15 Reasons To Travel While You’re Young + Thoughts on Traveling & Social Media

Travel

I got the travel bug from my grandmother, who has been to so many countries that she probably wouldn’t be able to count them if she tried. My grandma goes on at least one trip abroad a year and usually comes back with a very odd and very humorous souvenir for us. Every time I talked to my grandma when I was growing up, I was so amazed at how she would casually bring up some incredible trip she took.

I always wanted to be like her. She’s so well-traveled, cultured, and so interesting – and I’m not the only one who thinks that. She’s someone that everyone loves and is intrigued by the second they meet her. I remember after my friend Pat met her for the first time, he turned to me and said one of my favorite quotes of all time, “Heather, your grandma is dope!” She is a dope grandma indeed. 

She’s a lady who does whatever the hell she wants regardless of what other people think. One of my favorite things she’s ever said to me was, “I don’t think I want a boyfriend, that might cramp my style.” If there’s one person I want to be like when I grow up and one person I want to make proud of, it’s her. And one way I plan on doing that is by exploring as much of this miraculous planet as I can, just like her.

With no surprise, my grandma was incredibly supportive of my love for travel. Not only does she pass on her travel stories and experiences to me, but she’s funded several of my trips. She generously took me to Paris for two weeks for my Sweet Sixteen, paid for my month-long graduation trip through Europe, and took a spontaneous and impulsive trip with me to Niagara Falls this summer. 

Today, my grandma’s writing is tattooed on the side of my body. It reads, “A life full of travel and wonders of our planet.” It will remind me for the rest of my life to get out of my bubble and explore the world as much as I can.

Just like my grandma, I want to encourage others to explore too. To put their money towards a plane ticket instead of products. So here are the top reasons why I believe it’s important to travel while you’re young in hopes that I will inspire at least one person to buy a ticket!

1. Travel expands your mind

I know this is the very first thing that people usually say about travel, but you don’t realize how true it is until you’re sitting in some random spot on the other side of the planet having your mind blown. I remember watching an opera in Rome and seeing flamenco dancing in Spain. Those are two experiences that I will never forget because I was utterly amazed seeing this in person. All I could think of was, “WHAT?! This is a thing?! People actually do this?!” It’s incredible seeing someone who’s spent a lifetime perfecting some dance that you would have never even heard of before.

When you travel, especially for an extended period of time or with a group of strangers, you regularly have those moments where you’re shocked by what you’re seeing or how other people interact in different cultures. You experience and learn things that you wouldn’t have otherwise known until you went there yourself.

Sometimes it expands your mind to things that are unpleasant. On my graduation trip, I learned so much about the Holocaust and World War II after visiting Germany and seeing a concentration camp that I would have never have learned unless I had visited Germany and gone on local tours. It’s best to travel while you’re young for this reason because your brain is still developing so you’re still very impressionable. Expanding your worldview during this time is crucial because you’ll be more open-minded than you would be if you started traveling after retirement. It allows you to expand your world-view and shape new opinions before settling into your ways.

2. It gets you out of your comfort zone

When you go on a trip abroad, you encounter language barriers, you get lost, and you have awkward moments when you encounter customs that you aren’t familiar with. It makes you feel out of place and puts you far out of your comfort zone, which is a great thing!

Interestingly enough, something about traveling to a foreign country also makes you more willing to take risks and try things that you wouldn’t if you were at home. I remember what it was like going zip lining in Costa Rica with Matt or going on an ATV tour underneath a volcano. The Heather that lives in Florida and spends most of her time going to the same coffee shop to write every day would NEVER do those things. But whenever I go on a trip, I take advantage of experiences that I otherwise wouldn’t try or wouldn’t want to spend the money on. Travel makes you do things that you normally would hold yourself back from, but THOSE moments are the ones that you remember for the rest of your life and tell at parties (or on your Tinder dates, lol). 

3. You meet life-long friends 

Something about dropping everything and traveling to a foreign country with strangers makes you connect with them on a much deeper level. When you travel to a new country with someone, rely on each other to get around, experience new things together, and spend entire days making memories and opening up about your lives back home, you form a very powerful bond. 

It’s a connection that you wouldn’t have had with that person if you had just met at a coffee shop or a bar back home. You create life-long memories with that person, making you much closer together and creating a relationship that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life. For that reason, I know that whenever I reach out to the girls I went on my trip with that they will always be happy to hear from me and we’ll catch up as if no time had passed.

Case in point, I just got back from visiting Cincinnati last night and while I was there I got to see my Europe travel buddy, Emily. We were attached at the hip the entire time we were abroad and now I consider her to be one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She had just landed from New York City yesterday morning and raced to come visit me for the remaining hours I was still in Cincinnati. When we reunited we ran up to each other on the sidewalk, threw our arms around each other and hugged in the most dramatic, rom-com fashion.

4. Travel helps you discover what you really want

When I left for my month-long trip abroad, I was very unsure of what I wanted, but the week I came back, I could look at my life with such clarity. I’m not exactly sure why this happens. Maybe it’s because travel allows you to step away from your life’s problems and have some space so that you can look at things with fresh eyes when you come back. Or maybe it’s because travel changes you, so you come back a slightly different person than the one who left.

Whichever it is, all I know is that my questions and dilemmas I’d been struggling with for months had been resolved when I got back: Where should I live? What career should I pursue? What do I really want in life? What projects do I want to pursue?

I was also very surprised by the number of other people on my tour who were having some kind of life crisis or question that they were seeking the answer to while we were away. I wasn’t the only one who had been hoping to solve some problem or answer an important question. For example, I remember that a handful of people were very unsure about whether or not they wanted to stay with their significant other. They were trying to figure out if they saw themselves staying with this person long term after they returned home or if it was best to go their separate ways. The trip helped them answer their questions. I remember one of my friends even bought a journal so she could do stream of consciousness journaling about her relationship and that helped her gain so much clarity. If you’d like to learn more about stream of consciousness journaling, checkout my blog post, “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It.”

5. Traveling while you’re young allows you freedom before you get tied down 

Yeah you could travel when you’re older, but you also have to consider that you’ll have a full-time job, extra bills, a mortgage payment, a dog that needs to be cared for, a significant other that doesn’t feel like traveling to the same country as you, kids, etc. I could go on and on with other reasons, but the point is that it won’t be as easy to drop everything and backpack your way through South America when you’re 35 or 40. It’s much easier to travel while you’re young because you’re not tied down to anything, and because it will be so much easier to hop back into your normal life without much of a disruption. For example, coming back from an extended holiday when you’re in your teens or early 20’s will have little to no impact on your career because it’s not already established. It’s expected that you’re still traveling, learning about what you want, and changing during this time.

You also have to consider that if you travel while you’re young, you only have to pay for yourself, not an entire family. It’ll cost far less money and you’ll be FAR more likely to actually do it. Simply put, you’ll never feel as free as you do RIGHT NOW.

6. You won’t regret it

You know that moment when you decide it’s freaking time to clean out your closet? Your clothes are overflowing, you can’t find anything, and you realize it’s that time of year to make some donations? You know how whenever this happens you inevitably find clothes in your closet that still have the tags on them and think, “Uggghhhh, why did I buy this!? That was such a waste of money!” Yeah, that doesn’t happen with travel.

I’ve never heard of anyone having buyer’s remorse over taking a trip. You won’t look back at your photos and memories of your summer abroad and think, “Ugggghhh, why did I do that?” “Why did I move to Paris for three months and work at that bakery? How stupid of me.” That just doesn’t happen. Traveling is one of the very few things in life that people spend their money on that they don’t regret. Sure, you might end up going over budget on your trip and be a little bit annoyed at yourself for spending so much. However, the feeling of regret will never enter your mind.

7. Travel makes you humble

The other reason why you should travel, especially while you’re young, is because it makes you humble. You’ll see people all around the world who are living with less than you and realize what little you need to take care of yourself and to be happy. I learned this lesson on my trip to Costa Rica. After coming back I wrote a blog post about this called “A Lesson in Pura Vida.”

I wrote about how I had noticed that the people in Costa Rica lived in what I can only describe as shacks. Their houses were made of tin and they had very few possessions and modern-day luxuries and conveniences. But they were the happiest and nicest people I have ever met in my life. Seriously! It was like they were all enlightened. They walked around with a huge smile on their face and saying hello to everyone. I could tell that they were happy and relaxed – not chronically stressed out. At the time, I went to a private college, drove an expensive car, lived in a gated community, and nannied for families who made over six figures. Yet none of the people that I was surrounded with were happy to be alive. They were stressed out, bitter, and materialistic. They were driven more by possessions and promotions than by anything else (I’m not claiming to be above this). However, these people in Costa Rica had next to nothing, and they were HAPPY. Very, very happy. That trip was humbling and made me reflect more on what’s important in life. 

The second reason why travel makes you humble is that you realize that you’re not the center of the universe. You’re dropped off at the airport in what sometimes feels like an alternate universe. You don’t understand the language or the way people are interacting with each other. Even though you know intellectually that there’s a wide world out there, you typically don’t think much about the world other than your own small existence. Then in the middle of all of this, you’re attending local tours and learning from someone about their political problems or issues that they face in the community. In these moments, it will hit you just how large the world is and how closed off you had been because these issues weren’t on your radar. For example, I didn’t know anything about the poverty rate in Costa Rica as I was going about my daily life in St. Augustine, Fla. It never occurred to me.

Lastly, if you’re traveling while you’re young you’ll most likely be staying in cheap accommodations, eating less expensive food, and finding experiences within your budget. You’re not rolling into your trip to the south of France in first-class seats, sipping champagne, eating caviar, and staying at 5-star hotels. You haven’t hit that age in life where you think, “Alright, I’m going on a trip. It must be luxurious.” No. You stay in hostels, you share bathrooms, you eat at places that are cheaper to accommodate everyone in your group, and you share cramped spaces on trains, planes, and automobiles. Having to be so accommodating with other people and share space is a humbling experience. 

I think that this is an important lesson to learn and it should be learned as SOON as possible. It’s better to become humble when you’re 20 rather than when you’re 45. It makes you a better person.

8. You’re in great shape

Some people decide that having a career and a family are the first priority to them and that travel is something that can wait until retirement, but I think that’s the wrong way to look at it. Because while you do want to make retirement fun and enjoyable, you also have to consider that you won’t be in as good of shape as you’re in when you’re a teenager or in your 20’s.

Your body can handle walking for miles to sightsee all day, hiking up mountains, getting less sleep, carrying a backpack all day, lugging your suitcase around, etc. The physicality of traveling alone just makes more sense to do while you’re young. And you never know what sort of health problems or limitations you might have in old age. 

9. Traveling empowers you

Before I left for my month-long trip to Europe, I was nervous as all hell. It also didn’t help that every person I talked to said something along the lines of, “Oh my God! Four weeks is SO long! I would never be able to do that. You’re crazy. You’re gonna want to come home by week two!”

I remember the night before I left I sat across from my boyfriend fighting off a panic attack for serval hours and drinking wine trying to calm myself down. The next day I was bawling while I was saying goodbye to Matt outside the airport! I. was. a. mess.

But when I landed in Florida after that month, I came back and thought “Oh my gosh! I freaking did it! That was awesome!” It’s a very powerful thing to see yourself doing something that you once considered to be scary. It helps you realize how much you’re capable of and gives you the confidence to take on new challenges or aspirations. Before I left for my trip, I thought a month would feel like forever and I might want to come home, but when I came home I realized that a month was nothing. I could easily take a trip for two, three, four, or even six months at a time. I realized that the fear that I had was all in my head. I set this limitation for myself that I now realize was completely ridiculous. 

10. You can handle cheap accommodations

I’ve noticed that as you get older, the accommodations that you feel you deserve continue to increase in cost. I know that I was going on a trip to a foreign country right now, I would be perfectly ok in cheaper hotels that my older family members wouldn’t even consider staying in. I don’t feel as if I’m somehow deserving of first-class tickets, 5-star hotels, and a luxurious mattress to sleep on. Those things would be fabulous and I would be appreciative of it, but I feel perfectly ok with slumming it a bit to check countries off of my bucket list.

However, it’s not just that as you get older you feel entitled to better accommodations, your body also needs them. I’m 24 now, and I know that my body can handle sleeping on crappy mattresses and taking a 10-hour plane ride in super small airplane seats. But if I was 70 years old right now, that wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be able to bounce back as well as I can right now. That’s something you also have to keep in mind.

11. You’ll come back with TONS of stories 

The best part of spending your money on traveling is that you come back with tons of stories and memories that stay with you forever. Half the time they’re stories of something wonderful and exciting that you experienced – like when I learned how to make homemade pasta while I tasted wines in Rome (it was Amazing with a capital A). Or sometimes they’re stories of something bad or scary that happened on your trip – like when two of my friends Martha and Emily had a near-death experience during the riots in Paris after the World Cup Final. But even the “bad” memories end up turning into hilarious stories that you get to share and laugh about when you get back home.

It’s been over a year since I went on my tour and I still find myself saying, “That reminds me! When I was on my trip…” I didn’t even realize how many interesting things happened until I came back and would have conversations with people and it would remind me of some experience that I had in Amsterdam, France, or London. I still love telling the story of what it was like experiencing the World Cup Final while I was in Paris or celebrating my sixteenth birthday in Paris which coincidentally is the same day as the French Independence Day. 

12. You’ll have help

One of the added benefits of traveling while you’re young is that you’ll most likely be able to convince mom and dad or grandma and grandma to help you fund your trip. That’s one of the best parts of traveling while your young because you’re family members are eager to help you out financially so that you can make some memories and have a good time. I’m now past the point where my family is jumping up and down to help me pay for a trip, so take advantage of the help while you can!

On top of that there are tons of tours that are cheaper and cater to teens and young adults with a smaller budget but still want to see as many sights as they possibly can. I personally am in love with the tour company EF Tours. I’ve been on two of their trips so far and have loved every minute of it. They get you to all of the attractions, book your flights and hotels for you, hire a tour guide to take you from place to place, and plan fun excursions. They’re also relatively cheap because they use the same hotels, hostels, tour companies, and local business so frequently that they are able to get everything cheaper than it would be if you went on your own. 

You also have the benefits of student discounts, so remember to bring your ID with you and ask if you can use it wherever you go! These perks make traveling while you’re young much easier because the total cost of the trip will be significantly less than you would pay in the future if you decide to take the same trip. 

13. It makes you more independent 

When you’re younger, if you’re anything like me, you may a bit timid and shy. This means that having to get around for the day in a foreign country by yourself can be a bit nerve-wracking, but those moments of travel are good for you, even if they’re a bit unsettling.

I remember there was one day when I was in Paris and everyone that I was friends with on my tour decided that they wanted to spend the day at Chipotle and relaxing in the hostel. I thought this was absolutely crazy. “We’re in PARIS guys! You can have a burrito bowl when you get home!” So I had no choice but to go off by myself if I wanted to do anything interesting. At first I was completely terrified and scared of being alone. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way back?! But I ended up walking all around Paris and seeing the entire city. I saw the major attractions and went to places like the oldest bookstore in the city to buy a book and tried the best hot chocolate in Paris. I got pictures EVERYWHERE, ate as many macaroons as I could get my hands on, and ended the night watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It ended up working out perfectly because I was able to do so much more that day than I would have done if I was with a group of 5 or 6 girls. And I realized that I’m much more independent and capable than I thought. I was so proud of myself by the end of the day and so fulfilled by getting around a foreign city all by myself that it became one of the most memorable days of the tour. 

14. Travel makes you more accepting of others

Another reason why I believe that it’s vitally important to travel while you’re young is because it makes you much more accepting of other people.

I feel that today, we need this lesson more than ever. There’s been so much hatred in America fueled by the media in recent years. Mostly because media channels learned that they can make money by pinning people against each other and because this last presidential election was “harrible.” Hugely, “biggly,” and catastrophicly “harrible.”

Because of this we’ve become accustomed to getting offended if someone has a different opinion or experience than us and rejecting them. Our country has been in a place where all people do is fight and hate people who are different. It’s especially toxic for all of the younger generations who are impressionable and mimic the behavior they see while growing up. And I’m not just talking about children. I’m talking about the teens and college students (like myself) that watched all the adult figures in their lives turn against each other for a solid year because of this last poisonous election.

My concern is that if THIS is how people feel about other American citizens than what is our perspective of the rest of the world’s population? If we can’t even learn to live in harmony with our neighbors, how do plan on having successful international relations? Today more than ever, I feel it’s important for people to get outside of their own inner circle and learn about the rest of the world. To learn about different cultures and different views, but most importantly learn that we can all be accepting and COEXIST.

I can hear my grandma in my head right now saying her famous line, “Haven’t people ever heard of the word HUMAN?! We’re all HUMAN!”

15. “Life is short and the world is wide.” – Simon Raven

Last but not least on my list of why it’s important to travel while you’re young is that there’s a HUGE world out there and life is short. Not to end on a morbid note, but a long life is not guaranteed to any of us. You have no idea what could happen in the future. I would love it if the universe would grant each and every one of us a long, healthy, and happy life, but it doesn’t work that way. People get sick and accidents happen. It’s best to fill your life with the experiences that you dream of while you can instead of putting things off for a perpetual “someday.” “Someday I’ll rent an RV and travel around the country.” “Someday I’ll see the seven wonders of the world.” “Someday I’ll go to Thailand.”

Someday is not set in stone. Someday is not promised. 

Traveling & Social Media 

Before I wrap up this post, I didn’t feel as if I could close up this week’s blog post without mentioning social media (particularly Instagram) and traveling. It felt irresponsible to share this post without addressing the problem of people traveling solely for getting attention and become famous online.

One of my favorite travel bloggers and Instagram influencers is Aggie, better known as “Travel In Her Shoes.” She’s someone who became very famous for her love of travel. She would travel for months and months at a time before she even was on Instagram and would take photos just for herself. She lived a very traditional life as most of us do for a while. She went to college, graduated, got a corporate job and was MISERABLE. So Aggie and her boyfriend at the time decided that they wanted to live a life of adventure and passion. They bought an old sailboat online, sold all of their possessions, fixed up the boat, and set sail from Mexico to Australia. Their story got picked up and since that day she’s made a career of her traveling and living the life that many of us can only dream of.

But Aggie recently opened up in a social media post this week about a topic that I believe needs to be talked about. Her Instagram post was inspired by a recent Ted Talk given by Joseph Gordon-Levitt on “paying attention” vs. “getting attention.” The talk is called “How Craving Attention Makes You Less Creative.” The Ted Talk is amazing and I HIGHLY recommend watching it as soon as you can. He talks about how (as a result of social media) most people today now view their creativity as a means to GET attention rather than paying attention, enjoying yourself, and collaborating with other creatives.

Aggie shared that traveling used to be very much about paying attention. It was a way to get out of your small little bubble, disconnect with family and friends, find yourself, and fall in love with another country. She admits that now, due to social media and influencers like herself, traveling has become a way to GET attention. “[People] sign up for a sort of their own Truman Show,” as she puts it. They get addicted to waking up each day and getting attention from their followers as they post gorgeous travel photos and share their stories. Because of that, they’re afraid to go back to their normal lives. They’re afraid that if they do, they will be forgotten and won’t receive praise from their online following. And that’s exactly what happened to her. The addiction to keep showing up, traveling, and getting attention is what caused her a falling out with the man she was in love with, getting extremely sick this year, losing her hair, and falling into a depression. Since then, she’s taken a step back and slowed down on traveling and focused on herself more.

I want to talk about this issue because the sad truth is that many people today travel just as a way to get likes and followers. People sign up for trips, buy expensive clothes for their photos, and spend their entire vacation staring at their phone. I can’t say that I’m above this myself. I will admit, my motto was “do it for the gram” for several years there, and my travels were a part of that too. But that’s NOT what travel is about. Travel should be about the reasons I listed above, not to become the next big travel blogger or YouTuber! It defeats the entire purpose of travel. So if you are going to book your next flight, remember that exploring the world is about the reasons I listed above, not about the social media posts that will come as a result. Travel is about PAYING attention, not GETTING attention.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

As always, thank you for coming to Lost Online! I hope that this post was entertaining and I hope that it inspired someone out there to go on an adventure. If it does, PLEASE reach out to me!

A special shout out to one of my Gram (who is somewhere in Morocco right now living her best life) for being my role model, for passing on her travel bug to me, and helping me to come up with ONE more reason for traveling while you’re young (just because I liked the sound of “15 Reasons” more than “14 Reasons).” Not only is she the source of inspiration for this week’s blog post, but she’s also my #1 supporter and reader. Hi Gram (: I love you very much.

Lastly, please send your thoughts and prayers to my incredible friend and photographer Ray Reyes and his family who lost his father, Edd Reyes, very suddenly last week. You can read Ray’s most amazing, tear jerking words about his father’s life in his Facebook post here. And thank you for your patience as there’s been a delay in getting blog posts published at this time. But as we all know, family is more important.

“Time is the most precious commodity we can share with our loved ones. With time, you can do all you need to do and say all you need to say. But you can’t wait forever, because time has already passed, the time is absolutely now and we have no idea how much time we have in our futures.” – Ray Reyes

Remember to comment your thoughts below. I love hearing from you! Can you think of any other reasons why Lost Online readers should prioritize traveling while they’re young? What are they? Did you have a favorite reason on this list? What was it? Do you have a travel bug too? Where’s your next adventure going to take you? Did this post inspire you to take a trip anytime soon? Do you have a family member that has been influential in your travels too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto and Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

Announcement: I’m Seeing a Therapist + How I Discovered I Had Depression & Why I’m THANKFUL For It

Announcements, Self-Help

This week’s blog post is a bit different for me. If you’ve read Lost Online for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the fact that’ll I’ll occasionally write about announcements in my life like starting at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition – but never have I shared an announcement THIS personal. 

I’ve debated about sharing this so many times with mental illness being such a sensitive and personal topic but finally decided that keeping this a secret wouldn’t feel authentic. Because I am so passionate about self-help and wellness I really feel called to share my decision with you about seeing a therapist. Keeping such a big decision private (as someone who preaches self-help and wellness each and every week) just isn’t me. I like being honest on my website, even if it’s not always the cool thing to do. 

Very recently, after realizing that I had depression which wasn’t planning on leaving my side anytime soon, I decided to start seeing a therapist. For the first time in my life, I didn’t just entertain the idea or talk about it. I finally picked up my phone, actually made a call, and booked my first ever therapy appointment – a huge step that I wasn’t sure I would ever take. Since that day I keep giving myself mental praise, “Hell yeah, I actually f*cking did it. I took the first freaking step!” It’s not very often I feel proud of myself, but today I am. Up until this point, the idea of seeing a therapist seemed as terrifying to me as much as swimming with a Great White shark. 

So I wanted to come here today, as I normally do, to talk about what prompted me to finally start seeing a therapist NOW in hopes that it will inspire someone else who may be going through something similar and just needs to hear that they’re not alone.

The Build-Up

It’s been nine months since I first moved to St. Petersburg, Fla. with my boyfriend Matt. I could still remember how excited and thrilled I was that I finally graduated from college and was about to start a life with my partner. It was such an exciting time, picking out the decor, signing a lease, grocery shopping together! I was finally growing up and I could not wait. My entire life I looked forward to the day when all this would happen – when my life would start, when I’d have someone to come home to, when I’d finally be FREE to live as I please. I know it sounds crazy, but I honestly thought that once I moved out and had my own place life would be WONDERFUL. It would be perfect. It would be filled with travel, love, beauty, money, friends, adventure, rainbows, and unicorns. LOL. That’s not what happened. 

Here’s what actually happened: Since I first moved to this coast to sunny St. Pete, nothing happened as I expected. There’s been so many big life changes, decisions, and challenges that I didn’t see coming for the life of me. For the first time ever I was in a new town trying to make a life for myself without family or school providing some structure and support. I was alone having to make friends as an adult (which is surprisingly difficult). I’ve tried so many times to make friends with people only to be canceled on and stood up again and again.

I had to get used to a whole other family that’s now in my life with their own opinions and oh so many expectations. I’ve had to deal with WAY more family drama than you would expect both in my family and Matt’s. I’ve been pressured into buying a house before I was ready, with NO ONE around me respecting my feelings. I then fell in love with a house and had that dream taken away after we discovered a disturbing termite infestation and had to resend our offer. 

I felt real financial stress for the first time. I’ve felt the pressure to find a job while being asked every single day, “So did you find a job yet? How’s the job hunt going?” (Apparently, when you are job hunting, it’s the only thing you’re allowed to discuss with people.) I’ve been spewed so much unwarranted advice about job hunting from people who haven’t looked for a job in 20 years. 

I then had months of sleepless nights struggling with the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue what I wanted. Then, I got let go from another job, followed by months of working at home from my kitchen counter leading to a very isolated lifestyle because there’s no “blogger office” you can go into to hang out with people.

That’s not even including the health problems, friend drama, and family issues that are way too private to share online. But the biggest challenge of all – I can’t make one decision in life without someone feeling the need to intervene and share their two cents with me. Wherever I want to live, whichever house I live in, whichever dog I get, SOMEONE has an issue with it. I really believed that once I was on my own that I would be magically liberated from the opinions and judgment of others.

If this is what everyone meant by, “Wait until you get into the real world,” I finally understand what they mean.

That transition period from college to adulthood is extremely overwhelming, and then you throw in health problems, a new city, a new family, and financial stress and it’s no wonder I’ve been so anxious and depressed over the last nine months. There’s been A LOT going on, and those are just the bullet points. 

It reminds me of a quote I just saw on Instagram today that said, “Being an adult is just saying, ‘But things will slow down a bit again’ to yourself until you die.” I think that sentence wraps up the last nine months of my life perfectly. 

How I Discovered That I Had Depression 

All of that brings me to these past few months when I’ve felt so low, so defeated, so disrespected, so helpless that I just felt like, “What’s the point?” “Why even get up early, get a bunch of work done when life keeps handing me one shit sandwich after another?”

My depression stayed while the excitement, motivation, and inspiration fell away. I ended up spending way too many days over the last few months in sweat pants, greasy hair, exhausted for no apparent reason, not feeling like myself at all. So many days I felt lazy, unmotivated with overwhelming sadness or sometimes not feeling anything at all. Sometimes even just getting out of bed in the morning felt like going to war. It seemed impossible. What’s worse is that staying in bed turned into a vicious cycle where I felt guilty and disgusted with myself for not working and getting more done.

Once I was up, I couldn’t even bring myself to take care of myself, do work, eat well, or go to the gym. Some days I would binge on junk food for comfort, other days I wouldn’t eat a thing. Because of how low I felt, I isolated myself more and would hardly leave the apartment. 

It was about nine months of lead up and slowly feeling worse and worse until one day I realized: I don’t think this is normal. This doesn’t seem to be one of my typical “ruts” that might last a few days. It seems more serious than that. 

But I still wasn’t 100% convinced that I was experiencing depression. I thought that in order to be depressed you had to have suicidal thoughts or actions, which I don’t. I still want to live and continue to grow, I still have hopes, dreams, and aspirations, but I still felt terrible and sad most days. So, I became more and more curious about whether or not that’s what I’ve been experiencing. 

This eventually led me to into a google-searching black hole one night. I started looking up articles about how to tell if you have depression and found a long collection of articles that all had similar titles. Most of them said, “30 symptoms of depression,” “20 ways to tell if you have depression,” “12 secret symptoms of depression,” “15 little known side effects of depression.” You get the idea. Well, it turns out, I had ALL of the symptoms and “secret” side effects of depression, aside from one – bed sores.

It turns out that I had depression all along, and just didn’t realize it. It wasn’t until I had every symptom and checked with Google before I finally realized that’s what was going on. It was difficult to finally admit to myself that that’s what I’m going through, especially being someone who’s so immersed in self-help and wellness. I would love nothing more than to “fix” myself and be a perfect, shiny, glimmering example of health, happiness, self-love, and positivity for you. It also was somewhat of a relief though, because there have been too many times when Matt asks me for the third time in one night, “What’s wrong?” Followed by me saying, “I’m tired,” because I honestly don’t know what to say. 

Finally Seeking Help

There have been many times I should have seen a therapist throughout my life, but I never went through with it. I was way too scared to finally take the leap and I had so many irrational fears about what might happen if I actually DID see a therapist. I was afraid of being labeled or being viewed as a freak who couldn’t get their life together. I was scared that I might hear people say to me, “What the f*ck would you have to be depressed about?” Especially if it was my family saying those things. It would make me feel so guilty when they’ve worked so hard to give me the life that I have now. Seeing a therapist seemed almost unfair or even wrong. However, what terrified me the most was the thought of sitting across from a stranger and crying for an hour about my deepest and most personal issues. The thought of that still makes me cringe.

Even though I know SO many people who see therapists and talk about how much it’s helped them through depression, anxiety, family problems, and trauma, I couldn’t bring myself to do it for the longest time. Which only meant that the longer I put it off, the more I built it up in my mind and the scarier it seemed. 

But now here I am, a self-help and wellness blogger that spends days experiencing overwhelming sadness and not being able to get out of bed. I’ve read all the books, listened to all the podcasts, tried all the supplements, adopted all of the self-care rituals, and here I am – experiencing depression. It was that thought that FINALLY made me pick up my phone one day and seek out a therapist. There comes a point when if you experience depression, you can’t leave it up to random authors to play the role of your therapist for you, you need to actually talk with someone. 

So here I am at the start of my own therapy journey and I just had my consultation appointment today (as I’m writing this). After making that initial phone call and setting up my appointment, my fears surprisingly went away and were replaced with an emotion that I was NOT at all expecting: excitement. It appears that all of the overthinking that I did about whether I should or shouldn’t see a therapist for years made that initial phone call scarier than actually sitting down with someone. 

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is the incredible amount of overthinking you’re doing with the problem. Let it go and be free.” – unknown

Viewing Depression in a Positive Light 

Now that I’m finally taking a leap of faith and moving forward with a therapist I’m feeling very hopeful about what’s to come. It’s allowed me to reflect on the last 9 months without being so triggered by it and think about the advice that I wish I could give myself when I first moved to St. Petersburg. I put together three main takeaways that I want to share with you today so that it may reach someone else who needs need to hear this too.

1. Life goes in phases

There will be moments when you feel on top of the world and there will be moments when you’re feeling down. You’ll have the best days of your life, but there will still be the worst days. But as much as it sucks when you’re hurting and life keeps kicking you when you’re down, those times are necessary. It would be impossible to feel on top of the world all the time or else you wouldn’t appreciate it. If everything went your way you wouldn’t realize how special it was and would take it for granted. 

That’s why it’s important to honor the highs and the lows equally. To feel happy and grateful when things are going well and to trust that everything is working in your greatest favor when they are not. 

2. It’s always darkest before dawn

Just as I shared in my latest blog post, “How to Recognize Universal Signs, things falling apart of “bad” things happening is a good thing. A lot of the time, it’s actually the universe working in your favor. I believe that many of the good things that happen to us would be brought into fruition without something falling apart. Just like how you wouldn’t have met your soulmate unless you broke up with that douchebag you used to date in college!

I’m going to go ahead and quote myself for a minute, in case you haven’t read the last blog post yet.

“We can’t expand, fulfill our purpose, or become our highest selves if everything is going well and if everything was EASY. We can’t continue to improve and learn important lessons if everything is rainbows and unicorns all the time. We’d be way too comfortable. And if there’s one thing that I know in this world, it’s that you can’t grow inside your comfort zone…Challenges happen because it’s the universe pushing you to level up.” – Heather Ione Clark

It reminds me of one of my absolute favorite quotes in the world, from author J.K. Rowling: “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” If it wasn’t for her challenges, the world would have never been blessed with the magical, wizarding world of Harry Potter!

But just as much as I believe that challenging times happen to us so that we can reach our soul’s purpose, I also believe that the rough periods are happening to us for another reason. We all have lessons that we’re meant to learn in this lifetime so that we can evolve and become our highest selves. Even though it’s much easier to take the victim mentality, instead look at it from the perspective of, “What can I learn from this?”

When I take this healthier and more positive perspective, I’m able to understand that this depression I’ve been experiencing is happening for a greater purpose – it will help me to grow, finally address traumas that I haven’t let go of, and it will help me to inspire others to seek help too. 

3. It’s ok to not be ok

It’s ok if you’re not always feeling “#blessed” like how you are in your Instagram captions. Let’s be honest, we all have crap days and years that don’t quite go how we imagined they would. And that’s ok. I don’t think I’ve met one person who didn’t struggle with some trauma, whether it be a broken relationship with a parent, a sexual assault, or an eating disorder. We all have our things.

When I first decided to see a therapist, I debated not sharing this with you. I didn’t want to admit that even I feel the need to see a therapist. Because I’m a self-help and wellness writer, I should be 100% ok, right? False. Even your super hot personal trainer eats cake sometimes. We’re all human here. 

But I’m sharing this because although this blog is all about self-help, health, and wellness, I’m not claiming to be PERFECT. I’m not claiming to have it all figured out. This is about my journey, my advice that I learn along the way, and above all – transparency. Sharing the not so gram-able moments about my life in hopes to help someone else. Because I know other young women just like me share the same challenges, and I want them to know that it’s ok to NOT be ok. 

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope you enjoyed this week’s post and it helped you to reflect on your own experience. Lastly, I just want to say that if you’re having a similar experience as me, don’t be afraid to make the call. Those few minutes it takes to call someone are scarier than actually sitting down and talking things out. Trust me, you will be so happy and so proud of yourself that you took the first step. 

“At any given moment we have two choices: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” – Abraham Maslow

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Have you recently taken the first step to see a therapist? Do you currently see a therapist? Looking back at the time of your life when you decided to seek help, what are some of your own takeaways? What advice would you give to others who are going through a hard time? Do you believe that “bad” things happen for a reason? Do you believe that we’re meant to learn something from moments like this? Even if you don’t AND even if you haven’t seen a therapist, let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It + INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY

Self-Help

Did you know that 99% of life’s greatest problems could be solved with stream of consciousness journaling?

Ok, I made that up. But in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a huge fan of stream of consciousness journaling. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Journaling has gotten me through my worst days, helped me to realize my passion in life, gave me the courage to be myself, and strengthened my spirituality.

That’s why I’m a huge advocate for using stream of consciousness journaling for self-help and self-discovery. It’s why I mention it in many of my blog posts, talk about it on social media, and recommend it to those who reach out to me for advice.

However, as someone who wants to spend all day everyday writing, I was surprised by how few people actually practice stream of consciousness journaling or know what it is! WHAT? Does not everyone spend hours a day writing? What do they do with their time? So today I wanted to explain what you need to know about stream of consciousness journaling and why this simple activity is so beneficial. I’ll also talk about how to incorporate stream of consciousness journaling into your life for those who are curious about it and are interested in starting.

I really wish that more people would regularly do stream of consciousness journaling. It’s a freeing, introspective, and therapeutic method that helps you work through life’s challenges and improve every aspect of your life for a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. It may not solve 99% of life’s problems but I honestly believe that if more people implemented this simple act into their daily routine, the world would be a much better place.

Make sure to stay until the very end of the post to learn how you could win my Gratitude Journal Giveaway!

What is stream of consciousness journaling?

What stream of consciousness isn’t is a narrative, a story, or a diary. It’s not meant for you to provide a timeline or create an autobiography. It’s not a description of your day.

Stream of consciousness journaling is when you write whatever is in your head, completely unfiltered. You write every thought just as is, exactly how it’s flowing through your mind. Curse words, improper grammar, subject changes and all. You write about anything and everything that’s going through your mind. You don’t plan it, you don’t wonder what you should write next. You pick a topic, like something that’s bothering you, and you write down everything.

It’s meant to be very messy. You don’t worry at all about spelling, grammar, or run-on sentences, because it’s probably the only type of writing that’s not meant to be read. It’s an exercise, it’s a therapeutic method. And if you’re doing it correctly, trust me, you will NEVER want to read it. You’re brain-dumping all of the emotions, all the stressors, the challenges, the problems, the insecurities, and the things you don’t want people to know about you and putting them on paper to clear your mind.

It’s not like any other writing because there’s no structure and there are no rules – no editing, no five-paragraph format, not even an intro or a conclusion. It’s your brain! It doesn’t follow rules! And that’s why the most important thing to remember is to not be critical of it or worry about how it reads because it will never be read! That’s why it’s so freeing.

PRO TIP: Relax about it.

It’s not weird! Stop thinking it’s weird!

I noticed that the one thing that turns people away from journaling is that they associate writing down their thoughts in a journal with a 14-year-old girl writing in her pink “diary” about the boy she has a crush on and the girl she doesn’t like a school. It seems adolescent or immature. It seems like something that isn’t socially acceptable. But it’s not a diary. Trust me, I had diaries as a kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with having a diary.)

Stream of consciousness journaling is a therapeutic technique that is beneficial for anyone and everyone no matter what their age or gender. However, you won’t reap those benefits unless you calm down and stop judging yourself for doing it. The first few times you do it may be weird, because you’ve never seen your own thoughts on paper before, but it does get easier and it starts to feel more natural and more freeing the more you practice it.

The very real benefits of stream of consciousness journaling

Why is it beneficial? The reason why I preach about stream of consciousness journaling all the time is that I’ve seen so many benefits from it, particularly when I started to do it regularly. By making it a part of my nightly routine I saw that it started to change my mood and my mindset so I felt happier all day, even when I wasn’t journaling. It allowed me to put the challenges and the negativity down on paper instead of carrying it with me. That’s why after making it a part of my daily life, I believe in it wholeheartedly and think that the world would be a much happier and better place if everyone adopted this simple activity.

Here are the top 11 reasons why stream of consciousness journaling is beneficial in hopes that it will inspire you to start today…

1. It allows you to purge

The number one benefit that everyone can agree on about stream of consciousness journaling is that it gets everything down on paper or your computer so those thoughts don’t keep circling in your head. It allows you to take a load off and to get rid of the baggage that distracts you from feeling content and at peace. I didn’t even know how cluttered and chaotic my mind was until I started journaling and noticed how much calmer and clearer my mind was afterward. I didn’t realize how much the thoughts and stressors had been building up and weighing on me until they were finally gone. I had gotten so used to the stress little by little that I couldn’t remember life without it.

2. It stops thoughts from amplifying

You know how when something is bothering you or stressing you out, your mind does this exciting thing where it continues to amplify the problem? You’ll be bothered by something that’s happened to you and suddenly your mind can make it a hundred times worse by building up the problem, thinking of all of the other bad things that could happen, thinking about how other people will think and feel, etc. Your mind goes from worrying about that passive-aggressive thing your boss said to suddenly convincing you that you could be fired, wondering what would happen if you got fired, stressing about bills, thinking about how you would feel, thinking about how a job loss could ruin your reputation, thinking about what your partner will think of you, or thinking about how you should act around your boss. The problem snowballs from one stressor into a full-blown life crisis in a matter of 15 minutes.

What stream of consciousness journaling does is it stops those thoughts from circling and amplifying in your mind. It prevents them from blowing up into something that ruins your day and your happiness with pointless worrying. It also makes you realize how extraordinarily unrealistic those thoughts can be once you actually write it down. That way it makes the problem more manageable and grounds you again instead of keeping you sucked into that miserable anxiety loop.

3. It helps you solve a problem

Stream of consciousness journaling is also incredibly beneficial for problem-solving and helping you make better decisions. And don’t we all need help with that! One way that it does this is by removing that clutter in your mind and preventing the negativity from amplifying, so you’re actually able to figure out a problem or what your next step should be because it removes those distractions. You have space to figure out what to do and come up with solutions.

Often times we’re also unable to figure out the root of a problem. There’s so much going on in our minds that you don’t really know what’s going on. There have been countless times where I’ve had life-changing epiphanies because writing about a problem allows me to peel back the layers and find out what’s really going on deep down in my subconscious mind. This journaling allows you to discover how certain circumstances have been triggered that reminds you of an event or person from your past. What journaling has taught me that your mind is kind of like an onion, and onions have layers. You have to peel back plenty of layers on the top to get to the center of the problem and figure out what’s really bothering you. (If you didn’t get that Shrek reference, I don’t know if we can be friends).

Lastly, stream of consciousness journaling helps you solve problems by discovering what’s actually best for YOU. One of the major lessons I learned in my senior year of college and after graduating college is that everyone and their mother thinks that they are an expert on what is best for me. Everyone seems to think they know the perfect place for me to live, the perfect way to go about finding a job, the perfect career path, the best way to invest money, the best freaking house that I should buy, the best time to get a pet, etc. Everyone has a major opinion about how you, and I, and everyone else should be living our best life.

But here’s the thing, only YOU know what is best for YOU. Other people may have ideas and opinions based on their own experience, but just because something works for another person and makes sense for their life, doesn’t mean that it makes sense to you. Stream of consciousness journaling helps you separate the outside opinions and uncover what makes the most sense for you.

4. It reduces stress

Immediately after stream of consciousness journaling, I always notice an incredible sense of relief. Do you know how you get a runner’s high after a nice long run where you feel refreshed, happy, and uplifted? That’s sort of how I feel after a long journaling session where I release any of the drama, stresses, or insecurities that I’ve been dealing with. By the end of an hour of a long writing session, I feel an enormous sense of relief. It clears why mind and relaxes me so I can feel happy and free of stress.

However, it’s not just immediately after journaling where you’re able to feel this sense of release. By incorporating it into your daily routine and releasing that stress each and every time, you’ll notice that over time you’ll be less anxious in general. You’re incorporating a therapeutic exercise into your life and you’re dealing with your problems in a healthy way so you can be happier, more relaxed, and more fulfilled all the time. I started to notice this feeling after about a month of journaling for half an hour to an hour each night and then following it with mediation. Side Note: Journaling also made meditation much easier so I started to feel the benefits from that practice as well.

5. It helps with self-discovery

One of the most interesting benefits to me about stream of consciousness journaling is how much it helps with self-discovery. I’ve always been an incredibly introspective person, but even I am blown away by how much you can learn more about yourself simply by writing down your thoughts. Engaging in regular self-reflection brings up things that you didn’t even realize about yourself. These could even be things that you thought about your whole life but haven’t been able to figure out.

I’ve spent many nights learning new things about myself that I’ve never noticed before or have been stumped on for years. The most significant one that comes to mind is how I learned of my passion and life’s purpose through journaling. I answered a prompt late one night and used stream of consciousness journaling, as I always do, and suddenly it hit me that my passion was self-help and wellness. At the exact moment, I was laying in bed surrounded by a pile of self-help books that were all highlighted and stuffed with notes. I listened to self-help podcasts, read self-help books for years, and envied the self-help writers that I knew of. But somehow it never occured to me that that’s what I wanted to do. My passion and purpose had been hiding right underneath my nose my whole life.

There are many nights when journaling did not lead to an epiphany, but there were also many nights when it did. Through exploring a new topic or answering a prompt that might not even stick out to you, it can pull information out that you may have ignored or kept buried for weeks, months, even years.

6. It improves mood

You’ll notice that when you get into the habit of journaling every day, you will slowly start to see a shift in your overall mood. You’re engaging in deep introspection that helps you learn about your self-sabotaging patterns, toxic relationships, dreams, hobbies, and past – which is not only rewarding, but also uplifting. After journaling for weeks or even months you’ll start to notice that you’re feeling content and more positive, and if you’re anything like me, you may notice that you no longer feel like you’re in a fog.

You begin to feel free from the things that weighed on your mind before and your mindset slowly starts to change for the better. I know I’m making big statements here, but after spending an hour of journaling each day for months, I saw this change myself. When you dedicate that much time to your mental health and wellness, you do begin to feel much happier and positive. All it takes is committing to it.

7. It helps you to become mindful

After journaling for such a long period of time, the self-reflection helps you to be more mindful. It helps you go about your day with intention and focus rather than letting the day pass you by in a blur of scrolling or stress. It makes each activity you do more thoughtful. It also alerts you to the behaviors or habits that you have that don’t support your health and happiness so you can make better choices throughout the day. Choices like not engaging with a negative person, using your free time wisely, taking care of your body, and saying goodbye to self-sabotaging habits.

8. It strengthens personal discipline

If you choose to start journaling as part of your morning or nighttime routine, you’re strengthening your personal discipline. You’re choosing to set aside time every day whether you’re in the mood to or not to engage in a healthy behavior. That alone strengthens your personal discipline, but you’ll notice that it soon starts to bleed into other areas of your life. By making yourself engage in one healthy behavior, before you know it you’re choosing to eat better, or exercise more, or go outside, or use social media with intention. Making one decision that contributes to your health, happiness, and growth inspires you to make those decisions elsewhere. Again, this is one of those changes that I didn’t notice until weeks of practicing stream of consciousness journaling regularly. A benefit like this doesn’t happen until you’ve committed to making it a ritual instead of an occasional activity.

9. It unlocks your creativity

I believe that purging all those stressors or insecurities through writing and freeing up your mind from the drama gives it more room to be creative. When I started incorporating stream of consciousness journaling into my life, I noticed that I suddenly had more ideas than I knew what to do with. That I was inspired more often and that I wanted to write even more. It’s actually when I put in a month of stream of consciousness journaling that I started to get serious about my blog and wanted to pursue writing as a career. I even started to branch out and write about topics that I don’t typically write about. It unlocked creativity and inspiration within me that I didn’t even realize existed.

10. It allows you to explore and strengthen your spirituality

I won’t dive too deeply into this because this isn’t a spirituality post, but I do want to touch on this subject. I’m Buddhist and believe that we’re all on our own journey and are experiencing this life to learn, grow, and become enlightened in some way. And I believe that self-discovery and self-help work allows you to do that. When I continued to do stream of consciousness journaling I started to evolve and to connect with a higher power like I never had before.

You may not have the same spirituality as me, but every spirituality or religion that exists encourages introspection and self-growth. No matter what you believe, journaling can help you to become a better version of yourself, strengthen your faith, and connect with a higher power.

I believe this happens through deep introspection, but also because once you’re free of stress, anxiety, and the problems amplifying in your mind, and you start to become mindful and it becomes easier tap into spirituality – just as journaling helped me unlock my creativity. Through stream of consciousness journaling, your mind is able to focus on more introspective and soulful pursuits rather than being distracted.

Through journaling I came to profound realizations that I used to read about in books, but had never fully understood because my mind was too busy. For example, I was able to comprehend how everything and everyone is connected, that we must let go of our stories to become our highest selves, that coincidences and universal signs happen all around me, and that each experience (even painful ones) are helping me to evolve and become the person that I was brought to this planet to be. It also helped me become aware of divine intervention and trust that the universe has my back, because through writing I could reflect on how circumstance, people, and events are slowly shaping me to become the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

11. It improves your writing

Don’t let the stream of consciousness technique fool you. Just because stream of consciousness journaling isn’t necessarily formal writing, with proper spelling, structure, and grammar, that doesn’t mean that it won’t help you to become a better writer. After I put in hours of journaling, I started to realize that I began to find my voice. My writing became even more conversational, vulnerable, snarky, and honest. I found my own style that didn’t conform to what I had learned in school my whole life. But just as Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

The other way that it helps with writing is by forcing yourself to write every day, no matter what it is, writing anything becomes easier. When you write any paper, blog post, report, depiction, etc. it’s so much easier to do because you’ve been using those muscles regularly. You become a better writer even accidentally because you’ve been practicing each day, even if it didn’t feel like you were.

Ok, I get it, but what do I write about?

The biggest issue that people tend to have about this type of writing is that they don’t know what to write about. Many people struggle about what to write because the vast majority of people don’t write unless they have to for work or for school when there’s someone telling them what, when, and how to write. But the beauty of stream of consciousness writing is you can write about anything. You can write about your family, relationships, stressors, your day, traumas, your bucket list, your perfect day, your dreams, your goals, etc. You can write about anything that you feel pulled to write about that day.

I personally like to write about whatever is stressing me out or weighing on my mind. Whatever is bothering me that day is what I’m writing about, and by doing that I feel like I’m liberated from all those negative thoughts once I write them down. I’m not a huge fan of journal prompts because they don’t offer me that same benefit which is purging the clutter and chaos in my mind, but occasionally I use them to help me with self-discovery on the days when I feel like being more introspective.

But prompts can still be incredibly beneficial, especially if you’re new to journaling. One of my followers and readers I talked to about stream of consciousness journaling was overwhelmed when I told him that you can write about anything and said that he needed more direction to get into journaling. So if you are having a difficult time figuring out what to write, consider picking a prompt first to get you warmed up. You can still do stream of consciousness journaling and “brain dump” even if you’re using a prompt for inspiration. Writing about anything could seem intimidating and this type of writing can be particularly difficult to get used to if you’ve never journaled before. Luckily there is no shortage of journal prompts available to you.

If you’d like to check out journal prompts, head over to my “Self-Discovery” Pinterest Board. I regularly pin prompts to help you with introspection, self-love, discipline, and motivation, so you can always use that as a resource. For now, here are some of my favorite prompts to help get your writing flowing today…

30 Journal Prompts to get you started

  1. How are you… really?
  2. Something I thought a lot about as a child was…
  3. One thing that I really need to work on is…
  4. Describe one thing that you are the proudest of yourself for.
  5. Describe one person that you admire the most today and why.
  6. The quality I admire most in others is…
  7. When I was little I wanted to be…
  8. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  9. What would you do if you knew for certain that you wouldn’t fail?
  10. If I could be a go-to person for anything it would be…
  11. One thing that I am the most passionate about is…
  12. Who are you the most envious of and why?
  13. When people first meet me, I hope they feel…
  14. What do you need more of in your life?
  15. What skills do you wish you had the most?
  16. What do you love about yourself?
  17. What are your priorities at the moment?
  18. The last time that I truly felt alive was…
  19. What hobbies would you love to try?
  20. What can you do to take better care of yourself?
  21. At the end of my life, the legacy that I want to leave is…
  22. Where do you see yourself in six months? A year? 5 years? 10 years?
  23. How can you feel more fulfilled in your life?
  24. Set 3 short term goals and 3 long term goals for yourself and write why you chose them.
  25. What are your 5 favorite ways to relax and fill you up?
  26. What limiting beliefs are holding you back from fulfilling your dream life?
  27. What actions can you take to simplify your life?
  28. What does happiness mean to you?
  29. What is your dream job?
  30. If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be and why?

Bonus: End with Gratitude

Now, if you really want to see the maximum benefits from journaling as I talked about above, I recommend ending each and every stream of consciousness journaling practice with gratitude. There are countless testimonials, studies and experiments that prove that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can improve your mental and emotional state and help you become more successful. That’s why thousands of successful people, celebrities, influencers, and change makers swear by a daily gratitude practice and owe their accomplishments to their simple gratitude ritual.

Even Oprah has a daily gratitude practice and swears that her daily gratitude journal has brought her the most joy, allowed her to keep up the stamina to build her empire, and attract a fan base that completely aligns with her message. Her gratitude practice is simply writing down 5 things that she feels grateful for each and every day – even if it’s something incredibly simple. Today, there are thousands of articles and videos that you can find online where successful people share their gratitude practice and open up about how it impacted their life and allowed them to be happier. Each practice may be slightly different, but it proves that incorporating gratitude practice or a gratitude journal into your routine improves your life in more ways than one.

My gratitude practice

Personally I’ve found that jotting down 3, 5, or 10 things that I’m grateful for is not enough for me. Writing down a bullet point isn’t enough to bring me that overwhelming sense of gratitude that has the potential to change my mindset and my life. Many people swear that their bullet journal changed their life, but I’ve had no success with it. Instead, I incorporate gratitude in my own way. At the end of each journaling session, I pick one thing that I’m grateful for that day and write about it in detail. It could be an insightful conversation with a stranger, or my partner, or an accomplishment – but whatever it is I write at least a paragraph about it. I write about what it is I’m grateful for and why I feel so happy to have this thing in my life. By writing in detail about one thing in particular it helps me feel a heightened sense of gratitude and completely shifts my mindset towards a positive one. It’s impossible to feel crappy after I finish my own gratitude practice.

It’s GIVEAWAY Time!

Since I’m such a huge believer in practicing journaling and gratitude each and every day and I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for months, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for another Instagram Giveaway! I will be giving away a beautiful and super colorful daily gratitude journal to one lucky winner on my Instagram @heather.ione. It’s a gorgeous and lightweight journal that you can take with you anywhere to make it nice and easier to get yourself into your own daily gratitude practice! Make sure to head over there today to see how you could this beautiful little book, that I completely fell in love with because it 100% reminds me of my favorite book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope that you enjoyed learning about stream of consciousness writing, the benefits, and how to incorporate it in your daily life. And I hope that you can take something away from it that will be beneficial to you. I’ve seen this simple ritual impact my life like nothing else before. I swear by stream of consciousness journaling and I believe in its ability to improve our mental stage and make us happier. It’s a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for many months on the blog in hopes that it could help others and inspire them to start journaling too.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Was this post helpful to you? Did you learn anything? Do you do stream of consciousness journaling? Did you see any benefits of your own? If so, what were they? And do you have your own gratitude practice?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photo Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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Battling Imposter Syndrome While Chasing a Dream & How to Overcome It

Self-Help

Imposter Syndrome: referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Let’s talk about the issue of imposter syndrome. I realized I’ve been going through it personally for a year or two, without even knowing that I was or what it was called. All I knew was that I would think back to the accomplishments I achieved, like creating a smoke-free policy on my college campus or landing a job and think… well, I just got lucky, or I had help. I couldn’t have landed that job if it wasn’t for so-and-so looking at my resume. I wouldn’t have created that no-smoking policy if it wasn’t for other people. Why should I take credit? I couldn’t admit to myself that I had done something to be proud of. Until I came across a post on LinkedIn.

A girl around my age was accepted into the Harvard Business School, something she had dreamed about for years. In her happy post, she opened up about how she was dealing with imposter syndrome and worried that she didn’t belong there like everyone else. That’s when it hit me–I was experiencing the exact same feeling!

The accomplishments that I did have I couldn’t take credit for, and when I pursued a dream or a project I would have an overwhelming fear of people discovering that I was a fraud. That I, in fact, had no idea what I’m talking about. That I was not nearly as smart or creative as I led people to believe.

I’ve been following all of the wellness bloggers, influencers, and content creators for years and stared at their work in awe. They were not much older than me, and they directly impacted the lives of young women all over the country. It was my dream to be like them, but I continue to think to myself, “Who do I think I am? I’m me. Heather. I don’t have 100k followers. I don’t have a book deal. I don’t have a podcast. Why would anyone want to learn from me and my wellness journey when they could learn from someone else?”

This is my passion. This is what I envisioned myself doing for years before I started Lost Online. Yet I keep having fears that others think I’m not cut out for it. Since learning more about imposter syndrome, I realized that I don’t just do it with my creative endeavors and my passions, like my blog. I do it with work too.

Throughout college and after graduation my plan was to be in communications within the health and wellness industry. Very recently I landed a position as a Wellness Ambassador. In this position, I’ll be writing blog posts, creating social media posts, coordinating events, interviewing people, developing promotions, and speaking on podcasts. It’s a position that I’m more than qualified for. I’ve done so many of these duties before and I was clearly excited about this job. It had even felt like I landed a job that had been perfectly designed for me, but the day after I was offered the position … imposter syndrome seeped in. Those thoughts started to gnaw at me. “What if my new boss thinks I’m terrible? A phony? A fake?”

So, what is Imposter Syndrome? How does it manifest?

Imposter Syndrome is a widespread phenomenon that occurs when you believe that you are not as competent as others believe you to be. Seems simple enough and easy to understand, right? Well, it turns out it gets even more complicated than that. After reading other articles and blog posts, I realized that many people have imposter syndrome and don’t even know it, or have imposter syndrome that manifests in different ways. There are actually five different types. If you struggle with imposter syndrome, let me know what type you are in the comments and what you do to manage it when you feel those feelings manifest! WARNING: this list might lead to a deeper understanding of yourself and a life-changing epiphany about your own mindset and behaviors.

1. The Perfectionist

The perfectionist is someone who loves to set very high goals for themselves, but then experiences major self-doubt when they failed to measure up to their own standards. If you look up perfectionist in the dictionary, it will most likely list me as an example. Perfectionists like us are often called “control freaks” by friends and loved ones, are accused of micromanaging, have a difficult time delegating, have insanely high standards for ourselves (standards that other people would never expect from us), feel like we have to be perfect 100 percent of the time, compare ourselves to others, have difficulty celebrating accomplishments, and often take on so much that they burn out. Perfectionists create a reality for ourselves that’s filled with so much pressure for no good reason.

I believe that we perfectionists also lean toward a fixed mindset because having a growth mindset is something that requires people to be OK with making mistakes and learning from them. I know that I tend to not want to do or try anything that I know I wouldn’t be perfect at because it shows how inadequate I am.

2. The Superman/Superwoman

The superman types can be very similar to the perfectionists. The supermen push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up to others. They are often called “workaholics” by friends and loved ones; they are the last one to leave the office; they get stressed out and feel unproductive when they have downtime; their work and their career is their hobby; they could have multiple jobs and be in multiple groups or clubs; they feel like they haven’t earned their titles making them work even harder to earn it; and they could find it difficult to receive constructive criticism.

Supermen and superwomen put themselves at high risk for burnout and their work can often affect their own mental health, physical health and relationships. I believe that these types of people often have a very hard time saying “no,” even if they are having serious problems from overworking themselves. It can be hard for them to stop and relax even when their body is telling them to slow down.

3. The Natural Genius

The natural genius believes that their competence is based on how smart other people perceive them to be and how quickly and easily they can come up with information and facts, as opposed to the efforts they put in. The natural geniuses set their own bar very high and feel deep shame and self-doubt if they don’t know, understand, or get something right on the first try. If they can’t do something quickly and effortlessly, it upsets them. They often have a track record of a 4.0 GPA, A+ assignments, and honor rolls. Their friends and loved ones call them “the smart one,” they swear off the things they think they’re bad at, they’re in all AP classes, they may not like having a mentor because it reflects their own incompetence, and they have a very fixed mindset.

I don’t know about you but I know some natural genius types that say something confidentially and pass it off as a fact, even if it’s just a hunch or a guess. Sometimes the types will even defend their best guess when they’re wrong because they are scared for people to know that they, in fact, don’t know everything. In my opinion, I believe that the natural geniuses question their own identity if they’re not viewed as a genius or a smart one. Receiving a bad grade or constructive criticism can be soul-shattering. I remember that my natural genius friends back when I was in a private middle school would cry over an A- on a test.

4. The Soloist

The soloist is the type that cannot for the life of them ask for help, even if they need it. They feel that asking for help from others shows people their inadequacies and exposes them. Asking for help is a sign of failure to them. They have a problem delegating. They’re often the person in the kitchen who does all the cooking and won’t ask for assistance. If they’re a leader or a manager, they will do most or all of the work and they’re often referred to by friends and loved ones as being “independent” or a “lone wolf.”

5. The Expert

Experts base their competence off of what and how much they know. Just think of Reed from “Criminal Minds.” They’re the friend with all the random facts and statistics that you have no idea where they came from. They constantly seek out training and certificates so they know more. They’re always trying to build their resume. They often have an advanced degree and they don’t apply for a job unless they perfectly meet all the requirements. Experts feel as if they never know “enough” and they actually don’t like being referred to as an expert because they don’t feel as if they can live up to the title. They may still feel as if they don’t know enough even in jobs they’ve worked for years.

Did you learn something about yourself?

I don’t know about you, but after reading this list, I realized that I don’t fall right into the perfectionist category like I thought I did. I’m actually a bit of a mixture, and I think many people are too. Imposter syndrome can manifest in so many ways. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and a superman? We as humans are messy and don’t just fall into one particular label.

It may surprise you to know that you have imposter syndrome in the first place, or that it’s such a common issue that people struggle with. Many people may struggle with imposter syndrome but not even notice that they have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. It does require a level of self-awareness that not everyone has.

When I researched online, I saw so many statistics about how many people have imposter syndrome. I feel that most people have it, regardless of what the numbers in online articles say. I would be willing to bet that most people deal with imposter syndrome and struggle with it in private. No one’s fragile ego is protected. Even celebrities.

Why do we feel this way?

I have a theory. Imposter syndrome is so widespread largely because of the internet. Everyone looks perfect through Instagram filters. Social media has distorted our understanding of ourselves and of the world around us because other people seem to be rich, famous, successful and stupid happy all the time. We watch highlight reels while we’re having a bad day, sitting on the couch wearing no makeup and destroying a bag of chips. The results are that we think there’s something wrong with us and everyone else is flawless and has their sh*t together.

In the article, 21 Proven Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome,” by Kyle Eschenroeder, he says, “This problem is only getting worse as more of us rely on our online presences. We’re in this weird culture where you’ve got to sell yourself aggressively while remaining ‘authentic.’ You think you need to be perfect but you also need to feel free to fail. You need to be yourself and more! It’s all set up to make you feel like a fraud.” I couldn’t agree more.

Today it’s also expected that we look “professional” and “hirable” all the time and that we’re always moving up career and corporate ladders. The pressure to have a “good job” and bring home $100,000+ this year is enormous. We’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses by constantly moving up socio-economic brackets. We tend to feel inferior to other students, co-workers, neighbors and peers, forcing us to try to reach higher.

Unfortunately, as soon as we do reach an accomplishment, nothing really changed. We don’t feel like we’re complete, we don’t feel as if we’ve made it and we worked hard, and we don’t feel proud. Instead, we immediately focus on the next goal. (Side note: I know I’m like this with milestones in my blog. As soon as I accomplish something or make progress, my mind instantly goes to the next project or post that I have to do to make it better.) Our restless minds want to jump to what’s next, instead of slowing down.

Last, there’s social expectations and family expectations. This is the kind of pressure that we get about how we should be living our lives, the hobbies we should have, the food we should eat, the house we should buy, the way we should behave, the things we should say, the things we shouldn’t say, the opinions we should and shouldn’t have. There’s all this pressure to meet expectations from the groups around us. It can be too much. We’re so busy trying to fit an image that others want us to be that when we do reach accomplishments, we’re so wrapped up in the outside world it’s hard to calm down and just feel proud. Probably because we do things for the external validation (from society, family, and friends) hoping that it will bring us internal validation in the end, while being able to view everyone else’s success 24/7 on our smartphones … but it doesn’t work that way.

A message to my fellow dreamers out there

The ironic thing about imposter syndrome is that it limits your potential. You would think that it makes you work so much harder so you’ll able to accomplish more and reach your goals, right? No.

Constantly telling yourself in your mind that you’re a fraud, you’re not capable, you’re stupid, and you’re not worthy of your dream will prevent you from ever reaching it. You’re literally sabotaging yourself every moment of every day. The time that you wasted thinking about how you’re not worthy would be much better spent lifting yourself up, working hard and being your own damn cheerleader.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you don’t deserve success and you’re a phony, then you’re making that your reality. I also want to add that you’ll likely have bad days. It happens. Honor them when they come, and let yourself work through it. But don’t let that become your everyday life. Silence that negative voice in your head or it’s going to be an extra weight that you have to carry up the mountain of being successful.

It gets worse before it gets better (everyone’s a critic)

So this is probably not a surprise to anyone, but the moment you decide to really go for what you want in life people will try to stop you. People will question you, people will judge you, people will tell you “you’ve changed,” and people will be confused. You’re becoming a person that is so different than the quiet friend or family member that went along with what they thought they were supposed to do.

They’re probably going to lose their minds because people do NOT like change. They’re going to be thinking, “What the f*ck is going on? This person in front of me is different than the person I know. They’re no best-selling author, they’re no Emmy winner, they’re my cousin, sister, daughter, brother, niece, friend…”

You’ll take concerned, nosy questions from family members like bullets. You’ll be unfollowed by friends and acquaintances on social media. People don’t want that whole “new me” stuff clogging up their feed!

Why? Because everyone’s a critic. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is an expert about what’s best for you.

But … look at the bright side

Any person who was ever successful in their life went through the same thing. Everyone, at some point, was a nobody following a dream while people stared at them thinking, “Who the f*ck do you think you are?” Ask any successful musician or news anchor or influencer or celebrity. There was a time before they were hot sh*t when no one else believed in their dreams.

I just watched “Bohemian Rhapsody” a little while ago, so I’ll use Queen as my next example. (Such a good movie by the way.) There was a time when a few guys in college had a dream of being musicians but had nothing of their own and no real support. There was a time when Farrokh Bulsara wasn’t Freddie Mercury. He was viewed as a weird, strange, big-toothed kid whose own family didn’t believe in him but was trying to turn himself into a somebody. Imagine if they weren’t crazy enough to believe that they could be stars. Imagine if they let imposter syndrome and outside opinions run the show. The world would have never been blessed with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Somebody to Love,” “We Will Rock You” or “Another One Bites the Dust.”

The point is, the world is going to throw critics and opinions and negativity at you. Don’t do it to yourself too. Regardless of what you thought up until now, regardless of what your ex said to you, or what your family thinks, or what your grouchy 65-year-old professor thinks, you have f*cking potential. You’re capable, you’re worthy, and you’re going to do great things. Let that be the thought you tell yourself when imposter syndrome breaks in and starts making a home in your head.

What can you do?

So now that I’ve explained to you what imposter syndrome is, what types there are, and shared my own perspective, I want to give you some concrete pieces of advice. Here are my 11 steps for battling imposter syndrome while you’re chasing your dream. And you can start this right now!

1. Know this: No amount of external validation will make it go away

Imposter Syndrome is an internal issue. It doesn’t matter how many followers you get, how many messages you get, how many people ask for your autograph, how much money you make, or how many people say they’re proud of you or tell you, “good job.” So don’t go looking for anyone or anything else to feed your ego. You might feel good for those 3 seconds, but it doesn’t last and it actually makes the problem worse. Having people constantly tell you that you’re great will only add to the fear of being exposed as a fraud.

2. Remember that everyone has it

Imposter syndrome is just another one of those things that’s part of the human experience. We’re all human and we’re all going to have fears, doubts, depression, sadness and insecurity. It’s not like you’re on a planet by yourself dealing with imposter syndrome while everyone else in the universe is living fabulous and free of fear. You’re not alone in this. The reality is that we all live in our own reality. We all have our own experience and our life experience is so small compared to everything else that exists in the world. It’s easy to be so focused on ourselves and forget that there are billions of other people struggling through these emotions too. Sometimes just reminding myself that this problem is not unique to me is enough to make me feel better.

3. Focus on what you can do for others

Every successful content creator and business person will tell you that you have to focus on what you can do for your target audience and I think that’s great advice – not just for making money but for real-life challenges too. If you find yourself worried about yourself and what other people will think of you, shift that attention on to your audience, whoever that may be. Instead of worrying about what people will think of your blog, worry about what you can do to continue to inspire and help your audience. Instead of worrying about your clients suddenly waking up and discovering you suck, focus on what you can do to improve for your clients and make them happier. Shift the attention away from yourself and make it about how you can HELP. It takes the pressure off, I promise.

4. Keep a folder of the nice things people send you

I learned this piece of advice from influencer, podcaster, blogger, and photographer, Jenna Kutcher. She keeps an album on her phone of screenshots of all the heartfelt messages her fans send her. Not every single one of them, but the messages or emails that speak to her and showed her that she’s accomplishing what she intended, she’s helping people, and she’s making an impact. Whenever she gets a hateful comment or has a really bad day, she goes back and looks at the lovely things that people have taken their time and energy to write for her and it makes her feel so much better. So I started doing that! Every time I get a very flattering message or text from someone I save it to my album and look through it if I’m ever feeling really down and wondering if what I’m doing is really worth it.

It’s not weird or creepy or self-absorbed. It’s a reminder that you are capable and so many people love you, support you, and look up to you. I just read through some of my saved messages the other day and it immediately put a smile on my face.

5. Remind yourself that there are 8 billion people in the world

So this is a really weird thing that I’ve been doing for the past few months whenever I find myself feeling like I have no place here. When I find myself thinking, “Why would anyone care about me when there’s millions of other bloggers, writers, influencers, and wellness warriors out there?” When I find myself thinking that there can’t possibly be a tribe out there for me, and there can’t possibly be people who would want to buy MY books or read MY blogs, I tell myself, “There are 8 billion people in the world.” That thought instantly shuts off any doubt and worry I have.

Anytime I think I’ll never be able to get readers, I tell myself that there are 8 billion people out there. That thought instantly reminds me of all the possibility and potential for success. Obviously, my target audience exists and there are people who would connect and relate with me more than they would with other writers. There are so many people! They just haven’t found me yet. But they’re out there. There are 8 billion people out there, some of them are bound to like me and want to support me. Some of them are bound to want to subscribe to the blog. Some of them would love to buy my future books. Some of them would absolutely love what I’m doing and be fierce readers until the end. There’s 8 billion potential readers, followers, and supporters. I’ll be just fine. My tribe is out there waiting. It’s silly to imagine that it’s not.

6. Remember you don’t get a repeat life

All of us get only one lifetime. At the end of yours, do you want to be the person who didn’t do everything they wanted to do when you were younger? Will you look back and see that you were too concerned about pleasing others and just did what others expected? Will you regret that you didn’t give yourself permission to do what you really wanted to do? Time is the universe’s most precious commodity. Spend it wisely and make it count.

7. Try stream of consciousness journaling

Just for one day, take some time and sit down and do stream of consciousness journaling. Don’t just write about anything, write especially about your accomplishments and how you made them happen. Write in great detail about everything you did until you have reached your outcome. Write about what you’re most proud of yourself for and why. Write about all of your mistakes and write about how they helped you grow. Writing unfiltered and in great detail about your accomplishments and why you’re proud could help you see the distortion and discrepancy between the amazing things you did and the thoughts contaminated by imposter syndrome. As long as you make an effort to be positive instead of using it as another opportunity to sh*t talk yourself, you’ll be fine. It might feel odd at first forcing yourself to write unfiltered about how accomplished and proud of yourself you are, but once you do you realize that’s the truth. Not that negative feedback loophole that plays in your head.

8. Talk to supportive people

There’s nothing that helps more than talking to someone supportive. Someone who can relate to what you’re going through. We all have that person we reach out to when we need help and real advice, not clique answers like “you’ll be fine,” or “just relax.” Call that person! Friends can sometimes see us more clearly than we see ourselves. You might be thinking you’re a fraud, but they will be there to remind you of everything they admire about you and what you’re doing right. Don’t feel nervous and uncomfortable about it! People are flattered when you confide in them and you will feel so much better.

9. Take a moment to just feel proud

Whenever you think of it, or whenever you start feeling really down about yourself, take a moment to yourself to just feel proud of yourself. I know this seems too simple, but it works. Whenever I start feeling that imposter syndrome is taking over, I make myself sit down, close my eyes, calm down and think of everything that I’m proud of. Let me tell you it feels so awkward and forced in the beginning, but that feeling goes away. Within a few minutes, all that negativity will dissipate, and you’ll be reminded of how wonderful you are and of the good that other people see in you. No matter how awkward it is in the beginning, push through it and really give the exercise a chance.

10. Do NOT hold yourself back

Whatever you do, never let imposter syndrome keep you from going for what you want. You’ll feel so happy that you really went for the life you wanted. Once you do take the leap, you actually start to see yourself becoming the person you wanted to be. When I first started blogging, I felt like a huge imposter, and I felt like no one would ever be interested in what I had to say, but now over a year later, it doesn’t even faze me. I pushed through the initial awkward period and eventually saw myself becoming that person I wanted to be. It will happen to you too. This tough moment could just be a phase and nervousness about starting a new endeavor, so don’t let it prevent you from getting to the good part!

11. Consider a social detox

Now that we live in a time where we see how great everyone else’s life is 24/7, you’re not going to want to expose yourself to that if you’re going through a period of self-doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes it’s best to just put the phone down or else you could just fuel the fire. If you want to learn more about talking a social media detox, read my blog post, “How to Have an Instagram Detox.” I take a little detox whenever I find self-comparison is taking over and I need some clarity.

Thanks for reading!

I really hope that my experience helps you and I hope you learned something about imposter syndrome that you didn’t know before. Maybe, like me, you didn’t even know that you had it or how you expressed it. I hope that my dropping vulnerability bombs, as usual, helps everyone to understand this issue is super common. You don’t have to suffer with it in silence.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Was this post helpful? Have you struggled with imposter syndrome or are you struggling with it now? How does it manifest for you? What type do you have? And what advice would you give to others who struggle with it too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

I Interview Best-Selling Poet Jennae Cecelia: Answers to My Burning Questions on Self-Love, Social Media, Pursuing Passions, & Body Positivity + Instagram GIVEAWAY

Interviews, Self-Help

Discovering Poetry

Have you ever been bored in the very late hours of the night, and before you know it you’re sucked into the abyss that is Amazon.com? Well, about a year ago, I was having one of those nights. I had just read Rupi Kaur’smilk and honey” and her new book “the sun and her flowers” just came out. It was also around the time when Allie Michelle’sExplorations of a Cosmic Soul” was published as well. So I was in a serious poetry mood. And I kept falling victim to that sneaky little section that says “Customers who bought this item also bought … ” Unlike most times, it was actually one of the few nights where I didn’t regret those extra purchases.

After I first started to read poetry, I knew that I had found something special. There was something about it that was just so real, so vulnerable, and so unapologetically authentic that I found myself turning page after page of poetry books while the tears kept flowing. We live in a time when everyone and everything is so curated, so perfect, and so ridiculously happy, that I loved how I finally had the chance to read someone’s hidden emotions. Where I could identify with someone who was also going through a moment of depression or a breakup or struggling with self-confidence and cry with them and say to myself, “Yes, I feel it too.” Poetry made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the messy moments of life that lay between the filtered photos. The times when I fought with family when I was too scared to be myself and follow a dream, and the times when I seriously doubted myself.

Poetry is raw and it tells the truth. The truth that people so rarely speak out loud and that we rarely find on social media. One of the gems I found that night was a book that jumped out at me, that I still pick up and leaf through to this day, Jennae Cecelia’s, “Uncaged Wallflower.”

Meet Best-Selling Poet, Jennae Cecelia

Unlike many poetry books, “Uncaged Wallflower” has a very uplifting message. One that was written by a fellow introvert “for those who need an extra dose of positivity in their day and push to follow their dreams.” So obviously, I devoured the book in one sitting. There’s nothing I love more than a good “follow your dreams” message. I still remember that I was so excited about the new find that I actually looked up Jennae on Instagram and followed her account. Since then, I’ve been a loyal follower and fangirl of hers.

Jennae is unlike many influencers out there today. She continues to post, speak, and write about self-love, self-care, mental health, and body positivity. She posts vulnerable content that many wouldn’t share because it’s not “insta-worthy” and she actually talks to her audience like real people.

I followed and liked along as she shared photos of her acne, her stretch marks, and her no- makeup selfies. I watched her rally other young women to be vulnerable and love themselves even though they may be “flawed.” I watched her share her self-love journey, her struggle with anxiety, and her passion for poetry and photography. I watched her in awe. It’s so rare to see others being so real and so themselves through a screen.

Over the last few years, Jennae has put so much good out for her readers on social media, published five different poetry books, and became a best-selling poet. Her authenticity, her poetry, and her positivity are what finally lead me to reach out to her and ask for an interview.

I’m so grateful and honored that Jennae was not only willing to have me interview her for over an hour on the phone AND that she was so understanding when my recorder gave up and she had to write out her answers for all of you (:

What I learned in the time we spent talking was that she is just as friendly, positive, and real in person as in social media. She opened up to me about her self-love journey, struggling with judgment and criticism from family and friends, her decision to follow her passion, her persistence to inspire other young women, and how she stays sane even while being a social media influencer.

Here are Jennae’s answers to my burning questions! I hope you enjoy, and I hope her message sparks inspiration in you too. Make sure to stay until the very end for a special GIVEAWAY!

Uncaged Conversations

Q: How old were you when you started poetry? And how did you get into it?

A: I was in high school when I first started writing poetry. It was my way of expressing the emotions I was feeling during hard times. I didn’t start taking it more seriously until my third year of college when I started taking creative writing classes. Then when I met my boyfriend I told him about all the poems I had written and he told me I should make a book out of them. So I did!

Q: Did you know at the time that you had discovered your passion? Or did it build slowly?

A: I always was very passionate about writing, but I didn’t expect it to be much more than a hobby for me. When I first started sharing my writing on social media I just did it in hopes someone else would find comfort in my words. Never did I even think to imagine what it could become.

Q: What happens with a lot of people who go into a creative profession is they take a lot of backlash from people. Did you receive any criticism or judgment from people when you decided to become a poet?

A: My family and friends were supportive at first. They were excited I was writing books and that I was seeing success. However, when I told everyone I was going to be a writer as my full-time job I received so much criticism for doing so from these same people who claimed to support me. They supported it being a hobby, but not a career.

Q: Was it difficult opening up publicly in the beginning? Or not so much? I know I felt super vulnerable once I started to share my voice, not just as a random girl on Instagram, but as a blogger who focuses on mental well-being and my journey.

A: It was hard at first, but mostly because I was afraid of what people I personally knew would think. I am the type of person who can talk to a group of 200 people I don’t know very well about super personal topics, but I would be so anxious talking to a small group of close friends about the same topics.

Q: You obviously write a lot about self-care and self-love. I’ve read so many inspirational self-love messages from you, and I’ve even seen images where you’ve shown very real things like acne scars or stretch marks. I’m wondering, what was this self-love journey like for you? What was it like learning to love yourself and your imperfections?

A: I always say, “self-love is a journey with ever-changing scenery.” The things I didn’t like about myself when I was a teen, I have grown to love now. Now there are new things I find myself critiquing myself on. Loving yourself fully is not easy. However, I have started thanking my body every morning for all the amazing things it does. I always say three things like: I am thankful for my hands that allow me to write words of inspiration; I am thankful for my legs that allow me to go on long hikes with my boyfriend; and I am thankful for my lungs that allow me to take deep breaths in and out when I get anxious.

Q: Today, you seem like such a confident person who pursues their passion and inspires other people to follow their dreams, embrace the journey, and love themselves. But were there ever times that you felt really unsure of yourself and struggled with self-discovery as you were trying to navigate through all these different outside influences (societal norms, social media, family expectations).

A: Oh yes. I constantly say that the 15-year-old me would probably roll her eyes in annoyance at some of the things I say now because I have become such an optimistic person, and it was not always that way. From 13-20 it was all about self-discovery. Learning who I did and didn’t want to be. Making lots of mistakes. Doing things just to please friends and fit in. However, as much as I am not proud of some of my choices in life if I didn’t do those things I wouldn’t be this person I am today. That doesn’t mean that I am doing everything perfect now, but I do have a better grasp on who I am which allows me to make choices for myself and not just to please other people.

Q: We live in a world that’s very filtered and photoshopped and curated to absolute perfection. Were you really nervous or hesitant to share that side of yourself with people online? The side that maybe wasn’t so #InstaWorthy.

A: I was at first, again mostly because I was afraid of people I personally know seeing my posts. When I shared a picture of my stretch marks I was scared to post it but I knew someone out there needed the message that went along with it. Same with the post I made showing all of my acne scars. Also, I have never once heard anything from the people I was worried about seeing it so it honestly just stopped mattering to me if they saw my more raw and personal posts.

Q: In my blog, I write a lot about how digital media, particularly social media, was the biggest challenge and obstacle for me. I noticed that it caused the most comparison and negative self-talk, and made me fixate on my looks and how I appeared to other people online. Did you have a similar struggle having grown up online?

A: Definitely! I was a senior in high school when Instagram started becoming popular. However, it was to post pictures of your food using the Valencia filter. Social media has changed so much in the last 5-10 years. I feel like I have gotten over comparing myself to others on social media because I know that what most people post is not the whole story. I can’t imagine being in high school or even early college now and having that pressure of taking perfect pictures and looking perfect in them. Especially when you are at an age where people liking you matters so much. I mean, it still matters to people but that age you take it way more seriously.

Q: Does being an author and a content creator pose any challenges?

A: Being an author for me now means two things. Making time to do the creative side AND the business side.  For instance, today I had 15 emails I needed to reply to however, the creativity was flowing in my mind and I really just wanted to write. It can be hard to balance marketing, emails, social media, etc. and still set aside time to be creative. Luckily, I like the business side of being an author. I love it actually! But, it does take a lot of time away from doing my number one thing I love, just freely creating all day.

Q: Looking back at everything that you’ve gone through to become the person that you are today if you could give any advice to your 14-year-old self, what would it be?

A: I would tell her this: all the roads you cross, the potholes you hit, the dead ends you reach, are shaping you into the person you are meant to be. Nothing is a coincidence, and mistakes are perfectly fine. Your beautiful soul is needed here more than you will ever know right now.

Q: How do you stay sane and stay grounded as a young woman during this overwhelming digital age? Do you have any practices or habits that make it easier?

A: I really enjoy meditating and gratitude journaling. They help me so much with keeping my mind more peaceful and reminding myself to forever be grateful.

Q: If there was any piece of advice that you would give to Lost Online readers who come to this platform for inspiration and to hear how they can stay sane during this overwhelming time? What would you say to them?

A: It is easy to get Lost Online, but don’t forget to wander through your real life.

Q: You have another book coming out soon! Any hints as to what it’s about?

A: It is a book focusing on self-care this time! I am super excited because it is a topic I am very passionate about.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I don’t know about you, but every time I read her words it puts me in a feel-good mood. If you’re ever in need of extra positivity or inspiration to follow your dreams and be unapologetically you, I would definitely recommend checking her content out. You can find Jennae on her website, on Instagram @jennaececelia, or on Amazon.

I’m also super excited because Jennae is starting a blog too! And I have no doubt that it will be wonderful. Make sure to stay in the loop with her so you can read it when it’s published! Jennae also has two more books coming out very soon, including “Losing Myself Brought Me Here.” I’m so excited to read it!

GIVEAWAY Time!

I will be hosting another Giveaway on my Instagram this week @heather.ione. Jennae has generously donated a SIGNED COPY of her Best-Selling Book “Uncaged Wallflower” to one of my followers! Make sure to go to my Instagram to read the details on how to win.

Lastly, I wanted to end with my favorite poem of Jennae’s from “Uncaged Wallflower” called “Command Your Passion.”

Remember to comment below! What’s your favorite poem or quote of hers? Which books have you read of Jennae’s? What do you think about her message? Which parts of this interview stuck out to you the most?

If you liked this post make sure you scroll to the bottom, hit that little “+”, and type in your email where it says “Follow Blog Via Email.” The next post will be sent right to you!

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

CBD, Anxiety, & Me: Thoughts After 3 Months on a CBD Tincture

Health & Wellness, Lifestyle

What I used to think about CBD

I’m probably one of the last people to hop on the CBD bandwagon – if not THE last one. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen CBD–cannabidiol, a compound derived from cannabis plants–become so popular for a variety of different reasons. I heard everything from it cures anxiety, relieves pain and helps you sleep. Then there were bigger claims like it fights cancer, prevents seizures, and lowers risk of diabetes. But I didn’t buy any of it. I knew so many people who were completely head-over-heels in love with CBD and raved about it all the time. However, most of them were also very well-known for… puffing the magic dragon… I’m not sure how I’m supposed to word this in a blog. Anyways, they smoke a lot of weed. You know the type: gets super defensive about weed, munching on something all the time, scatterbrained, listens to The Grateful Dead on repeat, burns incense, wears drug rugs, has at least one Bob Marley poster hanging up in their room. You get the idea.

So I didn’t buy it because I’m not a smoker, and I was never enamored with the stoner culture. I’m not going to be convinced about how magical CBD is from someone who can’t go a few hours without smoking weed. I don’t really trust them to educate me because I always wondered, is this new health supplement really as great as they say? Or has everything marijuana just become a major part of their self-identity? So I debated it many times over the last few years, and I always approached the CBD conversations with skepticism (and if I’m being honest here, a lot of judgment).

Then, I started to see a shift. Instead of just smokers using CBD, it started to become popular among many different types of people. Athletes used it, professionals used it, children used it, mothers used it, wellness advocates used it – and CBD started to become seen as a health supplement rather than a conversation in a college dorm room. Fast forward to the last few months and my boyfriend and I are both working for health and fitness companies that invite other companies to sell CBD Oil to athletes at events and competitions.

Today, I regularly meet people who use CBD for an array of reasons. People who are active professionals with 9-5 jobs. I’ve learned of so many success stories particularly with anxiety, so I finally decided that I would give it a try. I’ve now been on CBD for three months and feel much better, but also incredibly guilty for never giving this natural medicine a try. I was quick to judge these products because of the stoner culture that used to surround them and quick to get annoyed when someone would rave to me about why I should be using it. Especially because it seemed too simple. How could taking a few drops of CBD oil be enough to relieve anxiety? Wouldn’t I need to meditate every day, take prescriptions, and see a therapist if I wanted that to happen? No.

So what is CBD?

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert about this. There are so many people and online influencers out there who pretend that they’re CBD experts but they’re not. So I started looking into it for more information. From what I’ve come across, the most informative and easy to understand content was a video by health and nutrition expert, Thomas DeLauer. He explained exactly how CBD affects the receptors in the brain to make us feel good, relax us, help those suffering from cancer, and more. It really helped me comprehend why and how it works so I could finally understand all those big claims that are made and the science behind it. If you’d like to see if yourself, check it out here.

So you may or may not already know this, but for the sake of educating someone who may not, CBD is the non-psychoactive component of cannabis (there’s no THC). Yes, we all know this. Moving on.

According to DeLauer, there are two different CBD receptors in the body and brain, CBD 1 and CBD 2. CBD 1 is found mostly in the brain and affects mood, emotion, mood, pain, etc. CBD 2 is found mostly in the body and affects things like inflammation and the immune system. THC is what activates both receptors, but CBD oil doesn’t. Instead, CBD influences the body to use more of its naturally occurring endocannabinoids, enhancing how the receptors utilize them. It’s the utilization and activation of vanilloid, serotonin, and adenosine receptors that give people the result they’re looking for from CBD.

These receptors play a role because CBD increases the activity of the receptors which trigger secondary responses in the body. For one thing, it activates a secondary response of excretory catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline, and epinephrine), which is what gives you a heightened sense of awareness while still feeling calm. Secondly, CBD also activates dopamine and causes the body to naturally and effectively utilize that particular neurotransmitter, which makes us feel better. Thirdly, CBD activates glutamate which (in the right amounts) can trigger energy in the right places. Finally, the serotonin receptors: CBD oil activates 5-HT1A which allows the body to create more serotonin and use it more efficiently. All of these things give us that lovely sensation that CBD companies spend tons of money marketing to us: you’ll feel calm, yet awake. So that’s the long-winded version of what CBD is, as far as how it helps someone struggling with anxiety, like myself. Thank you, Thomas DeLeaur for explaining all of that in a way that makes sense for someone like me who just barely passed science class in school.

Why I tried CBD

I heard several stories from friends who suffered from terrible anxiety and were able to relax and function normally after taking CBD. That they no longer suffered from anxiety attacks, or have moments when their heart races uncontrollably, or feel overwhelmed even when nothing stressful is happening. On top of that, my boyfriend and I also work at well-known health and fitness companies, and we’re constantly surrounded by people who are in incredible shape and participate in competitions on the weekends–and many of them take CBD. So after hearing about CBD for years, I finally decided to take a leap of faith. The worst that could happen was I wouldn’t like it, and move on with my life. When I started using CBD, I started with the brand, Elixinol. Elixinol is a high-quality, naturally processed CBD brand with 100% Organic Industrial Hemp from the U.S., Europe, and Australia. I use it in the morning before work and at night before I fall asleep. It comes in a one-ounce bottle and glass dropper with measurements on it for a .5 milliliter (ml) or 1 ml dose. I fill it up, usually to about .75 ml and I put the CBD underneath my tongue for about a minute to allow it to absorb into my bloodstream and then I swallow.

Side Note: I got this one from my boyfriend because he bought it for himself and realized that there was coconut oil in it which he’s allergic to. So if you’re allergic to coconut oil too, you really have to read CBD labels because tons of brands use coconut oil as a carrier oil.

After using Elixinol for over a month, I then tried out Charlotte’s Web CBD after hearing testimonials from so many people that swear by Charlotte’s Web and found the most success with that brand. If you’ve never heard of the story behind Charlotte’s Web, I highly suggest looking into it. The company was started because of a little girl name Charlotte Fiji who suffered from Dravet Syndrome — a very rare form of epilepsy. Her story is one that is completely heartbreaking and has shown people all of over the world how healing CBD can be. If you want to read the full story check it out here.

After using Elixinol and Charlotte’s Web both for a month and a half each, I can finally say that I am a firm believer in using CBD.

My thoughts after 3 months on CBD

Less Anxiety – Within the first day of being on CBD, I immediately felt better. I noticed that my mental state had become much more peaceful than it was before. The way that I could describe it is like taking an actual chill pill. Normally throughout the day, I have negative emotions, as we all do. I get anxious, angry, and sad, and it regularly ruins my day and makes me feel crappy both mentally and physically. If you’ve had anxiety then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

You know that feeling when you start to have anxiety? It’s not just a mental feeling, but you feel it physically too. Your heart races, you sweat, you feel wired, you don’t feel like you’re in control of your body or mind, and your whole body feels agitated and uncomfortable. When I take CBD, I still feel my regular emotions throughout the day, like sadness or anger, but when I do it’s not nearly as heavy as it normally is. Those feelings don’t spread throughout my whole body and make me feel like I can’t breathe or my heart will come out of my chest. Instead, I feel an emotion, but without all of those physical reactions that usually amplify the feelings of anxiety and make it so much worse.

The first time that I really noticed this was when I was stuck in traffic on the highway one day and someone cut me off. Normally this would have made me feel anxious throughout my whole body. I would have felt the adrenaline coursing through me, and I wouldn’t calm down until I reached my destination and got out of the car. But now, I feel slightly anxious in my mind without all of the adrenaline and nerves. Instead, whenever I experienced an emotion like this, I would think to myself, “Oh, I’m feeling a little stressed out right now. That’s fine, it’ll pass.” Or “Looks like there’s some anxiety showing up again.”

I was so surprised by how calm and rational I felt. I started to identify unpleasant emotions, and then let them go without feeding into them. This has actually been something that I’ve been trying to train my mind to do in meditation, but I haven’t been able to do it alone. But now, on CBD, I can. I watch the negative thought show up and pass by just like seeing someone pass by me on the sidewalk. Not that I’m disconnected from my emotions or have become emotionless, but rather they don’t overwhelm me and affect me physically in the way that they used to.

I also want to add that even though CBD calmed me down, the effects are not at all like a prescription drug that people use to treat anxiety. When someone takes a pill meant for anxiety, it immediately hits them and they have a noticeable reaction. They go from having a panic attack to feeling very happy, relaxed, and basically like they’re floating on a cloud away from all of their problems. Which is why I was afraid to try CBD at first because I didn’t want an effect like that. But CBD doesn’t hit you like a prescription does. It’s very slow so after a while, I’ll notice that I feel calm. Taking CBD oil reminds me of taking an ibuprofen when something is hurting. I don’t notice it kick in immediately – it happens so slowly that I didn’t even realize it was starting to work until 30 minutes later when I notice that my headache is gone. Which is why you may not even notice the effects of CBD and realize that it’s working because it doesn’t hit you like a Xanax. Days might go by and you’ll suddenly have an “ah-ha” moment in traffic like me.

Focus –The other thing that I noticed after being on CBD was that it also helped me get out of my own head and focus on what was in front of me. My mind normally races so much that it’s hard to really pay attention when I’m reading, working, or writing. Now, instead of seeing something that I have to get done and letting it overwhelm me and stress me out, CBD has helped me put my feelings aside and focus on one thing at a time. I have no idea how it does this, but it does. Why did I not get on board with this when I was still in school?!

Take-Away

I feel so guilty for judging people who took CBD as a supplement and assuming that people just used it because they thought it was cool. Maybe some people do. But I’ll admit it… I messed up. Sorry! I now take CBD oil with my other supplements morning and night and it has made each day brighter and more manageable. Now that I’ve seen what a difference it can make, I’m experimenting with some other CBD products and see which ones are the best for me. But as of now, Elixinol and Charlotte’s Web are the two that I keep going back to.

If you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, anger, or maybe you just have a hard time focusing, I think you should consider doing some research on CBD, talking to your doctor, and trying a supplement like this. Everyone is different, but this could be a simple lifestyle change that could make a huge difference in your mental state and your day-to-day experience.

Have you taken CBD oil? What has your experience been? Have you noticed any positive (or negative) changes? What brands do you use? What brands do you dislike? If you don’t understand CBD or may be against it, what are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments! I love hearing the new perspectives! And, if you like what you read, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol and type in your email to subscribe! 

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.