My First Mental Health Counseling Residency Experience

Validated. Supported. Encouraged. Inspired. Motivated. This is how I felt immediately following my first residency experience. There is something so empowering about spending a long weekend with a group of people who share the same goals & values that you do; we all came from different backgrounds & had different stories, but shared a common goal: to be a mental health therapist.

The weeks leading up to my residency weekend, I was terrified. I dreaded having to role play & use my counseling skills in person for the first time in front of people I didn’t know. I discussed my fears of being vulnerable & getting too emotional with my therapist two weeks prior to going. I packed up my suitcase with blazers & dresses, loaded up on snacks for my hotel room, & headed to the hotel.

The first day, I felt myself get uncomfortable. Here I was, in a group of strangers, being asked to share my perspectives & thoughts. I promised myself that I would feel more open tomorrow, after I hopefully had time to bond with a few members of my group.

Thankfully, a group of us went to dinner on the first night. Dinner turned into drinks by the pool, & I found myself opening up in the less intimidating setting.

Over the next four days, these strangers became friends. Supporters who I can reach out to on a bad day, confidants to share fears & goals with. I learned that I was not the only one who feared being too emotional or coming across as being unprofessional in a session if I felt too much. Every single one of us had fears like this, & it was so encouraging to know that. At the end of the residency, we shared thoughts & feedback with each other. I felt really emotional & vulnerable, to both share feedback & receive it, not just on our counseling skills but also who we are as people.

Some of the very kind words my residency group used to describe me. The things I feared the most as my biggest weaknesses were framed as my greatest strengths.

I feared that my empathy would be a weakness as a therapist, & this group of strangers-turned-friends confirmed that it’s actually my greatest strength. I say all of this in the hopes that you choose to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, & to view some of your perceived weaknesses as strengths.

Thanks so much for reading! & to my residency group/new friends, I appreciate you & am so inspired by you.

Love,

Danielle

Packing for 4 Days in a Personal Item!

Hi there! I hope you’re having a great week so far. I’m planning a visit to NC to visit my sister & I’m so excited! (I think when this post is published, I’ll already be there!) I can’t wait to see her new house, cuddle with my pup nephew, & have some sister time!

I’m flying on Frontier, which means I didn’t want to pay extra for a carry-on & will be packing in a personal item ONLY. This is the longest trip I’ve done this for (usually I only visit NC for 1-2 days!) so this might be challenging but I’m up for it! I’m leaving Friday & getting back Tuesday.

An easy, breezy dress like this one is perfect for trips like this!

I’m someone who really enjoys planning a trip! I love gathering things I need & the excitement of packing my bag. While I’m no professional, I like to think I’ve found some good tips that help make things easier in my travels. Keep reading for my packing process!

1. Make a list of outfits! I plan out the outfits I want to wear each day that I’ll be at my destination, along with which shoes & accessories I want to pair with each one. Here’s what my list looks like so far for this trip!

Friday-pink t-shirt dress, white sneakers, denim jacket

Saturday-maxi skirt, white wrap top, white sneakers

Sunday-red & pink dress, sandals

Monday-chambray wrap dress, white sneakers

Tuesday-maxi skirt, graphic t-shirt

2. I go through my list & try on the outfits, making sure that everything fits & goes together.

3. Next, I write out the makeup, toiletries, & any other miscellaneous things I need to remember. I keep my makeup & hair products pretty simple to save space in my bag. If I forget anything or need anything, I can either borrow something from my sis or pop into Target! Here’s the makeup I’m bringing.

Makeup:

Mini glow screen

Rare foundation

Rare concealer

Rare blush

Ilia eyeshadow

Eyeliner (liquid & gel)

Mascara

2 lipstick options

These are my must-have every day products!

I use packing cubes to keep everything organized & to squeeze as much as I can into the small space.

& that’s pretty much it! It’s my last day of my trip right now & I’ve used almost everything that I packed. I’m having the best time here & I’ll be sad to go home BUT I can’t wait to see my little family when I get back. I’ve missed them!

Have a great week,

Danielle

Summer Insecurities

Bottom line: it’s a whole lot harder to feel good about your body if you don’t feel good on the inside.

Hi there!

“Love yourself!” “Love your flaws!” “Your body is beautiful!” How often are we told these things? I’ve said them in previous posts, I’m sure.

What we don’t hear as frequently though, is what to do if you DON’T feel this way. I know that so many of us are experiencing mixed feelings about our bodies; I know that because so many of you have shared that with me & I feel the SAME!

Sure, some days I’m dancing around in my bathing suit, feeling grateful for all that my body does for me. Some days I’m wearing a pretty dress & feeling beautiful. But there are plenty of other days. There are days when I catch a glimpse of my reflection & think, I look 8 months pregnant. There are days when I go to the beach with a friend & revert back to the comparison game. There are days where I want to hide my body. If you’re reading this, maybe you have had similar days.

Bottom line: it’s harder to feel good about yourself on the outside if you don’t feel good on the inside. This is a recent revelation for me; I’ve noticed on days when my anxiety is high, I have trouble accepting my body. These things go hand in hand. It’s not as easy as simply throwing on the bikini, there is self-reflection & inner WORK to do first. How do I do this? I go to therapy, I write down my anxious or negative thoughts, I identify WHY I’m feeling different emotions. I surround myself with people who remind me of the best things about myself! Over time, I find accepting my body to be easier. The bad days don’t spiral into bad weeks or months, & I feel good about that.

We’re seeing posts about how every body is a bikini body; how you should feel good about your body no matter what. I love this messaging, but I know it’s not always completely realistic. My hope for you this summer is to have days where you’re having too much fun with people you love to even think about your insecurities!

Love,

Danielle

Pack with me for Savannah!

John & I are heading to Savannah for the long weekend. I’m so excited to eat, drink, & spend quality time together (in no particular order, lol!) It’s our first trip in awhile (we’re both fully vaccinated + will be safe, masks & hand sanitizer are at the ready!) & I’m finding a lot of joy in planning this little getaway. Even though the forecast says rain, I have some fun restaurants & activities on the itinerary. I can’t wait!

Here’s a throwback to 2017, the last time John & I went to Savannah! It was pretty early on in our relationship & so much fun. We look like babies here!

Usually when I prepare for a trip, I immediately start buying new clothes. There’s something about a new outfit that can really boost my confidence! However, in an effort to decrease frivolous spending, I chose to shop my closet this time. I pulled out some fun dresses, a few festive options for the 4th, & got to packing! Here’s what I’ll be bringing on our weekend trip.

Outfits: What a surprise, I’m bringing mostly dresses. They’re easy to just throw on, keep me cool, & make me feel my most confident! What’s not to love? I’m linking a few of my favorite options here, here, & here. I’m planning on bringing 3-4 options, since it’s just a short trip!

Makeup: I’m so used to packing only the bare minimum makeup for when I bring a carry on to visit my sister, I’m excited to bring a little more makeup with me on this trip! I’ve been LOVING this foundation from Rare, it’s definitely a must-have for me. I’m linking a few more of my favorites here & here as well; let me know if you’d like to read an updated makeup routine post!

Hair: In years past, I would get my hair blown out before a trip. Now however, I’m embracing the curly life & wearing my hair naturally! I purchased a few travel sizes of some of my fave products, like this one & this one!

Shoes: After consulting my sis & my best friend, I think I’m going to stick to bringing my two essentials: a pair of white sneakers & comfy sandals.

Other Stuff: I ordered these bug spray wipes to use at nighttime. Can’t forget my sunscreen for daytime; you can’t go wrong with Supergoop!

Stay tuned for plenty of photos (sorry, John!) of us in Savannah.

Have a great weekend!

Danielle

Mental Health Check-In

Hi there!

I started this blog to challenge myself to be vulnerable, so here goes: I’ve been struggling a bit in the mental health department. I’m okay & thankfully I have plenty of established coping skills, but my anxiety has been not so great lately. (Edit: woke up in a much better headspace this morning, yay!)

I think this is because of a few things; we’ve had some things going on personally that bring out a lot of feelings, I’m adjusting to being on summer break, & the dreary afternoons lately are the worst when I’m, as both my therapist & John describe me, a house plant.

Thankful to be in a much better headspace!

Typically, routines & my comfort zone is how I keep my anxiety in check. It’s summer break, & while I still have grad school coursework, I’m finding myself with a lot of free time. I’m playing with Theo & watching funny shows, but also feeling guilty that I’m not being more productive. It’s a vicious cycle, feeling anxious about how I’m wasting my summer break feeling anxious.

Here are a few things I’m trying to do this week that seem to be helping:

  • Making a to-do list for the following day. I’m putting even the smallest of tasks on my list right now, so that I feel productive crossing it off!
  • Making fun plans. I have a beach trip planned for Friday, a weekend by the pool with my parents, a weekend trip planned for the 4th of July. Making plans gives me extra things to look forward to!
  • Getting ready for the day. The first few days of summer break, I stayed in pajamas. It made me feel off all day, so this week I’m putting real clothes on & doing my makeup.
  • Moving my body! Those endorphins do wonders. My mom & I have decided to do some fun dance workout videos (Kyra Pro on YouTube is one of my faves!) & hold each other accountable. We just did our first one together & I feel great!

Just a reminder that everyone gets into a funk sometimes. Hopefully we have good support systems, coping skills, & patience with ourselves to start feeling better. Leave a comment & check in, how are you doing?

Love,

Danielle

Summer Goals

Hi!

It’s summer, baby! It hasn’t fully hit me yet but I think I officially feel the tension starting to leave my jaw. I’ve been studying for a teacher certification test (I passed!!) & working on my grad school coursework. So while “summer break” is relative, I feel thankful to have some free time to unwind! I’m planning on relaxing at my parents’ pool & the beach, going for long walks with Theo, & organizing our apartment.

Take time for yourself & actually, truly REST!

Here are some more goals I’m hoping to accomplish over the next two (ish!) months!

  • Plan for the upcoming school year!
  • Work ahead in my coursework.
  • Work on Theo’s reactivity training.
  • Go through my closet & curate my wardrobe so that I (hopefully!) love all my clothes.
  • REST!

While these goals are all important to me, my priority will be unwinding & finding time to do things that bring me joy. As we head into the weekend, I hope you find time to relax & unwind. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

Love,

Danielle

Goals to Set for Yourself That Don’t Include “Lose X Amount of Pounds”

Disclaimer: If you are struggling with disordered thoughts/eating, please see a licensed professional for help.

On my worst body image days, my mind goes right back to its default “I need to lose weight” mindset. Big events, summertime, comparing my body to others, clothes shopping, all of these things can really trigger this mindset for me.

I’m trying to choose compassion when it comes to my body & goals. It’s easy for me to be compassionate toward others, & a little harder to choose it toward myself!

I’ve found it helpful recently to set small goals for myself that are not weight-loss oriented. It’s a nice reminder to myself that health does not equal weight loss; health is doing things to make your mind & body feel good. Here are a few goals I’m setting for myself!

  • Eat colorful foods! I want to eat more fruits & vegetables-it always makes me feel better.
  • Take at least one virtual dance class per week! Dance brings me so much joy & the endorphins don’t suck, either!
  • Manage my time better-Teaching, grad school, upcoming certification tests, I have a lot going on. I’ve been feeling stressed & unorganized lately, so I want to take steps toward managing my time better.
  • Wear clothes that I love-no more trying to squeeze myself into my pre-quarantine jeans. I only want to wear clothes that make me feel amazing!
  • Eat breakfast-I want to continue eating breakfast every morning; it’s an easy way to nourish my body & kick off my day in a positive way.

It can be so easy to feel the burden of your past (or present!) disordered eating or thoughts. Society puts such an emphasis on how to “get a summer body”, “ways to lose weight for the wedding”, or “drop 3 sizes, fast!” Here’s a reminder for you, that you are amazing exactly the way you are, that there are a million things more interesting about you than what your body looks like, & that you are worthy of making fun, beautiful memories RIGHT now. Not when you lose X amount of lbs. Right now!

Love you guys!

Danielle

Things I Learned at 25

Hi there!

Today is my last day before I turn 26! I thought it might be fun to reflect on all that I learned this past year. It was a challenging year that definitely tested me & taught me about myself. Here’s a few things I learned!

  • I’m more adaptable to change than I thought. I’m a cautious person who has a little bit of fear surrounding change. This year I proved to myself that I can adapt & make it through challenging times.
  • Making memories with loved ones is by far most important to me. Material things don’t mean much compared to spending quality time with my family & friends. Being able to spend time with them now is something I don’t take for granted!
  • Gratitude can get me through the hardest times. I lean heavily on gratitude to manage my anxiety symptoms. Even on my hardest days, I have so much to be grateful for.

These are things that I know I’ll carry into this next year. I’m thankful to be able to celebrate my birthday with loved ones this year, & can’t wait for a summer full of outdoor dining, swimming, & backyard hangouts.

How lucky am I to have so much love in my life?

Another quick note: I’m growing as a person & continuing to grow my little online community. If you’re reading this, thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read my words, to engage in my Instagram content, to have inspiring conversations.

I’m looking forward to 26 & all that it brings! I hope you’re having a good week!

Danielle

Reasons to go to Therapy When You Feel Totally Fine

The color of this dress (from Target!) makes me so happy!

“What’s wrong?” “Are you okay?” are a few questions I received when I told family & friends that I was going to therapy. While therapy is wonderful for those who are struggling (& if you are struggling, there is help out there for you!), it can also be amazing when there’s nothing wrong at all. I felt inspired by an Instagram post by Keiko Wolfe, to write a list of reasons why everyone should go to therapy, whether you’re going through something or not!

I’ve previously written about my mental health journey (I’ll link my post here!) & have mentioned more recently that I’m going to school to become a mental health counselor myself. My main reason for being in therapy right now is to be the best therapist I can be, but I’m also working through other things in my sessions. Here are a few reasons why someone might benefit from therapy!

  • To process a big life change
  • To nurture relationships with others (& yourself!)
  • To learn more about yourself
  • To unpack childhood trauma
  • To learn new coping skills

Therapy is so helpful for people who are struggling, but it’s not ONLY for those in a dark place. That is what the stigma surrounding mental health tells us in our society. Regardless of how you feel about therapy or where you are in your mental health journey, I hope you know that you are worthy of living your best life. I’m so happy you’re here!

Danielle

How I’m Currently Practicing Self-Care

Hi there! I hope you’re having a good week so far! John & I celebrated our 5 year anniversary (of dating, not married yet!) on Tuesday. It was definitely the highlight of my week! We went to a little Mexican restaurant with cute outdoor seating. We drank a pitcher of margaritas & daydreamed about where we’ll travel next. It was perfect!

The perfect anniversary dinner!

It’s so crazy to think that we’ve been together for 5 years. It feels like yesterday & a lifetime ago, all at the same time. He’s truly my best friend! We’ve been through so much together, good & bad. There’s no one else I’d rather go through life with!

I had my first official therapy session last week. I’ll be going to therapy (virtually!) every other week. I feel really happy with this step toward taking care of my health! It’s also fun to be able to discuss different therapy perspectives & theories with my therapist (if you didn’t know, I’m going to school to be a therapist & I’m a complete mental health nerd!)

I hope you’re finding little ways to take care of yourself, even in the midst of a hectic, busy life. I wanted to share a few of my favorite ways that I’ve been practicing self-care!

  • Going to therapy, like I mentioned! I’m really enjoying it so far, & it feels so good to carve out 50 minutes of time to focus solely on my mental health. 10/10 would recommend!
  • Practicing mindfulness. This is something my therapist recommended; it’s something I’ve already been doing BUT she is encouraging me to be more mindful about being mindful, haha. For me, that looks like setting aside time throughout the day to notice where I’m holding tension, checking in with myself, & deep breathing.
  • Preparing for work the night before! I’ve been trying to pack my lunch, fill my water bottle, & pick out my clothes before bed. It helps me get out the door faster + I don’t have much to think about when I’m in my morning zombie mode!
  • Eating breakfast every day. I just feel better when I eat breakfast so I’ve been heating up a breakfast burrito, packing it in my bag, & eating it once I’m in my classroom.
  • Decluttering-not my favorite but it helps me feel less anxious! I’ve been slowly going through my closet & trying to get my apartment organized.

I hope this post reminds you to practice self-care! What’s your favorite way to take care of yourself?

Enjoy the rest of your week,

Danielle