“You’re not depressed, you’re just selfish,” her father’s words sank into her bones. In an instant, the world became tinier than it already felt in her restless body. As a 16-year-old already feeling lost in her skin and seeking a way out through peers, self-harm, sex, and substances, she unleashed what she’d been hiding. “I think I need help,” the bravest words a human can muster, became another windowless room, rather than a way out of this burning home crumbling in on itself. Now she knew that she was alone; this was not a safe place to be brave. So she ventured deeper into the fire and prayed that her lungs would someday know the taste of fresh air.
Judgments by trusted adults come in many different forms. When people that girls look up to say, “it’s your fault,” “life is just hard,” “you’ll get over it,” even the well-intentioned, “you’re resilient,” she’s told that she’s alone in this journey. And that’s just not true. There are many spaces for young people to be seen and heard—and it is up to each of us to create more of them.
Each individual has something wonderful to offer youth; perhaps your words have been said before, but not in the way you can speak them. As mentors, parents, peers, teachers, neighbors, and leaders we all have a vital role to help young people through the vast challenges of our time. Being authentic, honoring silence, listening deeply, and asking for help may be a few keys to support our youth—and help heal the young person still within each of us.
Although taking on important social roles like mentorship can be of immense value, being who you are is simply enough. You don’t need to do more, be more, or even be healed from your past to provide valuable support for others. Your trials become treasure when you serve others through the lens you now have—and if you’re not ready to share your journey yet, your honesty has the potential to speak volumes more than advice-giving can. You may be the first person to give someone else permission to be true, simply by being yourself.
Let silence speak.
Mentors don’t have to give advice. Mentors don’t have to have the perfect words. In especially trying times, mentors can let silence be a guiding force. When in conversation, many people feel a need to fill the silence. A “pregnant pause” allows for personal reflection, space to think, and as Jungian tradition suggests—this is especially important for introverts. In the extroverted, “just stay positive” culture in the U.S., holding silence to contemplate, imagine, and reflect from the inside out has lost its value.
Harvard Medical School psychologist Susan David challenges this culture that prizes relentless positivity over emotional truth. When we avoid uncomfortable silence at all costs, what we are saying is, “my comfort is more important than your reality.” However, helping youth feel that they’re not alone is more valuable than fixing or filling the silence, especially when they are telling us something that is not easy to hear.
Support the person, not just the problem.
It’s easy to get tunnel-visioned by a problem—stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, disordered eating habits, and general risky behaviors—and get into the mindset of fixing, solving, and seeking solutions. The addiction counseling strategy called Motivational Interviewing describes this often automatic response as the “righting reflex.” It’s natural as empathetic beings to want to help solve a problem, however, young people aren’t a problem to be solved. Young people are humans needing to be seen and heard.
When we support youth as people—rather than a problem that needs to be fixed—the higher likelihood of them coming to their own conclusions. People will change when they are ready to change, and we can help get them get ready by listening, being curious about their experience, validating their emotions, and affirming their strengths for getting this far. Building an authentic relationship is one of the best ways we can provide sensitive, individualized, and consistent support to show young people they are not alone—and you’re not alone in this work either.
It’s ok to ask for help.
In your pursuit of non-judgmentally supporting young people, how are you doing the same for the young person within you? There is still a child within who remembers those words her teacher told her, a teen who remembers the words their father spoke. Especially if you’ve had a challenging childhood or adolescence—which many have—this is often the most challenging part of mentorship. This work can bring up a lot that you didn’t expect, and it’s ok for you to ask for help too.
How you take care of yourself, how you heal, how you speak your truth—whatever that may look like on any given day—this is mentorship. When you give yourself permission to be human, you give those around you permission as well.
For all people who feel like these days are too much to handle alone, please remember that there are free resources to help with whatever you are going through. You are not selfish, wrong, or weak for asking for help—you are strong, you have a story that only you can share, and there are so many others out there waiting to hear.
Resources: local and national hotline
24/7 National Crisis Text Line 24-Hour Crisis Line: Text 741-741
24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 800-273-TALK OR 800-273-8255
24/7 Bozeman Help Center Crisis Line: Call 406-586-3333
Montana Crisis Recovery Program (COVID-19 specific crisis call center): Call 877-503-0833 (Everyday of the week, 10:00 am – 10:00 pm)
Montana Warm Line / Non-Crisis Support Line: Call 877-688-3377 (Mon – Fri 4:00 pm – 10:00 pm & Sat – Sun 10:00 am – 10:00 pm)
If you’re like many of the people I work with who want to leave 2020 like a big pile of compost and start planting seeds for 2021, you’ve probably tried a few things to finish this wild year strong…
🌱 Reconnecting with Loved Ones
🌱 Reflection & Journaling
🌱 Visualization, Meditation, & Prayer
🌱 Setting Intentions, New Years Resolutions, or a Word for the Year
You might be the one who doesn’t want to wait until January 1st to make this world a better place for yourself and others—you want to begin yesterday. And you have been putting in so much work already.
But then you hear more challenging news and the doubt sets in or you feel the weight of burnout. You beat yourself up and end up feeling like there’s something “wrong” with you because you’re not motivated to put the work into your goals and relationships.
It is not your fault!
The simple truth is that you’re still working through everything in the midst of a global pandemic. By nature, this decreases the confidence we need to stay motivated.
I’m guessing you already know this.
Here’s what I want you to know: You can stick to your intentions and make lasting changes. You can find balance in your body and your life. You can pursue new and old relationships, even from a distance. You can find sustainable health and well-being and this can absolutely overflow into your household and your greater community.
You see, there are particular experiences and gifts that only you have. You have a perfect purpose—and I imagine you even know what it is.
When you’re burnt out and stressed out, it feels impossible to give your gifts and share your stories.
And I know you want to give and share.
This is what I teach my amazing clients… I show them how simple it is to find more balance in their lives by tuning into nature & their bodies’ rhythms and learning how to give from their abundance rather than their leftovers.
Without both of these important pieces, any intention, resolution, or goal you set will have a hard time taking root. Your body will always fight back if they are not in balance.
And this is exactly what I’d love to show you.
I don’t want you to keep feeling frustrated by your own body and beating yourself up for not being at your best all the time. I want you to find forgiveness and the confidence to reach your value-centered goals for a long time to come.
That’s why I’d like to offer you a FREE Burnout to Balance Discovery Session to find your roots and grow confidently as we transition into a new year.
I’ve opened up 5 slots on my calendar for the next 3 weeks, and I’d love to speak with you during one of them.
During this call, I’ll help you determine how to achieve the results you want, WITHOUT feeling like you’re sabotaging yourself anymore. You’ll get a personalized action plan to help you reach your unique goals over time.
If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and you’re ready for a different (and more fun & effective) approach to goal-setting—then I know I can help and I look forward to connecting with you.
P.S. Spots for these FREE calls will fill up fast, so if you know you want help with sustainability for your New Year’s intentions, I encourage you to grab one of these spots today!
I’m not sure about you, but I’ve been experiencing the culmination of loss and grief from this year. The sadness is settling in that I cannot meet with all my loved ones. It feels extra lonely now. And at the same time, extra still. As I shared in March of this year in Sometimes, Inside is Your Best Side,
“Nature uses the season of winter to rest from the productivity of spring, abundance of summer, and harvest of autumn. We all know this, but rarely practice it. In my lifetime we haven’t ever had to cease producing and consuming. We haven’t had to rest. There’s new growth and ideas and goods always sprouting up. We’ve been encouraged to keep up, keep going, do more.”
How might we find a better balance of stillness and contemplation when we can all be together again? This has been an unusually still Christmas and winter solstice season, and yet, perhaps that is exactly what our creator had intended from the very beginning when he sent a child to guide us with his “still, small voice.” I invite you to listen with me. I invite you to rest with me. I invite you to share your amazing story, when you feel ready.
Please reach out if you feel that you need some extra support in this time. You are not alone. May you feel that you are deeply, deeply loved beneath the surface of this challenging season.
Journal Prompts: This year…
When, where, or with whom did you felt most warm, safe, protected, and honored?
What do you love most?
What are three strengths you’ve tapped into? In what ways have you applied them?
How did you rest and renew?
What brings you deep joy?
What are you most grateful for this year?
What brought you a sense of wonder?
What has been hard to accept? What does this challenge have to teach you?
Who supported you in the ways you needed most? How did they support you?
When is one area of your day (specific time) that you can cultivate stillness during this Christmas and solstice season?
This season brings up different emotions for each of us. Whether or not you’ve been craving family time—it’s different this year. If you plan to communicate in-person or virtually with the people you grew up with, here are a few simple tips that may help your well-being.
Boundaries can support your relationships by front-loading your expectations and needs before a challenge comes up.
Perhaps you’d like everyone to wear masks. Maybe you don’t want to dive right into politics. You don’t eat meat anymore? Whatever it is, that’s ok, that’s you. Setting firm boundaries and communicating them early on to at least one trusted family member can help. This way, you will have an ally who can stand by your side and hold you and others accountable (and mediate, if necessary). Your boundaries can change as you do, but if you don’t communicate what you need—no one will know how to hold you.
We all have our history with family, which often magnifies our challenges.
No matter where we stand in our values, most of us are genuinely trying to do the right thing. We are more polarized in many ways with all that’s come to the surface this year, and yet many of us still choose to spend time having a dialogue, debates, and discussions with family. You are brave. When we remember that we are connected by bonds stronger than race, religion, and politics—we can learn so much from one another even if it makes us want to pull our hair out sometimes.
Also, leading a dialogue with “before I respond to your question, I just want you to know how much I love you” may perhaps help us and our family members feel a little more present and relaxed. Maybe not, but it’s worth a try.
What might this person have to teach you?
Perhaps what we learn is not about the content of the conversation, but about how to relate, listen, and respond rather than react. The Sustained Dialogue Institute defines dialogue as “listening deeply enough to be changed by what you learn.” A slight focus shift from what we’re listening to, to how we’re listening may be the key to depolarizing our dinner tables—and our country.
If you don’t feel safe, respected, or heard, it’s ok to step away.
Unfortunately, setting boundaries doesn’t always mean they will be respected—but if you have made your expectations clear, it will be easier to bring them up again later. Your action to take some space for your well-being may be better understood and carry more weight if you’ve set healthy boundaries and expectations up-front.
Moving our bodies can help us alleviate stress and connect deeper with those around us.
Getting outside, moving our bodies, and playing can help us relax, unwind, and remember why we came back here. Plus, some healthy competition can get some of that pent-up energy out in a healthy way.
When you feel frustrated in a conversation, notice your breath.
Our communication or relationships will stagnate if we’re all holding our breath in frustration. For me, I often feel a fire in my chest and throat when I hear something that doesn’t sit right with me. My breath gets shallow almost immediately. If I speak right away, my voice shakes. Instead of screaming, like my body probably wants me to, I try to take a deep breath. These breaths help me stay calm, and it’s not surprising that I speak and listen better when I’m calm.
No matter what you believe in now, this soil formed you.
You don’t have to have all things in common, but practicing gratitude may help us feel a little better. Gratitude doesn’t have to be blind positivity. You can simultaneously be speaking against an ideal or policy your family supports while being grateful that they taught you to think for yourself. It is human to feel the spectrum of emotions that we all feel when with family.
And if you don’t feel safe in this soil, return to your boundaries and it’s ok to ask for help.
I wish you all well as you embark on this adventure of holidays during the pandemic. Be safe out there.
The aspen shivers. There are thousands of others just like her, but she overlooks the sanctuary that surrounds her. She only feels her frozen bones as her costume falls to decompose. She is naked and alone in the forest as the land cycles into winter.
In whatever ways grief has prepared you for this year’s wintertide, you’re not alone if you feel completely exposed to the elements.
As all of us learn at some point in our lives, wellness is continuous action—not a destination. Seasons of winter, loss, and uncertainty either awake or shake us.
Along this journey, we may arrive on a mountain peak of well-being for a moment and enjoy the beautiful view, remembering all that our bodies and minds are capable of feeling—one glimpse of the calm. And then we return, and not always to a safe place. We return to our conditioning, our obligations, our “shoulds,” and the misty valley below, obscuring our genuine vision. We stay on the run.
I take flight from the uncertainty in the valley. I fight the systems of oppression with these same oppressive rules driving my change. I freeze at death’s sting. It’s harder than ever to return to safety and calm with unlimited access to all that’s wrong in the world.
As Emily and Amelia Nagoski share in their book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, “To be “well” is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.” There’s a time for everything under the sun.
The sympathetic (fight, flight, freeze) and parasympathetic (rest) systems are survival mechanisms. We need relaxation to restore and recover—but excitement and risk show us what we’re capable of; adventure and adversity strengthen us. The stress in our bodies is on purpose, but staying there can cause chronic dis-ease. Rumination keeps us stuck, and so does suppression. Ideally, we have a balance.
The individual members of a forest find this fluid balance by communicating below the surface, providing information through mycorrhizal networks: a symbiotic relationship when fungus attaches to hair-like tree roots to connect trees with others. Without the community I once required for my balance, I have so much that I haven’t said. I feel alone. My roots long for connection.
We are blessed in many ways that our roots aren’t physical. Whether it feels like a blessing or not, we’ve learned to connect without touch, and our roots are deeper for it. Like the forest that surrounds one lone aspen, we are profoundly united.
Like the earth, my body knows what she is doing. In every season, she knows. If I allow the stress and rest to move, my body will flow through another season—inside and outside. I give and receive under the surface of this frozen land.
When we speak our body’s language, she responds. Whether through worship’s windy chills, the fire of a run, the grounding of a walk, a wave of tears moving through me, I am clothed in peace.
One way the soft animal of our body may respond to hardship on the horizon, like plants in winter, is to dive into our roots—protecting, conserving, waiting for safety in the depths (Mary Oliver). We may fear that we are alone here and will be here forever, even though we know that this is the sabbath we need. A sanctuary now surrounds you.
Exercising the Balance:
When was the last time you felt a deeply rooted positive emotion such as connection, joy, laughter, wonder, enthusiasm, or curiosity? Write, draw, meditate on, or speak to a trusted person about—what you felt, how you know it was good, and where inside your body you felt it.
Consider what environments help you experience this sensation? (Perhaps it’s setting boundaries around news or social media, persistence in reaching out to a friend you long to connect with, or walking at the park even if you don’t feel like it.)
Make a plan to take one step to amplify the still, small voice of peace inside you.
Imagine the release of a major burden that you’ve been carrying lately. What part(s) of your body are connected to this burden and what does it feel like to let it go? Invite your hands to that place on your body and send it some deep breaths.
What’s left in the space where your burden was once rooted? What is one boundary you can put into practice to keep this a safe space for you to explore?
Rather than allowing something else to be planted in your burden’s place, what is a way you can nourish and nurture this spaciousness throughout the rest of your day?
You know your way: Your body is the map, your heart the container to bring along all you need for the journey ahead.
We rise to mountain tops and we fall into valleys. The shadows leave what is true, if we stay a while. But we don’t, we seek the temporary light in the valley. Cover up the dark. Run away. We leave and we return, again and again. Wishing to be on the ascent.
To feel deeply is to know life. To hurt is to taste life. To grieve is to touch life only for a moment, and then let her go.
The sun shines in the day, the moon and stars guide you by night. You are safe. You are protected. But this will hurt.
We must be here, to be there. The valley has much to teach us, blessings of skin and sand and sage. Stay here a while, but leave the weight. Receive your rest. And when it is time, take up your things and go softly.
3 Journaling Prompts:
If you could time-travel to 2019, what advice would you give to yourself or others? How can you still share or receive this advice now?
When was a time that you sat with your discomfort instead of distracting yourself? What was it like?
Who is a person that is going through a challenging season that you can have more compassion for? What does your compassion for them look like?