What I’m Focusing On This February : Resolutions 2018

Girl Standing in a Doorway Sweater and Jeans

Hey all! As I mentioned in this post, I’m doing my New Years resolutions a little bit differently this year: instead of making one huge (and likely unattainable) goal for the year, I’m breaking down each month into smaller goals. Makes sense, right? January was my first month giving this a go so I’ve got a little recap of how things went and then I’m sharing what made the cut for February. Check it out!

Girl Standing in a Doorway Sweater and Jeans

Sunglasses: Ray Ban , Sweater: Vintage Escada by Margaretha Ley , Jeans: Urban Outfitters (last worn here) , Shoes: Adidas Stan Smith

 

First things first: I need to check in with my January resolutions. A couple went pretty well, while the others I think I’m going to revisit in some form or another for February…

Start journaling regularly again. I did this! I’m not at my full three pages every morning, but I’m at least sitting down to write for a little bit each day. I’m not going to keep it as a resolution for next month because it’s something I’m already in the habit of doing, but I’m happy I got back on the wagon.

Drink more tea. I also did this! I’ve been really intentional about cutting down on my caffeine intake this month by switching to tea, decaf, or half-caf. It’s nice to have an alcohol-free option that still feels like I’m taking time to unwind. I’m not totally seeing the effects on my anxiety and sleep patterns that I was hoping to, but I have noticed how much more jittery I get if I do have regular, so obviously something’s going on. I’ve got a giant tub of half-caf Folger’s in my cupboard, so I don’t think I need to keep reminding myself to do this in February.

Be more consistent with my blog posts. I’m still working on this one. I got a couple of posts out that I feel really good about – particularly my Marie Kondo one – but I think working more on the blog and social media in general is going to be something I keepcoming back to. I like this as a first step, though. It really is about getting into the habit of making content and thinking ahead (that’s the part I’m not so great at). More to come on this front.

Read more instead of watching TV. I had a couple of great days – and even finished a book! – but generally this is another one I can do better on. The last few days I’ve put on some music (Ella Fitzgerald Spotify radio) and read while eating dinner and that’s gone really well! I’m also a really big momentum person when it comes to reading. I finished a book yesterday and started another today, so I’m hoping this will put me in a good spot to get some good reading done in February, too. Carrying this one over into February because I think I can do better.

Overall, I feel pretty good about my first month of smaller resolutions! I like that they’re action-oriented and I can actually do them. Those little wins make a big difference! I’m still feeling pretty motivated, so I’ve laid out a few things to work on next month…

Here are a few things I want to focus on in February:

Don’t look at my phone first thing in the morning. Every morning the first thing I do is reach for my phone and go on Instagram. Honestly, I do it because looking at a screen helps wake me up, but I don’t love how I feel looking at social media first thing in the morning. I like having a quiet, reflective morning routine and reading the news or checking Twitter just sort of bums me out, ya know? I’ve been threatening for ages to get an alarm clock instead, so maybe the time is now.

Scroll through Instagram less. Another social media related one and this one is going to be a hard habit to break. How often have I gone on my phone to check the weather or an email and I end up scrolling through Instagram for five minutes? Spoiler: at least five times a day. If I’m just hanging out watching the Bachelor that’s one thing, but I’d like to cut down on the mindless scrolling I do getting ready in the morning, on my lunch break, and just whenever I have down time. I’m in pretty deep with this one, but it’s worth a try.

Stick to my editorial calendar. Last month I tried to be more consistent with my posts and I did okay, but I’d like to keep improving here. The challenge for me is thinking ahead – I get so into whatever post I’m working on right now that I don’t think about what’s next. Then my momentum sinks and it’s hard to pick it up again. I’ve put together editorial calendars in the past, but this month my goal is to take it seriously. Setting deadlines for myself has been a constant challenge for me, but it’s time to step up and keep the ball rolling on here.

Meditate. I’ve had two or three meditation apps sitting on my phone for almost a year now and have used them… once? Maybe? I always make excuses as to why I don’t meditate (I’m too tired I would just fall asleep, I don’t want to pay for a subscription to the app, I already go to yoga, etc.), but whenever I have tried it consistently I’ve loved it. A blogger I follow has done it for 100 days straight and says its really helped her anxiety, too. Worth a shot!

Reading more consistently. Bringing this one back for another go!

I’ll report back at the end of February with how things have gone! I think a few of these are going to require a little bit of research into techniques that work or apps that can be helpful, so I’ll post all of that come March. If you have any advice for my February resolutions, I’d love to hear!

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My Game Plan for Surviving the Autumn Blues

It happened all at once, didn’t it? Suddenly it’s that time of year when the days are shorter and the nights are dark and quiet. Even living in the heart of Madison the mood is starting to shift – kids wrapped up in sweatshirts instead of cruising in tank tops, coming in early and staying in often. I love the bittersweet feel of fall and it’s relief from the exhausting summer heat, but I also get the fear around this time of year, too. I’m dreading those long winter nights and my skin is already craving Vitamin D.

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan, especially when it comes to self care. So, I’ve decided to strategize my fight against the autumn blues and share some ways I’ll be embracing the season and focusing on the positive this fall.

Lean Into the Season

There are actually so many fun fall things to do, but I think I get so hung up on the fact that it isn’t summer anymore that I automatically rule them out. This year I want to get my head out of my ass and go out and do things! Here’s an abridged list of fall activities previously neglected over the years, but will hopefully be making a comeback:

  • Apple picking – Classic!
  • Pumpkin carving – We actually hosted a pumpkin carving competition at my house in high school once and it was hilarious – but alas haven’t touched a pumpkin since.
  • Making mulled wine – I got into this last year in Ireland because it was always so dreary and it’s so delicious and easy. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any other weekend when you’re laying around drinking all day.
  • Haunted house/hayride/literally anything Halloween related – Confession: I hate Halloween. I don’t know what it is about the holiday, but I’ve avoided it for years. I think I’ve dressed up like twice since I was 18? I’m not committing to dressing up for the actual day, but I will go out of my comfort zone and do something spooky.
  • Tailgating – Anyone who knows me well is probably laughing at this one because I don’t sports. I like hockey and that’s about it. Football has always mystified me. But what’s not to like about day drinking with your friends, right? It’s not like I can avoid it living in Madison, anyhow. You know what they say: if you can beat them, drink with them.
  • Baking – What’s cozier than a hot oven and a tray full of fresh chocolate chip cookies or a crispy pumpkin pie? Probably only the womb.

 

Get Outside (Even When It’s Cold)

Working a 9-5 job during the winter means you don’t get a lot of exposure to the sun, especially when you’re in a windowless office like I am. So, this year I’ve set a goal of getting myself outside and into some sunshine at least once a day, even if it’s for 5 minutes. I’d really like to get in the habit of taking a walk at lunch time every day – it’s just so nice to get my eyes off a computer screen for a few minutes – and I think getting outdoors will help keep me sane.

On the weekends, too, I’d like to do a better job at not only hibernating in my apartment with Netflix and red wine. Although this is totally necessary sometimes, I’d like to go for walks along the lake, keep up my running a bit, and maybe even go for a hike in one of the nearby state parks if I’m feeling ambitious. If I can get myself outdoors more often in the fall, hopefully I can fend off cabin fever longer in the winter. Stay tuned.

Take Up Old Hobbies

Nothing feels better than doing something you’re good at. As part of my journey back into my creative life, I signed up for an Improvisational Dance class through the Continued Studies program here at UW – Madison. This may seem random, but I actually did a lot of movement and dance improvisation and composition in college. My theater major was very physical theater focused and I had the equivalent of a dance minor by the time I graduated so this is very much my element.

I haven’t been in a studio in years, though, so I decided to jump back in and take this class. Although I’m still warming up to the new surroundings and dance partners, it feels great to be back in my body again. I forget how freeing it feels and how easy it is for me to get in the improvisational zone. I think reawakening old skills will be a refreshing addition to my fall workout schedule and remind me that new beginnings can happen at any time of year.

Hygge the Shit Out of My Apartment

You’ve probably seen the hygge sensation sweep the hipster internet over the last couple of years – the Danish obsession with getting cozy. The whole premise is that winter doesn’t seem so bad when you find a way to revel in the comforts of the indoors. And that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m talking candles, tea, fuzzy socks, furry blankets, and old jazz music- it’s gonna be hyyge nation, bitches! To be fair, Denmark is probably hygge nation but I’ll take a close second.

I loved adding little touches to apartment for summer – light summer linens, fresh farmer’s market flowers, a continuous supply of vodka lemonade – so I think doing the same for winter will be sweet. It’s amazing what a Target run for candles and a fresh pair of flannel sheets can do for a girl. I’d also like to grab a few extra cozy sweaters and a new pair of shearling slippers for those frosty mornings. Feeling warm and fuzzy inside already.

The biggest part of hyggeing (?) for me, though, is definitely food. I love baking during the winter. There’s nothing better than a big glass of red wine, an old movie on TV, and a batch of cookies in the oven. It’s so heartwarming and lovely. I’ve also gotten into soup and stew making over the last two years. I made this stew, which is still one of my favorites, on a whim in Dublin and it quickly became my favorite meal to make. It felt great to have a hot, thick stew at the end of cold, wet day. I don’t have a crockpot yet, but this may be the year I take the plunge. Recipe suggestion welcome.

Make Plans And Keep Them

We’ve all been there: it’s 7pm on a winter night. You’ve made plans to meet up with a friend, but you just warmed up in your apartment after a long day so you cancel. Whenever I see a meme about the revelry of cancelled plans it’s like looking in a mirror. Although I know this will be inevitable sometimes, I want to push myself to go out more, even when it’s obnoxiously cold. Or better yet, invite friends to come to me – I’ve been threatening to start a book club for the better part of a year now so maybe the time is now.

It’s easy to feel isolated in the winter time. Madison is amazing in the summer because you can leave the house and there’s a million things going on, but in the winter it’s a ghost town. Everyone goes into hibernation and it’s tough to feel social. This will most likely be the hardest part of my plan, but I’d like to do better at initiating plans and following through with them, even if I’m not in the mood at first. More often than not I end up having a great time and I’m glad that I got out of the house, which in the winter is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Are you looking forward to winter? Or are we in the same boat dreading fall? If you have any favorite fall activities, especially in the Madison area, definitely let me know! Give me fewer and fewer excuses to stay in and be a total bum this fall, please.

Also, if you’re feeling hopeless or lonely with fall starting always feel free to reach out to those around you – send me a message, make plans with friend or family member, or call an organization that can help you through a tough time. It’s so important to take care of yourself in the winter months.

Sending love, friends!

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Five Ways I Made This a Self Care Summer

This summer I made a promise to myself to focus on me. The last year has been really tough: moving to a new city, starting a really technical job, living alone, meeting new friends, fully supporting myself financially for the first time. It’s been a lot.

I’m a firm believer in self care. I think it’s important to know yourself well enough to know what you need and do what you can to get it. So, when things started to feel like too much I knew I needed to focus on myself and get a self care game plan together.

I wanted to share a few things I did this summer to help me work through all these changes and to talk about my strategies for being kind and honest with myself. But remember, it’s different for everyone – you know yourself best!

I started writing every morning.

After numerous recommendations, I started The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a week-by-week program of self-reflection and building your confidence as an artist. One of it’s main tenants is what Cameron calls Morning Pages: the first thing you do every morning is write 3 handwritten pages about absolutely anything. I actually love it.

I’ve tried other morning routines over the past year (timed writing, working out, meditation) and none of them have stuck. I’m going on month 3 of morning pages, though, and I actually look forward to them every day! I’ll do a whole review of the book once I’m done, but this part at least I’ve really enjoyed.

I set a workout schedule.

For me, working out and taking care of my body is a big part of self care. I think sometimes people misinterpret self care as letting yourself do whatever you want, but I think it’s almost the opposite – you have to be your own advocate and part of that is doing what’s best, not necessarily what’s fun.

I used to only workout when I felt like it – when I was upset or couldn’t sleep or wanted to get outside. But I’ve started getting into a regular schedule and it’s made me so much happier: hot yoga on Tuesday and Saturday, HIIT class on Wednesday, and a long run on Sunday. I’ve stopped feeling bad for not working out because I find myself going so much more consistently. Of course I’m not always psyched to go, but it’s easier to get motivated when it’s a habit.

I also set a goal for the end of the summer: I’m running a half marathon in September! I haven’t run one in a couple of years so I’m excited to get back out there. I’m up to my 8-mile run (in case you missed my Eminem related insta story) and it’s actually going really well! It’s nice to have a reason to get outside even when the weather is starting to get cold. I’ll keep you guys updated!

I stopped traveling.

This spring I was all over the place – literally. I was in Florida in March, Dublin in April, Japan in May, and bouncing back and forth from Madison to Chicago every other weekend. I went 2 months without spending a single weekend in Madison. I love traveling, but it was too much. So, once things slowed down I told myself I was going to stay put for the summer and I’m so glad I did.

Madison rocks in the summer. The weather is gorgeous, there are always events going on, everyone is out and about – it’s just total Midwest summer bliss. I got to settle into my apartment and get into a routine, which made the introvert part of me really happy. I hung out with friends, hosted family, and took on personal projects – it’s amazing the time you have when you’re note spending up to 10 hours in a car every weekend. It was totally the right decision for my sanity.

I made fun plans during the week.

In case I haven’t talked to you in a while, full disclosure: I’m not crazy about my job. It’s pretty technical (especially as arts major) and with entrepreneurs for parents I’m not a great fit for corporate culture. All this to say – getting through the week can be tough. I’ve never understood the phrase Thank God It’s Friday quite like I do now.

So, to make the work week a little more pleasant I started doing fun stuff on week nights. Nothing crazy – I’m at least a responsible corporate drone – but I started injecting small doses of joy into my otherwise dull nights. I became a regular at a local bar that showed The Bachelorette every Monday night and recruited some friends to join me. We ended up getting super into it, especially because the fan favorite was from Madison (#TeamPeter), and it was such a fun, goofy way to start the week.

I’ve gone to outdoor concerts alone, dragged friends to local feminist group meetups, and treated myself to after work drinks at restaurants I’ve been meaning to try. It’s felt good to reclaim my weeknight time and remember that fun doesn’t only exist on the weekend.

I got help.

This is the piece of the puzzle that I think made the most difference for me: I got a therapist. I’m a big advocate for therapy – I saw a therapist for years in college and I credit that experience for so many important breakthroughs in my outlook and behavior. For me, talking through things with someone who is focused on helping me create actionable, positive change in my life is so helpful.

I know for many therapy is a luxury – it can be expensive and inaccessible – but if you are struggling, see what your options are. I’m really lucky and my health insurance actually covers mental health services (so unusual, unfortunately) and I started seeing a therapist earlier this year. She’s the best and has helped me to work through this huge adjustment period in my life.

I always try to be really transparent with people about my experience with therapy because I think it can help so many people. Whether it’s work stress or relationship problems or something more serious, there’s no bad or silly reason to talk to somebody. I know when I’m in a bad place and therapy has always been that first step to feeling better. And it’s at least worth a shot, right? 🙂

The Result

It’s felt really good to check in with myself again after all the craziness of the last year. I know I won’t always have the luxury of totally focusing on myself and my own needs so I’m glad I can appreciate it while it’s right in front of me. This time has helped my think about what’s next for me in my life and I’m starting to get a game plan together, which is really exciting and empowering.

It’s honestly kind of fun to get to know myself as an adult and I have to say, I’m pretty proud of who I am! I’ve made some difficult decisions in the last year and have come out strong on the other side. I actively make joy in my own life, even when it’s hard. I have agency and push myself to keep doing what’s best for me – and that’s what self care is all about.

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