Recharge Yourself By Practicing Self Care

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Self care is a practice that helps keep us from getting overwhelmed. When we’re practicing self care, we feel rejuvenated, replenished, and relaxed. It’s something that can make such a huge positive difference in our lives, so it may seem a bit strange that there are times when we fail to follow through.

Excuses, Excuses

I think that we often come up with excuses to avoid taking care of ourselves, because we feel that other things are more important than our own well-being. Some people may prioritize their work, others may prioritize their relationships. Focusing on self care can be difficult when we feel like we don’t have enough time to set aside for the things that we want to do.

The Consequences of Ignoring Self Care

However, think about the consequences of ignoring self care. If you are not taking proper care of yourself, you will not be able to put forth your best efforts to achieve your goals. After all, how can you expect yourself to excel at work or in school when you only had 4 hours of sleep? And isn’t your ability to concentrate going to be compromised if you are ravenous from skipping meals?

Self Care as a Phone Battery

A simple metaphor for how self care works is a phone battery. Doing good things for yourself, like having a good night’s rest or eating a healthy snack can help you recharge. Things like drinking to excess and overbooking your schedule will alternatively drain your batteries.

So here are two things that you can do right now in under 5 minutes to help put you on the right track for your self care practice.

A Quick Breathing Exercise

  • Take a deep breath and blow out slowly. Do this ten times and focus only on your breath. This is a mindfulness practice that will help ground you to your present moment. When you are focusing on the breath, you leave no room in the mind for regrets about the past or worries about the future.

Consider Your Most Pressing Needs

  • Take out a pen and paper, or get out your phone or computer. Ask yourself what your most pressing needs are today and in this present moment. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you may need to delegate some of your tasks or ask for help. If you’re feeling hungry, make sure that you have a healthy snack. If you’re feeling lonely, make plans with a friend to do something fun over the weekend.

 

5 Ways to Express Gratitude

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It’s easy when things are going mostly well for us to get lost on the hedonic treadmill. As our lives improve, we continue to want more and more. But resist the temptation to try and keep up with the Joneses. All is not lost if you can’t get that designer handbag, that expensive gaming computer, or that brand new car.

To combat the tendency to forget our blessings, here are five ways to express your gratitude. 

Exercise Your Talents and Skills

Most people spend so much time bemoaning their flaws, but you will be much happier if you take the time to recognize your strengths. Be grateful for the things that you do well. These talents and skills are a gift.

If you have a good voice or a knack for trivia, put those skills to use. You can spend an evening singing karaoke with friends or go out for pub trivia. Or maybe your skills are more strengths of character. If you are good at making people feel comfortable and at ease, you could host a small dinner party. There are so many possibilities when it comes to finding a way to exercise your talent.

Remember Lessons Learned

People come and go throughout our lives, but we can be grateful for the lessons we have learned from those who are no longer with us.

Your best friend from preschool with whom you’ve lost touch may have taught you the value of friendship. An Ex-Boyfriend who broke your heart may have taught you that you deserve someone who loves and respects you. A grandparent who has passed away may have taught you the importance of spending time with your family. The people that we meet all provide us with opportunities to learn and grow.

To express your gratitude for these lessons learned, write a letter in your journal addressed to the person who affected you. Even though they are no longer with you, you can take time to recognize all that they taught you.

Brainstorm in Your Journal

Write down anything and everything that you are grateful for in your journal. You could start with the big things like love and good health, or start with the small things, like cold brew coffee and blueberry pancakes.

Try to keep on writing for at least 5 to 10 minutes. As your list gets longer, you will have to dig deeper to find all of those wonderful things for which you are grateful.

Give a 30-40% Tip

If you’ve ever worked in food service, then you know how difficult those jobs can be. If not, take the word of a failed barista. Those who are good at customer service only make it look easy.

The next time you interact with that upbeat barista or that server who has the balancing skills of a trapeze artist, bump up that tip to 30-40% to show your gratitude for what they do to make your life a little easier.

Volunteer Your Time

Volunteering for a good cause allows you to express your gratitude for what you have in life by serving others less fortunate than yourself. When you help the homeless, you will remember to be grateful for you home. When you feed the hungry, you will feel gratitude for the food that you eat.

Overcoming Self Doubt

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When you start to doubt yourself, it can be very hard to know what the truth is. There may be times when you look at yourself in the mirror and think, “Why am I not good enough?”.

Maybe you start to pick yourself apart, criticizing everything from the complexion of your skin to the shape of your thighs. Once you get going, the momentum of self doubt can feel unstoppable. There comes a point in all this negative self talk where you want to just give up and let your thoughts take you where they will.

My Experience with Self Doubt

If you are experiencing self doubt, know that you are not alone. There are times when I struggle with self doubt, usually because I am comparing myself to others. Living in such a connected world, you can start to feel lost among so many other people. It’s easy to get obsessed with how many “likes” you get on Facebook or how many people follow you on Instagram.

Reaching Out to Others

What helps me combat self doubt is to reach out to my partner, family, or friends. By telling them what I am feeling, I’m able to feel supported and loved. While being able to reassure yourself is an important skill, in a moment of crisis, you may need to lean on your loved ones. When you are experiencing a lot of self doubt, it can be such a relief to hear from someone who believes you are amazing.

Calling In the Experts

What I also have found very helpful is to speak with a professional. Although some are hesitant to meet with a therapist, I think that therapy is one of the best resources for personal development. During therapy, you can dive down deep into the roots of your self doubt. Understanding why you doubt yourself in the first place can help you to feel more confident in the future.

Imagine the Good

If you’re experiencing self doubt, I want you to fight back. Challenge that negative voice in your head that says you can’t do something or that you’re not good enough. When you start to think about all the bad things that could happen, think instead about what good things might happen.

What if you apply for your dream job and get the position? What if you ask somebody out on a date and they say yes? There is very little that we can know for certain, so why not imagine all of the wonderful things that could be in store for us? Positive events are just as likely as the negative scenarios our minds cook up for us.

An Exercise to Combat Self Doubt

If you’re feeling down on yourself right now, I want to tell you one more trick that I have to help me feel more positive about myself. Grab a piece of paper and write down the things that you wish people would tell you. Write them down, over and over, until you believe that they could be true. For example, I would write, “Caitlin, you are strong and capable. You will find success on your own terms.”

If you’re having trouble thinking of something positive to say to yourself, imagine that you are someone who cares for you and admires you. What would your best friend say? By emulating what loved ones would say to boost your spirits, you can act as your own best friend. Overcoming self doubt is the ultimate form of self care.

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5 Ideas to Shake Up Your Coffee Routine

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You may have settled into your coffee routine. Perhaps you drink 1 cup of brewed coffee in the morning and get an iced latte once a week in the summers. Or maybe you’re the kind of coffee drinker that drinks only doppio espressos.

Maybe you’ve been hearing about people going caffeine-free? While some people do not enjoy how they feel while caffeinated, there’s no need to feel guilty over your coffee consumption. A 2015 study concluded that a higher consumption rate of coffee correlates to a lower risk of mortality. This is happy news if you’re like me and love your daily cup of joe. Or maybe for me that’s more like two cups. Three? Who’s counting? But seriously, coffee is what helps me stay focused and energized throughout the day.

So without further ado, here’s my list:

S’Mores Iced Coffee (Recipe from A Night Owl)

If you’re a fan of the timeless campfire treat, then I bet you’ll love the S’Mores Iced Coffee. This recipe includes chocolate milk, marshmallow whipped cream, and crushed graham cracker. Yum!

Soylent Cafe

Soylent recently launched two more flavors of their Coffiest product, which they’ve rebranded to Soylent Cafe. The three flavors are Coffiest, Vanilla, and Chai. While I haven’t had a chance to try these yet, I’ve really been enjoying Soylent’s original drink. Coffee and Soylent just seem like a match made in heaven.

Cold Brew with Almond Milk

I really enjoy Pressed Juicery’s Vanilla Coffee. Its ingredients are almonds, dates, Kona coffee, and vanilla bean. If you’re more in a DIY frame of mind, here’s a Recipe from the Almond Board of California to make your own cold brew and almond milk.

Espresso Granita (Recipe from Bon Appetit)

On a recent trip to Italy, one of my friends tried an Espresso Granita for the first time, describing the drink as “sweet espresso with the consistency of a slushy.”

Condensed Milk Iced Coffee (Recipe from Delicious Shots)

If you’re more into coffee with a Spanish twist, try this Condensed Milk Iced Coffee. In Spain, this drink is known as the Cafe Bombón. When I was in college, I’d often have this drink at the Espresso Royale Cafe near Boston University. The location is now called Pavement Coffeehouse.

Got a favorite recipe of your own? Please feel free to share in the comments.

3 Rituals to Practice Mindfulness

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Defining Mindfulness

Jon Kabat-Zinn, an author of several iconic books on mindfulness, defines mindfulness as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness has many benefits, including the reduction of stress and emotional reactivity. Being mindful is also a key skill in caring for yourself. If you are being mindful, you are not beating yourself up over mistakes you have made, or worrying about what bad things might happen in the future. By grounding yourself in the present, you create a space in your mind that can be free from anxiety.

A Ritual for Waking Up in the Morning

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Those moments when you first wake up can go a long way to helping you prepare to have a pleasant day. In the evening, write down your chosen mantra on a piece of paper and place it under your pillow. If you’ve been feeling worried, you might write, “I can handle whatever challenges come my way.” If you have been unkind towards yourself, try writing, “I am someone deserving of love.”

As soon as you wake up, take out the slip of paper and read it. You can do this out loud or in your head. Say it over and over again, meditating on this mantra. After a few minutes, you can think about all the ways in which the mantra is true. By mindfully focusing on the mantra, you are able to start your day off on a positive note.

A Ritual for Mindful Eating

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When you are eating a meal or drinking a beverage, bring your focus to the sensations of taste and smell. Looking to your five senses can keep you firmly in the present.

I find this especially helpful to do when sipping a hot beverage like tea or coffee. Start by smelling the aroma of the beans or the leaves. Then take your first sip. If it’s too hot, wait a few moments to let the drink cool down. You can also focus on your breath by softly blowing on the cup to help it cool.

Eating an entire meal mindfully is a greater challenge, since it involves being mindful for a longer period of time. Mindful eating can help you build a better relationship with food. If you are mindful about how you feel while eating, you will be able to notice when you are satisfied. Being mindful of your hunger and satiety will help prevent you from overeating. Noticing each bite of your food will also make the food more pleasurable to eat.

Practice Mindfulness Through Journaling

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For this exercise, take out a pen and paper, or a notebook, if you have one. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write anything that you’re thinking at this moment. After you write each thought, let it go and move on to the next one. The idea is not to linger on any one thought in particular.

For example, you might start writing down a worry, but once you finish writing it, you can move on to an entirely different thought. Maybe your next sentence will be a thought about the delicious dinner you had with your friends, or how grateful you are to live where you live. If you are finding trouble letting go of each thought, try writing, “I let this go” after each sentence.

Another way to bring yourself to the present when writing is to focus on the way that you hold your pen and write your words. Think about each letter and how your hand moves across the page. Being aware during the act of writing, as you are writing, is an easy technique to focus on the present and to approach your thoughts without judgment.

If you are interested in learning more about topics like mindfulness and self care, please subscribe to my email list below. 

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Celebrating with an Afternoon Tea

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One of my favorite things to do is to go to an Afternoon Tea. This past weekend, Tom and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary together at the Langham Hotel in Boston, MA.

If you’re unfamiliar with Afternoon Tea, it’s an English tradition that started in the 1840’s when the Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, invited her friends over for tea and food.

These days, Afternoon Tea is a lovely meal that usually includes a pot of tea, tiny sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and petite desserts.

Going to an Afternoon Tea is one of the things that makes me feel really good. It’s a special treat that allows me to slow down, relax, and enjoy spending time with others.

Here are some photos from our Afternoon Tea.

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The Top Row (Left to Right): Cucumber and Butter Sandwich with Radishes, Lobster Sandwich
Bottom Row (Left to Right): Ham and Pickle on Brown Bread, Chicken Salad Sandwich

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Included in Photo Above: Chocolate Profiterole, Strawberry Mousse Tart, Lemon Meringue Cupcake with Blueberry, Cherry and Milk Trifle

DIY Afternoon Tea

If you’re looking to save money, I highly recommend that you host an Afternoon Tea in your home. This is something Tom and I are planning to do at some point over the summer.

If your friends enjoy dressing up, this could be an occasion that they can fancy it up for. Or if your group is more casual, have a relaxed dress code, and everyone can enjoy Afternoon Tea in casual clothes. You don’t even need to have a teapot. You could simply boil water in an electric kettle or on your stove top. If you don’t have tea cups, mugs will likely do just fine.

A DIY Afternoon Tea is a great way to spend time with your friends and take a break from the boozy bar scene. Though, if alcohol is a must, tea pairs very well with sparkling wine.

Tea Sandwich Recipes

To make sure your guests are well fed, be sure to provide them with a few kinds of tea sandwiches.

Here are some awesome recipes that I’ve found online:

Cucumber and Butter Sandwich – This is the classic Afternoon Tea sandwich. It’s surprisingly delicious for something so simple. This recipe calls for a vegetable peeler, but if you don’t have one, feel free to just thinly slice the cucumbers.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Sandwich – Who doesn’t love a sweet sandwich? Strawberries and tea go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Sharp Cheddar & Branston Pickle Sandwich – This sandwich includes a British pickled relish, made with several kinds of vegetables.

For even more suggestions, The Food Network has an extensive list of 50 Tea Sandwiches.

Scone Recipe

Finally, no Afternoon Tea is complete without a good scone. I recommend making plain ones and providing clotted cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam. I’m going to try my hand at baking the Classic Scones Recipe by the King Arthur Flour company. This recipe combines 2 cups White Flour with 1 cup Whole Wheat flour.

Have you hosted or attended an Afternoon Tea? Let me know in the comments. 

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Why You Should Write With a Fountain Pen

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History of the Fountain Pen

The first fountain pen was patented by Petrache Poenaru in 1827. The metal nib of the pen allowed him to write for longer periods of time, without having to refill the ink. It was an improvement over the dip pen.

You might think that something that was invented so long ago would have no relevance for people today. However, the fountain pen community is alive and thriving.

Joining the Fountain Pen Community

I learned most of what I know about fountain pens from the Reddit Fountain Pen Community.  In this subreddit, people will post their pen purchases, ask for advice, and show off their ink collections.

Are Fountain Pens Luxury Items?

Fountain pens do have the reputation of being luxury items, and certainly, there are pens that sell for thousands of dollars.  However, one of my favorite pens retails for around $15. It’s the Pilot Metropolitan (image below). My Pilot Metropolitan is from the Retro Pop collection and has an italic nib.

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Why Write with a Fountain Pen?

I love writing with fountain pens, because it is easy on my wrist. Unlike a ballpoint pen, you don’t have to put as much pressure on the page when writing. Fountain pens also write beautifully.

Another reason that I love writing with fountain pens is that there are a wide range of ink colors out there. My two first ink purchases have been the Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-Peki ink, which is a Deep Cerulean Blue, and the Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo ink, which is a Crimson/ Purple color. 

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But What if I’m Left-Handed?

There’s a myth out there that left-handed people can’t use fountain pens, but let me assure you, as a left hander, that is simply not the case.

Brian Goulet, of the Goulet Pen company, has put together a great video of tips for left-handed fountain pen users.

Lefties may write in a different way than, right-handers, but we make it work.

 

Have any of you used Fountain Pens before? If  you have and would like to share your experience, please leave a comment below.