Thursday, February 25, 2016

Doing the most, swine flu, and not rushing the process

The last year of my PhD program I was a woman on a mission. I finished comprehensive exams, obtained survey approval, and passed my proposal defense in record time. I was ready to be done and move on with my life, whatever that meant. About four weeks into data collection, I realized I made a grave mistake in my haste to get 'er done. Due to a coding error on my part, I was unable to view any of the demographic information in my survey. I had to start all over. As you can imagine, I had a complete emotional breakdown. Then the following week, I, who never gets more than the common cold, came down with swine flu. I don't know for sure that it was H1N1 because the lab results were inconclusive. I say it was because it makes for a more dramatic story. The point is this: rushing ahead to get to the next thing only got me in bed for a week.

I recently thought of this story because I've spent the last three months building my wellness business. I've been feeling all the same drive and intensity that I did in grad school. I have a vision for where I want to go and I want to hurry up and get there. So, I've been event planning, content producing, advertising, hashtagging, networking, and seemingly everything short of begging people to support my brand. For an introvert like me, it's been completely exhausting. Fortunately, I learned a thing or two from the PhD experience and now I rarely run myself into the ground like I did that year. I know my stress cues and my personal threshold and I can tell when it's time to take a break.

Here's a reflection question for other Type-A, high-achievers of the world. What's the big rush? It's one thing to passionately pursue your goals. When you race to the finish though I can't help but wonder if that has more to do with anxiety than ambition. It's almost like you want to hurry up and fulfill your dreams before they're snatched away. Sure, people might applaud your motivation based on what they see on the outside. Internally, however, the consequences of doing the most like that are fatigue, perhaps illness, but most assuredly burnout.

What if you had this outlook instead? What is meant for you is held for you and can never be taken away from you. All you need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and positioning yourself to receive it. Don't be afraid to work hard and make sacrifices. Just leave time for rest and recovery in the process. If the process precedes the promise anyway, you might as well enjoy it.

Do you need help slowing down and enjoying your season of life? Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you get to where you’re going while appreciating the process as well. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is a person

As we know, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romantic love. Romantic love is a wonderful thing. I honestly think there should be a prize of some sort for each year of remaining faithful to one person. It’s a big deal to partner together and do life with someone. But for those who don’t have that, and even for those that do, there’s something even greater. It’s God’s love.

The image that always comes to mind when I consider God’s love for me is a scene with Liam Neesen and his daughter in the first Taken movie. It’s the one where he finally finds her. The daughter looks shocked to see him and with tears in her eyes she says, “You came for me,” to which he replies, “I told you I would.” Let me tell you, as a girl who never had a dad, that scene messes me up every time. It also perfectly captures a father’s love. He would’ve stopped at nothing to get his daughter back.

That’s exactly God’s sentiment towards us. He created utopia and us for fellowship with him. That was ruined when we believed there was something more satisfying than all that God had already given. Once we were separated from God, ancient law required that a sacrifice be made to atone for sin. Instead of punishing us like we would’ve deserved, God offered himself in the form of Jesus to be that living sacrifice. In laying down his life, he showed himself as being both just, because the law had to be fulfilled, and merciful, because he took the L instead of us.

The gospel is a love story. It’s about God’s fierce, passionate pursuit to restore us to himself. He didn’t just do one act of love and then stop. He continually pursues us and invites us to know him intimately. This isn’t some guy that can’t be bothered to text you back. He’s not a lover that drops you after he gets what he wants. He is the lover of your soul who’s willing to go to the ends of the earth and back just for you.

On this Valentine’s Day remember that love is not just a feeling. It’s not just for those with a romantic connection. Love is a person and that person is Jesus.

Originally posted: February 14, 2014

Friday, February 12, 2016

As you love yourself

Have you ever heard the saying, "Love your neighbor as yourself"? There's truth to it. As corny as it might seem, self-love is the foundation of all other kinds of love. Loving others begins with loving you. Lots of relationship experts say things like, “Your first relationship is with yourself,” and “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.” But how many people can truly say they love themselves? What does self-love even look like?

When you love someone you:
1)      Enjoy their company and prioritize time with them
2)      Nurture them and respond to their needs
3)      Compassionately honor their thoughts, feelings, and experiences
4)      Stand up for them and disallow mistreatment
5)      Help them grow and reach their potential

I’m sure there is plenty more we could add, and certainly more nuanced variations of these items. It just gives you a starting point. Now consider, is it easier to apply these ways of loving to other people than to you? Would you rather tolerate the company of someone you don’t even like than to spend a day alone? Do you think it’s selfish to practice self-care? Is it difficult to relate to yourself with kindness just like you would a good friend? Do you struggle to set limits and say no to others, in order to say yes to yourself? When it comes to life vision does everyone else’s dream come true while yours is permanently on the back burner? And if any of these are true, wouldn’t that suggest the need for improvement?

I love how the Scriptures summarize all the relationship advice in the universe right here: 1) Love God with your all heart, soul, mind, and strength and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). In fact, there is no commandment greater than these. Most of us can embrace the love for God and love for our neighbor. It’s the “…as yourself” part that we often overlook.

The beautiful thing about self-love is that it’s for everyone regardless of gender or relationship status. Self-love isn’t just something for single women to focus on until they can find someone else to love them. It’s a lifelong journey of accepting every aspect of who you are and becoming who you’re meant to be in this world. This Valentine’s Day and every day after, I encourage you to commit to loving yourself more. Show love to yourself in these practical ways and see if it doesn’t improve how you love others.

Originally posted: February 13, 2015

Do you struggle to love and accept yourself as you are?  Does it interfere with forming healthy relationships? Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you become healthy and whole from the inside and out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Dining in?

For those of you wanting to avoid the crowded restaurants on the biggest date night of the year, consider staying home. And if you decide to stay home, boy, do I have a treat for you. Here’s a simple recipe of seafood pasta I just created a few weeks ago. I think it’ll be an excellent choice for a romantic night dining in.


Rainbow or tricolor penne pasta

Fresh salmon filets (or any preferred fish)

Lemon pepper & Lime pepper (or just one of them)

Dill herb

Salt & Pepper


Boil the pasta per the directions of the box and drain when done

Sprinkle salmon with lemon juice; Season with lemon pepper, lime pepper, and dill

Bake on 400 for about 20 minutes or until flaky; put to the side

Coat pan with olive oil and heat

Add drained pasta and sauté in salt and pepper to taste

Add cooked salmon in same pan and mix

Add parmesan cheese (if preferred)

Side Options

I think having a fresh salad prepped to taste is always a nice touch. You might also sauté asparagus spears in a little olive oil, lemon pepper, and garlic salt.

Wine pairing

White wine typically goes well with seafood dishes. If you have sweeter tastes, Moscato or Rieslings are a good choice. If you like the dryer varietals, there’s chardonnay, chenin or  sauvignon blanc, or viognier. If you aren’t sure, white blends will be somewhere in the middle. Apothic white might be a good place to start. I’m not sure if the last paragraph makes me a connoisseur or a lush, nevertheless, that’s your crash course in wine 101. 


Pick out fresh flowers and try to go beyond the classic red roses, unless they’re actually your favorite. The more personalized this night, the better. I’m partial to orchids and calla lilies. One of my friends loves tulips. The more attention you give to detail, your partner’s preferences and tastes, the more special the night will be.


Ah, dessert. The pièce de résistance. The possibilities are endless. But, I think I’ll leave that up to you ;) Enjoy!

Originally posted: February 12, 2014

Allow Gambrell Wellness LLC to assist on your journey toward joy and wellness! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you become healthy and strong from the inside out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

V-day with the love languages

Most people are familiar with the idea of love languages created by Dr. Gary Chapman. If you aren’t sure of yours, take this quick test: The idea is that people give and receive love in these primary ways: 1) Acts of service, 2) Quality time, 3) Physical touch, 4) Words of affirmation, and 5) Receiving gifts. You might have a preferred way of loving but your partner might have another. Based on how your partner receives love, here are some ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day in an affordable way.

Acts of service- People with this love language feel most appreciated when you help them accomplish a task or complete something so they don’t have to. Take stock of the projects around the house you’ve been putting off and finish them. Surprise your partner by organizing that closet, clearing out that second bedroom, putting up that shelf, etc. It might not sound very romantic to you, but for someone who speaks this language, it’s a huge sign of love and appreciation.
Quality time- This is mine and let me tell you, it’s all about meaningful connection. Do a shared activity of some sort. It doesn’t really matter what, as long as you’re conversing and connecting. My favs would be a walk or jog at a park followed by a cooking night. You can grocery shop together and try a new recipe. Both activities have the potential to be very sensual and can enhance feelings of closeness. Anything is fair game with this love language because it’s about togetherness.

Physical touch- Now before all the men who read this post, jump to say this is their love language, please note that this is not about sex. When physical touch is your love language, it means you feel most loved and connected through hugs, kisses, gentle caresses, etc. If this is your partner’s love language, be intentional about increasing your frequency of positive, tender, non-sexual touch. Maybe give your partner a bath and a massage. This can progress to lovemaking but it shouldn’t be the assumed goal. It’s about saying, “I love you,” without expecting anything in return.
Words of affirmation- If you want to build up your partner through encouragement, I recommend you go old school with handwritten letters. Revisit positive memories and times shared. Research shows that recalling your relationship history intensifies the bond. If you’re not really a writer, just consider post it notes of all the things you like about your partner. For example, Day 1- I love how your hair smells after a shower, Day 2- I love how you make eye contact and smile at people who wait on you, etc. It doesn’t have to be deep. Just keep it simple and sincere.

Receiving gifts- Before you get nervous because you can’t afford a Tiffany’s necklace keep in mind this love language is not about the monetary value of the gift. It’s about the element of surprise and the thought behind it. Pick a token gift everyday of Valentine’s week and surprise your partner. It can be a $5.00 Starbucks gift card, a cupcake from a local bakery, smell good lotion or body mist. Hide them strategically each day or give them at different times of the day. This will increase your partner’s expectation and sense of arousal. Then let the finale gift be something that he or she mentioned wanting when they didn’t think you were listening. Again, it’s more about the thoughtfulness than the item itself.

There you have it. I bet you could show love and appreciation for 30 bucks or less. And these ideas aren’t just the generic fancy dinner, chocolates, and roses. They are unique to your partner and how he or she receives love. Here’s a secret to love that isn’t widely circulated. Focus on putting your partner’s needs first and 9 times out of 10, they in turn, will respond and love you like you’ve never been loved.

Originally posted: February 7, 2014

If you want to improve the quality of your relationships, Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you grow stronger from the inside out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Crazy Love or Just Crazy?

Do you ever listen to someone talk about their relationship and outwardly you’re smiling and nodding, but inwardly you look like the emoji with the bug eyes? You sit there wondering, Do you hear yourself? To them, their relationship is a rollercoaster ride of passion. To you, it sounds like being trapped in a funhouse with creepy clown music. It’s not exhilarating at all. It’s downright frightening. My general rule is to mind my own business and not judge other people’s relationships. Everyone is different after all, right? While that’s true, there are some basic characteristics that make relationships healthy or unhealthy. Here are just a few examples of what might feel like love but isn’t. 


Every relationship starts with a honeymoon period. It’s euphoric. The crack-like high of a new relationship is like nothing else. In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s actually very useful for bonding and building the foundation for a long term attachment. However, healthy relationships move beyond the honeymoon phase into something more sustainable. If you feel like you need to maintain that high, then you might have unrealistic love expectations. This is why people say, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him anymore.” If that’s what you believe, then you’ll likely chain smoke infatuation your whole life and never find the love you need.

If you’ve ever had a thing for bad boys, you can relate to this. The bad boy is mysterious. He’s inconsistent in his pursuit so he leaves you guessing. He flirts, but then ignores you. He hangs out with you but then doesn’t call or text you for several days. When he gives you attention you’re elated. When he seems to share it with someone else you’re devastated. Maybe he keeps you on a pedestal. It feels amazing but at the same time you’re terrified of falling off. That feeling of not ever knowing what will happen next or how long it’ll last isn’t a lover’s anticipation. It’s anxiety. True love makes you feel secure and safe. You should never constantly wonder if your place is secure. 


Have you ever watched a couple argue, possibly even to the point of a physical altercation, then turn around kiss passionately? It’s like they can’t keep their hands off each other. Their sex life is marked by intensity but so are their fights. They might even pick fights with each other in order to get to the “make up sex.” Perhaps they excuse their dysfunction as cultural. “Oh, don’t worry. We’re Irish/Italian/Colombian (fill in the blank). We fight hard but we also love hard.” They believe their crazy exchanges are a sign of how much they care. Their partner gets under their skin, but they can’t imagine not being together. Allow me to clear this up for you once and hopefully for all. Love doesn’t hurt- not physically and not emotionally.


There’s something really endearing about someone looking out for you. We all want someone to care and to have our back. But possessiveness should not be mistaken for protectiveness. Possessiveness is more about control. When a person needs constant communication of your whereabouts and who you’re with at all times, that’s unhealthy. A person should feel free to maintain some sense of independence.

Us against the world mentality

It’s important for couples to have a strong “us” identity. There’s something profound to be said about partnering together for a shared purpose. There’s that. Then there’s the unhealthy “us against the world” mentality. It sounds romantic but there’s a downside. When you feel like everyone is against you, then it’s easy to fuse together and push everyone out. Couples that isolate themselves from others end up making themselves more vulnerable because a two person relational system is more unstable than a community of people. Plus, if you realize the connection is toxic and want to get out, you’re less likely to leave because that person has become your sole support.

It’s possible that some relationships experience elements of these traits at different times to varying degrees. That might not mean it’s time to end things necessarily. They are red flags though and signal that balance needs to be restored in that area. All of us have been socialized to accept a lot of things in the name of love that aren’t very loving at all. In order to start getting the love we want, we have some de-programming and re-learning to do to distinguish true love from crazy love when we see it.


Originally posted: February 10, 2015
If you’re not really sure if your relationships are the healthiest, Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you become healthy and strong from the inside out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

Love Week: Why singles don't need to hate Valentine's Day

Love Week is here again. That means it’s my third love season of blogging. In years past, I’ve done a weeklong series leading up to Valentine’s Day. I’d like to do the same, except this year I’ll repost some of most popular entries. My hope is that there will a message of encouragement for everyone. So, I’d like to start by showing some love to the singles and share why there’s no need to hate Valentine’s Day.

Many singles feel like these little ones when it comes to Valentine's Day. Even if you can honestly say you are 100% content in your singleness and happy with your life, the simple fact that everyone else around you is getting flowers and gifts and you’re not makes you feel like the nerd at the school dance. Sure, your mom might love you. Your friends love you. Your kids and pets love you. But without the “special love” of a romantic partner, you’re made to feel like the awkward kid looking on as everyone else is asked to dance. Let’s challenge that feeling by acknowledging a few facts.  
      Not everyone in a relationship is happy
Despite appearances online, not everyone who’s baed up is happy with said bae. We already know this. It’s easy to forget though when we feel left out. You have to remember, social media does not accurately depict the full story. In some cases, the more posts you see, the more people are struggling.
      Even if they are happy-ish, things aren't perfect
Let’s say your married friends have a romantic evening planned for Valentine’s Day. Guess what? If their kid comes down with the flu and decides to projectile vomit everywhere like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, those plans are out the window. So, while you’re picturing a five star meal followed by steamy lovemaking, the reality is a hazmat suit and cleanup duty. Talk about killing the mood.
      Everyone has the bad habit of comparing
Singles might compare themselves to couples. But couples also compare themselves to other couples. Suddenly, a dozen roses delivered at home just doesn’t compare to the room full of flowers their coworker received at work. The annual Outback dinner might as well be McDonald’s compared to another friend’s outing to Ruth's Chris. It’s silly. But we can easily fall into the bad habit of comparing.

My point is this. It doesn't even matter what's going on with the couples of the world- whether they’re happy or not, what they’re doing or not. It's about you being okay with you and celebrating the love you have in its various forms. Singles of the world, I charge you: Start your own traditions. Bake for coworkers. Send cards to fellow singles and let them know how loved they are. Throw a party. Take a self-care day. Just don't wallow. Don’t whine. Don’t wish you weren’t single. And most importantly, don’t hate on couples for getting a day. Put your big kid britches on and deal because bitter is never a good look.

Originally posted: February 9, 2015 
If you struggle with your single identity or forming satisfying relationships Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you become more confident from the inside out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Monday, February 1, 2016

Salty quotes and letting go: Is true love obsolete?

Some people come into our lives for the sole purpose of teaching us to let go.

One of the hardest decisions you'll ever face is deciding to let go or try harder.

Don’t force anybody to mess with you. If they’re acting different and treating you like you’re just anybody, forget them.

At some point you have to realize that some people can stay in your heart and not your life.
These are just a few of countless internet quotes about letting go of relationships. The sheer number of them seems to hint at how much this generation struggles with finding lasting connections. As one who esteems relationships more than anything, when I really click with someone, I prefer that they stick around forever. Unfortunately, forever kinds of connections are becoming increasingly rare in our culture and part of me wonders if they're seen as obsolete.
For one thing, our lives are much more transient than they've ever been. People don't stay put anymore. Compare this with how it was in our grandparents’ generation. Notice how they lived and served in the same area their whole lives: same town, same spouse, same church home. That doesn't happen as much anymore. Now, people move away from where they grew up. They go to school in one place. They take a job in another. They switch jobs every few years and then move somewhere else. They might only see their family once or twice a year. People even switch mates a few times before everything is said and done. Needless to say, this free flowing lifestyle just isn't conducive to creating permanent attachments or even valuing them.
Another reason it's hard to find forever attachments is because a lot of people have lost the ability to relate authentically in real life. With our fast-paced, hectic lifestyles we rely on technology to connect us. There are definite benefits. Social media, texts, and emails make my good friends who live far away feel as though they're right down the street. I'm grateful for it. But honestly, I think it only helps us because we had a genuine friendship to start. For the majority of others though, it seems like technology and indirect communications are the primary way to initiate and sustain connections and often we aren't even great at that. At some point, we have to graduate beyond shorthand, emojis, and liking posts and get back to eye contact, face-to-face conversation, and warm hugs. Unless of course, a cordial distance is what you prefer. Then, online is the way to go.
But getting back to the original question, are lasting relationships becoming obsolete? Is forever a thing of the past? And really, what's up with all the letting go quotes that so clearly come from a place of hurt? I mean, sure, there's wisdom to letting go of expectations and learning the art of a dignified goodbye. You certainly shouldn't have to force a connection or beg someone to stay. That’s not the point. I just can't help but wonder if these inspirational reminders to move on echo a larger symptom in our generation. Are we being forced to let go because so many are disengaged and unable or unwilling to attach?

It does encourage me that disconnection still grieves us. That means there's still a remnant of us that long for deep, lasting connections even if they are hard to come by. Maybe we can collectively restore the value of long term relationships and just real connection in general. Again, it won't be with everyone. There’s still truth to casual and seasonal relationships. But when we do mutually resonate with someone, we can certainly be more intentional about maintaining connection. Many of us do need to learn to let go. I just think so many more would be better served by learning to hold on.   
If you struggle with forming and maintaining healthy relationships Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you be well inside and out. Begin your journey to relational wholeness today. Visit for more information.