Christmas: Then and Now

Let me set the tone right off the bat here: this post has absolutely nothing to do with Covid because I would like to keep Christmas untouched by it on this blog even though in reality, Covid has invaded Christmas’ personal space entirely. Instead, this post has everything to do with holiday norms and traditions when we were youngins versus the adult versions now because I have come to learn over the years that it slowly drifts away from what it used to be without even realizing it. This isn’t to say it is totally a bad thing…it’s just different. Most of you can probably relate to some of these things I’m about to share, but if not, think about your then versus now. I hope this brings you some laughter and a solid five minutes without thinking about the disease that shall not be named.


Making Christmas Cookies

Then:

Back in the good old days of Barbies and cartwheels; my mom, Christopher, and I dedicated one night to turn the kitchen into a mess of dough, flour, and sprinkles. My mom would make the dough, while my brother and I suited up in our aprons with our mini rolling pins and cookie cutters at the counter ready to fill the special Christmas cookie jar with cookies from our family’s secret sugar cookie recipe. While Christopher was pretty tidy and good at his job, I on the other hand, got flour everywhere it shouldn’t be, ate probably way too much dough, made blue trees, yellow mistletoes, and angels that were too thin and burned alive in the oven. I loved the quality time with my mom and my brother and was so proud of my ugly looking cookies. I protected them so no one else could eat them but me. The best part about it back then, was that my definition of making cookies was doing nothing except the decorating.

Now:

I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make cookies this year because I realized the ingredients, sprinkles, and cookie cutters still lived at my parent’s house and I would actually have to make the dough myself rather than have it magically appear before me like it used to. I convinced myself to follow through with my mission and made it happen by roping Jeff into helping me, and going grocery shopping at Casa de Casey for the ingredients-where everything is free. While pulling the cookies out of the oven definitely was a lot more anti climactic and less magical than it used to be, it was still a lot of fun sharing one of my favorite childhood experiences with Jeff, and proving to myself that I can make something edible. As much as I hate to say it, the dazzle of this experience has dimmed since I’ve gotten older, and I now make my Christmas trees green rather than blue which is the true indicator that I have reached adulthood.

Christmas Eve

Then:

As a kid I loved Christmas Eve, and honestly, probably more than Christmas. The anticipation of all that was to come was one of the best feelings. I was giddy knowing Santa was coming that night, imagining waking up to all the amazing gifts I would get, seeing half eaten carrots as proof that Rudolph was actually in my house, and knowing we were leaving for Kentucky to see all my family- it made me too excited to sleep. Because of that, I would make myself stay up super late (11 was midnight to me back then), and I would try to catch Santa in the act by sneaking around the house without my parents seeing me, which I never found out if they knew I did that or not. The naivety of it all back then made being a kid so much fun. My biggest concerns were if I would get all the gymnastics equipment or sparkly new leotards that I wanted. Somewhere along the way, the grinch must have bitten me or something because that giddy feeling of anticipation slowly started to fade.

Now:

Now that I am officially an adult, I gotta say, I am a little confused on how everything is supposed to play out. There is no Santa rulebook that declares what age or stage of life you should stop correcting your kids that Santa got it and not the parents when they call it out. It definitely will have a different feel this year since Christmas Break isn’t a thing in the work world, and I won’t be with the Sparrow side of the family because of it. I feel everything from my childhood is starting to become permanently a memory rather than a reality as deep and sad as that sounds. I mean, I definitely could lay out the carrots at my apartment, but I am pretty sure they won’t eat themselves now that I know Rudolph never did make it into my house. I could stay up late trying to watch for Santa out my window, but the only thing I would find is the sunrise the next morning and no Santa. I could lay my shoes out by the front door for Saint Nick to fill up but I’d still have a chocolate-less empty shoe, but rather, a full reminder to work out. You get it, at some point, special days that we had as kids become regular days as an adult, and for that, I whole heartedly wish I could zap myself into Little Lauren again who was excited over half eaten carrots. But hey, at least I still have the Disney Princess tree to blast me to the past.

The Christmas List:

Then

Oh the joy of the Toys R Us , GK, and Target catalogs. I would spend so much time flipping through the pages with a pen and circling everything I wanted as well as putting a bunch of stars around what I REALLY wanted. My list back then was filled with anything and everything from American Girl, gadgets I’d see in commercials between my episodes of “Spongebob,” or crafts which ended up on the shelf (and still are there). It later turned into gymnastics equipment to fulfill my dream of a home gym, and ITunes gift cards for the days I used to spend hours downloading songs to my brand new Ipod nano. Clothes were no where to be found on my list unless they had “gymnast” on it. I hated getting clothes back then, specifically “church clothes” that I had to pose with every time I opened them, or anything fancy that was farthest away from a leotard. I didn’t care how expensive or ridiculous my asks were, even the 9 ft tall uneven bar set that I figured we’d just put it in the basement with an 8 ft tall ceiling and call it good.

Now:

Now that I am paying for my rent, groceries, car, gas, and all the other things I wish I didn’t have to pay for; my list has changed. If it was socially acceptable to put my grocery list, a few months of car payments, or a month of rent on my Christmas List, I would, and I am not kidding. I’d be overjoyed if I unwrapped a brand new bottle of laundry detergent and toilet paper, or pulled out of my stocking a giant roll of trash bags or shampoo, because that stuff is expensive! I’ve reached the age where clothes are the most exciting thing on my list, followed by kitchen cookware, bed sheets, replacements for things that broke, and car mats. Since starting my job and living on my own, I have learned that every dollar truly counts, and I now see holidays as chances to get what I want rather than need because my salary goes to all the things I need rather than want…except at Target. I miss the days where I was too embarrassed to unwrap a bra, fancy underwear, or pull razors out of my stocking in front of my family and they’d all go “ohhhhh Lauren what’s that for?” as my face turned the color of Rudolph’s nose.

Christmas Dinner

Then:

One of my favorite things about Christmas was all the good food I got to scoop onto my plate that my Gram made and ultimately did not eat because my eyes were bigger than my stomach. Back then; I didn’t know what food allergies were or that I had them, calories were not in my vocabulary, and Instagram was not a thing which meant diet culture was not all up in my face 24/7. Christmas dinner at Gram’s is quite a sight to see for all those who aren’t accustomed to it – it is like Thanksgiving on steroids. This was the one time a year I got to eat all my favorite southern dishes such as broccoli casserole, Gram’s homemade mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, banana croquettes, “cranberry fluff”, pineapple pretzel salad, her fluffy mashed potatoes with a pool of butter, cornbread dressing, and of course there was turkey and country ham but I didn’t like those because they weren’t carbs. If you thought that was a lot, dessert was so overwhelming and I never knew where to start! Rum cake, chess pie, Japanese fruit pie, carrot cake, peanut butter fudge, Gram’s christmas cookies, chocolate cherries, white chocolate pretzels, five versions of cookies and donuts from the famous Burkes Bakery, and boiled custard all made an appearance. I miss the days where I ate everything I wanted, and as much as I wanted, with no worries at all about how I’d feel, both physically and emotionally the next day. I also miss the days of getting my own gingerbread man to bite the head off of.

Now:

Everything I have listed above has not changed. The Christmas dinner table still is full from edge to edge with all my favorites, but now, my body has decided to reject dairy which eliminates all my favorites except the country ham and turkey which I never touched back then. That right there is karma. On top of that, it’s hard to ignore all the social media posts about new years resolution weight loss, calories in your Christmas dinner meal, making healthier versions of everything, and all the other hooey that Instagram and Facebook nail into our minds. It causes us to look at things subjectively rather than objectively- one meal will not make you gain 10 lbs like we all think, people! Yeah, it’s important to watch how much you eat in a meal, but more for the reason of not upchucking while opening gifts after dinner, not because calories are the devil. It’s been a battle the past couple years learning to enjoy the moment and not stress over food due to calorie counting and my dairy dilemma, but I have gotten used to my new “now” and have found other ways to enjoy myself like wearing questionable sweaters. I definitely will miss even the sight of the Christmas table spread this year since I will be stuck in MN, but I know my mom will snapchat me some broccoli casserole- same thing, right?…

Christopher and Lauren’s Button Factory

Then:

For those of you who have not seen or received buttons over the years, they are a grid pretzel with a melted Hershey Hug topped with a holiday M&M. They really should come with a warning label because they are highly addictive. Back in the day, my parents would take one night a year to get Christopher and I all set up to make buttons so they could escape and go on a Christmas shopping sprint since we kept them too busy on weekends with all day gymnastics meets, basketball tournaments, and math help for those dang word problems about marbles or oranges that made me cry. Christopher and I would make these for hours on hours straight, and never got tired of it. He was head chef, aka, was in charge of handling all things in the oven, and I was his sidekick. We cranked up the Christmas tunes and the hours flew by as I unwrapped hundreds of hershey hugs while standing on my step stool so I could reach the counter. I have always looked up to my brother, and I loved this time with him because I thought he was so cool for knowing how to use the oven. We would give our finished products to all our extended family, friends, and of course, fill our Christmas treat bowl with them so I could eat them before dinner when my mom wasn’t looking.

Now:

The button factory unfortunately lost a partner once we got to the age where we were old enough to be without a babysitter or needed to stay entertained while there was no parental supervision. Instead, I have kept the tradition running all by myself and still have loyal consumers. I gave them to all my friends, and sorority sisters in college, as well as professors and staff at Gustavus because the way to a person’s heart is always chocolate. This year, I made them in my apartment for my family, friends, and Jeff to get him addicted, too. It was nice to have a sliver of normalcy even though everything around me is different, including the fact that this was the first year I made them anywhere other than my childhood home, and burned myself on a different oven than the one I’m used to burning myself on once I got to the age where I could reach it without a step stool. While I still enjoy making them every year, and still probably will for as long as my fingers are able to unwrap that finicky foil, I miss the days where my brother was right there beside me yelling at me to not go near the oven.

Gift Giving

Then:

I think it is pretty obvious that as an elementary school kid, I did not have an income except for the cash I’d get in my holiday cards or the penny I’d find in the Target parking lot. With that, my definition of gift giving was picking out something my mom bought to put my name on and say I got it for them. Half the time, I didn’t even know what I was giving people and was just as surprised as they were when they opened it. Christmas was about receiving and not giving….the closest I ever got to giving a gift was wrapping (badly) to help out. As much as I don’t like admitting it, I bypassed the true meaning of Christmas, and as they say on “The Bachelor”: I was in it for all the wrong reasons- being getting as many presents as possible.

Now:

There’s this thing in psychology called buyers remorse: buying something and once the act is done, instantly regretting it. I experience this every time I get anything for myself, but never when I get something for others. This is not a good thing for my bank account, and I have realized that this year more than ever now that I pay for my own things to help me survive. Even knowing that I was on a budget and didn’t have to go all out for my family, I still chose to buy the perfect gifts rather than make sure I had enough money for groceries this month (whoops). It’s hard to refrain from buying more or nicer things for the people in my life who have already given me so much. I’m now at the point where I would rather give than receive anything at all (unless it’s my groceries, you can buy me toothpaste any time you’d like) because watching the look on my friend’s and family’s face as they receive the gift they didn’t know they needed or wanted is enough satisfaction for me, such as, much needed fashion upgrades, or pjs with my face all over them. Eventually, the goal is that my whole family and friends will be hit with Lauren face socks.

MinneSNOWta

Then:

This isn’t exactly Christmas related, but society has seemed to pair Christmas with snowmen and snowflakes. When I was little, I was a snow bunny. I was out there for hours sledding and launching myself off homemade sketchy and totally unsafe ramps with the neighborhood crew, making elaborate connecting igloo forts, and fancy snow KY wildcats and MN gophers. I’d bring my snowpants to school everyday because our elementary school had a giant hill that we could sled down at recess or body slide down the one part of pure ice. I didn’t care how frostbitten I got (except for the one time my mom found a scream crying Lauren at the back door in the dark because I could’t get my glove back on and my hand was traumatized). As nerdy as it may be, shoveling snow was one of my favorite things to do, and after I got done with our driveway with my mini shovel, I would go do the neighbors’ just for the heck of it. Maybe the key to getting kids to do chores is to make all things miniature, because it would not have been as fun for me if I had to use something other than a “Lauren sized” shovel. By the end of 4+ hours outside; my hair would have icicles on it, my snowpants would be soaked, and every part of my body would be frozen, but it was all worth the hot chocolate with mini marshmallows (See? Mini is better!).

Now:

I now have turned into one of those people that takes in the first snowfall from the comfort of the great indoors; warm cup of coffee in hand, the fireplace going (I don’t have one so I pretend my candle makes up for it), and all the other cozy vibe things that millennials do. I can safely say I have outgrown my purple overall snowpants, and my answer to Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” is a big no. It makes no sense as to why I love Minnesota and don’t want to move anywhere else because I hate being cold. The last time I went sledding was at Gustavus my freshman year on a cafeteria tray down the hill of Old Main. I must admit, I liked the rush I got from trying to dodge the concrete benches on the way down, and it was the same rush I got when I was trying to dodge trees when I was little. While I can definitely live without skiing, tubing and sledding- the one thing that I will sacrifice my warmth for is ice skating, and hopefully Lake Harriet and Centennial freeze over soon!

The Drive

 Then:

This one has always been a love hate relationship. Every year we have made the 13-15 hour (the hours got shorter because we got better at getting our bladders on the same schedule as we got older) trek down south, which is always an adventure in itself. Over the years, we have gotten stuck overnight on the interstate, found out what “homeless week” was for colleges leading to all hotels being booked all the way to MN, I got into the wrong van at the rest stop, have gotten stuck in Chicago traffic, caught stomach flu mid trip, and put Gracie in a beach bag with a bunch of other stuffed animals to sneak her into hotels. The part I enjoyed about the drive years ago was getting to do all the things I never got to do which was text my friends and current crush all day long on my new flip phone, watch movies on my portable DVD player, and pick out my favorite snacks at our favorite gas stations (Yes, we did have our staple gas stations. No, they were not Casey’s). What I disliked about it back then was being stuck with my family for a day – sorry, guys, your talk radio and adult conversations annoyed me – and the fact that I couldn’t do cartwheels whenever I wanted because I was strapped to a seat for longer than my legs wanted to be.

Now:

Everything has seemed to flip. I now love being stuck with my family for a day because that rarely ever happens anymore, and it’s like one giant catch up session that usually leads to a vent sesh, love life gossip, life advice, or reminiscing on the good old days. I love getting to sit there with my butt glued to the seat and do absolutely nothing until my legs go numb rather than feel the need to go do something because nowadays, my body and brain never get to rest as I am on the go all the time. It’s the perfect excuse to have 0 responsibilities (especially since I have never been asked to drive since I got my license 6 years ago…should I be offended?) It actually makes me sad that I won’t be able to go with the rest of my family this year because I like the quality time with them and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is real. On the bright side: Gracie will finally get a seat to put her doggie car seat in this year rather than putting her dog bed in the middle of the seats on a cardboard box!

Christmas with the Caseys

Then:

With half my family in the north, and half in the south, we alternate years for where we will be on Christmas Eve. But before we head on down to Kentucky, we always have a Casey get together. Being the youngest cousin, it always took me a solid hour to “warm up” and get the nerve to go interact with the older cousins, or honestly anyone, without my brother or mom being there to hide behind them. Once I finally did come out of my shell, I’d show them all my new gymnastics tricks (in full Christmas attire, not sure how I made that work). Casey celebrations were my favorite to go to because they never failed to make me laugh, especially during the Yankee Swap. For those who don’t know what a Yankee Swap is; there is a gift bank and each person takes turns trying to roll dice to get doubles. Once you get doubles, you can either pick a gift from the bank, or steal someone else’s. One of the perks from being the youngest, was that no one wanted to steal from me since there seemed to be an unwritten rule that it was illegal to steal from “cute little Lauren.” During this madness, you best believe there was full on family roasting going on, bartering, sarcastic comments, and weird gifts that began to appear in Yankee Swaps years to follow such as the magic head scratcher. While I did not say much during the entire night, I did occasionally like to drop my one liners that made the whole room burst out laughing.

Now:

Thankfully I’ve gotten past the stage of being too shy to say hi to anyone without my mom’s help. Since the days of tumbling in my Christmas dress; more Caseys have been added to the family, all cousins are out of college, and significant others have joined the madness making for an even more eventful Yankee Swap that still lives on. I now get my own stupidly practical gifts to contribute to the pile instead of piggy backing off my parents and ending up with our gift because I liked it for myself. Other than that, things haven’t really changed and when it comes to Caseys, and I’m not sure if it ever will which is comforting in a weird way. Dylan and Sam still sarcastically show their appreciation for the hand soaps they got but don’t want, Uncle Chip still tries to persuade everyone to take the fuzzy socks, and the unwritten rule of “don’t steal from little Lauren” is still alive. I’m excited to bring Jeff to his first Casey yankee swap because the 80th birthday party that included unnecessarily competitive croquet was just a warm up.

Christmas in the South

Then:

As long as I can remember, I have always had a green Christmas. Being in Danville, Kentucky for Christmas was always a non-negotiable no matter what was going on during the year, how much homework I had, if I was sick (one year the stomach flu led to upchucking on the curb at a McDonalds in the rain), or if I had a gymnastics meet coming up and missed a chunk of practices. This was the one time a year where schedules always lined up for everyone since the kiddos of the family were all on break. It was one of my favorite times of the year because I got to see all my family that I rarely see, sit on Grandad’s lap in his favorite chair while he read the paper, scooter or run around the Centre College campus, help Gram make “Big Breakfast” (by help I mean supervise), eat the best donuts in the world from Burke’s Bakery, play home run derby in the yard with my dad an brother only to lose the ball over the fence because the neighbors had a scary dog, wear my new matching “something” with my cousin Fielden, and drive the electric red toy jeep around the cul de sac with a cousin riding shot gun. This is how it went every single year until the whole getting older thing happened.

Now:

I told myself back then that I probably wouldn’t have to worry about things changing until I was “old and 20 something.” Well, that time that I never thought would come, has came, and my seven year old self would now consider me an old lady. This year, I won’t be going to Kentucky because I have this new addition to my life called a job, and unfortunately life insurance does not have a Christmas Break. But even then; things have, and are, still changing around me and will continue to as Grandad has been gone for several years now, family has moved, and my “little cousin” as I’d always say is in college which makes me feel like the old lady my seven year old self believes I am. I also now have someone to kiss at New Years instead of Gracie! This adds to the mix having more than my family to gladly share the holidays with which changes the who, what, and where to celebrate every year. As time goes on, work will probably continue to get even busier, and schedules aligning like they did when we were kids will become even less common. I’ve accepted that it just comes with adulthood as our lives become less intertwined.


Psychology says: we are less stressed, and we succeed, when we anticipate change rather than trying to keep everything the same. This has held true this year more than ever because of you know what, but also the fact that a lot of us are just experiencing normal life changes! As a kid, there was no way I could anticipate the fact I’d start to date some dude from a town I’d never heard of in my life in the middle of a pandemic, or that I would be an IT consultant rather than a sport psychologist and D1 college gymnastics coach like I thought I would be. I find it so weird how things can change right before our eyes and we don’t even realize it until hindsight. My dad told me a few years ago that circumstances would change once jobs and significant others entered the picture, and that it is OK that things will change, and still is OK that not everything works out like it used to. Hearing that has made the transition from childhood to adulthood a lot easier and less stressful with less feelings of guilt. The one thing I am still trying to cope with? The ugly after effects of believing that my dairy issues have magically gone away for a day and fully participating in a dairy loaded Christmas dinner despite the fact that I know that’s probably not the case!

Happy Christmas, y’all, and I sincerely wish everyone in the entire world a happy NEW year! May 2021 bring you more time with friends, family, maskless trips to public places, ample toilet paper supply, less Terrible Tuesdays, fulfilled resolutions, happy hours with coworkers, and whatever the heck normal is supposed to be now!

~Lauren

15 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier

Here is a question for you: how many fixable things are you “putting up with” on the daily that could be easily taken away? There are tiny sources of stress everywhere that seem so small and we endure them everyday, but even the tiniest source of stress like that one picture on the wall that never seems to hang straight is valid. A lot of our stressors and anxieties as we get older come from losing sight to how simple some things in life should be. I know personally I increase my stress by going about things all wrong and not believing that some things truly are THAT simple! While all of these tips may not apply to you- think creatively to see how they could, or pick and choose the ones you want to try to make your life less like one big terrible Tuesday.


1. Write your own rules and boundaries

Usually when hearing the importance of creating boundaries, it has nothing to do with creating boundaries with yourself. This is a simple way to make your life a lot easier on your mental and physical health. We are great at setting rules for others, and rules being set for us, but the concept of writing a rule for yourself and actually following it is a foreign concept to most. Additionally, a lot of people forget that rules include what you will do instead of all the things you won’t do. I created a rule for myself that I won’t log onto my work computer after I have shut the lid at 5 that day. Instead, I will use that time for myself to do something I enjoy (not that staring at a computer screen for 8 hours straight isn’t exhilarating enough.) Before this rule I’d find myself scrolling through my work emails while watching a movie before bed, which in turn ramped up my stress all over again when I should have been winding down for the day. Here’s a few more examples:

  • I will not do housework while dinner is in the oven- but instead- give myself that time for self-care.
  • I will watch one episode of a show on Netflix without any distractions- no phone or scrolling through Insta.
  • I will do a workout while the clothes are in the wash and will not waste an hour of my day with my butt glued to the couch more.
  • If it takes less than 2 minutes to do something, I will do it instead of procrastinate (another one I live by).
  • I will pack my gym bag the night before and put it in my car.
  • While my kid is napping I will take that time to relax, too.
  • I will use this one hour before *insert least favorite college class* to take a mental break instead of do more homework.
  • I will invest $100 of the leftover money from my paycheck into a Roth IRA account every month instead of blow it all in the Target dollar isle (it is a black hole in there, folks).

Declaring something to be a rule takes away the indecision from choosing what you should do and what you want to do. Our brains are wired to make it harder for us to follow rules we make for ourselves because evolutionarily, following rules set by others increases our chance of them liking us more and therefore they will not kill us (the brain is still very primal as you can see). So, make the decision once, and practice living by it. Having a hard time thinking of one? Look at how you are spending your time, energy, and money- what boundaries do you want to put in place in order to increase better habits and health? Find areas of your life where you feel those pangs of guilt and indecision, and choose what you could change to rid yourself of that unnecessary stressor. Remember, personal rules aren’t selfish!

2. Simplify Mealtime

Meal time should be enjoyable; a time to rest and digest, but our inability to simplify this process does the exact opposite of that as the innocent “what do you want to eat?” conversation turns into an actual argument for more people than it should. Psychology says that having too many choices can actually lead to a lot of distress, and humans thrive when they are given up to three choices. If mealtime is a source of stress for you or your family, this one is important because it is a waste of brainpower and time (it takes my family 15 minutes before my dad makes the executive decision since my mom and I will say we don’t care yet turn down everything he picks). A few ways to simplify could be looking into one of those meal kit subscriptions, meal plan every Sunday and write it on one of those Pinterest-esque chalkboards, or meal delivery services. Can’t decide what you want? Write meals on popsicle sticks and pull a random one, make meals according to what will go bad first in the fridge (no wasted money either!), or designate a theme for each day of the week. The key here, is to let something else decide for you so you don’t have to put your brain power towards deciding something not important. Who knows, maybe that energy you’ll save from trying to decide pancakes or waffles will be used to find the cure for covid!

3. Practice “Pause”

This is one super easy tip to do…but not so easy tip to remember to do. There are countless times in life where we should take a “pause,” but don’t, because society is so used to instant gratification. Taking these pauses saves potential time, money, and energy. I have learned to “press pause” before I make a purchase, decide what to eat, say yes to an invite, etc. In a world of online shopping, social media, and everything at the reach of our fingers, it is so easy to be impulsive which could lead to instant regret. The few seconds I take before I do something has saved me from wasting my money on something stupid, using too much of my energy and going out with friends when I should’ve stayed home, and living with little pangs of regret that add up to eat at you after a while! These pauses lead to a more intentional lifestyle and creates a habit of making a quick pros and cons list in your head. It teaches you to focus on values and priorities, and if what you are about to do aligns with your goals and intentions.

Another kind of pause is to literally take a break. This may sound weird, but I LOVE to sit in my car after I have parked. I could sit there for hours. It feels like I am in a bubble where the rest of the world can’t touch me for a few moments and the silence is loudest in there. Another great pause place is the bathroom, I mean honestly, it is one of the few places where someone can’t try to hurry you up without making a very awkward situation. There is nothing wrong with sitting there for a few more moments, washing your hands longer (you should be with covid anyways), touching up your makeup, or using it as a safe haven like I did when I was little because it was the only room that had a lock on it when my brother liked to chase after me. A bathroom is the epitome of self care ( I will let your mind take you where it wants with that), why not add a mental/emotional break to the list of all the things a bathroom can accomplish? Taking these short pauses allows you to feel more in control of your life rather than your life controlling you.

4. Go to Bed Early (at least) Once a Week

I don’t know if you know this, but life is better when you aren’t tired. It is amazing what happens when you are well rested: remembering driving to work rather than your zombie auto pilot self somehow making it there, not having eyelids that weigh 100 lbs while sitting at your desk after lunch, being able to have a solid workout, actually enjoying time with your significant other because you are mentally there, and being productive! Not only does sleep help you this way, but it also improves physiological processes in your body. Your hunger hormones level out which lead to not consuming all and any carbs in sight because your brain is looking for an energy source to keep you going (sugar and carbs are the quickest way for your brain to get energy, hence, cravings when you’re tired). Your cortisol levels start to balance because being rested is less of a stress on your brain and body. Your mood heightens because you have the energy to do let it. Not only is an earlier bed time good for you, but also everyone around you that has to put up with you everyday! On whatever day you designate this to be- make it happen and make it a priority. If making dinner or cleaning up prevents you from that early bedtime, allow yourself to leave it until the next day or order takeout. This can be a hard task for those with night shifts, kids, etc…just try your best!

5. Audit Yourself

The key to making your life easier is to see if your financial records conform to the law.

Just kidding, sorry to any accountants out there. This goes along with something we psychology nerds call “pain points.” The first step is being able to pay attention to the parts of your everyday life that cause stress, or friction. These can be pet peeves, things you ruminating on, or irritabilities. Insignificant little nuggets that don’t seem like they should stress you out are just as important as the big things, because eventually if you ignore the little things enough, you will blow your top. Examples of these little things, for me, are my car keys are never in the same spot, always having to find my phone charger, and having to climb on the counters to get a plate everyday. Even ridiculous stressors need to be taken into account, and for me those would be stressing over showing favoritism to certain coffee mugs rather than using them all equally, and paranoia about my greek yogurt going past its expiration date before I can eat it even though it is perfectly fine a week or two after (can you tell I am a bit OCD yet?). Next, think about the easiest possible way to get rid of these problems. For me, I hung a command hook for my keys, have multiple chargers around my apartment, got a step stool, created a weekly rotational mug system, and I buy and eat my yogurts in order of expiration date. It is literally that easy and I feel so relieved not having those naggy stupid things on my brain anymore! What little obstacles bug the heck out of you that you actually could do something about instead of living with it? Audit yourself for that feeling of friction in your mind/body, and physical feelings of stress…after you find all your pain points, remember to regularly audit for more because little things that piss you off never go away.

6. Everything Needs a Home

While sometimes it seems easier to just throw your keys on the counter, hang up your shirt in a random part of your closet, or put all your notes in one giant folder; it will not be easier for you when you have 30 seconds to find that one piece of paper within 100000000 other white papers in your folder. Think about it, what if you were trying to drive to a friend’s house and instead of them giving you their exact address they gave you the general area of their house instead? Sure, you’d probably find them if you knocked on every door along the way, but it would save you so much time and energy not doing that. The same goes for your pile of clothes sitting in the corner of your room or a random chair right now (yeah, I am looking at you). Any energy you spend is energy spent (no duh), but this obvious statement is so true! Ripping your closet apart, thinking real hard about where something was last time you saw it, stressing over losing your phone even though you’re holding it, spending 10 minutes looking for lost nail clippers when in reality you put them in a different spot than usual (me yesterday), and walking in circles looking for an earring is all energy that could have been put towards something a lot more important. So please, for me, go put that nasty cup that has been sitting on your desk for way too long where it belongs.

7. Repeat as Much as Possible

How much variety do we actually need in our lives? For some odd reason, I think we overshoot the need for variety from day to day. Who ever said we had to eat different meals everyday? Who said we can’t wear the same exact thing two days in a row even if we like it? Why do we need to constantly find new recipes, workouts, outfits, products, etc? The feeling of needing to avoid doing the same thing everyday causes more difficulty than needed. Instead of actively looking for ways to make things that already work for you different, spend your time an energy looking for what things in your life you can continue to repeat.

  • Have some staple basics in your wardrobe and find ways to tweak them a bit rather than buy all new things, or, embrace wearing the same things from week to week. It is not a crime!
  • Have the same meal theme on each night week to week (taco Tuesdays, breakfast for dinner Wednesdays, etc..)
  • Use canned responses to reply to FAQs over email at work
  • Find a workout circuit you love and feel free to use it everyday
  • Eat the same breakfast everyday

All in all, look for areas of your life where you are trying to solve problems that don’t need to be solved. This will save you so much time and energy, and will preserve the joy of actually looking for a new recipe, outfit etc. rather than feeling the need to.

8. Declutter

This seems pretty obvious, but when you own less stuff, that means there’s less of it to clean up and care for. And when there’s less stuff to clean and take care for, there’s more time in your day to do things that are more fun than scrubbing sauce off your 15 dinner plates even though you live by yourself. Decluttering is one of my favorite things to do because it often leads to more money! I am a big fan of selling my hardly used clothes and items on Poshmark or Facebook marketplace. Minimalism is all about making your life more simple by making everything around you more simple. As they say, less is more: more time, more energy, more space, more money, and more appreciation for what you already have.

9. “Why am I doing this?”

Get in the habit of asking yourself “why am I doing this?” because it leads to better decision making, and can call you out on your stupidity in a nanosecond. If you have no explanation to why you are doing something, it is a great indicator that you need to reconsider whatever the heck you are doing. In most cases, good ideas have answers: if an accountant asks “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” – so I can be responsible for earning my own income , and because I like the job and can picture myself sitting at this desk auditing financial reports to conform to the law for the rest of my life while wearing a boring beige suit and eating a boring cheese sandwich everyday. That seems like a pretty well and thought out reason to spend time and energy on it. But if I ask myself “why am I interviewing for this auditing job?” I would reply with “I need money.” This would then be a terrible use of my time, energy, and I’d probably only last an hour with that mindset. I could have used that time to do something with purpose. The reason we need this self check is because habits or goals can start out beneficial, but as time goes on, those habits or everyday things turn into a “I should be doing this” type deal rather than a “get to” mindset. A common example we see is “why am I working out?” To get skinny and then I’ll finally be happy” – terrible reasoning because it is for all the wrong reasons and is not enjoyable! Correct answer: to better my overall health to live the life I want. To sum it up, this wakes up the PURPOSE of actions and decisions. If there is none, just do yourself a favor and stop.

10. Create a Flow in Your Schedule

You probably already do some of this because it is common sense. For example, the gas station is right next to my gym, and while my tank is not quite empty, by the time it will be I will have to go out of my way to fill up, so I go ahead and fill up on my way out. This whole idea is hitting two birds with one stone. Save yourself time by picking up your groceries at the store next door to your kid’s soccer practice while waiting for them to get done. Stop in and see a friend on your way home from your parent’s house. Pick up dinner on the way home from work. This one is pretty self explanatory but it will save you both time, energy, and gas money.

It is also important to align your to do list with your energy levels. There is no use in putting something in your schedule to do if you wake up with only enough energy to walk to the coffee maker. I have a whole to do list on my wall, but I don’t go in order because sometimes it makes no sense to. If I feel more productive, I will choose the items on my list that require more physical or brain power. For me, I am most productive in the morning- it’s not uncommon for me to get back from the gym and clean the entire apartment, change my sheets, do all loads of laundry, do a few handstands, and then write a whole blog post in half an hour. If you checked back in with me around 3 PM, the only thing I could manage on the to do list would be to sort laundry- and I do this while watching TV to ease the pain. No one ever said there was a correct way to get things done, so do them when you’re literally able to.

11. Create Morning and Evening Routines

Life gets so much easier with routine. For all you night owls/early birds out there, mornings/nights can be hard without a routine. I like to think that my morning and nightly routine allows me to be like a Tesla- on autopilot but still going places without crashing and little effort. My morning routine of wake up, coffee, journal, and read allows my brain to wake up a bit before I put it to work for a solid 8 hours. Similarly at night after my brain is fried, my nightly routine of dinner, shower, netflix, fall asleep watching netflix while trying not to fall asleep watching netflix allows my brain to shut off. The best routines are the ones that you look forward to and don’t require a lot from you.

12. Transform Difficult Tasks

This whole post thus far has promoted getting out of hard things that you don’t want to do. Well, I am here to tell you that life doesn’t work like that. You will still be faced with situations where you have to do the dang thing and there is no way around it. While there is no way to change the task, there can be ways to reframe. Example A: traffic. There is no way, even for a Tesla, to hit a button in your car and make you fly over all the cars on 494. But, there is a way to make the time “fly” by. Find a good podcast, create a flow in your schedule to call your grandma since that is on your to do list, or play some good tunes! Example B: work emails will not reply by themselves; so go sit outside if it is nice out, get your favorite snack or drink, or even bribe yourself with something to get the job done. Each of us have a “thing” we hate doing, but think about what can make it more bearable and less terrible. If all else fails, the “fake it till you make it” phrase is an actual thing in psychology so might as well try to trick yourself into thinking scrubbing the toilet is the most fun you’ve had all week.

13. Set daily goals

Every morning, I grab my journal and ask myself “what goals do I want to accomplish today to have a good day?” These goals are not anything huge like “cure the common cold” or “find a million bucks in my parking garage,” but more like “start my new blog post,” “feel good about my workout,” or “eat three meals today. “Yeah, this may seem like some fluffy psychologist type exercise, but psychology does say if you write something down, you are more likely to do it, so I’ll take fluffy psych method over lost productivity any day.

But for real, this question is so important for several reasons. 1. it helps to find the priorities in your day instead of trying to get everything done, not finishing everything, then beating yourself up for not getting through all 127 items on the to do list. This allows you to knock out what will make the biggest difference for you right now.

2. It reminds you to think about your wellbeing. I’ve always been a go go go kind of gal, so setting a goal to take care of myself rather than add another to do list item goal seemed like a waste of my time until I realized I could get a lot more out of my days when I felt like I wasn’t dead! I now make sure to have at least one health related goal for the day because I have not been so great at that realm in the past. It’s hard to believe that writing “don’t forget lunch” on a piece of paper can magically change your habits- but it does, it’s accountability. After all is said and done, it feels great to look back and see all the cumulative goals you have achieved over time, even if they’re just loads of laundry or go to the store.

14. Simplify “Money Stuff”

“Money stuff” is what I say when I am referring to anything related to economics and finance (this is why the accounting job makes no sense for me). It goes in one ear and out the other- my brain can’t hold onto much of what it all means. That being said, dumbing down the process of managing my money has made my life much less stressful and has saved me brain power rather than expending it on comprehending investing in international stocks. Here’s a few ways to refrain from pulling your hair out:

  • Make a budget– I use the app “Mint” since I am no expert in budgeting, but something I am pretty darn good at is making a plan and following it. It’s important to be realistic, this means, admitting to yourself that you have a spend happy problem. Once you have adjusted to your budget and have seen your cash flow, this allows for you to either give yourself some more slack in some areas, or, learn that you need to tone down the shopping on Amazon. Mint makes categories for your spending and recommends a budget for each one depending on your income each month. The visual of a pie chart diagram helps tremendously for seeing where your money goes each month, and bar graphs for how much you have left in each category, and gives you warnings for when you’re spending a bit too much at Target. The truth can hurt sometimes.
  • Automate– A lot of subscriptions and monthly payments allow for an automated monthly transaction- this comes in handy when you have a billion monthly payments, but struggle to remember them all which can lead to late fees! Set that automated payment up and forget about it.
  • Use your money– there’s so much talk about saving every penny and growing your bank all the time, but there is nothing wrong with using your money to make your life easier, and putting an ease on your mental health. Hire a babysitter, hire a cleaner, nanny, therapist, massage session, or whatever else you need!

15. Be at Peace with Pace

My last and overarching point of this post is to be at peace with slow progress. All of this will be pointless if you think you’ll wake up tomorrow stress free because you took one action to sit in your car 10 seconds longer than usual. Wanting and wishing for things to change instantly, and seeing no change, can cause so much distress for some people- but once you expect that the process will take time, it is less daunting. This is a lesson that has been hard for me to learn- I like to see instant results, and my expectations for some things are 100% unrealistic yet are realistic in my mind. They always say to “enjoy the journey” and as cheesy as it sounds it is true. I spent so many years laser focused from getting from point A to B that the years in between seems like a negative hazy blur. It is important to remember that you can only do so much in a given day, and we have limits. Give yourself the gift of going slower to enjoy all that comes with it rather than beating yourself up for the one thing you didn’t do. In my experience, trying to speed a process up only stressed me out more and backfired rather than if I allowed myself to go at a slower pace. It also led to more stress and unhappiness. Fast is not always better, and truly ask yourself what you’re trying to rush for. Allow yourself to let your life be more stress free because every day shouldn’t be a chore.


I get it, sometimes things like these can be so easy that we just forget to even do them or that they are there. That’s why we aren’t all living stress free lives with no worries all the time. It can be so easy to overlook the simple act of getting a hook for your constantly misplaced keys, stop for groceries after the gym, use your money to help you relax, take time to pause after parking, reaching for your journal rather than your phone upon waking up, making easy rules for yourself, going to bed just an hour earlier, giving yourself permission to make the choice without guilt, and asking yourself why the heck you are doing what you are doing. These are all mindful tips to take in a world where there seems to be none. I hope you choose to pick one to practice, I mean, what do you have to lose other than stress, fatigue, and more stress?

Have a great day, keep it simple!

~Lauren

Little Lessons from Apartment Living

I am well into a week of living a life where I’ve upgraded my twin bed to a queen, and my dorm room view of a dumpster to downtown. Hannah Montana once said “this is the life, hold on tight,” and that basically sums up everything thus far. I have absolutely loved my new transition, and knowing that I am fully responsible for keeping myself alive at this point. I expected some road blocks such as cooking gone wrong, the dryer eating my socks, or even another hairdryer on fire to make that number four; but none of that has happened at all…yet. There are just some things you don’t even know you will encounter until you dive into a new lifestyle, and this post is for all the little things I have come to realize are either helpful or hurtful.


Non-stick skillets are a lie

I am a very trusting person. I always trust what people say and give others the benefit of the doubt even when it comes back to bite me in the butt. This also applies to cookware. I was so excited to get my first set of non-stick skillets from my aunt who has otherwise been known as “The Kentucky egg lady.” With those credentials, and her past of omelette demonstrations all around Kentucky, I had full faith in these new pans of mine that they truly were non-stick. Since I moved out, I’ve become more adventurous, leading to making pancakes for the first time in my life, and by that, I mean the first time since 6th grade FACS class where I truly don’t remember what the ingredients were or if my group mates let me be around the stove (smart cookies, they were). I had a Gordon Ramsay vibe going as I mixed up my gourmet batter of Kodiak Protein Pancake mix and water, and spooned my first helping onto my non-stick skillet. I soon found out the marketing tactics got me, and my sad pancake was stuck to the pan like my thighs stick to a leather seat on a hot day. I eventually scraped it off into a taco looking thing and tried to redeem myself by doing an airborne pancake flip like they do in the movies to make sure the other side was cooked to the point of no return, too. The tacocake stuck the perfect 10 landing smack dab on the floor. Did I eat it? Yeah I did. I put way too much effort into that to literally throw it away. I see cooking spray and a spatula in my brunching future.

Flying food hazard

I’m going to start by saying this happened on a Terrible Tuesday (for those of you who have not been following me- since 6th grade something odd or weird has happened to me every Tuesday without fail). I meal planned for a nice and easy frozen black bean burger for dinner to enjoy out on my balcony. All was going well until I tried to shut the balcony door, causing my plate to tilt a little bit, which created the perfect trajectory of launch ramp for my veggie patty that was slippery from my cooking spray (learned my lesson from the pancakes) to slide right off my plate and off my 6th floor balcony. A few seconds later I heard a crisp splat, then a very loud scream. I peeked my eyeballs over the railing to find my veggie patty about a foot away from a little old lady from the senior living place next door. After yelling a very awkward sorry, I played the scene over and over in my head (go ahead and try it), and I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a long time over the thought of a hazardous vegan veggie patty falling from the sky. Whoever said walking under ladders is bad luck was all wrong.

Keep yourself busy

One thought I had this week is that living on my own now is so much different from living on my own in college. The difference is that now, I truly could sit in bed all day and no one would even know. I could drive to Florida and back and no one would know. I can cook anything I want with as much dairy and gluten as my heart desires and no one but my poor insides would know. I could decide to go rollerblading and run into a mailbox and no one would know. I can do literally anything I want and have so many choices! But of course, psychology says, the paradox of choice is having too many choices can lead to anxiety, and more stress (did you really think I was going to go a blog post without any psych?) Many of you know that I love to stay busy, so having to wait until work starts in September has been extremely hard for me because I am terrible at relaxing and sitting still for more than an hour. With that, all the tasks that most people hate doing such as laundry, grocery shopping, going to the bank, cleaning my windows, vacuuming, doctors appointments etc..have been rewarding for me! It’s a good feeling to make a to do list and check things off as they get done. I like the sense of responsibility since I’ve never really had it before at Gustavus. Surprisingly, my not busy summer stays pretty busy between spreading out my tasks, meal planning and prepping, and reaching out to old friends that I haven’t seen in a while! Initiative is a beautiful thing.

Meal planning is a must

I didn’t know how important this point was until it hit me that even thought I cooked myself something one night, I have to do it all over again the next day, and the next day. I first thought I would make something in bulk and eat the same thing all week long, and I never thought the day would come where I was tired of taco salad, but it came. Feeding myself is not something I am used to: my mom cooked for me growing up while I was at practice, and our family loves to go to restaurants. Gustavus had a 4 year meal plan that I took full advantage of. Needless to say, this was probably the biggest adjustment. What makes things harder is I am absolutely terrible at deciding what I want to eat- so the meal plan has been super helpful as I don’t need to decide because I already spent a solid hour trying to decide for my future self a few days before as I scroll through my Pinterest recipes trying to predict what I’ll want 5 days from now (following me?). I’ve been trying to cut the amount of time trying to decide what I want for the week by making designating Meatless Monday, Try something new Tuesday, Breakfast for dinner Wednesay, Leftovers Thursday, Frozen Meal Friday, Free space Saturday, and Salad Sunday. This is what the inside of a perfectionist’s brain looks like in case you were wondering.

Enjoy the little things

I know, I say this a lot, but this became so true all over again once I moved out. My mornings here are so peaceful; I have a great view of the Minneapolis skyline as the sun rises every morning, which makes morning workouts a lot less painful. Being able to wake up with the rest of the city, cup of coffee in my unicorn mug and daily gratitude and goal setting, has been the best way to start my day and is like a calm before the storm. It makes makes me remember why I am a morning person. I fully realize this will probably be the only time in my life I will live in a place like this with no job to rush off to everyday in which my mornings won’t look like this anymore. Or where I can watch the skyline light up at night and try to guess what color the skyscraper will turn next. It will probably be the only time I can people watch for hours while some weirdos do odd things because they don’t realize I’m out here such as the man flexing in is reflection in the window for a solid 5-7 minutes after a yoga session. I was told to truly embrace life as a twenty something year old, and now I finally realize what they mean.

See someone, say something

Instagram and Snap stories have been working in my favor ever since I moved. It’s so cool to see how many people from college already live around me, making it so much easier to continue old friendships and traditions like acting out the dock scene in Mama Mia with my best friend like we have since we were kids (we’ve got it down solid), but even start some new friendships. It’s also been so fun living by my brother again and getting close to him like we were when we were inseparable as kids. I never thought I would be reaching out to him to get a dose of coffee and lake walk some mornings after being used to being apart for 4+ years. Inviting myself over has now turned into a permanent invite to his friend “family dinners.” Recently I had the rare motivation to go run Lake Harriet instead of another HIIT workout in my apartment so I didn’t upset the people that live below me, my b I have to do my daily burpees! To my surprise I saw a very familiar pair of aviators that I recognized belonged to the face of a former Gustie. Have I ever met them? No. Have I ever talked to them? No. Have I come to “know” them because I follow them and their aviators on Instagram? Affirmative. Since then I have been able to say I befriended them through our Gustie connection and can add another friend to my list of people that live by me to hang out with. Reaching out to people never was my strong suit in college, but now, it’s opened up a lot more doors and has made a lot more weekends not free!

Take a paper grocery list to the store

No, not because I am forgetful (even though I am). Something about having an actual list in my hand is comforting and makes me feel like an experienced shopper or a soccer mom that drives a mini van even though the workers watch me do circles around the same area looking for feta cheese the past ten minutes. It also works as a great tool for when you don’t want to make eye contact with someone as you scoot by them, just look down and pretend you’re avidly shopping for your broccoli. My first grocery trip, I used a list on my phone, and I realized that I in fact looked like a teenager who couldn’t spend 5 minutes without going on Instagram and fell victim to texting and carting. I also ran into the issue of the cashier asking where my mom was so she could pay for my groceries, later revealing he thought I was 14 after I told him I just graduated from college. Since resorting to a paper list, I have not been mistaken as a teenager, and while good ol’ paper grocery lists may not correlate with looking like an adult, I’m just going with it.

Showers are not one size fits all…or are they?

I always have known my limits being short; high cabinets, top shelves, anything at Sam’s Club, you know, typical stuff. But showers? That is a new one. I never thought I would be short enough to the point where I have to stand on my tip toes every night to get all of my shampoo out of my hair. To make matters worse, because I am not tall enough to play monkey in the middle with the shower head and the wall, the water ricochets all over the floor to basically make my bathroom into a second bath tub. I had the maintenance men come take a look at it (also to fix my toilet seat because to my surprise one anchor was out and I slid right off onto the floor like my veggie patty did off my balcony), but they said they could not fix the shower head because it was made for tall people. At that point I didn’t know whether to apologize for my shortness, or for the future water damage it will be causing if I don’t figure it out, so of course the only thing I knew to do was call my dad. He showed up prepared to install a new swivel shower head, but within a second of looking at the old one, moved it to suit my shortness….turns out I just don’t know the anatomy of a shower head and which parts move. I bet that instilled a lot of confidence in my parents for letting me live on my own now. Gotta learn these little things somehow!

Go on a walking tour

Something I have come to enjoy this past week is my nightly walks to figure out where the heck I live. Moving here, I had no clue that I lived by a giant waterpark, a big walking trail, Excelsior & Grand, way too many geese, my beloved Starbucks, and all these places I had heard about but had no clue where they were. Every Wednesday, I have been lacing up the walking shoes and testing out some new routes and sidewalks that lead to a new place I want to try or go into. I never understood what the appeal of St. Louis Park was to young folks, but now I get it the more I decide to drive the long way home or go walk a new sidewalk. I still have yet to enter into my first ever Trader Joe’s, but that definitely is at the top of my list (it’s a legit list, I like lists) of places to go. I never thought would like anywhere other than Eagan, oh how the tables have turned.

Routine is everything

There is a difference between staying busy, and having a routine. This may reveal my perfectionism/Type A personality just a little bit, but I need a routine for my days, and my weeks, in order to feel like I am not lost or off track. In the past, when I have strayed from routine, I thought I was lost like I am when I try to figure out what way is north. Productivity and routine are interchangeable for me- and I feel my best when I am productive. Similarly to my meal plan designations, I do the same thing for the days of the week. Bachelor Monday, Towel and sheet cleaning Tuesday, Walk after dinner Wednesday, Laundry Thursday, Fancy coffee Friday, Sprint Saturday, and Shop for groceries Sunday. It’s like a giant to-do list that each day I can check off. My mornings all start the same: my cup of coffee and alone time. That is the base of my day and that structure is so comforting when things around me may not be. I always try to start and end my days like a sandwich; morning routine and night routine about as easy and bland as a slice of bread- but each day filled with something different in between. The reason I do this is because some days may taste like a peanut butter/mustard/*insert more bad combos here* sandwich, but ending the day with something familiar and easy leads to a fresh slice of bread the next morning without any peanut butter and mustard residue left over to ruin your awesome peanut butter and jelly kind of day. To sum it up: make your life a sandwich. Cheesy analogy? Yeah. Effective? I’d say so.

I know these may seem childish or silly, but honestly, it’s the weird and totally vague things that no one talks about! At this age, it can be hard to establish a life all while making a fool of yourself, and that is okay- in fact, I don’t mind it. Don’t get me wrong, I know life is going to get harder once I start my 9-5 life and my biggest problem will be a lot greater than watching my pancake hit the floor. I fully predict I am going to be making another one of these posts in a few months documenting all the barriers I knew I would encounter as a working woman, but talking about the scenarios I can’t even make up in my head right now. As much as I have said I love planning- honestly I am excited for the uncertainty of what the next step of adult life, because I am the one who got me here, and every hardship I encounter next stems from the fact that I reached my goals that I set for myself in college. It’s time for me to set some new goals; making the perfect pancake, refraining from patty target practice, finding the feta faster, go on a date at one of the restaurants I’ve found, be a sandwich, figure out the skyscraper light pattern, stay busy, shower without leftover suds, and of course, land my first project at work!

I hope some of my failures brought a few laughs- I know I’ve still been laughing at the image of a flying veggie burger for a week now.

~Lauren

My Top 10 Favorite Easy Recipes: Gluten free, dairy free, and better-for-you

I’m going to start off by saying I do not cook or bake a lot of things. For those of you that have been following my blogs for a while, you know just how badly my history of cooking is, aka, submitting a recipe on how to make a Spongebob edition Pop Tart in our Kindergarten class cookbook. I did in fact describe how to open the box, put it in the toaster, and then go eat it in front of the TV- illustrations included. People ask me “why can’t you cook? Shouldn’t you know by now?” Valid question, and yes I should, but I have a valid answer. When you grow up flipping for four hours everyday after school coupled with hours of AP and CIS homework to follow, cooking is no where on the agenda or in mind. The food fairy otherwise known as my mom made meals magically appear for me every night after practice. Additionally, when you go to a college where you remain on the meal plan all four years, it’s hard to cook a gourmet meal in the toaster and microwave (this is where my kindergarten recipe came in handy). I’ve dabbled a bit in the kitchen during J-terms and the stay at home order, and I gotta say, I think I did pretty well, well enough to share with you the recipes I’ve concocted! With that, here’s a few easy (and by easy, I mean EASY because I’m still at the beginner level) to whip up- no toaster needed!


1. Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers

This is the first dish I ever made other than the extra credit enchiladas I made for Spanish class, and by I made, I mean my mom made. It is a great meal for a family dinner, or to meal prep for the week. These peppers are a healthier and more creative take on a Chipotle football burrito, and are for sure to leave you full from all that fiber!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 red bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cut off the tops of the peppers and scoop out seeds/insides. Keep the tops for later!
  • In a pan, add the coconut oil. Add the onions, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika, and mix together.
  • Add the garlic and turkey. Cook until the turkey is browned.
  • Add beans, corn, and tomatoes. Mix together fully.
  • Spoon the mix into the peppers and put the top back on. Place in a baking dish.
  • Cook for 30 minutes. Note: there will be some of the mixture left over- add to a taco salad, top nachos, feed to the dog, throw out the window, it is up to you!

2. Three Ingredient No Bake Cheerio Bars

While these may sound like nothing special, these have become a family favorite with raving reviews of “these are addicting”, “why have you not made these before?”, “can you make another batch so I don’t have to share with my roommates?”, and “only three ingredients can make something so good?” These are a great, good for you, dessert or quick energy bite because they are made of natural sugars, contain some protein, and of course, as Cheerios always says: heart healthy! In other words, you need to eat these or you will die.

Ingredients

  • 3 cup of Cheerios
  • 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey

Instructions

  • In a small pan, add peanut butter and honey before placing on the heat (unless you fancy burnt flakes in your food).
  • Place on the stove and bring up from room temp to medium heat until the mixture is a runny consistency.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the liquid mixture to the Cheerios and fold in until they are coated and cohesive.
  • In a 9×9 dish, pour mixture into pan and flatten evenly with a spatula.
  • Place in the fridge for at least an hour. Try not to eat all at once.
  • Store in the fridge!

3. Green Goddess Taco Salad

Taco salads normally get a bad rep in the nutrition department due to the heaps of cheese, sour cream, rice, beans, and giant fried flour tortilla shell it houses itself in. I love taco salad, but as someone who can’t tolerate much dairy, it definitely does not feel like a fiesta in my stomach. This take on a taco salad is better for you because it swaps in some lower calorie, high volume foods, and has a good twist on it by adding the green goddess dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (or 1 diced Roma tomato)
  • 1 bag of shredded lettuce
  • 1 can of corn
  • Green Goddess dressing (Sub Taco sauce for DF option)
  • Corn Tortilla chips or Doritos (or both)
  • Fixings of choice (avocado, salsa, bell peppers etc)

Instructions

  • In a pan, cook turkey until brown. Drain the pan, add the taco seasoning along with 3/4 cup of water. Mix in seasoning until meat is covered.
  • Open and drain cans of black beans, corn, and tomatoes
  • In a large bowl, combine lettuce, meat, beans, corn, tomatoes and chips. Stir in dressing to taste.
  • Note: To save for leftovers, add dressing separately rather than combining in the bowl (the chips and lettuce get soggy – gross). Ingredients can also be served separately to make it “build your own.”

4. Peanut Butter Chocolate No Bake Cookies

While they may look like stepped on dog poop in your yard, I assure you, they don’t taste like it. These are a great gluten and dairy free recipe that I have made these for many sorority events, parties, and for friends. Starting out, I did not realize cocoa powder was not the same as the chocolatey powder in brownie mixes, so I was in for an unpleasant surprise when I ate a heaping spoonful of it only to realize that I made a huge mistake. While the recipe calls for quite a bit of sugar, I usually half the amount and they taste the same, and swap regular milk for almond milk.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar (I do 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1/2 stick butter or plant butter (Country Crock sticks are fantastic dairy free sticks)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups of quick oats
  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla (optional)

Instructions

  • In a small pan; add sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and butter. Stir until melted completely and looks like chocolate sauce.
  • Bring mixture to a boil; let it boil for 45 seconds before taking off the burner.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, peanut butter, and vanilla.
  • Add chocolate sauce and stir until it is fully coated.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a spoon to scoop out mixture. Form into round cookies.
  • Place in fridge until they are not the consistency of fresh doggie doo doo in the yard. You all know exactly what I mean.

5. Sweet Potato Black Bean Burgers

These are an awesome recipe a friend crafted for me while I was gluten, dairy, soy, and egg free. Before you stop reading this because food without everything that makes it taste good seems questionable, these will throw you for a loop. My family has said that they taste better than regular burgers! These can be frozen which make them great for meal prep, and since they are vegan, gluten free, and dairy free, these are an ideal option when hosting a dinner party that can adhere to all dietary needs unless you’re on the carnivore diet, then you’re out of luck.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (1 cup mashed) 
  • 1/2 cup black beans 
  • 1/2 cup instant brown rice
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Cook rice according to package directions 
  • Cook the sweet potato in the microwave, make sure to pierce with a fork.
  • Mash the sweet potato, black beans, oats, and everything else in a bowl. Mix in cooked rice until everything is combined. Mixture should be moldable. 
  • Line the baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Place 4 inch diameter patties on sheet
  • Place tray in oven and bake 30-40 minutes flipping halfway through
  • Store in fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for 3 months.

6. Banana Oat Cookies

Need to use your brown bananas but are sick of banana bread? These are an easy and fast dessert or breakfast cookie to make, as well as a great tricep workout due to mashing them naners. Don’t expect the regular texture of a cookie because you aren’t going to get it.

Ingredients

  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • Chocolate chips- the more the merrier is my motto – Check out Enjoy Life foods for DF chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Mash the bananas and mix with oats, cinnamon, and chocolate chips
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Use a spoon to scoop and form into balls. Flatten with spoon on baking sheet.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes

7. Mashed Cauliflower Shepherds Pie

A lighter take on shepherd’s pie, and I personally think it tastes better! This is a better-for-you version that swaps ground beef for ground turkey, and mashed taters for mashed cauli. For those with an Instant Pot, go ahead and use it for the mashed cauliflower. For those who don’t have one like me because the steam spout scares the living daylight out of me, the old fashioned way or store bought mashed cauli works just fine. My family likes to add in a can of corn and green beans for some extra color but also because shredded zucchini tastes like nothing. Comfort food that doesn’t make you unbutton your pants afterwards-it does exist.

Ingredients

  • Mashed cauliflower or 1 large head of cauliflower cored and cut to florets
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp minced garlic 
  • 2.5 tsp sea salt 
  • 1 tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • 1 diced onion
  • Shredded carrot 
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp low sodium Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • Optional- 1 can of green beans
  • Optional- 1 can of corn

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Without instant pot- cook mashed cauliflower according to package, or boil in water until soft and mash.
  • In skillet, add oil, and onion. Saute until onion is translucent (5 min). Add turkey, carrot, zucchini, minced garlic, sauce, and spices.
  • With instant pot- Add 1 cup water to pressure cooker, place trivet inside. Put cauliflower on trivet. Using display panel, select MANUAL, select 3 minutes with + buttons. When it beeps switch pressure knob from sealing to venting and release steam. Open cooker and remove, drain, and place in bowl. Add garlic powder and 1 tsp salt. Blend until smooth.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes

8. “Buttons”

Ok so these aren’t dairy or gluten free at all, but for all of my fellow allergen sensitive people out there, we all know that we have some foods that are worth the pain. For me? This is one of those foods. These are a family tradition that are fun to make for different holidays, especially Valentine’s Day M&Ms, because they taste better than regular ones even though they’re exactly the same. I’ve been making these since elementary school, and to this day still give them to friends, and professors (brownie points for when I’m at a 92.5% and they round me up). Side note: Hershey hugs melt a lot easier than Hershey kisses, and are a lot more aesthetic.

Ingredients

  • Snyders grid pretzels
  • Hershey Hugs
  • M&Ms

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees
  • Line pretzels on parchment paper covered baking sheets
  • Place unwrapped Hershey Hugs in center of pretzels
  • Put in oven for 5 minutes until melty
  • Place M side down of M&M on tip of Hershey Hug and press lightly
  • Put in fridge to set.

9. Freezer Friendly Egg White Muffins

On the go breakfast! These are a perfect meal prep recipe for those who struggle with getting in a nutritious breakfast unlike Spongebob Edition Pop Tarts. One serving is two egg cups! Freeze the rest for later.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups of egg whites
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup quartered cherry tomatoes or diced Roma tomato
  • 1/2 cup diced mushrooms

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin pan.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms. Add ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Divide mixture evenly among muffin pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until egg whites are cooked.

10. Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

I happened to come across these on Pinterest one day when I was looking for an excuse to use the rest of my almond flour and procrastinate homework. I always loved those little flower cookies with the red raspberry centers when I was little, so I thought I’d give these gluten free versions a go! As I mentioned before, I am new to the kitchen, so when I read that the recipe called for confectioners sugar, I had no clue what that was without the help of Google. Why not just call it powdered sugar, people? The nice part about this recipe is that my indecisiveness is accepted and encouraged. I used all five flavors of jams we had in the fridge. For those of you who aren’t the fruity type; sub honey, maple syrup, or caramel sauce for the center.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 3 tablespoons of butter of choice-softened
  • 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Jam of choice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl until a cohesive dough forms.
  • Scoop 1″ balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. Arrange the balls of dough about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart.
  • Use a fork to flatten each cookie to about 1/4″ thick, use your thumb to press an indentation into the center of each ball of dough. Fill the hole with about 1/4 teaspoon jam.
  • Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, until they start to turn light golden brown on top.

While these may not look like anything on the Food Network or anything Instagram worthy, sometimes the simple and quick, yet still good for you options are the best! For those who read this looking to clean up their diet, but don’t want to give up foods you love: look for ingredients you can swap out or do without (ex: ground turkey, Caulipower brand pizza, portioning, natural peanut butter, cocoa powder, natural sugars vs added). Similarly, those looking for allergen friendly recipes, look for where you can use alternatives! Most of these recipes weren’t allergen friendly when I found them. For those looking for new recipes or are new to cooking/baking, a lot of these ingredients are probably already in your house so you can #stayathome! And for those who read this out of disbelief that I actually cooked something without burning it- let this be proof that people can change.

Let me know if you make any of these! I am curious to see if they actually taste good or if it’s just due to the bias of “I made it therefore it tastes better” 🙂

~Lauren

Coping with Self-Compassion during Covid: How and why it works

We are well past a month of staying at home. Not going to lie, at first I saw this new lifestyle as an exciting challenge where my introverted-ness could thrive. I got competitive with myself to see all the productive tasks I could get done, and do all the activities that I never had time to do. But now, all the books have been read, the basement has been cleaned, senior capstone paper written, and everything I can think of to sell has been sold. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to do something other than what I have been doing yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that… It’s daunting knowing this could be what life is like for who knows how long. 4th of July festivities are already getting canceled, new job training moved online, favorite restaurants put the for sale sign in the window (RIP Old Chicago), alternate plans for the fall are already being talked about, and to put the scary cherry on top of all this, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the U of M Center for Infectious diseases said that this won’t be over by summer and 60-70% of us are going to get the virus despite our efforts all these months of being locked inside.

This isn’t meant to scare you even though you’re probably feeling worse than you were before deciding to sit down to read a blog that you thought would make you feel better, hold on, I’ll get there. If a simple paragraph can make you feel anxious, think about how bad the media is for our sanity when we wake up every single day being bombarded with more bad news accompanied by staying locked up all day. People are starting to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which in turn is going to put us in a worse place when this is all said and done. There is a better way to get through this than stuffing yourself with snacks, giving up, or impulse buying puppies.

Self-compassion is our secret weapon that no one is utilizing! Positive Psychology is a relatively new field that basically says “why does psychology have to be about fixing people when they have problems? Let’s take perfectly average baseline people and make their lives go from good to great.” Self-compassion falls in this field, and also is being utilized to fix mental health problems. Research has been conducted and shows that it eases depression, anxiety, eating disorders, negative body image, sleep problems, and enhances both physical/mental health. These are all problems that we are possibly dealing with during Covid. Self-compassion consists of three components; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003), and it takes all three to work! Join me on a magical journey as I further explain just how these “fluffy” sounding concepts that seem like they’d never work, actually work. As cheesy as it sounds, self-compassion is one of those “if you believe it, you can achieve it” concepts.

1. Self-Kindness

Raise your hand if you have said anything along these lines during all this:

“I look terrible today and am a lazy human being.”

“I look so old now that I can’t get my gray covered up.”

“There’s no point in working out or taking care of myself right now.”

“I suck at online classes, I am a failure and shouldn’t even try anymore.”

“I am going to get fired from my job because I am not as valuable as others.”

“I shouldn’t have eaten that and am probably going to gain the Covid-19 lbs and everyone is going to think I am ugly once we can go out in public again.”

“I am never going to find a girlfriend/boyfriend and I am going to end up alone living in my parents house just like this for the rest of my life.”

“I have no purpose anymore”

It is so easy to let those thoughts come into our heads, and for some twisted reason, we believe criticizing ourselves is more motivating than being kind. I don’t know about you, but telling myself that I suck and am ugly doesn’t make me want to go on a run, or outside for that matter. Current research tells us that self-kindness is the most important component that has a positive correlation for reducing negative behaviors and thoughts. Being kind to ourselves is so crucial during this time. Our best is not going to be the same everyday during this; some days you may get a ton done, other days your best may just be getting out of bed. Both are OKAY. Self-kindness is being your own cheerleader for the things that you DID get done. Change out of your pjs? Go you! Get one thing done on your to-do list but not all? One is better than none! Eat 2 cookies instead of 3? Progress! Only cried in the shower 4 times this week instead of everyday? Look at you! Self-kindness is learning to forgive yourself, even for those who have a black belt in beating themselves up. Maybe you feel guilty for not working out- that’s just fine, you are not training for a marathon since they’re all canceled. Maybe you accidentally turned off mute on a zoom call while you were using the bathroom – as that one children book teaches us “Everyone Poops,” so don’t rip yourself to shreds about it days later because we all make mistakes. It’s so easy to feel shame for eating badly – don’t worry, that is human. Self-kindness is not easy, because self-criticism is easy! Bottom line, talk to yourself as you would a family member, and I don’t think you’d tell your grandma that she has no purpose and is a worthless, ugly, lazy human being… if you would say that to her you may need more help than I can provide.

2. Common Humanity

This one may seem like “common” sense (pun intended), but part of self-compassion is recognizing that you are not alone in your feelings and other people feel this way, too. When we are suffering it is common (and not logical at all) for us to think we are the only person on planet earth experiencing that exact situation and feeling that exact feeling at that moment. Everyone else around you seems happy but you. Hate to break it to you, but you aren’t that special, feelings are shared! To humans, suffering together feels better than suffering alone, which is why this component works for Covid. Fun fact- the same goes for hazing!

Covid presents us with unprecedented situations leaving us confused, alone, on a kick to sell everything we own (it can’t be just me I hope), depressed, lost, many other feelings, and behaviors- some positive of course so don’t feel bad for feeling happy when you think you should feel bad! Personally, some days I have woken up during all this with absolutely no motivation at all, and it makes me feel better knowing that I am not the only one who has no motivation to change out of sweatpants or try to look presentable. It’s kind of motivating to know others have no motivation either!

Many people suffer with depression, and this situation makes it ten times worse, but they aren’t the only person with those feelings, as others are acting the same, or even are in worse shape. The news has broadcasted eating disorder relapses (the urgency to broadcast about at-home workouts does not help this problem) showing that it is a national problem and those who struggle with them aren’t the only ones thrown for a loop. We aren’t alone in feeling like we are lazy and will look worse after all this is done hence why there are so many jokes about the quarantine 15 and not needing to get a bikini body since pools are closed. We aren’t alone in being scared about all this, and while it may seem like there are some people who aren’t phased by this at all, chances are more people are feeling the same way you do. Just because you see everyone outside on a nice day when you don’t feel like it, doesn’t mean you’re the only one, so don’t feel bad or FOMO (fear of missing out). Yes, it can be hard to make yourself feel better by telling yourself a stranger has the same feelings you do, but that is where self-kindness comes to play and buffers against negative thoughts. Your subconscious benefits from knowing that you truly aren’t alone in the world. Lastly, I’m sure you aren’t the only one who is sick of cooking.

3. Mindfulness

This is usually the component where people dip out and are like “nah I am not doing this voodoo type thing.” That’s exactly what I said when I first started my mindfulness training as part of my Neurofeedback therapy prior to Covid. Let’s get this straight: mindfulness is not just about sitting with your eyes closed and picturing trees or colors while listening to calming music. This is the “fluffy” part I was talking about where people’s pride gets to them before they try it. Mindfulness is all about being mindful of your thoughts- allowing them to happen but not judging them. It’s like fishing: you catch a thought and release it back into the water until the next thought comes. It’s all about being objective and in the present. For example, you may think I have no clue how I am going to find a job and I am probably going to end up living with my parents for the rest of my life which will result and never finding love and I will die alone with 17 cats. Mindfulness would allow you to observe that thought objectively, responding with something like well, I just had that thought, it’s all good, that may or may not happen, but right now I can’t predict the future so how bout you just chill. Thinking about the future is downright terrifying right now, and thinking about the past and how everything used to be is depressing, so let’s just not think about those things, eh?

This is why this component is important; being in the present benefits how we talk to ourselves and think. Take each hour at a time and make the most of them; each good moment builds momentum to have a good day which leads to having a good week, and before you know it, a month has passed. A lot of people think negative thoughts and stuff them away until they build up inside and cause deeper issues. Mindfulness is different in which it allows for those thoughts to happen, but learning to observe them rather than believing them. Psychology shows that mindfulness can be trained, and can improve. I can attest to this, as my mindfulness stats have improved since I started. Not only how you think about things improves, but it goes down to a neurological level where your brain starts to react to stressful situations differently-more objectively. There are thousands of mindfulness podcasts, and youtube videos, so try them out! The only thing you have to lose by giving it a go is anxiety and negative feelings!


You may be asking why you haven’t seen more about self-compassion during all this- that’s because a lot of people don’t believe in solving mood problems or mental health issues without medications (let’s be real, you aren’t asking yourself that, but I’m going to talk about it anyways). A little mindfulness and self-kindness seems insane in treating a complex issue like depression or eating disorders. Heck, even therapists aren’t on board with it yet. Self-compassion is not all about rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns. It’s not a “fluffy” concept. It’s not just for women. It’s not just for times of trial. These are all common misconceptions I have come across. Use these “uncertain times” as all commercials are saying way too much to practice your self-compassion skills. Start small; don’t attack yourself for eating a donut, try to catch and dismiss a negative thought, and remember that your neighbor feels just as stir crazy as you do. Self-compassion goes far beyond Covid, so might as well start now so you can apply it to doubts about starting a new job, guilt or shame in relationship problems, newness of life changes, failure regarding diet changes, or even trying to fix the sink sans plumber without swearing at yourself.

Have a self-compassionate weekend, friends! Stay healthy 🙂

~Lauren

FND FAQ: Commonly asked questions about Functional Neurological Disorder

In honor of Functional Neurological Disorder Awareness Day 2020, I’m sharing the most frequently asked questions I get about FND, as well as the questions I received through a recent Instagram forum. I share my story to raise awareness for a condition that has been studied incorrectly until recently, seen as “not real” for years, and to help find a cure since it is as debilitating as stroke, Epilepsy, and Parkinson’s. Last year I shared what it is like to live with FND, and the year before I shared my story of how it all came to be. You can check out both of those at the bottom of this post!


Can you explain it in a “FND for dummies” kind of way?

It’s like Siri or Alexa: there is nothing wrong with your phone, but Siri never fails to interpret what you say incorrectly and send the wrong message which results in an undesired outcome like when you ask her to call Mom and you end up with facts about Guam. There is nothing structurally wrong with my brain, but the way it sends messages is incorrect. I’ll try not to go all psych nerd on you, but it comes down to my brain waves and basal ganglia (movement part of the brain, not a fancy cooking spice). Over the past 11 years my brain taught itself to fire more high activity brain waves (high-beta), but not enough calming brain waves (alpha). To sum it up: when my body experiences something out of the norm such as sickness or stress, it copes by sending waves that sound more like sororities than medical terms. My brain is all gas, and barely any brakes. Over the years my brain learned to use exercise as a mechanism to balance out my lack of calming waves. Exercise would be like the emergency brake in my all gas no brakes situation; it is a temporary fix but the problem will keep coming back. When I don’t exercise every day or I go to sleep at night, I have no way of compromising the high activity waves because sleeping and doing pushups all night isn’t an option.

When did your symptoms develop?

I’ve always been one to enjoy a good foreshadow. My symptoms didn’t appear until 5th grade…technically. One day I was perfectly fine, but the next day I went to school and FND decided to show up out of no where like a MN blizzard in the middle of April. I said “technically” because I recall having the same sensation in my arm years before that I can sense before I have a spell now. My arm would occasionally fly up on its own while I was watching cartoons in the morning, and we chalked it up to sleeping on it wrong. Even though I was young, I knew deep down that something wasn’t normal about it – and just like I have a hard time explaining what it feels like now, little Lauren didn’t have any better luck at it back then.

What caused it?

Hate to break it to you, but your guess is as good as mine. For 30% of FND patients it stems from emotional or physical trauma, but the rest of us have no clue why it came to be, and usually never find out. Needless to say, it’s hard to cure something when you don’t know what needs to be fixed, or even if you do find out what needs to be fixed, there may not be a way to fix it! Theories over the years include trauma from breaking my arm by being blasted out of a trampoline, which required two pins being put in, having them taken out while I was awake, and one pin getting stuck in my bone in the process (sorry to the queasy folks out there). I don’t know if I’m repressing some dark trauma of some sort; but as far as I’m concerned, my childhood was awesome. It was filled with sports, smiles, dolls, and the neighborhood crew I played with everyday. The only trauma I can think of is being dragged to my brother’s cold baseball tournaments (kidding…kind of). Another theory from my doctor is years of gymnastics trained my brain to become muscle dependent, so when I’m not using my muscles, it releases those pent up high activity waves. I know I always say I like to stay busy, but this is not what I meant!

What does it feel like? Does it hurt?

Explaining what it feels like compares to explaining what sound a dog makes without saying “woof” or making the noise… seriously, try it. No one will understand what I feel unless they have a spell themselves- just like you don’t know what woof sounds like until you say “woof.” It’s hard to fathom what it’s like to tell your body to stop moving but it won’t listen, and I liken it to trying to tell a toddler to stop running, and they do the exact opposite of that. It begins with a sensation in my shoulder that makes my arm feel lightweight and warm, it is my warning sign that tells me it’s about to start. Since I was diagnosed, my left arm permanently feels different from my right, almost like my left arm has a constant current running through it. I have about a minute between the sensation and my spell to get to a place where I can let it happen, or try to prevent it. If I can’t hold it off, it starts by contracting which feels like flexing a straight arm and leg, but with magnified intensity and can’t be bent at all no matter how hard someone tries to. I’m stuck like this for about 10 seconds-similar to the feeling of a charlie horse and not knowing when it will release. It then releases and violently shakes at a steady tempo, and then it will stop. The cycle continues until I try to do something to interrupt the cycle.

Does it hurt? No. But when it causes me to kick things it does! If I am sitting and there is a table right in front of me, I will indeed kick it with full force when my limbs contract. My spells themselves don’t hurt on any “regular” day, but when I am having a flare up due to one of the triggers, my spells become more violent which is a lot harder on my body as it strains my muscles.

What goes through your head when it happens?

What I tell myself during a spell depends on the situation. I was first diagnosed with a movement disorder on the Tourette’s Syndrome spectrum (this would be the incorrect diagnoses for the next 8 years), and I went to therapy for the “kid’s version” of CBT which didn’t last long because I was painfully shy. The one thing that stuck with me all these years, along with the crippling fear of having to share my feelings, was to tell myself: brain, it’s ok. It doesn’t make it stop, but it helps me to grasp onto that one phrase when I have a spell. When they happen at their usual time at night my inner dialogue is usually oh come on just let me sleep! But if I am in public? It’s a natural panic: What if someone sees me? I need to get out of here. I’m humiliated. I need help, but that attracts attention. Why are people staring at me? I’m stuck here. I can’t move. Why me, God? What do people think of me right now? Don’t start crying. I wish I could live like everyone else can. I’m alone, no one understands me. Brain you’re ok, brain you’re ok… Being in public when it happens is one of my greatest fears.

How were you a gymnast with a movement disorder?

I get asked this question a lot, but never really stopped to think about the irony of doing a sport that requires precise and specific movements all while having a disorder that is the exact opposite of that. I grew up doing gymnastics, but I also grew up with a movement disorder. I never saw FND as something that prevented me from doing what I loved, both were reality to me and went hand in hand. The gym was my safe haven; it was the place where I pounded out my stressors on floor, could sprint down the vault runway to release any anger, swing around the bars and feel lighter than the worries that weighed on my brain. I turned negative energy into pure power. Gymnastics was what kept my disorder at bay, and truth be told, I think the reason my disorder worsened when I stopped was because I no longer had my stress outlet that I had for 15 years.

What makes a spell stop?

Over the years it has changed, but the one method that never fails is movement. When I was little, I could just squeeze my left arm and it would stop, so I now have a reflexive habit of grabbing my arm when it happens even though it doesn’t do a thing anymore except prevent it from flailing out in front of me (you can see in the picture, old habits die hard). Simply standing up used to stop it, but now I can’t stand up on my own when it happens. Currently, I have to get up and do push ups, walk, or handstands. The challenge with this is if I try to stand up too quickly, my brain gets startled, and it makes another round of spells instantly start. I have to be careful when I try to move, or have someone help me because I’ll tip over if I don’t time it right. My spells are stronger than I am, and continue to get stronger as I get older. People have told me to try yoga, positive self talk, meditate, and other holistic methods; and while I’m sure those work for some people, all I need to do is drop and give myself 20 and I’m good as new. What can I say, I am a simple gal.

Why do you seem so…normal?

I get asked this more than you’d think. FND is acting normal, but not looking normal, at the same time. Maybe that’s my new party trick. I seem normal, because my brain IS normal. When I tell people I have non epileptic seizures they ask if I start to foam at the mouth, or go unconscious. FND is anticlimactic in the sense that it sounds scary, but in reality, nothing changes except that my left side is now moving on its own. I remain fully conscious, can still make fun of your bad haircut, have a full discussion about The Bachelor, crack stupid jokes, read incredibly dense psych articles, and use my whole right side to do things my left side temporarily can’t do. One time I was asked “how are you able to understand things in your AP and CIS classes with special needs?” My answer to them was “just like you do” and made sure I was out of sight before the waterworks flowed out of frustration that people don’t get it at all. Growing up, I participated in sports, held leadership positions, and did everything a normal teen would do. Most people didn’t know I had FND until I released my story two years ago. I spread awareness so no one else’s abilities get doubted like mine have just because they confuse cognitive disorder with neurological disorder.

What is the most embarrassing moment it has caused?

While there have been several embarrassing moments such as falling into a wall at the movie theater, getting called mentally handicapped by a student in the middle of class in front of everyone, or handstands in the locker bay and getting caught by a teacher who didn’t believe my situation and sent me back to class; my mind goes directly to competing my first gymnastics meet as a new Level 6 in Wisconsin. I had a lot to prove that day since I was new to that team, and of course, my FND decided to start about two minutes before I had to get up on a four inch wide beam and perform flips that required full control of my left side. My teammates had never seen what a FND spell looks like, so when they heard I was moved to the end of the line up and looked over at me needing help to stand up from my coach, they couldn’t take my eyes off me which made it that much harder to stop. Luckily by this age I knew what could get a spell to stop. I started to crank out push ups and handstands like no other, and within seconds, I was perfectly fine, got up on that beam, and stuck my routine like nothing ever happened. No one said anything about that instance ever again.

What is the scariest moment it has caused?

There is no doubt the one time I had a flare up while driving, or the nights I spent in the hospital when it first started were terrifying, but the one that comes to mind is the one I mentioned in my FND story two years ago; the night of the Gustavus vs. Oshkosh gymnastics meet. During a flare up, any slight startle will send me into a spell such as a loud noise, someone touching me, a bump in the car, or something unexpected happening. That day, I was watching bar warm ups and a girl’s foot slipped off, making a spell start. This time, push ups didn’t make it stop. It lasted for hours, and kept getting stronger with every cycle of sensation, contract, shake, rest. The whole ride from Wisconsin to the hospital in Minnesota, my spells were throwing me into the side of the car, and that was also the moment when it spread from just my leg and arm, to my neck. I can sense what a spell’s intensity will be which makes the anticipation the scariest part. While my parents were with me the whole time, there was no way they could make it stop or comfort me, and I felt completely alone and helpless.

Has it limited you in any way?

Yes it has. Over the years, I’ve found random triggers that flare it up. The first is I can’t travel much. It’s not the act of traveling; I’m perfectly fine on a plane, car, boat, horse and carriage, scooter, wagon, *insert any and all forms of transportation here.* It’s rather the fact I am sleeping anywhere but home that flares it up. In 7th grade I was at a sleepover and in the morning a girl approached me saying that I scared her because I wouldn’t stop shaking in the night and I looked like I was in an exorcism. Safe to say that stuck with me and I haven’t had a traditional sleepover since then.

Second, I can’t sit for too long. It’s made me think about my career path differently because if I have a job sitting at a desk all day, it will, and has, flared up. My summer internships were not only a career learning experience, but also a test run to see what my FND can handle. Binge watching Netflix is not an option for me, maybe this is FND telling me to get off my butt and be productive.

Third, it has limited relationships and opportunities. I have lost friends because they were scared of it and saw me as different once they found out, bosses didn’t handle things or treat me as they should have, and I’ve had guys end things because they “wanted someone normal and didn’t want to deal with it.” I’m one to find silver linings in situations, so in this situation, my brain doubles as a weed whacker.

Fourth, I have to exercise everyday. People say “that’s great!” but it sure didn’t feel great when I had no time in my schedule except at 4:30 AM to drag myself to the gym before my internship, was injured, or was sick. FND doesn’t care what state I am in, all it knows is that if it doesn’t get at least 1.5 hours of cardio a day, it freaks out like my dog does seeing the vacuum.

Fifth, eating dairy flares it up. All I have to say is if refraining from dairy were my day job, I would be fired ten times over already. I have to choose my battles when it comes to dairy, and a DQ run will never lose.

What are some of the weirdest theories you have tried to find a cure?

  1. Anti-seizure medication: I was misdiagnosed with focal seizures for a couple months at the beginning, and I respect anyone who has to take this everyday because it sucks all energy and life out of you.
  2. “Seratonin Smoothies”: These did absolutely nothing except burn me out on whey protein smoothies to this day.
  3. 3 AM Snack: Protein does not fix all things contrary to popular opinion. During flare up weeks my mom would come deliver me banana and peanut butter in the middle of the night.
  4. Sleeping with a sponge: For some FND patients, rubbing something scratchy distracts the brain and makes their spell stop. All I’m going to say is that the sponge that hung from my bedpost for years should have just stuck to cleaning the dishes.
  5. Parkinson’s medication: I understand the theory behind this one, but common sense says don’t take a drug unless you have the condition because it probably won’t work and may lead you to hallucinating a little bit 🙂
  6. Anti-anxiety medication: FND has incorrectly thought to be like Conversion Disorder aka psychological, and since I am a perfectionist, the doctor thought it would help. Plot twist: it led to an actual seizure.
  7. Not eating past 8 PM: I decided to be my own experiment participant. This one actually worked, but my p value wasn’t big enough to prove my data to be significant. Ya I’m a psych nerd, and I’m proud.
  8. No gluten, dairy, soy, or egg: This healed my gut problems that caused brain inflammation, but lemme tell ya this was harder than anything I’ve ever done. 110% do not recommend.
  9. Cuddling ice: Ice distracts the brain, so one night I decided to sleep with an ice cup. I don’t know about you but I prefer my teddy bear.
  10. Brain physical therapy: This included having my friends move my limbs for me, performing “BBQ rolls”, staring at dots, and a lot more things that look very weird to do in public.
  11. Supplements galore: At one point, I was taking 32 pills in the morning, 15 at lunch, and 32 at night. These supplements were for brain and gut health, and I bought out all the pill boxes at Walgreens to try to manage this situation. Turns out, the stress of having to literally meal prep pill boxes every week increased my cortisol levels!

What does Neurofeedback Therapy do, and has it helped?

It is basically potty training my brainwaves to send the right waves at the right time and getting positive feedback for doing so. This therapy came out in the past year to help those with ADHD, ADD, and Epilepsy, so might as well be a guinea pig for FND. The headband has sensors and electrodes that directly target the area of the brain that needs help. It then connects to an app called MyndLift which takes me through 20 minute sessions a day that consist of games ex: (correct brain waves=runner speeds up, incorrect brain waves=runner slows down), movies (correct= screen brightens, incorrect= screen dims), and music (correct=music louder, incorrect=music softer). They need to get a better music selection because I am very tired of Bach and Indian flute music.

Has it helped… yes?.. While the app results and my doctor tell me that my stats are improving and my brain is learning to send the correct brain waves, I have yet to feel any improvement. I started out only being able to send correct waves for 5 seconds in a row, and now I am at 194 consecutive seconds. It was explained to me that everything is stirred up for a while and once the dust settles that’s when results are felt. It will be like the great reveal in Fixer Upper, as my brain is getting up and fixed.

What is the best thing about having it?

I am glad someone asked me this because it hasn’t been all bad. It’s been a blessing in disguise that has made me who I am as I share time and time again. First, it’s shown me who I can trust and who my support system is. Second, it has made my faith stronger because- quite literally- God only knows how to help me through this so I gotta trust Him. Third, I can’t complain about having my own room in college and not going through the stress of room draw (especially since my number was terrible every single year). Lastly, it keeps my body and brain healthy in the sense where I do have to exercise everyday, eat right, and since alcohol and a brain that hates any bodily changes probably don’t mix well, I haven’t had a drink unless church wine counts. Has it been hard being the minority in college? Yeah, but it’s also been cool seeing people respect my decision. Not to mention it’s a tad bit entertaining when I tell them alcohol could lead to non epileptic seizures in which their eyes bug out and they say “yeah girl you should just stick with water!” I don’t think my body is missing lukewarm pitcher beer anyways.

Why are you so public about it when you can easily hide it and avoid the stigma?

I kept my FND to myself for eight years. I wish I didn’t because that’s eight more years I could have been helping others find their faith, and strength. Hiding it made me feel like I was supposed to be ashamed of this part of me I couldn’t control, and I finally got to the point where I’d rather be open about it than keep quiet to preserve a reputation. I share my story because it allows me to help others by relating to them in ways they didn’t think I could. I can connect with those who have experienced bullying, discrimination, other illnesses, and adversity. It’s been rewarding opening others’ eyes to believe that yes, life has dragged you through a time that’s as bad as a middle school hallway sprayed with too much Axe body spray, but each step makes you stronger. This year, someone I’ve never met approached me in the cafeteria after I shared my FND story about blessings in disguise on campus, and said it inspired them to find blessings in disguise to give them hope to keep going. FND helps me help others grow a relationship with Christ. Multiple people have asked me how I still believe in a God that has given this disorder to me. I answer that I fully believe God gave me this disorder to be a light so He can work through me to help others start to believe in themselves, and overcome their own battles. They usually don’t have a counterargument to that and later ask me to show them how to see life through my lens. Sharing my story has led to some of the most fulfilling work I have done. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says God gives us challenges and comforts us so we are able to comfort others. This is exactly what I have chosen to do with my challenge, and it makes my life a lot more purposeful than it would be if I kept to myself.

What’s the first thing you would do if you were cured?

I actually never thought about this before! I vaguely recall what pre FND life was like. I think the first thing I would do is go do everything that would flare it up (traveling, sitting too long, going off my sleep schedule, eating dairy, not exercising, sunburn) all at once. This poses me with several hypothetical options:

  • Travel to Italy (post Coronavirus of course) in which I would indulge in all the dairy filled gelato, and the cheesiest Italian pizza that I have ever had.
  • Sit for a very very long time on a plane to Australia and go get a nice sunburn on a beach just because I can.
  • Take a road trip with my friends and stay up late every single night.
  • Have my first ever “rest day” by choice (it’s been YEARS). Learn how to enjoy exercise again and not see it as a chore.
  • Go find someone who has strep throat and catch it from them to truly prove that my FND is gone (strep is the worst thing I can get with this disorder).

While these options all sound so amazing (maybe not the last one), I don’t think I would know what to do with myself – kind of like a too good to be true type of thing -but I would work to knock down the years of barriers it has built and go back to pre FND Lauren. She was fearless, happy all the time, open minded, always moving and full of energy. She was never scared to say yes to anything, loved to travel, and she lived in the moment. That is my ultimate goal, and FND has been my road block all these years even though I’ve tried my hardest to go around it. While I want to be the bright eyed witty character I used to be, and she’s starting to come back more these days, the one thing I can leave in the past about pre FND Lauren is the bangs!


Thank you to those who have supported me these last three years, but also to those who have stuck with me the other eight years! Each year this day comes around, there’s been more research and more findings. That is my light at the end of the tunnel. This day is not only to bring awareness for a disorder, but it’s also an opportunity for me to be grateful for those who have educated themselves in order to support me, celebrate how far I have come, and remind myself why it is so important to stay positive and be thankful for each day. Any lingering questions? Don’t hesitate to send me a message or check out http://fndhope.org ! Below are the links to my last two posts!

https://lifeoflauren.online/2019/04/07/life-with-fnd/ (Life with FND)

https://lcasey47.wixsite.com/lifeoflauren/single-post/2018/03/29/My-FND-Story?fbclid=IwAR31fw8Sdkt-fhdgxynbqAggdyWxYAmCNAcMuYeIu0QcQNrry7sFdsnATJ4 (My FND Story)

Thanks for reading and becoming more #FNDaware,

~Lauren