What is Your Life Teaching You?


I was the kind of person that loved college and loved to learn. I went to a liberal arts university and couldn’t get enough philosophy, psychology, and theology. I loved asking questions like What is the purpose of life? How should we be living? Why do people act the way they do? What is God and what is God’s function in this world and in our lives?

These questions were rumblings in my soul from a very young age. So, when I got to college and I was actually able to explore these questions and take classes on them – for me, this was the dream!

However, after college, I had a long few years of grieving the loss of learning. I wanted to be at college forever. To always be taking classes that would cause me to be learning and growing and changing.

It took me a long time to realize that I was still enrolled in courses that were teaching, growing, and changing me.

Think of your life as a liberal arts college. What courses are you enrolled in right now? What practicums are you taking right now?

What is your life teaching you?

The most wonderful thing about this perspective, is that it transforms the struggles and challenges in our lives, into opportunity for wisdom and growth. If we are able to make this mental shift, it will greatly improve our wellbeing.

Right now,

I am struggling to maintain focus at my job when I have hours of paperwork to complete.

At times I am anxious about the future and in my daily life.

I can become stressed with the busyness of life.

I still struggle at times with self doubt.


So, I could simply think of these things as frustrations in my life. OR, I could think of them in the perspective of What is my life teaching me? What life courses am I enrolled in right now?


Right now,

I am enrolled in Mindfulness 101.

This class has a focus on relaxation skills, introduction to meditation, and emphasizes mindfulness practices through a variety of practicums. Practicum #1 will explore the importance of focused attention and how to observe thoughts and re-direct thoughts to increase ability to focus. Practicum #2 will focus on the importance of self talk and how it affects the brain and body. There will also be a strong focus on how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works and an emphasis on how our thoughts affect the way we feel. Practicum #3 will teach basic relaxation techniques including exercises such as meditation and taking mindful walks. Finally, practicum #4 will build off of practicum #2, and focus on topics of self compassion. There will also be an exercise in which the student must engage in an activity that further brings out their strengths.

Book list/Assignments: Read Mindfully ADD book resources, listen to Attention Talk Radio podcast, utilize Meditones for meditation, participate in Discover Your Inner Voice writing class, participate in Life Works coaching for anxiety and self-doubt, listen to The Mindful Kind podcast, listen to Help Me Be Me podcast, join and participate in Facebook group for League of Extraordinary Introverts


So, maybe you are reading that, and think it’s a little weird.

I have a lot of “weird” ideas. But if there is one thing I have realized in my life, it is often the weird ideas that have helped me the most. Maybe you would be willing to try out this way of thinking, even if it does seem a little unusual?

As I said before, thinking of these challenges as a class to learn and grow from, totally changes the perspective, and therefore totally changes the experience.

But, the same as when you are in a college class – you have to do your homework and really engage in the class – or you are not going to get anything out of it!

Also denial won’t help. Whether you wanted to enroll in this class or not, a life circumstance you didn’t want may have forced you to. Accept this is the case and show up for class.

What are the “assignments” that will help you gain the most from this experience? Do you need to find a book or a podcast on the thing you are struggling with? Do you need to take an online course on the subject or do life coaching or counseling? Do you need to start a practice of meditation or journaling?

I can’t tell you what the answer is for you. I am just telling you, a “life class” is a nuisance if you do not fully engage it. Negative events and emotions will simply be negative things in your life that you will wish would go away. However, if you learn to embrace these events as teachers, you will have a strange mental shift, in which you feel gratitude for the lessons that are being brought to you. We never have to call a negative event “good,” but we can still be thankful for the lessons that it brings us.


Journal Questions:

  1. First, identify the struggles that you are currently facing. What is a struggle in your life right now? What is a challenge? What is a frustration? Try to list a few, if you can.
  2. With these struggles in mind, what life course would you be enrolled in? What would the name of it be?
  3. Are you showing up for class? Are doing the homework & assignments that would truly help you gain the wisdom and growth from this circumstance?
  4. What are the homework & assignments you are already utilizing? A book? A podcast? A daily practice? What homework & assignments do you need to add to engage more fully?
  5. If you are feeling creative – go ahead and write out everything like I did in the post. Your class name, your course description, and your books & assignments. You definitely don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, but it might help to give a full perspective for yourself. (And be kind of fun!)
  6. How can you imagine this new perspective transforming your struggles? Or if you have used this way of thinking before, how has it helped you in the past?


Wishing you many beautiful lessons.




What to Do When You are Stressed & Anxious


Calm Your Body with Self-Talk

We tell our bodies how to react.

If you find yourself stressed and anxious about situations that do not merit that amount of stress or anxiety – realize that it is your thoughts informing your body on how to respond.

You are telling your body to release stress and anxiety chemicals.

This response might be helpful if we still lived in the wilderness. The “fight or flight” response was helpful in that scenario.

But my guess is, when a stress/anxiety inducing situation comes up in your life, it is not because you live in the wilderness and a wild animal is after you.

You probably do not need your cortisol levels skyrocketing.

Instead, you probably need a calm and rational mind in that moment.

So, the good news is, you have the power to calm your body with self talk.

I personally have a problem with anxiety, and it is likely because I am quick to jump to worst case scenarios. These worst case scenario thoughts send my body into a panic and have even caused me to pass out before. However, for these situations – passing out was not the most helpful thing – being alert and rational is what needed to happen instead.

Last Thursday when I woke up my husband, I found that he had had a severe allergic reaction of some sort. I didn’t know how bad it was – I just knew that he did not look okay. I will spare you the details, but he was a frightful sight. I felt my mind wanting to go into panic/worst case scenario mode.

However, I knew how unhelpful I would be to my husband if I was in this state.

So instead I told myself,

Yes, it does look pretty bad. But we will get him to Urgent Care, the swelling will go down, and he will be fine.

And by telling myself that, I actually had the ability to handle the situation. My anxiety did not get to take over.

I also did some deep breathing too. When you breathe shallow breaths you are telling your body there is a stressful situation. When you breathe deep slow breaths you are telling your body that you are calm, peaceful, and safe.

This may sound weird, but think of your body as a child. It doesn’t know how to react – it is just taking cues from you. If you make it feel there is danger then it will react that way, but if you tell it that it is safe, and everything will be okay, it will be comforted and calm.


Realize What is Truly Important

When we face stress, it is often because we are making everything important, when really, only some things are important.

We face stress because we are trying to reach perfect standards.

We face stress because we don’t let ourselves believe that there are other options.

We face stress because we don’t ask for help.

Let me give you another example from last weekend, as it was very anxious/stressful weekend.

I am someone who needs a lot of downtime in order to not feel stressed. My husband and I had planned a busy Thursday evening, Friday evening, and Sunday (which we were hosting a Mother’s Day cookout at our house). Therefore, I knew in order for me not to be stressed, I needed to protect my Saturday and make sure I had plenty of downtime.

Friday morning I received a call from a good friend of mine who had found out some bad news and asked if I would drive the 1.5 hour to her house to spend the day with her on Saturday.

This is not a friend who is needy or usually asks for much, so the fact that she was asking me this meant she really needed it.

I knew that seeing my friend was so important. And I also knew that self care and downtime was so important. And I felt the walls of stress closing in on me.

I began to think,

What do I do if EVERYTHING is important?!?

And that’s when I stopped in my tracks. Self care and downtime was important. Seeing my friend was important. But was everything else really that important?

I realized one of the other things that was stressing me out was hosting the Mother’s Day cookout. Cleaning the house..preparing the food..

I texted my sister and asked if she was would be willing to host. She said yes. And I felt the stress dissipate.

Yes, in my perfect standards, I would have done it all. I wouldn’t have had to ask for help.

But, if we give ourselves a minute to realize that we do have options, and we can prioritize what is important and what is not, we save ourselves a lot of unnecessary stress.


Spend Time in Nature

It is really hard to be stressed or anxious while in nature. I am not saying it is impossible, just hard.

If you want to take a natural anti-anxiety medication/stress reliever – take a walk in nature.

Be mindful about it. Direct your thoughts to the present moment – what you see, hear, and feel.

Feel the wind on your skin. Hear the birds sing their songs. Notice the green of the leaves. Smell the scent of the flowers.

Nature also has this strange way of bringing us to a place of clarity and peace. Time often feels like it has slowed down.

During my stressful weekend, I spent a little time in nature and was surprised how my cares and woes began to fade into the background.

Enjoy the free gift that the earth has given us.


Journal Questions:

I know that I have gained a lot from reading blog entries and I also know if I took the time and journaled about them for a few minutes they would affect me in an even deeper way and bring me to some truths I may have not come to otherwise.

So if you have a few extra minutes and your journal handy…here you go!

  1. Think of a time you were recently stressed or anxious. What were the thoughts that were going through your mind? What kind of self-talk were you telling your body? What would have been better thoughts / self talk to have in this moment? What kind of self talk would have calmed you down?
  2. In reflection, which of these points causes you the most stress? Are you not prioritizing what is truly important? Have you given yourself standards of perfection? Are you unwilling to explore or acknowledge that there are other options? Are you unwilling to ask for help? Take some time to think about which of these may be causing you stress and how you can let go.
  3. This final question is less a question, and more an action step. Make a plan to go into nature – today or tomorrow if possible. Take a mindful walk in which you notice and have gratitude for the beauty around you. Once you have finished the walk, find a spot to sit down and journal about what clarity or insight that may have come to you. Nature has a way of clearing our minds and bringing forth clarity -you just might be surprised!

Wishing you many days of peace.



7 Ways to Reduce Mental Clutter



This one is huge. You will greatly reduce mental clutter, if you just allow yourself to do things your own way.

I have wasted much mental energy in the past trying to do things someone else’s way. Not only is this frustrating and draining, it usually doesn’t work. I’m different from them and that’s okay. Maybe you are too?

You may not have the same skills as others. But guess what, they may not have the same skills as you.

Use the skills you have.

Maybe someone else has the skill of just “toughing it out.” But if you don’t have that skill, you don’t need to pretend to. Instead, maybe you have the skills of creativity and problem solving and would know how to get out of or avoid a difficult situation. Use the skill you actually have.

We were all given a set of skills to get through this life. Life is going to be difficult if you try to use the skills of others, rather than your own natural abilities.

Let go of the mental clutter that is caused by trying to do it their way. You are allowed to do things your own way.



We waste a lot of mental space on worry.

However, the majority of the things we worry about never become the worst case scenario that we imagined.

Most things turn out just fine. Or even better than we had thought.

Trust that things will work out. Optimism is so much more enjoyable than pessimism.

Most likely, everything will turn out okay.

And if it doesn’t turn out okay – an optimistic and positive mindset is a lot better at dealing with that outcome, than a pessimistic negative one.

Also, keep in mind, sometimes thinking about the worst possible thing is actually worse than the worst possible thing.

When the worst possible thing happens, we go into action mode and problem solving mode, because what has happened, has happened. However, when we are thinking about some terrible outcome that could happen, we are simply dwelling.

Don’t create misery for yourself. It’s not worth it.



I used to aggressively weigh my pros and cons every time I tried to make a decision. I would become stuck in analysis paralysis. Not only did this take up a lot of mental energy, but I also would never actually make a decision.

Being open to following your intuition will rid you of a significant amount of mental clutter. Whether it is the everyday little decisions or the bigger life change decisions.

Your intuition is telling you something – try to tap into it. Mental clutter will also arise when you are trying to force yourself to do the “rational” thing, but your intuition is telling you something different.

Intuition does not mean making decisions based on emotions. Intuition is just trusting that there is an inner wisdom that goes beyond the rational mind.

Since I have started to follow my intuition, I not only have reduced my mental clutter, but my life has also started going in a direction I am more aligned with.

Maybe this will happen for you too?


I used to allow a lot of mental clutter by being concerned about what other people thought of me and taking their criticisms personally.

I wish someone had told me sooner: Criticism is just about preferences.

Don’t believe me?

Try looking up your favorite book on Amazon. You will find both the harshest criticisms along with raving reviews.

And often times, they are criticizing and raving over the exact same things.

“This book was not well researched or backed by scientific evidence. I could not take the author seriously.”

“I loved the author’s down to earth conversational tone! She doesn’t take an academic assuming approach, but rather shares her own thoughts based on her experiences!”

Imagine these being two reviews about the same book. As you can see, the first review, which was the “criticism” was purely based on a preference for a researched scientific book.

This happened for me at a job once. I had a supervisor who identified my strengths as being patient, empathetic, and willing to give grace to the clients in our youth program.

After this, I got a new supervisor. She said my weaknesses were that I was too patient with clients and let them off the hook too easy.

The exact same thing. But one person thought it was my strength and another person thought it was my weakness.

So, this is how we reduce the mental clutter surrounding criticism. Next time someone criticizes you, you do not need to go into a tizzy of  endless What’s wrong with me? thoughts. Rather, just realize your style is not their preference, and move on.



Sometimes we don’t need the criticisms of others to beat ourselves up, we do it to ourselves already. We think Why am I not like this? Why am I so bad at that? Why can’t I get this right?

This is where we need to remember that our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength.

It’s the thing that makes you special. It’s the thing that makes you stand out.

For me, I have a “messy brain.” My thoughts are everywhere and there are sticky notes all over my desk at work. But guess what? I am very creative.

Also, I am an introvert. I tend to be very quiet in meetings at work. But guess what, I am incredibly observant.

What is it for you?

Next time you find yourself feeling bad about a weakness of yours – take a moment – and flip the thought around. Realize how this very thing you are calling a weakness has also been the source of your greatest strength.



Mental energy is a finite resource. It runs outs.

We must budget our mental energy just like we would budget our finances.

Where can we reserve mental energy in our life, so that we are able to increase mental energy in other areas?

An example in my own life, is my wardrobe. I used to try to stay up with the latest fashion trends. I used to strategically pick out what I was going to where every day. I tried to go weeks without wearing the same outfit twice.

For me, this took a lot of mental energy. Especially having to decide what to wear to work every morning. My job requires a lot of my mental energy, and I had used up quite a bit already, just deciding what to wear.

This is my new wardrobe for work: I wear pretty much the same thing every week. Nobody notices. I spend zero mental energy deciding what to wear. My shirts for work are simple button ups of varying colors. If I need new clothes, I limit myself to shopping at one store I really like, rather than going on a massive clothing hunt which is very exhausting for me.

This has reduced a significant amount of unneeded mental clutter and has provided me more mental energy for other areas in my life. Now I can invest my mental energy into blogging or writing, rather than perfecting a wardrobe.

This is my example. This does not have to be your example. If creating your wardrobe and choosing your outfits is a source of enjoyment, then do it! It’s all about realizing what is energizing us and what is draining us. And realizing we can’t use our mental energy on everything at all times, so choosing carefully what we decide to use it on.



Treat yourself like you would treat a friend.
Cheer yourself on.
Give yourself a break if you mess up.

A lot of mental clutter exists because we are berating ourselves.

Why can’t you get this right?
Why are you still struggling with this?

This has to stop.

Would you allow someone to talk to your best friend like this?

If not, why would you let yourself be talked to this way?

I am not saying this is something that can be fixed overnight. These thoughts are pretty automatic. But next time you find your inner critic telling you something negative, just make sure to correct the thought.


You are feeling bad right now and that’s okay. It’s frustrating, but you are going to keep working on this. Even if it doesn’t get better immediately, it will get better.

Be gentle with yourself.



I used to be of the mindset that my problem with mental clutter could not be fixed. I used to believe that there would always be these negative, anxious, uncertain, critical voices swirling around my head.

I am here to tell you it does not have to be that way.

I’m not saying I have reached some zen state where this does not happen at all. I still do struggle with these things.

But with that being said, I have seen huge changes in myself in the last two years by implementing the above practices. I have a new inner voice – and that inner voice is kind and compassionate. She is confident and just a little more sure of herself. She trusts that things will work out. She allows and encourages me to be who I am, with no apologies.

Is the other voice still there? The “mean girl” that lives inside me is still there. But as the voice of the “Encourager” becomes louder and louder…the critical voice becomes fainter and fainter.

I hope and pray this can happen for you too.




1.    What would it mean for you to start doing things your own way? Have you felt pressured to do things someone else’s way? Would you be willing to let go of this pressure? What would that look like? What would you do differently?

2.    Do you operate in the mindset of optimism or pessimism? Do you dwell on worst case scenarios? Would you be willing to allow for more optimism and trust that things will work out? What would this look like for you?

3.    What is your relationship with intuition? Do you trust it? Why or why not? Would you be willing to start trusting your intuition more? Think of some decisions in your life right now. What is your intuition telling you?

4.    Have you ever thought about the idea that criticism might just be about other people’s preferences? What is your reaction to this? If you started thinking this way, how would it affect your life? Do you think you would be able to handle criticism more easily? Are you able to look at times in your past when you have been criticized and with this new understanding re-frame the way you are thinking about it?

5.    Make a list of what you consider as your weaknesses. Now next to these “weaknesses,” write out how these same things take the form of a strength. Are you willing to recognize that your weaknesses are your greatest strengths?

6.    How do you currently expend your mental energy? Are you using it wisely? Or are you using it on things that don’t matter to you, and not having any left for things that do? If the latter is true, how could you change this? What action steps could you take to make a change?

7.    Do you currently offer yourself self-compassion? Why or why not? When something doesn’t go as planned or you “mess up,” what do you tell yourself? Is it kind or is it mean? If it is not kind, what could you tell yourself instead?

8.    Are you willing to implement these practices into your own life? Develop a plan to start today/this week so that you can reduce mental clutter and enjoy the freedom and joy you were meant to have.


If you are really serious about this, I want to offer you two additional pieces of advice.

1)    Patience
2)    Everyday mind renewal

First, I say patience because as I said, I have seen a huge change in myself in the last 1-2 years. That’s not an overnight fix. However, I do think you can begin to see changes right away. But you may find yourself doing great one day and back to negative patterns the next day. Don’t feel bad about this – this is part of the process. Trust that over time, as long as you continue to work on this, it will change and it will become easier and easier.

Second, to find the change I wanted I had to “renew” my mind daily. I didn’t read one book and suddenly change, rather, I kept putting positivity into my life daily. You can check out my previous resource list post for some additional resources to use for the renewal of your mind. Some books I have not read but have heard highly recommended (and are on my reading list!) are Loving-kindness by Sharon Salzberg, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, The Gifts of Imperfection  by Brene Brown, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and Self Compassion by Kristin Neff. I also recently found Katie Dean through a podcast I listen to – I have not read her stuff yet but thoroughly enjoyed her podcast presence and know she speaks on these topics on her blog.

Wishing you patience, perseverance, and the renewal of your mind.