before I begin I just want to be clear about a couple of things…
- I am not a doctor/nutritionist/or healer (pretty intuitive though)
- this is me speaking from my experience + what has made a difference for me
- if you have been doing these things for years, high-five — I should have paid closer attention!
- some of these things are givens and a little cliche — gracias, I’m aware.
- this is about love, especially self-love
- I still have vices – I still have bad days – I still struggle…I am human
- #namaste again and again
Last year I turned 30. While I embraced the new decade with arms wide open, it did make me take a step back and really look closely at myself. Not just in pictures or up close examining my pores in the mirror — but like my whole self. I didn’t feel like myself. I wasn’t acting like myself. I was a ball of anxiety, unhappy, stressed, and a little lost. My creative juices were stagnant. I stopped blogging. I wasn’t really cooking. I wasn’t exercising regularly. I was eating my feelings and was so unmotivated in general. As a confident introvert I’m good at hiding it (all of it) outside the comfort and security of my own home, but for the most part, I was losing myself, or at least the strong sense of self I’d grown to love.
Below is a list of things I’ve been doing since that realization that has really gotten me back on track. These are simple things — that take effort — but aren’t unattainable. I felt compelled to write this post after hearing from some of my fellow lady tribe members struggling with the same kinds of things…struggling to make time to take care of themselves and just not feeling good, generally speaking. If I’ve learned one thing on this blogging-interweb journey it’s that sometimes all it takes is seeing that someone else is going through the same thing you did to turn your day or even life around. It humanizes all of us to be able to sit back and say — hey I was struggling but here’s what I did to push past it and feel 10x better. That is it. That’s all this is. What has worked for me to pull myself outta a mega RUT. That and if I ever find myself there again…I can reread my own words and rinse + repeat as necessary.
- JUST WRITE IT DOWN
People always ask me how I stay on top of such a busy lifestyle…I WRITE IT ALL DOWN! When it comes to staying organized I am a paper and pencil girl 100%. I am the classic student in the sense that if I write something down, I will remember it. Writing “lists” or “creative journaling” is my respite for a busy brain. When things are getting jumbled in my head — dates, ideas, strong emotions — I pause and write them down. It helps me sort everything out. I am a recovering perfectionist — so I’ve even been known at times re-write my lists to reorganize them (or sometimes if they’re too messy). Yep – truth. Keeping up with a planner and an ongoing to-do list is how I feel on top of my game. I’ve also recently picked up the habit of journaling when I’m feeling anxious or worried about something. What? A Type A feeling anxious about things she can’t control? You don’t say. For my overactive, over-thinking brain ‘worry journaling’ has become a welcomed meditative practice to help soothe and smooth things out. I bought a journal that simply says “write it down and let it go” on the front. It’s liberating! It’s also kind of amazing what happens when you put pen to paper and a lot of strong emotion behind it. It just flowssss and suddenly you realize you’ve been holding onto A LOT more than you thought you were. This has helped not only for feeling better and less anxious but has also prevented nonsense arguments with my boo. Turns out all those stupid fights you might be getting in might not have anything to do with what you’re even arguing about. I’m telling you ladies — worry journaling — it’s the shit.
I totally fell head over heals for podcasts in general before I starting my own podcast with Sarah (The Mustache Mesa). My fellow millennials have absorbed podcasts like the little sponges we are. Over the past year or so, I’ve picked up suggestions from friends and made some of my own discoveries along the way creating quite the colorful bouquet of podcasts that I adore and listen to on a daily basis. I grew up listening to talk radio with my dad. NPR, Click + Clack, and Prairie Home Companion built a strong love of authentic and often humorous storytelling. The intro music alone to All Things Considered on NPR strikes such a chord of nostalgia in me — makes me a little weepy just thinking about it. Podcasts have become the way I get my news, inspiration, motivation, and good ole fashioned entertainment. Building a strong mindset is just as important (if not more important) than building a strong bod. Who’s in your ear? What phrases and ideas are being repeated? What information are you soaking up? What perspectives are you hearing? New opinions? Like I said, in this information age we’re all freaking little sponges. Being cognizant of what’s being absorbed is major key when it comes to your mindset, plus listening to great minds always increases my vocabulary, awareness, and knowledge on topics I may not have ever discovered or even known existed before. It can be downright fascinating! Being the enthusiastic learner I am, I get straight up giddy about it. Plus I am never at a loss for conversation topics or random segues. You’re so welcome, friends! Being positive, informed, and aware is not something that happens overnight — it takes a little work. Whenever I am telling people about podcasts they always ask, but when do you have time to listen? Well…instead of having the TV on in the background of whatever I am doing…I have a podcast on, usually, it is streaming through one of my wireless wifi speakers in the house. I listen while I am cooking, doing laundry, getting ready in the morning, showering, cleaning…the list goes on. I also listen while I am in the car — even though I thankfully do not have a long daily commute, podcasts are a great way to begin and/or end my day. They are basically the soundtrack to my day-to-day life. A few of my current favorites include…One Part Podcast, It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, Ask Me Another, Pod Save America, Stuff Your Mom Never Told You, That’s So Retrograde, What’s Good with Stretch & Bobbito, and 2 Dope Queens + basically anything on the NPR One App.
There’s really not much to it, come on baby put your back into it! Oh boy, yes well all song lyrics aside, being more active has helped not only how I feel about myself but I handle stress in general. Whether you’re into yoga, spinning, doing body-pump classes, barre classes, Beachbody videos, crossfit, or just a gym goer — you get it. For me getting back into a routine of “working out” was difficult. There’s the finding time issue, the cost (if you’re going to gym or studio), and the real kicker MOTIVATION. In my early 20’s I “worked out” because I wanted to maintain my muscles and look gooood. I grew up dancing every day of my life, popped out of the womb a busy body and was blessed with dang good genes (thanks parentals) so for the most part I didn’t have to do too much to maintain. As I got older and loaded up my plate with more responsibility, stress, and time-consuming things my physical activities took a hit. I swear just in the past year it dawned on me…”wow I am so much less stressed about stupid shit when I turn off my brain and workout”…”whoa, my body really has a lot of stored up energy that is taking the form of anxiety when I don’t move it”…”holy shit no wonder people are always posting their workouts on FB and Insta — these endorphins feel AHMAZ-ING!” Mega – duh ya’ll. Mega. I see it even with my friends, family, and colleagues, those who are more active and take the time for this kind of self-care are the ones who are more rational and evenly tempered. ALSO, when you move your body your digestive system thanks you and creates this crazy phenomenon called…regularity! BLESS IT. For me, the physical effects of working out are really just an added bonus. It’s no longer about looking a certain way but more so about how I FEEL. Feeling strong, centered, and just-freaking-GOOD.
“You are what you eat.” I know, I know…my 22 year old self is currently rolling her eyes at me too. As someone who looooves food — I’ve spent most of my adult life eating what I want (within reason) to both satiate and satisfy my taste buds and culinary adventures. Turns out as you get older…you need to start being a little bit more aware and intentional with what you feed your body. A simple change of perspective from feeding myself to fueling my body has majorly impacted the way that I eat and prepare food.
Awareness and information foster a more focused intention. Because I no longer was eating purely from a satisfaction perspective, I started to really pay attention to what I was preparing, what I was putting in my mouth and how it was making me feel. When I read Skinny Bitch in college (which basically promotes veganism) one of the main takeaways I had was when they asked the reader to think about ‘how they felt (physically) after they ate that…filet mignon?’ ‘How did you sleep?’ ‘What was your energy level?’ Though I am not jumping on the vegan bandwagon, I am often an accidental one. Meaning more of my diet is plant based than anything else because it just agrees with my body and makes me feel so dang good! Not to mention the environmental factors and damage industrialized animal farming does…I’m being pretty selfish here. I am thinking mostly of my own needs when going “plant based.” Mind you I am not limiting myself entirely. I’m really not about classifying myself into any categories of Paleo or Vegan, or even Vegetarian. I still eat meat and dairy…just less of it. The only thing I have completely eliminated thus far is gluten. The way gluten is processed (overly processed) in this country does not agree with my body. It makes me feel like crap and like I’ve swallowed a balloon. I do not have Celiac’s but food intolerances are real. You don’t need a doctor or blood work to back up your own digestive symptoms. Pun intended. You just have to pay attention to what you’re stuffing in your face and how it makes you feel. When I cut gluten and a lot of processed food in general out of my diet, I started to notice changes immediately. Not only in how I felt physically after meals but how I slept, my anxiety levels, productivity, and my overall energy level. Taking the time to hashtag meal prep has made eating cleaner and healthier a simple lifestyle shift. When you have good stuff on hand, labeled, and ready to grab…guess what? You eat the good stuff and you feel better! Recently I’ve started using chalk markers to label the food I’ve prepped to help me and that cute guy I live with stay on top of what we have so we’re not wasteful. I HATE WASTING FOOD! I grew up hearing about the people starving in Africa every night at the dinner table — I have serious guilt about it and I don’t want to ever take for granted the luxury I have been afforded to have nutritious food at my disposal when I need it. Labeling our stuff keeps our refrigerator up to date, clean, and organized. I’m learning, discovering, and pretty much NERDING OUT about nutrition in general right now, and there’s so much information available! What a time…to be alive 😉
Meditation is tough for me. Did I mention the busy brain? Lately, I’ve discovered that I can enter a meditative state while doing other things. Meditating is not a one size fits all thing. You don’t have to be perfectly still to achieve quintessential ZEN. You have to figure out what works best for you to clear out the monkey chatter that typically clouds our minds. Practicing yoga for years has helped — but even in class, my natural state of SQUIRREL is usually quite counter productive because I am constantly interrupting my own meditation with “what was that noise?” — “what is that person doing now?” or “Ooo where’d she get those rad galaxy leggings?” If my hands are preoccupied with another activity like doing dishes or arranging flowers, my mind can start to come to a calming place. I like doing the dishes. I repeat. I like doing the dishes…for these reasons. Not because I’m that lame and enjoy mundane tasks but I relish in the feeling afterward of not only task completion but more importantly mind clarity.
Seeing a therapist on a regular basis does not mean something is wrong with you. It does not mean you’re crazy. It means you’re a human being who feels a lot of things, struggles with shit, needs an unrelated-neutral-unbiased person to help you orchestrate and find common threads in your past, present, and future. You need someone in your life you can talk about yourself to without fear of judgment or sounding like a narcissist. You also need someone who will tell you when you’re overreacting, being ridiculous or just being an asshole. Your friends are not your therapist, and if you keep treating them like they are…they won’t be your friends much longer. Find a good one, keep them forever, tell your friends. The end.
8. EYE CREAM
I debated on titling this one eye cream or just TREATYOSELF. This isn’t about just eye cream and a realization that I am of a certain age and should be using it. I know, thanks. This is (again) about self-care. Whether it’s a new eye cream ritual, or essential oils, a new book you’re devouring, or fresh cut farmers market bouquet…the bottom line is that it is something you are doing just for you. Something that makes you feel loved from the inside out. I’ve rediscovered my love of skin care and treating myself to a little extra TLC before I climb in bed, instead of the ush of wiping off my makeup – examining areas of concern – globbing on some goo – and being done with it. Now, I take the time to do mini spa treatments when I can. I indulge and treat myself with amazing creams and exfoliants that are not only beneficial for my skin but also make my skin radiant and feel amazing. Turns out diffusing essential oils is also quite lovely. Whether it is to wind down after a hectic day with some lavender or up my productivity with some lemongrass, my senses are awakened and thankful for the atmosphere of aromatherapy.
9. QUIT SMOKING
Yep. I did it. I quit! I quit smoking gross cigarettes for my 30th birthday. Smoking was such a place of shame for me. Most people, even those who know me well do not know I smoked. Not that most people are proud of it these days…I was pretty good at hiding it. I was never a pack a day kinda gal. I could put them down and pick them up whenever I choose…for the most part. When I wasn’t taking care of myself, I found myself smoking more. Why? Well because when you’re a smoker…when you’re stressed, you have a cigarette. When you need to unwind, you have a cigarette. When you’ve had a huge meal and feel full and uncomfortable, you have a cigarette. And thus the cycle gets perpetuated. The final straw was when my mom came to me, the weekend before my birthday, took me by both hands, and with tears in her eyes said “I would never forgive you if smoking caused a terminal illness that took you before me.” Gulp. Yep, that was the reality check. I said enough was enough and threw my cigarettes out that day. For me, quitting was a mind over matter thing. For others, it’s so much harder than that. It took a few weeks of re-learning how to drive without lighting up or always needing one after a meal. Slowly but surely the way I felt started to out weigh the need or desire to smoke. On occasion, I do still indulge and have a drag or two if I am out with friends and having a cocktail. Just keepin’ it real. I unfortunately just enjoy the drink and a smoke combo. I blame all the years bartending on that one. Overall this was/is a huge win for my health. Cardiovascularly speaking I would not be able to do what I am doing now (in spin classes and other) if I was still a smoker. It’s hard, but it’s so worth it. Oh! And my hair smells GOOD now. Like on a regular basis! Bonus!
10. I AM NUMBER ONE
Last but certainly not least. The single best thing I have done for my health + wellness is putting myself first. If you’ve made it this far and have read the other 9 things above, you’ve probably noticed the common thread. It’s all about self-care people! How you treat yourself is how you’re going to feel. If you treat yourself like shit and the last thing on the list, guess what you’re going to feel like? As a woman, I have been programmed to take care of all of the other heartbeats around me first. I am a nurturer and a people pleaser, a wicked but often common combo for us ladies. Shifting my focus to myself, my needs, my desires, my health, my wellness is not selfish. It’s ensuring that I am the best version of myself. And at the end of the day, if we are not the best versions of ourselves…how can we take care of all of those beloved heartbeats? It’s not easy…if this doesn’t come naturally — it’s a major adjustment. Make the time and space to allow the transition to occur. It’s been a little shy of a year for me…and I’m just getting to a place of feeling like yessss this is what’s UP. Put yourself first and everything else will fall into place. Mean it.