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    I Tried Text Therapy to Help My Anxiety—Here’s How It Went

    I have never given much thought to how I cope with anything: racism, violence against Black bodies, stress, and sadness. As an outsider looking in, this is the reality for many of the Black women in my life. My mother is the strongest person I know; many would say I am one of the strongest women they know. I now understand how the strong Black woman trope has been passed down through my lineage. Because of the generational shield, our ability to fully express ourselves is limited even amongst those who love and care for us deeply. I can count on one hand how often I’ve seen my mother express her feelings fully, without apology. When I hear her laugh fill a room, it brings me so much joy because I know she is letting go. Truthfully, I can’t tell you the last time I have expressed a full range of emotions, out of fear that I would be labeled difficult, loud, emotional, soft, or angry. I am starting to realize that making my emotional being smaller is likely directly contributing to my new experiences with panic attacks. When I cry, I feel weak; when I laugh, I feel undeserving; when I am angry, I hold it in. The night I found myself in my bedroom closet, crying as my best friend Samantha listened on the phone, I realized it was time for me to talk to someone. That week, I couldn’t drive or do anything without feeling like I would have a panic attack. It was terrifying and made me feel completely out of control—like I didn’t know who I was anymore. 

    I couldn’t drive or do anything without feeling like I would have a panic attack. It was terrifying and made me feel completely out of control—like I didn’t know who I was anymore. 

    Trying Talkspace
    I had thought about therapy before this; however, I continued to put it off. Finding a therapist takes effort and time, especially with the uptick people seeking help due to the coronavirus. I couldn’t wait and go through my healthcare provider, I needed immediate help. So, I settled on Talkspace. Their platform is one that I see ads for often, and they are now accepting health insurance. Kaiser Permanente offers a reduced fee of $40 a week for the first four weeks. Now, this isn’t a permanent solution; however, it can offer a start, because let’s be real: therapy (including teletherapy) is too expensive and not accessible to all. 
    After an emotional release surrounded by my clothes, I was ready to talk. Shortly after setting up my profile, Talkspace helped match me with a therapist. My first match was with a Black woman, and for that reason, I didn’t seek out any other options. If you do find yourself matched with someone who doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, you can ask for other options. Therapist profiles share their specialties, how long they’ve been in practice, and their approach to therapy.
    Before we started to text, I filled out a questionnaire to answer questions about why I was seeking therapy. My therapist also asked, “What brings you to Talkspace?” Truthfully, I felt a little apprehensive about sharing what was going on with me. You know, I’m used to being a strong Black woman—we don’t share these types of inner secrets.
    Instead of shutting down, I typed, “I’m here because I have chronic anxiety, and I want to do more to understand why I’m always so anxious.” Getting that out felt like a relief. Acknowledging my anxiety with a professional instantly made me feel better. As we continued to talk, we started to get to the root of my anxiety, much of which is triggered by my need for control and my position as my family’s glue. “This is all still related because it’s your fear of a loss of control,” she typed. “That’s the struggle!” Seeing this revelation, as simple as it was staring back at me in a green text bubble, was my “ah-ha” moment. Even a small level of understanding made me feel like I was getting closer to feeling like myself again. 

    Even a small level of understanding made me feel like I was getting closer to feeling like myself again. 

    When I started to feel anxiety about little things, like signing a lease on a new apartment (something I always avoid—I’m a month-to-monther), I’d text her. She’d ground me. “There is no promise that everything will be perfect, but it will be good enough,” she typed. “The apartment isn’t a life-altering decision. You have options now, and you’ll have options later. You are making an informed decision. If/when new information comes in, you will evaluate it and determine whether or not you need to act on it.” As someone who feels anxiety about everything because of “what if,” those words in my mind translated to, “Hey, you’re OK. Take things day by day.” When I find myself freaking out over little things, I go back to this message to get re-grounded. 
    Talkspace therapists will typically respond 3-4 times a day up to five days a week. The flow of the responses worked well for me. However, I don’t know if this is the right form of therapy for me long term. The responses were helpful, and even mind-blowing at times. However, I realized I need a one-on-one, face-to-face experience to build what I feel is a genuine rapport with my therapist. This might be the old-school millennial in me, but connecting with someone face-to-face is important in my life beyond therapy. Because of that, I felt a bit disconnected, even when her observations were spot-on. The platform does offer teletherapy options, which means you get one-on-one time virtually with your provider. However, the package that offers four live, 30-minute sessions a month is $396 monthly ($296 with my insurance for the first four weeks), and that just isn’t in my budget. 

    Moving Forward
    Talkspace allowed me to slowly move into giving therapy a try as an adult without feeling any judgment. Texting my responses made me feel comfortable being completely honest about what was going on with me at the time, so much so I now share my anxiety with my friends without feeling any angst. Their support has fueled me, even on tough days. When I’m too anxious to drive, they come to see me (with masks on, of course). When I feel a panic attack creeping in, I call one of them, and they talk to me until I get home. No matter how long it takes. For folks who are curious about therapy, Talkspace is, in my opinion, an excellent entry point. It can be difficult to share your innermost thoughts with a complete stranger, and texting can feel less intrusive. I found it cathartic to type what I was feeling. It was like writing into my diary, except with a mental health professional on the other end.  
    Talkspace provided a stepping stone to my mental health journey. I am setting boundaries with my family, working on letting go, outwardly sharing my experience with anxiety, and discovering new things about myself.
    I am still on the hunt for my forever therapist (and potentially an app that works with my budget), but I’m on the right track.  More

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    7 Things All Successful Women Know About Rejection

    Whether it’s being ghosted by a Tinder match or losing out on that dream job, rejection is an inevitable part of life. It can be hard not to take being turned down personally, but there will usually be numerous factors and circumstances beyond our control that mean that the answer can’t always be yes.While spending a few days sulking can help, coping well with rejection is an important life skill that will set you up to better handle future disappointments. Honing an ability to pick yourself up and try again is crucial to achieving your goals. Next time that you get knocked back, remember this:

    1. That being rejected shows that you had the courage to put yourself forward
    You’ve been rejected? Congratulations! The fact that you have even been turned down in the first place shows that you were brave enough to put yourself forward for something that was difficult to achieve—and that doing so takes a tremendous amount of courage and self-belief.
    When you get rejected, take some time to remember the challenges that you overcame by going for that job interview, asking for a pay rise, or putting yourself out there on a dating app. Striving for what you wanted is still a success, regardless of whether or not it ultimately leads to rejection.

    2. That rejection happens to everyone
    Even the seemingly most successful among us will have struggled with rejection at some stage. Don’t believe me? Check out this list of celebrities who were rejected by other celebs, or this one of famous people who failed before they succeeded. If Oprah can pick herself up after getting fired from her first TV job or Vera Wang can launch a fashion empire after being passed over for Vogue’s editor-in-chief position, then you can bounce back from rejection too.
    3. That some factors that lead to rejection are out of our control
    Perhaps you spent hours on that job application. Maybe you thought that things were going really, really well with that person that you were dating. You might have been convinced that that presentation to land an important new client was perfect.
    Your performance, skills, and personal attributes will only ever be part of the story. There could simply have been someone else who was better suited to that job opening. That person you were seeing just might not have had the space in their life for a relationship right now. The other client could have offered a cheaper rate that your company couldn’t beat. Instead of internalizing rejection, remember that many of the factors that contributed to it were likely unknowable and out of your control.
    4. Why you had the opportunity in the first place
    The more that we strive for difficult-to-achieve things, the more we open ourselves up to rejection. Try and view this setback as evidence that you are pushing your limits and coming closer to the things that you want to achieve.
    Focus on the small successes that you experienced on the way to rejection—perhaps you can celebrate that you landed an audition in the first place, or that you had opened yourself up to getting to know someone new. Take stock of the strengths that you demonstrated rather than the reasons for the rejection, and work on refining and showcasing them the next time that you get a new opportunity.
    5. What you can learn from the experience
    Although it might take time to be able to view a rejection as a learning opportunity, it can be valuable to attempt to understand the reasons why you were turned down. For career rejections, you should ask for feedback so that you’re prepared when another opportunity presents itself. Meet with the decision-maker to ask them areas that you performed well in, and what ultimately motivated their choice.
    Romantic rejections can also be a chance to learn about yourself and what you want from a relationship. Is it losing the chance to be with that person that hurts, or the rejection itself that is painful? Would you change anything about the situation given the chance, or did the rejection come from being true to yourself and what you want in a partner? Try journaling your thoughts or discussing them with a friend or therapist to learn about your own emotions when it comes to rejection, and how you can be better placed to deal with it in future.
    6. What you still have to offer
    Rejection can be a blow to self-esteem and confidence. Avoid becoming too caught up in negative emotions by focusing on what you have to offer. Make a list of all of the best things about you and the reasons why you were hopeful for success in the first place. Revisit this every time that you doubt yourself or fear rejection as a reminder that you deserve a shot.
    7. That fearing rejection will hold you back
    A fear of rejection can easily become what stops us from asking out someone we really like, applying for a dream job or internship, or attempting to achieve our goals. That emotion that you’re feeling right now? Really feel it. Get comfortable with it. Remember that it isn’t the worst feeling in the world. Learning to be OK with rejection will set you up for success in the future. There will be a time when the answer is yes. Make sure that you’re ready when it comes. More

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    Why Losing Weight Didn’t Make Me Love Myself More (And What Actually Did)

    Every woman has a different story about the relationship she has with her body. Many of these “body stories” are dramas full of ups and downs that could rival Game of Thrones, while others are more like a happy rom-com. But most often, our body stories are individualized, private, and can stop us from feeling true self-love and acceptance. As a health coach, I’ve had the privilege to learn about and help heal other women’s stories. While every woman’s body story is vastly different, here’s mine:I was one of the lucky ones. My mother never commented on my weight or the way I looked. She called me kind, smart, and talented, and never once referred to the size of my body. I grew up with the mentality that who I was defined me, not what I looked like. However, even my mother’s values and limitless support couldn’t totally protect me from how the rest of the world told women they were supposed to be.
    Body insecurities are normalized to the point that we bond with other women over poor relationships with food and putting ourselves down. I still try to channel Cady Heron in the Mean Girls scene where the only thing she could think of that she didn’t like about herself was bad breath in the morning, after the other Plastics picked apart their appearances (#selflovegoals). But the truth is that along with the strong, beautiful, funny, talented, smart women I’ve been friends with, I thought more like Regina George or Gretchen Wieners when looking at my reflection. 

    Each woman’s insecurities look a lot different. For me, my insecurities looked like the occasional, I wish this body part different, or I wish I looked like her, or Sure, I could probably afford to lose a few pounds. I’ve always called myself confident, but I was more confident in my personality than in my body. Bathing suits always made me a little self-conscious, and I was painfully aware of the pounds I gained from cafeteria food and slapping the bag at frat parties my freshman year of college (full disclosure: my freshman 15 was not just 15 pounds, and it lasted much longer than freshman year). 

    I’ve always called myself confident, but I was more confident in my personality than in my body.

    I spent my early 20s eating all the late-night pizzas I wanted and going to daily spin or Orange Theory classes, thinking it would counteract the over-indulgences (it didn’t). I attempted diets here and there, but enjoyed sushi takeout and Taco Bell too much to make any dramatic changes for the goal of weight loss. Instead, I felt a constant underlying pressure to eat better before every formal or felt guilty for “over-indulging,” whether it was dessert at the cafeteria or drinking too many glasses of Two-Buck Chuck.  

    Source: @josie.santi

    The year after I graduated from college, I moved home and started my career. I went to bed early to wake up with enough time to exercise before work, ate dinner with my parents instead of ordering takeout or going out with friends, and my weekend mornings looked like an omelet and coffee at home instead of my usual french toast and mimosa brunch. My clothes started fitting more loosely, and people started telling me I had lost weight. I like to say that I “accidentally” changed because I wasn’t even aware that anything looked different.
    If I had lost weight, shouldn’t I feel better about myself? I thought I shouldn’t have any more food guilt, and I should be happier about my appearance. It’s what I had thought for so long as the missing piece I never had the willpower to achieve, and yet, I didn’t feel any better. Flash forward a few years, and I’m more confident than I have ever been (while being a few–or 10–pounds heavier than that first year out of college). Here’s why I learned weight loss isn’t a prescription for self-love, and what made me love myself instead. 

    There’s always going to be another five pounds
    When I did lose weight, it was not the immediate sense of gratification I had expected it would be. I felt the same amount of self-consciousness, whether it was thinking I still looked bloated, noticing cellulite, or finding a new imperfection. We often think that as long as we hit a certain weight or pants size, then we’ll be happy. But more often than not, this isn’t true. Even if we get a six-pack, we would focus on the size of our thighs, or maybe start hating the bags under our eyes. There’s always going to be another imperfection when weight loss is the ultimate goal.

    There’s always going to be another imperfection when weight loss is the ultimate goal.

    Self-love is a skill, not a circumstance
    I always thought that once I had the perfect body (LOL as if that exists), all my problems would go away. Since I grew up from the 20-year-old girl tracking her calories on MyFitnessPal and light-heartedly laughing with friends about how weak our willpower is when it comes to cheese boards on wine night, I learned that a number on the scale is never the problem. The problem is that we don’t feel like we’re good enough, and that doesn’t change, even if the number on the scale does.
    Just like happiness, confidence is a skill, not a circumstance. It doesn’t come when you achieve a certain weight or pants size, because it’s something that has to be consistently worked, like any muscle. Thinking that you’ll feel more self-love when you lose a certain amount of weight is distracting you from the real problem of not feeling good enough as you are. Practice and prioritize self-love first in order to achieve a body you feel good in, not the other way around. 

    Practice and prioritize self-love first in order to achieve a body you feel good in, not the other way around. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Everyone feels better in different body types
    While our culture trains us from an early age to believe there’s only one type of “attractiveness” we are supposed to strive for, this just isn’t true. It’s marketing, not biology. In reality, every woman does (and should) feel like her best, sexiest self in a variety of different body types. When I did lose those extra “college” pounds, I remember telling my therapist that I should feel better about myself, but something about the weight loss made me feel less feminine and confident.
    Yes, I desperately missed those same curves that I had wanted to get rid of for years. The point is that we all have different body types for a reason. Every woman’s “ideal” body should be totally different than anyone else’s. We’re often so distracted by achieving what society has told us is “perfection” that we don’t stop to think about what would actually make us feel our very best.

    Every woman’s ‘ideal’ body should be totally different than anyone else’s. We’re often so distracted by achieving what society has told us is ‘perfection’ that we don’t stop to think about what would actually make us feel our very best.

    “Weight loss” is not a sustainable way to live
    Although dieters might feel a sense of satisfaction in seeing the numbers on a scale go down, each pound lost likely requires sacrifice and suppressing cravings. The focus is on less, less, and less. Food becomes an enemy and a stressor, not something to nourish us. Restricting food, resisting cravings, and making life changes (like avoiding social settings that center around food, for example) takes a toll on mental and physical health. Yes, I lost weight, but I also dealt with a lot of anxiety that left me with less appetite, and I focused on my career much more than I focused on enjoying time with family and friends. Weight loss didn’t make my life better; it only happened because I wasn’t living my best life.
    Even though weight loss was the aftermath and not the cause, it was the one time I was “successful” at losing weight, and it did not make me any happier. I realized that nothing is worth the price tag of enjoying my life for the messy, happy series of moments it is. Those extra inches on the waistline is where life happens. It’s the extra glass of rosé on a summer rooftop, or a slice of your favorite chocolate cake when you go home to visit your mom. I realized that constantly hoping to lose weight demoted these moments to be worth nothing more than a pants size or number on a scale.

    Source: Felicia Lasala for The Everygirl

    …and 5 Things That Did Make Me Love Myself More

    I changed my goal to be healthy, not skinny
    I used to think of nutrition through the lens of calories, carbs, fats, and proteins. I obviously knew food was necessary for survival, but I also understood and saw food through labels like “good” and “bad,” or “healthy” versus “unhealthy,” because it was all about how it would make my body look. My entire outlook changed when I learned about using plants as medicine and how to eat to change how I feel. Now, my goal is to be healthy for optimal energy, to live a long life, to be my most vibrant self, and to feel happy. When I started eating to be healthy instead of skinny, I started loving my body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like.

    When I started eating to be healthy instead of skinny, I started loving my body for what it could do, instead of what it looked like.

    I focused on strength, not weight
    No, the transformation was not all mental. As much as I believe in screwing the man (in this case, damaging diet culture and societal pressure on women), and as much as I wish this is 100 percent about internal mindset, the truth is that’s just 90 percent of it. The other 10 percent of achieving self-love came from how I felt physically in my body. I’ve always loved exercising and knew I felt better overall when I was consistently moving, but I would also work out for calorie burn. I loved classes that tracked how many calories I burned, as if that’s what made a tough workout worth it.
    When my self-love changed, so did my workouts. I learned there are thousands of reasons to work out, but weight loss isn’t one of them. Now, I work out to make my muscles stronger and to feel more powerful in my physical self. I started eating to get more energy and as fuel for workouts. I became addicted to feeling powerful and strong, rather than hoping to feel smaller. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Actually prioritizing self-love
    This one sounds like a no-brainer (you felt self-love by prioritizing self-love? Revolutionary!). But surprisingly, so often when we are hell-bent on losing weight, we’re promoting weight loss over self-love, thinking that the two don’t conflict. Instead of restrictive eating, calorie counting, and labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” prioritize self-love by being compassionate to what your body wants. Eat intuitively, not restrictively. Prioritizing self-love means you choose to leave behind whatever is unhealthy for you, whether it’s relationships, jobs, or your own beliefs and habits that aren’t letting you be happy.

    Prioritizing self-love means you choose to leave behind whatever is unhealthy for you, whether it’s relationships, jobs, or your own beliefs and habits that aren’t letting you be happy.

    Knowing that the way I looked was not an accomplishment
    I’ve always been a big self-improvement girl: self-help books are my guilty pleasure, and my daily affirmation is always about showing up as my highest self. But perhaps the greatest shift in my self-love came when I stopped associating being a better version of myself with having a better body. Now, when I feel insecurity come up (because it still does, I swear!), I remind myself that my best self has nothing to do with a breakout, a patch of cellulite, or gaining a few pounds.
    When I notice myself looking in the mirror and thinking something negative, it’s a sign that I’ve been too focused on myself. My fix? Call up a friend to see how they are, donate to an organization, or tell my boyfriend what I love about him (you’re welcome for my selflessness, boyfriend). Not only does it help me to get outside myself, but it reminds me that I do like the kind, compassionate person I am. Now that’s a real accomplishment. 

    Source: @josie.santi

    Focusing on what makes me “big”
    I think everything clicked for me when I realized I was constantly trying to shrink myself, rather than feeling justified for the space I take up in this world. Instead, I want to love what’s big: in body, in personality, in love, in altruism, in voice, in confidence, in aspirations. In the end, weight loss is not the secret to success, a relationship, or happiness; it’s an endless goal that keeps us from achieving everything we want in life because we don’t think we deserve it yet.
    I had been so focused on being smaller for so long that I forgot to love what’s big in me. Now, I consistently remind myself to love everything from my loud laugh to my lofty goals. My advice to you, dear readers, is to love your bigness so much, the world can no longer point at you and call you small.  More

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    Everything You Need to Know About ASMR and Reducing Stress

    I vividly remember my many nights of sinking into the depths of the lounge chair in my sophomore year dorm’s hallway, hoodie-laden and hunched over my computer screen, binging The Vampire Diaries at 2am (team Katherine if anyone asks). I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, but my insomnia had gotten so out of hand that year, even my peers took notice.When Jason (from across the hall) finally decided to be the one to ask me about my many sleepless nights, he recommended I try out this thing called “ASMR.” Having never heard of it, I stared at him blankly before asking him to explain it to me, and proceeded to switch my laptop screen from TVD to a video of a woman making 3D sounds from props in a candlelit room.
    …Cut to now, having Cardi B lull me to sleep on the reg as she slowly waves her freshly-manicured nails up and down my phone screen while delicately whispering okurrr into my (and 41 million others’) ears.
    ASMR, short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, has quickly become my go-to method of winding down at night to help me fall asleep, and has honestly done wonders for my mental health, especially during these past few months. Curious about if this phenomenon—that I’ve often heard described as “oddly satisfying,” “strangely relaxing,” and “borderline erotic”—could work for you? Let’s dive in.

    What is ASMR? 
    If you’ve never heard of this concept before, you might be visualizing me as an alien with some sort of sixth sense that just doesn’t add up. ASMR is best described as a feeling of positive well-being that is usually combined with a physical sensation that simply makes you feel good. These feelings and sensations—referred to as tingles in the world of ASMR— are results of various stimuli, or triggers (audio and visual cues) that heighten all of your senses. The Washington Post described the reaction as “a pleasurable tingling that begins in the head and scalp, shimmies down the spine and relaxes the entire body.”
    Remember the feeling of the slight combing of your hair when you’d have that annual lice check at school, or having a bedtime story softy read to you as a kid, or being annoyed—yet strangely satisfied—by hearing someone smack their gum, or simply watching Bob Ross paint? If you felt ~some type of way~  at any of those moments, those were tingles, my friend. 
    ASMR is not necessarily something you have, but more something that you can be receptive to. Tons of YouTube videos exist to create the triggers people desire to feel tingles and that sense of well-being, but many might notice that when they watch or listen to them, they might not have the same reaction. Some may just feel a sense of drowsiness and relaxation rather than a physical tingle, while some might just not be susceptible at all. It is essentially a scale with various degrees of sensitivity.
    Triggers can take on various forms, such as specific sounds like tapping on a wooden object, watching paint be mixed, or even experiencing a role-played virtual hair salon visit. When listening to an ASMR video or audio piece (particularly with headphones), you’ll notice sounds appearing in a three-dimensional manner around you, creating a very realistic setting. Creators often utilize binaural audio with multiple microphones to achieve this effect and create that illusion that you’re experiencing situations IRL, which is why role-playing-type ASMR videos are especially popular. 
    According to the American Sleep Association, the physical and mental sensations of ASMR have always been around since humans have existed, though it wasn’t until quite recently that there was a term coined (by a woman named Jennifer Allen in 2010) to describe them. The ASA also noted that these feelings of comfort, calmness, and drowsiness are likely caused by our brains releasing certain chemicals (including endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine) as a response to a trigger, leaving us happy and relaxed.
    With it being a relatively new phenomenon, the amount of studies completed so far are quite limited. However, as ASMR has increased in popularity, the research and medical interest has also gone up with it, with this Swansea University study conducted in 2015 being a prime example.

    You might be wondering: Is ASMR “a sex thing?”
    So before we discuss this any further, it’s definitely worth addressing the elephant in the room: is ASMR… kind of sexual? I’ll admit that whenever I describe this phenomenon to someone who’s hearing about it for the first time, we can’t really talk about ASMR without discussing the notion that those not susceptible to it might correlate it to sex.
     “[It’s] more sensual, less fetishistic—that being said, I’m sure if you look at certain [NSFW] video sites, you can probably find some ASMR-related videos,” Ross Miller, a senior editor at The Verge, said on The Verge’s What’s Tech podcast. It creates a sense of intimacy that can technically be considered to fall into the gray area of what is sexual versus what purely involves the senses, but leans more towards the latter. 
    Real talk: as Miller pointed out, essentially everything in this world can be spun to relate to sex in some way or another. So like all else, ASMR is also ultimately left open to interpretation.

    Its rise to fame in recent years:
    From a community of over 216 thousand members on Reddit to W Magazine’s popular video series dedicated to celebrities trying it out to the emergence of in-person immersive experiences like Whisperlodge, ASMR has become a real rising star in pop culture. The hashtag #asmr on Instagram itself has over 9.2 million hits, and people are thoroughly loving discovering this way to retreat from reality into a hypnotic state of calm. 
    For many people who can’t exactly feel the tingles, ASMR has become a popular form of white noise to help soothe them to sleep. “The genre had begun to find broader appeal as a sleep aid, an alternative to guided meditation and a drug-free, online version of Xanax,” Jamie Lauren Keiles wrote for The New York Times in 2019.
    With this new form of entertainment comes the obvious: a new wave of niche celebrities. If you do a quick Google search on top “ASMRtists” (as they’re referred to), you’ll notice YouTube channels that have millions of subscribers. So many of these creators have completely transformed this notion into full-time careers, with a slew of loyal and passionate tingle-loving fans to support them.
    How to integrate ASMR into your wellness routine:
    Experiencing ASMR is like going to a virtual spa for your senses, and role-playing instances that make you feel calm, contented, and comfortable. From watching videos of getting a relaxing haircut or facial to listening to positive affirmations whispered to you as you drift to sleep, it creates feelings of intimacy and attentiveness that we all inherently crave—something that’s especially valued during a time in our lives where loneliness, stress, and insomnia are at an all-time high for many of us. 
    There’s no “right” method or time to try and engage in ASMR-related activities, but there are some that have proven to work for me, as well as many people I know. One of those includes making it the last step of your nighttime routine as you’re lying comfortably in bed, trying to fall asleep. Just pop on an ASMR podcast, and notice yourself drift deep into slumber. Another is to utilize it as a meditative mid-day retreat if you want to slow down and recharge your energy (perhaps even take a little nap!) by watching some videos. 
    For some, ASMR has also helped reduce stress and even alleviate pain from headaches. Though it is extremely low-risk, if you do find yourself suffering from chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or any other condition, please note that ASMR should not be used as a substitute for professional or medical intervention.

    Ready to give it a try? 
    If I’ve intrigued you enough, perhaps it’s time to give this whole thing a whirl! Dim the lights, snuggle up with your favorite blanket, put in your headphones, and test drive ASMR through these soothing and mesmerizing videos, accounts, and podcasts that might just be the gateway to your favorite new method of self-care:

    Sleep Whispers
    The ASMR Garden
    Sleep and Relax ASMR

    YouTube Videos:
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    Instagram Accounts: More

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    4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Get Married

    Getting married is a big step—they don’t call it taking the plunge for nothing. The person you choose as a life partner will, in one way or another, affect every aspect of your life: your mental health, your peace of mind, how you get through tragedies and celebrate triumphs, how your children (should you choose to have them) will be raised, and more. The weight of these aspects of your life, not to mention the countless others you’ll share with a partner, makes the advice to “choose wisely” seem like an understatement. Still, the reasons we choose a partner are numerous and complicated. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you’ve probably heard your fair share of unsolicited marriage advice from the well-intentioned (or sometimes jaded) wedded people in your life. 
    It can be difficult to filter through this advice for nuggets of wisdom, and even more challenging to take an objective look at your own motivations and see them for what they really are. Sometimes, your real intentions are buried a few layers deep, and you need something to gently shake them to the surface for you.
    We turned to relationship experts to identify the most common reasons people choose to get married that can lead to relationship challenges down the road. But this list is 100 percent a guide; the person and reasons you choose for marriage are, ultimately, your choice. The goal is to help you make that choice a little more wisely!

    1. Are you getting married because you don’t want to end up alone?
    For someone who is afraid of ending up alone, I present this counterargument: What is scarier, ending up alone, or choosing to marry the next person who comes along simply because you’re tired of being alone—and they wind up being a terrible match for you? Both Erin Parisi, LMHC, MCAP, a licensed mental health counselor, and Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, PMH-C, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said that this is a common concern.
    Try not to let this fear get in the way of enjoying your current season of life or how you value yourself as an individual. The fear of ending up alone is rooted in how you’re judging and valuing yourself, and your value as a person is not determined by who you’re with. Take some time to develop yourself into who you want to be first, then find someone who is excited to be with you because you’re already living your best life.

    2. Do you feel obligated to get married?
    “Once a couple has announced an engagement, news spreads, wedding planning gets into motion, and it can feel like an unstoppable, runaway train. It can be easy to get swept up in excitement at first, and block out any negative, nagging thoughts a person could have,” Parisi said. “Even if a person does start to wonder if they’re making the right choice for themselves, they may feel like saying something would disappoint too many other people.”
    The thought of breaking your spouse-to-be’s heart, disappointing your parents, losing down payments, or feeling embarrassed about retracting an engagement on social media can create enough inner turmoil that pressures you to follow through on a marriage you’re not sure you want just to save face.
    Even before an engagement, obligation can take other forms, like family members telling you “your clock is ticking” or feeling as though you “owe” your significant other a wedding date because you’ve been dating for awhile. Even watching your friends get married can trigger feelings of obligation. 
    “I think that many people feel as though they ‘should’ be getting married when the other people in their friend group are getting married,” Parisi said. Not wanting to be the third or fifth or tenth wheel all the time can affect your reasons for choosing to get married.
    Obligation can also be subtle, such as thinking of marriage as a status symbol, or a point on a made-up timeline that must be checked off. 
    Whatever it is, getting married to prove something to someone else—or even to yourself—can lead you to choose someone you might not have chosen otherwise.

    3. Are you getting married for monetary reasons or financial stability?
    “There are other benefits that come with being married, like financial or healthcare benefits, or being able to follow a partner deployed in the military, that may lead couples to get married before they are otherwise ready to do so,” Parisi explained. 
    The reality is, marrying for reasons like these may cause you to overlook major value or personality differences, stick with someone who doesn’t want the same things out of life as you do, or who doesn’t have the same expectations of marriage as you.  

    4. Are concerns about your age making you want to tie the knot?
    “Plenty of people have an idea of how they want their lives to look at certain ages, and one of the milestones for many people is marriage,” Parisi said. “For someone approaching an age they’ve identified as the age they ‘should’ be married, being married may become more important than who they’re marrying.” 
    Age aside, your own mindset about getting married can also rush you down the aisle. “Feeling ready to get married and not wanting to wait any longer for the ‘right’ person can make you feel like the person you’re with is ‘good enough,’ even though you know you are settling in some important areas to you,” McBain said.

    It can be incredibly difficult to ask ourselves these questions, let alone answer them honestly. That’s because, Parisi said, we’re emotionally invested in our relationships, which means we might not be able to see the red flags that outsiders see.  
    Plus, none of us can see into the future! We all want to hope for the best and believe the future will unfold that way, even with evidence to the contrary. Many of us even believe that marriage will magically fix existing problems, but in many cases, getting married prematurely can make them worse. 
    McBain added, “There are often positive things about the relationship, even though there are negatives, too. It can be hard to figure out if those negatives outweigh the positives. There are usually emotions around not wanting to hurt the other person as well, as you typically care about them on some level at least.”
    But if you’re reading this list and something resonates with you, know that it’s OK if you still want to get married. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Parisi and McBain both recommended counseling, both by yourself as well as with your partner, so that you have a safe space to process these emotions and figure out the best next step for you, for both of you. 
    Parisi recommended that you continue to ask questions: “What would things be like if I didn’t get married right now and/or to this person? If I changed my mind about getting married, how would I communicate that, or how would I handle the responses from other people?” You’ll be able to more objectively assess your situation, so that if you ever decide that you no longer want to be in the relationship, you’ll already know what to do.  
    While thinking through questions like these might not seem like a very romantic idea on the surface, what’s more romantic than staying with someone because you want to, and not because you have to?  More

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    10 Ways to Carve Out Alone Time When You Don’t Live Alone

    With the pandemic keeping us close to home—and close to roommates and partners—for the foreseeable future, many of the introverts among us are desperately seeking true alone time. With roommates and partners always around the [literal] corner, we’re looking for ways—any ways—to find time and space for ourselves, particularly when living in a small space. So, here are 10 ways to carve out that alone time you desperately need, even when you don’t live alone.
    1. Communicate that you need alone time
    It’s easier said than done, telling someone who you live with and enjoy spending time with, that, yes, you need to get away from them… or you’re going to lose it. But, communication is the ever-present key to successful relationships. So, break it to your partner, your roommate, or whoever occupies your space: I need alone time. Bring it up as you would any plan, “So, I’m thinking Monday evening I might schedule some quiet time to journal.” Emphasize that it’s a solo activity, not something you are going to do side-by-side. Keep it casual so your friend or loved one doesn’t interpret it as a referendum on your relationship.

    2. Wake up earlier
    It’s the secret introvert parents have been employing for years. If you get up before everyone else, you can grab a few minutes of peace and quiet to yourself. Wake up just 30 minutes earlier, make a cup of coffee, read a book, or even catch up on Instagram if that’s what fills your cup.

    3. Set up agreed-upon spaces during the workday
    If you’re an introvert, being on Zoom calls all day can you leave you starved to recharge. Add in an ever-present partner and there’s no solace. Do what you can to carve out your own designated spaces during the day and you’ll find yourself basking in those quick breaks between meetings when you can grab a few moments alone. And, yes, I get it: my husband and I live in a small condo, so I know it’s not always as easy as running off to opposite ends of the house, but even a division of bedroom/ living room can do the trick.

    4. Take a daily intention-setting walk
    Put on your mask and get out of the house. It’s good for the soul to get some fresh air, plus, it gives you an excuse to slip away from everyone. But, don’t simply walk, make it a time when you can reconnect with yourself, set intentions for your day, and assess where you are right now. Put on an inspiring podcast or the new Taylor Swift album and enjoy your best company: you.

    5. Incorporate quiet movement
    Yes, working out is an awesome way to spend time on your own. However, if you’re looking for a way to exercise and recharge, think about incorporating intentional, quiet movement like yoga into your routine. Plus, chances are slim that a roommate will crash your daily restorative and meditation session in the way they might join in on a virtual Zumba class. I mean, it’s just a bit more awkward to invite oneself to a dimly-lit, quiet room than a workout with a pounding playlist, right?!

    6. Be intentional about your alone time activities
    Look, if you need your alone time to consist of catching up on Bravo, you do you! Just be intentional about it. Don’t find yourself with precious solo moments and then wonder where they went. If you’re a planner, write down exactly what you plan on doing with your time alone. Keep a note in your phone of the books you’d like to read next time you’re enjoying an introverted afternoon. Or, rediscover Pinterest and make a “Me Time” board with recipes to bake, topics to journal, plants to parent, or movies to watch.

    7. Practice solitude within a crowd
    One of my favorite ways to find quiet moments alone is to find myself in a crowd. You’ve probably heard melancholy messages of being alone in a mess of people, but you can also find a sense of peace and solitude when surrounded by strangers. I love going to the Farmer’s Market or a bustling (socially-distanced) park all by my lonesome and enjoying the freedom to slowly stroll about, taking it all in.

    8. Create morning and evening rituals… and shut the door
    Now’s the time to start indulging in that 12-step skincare routine. Maybe you pick up a bubble bath and book habit. Slather on a 10-minute face mask. Light a candle and write down your intentions for the week. Explore your spirituality through reading and spirituality. Slowly sip your evening tea and savor the aroma. Whatever your pampering or relaxation routine might be, make it your morning or evening ritual. It’s an excuse to shut the door and escape from the world for just a bit.

    9. Get into bed earlier
    On the opposite end of wake up earlier, you can also get into bed earlier. Leave your partner or roommates in the living room after dinner and head back to your bedroom, even if it’s still light out. Brew a cup of tea, then crack open that book you’ve barely been able to put down.

    10. Set up weekly happy hours or date nights
    OK, you might still be worried about the hurt feelings that you’re convinced you’ve left in the wake of #1. So, to prove that you still love their company, set up a weekly dinner or date night. Maybe it’s a Friday evening cheese board or a Saturday afternoon cocktail experiment. Perhaps one of you tries a new recipe each week and cooks dinner for the group. Or, you even instate a biweekly book club to discuss all the reading you’re doing by yourselves. Whatever your new tradition looks like, your roommates or partner will have an easier time accepting your introverted request knowing that you also love spending time with them, just so long as you get your alone time, too. More

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    5 Ways to Handle Feeling Overwhelmed and Unmotivated

    I don’t know if it’s COVID-19, hormones, or maybe the stars, but I feel like I’m going through a “mid-life” crisis—if there is such a thing at 32. Currently, I’m back in my hometown, living at my friends’ home, unemployed, and contemplating a career change during a pandemic. Most days, I’m fine but then there are many days where I feel like WTF. I’m generally a confident, well-put-together person, but this pandemic has enlivened me in some ways and caused me to feel deeply insecure in others. I’m unemployed, uninsured, and unsure about which direction my life is going. Some days my anxiety overwhelms me, and I spiral into an emotional, irrational frenzy. Typically, this frenzy leaves me feeling unproductive and unmotivated. It’s so easy to see all that is wrong instead everything that is going right. This time off work has allowed me to strengthen relationships, return to my creativity, open a business, destress, and honestly examine if my current career is something I really want to do. I’m learning to trust the process and recognizing these moments of uncertainty will become clear as I continue on my journey. In the two months I’ve been out of work, I’ve learned how to better handle my stress by doing a few things to bring me back to center and get my head out of the clouds. 

    1. I allow myself to feel my feelings.
    I don’t focus on trying to make myself feel better. I sit with my feelings, whether positive or negative, and examine where those feelings come from. Are these feelings rooted in reality, or have I allowed my imagination to get the best of me? What are realistic, healthy ways to move myself from a negative to a positive space, in a healthy way, while still affirming the validity of sadder emotions? I do a lot of this emotional processing through journaling. I love to write my feelings out. Journaling allows me to fully express myself while simultaneously documenting the moment. I usually journal when I’m feeling especially frustrated, angry, or sad. Journaling helps me identify my emotions and process them. I just sit there with my journal and write. Sometimes I write for five minutes. Sometimes I write for a couple of hours. However long, I don’t stop until I’m “done.” Journaling helps me chart my progress. I can always look back to see how far I’ve come or where I’m stagnant. 

    2. I surround myself with people who support me.
    My family and friends are the best. Since being in this weird space, none of them have ever made me feel low because I’m not working. They fully support me in my creative endeavors and are glad to see me operate with some passion. They uplift and affirm me when I’m feeling down, and hey help me pull myself out of overwhelmed places by reminding me I am accomplished and capable. I live with my family now, so it makes it easier to access them. Some of my friends are available through text and calls. I make sure to connect in any way possible. I also make sure to be honest with them about my feelings, fears, or issues. In order to be supported in the way I need, I feel I have to be honest with them about my highs, as well as my lows. They’ve seen me through everything.

    3. I rest.
    For many, rest is a radical concept. I don’t know about you, but I always feel such an internal pressure to be productive. Honestly, I feel guilty for resting because there is always more to be done. With so many things unchecked on my to-do list, I feel like I don’t deserve rest, but I’m learning rest is necessary and well-deserved. When I need rest, I force myself to take it. I create and enforce a boundary with myself by declaring the day as a non-work day. I’ve worked since I was 16. I’ve been a Masters level Social Worker in a few of the busiest emergency departments for the last four years. I’ve done a lot of hard work, loved on a lot of people, and I deserve this time just for me. For all the mental, emotional, and physical labor I have done, I deserve to rejuvenate. Rest feels foreign, but that in and of itself is problematic.
    I take off the pressure of productivity by finally allowing myself the space and time I need to relax knowing it’s for my good. I’ve forced myself to be productive when I was burned out and exhausted, and my work suffered because of it. Resting allows me to take a break, then come back happier, clearer, and generally more excited. Some days rest looks like being a couch potato while other days it looks like a fun day out with friends. Rest looks different for each of us, but as long as you’re rejuvenated afterward that’s all that matters. 

    4. I have fun.
    Yes, we’re in a pandemic, and “outside” is sort of closed, but that doesn’t mean life has to be boring. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, that means I’m off balance. I try to find things that will bring me some sense of joy. It could be something as simple as potting new plants, doing some sort of arts and crafts, or dancing to a bomb playlist. This will be different for each person, but the point is to do something that brings you joy. Do something that, even if for the moment, shifts the atmosphere and likely your attitude right along with it. Do something that is not a chore. 

    5. I sought professional help.
    Yes! That’s right … I’m in therapy. Therapy not only helps me to sort out what’s happening currently, but it’s also helping me process my past and how that affects me now. Therapy has been a godsend, especially since I’m uninsured right now. I found my therapist through a site called Open Path that my friend, Zee, told me about last year. Open Path Psychotherapy Collective is a nonprofit organization that “serves clients who lack health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t provide adequate mental health benefits. These clients also cannot afford current market rates for therapy (between $80-200 a session).” Open Path helps “members access their choice of affordable in-person care from a vetted mental health professional.” You have to pay a one-time membership fee, but after that your therapy is between $30-$60 per session, depending on the provider. I picked my therapist from a list of available therapists in my area. I’d never met her before, but I felt comfortable from the first day. We’re doing telehealth appointments due to COVID, but I still find it effective.
    My therapist is helping me reframe some of my ideologies and shift my paradigm into a much healthier space. This has been particularly helpful when it comes to feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Therapy is helping me realize I’ve been in uncertain times before, and I prevailed then just as I will now. 

    Feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s good to fully feel your feelings, but it’s not OK to stay in an unhealthy space for long. The world is weird right now and that is having a trickle-down effect on a lot of us. Take care of yourself. Find some ways to still enjoy life. Sometimes our circumstances can get the best of us, but it’s still very important to find some ways to move from an unhealthy space into a healthier one. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something to ensure you are healthy and hopeful. Be gracious with yourself and remember you are doing the best you can.  More