What My Millennial Daughters Teach Me About Self-Care

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I don’t consider myself high maintenance. Sure, I like to get my hair and nails done, and  love to browse in the mall and buy a new shirt or pair of shoes. I adore facials. But my beauty routine is simple. I’m most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, my hair swept up in a ponytail, with just a hint of makeup.

Even though I don’t spend a ton of money on myself, I’m pretty good at doing things that make me happy. Like taking time to go for a walk or do yoga, sip a cup of coffee and read a magazine, or spend the afternoon gardening.

However, there are times I don’t allow myself to indulge so easily. Why is it that I only get a manicure and pedicure when my daughters encourage me to go with them? Why don’t I get my eyebrows threaded more often like my girls do? Why don’t I buy something on a whim, like a candle, that totally brightens my day? I do that when I’m shopping with my daughters but typically not when I’m alone.

Do I feel as if I don’t deserve those things? Feel guilty for enjoying luxuries? “I can’t get/do that, I don’t really need it.” Why not?

Sometimes I envy Mackenzie and Talee because attention to self-care seems to come naturally to them. It doesn’t mean they buy everything they want. They’re careful with their hard-earned dollars. But they know what makes them feel good, both physically and mentally, and they take action to make sure those things happen.I was recently chatting with a friend who’d been feeling really stressed out. She was feeling overwhelmed, tired and generally unhappy. We talked through everything and one of the contributing factors was, she’d been putting everything and everyone before herself and neglecting her needs. My advice was to start to… View PostMy daughters and I have struggled with anxiety and panic attacks. We’re aware of the importance of incorporating positive coping strategies into our daily lives, like eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Practicing those good habits is crucial for us to keep stress levels to a minimum.

But 25-year-old Mackenzie and 23-year-old Talee have shown me that self-care is more than munching on carrots and quinoa, sleeping eight hours, and walking 10,000 steps each day.

Their generation — millennials — are often defined as being obsessive about self-care. I read one study that says millennials make more personal improvement commitments than any other previous generation.

I think that’s awesome.

Maybe a reason for this fascination with self-care is the Internet. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with computers, cell phones, and social media.

I searched for self-care on Pinterest and thousands of links popped up. “25 Self-Care Ideas for Bad Days,” “How to Make a Self-Care Basket,” “My Nightly Self-Care Routine,” and “The Best Podcasts for Self-Care.” And mantras and quotes, like “Do beautiful things with your beautiful life” or “It’s not selfish to do what is best for you.”

Hm. I kind of like the sound of those.do what makesLast weekend Mackenzie and Talee were home and I asked them what they do to nourish their bodies and souls.

Here’s their list:

  • Go to the gym, 3-6 times per week
  • Get nails done or do them yourself, it makes you feel more put-together and confident
  • Use an essential oil diffuser to help you relax
  • Use lavender pillow spray at night
  • Experiment with makeup and face creams
  • Exercise/do something physical outside
  • Listen to self-improvement podcasts like “Stuff You Should Know,” and TED Talks, such as clinical psychologist Meg Jay
  • Read books like “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life,” by Jen Sincero or “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How To Make the Most of Them Now,” by Meg Jay, PhD
  • Clean your room or apartment
  • Put fresh flowers in your room or apartment
  • Use a meditation app like Headspace
  • Try a breathing class like Breathwork
  • Eat less processed foods
  • Plan activities with friends, even if it’s something simple like staying in, ordering pizza, and watching Netflix
  • Family time
  • Me-time
  • Decrease social media time
  • Sometimes you just need a glass of wine
  • Remember that everyone is in the same boat; you’re not alone

I’m inspired by my confident, happy daughters. They’ve taught me how special it is to embrace self-awareness and self-love.Image result for image of fingers in heart shapeI need to remember this: Practicing self-care does not mean I’m self-absorbed. Paying attention to my wants and needs should not equal guilt.

I’m going to take the initiative and stop procrastinating my self-care routine. This afternoon I’ll make a dentist appointment, schedule my mammogram, and go to the nail salon. Maybe I’ll stop at the farmer’s market and get some flowers for my kitchen. I’ll meditate for ten minutes with my Headspace app tonight, after eating a healthy dinner of grilled chicken and veggies, and a square of dark chocolate.

I think I could get used to this.I am worth it.

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The Most Important College Course Ever: Happiness 101

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Last night I was making dinner and half listening to the NBC Nightly News. I rushed around the kitchen, browning the chicken, dicing the red rose potatoes, and making a salad, when I heard a story that literally stopped me in my tracks.

The reporter was talking about the increasing mental health problems on college campuses. More than ever before, students are anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed.

There’s a course at Yale that teaches kids how to be happy. Ingenious.

Psychology professor Laurie Santos developed the class. She teaches students how to live a more satisfying life.

“Psychology and the Good Life” is the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history. Nearly one-fourth of Yale undergraduates students are enrolled.

That statistic speaks volumes.

Millennials, also known as “the anxious generation,” desperately want to know how to be happier, less stressed, and more fulfilled.

“Psychology and the Good Life” focuses on:

  1. Positive Psychology — the characteristics that allow humans to flourish
  2. Behavioral Change — how to live by those lessons in real life

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It’s not an easy A. There are quizzes, a midterm, and a final self-improvement project.

Each night, students have Happiness Homework, that looks something like this:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes
  • Get 8 hours of sleep
  • Do something kind
  • Write 5 things you’re grateful for
  • Decrease social media time

Dr. Santos said, “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

What an awesome lesson. Maybe it should be a course requirement at all college campuses.

I’m sure I could learn something from it. Maybe I’ll start to assign my own Happiness Homework.

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Feed Your Soul: 12 Simple Ways to Be Good to Yourself

Every single day,

Whether I’m having an amazing, productive day or an overwhelming and stress-filled one — I always do something that makes me happy. It makes my good days even better, and my difficult ones a bit easier to manage.

It’s part of self-care. Being kind to myself and recognizing that it’s important to slow down and take comfort in activities that I enjoy. I don’t think of it as being selfish. It’s healthy.

Finding ways to de-stress is crucial for both my physical and mental health. On my journey recovering from anxiety and panic attacks, I learned how important it is to practice deep breathing and mindfulness. To take time out of the day to relax and not feel guilty for doing something I love and gives me a sense of peace.

That “something that makes my heart sing” doesn’t need to be extravagant or take up a lot of time. A small break during the day can rejuvenate me and clear my mind, leaving me ready to tackle the rest of my tasks and responsibilities.

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Be mindful of the things you love and incorporate them into your daily life.

Here are some super simple, yet luxurious ways to pamper yourself:

  • Sit in a comfy chair, put your feet up, and read a book or magazine
  • Take a walk or hike and enjoy the nature surrounding you
  • Have lunch on the beach, near a lake, in the mountains
  • Make a cup of tea, latte or coffee and take a short afternoon break (a small piece of banana bread, scone or biscotti can make it perfect)
  • Browse around a favorite store or boutique (one of mine is Anthropologie), and take time to smell the pretty lotions and candles, feel the texture of the fabrics
  • Give yourself (or go to the salon for) a manicure and/or pedicure
  • Put on a face mask and take a bubble bath
  • Savor a piece of chewy caramel or dark chocolate
  • Light a candle while cooking dinner
  • Meditate and practice deep breathing, even for just 5-10 minutes
  • Use an essential oil diffuser while doing yoga poses or stretches
  • Take a technology break

I’m a list person, and love to cross off items I’ve accomplished. It’s so satisfying! But life isn’t all about racing to finish tasks and see how much you can get done in a day.

Life is meant to be noticed, appreciated, and  enjoyed.

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What’s the point of rushing through the day without doing something we truly love? 

Find what makes your heart sing, then do it. Allow yourself the time to be kind to yourself.

You deserve it.


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This Is Me

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down

Last weekend my husband and I went to see The Greatest Showman. I  loved the music and smiled nearly the entire movie. There was one song that really got my attention. It was performed by the “misfit” characters in the circus show.

I am not a stranger to the dark
“Hide away,” they say
“‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts”
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
“Run away,” they say
“No one’ll love you as you are”

These words can be applied to everyone’s lives at one time or another. No one is perfect. We all have things we don’t like about ourselves.

It might be a physical feature, like my thick, wavy hair that gets too frizzy (the straightener is my friend!) or the lines on my face as I age.

Or it can be an attitude or behavior we’d like to change. I eat pretty healthy, but do I eat healthy enough? Do I exercise enough? Am I smart enough? Pretty enough? Am I enough?

Or that imperfection could be a physical or mental illness. Like my anxiety and panic attacks.

Those hardships help shape us into the people we are. It’s what makes us, us. We’re all different, and that truly is what makes this life so rich, interesting, and beautiful.

You are

Our trials, sorrow, and pain, (also our joys and successes) bless us with compassion and  kindness.

There’s no doubt in my mind that because of what my family and I have been through with mental illness, I’m more empathetic than I would’ve been otherwise.

My mom had anorexia and depression, and my daughters and I have struggled with anxiety. I know how hard it is to watch a loved one deal with a mental health condition. And I know how scary and lonely it feels to experience panic symptoms and not want to tell anyone because of embarrassment and shame.

I’ve been there, I know.

We’re on this earth to share our gifts and talents, to love, and to help others. Going through difficult times is part of learning who we are and who we want to be.

Accept and embrace your whole self, including — especially including — your differences. You’re a gift to this world. Exactly the way you are.

Look out 'cause here I come

Time to Connect

New Year,-1

Ah, it feels nice to sit here at my computer and write a blog post again. I took time off of social media during the holidays. The past few weeks have been filled with family, friends, food (too much, of course), and special moments.

I spent time with family I usually see just once a year because we’re scattered throughout the world. I met my 10-month-old great nephew for the first time and couldn’t get enough of him. My husband Alex and I spent lots of time with our daughters, who live away from home. It was awesome to re-connect.

But the holidays weren’t all magic and sparkle. There was anxiety too, which has a way of creeping in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I couldn’t keep track of the times I told myself to take a deep breath and relax.

To add to the stress, we started a major remodel on our business the week after Thanksgiving. I know… not great timing.

Life is calming down a bit now — sort of. It felt good to box up our holiday decorations and declutter. The house looks a little bare, but fresh.

January is a clean slate.It's a new year and a fresh start! Make 2015 be your best year yet and do things that make you happy! Live for you!! Happy New Year!

Yesterday Alex asked what my New Year’s resolutions are. I don’t like to make them, it’s too much pressure. I prefer to set goals throughout the year, instead of a long list in early January. But his question got me thinking: is there anything I’d really like to change? Some area in my life I want to improve?

Like many people, I want to eat healthy, exercise, and lose five pounds. I want to read more and carve out time to meditate, do yoga, and work on the puzzles and mindfulness coloring book my mom and dad gave me for my birthday last fall.

But there’s something else I want to work on, a different type of resolution for me.


A few months ago, I had coffee with a friend (I’ll call her Teresa). She talked about the importance of finding and maintaining connections. I was intrigued because this is one area in my life I’d like to improve.

Life is all about connecting with others and being vulnerable enough to let them into our lives. Friends to laugh with, cry with, learn from, share experiences with, to support, to love.

I  have a close group of friends and wonderful family relationships. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at taking the initiative to keep in contact or arrange time to get together. Building and nurturing friendships takes effort, for both sides.

Pinning on this board...It helps me in my own journey and I hope it helps in yours. Thanks for being there, Pinterest people.

Teresa told me about author and motivational speaker, Brene Brown, Ph.D., and  suggested I read Brene’s book, “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.” Alex bought it for me for Christmas and so far I’ve read the first couple of chapters.

I relate to much of what Brene talks about, and I love this quote:

“I define connections as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”

It’s giving and receiving with an open heart. And despite the fear of rejection, putting yourself out there to connect on a personal or professional level. Maybe it’s asking a friend to go to lunch, joining a club, taking a class, or calling a business contact to further your career.


So that’s my resolution: to nourish the relationships I have and create new ones, even if it means stepping out of my comfort zone.

I’m excited to see what bonds will forge this next year.

Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2018!

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An Unexpected Gift

Hi! Today I share a simple flap card design along with tips for achieving a gorgeous stamped image!

My husband Alex and I had a wonderful surprise when we opened a holiday card from a person we don’t even know.

We didn’t expect it to be one of the most meaningful cards we’ve ever received.

It’s from a woman I’ll call Anna. She’s the sister of a man who passed away earlier this year, our friend Sal. I wrote a post about him and the impact he had on our lives. You can read that post here.

A brief background… We met Sal four years ago. He was homeless.

Sal spent most of his days at our business. He’d sit outside in front of our store, reading or drawing in his sketch pad. We often thought of him as the greeter. Our place became somewhat of a refuge for him.

Sal was the first homeless person Alex and I really got to know. He was kind, thoughtful, and funny. He was an American Indian, proud of his heritage. He’d been a carpenter for years, until he was hit by a car and could no longer do physical work. A string of unfortunate events led Sal to life on the streets.

He slept in a tent in a park. He struggled with alcoholism. He was in constant pain from injuries that never healed. His family life was broken. He rarely spoke with family members.

Sal believed in God and attended church every week. His faith was strong. He lived with the conviction that his life would improve.

Sadly, it ended much too soon. He was 55 when he was found dead in a van in a church parking lot.

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Alex and I attended Sal’s funeral, along with almost 100 other people. That spoke volumes as to how many lives he’d touched.

I stood in front of the congregation to speak and noticed a dozen or so family members in the front row. Sal had not seen or talked to most of them in years.I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking or what emotions were swirling around in their minds.

I spoke about our special friendship, and how appreciative Sal was of every act of kindness shown to him, no matter how large or how small. He’d often say to Alex and me, “Thank you so much for letting me be here.” Of course. We made sure he knew he was welcome.

At least ten people gave testimonials. One parishioner told of the times Sal had given his food to others because he thought they needed it more. Another woman said she met Sal the first night she became homeless. She attributes him to helping turn her life around.

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I prayed for Sal’s family to be comforted, hearing how loved he was in our community. I wanted them to know Sal made a difference and that his life had purpose.

Which brings me back to the holiday card from Sal’s sister, Anna.

She wrote:

I want to thank you for the kindness you showed my brother. He was very appreciative for all the help you gave him. Thank you very much.

I consider that card and its message, a gift — my prayers were answered.

Anna and her family knew that people cared. And despite his hardships, mistakes, and broken relationships, Sal was loved and won’t be forgotten.

Often, the greatest gifts aren’t things. They’re the kind, thoughtful gestures made from one human being to another.

The best things in life

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All Things New: Meet Author Lauren Miller!

All Things New is an amazing Young Adult book that I just read and absolutely loved!

I’m grateful that the lovely author, Lauren Miller, reached out to me after reading a post I wrote on NAMI’s national blog, detailing my experience as a presenter for NAMI’s Ending the Silence. I visit high schools and speak to students about mental illness. Very fitting, as Lauren’s book centers around a girl who has severe panic attacks.

All Things New is about 17-year-old Jessa, who has anxiety and panic attacks and doesn’t tell anyone. She becomes very good at hiding her secret and pretending. She gets in a horrific car accident, that leaves her with scars and a brain injury. She leaves her old life in California to live with her dad in Colorado. Her anxiety becomes worse. Until she meets Marshall, a boy with a heart defect who helps bring Jessa out of her closed-off world, into the broken, but beautiful, real world.

The theme running through the story is that we’re all broken, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of our broken pieces. The book shows how we can make it through; with love, kindness, and courage.

No one wants to talk about

I recently had the chance to interview Lauren to find out about her life and her work as an author. Please join us…

Your latest book, All Things New, centers around Jessa, a teen with an anxiety disorder. Why did you want her to have a mental health condition, and specifically, panic attacks?

From the very beginning, I wanted All Things New to examine the notion of emotional and psychological wounds — the pain we carry that no one can see. For me, that pain was anxiety, which I hid for years. It was exactly the type of challenge I wanted to give Jessa, my protagonist, because anxiety is real but invisible, and it’s closely connected to identity, another core theme of the story.

After Jessa’s accident, she has a form of face blindness, where she sees scars and bruises on random people’s faces, that aren’t really there. So interesting, and that would really be hard to deal with! I’m curious to know how you researched that.

As with all my books, I reached out to experts for help! I emailed with my hero, Oliver Sacks (through his assistant, Kate) before he passed away, which was a total writer’s highlight. Dr. Sacks suffered from face blindness and hearing from Kate what he experienced was a great help. As my story progressed, Jessa’s condition became less like true face blindness and more like ‘regular’ brain injury-induced hallucinations. In addition to that Jessa also suffers from something called aphantasia, or mind’s eye blindness, which means she can’t see any mental images in her head. For that, I corresponded with a professor in England named Dr. Adam Zeman who helped me tremendously to understand a condition that, at the time I started writing, didn’t yet have a name! The science/research aspect of the writing process is one of my favorite parts of writing.

There’s a slightly spiritual theme, as Jessa goes through challenging obstacles to put her life back together. I don’t want to divulge too much, but I’m talking about the first man who helps her at the scene of the accident, and the counselor. To me, that was comforting. Why did you add the spiritual element?

For me, the world is both a physical and a spiritual place, with both aspects being equally real. I’ve experienced moments like Jessa experienced–inexplicable things, people showing up who can’t really be explained, odd coincidences that provide meaning and purpose. So it was natural for me to add these aspects to my story (in fact, all of my books have slight supernatural themes!)

Jessa has a special relationship with her dad. I loved what he said when she was afraid to drive again. “I want you to be free. Free from the panic and worry, free from all that terrible self-doubt I see in your eyes and blame myself for. But you have to want it too, Jessa. You have to decide not to let fear win.” That says a lot, doesn’t it? Not letting fear win.

YES! I love that line, too. It’s the advice I have to give myself, over and over again.

What do you want readers to come away with, after reading All Things New?

More than anything I hope my readers will come away feeling hopeful about the future. Whatever hard thing they are going through, there is wholeness and healing in store for them, even if they can’t see it yet. I also hope my readers with anxiety will come away knowing that they are not alone!

Are you writing your next book? If so, can you tell us what it’s about?

I am actually working on a movie script right now–an adaptation of my first novel, Parallel. It’s been so fun that I think my next project will be another script! I have an idea for a coming of age movie about a girl who’s boyfriend is sent to rehab her senior year of high school, loosely based on something I experienced. But there will be a fourth novel, for sure. I just don’t know what it’ll be yet.

Lauren has written two previous YA books, Parallel and Free to Fall. You can visit her at laurenmillerwrites.com.

You can find All Things New in book and Kindle edition on Amazon. Click here!