skills of toxic people. It is to understand the difference between listening and hearing. These are, in fact, two very different things.

Hearing is the simple act of perceiving sounds with your ears.

Listening, however, is more complex. It involves actively hearing and paying attention to what the other person is saying to you. It involves quieting your own mind, while you truly listen to what the other person says. Your mind is quiet. You are reserving judgment. You are not waiting for your opportunity to cut the other person off and break into the conversation with your own thoughts. You are just listening.

Once you recognize what constitutes good listening, it will be easy to identify poor listening. When you can recognize something for exactly what it is, you have already won half the battle in effectively coping.

The next half of the battle is about how you respond to poor listening. First, you must accept that you cannot change people. If someone is a poor listener, it is very likely that he or she will always be a poor listener. Now, accept that and rest in the knowledge that while you cannot change the way that others act, you can change the way that you react.

So, how should you react? Here is my golden, hard-earned wisdom. When someone is not listening to you, your body’s natural response is to get emotional. You will instinctively feel upset, hurt, angry, and frustrated. Your heart may start to race, your breathing will become quick. Your head may even start to hurt as you find yourself desperately trying to get out your thoughts, feelings, and emotions while the other person is continually cutting you off, failing to hear you, and twisting your words.

The key to deal with this is that you must act non-emotionally. Shut off all of those emotional instincts of frustration. Intentionally slow your breathing. Remain calm. Speak slowly and carefully. Say what you have to say and nothing more. Do not allow the other person to bully or pressure you into speeding up your speech, stuttering, or saying something that you regret. Say what you intended to say, how you intended to say it, and nothing more.

In extreme cases, if the person refuses to let you speak, simply walk away and come back to the conversation at a later time, when emotions have cooled. Another option is to write an email or letter when you have calmed down. Walking away from the conversation entirely is another option, but that is only if you intend to cut the toxic person out of your life entirely. Otherwise, it is important to express yourself and/or resolve conflicts eventually so that things do not pile up, later leading to resentment or explosions.

To recap, the most important tip that I can give you for dealing with toxic people is to always rely on logic (your brain) rather than emotion (your heart). This is especially true, when it comes to dealing with poor listeners. It is not an easy thing to accomplish. Our natural instinct is always to react with emotion — Fight or Flight. Toxic people know this and they depend on the fact that you will react with emotion.

When you get emotional, they get the upper hand. You can take back control by remaining calm and logical. When you do this, the toxic person will basically short-circuit. They don’t know how to handle it. When you refuse to engage in their negativity, most times they will either: A. be forced to join you on a level of rationality and respect; or B. (the more likely case) they will get frustrated that they can’t engage/abuse you, and they will walk away. Either situation is better than the alternative, which is you getting frustrated, or worse.


I hope that you will use this technique to help you cope with the toxic people in your life. Whether it is a coworker, a spouse, a parent, or someone else — dealing with toxic people is never easy. Unfortunately, toxic people are very adept at hiding their toxic traits and kind people are very good at overlooking them. Therefore, you may find yourself deeply enmeshed in a toxic relationship, friendship, or work situation before you even realize what is going on.

It is never too late to learn how to cope with toxicity. It is also important to remember that you can always find a way out of toxic relationships. Even if you feel trapped, know that your situation is never hopeless. Keep educating yourself and keep moving in the right direction.

I hope that you have found this post to be useful. If so, please let me know in the comments and I will write some more posts on the topic of dealing with toxic people.

Married with Children

August 7, 2015

intimacy //

Recently, I stumbled upon the most beautiful post about marriage titled, Intimacy by Luana Holloway. The post starts off: Sometimes I lose my way to you in the day when everything we have created lies between us, the most beautiful obstacles.

How lovely? How poignant? As a wife and a mother I feel like these words were plucked straight from my own heart.

If there’s one thing that we, married people, all know — it is that marriage isn’t easy. Relationships are hard work, but then, most things that are worth having are, aren’t they?

When you add children to the equation, it becomes that much more complex, that much more difficult. All of the things that created and sustained our love get picked up and turned over on their heads when children enter the picture. We face our share of obstacles. Since becoming parents, our relationship has been stretched, pushed, twisted, and tried in ways that I never could have dreamed up. But so it goes.

intimacy //

In the Intimacy post that I mentioned above, Luana writes: During a moment of pain in our relationship you told me that two people who love like we do grow side by side like two trees who’s root systems are completely entwined below the surface – Sturdy – Not for everybody else to see but for us to feel, that you could never separate your life from mine because we had grown together too long. And suddenly I could only love you more.

intimacy //

When I read that, it literally took my breath away for a moment. The words that had been stirring inside of my own heart for so long. There they were, written by another. I’ve come back to that post a few times already. A gentle and beautiful reminder about love and all of the obstacles that can get in the way — least of all, children. And yet, how strong love is; how it is capable of enduring so much; how root systems grow beneath the surface, an indivisible, unseen strength.

intimacy //

Sometimes I lose my way to you in the day when everything we have created lies between us, the most beautiful obstacles. I’m not sure what exactly the beautiful obstacles are that Luana refers to, but as a mother, I imagine that she is referring to her children. As a mother, it’s exactly the way that I feel. Being married with children is absolutely wonderful & absolutely difficult all at once. The bond that you feel in creating life together is incomparable. And yet, the very act of raising children is all-consuming to the point that all other things in your life suffer — including your marriage.

I don’t have any answers. We’re knee-deep in the thick of it ourselves, with a toddler and a newborn and the other ten thousand beautiful obstacles that stand between us day & night. But what I can say is that for every bit as it is hard, it is also wonderful. It’s not perfect (oh, it’s nowhere near perfect) but it’s good and it’s ours and I am ever grateful.

intimacy //

This post is in partnership with, a site that offers sexy lingerie, costumes, and more. The photographs in this post are snaps that I took of a beautiful lace baby doll set that they sent along for my thoughts. It is beautiful, well-made, and exactly the thing to bring any couple closer.

Being a mother is not the sexiest of responsibilities, after all, but a beautiful piece of lingerie can make even the frumpiest of days special. You know, on those extremely rare occasions when both of your babies are asleep at the same time.

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Cultivate Your Own Happiness

December 18, 2014

happiness |

Each month, several magazines come to our house. Strangely, we don’t subscribe to any magazines. The magazines all come addressed to the woman who lived here before us. There are a lot of them. Maybe five or six a month? Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Food, Parents. The craziest part about it is that we’ve lived here for seven years. Who is paying for these subscriptions? It’s certainly not us. Most of the time I scratch out the address and donate the magazines to the local library or hospital.

Sometimes the cover of one of these magazines will catch my eye. This month’s Glamour featured Reese Witherspoon along with the quote― “I don’t do regret.” I like Reese and I was intrigued enough to flip to the article. I sat down and it pulled me right in. She is interviewed by her friend Cheryl Strayed—the writer whose life she portrays in the memoir-turned-movie Wild. She talks about the role and about her own hard-won happiness. It was a great read and I personally related to it very much.

There was one paragraph that struck me particularly:

“I don’t think I realized [in my twenties] that no one else makes you whole. You have to take responsibility for your own happiness. That took me until I was about 31 to know. It wasn’t easy to realize, Oh wait, I am purely responsible [for my life]―no relationship, no children, no nothing is going to make you a happy person. Every day you have to choose to find and cultivate your own happiness.” —Reese Witherspoon

There is so much wisdom in those lines. It’s a lesson that has taken me, too, some thirty years to come around to. And I’m just now getting a tight grasp on it. No one, and no thing, makes a person whole. Yes.

We spend all of our young adulthood chasing—relationships, material things, a career—but one day we realize that none of that will complete us. We are whole just as we are. Sure, there are lovely & wonderful additions to any life, but there is nothing outside of my self that will make me truly happy. Happiness is a choice. Yes.

Every day I must choose to find my own happiness and when I find it, I must cultivate it, like a garden. As I approach my second year as a mother and prepare for the arrival of my second child, I am feeling more like a woman and less like a girl playing house. In this, my thirtieth year, I am experiencing a new evolution. I am settling into who I am, what I want, and what I have to offer. I am learning what happiness really means―what a fragile little butterfly it is, so easily damaged, so easily lost. I alone am responsible for keeping it safe & strong.

I never expected to find such lovely wisdom tucked inside of the pages of Glamour, (I don’t generally care for fashion magazines), but there it is. Thank you for the reminder, Reese.

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