Online Therapy for Busy Lifestyles: Prioritizing Your Mental Health

Managing the balance of work, life, and relationships can be challenging, and sometimes, finding the time to prioritize your mental health can feel like a daunting task. But, that’s the benefit of having an online therapist.

Whether you’re juggling work, family, or a never-ending to-do list, online therapy, offers flexibility and convenience to help you take care of your mental well-being. So, let’s explore how you can make the most of your online therapy appointments when your schedule is busier than ever.

The Challenge of Work-Life Balance and Mental Health

Balancing work, life, and mental health can often be a challenge to figure out. The demands of a busy job, relationships, home responsibilities, and the daily grind can leave us feeling stretched thin.

Sometimes this might mean our mental health takes a backseat as we attempt to handle all of our commitments. But it’s essential to remember that neglecting our mental well-being can have a ripple effect, impacting both our work and personal life. Finding that equilibrium requires intention, self-care, and a willingness to seek support when needed. It’s a challenging task, but acknowledging the struggle is the first step towards achieving that balance.

Tips for Making the Most of Online Therapy

1. Prioritize Self-Care: The first step to making online therapy work for you is to recognize the importance of taking time for yourself and for sustainable and meaningful self-care. Mental health is health so it is something to consider prioritizing alongside work meetings, errands, and meet-ups with friends or family.

2. Choose the Right Therapist: Finding the right therapist is essential. Take your time to research and select someone whose expertise and approach align with your needs. Most therapists have online profiles that detail their specialties and approaches, making it easier to find the perfect fit.

3. Set Realistic Goals: Be honest with yourself about your schedule. If your days are jam-packed, it might not be feasible to commit to weekly sessions. Work with your therapist to set realistic goals and set appointment times that can work for your schedule on a weekly basis.

4. Embrace the Convenience: Online therapy allows you to attend sessions from the comfort of your own home or wherever you may be. Take advantage of this convenience and enjoy the lack of commute time. You can even have sessions during your lunch break if that works best for you.

5. Create a Dedicated Space: Designate a quiet, comfortable space for your online therapy sessions. It could be a cozy corner in your bedroom or a secluded spot in your living room. Ideally, this space is free from distractions so you can fully focus on your therapy and, of course, private and confidential.

6. Stay Committed: Consistency is key in therapy, so commit to your appointments. Treat them as non-negotiable, just like you would with any other important commitment. Remember, this is time for you to heal and grow.

7. Integrate Mindfulness: In the midst of your busy life, remember to stay mindful of your mental health. Check in with yourself regularly, practice self-compassion, and remember that it’s okay to take a break when needed.

What to Expect In Online Therapy (and Is It Effective?)

In online therapy, you can expect a similar therapeutic experience as in-person sessions, with a few key differences. During your virtual sessions, you’ll interact with your therapist through video calls or phone conversations, which offers flexibility and convenience. While the physical distance may initially feel unusual, many people find they become just as comfortable discussing their concerns and emotions online as they do in person.

Online therapy can be as effective as in-person therapy for individuals and couples because it is the same level of support, guidance, and evidence-based interventions. However, the effectiveness can vary depending on the individual’s comfort with technology, the quality of the therapeutic relationship, and the nature of their mental health concerns.

Ultimately, the choice between virtual and in-person therapy should be based on your personal preferences and needs, as both formats of therapy have been proven to provide valuable mental health support.

Connect with an Online Therapist in Milwaukee, WI, and Across Wisconsin

Online therapy offers a dedicated space for those with hectic schedules, allowing you to invest in yourself without adding extra stress to your day. And, getting started can be the hardest part of getting started with therapy. If you’re interested in learning more about our online therapy or our team, you can send us a message here or follow these simple steps:

  1. Contact Hillary Counseling to schedule an appointment

  2. Meet with a caring therapist for your first session

  3. Start receiving support from the comfort of your home!

Other Services Offered with Hillary Counseling

Our holistic therapists are here to help you when it comes to your mental health! We offer a variety of mental health services to support individuals and couples based in Milwaukee (or who live in Wisconsin). Sessions are available both in-person at our office in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, as well as virtually for anyone in the state. We offer anxiety treatment, teen therapy, grief counseling, online therapy, eating disorders, trauma, OCD therapy, therapy for college students, and LGBTQ+ therapy. We would be honored to support you in learning new coping methods to help strengthen your relationship.

Woman who practices self-compassion through mindfulness

Embracing Imperfection: The Power of Self-Compassion

When we watch TV, scroll through social media, or see other people’s achievements in life, we can develop unrealistic standards of beauty, intelligence, and success. This can create a habit of constantly comparing ourselves to others, which can lead to harsh self-criticism.

Harsh self-criticism can have a negative impact on our mental and emotional health. A healthier way to deal with your imperfections is to recognize them without judgment and respond with self-compassion.

What is Self-Compassion? (And Its Importance)

Self-compassion is the act of treating yourself the same way you would treat other people who are having a difficult time. It is noticing your suffering, having the desire to care for yourself, and recognizing that your imperfection or struggle is a part of being human.

Dr. Kristin Neff, who pioneered the study of self-compassion, identified the three elements of self-compassion:

  • Self-Kindness. This involves being concerned and caring for your discomfort and distress. It’s being there for yourself when you find life difficult.
  • Common Humanity. This means that you recognize that facing challenges in life is an experience that all humans share, so you don’t feel alone in your struggles.
  • Mindfulness. To be mindful is to acknowledge your pain without overidentifying your negative thoughts and feelings. It takes a balanced approach that allows you to have the perspective to practice compassion for yourself.

Self-compassion is important in today’s society because it can help you strike a balance between striving for excellence and accepting your limitations. This way, you can bounce back from setbacks, learn from your failures, and still have a positive outlook in life even in the face of challenges.

Understanding the Concept of Imperfection

Perfectionism can leave us constantly stressed, burnt out, and unhappy with our lives. Moreover, unrealistic expectations can lead to low self-esteem and negative self-talk.

Imperfections are qualities or characteristics of something or someone that deviate from a perfect or ideal standard. It might refer to physical imperfections, such as scars or blemishes. Or even academic imperfections, such as grades that are less than perfect.

Before we can practice self-compassion, we need to recognize that flaws are a part of life. When we recognize that humans are imperfect, then we can look at our shortcomings and avoid falling into feelings of self-loathing. It allows us to understand that it’s normal to make mistakes or accept that some things are out of our control.

The Detrimental Effects of Self-Judgment

Self-judgment involves looking at yourself, your characteristics, actions, and behaviors in a critical or often negative way. When you talk to yourself in a negative way, you can start to believe that everything your inner critic says is true. Additionally, it can fuel your perfectionism tendencies, which can lead to a constant fear of failure.

The Power of Self-Compassion

Self-compassion can reduce the pressure to be perfect because you can accept that you’re only human. You can better bounce back from setbacks and cope with challenges. Moreover, if you treat yourself with compassion, you can treat others with the same understanding.

Studies on Self-Compassion

The concept of self-compassion and its effects have been researched in various studies. According to a research, self-compassion can reduce people’s reactions to negative events. It can lessen the impact of negative self-feelings when imagining distressing events and receiving contradictory feedback. Moreover, it can also make people recognize their role in negative events without being overwhelmed.

Self-compassion has also been linked to improved emotional well-being. In a 2022 study, results showed a positive two-way connection between self-compassion and happiness. It was also found that mindfulness was a significant contributing factor that influences happiness.

Strategies for Embracing Imperfection

Practicing self-compassion is key to embracing your imperfections. Here are some strategies you can try:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a key element of self-compassion. It’s taking a balanced approach to dealing with your negative thoughts and emotions, so you’re not avoiding or exaggerating your feelings. By being mindful, you are avoiding falling into the pitfall of rumination, which is the process of repetitive thinking or dwelling on your negative thoughts.

For example, if you catch yourself having a negative thought, take a moment to pause what you are doing. Acknowledge the thought as an impartial observer and label it as just a thought. Assess if your thoughts are helpful or useful. Recognize that you have the choice to let go of the thoughts if they’re not helpful to you.

Use positive affirmations

Affirmations are statements that you can use to challenge and replace negative thoughts about yourself. They can help you gain a more positive mindset.

Positive affirmations play an important role in practicing self-compassion because you’re promoting a kinder attitude toward yourself. They can help you challenge negative self-talk and break the cycle of harsh self-judgment.

Self-love affirmations can help promote body positivity, emotional well-being, self-compassion, personal growth, self-worth, and inner peace. For example, you can say, “I forgive myself for making mistakes. I believe in my ability to learn from them” or “I embrace my imperfections as a part of my unique and beautiful self.”

Accept and learn from mistakes

Instead of letting your failures defeat you, use them as opportunities for learning and growth.

First, acknowledge your mistake and recognize that it’s part of being human. The next step is to take responsibility for your actions and analyze the mistake to understand what went wrong. Ask yourself, what can you learn and what would you do differently next time.

If needed, you can take action to rectify the situation. You can also seek feedback from other people to gain another perspective. Then develop a plan so you can avoid repeating the same mistake in the future. Lastly, forgive yourself and let go of the self-blame so you can grow as a person.

Self-Compassion in Daily Life

Start your day mindfully by taking a few deep breaths and setting your intentions for the day ahead.

Then you can recite positive affirmations about yourself. Repeat these statements regularly multiple times a day so you can internalize them.

Try to practice self-kindness when you make mistakes or face challenges throughout the day. Replace negative self-talk (which is frequently done in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, CBT) such as “I’m so stupid for making mistakes” with “It’s okay to make mistakes, I will learn from it and do better.” This can help you achieve a growth mindset while being compassionate towards yourself.

At the end of the day, you can also write in your journal to express your thoughts and feelings during difficult moments and reflect on your mistakes. Use self-compassionate language as much as possible. Don’t forget to list down things you’re grateful for and celebrate your progress as well!

Embrace Your Imperfections Through Self-Compassion

Remember that your flaws are what make you human, relatable, and unique. That’s why embracing your imperfections is a powerful act of self-love.

You can practice self-compassion by being kind to yourself just as you would to a friend. It might take time and effort to gain this skill, but it’s all worth it in the end.

Finding A Therapist To Support You

Managing your thinking mistakes – all or nothing and catastrophizing – will support you well in overcoming perfectionism. The same is true for learning how to be kinder with yourself through a self-compassion practice.

At Hillary Counseling, our therapists utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and mindfulness to reduce perfectionism. These types of therapy greatly help you change your mindset which is essential to become less perfectionistic.

Want to learn about embracing imperfection for 2024?  Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our Milwaukee therapists,, or fill out our contact form.



Article By: Michael Vallejo, LCSW

Woman in Milwaukee, WI practicing self-care to improve her mental health and well being

Self-Care In The New Year

Did you know that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? Do you have plans for this new year? Are you wondering if they will stick? Let’s explore dynamic and practical strategies to maintain mental and physical wellness throughout the year, not just in the fleeting glow of New Year’s resolution season. Read on, and together, let’s redefine what caring for ourselves in the new year means.

Caring for yourself goes beyond the occasional bubble bath or massage (although those are great!). It’s about setting goals, establishing boundaries, and creating a life that brings you joy and fulfillment. It’s about living authentically and intentionally. So, let’s dive into some practical strategies for nurturing your mind, body, and spirit in the new year.

1. Set Goals With Intention

Setting goals is essential to stepping into the new year with purpose. But it’s not just about what you want to achieve—it’s also about why. What values are driving these goals? How do these goals align with your true self? Setting intentional goals creates a roadmap that leads us closer to our authentic selves.

For instance, your goal is to embrace a healthier lifestyle in the new year. The “what” in this scenario might be “I want to exercise more and eat healthier.” However, the “why” is vitally important because you value your health and want to feel more energetic and focused daily. Having a clear “why” helps ensure your goals align with your values and makes them more compelling and motivational. Remember, your goals should reflect who you want to become, not just what you want to do.

2. Establish Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries are a powerful tool for self-care. They allow us to honor our needs and make space for our well-being. In the coming year, reflect on areas where you may need to establish or strengthen boundaries. This could be learning to say “no” more often, scheduling regular “me time,” or communicating your needs more clearly in relationships.

Consider the case of workplace boundaries. It’s common to feel obligated to be available around the clock in today’s digital age. However, this can lead to burnout and negatively impact your health and well-being. An example of a healthy boundary in this context is setting specific “work hours” and allowing yourself to truly disconnect outside these hours. This means no responding to work emails or answering work calls during your time. Establishing this boundary ensures you have the time and space to relax, recharge, and engage in activities you enjoy outside of work.

3. Cultivate Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the current moment, a powerful antidote to the modern world’s constant rush and distraction. For example, start a daily meditation practice where you spend 10 minutes each morning quietly focusing on your breath. Or, you could try mindful eating, where you entirely focus on your food’s taste, texture, and smell, rather than eating mindlessly in front of the TV. Cultivating mindfulness can help reduce stress and improve mental clarity, making it an essential wellness practice for the new year.

4. Nourish Your Body

Your body is the vessel that carries you through life—so treat it with love. This means eating nourishing foods, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and ensuring enough sleep. Remember, small, consistent actions are more impactful than drastic, short-lived changes.

Nourishing your body involves a holistic approach to wellness, balancing physical activities with mindful eating. For instance, you might begin your day with a nourishing breakfast comprising whole grain cereal, fruits, and a protein source like eggs or yogurt. This kick-starts your metabolism and provides energy for the day. Pair this with a routine of regular exercise. This could be as simple as a brisk 30-minute walk, a yoga session, or a more intense activity like running or weight training. Remember, the goal isn’t to strive for perfection but to make small, consistent changes that promote overall health and well-being.

5. Practice Self-Compassion

Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. You will have days when you falter, and that’s OK. Self-compassion means treating ourselves with the kindness and understanding we would offer a friend. It’s acknowledging that we’re all human, and it’s OK to be a work in progress.

Consider this example of self-compassion. Perhaps you missed a workout session one day because you were overloaded at work. Rather than berating yourself for not sticking to your fitness routine, understand that you had a demanding day and that it’s OK to take breaks when needed. Remind yourself that one missed workout doesn’t negate all your previous efforts. Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t do, focus on what you can do next. Maybe plan a calming yoga routine the next day or prioritize getting a good night’s sleep. This way, you treat yourself with kindness and understanding, exactly as you would treat a friend in the same situation.

Stepping into the new year is exciting—a fresh start brimming with possibilities. But remember, any lasting change begins with taking care of yourself. As you move through 2024, keep these strategies in mind. Nurture your mind, body, and spirit, and create a life that aligns with your true self. Here’s to a year filled with resilience, grace, and self-love. Happy New Year!

Want to learn about creating a self-care plan for 2024?  Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our experts,, or fill out our contact form.
Christmas tree

How To Cope With Grief During the Holidays

The swell of grief around the holidays is a common reason clients enter our therapy office this time of year. People often seek help for the immense sorrow that starts surfacing right around Thanksgiving.

When you’re grieving, there may be times when you want to participate in the excitement and joy but simultaneously don’t want to participate at all or feel guilty for celebrating.

Grief is complicated and unique for everyone. While accepting loss becomes easier over time, it is often something we carry with us forever.

If you’re wondering how to get through the holidays this year without your loved one, these strategies can help:

1. Trust That Grief Is Part of Healing

Time doesn’t heal the pain associated with a loss; it’s what you do with that time that matters. Grief is the process by which you heal. Experiencing the pain—rather than constantly trying to escape it—can actually help you feel better in the long-term.

So while it may be tempting to pretend the holidays don’t exist—or to numb the pain with alcohol—temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs the anguish. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one.

2. Set Healthy Boundaries

You certainly don’t have to force yourself to face every holiday event or celebratory tradition, however. If attending a tree lighting ceremony or participating in the office gift swap is likely to bring about too many painful memories this year, be willing to say no. Other people may try to convince you to participate, but you certainly don’t have to try to please everyone.

3. Focus on What You Can Control

There are a lot of things you can’t control about the holidays. You may be subjected to Christmas music in the waiting room of your doctor’s office or you may overhear your co-workers constantly talking about their holiday plans. While you can’t prevent those things from happening, there are some things you can control.

Think about what you can do to lessen the heartache when you can. It’s OK to limit your decorations or shop for presents online only. Pick a few things you can do to assert some control over the holiday cheer, and keep in mind that life goes on for other people and it’s OK that they’re happy to celebrate this year.

4. Plan Ahead

Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while Thanksgiving dinner may only last two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish.

Often, it’s helpful to create an escape plan. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.

5. Allow Yourself to Feel a Range of Emotions

The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or you shouldn’t be laughing.

6. Find a Way to Honor Your Memories

Create a special way to memorialize the person you’ve lost. Whether you decide to light a candle every night or eat your loved one’s favorite food, honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that although your loved one is gone, the love never dies.

7. Create New Traditions

Don’t be afraid to create new traditions this year too. It’s OK to get creative and do something a little out of the ordinary. You can also alter old traditions and make them fit better with the new phase in your life.

8. Do Something Kind for Others

Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for a grieving person’s spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people at a nursing home make holiday crafts if you’re up for it.

9. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling with the holidays. Reminding loved ones that you’re having a rough time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support. Look for support groups or contact a professional counselor to help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner.


Want to learn about coping with grief during the holidays?  Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation with one of our experts,

Woman practicing self-care

New Service…Health Coaching in Milwaukee

✨ Exciting news…We’re now offering HEALTH COACHING! ✨⁠
Are you looking to deepen your connection with your body, resolve health concerns, and cultivate a healthier you? ⁠

Health coaching is designed to support you in regaining balance and vitality by assessing the 6 main dimensions of wellness: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual.⁠

This holisitic approach to wellness allows you to get to the root of what is holding you back from feeling your best.⁠

Health Coaching Is For You If:⁠

?You want to establish HEALTHY EATING and EXERCISE habits that are sustainable.⁠

?You struggle with BODY IMAGE issues and want to mend the relationship with your body.⁠

?You have a FITNESS GOAL that you would like to achieve. ⁠

?You want to learn SELF-CARE STRATEGIES to cope with stress and anxiety. ⁠

?You are going through a MAJOR LIFE TRANSITION and want to tools to embrace the change. ⁠

?You are living with a CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITION and do not want this to define you.⁠

Check out our health coaching page for more information or message us to schedule a FREE initial consult with our Health Coach, ?⁠
Confident woman who seeks therapy at Hillary Counseling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

5 Ways Almost Everyone Misunderstands Emotions

Our emotions provide valuable data, but there are some ways virtually everyone misinterprets their emotions. This can lead to mismanaging your emotions or the situation they occur in. When you become aware of these, you can adjust so that you’re calmer and more effective.

Here are five common mistakes:

1. We think our emotions relate to the current situation when they relate to the past. Humans are learning machines. We don’t react to new situations as if we’ve never experienced the world before. We react based on all our prior learning experiences.

When we often experience an instinctive emotional reaction, that reaction isn’t just about the current circumstance we’re facing. We react to the ways right now reminds us of our past experiences.

When we feel big emotions, they can represent our body trying to protect us from events that already concluded long ago. For example, when you feel angry or slighted, your body might be trying to protect you from a time you weren’t respected or understood in the past, even if you are being respected and understood now.

Sometimes we feel shame in new situations due to memories of how we acted unskillfully in the past, even if we act skillfully now.

2. We assume other people’s emotions relate to us and the current situation. This is a similar point. When someone reacts emotionally, we tend to assume they’re reacting to our behavior and the current circumstance. But that person is also reacting to everything else. For example, in the work context, a reaction you get from a fellow human might be influenced by everything from their childhood experiences to the difficult interaction they had with their last customer to the email their boss sent yesterday about their organization’s current priorities to the micro-aggression they experienced on the subway that morning. All those triggers mix to determine the other person’s reaction to you.

This issue comes up a lot at work and also in romantic relationships. In couples, people often react in ways that relate to protecting themselves from past pain, whether from childhood or prior relationships.

3. We think emotions are a signal to start trying to reduce those emotions. Our culture tends to be comfort-obsessed. For example, if we feel hot, we expect to be able to crank our AC to remedy that. If the mattress we buy isn’t perfect, we return it. This comfort obsession also involves our emotions. We automatically see difficult emotions as a signal to start trying to reduce those emotions.

The problem is this: Much of what we instinctively do to reduce our distress makes our difficult emotions bigger. Even when we can “successfully” quell our big feelings, the cost is that those emotions, and the types of situations that trigger them, loom larger and larger in our lives. We end up devoting a lot of energy to avoiding certain emotions, which can get in the way of having the energy to devote to our other values. (If you’re anxiety-prone and managing anxiety is taking up too much of your life, check out these solutions.)

4. We usually fixate on only one emotion (and underplay what else we’re feeling and doing). Many of us have one dominant emotion (read more here). For example, some people rarely notice feeling angry but constantly notice feeling anxious, or the reverse.

Try using the word “and” more when you talk or think about your emotions. For instance, we rarely acknowledge when happy emotions occur alongside negative ones. For example, I’m pregnant, and I feel nervous about labor, and I feel excited about my baby.

It can also be useful to notice when multiple difficult emotions occur together, like “I feel anxious, and I feel angry.” Acknowledging multiple emotions can help you see a broader range of reactions you could choose from. Feeling anxious may not propel you to stand up to injustice, but noticing your anger might.

Third, you can acknowledge your emotions and behavior together, such as, “I feel anxious, and I’m doing competent, skillful behavior.”

5. We see emotions as either reasonable or unreasonable, justified or unjustified. People can suffer when they perceive they’re experiencing an emotion the situation doesn’t justify. For example, if you feel fearful or angry in a situation that doesn’t make everyone feel that way, you might think, “I shouldn’t be so scared of this.” Or, “I shouldn’t be so bothered by this. What’s wrong with me?” When this happens, you might conclude you’re not a mentally strong or skillful person, which doesn’t help you confidently choose a path forward.

It’s usually healthier to accept whatever you or someone else feels without judging whether it’s justified. This can help you become more curious about your own and others’ emotional worlds and less judgmental at the same time.

Which of these mistakes in interpreting emotions do you make? How might correcting these mistakes help you feel calmer and more skillful in managing your life and relationships? How could changing your approach to your emotions help you walk your values? (More on why this is an optimal response to stress here.)

Article by: Alice Boyes, Ph.D of Psychology Today

Looking for more help with your emotions? Contact us to schedule a FREE initial consult with one of our experts,

Woman with great body image

7 Tips For Building A Better Body Image As An Adult

When you catch a glimpse of your reflection in a window, or see yourself in a new picture that a friend posts on social media, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

Are they generally positive (I look so happy!), or more negative (Well, at least everyone else looks good)?

If they are positive, that’s great! But if they’re not, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle to feel happy with the way that we look, especially when it comes to our bodies.

While getting older may bring with it a certain sense of self-acceptance and the ability to reject the unrealistic beauty ideals that we see around us, aging also brings with it a new set of challenges to our self-esteem. You know — the messages and products that encourage us to “minimize those wrinkles” and “cover up those grays.”

“You can be reading a magazine and on one page there’s an article about how to love yourself the way you are, and then you flip the page and there’s an ad for a diet plan or an anti-aging cream.

All of those messages can be discouraging. But making some tweaks to your thought patterns can help you get back on the road to a positive body image. Start with these ideas.

Show some appreciation

A good place to start is to refocus your self-talk. Rather than nitpicking over the appearance of your body, try recognizing and appreciating the amazing things that it does for you every day. Appreciate that your strong arms allow you to carry your child and the diaper bag and the groceries up the stairs in one trip. Or that your skilled hands prepared an amazing dinner.

Record the positives

Here’s a little homework assignment: Write down five things you love about your personality. Easy, right? You’re a great listener and incredibly giving when it comes to helping others.

Now list five things you love about your body. “For most people, it’s easier to do the first, but it’s equally important to do the second.” Putting your feelings into written words (the old fashioned way!) helps you process your thoughts and commit things to memory.

Create little reminders

Write positive affirmations, goals or words of gratitude on sticky notes or note cards and putting them in places where you’ll see them throughout the day – the bathroom mirror, your wallet or by your computer at work. Remind yourself of your positive qualities, skills and goals.

Commit to doing things that make you feel good

Life is about so much more than how we look. Yet, how we feel about our bodies can dictate our mood and our behaviors. Have you ever canceled plans when you’re feeling bad about yourself? Resist the urge. Spending time with friends who aren’t focused on body image may actually help quiet your own body dissatisfaction.

Studies also show that exercise, yoga and helping others are great self-esteem boosters.

Occupy your mind

“We have another exercise that asks people to live their life as if they had 12 months, 5 days, 1 hour or 30 seconds to live,” Dr. Peterson says.

“In these circumstances, you would most likely focus on people, places and things that you love and that make you feel good – not on how your body looks.”

Don’t fear the mirror

If you have unhappy thoughts about how you look, you might find yourself dodging anything that shows your reflection. But, “avoidance breeds avoidance.” Ignoring those unhappy feelings won’t make them go away. She suggests noticing those negative thoughts that come to mind when you see yourself in the mirror, and applying the above tactics to turn them around.

Shut down the comparison game

Comparing your own body to others’ may be the quickest way to send your self-esteem plummeting. Instead, objectively admire the good qualities you notice in other people, and make a point to compliment them – it will make both of you feel good.

Feeling good at all sizes

It’s beneficial to love your and appreciate body no matter your shape or size.

In fact, if you’re overweight and taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle, research suggests that’s even more of a reason to work on building a healthy body image.

In one study of girls who were overweight, those with the highest levels of body satisfaction gained less weight after 10 years than those who were least satisfied with their bodies. Another study found that obese women who improved their body image were also better able to self-regulate their eating.

There’s no wrong time to work on feeling more comfortable in your own skin.

Need more help?

If you ever feel that your negative body image is affecting you in a distressing or disruptive way, reach out to schedule a FREE INITIAL CONSULT with one of our body image experts,!

Woman coping with depression and anxiety by seeking therapy from a licensed psychotherapist at Hillary Counseling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

How High Expectations Can Lead to Disappointment, Depression, and Anxiety

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” ~Alexander Pope

I was sitting on the couch in my bedroom, at sunset, looking at the trees outside my window. I felt a profound sadness, frustration, disappointment, and desperation taking me over.

While I was staring into oblivion, all my expectations came flashing to my mind.

“No, this is not what my life was supposed to be. I was supposed to be successful. I was supposed to have my own house. I was supposed to be happy. What happened?”

What happened was that I am part of the majority, not the exception.

My entire life I expected to be the exception. I assumed that if I worked hard enough, I would succeed; if I did well in university, I would succeed; if I poured my heart and soul into something, I would succeed; my dreams could come true.

I had become a slave to my expectations, and they were ruining my life.

In my mind, things were supposed to be different. My great expectations were robbing me of happiness, because I wasn’t where I wanted to be, I didn’t have what I expected to have, and I wasn’t who I expected I should be.

The truth of the matter is that there are few people out there who are lucky enough to be living their dreams.

Most of us survive on crumbs of our expectations. We have a job, even if it’s a job we don’t like. We work from nine to five every day to pay the bills. If you’re lucky, you get to go on a vacation once a year, and for the very lucky, two of them.

Statistics show depression and anxiety are on the rise. I am part of those statistics, along with 350 million other people who suffer from the same hell I do.

How could depression and anxiety not be on the rise when we are constantly bombarded by repetitive messages that tell us about all the great things we can accomplish?

Of course giving people high expectations is what sells. If beauty creams advertised their products by saying, “It will moisturize your skin and that’s pretty much it,” not too many people would buy the product.

Marketing survives by raising people’s expectations. When the product doesn’t meet up with their expectation, disappointment follows. And so it goes with most things in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong; I truly believe that dreams can come true. The point is that we shouldn’t expect it to happen. If it does happen, it will be a nice surprise. But if it doesn’t and we’re expecting it, we are likely doomed for disappointment and frustration.

Of course it would be amazing if we could all live our great expectations, but we shouldn’t base our happiness and personal satisfaction on them, because there is no rule that says that we will all live to fulfill them. I know this might sound pessimistic, simply because it goes against everything we’ve heard.

We read great stories of people who defied the odds and became a success, but we never read about the people who did their best and failed. Their stories never become motivational quotes and bestselling books, because they didn’t make it.

We never hear their stories about how they put their heart and soul into something and failed, because that doesn’t sell books; that doesn’t sell conferences.

Many motivational books and personal coaches survive by raising people’s expectations instead of focusing on finding happiness with what they already have.

Of course meeting our expectations could bring happiness, but if we’re waiting to be happy for that to happen, we might be waiting a long time.

Maybe you’re not Anna Wintour or Mark Zuckerberg, and you don’t have a million dollars in the bank.

Maybe you’re feeling frustrated because parenthood didn’t turn out to be what you had expected (it’s tiring and demanding).

Maybe your job is not fulfilling, and at one point you expected you’d grow up to be somewhere completely different from where you are today.

I could sit here and write that you can change everything and you should fight to meet your expectation. I think you should, but you shouldn’t base you personal satisfaction and happiness on that.

I’m here to tell you that it’s all right if you didn’t meet your expectations.

Sometimes life throws curve balls at us, and for some reason or another life doesn’t go to plan. It doesn’t mean we have to stop working toward our goals; it just means that we can be happy regardless.

Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to focus on what we do have.

Capitalism shoves down our throats to strive for more, and we obediently follow, only to meet a brick wall and realize how frustrated we are for not being everything the system promised we could be.

Millennials in particular are battling this problem harshly.

We were sold the idea that if we went to college, got great marks, and did tons of unpaid internships we’d be destined for the stars. Instead, millions of millennials have a huge amount of debt from student loans and are finding it hard to find a job. I’m not even talking about their dream job—just a job.

Did you know that millennials have the highest statistics on depression and anxiety ever recorded in history? That’s mainly because we expected to at least have the quality of life our parents had. But things have changed, and now we are not even close to what they had at our age.

Our expectations were too high, and we live in a world where it’s harder to meet those expectations.

It would have been a lot better to break things down to millennials in a realistic way, and if some of them got to meet their expectations, then good for them. But for the rest, we’d know that not all expectations need to be met for us to be happy.

I know you might be reading this and thinking of all the expectations that you had that you didn’t get to live up to. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated and sad.

The best and easiest way to be happy is to work toward our goals but never expect for them to become a reality. It’s a paradox. It’s the duality of existence.

We need a goal and a dream to keep us motivated, but at the same time we need to not expect anything from life. That way, regardless of the outcome, we don’t become disappointed.

I know it kind of goes against the motivational quotes we read, and it especially goes against the greedy perception that has been incrusted in our minds. We are taught to never be content with what we have and to always strive for more. But this greedy mindset is what has many feeling frustrated with their lives.

I’m not saying that it’s good to get comfortable in mediocrity, but to push ourselves to be the best person we can be without expecting a great outcome. To do things because we love doing them, not because we’re expecting something.

It’s like doing a good deed expecting a “thank you.” If the “thank you” doesn’t come, you become disappointed. If you do it regardless of the gratitude, you still feel content.

It’s about being happy while working to be better, not by placing happiness on a goal. You find that happiness in your progress, in your daily life, in feeling grateful for the small things—for having food on your plate, a roof over your head, health, and loved ones to share your life with.

It is about coming to terms with the idea that your dreams might not come true. Making peace with life—that even if it doesn’t allow you to fulfill your dreams, it has given you life, and life itself is a treasure.

As the saying goes, happy people are not those who have the best of everything but the ones who make the best of everything they have.

Article by: Carol James of Tiny Buddha

Woman with eating disorder who is searching 'eating disorder treatment near me' on her phone

Does Emotional Avoidance Fuel Your Eating Disorder?

“It seems like I’m actually experiencing my feelings, now that I’m no longer bingeing and purging my emotions,” my client in recovery from bulimia shared.

Eating disorders are believed to be caused by a combination of factors including, genetic, temperamental, and environmental influences.

However, one thing that almost all of my clients with eating disorders have in common is difficulty in expressing, processing, and coping with their emotions.

Emotional Avoidance and Eating Disorders

Emotional avoidance, is described as actions that are intended to prevent an emotional response from occurring, such as fear, anger or sadness.

People struggling with eating disorders often turn to their eating disorder behaviors in an unconscious effort to try to help themselves to “feel better” and to cope with difficult emotions or life circumstances.

For instance, for many people struggling with anorexia, their response when it comes to coping with feelings of anxiety, sadness, or loneliness, is to restrict their food. This may give them a false sense of “control” and specialness. For individuals with bulimia, bingeing and purging provides them a momentary feeling of comfort, “control,” or relief. For people struggling with binge eating, eating often feels like “an escape,” comforting, calming, or a way to numb out.

The reality is that eating disorder behaviors often provide short-term relief or satisfaction, and long-term feelings of increased depression, loneliness, and misery.

Let Yourself Feel

Eating disorder treatment involves a variety of tools and strategies for helping clients to reclaim their lives. However, one important element is helping them to learn how to identify, process, and cope with their emotions in ways that align with their life values.

Many of my clients struggle with being able to sit with themselves and their emotions. Often eating disorder behaviors are used as a way to try to regulate or distract from intense emotions.

I often say to clients that trying to suppress our emotions, is kind of like trying to hold a beach ball under water. It takes a lot of effort and eventually the beach ball will fly up above the water with force.

As a culture, we are often not taught to express our emotions. However, emotions serve important functions in our lives, as they are signals of things that we need to pay attention to.

There is a quote that I love from Norah Wynne, which says “Feelings will not kill you. No one has ever died from experiencing an emotion, but people have died trying to stuff them down.”

It’s important to share with clients that their eating disorder behaviors are often coping strategies that they are using to try to regulate their emotions. These behaviors may have helped them to get through some difficult and traumatic times, however they are also no longer serving them.

With treatment and support, people with eating disorders can learn how to heal their relationships with themselves, food, and their bodies.

They can also learn how to express and process their emotions, without the constant strain of trying to suppress or run from their feelings. Part of living a meaningful life is being able to experience all of one’s emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant.

One of the great privileges of doing this work is being able to see the light return into someone’s eyes, for them to be exploring their true passions and interests, for their brain space to be no longer ruled with thoughts about food and their body. Full recovery and living according to your true values, is completely possible.

An assignment to put this into practice:

What emotions (if any) are you trying to push down, avoid, or distract from?
What behaviors are you using to try not to experience this emotion?
How is doing so serving you, and how is it not serving you?
What would be on healthy way that you could process the emotions that you are experiencing, i.e. writing, an alterbook, talking to a friend, drawing, talking to a therapist?

Article By: Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C,Founder of The Eating Disorder Center

Happy woman who seeks therapy for women by a licensed psychotherapist at Hillary Counseling in Milwaukee, WI

5 Tips To Be Happier Today

It’s gloomy outside of my window as I type. Everything is gray. The days are getting shorter. And at mid-life, there are all kinds of stressors! If you’re at all like me and could use a pick-me-up on this, the Monday after Thanksgiving (or, as my friend Becky Burch writes, The Monday of All Mondays), here are five Darwininian-inspired tips.

The evolutionary perspective on human emotions holds that our emotions, including happiness, evolved as they did to serve important evolutionary functions for our ancestors during the bulk of human evolutionary history.1 Under these conditions, largely when ancestrally modern humans lived in the African savanna in small, tight-knit groups, people experienced happiness when they encountered outcomes that would have been associated with survival and/or reproductive success. Such outcomes would have included, for instance:

-Finding a great new food source
-Creating something that is admired by others
-Natural phenomena such as a fresh water stream during drought conditions
-Sharing laughter and stories with family members
-Experiencing mutual love with a partner who is adoring, trustful, and attractive

As we experience the time of year associated with waning sunlight in North America, here are five ways to harness happiness based on this evolutionarily informed approach.2

1. Eat something healthy and yummy.

Under ancestral conditions, humans evolved to prefer foods that put fat on one’s bones, anticipating drought and famine. For this reason, we evolved to prefer foods that are high in things like carbohydrates and salt. Ironically, the modern food industry has hijacked these food preferences. And this is why places like Burger King are so good at making money but also at distributing food that is obnoxiously unhealthy.

For these reasons, eating something that is simply tasty does not always have happiness-inducing effects in the modern world. Tasty foods, such as chocolate chip cookies that are fresh from the oven, come with a price. And such foods might come with guilt from not being able to control one’s impulses.

Natural foods, which map onto the kinds of foods that our ancestors would have eaten before the advent of agriculture, can be tasty but they are also generally guilt-free. Find your favorite tasty natural treat today. It may be grapes, clementines, salmon, sweet potatoes, etc. Eat something tasty and natural today, and do it with a guilt-free smile.

2. Create and share something today.

The creative spirit is a basic part of our evolved psychology. We admire creative others and we tend to take joy in the creative process. Under ancestral conditions, creativity was widely respected, likely as it had all kinds of benefits when it came to surviving and reproducing.3 Further, creativity is an inherently social endeavor. And sharing with others is a critical piece of happiness in a species such as ours with sociality being so foundational.

When it comes to forms of creativity, the options are nearly endless. Write a quick story or joke to share with a friend. Or a poem that captures your spirit today. Or maybe draw something. Perhaps a doodle during that department meeting will emerge into something that makes you really smile. Whether it is big or small, I say try to create something every day. And share it with someone who will appreciate it. And maybe see if they will share back. Sharing creative products, no matter how small, provides a simple route to joy on a daily basis.

3. Get out into nature.

Sure, it’s harder to get out into nature when it’s cold and gloomy outside. Add a saturated schedule to this and you’ve got a recipe for staying indoors and doing not much of anything. But remember, for the lion’s share of human evolutionary history, our ancestors were outside constantly. We evolved to be surrounded by fresh air as well as both plant and animal life. Natural water features, sky, and sun were all regular players in the daily lives of our ancestors. As such, we evolved a strong love for nature that goes deep into our evolved psychology.4

It might be a two-mile run before work. Or a quick walk in a park near the office. Or maybe, if time allows, an intensive hike deep into the woods. But whatever your schedule allows, make sure to get some outside time with some elements of nature in it. Nature experiences famously go hand-in-hand with happiness.

4. Share and communicate with family members today.

As is true in many species, kin matter quite a bit in the human experience. From an evolutionary perspective, kin are those special people in the world who disproportionately share specific genetic combinations with ourselves. As a consequence, kin have an inherent evolutionary interest in our successes. This is why “blood is thicker than water.”

Think of a family member whom you get along with well and send them a text or give them a call. No agenda is needed. Just make sure that there are some laughs involved.

5. Make time for love.

In the human experience, love and happiness go hand-in-hand.5 For this reason, finding and cultivating loving relationships is a critical part of the human experience. And love has a way of facilitating happiness that truly cannot be matched.

Want to learn more about how you can FEEL HAPPIER? Reach out to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation with one of our therapists,

Article By: Glenn Gear, Ph.D, of Psychology Today