Can You Relate? You Might Be Feeling Imposter Syndrome

by: Danielle Ternyila

What is Imposter Syndrome? Well, according to the dictionary, it’s the persistent inability to believe your success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of your own efforts or skills.

So what’s imposter syndrome? A phenomenon we may struggle with mentally to believe in ourselves, in a sense. We experience extreme feelings of self-doubt and lack of self-worth, or just general confusion in our life or career. It can happen to anyone, and it can be a completely normal feeling. It can be a daunting feeling to go through, but you should never feel alone in this. There are many of us out here who feel the same way, and I hope you can walk away today feeling a little more in control in these doubtful times.

Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, and Maya Angelou are among some of the biggest names we all know who have had their own experiences with feelings of self doubt and inadequacy. These are people we love to see on screen or who have inspired us, and they too have admitted to feeling like they’re a “swindler” or a “fraud” in their lives. Even Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Seth Godin, and Michelle Obama have experienced imposter syndrome, too. Now how is that for company?

What do we know about Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome was first studied in the early 1970s, which is when the lead researchers and psychologists Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes coined the term. Specifically, they studied this phenomenon in 150 high-achieving women who appeared to be more successful than their peers and were having a hard time attributing their success to themselves. They were highly successful and intellectual individuals with PhDs, but they felt like phonies, “imposters”.

Research has since shown that it is much more prevalent among women, men, and children alike today; in fact, roughly 70% of the population experiences this during their lifetime, including some of the greatest minds in history, even Albert Einstein! In fact, this phenomenon is observed most in high-achieving people, and if this is affecting you, then it’s almost a compliment to your intelligence, right?

Imposter syndrome, also sometimes called perceived fraudulence, is a completely valid experience that you may be experiencing if this sounds familiar to you. You may suffer from a lack of confidence or are constantly comparing yourself to others. You may doubt your abilities and accomplishments. This is a mental phenomenon that does not actually define your self worth and successes or failures.

What are the signs or symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

We attribute our success to external/outside factors; as in, there is some other reason we had achieved a goal, be it a glitch in the hiring process, someone being nice to you/taking pity on you, or just dumb luck.

Imposter syndrome convinces us that “the impossible” is more likely than we are to succeed. It lets us think the worst thing, that we aren’t good enough and all that we have done has never been enough.

We doubt ourselves and our accomplishments. Nothing we do is good enough.

We overwork ourselves and risk burnout trying to make everything perfect because we cannot fail; failure is not an option.

We wonder who we are, what role we play, where we fit in…. We question ourselves and how we got to where we are or this far in our careers.

We turn down or avoid asking for help, even when we need it most because we fear it will show we are not competent or good enough.

We will waste every moment trying to find out everything and understand every little detail until we have all the knowledge on a task, but the task may never get done.

We may achieve big accomplishments and only see what we did wrong; we think it should have been done better, we could have done better, and we didn’t do good enough.

Activist and Actress Emma Watson said, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.

We may struggle with accepting praise and recognition for our efforts and accomplishments.

We may ask ourselves, are we good enough? We may question if we were just in the right place at the right time.

Imposter syndrome can sneak up on us in so many ways, but it all comes back to this negative mindset. How does it change your interpretation of this when you factor in that 7 out of the 10 people you see every day are thinking the same thing? You may be trying so hard to keep cool so no one “catches on” to you, but many of the people you see, even the most confident and successful people, are experiencing the same feelings of doubt in some way.

Ways to Fight Imposter Syndrome

I am a big advocate for seeking mental health help, having a support team of friends or family that you can trust to guide you, and seeing the professionals (a therapist). If you are struggling with Imposter Syndrome, it is OK to ask for help, and you should always do so if you are experiencing severe thoughts of anxiety or depression. However, there are ways you can work on this at home on your own too.

Engage in Positive Self Talk Only

Imposter syndrome is made worse by the negative talk and self doubt, so shining a light on it all does make an impact. Fight the bad thoughts and think about everything you did right. If you begin to think negatively, take a moment to tell yourself a few important things you might sometimes forget (I know I forget sometimes too)

  • Nothing can be perfect, something to never forget
  • Learn from your mistakes and make them positive
  • Forgive yourself every time you need to
  • Talk about it with your “support team”
  • Recall your past successes to challenge the negative thoughts

Celebrate Every Victory, No Matter How Big or Small

I start every morning by making my bed to get goal #1 done right away, as cheesy as that sounds. Every single accomplishment, big or small, is a win. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way if we always feel like we didn’t do it fast enough, good enough, or the “right way”, but a big part of combatting imposter syndrome comes down to targeting those negative thoughts and shutting them down. Every time you get something done, appreciate it and applaud yourself, no matter what.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It is so much easier to assume the grass is greener on the other side, but the grass is only green where you water it. Focus on yourself and what you are doing to feel your best, and don’t let your mind start convincing you that someone else is smarter, stronger, or better than you. A major symptom of imposter syndrome is comparison to others, so nip that bad habit in the bud! It’s easy to assume someone else is more capable and knows how to do do it all, but to that, I share a quote from a former first lady, Michelle Obama:

“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

If nothing else, I have just one last piece of advice to share, and it’s the last thing you need to know about imposter syndrome before we part ways today.

Well, unless you join me in my private Facebook empowerment group so we can be friends and connect online!

Take the advice of one of our favorite comedians, Tiny Fey:

“Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”

4 Healthy Habits to Impact Your Mindset

by: Danielle Ternyila

Changing your mindset can be a really hard thing to do, but it is far from impossible. It takes time; it won’t always be easy, but nothing worth it ever will be “easy”.

There are at least some things you can do throughout your day to help change your mindset slowly but surely. By doing things that bring more positivity, focus, and energy into your every day, you can gain the confidence to do anything! The first step towards anything is believing in yourself, and these mindset tricks can help get you there.

Make Your Bed Every Morning

As soon as you crawl out of bed, turn around and make it again. It’s your first task of the day, so it’s sure to give you a huge sense of self-accomplishment immediately. Who wouldn’t want to start their day like this?

Doing so is known to improve your mood, much like some of these other simple habits. Make your bed so you’ll sleep better later, to reduce your stress levels, and improve your productivity. It’s the little things in life, after all.

Say Thank You Instead of Sorry

This is a big flaw we all can struggle with easily. When we make a mistake and get called out on it, our instinct is to apologize, but we’re human and can make mistakes. We are always learning, always growing, so we should be saying “Thank you” to those who catch the mistakes, help us through them, or just point them out. Thank you for your attention on that, thank you for pointing that out, thanks for explaining this.

When we break the habit of diminishing our work by apologizing, we can appreciate all our efforts, achievements, and growth instead of feeling guilty. Saying thank you, or at least learning not to immediately blurt out “I’m sorry!” when something isn’t done right, changes the attitude of the whole conversation. We shouldn’t have to feel like we have to be perfect all the time; just your best is exactly enough, and never apologize for that.

Drink Water First Every Day

Instead of starting the morning with coffee or your favorite tea, drink down a glass of water first, and maybe even add a splash of lemon for extra flavor! After sleeping for 8+ hours (by following the next tip), your body needs to be replenished. It has basically been in fasting mode for those long hours overnight, so you want to nourish it with what’s good for it, like hydration!

Play Your Happy Playlist

If you haven’t already, prep a “happy playlist” on your music app of choice. This should be all of the songs that make you feel good, the ones that lift you up and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Be it a childhood favorite, some upbeat vibes, the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack or bagpipes, music can be a great tool for our mental health, and it’s something we can do daily.

Music can provide more benefits to your mental state than you could think. It is actually linked to having positive effects on the brain and natural chemicals like dopamine, the “happy” hormone! Start playing that feel-good playlist, and find somewhere to fit it into your every day, maybe when you are feeling your most anxious during the day. I listen to my playlist in the car on the commute to work or anytime I need to clean but not feeling it; a quick dose of “Walking on Sunshine” or “Dancing Queen” to get myself excited!

What are you doing every day to improve your mindset? What songs put you in your best mood? Share with us in our private support group on Facebook!

A Lesson for the Anxious from Schitt’s Creek: What People Might Think

by: Danielle Ternyila

“Trust me, people aren’t thinking about you the way that you’re thinking about you,” Alexis Rose said in the award-winning Netflix series Schitt’s Creek.

As someone suffering anxiety constantly, this motivating quote hit home in a real way. Her adult brother David is a nervous wreck over taking his driving test, and she explains it this simply: no one is thinking about you the way you’re thinking about you.

Anxiety has this terrible way of convincing us of the worst and overthinking everything. I often spend more time stressing over every detail of my life; I can get so caught up in “they’re going to think this about me” and “this is not what they want me to do,” but the truth is no one cares more about myself than me. I am my biggest critic, just like you your own and David his.

David’s driving test was causing him so much stress and anxiety because he was worried about passing, failing, letting the driving instructor down, or just doing it all wrong. Alexis reminds him he is the toughest on himself, which feels matter-of-fact to her, someone who does not often second-guess herself or question her worth. David fires back that she doesn’t know what it’s like to be him, and he rattles off reasons things are “easier” for Alexis. These are all excuses in David’s mind, though, that he uses as a coping mechanism when things feel hard for him.

It’s easy to be on the outside looking in, and we see this when David tells Alexis her life is so easy. Our anxious minds aren’t going to tell you everyone struggles and it’s hard for us all; we don’t know what battles others are going through, so it’s just easier and more common to assume they just don’t have any.

David puts this new knowledge to the test when he gets in the car with the driving instructor, and he asks how much the guy really cares about David’s driving. Turns out, he was hardly paying attention, he was really longing to make his DJ side gig his career, and no, he didn’t care how well or bad David did and how David presented himself.

We are so afraid to be judged, yet here David realizes that that he was so nervous to impress someone who didn’t even look at him during his test, let alone judge him. From my anxiety-ridden perspective, it’s important to see this dialogue we often hear internally and see how it really plays out.

Moral of the story: don’t be so afraid you start holding yourself back. Your anxiety is only mirroring your biggest fears, not reality, and if you still can’t gain control over your mindset in the most stressful moments, then at least binge Schitt’s Creek for a chuckle (advice from a fan.)

Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Bestie

by: Danielle Ternyila

Do you talk to yourself the same way you talk to your best friend or even your kids? When your bestie is talking about how fat they feels or unsuccessful, you aren’t going to go, “Yeah, and you haven’t even been putting in any effort.” You would tell them how beautiful they really are, how much they inspire you, and you could even rattle off countless compliments…. Imagine how you would feel if you spoke like that to yourself!

We all have our own flaws, our weaknesses, and things we don’t like about ourselves, but you are your biggest critic. What you think may be a flaw, someone else may be truly jealous of or even adore you for it. If there is something you don’t like, talk about what you will do about it instead of what you didn’t. Next time you hear negative thoughts about yourself sinking in, take a moment to think of 3 things you do love.

The same goes for those awkward situations you will internally live over and over again, regretting every way you handled the situation or even just something you said once. If you want to be more confident, you have to exert that energy. Don’t get caught up in the past and focus on the “next time” instead. You learn from every thing you do, so turn it more positive by focusing on the things you did right or will do next time, then remind yourself how great you are, just like you would for your bestie when they’re feeling down!

Remember to talk positive with yourself. It’s all about mindset, and if you talk yourself up, even if it’s just in front of the mirror, in the shower, or in the car, you’re going to feel more positive. Stop judging yourself, critiquing your every decision, and making yourself feel bad. You are perfect, and there is no reason to think otherwise. After all, you’re the only YOU there is in this world; there’s nothing that can compare!

Positive self talk is a game-changer. Do you have any self mantras you share with yourself, or is it new to you? Give it a try, and you won’t regret it.

Practice Gratitude Year-Round

by: Danielle Ternyila

Time and time again this simple method of gratitude has gotten me through the hardest days. I try my best to practice gratitude every day, but especially on the worst days. You know, those days or sometimes weeks when you just dont want to get out of bed in the morning, the day lags on miserably, or perhaps you’re most stressed at night as you recap your awful day. Maybe it’s just winter in general and the cold!

Instead of giving into those negative vibes, remind yourself of all the good. Ask yourself, “Well if this isn’t particularly going well, what is doing me good?” If you can’t think of a single thing or person you’re thankful for, for any reason whatsoever, then you aren’t trying hard enough.

Reflection is so important for us and our growth, especially mentally. Gratitude grounds us and finds the light in the darkest places. Next time you’re stressed, start listing what you are thankful for that day, including the driver who moved over for you when you were rushing to work, the woman who held the door when your hands were full, or that you had a filling breakfast.

Be thankful that you woke up early on the weekend and could spend more time enjoying your coffee or get ahead on your day. Be grateful if you slept in and got rest you needed. It’s like looking at a half-filled glass of water. Is it half full or half empty? You decide.

Ways to Implement Gratitude in your Life:

Journal! Take a moment each night to list 3 to 5 things you’re thankful for. Doing this will reinforce gratitude and keep you thinking in the future about what you’re thankful for!

Redirect Negative Thoughts! When you’re feeling particularly negative, pause to think about what you are grateful for instead, like an opportunity you’ve been given, a lesson you may be learning from a challenge, or the person you can lean on through it.

Thank Others! Make it a point to thank someone every day. Not only will you feel good, but it will reinforce gratitude in others as well, making those around you feel appreciated too.

By practicing gratitude regularly, you will learn to appreciate the little things, which will help in balancing your mental health in the long run. The longer you practice this, the easier it will be to recognize the little wins throughout your day.

Grounding Method: Count Down to Stress Less

by: Danielle Ternyila

Experiencing anxiety is not new, and you’re not the only one feeling like a bundle of stress ready to explode nowadays. No matter what it is you are going through, the best thing you can do is to take care of yourself. Instead of “accepting defeat” against the anxiety and whirlwind of emotions consuming you, focus your attention on things you can do that will help instead of hurt.

Make a conscious decision to do what you can to control yourself and these emotions; ground yourself. Trust me, it sounds so impossible and hard. If you’re thinking “No, I can’t turn it off, the anxiety will never go away,” then take another step back. You can’t think that way or things will never change. Negativity follows negative vibes. To take control of your stress, you first need to accept that you do control this. You have the power to make things better in your life, no one else; they’ve got their own lives to take care of after all.

To gain control in a stressful situation, you can count down with these simple steps, a tried and true coping mechanism for panic attacks and anxiety. Use your 5 senses, counting down from 5, to calm your mind. Your mind may be racing, thinking and worrying over so many things, and I feel you! Now, you can’t turn your brain off, but why not shift gears? Give your mind a new task to clear your thoughts.

Grounding Technique for Stress and Anxiety

5. See – In your head (or out loud if you’re alone and can!), find five things you see. My hands, blinds on the window, a desk plant, blue walls, and a yellow pencil, for example.

4. Touch – Now find four things you can touch. The cotton drawstring on my hoodie, the wooden desk, rubber keyboard protector, and condensation on my water bottle, perhaps.

3. Hear – Name three things you can hear: the air conditioner, birds outside the window, and the neighbor’s car just started

2. Smell – What are two things you can smell? Coconut candle and lemon tea

1. Touch – Finally, think of one thing around you that you could taste (not saying you have to actually taste it). An apple?

It’s that easy! When you go through these simple 5 steps and count down through your senses, you will be able to clear your mind. Whether you’re just a little worried or under stress in a tough situation, this anxiety grounding technique will help you come back to the present and focus on what really matters.

Achieve Your Health Goals Like a Pro

by: Danielle Ternyila

I wish I was the kind of person that meal prepped. I wish I liked salads and healthy foods. I wish I could afford organic ingredients. I wish I had time to cook better meals. I wish there was enough time to go to the gym.

No, you’re not the only one thinking these things and struggling to take back your health for reasons like these. These wishes sound so hopeless, but telling your self any of this is NOT going to make things happen for you. Your health should be your number one priority, above anything else you do, and there is no reason you can’t.

No one is born to meal prep or cook specialty meals. Those people who do, though, actively choose to live that life. They don’t wish for things to happen, they make them happen. And if you have been struggling to get past the wishing and daydreaming, start acting.

We’ve all heard it in so many ways: actions speak louder than words. This is true even in achieving your goals. Telling yourself you can’t do it with these petty wishes and “Debbie Downer” thoughts will never will it to life. You set yourself up for failure every time you talk down about yourself, whether it is in the privacy of your mind, your car, or in a rant to a friend.

The only thing standing in the way of achieving your goals is the excuses you allow yourself to believe. At the end of the day, it is all just that. You don’t like salad is an excuse to eat bad instead. You don’t have time is an excuse to get out of 30 minutes at the gym. You can’t meal prep “right” so you stick to your old unhealthy habits.

Make the decision to follow your dreams. Do what you need to do make them a reality. Go the extra mile, put in the time even when you think you can’t, and tell your mind to “shut up” every time it tells you another excuse.

You can’t just wish for it. You have to work for it. And it never gets easier, you just get stronger!

Coping With Our New “Normal”

by: Dianna Yphantides

“Should we get the vaccine or not get the vaccine? Should we wear a mask or is it okay not to wear a mask? Should I plan this trip? Should I see this friend? Should we social distance? Should we push off our birthday parties, weddings, dinner plans, and our lives?” 

Hi, my name is Dianna Yphantides. I am a licensed clinical therapist, and these are only a few of the many questions, fears and complications that I have been hearing from many of my clients over the past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  COVID-19 is a virus which, like it or not, has changed the way every single person on this planet has lived the past year and a half.  This virus has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of people, caused strains on relationships due to different belief systems, and caused extreme deficits on the mental health and wellness of people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and age.

There is not a single person who hasn’t been affected by the roars and decimation of this virus today.  There are countless memes, jokes and jabs at COVID-19 to help keep our world laughing instead of crying.  What I have witnessed in my line of work comes down to 2 things: the fear of the unknown and the difficulty people have been dealing with of not having control of what is happening in our lives.  People have lost the capability to socialize, hug, connect and simply be with people that they love due to fear of this virus.  People have lost the right to feel safe going to places like the grocery store, a restaurant, and the gym, which previously we had taken for granted. 

The isolation of quarantine alone for people has had insurmountable mental health consequences on people.  As human-beings, we are social creatures who crave affection, attention and unity, and the divide this virus has implicated on us all is not something that can be cured overnight.  I have patients who are fully vaccinated who come for in-person sessions with five masks on and I have patients who still have yet to leave their homes since March 2020.  This is not the quality of life that we are used to living.  Children are missing out on extremely imperative socialization and quality learning years and elders are missing opportunities to see their grandchildren grow up, and there is no timeline to tell us when we are going to feel “normal” again– or what normal will even look like after this.

As a therapist, my takeaway from this past year and a half is that it is okay not to be okay.  It is alright to feel lost, fearful, angry, confused and sad sometimes.  This virus is not something that any one of us could have predicted.  Give yourself the privilege and the right to feel your feelings–scream, yell, throw something– do whatever it takes to express yourself, and most important of all, be kind to yourself.  Take a long bath, read a good book, watch a comedy on Netflix, take a walk, meditate.  Do things for yourself which help fill up your cup since the overwhelming nature of this pandemic has most definitely left it depleted.  Remember that it is okay to feel overwhelmed right now.  Do things for yourself; big or small which help you to remember that you are human, you are fallible, and it is acceptable to not be okay in such an uncertain time.

9 Ways I Gain Control of My Anxiety

by: Terry Ternyila

One thing that most people don’t know about me is that I suffer from anxiety. For as far back as I can
remember, I struggled with it daily, and it is still something I must actively fight to control, even as an adult today and parent of adult children.

I struggle with anxiety with new situations, driving to places, going to the doctors or appointments,
meetings at work, and social anxiety for parties and events. When I was younger this would keep me
from attending certain events or parties. I would be riddled with stress for days before going for a
procedure or appointment for something. And I would just dread if I had something to do at work that needed to be presented in a group. Over the years I have learned practices that I have put in place to ease my stress and anxiety in situations.

One of the biggest things that helps me is being organized and planning. Below are some tips that I have developed for myself over the years.

1. Make a list.

I always start out each day with a list of things I have to do for the day or even for the week, reminders for any appointments, calls I need to make, or places I need to go. This helps me prepare for the week, looking at what I have coming so I have what I need to do. The more prepared I feel, the less stressed I am.

2. Tackle the things that stress me out the most first.

If I keep putting it off, the stress grows with each passing hour or day that I don’t do it. It becomes a dark cloud over my head, so I get it off my list first and feel so relieved. Usually its phone calls and scheduling appointments that I stress about most.

3. Save important info to your phone.

Keeping important information available on my phone has become such a life saver; I make lists of medication history, healthy history, or symptoms so they are easy to access at an appointment, and I can also remember what I need to discuss, even track symptoms to see when something started.

Another pro tip: Keep shopping lists on the Alexa app so you don’t have to worry about forgetting it when you stop at the store. Just let her know what needs to go on the list in the moment, then look back while you’re doing your grocery shopping.

4. Be Prepared.

This goes for most everything I do; I think of the situation, whether it’s a work meeting or vacation, then I prepare and organize myself so I can feel confident from the start that I have everything I need – items, information, research…whatever I could possibly need.

5. Arrive early.

This is huge for me. I always give myself plenty of time and leave earlier than I need to. I have found that if I am rushed or nervous about being late, it will fuel that anxiety and it will snowball into something worse. I have plenty of time to find where I have to go and allow for a few wrong turns, and I have time to walk around looking for the office or room, even the bathroom if that’s a concern! Sometimes it gives me a few minutes to collect myself before walking in.

6. Talk it through.

I tend to give things more stress than they deserve, so I have found that I like to think it thru and ask myself “what is the worst thing that can happen?” This usually puts it in perspective in my head. Once you realize that the worst case is really not a big deal and can be easily addressed, you tend to calm down a bit.

7. Admitting your issues to others.

Growing up there was a lot less talking about feeling than today. Now there are so many more discussions and Facebook groups with people going through the same thing. I think we have all realized that what we are feeling is a lot more common than you think. So saying to someone, “Sorry I just have so much anxiety at these things” or “I am just very nervous doing this” helps bond with others that may be feeling the same way or understand what you are feeling at that moment.

8. Don’t borrow stress.

This one sounds a little weird, but I have learned that I would be so worried about getting something right in a situation where it is not my place to make sure it’s right. If I am going somewhere or doing something, and it’s not my job or my place to take care of events, don’t stress about it. If it’s not my job to take care of it, then I don’t need to stress about it for someone else, such as when my husband is planning something and I take on the stress for him.

9. Communicate your needs to your partner.

This may seem like a no brainer, but you don’t realize that we do things and never explain why we do them, so the more my husband or children know about my stress, the more they can assist in making sure I can do what I need to enjoy ourselves.

My husband is not built like me and doesn’t need these things in place, but he respects that I do. He knows both of us will have a much better time if I just have a few things in place to keep me feeling calm. Instead of just telling him I hate to be late, I explain that when I am running late it give me more anxiety, and I can’t calm down or shake the feeling for the rest of the night. Instead of him blowing it off, he understands and makes every effort to make sure I am comfortable.

Everyone is different and these may not help everyone. You need to learn what techniques you can
bring to your every-day that would help you minimize the anxiety in your life. You will enjoy
more and sleep better for sure.

My Weight-loss Journey: Overcoming the Mental Battles

By my senior year of college, I came to realize I had spent the last 3 years putting on the “Freshman 15” with every semester that went by. I no longer owned any jeans that fit, I had to say goodbye to a lot of old clothes, and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt “good.” The year started with my ending a toxic relationship with a bad man who made me feel like I would never be “skinny,” and no one else would want me, but even after realizing I’d rather be alone my whole life than be with him, I still could never shake the thoughts that had been drilled into my head for so long: I was weak, and I would never change. Measuring at 4-foot-11-inches tall, I may have been “big” according to the scale, but at the same time, I felt small and defenseless, which was not the mindset I needed.

I had tried so many fad diets over the years to lose the weight, but it either didn’t work, didn’t stick, or the weight came right back because I didn’t  stay consistent. Either way, I had no idea what I was doing, but one late night as I lay in bed, I thought to myself, “I may be small, but I don’t need to be weak.” For that split second, the thought crossed my mind that I did not need to lose weight. I needed to get stronger, and I could do that if I just tried.

When I woke up the next morning, I went to my mom right away and told her I was going to the gym. Being my biggest supporter, she got dressed and came with me to sign myself up for a membership, and I started to sweat. Unlike any other time I thought “I can do it,” I followed through. I didn’t let the thought pass, I didn’t wait for a Monday, and I didn’t even really have a plan. I just knew I couldn’t give up, or I would be the same as I was yesterday.

From that morning on to the end of the year, I found time every single day to make it to the gym, whether it was a 10-minute workout before class or an hour at the end of the day. Slowly but surely, it became routine. I didn’t give up on that thought, although that is not to say I believed in myself every day. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing in the gym, and of course I did not feel I could belong there when everyone else seemed so confident and fit around me.

On the days my mom came, I felt courageous enough with a buddy to try new equipment and different workouts, and on the days I was alone, I told myself stories on the treadmill of how all these strong people around me started somewhere too, and maybe how they also looked down to their feet once before and could not see them either.

My weightloss journey doesn’t start nor end here, but the fall of 2016 was a monumental moment for me in which I realized I didn’t have to believe everything I thought. In fact, I can choose what I believe, so I chose to believe the good thoughts instead of the bad.

I made it to the gym every day, including Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve by planning ahead, but life changed as I kicked off New Years Day in 2017 with a flight to London for my study abroad program. I was active every day walking all over the city, but I gained back all I had lost so far with my daily pub meals and countless beers. However, when I got back on track in March 2017, I lost it all again and then some, ultimately losing 60 pounds in 365 days. Just like in the beginning, all I needed was that belief that I could do it.

It all comes down to mindset; I learned to believe in myself because no one could do that for me. I asked for help when I knew I needed it, bringing my mom or other friends with me to the gym to keep me going. I wasn’t perfect every day, but I didn’t let 1 bad day define the next, nor would I punish myself if I fell off course.

No matter what, the most important thing is to keep going. When everything seems to be failing or you start to lose hope in yourself, choose to keep going anyway. Don’t give up, because that won’t speed up the process.

Remember: A little progress each day adds up to big results. It doesn’t happen in a day, but with the right mindset, you can and will achieve the results you set out to.

My Story: Veteran Advocate

by: Sammy Skochen

People always assume there must be some sort of sad story regarding a family member or friend as my reasoning for my involvement with veterans, but thankfully it is just a strong passion of mine. Ever since I can remember from a very young age, I was always invested in anything and everything involving the Military. Growing up, my father very much wanted to enlist in the Navy as his father and great uncle did before him. Unfortunately, due to a rule that was implemented after a group of brothers known as the Sullivan Brothers, all died on one ship causing no one else to carry out the family name, my father was denied. This rule prevented my father from enlisting being that he was the last ‘Skochen’ male. So instead of being in the military, he made a life for himself incorporating as much of a military life as he could. As a kid, I always remember having battleships all over the house, watching Band of Brothers every Sunday, Saving Private Ryan every time it came on, watching the History Channel and watching his favorite P-51 mustangs fly over just about every piece of land in Germany and just overall having a high level of appreciation for anyone in uniform. As I got older, I became very intrigued by the “brotherhood” and the psychiatric portion that was always portrayed in movies that not everyone would see or could comprehend. My love and appreciation came out in history classes, writing classes, parades, holidays and just about any other way I could express myself.

Fast forward to my college years when I started my journey to be a registered nurse. I became the class president after starting a permanent donation station for the Menlo Park Veteran’s Home and accomplished many goals for the association. This is when it really all began for my veteran journey and I owe it all to a dear colleague of mine, as well as an Air Force veteran, Sam. Sam was my classmate and saw how much of an interest I had in helping veterans. However, because of the crazy world of social media, I never wanted to put myself out there in fear that someone would misinterpret my intentions for wanting to help veterans. Sadly, people always take a great cause and somehow will make it about them and that was not me. Sam saw my intent for what it really was and therefore introduced me to the Middlesex County College Student Veterans Group and the rest was history. From there I gained a family that I still to this day cherish. The men and women of the MCCSV group, took me in as one of their own to every event, meeting and gathering they had. From there I helped advocate for them in the college, outside events and just as a friend. They gave me the name “veteran advocate” that has followed me to this day.

As my nursing journey continued, and my veteran involvement grew, I came across an organization one day from another friend Mark, who happened to be in the Marines at the time and posted about a “Ruck Run” he had created to raise awareness about veteran suicide. Now, before this post I had never heard of veteran suicide and never knew how severe of problem it was. The organization was named Mission 22, which helped thousands of veterans and families seek the help they needed to get through their struggles. I then contacted Mark to seek out more information which he then put me in contact with the Regional III Leader, Steve who would later become another great friend of mine. Mission 22 became my platform to work off of. It gave me insight to so many more options for our veterans, allowed for me to meet such outstanding people, and gave me a voice even louder than the one I have now. I became an official ambassador once I contacted Mark and soon began my own events, networking and overall advocating.

Along the way, I involved myself in many other organizations such as Vets4Warrior, Mighty Oaks Warrior Program, RVCC Veteran Group, Operation Safe Haven, BCOF, and so many more. I created more events, raised more money, gathered donations and started to see and hear the hardships of our veterans and what really goes on behind closed doors. Being a veteran advocate is more than just a social media post, or attending a fundraiser. Without getting into too much detail, it is a 24/7 commitment. Our veterans are lost, in pain, suffering from mental and physical trauma, are forgotten about or are overlooked, and

have severe trust issues especially toward non-veteran civilians. People often ask me how they can get involved and I will be straight forward and honest and say that it is not something meant for anyone weak minded or not committed. Gaining trust is the number one hurdle. For our veterans, as a civilian wanting to help them sends a message to them with the question, why? Why would a non-veteran want to actually help a veteran when they have no idea what they went through? When most of America only comes around on “holidays” such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day? Which if you ask a veteran, neither of which are holidays only days to remind them of all their friends and family lost.

Being a veteran advocate takes dedication and determination that not many have. It requires strength and a level of understanding that not everyone can be saved…but we must try our best every day. It means that in the middle of the night you might receive a chilling phone call that your friend who was in the air force and cannot get help for his pain, is currently walking around a bridge with a .40 about to “put a bullet in my brain and end it all”. It means listening for hours at events about how a woman lost her husband to suicide after being married for forty years, has 4 kids, and contemplating suicide herself as well as her oldest son.

It means despite the outer appearance, hearing that a dear friend and well-known veteran took his own life after accomplishing so many goals and getting over so many struggles but it was a pandemic that ultimately ruined his life…despite the three little children and dogs he left behind.

It takes a lot as an individual to try and understand veterans with how they think and act. Many love the idea of being there for veterans but only a few can partake in the journey to ending veteran suicide. Sometimes I believe that being a nurse helps me to cope with it all, as we too have to go through at lot when advocating. Our veterans have sacrificed so much and in return receive so little. I do not want a thank you, I do not want to be honored for my involvement, I only want for the “killer 22” to one day decrease worldwide. As times get harder to deal with regarding politics, health and everything else life has to throw at us, I cannot stress enough how important it is to help our veterans. Many were lost this year due to the pandemic and outlets being shut down for veterans to engage in. Even a simple “hey how are you thesedays” can go a long way. Every effort counts here, and it should be our duty as civilians to want to help our men and women that sacrificed it all for us.

Make the Most of the Sunshine

by: Danielle Ternyila

It has been one hell of a year, as most of us were sent to learn and work from home just a year ago, some of you even taking on a new teaching gig subsequently too. For many, it has been the most anxious of times, myself included. Suffice to say, it is time we all get some more light in our lives, and spring is finally here for exactly that!

The transition to work from home and the restrictions for social distancing only sugarcoat the major changes that have unfolded in our lives. We are seeing less friends and family; we are getting out less, perhaps missing days at the gym. Our lives have become more sedentary with more reasons to stay in than go out now, and after months of cold weather, it’s time we start taking advantage of the sunshine.

Being in the sun can really brighten your mood, and there are scientific reasons for it; the sunshine provides us with vitamin D, and exposure to those UVB rays helps the skin produce beta-endorphins, which are known to reduce pain. The sunshine can boost your immune system, promote relaxation and an overall sensation of well-being.

Spending time in the sun can improve your mood, and after a year of this pandemic, I think we could all use a walk outside with some fresh air and sunshine.

Challenge yourself to get outside on our new sunny days! Whether you’re just enjoying your morning coffee in your yard or going for a walk around the block with your furry friend, you’re sure to feel the difference in your mood after you get some more sunshine in your life.

Last May, my mom and I joined our town’s virtual scavenger hunt challenge, which was the inspiration for April’s Challenge in our Fit for a Queen Facebook Empowerment group. For the first time in 2 months after the pandemic had sent us all home, we had an excuse to get outside. We started going on brief 20- or 30-minute walks on our lunch breaks together to find the scavenger hunt item, and we were so thankful for that motivation to get out every day.

That’s not to say we made it every day! There were plenty where we only got down our street and back due to rain or busy schedules, but at least we got out there, and we were able to enjoy the sun! By the time the challenge had ended, it was June, and we couldn’t handle the heat anymore! It’s spring now, and before it starts getting too hot, it is so important to get out and enjoy the sun before it starts to become torture with the summer humidity.

Still be mindful of the dangers of the sun; use protection and lather on that sunscreen when it’s needed, but don’t let that stop you from getting out there! Sunshine in the early morning has the lowest risk of sunburn, so try to start your day with a brisk walk outside. This is a great way to change the mood of your day – start with that free boost of happiness from the sun and a walk that gets your muscles moving, prepared for anything the day will throw at you!

I feel more accomplished and fulfilled on the days I start with a walk, so challenge yourself to give it a try! You may feel tired and groggy, but it will wake you up and start your day on the right foot.

How often are you getting out in the sun every week?