“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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Five Steps to Better Skin Care

One thing I find so common when I talk to my friends is our struggle with our skin. In 2013, I experienced hormonal cystic acne when I was going through a lot of major life changes.  There was a concentration underneath my right eye, which made me extremely uncomfortable to make eye contact while talking to anyone.  Eventually as my life seemed to settle down, my cystic acne did, too.

However, my acne still flares up, usually due to stress or my cycle. I still feel self-conscious of my skin because of the scarring. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without makeup on even if it is just to run errands. I need to say as a disclaimer that I love makeup and believe it is very empowering. However, there is something about not feeling 100% confident in the skin on your face that can really dampen how you feel about yourself. I’m not trying to quit makeup because I love learning about it and I find it fun. Instead, my goal is to feel better about the skin I am using as a canvas.

Until recently, I have not really put skin care to the forefront of my mind aside from which cleansers and moisturizers I use. I want to share what changes I’ve made to improve my skin and I plan on writing an update in the next couple of weeks.

  1. Hydration
    I do not like drinking water at all, but I do love the feeling of checking something off a to-do list. I started using an app called WaterMinder which satiates that feeling of completing a task and also forces me to stay hydrated. It gives you a daily goal and you log in what you drink. My personal goal is to get 100% at least twice a week.
  2. Exercise
    Since the beginning of January I have started to train for a 10K and have honestly dreaded doing so. However, I have felt a noticeable difference in my acne. While the scarring is still there, the bumps have gone down and my skin feels smoother. I feel less stressed throughout the day and sweating seems to do my skin some good as long as I cleanse and exfoliate my face after.
  3. Nightly Routine
    A quick google search on skin care and the words “retinoids” (aka Vitamin A) and “hyaluronic acid” (HA) will give you the most positive feedback. Hyaluronic acid is an intense moisturizer, while retinoids encourages skin cell turnover, leading to improvements in acne, scarring, fine lines and wrinkles. You should definitely talk to a dermatologist to find out what the best strategy is for your skin. I incorporated both into my night routine with The Ordinary’s The No-Brainer Set. Again, it takes a while to find out if a new product really gels with your skin, so I’ll write an update post. So far, I love the product. Plus, I just really enjoy having a nightly routine to help me wind down for bed.
  4. Exfoliating
    My cousin gave me Frank Body Peppermint Coffee Scrubfor Christmas last year and I have been obsessed ever since. Exfoliating every other day is great and definitely after you exercise to make sure all that sweat doesn’t clog your pores. It leaves your skin feeling unbelievably soft. Plus, if you love liquid lipsticks as much as I do, it is a great way to keep your lips looking healthy as well.
  5. Face Masks
    This is a double whammy that barely needs any explanation at all. Not only are you hydrating your skin, but it is calming. I’ve written about how to use masks as a mindfulness tool. Decreasing your mental stress is so helpful for your physical body.

I know that these five tips are not revolutionary, but it has been a step in the right direction for me. I can’t wait to write my follow up post on this topic. I might even write a couple more updates throughout the year. If you have any skin care tips or products that you love, please share them with me!

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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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three lessons from the common cold fellow lemon ginger tea home remedies recipes

Three Lessons from the Common Cold

If you read my previous post on my holiday burnout, you’ll understand that I was over the moon to have a real weekend off with Dennis for the first time since November.  Of course, my body had other plans. I had pushed myself too hard during the holidays and it all caught up with me. I spent half of the weekend bundled up, congested and passed out on the couch.

If you know me in person, you will know that I am a complete baby when it comes to being sick. I don’t want to do anything at all, have no appetite whatsoever and will lug around a mini pharmacy with me wherever I go. Now that my head is feeling a little less cloudy, I am going to share what I learned about myself.

  • I need to rest. While a huge thanks goes to Nyquil, I have to force myself to rest and let my body heal itself. Lying in bed on my phone for hours or binge watching some of my favorite shows doesn’t help my body replenish. It simply needs rest.
  • I need to take a look at my habits. What am I eating? What am I drinking? How much water or tea have I had? When did I go to bed last night? In order to get myself back to 100%, I have to really watch how I treat my body. I’ll be completely honest, this is not something I do normally yet. I jokingly complained to Dennis that I was tired of drinking so many fluids and realized I probably drank more water in the past three days than I have in the past month. And that can’t be good.
  • I need to disconnect temporarily. Mainly because I get dizzy if I am on my phone for too long and feel achey at my computer when I have a cold. It was nice because I got to read through a good chunk of The Fellowship of the Ring, one of my favorite books, and felt happy. Reading is so nourishing for me and this was a reminder of how I need to carve out more time in my day for it.

I started this post as a written journal entry because, as I mentioned previously, I get a little dizzy with screens for too long. But after I finished, I realized that this was something that I should share because catching a cold sucks, but it is probably the ultimate reminder that you really do need to take care of yourself. I’ll end my post with my lemon and ginger tea, which I have had too many cups to count. I like it so much I think I should drink it even when I am not sick!

Lemon & Ginger Tea
(Single Serving)

1″ of ginger, thinly sliced (I used a peeler) placed in a metal tea ball or mesh tea bag
3-4 thin slices of lemon
1-2 tbsp of honey

In a mug, pour boiling water over the ginger tea ball and lemon slices. Steep for at least 5 minutes. Muddle the lemon slices. Add honey and stir. Optional: I like to steep a peppermint tea bag with it for the extra health benefits.

 

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What Life Do I Want To Live - Jen Sincero You Are A Badass Cassey Ho Blogilates Watercolor

What Life Do I Want To Live?

After having a conversation about struggling to adult and going through the motions of life with one of my best friends (Erin Vicencio, L.Ac business owner and amazing friend), she grabbed a book from her bookshelf and told me to borrow it. That same week, my sister (auroragrie, life blogger and wonderful mom/sister) told me that she finished a book that completely inspired her to take on her lifelong passion and recommended I check it out.

That book is You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero!

I was going to wait until I finished the book to do a complete review, but there was something that was too helpful for me not to share with you.

The entire book is about living the life you want to live because you deserve it. Even though that sounds pretty straight forward, I have to admit that I’m not there. One of the biggest hurdles is this: So I’m not living the life I want to live… But what is the life that I want to live?

Jen Sincero wrote a great segment she titled “Don’t Reinvent the Wheel” where she poses some questions about other people’s lives that you admire. Since I love to take notes, instead of answering Jen’s questions in my head, I wrote it down in my journal.

I found the results so powerful, so I wanted to share one of my answers with you guys!

  1. Who lives a life that you admire?
    Cassey Ho, founder of Blogilates
  2. Why do you admire them?
    Cassey Ho is a successful female Asian-American entrepreneur who embodies positivity and working hard. She is literally a creator. She created her pilates videos, apps/website, fashion designs for her workout line and she even published a book!
  3. How did they get there?
    I actually had no clue, but a couple days ago I found out that Cassey runs a podcast with Lisa Bilyeu, co-founder of Quest Nutrition called The Sheroic Podcast. They talk about their endeavors – including both successes and failures. They also interview other successful female entrepreneurs! I seriously stumbled upon it at the best possible time.
  4. Simplify it — what is it that you actually want?
    To create more! To be a business owner one day!

The last question is how can you get there? Whether it’s educating yourself on a topic, honing your craft or interviewing people in your life, it is important to have a call to action.

When I did this exercise, I actually listed four people. When I got to Question #4, I was surprised that three of the four people on my list were successful business owners. To be honest, I never would have thought that would be the common denominator, but this simple exercise was insightful. It’s easy and doesn’t take a lot of effort, so I encourage you to try it out – you might be pleasantly surprised!

 

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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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Bullet Journal: October Spread

The number one reason why I love bullet journaling is because you can adapt and change your layouts whenever you need to. It really feeds into my personal needs for efficiency, aesthetic and novelty. Each month I identify what really worked for me previously and what I can get rid of for the upcoming spread. I’ve been bullet journaling for a year and a half now and I still alter my layouts each month!

The only page I’ve honed to my liking is the first page of the month. I usually take some time to color or paint something fitting for the month. Then, I list out my bills, birthdays, important dates and monthly goals. I posted my first page for October on my twitter (@caro_marcella) when I finished it last week.

Game Plan For October

  • Daily gratitude and spark joy entries. These are coming back from my August spread. I didn’t do it in September and I feel like I missed out on that opportunity for emotional self-care for an entire month. I have a list for gratitude numbered 1-31. A “spark joy” entry is simply this: What did I do today to spark joy?
  • Condensing my handwriting. In September, I took up too many pages by spreading it out too wide and writing too unnecessarily big. I use a 0.38 pen, so there is really no reason for me to take up so much space!
  • A real monthly spread. My entire bujo journey I have only done weeklies. The problem is similar to above where I feel like I’m wasting space! I’m going to see if a monthly spread works for me.
  • Symbols/Shorthand. A heart for self-care, a box for twitter, “SPARK” for my spark joy entry. It’s like using emoticons, but drawn out!
  • Meal Plan For Work. When Dennis and I try to meal prep for every meal of every day, it is too overwhelming for me. But I spend money at my work for lunch every day, so I am going to try to prepare lunches ahead of time this month.

I am excited to see what works for October and what I’ll have to alter for November. But until then, lets have a great month!

Paints: Winsor & Newton Cotman Water Colour Sketchers Pocket Box
Journal: Moleskine Watercolor Album Sketchbook – 5″x8″ (Spanish Edition)

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