Self-Care 101: Sunshine

GIRL. (or guy)

Did you know seasonal depression is real, and definitely not something I made up to get out of going to a boring Christmas function? I could never quite put my finger on why it was so hard for me to leave bed from October to March (give or take a few weeks), yet it was easy as pie once the warmer weather rolled around. For a while I thought it was just due to my association of summer with freedom, but now I know it’s a legit thing.

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As we slide into colder weather, our bodies are directly affected by the seasonal change,  i.e. minimal exposure to the sun, our serotonin levels drop. This is important, because serotonin regulates our anxiety and overall mood, and decreased serotonin has been tied to depression. With less sunlight exposure comes decreased Vitamin D, increased likelihood of specific types of cancer, and skin conditions such as acne. Of course, you shouldn’t go outside sans sun protection like hats, sunscreen, and sunglasses, but being in the light more often than not is better for our bodies than staying in.  If you are physically, or mentally, unable to leave the house consider taking Vitamin D supplements and increasing your time with the windows and blinds open. I know better than most that sometimes just leaving the house is far too much to ask. Still, I get closer to being well by cracking open the window.

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So, slather on some sunscreen, run around in your neighborhood, and soak up that good stuff! If you aren’t able to yet, then sit by the window and listen to the world as it wakes back up. Just remember that feeling better after a long winter takes time and create enough space in your mind to be filled up with some joy. Tough? Yep. Good? Definitely.

Self-Care 101: Sleep

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.

Homer, The Odyssey 

I spend most mornings burrowing under my blankets, desperate for a few more hours of shut eye no matter how much rest I got the previous night. My days aren’t particularly strenuous in a physical sense; in fact, most of my time is spent talking to myself as I play out dialogue and pacing from room to room until I arrive at the “perfect” solution to a narrative issue. Still, I collapse into bed at around 9:00 PM ready to be transported to my own version of slumberland. It usually involves flowers and candy.

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Though I’m not spending my days engaged in super intense activities, I’m still exerting a lot of mental effort. It all builds until I’m too tired to stand, let alone make it through an episode of “Killing Eve”. We all have to push ourselves during the day, regardless of the tools of our trade. From writers to welders, we’re all better off after a good night of rest. However, in the United States, we worship at the alter of tired. Sleepless nights are a status symbol, an indicator that we are taking our lives too seriously to ever give into the Sandman. Last week, Steve Harvey went off on a tirade about the superiority of the wealthy, equating it to their not needing to sleep.

Hopefully, this all sounds batshit insane to you.

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We are ticking time bombs without sleep. Studies have shown that going without the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep can result in high blood pressure, weakened immunity, mood changes and increased likelihood of accidents. Throw in mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder, and you’re going to have a bad time – to put it mildly. Think of it like this: your body isn’t invincible. Unless you’ve got some super soldier serum laying around, you’re gonna have to sleep like the rest of us normies. I find that I’m not just more creative after sleep, I’m also able to finish tasks faster and with fewer mistakes. Sleep makes the difference between hours of trying to focus on work and a few minutes of targeted focus. Sounds legit, amiright?

So take care of your body, get some rest, drink water, and – for the love of God – moisturize! (More on that to come.)

 

 

Self-Care 101: Friendship Or Bust

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘ What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.

– C.S. Lewis

I’ve long forgotten the name of my first friend, but I will always remember a few details: he had a black bowl cut and loved watching Ernest Scared Stupid. We were kindergartners, my mother knew his mother, and I needed a place to go after school, so I walked the block to his house (different times) to wait to be picked up. The carpet was reminiscent of a bear with a bad dye-job, a fluffy, interwoven mess in the den where we would lay and laugh. We ate puff cheetos and enjoyed a natural camaraderie that I’ve only experienced a handful of times since. I moved away not long after, but I can still remember the safety and comfort I felt all those years ago in that kid’s home watching Ernest movies.

Friendship can change your life in ways that other relationships likely never will, because our friends either stamp out insecurities, or create new ones, while giving us a sense of value that is damn near impossible to discover within ourselves. I can get overwhelmed in crowds, and detest small talk, but I love making true friends. Discovering in others the parts of myself I thought were too outrageous to be replicated is as liberating as it is a deep relief. To echo the words of C.S. Lewis above, those moments help to eradicate the misconception that I am all alone in this world. My friends – the people I trust with my vulnerability – are gold.

One of these golden nuggets, Jesse, recently sent me this video featuring the ultimate #FriendshipGoals couple – Oprah and Gayle. In this video they answer questions about friendship, expound on their own relationship, and offer solutions to problems which might arise in the course of a lifetime between two people who care for each other. Enjoy!

Chasing Passions: Won’t You Join Me?

Do you remember the first time you fell in love with something? Not a guy or a girl, but that thing you couldn’t get enough of? That thing which stuck to your bones, bypassing your head and heart to fuse with the very foundations of your being? It was inescapable once. Maybe you discovered it by chance, a discarded thing no one saw any use in, but you saw it for what it was – magic. Perhaps you were born with that thing and discovered it after a little pushing by fate. Few loves come close to that first brush with what will become your passion, for it is that which sets your soul on fire. Eventually, that thing fermented in your chest to become something all-together unstoppable: your calling. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mixture of Indiana Jones, Batman, and Storm from the X-Men. I was going to travel the world, while making time for some swashbuckling and all of the other things I loved, and no one was going to change my mind about it. Like most children – regardless of location, religion, or color – I wanted to realize my dreams. Little did I know then, dreams are not always easy to live out. 

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I’ve been missing for a while (I won’t be offended if you didn’t notice), taking time to plot out how to get what I want from the foreseeable future. I had the distinct feeling a few months back that I was finally ready to redefine my track, so I took time digging a little deeper into what makes me LaKase. I’d come this far, but what’s next? I wanted to figure out what I am meant to be doing beyond working and carving out time to blog. You can imagine my delight when I found the answer right where I left it – in my childhood. The child I was back then might have been an annoying ball of energy, but she also had a lot of confidence in her own worth. She was definitely onto something when she laid awake imagining herself as a hero and adventurer. That’s when I had a mini-epiphany: would it be so outrageous to tap into that sense of wonderment and passion? I don’t think so anymore.

I have been, and always will be, a storyteller. That’s what I was doing when I acted out the adventures of my heroes, and what I was practicing when I put on puppet shows for my parents. I started writing stories in elementary school, and never stopped. To this day I find fragments of my tales stuck into old folders and notebooks. However, oftentimes the thing we love, the thing that lights up the world, can feel out of reach. People might tell us it’s foolish, or we don’t have the resources to pursue our dreams. For a long time after those first stories and puppet shows, I thought writing was something I would do after everything else, and that it was my responsibility to be reasonable. Surely, there would be time for my dreams after college, after kids, after creating a practical career. Thankfully, life threw me off kilter as it often does, and pushed me back into my old explorer’s chair in front of a laptop.

I think passion is more than a flight of fancy, or a daydream we use to distract ourselves from the rain. At heart, it’s who we are, what we want from life, and how we want to be remembered. Sure, we can’t all be doctors and firemen, but what if we look at the heart of the passion? Under the doctor is a desire to help and heal. Under the adventurer is the desire to explore the world beyond our experiences. When I sat back and took stock of my childhood dreams, writing was the natural progression of the passions I proclaimed to my parents and teachers. So, dear reader, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve made space for the re-emergence of my personal purpose in order to reclaim my brand of joy. It’s been hard, but also illuminating.

Here’s how I’m doing it: I stopped thinking about other people’s opinions and started looking for a way to make it happen. The first step is looking at what your dream is, then coming up with a realistic pathway. It’s not glamorous, but it’ll keep you on track. There’s no way around the fact that I’m starting off with a serious edge – I have time, I have space, and I have enough education to do it. On top of that, I’ve made some connections online with excellent mentors. If I had to weigh all of those things against each other, the mentors stand out as the most important step, because you simply can’t change your life without a blueprint. Whatever you decide to do, start there. I did it via Twitter and reaching out to bloggers, however it might be different for you depending on your path. Next, I had to devote time to writing in any way I could. I’m now a contributor to Setting Minda publication dedicated to sharing innovations in fashion, tech, food, and living. Writing for the site has been enough of a confidence boost for me to take writing my novel seriously, which I began this year. My goal is to finish the book,then find an agent/publisher before year’s end. I’ll still be writing here every Monday as well moving forward, because it serves my mental health in unmatched ways.

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It is absolutely imperative to treat this like a job once when you decide to make use of your passions and redefine your path. Take time to do research and understand what it will take so that you aren’t forced to abandon ship. I weighed the emotional cost of this endeavor against the toll of working for other people in unfulfilling roles, but I also sat down with my partner to practically map out how to do this without causing us to descend into chaos. You won’t regret putting in the work to build a solid foundation for yourself and loved ones.

This is a very truncated explanation of how I’m going about chasing my passion, but I’ll go more in-depth as the journey unfolds itself. The point I hope you’ll take away from this post is not to give up on that special thing you discovered, because it has been following you for a reason. You may not land in the career you planned on, but if you trust in the basis of your passion – whatever it may be – you’ll land where you’re supposed to.

 

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What dreams are you chasing today?

 

 

 

How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

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Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
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The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

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Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

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I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

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