How to Combat a Creative Scarcity Mindset

 A black notebook with red writing that says "Write Ideas" with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Image ID: A black notebook with red writing that says “Write Ideas” with two overlapping speech bubbles. Next to the notebook is a wooden pencil. The notebook and pencil are on top of a dark stained wooden surface with slats.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My relationship with my creativity has had its ups and downs.

I’ve had periods where I barely keep track of all the ideas I have, so I make lists upon lists so I don’t forget. I’ve had times where I was afraid I would run out of ideas if I didn’t limit them to a reasonable, achievable number of posts per week. Most recently, I took roughly half a year off writing, burned out, depressed, and worried my creativity would never return.

Luckily, creativity is not a scarce resource. It’s all around, and those of us looking for inspiration to share ideas, art, or words can find it without needing to go too far.

Of course, health (physical and mental) is a determining factor in how well we can express our creative sides, and it’s normal to have ups and downs in productivity, motivation, and creative output.

But you will never, ever run out of creativity forever, even if you need to take a break and press pause for a while.

I am living proof of that.

What is a scarcity mindset?

A scarcity mindset means that our brains are focused on what we lack, rather than what we have or what we can work toward bringing into our lives.

When you’re worried about money scarcity, you focus more on the risks of spending rather than acting as if money is abundant and flowing regularly into your life.

Example: I just ordered a $40 planner when I would normally talk myself out of it because it’s “frivolous.”

When you’re worried about food scarcity, you count and stretch every morsel, denying yourself what would fill you up instead of knowing that you have plenty to eat.

Example: My eating disorder, whom I have named Carl, routinely tells me I shouldn’t eat the last of anything so I can save it for later, and then it goes bad in the fridge.

When you’re worried about your business failing, you’re more prone to say yes to discounts or resist raising your rates just to close a sale rather than focusing on attracting the clients who are able and enthusiastic about paying your full price.

Example: I once raised my freelance rates from $25 to $40 an hour, lost one client, and had two more clients accept the change and roll with it.

AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT:

Scarcity is REAL, and I don’t want to pretend that true wealth and security come from your state of mind when you’re facing actual scarcity of income, resources, food, etc.

We live in a society that requires money to live, and you can’t visualize yourself out of traumatic poverty with positive affirmations. Some people are truly in dire straits and need to get on their feet with the basics before they can begin to feel safe going for their big pie-in-the-sky dreams. 

When it comes to things that are finite, like food, money, space in your house, hours of the day, and gas in your car, it makes sense to manage them so that you don’t run out. That’s effective resource management, and it is a survival level need.

Once your survival needs are met, though, THEN the work on your scarcity beliefs about money, creativity, and more can begin. This work takes your focus toward self-actualizing goals that move you toward bigger long-term personal development.

Creativity is unlimited

Why is it that so many of us are afraid that leaning into our inspiration will leave us creatively broke and unable to come up with new ideas tomorrow if we spend them all today?

Your creative ideas aren’t birthday wishes. You can say them out loud! And more will always come.

What thoughts are holding you back from believing that you can achieve what you desire?

  • Making money means I’m a bad person
  • I feel guilty succeeding when I know my friends are struggling
  • Putting myself out there is too risky
  • I don’t have good ideas
  • I’m not good enough at my service/art/trade to charge more for it
  • I’ll run out of ideas of things to write about
  • I can only use an idea once, so it has to be perfect
  • Why bother putting myself out there if I’m not an expert?
  • Other people can do it better than I can

Do any of these apply to you? Look for evidence to the contrary and dig deep about how those beliefs got there in the first place. (We can work on this together, or comment and I’ll try to reply ASAP!)

Think about how many Spider-Man movies there are. Filmmakers just keep remaking them with new actors and different plots. But they keep getting made, and they keep making money. And then we get awesome movies like Into the Spider-Verse.

Your ideas can grow and develop into new iterations too!

Think about the person you want to be in a year, three years, five years — what does that version of you think about these beliefs holding you back? 

Go to the place where you already have everything you desire, and see if you’re still worried about running out of ideas, talent, or happy customers.

Visualize yourself creating your art, your course, your products to the point of being sold out, booked solid, and able to refer potential clients to others in your circle because you’re at capacity with the exact right clients for you!

When in doubt, visualize Future You and see what they have to say about how they got there. I think you’ll find that running out of ideas was never a problem.

Get clarity on your goals

I help clients retrain their brains, rethinking negative thoughts and mental blocks so they can access all their creative potential! Book a free clarity call to see if we’re right for each other.

What We Keep Messing Up About “SMART” Goals

A blue planner notebook that says “My Secret Plan to Rule the World” with a pink background. Photo by Ann H from Pexels.

Goals should be SMART, right? Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

But a lot of us fail to pay attention to the achievable and relevant parts of the planning process. We stick to specific and time bound, and if life goes sideways or we get smacked with a global pandemic or an illness or family issues or a job loss, we think we failed at our goal just because we didn’t finish it in the time allotted.

Goals need room to breathe and adjust.

When a goal is no longer relevant or achievable in the way you first planned, going back to that goal and changing your method or timeline is not only “not failing,” but it’s actually setting you up for success.

Goals change to honor you where you are

When I turned 25, I made a five year plan. I wanted to be debt free, married, and a parent by 30.

I am 32, twice divorced, child free by choice (plot twist!), and still looking at about $30,000 of debt between my student loan and car.

And I am cool with this.

Chasing marriage-and-baby as the measurement of my success would still have me in an abusive marriage instead of nearly three years out and in the healthiest relationship of my life.

Chasing debt-free would have me still in a toxic workplace just because it paid well, rather than seeking work that fuels my passion AND talents, with time to recover from burnout and start my own business.

Last year, I started off 2020 with a pile of goals. Get two more book deals, run my online course four times, and launch a coaching practice. As I realized these goals weren’t achievable in one year while balancing my own mental and physical health needs, I revised the goals.

And then I quit my job in the middle of the year and took several months off to recover from burnout.

At that point, my goal was survival and recovery.

Now that I’ve gotten through a period of rest, I’m job seeking, I’m launching a new brand, and I have two coaching clients. It’s a humble beginning, but it’s a beginning that honors my boundaries and needs.

It is okay if you have to press pause. It is okay if you hit a life milestone and haven’t achieved what you thought you would when you looked at this time and place from the past. And it’s also okay for you to have some feelings about it and grieve the life you thought you’d have right now.

But put yourself in your five-years-ago shoes. Are you better off now? Don’t think about your goals or where you could be now if you had done something different. Just — are you better off today than five years ago, with regard to your own happiness and life satisfaction?

Are your relationships better? Are you a better communicator? Do you love yourself more? Are you happier with your mental and emotional health? Do you have hobbies you enjoy? Are you in love? Did you read a really great book or find a new musical artist that brings you joy?

Yes to any of these? Rock on. That’s awesome and I love that for you.

No to any of these? Okay, let’s make a goal to work on that for this year.

The new SMART goals

Next time you set goals, don’t just go down the acronym and make a quick 5-point goal. Think it through. Try these prompts.

S – Specific

What is your goal, specifically? Don’t put a timeframe here, that comes later. An example of a specific goal is “run my online course four times this year” and an even more specific goal would be “sell out my online course four times this year with 10 people per run.”

How confident are you that you can achieve this goal? What if you only get eight people but still run your course each time? Will you still feel successful? What if 12 people want to take it? Will you change the number of seats you offer?

Be specific but be open to a bit of flexibility.

M – Measurable

What is the measure of your success for your goal? Continuing the above example, success would be measured by running the course four times with ten people per run. If your goal is to get a job, your measurement could be a job offer with your desired salary and benefits, or it could be as simple as accepting a job offer. It’s up to you how specific your goal is and how you measure it.

In my last job, I was making $71,000 per year but I was miserable. Recently in an interview for a nonprofit, I said I would need to make at least $55,000 per year in order to take a full time role that met my financial needs. I did the math, and that’s how much I would need to pay my bills and save up for a house or other long-term financial goal.

If your goal is to graduate college, the measure of your success could be hitting all your graduation requirements for a degree. Or you could shoot for a specific GPA to help you get into a graduate program. Your goals can have layers (getting into grad school being a separate goal).

When setting the measures for success, I like to take a stretch goal approach. For instance, I want to grow my social media presence to 500 followers, but it would be really cool if I hit 1000. This way, 500 is my measurable goal, and 1000 is the next measure I would want to hit but it’s going to be fine (and still successful) if I don’t get all the way there.

(By the way, follow me on Instagram at @CaitlinFisherAuthor and @CriticalHitRecovery.)

A – Achievable

Take into account your abilities and means to achieve your goal the way you want to. If you want to go to college full-time but you also need a full-time job to keep a roof over your head, maybe part-time is the way to go because full-time isn’t achievable while also maintaining your mental health.

For me, running my course four times in a year wasn’t possible in 2020 because I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to develop, market, and run the course four times while also managing my stress. It wasn’t the right time for that goal. It didn’t mean the goal was bad, it just needed adjustment.

If your goal is to start a brand new business off the ground and make $100,000 in your first year, is that achievable? Maybe. Is it likely? Not really.

Adjust your goal to make sure it’s something you can feel good about working toward and you won’t be burning yourself out to achieve it at any cost. If you find yourself burning out, go back to your goal and rework it so that it is achievable.

R – Relevant

Does your goal make sense? Is it relevant to your long-term plans? I briefly considered buying a house this year but quickly realized that I’m open to relocating to another state in the next few years, so buying didn’t really make sense for me right now.

I also want a dog. Is that relevant to my long-term goals and my life right now? Finally, yes, I think it is. I am committed to remote work, so my “I’m not home enough for a dog” reason is no longer applicable, and I’ve wanted a dog for years now. (Is owning a dog a goal? It is now).

What could change the relevance of your goal? Would a change in your employment, relationship, or other aspect of your life change this goal? Make a list of what might impact it.

T – Time Bound

The trickiest aspect of goal setting is the timeline. Obviously a goal needs a target date for completion, or you won’t have any idea how to pace yourself and work toward it.

But this is where we get so hung up on our goals. We put all our eggs into the time-bound basket without checking back in on the rest, and then if something happens that derails a goal, we internalize it as a failure.

But the failure isn’t in you, it’s in approaching goals as a rigid and immovable force that can’t be shifted and adapted.

How to avoid the time-bound trap

I want you to look back on your life and think about all the amazing things you did, not get hung up on when you did them. Your life is full of achievements, strength, courage, and joy. These things don’t need to be timed or measured in order for them to have their full weight as positive experiences.

So here’s what I want you to do when you’re setting your goals:

  • Make a giant list of all the things you need to do to achieve your goal in your allotted time
  • Schedule regular check-ins to make sure your goals are still achievable and relevant for the time allotted
  • If not, adjust your measurement, your goal, or your timeline
  • Don’t beat yourself up about having to change your goal — your diligence and consistency will pay off, and your success is still a success even if it comes later than you planned

Work with me one on one

Setting goals is easy. Staying on top of them, and working through your brain’s bullshit, is not. I help my clients work toward their goals with accountability and mindset work (and some tough love if they’re lying to themselves about how achievable their big pile of goals is). Schedule a free 30-minute consult to see if we’d be a good fit for coaching!

How to Hear Your Inner Voice

Are you someone who struggles to cut through all the noise in your mind to find what you really need from your inner voice and intuition? It’s not uncommon, especially for people with a history of trauma who have become hypervigilant to others’ emotional cues.

In trauma, we learned to be aware of the slightest shift in others’ energy, because it might mean punishment or an abusive outburst if we didn’t tiptoe on the eggshells.

If you’re constantly on the lookout for other people’s frustrations, fears, and emotions, your mind can get cluttered with the ceaseless chatter of everyone else’s thoughts and feelings, and your own thoughts about what those other people are thinking and feeling, leaving you feeling totally lost when it comes to tuning in to your own inner voice.

And your voice is in there, deep down, knowing what you need.

I remember one of the biggest culture shocks of visiting the UK for the first time — the TV was always on and people were having multiple conversations in the same room. It put me into meltdown mode and I had to leave the room or the house several times due to the overstimulation of all that noise happening at once.

It’s happened at work too, when I worked in a large shared office space. One coworker would often call another on speakerphone, despite being only a few paces away. I could hardly concentrate on my own work when there were so many conversations happening around me.

That’s what it’s like when you’re trying to listen to your inner voice and everything else is taking up the valuable space in your mind.

It might be your own surface level thoughts, about what to make for dinner or what needs to go on the grocery list or something nagging you from your to-do list that you keep putting off. I often have trouble sleeping because I can’t stop thinking

It might be deeper thoughts about things that have happened to you or grief or replaying a conversation in your head that you wish had gone differently.

It might be thoughts about other people, either worrying about them or feeling their own energy and mood affecting yours, or even wondering what they would think of your decision about something.

So when it comes time to reflect on what you really truly want or need, cutting through all these layers of thoughts can feel impossible.

For instance, I quit my full time job earlier this year. I had been struggling with the decision for a while, because I felt like I had to exhaust my options trying to deal with a management problem before I called it quits. I thought about what others would think of me quitting, what my team would think, what my partner would think, even what my mom would think (and I don’t even talk to my mom).

Quitting would mean giving up a great salary, letting go of the on-again-off-again promise of a promotion and raise, leaving a great team that I had been mentoring and was so proud to lead, and feeling like I was starting over all over again.

Finally, a last straw moment happened for me and I knew without a doubt that I had to leave the company. My inner voice became so loud that no amount of other thoughts could muffle it, and I started looking for a new job. I set myself a deadline on giving my notice whether or not I had something else lined up, and on June 30 I gave my notice.

I have never regretted it, because I know that it was the right thing to do as my next step in life.

Here’s how to access your inner voice:

Ready for the big, huge, life changing secret? Here it is: It varies from person to person and there’s no one way to do it.

Did you think I was going to say meditate? I am bad at meditating, so I am not going to tout it as the best way for you to access your inner knowing. But for some, meditating might be the perfect way to allow the surface thoughts to drift away, quieting the mind in order to access what is beneath. If you want to meditate, try a guided meditation from YouTube or an app like Headspace to get the basics down.

You might also benefit from journaling, letting yourself push through the surface thoughts, the deeper thoughts, all the way down to the truth in the pit of your stomach about the next right thing to do.

Maybe your thing is tarot, oracle readings, runes, or another spiritual ritual. If you have trouble sorting out the noise in your thoughts, spend some time with your cards or runes focusing on your inner wisdom. Burn some incense (not sage, palo santo, or anything else appropriated from other cultures’ sacred practices) to cleanse away those surface thoughts and your thoughts about others. This is a time just for you. Then pull your cards and trust that they are from your innermost knowing.

As you notice that something feels like it’s tugging on something deeper, pull on the thread and follow it. You might find associations from your more surface level thoughts (“I’m angry about this breakup because he never apologized to me for hurting me”) down to related experiences (“My parents never apologized for hurting me either”) further down into a more fundamental truth that will help shape your future experiences (“For me, someone needs to have the same apology language as I do if a long-term relationship is going to work out, and it’s okay to have that boundary.”)

There are as many ways to disconnect from all that brain-noise as there are people in the world, so try several ideas and see what works for you. Here are some other ideas:

  • Call a friend or family member and just talk and listen to each other. Sometimes deep knowing comes out when you’re connecting with others and listening to them. I’ve had big “WOW moments” when talking to others that are as helpful me as they are to them.
  • Watch a candle or incense burn. This is meditation-adjacent, but just watching a candle or an incense stick burn can give you something to focus your surface attention on, letting your mind wander and process things while your attention is occupied.
  • Exercise. When I used to run, I often let my mind wander and process things in the background. It happened most often when I ran outside (something about being among trees and nature with fresh air is really good for feeling disconnected from brain-noise) but I had a few great runs at the gym too. Also, yoga can be a great way to access inner knowing, as the breath focus in yoga and holding certain poses can open up mindfulness and meditative calm. There’s something about relaxing into a pretzel shape and just being cool with it that helps you untangle the pretzel of your thoughts as well.
  • Create your own ritual. Take bits and pieces of different ideas here to create your own inner voice ritual. Drink a certain kind of tea, journal in a certain notebook, burn a certain scent of candle or incense. The more you practice with these ritual elements, the quicker you can get into the “inner voice” mindset when you use them.

In all these situations, disconnecting from technology for a while can do wonders for quieting the mind. We’re so used to being “on” all the time (I’ve been known to open up Facebook on my phone when I’m literally already on Facebook on my laptop, just out of habit) that putting our phones down, turning off music or TV, and just being quiet feels strange.

But in that quiet, you can finally cut through all the noise in your mind to hear what’s underneath.

Work With Me One-on-One

Ready to cut through your brain’s bullshit? I help people do that by examining the onion of thought layers around their inner knowing. Email me to set up a free consult to talk about how personal coaching can help you achieve your goals and stay focused on the next right step for you.

When You Don’t Feel Like Yourself

Photo by Allan Bueno on Unsplash

I haven’t felt like myself lately.

I used to always be there for everyone around me with a pep talk for every situation. I listened to people’s problems, authentically gave them an ear, and told them that it was okay to not be okay — but that they were great and deserved great things.

I used to check in on my Facebook page asking if people had taken their meds, eaten, and had water. It was a nice reminder for my friends and for me to practice these basic tenets of self maintenance.

I used to laugh, a lot. I shared funny posts on Facebook and made people laugh at parties or when we were out at the local geek bar playing board games. I loved being the funny friend who always got a laugh.

I used to write every day. I used to work 8+ hours a day at my full time job and then work on my passion project developing my course or writing my book.

January wasn’t that long ago, when I hoped to get two book deals, run my course three or four times, and launch a full time coaching practice this year.

Now, I rest. I sleep in past 8am. I eat when I’m hungry, nap when I’m tired, and work part time at a job I truly enjoy.

I write when the words need to come out. Like they do now, when I thought to myself, “I haven’t been myself lately” and the response that floated back up from inside me was “Yes, you have.”

I’m always myself. My self is the part of me I need to take care of, because I didn’t used to do a very good job of it. My self has been subjected to a lot of beliefs about what I needed to achieve and how I needed to behave in order to deserve love and support and a salary.

My self, right now, needs to rest and recover from burning out at that full time job. My self is processing the fact that my social circle has been tinier than ever for the past eight months. My self is understanding that the shiny, happy, warm, cozy, family parts of the winter months aren’t happening this year.

My self has always been here, and is not measured by how frequently I give of myself to other people.

Looking at the list of things that I thought made me who I was — listening, encouraging, checking in, writing, working — those things are all still happening. Just slower and less frequent than before. And that’s okay.

My self is here. My self is growing stronger, I can feel it.

Last night I applied to a dream job and I woke up feeling peaceful and content. Because my self was peaceful and content.

I sleep better when I’m next to my partner, because my self is safe and loved and warm.

I can write a new post whenever I feel ready to put the words onto the page, because my self is not defined by how often I write. (Sometimes my job is defined by writing, but my self is not).

If I don’t feel like myself, it’s probably because I’m focusing too much on things outside of me instead of my actual, inner truth of knowing my self.

So if you don’t feel like yourself lately, it’s okay to not be okay. We’re going through a long-term, no-end-in-sight, global trauma together. We have no idea when we will feel safe again. Our collective mental health is touch and go.

But your self, the deep down parts of you that make you who you are inside, they’re not gone. They’re resting, being slow, and they will be there when you are ready for them again.

Love,
Caitlin

Support My Writing

Hey, I have a book. It’s full of my sassy pep talk mojo and I’d love if you read it! Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation and let me know what you think! (It also makes a great holiday gift for every human under 40).

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

My mother put me on my first diet when I was twelve.

I still remember the way she traced a circle in the palm of her hand to show our babysitter how big three ounces of meat was, to monitor our serving sizes. I also remember choking down raw broccoli and bell peppers — two foods I cannot eat raw without feeling ill, twenty years later. 

I became a vegetarian in 2002 when I was in eighth grade, for the animals. Around age 17, I became vegan entirely, but added eggs and dairy back into my diet quickly because it was nearly impossible to stay vegan in an omnivorous home. I remained steadfastly vegetarian through college.

Since then, I’ve been on-again-off-again with animal products, but I chose more ethical products from local farms and sustainable sources. 

I was always struggling to find a diet that felt okay ethically, while also balancing the desire to lose weight. Was it meat? Was it veganism? Was it raw veggies? Was it paleo? Was it keto? Was it intermittent fasting?

I aspired to be vegan because it felt like the most ethical, cleanest way to eat. But even a plant-based diet isn’t without cruelty and harm. 

When Your Quest for the Perfect Diet is Killing You 

After realizing in huge, blaring, neon letters in my mind last February that I had a full blown eating disorder, I stopped dieting altogether. I stopped counting calories, started eating tortillas at Chipotle again, and even ate refined sugar without hating myself.

I let all the rules about food fall away, leaving only the need to eat when I was hungry and trusting myself to do so. 

In this period of recovery, I had to let my aspirational veganism go. First, because eating eggs was a way I could actually eat something consistently without needing to fight with my mental health. Second, because a plant-based diet was something I was doing to change my body, rather than fuel it, and I needed a break from a weight loss mentality while recovering. And lastly, because literally nothing is perfect or without harm – not even a vegan diet.

The truth is, I needed to take care of myself. The weight of researching everything, measuring the validity of a food choice against its impact on animal welfare, human labor, carbon emissions, and everything else that goes into making a choice, was too heavy. My mental health suffered as I agonized over the morality of everything I ate. 

We Aren’t Winning Points 

Have you seen The Good Place? Spoilers ahead!

In The Good Place, when people on Earth die, they get sent to The Good Place or The Bad Place based on point totals of their actions during their lives. But as society developed, it became impossible to get into The Good Place even if you lived a perfect life, because every single action is more complex than it appears. 

Each tomato at the grocery store carries an invisible price tag of ethical costs. The pesticides degraded biodiversity in local insect life, the crops were harvested with prison labor or other exploitative practices, the seeds were patented and those patents were used to sue small local farmers when the wind deposited an errant seed on their land. 

Or, to quote Chidi Anagonye four times:

  • “Oh no! I used almond milk in my coffee, even though I knew about the negative environmental impact.” 
  • “I read an article saying that growing almonds was bad for the environment, and yet I continued to use almond milk in my coffee.” 
  • “Well, if it is Hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it despite the negative environmental impacts.”
  • “So, we’re in the Bad Place, and I know why. Almond milk. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I loved the way it coated my tongue in a weird film.”

We cannot eat perfectly ethically in a society that prioritizes profit over people, over animal welfare, and over environmental sustainability. Corporate responsibility is so much bigger than individual action can hope to overcome. 

What does this have to do with my eating disorder? I was focused so much on eating only clean, healthy, safe foods that I would starve myself rather than eat something that wasn’t organic, wasn’t gluten-free, wasn’t sugar-free, etc. If it didn’t satisfy the rules of the clean eating deities of the day, it wasn’t okay to eat. 

Hungry after 8pm? Go to bed hungry, the rules say you can’t eat. Refined grains only once a day. Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Make everything out of cauliflower. 

I also continued my trauma around being forced to eat “healthy snacks” (usually raw vegetables I did not enjoy) as a child. I would pack carrots in my lunch and tell myself all day, “If you’re not hungry enough to eat the carrots, you’re not hungry.” I hate raw carrots. I starved myself thinking it was good for me. 

I could only eat perfect, healthy food. Learning something new about each food became dangerous. And so my list of foods it wasn’t okay to eat grew and grew, leaving me with precious little I could eat to sustain myself. 

Only sprouted grain bread. Only organic potatoes. Only grass-fed beef. Only half an apple. Only what fits in these containers. 

But we don’t have running point totals guiding the morality of our choices — dietary or otherwise. We can only do the best we can with the resources, information, and ability available to us. 

I still care about the ethics of my food choices. But I have to eat. I have to nourish myself. I have to let some of the rules relax. 

Rather than only eating certain things, what if our only job was to do our best and listen to what our bodies need? 

Being Okay with Imperfection

I eat cage-free eggs, and I eat fish. I am otherwise plant-based in my diet. I limit consumption of foods with a high human cost, such as quinoa (once an affordable staple in South America, now exorbitantly expensive and used as an export for our White American Vegan needs). I buy fair-trade coffee and chocolate. I should get back into the habit of buying the Dirty Dozen organic, but I don’t always. I try to buy whole, fresh foods without packaging, but I have fibromyalgia and sometimes my ability and energy level means I need to buy a bag of pre-chopped fresh or frozen veggies. 

And the imperfection is okay.

I cannot be perfect. But I can feed myself.

How to Eat Ethically When You’re Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Your first priority in eating while recovering from an eating disorder is to feed yourself and work on the mental health aspects of your recovery. But as you get further into recovery you may want to start investigating more sustainable and ethical food choices. However, if you find yourself feeling triggered or backsliding into disordered eating, please take a break and focus again on just feeding yourself and taking care of you. 

If it is not triggering to place limits on food in your recovery, you can start to do research into the sustainability and ethics of your food. 

Certifications and labels can help you check at a glance if a product meets certain standards. But sometimes labels can say things that sound nice but don’t actually have any standards attached. This can be hard to navigate as you start exploring more ethical food, so this list should break down what to look for as a next step on more ethical eating. 

Though certifications and labels may not be perfect, they do help us to vote with our dollars and show brands that people are willing to purchase products that prioritize more ethical and sustainable methods. The more people can purchase with ethics in mind, the more the market will shift to provide more options that meet those demands. 

  • Certified Organic: USDA Organic certification means that produce was grown without synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, sewage sludge, and irradiation. Organic also clarifies that the product contains no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Organic animal products come from animals that meet welfare standards including outdoor access, no antibiotics or growth hormone treatments, and were fed an organic diet. Packaged organic products are made with at least 95% certified organic source ingredients. Note: Organic crops are still treated with pesticides, but they must be approved for organic use — always wash those fruits and veggies. Learn more about the USDA Organic label at the USDA website. You don’t have to buy everything organic — check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen list to learn which fruits and veggies are best purchased organic due to high pesticide levels. 
  • Rainforest Alliance Certified: Rainforest Alliance certifies farms that meet certain criteria, including environmental sustainability standards (climate-smart agriculture, deforestation, conserving biodiversity), working conditions standards (human rights, shared responsibility, living wage, gender equality), and more. You can check out all their standards at the Rainforest Alliance website
  • Fair Trade: A fair trade certification can be found on food, clothing, and other items that tend to have exploitative labor practices in their conventional production. A fair trade label protects against child labor, slavery, discrimination, union-busting, and environmental pollution – among so many other standards. This is a great label to start with if you want to move toward more ethical consumption. Coffee and chocolate are two major crops that benefit from a shift toward fair trade purchases. (Aldi is a great low-cost option for both of these!) Learn more from Fair Trade Certified and Fairtrade International, two organizations working toward more sustainable agriculture that prioritizes human rights. 
  • Certified Humane: Certified Humane is a nonprofit seeking to improve the lives of animals used in agriculture, and the organization is endorsed by 70 humane associations including the ASPCA. Like all things, they’re not perfect, but they make an effort. You can look up their standards for all animals on their website and decide for yourself if they meet the standards you have for your animal products. 
  • Cage Free: There are actually a lot of “cage free” standards depending on the certifying organization, and they are also (unsurprisingly) not perfect. But they do require chickens to be kept in better conditions than overcrowded factory farms. Check out this article from the Humane Society of the US on different cage free, free range, and other labels you might see. 

You can also shop more locally from farmer’s markets, local farms, and people who keep backyard hens for eggs — this way you can directly ask the source of your food what sort of practices they put into their produce and animal products. 

Access to Food is a Privilege

It is crucial to acknowledge the privilege in access to higher quality, organic, and local foods. Many people across the globe, including those of us in the United States, simply don’t have access to affordable food that meets every checkbox. 

It may be nutritionally ideal to eat fresh, organic, local produce that’s in season — but not everyone can. Whether due to budget, access to the stores and markets that provide these foods, the time it takes to shop and prepare meals while balancing work, life, and family responsibilities, etc. 

No diet is perfect or without consequence, from environmental effects to animal welfare to human exploitation. So please, do the best you can, and know that it is good enough. 

And for those people who would judge others for the food they can access and the time and energy they can put into researching foods (and I have been that judgmental person)… know that everyone is doing their best, and spend your energy donating to causes that help address food insecurity and advocating for better animal welfare and human rights in our agricultural systems. 

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When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.

5 Tips To Overcome Loneliness While Social Distancing

As COVID-19 continues to impact the lives of millions around the world, Americans are being urged to stay home and practice social distancing to help slow the spread. That means that numerous non-essential businesses have closed, non-essential events canceled, and people are limiting their interactions with one another.

While all of this is for the greater good, the isolation can still get to people, generating overwhelming feelings of loneliness. And it’s not easy to get through the day when you experience loneliness. As a result, the pandemic is now more than a health issue, but also a mental issue.

However, there is good news so far. You can overcome loneliness – it’s possible. Here are five tips for coping with isolation and reducing feelings of loneliness, while practicing social distancing.

1. Practice Self-Care

“Take time out of each day to take care of yourself,” says Madeline Prichard, a content writer at Study demic and Australian help. “This may include catching an extra hour of sleep, or imagining someone giving you an uplifting affirmation – or maybe you can give that affirmation to yourself. Also, make sure that you’re eating right and staying active. The healthier you’re eating, and the more you exercise, the better you’ll feel.”

Also, take the time to self-reflect. In your mind, ask yourself how you’re feeling today. Know the difference between what’s temporary and what’s permanent. The pandemic shouldn’t get to you: Instead of saying “My life is forever changed,” think: “Okay, things are hard now, but I look forward to tomorrow.”

Editor’s note: While eating a balanced diet helps make sure you get a variety of nutrients, be mindful of eating disorder relapse or trying to reduce your food consumption out of fear you’ll run out of food. Now is not the time to be dieting or worrying about your weight.

2. Practice Breathing

As you meditate, incorporate breathing exercise. Even when you’re not meditating, practice breathing. No materials or equipment is needed to do this. 

Start with a few slow deep breaths, while focusing on the sensation of air going into your nostrils, and down your lungs. This helps you relax your body and mind while maintaining breath. 

3. Stay Productive – Occupy Your Mind

A good antidote to loneliness is keeping yourself busy with things you enjoy. If you’re feeling tired of doing the same old thing, now’s a great time to do something different. Maybe you’ve put off something for a good while, and you want to go back to it? If so, do that thing instead. And remember to start off small and focus only on what you can do, instead of what you’re “hoping” to do. Here are some good ideas on how to occupy your mind and find joy in variety:

  • Restart a hobby
  • Discover a new hobby
  • Tackle a new house chore
  • Read a book in a new way to mix things up – hard copy if you usually read digitally, or audio if you usually read hard copy
  • Do some exercise – some gentle stretching or a walk around the block for fresh air is a great way to stay active and give yourself time for your mind to wander and process things

4. Virtually Connect With Others

Now more than ever, it’s imperative to connect with people, even during this period of social distancing. Reach out to people through messaging apps, social media, etc. Or, you can be there for somebody who’s struggling right now, just by listening to them. But above all, it’s okay to express how you’re feeling, because chances are, you’re not alone in this pandemic, you’re not alone in the sadness, and you’re not alone in the loneliness. 

5. Stay Positive And Grateful

“It’s always a good idea to savor the little moments that give you joy in your daily life,” says Toby Aronson, a lifestyle blogger at Writemyaustralia and Studentwritingservices. “Whatever gives you joy, write it down somewhere so you won’t forget it. Also, stay positive with your thinking – appreciate the things in your life that you already have. Enjoy the time you have with your family, with your partner, and where there’s something that doesn’t stress you out.”

Social Distance Doesn’t Mean You’re Alone

Social distancing is what people have to do to try and contain COVID-19 — but along with these necessary steps come negative emotions in some people. In fact, people in social isolation will surely experience excessive points of loneliness now more than ever, even to the point of depression or thoughts of self-harm.

If you are feeling depressed or have thoughts of self-harm, don’t be afraid to reach out to a certified counselor or crisis hotline. There are always people standing by, waiting to help, despite the pandemic. If you suspect a friend is experiencing poor mental health, try reaching out to them to see if they’re open to receiving help. Sometimes just checking in with someone can alleviate their loneliness, but it’s important to remember that their mental health is not your responsibility – protect yourself with boundaries and know when things are no longer at a level you can help with. It’s okay to refer your friend to a professional who is trained to help them through crisis. 

For immediate help, call 911, or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. (TTY 1-800-846-8517).

Remember that although you may feel alone right now, just know that you’re not facing the pandemic alone. We’re all in this together.

Molly Crockett writes for Bigassignments.com and Stateofwriting.com, and teaches writing skills for Eliteassignmenthelp.com. As a health writer, she not only shares nutritional tips and great recipes, but also documents the ups and downs of her diet journey.

Stop Hustling: Pacing Yourself is Part of the Plan

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Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

“You’re trying to do it all,” my coach said — gently accusing me of taking on more than I could handle without burning out.

I had just gotten back from a business trip to test a workshop concept and told my coach I’d have it turned into an online course by the end of the month.

And when I told her the rest of the things on my list to accomplish, including book proposals, keeping up on my social media schedule, taking individual coaching clients, and starting an email list, she said, “You’re trying to do it all.”

“No,” I assured her. “I’m not trying to do it all. It all works together. Everything I do supports my brand as an author, and it’s all related. It’s all one thing!”

Okay, she caught me. I was trying to do it all.

I had spent a solid two months developing the workshop into its current state by working on it — and only it — for weeks, while my ideas for other projects got put into a list for later.

My focus got me this far, and I didn’t want to lose momentum.

Since I wanted to start 2020 off organized and with a solid calendar of social media and blog content, it stood to reason that I could not turn my workshop into a six week course at the same time I was writing a book proposal, learning how to make an email list, and regularly posting on my social accounts.

I needed to give the course a little room to breathe while I created the channels I will use to give it life when it’s ready.

Curiously, I wondered what had been making me think I needed to launch myself into the next huge step instead of making a plan that made sense.

Why was I still hustling?

The answer came to me as I was in the middle of a conversation with someone about something my mother did to me as a kid.

After my sixteenth birthday, I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. A friend’s mom had an old acoustic one sitting around in a garage and she gave it to me.

I named my guitar Lorelai, and she stayed in my room looking very cool. Sometimes I’d take her out of her black case with its shiny silver buckles and I would strum and try to play a chord or two.

But I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have a plan.

One day, I received a phone call from my sister.

“Mom’s having a yard sale and she’s selling your guitar.”

I exploded over the phone in livid, shrieking tones at my mother that she had no right to sell my guitar!

She replied coolly and calmly, “Well, you haven’t learned to play it. If you tell me when you’re going to learn to play it you can keep it.”

I felt trapped. I didn’t have a plan.

I could not give her an answer I knew would be true and wouldn’t get my guitar scrapped upon the deadline if I hadn’t kept up my end of the bargain.

She offered an alternative: I could keep it, but she wanted to nail it to her living room wall as decor.

I let her sell my guitar.

The false promise of hustle and perfection

That need to figure out a new hobby right away, to be the best at something immediately, to only bring something into my life if I have a plan for it is directly related to the way my mother treated my hobbies.

I had to earn the right to have an idea by hustling to put it into motion.

But now that I know where this belief comes from, I can take away the power it holds over me.

My approach to undoing mental obstacles is similar to trauma therapy. Find the root of the negative thought (in this case, mom sold my guitar because I didn’t learn it right away = I must constantly be working toward a goal as fast as I can), and then process it.

What would the ideal situation have been with my guitar?

  • I would have been allowed to keep it as long as I needed until I either decided to make a plan to learn or I decided to let it go. That decision should never have been forced.
  • If I had decided to stop learning guitar, that decision should have been accepted and not attached to shame for not trying hard enough, or assumed that I never wanted it in the first place. People can change their minds.
  • I would have had opportunities to learn from people who could teach me in a way that made sense. I was limiting myself to self-teaching, when I could have asked for lessons or help. I didn’t have to learn something new in a vacuum.
  • My mom would have supported that I was interested in a new creative hobby and encouraged me to learn at my own pace. I should not have had to justify my desire or my timeline.

Chasing immediate perfection is never the answer, because we all deserve the time it takes to evaluate if a new idea fits into our life and our plan for growth.

I can’t imagine telling anyone, especially a child, “You have to learn this immediately or I’m getting rid of it.”

The pressure of that edict was enormous, unfair, and harmful.

It has kept me in a pattern of thinking I needed to always be jumping to the next thing in my life in order to achieve goals at breakneck speed and learn new skills as quickly as possible. I need to execute things perfectly, and quickly, in order to not lose the thing I’m working on.

I have to succeed before it’s taken away and I lose the chance forever.

Replacing the negative pattern

It’s not enough to simply find and understand the root cause of a negative belief.
You have to pull an Indiana Jones and swap that thought for a positive one that you can believe is just as real.
Here are some thoughts I can try out to see if they feel just as real and believable as the thought that I need to go fast or I’ll lose my chance.
  • I have plenty of time to get this new skill right.
  • It’s okay to take my time on this project.
  • This project is part of my plan and I don’t need to rush it.
  • I am in charge of how long it takes to learn something new, and I can take as long as I need.

Those beliefs feel so much more loving and supportive.

It might take a little time and practice, and I will need to repeat these new beliefs a lot while I swap them out for the old one.

But that’s okay.

I can take as long as I need to learn something new.

PS. I’m teaching people how to stand up for their boundaries after traumatic pasts in my six week course that starts Monday. Email me to reserve a spot at 50% off list price.

What You Need to Know About Weight Gain During Social Distancing

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Photo by sheri silver on Unsplash

Now is not the time to freak out about your diet. 

Honestly, NO time is the time to freak out about your diet, for most people. 

You might gain weight during social isolation because we’re all stressed out and impulse buying cherries and pie crust (just me? I stress bake). Gaining weight is fine. You will fluctuate to your normal set point after the stressful period. 

Gaining weight is okay.

Stress or comfort eating is okay.

Snacking “mindlessly” is okay.

It’s all okay — this is an unprecedented time, and sometimes the convenience of a frozen dinner you can throw in the oven on Friday after a timey-wimey work from home week is worth the sanity.

We have to take more time between grocery trips, and we can’t go out mid-week to top up on fresh produce. So that means canned food, frozen food, shelf-stable food.

We have to stay fed, but we don’t have to stay low-carb, counting macros, and sticking to a diet when the global stress level is off the charts.

Yes, do what you can to eat a balanced diet and include fruits and vegetables along with whole grains, and the whole healthy eating nine yards. But you have permission to not be on a diet right now (and forever after this is over).

Exercise During Social Distancing

Can’t get to the gym? You’re also not obligated to keep up a strict exercise regimen right now, especially if you’ve been ill or might become ill. The best thing you can do right now is be as healthy – and rested – as possible. 

Take this time to rest your body.

Embrace joyful movement. Do exercise that makes sense and makes you feel good. This could include taking a walk around the block or a short bike ride if you can go outside. You can do some gentle stretches or yoga. Lift weights or do home calisthenics if these are part of your regular routine and you want to continue them. 

But it’s okay if you just rest and recover right now without an exercise regimen. 

Diet Culture Resources

I highly recommend these amazing books to help you break the diet cycle so you don’t hate yourself for quarantine snacks — they might change your life for long after this social distancing period is over! 

The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner

Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon 

PS. I overcame my eating disorder with the help of the books above, and now I help others overcome boundaries and traumatic triggers in a six week class that reframes the usual negative spiral in your head. Email me to get on the roster for 50% off!

How to Work From Home for the First Time

A lot of us are working from home for the foreseeable future, some for the first time. It’s a big change to routine and it makes everything feel a little bit off. 

I’m used to working from home a couple days a week, but this feels different for me too.

Because it’s not really “working from home.” It’s being at home while big global events are happening and it’s not safe to do things you normally do…and trying to do your normal work.

It’s hard to focus, because you just want to go check the news all the time. But when it’s time for the show to go on, here are some tips for making work from home during this time feel a little more normal: 

  1. Shower and get dressed. It’s tempting to work all day in your PJs, but freshening up in the morning and getting some clean undies on will help you start the day in a good mood. This does not mean uncomfortable work clothes, just something clean and fresh. Stay comfy!
  2. Make a ritual. Normally we have a commute to mark the transition into and out of “work mode.” Create a morning and evening ritual to mark the start and end to your work day. This could mean making a cup of coffee and listening to your usual morning podcast or audiobook on the couch, taking an evening walk, or anything that helps you separate your day for work life balance when you work from home.
  3. Turn off your email. Just because you work from home and you’re home 24/7 doesn’t mean work is now 24/7. Separate work time and personal time by turning off your work computer or email program when it’s quitting time.
  4. Take breaks. Take your full lunch break and go outside if the weather is nice. Walk around the block for some fresh air. Take regular water and bathroom breaks, and give your eyes a break from screens at least once an hour for a few minutes.
  5. Make a shiny object list. When you’re working from home, you might be tempted to put in a load of laundry, quickly do the dishes, or take out the trash. These are fine to work into your breaks, but if you try to keep them in your brain you’ll get distracted. Keep a notepad nearby so you can write down the things you want to handle during break times. It’s also perfectly fine to save the household stuff for after the workday is complete; you don’t have to be the world’s most efficient person.
  6. Downtime is sacred. When you work from home, all the days can run together and Saturday might not feel any different. Make sure to plan relaxing, restorative, and creative time for your downtime so that you aren’t stressing over being productive all the time.

Any other advice for our work from home friends? Drop it in the comments. 

PS. I’m teaching folks how to improve their boundaries after trauma in a six week class. We start April 13, so there’s still time to reserve your spot. Shoot me an email and we’ll get you on the list.