Balancing Spring Energy Checklist

Balancing Spring Energy header.png


(No, it doesn't feel like spring outside yet, I live in Minnesota.)

After a pretty rough winter, the spring equinox is long-awaited, even if it’s only a ceremonial beginning. Despite the fact that it’s not warm yet for many of us in Northern climates, we’re still feeling the energy of spring already - we’ve gained lots of daylight in the last month, and the sun angle is now much higher.

Coming out of dark, hibernation mode into bright, active mode is more of a shock to the system than we realize, though, so if you feel unsettled or anxious around this time of year, that’s normal. If you're having a hard time adjusting to the changing seasons, there's nothing wrong with you - it's probably because transitions are hard and take a lot of energy (even long-awaited, positive ones). ⠀⠀

I usually forget this every year, but this year I finally remembered to mentally prepare for my increased anxiety and restlessness - spring comes with more stimuli and energy. I've heard others say that spring is a tough mental health time of year for them, too, but it seems like “YAY SPRING” is the more mainstream narrative, so it doesn’t get talked about as much. ⠀

Balancing Spring Energy Checklist

If you've been following along with me for any length of time, you might know that my most critical daily habit is taking a walk, and that's been a potent strategy for dealing with the excess of energy I've been processing, and on one of those walks this week, my overactive mind came up with an actionable checklist for what to do when you feel this way. (Thanks, brain!)


If you're feeling the same way about spring, you can download that right here (and it's also good for anytime you're feeling scattered or anxious).

I hope that this resource ishelpful for you - it certainly has been for me, and I’m revisiting these strategies constantly (because self-care is a practice!)

If you need extra support to keep yourself feeling like a full and healthy human during this season, I offer a few different ways of working with me through Coaching for Creative Wellness, including email coaching for people on a budget or with less time to schedule a call.

I also have some free resources available here, as well as my weekly newsletter which is chock-full of supportive real talk about staying well while doing creative work. Sign up at the bottom of the page!

If you're having a tough time right now, you're not alone, and it will pass. Treat yourself well in the meantime, you deserve it! ❤️⠀

What do you do to take care of yourself during the transition into spring? Let me know in the comments!

Take Care of Yourself By Making Small Changes (Guest Post on NewMusicBox)

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by making changes in a new year, you’re not alone! I’m scaling way back on the amount of goals and aspirations I’m setting in 2019 (more about that in my next post), in favor of honoring rest and detaching myself as much as I can from being achievement-focused. That doesn’t mean I want to do nothing, but I do want to make sure that I execute goals and new habits in a sustainable way.

I got to write all about that in a guest post (Take Care of Yourself By Making Small Changes) for NewMusicBox, the online magazine of NewMusicUSA!

I talk about some of my favorite topics like mindset, burnout, rest, habits and routines, and self-compassion (the biggest game-changer), and this stuff works no matter the time of year.

Hop on over to NewMusicBox to read it!

Holiday Self-Care Roundup


Somehow it’s December again? I don’t know what happened.

I also feel like it’s already been winter forever (since I live in Minnesota and it actually did snow on October 14 this year). So, you know what that means:

Time to up our self-care!

(And we probably need more than we normally give ourselves, anyway!)

Here’s a round-up of useful blog posts and podcasts that I hope will help you stay more grounded and present this holiday season:

This is one of my most popular posts ever, and it has plenty of applicable stuff for creatives of all types, not just musicians.

Tracy Benjamin from Shutterbean has some great quick tips, and I love the visual style of her blog, especially her handwriting!

Angela Beeching, a career consultant for musicians, highlights gratitude as a way to not only de-stress, but ultimately to help your career. I love how she focuses on mindset.

We always talk about what to do during the busy lead-up to the holidays, but Lauren Cummins of StarHaus Psychotherapy, who created the Self Care Solitaire decks that I really like, wisely focuses on how to take care of yourself afterwards, as well. She also has some good ideas about how to embrace winter here.


If you’ve been following along with my posts for any length of time, you probably know how much I love Mara Glatzel’s work and podcast. In my opinion, the most important factor in taking care of ourselves is knowing what we need and giving ourselves permission to go after it.

I loved this episode because it focused not just on being over doing, but also talked about rituals as a way of connecting to the winter season (I’m all for trying to make friends with winter!)

This episode with physician Beth Ricanati focuses on baking as a ritual for self-care (since that’s what her book is about), but encourages us to give ourselves permission (there’s that word again, why is it so hard sometimes?) to take time for self-care.

EDIT: I also did a Facebook live about holiday self-care, which you can watch here!

I hope that these resources are helpful for you - they certainly have been for me, and I’m revisiting them this season (because self-care is a practice, and wellness is always a moving target).

If you need extra support to keep yourself feeling like a full and healthy human during this season, I offer a few different ways of working with me through Coaching for Creative Wellness, including email coaching for people on a budget or with less time to schedule a call.

I also have some free resources available here, as well as my weekly newsletter which is chock-full of supportive real talk about staying well while doing creative work. Sign up at the bottom of the page!

What do you do to take care of yourself during the winter and/or holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

5 Tips for Creatives to Bring Wellness Into Their Lives

Anyone who’s ever talked to me about nutrition in the last year has heard me sing the praises of Lucia Hawley from Essential Omnivore, who I worked with to revamp my diet last summer. Or you might have seen me feature her in a Sunday Shout-out early this year. Her mission is “to teach diet perfectionists how to bring calm back to their bodies from the inside out”, and I totally appreciate how she keeps it real while helping people make sustainable changes to their overall health. 

Lucia invited me to contribute a guest post over on Essential Omnivore, 5 Tips for Creatives to Bring Wellness Into Their Lives, which you can read right here. We could all use more wellness in our lives, right? Especially in an easy and actionable way? (Yes!)

I’m also going to be a guest on her podcast this fall, airdate TBD - stay tuned for that!

(Edit: Here’s the link to my episode of the Essential Omnivore podcast!)

 This is the album cover!

In album-related news, I submitted my artwork and master this week, so my CDs have begun production! 🎉🎉🎉

The official album release date is coming up soon on October 24, and you’ll be able to buy and stream it through all of the usual places - stay tuned for more details on that.

And, if you’re in Minneapolis/St. Paul, you’re invited to my album release show on October 18, featuring all of the guest musicians on the album (Tim O’Keefe, percussion, Jenny Klukken, marimba, and Laura Harada, violin). I’m also planning on live-streaming it. More details here.

If you want to stay in the loop on the album and upcoming gigs, be sure to hop on my gig mailing list here!

How I Keep It Together When I'm Busy


Well, it’s springtime (only according to the calendar - several inches of snow are forecast for MN this weekend 😫), and that means crazy schedule time!

In the next 2 months, I’ll be: accompanying lots of recitals, playing many/various gigs, practicing and rehearsing for said gigs, planning out my summer teaching schedule, going to Boston for New Music Gathering May 17-19, marching in the May Day Parade, and attending a few family events.

Add to that: planning a recording project (for my first album!) and a Kickstarter (launching May 29), which is awesome, but overwhelming! I have to be really deliberate about how I spend my time, to avoid burnout/meltdown.

Earlier this week, I was thinking, “I don’t know what to blog about this week, I’m feeling really overwhelmed...clearly that’s what I should write about.” So, here is my arsenal of ways that I keep it together during crazy busy times (like right now):


I would be the most hopelessly disorganized person without systems - my brain needs them!

This app is where all of my to-dos live. My system is loosely based on the book Getting Things Done, structured in columns (Today, Working On, This Week, Next Week, Waiting On, Planning Ahead, Done). I’m a really visual person, so I like being able to drag each card from one list to the next.

  • Zooming out to get the big picture

At the beginning of each month, I list all of the upcoming projects and events coming up in the next few months (including preparations like practice/rehearsal). I like to print out monthly calendar sheets and plot it all out. Then, I make cards in Trello for each task or project (you can also add checklists), and add due dates. It also has a calendar function, to visualize all of your due dates, but I don’t do this much because I like the analog version.

  • Reminders

I use the iPhone Reminders app all of the time for repeating tasks that I don’t want to forget (like making copies for teaching, or quarterly taxes), and also for things that I need to remember, but don’t want to take up space on my to-do list. If I’m out and about, I’ll set a reminder for a time that I know I’ll be home and at my computer, then I don’t have to worry about it.


  • Writing my to-do list in order

My planner has a space to write the 3 most important tasks first, and if I’m being really strategic, I write things in the actual order that I’ll do them, to avoid indecision.

  • Manageable to do list

I almost never succeed at this, but ideally, I would make a list that I could actually accomplish in a day. On the upside, I no longer beat myself up about not getting it all done.

  • Time blocking

I’ve tried this in the past, but I don’t do it very often, because it made my days feel too chopped up into pieces, and stressed me out a bit. I do schedule my piano practice time in the morning, though.

  • Pomodoro technique (4 cycles of 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes break, then a longer break)

This works really well for me when I want to harness the power of a time deadline. Bonus: if I actually get up from my chair to take those breaks, it’s really energizing.

  • Create barriers to procrastination and distraction

If I have to, I put my phone in another room, use the Self-Control app (free!) to block distracting websites, and close my email tab until a specified time (email is not an emergency). I also have almost all notifications turned off on both my phone and computer.  

  • Scheduling according to energy

I gauge how I feel each day, but generally plan on doing tasks that require more complex thought when I have the most energy (for me, that’s in the morning, or right after a walk), and save tasks like email for mid-afternoon when I have less energy.

  • Batching tasks

I plan all of my lessons for the week at one time, try to write multiple blog posts in a row, etc. Studies have shown that each time we switch tasks, we waste 17 minutes in the process - if that’s true, it’s a wonder that we get anything done?  

  • Embrace external accountability for important but not urgent tasks -

I have Obliger tendencies (see Gretchen Rubin's 4 Tendencies for an explanation), so I either say publicly that I’ll do something, or I also have a friend that I check in with monthly for accountability and mutual encouragement!


  • Figure out my non-negotiable tasks, habits, and activities

For me, this is exercise, cooking breakfast, spending time with my partner (he’s also super busy, as a grad student), etc. I may have to let some things go temporarily (like seeing shows, social events, or starting new projects), or even permanently.

  • Stop overcomplicating

I have a tendency to make things harder than they need to be, so I try stop and ask myself if I’m overcomplicating, and whether I need to be doing everything I originally had planned on! 

  • Simplify non-work areas of my life

Let’s be real, this translates to me wearing the same clothing more often, and cleaning less often, but it could also apply to delegating or postponing things until I’m less busy.


  • Be kind to myself

This one is the most important! Being hard on myself when I can’t do it all (no one can!) does not help at all. 

  • Using positive mantras like "I have as much time as I need" to quiet my brain.

  • Accepting that I have less time for creative work

I certainly haven’t been writing as much music as last year, when I did 2 100 Day Projects, but these things go in seasons. I generated a lot of work then, and now I’m working on doing something with it, so naturally I can’t (and might not want to) be creating a lot (and that’s okay). These tips are super helpful for fitting in as creative time as possible.

  • Remind myself that resistance and overwhelm are normal.

If I expect that resistance is part of working really hard, it's easier to handle. I don’t have to want to do the work, I just have to do the work.

  • Thinking about only one thing at a time

I know that I expend a lot of energy thinking about and projecting into the future, anticipating how overwhelmed I’m going to be, which actually brings more overwhelm to the present moment. This used to be really hard for me, so I started by making my daily walk a no-thinking-about-work zone.

  • Refusing to create more overwhelm

I can choose not to fixate on it, and not to rush while going places. This actually does help a lot.


Exercise, meditation, and eating good food are non-negotiable for me - it's even more important to support myself while super busy. This habit tracker has been really helpful:

  • Prioritize rest and breaks (especially anything mind-focusing like meditation, short walks, stretching, etc.)

We’re not machines! I know that I can’t focus for long periods of time, especially when I’m already mentally or physically exhausted. I’ve noticed that when I’m struggling to work productively, that’s not just a sign that I’m feeling lazy, it’s a message from my brain that it’s tired and needs support (via food, water, movement, or rest).

  • Scheduling time to regroup

During a busy season like spring, I have to pace myself, or my brain will turn to mush. I actually schedule rest days on my calendar (yes, they say “CAT/COUCH DAY” - Rusty the Cat is my relaxation mentor.) And, if I don’t have time to regroup, that means that I’ve overscheduled myself unsustainably, and hopefully I will learn from that and not do it again.

I've written a lot about self-care for musicians, too - links here, here, and here

These are all things that I strive to do, but of course, this is all a process, and there are ups and downs! The good part is that healthy and productive habits build on each other, allowing more and more of them to happen. If your spring is as crazy as mine, I'm wishing you well!

What are your favorite tips for keeping it together and staying efficient during busy times? Let me know in the comments!

Let Something Go - Roundup of Posts for Busy Times

The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy, what with writing and submitting a grant to make my upcoming album, family events, extra gigs, rehearsing for a faculty recital at MacPhail tonight (look for video of that soon), rehearsing for our Brazilian Carnaval next weekend (yes, it’s later than the real one in Brazil), and health insurance fun. 

Naturally, I wanted to make my life a little bit easier by not writing a new post this week, AND I want to promote the idea that we can let something go every once in a while, in support of giving ourselves what we need (in this case, a bit more rest). Nothing terrible will happen, because there’s no such thing as a blogging emergency!

If you’re feeling frazzled, I invite you to consider what you might let go of, just this once (or completely, if needed).

So, here’s a quick roundup of posts for surviving (and thriving, if possible) during crazy times:

I hope these are helpful to you - wishing you a restful weekend!

Balancing Rest and the Hustle (The Struggle is Real)


So today was supposed to be the post where I tell you that my sheet music store has launched and my tunes are ready for purchase. But I'm not done yet.

I feel like I need to explain why it’s not ready, since I had hoped to finish by the end of last week, and I’m not going to finish this week, either (I, like most humans, am bad at estimating how long things will take to do). I also know that I don’t really need to explain, since these were self-imposed deadlines and no one is mad at me, but the reason I haven’t finished the project is worth talking about: I decided to rest instead of working more.

Rest instead of work?!

That feels weird, almost subversive to type, since musicians are supposed to always be hustling or whatever, but if you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I disagree with that notion.

I’ve been feeling kind of sick/low energy off and on for the last week, and last Friday after going to Creative Mornings and having a 2-hour rehearsal, I was spent. I had already done everything that needed to be done that day, but I had so much trouble convincing myself that I was allowed to rest! I kept feeling guilty that I wasn’t working on editing sheet music, having visions of what all of my other musician friends must have been working on, making mental calculations of how many hours I had already worked that week and whether that afforded me some couch time - total craziness! I’m my own boss, in part, because I want to have control over my own time, which means that I can do what I need to do more often (and I often turn into the kind of boss that makes you work too much).

After a bit of mental arguing and a walk to process my thoughts, I decided to take the rest of the day off, and spend it watching TV and reading, which is apparently what my body was asking me for. I still felt extra tired all weekend, so I continued my relaxation, which, on one hand, felt great (I rarely give myself that much), but there was still a bit of nagging guilt about my looming deadline. Since I know what it’s like to feel burned out, I always respond sympathetically when friends need to cancel or postpone something, for whatever reason. If they need time to rest, I 100% support that, but I am still having such issues extending this sympathy to myself! I also know that when I push through instead of resting, it just prolongs the amount of time I feel sick or tired. Rest is a necessary part of the work cycle, and our health is absolutely essential to fuel our hustle (and my friend Amy has a whole podcast about this!) 

My rest/relaxation mentor Rusty the Cat, who, admittedly, does not pay the bills, but is really good at what he does. (Full disclosure: I’m on the couch with Rusty on my lap while writing this.)

My rest/relaxation mentor Rusty the Cat, who, admittedly, does not pay the bills, but is really good at what he does. (Full disclosure: I’m on the couch with Rusty on my lap while writing this.)

Listen to your body

I always attempt to take extra-tiredness or slight sickness as signs from my body that it needs rest, but it’s still really hard for me to actually cancel or postpone something having to do with my own work, let alone something involving other people! I always feel like I need permission to do so, and I obviously struggle with giving myself that permission. (Embarrassing example: last March I launched myself into a bad case of burnout while TAKING A CLASS about rest. Mara’s class is great, BTW, but you actually have to take the advice to get a lot out of it. 😳)

Also, what’s tricky is that balancing needed rest time with work time is always a moving target, especially for educators like myself with ever-changing workloads who are trying to balance teaching with performing and our other rotating creative pursuits. There’s also the tendency not to realize that we need more rest until after we’re already exhausted or sick. I wish that this were a how-to post with a tidy resolution, but I’m still figuring it out (I think most of us are). I’m at least doing better at recognizing my own work cycles, behavioral patterns, and the signs of the slippery slope toward burnout!

The real question is: WHY?

Why am I working so hard? Part of it is that I’m working on a project that means a lot to me, but part of it is still that baked-in Midwestern-farmer-descendant work-yourself-into-the-ground-because-that’s-what-we-do quality that I try so hard to lose.

Is it worth it to push through when you’re not feeling great? Maybe? Sometimes.

There are a lot of factors to weigh: whether you’ll be able to rest more after the period of “hustle”, how healthy you’re feeling, whether additional stressors are present in your life right now, whether it’s a typically busy season, etc. When it comes down to it, is it worth it to you to give up rest, time with loved ones, hobbies, home-cooked meals, etc. in order to pursue your career goals? Or how much of that is okay to give up? And for how long at a time?

My work has always been really important to me, but I think that I have always swung too far to that side of the rest/work seesaw, at the expense of a lot of things, including my own health. So, even though I do struggle with it, I am committed to resting and recharging as a basic personal value, even if it means that I make a little less money, or that some of my goals take a little longer to achieve. After all, no one ever says “I wish that I had worked more” on their deathbed. I want my workload and lifestyle to feel sustainable (which is obviously going to be different for every person). 

This is not the post I thought that I would write this week, but these important questions are always rumbling around in the back of my mind (unless I’m too busy to think about them!), and I wanted to share my honest experience, since they might be in yours, too.

The sheet music store is coming!

As for the sheet music store, this is an idea that’s been brewing for a long time now, so it’s important to me to finish it soon, also because stagnating to-do list items start to rot and fester in my brain, making me feel even more stuck than I would have otherwise (the topic of Tuesday’s Instagram post. So, barring any further sickness, I am planning on finishing it by the end of January for sure, and I will welcome you to check it out next week!

P.S. If you want to stay in the loop about this kind of thing, you can also hop on my mailing list:

To start, I’m publishing 5 pieces, a mix of piano pieces and lead sheets:

  • Anelante, a Brazilian choro serenata (both in lead sheet format, and fully notated for piano)

  • Gingando, an uptempo Brazilian choro (lead sheet)

  • Rusty’s Dream, a funny little chase/pounce adventure about my cat (piano piece)

  • Centimonk, a piece dedicated to Thelonious Monk on his 100th birthday (lead sheet)

  • A nostalgic autumn-themed waltz that still needs a name! (piano piece)

(If you have any ideas, let me know, and if I use your idea, I’ll send you a fun surprise!)

The store will keep growing from there, with at least 1 new piece per month for the rest of the year (and beyond!)

How do you (or don’t you) balance rest and work modes as they ebb and flow, hopefully staying sane? I’m interested to hear about it!

Self-Care for Musicians Caught in the Holiday Hustle


December is a notoriously busy month, especially for musicians. For me, the beginning of the month was pretty busy, with two big concerts that included pretty demanding repertoire, but now my obligations (involving others) are winding down. Compared to many musicians I know, I don’t have a lot going on this December (I don’t have a church gig or many holiday gigs), which in theory feels good, but then the thoughts pop in: “I could use more money,” or “Shouldn’t I be doing all of that stuff, too?”

The problem is in those two little words: “compared to.” Way back in music school, it felt like we always had a never-ending parade of things to do, which, of course, led to complaining about how many hours you spent in the practice room, how many credits you were taking, how little sleep you got last night, etc., which is kind of a series of unrewarding humblebrags that say, “LOOK, I AM DOING SO MUCH!” (Ugh.) These habits get ingrained, though, so this is the culture we still find ourselves in, often ending up in survival mode rather than thriving. First of all, I definitely don’t have the energy I had 15 years ago, and most importantly, I don’t want to live like that!

It’s so easy to get sucked into the feeling that we need to do ALL THE THINGS, in terms of teaching, gigs, promotion, creative projects, and even our personal holiday preparation, parties, etc. This is the point where you’re probably thinking, “I thought this was about self-care. When is she going to start talking about epsom salt baths?” Don’t get me wrong, I love those, and they play a helpful part in my self-care, but we need to go deeper.

What’s stressing you out?

Besides the general feeling of overwhelm (I hear you!), step back and figure out what specifically is stressing you out: Is it money? Too many gigs? Not enough gigs? (That balance of time vs. money is always a work in progress.) The wrong kind of gigs? Students that don’t seem motivated? It feels like we have to take all of the students and all of the gigs (and believe me, I’ve been there), but if you really hate some aspect of your work life, you don’t have to do it anymore, or you can do less of it.

If you’re an introvert who teaches way too much, think about dropping a day of teaching and find some other work to fill in that gap, or, for something you can do right away, take a couple extra bathroom breaks that allow you to take some deep breaths.

If you hate driving to far-flung gigs, set a personal radius that you will no longer take gigs outside of.

If you’re financially stressed, look at what you’re spending money on that doesn’t make you happy. (Sarah Von Bargen has a great free bootcamp about this! )  

If you’re teaching/gigging/whatever-ing too much, you could consider getting a part-time non-music related job (that takes less energy) to fill in the gaps.

Realistically, we can’t always make changes as quickly or drastically as we dream about. Maybe that looks like doing a little bit less of that thing and decreasing it over time, but there are always other options to shift the mosaic of jobs that most of us have.

Hit delete!

So, in the short term, what can you delete that’s not that important? We have so many expectations on ourselves this time of year (and all of the time) - what can you let go of? For example, I traditionally have made holiday ornaments for my students, but this year I made prints of a piano drawing that was already done, and didn’t make holiday cards, but just cut up red paper to write on. Easy. It’s amazing what I do without thinking about it, because I’ve assumed that I HAVE TO.

When all of those “requirements” pile up, you’re headed toward the land of burnout. For me, it was the worst when I continued to be busy for the sake of being busy, without questioning why I was doing all of that. (Because it’s way easier to distract yourself from big questions by being so busy!) Megan Ihnen wrote a great article about avoiding burnout by taking time to set really meaningful career goals, including a really actionable goal-setting exercise. Take a look at the article, and schedule some time to think about your big goals, the work that makes you feel the best. (Seriously, put it on your calendar right now.)


But, you probably don’t have time for deep thinking right now - it’s December! So, back to self-care in the traditional sense. If you’re in the trenches trying to survive the next couple weeks, you might be looking for some actual (and quick) self-care strategies. I have 10 survival strategies for busy times right over here, some inspiration for when you’re feeling unmotivated here, and some wellness resources for musicians here.  

Self-care isn’t all about bubble baths and spa days (although it could be if you want it to) - it’s about doing things that make you feel better, and it’s incredibly personal, so you have to figure out what works for you. For some excellent resources in this department, check out Christy Tending’s offerings. 

So today I invite you to take 10 minutes (or more, but we can all find 10 minutes), and decide what one little action you can take to lighten your load and make things feel a bit easier. Do something, anything that FEELS GOOD. If even figuring that out takes more mental bandwidth than you have, pause for just 2 minutes, close your eyes, and take some deep breaths - I guarantee you’ll feel better, and you’re going to make it through December, too!

What’s your biggest challenge during this busy month? Let me know in the comments!