How Burnout Affects The Brain

People have been experiencing burnout for ages, but the first research papers on the stress-induced state started to appear around the 1970s and 1980s from two pioneering psychologists and researchers, Dr. Herbert Freudenberger and Dr. Christina Maslach. Their articles and books made burnout a household term. 

New research has continued to look at its effects, specifically on the brain. In Sweden, Armita Golkar and a team of psychological scientists studied participants who had been formally diagnosed with burnout. They compared MRIs between this group and a control group of healthy volunteers with no history of chronic stress or other illnesses. Their findings showed that workplace burnout can alter neural circuits and structure, “ultimately causing a vicious cycle of neurological dysfunction.” 

How Burnout Changes Your Brain

People in the burnout group had more difficulty controlling their strong negative emotional responses, which could be explained by a relatively enlarged amygdala in their brains. The amygdala is the older part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions including fear and aggression. This same research also showed that the burnout group had weaker connections between some brain regions. Another study showed that long-term work stress was linked with reduced gray-matter in the brain, which interestingly is the matter that increases with consistent meditation.

Burnout Impairs Cognitive Function

In addition, recent research suggests that being burned out can affect people’s cognitive function. Impaired creativity, problem solving, attention and memory were all noticed. In Greece, a team of psychological scientists reviewed 15 different burnout studies and found that in 13 of the 15, burnout was associated with cognitive deficit. 

Serious Health Effects

Lastly, there is research that shows effects on the neuroendocrine system. Due to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the cardiovascular system, immune system, and memory can all suffer. 

Can These Effects Be Reversed?

All of this research demonstrates how important it is to take steps to reduce stress as soon as possible. One big silver lining is that these effects seem to be reversible, based on research so far. Our brains have the ability to recover, change, and form new connections due to neuroplasticity. So, if you’re feeling burned out, don’t give up hope. The first step is just recognizing when you’re there.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Burnout?

According to the definition from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, work-related stress is the only cause of burnout. In their words, “burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

What About Non-Work Related Stress?

For instance, there are many people who are burned out from caregiving (either to children or to aging parents or relatives) with no support or relief. And what about children and teenagers who feel burned out from years of chronic stress from studying? The WHO definition excludes people who don’t have a lot of stress in their occupational context, but who balance stressful obligations outside of work (in their family and community).

Though these descriptions might not line up with the WHO classification as an “occupational phenomenon,” they’re certainly real feelings that deserve to be validated. And even within an occupational context, there are many different kinds of documented burnout. There’s educator burnout. Physician burnout. Activist burnout. Spiritual burnout. The list goes on if you start looking.

It’s important to remember that within the medical community there’s still no consistent agreement about the symptoms or diagnosis of burnout. The most widely cited method of diagnosis, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) , was released in 1981 by psychologist Christina Maslach and team, and it’s closely related to the definition from the WHO. 

Burnout Is A Process

Ultimately, burnout is unique for everyone. Sometimes work causes chronic stress, and sometimes other things may cause chronic stress. Regardless of what you call it, If you’re feeling exhausted, unmotivated, fatigued, and unable to cope, it’s time to seek help.

Is It Burnout Or Something Else?

Are you tired or is it burnout you’re experiencing? How can you know the difference?

Burnout can look different depending on the person, but there are some common themes and symptoms that have been studied in medical research on burnout. Here are 10 of the common signs that you might be experiencing burnout:

  1. You feel exhausted or fatigued
  2. Your sleep patterns are disrupted
  3. You feel cynical about your work
  4. Your productivity has decreased
  5. You’ve lost or gained weight due to appetite changes
  6. You’re taking more risks than you usually do
  7. You’re unable to complete basic tasks
  8. Your memory is foggy
  9. You feel unable to make decisions
  10. You’re under the weather often

Becoming Aware Of Burnout

Some of these symptoms could also be related to other mental health issues (for instance, depression) or illnesses, so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss any of the symptoms and figure out the next steps from there. The first step of healing from burnout is becoming aware of how you’re feeling and accepting it. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or that you’re not productive enough. Experiencing burnout doesn’t mean you’re falling behind. And it also doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be stressed forever.

You Are Not Alone

Being burned out is simply a result of chronic stress that you haven’t been able to balance. A lot of factors can contribute to this – your work environment, your obligations outside of work, debt, a global pandemic, etc. Know that it’s okay to feel this way. Ther are millions of people around the world in your shoes. In fact, burnout is becoming a more widely discussed issue in the medical community given how widespread it has become – the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named burnout an “occupational phenomena” starting in 2019, and they have committed to developing more research in the area of mental wellbeing at work. Remember that you are not alone, and things can get better with the right support.

Ten Questions To Ask Yourself If You’re Feeling Burned Out

Part of the challenge with identifying that you’re burned out is that burnout is a process, not a one-time event. Burnout is the result of chronic and consistent stress over a longer period of time. Usually, the stress is work-related, but it could be a mix of daily life stresses that sends you over the edge. 

So, how do you differentiate between a stressful period of life and burnout? Isn’t stress a natural part of life?

Stress is definitely part of life, but burnout is the culmination of extreme and overwhelming stress. Burnout is what happens when stress is no longer manageable, and it manifests in physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.

One way to differentiate burnout from stress is to look at some of the formal definitions of burnout. These may be helpful in identifying any symptoms that you have. Though there are varying ways to diagnose burnout, there are several clinical definitions that are well agreed upon and there’s also an assessment that has been widely used since the 1970s called the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI). A doctor or therapist can help you figure out if what you’re experiencing is burnout or maybe an underlying health issue.

Another step you can take, in addition, is carving out some time for self-inquiry. If you think you’re burned out, you’re probably really strapped for time. But think of self-inquiry as an investment in yourself. Long term, carving out some time for this can save you a lot of time and energy down the line. You know yourself best, but you can only know yourself if you listen to yourself.

If you’re reading this post, it’s probably because you’re not feeling that great right now. The only way to improve things is to accept them as they are right now. Self-inquiry begins with acceptance and acknowledgment of how things are in this moment.

Now try to find 15 minutes to sit with yourself, silently, to answer these questions. Put away all the other distractions. Get off your phone or laptop. Ideally, you can write these answers in a journal so that you can look back at your answers and reflect on them for a bit. You may even want to use these journal entries to bring into a therapy session, or to discuss with a loved one who can be supportive. 

Here are the questions to ask yourself:

  1. How long have I been feeling this way?

  2. Do I have any ideas of what might be causing stress?

  3. Am I feeling overwhelmed on a daily basis?

  4. Am I feeling fatigued?

  5. How well am I sleeping and eating?

  6. Have I noticed any changes in my performance at work?

  7. Have I noticed any changes in my attitude at home?

  8. Have I noticed any changes in my attitude towards myself?

  9. Have I picked up any new habits to deal with how I’m feeling?

  10. What do I need right now? What would be helpful?

Self-inquiry is a powerful tool because it empowers you to get still and listen to yourself. Though you may be searching for the answers outside of yourself, know that you have a deep well of wisdom within. You know when you’re not feeling well. You know when something’s not right. That’s why you’ve landed on this post.

And while support is invaluable when you’re dealing with burnout, you can start by supporting yourself. Asking yourself questions and journaling your thoughts is one great way to begin this work. 

Are You Dealing With Burnout In Unhealthy Ways?

Burnout is caused by chronic stress, usually related to work. But it could be related to other parts of daily life too. Maybe you are solely responsible for taking care of an ailing or aging relative. Or maybe you’re deep into an advanced degree and you can’t seem to manage the stress you’re feeling about finishing.

Whatever the cause, burnout is something that humans have been dealing with for a long time. Given the increasing demands at work in modern life, burnout has become more a buzz word recently. Burnout as a phenomena was first written about in medical research in 1971 by a psychologist named Herbert Freudenberger. He studied the effects of stress on workers at a drug-rehab clinic (where he also worked) and this paper became a seminal paper on burnout. Christina Maslach was also studying burnout around this time and was largely responsible for popularizing the term, after she published a journal article on burnout in 1976, though she’s quick to note that burnout itself was not new at the time. It’s been around for ages, and many people used the term burnout to describe their feelings. 

Both researchers noted that burnout was the result of a long-period of consistent stress, and it led to the burned out person feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, cynical, unable to cope. They also felt less hopeful about their future and had more of a negative view of themselves. It’s no wonder then, that people who are burned out turn to many different ways to cope, some being unhealthy. 

Some of the unhealthy ways people may deal with burnout are:

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Withdrawing from life
  • Ignoring it completely
  • Calling in sick at work
  • Watching a lot of TV/Netflix at home
  • Not sleeping at all or oversleeping
  • Not eating at all or overeating
  • Gambling
  • Sex/Porn
  • Partying
  • Playing video/mobile games

All of these things are distractions from the underlying issue, which is unrelenting stress that hasn’t been addressed. They provide temporary distraction and relief, but ultimately do more harm than good.

Burnout is already a difficult physical and emotional state to be in, without the added negative effects of drugs, alcohol or a tech/game addiction. So if you’re feeling burned out, it’s a good idea to seek support and begin to identify the ways in which you are coping with your burnout. Are you taking any healthy steps? What about unhealthy ones?

We’re all human and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you recognize anything you’re doing regularly on the list above. Just having this awareness is an important step in mending from burnout. Once you begin to identify how you’re coping, you can start to understand why. You can extend some understanding and compassion to yourself. You’re just doing the best you can, trying to make yourself feel better. And with an expanded awareness and understanding of yourself, you can begin to make changes that will help you. 

Why Millennials Are “The Burnout Generation”

Are millennials the burnout generation?

If you ask Anne Peterson, the journalist behind one of the most viral stores published last year, the answer is yes. 

In her piece on burnout, Anne described the phenomena that initially led her to self-inquiry around her own behavior: “I couldn’t figure out why small, straightforward tasks on my to-do list felt so impossible. The answer is both more complex and far simpler than I expected.”

She cuts through the common blanket explanation that millennials are lazy and entitled and instead digs into the many underlying reasons why millennials are the way they are. And what she discovered about her own “errand paralysis” ended up resonating with 7 million readers around the world.

It’s More Complex Than You May Realize

She begins with a look into the parenting style millennials grew up with, the way millennials have since been conditioned to optimize their lives, and the large financial stresses that mark this generation. Many millennials began their careers around the 2008 financial crisis and have been unable to catch up to previous generations in terms of building wealth. They have struggled to save, pay off student debt and build equity. In Anne’s words: “The “greatest generation” had the Depression and the GI Bill; boomers had the golden age of capitalism; Gen-X had deregulation and trickle-down economics. And millennials? We’ve got venture capital, but we’ve also got the 2008 financial crisis, the decline of the middle class and the rise of the 1%, and the steady decay of unions and stable, full-time employment.” This financial stress takes a heavy psychological toll.

The Pressure Of Social Media

Then, of course, there’s the pressure of “being on” and curating your life on Instagram in both professional and personal spheres: “Branding” is a fitting word for this work, as it underlines what the millennial self becomes: a product. And as in childhood, the work of optimizing that brand blurs whatever boundaries remained between work and play. There is no “off the clock” when at all hours you could be documenting your on-brand experiences or tweeting your on-brand observations. The rise of smartphones makes these behaviors frictionless and thus more pervasive, more standardized. In the early days of Facebook, you had to take pictures with your digital camera, upload them to your computer, and post them in albums. Now, your phone is a sophisticated camera, always ready to document every component of your life — in easily manipulated photos, in short video bursts, in constant updates to Instagram Stories — and to facilitate the labor of performing the self for public consumption.”

Is Burnout A Side-Effect Of Capitalism?

Petersen also explores how burnout differs for women, how the media has influenced millennials, and why millennials are beginning to see the cracks in the capitalist dream. While there’s no rosy answer tied up in a bow at the end, “in lieu of a revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system,” she recognizes that simply acknowledging burnout is the first step forward.

To hear more from Anne on burnout, listen to her interview on the Ezra Klein Show, “Work as identity, burnout as lifestyle.”

Also, good news: her piece was so resonant that she is following it up with a book this September titled “Can’t Even: How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation.” You can pre-order now on Amazon.

How To Know If You’re Burned Out

Burnout is subjective. In fact, there’s no agreed-upon diagnosis for burnout in the medical community. It’s not an official disease or mental disorder, but it’s certainly recognized as a stress-related state that many people experience. It’s also officially an “occupational phenomena” according to the World Health Organization, as of 2019.

One of the most widely cited psychological assessments of burnout, the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), was published in 1981 by Christina Maslach, a burnout researcher and expert. In that original inventory, Maslach laid out 22 items related to occupational burnout that measure three dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment. The survey, which takes about 15 minutes to complete, has since been widely used in many different occupational settings and there are even abbreviated versions of this survey circulating the internet.

Most people agree that burnout is the result of chronic stress, and some people require that burnout be work-related to fit their definition. The World Health Organization (WHO), for instance, defines burnout solely in a work context as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by three main traits: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

If you’re feeling completely burned out, think about what “burned out” means to you personally. Ask yourself the following questions:

Questions To Ask

-What emotions am I feeling?

-Physically, how do I feel?

-Am I exhausted/fatigued?

-Am I being productive at work?

-How is my attitude towards life right now?

-Have I noticed changes in my memory?

-Do I feel depressed?

-Do I feel motivated?

-How am I sleeping?

-How am I eating?

-Am I feeling overwhelmed?

-How am I managing stress?

-How long have I been feeling this way?

According to one of the earliest definitions of burnout from psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, burnout is a “product of unremitting stress and unrelenting demands…the victim’s emotional circuits become increasingly overloaded from constant excessive demands on his or her energy, strength and resources. After decades of maximum effort, the individual finds himself screeching to an inexplicable halt.” 

Some of the common symptoms of burnout listed in research on burnout are:

Common Symptoms

-Exhaustion

-Fatigue

-Depression

-Feeling cynical about work

-Being unproductive at work

-Lack of motivation at work

-Feeling of impatience

-Feeling generally “ill” but with no specific medical diagnosis

-Weight loss

-Being unable to sleep

-Waking up in the morning and being exhausted

-A negative attitude

-Increased risk taking

-Inability to concentrate

-Impaired memory

Get Help

If you identify yourself with any of the commonly listed symptoms of burnout, it may be time to talk to someone who can help. If you’re reading blogs about burnout, you’re probably realizing that your stress levels are too high. Of course, daily life can be stressful. But there’s an important difference between periods of stress and chronic stress. If you recognize yourself in some of the descriptions above, it’s a good time to acknowledge how you’re feeling so that you can begin to take steps towards healing.

Burnout Is Officially Recognized By The World Health Organization

Burnout has been a recognized result of prolonged stress since the term was first used in medical research by Herbert Freudenberger in 1974, and then popularized in the media by researcher Christina Maslach. Maslach published an article titled “Burnout” in 1976 and went on to co-create the Maslach Burnout Inventory in 1981, the first attempt at measurement for burnout. However, burnout has been an issue for ages. Though the term burnout was new to medical literature in the 70s, people have been self-diagnosing themselves as burned out for much longer. And surely humans experienced the physical, mental, and emotional effects of burnout before the word was ever used. 

In the latest update on burnout definitions, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially now recognized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” in their International Classification of Disease. In the WHO definition of burnout, there are three main traits that characterize burnout: 

Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 

increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

and reduced professional efficacy.”

Hopefully, this announcement will also lead to more research in the area. Burnout is an issue that is affecting people around the world, and it’s helpful when an international body validates what doctors and therapists have been seeing in increasing numbers. 

Am I Burned Out?

If you’re asking yourself whether you’re suffering from burnout, you’re probably feeling really stressed.

What Brought You Here?

Something led you to think you might be burned out. Burnout can creep up on you in many ways. Maybe you hit a wall and you just can’t seem to find any more energy, even to do basic tasks that are seemingly easy. So you’re thinking maybe something’s not quite balanced in your life.  Or maybe a teammate made a comment to you that you need a vacation.

It could be that you’ve been stressed for such a long time and you’ve been pushing yourself along, but now your body isn’t cooperating – you’re coming down with colds a lot, and generally just not feeling well. Or perhaps you’ve been diagnosed with a condition or disease that’s related to stress, and your doctor is telling you that you need to find ways to better manage your stress.

Whatever brought you here, you’re here because you’re recognizing something about yourself: you think you’re burned out. You want to know if you are. And along with that, you’re thinking about how you can make a change in your life. But you might also not be quite sure about making a change yet, and that’s okay. We’ll start with just understanding burnout for now.

What Is Burnout?

So let’s start with what burnout is. The term burnout is used to describe a state of chronic stress, usually caused by work. It’s not classified as a disease or a mental disorder within the American medical community, and there’s some disagreement about symptoms and how to diagnose burnout globally. But it’s still one of the most “widely talked about mental health conditions in today’s society.” There’s no disagreement that the mounting pressures of daily life are real, and that work pressure is a big part of it. This is in part why in 2018, an official definition of the “occupational phenomenon” of burnout was officially released by the WHO. Let’s look at what that is.

Burnout According To The WHO

According to the WHO, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

Burnout According To The Medical Community

There are many more definitions of burnout in the medical community. For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. “Burnout” isn’t a medical diagnosis. Some experts think that other conditions, such as depression, are behind burnout. Some research suggests that many people who experience symptoms of job burnout don’t believe their jobs are the main cause. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.”

Contributing Factors Of Burnout

Very often you can become burned out when you’re working very hard towards some goal or result, and you’re not able to achieve it. This element of burnout was especially important in the very first definition of burnout, provided by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger in the 1970s. Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in a research study he did on the chronic stress of staff workers at the free clinic (where he also worked), and he went on to write books on the subject. Since then, the term has been used by many to describe this type of chronic stress.   

Common Symptoms Of Burnout

Some of the common symptoms of burnout listed in research are:

-Fatigue

-Depression

-Feeling cynical about work

-Being unproductive at work

-Lack of motivation at work

-Feeling of impatience

-Feeling generally “ill” but with no specific medical diagnosis

-Weight loss

-Being unable to sleep

-Waking up in the morning and being exhausted

-A negative attitude

-Increased risk-taking

-Inability to concentrate

-Impaired memory

A More Holistic View On Burnout

When we think about burnout at Mend, we also consider the effects that burnout can have on your emotional and spiritual health – on your heart and soul. Yes of course there are effects of chronic stress on your physical health and mental health, but it’s important to remember you’re a human being. You’re more than just your body and brain. You have emotions. You have a soul, spirit, or whatever you want to call this part of yourself. And burnout can really deplete this part. So in thinking about how to address burnout, we think this dimension is equally important to consider, along with your physical and mental health.

Burnout Is A Process

Just like burnout is a process – it doesn’t happen overnight – mending from burnout is a process. But the first step is recognition. Acknowledgment. Awareness that there’s something about your life that’s worth re-assessing, and maybe shifting. And based on the fact that you’re reading this article, you might be taking this very important step right now. We’re proud of you for taking a moment to stop and question how you’re feeling. It’s an important moment, and we’re here to support you on this journey back to yourself.

Ten Common Signs Of Burnout

If you’re trying to figure out whether you’re burned out or just stressed, knowing some of the common signs can help. The experience of burnout looks different depending on the person, but there are some common signs of burnout that doctors and therapists use to diagnose burnout. If you think you might be burned out, here are 10 signs to look out for:

  1. Exhaustion or fatigue
  2. Disrupted sleep patterns
  3. Feeling cynical about work
  4. Decreased productivity at work
  5. Changes in your appetite
  6. Increased risk-taking
  7. Inability to complete basic tasks
  8. Foggy memory
  9. Overwhelmed by decision-making
  10. Catching a cold often

Some of these signs of burnout point to other health issues (for instance, depression, hormonal imbalances), so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms and figure out the next steps from there. The first step of healing from burnout is to become aware of how you’re feeling and acknowledge your feelings. Secondly, remind yourself that burnout doesn’t mean anything bad about you as a person. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or that you’re not productive enough. It doesn’t mean you’re falling behind. It doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be stressed forever.

Experiencing burnout is simply a result of chronic stress that you haven’t been able to balance. A lot of factors can contribute to this imbalance – your work environment, your obligations outside of work, debt, a global pandemic, your lifestyle, etc. Many people are in your shoes, and burnout has become widespread in this era of workaholism, especially amongst millennials. Know that you’re not alone, and things will get better with the right support.

Free Events To Support Your Mental Health At Home

There is so much uncertainty as to what the world will look like in the coming weeks and months as lockdown rules continue to evolve and shift.

Will more people get sick, as things begin to re-open in some places? How will daily life look? What happens to all the businesses that have been impacted? What happens to school? How long will this go on?

These levels of uncertainty, coupled with anxiety and stress, can take a major toll on our mental health. Many people are struggling with the effects of isolation, feeling more lonely and depressed.

So in honor of Mental Health Awareness Day, we want to share a few online events that can help support your mental health. We know there are a lot of free resources being shared right now, so we’re focusing on three organizations and communities we trust: The Center for Mindful Self Compassion, One Love Foundation and Plum Village.

The Center for Mindful Self Compassion

Self-compassion is a powerful practice to help you through a difficult time, and its effects have been well-researched by Dr. Kristen Neff and her colleagues at CMSC.

To support people, the CMSC will continue sharing free meditation sessions daily in English, Spanish, and Cantonese. They also offer specific sessions for LGBTQI2S+ and BIPOC throughout the week. You can sign up here.

One Love Foundation

One Love is a non-profit that helps people learn how to love better, and right now they’ve adapted their programs on healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships to this time of social distancing.

As part of their Stay At Home program, they are offering free virtual classes on Mondays and Thursdays. You can learn more and sign up here.

Plum Village

Plum Village, founded by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, has brought many of their worldwide programs to livestreaming, including dharma talks, workshops and meditation sessions in English and French.

Four Instagram Accounts To Help You Live More Sustainably

In honor of Earth Day, we’re encouraging you to take a closer look at the impact your life has on the planet through an app you use everyday – Instagram. To get you inspired and motivated to live more sustainably, here are a few Instagram accounts to get you started.

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@readtealeaves

Erin shows us how a slower, simpler life is possible, and it’s beautiful. Her account gives us a glimpse into her Brooklyn life, sharing a small apartment with a growing family. We love her project ideas and small tweaks for living a more sustainable life.

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@kisstheground

If you don’t think about soil that much, this account will change your mind. Follow Kiss The Ground’s account to learn more about regenerative farming, a more sustainable way to solve the climate crisis and feed the planet. And be sure to check out their fascinating documentary (narrated by Woody Harrelson), now streaming on Netflix.

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@wildminimalist

Run by a husband and wife team, Wild Minimalist is the account of a zero waste shop in California. They share wonderful advice and inspiration for minimizing your impact through ditching plastic and taking on more of a zero waste lifestyle.

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@zerowastehome

Can you imagine a life without trash? Bea Arthur lives it. She’s one of the mothers of the zero waste movement, and her account will inspire you to make small changes that have a huge positive impact on our environment.

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@haleboyd

We first came across Haley as the founder of Marais, a popular shoe brand that was based in Los Angeles. Since then, she’s switched gears and is focused on sustainability. Her feed is as informative as it is beautiful – no surprise from a designer!

The Thing To Do If You’re Seeking More Balance Right Now

Meditation is scientifically proven to decrease stress and increase focus. Regular meditators state they experience decreased anxiety and increased overall happiness after incorporating meditation into their daily lives.

In today’s busy world it is easy to skip out on setting aside the time in our days to meditate, but according to the experts the benefits of sitting on the meditation cushion prove to be worth the time. So how can we help make sure we meditate every day?

The researchers say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so here are six helpful tips on how to make daily meditation a habit:

1. Pick a time of the day to meditate and stick to it.

Like brushing our teeth, having a set time to meditate makes it more likely that we do it everyday. At first it may feel difficult, but soon it will become part of the daily routine. Many people meditate in the morning, right as they wake up, or after walking their dog, or as soon as they finish that first cup of morning coffee. Other people are nighttime meditators, choosing to take the time to sit and breathe at the end of their day right before bedtime to help wind down. Try it a couple different times of the day, see what works best for you, and then stick to it.

2. Create a space to meditate.

There’s no need to remodel your home when it comes to creating a space to meditate. Simply designating a specific seat at the kitchen table or a spot on the floor to one’s practice can do wonders in creating a meditation space. An extra step may include lighting a favorite candle before you begin to practice, incorporating another one of the five senses into the mix. By going a little further in making the practice feel more attuned to personal preferences, we become more willing to take the time to sit.

3. Sit. Even when you don’t want to.

At the start it can feel like a burden to carve twenty minutes, or even five minutes, out of our hectic schedules to meditate. It almost always feels like there could be something better we could be doing with our time then sitting and “doing nothing.” Seasoned meditators face this dilemma just as much as first time meditators, but seasoned meditators also know how their mind will feel if they don’t sit so they make sure not to skimp out on it. After the first month of regular meditating (for twenty minutes a day), MRI scans have shown a shrinkage of the amygdala, which is responsible for our brain’s flight or fight response. So even when it feels like a chore to sit down to meditate, try not to forget about all the benefits to be reaped.

4. Meditate with others.

Find other meditators to help keep you accountable. When first establishing a daily meditation practice it can be helpful to have a self-designated “accountability partner.” If you have a friend willing to act as your accountability partner, ask them if you can send them a text every day to check-in and share that you’ve meditated for the day. It can be a detailed text about how your practice was or it can just be an emoji describing the tone of the practice. Try it for four weeks and see how it affects both of your practices.

5. Be gentle with yourself.

Meditation may sound like a simple habit in theory, but it can be a difficult one to establish. Remember to be kind to yourself as you learn to calm your mind. Meditation is meant to be a form of self-care, not a form of self-aggression, so treat yourself well as you work to establish a daily practice. You can even reward yourself with a treat at the end of the week for a job well done once you’ve completed your first seven consecutive days of meditating (we are fans of a daily rewards system for ourselves as well).

6. Find an online community that can help support you. 

Online communities can be a great support system to keep you on track with a new practice of meditation. My own platform Mother Yin is a free holistic online platform created to help women find balance in their bodies, minds, and lives. It features wholesome balancing meditations in its bi-monthly email newsletter, as well as interviews with leading female meditation teachers to help inspire your own meditation practice for those moments when you don’t feel like sitting on the cushion.

Happy Meditating in 2020! Be gentle, be kind, be soft, like the breath.

5 Tips To Self Soothe If You’re Feeling Anxious

When feelings of heartbreak anxiety set in, it can be so easy to run away with them or distract yourself in unhealthy ways. To help you self soothe, we have some hygge inspired tips to ease anxiety, feel comforted and regain a sense of self and control.

1. Do something physical

Sometimes, sitting with your thoughts can only perpetuate feelings of anxiety. A big part of hygge is about getting outside. If it’s chillier, bundle up and take a walk in nature. Go for a run or a walk to elevate your mood and also give you a healthy dose of Vitamin D. Exercise is an amazing way to release stress. Just 15-30 minutes a day will make a big difference.

2. Take regular breaks

Even if your work offers a welcome distraction from what you’re feeling, it’s still important to give yourself a rest throughout the day. Have some calming herbal tea, take a full lunch break to refuel and recharge mindfully and perhaps try incorporating some reading into your lunch break too. The more rested you feel in your body and mind, the more your anxiety will ease.

3. Get higher quality sleep

Good sleep is a core part of hygge. Sleeping is when your body regenerates both physically and emotionally. When you’re anxious, it’s understandable that good quality sleep can be difficult, so it’s important to create rituals that get your body and mind into a state of rest come night time. Let your body know that it’s time to wind down. Switch off electronic devices about an hour before bed, inhale lavender essential oil, take a soothing bath, do a wind-down yoga routine, read or meditate.

4. Give yourself a daily treat

One of our favorite hygge traditions is the daily ‘fika’! This is where you give yourself something to look forward to every day. In this case, something that will offer some respite from the anxiety you’re feeling and lift your mood. Whether it be a delicious hot chocolate from your favorite coffee shop, getting a massage or just giving yourself an extra hour to read. 

We also love the idea of ‘lordagsgodis’ – Saturday Sweets! This is where the Scandinavians allow children to have a small bag of sweets once a week. If you’re not into sugary treats though, you can adapt this to whatever works best. (But sometimes, a tasty indulgence once a week can definitely be good for the soul!)

5. Share your feelings with friends

If you’re trying too hard to cope with feelings of anxiety alone, it can only make it seem worse. A problem shared can definitely be a problem halved and hygge is all about connecting with those close to you. Talk to your friends and let them be there to comfort you and lift you up. You’ll be surprised at how much better you feel.

We hope you enjoy using these hygge tips to create little rituals throughout the day that will make big changes.

The Power of Saying “No”

Saying “no” is incredibly important during the mending process because it teaches you to set boundaries. Boundaries are all about having the discipline to do more of what makes you better and less of what makes you worse. During a heartbreak, these lines can be blurred. We find ourselves saying yes to everything that has even a minor potential of making us feel better, leaving us with hours of social media stalking and a schedule full of distractions that make us feel empty and unheard rather than on the mending journey. Instead of overwhelming yourself, try to say no sometimes, too. Heartbreak makes us feel terrible, and the only things we should be spending resources on are those that grow us and help us mend.

Setting boundaries are one way to increase your mindfulness (no meditation required) because you become much more aware of what you invest yourself in. Here’s how saying no and setting boundaries gives you a deeper appreciation of your three resources: time, talent, and treasure.

Time

Think of some things that waste your time. For example:
1. Rereading texts with your ex.
2. Social gatherings with people who you have outgrown.
3. Checking social media impulsively rather than for a purpose.
4. Going on dates with people who have different intentions than you.

When you start saying no to wasting your time, you will come to value it so much more. Your time is a non-repleting resource and the most valuable one you’ve got. You can build skills and make money but you will never get back the time that you waste. Instead of sitting at a lame social gathering and checking your phone out of boredom, you could be doing something fun or productive with people you admire. You don’t have to say “yes” everytime people invite you out. Make sure you especially don’t say yes to something you don’t care much for if you already promised yourself you’d get something else done during that time. The more you learn to say no to wasting time, the more you will learn to respect it, and the more careful you will be about how you spend it. Setting boundaries around how you spend your time starts a chain reaction of saying no to things that also waste your talent and your treasure.

Talent

Think of some of your strengths. For example:
1. Patience, empathy
2. Painting, sketching, drawing
3. Sports

When you say no to doing things that will waste your time, you find yourself doing things that you are drawn to, with people who appreciate your talent. Pay attention to what those things are because when you cultivate new skills, they can become strengths. This self-growth and self-awareness are awesome for your mending process. When you know your strengths you will have a deeper appreciation for yourself, and a deeper awareness for what you can contribute to the world. If you are very patient, you can volunteer with crisis counseling or family mediation. If you are good at visual art, you can make it a side hustle, or volunteer to teach others to embrace their creativity. If you are good at sports, you can help kids release aggression by cultivating this skill. Talents can often be exploited just for money or fame. But, when you truly appreciate your own talents, it becomes more than just a job. It becomes a way for you to grow and to help others grow as well.

Treasure

What are some things you spend your money on? Maybe:
1. Lunch “dates” you felt obligated to go on.
2. Supplies and books for school/work that you know you won’t use or read.
3. Groceries, because the produce went bad before you could eat it.

When you say no to spending your money frivolously, it teaches you to make the most of what you already have, which helps you to build gratitude. Gratitude is super helpful for mending your heart and leads you to a more joyful life. You might even learn new skills in the process, like cooking new dishes to make sure your produce gets used up, and meal prepping to save on lunch money. By creating boundaries on your budget, you have to ask yourself “will this item actually help me in a way nothing else I own can?” This definitely helps you to grow in creativity with how you use what you have and helps you to build new life skills. It also builds a deeper appreciation for all the resources you are responsible for: your items, your money, your time, and your talents.

“No” is such a powerful word. It sets boundaries that keep you on the track of self care and self-discipline. Boundaries can be hard to stick to, but it takes discipline to take care of yourself and always choose what’s best for you in the long run rather than what you would prefer to do right now. It helps you to realize who you want to be, who you want to allow into your life, what kind of energy you want to maintain, and what kind of habits will help you to grow and to mend. Hopefully, this guide helps you to appreciate your resources a little bit more.

Emotional Minimalism: Declutter Your Heart

Emotional minimalism allows you to be intentional with your thoughts and the way you fill the space in your time and in your life. Right after a breakup, it can be tempting to distract yourself with too many commitments by drowning in work or outings. An overloaded schedule is an overwhelmed and neglected heart. However, we can often wobble between wanting to do everything to wanting to do nothing at all. If you’re experiencing the latter, what’s crowding and cluttering your heart might be emotions you can’t seem to process and overthinking the breakup. In both cases, we can help you create space in your schedule and life so that it can be filled by the right person or thing at the right time.

Here are some tips on how to declutter your heart:

Set Boundaries

Boundaries involve being firm about doing more of what makes your life better and less of makes your life worse. Boundaries take self-discipline. Examples of good boundaries include no contact with your ex, making sure you set aside a half hour every day for your hobby or Mend monument, and sleeping for 6-9 hours. Sometimes heartbreak makes you want to sleep for 12 hours, which is fine once or twice but making it a habit will make you feel lousy. Also, instead of overloading your schedule with work or social outings, say no sometimes. This creates space in your life by opening up your schedule.

On the contrast, if your heart is cluttered by spending too much time alone and constantly replaying the breakup over and over again, make sure you get out and socialize sometimes and find a hobby that channels your energy. This creates space by clearing out rumination and negative thought processes. The important thing is to have some alone time, but not too much alone time, and setting boundaries will help you find the right balance!

Solitude

Once you’ve set boundaries, you’ve created intentional space in your life and heart. This space doesn’t need to be filled. Allow it to exist without clutter (distractions). To embrace emotional minimalism, be intentional about this alone time and let this space be whatever it needs to be. It will be filled with the right thing at the right time. At first, that might mean doing nothing, staring into space, taking a walk, doing your daily Mend training, reading, or taking a nap. It might be a different thing every day. You’ll know what you need to do when the time comes, but don’t think you need to do anything. This is your time to just simply be alone. Get in touch with you. Check in with yourself. Alone time is very important for mending. Creating this space allows it to be filled with the right person at the right time.

Silence

Many people listen to music or podcasts on the way to work, or during work, on the way home from work, and then watch television. Students walk around campus with their headphones on, then go to the gym with their headphones on, do homework with headphones on, and then come home and watch YouTube videos with their headphones on. We’re very in touch with the outside world, but not very in touch with ourselves. So many of us feel the need to fill silence from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed because it has been ingrained in our society that it’s a waste of time or it is “awkward.”

When going through a breakup, it is important to check in with yourself, and that’s hard to do when you don’t have any time for silence. Declutter your mind by minimizing the distractions. It can definitely be uncomfortable at first. Start by walking to class without your headphones, turning off the radio on the way to work, or noticing the moments you already spend in silence, like maybe your morning routine. Silence always has a way of revealing what’s on our hearts. By learning to sit with silence occasionally during the day, it will be less daunting when all those thoughts you’ve been ignoring come flooding in when you try to go to sleep. Silence will also train you to choose which thoughts are welcome and which thoughts you need to send away because they will only cause you pain

When you create a balance between silence and solitude vs. work and socializing, you will find that you feel more in touch with yourself and that you’re better able to control your thoughts and how you spend your time. Emotional minimalism will definitely teach you to be more intentional about creating space to allow your heart to breathe and mend.

How Gratitude Helps You in Hard Times

It’s not that difficult to feel grateful when things are going smoothly. But what about when they’re not? What about when a relationship ends? Or you lose your job? Or you receive unfortunate news?

Gratitude can be a difficult quality to feel when you are really sad or unhappy, but as you’ll read today, you can still be grateful even when you’re not feeling particularly grateful. In fact, a consistent gratitude practice, through good times and bad, is one of the most powerful tools to improve your health and increase your happiness, and it’s a practice you can start right now. Here’s some inspiration…

“Basically, just thinking about how you could be grateful sparks brain activity critical to sleep, mood regulation and metabolism. Next time something bad happens and you can’t think of anything to be grateful for, guess what? Just the act of searching for gratitude is beneficial.”

– Carrie Clark on how gratitude changes your brain and gets easier the more you practice it.

“…It is vital to make a distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. We don’t have total control over our emotions. We cannot easily will ourselves to be feel grateful, less depressed, or happy. Feelings follow from the way we look at the world, thoughts we have about the way things are, the way things should be, and the distance between those two points. But being grateful is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives. When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. Yes this perspective is hard to achieve–but my research says it is worth the effort.”

-Dr. Robert Emmons on how gratitude can help you through hard times (greatergood.berkeley.edu)

“In fact, an attitude of gratitude can not only help you increase positive emotion, but also sustain it. Heck, ice cream can make us happy in the moment but gratitude leads to long-term happiness.”

-Dr. Emma Seppälä shares 13 science-backed benefits of gratitude and a wonderful guided meditation (emmaseppala.com)

“…the most fundamental practice to quickly transform your life — any time of year — is gratitude.  A deep and genuine sense of appreciation for what you have in your life.”

-Marie Forleo shares one simple and effective gratitude practice in this week’s episode of Marie TV (marieforleo.com)

The Best Self Care Podcasts To Listen To

“Self-care” can mean many things, from relaxation to self-improvement. In a world of unending podcasts, we’ve gathered a few that have helped Team Mend through tough times and given us that breath of fresh air we needed. If you’re ready to take your self-care up a notch, get your headphones ready for these episodes.

1. “Thirst Aid Kit”

For some, self-care can come in the form of laughter. Nichole Perkins and Bim Adewunmi are writers in New York City who share one thing in common: a thirst for males. While their podcast is not directly about self-care, listening to this podcast is an act of self-service. Each week, they go in-depth and explore the complexities of one male heartthrob in Hollywood. And it’s more than just hot guys. It’s a deep dive into the personalities, characteristics, and inner reasons why we thirst after these particular men, who range in ethnicity, age, accents, and more.

The best episode for new listeners is “Chris Evans (feat. Chris Evans).” Most of the time, the two talk about a guy, but this time, they talk to the actual Chris Evans on the phone. Let’s just say that it will make you giggle on a public bus (which indeed happened to me).

2. “Anna Faris is Unqualified”

Anna Faris, from “Scary Movie” and “Mom,” is your new best friend. Her bright humor translates perfectly in “Anna Faris is Unqualified,” which has seen so much success that it transitioned from podcast to radio. Each week, Faris and co-host Sim Sarna interview a celebrity about the ups and downs of their career and personal lives. At the end of their conversations, they get real callers on the phone and give advice. Usually, it’s about relationships, but it can sometimes be about friendships, a new job, etc. This podcast is more than just a celebrity talking to another celebrity. Faris isn’t afraid to dive into the tough parts about being an actor and the mental health consequences she’s faced in a toxic industry. But you don’t have to be an actor to identify with these episodes. A personal favorite is when Nick Jonas came on and dished all the dirt on his life post-Jonas Brothers.

3. “The Hilarious World of Depression”

Another way to talk about depression is through comedy. Host John Moe brings funny people onto his podcast every week to talk about their journeys with mental health and what brings them out of their dark places. A favorite episode of mine features Rachel Bloom, a comedian who has been open and honest about her mental health struggles. Her openness led to her show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and she doesn’t hold back in this engaging conversation with Moe.

4. “Therapy for Black Girls”

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a psychologist in Georgia who wants you to live your best life. She brings her best therapy tips to each episode and acknowledges the complex intersection of struggling with mental health and being a woman of color. One of her most popular episodes is “Managing Social Anxiety,” something many people can identify with in 2018.

5. “Sad Boyz”

Self-care isn’t just for the girls. “Sad Boyz” is a comedy podcast about feelings. Each week, Jordan and Jarvis, two guys in tech in San Francisco, discuss everything from mental health to toxic masculinity to Post Malone. With little bits of pop culture sliced into each episode and one host with a smooth British accent, “Sad Boyz” takes important topics, dissects them, and ends each session on a happy note. If you’re looking for a laugh, your two new best friends are right here.

6. “On Being with Krista Tippett”

A personal favorite of Mend CEO Elle Huerta, “On Being” is hosted by Krista Tippett, a journalist and former diplomat who interviews people from all different walks of life. She asks questions about the secrets to living a good life and what it means to be alive. With a focus on spirituality (in a not-necessarily religious sense), she has interviewed philosophers, physicists, and everyone in between to find out how to live well.

7. “Self-Service with Jerico Mandybur”

The Girlboss Radio network is strong with self-care. The brand’s second podcast is from Girlboss editorial director Jerico Mandybur, who is more than familiar with the stress of millennial workaholics (to prove it, when the Australian writer moved to America, she was diagnosed with blood poisoning almost immediately). In this episode, she sat down with our founder Elle to talk a little bit about building Mend.

8. “Love is Like A Plant”

And how can we forget our own podcast! “Love is Like A Plant” is a one-on-one session with Elle about her personal experiences dealing with a breakup and the different ways she dug herself out of it. If you love the app, you’ll love the podcast. And if you love the podcast, you’ll definitely love Mend. If you’re a first-time listener, a good place to start is “How To Get Your Ex Back,” a popular episode among our Menders.

The One Trait That Will Help You Get through Anything

Traumatic events come in all shapes and forms. They can be chronic, like enduring the long-term effects of a big breakup. Or they can occur in an instant: abuse, accidents, or the sudden loss of someone dear. 

Why is it that some people crumble under life’s pressures, while others who face arguably more trying circumstances find ways to flourish? Why do I have to fight back the tears when I get a parking ticket at the end of a tough day, while other people are out running marathons without legs?

Resilience, our ability to thrive in the face of adversity, is what makes the difference.  Maria Konnikova recently took a closer look at resilience and here are three things to know about it.

Resilient People Lack A Victim Mentality

There have been several variations of studies that track the performance of school children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and then examines what the children who thrive are doing differently from those who don’t.

One of the most profound differences is in the kids’ mindset. The most successful kids have a pronounced lack of victim mentality; rather, much the opposite. They have a strong sense personal agency, seeing themselves as influencing outcomes in their lives, and not the other way around. This is known in the literature as having an “internal locus of control.” 

Resilient People Assign Meaning To Setbacks

Another strategy that research has shown the most resilient people use is to assign meaning to the setbacks they experience. In crafting this narrative, in giving themselves a personal “why,” they are able to transform the mental experience from suffering to growing pains. This might explain why it’s probably not coincidence that resilient people tend to be more spiritual than average, and why spiritual people are happier than most. Spirituality can be a very effective tool for giving meaning to life, but it is not the only tool. 

The benefit is more than mental: reframing a stressful event from traumatizing to a challenge to be overcome can sooth the body’s fight or flight response, which can make you more effective in dealing with it.

Resilient People Re-frame Experiences

It’s important to note that the benefits of doing this can be enjoyed even by people who don’t do this naturally: when researchers have taught people to re-frame, (e.g. “This is temporary,” or “Not everything about this is bad,”) those people experience less anxiety and depression. So the next time you find yourself up against a tough battle, increase your chances of coming out the other side by asking yourself how you can re-frame things.

For more on resilience, see Maria’s full article here (newyorker.com).

What Are Your Self Love Rituals?

Establishing rituals can be a crucial part of the healing process. Today, 8 Menders are sharing the self love rituals that help them stay #onthemend.

“I love to do yoga 2 or 3 times a week and have recently discovered a love for hot yoga! It just makes me feel calmer, more connected and at peace with myself. I regularly get massages now, seeing it as an act of self-love rather than an indulgence and I’m really mindful of fueling my body with what it needs. I also meditate and journal every day. So often, self-love can go to the bottom of the pile of everyday life but if you don’t commit to it on a daily basis, you become emotionally and physically depleted. So I’m big on tapping into those soul cravings and making time for them!” -Laura Y.

“I love getting ready slow! Taking time in how I adorn myself is such a treat and fun process. I also don’t ingest content that doesn’t make me a better person – no junk food media or social media feeds. I want to spend my leisure time learning and not losing sight of what’s important to me.” -Shan B.

“A decadent dinner of sushi can heal a lot of ills. Follow this with vegan banana nut ice cream and everything becomes shrouded in a rosy glow. I also have a stack of movies that always bring a lot of joy: Amelie, Frida, Annie Hall, Chocolat, Under the Tuscan Sun. Oh, and a good mani/ pedi combo makes me feel enamored of myself.” -Susan A.

“I strive to eliminate the negative self-talk in my head. It’s taken a long time to fully love every part of myself and it was hard won. Every now and then the voices of doubt come creeping back in, but I don’t let them stay long. I am grateful and secure in my abilities and I know that being kind to myself is the best thing I can do to achieve my goals. For me, I love cooking and eating well. I have a post-it note with positive affirmations and reminders on them. Included are ‘You are beautiful’ and ‘Don’t get caught up in the destination.’ I spend time with friends who can shake me out of any rut I may have fallen into and revel in the steadfast, unyielding love of my dog. I try to build and fortify this house of love, light and joy, so that I may live in it, especially when the wold makes me feel like less.” -Megan S.

“My main one is positive affirmations. When I am in a good place, I will write down how I am feeling and then when I have a low moment I can go back and read these notes. They give me an instant boost and remind me of how I truly feel about myself.” -Zanna V.

“Exercise: I always feel 1,000 times better after a workout. Always. Pep-talks: Sometimes I am scared to do something or fear the unknown and I have to remind myself that if someone else can do something then I can too. Friendship: If I feel sad or stressed, I have dinner with friends. It’s so nice to be able to laugh and talk with people who have the best intentions for you. Happiness: I’ve learnt not to invest time in things that don’t make me happy. Friends, boyfriends…anyone I feel makes me feel bad about myself. Music: There’s nothing a good sing-song can’t fix.” -Ashley J

“Fitting in a workout class, taking naps, going on solo walks and adventures!” -Jen G

“Self-care keeps me sane. I get body work done frequently. Massages, reiki, ayurvedic treatments. I go to the Korean Spa when I need a tune-up. Day-to-day I’ll take a walk, a bath, soak my feet, have sex, go to the beach and let the sun and ocean heal me. I sometimes wear my favorite dress and just let the world admire my beauty. You have to be your biggest fan.” -Natalie P.

Top Ten Instagram Accounts To Follow For Self Care

Instagram can be an amazing place to turn to when you’re not feeling that great, but only if you’re following the right people who will lift you up! Here are ten of our favorite Instagram accounts to follow for self care.

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@doingwell

Doing Well is the beautiful home of NYC integrative nutritionist Daphne Javitch. After facing her own health challenges, Doing Well was Daphne’s way of sharing what she had learned about using food and wellness to heal. Each caption is packed with tips and tricks that you can apply to your own life.

Alex Elle

@alex_elle

Created by author, poet and podcast host Alexandra Elle, this instagram account shares snippets of Alexandra’s inspirational poetry. Whatever one you happen to read, it somehow always seems to be the thing you need in the moment.

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@zerowastehome

Bea Johnson is one of the mothers of the zero waste movement, and her feed will help you simplify your life and find a gentler way to live. Thinking about your impact on the planet and how to live a more sustainable lifestyle is a great way to take care of yourself that also gives back to the planet and to your community. Bea’s feed is an inspiring place to start this journey!

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@drmarkhyman

Dr. Mark Hyman is a 13x NYT bestselling author and internationally recognized doctor who specializes in functional medicine. We love his feed because he’s an expert when it comes to how we nourish ourselves with food, and he shares his expertise in a way that’s easy to apply to your own life. Follow him for inspiration on eating, recipes and wellbeing advice that is rooted in the latest research on human health.

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@motheryin_

Mother Yin helps you balance your mind, body and soul. Founded by meditation teacher Sara Shah, Mother Yin has a foundation in mindfulness and incorporates modern and ancient approaches to women’s health and wellness. We love the calm vibes of their feed, and they also send out a wonderful newsletter we highly recommend!

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@katiedalebout

Katie Dalebout is a podcaster and author of Let It Out, a space for soft stories. Her feed is raw, real and thought provoking, all with the emphasis on wellbeing and living a life that’s explorative, connected and ever evolving.

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@loomhq

LOOM is focused on health education for everyone, from periods to parenting. We are big fans of the movement they are building with their physical center in LA, classes, services and events. Co-founded by doula and educator Erica Chidi Cohen (above), LOOM isn’t afraid to have the conversations no one else is having.

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@avivaromm

Dr. Aviva Romm is a Yale MD who takes a more holistic approach to health, and her feed is full of wellness and self care advice that can make a big difference in how you feel. We love that she focuses on natural and herbal remedies whenever possible – she’s been dubbed “the modern medicine woman” because of her integrated approach to medicine.

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@cleowade

Cleo Wade is an author, activist and community builder, known for her books Heart Talk and Where To Begin. We love her feed because it’s filled with her inspiring poetry and thoughts on love, friendship and life. She’s not afraid to be vulnerable and we love her for that.

Letsmend

@letsmend

Well, we couldn’t leave our own instagram out of this list! We don’t encourage a lot of Instagram use during a breakup because it can so easily turn into a self destructive tool, but we do have a lot of saved stories and content on our feed that we hope will inspire you, comfort you and make you laugh.

If you’re going to be using Instagram, make sure it’s a feed of inspiration (instead of one of dread!)

Four Inspiring Quotes On Success, Life, and Finding Meaning

In need of some inspiration amidst heartbreak?

Here are a few of our favorite meditations on success, life, and finding meaning.

“Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive—that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having.”

-Playwright Tennessee Williams on The Catastrophe of Success (truegoodbeautiful.com)

“What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don’t even know? This is easy advice to give. It’s hard to follow, especially when you’re young. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.”

-Engineer Paul Graham on how to do what you love (paulgraham.com)

“But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.”

-Writer David Foster Wallace on living a compassionate life (moreintelligentlife.com)

“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy but it’s still allowed. And I believe it’s worth the trouble.”

-Artist Bill Watterson on finding your own life’s meaning (zenpencils.com)

What Our Brains Do During Meditation

Ever wondered what happens in your brain during meditation?

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson and colleagues scanned the brains of eight Buddhist monks who altered between a “neutral” state of mind and a meditative state. Many traditional forms of meditation involve focusing on fostering a sense of compassion toward others and the larger world, usually known as loving-kindness meditation.

The kinds of brainwaves that appeared during the monks’ meditation, including loving-kindness meditation, were “high-amplitude gamma-oscillations in the brain,” the same kind of waves associated with neuroplasticity, or a state of learning. This suggests that the brain is actively re-organizing neural networks or generating new neurons as you meditate.

The regions of the brain seen to activate during meditation are actually some of the older regions, which are associated with our so-called primal instincts, as well as some bodily functions. This might explain why some studies have found improved immune responses in meditators.

Most religious and spiritual practices invoke some form of meditation such as prayer or reflection, as well as a call for compassion toward others, such as taking care of the poor. If these aren’t inherently good practices, scientists can begin to confirm some of the ways they benefit our health, both mentally and physically. Whether you’re a meditation newbie or a long-time practitioner, taking time to reflect and foster a sense of compassion probably stands to offer some benefits to your wellbeing.

How to Find the Right Therapist

So far in our series on “Demystifying Therapy” I’ve covered why therapy can be helpful during a breakup and how to start your therapist search. Now, let’s cover my top three tips for finding the right fit once you have a few therapists you’re considering.

Interview People Who Might Seem Like A Good Fit

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potentials, give them a call. Get a feel for what they are like on the phone. Do you feel comfortable talking with them? Do they seem interested and empathetic? One of the things people often say to me is “I feel like you really get it.” This may be a lot to ask for in a 20 minute phone call but you should at least feel heard and not judged. In addition, I would suggest asking the following questions:

What is your style like?  This is important. Even if someone is a very skilled therapist, his or her style may not jive with yours. Try to get a feel for what it would be like to be in the room with the person. For example, as a therapist I am very active and engaged with my clients. It is much more of a two way conversation — a game of verbal Ping-Pong. While I don’t explicitly give advice, I offer feedback and suggestions. Some therapists have a style that is more focused on holding back, listening, and reflecting. One is not better or worse, you just need to know what feels good for you.

Do you have experience working with breakups? If we were working together on this issue what can I expect? You want to make sure that the therapist has familiarity and is comfortable working with the issue that brought you to therapy. Additionally, you want to get a sense of how the therapist might approach working with that concern. Here you might learn more about the therapist’s theoretic orientation (there are many – see some styles listed in parentheses below). Will they be using primarily talk therapy, free association, and dreams to look at the unconscious roots of your current and past symptoms (psychodynamic)? Will they be helping you to identify and challenge problematic thoughts that are preventing you from moving on or that contributed to problems in the relationship (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)? Will they help you focus on creating acceptance around the breakup so you can dedicate your energy towards living a life more aligned with your values (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)? There are many different ways to approach healing from a breakup, and while you may have no idea specifically what style you want, make sure that what the therapist is proposing something that feels aligned to your needs.

Are you licensed?  You want to make sure that you are working with a licensed professional. Some people who claim to do therapeutic work do not actually have degrees or valid licenses to practice such work. There is a big difference in training and education between a licensed therapist and a life coach or other kind of healer. All of them have valuable tools to offer, but if it’s therapy you seek, then make sure to find a real therapist. Some unlicensed therapists see clients in private practice as a part of their training in preparation for licensure, and if you choose this option, make sure you ask questions about who is supervising their work. Some professional designations you might see after a licensed therapist’s name are LCSW, MFT, LPCC, PhD, PsyD, and MD. (I would encourage you to seek out a licensed therapist who has been practicing for at least 7-10 years. From personal experience I can attest that the longer you practice the more you grow and the more tools you have to offer your clients.)

The Relationship Is More Important Than the Resume

Don’t be overly focused on finding someone with long list of accomplishments. Just because a therapist may have written several books on breakups, be a featured relationship blogger for The New York Times, or have a busy public speaking schedule, it doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for you. The number one determinant of the success of therapy is the client’s motivation to change, and the second is the relationship with the therapist. It is essential that you have a safe and strong connection to your therapist. So ignore the resume and focus more on what really matters here: how you feel in the room with the person.

A First Appointment Is Not a Commitment to Ongoing Treatment

Think of the first session as a trial run. See how you feel interacting with the therapist. If you don’t have a positive experience or feel safe with the person, then you should start the search over. It might feel a little uncomfortable or awkward to disclose intimate details to a stranger at first, but you should get the sense that you would eventually feel at ease with this person. You should feel that they are easy to talk to, understanding, and non-judgmental. It’s okay to set up several first appointments with different people who you connected with on the phone. Think about which experience you felt you got the most out of and make a decision from there.

If you’ve missed previous articles in this Demystifying Therapy series, be sure to get caught up below.

Part 1: How It Can Help

Part 2: Beginning Your Therapist Search

When You’re Overwhelmed By Changes You Want To Make In Life

There was a point in my life when I felt suffocated by the amount of changes that I wanted to make in my life. I didn’t know where to start. As I looked at the many pages of answers on Google about how to change, I realized that this was a problem I shared with a lot of people.

My list of changes haunted me as it became longer and longer, and honestly, sometimes the list had to take the back burner because life still had to happen. But I always wondered, what if some of those changes could make this whole life ‘operation’ run a lot smoother?

Not to sound morbid, but just like death, change is never convenient. Change is painful when you are busy living, but change is a choice. You can choose to stop seeing it as an inconvenient task. Instead, see it as a prescription for healing.

Change allows you to transition from just existing to truly living.

So here are five simple steps you can take now to push through the resistance to change:

1. Admit That Something Is Not Working

This is the first step: admitting that something in your life isn’t working. There may be many things on your list of things to change, but choose just one thing to start.

2. Take The Power Into Your Own Hands

Take ownership of this thing that needs to change and challenge yourself to take your healing into your own hands. This will make you feel empowered. Your ability to change does not depend on anyone but you.

3. Build A Positive Environment

Surround yourself with motivation and positive reinforcement. This may include a change of who you spend your time with, reading more positive books, telling yourself positive daily affirmations or writing positive notes on your phone.

4. Leverage Tools To Track Your Progress

You may want to use an app or a low-tech tool (journal) to help you track and organize the progress you are making.

5. Share Your Progress With Others   

Challenge yourself to share your journey, the highs and the lows, because an “audience” (even if it’s one other person) will help you remain accountable to change. Sharing your journey authentically and honestly will also motivate, inspire and build up others. Start a blog, keep track of your progress on Instagram with your own hashtag or just check in with a friend over coffee.

It’s the perfect time of year to take stock of what’s not working and prepare a plan to make a change. So take stock. Embrace your ability to change. And then go do it!

5 Ways a Crisis Can Unlock Positive Growth

“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”– Chinese Proverb

For the hundreds of proverbs about adversity, and for all the spiritual traditions that emphasize finding meaning in times of difficulty, what do we actually know about this process? Is suffering really beneficial? 

Post-traumatic growth, as the name suggests, is the kind of positive growth we can experience in the face of tough times. Research has shown it to be a very real psychological phenomenon: we see it in sexual assault survivors and after terrorist attacks . Even in the face of the most unforgivable, unjust, vile acts of humanity – acts we should never have to reconcile in the first place – survivors are able to report making positive life changes, and we see increases in kindness, teamwork and faith in those who have suffered.

According to psychology researcher Kasley Killam in an article for Scientific American, research has pinpointed 5 key ways that crises unlock our positive growth.

1. We rise to the crisis, and in doing so, we may surprise ourselves with our resilience and have more trust our own strength. 

2. Stressful times can bring people together, bolstering the bonds of our relationships. 

3. Challenging life events can reveal our complacency in other areas, making us realize just how lucky we are and boosting a sense of gratitude. 

4. Having our beliefs challenged can reveal just how deeply we hold those values. Fighting for what we believe in can be incredibly validating to our sense of self. 

5. All major changes, negative or positive, can make us re-evaluate our assumptions. Where we may not have perceived possibility before, a shift in our reality can expose new ideas, truths, and possibilities. How often do we lament an option being taken off the table, only to later realize something better was coming all along?

While this is all lovely, it’s important to point out that the growth process isn’t necessarily automatic. Only once we’ve accepted our circumstances (easier said than done), then can we go seek out the emotional support we need. It’s clear that the psychological benefits of post-traumatic growth are ours for the taking, but it’s up to us to proactively get there. 

Following Your Heart Even When It’s Scary

One of the most common questions I get from friends who are in relationships is whether their relationship is “right.” Though I’m never able to give a definitive answer, I finally realized the best thing to do is just tell them my own experience answering this question and stay out of their decision making process as much as possible. 

Last year, I wrote an article about leaving my job at Google and I compared walking away from that job to walking away from my college boyfriend – in both cases, something seemed off to me deep down.

“When people ask me what it was like to leave, I liken my experience of leaving Google to breaking up with my college boyfriend. He was brilliant, good looking, respected, and everyone loved him  —  I even loved him  –  but he wasn’t the one. It used to catch up with me on long bus rides my senior year, staring out the window, and I’d get a knot in the pit of my stomach. Realizing that I had to let him go was a slow and difficult process, but it was the right thing to do and I eventually mustered up the courage to break both of our hearts. I wasn’t sure I would ever meet someone like him again, but leaving that relationship opened me up for so much more later on, and I continue to think of that decision as one of the most pivotal in my life. It took me several years to reach the same conclusion about corporate life at Google  –  it was almost unimaginable to give up a salary, a manager who treated me like family and co-workers I genuinely considered friends. I had worked so hard for it. I couldn’t let it go, even though I was in many ways unhappy.”

At the end of the day, only you know what is right, and that was true for me then. 

It was also true for blogger Jordan Reid. In her post “When Nothing But Everything Is Wrong” Jordan talks about walking away from what was, in many ways, a great relationship even when the uncertainty and loneliness ahead seemed unmanageable.

“Truth? I kind of lost it. I pictured myself back in the relationship, back in my job, maybe not great but certainly not alone and probably not so sad it hurt to open my eyes in the morning, and just about wanted to collapse through the floor at the mess I had made of my future. I convinced myself that our relationship had been perfectly fine (after all, it was difficult for me to put a finger on what had been “wrong” in the first place), and that I had just been a whiny, dissatisfied, impossible-to-please kid who thought there were better things out there when really, there weren’t.

Guess what?

There are better things out there.”

It’s not always easy or 100% clear at the time, but when you listen to and follow your heart (or gut or intuition or little voice, whatever you want to call it), I truly believe the universe rewards you. For Jordan, leaving that relationship allowed her to find her husband and she has started a beautiful family and career as a writer. For me, leaving my college boyfriend allowed me to finally get to know myself and experience several serious relationships and breakups that shaped my life. Being single, I didn’t have to think twice about taking big risks in my life (moving to San Francisco, moving to Tokyo, moving to Los Angeles, starting a company).

I wouldn’t be where I am now without that total freedom, and it came from letting go, as difficult as it was at the time. Hopefully it helps to hear stories from people who’ve been at the very difficult crossroads of letting go and holding on. Stay strong!