Leslie Ann Ellingburg Mental Health Uncategorized

Queen Lizzo Soulmate…

by Leslie Ann Ellingburg

As Queen Lizzo sings:

‘Cause I’m my own soulmate (Yeah, yeah)

I know how to love me (Love me)

I know that I’m always gonna hold me down

Yeah, I’m my own soulmate (Yeah, yeah)

No, I’m never lonely (Lonely)

I know I’m a queen but I don’t need no crown

Look up in the mirror like damn she the one

She is on to something here, we are our own soulmates and to be complete we don’t need another person. It’s a hard truth to accept and fully lean into when our society values relationships. It makes sense. If we look at relationships through a sociological and anthropological lens, they serve a function. Relationships build societies, culture, create safety and protection, and serve a purpose of reproduction. Humans are social beings and part of that socialness is that of building relationships–especially those who we want to “settle down” with. 

washroom interior with sink and faucet on cabinet near mirror
Photo by Max Vakhtbovych on

If you’ve been in any form of couples counseling or have heard anything about healthy relationships, it’s important to be your own person and to love yourself. To know who you are outside of your relationship. It kind of reminds me of the infamous RuPaul quote, “If you can’t love yourself how the hell you going to love anyone else?”. There is so much truth and power in her outro. For years I watched Drag Race and was like that’s such a nice sentiment. But it wasn’t until I turned thirty, started to connect to myself, and eventually leaving my marriage, did I learn how to truly love myself. I thought I was loving myself but I wasn’t. 

I thought loving myself was taking care of others–my clients, my family, my husband. Serving them and putting their needs and wants before my own. I was raised with the adage that it’s kind to serve others and to put your husband first. 

I thought loving myself was making myself small and not taking up space. To not be a pain or burden to those around me. When I was in the midst of a gastro flare up I would do all I could to take care of it myself and not ask for help. Even if I was writhing on the floor puking my guts out. I took care of my recovery and even when my eating disorder voice wanted me to relapse and that area was looking very gray, I just kept it all to myself. Not to worry others or make their situations or stress seem less. 

I thought loving myself was making myself presentable for others. Dressing and adorning myself in a way they wanted me to appear. Covering myself and not coloring my hair or doing things that I always wanted. But still treating myself to spa days, manis and pedis, and treating myself to clothes. 

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

But this was pseudo self love. It didn’t do anything for me. Self love is loving who you are–the good, the bad, the alright, the imperfections, the dimples, pimples, your super loud obnoxious gut laugh, and the fact that you crave attention and affection. 

I started putting myself first and doing little things that made me happy–like buying flowers. I got tired of waiting around for someone to buy me flowers. So I started buying them because I LOVE them and they make me smile. Every Sunday after my tennis lessons–another thing I started to do for myself, I bought flowers and made flower arrangements. 

I dyed my hair blue. Something I always wanted to do, but felt like I couldn’t.  I also began getting my hair done more often because it made me feel pretty and confident and I’ve been through hell and I deserve it. I started wearing crop tops and while I always ended up wearing what I wanted, I truly started living up to the fashionista I always wanted to be. 

I stood up for myself. That was the biggest self love act of all. 

Leslie Ann Ellingburg is a trauma informed movement educator based out of Tennessee. She is a certified exercise physiologist through the American College Sports Medicine (ACSM), dance teacher, a certified Yoga Instructor with over 800 hours of teaching, holds Levels 1 & 2 of the Yoga 4 Eating Disorders Mentorship Program, recently completed her trauma informed training through Yoga 4 Trauma, and is beginning to pursue her master’s degree in Public Health/Community Health. Leslie’s passion is that of recovery (eating disorder, exercise addiction, other addictions) and helping individuals reconnect to their bodies in a positive, affirming, and fun way. Her philosophy is based on the Sanskrit words, “shanti” (peace) and “leela” (play)-finding inner peace through the play and practice of Yoga. When she isn’t moving on or off her mat you can find her playing with her furbaby Winston (#dogiwinston), curating the perfect playlist, writing, practicing her photography skills, and making the best coffee a home barista can. 

Andie M. Vasquez Mental Health

Speaking to Children

by Andie Vazquez

I started an article a while back specifically about how your children hear you speak about your body, and I still will discuss that, but I’d like to expand the horizon a little. 

down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

Stop occasionally and listen to how your kids speak to themselves and each other. Children hear much more than you think they do. They hear how you speak about your body, they hear how you speak to the other drivers on the highway, they hear how you speak when you are happy and when you are frustrated. Then they will take all this absorbed speech and begin to themselves use it. This is one reason self degrading speech in small kids is alarming because they didn’t manifest the thoughts on their own, they are repeating thoughts they’ve heard verbalized by adults in their life. 

The more I am around a large number of other people’s kids, I am noticing this more. I know I have a different way of speaking than would be common or normal for most kids. And I’ve heard my words wind their way into the kids’ speech. Most modern 5 year olds are not likely to use the word “lollygagging” but the longer the school year has gone on, the more I’ve heard it. A child the other day told me a friend was antagonizing him, a word he had previously asked me the meaning of when I’d used it.

focused black children with tablet in room
Photo by Marta Wave on

I’ve also noticed beyond my odd lexicon, they’ve even adopted my speech patterns and habits. I make it a point to praise them when they do well. I am constantly spreading words of encouragement to the students. Gradually, the students have begun praising and encouraging one another, and doing it in the same exact manner in which I do it. They have even begun showing one another their work and congratulating each other on how well they are doing. 

In a more solemn tone, when one friend is upset, I’ve seen them go and comfort their friends more rapidly, and mimic the same movements and tones they see me use when I am comforting a hurting friend. They see every movement I make, and I can see in real time how I am unconsciously imparting myself onto them. 

Many adults are more than likely unaware of how they are affecting their children in how they speak. Particularly when they aren’t speaking to the child. But it is very important to remember that children hear and see much much more than we think they do. Children repeat what they hear. So, perhaps you and your partner discuss current politics at the dinner table, your kids will repeat it at school. If your kids hear you and your partner arguing, they will mimic you when they get into an argument with their friends. This isnt always a negative thing, but it can be. 

couple talking while moving in new apartment
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Studies show that children in Elementary school are already showing displeasure in their physical appearance and wish to be more thin. Elementary School. That’s ages 7-11. Preschool teachers have reported children as young as 2-5 developing negative self images. Where are kids that young getting the idea that they are fat and ugly and need to be on diets? Why are such small children so negatively speaking about themselves? They hear it from adults. 

“But I would never tell my child they were fat!!” parents may say. No, I don’t think you do. What I do think is that you probably don’t realize your child hears you speak about yourself. You probably don’t think they notice when you grimace in the mirror. You don’t notice how you talk to yourself in the grocery store about needing to eat healthier because of all that extra weight you’ve put on. They soak in everything. They see your relationship with food, with your body, with your self image. 

How do you react when you are frustrated? I bet your children could tell you. They see that too, and they emulate it. I can see it in the children in the classroom. Do you huff and yell when you are frustrated? Do you give up and say you can’t do it? Kids see how you act when things aren’t going your way, and they see it as a model for their own frustrating situations. 

How you purposely speak to your children is important too. I can tell you exactly which parents make a point to praise their children and compliment them because these are the children that throw praise and compliments around like confetti. I’m glad to say, it’s quite a few of them. Most children I am incontact with are oozing with love and confidence. But the difference is we are very aware of this speech and take care to do it appropriately. It’s the times we aren’t thinking about it that shock us. 

focused students doing homework at home
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Look, I’m not an overflowing well of self confidence. I’ve complained about my tummy pudge. I’ve verbally berated myself for being stupid. I’ve gotten angry at my partner and said mean things I shouldn’t have. None of us are perfect. However, being aware of how much kids recreate their parents behaviour has made me so much more conscious of my own behaviour and speech.

Some of the ways you can help your children in this area is in part the deliberate way you speak to them. When they are really getting on your nerves, how do you respond to them? This will inform them both about your relationship with them and how to respond to others who irritate them. Do you ask them open-ended questions and listen to them answer? This will open the opportunity to discuss big questions and how they view the world. Are you allowing them to engage with the grocery shopping and cooking process? This will help them shape their view of food and health. Do you praise them when they do well or when they do something you ask? This will reinforce positive behaviour and speech. Have you ever sat down with your kids and asked them to tell you a story about their favorite activity and why it’s their favorite? This lets them know their feelings are important and they are valuable. Are you speaking down to them or in a level respectful way? All of these things are things parents can be aware and conscious of when they are speaking directly to their children. All of them will affect how they interact with other people, with you, and how they see themselves. How you are directly speaking to them does make a big difference. How you listen to them is equally as important. 


Want to return to what you love?

Does incontinence, prolapse, or diastasis keep you from doing the things you want to do?

I have the solution.

Drop your info below to learn more about The Fundamental Series!

Thank you for subscribing!

There are however indirect ways in which our kids absorb our speech and behaviours. These happen when our kids see and hear us talk or act, but we aren’t speaking to them. These may be in how they see us interact with other adults and what we talk about with them. What we do when we get into disagreements with our partner or how we speak to our partners on a daily basis. How we speak to ourselves about ourselves. Are you using positive language to talk about yourself? This isn’t just in regards to physical appearance, though it does apply to that. How do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake? Do you say, “Oh, I’m so dumb!”? This shows them when they mess up, they are dumb, becasue you think you are. How do you speak to yourself when you are struggling with a task? This tells children how you persevere and how they should. Children see how we deal with these situations as well and they will internalize them. 

On the most basic level, the manner in which you speak is being imparted to them. Do you talk in a soft airy voice or a loud booming voice? Are you likely to use the word “jazzed” in common conversation? What word do you say when you stub your toe? I promise your kids notice this and interject it into their speech. Your patterns, syntax and vocabulary are all being heard and emulated by your kids. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. As I mentioned above, the kids in my room are learning new and unusual words from me and expanding their vocabulary and that is good. Your child trying to sound like you when you speak is just a way they look up to you. But it has potential to be dangerous so be careful. I’ve also heard kids call each other cruel names that aren’t normal for 4-6 year olds, or scream and belittle each other when they are mad at one another. We give our kids so much more than we realize just by being our normal selves. That is why it is so important to be sure we are giving them something positive.

teacher talking to the class
Photo by Max Fischer on

In summary, your kids are watching you and will internalize your behaviors and adopt them. We, as the adults in children’s lives need to be more aware of what we are modeling for them to absorb. We intend to give them good things to copy, but we don’t always achieve that goal. It’s okay. We can all always do better, no matter who you are, so be aware of yourself. And maybe, like myself, this means we need to learn to love and appreciate ourselves a little bit more to be sure we are teaching our kids to love and appreciate themselves. 

Sign up now for the May cohort!!

Beth Jones Mental Health

Combatting Overwhelm in Teen Athletes

by Beth Jones ATC, LMT, RES

Our teens athletes have more on their plate than just about any previous generation. Youth are specializing in sports at younger and younger ages, which means not only an increase in the number of chronic use injuries and recurring pain, but also in the amount of pressure our teens are under to perform well in their chosen sport.

Gone are the days of multisport participation in school and the three-season athlete. More and more, our teens are competing for spots on both their school and club teams, with pressure from all directions to be great.

In addition to the demands of their sport training, our teens are also having to prove themselves academically. There is a rise for being the well-rounded student-athlete, with high performance being asked for in both the classroom and on the field. Enrolling in AP class beginning their Freshman year is the norm. Applying for Ivy League and Division I programs, with the hope of recruitment to a sports team, as well as acceptance to the college is the goal.


Our teens are rising at dawn for pre-school training, transitioning from after school practice to club practice, grabbing a bite on the run and burning the midnight oil to get their schoolwork done. Add to this other extracurricular activities, such as Youth Group and volunteering, and it’s a wonder many of our teens are still upright!

It isn’t surprising that increasingly teens are struggling with burnout and overwhelm these days. We are asking a lot, and if we think about it, we’re asking our teens to take on much more than many adults would be willing to. As parents, we do our best to support them, but in reality we’re struggling with our own bouts of overwhelm and may not fully understand what our teens are going through in our own attempts to keep it together.

So, what’s to be done? As parents, our number one focus needs to be monitoring how our teen athletes are handling the loads that they are juggling. Are we seeing any signs of burnout or distress? If we do, are we helping them learn how to manage their time and priorities, and advocating for their health by connecting them to counselors, or running interference with overbearing coaches? We have great goals for our kids and will do anything to support their dreams, but just as we would throw ourselves in front of a bus to save them, we have to help them protect their physical and mental health as well.


Burnout affects the athlete in various stages:

  • The athlete is placed in a situation that involves new or varying demands on their physical ability and time management
  • The athlete at some point – usually early on as a young athlete, or later if a more experienced athlete – views the demands as excessive or non-productive
  • The athlete feels as if their performance is being hampered by the demands of participation and the inability to rest and recover
  • The athlete starts experiencing subtle signs and symptoms of physical and mental burnout
  • Burnout takes place and the physical and mental toll on the athlete impacts their lives and performance on and off the field, perhaps even discontinuing sports participation

Signs and symptoms of burnout include:

  • Leveling off or diminished performance or conditioning, including strength and stamina losses, chronic fatigue, and recurring pain & injury.
  • Physiological signs such as having a higher resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Cognitive issues such as difficulty in concentration or diminished work in school, forgetfulness
  • Illnesses as a result of suppressed immune system
  • Emotional issues such as disinterest, moodiness, irritability
  • Low self-esteem, increased anxiety and depression as a result of falling short of sport demands

As parents, it’s important that we’re aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout in our kids. When we notice some of the signs above, we must be their advocates to take action. This means gathering the team around – the coaches, athletic trainer, teachers, counselors, and of course the athlete themselves. This is the time to start assessing the situation and make sure that her training aligns with her future goals. 

This may mean taking yourself out of the dreaming stage and truly listening to what your teen wants. What are their goals? What do they feel like they can handle right now? There’s a good chance that they want to make you and their coaches happy, and they need to be assured that their wants are being heard and the team is working in their best interests now – even if the long-term plan has changed.

If you don’t have a mental health professional or teen coach who works with athletes as a part of your team, this is the time to bring one in. Often our teens just need an outside adult to help them craft a plan and work on shifting their mindset a bit. Letting go is a key for many teens who have that athletic-mindset. Many teen athletes feel a need to be perfect and set the bar much higher than what can be achieved in the current situation. Teen coaches and therapists can help teens start letting go of the unrealistic goals that others have put on them, and begin to adopt new habits and mindset shifts that are manageable and aligned to their goals. Similarly, teens also need to learn to work through and let go of negative emotions that come up when feeling stressed. Once they tap into the root of those emotions, teens can learn to step back and look at them with a neutral eye and better address the underlying triggers. Often, the act of simply letting go of the idea that you are not enough or have to do more, can greatly reduce overwhelm and allow for clearer focus on the things that matter.

The demands on our teens aren’t going away anytime soon, but if we, as parents, begin to notice the signs of overwhelm and burnout when they begin to creep up, those demands become more manageable. There may be tears, there may be hurt feelings (for us), but part of our roles as parents is to protect our teens health – physical and mental. Recognizing the signs of burnout is one of the best forms of protection we can give.

Find out more about Beth and what she does at

Intellectual Health Mental Health Sophia Pollalis

You’re Not a Fraud, You’re Just Experiencing Imposter Syndrome

by Sophia Pollalis ATC, CSCS

If you have a teenager at home, you may be familiar with the term “imposter” from the game Among Us. Among Us is a multiplayer game that can be played across platforms and networks that involves communication, task completion, and deception. In the game, you guess who a crewmate is and who is an imposter, similar to playing the live party game Mafia, before the imposters kill the entire crew. This is where the term “sus” came from, as in “orange is totally sus(pect)” to be the imposter. As an imposter, your job is to be on the down low and blend in without being caught.

Recently, I have been feeling very imposter-like, especially at work. It’s been very quiet (knocks on wood) so I haven’t had a lot of injuries to deal with. Doing my job brings me my sense of worth. In the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve had a handful of minor injuries pop up that I’ve easily dealt with and received praise from parents for helping their kids. I graciously receive their praise but inside I’m telling myself “I’m just doing my job” or “yea, but I did the bare minimum” or “someone else could have done a better job”. As a millennial that works with and enjoys mocking said teenagers, in my brain I’m totally sus.

Imposter syndrome is believing that you aren’t as competent as others think you are or as competent as you should be, usually based on intelligence or achievement. It is completely internal and can affect anyone. It’s not telling yourself that you’d like to get more education, it’s telling yourself you have a master’s degree, why aren’t you performing any better than this. It’s constantly doubting your abilities to complete tasks, even though you’ve been doing the same job for five years. It’s only feeling successful when you achieve external validation and beating yourself up when you don’t meet your own high standards. It’s over preparing, over explaining, and working harder than necessary to cover up your feelings of fraud. It’s “being lucky” or “in the right place at the right time” that contributes to your success. And it’s overwhelming.


Imposter syndrome tends to be a high achiever trait, and approximately 70 percent of all adults will experience it at some point in their life. Perfectionism is a closely related trait, where people feel like they have to be performing at 110% and firing on all cylinders at all times. Sometimes imposter syndrome can be triggered by failure or achievement like getting a promotion. While both men and women experience imposter syndrome, it tends to be more prevalent in women, especially women of color. Society has told women that in order to succeed and be seen, we must be exceptional at all times and show no faults. We must be better than everyone else in order to deserve our position. This is simply not true. Our fears are valid, we are imperfect beings, we are human. We can only do our best with our resources and knowledge we have and learn from our mistakes and reach for our goals.

Last year (2019) was the first time I did an end of year reflection and review. I was amazed at the things I had accomplished and survived through, even though many of the items on my list were small. Unlike previous years when I finished big things like grad school or getting my first big girl job, I was still super proud of myself for having things like, I finished my third half marathon, or I got a dog. Toward the end of 2020, one of the tasks my therapist and I came up with was to start celebrating small victories and accomplishments, even if it was just doing the dishes. High five yourself, do a little happy dance, come up with a reward system that works for you. Sometimes I get so caught up in the future and things I have not yet accomplished that I feel worthless for not starting those tasks yet. It is a vicious cycle of feeling like you’re not enough and wanting to be so much more.


Here are some things you can do to bring yourself out of an imposter period.

·         Staying focused on your own achievements and only compare you to yourself is one way to overcome imposter syndrome. Doing a regular reflection and review can be helpful, whether it’s daily, monthly, or yearly.

·         Share your feelings with a trusted friend. When you don’t share, the feelings gnaw at you. Plus, a friend can help you recognize your abilities.

·         Take smaller bites. Just because you can chew with a full mouth does not mean you’re doing it gracefully or that you could keep doing that meal after meal. Smaller bites make big goals or projects easier to digest and help you recognize the small successes you have achieved.

·         Stop comparing yourself to others. I hear this one constantly and honestly, it’s almost not helpful anymore. I know not to compare to others because everyone has different life goals. What becomes difficult is seeing everyone’s “normal” life on social media and comparing to that. Most of the time, people only post the good and the best things in their life, leaving behind the negative and the average. Limit your time on social media. If you’re having a particularly difficult imposter time, get off of social media entirely





Mary Holtrop

Life Threw Us a Curveball

by Mary Holtrop

A lot of discussions over the past several weeks revolved around 2020; why it was so awful, why we should forget it, and why 2021 is going to be better for us.  Along with this, there are the many questions of “what did you learn in 2020?”, “what did you improve on?”, “what habits fell by the wayside?”  After about three weeks of this, I was getting seriously tired of it all. It’s not that 2020 wasn’t pretty awful, but I felt so conflicted with the 2020 was terrible and 2021 is going to be better.  Watching the news after Christmas, and to clarify, I rarely watch the news, there was a segment about the good that came out of 2020. I thought “finally.” It was truly a beautiful segment showing how many ways we came together to help each other. At the end of this video they talked briefly about the many people who learned to care about others. How people opened their homes to family and strangers, and how neighbors helped rebuild homes after hurricanes in the south and the fires out west. How first responders never ever gave up. How babies were born, pets were adopted and new businesses were started.  How people started new hobbies, found love, went back to school online, and reconnected with lost family members and friends.  It showed how strangers became family, and families spent more time together.  More meals were cooked, cookies were baked, more bikes were ridden and more snow forts were built. It’s hard not to dwell on all the sad and wrong things that happened this past year.  But as I walk my neighborhood and I see signs of humanity and goodness it does warm my heart.

photo of a wooden bookshelf
Photo by Karl Solano on

Maybe I was trying to look for the good because I was so tired of the negative. But here’s the thing, I tend to be a negative person. Not totally negative, but sometimes, I cannot even tolerate myself because I don’t focus on what is good, I focus on what is not. But during this year, with so many people who became so negative, and angry, and never stopped complaining it really started to make me look more at myself because honestly, I didn’t like it. I know some of what they were feeling was real and true but I wanted us to say “we can beat this,” “we are better than this,” “we are stronger than this.”  Talking with a co-worker the other day we were reflecting on our previous director who left in September. I was saying how much I hated our department meetings because there was no leadership. There was no guidance, encouragement to compromise, support for difference of opinions. Several meetings I walked out because I just felt so attacked and drained. My co-worker said “all that time, Mary, I realize you were trying to be positive and hopeful and we were not letting you.” Yes, that is exactly it. I was, and my team lead by our director was bringing me, and everyone else down.  


 When people were asking those end of the year questions I immediately thought I really didn’t accomplish much. I felt like a better person but did I really do anything? But then in church a few days after New Years I did some serious thinking. Yes, I did.  I cut back on caffeine. I didn’t plan to or make it a goal but I did. I took walks 404 times this year, that means every day and some days twice a day.  I participated in a challenge and came in the top 11% in my walking.  I started walking early in the morning which is something I have wanted to do for years.  I gave up chips for Lent which I succeeded at.  I did bake more, went back to church more, started meditating and doing more yoga. I started drinking more water.  I lost my two part time jobs and my finances took a hit and I have way too much time on my hands but my overall outlook got better and for that I feel good. There was so much sadness, grief, anger, frustration, the list goes on, but I tried really hard to see some good in our everyday lives.

I do hope 2021 brings new good things for most of us who have lost jobs, lost family members or friends, who have suffered health issues or financial losses.  But I also want us to remember, when 2020 threw us a major curveball in life we hit back in many ways that were good.  May everyone find peace and joy in 2021 and may we never forget the lessons we learned in 2020.

Mental Health Sophia Pollalis

Saying Yes and No in Codependency

by Sophia Pollalis LAT, ATC, CSCS

This article has been a long time coming. It’s been on my list since I first heard about Cassandra’s dream of Positively Balanced and bringing resources and content to women far and wide. I haven’t created enough space in my soul for it to expand and be shared until now. I’ve started a few times and closed my laptop without saving on PURPOSE because I didn’t feel like I was ready and my writing was garbage. Today, I sit at my keyboard ready to admit a truth to someone more than myself and my closest circle of trusted people.

Hi, my name is Sophia, and I am a recovering codependent. I am one year and three months into recovery and learning new things about myself and my codependency every day.

That felt amazing to type. I said it out loud to myself as affirmation. Codependency is a sincere struggle to me. I have realized how it has controlled much of my life to this point, as well as how it is shaping who I will become and how I will make decisions to get there.

Melody Beattie is one of the most prominent writers on codependency to date, writing her first book “Codependent No More” in 1986, which I have linked below. In this book she defines codependency as “one who lets another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.” This is her definition, but she encourages those exploring codependency to come up with their own definition of how codependency affects them personally. I define codependency as a progressive disorder related to a person’s reactionary behavior toward another person’s behaviors and/or habits. The obsession to control, change, or manipulate the other person’s habits often creates no actual change and results in neutral or negative effects in the codependent’s life.

thoughtful black woman near wildflowers
Photo by Gabby K on

Codependency is multifaceted and definitely can’t be wholly addressed in one article. I’d like to start with a simple aspect that has a big impact on me personally. One of the things I struggle with in my codependency is saying yes and no to different opportunities that present themselves. When someone asks for my help on a project or to move something, I almost always say yes. I mean, there is no filter I just say yes because that is what is expected of me. This has been hard to teach myself to think about the task being asked of me and ask questions like “am I genuinely doing this because I want to? Is there any benefit to me? Is this part of my job? Do I have time? Is this person trying to take advantage of me?” If I can respond positively to questions like these, I say yes to the person. Sometimes it takes me a long time to process my response and it looks like I am stalling, but I’m just doing what’s best for me. This is hardest with people I’m closest with, like my mom. Do you know what it’s like to process a question like “can you stop at the store and grab milk on your way over” just because your mom asked you to? It’s a ridiculous feeling because I am not going to tell my mom no to that. But it IS a good space to practice your filtering questions.

For me, saying no is a different problem entirely. After a lifetime of saying “no” to things because I wanted to meet OTHER PEOPLE’S expectations of what I should be and look like, I have wrestled with myself to do the things I want. I have waited for permission to do things because heaven forbid, I have a mind of my own. I have walked on eggshells around people to not offend with my voice, telling myself “no, it’s better for you to remain uncomfortable than make other people uncomfortable.” And of course, my personal favorite and one I am most guilty of on the daily, “no, this is fine.” I have never sent food back at a restaurant in my life. I know on paper and in conversations in my head that these situations are ridiculous, but when I am actually experiencing them, my brain reverts back to its lizard self and it’s fight or flight ONLY. No rationalization or relating to previous experience, only run.

I write this as we are in the holiday season. The season of giving to others and meeting expectations can be very trying to codependents. I have seen several posts on social media about how COVID-19 is a great excuse to tell people “no” this year. Being more mindful of my actions and words, I know this is not the best thing to do because, well, it’s an excuse. Take time to reflect on your responses as we come into a new year, a new season, and a new perspective of yourself.

In the past year or so of knowledge digging, reading copious amounts of books, therapy, and reflection, I have taken steps forward and steps backward. I have changed my perspective in several relationships and habits. I have worked on putting the focus of my response to what should be easy “yes” and “no” questions on me instead of the other person. It is still a daily effort for me. There are a lot of things I haven’t even addressed yet and haven’t found the courage to do so. If you’re looking for your “thing” today to help you say no, or yes, or complete the task, or get out of a situation, let this be it. 

Mental Health Sophia Pollalis

Losing Control and Regaining it

by Sophia Pollalis ATC, CSCS

This past week has been… one for the books. I have fully transitioned into the next season of sports, which apparently made my brain switch gears from being on top of everything and productive to “how do I do my job again?” The weather has fully changed so my normal running schedule is no longer 9am and 70°, it’s cold enough that I shorten my walk with my dogs and question if I really need to stay on my training schedule for that half marathon that is… let me check my schedule really quick… on Sunday. Where has my time gone? I swear this semester just started, my training schedule just started, the pandemic just started. And somehow, we’ve finished the first week of November. I am exhausted.

kids making noise and disturbing mom working at home
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

I had started two articles prior to this one, well in advance of a previous due date. Which I still missed. They’re still in my drafts. I was rolling on them and the second I looked away, my momentum was completely lost. I’ve had one of them left open on my laptop for at least a week, adding maybe one new sentence or moving a few words around. Up until this morning, I was still determined to finish writing it for this deadline. But then, while in the shower listening to a Brené Brown podcast, I realized that nothing is more important than this exact moment. I have been procrastinating on not tasks, but processing. Processing information, processing emotions, processing my place in space at this time. I have said “I’ll deal with it tomorrow” too much. Tomorrow turns into next week, and next week turns into next season. So, let’s do some processing.

woman wearing face mask
Photo by Anna Shvets on

I am so incredibly grateful that my school made it through the fall season practically unscathed by the coronavirus. We did everything within our control that we could. We had all the practices and played all the games. Many schools in our area were not so lucky. I am also grateful for my close friends and family’s health. They have all been healthy and have continued limiting unnecessary contact and wearing masks. We have been lucky to have had this experience, because as Captain Picard states, “it is possible to make no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life.” For a new normal, life has been very good, yet still seemed well out of my control. When I reflect on the fall season, we did everything we could, and that’s all we could ask for.

Lesson: Control the things you can, let go of everything else.

exercise female fitness foot
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

My race season was cancelled, so I stopped running. I kept telling myself, you can be even better next year if you keep running now, but that wasn’t enough to get me off the couch. I kept saying this over and over, becoming more disappointed in myself. I love running, even though I’m not fast, because it made me feel great and helped relax other aspects of my life. Here I was, not doing the one thing that I knew I needed to get over a hump. One of the local race organizers recognized the need in our community to replace the fall full- and half-marathon schedule and as soon as I saw it, I signed up. I signed up knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get a full training cycle in before the race. I signed up knowing I hadn’t moved my body consistently in almost three months. I signed up saying screw it, you’re getting a half marathon in this year and I don’t care if you walk it. I signed up. And that was it. I started running barely three miles three times a week. I pushed myself to the limits of what I felt I could handle instead of following a training plan. By the time I synced up with my normal training plan, I realized I had been pushing myself harder than I needed to on shorter runs but needed to keep stretching out my long runs. I felt more prepared going into the race. I didn’t complete all my training, I completely forgot about cross training or the extra stretching and yoga I had planned to make this season the best yet; I just ran. For the first time, I trained without headphones. I just ran to process, to be in the moment. And it has been my best season yet.

Lesson: Commit to a minimum percent, and it might carry you through to great success. If nothing else, you started and that matters.

skeleton full of candy
Photo by cottonbro on

By the time this is published, the election will be over. It came right after the half marathon I ran and just as I started my period, a perfect storm of binge eating. My brain said, “you have been working really hard,  you need to replenish those calories you burned” while simultaneously whispering “oh yea and this thing is happening and you find it very stressful and we just can’t deal with stress right now, eat that Halloween candy. All of it.” I’m sure you can picture the rest. I’m not here to debate candy corn, but I ate an entire bag over the course of 2 days. And pretzles. And cheese crackers. By the time I regained control, my mouth was sore from the amount of sugar I had consumed, I felt like garbage, and thought I looked like a garbage bag as well. Thank the Lord my therapist started taking in-person appointments again and ended our session asking about a few things, including binge eating. I was honest, I told her I just ran a half-marathon plus stress plus period, but it was enough of a wake-up call to recognize “hey, you are binge eating. And in case you were wondering, you’re covering this in class this week, so check out that slide!” With a popcorn kernel in my candy rotted teeth.

Lesson: Recognize where you’re having trouble, seek help, and rise up to meet a better path.

These last many months have been “unprecedented” as I keep hearing repeated over and over, weird, trying, wholesome, a gift, a sadness, a frustration; a multitude of things that can be hard to process. There is so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of anything, let alone yourself and your family. Seek serenity. Make changes in what you control and recognize what falls outside of that; let it go. Commit to start. The first step of running a race is putting on your shoes on day one of training. Set yourself up for success with the tiny steps that take you to your goals. And when you are unsure of how to get there, ask a friend, seek a professional, and explore the amazing variety of ways to get there. If you spend three hours exploring and planning ways to achieve your goals or even just WHAT your goals are you have started something in your control. Take that moment when you realize it and RUN.

Cassandra McCoy Mental Health Positively Balanced Conversations

Positively Balanced Conversations: Instant Single Mom

With Cassandra McCoy MAT, ATC, LAT, RYT & Monica P. Quinones M.B.A.

Monica P. Quinones, M.B.A. is an author, speaker, Certified Gallup® Coach, Realtor® and founder of Poised Success.  Poised Success is a consultancy that empowers and transforms women entrepreneurs and leaders in the areas of lifestyle, entrepreneurship, leadership, and real estate. Monica seeks to build people by sharing words of encouragement.  It is no surprise that she has taken the time to share her trauma to bring hope to others. Monica lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Conversation notes:

2:00 About Monica’s story and WHY she wrote her book

5:30 The real raw conversation we have with ourselves through the grieving process

7:30 The process of overcoming struggles and unforeseen circumstances (such as COVID19)

8:24 The beginnings of something new and your future story

Mary Holtrop Mental Health Occupational Health


by Mary Holtrop

At my employment we returned to work in mid-May. I remained on site due to the nature of my job and the fact that we had building projects happening while we were closed and I oversaw these projects. The Director and the rest of the Department heads and some staff returned to work at least part time in mid-May. While we were preparing to re-open our building to the public in a Phase in process it was clear there was tension, differences of opinions, and strong feedback on what we should and should not do. Emotions were high. Employees were tense, uptight and stressed out. To be honest, part of me was a little confused by these feelings since these employees have been working from home, part time, since March. And where as I didn’t mind coming in I have to admit I was slightly confused by their comments of needing a break, wanting a vacation, need to take time off and other comments similar to this. Part of me was thinking “Didn’t you just have that?” But I tried to put these negative thoughts behind me.

Since mid-May we have opened our building and so far things are going pretty well. Outside of a few reminders and clarifications about our safety guidelines, most people are happy we are open and happy to be out and about. And I am genially glad about this. But I wonder about the 2 months of disagreements, people snapping at each other, and what I perceived as me often being the lone logical manager in the building. I believed while working through the details as a group we often overthought issues. We didn’t plan well. Too much was left for the last minute. And our leader was not leading us. I didn’t feel supported. In fact, I felt just the opposite. In heated discussions often the votes would be 6-1 with me being the 1. I felt some of our conversations almost verged on paranoid. I kept asking “if we are this concerned, why are we opening.” This has left me, the one who I felt at least had their priorities straight, now feeling very emotional and stressed out. The rest of the managers are all very happy. But they truly put me through the winger. There was no real right or wrong on what we were discussing. Mostly it was about safety measures. I kept saying “we can do everything we possibly can, but if we open our doors, the COVID is going to get in some way somehow.

I read a blog our director posted last week and I was surprised because my perception of how she lead us is completely different from hers. She talked about how she guided us with self-care activities; how she was anxious to open our building; how we are all doing much better now that we are open; how she gave her best of everything to her
staff and to her job, and how she helped us during the times of differences of opinions, disagreements and confusion.
I guess I just didn’t see what she saw and I didn’t experience what she said she did to help us. And again there is no real right or wrong here but I can say that I didn’t feel supported or guided. I didn’t feel she lead us with care and concern. I felt the situation was toxic with managers often being rude and disrespectful and sometimes snapping at each other. I am sure if we come together a few months down the road to discuss this our different perception of the last few months will be apparent. But this I do know, their behavior, her lack of response to what was happening impacted me.


I sought out support through EAP which I can’t say is really helping me. I am using my own tools to try and stay mentally strong and healthy. But I am not sure I can ever feel contentment, happiness or joy at work again. I feel I cannot trust them to handle a crises and to come together as a team to address the needs of our staff and our building. Part
of me wants to discuss this with our leader and part of me tells me to let it go. Will my feedback open her eyes? Will she learn from this? Or is this me needing to accept the things I cannot change.

Cassandra McCoy Jessica Wilkerson Keli Kirwin Mental Health

Identity as a Mom: Finding Your Flow

Video by Jessica Wilkerson CPT, PN1; Keli Kirwin PICD; & Cassandra McCoy MS, ATC, LAT, RYT

In this Conversation, Cassandra McCoy chats with Jessica Wilkerson CPT, PN1 and Keli Kirwin PICD about the journey of finding your identity and flow as a mother. Each of our identities and “flows” are unique to us. Also, as we discuss in this conversation, it evolves over time. Join in the conversation below by telling us how your identity and flow has changed of challenged you over the past few months!