Posts by Cara Beth Graebner

What Is Revenge Bedtime Procrastination?

You’re exhausted. It’s been a big day, a long week, a busy month. Tonight, for the first time in forever, you have the forethought and discipline to take yourself to bed early because you deserve some rest! You get all tucked in. You grab your headphones and your book. You open up your phone to queue up a relaxing playlist…

Five hours later, it’s 2:30 am, and you’ve watched two episodes of Bridgerton and scrolled through TikTok so much that it told you to take a break not once but twice and you ignored it.

What’s wrong with you?!?! Sounds like revenge bedtime procrastination.

What to Know About Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination

Revenge bedtime procrastination is when you put off sleep in order to have time to yourself. It’s not the same thing as staying up late for social activities or homework. It’s when you quite literally delay sleeping, even when you’re tired, often already in bed, and feel (consciously or subconsciously) you haven’t had time to do what you want to do.

Delaying sleep is common among people with ADD or ADHD, students, parents, or folks with demanding jobs who have schedules that are packed with activities that have been decided for them by their responsibilities. You can crawl into bed on time with the best intentions and still somehow end up with inadequate sleep because… you just couldn't put down your phone, turn off the TV, stop reading your book, or resist working on that idea you had earlier.

It’s your brain’s attempt to regain some control over your day, even if it means losing sleep.

Why is Bedtime Revenge Procrastinating a Big Deal?

The reason this habit is so bad for you = sleep deprivation. We all fall prey to a little late-night scrolling now and then, but if you’re engaging in this behavior every night over the long term, you’re looking at some pretty serious health consequences.

Lack of sleep can result in symptoms of depression, anxiety, difficulty focusing or performing well at work or school, weakened immune system, weight gain, poor memory, headaches, and even blood pressure or heart problems. Poor sleep is also associated with “brain fog” and a lower tolerance for stress. There is even some evidence that losing sleep can cause mental health problems like Major Depressive Disorder, anxiety disorders, and Bipolar Disorder.

Once you’re caught in a cycle of not getting enough sleep, it’s hard to break out. Your brain and body are tired, so tired that your judgment, decision-making, and dopamine-seeking faculties are out of whack. It’s no wonder that you keep doom-scrolling until the wee hours of the morning, but that means it’s more important than ever to change things up. Keep reading for tips on how to fix revenge bedtime procrastination.

How to Stop Delaying Sleep

Get serious about your sleep hygiene, and don’t ignore the mental health element of your poor sleep habits.

  • Set aside time during your day for you. Make sure that there is, at least, a little bit of time every day where you do whatever you want to do. If that’s scrolling through Instagram, fine. If that’s going on a run with your dog, great. If that’s taking a nap in your car between school and the soccer game, even better. It's your time.
  • Reconnect with your values–does the way you’re spending your time reflect them? What’s keeping you so busy? Are all of the activities in your packed schedule really worth your time? Consider cutting back on commitments or habits that don’t actually reflect who you are or who you want to be. Doing so may help you feel less stretched thin at the end of each day.
  • Develop an enjoyable bedtime routine. Whether you use an app or write it down on an index card, seriously, codify a routine for yourself. List out 3-5+ things that you will do every night before bed. These tasks could be anything: calling your best friend for a few minutes, changing into soft pajamas, washing your face, taking an Epsom salt bath, reading a good book, stretching, having a cup of herbal tea, going over your planner for tomorrow, writing in a journal, etc. As long as the routine is relaxing and helps you feel like your day is drawing to a nice conclusion, your routine can look however you want it to. 
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule as best you can. Figure out how much sleep you need–for people between 13 and 18 years old, it’s 8-10 hours per day. If you know what time you have to get up on a given morning, calculate a bedtime that’s at least 8 hours before that. Start your bedtime routine (the one you’re going to build) early enough that you're in bed with the lights off and your eyes closed at that 8-hour mark.
  • Make your environment an awesome place to sleep. Sleep environment is a huge factor in getting good rest. If you’re trying to sleep with crime shows in the background and leaving all the lights on, no wonder you’re not going to bed. Create a space that makes you feel cozy, safe, and sleepy.
  • Consider talking to a mental health professional. If you implement some sleep hygiene practices but still find that you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a number of reasons why that could be. A licensed professional can help you figure out if your sleep challenges are something you can work on or if you may need to see a doctor about a possible sleep disorder. In some cases, a prescription for a sleep study might be necessary, and there’s even medicine that can help your body understand that it’s time for bed.
  • Turn off your devices. This one is hard…. Our phones and computers have so much great stuff on them, and it feels cruel to cut ourselves off from puzzle games, music apps, social media, streaming, or whatever it is that you find yourself wanting to do when you’re finally done for the day. But screen time negatively impacts our ability to sleep. It just does. Your phone will still be there tomorrow. Let it have a break.

Rest as a Sacred Practice

“So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” –Genesis 2:3 (ESV)

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.” –Matthew 8:24 (ESV)

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” –Mark 6:31

Rest is so important that it literally shows up in the second chapter of the entire Bible. Rest shows up in the Ten Commandments when the Israelites are told to “honor the Sabbath.” The concept of the Sabbath is two-fold. On the one hand, it’s supposed to be a day set aside for worshiping God. On the other hand, it’s a day when you DO NOT WORK. Even Jesus rested, prioritized sleep, and observed the Sabbath no matter how chaotic life got. Examining how you could prioritize rest, or even practice your own version of a Sabbath, isn’t just “self-care.” It should be a priority for anyone who believes that God and Jesus knew what they were doing.

If you find yourself resisting rest because you crave more time for yourself or relaxation, that’s a sure sign that you’re in desperate need of a Sabbath practice. Consider setting aside one day of every week, or if you’re just THAT busy, an hour or two. Use that day or hour for true rest and relaxation, even if you haven’t gotten all your homework done, finished cleaning your room, or texted that one friend back. Those things can wait, and you’ll be in better shape to do them well once you’ve rested. Keeping your Sabbath religiously might just help you feel less strained at the end of the day so that you can cut out the scrolling and catch some real z’s.

Consider bringing prayer or journaling into your bedtime routine each evening, too. You can pour your heart and thoughts out to Jesus, asking Him to help you rest even though you’re feeling overwhelmed or tempted to reach for your phone. If you need more ideas on how to build better sleep habits for your mental health, you can also chat with one of our Hope Coaches. They’ll always listen without judgment and help you find resources to facilitate your growth.

Now… put down your phone and close your eyes.

For real. All of the above can wait until tomorrow.

Goodnight.

- Cara Beth

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Read my blog on ways perfectionism is standing in the way of your goals and how to overcome perfectionism.

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How to Stop Shame From Shutting You Down

“Not this again,” says my shame. “You’re so annoying. Why do you even try? Nobody cares what you have to say, so you should just stop talking, writing, texting… everyone will be relieved. You disrupt everyone’s peace with your insecurity, anxiety, and incompetence. Just stay out of the way.”

That’s what my shame tells me almost every time I sit down at my desk to work, write, research and communicate with my clients. It’s the same thing my shame has always said, since middle school drama class, into college creative writing courses, and when I had my first job in Chicago. Shame wants me to believe that I’m useless, or worse, irritating to everyone around me. And it’s taken me a very long time to learn how to deal with that voice of shame.

Until I started learning about what shame is, where it comes from, and what it means, I often stopped myself from expressing thoughts and feelings, from taking exciting opportunities or trying new things. For a long time, shame stifled who I could have been, making me too afraid to take risks or be vulnerable.

What to Know About Shame

What Is Shame?

I used to think that “shame” was something big that happened in epic tales of family dishonor, war, and infidelity. Game of Thrones comes to mind. I thought if I did something “shameful” and people found out, it’d be really, really bad.

But then I started working on my mental health and noticed a lot of advice about self-compassion. Isn’t compassion something you feel toward others? I needed to know more, and I found the work of shame researcher Brené Brown.

In “Shame vs. Guilt,” Brown says, “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”

Bingo. That was how I felt. All the time. It turns out I’m not alone.

In “Listening to Shame,” Brown also says that she believes we’re in a shame epidemic. This feeling of unworthiness is so common, it’d be hard to find anyone that doesn’t feel shame regularly. What makes this epidemic dangerous is that living in shame can be debilitating. Your social life, your career, your mental and physical health are all at risk when you’re living in constant shame.

Shame Versus Guilt

There’s a difference between shame and guilt. Guilt can be helpful. Guilt points out that you’ve done something you’re not proud of, whether that’s getting a C in a class, lying to your parents, or cheating on your romantic partner. Guilt identifies that the behavior isn’t something you want to repeat so that you can grow and behave differently next time. Shame identifies you. Shame says if you get a C, you’re stupid. If you lie to your parents, you’re ungrateful and dishonest. If you cheat on someone, you’re a bad person and you’ll cheat again and again and again.

Guilt empowers you to make changes. Shame strips that power from you, leaving you stuck, desperate, and hurting.

The Negative Effect of Shame

When you experience shame, it can take a huge toll on your life. You may feel permanently broken, and start to withdraw from people and activities you used to enjoy. You start to engage in behaviors that distract you from your shame—drinking, abusing drugs, unsafe sex, overspending, self-harm, etc. Your shame could also lead you to spread more shame—if you make everyone else feel bad about themselves, at least you aren’t the only one.

Other impacts shame can have on you:

  • You become defensive.
  • Your world becomes very small, and all you can think of are the negative beliefs you have about yourself, your own mistakes, your own misfortunes, etc. Your personality becomes narcissistic.
  • You may feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or exhausted.
  • Your self-esteem is low.
  • You have trouble trusting people.
  • You may become a people pleaser, an overachiever, or a perfectionist because you’re trying so hard to make up for your shame.
  • You may shut down, underachieve, struggle in school, and lose jobs because you don’t see your time and effort as valuable contributions.
  • You may avoid talking to people as much as possible.

My shame stopped me from pursuing healthy relationships, stopped me from applying to jobs, stopped me from being proud of my achievements, and some days stopped me from getting out of bed.

How Do You Overcome Extreme Shame?

I’m still working on it, but I’ve learned a few things about how to deal with shame. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Notice the shame spiral. Sometimes I’ll just be walking my dog, having a nice day, and suddenly all I can think about is that one time, five years ago, when a roommate accused me of being lazy and inconsiderate. My steps get heavier, my face and shoulders tense up, and if I’m not careful, that one memory can ruin my entire day. When I’m able to notice that the voice of shame is telling me that I am lazy and inconsiderate and anybody around me would agree that I’m the most selfish person on the planet, that’s important. Once I’ve noticed the shame, I can interrupt that thought process.

2. Interrupt the shame spiral. Shame is uncomfortable and clingy and gets bigger every second that you listen to it. If you can learn how to make it smaller, you can stop it in its tracks. Amy Morin, LCSW of VeryWellMind says, “The goal is to reduce [uncomfortable feelings] enough that you can think clearly. Then, you can make healthier decisions for yourself.”

  • I get my mind on something else. Whether that means starting a conversation with my dog, calling my brother, or turning on a true crime podcast, my brain needs something else to think about and fast, before shame convinces me that my life is meaningless. 
  • If I don’t get my body to change gears, I’ll probably lose the mental battle too. Sometimes, I’ll literally stop what I’m doing, do a forward fold, and start taking deep breaths. With each breath I try to relax something that feels tense. This may sound weird, but drinking super cold water does the trick—learning about the vagus nerve taught me that one.

3. Determine the source of the shame spiral. When I’m thinking more clearly, I can think objectively about what triggered that bout of shame. This step gets easier with practice, and to be honest I couldn’t do it by myself at first. This is where a licensed therapist could really help. If you’re able to, find one in your area and ask for help determining why you’re struggling with shame. Knowing the source(s) helps you figure out a plan of attack when shame rears its ugly head in the future.

4. Ask for support. You’re not a burden. I promise you. If you have a decent relationship with your parents, go to them. Ask a trusted friend to grab coffee. Text someone who you know will tell you that shame is lying to you. I wouldn’t be where I am with my mental health today if it weren’t for close, compassionate friendships. Sharing what your shame tells you, makes shame be quiet for a while, I’ve found.

5. Learn more, and share what you learn. Building your knowledge about shame, mental health, and self-esteem makes it easier to identify when you’re feeling shame and to know what to do in that moment. Sharing what you’re learning and talking about mental health more openly will help others who may be struggling too. Make your life a safe place for yourself and others to wrestle big feelings, heal, and grow.

In “Courage Over Comfort,” Brené Brown says, “People who wade into discomfort and vulnerability and tell the truth about their stories are the real badasses in this world.” And I agree.

What’s Faith Got to Do With Shame?

I’m in a complicated relationship with faith and shame. Some of my shame struggles come from lessons I learned in Sunday School involving blood, gore, punishment, and hell. When you fear the retribution of an angry God from an early age, it’s not surprising that you start to internalize every mistake as a sign that you’re unworthy of love on a cosmic level. However, as I’ve learned more about what Jesus was like, I’ve been able to reclaim my faith as a source of forgiveness, grace, and freedom.

My faith tells me that Jesus considers me to be worthy of love, that I belong here and I matter, that I have a spark of the divine in me—created in His image—that can never go out. My faith doesn’t necessarily give me all the answers, but it does create space in my heart to feel loved instead of worthless, held instead of alone, and hope instead of despair. Basically, once I’ve sent my shame through those 5 steps above, my faith is where it goes to die.

I can’t let you go without one more good word from, of course, Brené Brown, who says in The Gifts of Imperfection, “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”

If I can do this, you can do this. It’s terrifying, and it’s not easy, but if you’re struggling with feelings of shame, please reach out for support today. You can chat with a Hope Coach, text a good friend, or look up a licensed therapist near you. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Shame is not really that strong in the end—you just have to call it out into the open and it’ll run screaming.

Have you heard of Imposter Syndrome? Imposter syndrome involves feeling self-doubt despite your accomplishments. Read my article on what imposter syndrome is and how to overcome it.

-Cara Beth

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11 Ways Perfectionism Is Standing in the Way of Your Goals

At first glance, perfectionism sounds kinda nice. It sounds like common sense to pursue perfection. Why wouldn’t you want to be the best in school, the best at being a good friend, the best at looking good in pictures, etc? We’re taught from a young age to do our best, after all. Surely only perfectionists make it to CEO or Olympics or Grammies. Without it, how does anybody achieve anything?

If you’re having heart palpitations over all the typos in that first paragraph, congratulations. You’ve caught the perfectionism bug. While this commitment to eradicating mistakes is often rewarded by parents and teachers as we grow up, perfectionism is actually incredibly harmful, even detrimental, to our mental health and development. Any perceived “benefit” of perfectionism is either short-lived or comes at such a steep cost that, in the end, it’s really a disadvantage.

As Dr. Brené Brown says in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.” Unless you learn to cope with perfectionist thought patterns, it could hold you back from living fully. If any of these potential pitfalls of perfectionistic tendencies sound familiar, that’s a sign that your own perfectionism is already negatively impacting your life.

1. It keeps you believing in an illusion. At the core of any perfectionist’s way of thinking is the belief that perfection is attainable. It is not. There is no perfect student. There is no perfect Instagram picture. There is no perfect athlete. There is no perfect boyfriend. Every attempt to hide or remove flaws from your efforts, your appearance, or your personality is one step further into delusion and further away from who you really are. You become unable to authentically connect with anyone or to feel authentic joy.

2. It’s self-abuse. The amount of negative self-talk that goes on in a perfectionist’s mind is astounding. You become hypercritical of every move, every breath, every word, and every decision, and there is always something you should have done better. No error escapes your inner critic. You are essentially being tormented 24/7 by an inner bully, and that’s a recipe for poor mental health.

3. It’s stressful! If you can’t fully see that perfection is unattainable, then you’re always going to have unrealistic standards and set unattainable goals. If that isn’t stress-inducing, I don’t know what is. You expect more of yourself at all times. More work. More work. More work. The feeling of constantly being just short of where you want to be creates stress rather than inspiring excellence.

4. It leads to burnout. Living in a constant state of stress and anxiety isn’t sustainable. At some point, you will falter. Your brain and body will get tired. You will crash, sleep through an alarm, miss work, drop a deadline, or even get sick. From there, it’ll be even more difficult to maintain your perfectionistic expectations of yourself. Burnout leads to people quitting their dream jobs, dropping out of school, or even losing relationships that once mattered to them… without a break from constant stress, perfectionism sets you up to fail.

5. It leads to procrastination. When you accept nothing less than perfection, any task becomes gargantuan. Rather than treating a homework assignment as an exercise in practicing a skill or learning something new, it becomes the next way in which you could potentially convince your teacher that you have no intelligence whatsoever. Those kinds of anxious thoughts make it difficult to be brave enough or motivated to face such a challenge until the pressure of the deadline forces you to do so.

6. It’s disappointing. When you expect perfection, nothing will meet your unrealistic expectations. Prom will be a huge letdown because it will not happen exactly the way you imagined. Your dream job will not be your dream anymore because it isn’t as fulfilling or exciting as you thought it would be. Your girlfriend will get on your nerves because she won’t treat you exactly the way you always dreamed you’d be loved. You will not live up to the standards you had in mind for yourself, leaving a void that self-loathing can easily creep into.

7. It can stifle achievement, growth and creativity. Those things involve risk. When you’re so determined to be a high achiever that you’re constantly evaluating the potential for failure, risk isn’t worth it. You choose the things that are safe and easy to achieve, rather than striving for new heights.

8. It can stifle your relationships. Whether your impossibly high standards make you feel unworthy of anyone else’s time and attention or keep you in a state of chronic disappointment in others, perfectionism keeps you from authentically connecting with people. You can’t stand mistakes, whether they’re yours or someone else’s, and the only way to keep mistakes out of relationships is to simply not have relationships.

9. It creates isolation and feeds social anxiety. Similarly to #8, any kind of community puts you at risk of exposure to imperfection. Perfectionist thoughts may drive you to avoid people altogether, or they may make you miserable anytime you do hang out with friends. Am I overdressed? Underdressed? Was my joke not funny? Am I coming off as rude or shy? Did they look at me just now? Does that mean I have a pimple or that they like me? Your inner monologue never shuts up long enough for you to simply enjoy the time.

10. It can lead to depression. Constant anxiety and chronic disappointment, along with the belief that you are always falling short, are a recipe for depression. When perfectionism gets out of control, it’s not uncommon for symptoms of depression like hopelessness or fatigue to start showing up.

Wait, where’s number 11? Can you challenge yourself to accept that what you’re reading may still have some value despite any mistakes you’ve picked up on? Does the fact that this article has repeated that same joke twice now annoy you to the point that you want to close the page? Breathe through it. Keep reading. Perfection doesn’t exist.

How to Fight Perfectionism

What Can I Do About My Perfectionism?

Overcoming perfectionism isn’t just about letting go of typos. It’s about recognizing your unhealthy thought patterns and working to build new habits—it’s not easy and takes practice. Even accepting that you may struggle with perfectionism is hard for some perfectionists. On the one hand, a perfectionist might not want to admit their struggle because that would let everyone in on the fact they are trying so hard, breaking the illusion that they’re just naturally, effortlessly good at life. On the other hand, your perfectionism may even try to tell you that you should be ashamed for struggling with it—no really perfect person would be struggling with perfectionism, right?

Perfectionism can be a symptom or a sign that something else is off-kilter with your mental health. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, it’s a good idea to connect with a licensed therapist so that they can help you get to the root cause of your perfectionism and how to tackle it.

You can also use self-care as a weapon against these perfectionism attacks. Develop a routine in which you are kind to yourself and practice the belief that you don’t have to earn your own worth. Over time, your brain may start to listen and realize that you don’t deserve all this negative self-talk and deprivation. Practice knowing that you are still a valuable person, friend, student, partner, sibling, child, etc. if you miss a homework assignment, if you don’t get someone’s joke, if you forget to take out the trash, if you find a typo in your paper, if you miss that goal or hit a fly ball, if you get tagged in a photo where your hair’s messed up, if you spill soup all over the table, etc.

What’s Faith Got to Do With Perfectionism?

Maybe your struggle with perfectionism started in church. For some, it’s incredibly difficult to see past some of the rules or laws listed in scriptures to understand that, actually, God’s love is not dependent upon your behavior. The Ten Commandments, the Fruits of the Spirit, The Golden Rule… there are a lot of things we’re taught to commit to memory in Sunday School that, if you’re not careful, perfectionism will tell you are the only way for the people at church or Jesus Himself will love you or see you as a “good Christian.”

If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. And that’s certainly not how Jesus ever wants us to feel. Be reminded of verses like Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” There is nothing you need to prove, nothing you can mess up so badly that God’s grace will not cover it. Perfectionism will not help you achieve more when it comes to Jesus, so you can rest. You can let go of the pressure.

If you’re curious about how faith can help you let go of perfectionism, chat with one of our Hope Coaches today. You can also check out the other resources we offer on our website, and we hope they help you get started on your journey toward healing from the oppressive weight of perfectionism. We’re always here if you need someone to talk to!

Do you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others? Find out how to silence the voice of comparison.

- Cara Beth

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Top 5 Powers of Forgiveness

What to Know About Forgiveness

What Is Forgiveness?

Other than a keyword in the chorus to Don Henley’s 1989 classic, “The Heart of the Matter,” forgiveness is also one of the most powerful abilities humans possess. We are capable of so much because of the way God made us. In His image, we are able to reflect His heart and his qualities. His power to forgive is infinite and unwavering, and while it may be far more difficult and complicated for us, in forgiveness I see the divine in humanity, feel connected to my faith, and trust that God knew exactly what He was doing when he designed us. Because of God’s love, our hearts are capable of so much–letting go of anger, freeing ourselves from the past, believing in second chances, and even hope.

Forgiveness is more than we were taught on the playground. For a long time I thought of forgiveness as one of two things.

1. Big forgiveness = The forgiveness in the Bible, when God opts not to smite someone for breaking a rule or when Jesus dies on the cross for the sins of all mankind for eternity.

2. Little forgiveness = When the teacher says to one kid, “Say you’re sorry,” then waits expectantly with eyebrows raised for the other kid to say, “It’s okay.” Little forgiveness is always followed by a forced hug, a waste of precious seconds of recess.

But forgiveness is not just our ticket out of Hell or the fastest way to get back to the jungle gym. It’s, frankly, a thing of great power.

What Can Forgiveness Really Do?

There are more ways that forgiveness benefits us than we have time to chat about, but here are some of my favorites.

1. Decreases stress. When you’re carrying around negative feelings about someone and something they did, it’s not fun. Every time you think about it, your brain clocks that as stress. Getting to a place where you can move forward reduces that feeling of stress. Less stress, studies show, improves our lives by a lot.

2. Improves mental health. See above! When you cut down on stressors, your mind doesn’t have to overcome as much to maintain a healthy perspective. Research shows that having a mindset of forgiveness leads to an increase in your perception of positive experiences, feeling more in tune with your spirituality and mental well-being, and even finding or sensing your purpose in life.

3. Is empowering. When you forgive, you are saying, “This offense no longer has power over me, because my heart and mind are stronger than that.” When you realize that you don’t have to be held down by the past anymore, that you are capable of moving forward despite what others have done, it can feel incredibly powerful.

4. Is relieving. When you’re still in the pain, hurt, and anger stage, it can get exhausting to carry the weight of the other person’s actions every minute of every day. When you forgive you become free of that. You get to drop it--it’s not your job but theirs to worry about what they’ve done. If you’re having trouble letting go, it’s okay to ask for help. Talking to a friend or therapist can be helpful. You can also try asking God, “Hey, I’m pooped but I’m not ready to let go all the way… could you just hold onto my worries for a minute while I take a nap?” You’ll feel lighter, and that will give you the energy to figure out what’s next.

5. Gives us a fresh start. Sometimes we get stuck. You get the idea in your head that you can’t do XYZ because of the past. Maybe you think, “I would never want to be a parent,” because you’re in too much pain from your parents’ mistakes to even imagine that possibility. Maybe you think, “I can’t go to school because then I’ll see her, and I’ll feel shame.” Maybe you think, “I can’t have a healthy relationship because I’m too messed up from my last one.” Forgiveness turns the page. No matter what’s written in the previous chapters of your life, today’s page is clean and uninfluenced by what’s come before.

What About the What-Ifs?

Knowing the power of forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re automatically prepared to forgive. There’s a lot that goes into the decision to forgive, and it’s fair to have questions or concerns.

  • What if I’m not ready to forgive?
    • This is not a race! While it’s true that the sooner you forgive, the sooner you’ll feel those benefits, you also can’t force yourself to forgive before you’re ready. If not today, perhaps tomorrow.
  • What if the other person isn’t sorry?
    • Remember that your forgiveness isn’t just about them. You don’t even have to tell them they’re forgiven to forgive them. The practice of forgiveness is also about you letting go of the past and releasing the burden of your pain so that you can move on. You don’t deserve to sit in discomfort, twiddling your thumbs until they ask for forgiveness. If they ever get around to saying sorry, you can tell them you’re way ahead of them.
  • What if the offense is unforgivable?
    • Again, take your time. When you are still feeling great hurt, grief, and anger from the offense someone else committed, it’s almost a guarantee that forgiving them feels unimaginable. Again, you don’t have to do it today, or even this decade. Remind yourself that forgiveness is ultimately about you, not the other person. When you focus on the emotional benefits you’ll be receiving from forgiving them, it may start to become conceivable that you can forgive.
  • What if I’m no longer in contact with the other person?
    • Again, forgiveness is more about your heart than theirs. If it’s possible or healthy to have a conversation with them, that could be healing for both of you, but that is not a deal breaking ingredient of forgiveness. Whether the other person has passed away, moved away, or you’ve decided to cut off contact, you can still forgive. 
  • What if I try to forgive, and it doesn’t work?
    • Forgiveness is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. Some even refer to forgiveness as a “practice.” Similar to a gratitude practice, practicing forgiveness strengthens your forgiveness “muscle” over time. The more you practice, the more forgiving your mindset. If you find yourself slipping back into anger or pain due to someone you thought you’d forgiven, go easy on yourself. Practice forgiving today. At first, you may have to forgive someone every day, hour, or even minute if that is what it takes. 
  • What if the person I need to forgive is myself?
    • We’ve all made mistakes and hurt people we love. Sometimes we may get the chance to hear them say, “I forgive you.” Other times, that won’t be possible. Even if you get to ask for their forgiveness and receive it, you’ll still need to forgive yourself so that you don’t become weighed down by shame.

Forgiving Doesn’t Have to Mean Forgetting

Sometimes, even after forgiveness, nothing will ever be the same between you and the other person. You can release the emotional burden of the pain they caused you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set new boundaries with that person based on their behavior. For instance, you can forgive someone and break up with them. You can forgive someone and go zero-contact with them. You can forgive someone and choose not to hang out with them anymore. In an article for VeryWellMind, Elizabeth Scott, PhD says, “Think of taking your hand away from a hot burner on the stove—it remains hot, but you move away from it for your own safety.” You don’t have to hold a grudge against the stove, but you also don’t have to touch that burner anymore.

If you’re struggling with the idea of forgiving someone, remember that it doesn’t need to happen overnight. It also helps to remember times when you have been forgiven. Remember when your mom forgave you for forgetting to take out the trash? Or when you totally forgot it was your sister’s birthday? You are loved despite your mistakes, and nobody demonstrates that better than Jesus. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” The HopeLine has resources that can help you explore this further, and their Hope Coaches are always here to chat about HOW to forgive. I also highly recommend checking out India Arie’s 2006 version of “The Heart of the Matter” after you listen to Henley’s–pure gold, both of them.

- Cara Beth

Forgiveness can be tough to navigate, especially with so many opinions and emotions at play. Read about what forgiveness is and is not for more help with forgiveness.

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TheHopeLine: Standing Against Bullying - Prevention Tips.

If you’re wondering what month is National Bullying Prevention Month, you’re in the right place. It’s October! And we’re taking the time this week to discuss the problem with bullying and how you can go about sticking up for what’s right.

Bullying Awareness Prevention Month: What to Know About Bullying

What Does Bullying Look Like?

Bullying and harassment can show up in a lot of ways. Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  • Verbal, Physical, or Emotional Abuse
  • Mockery
  • Public Humiliation
  • Isolating and Abandoning Others
  • Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
  • Online Harassment

No matter which kind of bullying a victim experiences, the impact of bullying can be devastating. Depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide are only a short list of the potential mental health repercussions for a victim of bullying. It’s also highly likely that the bully is also struggling with similar mental health concerns. Bullying is so pervasive that it’s highly likely you’ll be on the receiving end of some of the above bullying behaviors at some point in your life. The question now is, what are you supposed to do about it?

Iconic Bullies and How They Were “Defeated”

As soon as you or someone you know has been a victim of bullying, it’s natural to immediately want to confront them or fight back. “Give them a taste of their own medicine” is a common phrase used when it comes to responding to bullies. While it’s perfectly rational to want justice, it’s important to consider how you go about this. While it may seem justified and satisfying to fire back at bullies, is that really justice?

Let’s look at some iconic fictional bullies, where they fall on the above list, and how their stories end.

BullyBullying StyleResult
Regina George, Mean Girls• Verbal and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning OthersHer victims react with: • Physical abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Sid, Toy Story• Verbal, Physical, and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning Others• Damaging Others’ Property or BelongingsHis victims react with:
• Emotional Abuse• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Miss Trunchbull, Matilda• Verbal, Physical, and Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public HumiliationHer victims react with:• Emotional Abuse• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Gaston, Beauty & the Beast• Mockery• Public Humiliation• Isolating and Abandoning Others• Damaging Others’ Property or BelongingsHe incites a riot (a mob of bullies) who commit:
• Physical Abuse• Damaging Others’ Property or Belongings
Joffrey Baratheon, Game of ThronesEverything but online harassment…His victims’ response:
Physical abuse and public humiliation, in the form of a plot against his life. They successfully poison a child at a feast.

If you cheered or felt happy as these heavy-hitters got what was coming to them on screen, that’s understandable. They were really mean! Don’t forget that third column, though. What’s saddest about each of these examples is that their bullying inspired more bullying behaviors in others, so while they may have been stopped, they left more bullies behind than before.

How to Stand Up to Bullying Without Bullying

This is not to say that we shouldn’t stand up to our bullies at all! Sometimes, healthy confrontation is necessary! Just be careful that when you stick up for what’s right, you don’t use the same bullying tactics and cause further harm, as we see in some of the above examples. If you’re facing a bully in your life right now, keep the following ideas at the forefront of your mind too:

  • Communicate boundaries directly. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, say something. You can even say something like, “I don’t appreciate it when you make jokes about me in the hallway. It’s bullying behavior.” Or if you witness a friend acting like a bully– “Why are you acting like this? It’s not right.” For some bullies, that may be all the confrontation they can stand. If you feel unsafe confronting your bully, don’t. Consider the rest of the list. 
  • Be proactive, not reactive. If you know that your bully always hangs out by one entrance at school, choose a different entrance. If you know they are going to start sending you mean messages as soon as you open your TikTok, block them. This way, you’re taking control by giving them less access to you, and you’re less likely to do something reactive, like shove them back or send equally mean messages.
  • Document & report. Anytime you feel you’re experiencing bullying behavior, make a note of it. With that documentation you now have a record that shows their pattern of behavior, should you decide to report the bully. You don’t have to do this alone. By telling a trusted adult or authority figure, the chances are higher for you (and the bully) to get much needed support.
  • Prioritize your safety. If your bully messages you anything about self-harm, suicide, or threats of violence, report them immediately and avoid contact. If your bully has physically assaulted you, be that a punch in the gut or a swirly, report them immediately and avoid contact. If you have reason to believe that your bully may become violent if confronted, do not proceed alone. Now is the time to bring in the professionals.
  • Call for backup. Teachers, school staff, or even the police are capable of helping you put a stop to your bully. A therapist or counselor can also support you as you process the pain of being bullied and confronting your bully. If you don’t know where to start looking for help with your situation, chat with a Hope Coach today, and we’ll help you.

In the Bible, Jesus stands up to bullies more than once. He called out the bullying of tax collectors–men who demanded way more money than people could afford, just to line their own pockets. On top of that, this corruption was so common that tax collectors became a hated group of people, even if they were honest in their work. One form of bullying had led to another. Do you know what Jesus did? One day, as people gathered to watch Jesus pass through Jericho, He walked right up to a tax collector named Zaccheus and basically invited Himself to dinner at the guy’s home. At the same time as He directly addressed the wrongs of the tax collectors, he also showed everyone that bullying as a response to being bullied isn’t the way.

Moving Forward With Hope and Compassion

From high school, to Netflix, to politics, it seems that the story of an underdog succeeding despite mistreatment will always be a fan favorite. Look at the way so many have rallied behind Meghan Markle, or the ongoing widespread support of Ukraine defending itself against Russia. Certainly it might feel cathartic to see a bully go down, whether that means toppling a monarchy or throwing mashed potatoes across the cafeteria. But wouldn’t it be even more satisfying to see bullies grow? To see them become accountable for their actions and take real steps toward a more healthy way of relating to others? This outcome is not unheard of! In fact, if you think about it, there’s one thing that can turn hated film/TV bullies into some of the most beloved characters in popular culture: a redemption arc.

It’s hard to deny that Steve Harrington is the number one reason many fans return for every season of Stranger Things. Once a bully, he’s now a brave and passionate leader who fights for his friends to feel safe. Alexis Rose on Schitt’s Creek, goes from dismissive and entitled party girl to conscientious and driven daughter, friend, and business owner. At the top of this list? Perhaps no bully from pop culture has a more satisfying redemption arc than Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender. His story has been so compelling to fans that the show continues to rise in popularity, even though it came out way back in 2005. People even name their pets Zuko!

Why are these characters so beloved? Because they offer us the reminder that, if we can all learn to become more open, honest, and emotionally healthy then there’s a future in which people change, grow, apologize, forgive, etc. The binary dynamic of the bully vs. the bullied doesn’t necessarily have to continue forever and ever. Jesus’ entire message is about how we can all have an incredible redemption arc. If you follow His teachings, you’ll find them filled with hope for a future where everyone is united. By the way, Zaccheus? He ended up returning all the money he unfairly taxed and more. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus’ life and message, or if you need to chat with someone about a potential bullying situation, please reach out to TheHopeLine today. You’re never in this alone!

-Cara Beth

Victims of bullying, and the bullies themselves, are at a higher risk of depression. Learn how depression is linked to bullying.

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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

What to Know About Imposter Syndrome

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

“I don’t belong here.”

“If I don’t show up at that party, everyone’s gonna think I’m a fraud.”

“They’re only accepting me because they don’t really know me.”

“Why am I trying to compete with people who are stronger, smarter, and faster than I am?”

“Everyone secretly finds me annoying.”

“I may get decent grades, but I’m not actually smart.”

“What if they find out that I have no idea what I’m doing?”

“Why are they posting about hanging out without me?”

“Even when I do my best, I’m not as good as she is.”

Ever found yourself thinking this way? Like nothing you do is ever good enough or that somehow, if people only knew “the real you,” they’d never be your friend, work with you, let you into that advanced class, etc. Like you don’t deserve the respect people give you, even after you’ve worked hard to be where you are?

If so, here are a few things you should know:

1. Me too! I have been “making it,” as in paying my bills, as a full-time writer for a WHILE now, and I still wake up almost every morning afraid that today’s the day everyone will discover I’m actually quite bad at this, fire me, and ban me from being hired to write ever again. You’re not alone when it comes to fearing that you’re not good enough.

2. In fact, you’re SO not alone that I guarantee you whoever you feel inferior to ALSO feels inferior in one way or another. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, struggles with feeling like they deserve to be where they are. Anyone who seems like they have it all figured out is either a very good actor or is just lying

3. The name for this feeling of fearing that everyone is going to “find out” that you don’t really belong is “Imposter Syndrome.” It plagues a lot of people, and while it’s not a “real” syndrome, it is such a common manifestation of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem that it’s had experts talking about it for years. Let’s look at what they have to say.

What Exactly Is Imposter Syndrome?

The term comes from a time when women were first starting to get into workplace and academic fields that had previously only been for men. For example, a woman who started at a university in the first years after it began accepting female students might have felt extreme pressure to perform perfectly, lest she be discovered as a “phony” and kicked out, regardless of the fact that she’d already achieved the same level of excellence as the male students who were also accepted. 

Now, though, we know that ANYONE can experience this kind of self-doubt, and it doesn’t have to be about school or work achievements. It can also impact how you feel about your social life. It’s so widespread that about 70% of people will experience an “episode” of it in their lifetime, but like I said above, I believe it’s much higher than that.

Where Does Imposter Syndrome Come From?

Anyone can struggle with it, but there are a number of factors that can predispose you to experience Imposter Syndrome. For instance, your childhood can set you up for it. If your parents prioritize achievements or are supercritical when you don't get perfect grades, you might internalize the idea that you’re not “good enough” unless you prove it by going above and beyond, without fail. Mistakes become unacceptable.

Simply being “the new kid” can also trigger an episode. If you’ve just started at a new school, a new job, a new team, or are trying to make new friends, you might feel pressure to be “perfect” or risk losing the right to keep your spot. Being new can make you feel inexperienced, even if you’ve done just as much to earn your place as those around you.

Having other mental health issues also opens the door for Imposter Syndrome. If you’re already an anxious person or struggling with depression, self-doubt can easily creep in and make it difficult for you to recognize your own worth and successes. Those with ADHD can also struggle with it, especially if you are trying to hide how much harder you feel you have to work because you don’t want others to think you aren’t as smart or capable as they are.

And of course, many instances of imposter syndrome are a direct result of social media. We spend so much time curating how others are able to perceive us through Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, dating apps, and more. No wonder we’re constantly worried someone will “discover” that we aren’t actually that cool. Their profiles make them look like movie stars who volunteer for charity on the weekends in between winning sports championships! 5 minutes on social media, and you’re almost guaranteed to contract a mild to severe case of FOMO and a to-do list of things you’ve got to do to fit in.

Confronting Self-Doubt Head On

Wherever your imposter syndrome comes from, the question is now: how do we deal with it? I’ve been wrestling with mine for years, and while I haven’t uncovered a magical switch that turns it off, I can recommend a few things that help manage the self-doubt when it gets overwhelming.

1. Do not (I repeat: DO NOT) compare yourself to others. It’s not fair to you (or to them!) for you to overanalyze someone else’s successes in order to question your own. You have your own story. They have theirs. Focus on you and you alone, even when it’s tempting to fixate on the achievements of others as proof of your own shortcomings. The comparison game is a quick path to overwhelm, bitterness, anxiety, depression, and demotivation.

I highly recommend getting off social media (for a little while) if you’re really struggling with this one. Even a 24-hour break makes a difference!

2. Practice positive self-talk. When you notice those thoughts creeping in, start your counterattack immediately! I have a dear friend who has named the voice of her Imposter Syndrome “The Secretary,” because it seems to keep a careful account of all her mistakes and loves to remind her of them. If it helps you, come up with a fun name for your Imposter Syndrome (or steal The Secretary) and have an honest conversation with her next time she rears her head. Saying anything from, “Thanks for visiting, but I’m too busy to chat right now,” to “NOPE!” to “Actually, I have a resume FULL of reasons you’re wrong,” may help you get your brain out of the slump.

3. Create your own cheerleading squad. When you have Imposter Syndrome, it can feel impossible to see your own achievements and successes as worthy of praise. So don’t! Make a short list of people you know will be excited for you and proud of you. Maybe that’s your mom, your coach, your best friend, and your sibling. Develop the habit of texting them when something goes right, and let yourself enjoy how happy they are for you. Down the road, when you’re doubting yourself, send a text that says, “Hey, can you remind me that I’m not a fraud or a failure?” If you’ve recruited the right squad, prepare to be showered with encouragement.

Find Confidence Outside of Your Achievements

There will never be an achievement great enough for you to prove yourself to your self-doubt. Your self-doubt has one job, and even if you become the leading expert in your field, win a gold medal in the Olympics, discover the cure for cancer, and single-handedly reverse climate change, that self-doubt is going to continue to doubt. Instead, you must learn to stand firm in your value as a person regardless of your level of outward success. There’s a verse in Psalms 27 that says, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.” What is it this writer has that makes his confidence unshakeable, even with chaos going on around him? The next verse reads, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” That might sound kind of hokey in 2022, so let me translate: I can be confident, even in the chaos, because I know that God’s protection and love for me are unshakeable. I’m not a fraud or a phony. In fact, I’m deeply loved, and no matter what happens, I will be okay.

God doesn’t promise that there won’t be a (figurative) war on our mental health, but He does promise to be our shelter and refuge. He also promises us the love of Christ, which gives us an identity that doesn’t depend on what others think of us (or what we think of ourselves). If you’re struggling with Imposter Syndrome and doubting that you deserve praise for your achievements, and you want to know more about the peace that a relationship with Jesus might bring you, reach out to a Hope Coach today. You are not alone in this feeling, and we want to support you as you learn to deal with self-doubt in a healthy way.

If you have low self-esteem, respecting yourself can be hard. Check out these ways to improve your self-esteem and self-worth.

-Cara Beth

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Top 9 Tips to Time Manage With Anxiety

First things first: TAKE A BREAK! Right now. Just set your phone timer for 20 minutes, and go do whatever you want to until the alarm. Come back to this article when you’re done–go! Don’t read another sentence.

Welcome back.

How to Manage Time With Anxiety

You Are More Than Your Productivity

As a sufferer of anxiety who also wrestles the beast of time management, I’ve got you. Any time I find myself desperately looking for ways to “fix” or “improve” my time management skills, I’ve learned it’s a sign that a) I’m stressed and b) I’m procrastinating or avoiding a specific task. The reason I insisted you take a break FIRST THING is that you need to understand that you’re not doing anything WRONG when you experience anxiety, and you’re allowed to take breaks, even if you’re running late on something or struggling to get it done.

As @domesticblisters of TikTok often says, productivity is morally neutral, and for me, the worst part of time management is how much of it I waste feeling guilty or beating myself up for not being better at it. You deserved that break, and you deserve the next break you take too. In between breaks, you can try some of these time management tips that may be able to help you feel less anxious about scheduling enough time for everything you have on your plate.

Time Management Tips for Anxiety

1. Take breaks. I know! It feels wrong. You’re trying to get more done, and taking breaks gives you less time to do that–right? Wrong. If you don’t give your brain and body the rest they need, especially when you’re stressed, busy, or anxious, you’re on a one-way track toward burnout. At some point, you’re going to crash, whether that means falling asleep on your textbook, dropping the ball on your chores, getting a speeding ticket, or failing a test. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself a 10-15 minute break for every hour of working or studying. If possible, try to take time off completely on the weekends, too. If you work or have sports and family engagements on the weekends, try to at least give yourself a couple of hours to decompress, rest, and play (do something just for fun).

2. Get a planner. Write down your classes, deadlines, assignments, work shifts, games, practices, and family engagements–write everything down. Write things down as soon as you learn about them, for as far into the future as you can, even if that means writing down the date of your cousin’s wedding three years from now. Building a habit of writing everything down helps cut down on the constant anxious fear that you’re forgetting things due to overwhelming. It will also help you with your weekly and daily planning–you won’t accidentally schedule yourself to work on the same night as your dance recital if you write down the recital date as soon as you get your semester schedule.

3. Enlist the help of technology! Setting reminders, timers, and alarms on your phone or watch can be excellent tools for helping you stay on top of your time management. Set an alarm that goes off every morning to remind you to take your meds. Build a recurring event into your calendar that reminds you about Mother’s Day and important birthdays so you don’t have to hustle for last-minute gifts every year because you forgot. Check out apps like Routinery, Pomodoro, or any of these recommended by VeryWellMind. Find what works for you and helps you feel less anxious, not more.

4. Determine where your time management struggles are coming from. People can struggle with time management for a number of reasons. What’s yours? Are your projects so big that you don’t know where to start? Maybe you need to break them up into smaller, more bite-sized tasks. Or do you procrastinate because you’re afraid of doing it wrong? In that case, it sounds like you’re struggling with perfectionism. Maybe you have trouble understanding how long activities or projects are going to take or you spend too much time making sure everything is done perfectly. In that case, perhaps you need to double or even quadruple the amount of time you think you need to set aside for certain tasks. Pinpointing the specific source of what derails your time management can help you figure out what kind of tools and habits will help manage your anxiety.

5. Choose your commitments wisely. Aside from the non-negotiables like school, don’t be afraid to say “no” to activities that you don’t have time for, don’t want to do, or would only make other people happy. The world will not stop spinning if you tell your aunt that you can’t go to the farmer’s market because you need to study, or if you tell that one teacher you can’t sign up to help tutor the freshmen. These activities might be things you would love to do! But if you’re struggling to manage your time, consider removing or swapping out another scheduled activity for each new activity you schedule. If you continue to pile on the commitments, your anxiety and overwhelm will get worse because you won’t have any room to breathe.

6. Be flexible and make adjustments. Except for hard deadlines, it’s perfectly reasonable to move activities and tasks around in your schedule. It’s okay if you end up getting a haircut next Tuesday instead of during the only free 40 minutes you have between school and work tomorrow. Ask your friends if you can go see that movie next weekend instead, because it took you way longer to finish your paper and you still need to study for the biology final. Don’t worry if your week doesn’t end up going exactly the way you planned–that’s life, and you’ll be alright.

7. Create a productive environment. Pick a place where you feel the most focused. That could be your desk at home, a table in the library, or the corner of a coffee shop. Wherever it is, choose it intentionally, and go there for a set amount of time each week. When you’re there, turn off your phone notifications so that you won’t be interrupted and set a timer. For the amount of time that you decide, you are dedicated to whatever work you need to do, whether that’s studying, drawing, answering emails, or catching up on assigned reading. Keep this place special–don’t use it for hanging out with friends, streaming your favorite show, or playing Candy Crush. This is your dedicated focus place, where you’re able to get in the mindset of accomplishing today’s important tasks.

8. Talk to someone if your anxiety is getting worse. Make an appointment with the school counselor and consider chatting with your parents about seeking the help of a mental health professional. If your anxiety is overwhelming you, no amount of time management is going to make it go away–it’s a deeper mental health issue than keeping a detailed planner can address, and you may benefit from having support. If you’re nervous, check out our article called “How to Talk to Your Parents About Anxiety” to figure out where to start.

9. Rest. This is different than Step #1. In this case, resting means sleep. Your brain and body can’t keep up with a busy schedule or make good time management decisions when you’re exhausted. Learn about good sleep hygiene, and develop a strong boundary around your rest time. Get your 8 hours of sleep!

Be Gracious With Yourself When You Mess Up

While it’s important that we accomplish the things that are important to us and carry out our responsibilities to others, your mental, physical, and spiritual health should always be the top priority! It’s okay to slow down, to take breaks, to ask for help, and to make occasional time management mistakes. You’re human, and no human is doing everything perfectly. As Brene Brown says, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a shield. It’s a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from flight.”

When your anxiety rears its ugly head because you’re not managing your time as well as you might wish, drop the shield–cancel an event, ask for an extension on an assignment, and reach out for support. Nobody expects you to be capable of perfection, especially not at TheHopeLine, and most especially, not Jesus Christ. Reach out today if you want to learn more about how to give yourself grace when you’re struggling with anxiety.

-Cara Beth

Watch this personal video story by Karissa with The Rooted Fruit as she outlines the steps for, "How I cope with anxiety", to help others struggling with anxiety too.

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TheHopeLine: Mental Health & Student Athletes - No Sacrifice.

In case you missed it, Simone Biles blew up the conversation about mental health in athletes when she walked away from the Tokyo Olympics in July 2021. Thanks to her and Naomi Osaka, who declined to participate in the French Open last year, many athletes finally feel free to discuss just how taxing athletics can be on your mental state, especially for those who are young and trying to balance school at the same time as they participate in sports. Before that, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps also opened up about his struggle with depression, adding yet another name to the list of elite athletes who battle with mental health issues.

It turns out that just because “exercise” is one the most frequently touted treatments for mental illness, from depression and anxiety to PTSD and Bipolar Disorder, doesn’t mean that exercise is always healthy. Nor does this mean that someone who exercises regularly due to school sports is immune to mental health challenges. In fact, there are several aspects of both high school and college sports that can trigger anxiety and depression, so it’s imperative that student-athletes and those who support them understand the importance of caring for their mental health.

How to Navigate Mental Health as a Student Athlete

The Pressure on a Student-Athlete

On top of everything that a typical student deals with, a student-athlete faces the added complication of balancing those challenges with the mental, emotional, and physical pressures of competitive sports. The amount of stress on student-athletes is enough to, quite frankly, floor almost any adult. Yet our high schools and colleges expect young athletes to be high achievers both on and off the court. Often student-athletes also rely upon their performance to secure funding for school, which is crucial to their future success but adds to the burden on their mental health.

Why You Should Care About Your Mental Health as a Student-Athlete

Sports psychologists have long talked about the importance of the link between mind and body. Whatever your sport is in school, your coach and teammates probably say things along the lines of “keep your eye on the ball,” “get your head in the game,” “don’t psych yourself out,” or “get out of your head.” All of these sayings are ways to address the anxiety that can occur when you’re actually playing your sport–overwhelming thoughts that can distract you from what you need to be doing on the playing field. If you don’t learn to take care of those anxious thoughts, your physical performance can suffer.

That can happen outside of the rink too! If you’re stressed about an exam, going through something difficult at home, or nervous about the next big match, but you aren’t taking care of your mental health, that stress can take a toll in every aspect of life, including your athletic performance. Things can really snowball from there, meaning the pressure from sports can negatively impact academics, which can then negatively impact your social life, which can then negatively impact sports again, and so on, in a vicious cycle. That leaves you struggling to succeed in even one area, let alone all of them.

But there is hope. You can truly succeed in your chosen sport by making sure your mental condition is as fit as your physical condition.

7 Ways to Manage Student-Athlete Stress

1. Make sure you have other things you do for fun. Many of us got into sports as kids, and we played “for fun.” If that’s the case for you too, awesome! But be aware of the fact that though you may still love your sport, competing in school is actually hard work too. You’re having fun, sure, but you’re also using up a lot of brain and muscle power in games and in practice. Make sure you have other ways to specifically have fun each week, whether that’s a movie night with your siblings, meeting your friends for a game night, or teaching your dog a new trick you saw on #dogtraining TikTok.

2. Make sure you have other things you do for relaxation. School sports take a lot out of you–they require intense focus and push you to your physical limits. That means you need to prioritize rest! Even (especially) if you’re extremely busy outside of sports, without rest your mind and body will get burned out. Prioritize getting the right amount of sleep each night, but look for other activities to help you feel rested as well. Reading for a bit, taking a bath, or going on a walk can be helpful forms of active rest when you only have a small amount of time at your disposal.

3. Make sure your involvement in sports isn’t a “numbing” technique. Brene Brown talks a lot in her work about the concept of “numbing,” which is when we’re so overwhelmed by our feelings that use an activity to distract us from them. She uses the example of binge-watching a tv show as one of her numbing techniques, but excessive alcohol use, workaholism, or even excessive exercise are popular numbing techniques too. If you find yourself using practice or games to avoid having to deal with something difficult in your life, that’s a sign of unhealthy coping.

4. Make sure you have someone to talk to about the pressure. This could be a trusted friend or family member or a school counselor or therapist. Olympic medalist Michael Phelps has talked openly about how professional help has worked for him over the years, so it might be worth looking into for you as well!

5. Examine why you participate in sports at school. When you are packing your gym bag in the morning, cleaning your equipment, and getting dressed in the locker room, how do you feel? Are you content and hopeful? Are you exhausted and full of dread? Connecting to why you play is crucial to staying mentally healthy. If you love the sport and enjoy playing, remind yourself of that when things get tough.

6. Consider limiting your other extracurriculars. By all means, allow yourself to do the activities you enjoy! But don’t feel the need to do it all. Participating in a competitive sport is a huge time commitment on its own, and there’s no shame in letting that be your only hustle outside of academics. You’re already an athlete! You don’t have to be the president of ten clubs too.

7. Take breaks when you need to. Take a leaf out of Simone Biles’ book. If you think you’re burned out, powering through isn’t going to help anyone. You could get seriously injured or end up ruining your enjoyment of the sport itself! Talk to your parents and coaches about a short leave of absence or a vacation, and use that time to rest and recover. Taking breaks may save your athletic career!

You Shouldn’t Have to Sacrifice Your Sanity for Sports

Even Jesus Christ took breaks from His work as a healer, speaker, and community organizer. While the Bible doesn’t mention that He was an athlete, He was often walking several miles a day, so His breaks were necessary for His mind, spirit, and body. If the Son of God can save the world and make time for naps and meals with friends, let that encourage you to make time for your mental health as a student-athlete. If you’re struggling to find ways to practice self-care during your busy life, reach out to one of our Hope Coaches. We can walk you through some resources that might help you with your mental health journey as well as support you in the midst of the pressures of school and sports. Student-athletes are superstars, and you don’t have to go through life alone!

Asking yourself these six simple questions when you feel overwhelmed can help you identify the next steps and move past overwhelming situations.

- Cara Beth

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7 Steps to Clarifying Your Values in the New Year

We’ve all had the teacher who made us turn in our “New Year’s Resolutions” for “required” extra credit, right? I’m not the only one, am I? I feel like each year, the pressure to come up with some impressive goal to work toward on January 1st gets greater. For a long time, I let that pressure get to me, and I’d come up with resolutions left and right, 75% of them falling by the wayside as early as Valentine’s Day. In the past 5 years, though, I’ve worked hard to reclaim New Year’s Eve and the “new year, new me” concept as something comforting and restful rather than wild, crazy, public, and trendy.

How to Transition into the New Year Stress-Free

If you’re looking for a way to destress the new year transition while still taking time to acknowledge that it’s an important time, take a look at these ideas for finding clarity and rest as you move from 2022 into 2023.

1. Set aside some time to be alone on either December 31st or January 1st. If you’re an introvert, this will be easy! If you’re an extrovert, you may be thinking it sounds like torture. If you want to give yourself a chance to focus and make the moment, feel special, taking time to yourself is an important move. You’ll still have plenty of time left in the day to celebrate with friends and family if you want to! Just give yourself an hour or two to be alone with your thoughts.

2. Create a safe, cozy atmosphere for yourself. Once you’re alone, make sure it’s a pleasant experience. If you’re in your bedroom, cozy up in your favorite blanket and turn on some chill music. If you’re at a coffee shop or a library, bring your headphones and play one of those “fireplace ambiance” videos on YouTube, or maybe a campfire or a beach is more your vibe.

The point is to create a feeling of luxury, safety, and solitude for yourself so that you’ll be in a good headspace to ask yourself some deep questions and possibly even enjoy the process. Pro tip: a warm mug of tea or hot chocolate always helps.

3. Reflect on 2022. Either on your computer or in a journal, free-write about the past year. Start with whatever comes to mind and go until you’ve run out of thoughts. Once you hit that point, transition into answering these questions:

  • What is the worst thing that happened to me in 2022?
  • What is the best thing that happened to me in 2022?
  • Compared to 12 months ago, what is most different about me now? What’s the biggest change I’ve seen in myself in the past year? Is it a good change?
  • Who are the people who’ve been most important to me in the past year?
  • Who are the people I’ve missed in the past year?
  • What’s your least favorite way you spent your time in 2022? 
  • What’s your favorite way you spent your time in 2022?
  • What’s held you back in 2022? What’s helped you?

Sit with your answers to those questions for a moment. Sip your hot chocolate, stare out the window, listen to your music, and breathe.

4. Think ahead toward 2023. Now that you’ve had a moment to acknowledge 2022, give yourself the space to process the year to come. Turn the page in your journal and start on a new set of questions.

  • Where do you see yourself one year from now?
  • What can you release from the past year that is holding you back from moving forward? Are there habits you no longer like, friends who aren’t true friends, or activities you no longer enjoy? Can you say goodbye to those this year?
  • What can you add to the new year in order to be closer to what you desire for yourself? Is there something you’ve always wanted to try or someone you’ve wanted to talk to? How can you pursue those things that feel like “you” this year?
  • What’s one thing you would be excited about if you found out now that it happens in 2023?

Sit with these answers too. Take your time. Realize that you know yourself pretty well, and much, though not everything, about the coming year is within your control. Free write in the journal for a little while longer if you want to reflect on how, you can make the year better for yourself or move closer to the person you want to be. Look over everything you’ve written today. Turn to a new page in the journal one more time…

5. Write down ONE, and only one, goal for 2023. It can be anything from “make the basketball team” to “build self-esteem.” The important thing is that it lines up with what you’ve learned about yourself as you’ve been reflecting today. You can, of course, have other things you hope to do or accomplish in 2023, but this is the one that you can return to over and over again throughout the year, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or lost. This is a guiding post, not a rule, requirement, or resolution. It’s just something that is important to you and that you want to make a concerted effort to achieve.

6. Move your body and repeat the goal to yourself. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing yoga at home while I pray and meditate on the time, I’ve just spent with myself. I ask God for His guidance in the next year and thank Him for giving me the space to do this reflection day. You could pack up your stuff from the coffee shop, grab a hot cocoa to go, and take a walk while you repeat the goal you’ve set in your mind. Moving my body with the intention of making 2023 the year I’d like it to be, helps cement everything in my heart. Give yourself this opportunity to let your body participate in the transition from the old to the new.

7. Keep it to yourself. #NewYearNewMe isn’t actually a required annual social media post! Broadcasting what you’ve decided to focus on in the new year doesn’t legitimize it. In fact, telling everyone in detail what you’ve discovered during this session of reflection might even make you feel more distant from it, like it’s less special and only for you. Of course, you’re free to tell a person you’re incredibly close to! It’s not a secret that you, like most of us, want the new year to be different than the last. Just be careful to cherish this one thing for yourself. Sharing everything on social media can sometimes make things feel like they’re public property, but you deserve to have something that’s only yours as you walk into the new year.

You Don’t Have to Move Forward Alone

Another challenge to the New Year’s Resolution fad is that it can place an awful lot of pressure on your shoulders to succeed. Quitting or simply not achieving your goal by a certain deadline can feel like a massive failure, and since everyone else is busy with their own resolutions, it can feel like you’re on your own to achieve this huge goal. It makes you feel like you have to work to be worthy of rest or acceptance, and that feeling is, quite simply, not of God. In Christ’s love, you do not have to work to earn your worth. You simply are worthy of love, grace, and acceptance because you’ve accepted your identity as a son or daughter of the King. You can call on Him to help you with the goals you’ve set for yourself, but there’s no punishment if you don’t achieve them, no pressure to be perfect. If you’re struggling with that pressure to be a certain way in the new year, can’t let go of the idea that you have to create a certain number of resolutions, or you’d like to learn more about God’s grace, please reach out to TheHopeLine. You don’t have to do a #NewYearNewMe post to be made new.

Finding more meaning in your life is not only possible, but it can also be done in simple, inspiring ways. Click here to gain unexpected inspiration with 5 simple ways to find meaning in your life! 

-Cara Beth

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