How to Slay Finals Without Losing Your Zen

Disclaimer: I write this as someone who already lost my zen during this lovely finals season (can you smell the sarcasm?). As a result, I’ve had to consciously find ways to reclaim my calm during the chaos. This is very much so similar to how I came to yoga. I was stressed out and the kind of person that needed yoga, not the kind of person who would seem to just naturally drift on into an asana / meditation combo. I tend to find that those are the people who get the most out of the practices.

  • Find an accountability buddy and commit study time to them. Text them when you are going to start studying and when you are going to finish studying. Research shows that accountability increases productivity and the likelihood that sh*t will get done.
  • Keep your spaces clean and de-cluttered. My boss makes sure that her desk is gorgeously decluttered before she leaves work every day. I admire that so much…the ability to leave with clarity and begin again with clarity. When it comes to any space, that’s what high-quality work demands, and it makes it that much more pleasurable.
  • Have an exercise plan (a challenge, even!) that is a #treatyoself for this period of time. I started doing SoulCycle’s Turn It Up 10 challenge when finals first started to hit. The endorphins help with the focus, calm and levity. The 45-minute classes make the timing doable and the lack of a commute makes the exercise totally conducive to studying. It’s a great release for the stress and I’m making the exercise work for me during this time, not the other way around.
  • Practice studying in a hygge way. As you know from the blog, I’ve been a big fan of hygge this year (who hasn’t, really?). This is all to say…get COZY when you study. Drape a blanket over you. Grab a cup of tea. Wear your comfiest PJ’s or yoga clothes.
  • Bask in how fun using a planner can be. I absolutely adore my planner. Lately, I’ve started using bullet journaling techniques in it. This allows me to schedule in time to have fun and practice self-care. In my planner for this weekend, for example, are all of my assignments, and a manicure / pedicure appointment.
  • Do at least one de-stressing activity a week; #treatyoself. Maybe this is said mani / pedi. Maybe this is a special restorative yoga class. Maybe this is a massage or a walk through the park. Whatever it is, schedule it as a way of making time for it. That way, when you return to your work, you’ll do so with a fresh and refreshed perspective.
  • Create a mise-en-place every time you sit down to work. A mise-en-place is a culinary strategy: laying out all the ingredients and tools so that it’s all within reach. I first learned about using the mise-en-place as a strategy for doing work from Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcast. It’s by far the best strategy I’ve gleaned from that show. Having everything in one spot makes doing the work so much easier and the distractions much fewer.

15 Ways to Re-start the Day (after it has already begun)

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I don’t know about you, but there are days that just don’t go as planned…or that just don’t go well. I find it a lot harder to do a mental re-start at, say, 3pm, than at 7am, yet the need to re-start, rejuvenate, and recharge can be just as necessary when the day is halfway through.

Okay, I’ll get less abstract here. As you all know, I went to Indiana over my spring break to spend time with my guy. The morning we were going to do our day trip to Indianapolis to go to this fantastic brunch place, I overslept…by three hours. The people who know and love me best were so proud of me when I told them this; balancing work, graduate school, and a side hustle has left me with a fairly high strung and generally early schedule that makes sleeping in a challenge. However, I did not see my morning of necessary rest in this light (heck, I didn’t even see the rest as anything resembling a necessity). Instead, I woke up totally freaked out that I wouldn’t have time to do yoga before being in a car for an hour and a half. I had an icky feeling all day, was a tad reactive to certain situations, and deeply craved a more grounded and yogic perspective. It wasn’t long before I realized what I needed to do: start my day over! So, to spread the love of the starting the day over in the middle of the day practice, I am sharing this list of ways how here.

  1. SUN SALUTATIONS – While they are meant for the morning, doing them in the middle of the day is a phenomenal way to channel that morning fresh start energy. My yoga teacher suggestion is to do five rounds of Sun Salutation A. If you’re feeling ambitious, three rounds of Sun A and three rounds of Sun B work great as well!
  2. MAKE A CUPPA coffee or tea – Allow the ritual of the beverage to re-set your brain, heart, and mind. Make it a mindfulness practice as you sip the beverage peacefully and maybe catch up on blogs, the paper, or magazines as you do so.
  3. WASH YOUR FACE – Splash cold water over your face and apply face wash and moisturizer. Breathe deeply as you massage your cheeks. This is especially good if one of the reasons you need to restart your day is because you need a bit of a wake up!
  4. SET AN INTENTION – Write down an intention for the rest of the day. How do you want to act? How do you want to perceive yourself? How do you want others to perceive you?
  5. INVERT THE BODY – Go upside down! This can be a downward facing dog, shoulderstand, headstand, or handstand (it can even be legs up the wall!).
  6. MEDITATE – Set a timer for ten minutes. Put your hands on your lap. Press your feet into the floor beneath you. Close your eyes or focus on one point in front of you. Breathe deeply. Namaste.
  7. 10 DEEP BREATHS + PRATAYAHARA – Pratayahara is one of my favorite niyamas (abstentions) of the yoga practice. It means to shut out some / most of the senses as a way of drawing inward. It can be incredibly rejuvenating, especially after a long day with a lot of external stimulation.
  8. SEX – Speaking of stimulation…with yourself or someone else sometimes it provides just the reset.
  9. 1-MINUTE DANCE PARTY – Blast some Beyonce. Turn off the lights. Rock out.
  10. PHONE A FRIEND – This 75-year-long Harvard study says it all: connection is the most important contributor to happiness. Feeling connected can be as attainable as a call to a long distance bestie.
  11. JOURNAL – Write about why you need to re-start the day, and how you can go about doing it. You might be surprised by what comes up!
  12. TAKE A NAP – Literally go asleep and wake up anew. This is something that I tell my students when they emerge from savasana: to stretch out like they’re waking up first thing in the morning…even if it’s 7pm. Start fresh!
  13. TAKE A WALK IN NATURE – Go outside and breathe in some fresh air. Fresh air, plus the lateral motion required in walking can do wonderful things to simply re-set the brain.
  14. SING IN THE SHOWER – Just do it. You’ll thank me later.
  15. STRETCH – Forward fold. Roll up vertebrae by vertebrae. Lift your arms up in the air and flex the palms like you’re doing a handstand on the ceiling. Take a big breath in. Really, it can be that simple sometimes.

Travelogue: Weekend in Chicago

Last weekend, I went to Chicago and had an unadulterated blast. We did so much in so little time and caught up on sleep. What I love so deeply about traveling is the way time seems to slow down and speed up and take on a life of its own all at once. That weird stretching and tightening of time was the making of a phenomenal mini-vacation. Here’s what we did:

Art Institute

I’ve been to Chicago before and knew that this time, I needed to go to the Art Institute. The spaciousness and quality of the museum represents what Chicago is all about: all the goodness cities have to offer without the cluttered feeling they often give off.

Bad Apple Brewery

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image via Pinterest

This place had an overall awesome vibe with an insanely lovely waitstaff. It made me really realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The burger I had, too, was extremely satisfying (it was topped with fig puree and goat cheese!).

SoulCycle

The Hip Hop Saturday class we took at the Southport location (which is in such a cool part of town!) was absolutely phenomenal. Kirsten opened class with my fave track from the new Kendrick Lamar album, and it was at that moment that I knew I was in for a kickass ride.

Amazon Bookstore

I didn’t know that these existed before coming across this one! I love going to bookstores as a core way of exploring a new city, and this concept store (basically, it’s Amazon prime, but with physical books) was not a disappointment in the least! They also had a Stumptown Coffee Roasters inside (score!).

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Confession: I’m not a huge ice cream person, but the #basic in me is a major lover of frozen yogurt. Jeni’s, which is known to have the best ice cream in the midwest, has their own way of making froyo: with buttermilk! In case you can’t tell by the joy on my face, it was absolutely delish.

Violet Hour

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We went for before-dinner drinks at the chicest cocktail bar I have ever been to in my entire life: Violet Hour. I went there during my first trip to Chicago, and it was classy AF.

Big Star

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Image via Groupon

Right across the street from Violet Hour is Big Star, where we went for delicious tacos and an avocado-pumpkin seed salad that had me smacking my lips. It was an overall joy-filled time!

Intelligentsia

En route to the airport, we had to stop at Intelligentsia because a major way to know a city is through its coffee (in my humble opinion). When I walked in, I had a sudden desire to be a freelancer there.

Where’s your next weekend vacay? Care to share the fun places you go? 

What to Pack for a Weekend Getaway

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As I believe I’ve been making clear on the blog, 2017 is a year of major travel for me, for so many reasons. There’s something special that can happen in your mid-twenties, I’m learning. Me, and many of my friends, have this lingering feeling that we are untethered for what may be the last time for a long time. Untethered to other people, a specific geographic location, future plans, a long-term job, the list goes on. We have this burning desire to make the most of this time that we are not permanently accountable to others, and many of us are choosing to use that time to see the world.

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While I’m still at my day job, I am doing a lot of weekend trips. Recently, I’ve been to Pennsylvania, Mexico, and this weekend to Chicago. I usually leave from work and have to pack accordingly. I have a tendency to over-pack (whoops!), which creates a lot of unnecessary wardrobe confusion once I arrive. Hence this post where I hope to aggregate good packing list resources, as well as my own personal – but customizable – weekend getaway packing list.

  • SoulCycle Uniform or Yoga Outfit. I have one complete outfit made entirely of SoulCycle apparel. I call it my SoulCycle uniform (branded sports bra, tank top, leggings, socks, and headband) because I only wear it to SoulCycle and nowhere else. This saves a lot of time when I’m looking for exercise clothes. If you’re going the yoga route, I suggest that you bring one pair of leggings and one top with a built-in sports bra.
  • Going-Out Outfit. What is an outfit (only one!) that you can wear from dinner to drinks?
  • Flats. Make sure that they are easy to walk in!
  • Boots. Again, make sure that they are easy to walk in (and relatively waterproof in case it rains).
  • Daytime Outfit. Jeans, a shirt, and sweater are perfect for this (i.e. the layering effect).
  • Pajamas. I suggest light ones (a t-shirt and shorts).
  • 3 Underwear. The necessities.
  • 3 Pairs Socks. The necessities.
  • Bra(s). One white and one black is usually a good rule of thumb.
  • Packed Toiletry Case. I personally love this sprinkly Kate Spade one.
  • Jacket. Suggestion: Wear it on the plane!
  • Small Purse. Something that can hold a wallet, keys, and cell phone, but no more (oh, and don’t forget to pack those things either).
  • Kindle. Make sure it’s charged and connected to WiFi before you go so that all your reads can download properly!
  • One Pair of Earrings. Make the colors fairly neutral (I like hoops for this!) so that they can go with a variety of outfits.
  • Sunglasses. You never know and one of the worst feelings is being without sunglasses when everyone else is squint-free.
  • Headphones. Seriously, these are a travel game-changer…especially if they’re noise-canceling!
  • Backpack for Main Carry-On. I love this one from State Bags.
  • Journal. Documenting is so important when on the road!
  • Pens. Pack only two or three to be a minimalist.
  • Planner. love, love, love my Lily Pulitzer planner when it comes to traveling because it has an entire gorgeous section for “Escape Plans,” as they call them. These pages, as you can see above, have spots for packing lists, itineraries, and activities / excursions. Those pages are where this blog post idea originated!
  • Cell Phone. I’ve been using the Netflix Download feature a lot to pre-load my phone with some TV and movies pre-travel.
  • Chargers. I can use the same one for my Kindle and Beats headphones, and I pack a mini iPhone charger.
  • Deodorant. Shove it in there!
  • Small Fragrance. I got a pack of mini fragrances from Anthropologie a while ago and they’re a game changer; I can just grab one and go!
  • Tea or Beverage Mix. I love Bengal Spice Celestial Seasonings teas and Nibmor hot cocoa mixes.
  • Snacks. My go-to’s are Rx and Lara bars and pre-portioned bags of almonds.

Here are some of my favorite blog posts on weekend packing lists:

My #the100dayproject

One of the first blogs that I read the entire archives of was Kimberly Wilson’s Tranquility Du Jour. This month on her blog, she is stressing the importance of a passion project through pursing a #the100dayproject challenge. The idea of the challenge is simple: for 100 days, you commit yourself to doing a little something of a creative act each day. Wilson writes,

Elle Luna, author of The Crossroads of Should and Must, hosts a 100-Day Project encouraging participants to commit to 100 days of doing a creative project for 5-10 minutes. No fancy tools or training needed. Just a desire to try  and commit to something for 100 days.

unnamed-2.jpgIMG_4323.JPGI have wanted to to take this blog more seriously (in a #livelightly way, of course) for quite some time now. This #the100dayproject feels like an ideal way to commit, in a manageable way, to honing my blogging skills through consistent practice. My goal is to, for the next 99 days (I started yesterday) work on my blog for ten minutes a day. As is my belief with my yoga practice, consistency matters so much more than quantity in the formation of meaningful habits. Because I started four days after the above start date, I will end four days after it as well and will track my progress through a chart I set up in my new bullet journal (post on that forthcoming!).

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Here is what I would like to accomplish through this project (because writing it down is the first step in making it happen in my book):

  • I want to develop my photography skills on social media and through incorporating original photographs into blog posts.
  • I want to curate content that inspires people to lead meaningful lives. I want to blend in all aspects of my own life into the posts.
  • I want to grow my readership…by a lot, if possible, and start to form virtual relationships with this blog’s audience.
  • I want to update the overall look, style, and layout of Growing Up On OM as a brand for 20-somethings who are trying to lead balanced, nourishing, holistic and sustainable lives with yoga in mind.

Do you have an idea for a passion project you can do consistently for one hundred days, for only 5-10 minutes each day?