Schedule a free consultation today!

Self-Care as an Essential Practice

Learning the Selflessness of Self-Care

Written by Hannah Chism


“Self-Care” is a buzz word within our culture. But what does it really mean anyway? The title in and of itself connotes a sense of individualism. The term often holds a negative stigma, as it is frequently correlated to other similar sounding words, such as, “self-centered” or “selfish.” However, self-care enables us to be more selfless. By taking care of oneself, one is able to give back to others. By stepping away and recharging one’s battery, one is able to steward the resources and relationships one has been entrusted with. Consider it this way, if all we do is work harder and harder, then we become flatter, hardened, bitter, burnt out, and moody individuals. Whereas, if we incorporate healthy doses of self-care into the menu, we become a little lighter and more refreshing to be around. Part of being a well-rounded individual is knowing when to step away and recharge.


            Self-care does not just happen or appear out of thin air. Self-care requires intentionality. So often we are caught up in the busyness and minutiae of life. It becomes increasingly more difficult to step away. However, for the sake of ourselves and our loved ones, we must find a balance between hard-work and self-care. The reality is this will look different for everyone. Within this, some do not find self-care difficult, as they overindulge in this practice and find it difficult to consider others. While others turn their nose up at the concept of self-care as they associate it with frivolous and self-centered living. Again, there is a balance between the two.


In order to strike that balance, one must plan times to recharge and recenter. I know, some gawk at the irony and idea of planning self-care as it sounds counter-intuitive; those individuals likely do not struggle with incorporating self-care into their lives as it is interwoven into the fabric of their lifestyle. However, most of us, must intentionally carve out time to rejuvenate our souls.


As has been made evident thus far, self-care does not look the same for everyone. As such, self-care requires knowing what personal practices are life-giving and rejuvenating. This requires trial and error, self-awareness, and reflective processing. One must discover what feeds one’s soul. Within this, activities that are life-giving may change season to season, as we are dynamic people. It is frustrating and discouraging when one’s previous forms of adored activities, no longer hold that place in their hearts. But just as life circumstances change, so do we. Thus, if jogging was a favorite past-time activity when one was younger yet loses its luster as one ages due to physical limitations, margin in one’s schedule, or other life circumstances, this can be disorienting and depleting on so many levels. Thus, it is necessary to re-access and essential to recalibrate in order to find a new outlet that refreshes one’s soul.


Self-care requires planning and self-awareness. There are many ways to approach incorporating self-care into your lifestyle; your approach depends on your personality.

  • Discover the actual practices that feed your soul.
    • If the practice of self-care is completely new to you and you have no idea what is rejuvenating, then:
      • Google “self-care activities” (visit this link for some ideas).
      • Select activities that sound appealing.
      • Practice these ideas and see what fits!
  • Compile all of the congruent self-care practices into a list, journal, mind-map (watch this video to find out more), menu, or spreadsheet.
  • Put an estimated duration next to each activity (e.g.: running = 1 hour; 5 minutes to get changed, 5-minute drive to path, 45 minutes running, and 5-minute drive home).
    • This step is essential. Due to busy schedules, longer self-care activities may not fit into one’s daily practices; thus, it is important to have options that require less time. A few examples of smaller self-care practices include: drinking a cup of coffee, eating a nutritious meal, a moment of sunshine, or brushing one’s teeth. These small acts can make a huge difference in one’s day – offering one a chance to feel human again and less stifled or stagnant.
  • The next, and likely the most important step, is to create a self-care plan. This plan is the intentional part of incorporating self-care practices into one’s lifestyle; this plan serves as a measure of accountability in striking a balance in one’s life. This plan must be personal, measurable, and attainable (visit this link for information on developing SMART goals).
    • Create a table.
      • The headers in the columns titled as follows: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually.
      • Reflect on the list, menu, spreadsheet, etc. that you created in step 2.
        • Consider how frequently you need each activity in your life. For example, if you are the healthiest version of yourself when you journal daily; this likely needs to be included in your “daily” column. However, if driving to the mountains is an activity that you only need a few times a year, then this may be a “quarterly” activity.
      • Input each self-care activity into the appropriate column, based on the amount you need/desire the activity in your lifestyle.
      • Example:
Daily Weekly Monthly Quarterly Annually
Coffee Yoga Date night Weekend mountain trip Christmas at home
Sunshine Dining out Happy hour w/girlfriends Cook dinner for friends Attend a hockey game
Walk Movie Bike ride Day of solitude Weeklong vacation

If you desire to be extra detailed, you could add a column under each frequency of duration (e.g.: 10 minutes) and/or quantity (e.g.: x2).

  • Accountability
    • It may be necessary to put these activities into your calendar with reminders for each.
    • If you are a parent or partner, you may also need to coordinate childcare/domestic responsibilities in order to integrate self-care practices into your family’s lifestyle. This will likely require sacrifice in some areas, which can often be the make it or break it point of integrating self-care practices. However, it is important to keep in mind that the outcome likely outweighs the cost – that you are likely the best version of yourself when you are recharged rather than burnt out. This means that you cannot be perfect at everything, but that you can be more well-rounded. Within this, you may find that you are more intentional and present in relationships and work, when you are practicing the balance between hard work and self-care; thus, making you a more productive individual.
    • Share your self-care plan with a close friend and invite them to keep you accountable in a way that feels supportive for you.

If you care for those around you, want to excel in your career, and desire to live a more well-rounded life, then integrate self-care into your lifestyle. You will be a more productive member of society and more personable individual. You will be happier too! Self-care is an excellent way to manage stress and anxiety by increasing coping skills. It can also decrease one’s depressive feelings, by providing hope, perspective, and enjoyment! While the sacrifices may be difficult initially, it will be worth it in the end. This is why it is so important to have a menu of self-care practices to choose from that range from 5 minutes to 60 minutes to week-long ventures. Refueling your soul, refuels the souls of others! This life is far too short and difficult to not intentionally take moments to step away and recenter.

Chosen: Acceptable As Is





There is something profoundly important about knowing we are chosen and acceptable just as we are. But how many of us actually believe we are chosen and acceptable as we are? Imagine the strength our relationships and society would hold if we each held these beliefs? This would remove insecurity, jealousy, low self-esteem, arrogance, and so forth. Instead of constantly trying to prove ourselves as worthy, we would be able to relax into our relationships and trust that we are loved and sufficient just as we are. If we hold the belief that we are chosen, then our relationships are healthy, secure and lasting.

Some fortunate individuals in our society carry themselves and conduct their affairs with this knowledge and core belief. Others, struggle to believe they are chosen and acceptable just as they are. For many, this likely started at an early age based on the type of parenting one received, circumstances within one’s childhood home, peer relationships, or otherwise. For some, it may have arisen later in life from a ruptured relationship. Either explicitly or implicitly, a message was internalized by these individuals that they are insufficient, unworthy to be loved, and unacceptable as they are. This message unfortunately took root in their hearts and colors/taints/overshadows every relationship, interaction, accomplishment, failure, decision, and so forth in their life; rendering them incapable of truly relaxing and settling into relationships and life. In therapy, we call this message a “cognitive distortion” or “distorted belief.” To learn more about this concept, click on this LINK.



If you have even one person in your life, then you are chosen. This means we are not alone. It means that someone sees us, knows us, and chooses us. While this may all be the reality, many of us struggle to walk confidently in it; yet it is something that we should each strive towards believing as our lives will be that much richer and fuller. If we walk with the belief that we are indeed chosen, then our capacity to love others expands; thus, enabling us to give of ourselves more freely and authentically engage in life.



It means that you are just who you need to be, exactly as you are in this moment. Yes, you are likely flawed and imperfect – just as we all are! But you are still acceptable as you are in spite of your shortcomings. Holding the belief that we are acceptable as we are also entails accepting our shortcomings! Being acceptable as we are, does not negate our striving for growth as individuals.

There is no other mold for you to fit, as you are a unique individual with a unique background, personality, and set of values and beliefs. This means that a certain body weight, title, connection, size home, etc. will not make you any more acceptable. Yes, it may change your ‘status,’ and mask parts of yourself that you are ashamed of, but it does not truly change your core. Believing that we are acceptable just as we are right now, enables us to love others more fully and live a more congruent life.



You are chosen and acceptable as you are. You are loved. This is the take-home message for today. Period. From the children’s book Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You written by Nancy Tillman, “You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.” Let those words sink into your heart today. Meditate on them when you are feeling otherwise. See how it transforms your perspective of self and others.



They can be changed! You are not stuck with faulty beliefs/lies/cognitive distortions (whichever language rings most true for you) forever. Whatever negative messages you may have internalized up to this point in your life, can be altered! If this is something you battle, I highly recommend finding a therapist you trust who can walk through this life-altering process. For some, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) may be sufficient. For others, who have deeply rooted negative beliefs, perhaps due to trauma or attachment wounds, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) or Ego State Therapy may be more appropriate. While I incorporate each of these types of modalities into my approach with clients and would be honored to work with you, I encourage you to find the right therapist for you, which may or may not be me! I am happy to discuss these concepts with you further through a free CONSULTATION!



Staff, GoodTherapy. “20 Cognitive Distortions and How They Affect Your Life.” Therapy Blog, 11 July 2019,

*Tillman, Nancy. Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You. Feiwel and Friends, 2010.

Fertility Treatment

Article from Psychotherapy Networker

Excellent interview with Lori Gottlieb regarding undergoing fertility treatment. She discusses the "ambiguous" loss individuals/partners undergo while battling infertility. Moreover, she shares her personal experience of fertility treatment as a single woman.

You can read the article by accessing the following link:

As a psychotherapist, I specialize in reproductive/fertility counseling. If you know of someone in a similar spot, I would love to connect with them! Undergoing infertility and fertility treatment can be a lonely process that accentuates our insecurities and elicits mourning.

The Poison of Comparison

The Importance of Knowing Our Core Values, Beliefs, and Goals

Written by Hannah Chism

August 11, 2020



I was having a discussion the other day with a family member about the poison of comparison. Our culture largely operates driven by comparison and competition. While this is essential for the capitalistic economy of the United States, how does this impact each of us? It often creates anxiety, low self-esteem, poor work/life balance, mistrust, and isolation.

We are constantly bombarded by messages of ‘what’s best.’ These messages come via social media, especially Facebook, advertisements, grocery stores, work, conversations, and so on. It is difficult to escape or ignore opinions of ‘what’s best.’ But who really decides ‘what’s best?’ Who has the authority in our personal lives to dictate what is best for each of our unique life circumstances? The reality is that you are the only person who can decide what is best for your unique life circumstances, personality, background, and so forth. While for some, the best decision may be sending their kids to school, for others, it may be best to homeschool. The reality is there is no absolute right or wrong way to live or do things (unless morality is brought into the conversation…). We make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us.


What would life look like if we chose what is best for each of us individually (or collectively, depending on your cultural orientation) with each decision we make? If we were able to silence the opinions of others and the ‘but so and so is doing this…?’ If we were able to step away from the mentality of ‘keeping up with the Jones’?’ What would happen to our culture if we opened our minds to being more accepting to differences of opinions and lifestyles? This season of life, between the pandemic of COVID-19 and social justice movements, would likely be much lighter if we could each respect what others are doing. Now, to respect others, does not mean you have to agree with their choices. However, it does require loosening the reigns of judgment and moving towards acceptance of differences. Imagine how much stronger our culture would be if we empowered each other by esteeming one another in spite of disagreeing others’ choices? What would it look like to stand together in spite of a difference of opinion?


What do we lose when we compare? A sense of individuality. A sense of our unique selves. Compromising our core beliefs. Inauthenticity. The feeling of being stifled. A disconnected self. Inauthentic relationships. Discontentment and dissatisfaction. A sense of being lost and confused. The erosion of self. Time. Self-confidence. Most distinctly, comparison poisons and erodes our sense of self. Meaning, we lose our unique identities, purposes, goals, values, and motivations. We can very easily get caught up in the rat race of life, causing us to become disillusioned and disoriented. We slip into following what others are doing or trying to compete with others’ agendas or accomplishments. We lose sight of our core values, beliefs, and goals.


It is critical that we each gain confidence in our personal decisions. If not, we sacrifice what is ultimately best for ourselves/families. We also can become bitter and hardened. So, how to block out the noise of others’ opinions and choices? How do we separate what’s best for others from what is essential for us? This is where knowing your core values, beliefs, goals, and identity comes into play.


Being aware of what makes you tick and how your unique self/family operates best is the key here. Abiding in what you know and what feels absolutely true and congruent with your soul. Being aware of the language you are using in making decisions. Is there a “should” in there? Sometimes obligation is important because it is not all about us. However, how often is this language creeping in? Also, being aware of your motivations in decisions. Is your motivation for increased status? Is it so you are not the only ones who did not attend the party? Again, go back to your core values and beliefs.


Be honest with yourself of what truly feels congruent for you and your family. Sometimes this means sacrificing status or pride or something else. However, will you be able to rest better at night knowing you chose what was authentic to your true self? Will you be a happier person because of it? It offers more breathing room and likely adds more years onto your life (not scientifically proven!).  If we are able to walk in this confidence, it can be contagious. It extends the freedom others to also choose what is best for their family.


What is driving your comparison with others?

  • Is it social media?
  • Is it magazines?
  • Is it comparing your body image to others?
  • Is it weighing yourself constantly? Comparison can occur not only in the company of others, but can also be found in comparing oneself to a disillusioned/idealistic self… E.g.: “If only I weighed - - -, then I would be content.” When the reality is you have never been that weight or it was in your teenage years.
  • Is it unhealthy conversations with your friends? Sometimes in the company of friends or family there are certain topics that trigger insecurities in us.
  • Is it comparing your personality with that of another? If only I were funny like them… Reflect on what your strengths may be in the context of relationships. You may not be the funniest person, but are you thoughtful?
  • Is it comparing the nature of your relationship with one of your parents to how your siblings interact with that same parent? Where you desire the kind of connection they appear to have yet your personality does not afford such connection? A perspective check may be necessary to realize the reality of the dynamics occurring in your relationships. This will likely need to be followed by an attitude shift in how you respond to others.

There are several layers of comparison and surprising ways it can creep into our lives and steal our joy, seemingly without our awareness. Are there areas in your life that you can avoid in order to gain confidence in your sense of self? Bottom line, it is important to take an inventory of the sources in your life that are causing negative beliefs about your sense of self and driving incongruent choices in your life.


Now, as I mentioned previously, our economy is driven by comparison and competition. Without it, our country would not be as economically viable as it presently is. Thus, our workplaces are often driven by performance and production; which frequently involves comparison and competition. We innately seek to survive, and part of survival is contingent on our skills, abilities, knowledge, and so forth. Thus, drive, work ethic, and striving for excellence are essential for success in the workplace. However, there is a fine line between striving for excellence and compromising our core beliefs, values, and goals. Thus, be cognizant of what is fueling your soul versus poisoning your sense of self.

Be realistic about your gifts and personality, rather than assigning someone else’s gifts and personality to your life. The reality is you have been gifted with a unique set of gifts, skills, and knowledge. This requires you to stay within your lane of achievable and attainable goals based on who you truly are. Thus, strive, but strive within realistic goals; otherwise, you will become exhausted by never reaching an idealistic set of goals.


A word of caution: choosing what’s best for you personally can sometimes feel lonely. Sometimes when we deter from the norm, it can feel isolating.

Thus, it is important to ask yourself what truly feels congruent? Then, standing by that conviction. It is also important to distinguish between compromise and congruence. There may be times we compromise for the sake of others because we love them. However, if our choices are incongruent with our core beliefs, then the sacrifice may be too great.

This also highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with relationships that are uplifting and supportive of your choices. Does your support system empower and encourage you to live your best and most wholehearted life? A necessary shift in minimizing the poison of comparison from your life may be developing a stronger community who encourages the best kind of growth in you.


Another word of caution: making congruent choices can result in you questioning yourself or others questioning you. Neither is necessarily a bad thing, as we each need an accountability system. However, we make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us. Sometimes we must shake off the anxiety, shame, or million “what if’s?” that come after the decision. Again, this is where the importance of knowing your core values, beliefs, and goals becomes crucial – it serves as part of your accountability system of congruent living. Be open to the feedback of others, but do not let it rule how you conduct your life. Sometimes those other voices must be silenced in order for you to live wholeheartedly.

  • Comparison poisons and erodes our sense of self
  • If we lose sight of our core values, beliefs, and goals we can become disillusioned and disoriented.
  • Take an inventory of the sources in your life that are causing negative beliefs about your sense of self and driving incongruent choices in your life.
  • We make decisions in the moment based on the resources and information available to us.
  • You are the only person who can decide what is best for your unique life circumstances, personality, background, and so forth.


Thank you for reading this lengthy article! Questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to Contact me at (719) 204-1664 or [email protected]. Hannah Chism, MA, UP, NCC, PHR is a mental health therapist and career coach based in Colorado Springs, CO and offers free consultations and telehealth/virtual services.

Shame-Based Culture and Silenced Losses

World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – A Different Spin

August 3, 2020

Written by Hannah Chism


This week is considered World Breastfeeding Week by the WABA, WHO, and UNICEF. While I am a proponent of breastfeeding, I am also sensitive to those who may feel marginalized or deep pain during the celebration and promotion of this week or breastfeeding in general. There are those who are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, albeit age, anatomy, sickness, and so on. This often creates great shame or stigma in a society that expects mothers to breastfeed (e.g: shame-based culture) – where it has become a should. Similar to Mother’s Day or certain holidays, some may also feel a deep sense of sadness due to infertility, infant loss, stillbirth, loss of a child, loss of a child due to suicide, previous abortions, and so on (e.g.: silenced losses).


My point in this article is not to say that this week should not exist nor that breastfeeding should not be encouraged nor celebrated. Instead, I am recommending to be sensitive to others and the process they may be experiencing. When we assign our values, goals, and agendas to others, we lose sight of the other person and become more self-centered and self-righteous. Although millennials have been criticized for not living with conviction nor truth due to possessing more relativistic views of ‘let your truth be your truth,’ there is something to be said about respecting others’ beliefs and values. We are far less impactful as people when we impose our values on others (e.g.: shame-based culture). The manner in which you live your life holds more weight than your words or judgments on others.


If you have been able to successfully breastfeed, then congratulations! That is a big accomplishment and something to be celebrated, as it is a marathon. Within this, if you hold strong convictions about the benefits and necessity for breastfeeding then that is awesome for your determination and journey in your personal breastfeeding journey. That also comes in handy when educating others on the benefits of breastfeeding and helping support new mothers with breastfeeding. However, there is a fine line between encouraging, educating, and supporting others versus imposing, judging, and shaming others (e.g.: shame-based culture).

If it is difficult to develop empathy for those who do not share the same determination to breastfeed as you… I ask you to pause. Consider a time that you failed at something or there was something that you just could not do no matter how hard you tried – e.g.: first place in a 50-yard sprint, getting bread to rise, or passing an exam on the first try. Consider how you felt failing at that experience. Recall others’ responses to such failure. What did you need to hear at the time? What did you need at the time? Now, transfer those learnings to considering your response to others in their opinions or experiences in regard to breastfeeding. It may be important to gauge your audience before spouting your strong convictions. Remember to be compassionate as each person’s story is unique.


To those who have been shamed or felt embarrassed for not breastfeeding for whatever reason, I offer my sincerest condolences. I want to encourage you to look at the other ways you have succeeded as a mother or a person. Do you make breakfast for your kids every morning? Or, brush their teeth in spite of the tears? Do you support others in their unique decisions when they differ from your own because you know how it feels to be shamed? Well done for the ways that make you a great parent and person! Because the reality is that breastfeeding is not everything! There are so many other facets of being a parent where you have an opportunity to nurture your children well.



And to those who experience sadness, disenfranchisement, grief, or anger on holidays such as these (e.g.: due to silenced losses)… Let me extend my warmest empathies and sympathies for any and all of the emotions you are experiencing. While you may desire to be happy for others on these occasions, it may be a very difficult, or nearly impossible, feat. You may be wallowing in your own sadness or anger. And, that is okay for a season or on such holidays – you have permission to be human and feel sadness or emptiness for your loss(es). There is a great loneliness that can come with loss. Having your losses silenced only accentuates that sense of isolation.


I want to encourage you that even though at times it may feel that you are defined by your losses, you are not. Your identity is not found in being barren or infertile. Your identity is not found in your shame. You are a multi-faceted person with more to offer the world than one facet of yourself that appears to be insubordinate with your hopes. While these hopes and disappointments may dominate your focus in life for this season, it is not the full picture.


At some point, you will either be surprised by your hopes being answered either directly or indirectly, or grieve the loss where it becomes fainter and more integrated into your whole self and story. While grieving the loss does not remove the pain nor the sorrow, it does allow you to live a more present and wholehearted life. I want to encourage you to create some kind of ritual on days or weeks like these, where you give yourself permission to mourn the loss. A ritual could be lighting a candle, making chocolate chip pancakes, playing a certain song, and so on, that honors your unique loss. Also, find a support network or at least one person who can empathize with the type of loss you are experiencing. While no one can understand the exact depth of your pain, they can sit with you in it.


Thus, this is a call to celebrate, but not at the expense of others feeling marginalized, silenced, or stigmatized. This also serves as a reminder to be sensitive to others on holidays such as these, who may be experiencing the antithesis of your experience. Within this, remember that living with conviction is part of living a zealous life. However, be wary of imposing your convictions on others as this can create dissonance, isolation, and rejection. Freedom to grieve or celebrate this week!

Authentic Grief

I believe everyone has had their grief or pain minimized at some point during their lives. In most instances, this is not a result of others’ poor intentions or a sense of maliciousness but stems from the fact that no other person can truly understand your unique experience. We are each different people with different personalities and different experiences. Even if someone has undergone an almost identical experience as you, it will impact each of us differently. For instance, if both you and a sibling underwent verbal abuse from one of your parents growing up, it will affect each of you in varying ways. Or, if you and a friend were both in the same car accident, each of you will be impacted differently by the accident. While you may be able to empathize with one another, the other person cannot truly understand the way in which the experience impacted the other because they are different people with different personalities and different backgrounds.

Meaning, do not feel that you have to experience the same emotions, thoughts, types of relationships, desires for reconciliation, impact on your self-esteem, etc. as someone else with a similar experience. Be honest (at a minimum with yourself) with your feelings, beliefs, and views, rather than trying to conform to those of another because they feel more righteous or seem like the way you should feel. Freedom to experience your experience authentically. This is a difficult task, as it means no guide map exists for how your grief or emotional process should look. The reality is there is no right or perfect way to grieve or heal, as it will be entirely unique to your personality, background, hurts, and so on. This may feel overwhelming, lonely, and scary. However, if you do not grieve in a way that is authentic to you, you will not truly heal.

So, how to approach grieving authentically? First, throw off the expectations of others of what your response should be. Then… Journal. Run. Paint. Talk to a safe friend. Get counseling. Write letters but do not send them. In other words, express those emotions – let ‘em fly. Otherwise, they will be trapped. And you will likely feel stifled, inauthentic, sensitive, irritable, and claustrophobic.

Now, how to respond to the minimization of your experience or grief? Your response likely depends on the intent of the person it is coming from. In instances of others being well-intentioned yet ignorant, an extra dose of grace must be bestowed. While they meant well, they fell short. Regardless of one’s intent, create a metaphorical “dump bucket” (Humphrey, 2009), where others’ minimizing comments may be tossed . This removes the power of such words, separates them from your experience, and restores power to you. No one else has the authority to tell you how you should feel. Only you get to decide whether you authentically experience your grief.

Written by Hannah Chism

Sources: Humphrey, K. M. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

The Power of Choice

The Power of Choice

Written by Hannah Chism


Every time I hear the song “Timshel” by Mumford and Sons I feel very much alive. The song strikes me to my core and I cannot help but be moved by it. It seems to silence all the noise around me and causes me to pause. I first heard the song nearly ten years ago, as a young college student. As an English major, I was required to read John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, which I also fell in love with. I was shocked and delighted to find “Timshel” as not only a part of the text, but the meaning undergirding the entire story. Upon further research, “Timshel” also appears in the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. “Timshel” literally means “thou mayest,” or that one has the free will to make a choice. This word has served as a reminder both in my personal and professional life that I have ownership over my decisions and can choose how I react to life circumstances. This idea has served to empower me in my career and life choices in that I can rise above the decisions others around me have made.


It is a liberating concept that we have the power to choose. However, with this responsibility of choice comes great power, as we are then held accountable to steward such power. Sometimes we remain frozen due to being overwhelmed by the amount of freedom we have been given. This occasionally leaves us lost in our careers, stagnant in unhealthy relationships, or otherwise. Sometimes we remain paralyzed in our situations, believing we are not worth the good that lies on the other side of the decision. Or, we cannot shake the exhausting list of ‘what ifs’ or the lengthy pros and cons list of all of the options. Now, there is something to be said for patience, discernment, and peace in making wise life decisions; however, a problem can arise when we realize no perfect option exists and instead of taking the courageous route of necessary yet imperfect change, we remain immobile. Oftentimes, we are in circumstances that feel beyond our control and while in the midst of those circumstances we are rendered powerless. However, we always have a choice of how we respond to such circumstances. While we cannot control the actions of others, we can control our response to such actions. It is important to find ways of achieving ounces of autonomy and empowerment, even if only through little decisions, such as: what to eat, when to drink, or whether to brush our teeth or not. In the words of Beth Moore in Chasing Vines, “Choose what matters now.” Today, is what we have been given; thus, we must steward the autonomy and choices that are within our day. We have the opportunity to live a zestful and zeal-filled life. This involves making choices with conviction and in congruence with our unique values, goals, interests, and personalities. Our choices give life meaning and enable us to live more fully and wholeheartedly.


Within this, I believe we have the power to rewrite our stories. While we cannot change the facts of the story (meaning the events that occurred), we can refine our understanding about ourselves, relationships, and the world around us. This enables us to become a more whole individuals through the process of healing. The key is found in the choices we make moving forward. In order to move forward from previous hurts, intentional healing must occur. The reality is that we live in a fallen and broken world. In all relationships we will be disappointed as no human being is infallible or perfect. This means we will get hurt by others. In order for relationships to remain intact, be healed, evolve, or develop, grace, humility, openness, vulnerability, and forgiveness must be practiced (more on that in another blog, as this is not a novel). As adults, we have more freedom to choose who we surround ourselves with and who we allow to speak into our lives. We can limit and create boundaries around those unhelpful or unhealthy voices. Part of rewriting one’s story involves openness to engage in life and relationships, in spite of the risks that come with such engagement. The risks of engaging in life and rewriting our story, far outweigh the risks of disengaging and allowing our stories to be written for us. This does not negate survival efforts or coping mechanisms while in the midst of abusive situations, as sometimes we do need to disengage in order to survive; however, a lifetime of numbness equates to emptiness. Disengagement only serves as a strength when it is essential for survival.


I am deeply passionate about the concept of choice and responsibility. As such, it greatly informs my approach to counseling clients. I believe in empowering clients and restoring hope through empowerment. Many have had instances where their power has been stolen from them due to age, size, gender, social status, race, ethnicity, religion, etc… They have undergone serious injustices, oppressions, abuses, and demoralizations. I hold the hope for clients and individuals that the power is theirs to take back, as it no longer belongs to that other person… To restore what has been lost and rebuild one’s sense of self-efficacy and self-worth. As the wrong inflicted on anyone from another, was never deserved nor the victim’s fault. No one is defined by ___________ (negative/demoralizing/abusive) event. Instead, individuals have been shaped by _________ event and now have a choice of how much power they desire for it to hold their lives… We have a choice of how much we will let it define us and our sense of purpose. We are each more than __________ event. Thus, taking back one’s identity, sense of self, self-worth, self-concept, etc. is a part of restoring one’s dignity and regaining power in one’s life.


Bottom line: we hold the power of choice. I believe we have the capability of being survivors, and that we have the choice to not remain as victims. We have, can, and will overcome adverse circumstances. We have been entrusted with the responsibility to choose our response to life’s tumultuousness. We have the opportunity to move forward. We have the freedom to rewrite and write our stories. So, let’s own our stories - even the ugly parts. Do not let the adversity rule our beings or identity, but instead let it shape part of who we are. We are more than the adversity we have experienced. So, take hope in knowing that we hold power in our relationships and life and steward that power well. Choose to engage in the life we have been given, in spite of all the risks it entails.


*As an aside… The concept of “Timshel” has so radically informed my outlook on life and served as such an empowering reminder that we ended up naming one of our dogs “Timshel.”

**As a practicing mental health therapist, I operate from an integrated framework. In this article some of my theoretical approaches are apparent, such as, Existential (responsibility and freedom/meaning and purpose), Cognitive Behavior Therapy (core belief system), EMDR Therapy (shifting understanding), Narrative Therapy (rewrite story), and Feminist Therapy (empowerment). These theoretical approaches greatly inform my approach to working with trauma healing, including being an EMDR-Trained therapist.

***Please note that if you are currently in a situation involving abuse of any kind, especially domestic violence, it is best to create a safety plan with a trained mental health professional and seek additional support.

Life Transitions

The harsh and hopeful reality is that life works in seasons. We do not remain in the exact same situation our entire lives – relationships change, jobs change, we change, and so on. We are constantly being asked to adapt to life’s changing circumstances. If we fight to adapt, we end up lost, discombobulated, and distraught. In the midst of adapting, we experience anxiety, confusion, insecurity, and grief. In order to accept life’s changes, we must grieve the lost season. What I mean by this is that we cannot move ‘forward’ or adjust until we have grieved what the previous season has offered us.

Grieving Positive Changes

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity… a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance… a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; NIV).


The harsh and hopeful reality is that life works in seasons. We do not remain in the exact same situation our entire lives – relationships change, jobs change, we change, and so on. We are constantly being asked to adapt to life’s changing circumstances. If we fight to adapt, we end up lost, discombobulated, and distraught. In the midst of adapting, we experience anxiety, confusion, insecurity, and grief. In order to accept life’s changes, we must grieve the lost season. What I mean by this is that we cannot move ‘forward’ or adjust until we have grieved what the previous season has offered us. Yes, this even applies to very positive life changes, such as, marriage, birth of a new child, retirement, and so on.


We lose loved ones, our friendships grow apart, we lose jobs, we get married, we have children, and so on. The times we are moving from richness to richness require grieving. And obviously, as we transition from richness to poorer, grief is inevitable. This also means moving from poorer to richer involves grief. This may seem contradicting and confusing, but there are losses we experience as we move between seasons.

Let’s start with a few tangible examples. For instance, when one has gone from being single the first thirty years of life to married, there is a loss of independence that occurs. This loss of independence needs to be grieved in order to embrace the companionship the marriage offers. Within this, a change of identity and interests may also occur. Thus, the individual needs to also accept who they are becoming and the activities they partake in that also may come to define them. Another example occurs with adoption. If due to infertility, it requires one grieving the losses associated with being unable to have a child via natural means. This could also mean grieving lost dreams and expectations. In order for one to fully embrace the adopted child, they must go through the process of grieving what their hopes had been in order to rejoice and celebrate in what could be with their adopted child. Another example is when one goes from being married to divorced. This may bring a whole host of emotions, including relief, loneliness, sadness, joy, freedom, and so on. One will likely grieve the loss of companionship, no matter how dysfunctional it may have been. One will likely also experience identity changes, where they may have been more submissive and flexible, but become more rigid and independent. All changes leave room for grief in some form or fashion, and many have space for joy.


One may grieve these losses through a variety of forms, depending on what works best for the individual. Some individuals are verbal processors and need to share their experience with a friend over coffee. While other individuals are internal processors and need to journal about their experience and feelings. Yet others, are kinesthetic processors and need movement in order to process their emotions, either via running, walking, biking or some other active medium. Regardless, one needs permission to experience the full range of emotions attached to the loss of one season and movement into the next. This requires reflecting on both the benefits and drawbacks of what the previous season afforded, then looking at what the next season affords. This honest reflection requires humility, courage, and self-awareness. It is difficult to hold the dichotomous feelings of change, albeit happy and sad, as they appear to contradict one another. However, when one allows themselves the opportunity to experience the full range of their emotions attached to their season, liberation, rest, and peace follow. The process one goes through within and outside of a season is what truly gives life meaning and purpose. If we do not allow ourselves to be transformed through life’s seasons then we risk becoming stagnant, bitter, and lost. Being transformed requires openness, vulnerability, and flexibility. As we transition into each new season, we change as people. We are shaped by our response to life’s ever-changing circumstances.


Often times, in the midst of changing circumstances, we isolate ourselves from others or internalize our feelings because they feel messy or invalid. However, we are not meant to transition alone. Considering we experience life changes from birth until death, adversity in the midst of change is a universal experience. While each person’s response to such changes may vary, we can find common ground in understanding change as difficult and muddled. Even though you may struggle to articulate your feelings while in the midst of change, does not mean you cannot share and invite others into your experience. However, be selective about the people you choose to share the inmost spaces of your heart with. Identify those ‘safe’ people in your life, who accept you exactly as you are and validate your feelings. If you cannot locate ‘those’ people, then grow your support system by getting more involved in your local community and being more intentional about developing healthy relationships. Life is tough and we are not meant to walk this journey alone.


Thus, you have permission to be bewildered in the process of transition. Within this, you are never too befuddled for others to handle. You will be more incomprehensible and less effective in your life if you do not share with others. You will be a much more refined person if you allow others into your process and allow yourself to be changed in response to life’s circumstances, as opposed to fighting them. Therefore, freedom to be raw and real. Your process matters – regardless of how invalid and messy it may feel. Grief enables us to embrace the joys and hardships of life. Grief creates space in our hearts to love and live more fully. We cannot fully accept the richness of life without also accepting the hardships. You have permission to grieve both the good and bad of life. Allow space to grow. Give yourself permission to authentically experience your emotions, even if rejoicing feels inappropriate or grief feels invalid. Be you. You will be far freer by doing so.


Written by Hannah Chism

Feel free to reach out to me if you would like to discuss this topic further or to schedule a free consultation: [email protected] or (719) 204-1664.