Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPCC, RYT200 is…

…A Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor:  Ellie counsels women, men, adolescents, and professionals from all walks of life. She is committed to the well-being of her clients and dedicated to helping them meet their unique individual life and wellness goals as they optimize their personal satisfaction in life. As a coach, Ellie specializes in the art of positive living.

…A Registered Yoga Teacher:  Ellie is a certified yoga instructor, registered with the Yoga Alliance at the 200 hour level.  She is currently engaged in advanced teacher training.  Ellie teaches daily yoga classes at Satsanga, her studio, in Spicer, Minnesota.

…A Co-Founder of Satsanga:  Ellie, and her partner Ashley Christianson, are co-founders of Satsanga, a gathering place in which individuals gather to share the company of the “highest truth” through various means of study, practice, and reflection.  The ultimate goal is to assimilate the meaning of these personal truths into one’s daily life.  At Satsanga, we welcome you to join us in the practices of Yoga, Ayurveda, and Holistic Well-Being.

…A DONA-trained birth doula: Ellie is a DONA-trained birth doula. She is enthusiastic about childbirth, and passionate about supporting expecting women and their families.

Pleasers of the People

May 20th, 2014

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we care, at least to some extent, that we care about what other people think of us. We want to be liked. We want people to think well of us. Likewise, most of us want to do well for and please other people. We want to touch lives. We

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want to make a difference. And, in my opinion, this is part of being human. As such, I think it is natural that we feel driven to please those that we care about and have a positive impact on the lives of others.

I mean, really think about what a motivating force this truly is. Think about the beautiful work that has been done in this world because of our natural tendency to give a care about other people. It is a good thing, is it not?

…I really think it is. But I also think that this can be too much of a good thing, especially when we become imbalanced and inadvertently cause harm to ourselves or others because of our desire to please everyone at once.

This tendency that I am referring to is most often referred to as “people pleasing”. And if you are a “people pleaser” you know what I mean. You know the moral dilemma you are faced with each and every time you must choose to say “yes” or “no” to someone you care about, including yourself. You know how hard it is to accept the idea that you simply cannot please everyone all the time. Or, perhaps even worse, that not everyone is going to receive you in the way that you want to be received. If you are a “people pleaser”, you are most likely kind, polite, reliable, and a peace-keeper. And, chances are, you are also familiar with feeling stressed, overextended, taken advantage of, highly-sensitive, resentful, lost, and sometimes, inauthentic.

If you are a pleaser-of-the-people in this way, you probably put other people first, even at the detriment of your own well-being. And while that can be admirable and virtuous at times, it is also important that you are able to establish and maintain boundaries for your own well-being.

In fact, not only is this important, but it is also natural

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and healthy. Yet, if you are “people pleaser”, this is much easier said than done.

So, how do you go about re-establishing new patterns within relationships? Consider the following five steps:

1. Address your fears.

Quite often, the desire to please others stems from a deep-rooted fear or wound that deserves attention. Examine this underlying issue, and you will likely find healing.

2. Reflect on your values.

Clarify what is important to you. These priorities will likely become a guiding force that is much stronger than your fears. As such, they will help you determine what is most right for you.

3. Create boundaries.

Remember that boundaries must exist and be respected in every healthy relationship. Know and communicate your limits, and do not be afraid to draw lines.

4. Find a way to say “no.”

You cannot say “yes” to everything all the time. So find a way that is comfortable for you to decline or say “no” to the things that you are aligned with so that you may say “yes” to the things you are. Remember that saying “no” is a skill that becomes easier with practice.

5. Stop apologizing for yourself.

…Especially when it isn’t necessary. You do not owe anyone an apology, nor an explanation, for being true to yourself.

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What is this “Letting Go” you speak of?

April 30th, 2014

In yoga and in therapy, I often find myself using the phrase “let go”. I gently remind and encourage my clients and my students to “let go” of whatever it is that is not serving them in their lives or their practice, in that moment or at that time in their lives.

…And when I use this phrase, and say this to them, I do so with sensitivity, empathy, compassion, and encouragement. I mean it when I say it, and I say it because I know that it can be done. Yet, despite my sincerity and positive intentions, I have to admit that sometimes this phrase rolls off my tongue with such ease that I forget to say more about “letting go”. I forget that “letting go” is often easier said than done.

That is, I forget this until one of my clients or yoga students asks me to elaborate on what it is that I mean. “What do you mean by, ‘letting go’?” they ask. Or “How exactly do I let go? What does that even mean? And, how do I know when I have let go of something?” It is then that I am reminded that, no matter how significant, profound, or life-changing “letting go” might be, it is no simple thing. Rather, it is quite the contrary. For, when we hang on to something, we do so for a reason. And that reason is because whatever it is that we are hanging on to is important to us. So quite naturally, letting go of these things can be difficult. It can be scary. And it is most definitely not easy.

So, then, what is “letting go”?

To define this term, consider the following adaption of a popular anonymous description:

“To let go is not to forget or ignore. To let go does not leave feelings of anger, jealousy, or regret. Letting go is not about winning or losing, nor is it about pride, appearances, or dwelling on the past. Letting go is not suppressing memories, nor hanging on to negative thoughts.Parajumpers Light Long Bear
Letting go does not leave behind emptiness nor sadness, and it is not giving up or giving in. To let go is not about loss, nor does it mean to be defeated. Rather, to let go is to cherish memories. To overcome and to move long and have confidence in the future. It is an opening of the mind and an acceptance of what is. Letting go is learning. It is experiencing. It is growth. It is to have gratitude for all that we have enjoyed, experienced, and endured. To let go is to embrace all that we have. All that we have had. And all that we will gain. It is to know that letting things go also means letting them come. It is having the courage to accept change, to acknowledge the temporary, and the faith and strength to keep moving. Finally, to let go is to look forward, to open a door, to clear a path, and set yourself free from that which does not serve you.


Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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Practice, Practice, Practice

April 9th, 2014

“Practice and all is coming.” –K. Pattabhi Jois

In the yogic world, we refer to the act of “doing yoga” as a practice. And it is called a practice for good reason.


For in practice, we recognize that we will never reach perfection. We may become masterful at what we will do, but because we are continuously deepening our practice, we will never master it entirely. Likewise, there will always be something about our practice that is a challenge. For example, while we may have great physical strength, we may struggle with flexibility. Or we may be strong in our poses, but struggle to quiet our minds.

We also call it a practice because in practice, we are not in competition with anyone, including ourselves. There is no final score or an outcome to strive for or attach to. There are no winners, no losers, none that are “better” or “worse” at yoga than others. . Sure, there may be some that more advanced practitioners than others, but this is only because they have been doing the practice longer than those that have just begun. So in practice, we do not focus on being best. Rather, we focus on doing our best, every time we come to our mat.

When practicing yoga, we must also bear in mind that each and every practice will be different for every single person. Some days we will feel strong and execute the poses with strength and grace, while other days we may feel weak, or out of balance. There will be times that our minds are in synch with our movements and the practice is meditative and mentally quiet. And, on the contrary, there will be times that the mental practice of the yoga we are doing is a chaotic struggle. Some days, when we practice, we will fall into the poses with fluid flexibility, while others we are stiff, and sore, and in pain. No practice, mentally or physically, will ever be the same.

And perhaps this is the most important reason we refer to “doing” yoga as a practice. We called it a practice because it is about the process that we are engaged in while we are on our mats. It is about what we are doing in that very moment, how we are doing it, and the intention we have brought into our practice. It is about being mindful, doing our best, and letting certain things come and other things go.

And so it is with life, is it not? Life, more than anything, is a practice. For much like yoga, we never exactly master life. We will excel in some areas of life, but we will never reach perfection. Likewise, for any given reason and in any give way, there will be days that feel good, and days that feel bad. There will be times when our best comes naturally to us, and times that we really struggle. Like yoga, life is not a competition and there is no end goal to attach to. Rather, in life, just as in yoga, it is about the life that we are living from moment to moment, how we are living, and the intention and purpose we manifest in the process of living this beautiful thing called life.



Ellie Holbrook, MA, LPC, RYT200

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Stop It, Already

March 28th, 2014

I often come across To-Do Lists that enumerate the things that I must do in, or add to my already very-full life. And while these lists often shine light upon areas of life that are thirsting for attention, I find that incorporating more into my life is not what I need. Rather, what I need is less. The following is a list to things to start

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Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is far too short to spend time with the people that drain your energy. Re-evaluate those that do not fulfill or replenish you in some way.

Stop running from your problems. Know that you cannot change what you do not confront, and know that this is not easy nor instantaneous. But the delayed gratification is indeed worth the effort and the wait.

Stop lying to yourself. Let’s be honest. We aren’t really fooling ourselves anyway, are we?

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. Know the difference between selflessness and self-neglect.

Stop trying to be someone you’re not. Be authentic, or the you that feels most like yourself. And know that this this good

Stop trying to hold onto the past. Let go of the past and instead change your relationship with it Change how it lives within you.

Stop being afraid of mistakes. Mistakes can be inconvenient. But they need be nothing more than that. So, dare, do, and adapt. And use old mistakes propel and guide you, not define you or bring you down.

Stop trying to buy happiness. Happiness does not have a price. Know that your worth is intrinsic, and do not attach a price tag to it.

Stop looking to others for happiness. We cannot offer nor experience what we already do not carry within us.

Stop being idle. Go and do. Go and be. This is called living

Stop waiting to be ready. More often than not, we will never feel quite “ready”. Know when to act, ready or not.

Stop being in relationships for the wrong reasons. Bad company is not a good substitute for loneliness. Choose wisely, and do not force the process. And remember that all relationships have something good to offer, even if it is a hard lesson learned.

Stop competing, and stop being jealous. There will always been someone “better” and you will always be “better” than someone else.

Stop complaining. You are not a victim, and no one is out to get you. The curveballs of life are meant to shift your direction, not derail you.

Stop holding grudges. Hatred is toxic. Especially to the self. Forgiveness is the anecdote. For both the self and others

Stop letting others bring you down. Take the high road so they have a place to step up to. Show them that there is a better way.

Stop explaining yourself. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you, anyway.

Stop doing the same things over and over. Or you’ll keep getting the same things over and over. Distance yourself from old patterns and learn.

Stop overlooking small moments. They are bigger than you think.

Stop striving for perfection. Instead, strive for effective

Stop following the path of least resistance. Take the road less traveled by.

Stop saying it’s okay when it isn’t. It is okay to be not-okay sometimes. Rather, sometimes, this is exactly what you need to do in order to pick up the pieces and be okay again.

Stop blaming others. If you blame others for what goes wrong, who gets credit for what goes right? Own your life.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone. This is impossible and it leads to burn out . Narrow your focus and be good at what you do.

Stop worrying. Know when to let go and when to transform that energy into action, and watch the world change.

Stop focusing on what you don’t want. Invest in positive thinking, and you will attract wonderful l things.

Stop being ungrateful. There is always, always something to be grateful for. Always.


Ellie Holbook, MA, LPC, RYT200

Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Yoga Teacher

Willmar, MN

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Human Is As Human Does

February 19th, 2014

As a therapist, I work in the field of self-improvement. My job, in essence, is to help the individuals I work with increase their satisfaction in life by obtaining goals, working through difficult problems, and attaining personal growth. And through my work, and my own life experiences, I am reminded each and every day that we as humans, are in fact, human. www.teststarter.com …And while I realize that statement does not exactly sound all that profound, it is true. We humans are, well, human. We are imperfect. Idiosynchratic. Flawed, even. We

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make mistakes. We have regrets. We learn things the hard way. We think silly thoughts, experience confusing emotions, and behave in ways that does not always make sense. As humans, we live our lives as best we can, yet even so, our lives can get incredibly messy. And when this happens, when we fall short of the rather high expectations

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we have set for ourselves, we become disappointed and seem to unforgivingly forget the fact that we are human. It is during these times that we would be best served to forgive ourselves for our own humanness and instead practice radical acceptance. In doing so, we might begin by acknowledging and embracing the following hard, yet liberating, truths: 1. You are talented at some things. But not all things. Acknowledge that you are skilled and talented in many ways. Honor and celebrate your strengths, use them to your advantage at all times, and be proud of yourself. Yet also remind yourself that it is okay that you are not good at everything. That would be impossible. 2. You will make mistakes. You may fail. Sometimes even more than you succeed. But this does not mean that your failures outweigh your successes and triumphs, nor is it an excuse for you to give up. Remember that doing your best is what is most important in these instances. It is the process that matters. Even failures have value, honor, and beauty. 3. You are special. Not always in the way you would like to think you are, but also in ways that you do not realize. It is important to know that you are important, loved, and unique. And it is even more important to remember that every human life is important, loved, and unique in equal ways. None more so than any other. Ever. 4. Much of what happens in life is beyond our control. Try as we might to plan out our lives, life often has its own plans for us. So rather than resisting the flow of life and attempting to control that which we cannot, practice acceptance and surrender, and find the value of what life has in store for you. 5. Everything is temporary. The only constant is change. Nothing stays the same forever. Find comfort in this, and know that this is what makes life precious.70-410

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Gaining Ground

January 22nd, 2014

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>As I have mentioned in recent columns, I have recently found myself reflecting upon the past few years of my life, as I often do at the dawn of a New Year. And, in reviewing the past few years, I will be honest that I was not surprised by the themes that I noticed: a bit of stagnancy peppered with periods of forward momentum, setbacks and hardship, triumphs and gains. autoxygensensor.com All in all, these past few years have been good in one way or another, but they have not been easy, nor can I sum them in a mere 500-word column.

And so it goes for many of us, no?

Having that said, let us suffice it to say that life is good, even when it is hard, and some of life’s greatest gifts often come to us as blessings in disguise. So, even when we find ourselves amidst confusion and discomfort, we must find a way to move along in one way or another. Which brings me to the topic of this week’s column: the concept of momentum.


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you were to consult your dictionary, you would find that Webster defines momentum as “the strength or force that allows something to continue or to grow stronger or faster as time passes”. And it seems to me that this definition is rather correct. Because when we think of building momentum, we think of something that is gaining and growing and building upon its own progress, much like the proverbial Snowball Effect.

And according to this mindset, this definition of momentum would be correct. At least in the world of physics.

But because I am not a physicist, and I am instead first a human, and then a counselor, I do not conceptualize momentum in the same way. Rather, when I think of the momentum that we gain as human beings, I cannot help but to think that momentum might appear to be quite the opposite at times. For there may be times, that despite out best efforts to move onward and upward and gain forward momentum, we may find ourselves doing quite the contrary. We may feel that we are not gaining ground, but instead moving backward, or at a complete standstill. We may feel that our progress has slowed and we have lost our momentum.

And really this is okay. Because as humans, progress and growth is rarely linear, and it involves both pleasure and pain.

So if you have found that you have lost your momentum, do not lose heart. Find the power of the pause, and use this time to your advantage. Follow your own gaze as you look inward to contemplate this inner standstill. Ask questions and reflect upon the answers that come up. Get reacquainted with who and where you are now to reach a deeper understanding. visit it Shift your focus from getting somewhere via momentum to experiencing where you are at this moment on your journey. As you do so, you may likely find that you are better able to move forward with intention, rather than simply succumbing to momentum.


Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC

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Drop It

January 8th, 2014

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>This January, as I found myself reflecting on my journey into the New Year, I recalled a story that my father has often told about letting go and moving on.

As he told the this story, he always prefaced it with an acknowledgement of the fact that many people have great difficulty letting go of the past. Because we become emotionally invested in, and therefore, tied to, our past experiences, we often struggle to let go of our attachments. We tend to hang on to such artifacts as past hurts and guilty feelings, triumphs and failures, relationships and days gone by. And because we are unable to discard these things by letting go of them, finding acceptance, or extending forgiveness, we hang on to them and place them in a metaphorical bag that we carry with us wherever we go. And naturally, as we journey through life, this bag becomes heavy and cumbersome, as we accumulate more and more things to hang on to. Eventually, this bag grows to be so large that it gets in the way of our everyday life.

After offering a description of this metaphorical bag that we all carry with us, my father would tell a story of a man who had encountered great difficulty throughout his life. This man, who was also carrying a bag muchelcw shop like the rest of us, was trying to make his way across a river. The river that he had to cross was quite dangerous, as it was raging with a strong current and white-water rapids, and the only way to cross it was a narrow log that was stretched from bank to bank.

As the man attempted to make his way over the slippery log with his bag, he struggled to move forward, for the bag that he carried with him weighed him down and prevented him from maintaining his balance. Desperate to cross the river, the man carefully placed one foot in front of the other, hoping to stay atop the log long enough to reach the other side. As he looked to the banks of the other side of the river, the man saw someone waving their arms above their head and yelling to him. But because he was concentrating Little Black Dressesso hard on trying not to fall into the water below, he could not make out what they were saying.

Finally, when he stopped to listen closely, he heard them as they cry out to him, “Let go of the bag!”. And once he was able to

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do so, he was able to progress and move forward to the safety of the other side of the river.


Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC

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To-Do Lists

January 5th, 2014

With the New Year just around the corner, many of us will reflect upon the days gone by of 2013. As we do so, we will likely look back on the past 365 days and see things with 20/20 vision. We may see what could have been, what should have been, or we may simply accept all that is or was, for better or for worse, about 2013.

And just as we might reflect on the past, many of us may find ourselves looking into the future, creating New Year’s Resolutions for 2014, and setting intentions for the next 365 days.

If you identify at all with the latter group, consider the following story:

At the dawn of the New Year, a young student was told by his master, “Now that you are becoming more aware of yourself, I would like you to set reassess this years’ goals, so as not to lose the momentum that you have recently gained.”

“Much like a New Year’s Resolution,” the student said.

The master replied, “Exactly”, and then he gave the following assignment: “Make two lists. The first will include the New Year’s Resolutions of this year that you would like to keep. The second will include the Resolutions that you actually will keep. Begin with the first list, and when you have exhausted all of your ideas, begin your second list.”

The student went home and began his assignment immediately.

As he created his list of wants, he jotted down all the things that he had always wanted to do, from the things that he had been meaning to get around to his wildest dreams. After nearly an hour, his list of wants filled an entire page and contained all of his ideas about an ideal life. He then began the second list of the Resolutions that he will keep, which he found to be much easier and far more realistic and practical.

He brought both lists to his master the following morning. Upon greeting the student, the master said, “Tell me about your two lists.”

“The first list,” explained the student, “Contains all the things that I should do if I were to change my life in such a way to become the person that I have always wanted to be. The second list contains everything that I could do by accepting my life as it is and taking a more practical approach to the living the life of my dreams.”

“Interesting,” said the master, “Please let me see the second list.”

Without even looking at the list, the master ripped the piece of paper into tiny shreds and threw it away. The student felt hurt by this at first, however, it soon dawned on him that this second list did not matter whatsoever. It was the first list, the list containing his dream life, that mattered most.

“And now, the first list,” Said the master, holding out his hands.

And upon being handed the first list, he crumpled it up and tossed it into the trash without another thought.

Angry and hurt, the student cried, “Why did you do that!?”

“What you could do with your life does not matter. Nor does what you should do with your life,” explained the master. “The only thing that matters from this moment forward is what you actually do do.”


Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC

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All We Need Is Love

December 12th, 2013

While sifting through an assortment of mementos from last year’s holiday season, I came across my then-four-year-old daughter’s Christmas list. I had found it so endearing that I included it in my column.70-680
Some of you may remember such highlights as: a brand-new real-live kitten, someone to come out of the TV, a huge motorcycle machine that drives her off in pretty clothes, to climb a mountain and slide down a rainbow and run super-fast in the really-far woods, sticky gloves to climb the walls and ceiling, her own money that is pink, and a brand new costume that is everything.

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Rae, who is now a spirited five-year-old, wrote a Christmas list this year that includes no more and no less than one bunny rabbit, a hamster named Mr. Cuddles, a pet cat, one chipmunk, and a wiener dog. After reviewing this list with her, I asked Rae if there was anything else that she would like from Santa. Her reply, of course, was “Fairies!”

In response to this list, I told her, “These are all living things, Rae. Isn’t there something else that you might like? I only see living things on your list. Why don’t I see anything inanimate? Why do you only want pets?”

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Without skipping a beat, Rae said quite matter of factly, “Because I will love them. And they will love me.”

Her brother Ian, who included a goat on his Christmas list this year, chimed in and asked, “Yeah, what matters more than that, Mom?”

…And, not surprisingly, I had no reply. Because they are right. As much as I do not want a bunny rabbit, a hamster, a pet cat, one chipmunk, a wiener dog, and a goat occupying my already very busy and very tiny home, I had no answer to this very simple question.

Nor could I argue with the point that they had made.

Because, really, there is precious little on this Earth that matters more than love.

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Especially the selfless love that children seem so eager, and so naturally able, to give and receive.

And that is truly the essence of the holiday season, is it not? To celebrate those that we love most, not that which we love most. To cherish our loved ones. To love them, nurture them, and allow them the opportunity to do the same for their loved ones.

So, this holiday season, rather than focusing on what you have in your life, I hope you are instead able to focus on who you have in your life. Shift your focus from the things that we fill our lives with to those that fulfill our lives. Those that we have to love and to cherish. And those that we receive love from.


Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Enough is Enough

November 26th, 2013

With the holiday season upon us, many of us will find ourselves caught up on a cycle of overabundance, or the state of having “too much”. More than we need, more than we can use, more than we can process. Overabundance is the cup that floweth over.

While it certainly is a blessing to have enough, it seems that we have become a culture of excess. And strangely, this can be taxing, as it creates stress, drains us of our precious resources, and shifts our focus from gratitude to greed.

As you reflect on your Thanksgiving celebration and look forward to the festivities of Christmas and the New Year, consider the following areas of overabundance and how they affect your life.

Overabundance of food: Eating, drinking, and merry-making is undoubtedly a central and very pleasurable part of celebrating the holidays. As such, it is also one area in which overindulgence is common, nearly expected, and quite often, regretted. So as you partake in the merry-making this year, remember to be mindful of your internal cues, rather than relying only on the external.

Overabundance of gifts: The cycle of giving and receiving can be overwhelming, especially when the act of giving is overshadowed by the quantity of “stuff” being received. To break this cycle, do not hesitate to give on a smaller, yet just as meaningful, scale.

Overabundance of socializing: This time of year is certainly one to be celebrated, however, it is not uncommon that we find ourselves attending social functions because we feel that we “must”. This is often caused by a sense of obligation, the expectations of others, or the fear of missing out. And while there is nothing wrong with joining in on the festivities, it is also okay to graciously decline invitations, to rest, and be still.

Overabundance of relationship stress: Family, dear friends, and loved ones often take center stage this time of year, and this is for good reason. However, because we are so busy during the holiday season, we often do not have time to work on our relationships and thus perpetuate strained interactions with those we love most. During this time, remember to be gentle and forgiving with yourself and others.

Overabundance of tradition: Remember that just because you have “always done it this way” does not mean that you have to keep doing it this way if it no longer fits. In these situations, do not be afraid to break free from the old to embrace something new.

Overabundance of group-thought: To avoid mindless consumption and overabundance, be mindful of the impact that collective thinking can have on your well-being. During this holiday season, take time to reconnect with yourself, your loved ones, and that which gives your life meaning.

As you step away from overabundance during this holiday season, you will likely discover that it is a process. A process that involves both tuning into yourself and tuning out of that which no longer serves you. Of letting go of the old so that you may embrace the new. And most importantly, it involves embracing an attitude of gratitude and feeling satisfied and fulfilled with having enough.

Ellie Holbrook Otteson, MA, LPC, RYT200

Willmar, MN 56201

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