“So, what’s going on?”

That was the opening line of my first talk therapy session as an adult. And while that is very much a loaded question, it is one that we have been unpacking over the past few weeks. It’s been emotional and frustrating and liberating and everything in between.

When I was a teenager, I had a single talk therapy session and I hated every second of it. It was uncomfortable. I thought to myself about how I wasn’t crazy, I wasn’t destructive, I didn’t need this. My poor therapist was trying to have me open up and I tried to hold face against this stranger. My physical reaction to anger is crying, so at the very end of the session all I felt was an overwhelming tug-of-war between resistance and failure. I never wanted to come back.

In my adulthood, I’ve lost my intense hatred for therapy and subsequently let go of any stigma I’ve kept with me. There are people in my life that have benefited from therapy. There are friends and acquaintances who have studied to become therapists. And while I’ve heard that finding a therapist is a lot like dating in that you don’t always find one right away that suits you personally, so far I find it beneficial.

I started talk therapy sessions and learned about CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) because there are a lot of issues that I haven’t dealt with — most likely because, despite how self-aware I try to be, I am also extremely conflict-avoidant. I even told my therapist how unfortunate it is that we eventually have to talk about said issues (which is the whole point, I guess).

Here is the thing – I am also a daughter, a big sister, a girlfriend and a friend. And more than anything in the world, I want to be the best versions of those roles to the people that I love. But there are roadblocks that I’ve been trying to plow through the past couple years that can affect my own mental state or my relationships. You know, looking straight ahead, but sort of walking in place. Therapy is a way for me to figure out that the roadblocks are there and how to move those roadblocks out of the way or maneuver myself around them. My therapist alluded to the possibility of demolishing the roadblocks into tiny dust particles one day! (He was not using this analogy, so I am definitely not quoting him.)

So far I’ve learned that working on yourself takes a lot of time, effort, patience and self-forgiveness – but hey, it’s a start. If there is anyone out there that is hesitant to get professional help because of the stigma or fear, I hope you are able to conquer it. Therapy is not a be-all-end-all by any means, but it may help give you the tools you need and guide you in the direction you want to go. The point of this blog was for me to intentionally take care of myself this year and this may be the most drastic, yet most helpful thing I’ve done so far.

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courage ernest hemingway

April: My Month of Courage

“Courage is grace under pressure.” – Ernest Hemingway

I have never described myself as someone who is courageous. In fact, it is probably the reason why I never identify with most protagonists in fantasy novels that exude this quality all too often. I’m quite the opposite — an overthinker, an observer, hesitant and nervous, very much a side character.

But then I discovered this quote by Ernest Hemingway and it really resonated with me. Courage doesn’t have to be persevering against danger or being completely fearless. Instead, this quote redefines courage for me in a way that I feel like I can actually accomplish. Courage can be thought of as a sense of calm and poise in a situation where you actually feel scared. Staying composed and aware of a situation is something I can strive for instead of trying to rid myself of all my fears.

It is a very fitting theme for April. I have already started to push myself out of my comfort zone. Yesterday, my sisters invited me to hike Devil’s Punch Bowl, which was the most challenging hike I have experienced. Despite my fear of public speaking, I have a beginners calligraphy class in the works with the public library. But most importantly, I am experiencing the transition of leaving the safety of a job I held for four and a half years and starting over in a new career.

If anything, now is the perfect time to be courageous. I know that my fear and anxiety won’t magically disappear, but I’ll try to take a deep breath and do my best to be graceful.

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Bullet Journal February Update Watercolor Prima Marketing Pastel Dreams Self Care

Bullet Journal: February Update

February is here and I am so excited! I have a lot of events lined up, including my Galentine’s dates, supporting my friends and our first trip to Florida for Diagon Alley and Disneyworld. It is our four year anniversary this month as well. Just looking at the “Important Dates” on my monthly spread gives me butterflies!

But if I learned anything from my burnout in December, it is that my ability to have a social life and a creative life in addition to working in customer service is very dependent on taking care of myself and carving out time to reset. So in order to make sure I can genuinely enjoy the month of February, I incorporated gratitude, water intake, journaling and meditation into my bullet journal.

I need my daily gratitude tracker (you can see what it looks like in my October spread). Some days I feel like I can go on and on about what I am thankful for. But on the days where I struggle to find anything at all is when I need the perspective change the most. It reminds me of how fortunate I am on good and bad days, which is important for self-awareness.

Since I am using WaterMinder to track how much water I drink, I can see the percentage of my water intake goal of 60 ounces. I record it into my bullet journal before I go to sleep or when I wake up in the morning, which holds me accountable and gets me motivated for the next day.

I am also passively tracking the last two habits: Journaling and using Headspace, a meditation app. Instead of having an indicator on each day for these habits, I am going to mark the days when I have done either. At the end of the month, I will see how well I did and if I really do need a daily tracker for it in March. This is my first time passively tracking a habit, so I am intrigued to know if it will be helpful or if I will forget to do it completely.

If you are incorporating anything new into your bullet journal this month or have any tried-and-true trackers, please share with me! I love hearing and trying out how other people organize and motivate themselves (I usually tweak it to match my lifestyle). Even if it’s not with a bullet journal, I would love to hear how you plan on organizing the month of February!

Paints: Prima Marketing 590253 Watercolor Confections: Pastel Dreams
Journal: Moleskine Watercolor Album Sketchbook – 5″x8″ (Spanish Edition)

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My 2018 To-Read List

Every year I get really excited about all the reading I want to get done in the new year. I usually set a numeric goal and some years I meet it and some years I don’t. However, as I mentioned in my last post, I learned that I need to disconnect more often, which means I am determined to carve out more reading time for myself. If reading is an activity that nourishes my soul and makes me feel at ease, I need to prioritize it.

This year, I already have a handful of books I want to read. I thought I would share the titles that I am most excited about reading in 2018:

The HobbitThe Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

If you knew me in my younger years, you would know that I was almost inseparable from my massive copy of the trilogy when I was a teenager. I am already almost done with The Fellowship of the Rings and even as an adult, it still fills me with wonder. This is a series that is so special to me and I genuinely feel that magic when I pick up his work.

The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns

Dr. Burns is known for his cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and anxiety in his book Feeling Good. However, I decided to jump straight to the workbook because it allows me to be more involved with the reading. So far it is very practical and applicable, which I am grateful for.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Dennis and I were supposed to read this together last year, but I fell behind! It’s been some time since Dennis and I read the same book, so I am excited to share the experience with him.

Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection by Sharon Salzberg

I am new to mindfulness and find it challenging, but effective (when I remember to practice it). It has started to trickle into different areas of my life, especially work, and I was curious to know if mindfulness could affect my relationships with my loved ones. I found this title and I can’t wait to learn more about this other facet of mindfulness.

Each of these books spark joy for me (shout out to Marie Kondo!). Whether it is a self-improvement title or a fantasy book that can whisk me away from the real world, I believe each title will contribute to my own self-care and self-love this year. Plus, I can’t wait to share any lessons that I take away from these books.

If you have read any of these titles, please let me know your thoughts. Also, what books are you planning on reading in 2018? Do you have any book recommendations for me? Happy reading!

 

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My Own Take On Self-Affirmations

Self-loving affirmations are difficult for me. No matter how hard I try, I can’t look in the mirror and tell myself, “I am enough” or “I am beautiful.” My default mindset is to look in the mirror and figure out what I can work on to be better. In other words, I have a negative focus with a positive vibe. It’s tricky. So when I look in the mirror to try and say, “I am pure beauty,” I will tack on, “If I work on my skincare regimen” or, “But my anxiety makes me less beautiful, especially on the inside.” I have always struggled with the “fake it ’till you make it” mindset in other aspects of my life, so it is no surprise that I can’t fake myself into believing these affirmations.

I was the type of student who learned from taking notes and making piles of flashcards, so I tried writing affirmations over and over. But I could not shake the image of Harry Potter writing, “I must not tell lies” in Order of the Phoenix. And even though that comparison is silly, I still could not believe what I was writing.

I did not want to give up on affirmations. You can’t go wrong with positive statements about yourself. I knew I was just having a difficult time identifying what worked best for me.

Then I found it! I started using affirmations as journal prompts. It required me to write out the statement to assert it into my memory, but then I just delved in and asked myself some questions:

  • What does this affirmation look like in real life?
  • Why don’t I believe in this affirmation? More importantly, is that reason out of my control, in the past or an external force?
  • OR! Why do I believe this? What is the truth in this affirmation?
  • How would I benefit from believing in this affirmation?
  • Do I want to believe in this affirmation?
  • What can I do [today/this week/this month] to believe in this affirmation?

Some words of advice from Jen Sincero in her book You Are A Badass, “This can’t be just rattling off nonsense-you have to feel it and want it and get worked up by it in order for it to work.” For me, being able to take an affirmation and play around with it like a rubix cube, really gets me involved and helps me find the practicality in self-loving affirmations.

I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with affirmations. Do you have any favorite self-loving affirmations or affirmation practices?

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Watercolor Paints - The Arrive Hotel - Palm Springs, CA - Processed through VSCO

Learning to Relax on Vacation

The idea of mindfulness is great. It makes complete sense to be in the moment and not worry about something that already happened or may or may not happen in the future. My logical brain knows this. But in terms of my own practice, mindfulness is way easier said than done.

My thoughts are tethered to rumination and worry. I am constantly bouncing between wondering if I should have acted differently in a scenario that has already happened or thinking of what I should do if a certain scenario happens tomorrow. So when we went on our vacation to Palm Springs to “relax”, I had a difficult time at first. I wanted to pick out what we were going to eat for dinner the next day, find out what time check-out was and I hoped work was going smoothly without me there. Dennis’ mission was to make sure I relaxed for three consecutive days. We had only been there for a day and my mind was running all over the place.

We decided to hang out in a cabana by the pool for a couple hours to wind down and hopefully get me into the vacation mindset. The weather was perfect for lounging around, but I still found myself feeling antsy. I looked around and loved that our hotel (The Arrive Hotel) had such a beautiful, asymmetric design. I loved that the modern architecture was in this valley, surrounded by desert mountains and plants. Then I remembered I brought my watercolor travel paint set and my bullet journal! I went up to the room to get my supplies and came back as quickly as I could. I decided to stare straight ahead at my favorite part of the hotel and started painting.

This was a game changer for me. It was probably cheating in terms of mindfulness because I was physically doing something instead of just taking in the scenery. But it allowed me to focus on what was around me. It gave me a reason to look at the clouds in the sky and how the shadows played on the buildings.

By the time I finished painting, I felt at ease and, at the same time, I captured a wonderful memory of our time in Palm Springs. I am definitely going to try this practice again when Dennis and I go to Mexico in a couple weeks. If it makes me feel as calm as it did for this trip, I think I’ve finally found my own way of “relaxing” on vacation.

Paints:Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box

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Face Masks Mindfulness Tool - Lush Soo Ae Pure Body Natural

Face Masks: A Mindfulness Tool

Imagine cool mud painted on your face with sliced cucumbers on your eyes as you are snuggled comfortably in a white robe with a glass of white wine in hand. The pinnacle of relaxation.

I used to think that face masks were something you could only get done at a resort spa while you were on vacation, which meant it was an activity completely out of my fingertips 99% of the year. But then I moved to Korea.  While I was learning about this new culture, I was introduced to daily moisturizing face masks. A friend showed me a face mask made of egg whites. It was a white circle with holes cut out for your eyes, nose and mouth and it looked frighteningly close to the Scream mask from the horror films. I tried it on, felt silly and even laughed a bit. But after I got used to the feeling, I enjoyed relaxing. In those 10 minutes, I really tried to feel calm and stay present. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised that I had such a calming experience in my apartment.

Since then, K-Beauty has spread everywhere and face masks are readily accessible. You can find them in whatever price range you can afford at beauty shops, general stores or online. There are even recipes to make your own face masks at home!

Here are some tips for using face masks as a self-care tool:

  1. Schedule it into your routine. Face masks only take 10-15 minutes. My #1 excuse for not practicing self-care is that I am too busy or too tired. But if I can squeeze 10 minutes into my night routine after a rough day at work or in the morning before I get ready for the day, I feel grateful for doing so.
  2. Be still. Try not to get distracted while you have your face mask on. It is easy to try and do other tasks around the house. Instead, have a seat or lie down and focus on how you feel in the moment. What sensations do you feel? What are the sounds going on around you? Take the 10 minutes to wind down and calm any distracting thoughts. If meditation is not your thing, try journaling about your experience for 10 minutes.
  3. Change it up. Once you get into the habit of using your face masks mindfully, try to change up the types of masks. I love trying out new masks with different ingredients and functions. I stay excited to use my face masks, which means I am less likely to push it off “until next time.”
  4. Share the love. Part of my own self-care is relational self-care, which includes maintaining my close relationships. I discovered this practice through a friend and now I love giving them as gifts or even doing face masks as bonding time with my sisters. The Birth of Venus mask by Lush in the photo was a present from a friend and I appreciated it as reminder to take some time for myself!

Face masks were my first form of physical self-care and has found its way into my weekly routine. It changed my first impression of self-care. Instead of pampering yourself as a shallow luxury, I now think of face masks as a way to take care of myself as an enriching experience for mindfulness.

Products in Featured Photo:

Pure Body Naturals’ Pure Body Naturals Purifying Dead Sea Mud Mask Facial Treatment, 8.8 Ounce

Lush’s Birth of Venus $13.95

Soo Ae’s Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask $2.50

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