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    How to Support Friends Who Are Spending the Holidays Alone

    While this time of year is traditionally full of opportunities for celebration, there are many for whom the holidays can be an isolating and difficult season to get through. With the year that we’ve had, it’s also likely that for some, this is their first holiday season alone. And while spending time with ourselves is a great way to explore and invite growth into our lives, it can be particularly challenging to find the positive in being by yourself during a time of year when we’re expected to feel nothing but happy holiday joy.The good news is that while virtual chats have become our go-to—albeit exhausting—means of communication, there are many ways you can connect with and support loved ones from a distance. From dropping off baskets filled with homemade goodies to exchanging cards expressing your gratitude and love, below are 10 ideas that’ll help you foster connection and build community this season.

    1. Check in
    Reaching out is a great place to start. Be sure to ask before you assume how they’re responding to being on their own for the holidays. It’s possible that they’re looking forward to not having to endure a long family meal, and of course it’s also possible that they’re heartbroken over not being able to go home or gather with loved ones. By checking in, you’re inviting your friend to share their truth, and you’re offering them the space to be heard. 
    This is also a great time to provide additional outlets for your friend if they need extra support. Maybe that’s encouraging them to connect with their therapist or schedule a phone or Zoom call with their family. Listen as they voice their needs, and respond with resources that can further support them.

    2. Support their rest
    Many of us have at least a couple days off from work around the holidays, and 2020 plus a busy season means everyone is in need of more than a little rest. Curate a line-up of their favorite holiday episodes, send them a roundup of books they’ll love, or put together a soothing playlist of songs that will put them at ease. Not only are you sharing tools and resources that will help them unwind, but you’re also letting them know that their health and well-being is important to you.

    3. Marathon your favorite holiday movies 
    I’ve waxed poetic about The Holiday being my favorite Christmas movie more times than I can count. And while a Nancy Meyers script combined with scenes of a picture-perfect English village is enough to make me happily burrow away for several days without human contact, there’s really nothing better than watching your favorite holiday movies with friends. Whether that’s telepartying on Netflix or FaceTiming while you watch Happiest Season, there are plenty of ways you can still connect over the beautifully-cheesy films we can’t get enough of during this time of year. 
    Pull on your coziest PJs, mix up a batch of your favorite holiday-themed snack (I’m going for Muddy Buddies), and get ready for hours-long texting convos about whether or not The Princess Switch or The Princess Switch: Switched Again is the superior Vanessa Hudgens performance (we’re awaiting your honest thoughts!).

    4. Dream together
    Next time you’re chatting with your friend, let your focus shift to the future for a bit, and share how good it’ll feel when you can get together, go for dinner, or even just see each other from closer than six feet again. While a disheartening news spiral can make us all feel a little hopeless at times, it’s important to remember that it won’t always be this way. Dreaming up possibilities for a future trip to Europe together can brighten up any challenging day, and the only thing that’s better than travel planning is taking the vacation itself.

    5. Drop off a basket filled with their favorites
    There’s a reason sharing gift baskets with new neighbors was once a staple of every guide to etiquette. Putting together a collection of your friend’s favorite things—snacks, baked goods, the cedar-scented candle they can’t get enough of—and dropping it off on their front step is a thoughtful surprise anyone would be happy to receive. You can even pack your friend dinner plus a bottle of wine or pair store-bought jam with an assortment of homemade baked goods. Whatever it is you think they’ll look forward to the most, fill the basket with that.

    6. See the lights 
    Pack up your holiday beverage of choice (I’m pouring peppermint hot cocoa), and set out in your respective cars to find the prettiest holiday lights. A quick Google search for holiday light displays in your city will likely turn up helpful results, and you can always ask around for recommendations from those in the know. When you get to your destination, bundle up, walk around, and get ready to ooh and aah at all the winter wonderlands you find.

    7. Go virtual, but challenge yourselves to get creative
    With months of Zoom-only interactions behind us, Zoom fatigue is very real. But it’s also possible that it’s the way that we’re interacting virtually that’s contributing to the drain. Virtual happy hours were fun for about a minute, but it’s time that we branch out and find all the many amazing classes, performances, exhibitions, and more that we have access to now that we’re all online. DIY a winter wreath, tune in for a virtual performance, cue up an online workout, or learn how to create gorgeous lettering like an artist. Whatever you decide to do, it’ll be an opportunity for you to connect, grow, and learn something new together.

    8. Go for a socially-distant walk
    Walks are the real MVP of quarantine, and if you live in the same city, send a text to see if your friend wants to go for one together. Not only are endorphins, sunshine, and connection a game-changing combo for your mental space, but you’ll also get the opportunity to catch up in-person, even if from behind a mask.

    9. Volunteer together
    Whether you’re spending the holidays alone or not, giving back can raise anyone’s spirits and reminds us of all we have to contribute. See what opportunities are available right now in your community or go online for ideas. Connect with an organization that’s distributing hand-written letters to senior facilities or gather up donations to bring to your local food bank. Any option you choose will have the same effect: Boosted empathy and a reminder of what this season is really all about.

    10. Send a little “thinking of you”
    What are the things about your friend for which you’re the most grateful? Maybe it’s their vulnerability, their strength, or their kindness. Maybe it’s their ever-expanding imagination that keeps you inspired. Make a list of all the things you love and appreciate about them. Write your list in a card and drop the little love note in the mail.
    Whether that’s a DM, text, or a small note in the mail, it’s a simple gesture that can have an amazing impact. Sometimes the simplest things matter most. More

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    5 Reasons It’s Important to Give Compliments to Other Women Who Are Total Strangers

    Have you really even lived if you’ve never drunk complimented another girl in a bar bathroom? I mean, seriously. What is life without compliments from your best girl friends or random women in Target? Compliments have a way of making everyone involved feel good. It feels good to give compliments and make other people feel seen, valued, and appreciated. It feels good to give love, but sometimes it’s harder to receive it.  If you’re anything like me, it’s so much easier to uplift someone else. It’s easier to give people praises for big accomplishments or even their really cute outfit than it is to be on the receiving end of praise and compliments, but we should all practice giving and receiving compliments. Here’s why:
    1. What we admire in others, we can learn to foster in ourselves
    Sometimes we compliment people we admire because they do, wear, or accomplish things we don’t think we could. We admire them for their style, their flair, or their success. I’ve heard many women say they could never do or wear the very thing I’m doing or wearing, but why can’t they? They’re just as capable and just as beautiful. What we compliment in other people may be more about us than it is about them. What we notice and admire in others really could help shape our own desires and aid us in identifying which areas we’d like to improve, change, or try something new.
    Think about the things you’re most likely to compliment someone on. I find myself complimenting people’s outfit choices, shoes, accessories, and more. So, that helped me realize that the things I noticed about others, I needed to develop in myself. I started to wear the very things I liked on someone else and it helped me to develop my own unique style. Maybe you like how other people travel a lot. This may be your own subconscious telling you that you really desire to put some stamps on your passport. If you like how ambitious someone is, maybe it’s your cue to rev it up a notch and go after your dreams. Take some time to notice what you notice. Are you lacking in that area of your life? Are there things you’d like to change? Take the time to assess and see. 

    2. Complimenting someone else doesn’t take anything from you
    Conversely, as much as complimenting another person is about you, it also isn’t. Yes, you are beautiful and capable, but so is the next woman. Yes, you have impeccable style, but so does someone else. Complimenting someone else doesn’t take away from how great, powerful, or pretty you are. The spotlight is big enough for all of us. We can all be beautiful, stunning, and radiant at the same time. There shouldn’t be any competition amongst women, as we’re all different shapes, sizes, and colors. That’s the beauty of being a woman. Genuinely complimenting someone doesn’t make you any less beautiful. Complimenting someone else doesn’t steal the attention away from you in any way.

    3. We all need reassurance
    You never know, maybe she was skeptical about the shoes before she put them on. Or, maybe she was having a really bad day before you complimented her. It sounds cheesy, but spreading a little love can really go a long way. You could really brighten someone’s day without realizing it. I’m that girl who will walk up to a total stranger to tell her she looks pretty or compliment her dress. I love how people’s faces light up when you affirm them or tell them something nice about themselves. It does my heart some good to spread some positivity and, hopefully, it makes another person feel good in the process.

    4. You could make a new friend
    Girl, I can’t tell you how many times a simple compliment led to a budding friendship. When I lived all alone in the Bay Area, this is honestly how I made most of the friends. I’d be at the function alone and before I knew it, I’d be hanging out with a friendly group of girls for the rest of the night. I’ve met some really dope people just by being willing to step outside of my comfort zone and say something nice to someone. A single compliment would lead me from standing alone to dancing the night away with a few strangers, exchanging social media information, then meeting for lunch later that week. I met a group of friends at a Galentine’s Day Party two years ago. We still keep in touch and it all started with me complimenting Fana’s beautiful lavender faux fur coat while we waited in line for the bathroom. 

    5. You could learn a lot
    I can’t tell you how many times a simple compliment has yielded in a wealth of knowledge. I learn about cool shops, store sales, new restaurants, and more. More often than not, when I compliment someone’s clothing or shoes, they tell me where they got the item and how much it cost. There’s good info out there and sometimes a simple “Hey, girl! I love that shirt” will lead you on your next shopping spree.

    Complimenting each other should come naturally, but I know that for some, it’s a bit hard. Maybe you’re naturally shy or just not quite sure how to approach someone. It’s OK. Just take it slow. It doesn’t have to be an awkward experience. Complimenting someone as they pass by could really make a world of difference in your day and in theirs. We’ve all heard it before: women need women. I think women need the right kind of women; women who are genuine, supportive, loving, and helpful to one another. There are so many things in the world that can tear women down, but building a loving sisterhood with the next woman is just one small punch in the face of patriarchy. OK, maybe it’s not that deep, but still. Let’s all make an effort to build up the next woman, grow our network, and spread more love. More

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    How to Keep Your Sex Life Alive During a Dry Spell

    Through most of quarantine, I’ve kept my social distance. In fact, I’ve kept too much of a distance because I’ve not had nearly as much sex as I’d like. This era of contact isolation precautions has led me into a season of what I affectionately call: vaginal depression. Vaginal depression is what happens when you’re not getting any. Signs and symptoms include not feeling particularly sexy, unable to get aroused by any of the recurring penises in your phone, and/or overgrown pubic hair that’s grown into something oddly similar to a bush.Yeah, I think most of us have experienced vaginal depression at least once in our lives. I was on a slow downward spiral into my vaginal woes when I decided to take charge of my sexless life and do something about it. Here’s what rebalanced my hormones, turned me on, and made my vagina happy. 

    1. Take a trip down memory lane
    When I was going through my imagination searching for “inspiration” for my “me time,” I really thought about what was it that I enjoyed by the sex I was most inspired by. Often times, sex is a lot of kiss here, touch there, rub this, lick that, and then someone moans and before you know it, sex is over. What I realized when I thought back on some intimate moments is that I enjoyed being rubbed sensually and often. I enjoyed lovers who were vocal and complimented me before, during, and after sex. I love a good performance review, honey! Seriously, taking the time to think about what actually turned me on about the experiences that came to mind helped me to learn more about what I really like, what actually turns me on, and what types of partners I need to ensure I’m involving myself with. 

    2. Get hands-on
    Alright, people with vaginas! Now is the time to pull out those toys, those fingers, a mirror, and whatever you feel you need. When you’re in a sexless era, it could be the perfect time to explore your body a little bit more. It’s great to let your lover do some exploration, but don’t cheat yourself out of a good time. When you’re sans partner, you can use that time to get to know your body a bit better and not just in a sexual sense. I attended an event recently that focused on sex and sensuality. To my surprise, many women were not familiar with their own anatomy. Some didn’t know the difference between their vulva and vagina. Can you find your labia minora? Where is your clitoris? Our private area shouldn’t be this thing we tuck away until it’s someone else’s turn to have their way with it. We aren’t Barbie dolls; our private area isn’t some nebulous plastic region that we birth babies out of. It’s a beautiful part of our bodies that we should learn more about. 

    3. Turn yourself on
    Hey, like I said before when I go through bouts of vaginal depression, I feel anything other than sexy. I don’t feel ugly, but I don’t feel sexy and sensual as much as I usually do. Vaginal depression can rob even the sexiest, most confident of us from feeling our best, so it’s important to be intentional about turning ourselves on. Take a trip to a local sex store (online or in-person) to see what toys, gidgets, and gadgets pique your curiosity or make you feel good. My go-to thing to do is to buy cute lingerie or underwear. I feel so sexy when I look delicious. Toss out the period panties for a spell and throw on some lace undies. Don’t be so practical with your desires. Try things you never thought you would. Maybe you’re into whips, chains, and other things that excite you (word to Rihanna), but you just don’t know it. Buy some new toys (I personally recommend a glass dildo, but that’s neither here nor there). See if you’d like to incorporate feathers, massage oils, or ball gags into your sex sesh.

    4. Reevaluate your partners
    Ok, so this may be a lot harder, but after thinking on what you enjoy and what you may need from your sexual partner or experience, it may be time to reflect on what type of people you’re actually having sex with. Do you want to make love or just make out? Do you want meaningless sex, or do you need something a little more intimate? Going at sex alone is important, but sharing your sexual self with someone should come with some level of consideration, especially if you’re opening yourself up to some new experiences. Are your current partner(s) able to satisfy you in the way you want? Are they willing to learn and explore with you? Do you think they’ll kink shame you out of a good time? All of these are questions worth asking. 

    What I learned is that your “dry season” doesn’t have to be a season of vaginal depression like it has been. You can enjoy your sex life with or without a partner. In some ways, your sex life may be better without a partner because it’ll give you time to focus on yourself, your desires, and your needs. Sex isn’t a performance, but it’s an experience. Don’t allow your dry season to leave you hot and bothered. You can have just as much fun by yourself. Now, pull out your vibrator, your mirror, and get to work. More

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    6 Fresh Ways to Spend a Girls’ Night In

    Before the world fell apart, my friends and I loved to play this game where we would plan a girls’ night out which, after a few drinks, would time and time again turn into a girls’ night in. As much as I used to love hitting the town with my girl gang pre-COVID, the nights in were the ones that would allow us the true quality time to catch up, laugh at old memories, and look forward to the future. Staying in with my friends is my favorite way to recharge, and while I love vegging out and watching our favorite cringe-worthy reality TV shows, I equally love hanging out with purpose. If there’s one good thing about quarantine, it’s the opportunity to slow down, catch up, and touch base with those closest to you (those being asymptomatic/also quarantined/COVID negative, of course!). Here are six ways to switch up your favorite Netflix binge-a-thon with your besties to foster new conversations, more ways to connect, and extra opportunities to belly-laugh. 
    1. Channel your inner Food Network star
    I consider girls’ night to be incomplete without some yummy, indulgent snacks, and while raiding the grocery store for Flaming Hot Cheetos, Sour Patch Kids, and/or cookie dough might be your first go-to move, opting for ingredients to pop in the oven can be just as magical. Whether you go the Betty Crocker route or start from scratch (I would do illegal things for this double chocolate zucchini bread), roasting your best friend’s ex pairs well with warm, gooey chocolate and is bound to bring your GNI to the next level. 

    2. Host a game night
    I. love. game. night. You could always go the traditional route with an instant, competitive classic like Life, Sorry!, Scrabble, Monopoly, or Settlers of Catan or you could opt for a game that sparks side conversations and is a bit more open-ended like We’re Not Really Strangers, The Voting Game, Hot Seat, Cards Against Humanity, For The Girls, or What Do You Meme (my personal favorite). Another favorite of my friend group is to invest in a huge puzzle and attempt to finish it before the wine runs out. So far, wine 2, puzzle 0.

    3. Get crafty
    Very rarely do I take the time to get crafty, but I love a good excuse to pretend that I’m Martha Stewart. Have your girls pitch in for supplies for a DIY project that can range from home decor and homemade beauty products (like these make-at-home face masks) to chunky knit blankets. You’ll leave girls’ night with more than just a mild hangover, a hoarse voice, and new memories—you’ll have a take-home souvenir, too!

    4. Turn your home into a spa
    Allow me to set this lovely scene for you: you and your gal pals, robes on, feet up, listening to serene music while enjoying the aroma of eucalyptus and peppermint from a nearby oil diffuser. Group manis and pedis are encouraged, but not required, as that would require someone to lift a finger and whether you want to exert the energy is absolutely your prerogative. Reset, recharge, and let the time with your friends set your soul alright.

    5. Make vision boards
    It’s never too late to set intentions for your future and making it visual with your girls by your side can be a whole other experience. You’ll need some sort of canvas, glue, markers, scissors, magazines, and a printer to get started. Pop some champagne, let your hair down, and dream about the future together. If crafting isn’t your thing, try opening up with your friends and asking about their big dreams and life goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drama with friends, but looking forward and discussing the future will leave everyone inspired. 

    6. Write love letters to each other
    We did a version of this in the office on Galentine’s Day and it was quite the treat. We used brown paper bags with everyone’s name on them, threw in little handwritten love notes, and received plenty of words of affirmation towards the end of the day that made us feel so loved and appreciated. It’s a great way to show your friends that you couldn’t do it without them and, if you’re an emotional queen like me, to have an excuse to get a little mushy.  More

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    Why Do I Always Think Everyone is Mad at Me?

    Awhile ago, after a weekend of ruminating over why no one was replying to my text messages, I found myself in a meeting wondering why no one was smiling at me when I spoke, and Googled, “Why do I always think everyone is mad at me.” (And of course, asked my therapist about it later.)If you’ve found yourself worrying about past disagreements to solve the no-response mystery, feeling like you said something stupid, or that all the people you love and respect most are conspiring against you, you’re not alone. I have an intense internal desire to be liked by everyone. I mean everyone—friends, friends of friends, family, colleagues, even cashiers and yoga instructors. At some point along the way, I’ve been conditioned that liked=good, and disliked=bad. Likely, you can relate on some level. The desire to be liked is very human—we all want to be liked and accepted.
    I know objectively that being liked by everyone is simply not possible. As a woman with strong opinions, values, and personality, it would be naive to think that I will be everyone’s cup of tea.
    Yet despite how much we can talk ourselves back to reality, it doesn’t fix the terrible, anxious thoughts and feelings we experience in the moment. Wanting to be liked isn’t inherently bad. In fact, in some cases it allows us to be thoughtful, sensitive, and kind. However, when our desire to be liked becomes intense or feels overwhelming—i.e. thinking everyone is mad at you—there are two main problems. 

    Source: Aline Viana Prado | Pexels

    First, it can be really easy to lose a sense of self. When you try to practice everyone else’s values, you are left with none of your own. Because I want everyone to like me and I’m afraid of upsetting people, I find myself fearing true self expression, like expressing my opinion or standing up for what I believe in. However, I find that when I do, people actually like me more. 
    The thing is: people like you when they trust and respect you. And people trust and respect people who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, set loving boundaries, and show kindness, compassion, and love to themselves and the world around them. 
    Second, always acting to please others deflects the work that goes into looking inward and developing internal resilience, validation, and confidence. We “pleasers” get so much validation from external sources that we spend our time constantly looking to fill other people up. Not only is this exhausting, it holds us back from the real joys in life, which actually come from the inside work. 

    Source: Elevate | Pexels

    So… what do we do? 
    Since the desire to be liked is a very human feeling, I don’t want to eliminate that part of who I am, but instead I try identify why I want to be liked. I want to be liked for the right reasons: for being me. Despite working on this, anxiety can get the best of me, especially in times like these. When the rumination starts, it’s hard to stop it from spiraling into more stories, more people being mad at me or not liking me—like the cashier at the grocery store. 
    Yes, I know. Wow. 
    When I really think about it, it actually feels like a pretty self-centered thought to have. Let’s be real: people aren’t thinking about me that much. As it turns, out people are really busy with their own lives, thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 
    At the end of the day, it has nothing to do with being liked, valued, and respected by other people. It’s about being liked, valued, and respected by me. 
    For me, feeling like everyone is mad at me is a manifestation of anxiety and a reflection of my desire for perfection. In my mind, I often feel like nothing I ever do is good enough and that there’s always more that could be done. 
    Fortunately, there are moments when I’m not feeling anxious or trying to please. These moments usually come when life feels more certain, I’m not in the middle of big changes, and when I am taking care of myself, monitoring my stress levels, and doing things that make me feel good. In these moments, I get an opportunity to reflect and pivot. 

    Source: Diana Titenko | Pexels

    It can be really hard to take stock of our emotions while we’re having them and find the opportunity to reflect and pivot, but here’s the process I use with myself when I feel those nasty anxious feelings creep in. 

    1. Create a foundation 
    Start by developing a mindfulness practice. This will not only help you but will also support you in developing a strong intuition around your needs. Your mindfulness practice can be anything that helps you connect your mind and body. Things like journaling, meditation, breathing exercises, and mindful movement are a few great places to start. I also like to take the time to learn about everything from psychology to health and wellness to identify new practices I can adopt. 

    2. Pause 
    Take a couple of minutes a few times each day or when you’re experiencing extreme emotions to pause and assess how you’re feeling. It’s like a quick temperature check. Ask yourself what is that feeling? Where is it coming from? Why am I having it? 
    We’re so accustomed to running through life without intentionality, pausing allows us to get in touch with ourselves, expand your perspective, and supports relaxation. 

    3. What is really happening? 
    So often, when we start ruminating, we tell ourselves stories that aren’t true. Identify what’s really happening in the situation by asking questions like: “Did I really do something wrong? Was I disrespectful? What is going on for this person that might be impacting their life?”
    This reality check can be hard when you’ve worked yourself up to truly believing your own stories, but these questions and gentle reminders can help us feel more grounded when our minds feel out of control.
    If this feels overwhelming, deep breathing is equally impactful. Try simple box breathing: breathe in for four, hold for four, exhale for four, hold for four. In just a few breaths, you’ll feel more relaxed and clear. 

    Source: cottonbro | Pexels

    4. Get empowered 
    You’re way more wonderful than you think. Now you just need to believe it. When you feel empowered, you’ll value yourself more and the desire to be liked less. This will enable you to show up in life as your truest, most authentic self. 
    Identify your true beliefs and the things that you like about yourself to support you in developing confidence and feeling empowered. 
    Here are a few beliefs and mantras I have that make me feel empowered: 
    Do I agree with everything everyone else says/do? Nope. Does that make me like them any less? NO. Actually, it often makes me like them more.
    It’s OK if you mess up. No one is perfect. 
    Perfection is BORING. 
    I act in alignment with my values.
    My opinion matters.
    If someone doesn’t like me because of who I am or what I believe, that is OK. I know that I am a good person.
    What else could you be focusing on right now that would be more productive than wondering if people are mad at you? 
    Where are these feelings really coming from and how can you deal with them? 
    Sometimes, I need to be extra gentle with myself and I just repeat, “it’s OK, you’re OK, you’re safe here” as if I was speaking to a younger me who felt lost and confused.
    This is not the last time I will spiral thinking people don’t like me, but by implementing these practices and reflecting, it stings a little less each time. I’ve given myself the opportunity to quell the vicious anxiety cycle, develop self-love and respect, and gain confidence that allows me to live life in a way that feels more meaningful.

    Have you ever felt like everyone was mad at you? Or like anxiety got in the way of you truly enjoying a moment?  More

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    The Do’s and Don’ts of Handling Conflict With a Friend

    When it comes to tension or strife in romantic relationships, we have a world of examples and advice at our disposal—heartfelt movies, artistic poems, gut-wrenching novels, insightful advice columns, and *millions* of songs. But when it comes to the problems of the female friendship variety, we’re mostly just exposed to melodramatic reality TV à la […] More