By Jonathan TranPham, reflect founder
Every year on my flight home for the holidays, somewhere above Arizona, I get really excited.
I’m so busy with work and packing the days leading up to Christmas that the flight is usually my first quiet moment to think. And when I do, it hits me all at once. I feel like a kid waiting for Santa. I become giddy with the thought of spending time with family and friends and seeing all the pretty decorations that fill every street, mall, and house in Houston (yep, everything is bigger in Texas!).
Then inevitably about 72 hours later, deep in the haze of shopping and eating with said love ones, I drift into another fantasy: I dream of being Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone, left by myself during the holidays to do whatever I want.
While I love being home, I also dread the holidays a little. The reality is they’re usually no Christmas Vacation. But why? And more importantly, what can we do about it?
By Jonathan TranPham, reflect founder
Earlier in the week, I wrote a post with advice on how to deal with the anxiety caused by this long and tense presidential election. I assumed if we could just make it through, there would be light at the end of this Shawshank-esque tunnel of crap.
Boy, was I wrong. Instead of electing our first female President, America made history in an entirely unexpected way. Our nation got hit by a bus on Tuesday night, a bus that Donald Trump drove all the way to the White House.
Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. Even as I type those words, I can’t muster the strength to say them outloud. Is this real life?
Given our reader demographic and location, I assume most of you were with me in being #withher. And you were probably with me this week in asking yourself these questions:
How did a man whose most notable foreign policy stance was a wall become President?
How did someone endorsed by the KKK and Putin rise to our highest office?
How did a man who’s unapologetically sexist and racist become the Leader of the Free World?
Then it hit me. Amidst my shock, I realized something: I was grieving.
By Jonathan TranPham, reflect founder
I’ll be so happy when this election cycle is finally over on Tuesday. The last year and a half have caused me -- and the country -- major anxiety. Change is always hard, and normal elections usually get heated. But this race feels far from normal.
Research show America is more divided than any time in recent memory. And the differences run largely down party, racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
Maybe it’s because a real chunk of the American population feels left behind by opportunity. Or maybe it’s because perceived threats of terrorism from abroad and at home have caused us to constantly question our safety. It could also be all the hateful rhetoric being spewed making us wonder who we are as a country (and whether we belong). And don’t get me started on the damaging effects of social media or the faux scandal-filled 24 hour news cycle.
Regardless of the cause, this race is high-stakes and uncertain. There’s a lot to worry about.
The Atlantic recently did a great piece about how national-level uncertainty can wreak havoc on individual stress levels. And a lot of people are feeling the heat.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recently found that minority students are “concerned for their safety” by the possibility of a Trump presidency. And therapists across the country are reporting that the misogynistic language being used has been especially traumatizing for women, sometimes even triggering latent verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse memorized. The list goes on.
By just acknowledging how we feel and understanding why we feel this way, we go a long way in starting to manage this stress.
The good news is that we’re less than 48 hours away from the end of this circus (I hope). The anxiety we face should subside a bit too.
In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you survive the 36 hours and get to the other side in one piece. Let's just hope our country does too.
At some point in the last month, you’ve probably felt stressed. You might even be stressed right now. Stress can be triggered by anything from demands we face in our jobs to challenges dating to lack of sleep as a result of a newborn baby.
Many of us who are successful in our careers and personal lives learned early on that being “successful” requires us to push through any stress to challenge ourselves, accomplish more, and win.
We're so used to stress that we've normalized it. This pattern of thinking is bad. Like really bad.
Stress is like that friend from college who is way too much fun. He or she is the life of the party and push us to do things we never imagined we’d do. But if they stay around too long, dishes get broken, your apartment becomes a mess, and eventually, your life is turned upside down.
Continuing to ignore stress ultimately catches up with us. And when it does, it’s not pretty.
It’s time to have an honest conversation about the real impact of stress and how to make lasting changes to effectively manage the stress we face in our busy lives. And this is one topic you can't afford to put off any longer.
By Caroline Jordan, corporate wellness consultant, fitness professional, & Equinox instructor
I love spandex. There, I said it.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of career as a fitness instructor. My journals from high school described, in detail, my vision of becoming the next Jane Fonda. I was inspired by the idea of helping others find joy in movement.
While on my way to what I thought was success, a low point almost caused me to abandon my lifelong passion. Instead, something amazing happened.
I studied dance and fitness in college and taught classes at the gym throughout my time at UC Davis. My workouts were a great way for students to cure hangovers, work out exam jitters, and meet new friends. And my students loved me. My vision was starting to become a reality.
After college, I moved to San Francisco to work in fitness full-time. I was initially worried about how I could “break in.” Luckily, my experience teaching throughout high school and college helped me land jobs fairly quickly. I slowly began to gain a loyal following and felt like I was finally living my dream.
Or so I thought.
By Tracy McGillis, MFT, one of reflect's unique & talented therapists
As a licensed therapist and a former chef, I’m often asked, “What made you decide on those two careers? They seem quite random." While food and therapy appear different at first, they’re actually incredibly interconnected. And understanding why will change how you look at your next meal and every meal thereafter.
Think about the healing power of your grandma’s bowl of chicken noodle soup. Or the satisfaction you feel after hosting the perfect July 4th BBQ for friends. As it turns out, food and emotion are deeply linked. Because our bodies and brains are hard-wired to communicate with each other, food can directly impact how we feel.
What nutritionists and scientists are only now starting to understand is the power food choices and how the cooking process itself can have on mental wellness. It’s not only what you eat that matters, but how you eat as well.
In fact, studies show accessing and preparing healthy foods can actually reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even chronic pain.
Based on years of teaching and cooking, I've uncovered 3 simple principles that will dramatically improve the relationship between food and your mental health.
“Success is never final, and failure is never fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”
With all the medals awarded and the Olympic flame extinguished in Rio, the world’s focus is starting to shift back to real life. For the handful of athletes who rocketed into superstardom like Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky, real life can wait a bit longer.
What about the rest of the 11,544 athletes who participated in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad? Well, if the recent Huffington Post and Atlantic articles are any indication, it doesn’t look good.
In the high-stakes world of competitive sports, success often feels zero-sum. One person’s win is another’s loss. Even a silver medal can seem like disappointment (ask two-time Olympic medalist & superstar figure skater Michelle Kwan, who is still one of the greatest of all time in my opinion).
Many athletes struggle with mental health issues like depression and substance abuse as a result. The exact statistics aren’t well tracked, but high profile competitors such as Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe and British track star Dame Kelly Holmes (both Olympic gold medalists) have recently come out publicly to discuss their personal battles with depression. For those still in the midst of competition, it’s about handling the pressure, and for those who have ended their careers, they toil with what’s next.
By Buddy Macuha, Group Fitness Manager at Equinox & fitness guru
People usually start an exercise program to get physically stronger or to look better. For many, fitness evolves over time to something more: a social activity, a way to de-stress, and even a vital part of daily routine. What begins as a weekly trip to the gym becomes a personal sanctuary to reset and look at life a little differently.
IT’S NOT FITNESS. IT’S LIFE.
I began teaching because I wanted to share my love of movement with others. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve taught everything from step to indoor cycling to yoga. I continue to do it because I see the positive benefit I have in people’s lives through fitness.
Now I serve as Group Fitness Manager and teach classes at Equinox, the premier fitness brand with locations across the world including NYC, SF, LA, and London. Equinox’s motto is It’s Not Fitness. It’s Life. And that couldn’t be more true. Fitness is about more than just a gym -- it’s an approach that improves all aspects of our lives.
When students come to class on a regular basis, they learn to make themselves a priority. With each additional mile ran, hill climbed, or weight lifted, things that seemed impossible become surmountable. Without even knowing it, their minds grow stronger with their bodies.
By Tess Brigham, MFT, one of reflect's unique & talented therapists
“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”
When I was 26 years old, I attended Jennifer Aniston’s 30th birthday party thrown by her then husband, Brad Pitt. For as long as I could remember, I wanted to work in entertainment. This was my dream. I felt like a real Hollywood Insider.
As I would soon realize, Hollywood parties were quite different from my fantasies. Most of my time was spent talking to people who had no interest in engaging in a real conversation. Instead, they preferred to look over their shoulder and see if there was someone “better” to talk to. Needless to say, I left feeling pretty empty and unhappy.
It would've made for a great Hollywood story if I had realized right then that this was not the place for me: an amazing “a ha” moment where the skies would open up, and I would drive off into the sunset toward bigger and better things. Sadly for me, this wasn't The Devil Wears Prada.
My story was much messier.
Have you ever found yourself waiting at a bar with your heart racing in anticipation of a first date? What about those sweaty palms before a big interview or presentation? Then you know first hand that you can experience mental stress in both your mind and your body. They're connected. Your brain serves a signal to your body to indicate that you’re under pressure, or nervous, or maybe even excited.
Understanding this connection helps us better manage our stress and improve how we interact with others.
Helpful tips for managing stress, incorporating mindfulness, and promoting a healthy lifestyle