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what to do if you have the winter blues

I’m not a doctor, but I get especially gloomy as soon as the days get shorter, colder, and darker. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but WebMD says I probably have it. Here’s what I do on particularly blue days.

go somewhere warm.

Tanning bed, sauna, bath tub, hot yoga (currently very into Sculpt at CorePower), or a tropical escape if you can spring for it. Find somewhere you can sweat out all those feelings and forget about your chapped knuckles.

laugh a little.

Yeah, I’ve seen every episode of The Office at least seven times, but I’m not stopping anytime soon. Watch a rom-com, favorite TV show, or stand-up special from the comfort of your cozy bed.

leave the house.

Though I definitely consider myself a homebody, I quickly start to feel cooped up during the winter months. Whether you bundle up and head to the nail salon, a pottery class, the book store, or a restaurant, it always feels great to get dressed and be a person.

make something good.

Winter is the perfect season to spend in the kitchen. From soups to sweets, the oven will warm your kitchen and the food will warm your heart.

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kim kardashian sleep gif funny
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how to fall asleep at night

You may or may not know that I’ve had a decade-long struggle with falling asleep at night. From racing thoughts to crushing anxiety, being a chronic worrier can have a pretty negative effect on your REM cycle. My New Year’s resolution a few years ago was to put more effort into getting better quality sleep…and lately, I’ve been feeling pretty well-rested. Here’s what I’m doing at bedtime these days.

sticking to a routine.

Soooo lame, but so helpful. Every night I do the boring stuff like take my vitamins and brush my teeth, but I also massage on my face cream, light a candle, and do the daily mini New York Times crossword. I think having a very specific set of tasks helps create a ritual that now lulls me to sleep each night.

physical exhaustion.

I’ve been exercising more than usual the past few months…partly because I want to look good on my upcoming vacation and partly because I’m still hunting for the perfect gym near my apartment. Even though going to spin or barre after work gives me a rush of endorphins, by the time I get home, shower, and eat dinner, I can barely keep my eyes open.

a little lavender.

I was pretty sure there was no scientific backing to the calming effects lavender boasts, but I recently read an NYTimes article that says otherwise! Anyway, I’ve been spritzing lavender pillow spray for years because it’s my all-time favorite scent.

melatonin, baby.

I’m still a sucker for this stuff. If I got a not-so-great sleep the night before, I’ll pop one of these to knock me out.

some tricky breathing.

I heard about the 4-7-8 method from one of my favorite writers – check our her guide to it here. I usually use this method when I’m feeling stressed or anxious (not just sleepless) since it’s very meditative.

Do you have any tricks for falling asleep?

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what it feels like when someone unfollows me

As a millennial, I’ve been engaged in most forms of popular social media since they entered the scene. I remember when Instagram was just a way to add filters to photos, not an engagement tool. I got a notification from Facebook last weekend that I joined the site ELEVEN years ago. (Chilling.) I remember when you could see other people’s top friends on Snapchat.

As a blogger and creative professional, I know how social media platforms are used to generate clicks which become monetized whether via advertisements (editorial) or direct sales (retail). I’ve used tools to track engagement and followers at work, and consequently applied the same practices to this blog and my personal pages.

For a while, I used a tool that notified me whenever someone unfollowed me on Instagram or Twitter. Instantly, my heart would sink.

Even as I checked out who the culprit was, I wondered why I cared so much. I tracked engagement for the Instagram page I run for this blog, which is less personal and more business-y to me, but getting the updates for my personal accounts was gut-wrenching. I wondered which tweet caused them to press that “unfollow” button, which photo on Instagram was so offensive that they couldn’t bear to see any more updates from me.

If it was someone I considered a “friend” or a mutual follower, this unfollow notice would hit me like a ton of bricks. To me, it was a statement that they were so disinterested in my life that I was no longer worth following. They deemed the very minimal engagement of seeing several posts a week from me as not worthwhile. I would quickly unfollow back. Why should I continue keeping up with them?

I think this bothered me so much because my social media platforms, especially Instagram, are carefully curated. While Twitter has turned into a different beast (mostly an outlet for me to complain and make observations about daily life), I work really hard to make sure my Instagram page consists of quality photos with witty captions. The selfies are rare. There are no #MCM posts. I don’t share something every day. I have never gone “Live.” All of the photos are in focus and well-filtered.

What was I doing wrong? Absolutely nothing.

When I got a new phone about a year ago, I decided not to re-download my follower tracking apps. I haven’t changed my Instagram practices. I love sharing photos not only to interact with my followers, but to keep a record of my life. I love being able to go back and see what I was up to a year ago. Or check out the name of the restaurant I went to on my second date.

My Instagram page captures the best parts of my everyday life…and even when I see my follower count go up and down, I remind myself that the people who really care about me will stick around through even the worst selfies. As long as you’re living your best life, who really gives a damn?!

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people, pin-spiration

pin-spiration: installation art

During my last semester of college, I took a course that discussed the interaction between art and the environment. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and though a lot of the coursework was pretty boring, I learned about some amazing large-scale installation artists.

You’ve probably seen Yayoi Kusama‘s polka dots and infinity rooms all over Instagram, and I LOVE her, but in this edition of Pinspiration I wanted to include monumental works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude as well as installations from my all-time favorite artist, James Turrell.

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little things i get excited about

I’m the type of person who always needs something to look forward to, whether it’s an exotic vacation or a brunch reservation. In part of my ongoing journey to happiness/self-love/daily joy etc etc, I’ve taken some time to reflect about the ordinary things in life that make me happy.

restaurants that give you a postcard with the bill

really good nail polish colors (currently obsessed with this one.)

clean sheets after a long day and a hot shower

making someone laugh

wearing new shoes for the first time

leftover foam at the bottom of your cappuccino

holding hands

picking out a perfect candle at Home Goods

popcorn at the movies (with a borderline disgusting amount of butter)

getting mail that isn’t spam or a bill

drinks that come with maraschino cherries

featured gif by Libby VanderPloeg
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eat-a-city, places

eat-a-city: MONTREAL

You guys, I really love Canada. Particularly Montreal. I went there last month for a quick trip, and we also went to Quebec City – food tips to come for there! It was my third time in MTL, and even better than I remembered. It’s so clean, people are super friendly, and there’s a really exciting food scene. Here’s where you should eat and drink in this frenchy Canadian city…and, of course, all of these places have WiFi and are highly Instagrammable.

Tommy

I had bookmarked this cafe on Instagram and after a Google maps search once we were wandering through Montreal, I was happy to see that Tommy was nearby. I mean, look at those hanging plants! We went here twice – the first time, just for a cool drink, somewhere air-conditioned to sit, and free Internet access (oh, international travel woes…). We went back for breakfast the next day, where I got my usual avocado toast and sampled some pastries. I highly recommend the pistachio-chocolate croissant.

SUWU

My friends and I went to this bar the last time we were in Montreal for a bite to eat before exploring the nightlife. This trip, we made it to SUWU in time for happy hour, where the house specialty cocktails were 2-for-1. *Side note: happy hour is a major perk of weekday travel.* We all got different drinks, but they were all loaded with fresh mint, which was amazingly refreshing. We also ordered an assortment of stuff from their snack menu – the fried chicken was to die for (it came with three different sauces!), the burger was tasty, and the French fries came in a sharing size that was great for the four of us.

Bistro-Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises

As someone who has professionally written a lot about beer and breweries, I’m always eager to check out the local craft scene of every city I go to. We went to this one around lunchtime, and chose it because there were lots of positive reviews about the food. We shared salads and some appetizers, which were tasty, but the real highlight was (no surprise here) the beer.

La Finca Cafe

I needed an afternoon pick-me-up, and we stumbled across this cafe while walking back to our car. The exterior is pretty unassuming, but La Finca was beautifully airy, spacious, and welcoming. They have a quiet patio out back, too. I got a tasty iced matcha latte and some chocolate chip cookies to share that were TO DIE FOR. Flaky sea salt and two kinds of chocolate…my idea of heaven.

Terrasse William Gray

What do you do when you want to make the most of a short trip in a new city but also get a glass of wine? Find a rooftop bar. My sister suggested this one, at the top of a hotel in the Old Port. Since it was a weekday afternoon, we were one of the only groups there, and no one seemed to mind that we took our time sipping. We got a great view of the city (including the waterfront ferris wheel!), had some great cocktails, and shared an order of truffle fries that I’m still thinking about.

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how to get out of a slump

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I hit a slump. Sometimes it’s a productive one, where I can’t focus on anything and feel brain-dead. Sometimes it’s emotional, when my anxiety is at an all-time high and I’m psychoanalyzing things that don’t need to be psychoanalyzed. Here’s how I bring myself back to earth.

Scroll through Tumblr.

I freaking loved Tumblr in high school and my early years of college, but now I mostly use it when I need to relax and regroup. Something about scrolling past photos that appear in no order but still speak to me is very cathartic.

Exercise.

Can’t get a text back from the guy I like? Head to spin class. Feeling stressed or unfocused? Let’s pedal it out. Endorphins are real, you guys.

Shop.

Not online shop, but in-person. Like at Target or Whole Foods, preferably when they’re not crowded. Push a cart through the aisles and breathe in the organized-ness.

Have a snack.

Not an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s or a whole pizza (trust me, I know it’s hard), but something nourishing that your mom would approve of. Like an apple with peanut butter, or a grilled cheese sandwich. You know – one of the classics.

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