Mental Health Toolkit: How To Balance Self-Care and Community Care.

Mental Health Toolkit: How To Balance Self-Care and Community Care.

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I just got home from a trip to LA where I got to see my family — parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, grandparents, aunts, uncles….some of whom I hadn’t seen for over two years (which is very out of the ordinary for me).

My grandparents, who are thriving in their 80th decade, were an especially special visit. They’re a part of the WANT community, too. You might even be reading this right now because they sent you a link to sign up. They’re definitely reading this right now (hi, Nana and Papa Ronny!).

As some of WANT’s biggest superfans, they always love asking about not only my work, but about YOU.

They can’t believe how many amazing human beings I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, virtually or IRL, because of WANT. They want to know how we find each other, how we know each other, where you’re from, what it is you love, everything.

It’s pretty incredible that we’re able to talk the ins and outs of a career and community that primarily exist in the digital space without missing a beat. (My grandfather was actually the very first person to introduce me to The Internet back in 1990/91 — any of my ’80s-millennials-and-older remember Prodigy?!) They understand what I do, they understand how we connect…

…and, they understand the immense amount of energy it takes to be your own boss, publicist, creative director, editor, assistant, and team.

(kidding with this one. kinda. while i love and honor my weekends most of the time, i also sometimes get into habits of working too often during them and end up feeling very much like this.)

 

A few months back, I shared with you a post I wrote about creating a Joy Tab — a list of things to help you turn the focus back on your self after being others-focused for so long.

When I shared it, I got so many of you sending emails to me, echoing what I’d expressed in my post: I’d been so caught up in trying to be of service to others over the last few months, that the only “self-care” I was doing was the stuff that would just keep me afloat.

Sleep. Water. Movement. Food.

I, and you, needed to get back in touch with what was needed on a solo level.

Fast forward a few months, and I found myself in the exact opposite position.

I had gotten so self-focused that I felt disconnected from others.

On a personal level, I leaned so heavily into self-care that I began to fear the absence of it (a faint echo of the old disordered tendencies of my 20s, ones I do NOT want to ever go back to).

On the professional level, I felt such intense anxiety (as the one building, navigating, and steering her own ship) that I’d spend my days spiraling about work I was stressed about, spend my nights staying up mega-late finishing the work I spent the day stressing about, and wake up completely wiped the next day.

And the cycle would repeat.

What I realized is that this time around, I didn’t need a Joy Tab to help me focus on myself. I needed a Connection Tab to help me focus back on others.

Because here’s the thing:

As humans, we aren’t meant to be fully self- or others-focused.

You can tell just by practicing a fake conversation with yourself: imagine talking to someone and all you say is “I, me, mine, my”…..or, on the flipside, you deflect any question about yourself and only say “you, yours, they, theirs.”

It feels icky, right?

That’s because when you only focus on ONE, you either create distance between you and others, or between you and your SELF.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and while I believe it’s an important conversation at ALL times, it’s particularly important this month of this year, when we’re actively creating a new normal that’s ACTUALLY new…instead of the old patterns that weren’t working in the first place.

A healthy human, in relationship with herself OR with others, is meant to have balance when it comes to what and who gets our attention. We must practice self-care and community care.

And so, as a Mental Health Awareness Month gift, I created a free SELF-CARE + COMMUNITY CARE (or JOY TAB + CONNECTION TAB) Toolkit just for you. Click here to download it.

One last thing about my time with my grandparents.

During the course of our lunch together last Wednesday, during a trip in which I was so thrilled to put my self-focus on pause for a few days and soak in some community-focused time, my grandfather asked me a question: How do you decide to write the things you write, and speak about the things you speak about? (my Papa Ronny is the master of open-ended questions.)

I laughed as I told him: 

“I wish I had a more exciting answer to give you, but the truth is, it’s just how my chatty, highly sensitive brain works.”

A few days later, upon reflection, I now think that’s just one part of the answer.

Yes, my brain is always going a mile a minute and always has this “Clarissa Explains It All”-style monologue going on (with the volume all the way up).

But the other part of the equation is YOU. 

I don’t believe I am alone.
I don’t believe any of us are.

Maybe I’m the one with this specific platform and this specific voice, but my experiences are NOT unique. 

I know this because of talking to you. Reading YOUR posts on social media. Emailing YOUR inbox and DMing back and forth on YOUR platforms. Learning from YOUR words. What my chatty, highly sensitive brain tells me is so similar in many ways to what your chatty, highly sensitive brain tells you.

But/and, different.

And THAT is why we should not, cannot, and MUST not ever be 100% self-focused or 100% others-focused, and why we must create systems and strategies for ourselves to regain a unique-to-us balance of the two when we lean too far in one direction or the other.

Because both focuses have important lessons to teach us, questions to ask us, and ways to relate. We will not find every answer we need in others. And, contrary to a lot of pop culture self-helpy advice, we will not find every answer we need in ourselves either.

The key is curiosity.

Sometimes we need to get curious about ourselves; sometimes we need to get curious about others.

But make no mistake: there is gold both inside and outside us all.

How To Be Fearless. (plus…we’re on CNN!)

How To Be Fearless. (plus…we’re on CNN!)

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FEARLESS = FEAR < FAITH (or, “Fearless” is when the fear is less than the faith) was an equation I stood behind long, long before this past year.

But March 2020-March 2021 made me realize how vital it truly is to maintaining a sense of self-assuredness WITHOUT abandoning your very real responses to very real crises.

That’s why when CNN asked me “What’s a lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic that could help women in the year ahead?” my answer was a no-brainer.

True fearlessness is when the fear you have of a situation is less than the faith you have in YOURSELF.

I’d never advise anyone to write over their fear. That’s not how to be fearless. Whenever I hear people say things like “I choose not to live in fear,” I take a deep breath. Not only is that phrase one of my biggest spiritual bypassing/self-gaslighting pet peeves, it makes me so sad to think that somewhere down the line, whoever is saying that phrase has been made to believe that fear is not only a choice, but a “wrong” choice that must be locked away.

Lowering your fear is super hard for a reason. Fear is like an inner security guard: it just wants to keep you safe.

But upping your faith in yourself? That’s a different story.

Fear and faith can/should coexist. It’s what can help do everything from take the next smallest proactive step forward, to not giving up on yourself, to just getting out of bed in the morning.

I have faith that…

…I can brush my teeth.
…I can cook myself a meal.
…I can write something that means something.
…I can think and feel deeply.
…I can gift myself a good night’s sleep.

These are the types of things that have gotten me through my darkest days over the last year. Seriously.

Every tiny thing you have faith in – notice it. It counts. List out the reasons you already have to have faith in who you are. And slowly, the fear-to-faith scales start to tip from the fear over to the faith. That’s what can actually make a difference in the long run, and make you believe there’s more out there for you than just fear alone.

WATCH IT HERE.

BIG BIG gratitude to CNN for including me in this campaign alongside some of my role models, like Padma Lahkshmi, Malala Yousafzai, Lori Gottlieb, and more. 

Also grateful for what’s an important thought-starter for us all:

What are some lessons you’ve learned over the last year that could help others – or future YOU – navigate the year ahead?

 

The Joy Tab.

The Joy Tab.

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You:
How Are You, Really?

Me:
Last Saturday I hit a breaking point. Or whatever you want to call those moments these days where it just all feels like too much and not enough simultaneously. A vortex of feeling. A black hole of numbness. No tears though. Vortexes suck up tears and numbness doesn’t cry.

I confided to Jeremy that I felt as if the only times I’m truly happy lately are when I’m 1- singing, 2- running, or 3- all doing something together as a family unit (walking, drinking coffee on the couch, watching a movie). All the other times felt…anesthetized. This, I said, made me so sad. Not the feelings themselves (or lack thereof), but the ratios.

And he said: well that makes sense. You’ve spent almost an entire year just focused on how you can help everyone else. It makes sense that the things that fill you up are when you’re totally and completely self-focused.

Oh.

It’s true. Since March 2020, I’ve been switched onto Helper Mode. Personally and professionally. This is not a complaint. Rather, a recognition. My work is completely focused on helping other people through their tough stuff. Always has been. My personal motto (or one of them, along with such phrases as “don’t not give a fuck, just give selective fucks”) is one passed down to me by my high school theater teacher; that whenever you walk into a room the first thing you do is ask “what can I do to help?” Heck, it’s even in my astrological chart and Human Design and enneagram and all that stuff. Being of service is in me on a cellular level. And as entrepreneur Gloria Atamno says, it’s not always an easy task to separate the change you wish to make and what you actually carry the responsibility for – especially for those who feel like it’s their life’s assignment and calling to make that change.

All this focus on others honestly wouldn’t be as much of an issue if I was doing more than the bare minimum to keep mySELF afloat – which is exactly what I’ve been doing. I’m usually someone whose energetic balance is worked into her daily life. It’s not just happenstance – I’ve spent almost two decades carefully crafting my days when and where I can to make sure I get solo time amidst the cacophony that is life. I thought ‘d figured out my formula.

But without commutes, social plans, small talk with the barista at the coffee shop, random trips to the drugstore (because I’m sure I need something, I’ll think of it later), and the predictable everydayness that was life before March, I’ve been way off balance for far too long. My scales (Libra here!) have been askew for almost a year.

~

A healthy human, in relationship with herself OR with others, is meant to have balance when it comes to what and who gets our attention. We’re not MEANT to be 100% self-focused or 100% other-focused constantly – we need to be both.

And yet the last year has held many of us in one lane or the other:

Maybe you’ve been SELF-focused: doing things to keep yourself decent, hopeful, and well – tipping the scales toward the Self not because you’re arrogant or believe others don’t deserve these things too, but because you feel the most primary and urgent needs are your own. If you don’t take care of yourself, there’s no way you can take care of others. A beautiful sentiment besides the fact that, while feeling decent, hopeful, and well, you also end up feeling lonely and disconnected from others.

Or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been OTHER-focused: doing things to keep others decent, hopeful, and well – tipping the scales toward the Other not because you believe you’re undeserving of these things yourself, but because you feel the most primary and urgent needs are out there in the community and world. We create the world we want to live in. A beautiful sentiment besides the fact that, while feeling decent, hopeful, and well about others, you also end up feeling burnt out and disconnected from yourself.

I do NOT want to tip the scales so far in one direction that I lose sight of the other, nor do I want to dim or blur my focus on others just to give myself some TLC. Again, keeping my Others-focus sharp is important to my DNA. I just need to sharpen my focus on myself in the meantime.

So what’s helping me (or at least what I HOPE will help me this month, I’m still working on this) is keeping a JOY TAB.

A list of 10 blank boxes and fill-in-the-blank spaces, to-do list style, to check off per week with things that bring ME joy. A list of suggestions and Common Joy-Bringers at the top, then space for me to fill in the blanks.

Maybe you’re the opposite, though. You feel like you’ve spent so much time and energy isolated and trying to keep yourself satisfied/decent/hopeful/well that you rarely do anything that truly connects you to others in a way that feels meaningful to you that helps you focus on others AS you continue to focus on yourself.

For that I’d suggest the same convention, but with a twist. A CONNECTION (or COMMUNITY or SERVICE TAB (pick the word that feels right to you). 10 blank boxes and fill-in-the-blank spaces, to-do list style, to check off per week with things that serve someone else or connect you with others.

I picked 10 per week because I like the idea of more than one thing a day. I personally need a lot more Self-oriented joy in my life. Also, I didn’t assign a specific number per DAY because I slip. Some days I don’t do anything that brings me joy that’s all my own — but days are long, so if I skip a day, I can surely find something to do to double up on another day. This ALSO makes me feel less guilty for spending “time on myself” when the guilt bug starts to bite (again – for you the feeling might be different).

Want your own Joy and Connection Tab templates? Click below to download:

To be honest with you, I stopped asking people “How Are You” long ago. Because I noticed that the default answer is usually “fine.” Even when people aren’t. We’re so pre-programmed to hear THAT question and give THAT answer that when people actually want to know how we are, we end up dismissing a chance for real connection, real emotion, and just real REALness beyond the perfunctory response. “Fine,” to me, is an answer you give when you give when you don’t want to talk about something. Or when you’ve had so many people in your past try to fix you that you just don’t want to get into it. Or, more commonly, an answer you give as a courtesy to someone else you figure is just asking you How You Are because it’s the polite thing to do. Nice, not kind.

And that, to me, is a shame. That we’re so used to equating the question “How Are You” with something either negative or obligatory that we just give the easiest answer that’ll stop the conversation soonest.

So, yeah, I’m not fine. And no, you don’t need to try and fix it. Because since I’m able to identify why exactly it is that I’m not fine — because I know your heart, and I trust that when you asked me How Are You, Really you actually wanted to dive into the deep end with me — I feel confident in being able to move through it. I’ve been here before, I’ll be here again. What’s going to make this time different?

 


WANT YOUR SELF:
What are some things that bring you JOY? What are some things that make you feel more CONNECTED TO others?
Can you make these suggestions for your future-self to take advantage of, for those times you’re looking to balance your scales?

Introducing THE WANT COMMUNITY: A Membership To Make Shift Happen

Introducing THE WANT COMMUNITY: A Membership To Make Shift Happen

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Big announcement…

WE HAVE A FREAKIN’ OFFICIAL COMMUNITY!!!!!!!!

(Please excuse the all-caps shout. This has been so very long in the making, and I reserve the right to shout with glee from the internet-rooftops.)

THE WANT COMMUNITY is exactly what I envisioned for WANT when I dreamed it up back in 2007: it’s a place to shift your self talk, build a positive mindset, and make a lasting impact by being the you you know you’re meant to be.

WHAT IS THE WANT COMMUNITY?

We’re a members-only club by women, for women that gives you empowerment, encouragement, resources + support to shift your self-talk – not just from negative to positive, but from reactive to proactive.

WHY SHOULD I JOIN THE WANT COMMUNITY?

Well, I believe that you deserve to be the You you know you’re meant to be…and you deserve to be surrounded by the kind of support + encouragement that makes you believe it’s possible to THRIVE being that person. TWC is where you go to build positive habits, self-confidence, and self-worth for the long run – and where you connect with fellow community members to put all that confidence to good use out in the world.

WHAT WILL I GET BY JOINING THE WANT COMMUNITY?

⚡️ WANT Your Self Today deliveries: Bite-sized pep-talks, prompts, and pieces of inspiration “From Your Self” (?) in your inbox M-F

⚡️ Weekly WANT Challenges + Prompts: community prompts in the private clubhouse to make shift happen in both your world and the world

⚡️ Monthly Virtual Meetups: including Q+A sessions, mini-workshops, panels, workouts, guest speakers, community happy hours, office hours, and more

⚡️ WANT Your Self Quarterly: A digital mini ‘zine delivered to your internet door 4xs a year containing community updates, member spotlights, notable TWC Wins, and more

⚡️ Our Private Community Board: This is my favorite part. Connect, cheer on, and bond with other TWC members. Download the app (WE’RE ON AN APP, and it’s not owned by Facebook! ?) to stay connected wherever you go!

…and more.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO JOIN THE WANT COMMUNITY?

Because “doable” looks different for everyone, we’ve got 3 pricing options to choose from, starting at $4.99/month. All plans are identical, and you can change at any time

Interested? Click below:

 

I cannot WAIT to get to know you better in The WANT Community — and, maybe even moreso, I cannot wait for you to meet EACH OTHER. You’re gonna love each other.

LET’S MAKE SHIFT HAPPEN.

Meet you in TWC!

How To Keep Your Good Going.

How To Keep Your Good Going.

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About seven months ago, I wrote:

Well. We’re not there yet.

But it feels like our New Normal is close.

Can you feel it too?

And hopefully, it will be a New Normal that’s been needed for a good long time.

I believe in you. I believe in your heart, your determination, your strength, your power. And while that’s great, the thing I care the most about is that YOU believe in you.

The year is beginning to wrap up. This weekend there were celebrations of joy around the whole WORLD (which is pretty bananas when you stop to think about that. The whole world). And the phrase that keeps swirling around in my brain is:

NOW THE WORK BEGINS, BECAUSE NOW THE WORK CAN BEGIN.

Fighting for change is not easy. Working to implement change after fighting for it is a whole other kind of “challenging.”

Because no matter the change – in our relationships, in our body image, in our careers, in our self-worth, in our society – the real test comes when it’s time to build and then maintain what we’ve fought so long for.

The real test comes when it's time to build and then maintain what we've fought so long for. Click To Tweet

I’ve gotten caught in the trap of achievement-seeking before, and then totally botched the building and maintaining part. It feels productive and proactive in the moment to fight for a win but the real test is what you do with everything that comes after.

I know I don’t want to look back and just see dreams. I want to look back and see how I built them. I know I don’t want to look back and just see determination. I want to look back and see what I did with it, especially in the quiet moments when no one was watching.

I know it can be really overwhelming to begin to think about the “now-whats” of life, especially directly following mentally and emotionally tumultuous times. Definitely rest and recharge and practice the actual self-care that leads to relief and release.

And then after, consider visiting these thought starters to get your wheels turning about where to go from here. Because it’s clear our Old Normal wasn’t working, and it’s important we pivot instead of falling back into a way of life that wasn’t serving us:

  • What have you learned you can do without? Why? And, what will you do about it in the future?

  • What have you learned you CAN’T do without? Why? And, what will you do about it in the future?

  • What have you realized doesn’t matter all that much? Why? And, what will you do about it in the future?

  • What have you realized DOES matter a great deal? Why? And, what will you do about it in the future?

  • What are you most excited about right now when you look toward the future? Why? And, what will you do about it?

  • What have you fought for this year? Why? And, what will you do about it in the future?

  • What will make this New Normal actually ✨NEW✨ for you? And, how will you make it happen yourself?


Let me know what you come up with in the comments. I’m always here.

Every batch of parents hopes their kids’ generation will “be the ones to change the world.” That’s all fine and feel-good. It’s important to keep hoping for better and better tomorrows.

And.

Don’t wait for another generation to come around.

Be the change you were born to be.

Right now.

I believe in you. And I hope you believe in you, too. 

How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

How To Harness Positivity When Everything Feels Like A Dumpster Fire

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(…and the dumpster was filled with rancid milk and rotting broccoli and dog poop bags.)

 

WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL, my theater teacher used to tell us that instead of saying we were nervous before a show, we should tell ourselves that we were actually excited. Both nervous and excited are “aroused emotions,” meaning they trigger a response in the body that prepares you for action. They’re two words for the same sensation.

But sometimes, there are no substitute feel-alike words for what you’re experiencing. Flipping the shittiness feels saccharine and silly at best, tone deaf and demeaning at worst. You might be feeling exhausted, defeated, enraged, lonely, confused, or some kind of special cocktail of all the above ingredients. “Positive self-talk” probably feels pretty empty, and pretty hokey.

It does to me, too.

Because the thing is that positive self-talk doesn’t always work.

 


THE NOT SO GREAT POWER OF POSITIVITY

Studies have shown that if you don’t believe what you’re telling yourself, and you don’t already have high self-esteem, your brain knows you’re telling yourself lies. The University of Waterloo published a study in the Journal of Psychological Science concluding that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.” And what’s more, you start to feel ashamed of the fact that you AREN’T that person you’re trying to tell yourself you are.

What’s even more interesting to me is that the aforementioned study also said that when asked to list both negative and positive thoughts about themselves, the people who had lower self-esteem actually felt BETTER when they were allowed to say the negative thoughts about themselves. The so-called positive feelings that were being generated came directly from their so-called negativity. It’s no wonder we stay in negative self-talk loops – we stay where we believe we belong.

 

PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.

Positive self-talk isn’t necessarily empty and it most certainly isn’t bad. But jumping straight to the “talk” part of “positive self-talk” is skipping the vital step of determining what it means to actually be positive in the first place.

If there is ONE message I hope you internalize about harnessing positivity during the toughest of times, it’s this:

Positivity isn’t inherently feel-good, happy, or rainbows in the sky.

Positivity is NOT about uplifting mantras and affirmations.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive.

Positivity is about being proactive, not reactive. Click To Tweet

Positivity is about recognizing the full spectrum of a situation – the highs, the lows, the lights, the darks, and everything in between – and making a proactive choice to move forward.

By this logic, positivity won’t always feel good. It might feel uncomfortable, you might feel angry, there might be sadness lingering in the background or dread pushing its way through to the front of the line. Your problems won’t disappear and you won’t be handed solutions on a silver platter. And so you might feel discouraged or like you’re doing things “wrong.”

But as long as you’re being proactive, not reactive, I can assure you – THAT is positivity in motion.

 

HOW CAN I BE PROACTIVE RIGHT NOW?

Some words are easily flipped. And while maybe you can’t flip the stinky dumpster fire of dog-shit and turn it into a babbling brook filled with glistening pebbles…maybe, just maybe, you can flip what positivity actually means to you.

Nervousness to excitement. Positive to proactive.

The words we choose to use hold so much weight. It’s vital we dissect what they mean to us before we decide what we do with them.

Instead of asking yourself, “How can I be positive right now?”, try asking yourself “How can I be proactive right now?”

Report back in the comments. I’d love to hear where your proactive choices take you.