“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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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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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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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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28 Self-Love Self-Care Moorten Botanical Garden

Twenty-eight – A Milestone

A couple days ago, I turned 28 years old. Nothing too exciting. I mean, it’s not exactly a milestone. It’s not the start of a new decade and it’s been years since I received any “perks” for my age. I tried pumping myself up about being one step closer to 30 years older, but even then I still have two more years. So what does 28 have in store for me that is going to be any different from 27?

This year, my boyfriend Dennis made sure I had a relaxing birthday. We spent the weekend at Palm Springs and the plan was to do absolutely nothing. When we first arrived, it was difficult to be in the moment and not having to worry. But when I began to unwind and took this weekend as an opportunity to reflect, I came to a realization:

The one thing I want from this upcoming year is to be more in tune with myself. I want to take care of myself. Most importantly, what I really want is to love myself.

When said simply, it sounds selfish, doesn’t it?

But there has to be value in loving yourself, especially in relation to loving others or even just your own genuine happiness. I just don’t know exactly how to get there. I have struggled with anxiety and low self-esteem since I was a teenager and in the fifteen years that have passed, my self-confidence has only seen a slow, unsteady rise. I’m not an expert in self-care, I just know that I need to start caring.

So my first step is going to be intention. I will intentionally work on my own self-care and self-love and we will see where that takes me. My hope for this blog is that I can reflect back on my journey of self-love and maybe it will help another person pursue their own love for themselves in the future.

Twenty-eight will be a milestone because this will be the year I learn to love myself.

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