Self-Care & Mindfulness During Quarantine.

Unless you are Jared Leto back from an extensive meditation retreat in the desert then you are familiar with the Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID19. This pandemic has caused a good portion of the world to be confined to their living-quarters indefinitely. My city is no exception. Due to the nature of my work I have been forced to work from my home as well as self-quarantine. Per government orders, bars and restaurants, state parks, schools, and most businesses are closed. They even recently shut down the beach! Even if I wanted to go somewhere there is no where to go. When I drive downtown to the grocery store, the barren streets remind me of something described in a dystopian novel.

As an introvert, the first few weeks of being forced to stay home were amazing. I realize I am very privileged to be able to work from home and still be able to make money unlike a lot of my fellow Americans. For me, staying home in my sweatpants with my dog being able to read and practice yoga was a dream. Into the third week the novelty began to wear off and I started to experience “cabin-fever.”

In order to keep me (and my partner) sane I started to create a stay-at-home routine of things I never believed I had time for and now that I am home all the time I can do. With that being said, my caveat is that I am fully aware we are in a crisis and that just surviving right now is enough. This is not a vacation and I realize people are stuck at home working and/or taking care of kids, and can have numerous other concerns such as being jobless, homeless, in toxic relationships, and/or dealing with illness (mental or physical), etc. People may not have access to things I have listed and I understand that. The list I created is made up of things that worked for me to focus mindfulness and to get through this indefinite quarantine period without going batshit crazy.

  1. Read. Now is the time to dust off the books on your shelf that you had every intention of reading when you “found the time.” The time is now! Support local bookstores who do pickup or drop-off and purchase your favorite books or download ebooks from the Library. Reading is a beautiful form of escape from this uncertain time and a great way to learn something new.
  2. Listen to empowering podcasts. The best podcasts to listen to during this time are podcasts that inspire you or debunk COVID19 myths, teach you something, or ones that provide an escape from the terrible current reality. My current favorites are: Foodpsych, Getting Curious with Johnathan Van Ness, Food Heaven, Where Should We Begin?, By the Book, Unlocking Us with Brene Brown, and Fuck It Diet Podcast. I have been researching Intuitive Eating so most of my podcasts are related to that (more to come about IE in later posts).
  3. Unsubscribe from influencers or things that make you feel bad about yourself or do not align with your values. Again, I have been trying to heal my relationship with food and eschew diet culture so I block or unfollow influencers that promote weight loss or unhealthy supplements and those who post fat phobic content. This lately has also included blocking media outlets that sensationalizes the inaccurate COVID19 information. On the flip side, follow good news social media accounts or people who inspire you and make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Complete a puzzle, crossword, or brain teaser. Pull out that dusty puzzle sitting in the closet or borrow one from grandma and get to work. This is a great way to exercise the mind and take a break from social media and the news for a few minutes. Beware, one of my friends got tendinitis in her elbow from too much puzzling.
  5. YouTube a skill or new language. If you listen to episode 153 of Getting Curious an economist named Bradley M. Gold discusses tips on how to survive this pandemic and prepare ourselves for any future disasters or pandemics. One of the main tips is to learn a trade that you can use to barter with such as sewing, cooking, woodwork, etc. Another great way to keep from getting bored is to learn a new language that you can hopefully put to use once the travel bans are lifted.
  6. Gentle Movement. You do not need to start pumping iron or start running a marathon just because there is more time to do so and people keep posting push-up challenges on social media. However, one way to nourish yourself and to stave off anxiety is to move your body in a way that feels good. Support online fitness instructors like yoga teachers and do live videos or archived classes or just get outside and take the dog for a walk (if you are able to go outside and have the space to walk while social distancing). Fresh air is the best way to ward off “cabin fever.”
  7. Research something you’ve always wanted to learn. As I have mentioned I have been examining research related to health and intuitive eating. Have you wanted to learn the geography of the world or want to learn how to sew a button? Youtube is a great resource. Doing extra trainings to help for my job has also been helpful.
  8. Write letters or send thoughtful texts to loved ones. Being separated from the ones we love is the hardest part about self-isolating. Take the time to write the ones you love a letter expressing how grateful you are to have them in your life. If you do not have the stationary or stamps send them a meaningful text. Reaching out is the best way to feel connected and less alone.
  9. Volunteer. There is a limit to what we can do while self-isolating but The Red Cross and Meals on Wheels are two companies that are not shut down and are desperate for volunteers. Blood donations and drivers to deliver meals are much needed, especially now. You can look up the closest ones to your area to volunteer. There are so many ways you can reach out to your community. In my town, they had volunteers sewing mask kits for the hospital. Keep your ears open and eyes peeled for opportunities. Volunteering helps others, but also boosts our own satisfaction.
  10. Meditate/Pray. Taking just a few minutes to sit in silence in our uncomfortableness and focus on breathing has scientifically been proven to lift our moods. There are tons of online guided meditations and apps. It is amazing what kind of things come up when we just are and let things be. There are even meditations specifically for COVID relief.
  11. Journal/Write Gratitude Lists. Meditation can bring up a lot of emotions as well as living during a pandemic. The best way to deal with these emotions is getting them out and a great way to do that is to journal. The media and all the second-hand information we receive related to the pandemic makes it difficult to focus on the positive. There may be many reasons to feel despondent and stressed. However, in the midst of the uncertainty there are so many things to be grateful for. Every day I write just a few of those things and it helps keep perspective.
  12. Watch. My four year-old niece has named viewing television or movies “watch” and always asks to do so. If you are a parent do not feel guilty about letting kids watch more tv than you usually would allow, again these are not normal times! TV is also a great escape from reality and I enjoy watching old romantic comedies when I am feeling anxious. Give yourself permission during this time to watch TV or play video games if that helps with the uncertainty.
  13. FaceTime, Zoom, Call, or MarcoPolo with loved ones. It is lonely being isolated. I luckily have my partner and our pets, but it can be especially isolating for those who live alone. The best I have felt is when I did a Zoom date with my girlfriends and we all watched the dumpster trash show “Love is Blind” while drinking wine. It felt almost like we were together in person enjoying Happy Hour.
  14. House Projects/Declutter. Now is also the time to do those home projects you have been putting off or yard work that needs done. Youtube is full of great DIY tips! Decluttering, which for me is essential for minimalism, is a great distraction and way to perform self-care during Quarantine. Start going through your closets, junk drawers, garage, under the bed, etc. and ask yourself if the items add value to your life or are even necessary. Start piling up the items and once you have the okay-go-ahead donate or sell those items you’ve decided to part with to a local thrift shop or charity.
  15. Beauty Care. Face-masks, clipping and painting nails, foot scrubs, baths, etc. are all great self-care tools and distractions. I made myself a lip scrub and have painted my nails rainbow to please my niece. This may seem superficial, but anything we can do to take care of ourselves is worth a go. However, leave the haircutting to professionals! There are too many funny memes of people ending up with haircuts like Joe Exotic.
  16. Take a break from the news and social media. Delete apps, turn off the TV, and for the-love-of-God take a break from the news!! There is an abundance of information coming at us like a Tsunami and not all of it is accurate. Follow a few sources you trust, remember the media sensationalizes everything and take breaks from it throughout the day. What also helps me is following good news social media like @TanksGoodNews on Instagram. Good things are happening, even during a pandemic.
  17. Partake in online therapy. If you are feeling depressed, anxious, have an eating disorder, or would just like someone to talk to there are a lot of online resources with licensed therapists that you can do from your home either online or on the phone. A common online resource is TalkSpace. No one should have to deal with negative emotions alone! Therapy is best thing I have ever done for myself.
  18. Bake. The grocery stores are missing toilet paper as well as most baking ingredients every time I go. In times of stress my go-to is baking and I turn into The Barefoot Contessa in the kitchen. For me, self-care is baking cookies and breads and doing porch deliveries to my friends and family. I have also taken the opportunity to make a plethora of freezer meals for the future. Try something new or make something comforting, but whatever you do please do not feel you need to diet or restrict food intake. This is a damn pandemic and snacking more or wanting more comforting foods is totally reasonable!
  19. Rest. There are workout videos and diet shaming on any social media platform you log into. Again, this is not a vacation, this is a pandemic! You are allowed to rest (if you can) and not do push-up challenges or meal prep or DIY your whole home. The future is uncertain and scary so just resting on the couch, in bed, on your balcony or whatever feels good to you is acceptable. Productivity does not equal your worth, especially now.
  20. Just Breathe. We got this! The rain does not last forever and while times are so uncertain and scary our ancestors have made it through so much and we can too! Take a few moments to take a couple deep breaths and just do what you can to take care of yourself, whatever that looks like for you!

Talk Thirty to Me: The Year of Self-Love.

On December 23rd, 2019 I turned the big 3-0. When I was a kid I equated 30 years old with about the same as being 100 years old. Basically, 30 was “old as hell.” Even as an adult in my 20’s, I did not want to turn 30 because being 30 meant I was supposed to have my shit together, which I did not (and still don’t).

I’ve hated myself, especially my body since my teens. Growing up overweight I was teased, which made me even harder on myself. I lost 50 pounds in my early 20’s and I thought dropping the weight would make me love myself, but it didn’t. Underneath the excess mass I was still me and I still did not like myself. My 20’s were not only filled will self -loathing, but comparison as well. Comparing my clothes, my job, my likes and dislikes, my appearance (including my body, obviously) to everyone else and experiencing immense shame when I felt I did not live up to others.

So in my last few months in my 20’s, I decided my 30’s was going to be a different decade. I decided 30’s is going to be the decade of self-love. Self-love sounds very “woo-woo” and is often misconstrued as “radical” and involves a bunch of hippies sitting together in a circle chanting that they are goddesses while staring at mirrors pointed to their vulvas. Despite the stigma, self-love works.

Ways to promote self-love:

  1. Speak to yourself like a doting grandmother would. My, my, aren’t you a dish? How did I ever get so lucky to have someone like you in my life? Doting grandmothers having nothing but compliments to shower on us and are the ultimate hype-people. Anytime I am feeling down on myself I am going to pinch my cheeks and tell myself how cute I am and then knit myself a scarf. In all seriousness, speak to yourself like you would someone you love. Instead of picking at all your mistakes and perceived flaws, talk about your successes and joys. When you love you, you are able to love others.
  2. Journal. If you look up any tips on how to love yourself more there will always be journaling on the list. Journaling is a way to talk out ideas, frustrations or any other random thoughts that pop up into your mind. It is a great way to figure out emotions and discover things about yourself you may not have paid attention to. Journaling also gives me the opportunity to write down what I am grateful for. It gives me room to figure out who the hell I am because honestly, even after 30 years, I still have no idea.
  3. Minimize the time spent with toxic people. In this new decade I do not have time for people who make me feel bad about myself. I do not have time for people who make me feel exhausted after spending time with them instead of uplifted. I do not have time for people who put others down or consistently complain about their lives without putting in the effort to try and improve.
  4. Saying no. This is the big one for me. I promised myself that this decade I was going to stop saying yes to things I do not want to do. Invite to a wedding of an acquaintance I barely know? No. Invite to the bar on a weeknight when I am exhausted? No. Going to someone’s pyramid scheme party where I am going to get guilted into buying something? No. I am all for supporting friends and attending weddings of people I love and sometimes you do have to do things you do not want to do (like the dishes). I am referring to saying yes to things out of obligation or guilt or because I perceive someone may “feel bad” when they most likely will not. This includes saying no to things without an explanation or an excuse. I am giving myself permission to use “No” as a full sentence.
  5. Saying yes. In my post before I talk about say yes to things that scare us because it helps us grow. For self-care, it means saying yes to things that will improve your life, saying yes to opportunities when they present themselves and saying yes to leaving behind the things that weigh us down. When I am excited about something but also scared I know it is a good thing. I can freak myself out and talk myself into a negative tailspin of different scenarios in which I fail. However, so far in my life, when I have said yes to opportunities that excite, but scare me I have never regretted taking the leap.
  6. Exercise because it feels good not for the need to look a certain way. I used to exercise because I wanted to lose weight and so when I exercised I hated it. I did workouts I didn’t enjoy because I read that they burned the most calories. When I started yoga I enjoyed it and after I did it continuously I noticed my mood shifted, I felt happier, I had less anxiety, and I had less lethargy and slept better at night. Moving my body whether it is taking the dog on a walk or barreling down the side of a mountain on a snowboard makes me feel good! Just because I am not burning 800 calories in a workout does not mean I am not reaping benefits from working out. I am so grateful to have a body I can practice headstands with and run up mountains with. Now I do workouts because it makes me feel good not because I need to fit in a smaller pair of pants.
  7. Eat intuitively. Most of my life I have had a poor relationship with food. I have oddly had this panic that I will not get enough food so I would over eat until I felt I was going to burst. I would then try to compensate my binge tendencies by dieting and trying to starve myself, which would end with me being ravenous and binge eating. I have spent most of my life not listening to my body and hating it for not appearing like the airbrushed celebrities in magazines. When I started looking into intuitive eating and when I started paying attention to my body’s needs (yoga helped with this) my relationship with food changed completely and I was able to eat until satiated without binging and I stopped feeling guilt when I ate something I used to consider “bad food.”
  8. Limit social media. I am terrible about social media. I fall asleep scrolling with the phone in my hand and while I do draw the line at bringing the phone with me while I’m on the toilet, I spend too much time on it. When I spend too much time online I start the comparison game. I start thinking my life is not satisfying enough and if I just book a trip somewhere exotic or just buy a trendy pair of shoes then I will be happy. I used to get so despondent that I would just lay on the couch for hours scrolling mindlessly and then wondering why I felt so shitty. Social media has perks, but it has even more flaws. Limiting my time by setting timers or deleting apps off my phone is one main way to improve my mood. Another way I promote self love is unfollowing people or accounts that make me feel like I am not enough and following inspirational accounts instead.
  9. Spend time with people who inspire you and make you feel good. You know the people I am talking about. The ones that after you spend time with them make you feel like you’re tipsy and radiating warmth. The ones that make you feel filled with love instead of drained. If you do not have people like that in your life start searching and limit time spent with people who don’t make you feel this way. The best way to meet people like this is joining groups with people who share your interests. You can meet so many people by joining book clubs, hiking clubs, sport leagues, religious small groups, knitting groups, anime groups, mom groups, etc. Look up Facebook groups in your area or MeetUp app. I met one of my closest friends by signing up to be in a local ad where they needed a bunch of people to eat food while they took pictures and another through social media because we liked the same things.
  10. Gratitude. The number one way to promote self-love is to be grateful. To be grateful for the body I have, the life I have been given, and everything in-between. When I visited Tibet and was without my usual comforts, including a clean toilet and heat that did not come from yak poop, I realized just how damn lucky (and entitled) I am. Every night, I journal three things I am grateful for and in the morning I meditate. I have even started listing off the things I like about myself. I noticed the more I do this the more I appreciate (and take care of) the things I already have. I also noticed the more grateful I am the better my relationships are. My friends do not have to sit back and listen to me complain, instead we are free to discuss our joys and there is room to discuss ideas and dreams instead of filling our time together with moaning about piddly annoyances.

Toxic.

Less than two weeks into the new year and I am still going strong on my resolutions to:

  1. Be kinder and
  2. Take steps to create a more purposeful life.

In order to have a more meaningful life sometimes you add things to it and sometimes you take things away. This includes: people. You can still love and care about someone, even if they are toxic. Just because someone hurt you or does not add value to your life, does not mean you cannot care about what happens to them. In order to grow we need to let go of what is stunting us. Some relationships fill us up and some drain us. In the recent years for me, letting go of toxic relationships has pertained to friendships.

In all honesty, there are times I have been the toxic friend. The friend that is super negative, co-dependent, or too self-involved, even the friend that ditches out on their friends when they get into a romantic relationship. I have been the bad friend, the one who did not really listen when my friend needed me or did not stand up for them when I should have or even talked badly about them behind their backs. I wish I could say that I have never been a bad friend, but that would be a lie.

People have kicked me out of their lives, and rightfully so. I have gone through many phases in my almost thirty years on the planet and not all of them were good ones. The way I learned how to be a good friend was when I lost nearly all of them in High School and did not have any for a time. I learned to build friendships from the ground up. I have had many years to reflect and learn how to be a good friend as well as when to recognize when someone is not being one.

More recently, I had the unfortunate task of telling a friend that I was distancing myself from them because I felt their actions were hurtful, inappropriate, and overall toxic. As a lot of women I am sure, I was taught to “be nice”; To “play along”, “not make waves”, and not hurt people’s feelings- even if meant they trampled all over mine. This was grilled into my brain from a young age and is still ingrained into American society. Society sees a woman who stands up for herself as a bitch. When really standing up for yourself and others is the opposite of being a bitch, it is being kind. The truth can be hard to speak, but when we are honest with ourselves and honest with others it lifts this invisible weight from our shoulders.

As much as I love the idea of honesty, I hate the idea of confrontation. Confrontation is like a pap smear: really uncomfortable, but necessary. Also, once it is over it gives you a peace of mind. There is nothing I worry more about than hurting people I love, which is why I do not want to have to tell them the things they are doing are affecting me negatively. On the flip side, if I was hurting my friend and I did not know because they did not tell me then I would feel worse.

Being vulnerable and bringing up uncomfortable topics is hard. Staying quiet and being treated poorly is also hard. Sometimes we have to make a choice of which hard we are going to deal with. We should always be honest, but let us not interchange being honest with being cruel.

There is never an excuse to be cruel, even if the person “deserves it”. When opting out of a relationship that is depleting, telling a person how you feel should be well-intended. Nothing is more hurtful when someone says a cruel comment and then follows it up with “I am just being honest.” The person you may be revealing your feelings to may not even know that what they are doing is affecting you, so why be a dick about it? If you are a good friend then you should be able to reveal your feelings from a place of love. Being able to say honestly what and why something is bothering you with intention instead of frustration will clear the way for either a relationship to be mended or for a clean break. If the response to your heartfelt feelings is silence, defensiveness, or continued bad behavior then it is your cue to walk away and move on without that person.

I am done apologizing or making excuses for people’s poor behavior. The fear of toxic relationships in my life outweighs my fear of confrontation. If someone is doing something to harm me or others, I am going to speak up. If nothing comes from me revealing my feelings in a heartfelt way then I do not need to feel guilty for not bringing that person into the next chapter of my life. There is the cliche saying that “Life is too short.” Well it is. It is too short, too wild, and too damn precious to waste on someone who drains the joy out of it.

Sometimes working on the relationship is what is best and sometimes letting go is. Minimalism is about rigorously selecting what we take into our future to create a better life. This includes shedding the things and people who create a negative environment instead of a supportive one. Friends are of the few choices in life we get to make, so let us choose wisely.


Gratitude.

Advertisements use trendy words to help market things that will supposedly improve our lives. Some of the words are: “minimalism”, “mindfulness”, “happiness”, “wanderlust”. Not that this is a bad thing-hello, the title of my blog is one of those words. What I mean is that the intention of the word gets diluted and is used as a marketing ploy. How many advertisements have I seen with the word “minimalist” to describe their product or design. How many apps and classes are marketed to help people become more mindful? Answer: Too many to choose from.

One word that I do not usually see advertised is: Gratitude. Being grateful for what we have and not buying stuff we do not need is the opposite of what advertisers want someone to choose. How will they make money if people appreciate what they have and stop buying what they do not need?

For me, being mindful and being grateful for what I already have takes effort. I have to force myself to pause and be in the present and to stop and think about what I have already before buying something that will make me “happy”. As embarrassing as it is, advertisements have a way of persuading me that I need more “stuff” to feel fulfilled. It is funny that I find myself trying to justify buying things to make me more of a minimalist or tell myself that I will start being grateful and will not need anything more if I just get that one item.

If you grew up in a Christian household in the 90’s-early 00’s then you may be familiar with the Veggie Tales movies. If you grew up in a household that allowed you to watch other videos that did not include singing vegetables, then you may have no idea what I am referring to. Veggie Tales were a series of 30-minute movies that had talking vegetables (and some fruits) that sang songs, quoted bible verses, and every story taught a moral lesson.

In one movie, there was a blueberry that lived in a tree house (why she lived in a tree house is beyond me-as blueberries grow on bushes, but whatever) and she tried to buy happiness with stuff. She bought so much stuff that it started to weigh her tree house down and the tree finally bent over and ended up dumping all her stuff into the river and then ruining her house. Before her house incident, she walked by a little green bean who was poor and only had a piece of apple pie (which is basically a form of cannibalism, but whatever) and was singing a song about how grateful she was for her apple pie (still after 20 years I remember that damn song. You can listen for yourself: here). Madame Blueberry (the blueberry’s name) realized after her house was destroyed that she had a lot to be grateful for without all the stuff and joined the little girl in singing the song.

Why did I just ramble on about a materialistic blueberry? Because like the blueberry, I get obsessed with buying happiness that I forget to be grateful for what I have. I get so focused on the future-wanting an immaculately decorated Hygge-like condo instead of the house I have, not realizing that some people are wishing right now that they have a house like I already do. Unfortunately, being grateful does not come easy, especially when we are groomed by society to want more, bigger, better.

Sometimes I do not have a grateful heart. A lot of the time I get something I want and then almost immediately upon receiving it I move on to pining over the next thing I want. I get on the hamster wheel of chasing my wants instead of stopping to appreciate my privileged life. I was born middle-class, white, American, and into a loving family. Right there I started the race of life with more of a leg up than most people in the world. Yet, I still catch my thoughts telling me that I need more.

This holiday season I did not ask for gifts, but I still received one from a very thoughtful friend: a gratitude journal. While I do not recommend going out and buying something to help you be more grateful (oh, the irony), I have found so much value in taking the time each day to write down the things that I am grateful for. This journal has helped me spend a part of the day reflecting on the wonderful things in my life instead of focusing on what is lacking in it. Instead of buying a journal, just writing down on a notepad three things a day that you are grateful for will have the same effect.

With the new year approaching, I intend to keep journaling and focusing on the positive and daily working towards giving the advertisers that say I do not have and am not enough the middle finger. Enough is enough and I definitely have more than enough.