Caring for Your Self

Establishing self-care practices can be difficult. Maybe you’ve moved and have to change your habits, or maybe you’re taking the beginning of a new year as a chance to start being kind to yourself – whatever your reason, you’re onto something great. Caring for yourself is always a good idea, so congrats on making such a wise choice. Now – where to begin?

In a society that shuffles us around from one thing to the next, always telling us – women especially – how to care for other people instead of for ourselves, it can be hard to know what self-care would even be. Think of times in your life that you’ve felt most calm. What were you doing? Where were you? Chances are your cell phone was nowhere near you, maybe you were at a spa or on a beach, maybe you were curled up with a good book or going for a drive. Flip through your rolodex of good memories, and grab onto as many as you can. Now, how can you recreate those as a part of your regular life?

You don’t have to go on vacay or be miles away from your real life to feel relaxed. It can happen in the comfort of your own home, on a yoga mat, in a bath tub – anywhere. It’s an internal thing. Here’s a list of my go-tos:

  1. Take a bath – any time I get to lay down, I feel relaxed. And there’s something about getting clean, really taking the time to lay out and scrub your body, appreciating every little finger and freckle. When I had a bathtub I would always use bath tea – a blend of herbs that you steep yourself in. It’s great for your muscles and the aroma is oh-so-relaxing. Try chamomile, peppermint, marshmallow leaf, rose hip, lavender – really any blend you fancy. I don’t have a bathtub anymore here in China, so I’m scrambling for alternatives – I’m looking for a good masseuse.
  2. Draw/paint a picture. I love to put on some music, take a paintbrush or a pen, and just go for it. It’s a blissful state of flow when you’re not even thinking about what you’re doing but, at the same time, it’s all consuming. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an artist or not, just making shapes and seeing what comes out is freeing and therapeutic – what it looks like doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re doing it.abstract lyric drawing
  3. Drink a cup of tea. The ritual of boiling water, spooning out your tea leaves, letting them steep, and then holding a warm cup is so cozy and comforting. It forces you to slow down and move in tea time, and the health benefits of tea are myriad. As my former employer, tea from Ku Cha is my favorite – their Ginger Puerh is great for detoxing the body, Vanilla Rooibos is like a warm, creamy hug, and all the herbal blends are A1.
  4. My mind is sometimes too active, and writing helps me untangle all my thoughts, sorting through feelings and realizations so I can make sense of it all. Journaling is the first step and then, who knows, once you’ve sorted through the first level you might try other forms.marble writer's notebook and pen
  5. Buy yourself some flowers. Yesterday on my way home from work I passed a beautiful flower shop and could not stop myself from going in. I was thrilled to leave with two gorgeous flowers for the equivalent of a single American dollar. I know flowers aren’t this cheap everywhere, but, if you can get your hands on even one, it’s like bringing a ray of sunshine into your home. And every time you look at it, you smile, remembering that you bought it for yourself – it’s like a little love note, a little celebration of who you are.vase of flowers
  6. Take a deep breath. One is never enough for me, so I like to meditate or do yoga. These things keep me calm, intentional, and in touch – with my body, my life, the world, with everything.
  7. Read a book. A nice little escape from reality.
  8. Take a walk. Getting the body moving is always a good way to go, and if you let yourself take your time, just wander around, you never know what you’ll stumble on.
  9. Smile. Instant gratification.
  10. Look in the mirror and say, “I love you. You’re beautiful.” It might feel silly at first, but, I swear, it works wonders.
  11. Take yourself out to dinner. Notice it’s not the eating that is the self-care here, it’s the act of taking yourself out. Maybe you go see a play or a concert – whatever. It’s fun to get dressed up, leave the house, and enjoy something nice.
  12. Play a musical instrument. I go for the piano, and every time I sit down I feel so calmly empty after I play. Like I just left all my emotions in the music. It’s a beautiful thing. Here I don’t have a piano, but there’s a street of music stores behind my apartment, and I stop in and play their pianos when I have a craving.
  13. Cook or bake. Maybe it’s from working in a kitchen or baking a lot growing up, but I find these so relaxing. Something about chopping vegetables or stirring up some batter calms me down.

I could go on for days, but these are some of my favorites. They’re all pretty easy, don’t require much equipment, and are a great treat for your soul. Because you deserve it. Really. And you can’t give much to others if you’re running on empty yourself. These are all also great alternatives to any addictive behaviors you might be trying to cut out, from smoking a cigarette to eating too much pizza.

What are some of your self-care rituals? Please comment down below; I’d love some new ideas!

Love, calm, & care –

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I Left on a Jet Plane

Guess what? I live in China now. I’ll post about my apartment, the Siberian cold, and all that jazz later, but for now – how do I travel? I like to streamline, so in any packing situation I try to take as few things that will serve me in as many ways as possible. I checked my bags, so I challenged myself with filling my little backpack effectively. When you’re facing 17+ hours of flight time, you gotta consider entertainment, hygiene, nourishment, and, of course, comfort.

leather backpack

I found this genuine leather gem on Amazon for $30.

Entertainment

I’m not a huge magazine reader in general, but when I’m waiting to board a flight or only mentally awake enough for something small, a magazine is just the thing. This issue of The Economist is bangin, and is educating me on current events around the world from a perspective I’ve always loved and understood.

delta airlines seatback pocket entertainment

I love the feeling of a novel in my hands, but, given overseas move, I had to give in and get a kindle. It took me a minute to get used to it, but now I love it – it’s convenient, has that flat screen that doesn’t punish your eyes, and makes underlining and looking up words a breeze. I started Hesse’s Demian on the flight, have since finished it, and, as usual am impressed by Hesse’s wisdom. I could say a lot more about him as a writer, but I’ll leave that for another post. If you want a coming of age novel that is grounded in reality but isn’t afraid to get wacky, this would be a good choice.

stack of books notebook headphones poetry

When it comes to books, I always like a sampling – poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. A good friend got me that copy of e e cummings’ poetry in Paris, and I take a juicy bite out of that every now and then. My other constant companion is my pocket Emily Dickinson. Both of these poets require a a little chewing and have pretty short poems, so they’re perfect when you need a quick burst of flavor. I haven’t begun Wages of Rebellion yet, but it’s a history of revolutions around the world, so I’m amped about starting it.

The long flight had a fantastic selection of movies, and I watched Citizen Kane, Suited – a documentary about Bindle & Keep, a custom suiting company with a focus on fitting the growing trans population, and a Ted talk on the Chinese Zodiac. I wanted to watch All the President’s Men, too, but sleep overtook me.

Fold-up, noise cancelling headphones are a must, and I brought my laptop, too – it’s light, and I didn’t want it getting flung around in my checked luggage. And, of course, I don’t go anywhere without my notebook and pen. I got this notebook at The Strand in New York a couple months ago, and the cover is so soft.

Hygiene

Flights make me feel gross. So these are my tools to combat that – cleansing water, dry shampoo, unscented lotion and deodorant, toothbrush, and toothpaste. I also had chapstick in my pocket. Taking a minute to cleanse between flights really makes a difference for my mood. Call me crazy, but I just hate walking around with that layer of greasy recycled air on my face all day. And it’s still serving me well because Delta lost my baggage, and I spent two full days with nothing but this backpack.

cleansing water unscented deodorant hygiene easy airport airplane

Mini glass bottle courtesy of an olive oil sample set #irecycle.

I like a sleep mask, too, because you never know when they’ll turn the cabin lights on, or if the person next to you won’t close the window. All this fits perfectly in a little travel case from a United business class flight that a friend of mine took.travel pouch sleep mask

Nourishment

I pack as much food as I can when I’m out because I never like to be caught without a snack, and, since I can’t eat dairy, my options can be limited. I brought apple slices and a mix of nuts and seeds and, of course, water. I also brought chocolate, because I’ve been raised as a human woman. They served a lot of food on the flight, and my body was confused and I ate at such weird times, but I think it went as well as it could.

bring your own healthy airplane snacks

Sparkling water, apples, nuts.

Comfort

Black is my favorite, especially in the colder months. Don’t tell anyone, but all my underwear is blush pink and lacey! It’s a fun secret. I like to be able to move freely with nothing pinching my body parts, but I also don’t like to look schlumpy.

in flight outfit comfort ease black selfie

Please excuse my face; I just flew halfway around the world.

A turtleneck keeps my neck warm, black jeans are roomy and fitted at the same time, scrunched down over-the-knee socks warm my ankles and keep the jeans from bunching at my knees, Clarks loafers are beautiful and oh-so-orthopedic. I layered with my beanie, scarf, and cashmere sweater because I like to wear blankets and call it style.

cashmere sweater J Crew beanie scarf warm airplane

If you must know, I took this in an airport bathroom stall.

Time keeping is essential, so I wear a watch that I take off during flights. I don’t wear much jewelry ever, so I wore my only pair of earrings and a couple rings as I would any other day.

menswear watch bold face black outfit

Timex. Target. Just watch.

A good night’s sleep and a morning workout have bolstered me against jet lag, and, sitting in my very own apartment with my view of Harbin’s 20 story apartment buildings, I’m feeling ready.

Love, calm, and care –