The Satisfaction of Finishing

Back in September I discussed how I use journaling among other things as a productive way to handle stress and also help clear my mind. This practice is sometimes tedious but I’ve found I feel off on the days I skip. Because I do it regularly, it doesn’t make sense to fill up those gorgeous notebooks you see in store windows.

Instead, I use simple composition books and hoard them whenever I see them go on sale. Composition books are perfect for my style of journaling. Since they are so cheap, I don’t feel pressured to find pretty words or clean well formed sentences. In my style of journaling, trying to make things nice, or even correct actually harms the process of letting the mind say what it needs to say. I use it to sweep out the cobwebs and address the issues that take my attention, so the messier the writing, the more free flowing, the better. Composition books themselves are well made. The pages stitched instead of glued so the chances of the book falling apart is impossible.

When I saw I was close to finishing filling and entire book at the end of 2019, I kind of hoped I would finish writing the last page on the last day of the year in a kind gesture thatI was phasing out the old and ushering in the new. With all the holiday unpredictableness, this didn’t happen. I ended up filling in the last sheet this morning. Not perfect, but then again, striving for perfection usually means getting burned out or avoiding a project all together.

Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

Finishing today held it’s own satisfying perfection. It’s a Friday, the end of the workweek and a day that feels right for finishing things. I get to open a fresh new book on a Monday, a day meant for new starts and new plans. It’s also the tenth, which feels like a complete number. A perfect 10. It also thumbs the nose at all those who have their goals figured out and ready to go long before December ends.

This new book that will stick with me for the next four to five months as my journal is so clean and shiny compared to the one I’ve just finished. It lays flat and well behaved whereas the old one is plump, filled with meandering recountings of frustrations and successes, hard decisions and new projects. Where the old signifies progress, the new encompasses potential.

Here’s to both the satisfying conclusions and the fresh starts that occur in every day life.


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My Winter Self-Care

There is this weird stigma when it comes to the idea of self-care. For most people, the very words summon up visions of eating chocolate, taking bubble baths, and indulging in activities seen as vain and selfish. This viewpoint needs to change. What self-care really means is to do the things that are necessary to lead a happy and productive life.

Everyone’s needs are different. Like me, some people have trouble sleeping at night. Some people might suffer from a lack of energy, especially in the afternoons. Some people might fight cravings for junk food and sweets constantly. Some people might suffer from depression which makes it almost impossible to do everyday tasks. My point is, your needs will not look like everyone else’s needs.

What works wonders for one person might actually make your situation worse. Personally, I find my self-care needs become far more time consuming in the winter than in the summer. The moment the days start getting darker, my energy begins to flag, my anxiety increases, and sleep issues become a more persistent problem. The drive to complete all the things on my various to do lists is just not there.

In the clinical world, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). You are literally affected by the change in the seasons. It’s mother nature’s way of getting a final jab in before hibernating for the long winter. She’s still irritated at the invention of the light bulb.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

My self-care routine

Part of my winter self care routine this year stems from the tiny midlife crisis that kicked off a few weeks ago when I turned 40. All of the sudden getting in regular exercise and eating my vegetables seemed so much more important. This is the only body I’m going to get, if I’m not maintaining it in such a way that it runs well for me, then I’m setting myself up for a massive breakdown in the future. Something similar happened when I turned 30 and I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life other than be a mom, I would need to start doing it.

Starting in early October, I pull out my happy light and use it in the morning while I’m working at my desk. It helps wake me up and simulates the natural sunlight I would have experienced in the summer and makes my brain generate more serotonin during the day and melatonin at night. I also get far more diligent at taking my vitamins. Currently I take a general multivitamin, calcium citrate, B-complex, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. All of these are necessary in maintaining healthy brain chemicals and aid in better energy production.

I also aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some of it is while watching Netflix and using an elliptical, or if the weather is nice, going out for a walk. On alternating days I turn on Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. If you are looking for a darling down-to-earth yoga practitioner who excels at making yoga accessible to anyone, check her out.

The other two things I do are regular journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me to analyze things that I would like to find solutions to, while meditation helps calm down the brain chatter and helps me focus on the things that are important and need doing. After exercise, these two practices do more to help me counteract daily stress than anything else.

Does this mean everything in my life is perfect right now? No, it really isn’t. But when I’m diligent at keeping up my self-care, my tools to handle problems are kept sharp and well maintained.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

A question…

What do you do for self-care? I would love to hear about activities and practices you’ve put in place to help you feel better about yourself.


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Journaling and Long Walks

I know it’s a author stereotype, but yes, I am an introvert with a huge capital “I”. If you’ve seen me out in the wild, like at a conference or convention, the outgoing person you met is me acting in the role of what I’ve interpreted as my public persona. I’ll start conversations, talk to strangers, and even invite people to discuss their favorite things. None of these are things I’m naturally comfortable with.

Like at all.

The cutest, fluffiest ball of suppressed anxiety you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet.

This kind of acting requires both mental and physical energy. When the event is over, I go home exhausted. What’s more, being out in the wild like this, even around people I really enjoy, causes a huge amount of anxiety as well. You can sleep off exhaustion. You need special tools to handle anxiety.

If I’m to be really honest with you, there are plenty of other things that cause anxiety as well that shouldn’t. That’s what anxiety is, unusual fear, worry, or dread about things we don’t have control over. For me, the morning rush to get the kids to school is always a big one. Innocent requests to help with kid’s projects are another. Preparing for family outings, meal planning, shopping for clothes … yeah, those things too.

Throw on top of all that the writing and authoring business stuff and I’ve built myself a lovely anxiety sandwich.

Photo by Youjeen Cho on Unsplash

There are two things I’ve come to use regularly to manage my anxiety, journaling, and walking.

This isn’t run of the mill journaling used to reflect on the events of the day or capture angsty rants and long winded stories. This is a practice called morning pages. Before sitting down to work, I spend 15-20 minutes filling two composition book pages of the words and thoughts that need to spill out of my brain. It’s like Drano for the mental pipes. Sometimes I ask questions that I’ve been meaning to spend time thinking about and sometimes I use it to get a rant out of my system. Regardless of what ends up on the pages, I always feel better after I’ve done it. What’s better, I often get really good ideas while I write.

While journaling takes care of a lot of the built up mental garbage that needs to be taken out, walking works wonders as an emotional reset button. If the morning’s been stressful, taking a walk before diving into the rest of my days often eliminates the accumulated stress of the morning and makes it possible to not bring that stress into the creative space. It also helps me maintain better energy levels during the day, gets my heart pumping, calms my cravings, and I get a change to play Wizards Unite. For me, that’s super motivating.

Yesterday I didn’t get in my walk because I knew it was going to be a busy day. Come afternoon, my anxiety was unmanageably high and I was raiding every shelf of the pantry for something sweet. By early evening I so tired, I ended up watching TV on the couch. By missing a 40 minute walk, I lost several hours of working time – not to mention ate way too much junk food.

Speaking of which … I haven’t done my walk today because of the rain. If it lets up, I better get out there!

What do you do to manage anxiety? Let’s talk about it!


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