How to Pack For a Press Trip in The Caribbean

 

Since October 2017, I’ve gone on five separate press trips to the Caribbean (Mexico 3x, Jamaica and The Bahamas) and I’d like to think that I’ve got packing for tropical, work-related travel down to a fine science. Well, maybe not a science…but I have learned a few things along the way. Lately, I’ve had a lot of questions about my recent travels. So, before I head out on another trip, I thought I’d share a few of my packing tips for press or FAM trips in the tropics.

[Note: at some point I’ll write a comprehensive post about the ins and outs of press trips, but for now, this is a post about packing and preparation]

Bring a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in your carry-on.

Depending on where you’re flying from (in my case the west coast), if you’re on a red eye flight that arrives in the morning, you’ll probably get to your hotel or resort well before check in time. This means you’ll have a few hours to kill before your room is ready. I usually eat (I’m always starving) and then head to the pool/beach, however sometimes you have to hit the ground running. Literally. On my last trip I arrived from the airport and immediately had to do a 2-hour long (OUTDOOR) site tour of the property after flying all night. To save the hassle of rummaging through your suitcase in the hotel lobby bathroom (which, I’ve also done) I’ve just started packing my a bathing suit, sundress, sunscreen and sandals in my carry-on, along with anything else that I need to freshen up (face wipes, moisturizer, deodorant etc).

Checked baggage versus carry-on.

This is totally personal and I may change my stance on this, but I’m one of the rare people who prefers to check their baggage — especially for slightly longer trips. I like being hands free in the airport, plus in my experience, you tend to accumulate a lot of swag & souvenirs on press trips that you may want to take home (i.e. bottles of champagne, full size sunscreens, toiletries etc). Once again, this is totally a personal choice.

It’s not a fashion show.

In my experience, most of the journalists you meet on these trips are from large urban hubs like NY, LA, Miami, Atlanta, Toronto etc. I was worried that coming from the west coast of Canada (where we’re on “island time“) I’d look and feel like a country bumpkin in comparison to my peers. Not the case at all. Unless you’re going on fashion themed trips (like the kind described in Cat Marnell’s book How to Murder Your Life), most of the people you meet are going to be other (often underpaid) lifestyle and travel journalists like yourself.

Pack stuff that you feel good in and don’t bring anything too precious, as drinks get spilled and well, shit happens. With the exception of an Alice + Olivia dress, most of my tropical clothes are from the clearance rack of H&M, Forever21 or one of my favorite designer consignment stores in Vancouver (an excellent option for finding unique pieces for a great price — especially off season).

Now onto packing…

1. Sundresses that can easily be dressed up or down.

The key here is versatility. You want to pack things that can be worn with flat sandals to lunch/breakfast but can also work at night with a pair of heels (if that’s your jam). On my trip to Mexico and the Bahamas this summer, I brought two leaf-print dresses similar to the one above and wore them constantly. Tip: if you can wash a dress in the sink & it dries easily — even better.

2. Lightweight LBD.

Every press event is different, but in my experience there’s usually one night that requires you to be a little bit more dressy. A simple black slip dress like the one above has been a wardrobe godsend. Breezy and comfortable, you’ll look polished without being overdressed for the tropics.

3. Nude heels.

When it comes to heels, I try to only pack one pair. Maybe two. A great pair of nude heels is an easy solution here, as they go with everything. I actually own the exact pair of Dolce Vita slides featured above and I love them. They’re comfy and go with almost anything. If you’re looking to buy shoes online you’ll just want to make sure they’re comfortable enough to withstand a lot of walking. Caribbean resorts are deceptively large and you’ll likely clock some serious distances just going back and forth from events to your room.

4. Metallic or neutral colored flat sandals that you can walk in.

It all comes down to versatility and comfort here. While you’re able to find a ton of
women’s shoes online, you’ll want to make sure that your shoes don’t chafe and/or give you blisters.

5. Large clutch.

If the resort you’re visiting is all inclusive you’re probably not going to need to carry around your wallet all day, everyday. Instead, I like to use a large envelope clutch to hold my room key, phone & sunscreen. You can toss it into a beach tote for the day and/or pull it out for evening activities.

6. Fun jewelry.

Just because you’re there for business doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with your accessories. While I’m loyal to my go-to large gold hoops, I use trips to the Caribbean as an opportunity to experiment with bold & bright jewelry that I might not wear at home. Same goes for clothing!

7. Bikinis.

While I love a good one-piece, when you’re drinking a lot throughout the day — even if it’s just water — bikinis are just easier to get in and out of. Bring at least two so that you always have something to wear when the other one is drying.

8. A cover up that you’re not embarrassed to wear in public.

I didn’t realize this about resorts, but people wear coverups in public areas — not just by the pool or beach. While I generally don’t put much thought into what I wear to the pool when I’m at home, I’m glad I invested in one or two coverups that I can wear without feeling raggedy.

9. Good quality flip flops.

Instead of buying overpriced flip flops when you get there (that will probably need to be thrown out sooner, rather than later), minimize your waste by investing in a pair of decent quality flip flops. I’m partial to my Havaianas (that are now 10 years old!) because they seem close to indestructible.

10. Sunscreen.

Pack more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. I almost always run out and hotel gift shops love to charge extra for it.

11. All purpose tote.

I have a large Longchamp tote that I use as my travel bag but also does double duty as a beach tote that I can take on day trips.

Now onto the really fun stuff…

12. Earplugs and anything else you’ll need for a comfortable sleep.

You can never really predict how noisy a resort will be at night or where your room will be situated in relation to said noise. For example, I never would have guessed that at Temptation the party at the outdoor club rages until 3 or 4am, nor could I have anticipated how noisy the birds & bugs were in Jamaica. Moral of this story: ear plugs are your friend. I’ve also started using them for sleeping on planes.

13. All the hand sanitizer.

On my second press trip to Jamaica, I got strep throat. It was awful. This goes without saying, but use hand sanitizer always and liberally.

14. Bikini zone gel.

There’s nothing worse than being en route to your destination and realizing that the bikini wax you just got has turned into a hot mess of bumps and irritation. This cooling, healing gel has saved my life on numerous occasions.

15. Probiotics.

I have a sensitive digestive system, but I find taking probiotics everyday — especially when I’m traveling — really helps.

16. Diarrhea medicine.

As luck would have it, the one time I neglected to pack Immodium was the time I absolutely needed it (and was forced to spend $25 USD at the hotel gift shop to get some). Now I like to keep a package in my suitcase at all time.

17. Pepto Bismal.

Between tons of food and drink, and just being away from my usual food/environment, I’ve yet to go on a trip where I haven’t had to use something for my stomach at least once. To avoid the risk of spilling, I prefer to pack the chewable tablets.

18. Bug bite relief.

If you forget to pack bug spray (in my experience I’ve only needed it 50% of the time), it helps to have some topical bug bite relief and Benadryl on hand.

19. A hat that you’re not particularly attached to.

On recent trips, I’ve had sun hats fall in the pool, get rained on and even fly off a boat into the ocean. You’re going to need a hat, but maybe consider packing one that you’re not super attached to.

20. Lip balm with SPF.

Pack some so you don’t spend the entire trip complaining that your lips hurt real bad. 

To save time, I’ve taken items 13-21 (along with a bottle of bug spray) and put it in a zipper pouch, so I can just grab my “tropical survival kit” whenever I’m preparing for a trip.

What are some of your traveling essentials?

Five Things I’ve Learned About Sex From Writing About It

I was speaking to an editor I work with recently, and she mentioned the post I wrote announcing my semi-retirement from sex blogging. “It seems like you started your blog to work out stuff about your sexuality and now you’ve kind of done that,” she said. Sometimes all it takes is a simple comment like that from someone else to make you realize that yes, that’s exactly what you’ve been doing all along. I started this blog in 2009 so I’d have a place to share all of my bizarre dating stories and showcase my writing, but it became so much more than that.

Through Skinny Dip I’ve been able to sort through my feelings about dating, relationships, my body and my sexuality. While I’ve mostly retired from reviewing sex toys and no longer feel the need to share so much about my current love life on this blog, I still thought it would be fun to look back and share some of the things I’ve learned about myself over the past nine years (oof) of blogging.

1. Explore and experiment to your heart’s content.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on my body and self-pleasure before I started this blog, but trying a bazillion different sex toys for the purpose of writing about them has definitely expanded that knowledge in positive ways. I can now look at the shape of a toy or feel it’s vibration patterns on my fingers and make a very good educated guess as to whether I’ll enjoy it (and while I’m occasionally still surprised, I’m usually right). The point here: don’t be afraid to experiment with different gadgets or props — even the really weird looking sex toys. Worst case scenario, you’ll learn more about what you do and don’t like.

2. If you don’t like something or it doesn’t work for you, that doesn’t mean you’re broken.

There are plenty of stores online that claim they sell the best sex machines but not all toys are created equal or are designed with every human body in mind. What’s mind blowing for one person, is going to be a flop for someone else. For example, I’ve learned through trial and error that wand vibes like the ever popular Hitachi Magic Wand, just don’t work for me AT ALL. I’d much rather use something small and precise like the Crave Duet (a vibe that another blogger hailed as a flop). Long story short: not everything is going to work for everyone and that’s okay. Life would be kind of boring if everyone got off in the exactly same way. Keep trying stuff until you find what works for you.

3. You’re not required to define your sexuality for other people.

When I decided last spring to finally explore my bi-sexuality, I felt pressure to define my sexuality for other people. I thought it would be easier to explain myself and fit in with the queer community if I gave myself a label (queer, bi, hetero-flexible etc) — and I wasn’t totally wrong about the first one. People like clearly defined labels because they’re easier to digest. However, like Justin Bobby from The Hills, “I’m just not into labels” — at least when it comes to my sexuality. It wasn’t until I was on my first really great date with a woman and my date told me, “no one in the gay community is going to force you to define yourself,” that I felt comfortable just letting things be. The truest thing I can say about my sexuality is that I am a woman who mostly dates and loves men, but sometimes has romantic and sexual feelings for women.

4. You know yourself better than anyone else and it’s okay to like what you like, however kinky or vanilla that may be. 

I’ve written about the ridiculous assumptions people have about me because I write about sex. For example, that I must be super kinky and/or sleep with evvvvveryone (I mean, really guys?) Nine years in and I’m really tired of having to explain on a weekly basis that I don’t have my very own sex dungeon (however, I’d kill for some more shoe storage space). While writing about sex has definitely opened my mind to new things and encouraged me to explore my sexuality, it’s also helped reconfirm what I’ve known to be true about myself all along: that I can enjoy different kinds of sexual experiences, but the kind I crave most isn’t necessarily very kinky. I want sex that is super passionate, but also includes a great mind-body/emotional connection. This isn’t always easy to find, which is part of the reason I don’t have as much sex as people probably think I do. Like #3, I also used to feel the need to explain this to people, until I realized that it’s no one’s business but my own.

5. Stay open.

Not only am I more open-minded when it comes to my own desires, writing about sex has given me a greater appreciation for the diversity of human sexuality. While I know myself a lot better than I did nine years ago and I still have some “hard passes” when it comes to dating and sex, I’m also open to those beliefs and desires changing. Sexuality isn’t static. It’s okay to evolve and change over time. In other words, know yourself but never say never.

 

10 Weird Jobs I Had Before Became A Sex Columnist

 

My good pal Kate recently wrote about some of the weird and wonderful jobs she’s had and it’s inspired me to share some of mine. I worked part time throughout the later part of high-school and university (and beyond!) and while the jobs themselves were for the most part pretty normal, I still have a lot of  “interesting” stories.

1. Body Shop sales clerk.

I worked at three different Body Shop locations throughout university, but the one that made for the best stories was the Toronto Eaton Center location. Our store was located on the bottom floor of the Eaton Center — a busy, sprawling downtown mall, dubbed by many “Toronto’s armpit.” Smack dab in the middle of downtown and next to multiple subway stops, when it came to people watching at my former job, there was rarely a dull moment. A few of the highlights:

  • The store had a large makeup section with lots of mirrors. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it wasn’t uncommon to see people come in and do their entire face. After seeing what people do to makeup testers I will never, ever use them — not even on my hand, if I can help it. Shudder.
  • The store also had a large sink intended for sampling shower gels and soaps. One day a man came in, filled the sink, dunked his head in the water and proceeded to wash his very long, filthy hair. Then, instead of toweling dry, he stood up and shook his head like a dog, spraying water everywhere before casually sauntering out of the store.
  • Maybe it was the ubiquitous smell of fruity soap or the fumes wafting in from the food court, but something about being inside The Body Shop compelled customers to tell you all about their bodies. From bikini waxing mishaps, venereal disease symptoms to a man who needed something for what he called his “XXX parts” (very itchy recently shaved balls), I saw and heard things that can never been unseen/heard.

2. The sketchy designer jeans store. 

My first job when I moved to Toronto was working at a store that sold Diesel Jeans (and other brands du jour) on Yonge Street. The store was called Soul and when I saw the help wanted sign, the wide-eyed eighteen year old me thought it was destiny (I mean, I love Soul music. So, what could go wrong?) In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the whole operation was a drug front. We rarely had any customers and every two weeks they’d pay me with cash out of the till. I didn’t mind because they gave me a sweet discount on a pair of Parasuco sparkly denim flares (the jeans had a shimmery silver sheen that made them sparkle in the sun. Like glitter. Oh dear.) In my defense, they made my ass look amazing.

3. Ghostwriting erotic fiction.

When I first started freelancing, I scored a gig creating content for an SEO company that specialized in the adult industry. For several months I wrote a series of “real life” blog posts as “Ginger,” a law student turned cam-girl with a penchant for sex in public places. It was fun & hilarious & weird (and I would totally do it again). FYI, SEO strategy is infinitely more interesting when your keywords are things like “ass cheeks,” “rim job” and “money shot.”

4. The Hungarian deli.

For a very brief period in 2003, I decided to embrace my Eastern European roots and apply for a job  at the Hungarian deli near my house in Toronto. The manager looked like a Slavic stereotype straight out of central casting. Olga wore a white butcher’s coat, a hair-net and a grim expression that made her seem utterly terrifying. Even more terrifying: learning to operate the meat slicer. I was too tentative, which lead to a lot of thickly sliced Tziganskaya (which even I know is a total abomination). I never got called for a second shift.

5. Candy Girl.

My first real job in high school was working at a movie theater downtown. I was initially hired to work at the concession stand. However, I never quite mastered scooping popcorn (notice a pattern here?) so, I was promptly moved over to the bulk candy station. The owner — an older, red-faced man that had a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed a bucket of gravel and washed it down with a whisky chaser – had a mental block when it came to remembering my name so he just called me “Candy Girl.” He told me, “I hired you because you put on your resume that you know how to use a computer.” So, when things weren’t busy, Old Gravel Mouth would bring me up to his office where he’d dictate emails. They were always addressed to a woman named Tammy, who wasn’t his wife.

6. Flight Attendant.

So, yeah. That happened. After graduating university, I thought it would be really cool to get paid to travel. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t (at least for me). I spent two months in an aggressive training program learning all about airplane safety, watching videos of airplane crashes, and doing simulated crash drills that always took place at 4am in empty airplane hangers. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly help with my then un-diagnosed anxiety disorder. I did one flight before turning in my resignation. However, if you need help dragging a body from a burning wreckage (we practiced!) or zip-tying an unruly passenger to their seat, I’m your gal.

7. Coat check.

In third year university, I spent a winter working at the coat check for a high-end night club/cigar lounge. Oddly enough, this is one of the best jobs I ever had. I made an hourly wage, plus tips (usually about $100-$200 a night). The clientele was a lot of pro sports players, C-list celebs and other high-roller types. The money was good and the people watching didn’t disappoint. Annnnd, at the end of the night they’d give us free sandwiches. I’d always leave work with cash in my wallet and a handful of sandwiches stuffed in my purse, that I’d eat for lunch & dinner the next day. Because, #studentlife.

8. Peddler of fancy old lady clothes.

Home for the summer after second year university and desperate for a job, I spent a few months working at a boutique that sold high-end designer clothes. From ten seasons ago. The clothes were brand new, they had just been in the store forever. The rest of the stock looked like it was pulled from the wardrobe department of The Golden Girls. My manager reminded me of Kris Jenner, only more evil and with a raging cocaine habit. She would frequently yell at me because she didn’t think I was selling enough. (IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I CAN’T MOVE THIS PAIR OF SUN-FADED SHOP WORN YELLOW VERSACE JEANS, SUSAN.)

9. Managing a Co-Op residence.

This is by far the worst job I ever had. You can read about it here. And yes, I still have nightmares about the van and the never-ending demand for toilet paper.

10. This job.

Being a freelance writer that mostly writes about sex and relationships is weird & wonderful & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to interview porn stars, travel to nude resorts and share my feelings with the internet, all in the name of work. I like to think that all of these other jobs in some way prepared me for what I do now, which often involves writing and speaking about things that make other people feel uncomfortable. “Itchy balls” guys of the world, I solute you.

What’s the strangest or most memorable job you’ve had?

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My Bummer-Proof Guide to Getting The Most out of 2017

 

The world may be going to hell in a knock-off handbag, but I’m determined to make the most out of 2017 no matter what.

In December I participated in Molly Mahar’s Stratejoy Holiday Council for the 4th year in a row. I love the Holiday Council – it’s  a great way to wrap up the past year and plan for the one ahead. The course encourages everyone to pick a theme word for the year and five “ways of being” that embody your theme.

The theme I chose for 2017 is shift While there’s lots of things I love about my life, there’s certain pivots I want to make in both my personal and professional life for 2017. I want to expand my career, save money & finally move back into an apartment/home of my own.

To make my goals happen I’ve chosen these five ways of being in 2017:

BE PERSISTENT

Stop letting myself off the hook. Give fear the middle finger & persistently pursue my goals. Embrace positive forward progress over perfection.

BE BAD-ASS

Wear more red lipstick. Tell brave stories. Show confidence. Remind myself regularly that I’ve ‘totally got this.’

BE FRUGAL

Both in time and money. Use the library & public transit more. Spend mindfully. Save for a rainy day. Use what I’ve got at my disposal instead of giving in to instant gratification.

BE CONNECTED

Use social media to connect instead of distract. Do activities that get me out of my comfort zone and allow me to connect with my community, both online & in person. Write about things that will be helpful to other people.

BE LIMITLESS

Go big. Do the thing. Shift forward into fulfilling my goals. Know that there’s no cap on what I can do.

/////////////////////////////////////////

Speaking of bad-ass, if you haven’t checked out my friend Casey Palmer‘s blog you should. Not only is Casey a top-notch Dad & all around human, I’m continually impressed with how much he does while juggling a career/fatherhood/marriage & blogging. Case and point: every year he posts a list of 100 things he wants to accomplish in the 12 months ahead.

As a naturally anxious person, just the idea of a 100 item to-do list is enough to give me heart palpitations, so I decided to be uber realistic and make a list of 12 things I’d like to do in 2017. One for every month.

1. Wear the lipstick and earrings.

When you work from home it’s so easy to fall into a fashion rut. But I’ve noticed that my friend Kate (who also works at home) is always posting photos where she looks super cute in fun jewelry & gorgeous lipstick. I have fun jewelry and lots of lipstick…I could do this too! So, my intention is to actually make it happen: wear my nice clothes, accessories and a bold lip even though I mostly just work out of coffee shops.

2. Get to Wardrobe Zero.

What exactly is wardrobe zero? Good question. For most of my adult life I’ve always had a large rubbermaid bin of clothes that are either off season (i.e. sweaters, bikinis) or need to be sold or donated. This bin sits in storage and takes up space. While I like the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe, it’s not realistic for me. Instead, I’d like to get to the point where everything I own fits in one smallish closet – in other words, a closet without waste aka “wardrobe zero.” If I can see everything I have in one place, I’m hoping this will discourage me from accumulating items I don’t need. I have one more bag full of items to consign in May and then I’ll officially be at wardrobe zero. Wahoo!

3. Get to Beauty Zero.

I did this about 5 years ago and it was so rewarding. Basically this just means using through all the products I have (including samples!) so I can get a better handle on what I actually use and like, so I can get away from buying products that I just end up abandoning in favour of more new products. Who needs 8 different kinds of shampoo in my shower? Not me.

4. Get to Bookshelf Zero.

I have a bad habit of stockpiling books. In an effort to embrace frugality this year I’m working towards bookshelf zero. This means reading everything in my to-read pile before buying more books. If I’m feeling particularly motivated, I might even start to tackle the 30+ books on my e-reader! If I manage to stick to this goal I’m treating myself to a hard copy of Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women.

5. Learn to cook something new every month.

[2/12 COMPLETE] Every year I say I’m going to cook more and every year this goal falls to the wayside. I decided to be super realistic this year. If I can learn one new dish per month, I’ll be happy. So far I’ve taught myself to make KimChi fried rice and Cajun Dirty Rice. Yes, things are still pretty rice-y around here, but it’s a start.

6. Take pole dance classes.

[IN PROGRESS!] I’ve wanted to take pole classes forever – because, who doesn’t want to spin and hang upside down while Rihanna plays in the background? I took an intro class in January and fell in love. It’s now been about six weeks of classes and I have the inner thigh bruises to prove it.

7. Take ballet classes again.

 This is next on the docket after I finish up the next round of pole classes.

8. Get my drivers license.

Jeebus, it’s time. I keep saying this, but let 2017 be the year I finally cross this off my list.

9. Publish at least 3-5 articles in American outlets.

After taking the Pitch Like a Honey Badger course, I finally found the courage to pitch some of my dream publications. If you’re a freelance writer and want to expand into new markets I highly recommend this course!

10. My own apartment.

 This is one of my top goals for the year (along with some big professional ones.) Real estate prices are insane here and rents are on the rise, but I’m hoping that with the help of this Pinterest board that I obsessively update, I can manifest the hell out of this goal and find the perfect place.

11. Get my Barre certification.

[MAY 2017] Over the past few years I’ve become addicted to barre fitness to the point where I’ve toyed with the idea of getting my certification to teach. There’s a course happening in May. Depending on my work schedule, I’d really like to take it. This is kind of a stretch goal: if it happens, it happens but if it doesn’t, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

12. Get crafty.

This is another stretch goal, but I’d really like to follow through on turning Joe’s handsome mug into some large scale art prints like I mentioned in this post. I’d also like to create an album(s) of my favourite Instagrams from my two California trips. It wasn’t until I saw this post on A Beautiful Mess that I remembered how much I miss having actual photo albums to look through. Phones are great, but it would be nice to have hard copies of all of these photos.

What do you have on deck for 2017? Share one of your goals for this year in the comments!

How to Recharge & Stay Inspired When You’re Really Busy

how to recharge when you're busy

A few years ago, everything in my life felt out of balance. I was anxious and constantly felt overwhelmed. When I was going through this, I made a list of things that I could do to make myself feel better. I’ve learned that part of living well with an anxiety disorder, means having “touchstones” I can draw on whenever I need to re-group. In fact, it’s crucial. So, I thought it might be interesting to not only share some of the (fun) ways I manage my anxiety, but also some of the stuff I love to do when I’m not here writing about dating, sexy lingerie and vibrators.

Now, here’s the thing – I wrote a version of this post a long time ago and it’s been sitting around in my drafts for…I don’t know, FOREVER. Why you ask? Because life has actually been really great lately. The Secret Agent and I have been having tons of great adventures: we’ve gone to Vancouver multiple times together, seen Erykah Badu in concert (my 3rd time seeing her!), plus been to a handful of other amazing shows and events (Zaki Ibrahim, Ester Rada, Talib Kweli!) We’ve been having a great time. Work has also been going well and am in the midst of working with a lovely editor to finish up the next stage of my book project.

However, the thing about having anxiety is that you can still have off days even when life is good. Anxiety is a bully like that. Although medication has helped me so, so, much, sometimes my brain chemistry can make it feel like life is either moving too fast or like it’s a bit too slow and foggy. These feelings are much more subtle than they used to be, but they are still there. Also, writing all day everyday can sometimes make you feel burnt-out. When these changes in mood happen, I don’t feel like the best version of myself.

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past few months is that in order for me to feel my best, do my best possible work and be a good partner to The Secret Agent, I need to look after myself and make sure I take time to practice these good habits or touchstones – even when life is going swimmingly.

So, without further adieu, here are a few of the things I do to keep my anxiety in check and have fun in the process! (Thanks to Joe the Intern and his friends for helping me with the visuals…) Whether I’ve been travelling a lot or just need a mid-week re-boot, these are some of my favourite personal rituals.

Feeling overwhelmed, burn-out or creatively uninspired? Here are a few things to try

Balance 1

I always joke that I consume books like most people consume food – and it’s almost true! I read a lot and always aim to read at least 3-4 books a month in hopes of staying on top of my perpetually long “to be read list” on Goodreads. Reading is not only highly enjoyable, it’s a great way for me to relax my mind when things start to feel “busy” in there (if you can relate to my stories about anxiety, you know what I’m talking about.) I like to make time to read for at least an hour before bed and an hour or two during Saturday mornings (I regularly document my coffee & reading adventures here.) When I read a lot, I also write better – so, there’s that.

Some of my favourite reads from 2015 so far include Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, The Wild Oats Project by Robin Rinaldi and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’d also recommend anything by Junot Diaz, Cheryl Strayed, Cristina Henriquez and any of the female friendly reads from this or this list. 

balance 2

One of the things that brought the Secret Agent and I together was our mutual love of 90’s hip hop and R&B – among other genres. I love that I can play him a song I really love & there’s a very good chance that he’ll enjoy it too.

One of my favourite things to do when I’m having writer’s block is to explore new music. Although I’m always on the look out for new music to fall in love with, if my boyfriend mentions that he’s heard something on Soulbounce that I haven’t yet, I know that life has been busy & I need to spend some time with my headphones exploring some new sounds. Listening to music is one of my favourite ways to get energized and inspired. 

(FYI, in a few days I’ll be losing my music festival virginity at Squamish Fest, so I’ve been preoccupied sonically researching all the acts we’ll see like Sam Smith, Drake & Alabama Shakes (eeee!))

balance 5

Green smoothies made with Vega One mix have been my saving grace over the past year. With the exception of weekends that I usually spend at The Secret Agent’s, I drink one each and every morning – even while travelling. The older I get, the more important it becomes for me to pay attention to what I put in my body. Having a protein rich green smoothie everyday means I eliminate the “ugh, what should I eat for breakfast?” question, therefore creating more time and energy in my day for other pursuits, like writing and client work.

Regardless of what else is going on during the rest of the day, my green smoothie habit ensures that I get more than enough servings of veggies & fruits first thing in the am. Also, green smoothies are delicious and make me feel awesome. Joe the Intern agrees.

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When I sat down to write down this list I asked myself, “what makes me feel most like myself?” One of the first things that popped into my mind was moving my body. I spent most of my childhood to young adulthood dancing ballet. I’ve since learned that whether I’m dancing, taking a barre class or punching & kicking the crap out of a bag at the gym, I feel my best when I’m getting sweaty & moving my body. Doing exactly that on a regular basis is what keeps me sane & feeling good. A workout has always made me feel better, not worse.

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In the past, one of my go-to relaxation tools was to watch a couple (or many) episodes of a favourite TV show. While I still love Netflix (the latest season of Orange is the New Black made me feel all the things & I’m wholeheartedly in love with BoJack Horseman) ever since the release of Serial, I’ve become completely obsessed with podcasts and have started listening to several on a regular basis (most of which are about social justice issues.)

I’m of the belief that we’ve become so programmed to communicate & “connect” – especially online – that many of us don’t slow down long enough to really listen to each other or ourselves. I love podcasts because they force you to listen and focus, without looking at a screen. As I discovered from my experience listening to Serial, there’s something really intimate and comforting about hearing someone’s  voice tell you a story – even if what they are talking about is a murder case. Plus, learning about something new about the world around you is a great way to get out of your own head (this is one reason I also really love to watch documentaries!)

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I used to scoff at the term “self-care” and accompanying articles that suggested that I do things like “take a bubble bath” or “paint my nails.” More often than not, I couldn’t relate. Hot baths usually make me feel lightheaded and painting my nails is futile endeavour (the chipping frustrates me too much to make it worthwhile.) In the inaugural words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, ain’t nobody got time for that. 

However, self-care is really important. Looking over the above mentioned actions, they all fall under the banner of self-care because they are all things that make me feel good. With that said, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel better when I take the time to give myself a pedicure and stick to my regular at-home laser hair removal sessions (more on that later.) So, whether it’s giving your hair a new paint job (above) or treating yourself to a much needed pedicure, I’ve learned it’s important to take care of the external as well as the internal.

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Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. When people ask me about how I ward off creative burn-out, I simply tell them, “naps.” Whenever my mind starts to feel foggy or like I can’t concentrate, I lay down for an hour and sleep it off. I tell myself that when I get up in 60 minutes, things will feel better and I will keep working. I liken the mind to a computer: sometimes you need to shut down and reboot. And you know what? It works.

So, whether you’re just really busy, have anxiety or both, these are a few rituals that I embrace to re-balance and feel good. However, this is by all means not an absolute list. Everyone is different and what works for one person, might not work for another.

Do you have any touchstones or personal rituals that you practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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