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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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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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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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idiot-proof recipes i vouch for

Sometimes, I have a hard time following recipes. If something calls for too many ingredients or takes 3+ hours to make, I’m really not interested. Every once in a while, I stumble across a recipe that is literally impossible to mess up…even if you get easily distracted or like to put your own spin on a dish. Here are some of my favorite idiot-proof ideas.

Winter Crunch Salad (from Bon Appetit)

This recipe makes a great side dish for dinner, then packs up beautifully for tomorrow’s desk lunch. It has all my favorite salad things – brussels sprouts, kale, apple, sunflower seeds, and parmesan – and takes literally 10 minutes to make. Last time, I roasted the sprouts for extra flavor, which took a little longer, and used balsamic vinegar instead of the mustard for the dressing. Still delicious.¬† salad.jpg


Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread Cookie (from Alison Roman)

You’ve probably seen these cookies all over Instagram. The good news? They’re actually SUPER easy to make. There’s less than 10 ingredients, and they’re a more sophisticated (and slightly salty)¬† twist on the classic chocolate chip cookie. You won’t be disappointed.¬†cookie.jpg


Mini Asian Crab Cake Bites (from Martha Stewart)

I made these for a dinner party a few years ago, and it was the first time I’d ever worked with crab meat. These were surprisingly easy to make, and the easy addition of coconut milk, lime, ginger, and cilantro give these mini crab cakes fresh, Thai-inspired flavor. You can make and shape them ahead of time, too, then just quickly fry them up before serving. I made a corn salsa (fresh corn, red onion, tomatoes, and garlic quickly sauteed) to go on top!

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Molten Lava Cakes (from Paula Deen

This dessert is a dream if you don’t want any leftovers! And everyone will think you’re an amazing pastry chef, when, in reality, it’s like 5 ingredients. The recipe uses a mix of milk and dark chocolates, and I always skip the orange liqueur because I never have any.

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things that are still good about america

I read this piece on Man Repeller last summer, and was inspired to do my own version in honor of Independence Day 2018…especially since it’s getting increasingly harder to love America.

Beer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a frosty¬†Heineken…but there’s something about cracking open a tallboy of PBR or Narragansett that feels so freakin’ American.

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National parks.

I spent A LOT of my time growing up going on family vacations to America’s national parks. Places like the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park are great reminders of how unique the USA is, and they make me feel lucky to live here.

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Libraries.

I think this quote sums it up.

“It was my 2nd week in America and I was nervous when I was checking out 4 books at the local public library. I love libraries and where I come from you can normally checkout 3 books. I thought this being America I could try my luck and add another book. The nice checkout girl proceeded my order,¬†out of curiosity I asked her how many books could I checkout in one go.¬†Her answer:¬†75.¬†This to me symbolized¬†what America stood for.”


Planned Parenthood.

It’s pretty cool to me that even if you don’t have health insurance or any money you can go to PP for everything from a routine physical to a pregnancy test. I think it’s still pretty crazy that it’s 2018 and people are unable to afford basic medical care, so I’m glad that organizations like Planned Parenthood provide literally any health service a woman would need. P.S. Did you know that men are welcome, too?

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State slogans.

Idk about you, but I think it’s pretty cute that every state in America has their own thing going on. I especially enjoy the state slogans on license plates. Like Florida, the “Sunshine State.” Wyoming, “Forever West.” Montana, “Big Sky Country.” Something that’s really great about the US of A is that different parts of the country are SO different, whether in terms of climate, terrain, language, or cuisine. Frozen custard? Give it to me in Wisconsin or not at all. King crab? Not Alaskan, not going in my belly.

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my mental happy place

I’ve written before about my sleep struggles and frequent anxiety. These are two of my least favorite things about myself, and when they join forces at midnight, I know I’m in for a night of laying flat on my back trying to slow a racing heart, or scrolling through the “Discover” section of Instagram wondering why everyone else has a better life than I do.

I was at a Girl Scout sleep-away camp once, years ago, and felt ill-at-ease among the overly assertive counselors and cliquey girls. One of said counselors, who had nicknamed herself “Willow,” did her best to help me sleep, asking me to close my eyes and picture lovely things like waterfalls and open meadows. It helped.

Later, in high school, I occasionally went to a stress reducing/teen-focused yoga class after school. After going through the motions, we’d end class by laying flat on our backs, palms upward, lavender pillows over our eyes (still my favorite smell). Our instructor, Alison, would narrate some lovely meditation that pretty instantly made me fall asleep.

This can’t be a coincidence. Though I prefer to ease my anxiety during the daytime hours with more realistic, rational solutions, bedtime is for dreaming. Over the last decade, I’ve really honed in on my happy place – the dream world I create in my head, a life I fantasize about. It’s not exotic or anything special, really, but it’s something I continue to come back to, and for whatever reason, it makes drifting off to sleep so much easier.

I live in a small house by myself, in the woods, but walking distance from town. I bake a lot of bread and go to the farmer’s market often. I don’t have a computer. I read and paint a lot. I mainly wear dresses and silk nightgowns. I have a garden filled with plants I’ve managed not to kill. Sometimes it’s raining and I plop myself in front of a fireplace or in the giant clawfoot bathtub. (As I’m writing this, I feel kind of pathetic because most of these things are totally doable. We’ll see.)

Every once in a while I’ll scroll through Tumblr or Pinterest and see a photo that instantly transports me to my constructed happy place. Here are a few of those.

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