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the afternoon ritual: 5 ways I find grace within the "grind"

As creatives, we work hard: we pour ourselves out again and again and again. Starting a business as an entrepreneur, or writing a book, or an album, or creating something entirely new - it all takes patience and effort. Many late nights, many early mornings. It's not a bad thing either, working hard - in fact, I love it. There's a feeling of fullness that comes from a good day's work; tiredness in a good way. Something about it feels so good, and it seems to help us sleep better.

But it's equally important to remember that we need to pause from time to time, whether that be by heading off grid for a trip away from screens and all things digital, or finding little ways to bring peace and mindfulness into your everyday work routine. 

I've personally found that learning to take breaks...well, it takes practice. But it's important and necessary for our creative and physical wellbeing. 

There are many ways to find the grace and stillness within your workday, but one method that has become a particular favorite of mine is developing what I'm going to call an afternoon ritual: something that you do smack in the middle of your day. Something that completely extracts you from the normal patterns of your workday and throws you into an entirely different headspace. I've found this to be an extremely refreshing practice that not only causes me to savor the sweet undertones of each and every day, but also helps me to achieve a greater sense of clarity to carry into the rest of my work.

It can be tricky, especially for creatives, to stop working because we generally love our work...but it's so extremely important that we avoid the trap of becoming so entwined with our work that we begin to associate with it too closely. Taking a break can be a wonderful way to remind yourself that your value as a unique being is not dependent on how much you work, or what you create. Yes, creation is an outpouring of our being...but on days when we make nothing, we are still valuable, loved, and fully alive.

Here are a few ways taking a break in the middle of my workday - finding afternoon rituals - has helped me to remind myself of exactly that. 

#1 - tea
In my family, a cup of tea is much more than a cup of tea. It's a deeply loved and respected afternoon ritual; a warm or iced beverage that goes far beyond flavor and extends an invitation to gather, talk, and commune. This is the nectar shared over the messy manuscripts of my youth, this is the comfort that embraces me on the long, cold, Vermont winter days. Tea is a respite. Making the tea itself is a practice of mindfulness, whether it's organic black tea sweetened with a touch of Vermont maple syrup and almond milk, or if it's brewing a big pot of yogi tea on the stove, the practice itself brings me into the moment: gathering the ingredients I need, smelling them, tasting them. Boiling the water. Or, if I'm making yogi tea, slicing sweet yellow ginger into long, fragrant slices, popping cardamom pods to bring out their earthy flavor, counting out spicy auburn cloves - watching all of these dance together in the swirls of boiling water. Tea is best when shared, and even more delicious when paired with good conversation or accompanied by a good book. Tea is a sweet way to step back and...steep. ;)

#2 - yoga
Yoga brings you fully and completely into the moment. I've practiced yoga for years now, and it would probably take a few very lengthy blog posts to spell out just how much it's done for me and how many positive ways its impacted me. Yoga is not only a great workout and a wonderful way to expand your lung capacity, it's a spectacularly peaceful way to reunite with your innermost being and find a place of stillness, a place where work and everything else is placed into a box and set aside, allowing you to completely and totally clear your mind. There's so much liberation in the practice...in coming back every day to carve out this time and space for you to just...be. To move and breathe in the present moment and forget everything else. It's a wonderful way to pause your day, to take a break from work, recharge and find the energy you need.

#3 - learning a language
This is one that I want to coordinate into my afternoons more regularly. According to many studies, learning a second language actually helps your brain to grow, become better at multitasking, and increase memory. In other words, learning a language is like doing a refreshing workout...except for your mind. I've found that studying a language, even if it's just for fifteen to twenty minutes in the afternoon, can be a great way to hit the reset button; it throws my brain into a completely different way of functioning, and it can feel so good to step out of the normal, every day groove and change it up. Not to mention you'll end up fluent in another language eventually, which is pretty cool too.

#4 - getting out of the house
This one's really simple and straightforward: sometimes you just need a change of scenery, and if you work from home, getting out of the house can be a helpful way to force yourself to step back from the desk and take a breather. I highly recommend nature walks. I can't remember the last time the sound of songbirds and the whisper of the wind in the tall, swaying pines didn't inspire me.

#5 - learning martial arts
For me, martial arts is similar to learning a language - and if you attend or ever have attended a dojo, you've probably discovered that there actually are some language learning aspects paired with the physical practice of learning a martial art. Again, this could and eventually will require a post all its own, breaking down just how important a part of my life martial arts is, but for now I will just say that, among the many, many benefits it bestows, there's nothing quite like taking a break from the desk to step outside and do kata barefoot in my driveway with only the sky above to watch, and the trees to help me keep time. I would recommend learning martial arts for a million good reasons, but for the purpose of this post, if you're looking for something that sort of blends the benefits of yoga and language learning, this might be a perfect ritual to adopt for a midday refresh.

So those are a few of my favorite things to take a break for in the middle of the day. Each is special to me, and each helps me to stay charged in different ways. If you're looking for ideas to help you create a practice of carving out some time for yourself and bringing a little grace to your work day, I hope these inspired you to do a little experimenting! 

Now it's your turn - what's your favorite way to take a break? What's something that makes you feel super rejuvenated after doing it? How does it help your creative work? 

Have an inspired weekend and week ahead, sweet soul!

stay stoked,

stop caring

stop caring about what other people think about what you make.
if you're making something
or doing something
just to gain someone's approval?

ditch it.

find your story and tell it: tell the real story that pulsates inside of you.

if you're doing something to make the world a better place and someone doesn't love it, maybe you should just stop listening. maybe, to an extent, you need to stop caring.

caring about what
of what you make

will do nothing good
for you
for the world
for anyone

as a creator there is only ever
one thing
that you need to do:

get quiet with yourself, ask yourself why you're doing what you're doing:

because you love truth? because you want to make the world a better place? because you have this thing burning inside of you and it HAS to be given a voice?

good. awesome. you're on the right track.

so what does it matter what other people think? be so busy creating that you don't even have time to THINK about the opinions of others. you don't do what you do for them. you don't make what you make for the approval of someone else.

you make what you make because you have to. 
because you have no other choice.

you create because it is an outpouring of your being.

and external opinions

take what's constructive from those who love you,
take what builds you,
take whatever serves your soul.
and hit the mute button on the rest.

keep making your thing, beautiful creator.
keep speaking,
keep putting yourself out there even when it's sometimes painful,
even when its hard.

that beautiful thing that you're passionate about creating? you're passionate about it for a reason.
don't let anyone take that light away from you.

take a deep breath, put the ear plugs in, keep your focus out in front
and keep creating.

stay stoked,

tracking my morning routine for a week: what I learned

Waking up is the most important time of day, I think. I believe that when we first open our eyes, stretch, take a deeper breath, and begin a new day, we reach a very pivotal moment; we are starting our day. 

Wow. How often have we taken that for granted? each day, each and every one is a gift. the fact that we get to live and enjoy and move and shape and change - wow. How can we help but be filled with gratitude when we actually slow down and realize this?

How we start our day is often how we're going to live our day. Each day is significant. Each day is important, and should be treated accordingly. 

Lately I've been thinking a lot about this: how I start my day. I've begun to draw back to see the larger image and to ask myself if I'm honestly doing it right: am I launching into each new day with the respect and reverence it deserves, treating it like the exciting new opportunity that it is, or am I just letting today happen to me - merely reacting to whatever happens to come my way?

Morning routines are important, but I don't even like to use the word "routine" because it's so overused and attached to all sorts of other imagery like videos about how to do makeup and what kind of coffee to make. 

Shall we call it mindful, or purposeful actions instead?

It can be a wonderful thing to establish a few things that you can go-to first thing in the morning without having to think about it. Quite a bit of research shows that it takes around thirty days to establish a habit, and whether we realize it or not, we all have morning routines already, be it reaching for your phone to check messages, or turning on the tv without thinking.

But because this is the most pivotal part of our day - the moments that will actually help shape the rest of it - bringing mindfulness into what our immediate actions are after opening our eyes is a lot more critical than we may realize. 

In his commencement speech, Denzel Washington expounds on the importance of starting your day with gratitude, Former Navy SEAL and author Jocko Willink speaks heavily on why he starts his day early in the morning and implements a routine, and just a quick youtube search will yield oversaturated pages of morning routines and ideas.

This is obviously something that a lot of us are drawn to, and I think that's for a purpose. I believe that how we start our day is so important, and as I've began to pull back and analyze this a little more, I've seen quite a few benefits from this in my own life.

In July, I spent a week keeping track of my morning routine - anything and everything I did before I started my workday. By late morning or afternoon, I took stock, made some notes, and looked back on what I did. What I found? One thing was consistent, and we'll unpack that in a minute. First, here's a look at my notes from that week:

Day 1:
- cold shower
- applied essential oils
- meditated
- prepped lemon water and coffee

Day 2:
- cold shower
- applied essential oils
- had coffee and meaningful conversation

Day 3:
- cold shower
- essential oils
- coffee
- meditation

Day 4:
- coffee and quality time

Day 5:
- coffee and quality time
- reading time
- meditation

Day 6:
- cold shower
- essential oils
- coffee
- walk in nature
- meditation

Day 7:
- cold shower
- essential oils
- coffee
- reading time

Looking back on my week, I began to notice that one thing was consistent about my "routine" and that was how much it changed and fluctuated. I expressed my leeriness for the word "routine" earlier, and that's because, as a creative, I personally shy away from routine; for me, doing the same thing every single day, over and over again can often feel boring and even stifling. In the past that dislike played a large part in my failure to stick to any particular routine. I like the unknown - it gets me out of bed in the morning. I like to wake up each morning to a new adventure, not necessarily a planned out schedule.

Whether you are a planner or a "pantser" in life (and both are great!) I think it can be really healthy to establish structure, but also be open for the unknown, the gentle sway of each new day. 

(I wrote an entire post a little while back about rigidity vs structure, and distinguishing the two, and I also made a video about scheduling in time to be, well, unscheduled - and how important that can be for us as creative beings.)

So if you're a creative who finds sticking to a specific routine as tough as I did (I'm right there with ya) this is for you:

it's not so much about doing the same exact things every day as it is identifying the general things that help you to begin your morning the happiest and healthiest.

My point? instead of vowing that you will make and drink a super healthy green smoothy each day, why not simplify that to eating a healthy meal of your choice, and having some fun with what that could be, depending on your mood, and how much time you have?

Or maybe you want to start your day with a workout routine, and you've selected a list of exercises to do each day; perhaps change it up with yoga, or going for a run or walk, and maybe substitute that with stretching and listening to an audiobook on the weekends.

Or maybe you just want to have some peaceful time to yourself: change that up too. Focus on the fact that this is time for YOU instead of the thing itself. Whether you want to read quietly, meditate, or have a long, fulfilling conversation with someone you love over coffee, it's not so much about doing that same thing every day as much as it is respecting this daily practice of carving out time for yourself. I like to call this sacred time. 

So if you've been as intimidated by the word "routine" as I have, or have struggled to stick with doing a particular regime each and every day, try flipping the problem on its head. Remember the purpose of the morning routine in the first place: to help you have a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling day.

Whether it's the need to get active or get quiet, or the desire to set aside time for reading or spending time with family, identify a few things that add fulfillment, value, and clarity to your life, and establish a few things that address those needs, rather than tailoring your day to a specific bullet-point list. And if you're a super scheduled person, changing up your morning like this may be a nice refresher that will help you plan with a greater sense of clarity.

a few things to avoid:
- screens: phones, televisions, computers, etc.
- work. (remember, this is setting the tone for your day: take some time to fill the cup before you dive in)
- any avoidable stress 

And, as always, this all roots back to self respect, self love, and being kind to yourself. How we treat ourselves is important, and I think that first thing in the morning is a very good time to show our minds, bodies, and spirits some love. Not only is it healthy, but it will actually fuel everything you do. Creativity stems from happiness, not the other way around. So go ahead - make a list of things that make your heart absolutely hum! And then build your morning around those things. Let purpose fuel your morning, not bullet points on a list.

Alright, that's enough from me - what about you? Whether you feel like you have a morning routine or not, what are the first three immediate actions you take each morning? Stretching? Picking up your phone? Do you have a routine? I would really enjoy hearing about it + chatting in the comments below! 

stay stoked!

crushing burn-out BEFORE it crushes you

if you're anything like me, you're not unfamiliar with this term.

"a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands."

as writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, more often than not we catch ourselves redhanded: we're the one's creating these "constant demands", but how can we not? whether we are working on a book, or developing a product, or building a business, we are our own bosses: we are self-motivators.

so...how does one avoid stress and the burnout that comes from an excess of that when work and home are one and the same? when we can't look in the mirror without seeing our bosses? (haha)

well, i believe that burnout can largely come from viewing our work and ourselves through a skewed lens. see, often we like to put things into boxes.

WORK <-------------is over here, while------------->EVERYDAY LIFE AND WELLBEING, is over here.

much of this concept comes from societal culture that, through day jobs, separates work life and home life. this barrier tends to vanish physically for creatives and entrepreneurs (because home and work are interchangeable), but often not mentally. we see work and life outside of work as two very separate things, but in reality they aren't separated at all. they are very much interwoven.

life, everything that happens outside of our immediate work, like our daily routines, how we talk to ourselves, who we spend time with, what we spend time doing, what we eat, what we do for hobbies - every last bit of that affects and shapes us as individuals, and in turn affects our work. this is constantly happening, for better or for worse. but the good news is that we can harness this and use it to our (and our art's) benefit.

it's never our creative work that burns us out: ever. our writing doesn't give us writers block. our project doesn't stress us out. our creative work has never once burned us out.

(i know, i know - big statements! but hear me out)

we are the ones at the helm: we are the artists. we are the creators. we are the ones in control. being able to identify ourselves and our own ethics as the source - the very root of our burnout is a massive first step in overcoming it; it's not so much our work as it is how we go about our creative work - how we go about life.

here's a true story: there were days i would sit down at my computer to write, completely petrified. this was a defining moment: would i be able to write today - would i feel inspired, write well, and as a result, be happy and fulfilled for the rest of the day? or...would i feel uninspired, be unable to write the way i wanted to, and as a result, feel unhappy and unfulfilled for the rest of my day?

this feeling of anxiety was so real and intense, i would often dread and even postpone sitting down to write because of it.

because of this unhealthy relationship i began to develop with my creative work, burnout would often ensue. it wasn't until i began to notice just how unhealthy this was that i was able to pull back and look at the bigger picture:

it wasn't my writing that was giving me the trouble: it was me. it was my thoughts, my habits, and my outlook - and best of all, there were things i could proactively do to help stop this feeling of my work spiraling out of control.

because our lives and our work are interwoven, what we do all the rest of the time shapes our work. so that means that how i start my morning, how much sleep i get, what i eat, what content i consume, and who i spend time with will all mold my workflow in the short and long-term.

if i chronically don't catch the (at least) 8 hours of sleep i need, if i skip out on nourishing food, or if i physically stagnate by not getting my body moving, i've already taken a few big steps in creating an psychological environment that isn't conducive to creativity.

my creative work doesn't start and end when i sit down at my laptop to write, it starts when i wake up in the morning - actually, it starts when i go to bed.

how much we sleep, how much we exercise, and how we nourish our minds and bodies all play a huge roll in fueling our creative work, and well-being in general.

how many times have we seen the stereotype of the burned-out, sleep deprived student pulling an all nighter at their desk with bottles of five hour energy scattered around them? this is practically the poster child of what it means to experience burnout. and that's because all the right ingredients are there: sleep deprivation, lack of nourishment, and lack of physical movement.

but enough science, let's break down a few super practical ways you can help create a healthy relationship with your work and kick burnout.

#1 (wait for it...) get enough sleep. most adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. sleep is a personal favorite of mine - and it's super nourishing to the body. according to a HelpGuide article, "sleep isn’t merely a time when your body shuts off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown." so basically...pulling late/all-nighters may not be helping you "hustle" as much as you think it is.

#2 nourish your body. and I'm not talking about a bowl of cheerios. grab an avocado and some eggs, or a bowl of fruit with dairy or non-dairy yogurt. i'm always amazed (and amused) by how I can typically pin-point some of my roughest, and most "uncreative" days only to find that those were the days i ate poorly, or skipped breakfast. food - GOOD food - is fuel. are you sitting down to write/work on an empty stomach? are you fueling yourself with sugar or processed foods? your brain burns roughly 300 calories A DAY. so if you find yourself beating your head against a stubborn plot hole, or just unable to think clearly, you might be able to actually beat that writer's block by taking a break and making yourself something substantial to eat. i've found a lot of good, healthy recipes here and here. 

#3 nourish your mind. how do you start your day? do you dive directly into work? do you find that your mornings are often filled with frantic energy - pressure to accomplish? how we start our day is important: it sets the tone for the rest of our day, framing up our outlook. this is the moment we're going to look back on at night and either be proud of how we began, or wish we'd done things differently. i highly recommend starting your day with something positive. create a vision for your day - and your life, and keep that vividly at the forefront of your imagination. listen to positive affirmations, watch a motivational video, spend time in prayer or reading something spiritual or uplifting. have good, meaningful conversations. spend time with people you love and look up to. go for walks. meditate. exercise for at least 15 minutes a day.

#4 take breaks. life doesn't begin and end with work; there's so much more. if you're feeling stuck, take a break. do something else. draw, paint, dance, yell into a pillow, go for a jog, go on a trip, talk it out with a friend or mentor - do something completely different. it's amazing what taking the pressure off yourself can do. i know that i often create best when i'm not trying soooo hard. so in a sense? stop trying. create some space between yourself and your creative work and remind yourself that your value is not dependant upon your output.

#5 fill yourself with things that inspire you: literature, films, conversation, places, people, hobbies,  scenery, forms of exercise - identify a few things that make your heart absolutely hum, and turn to those things when you need some r&r and perspective. for me, time spend out in the waves surfing, hiking, practicing martial arts, or listening to a podcast are all things i enjoy: things that help to nurture my creative mind.

#6 stop before you want to. this one has helped me in so many big ways. in the past, i would often write for eight hours a day - until i "couldn't" anymore. until i felt as though i had exhausted every ounce of creative energy i had inside me. some days i still do exactly this, and it can be great fun, but more often than not, what i typically practice is stopping before i want to. when i've written a good amount and feel as if i could go on forever - that's when i stop for the day. see, i think it's so much better for us psychologically to end on a high note and to pick up from there the next day, than to end on a low note and not have the energy to begin again the next time we sit down to write/work on our creative projects. when i feel like i've burned myself out, i will often still feel like that the following day. but when i stop when i still have loads of energy and passion about what i'm writing, that always leaves me excited to write again; i look forward to it. this might be the biggest thing that has helped me prevent burnout.

so those are a few things that have really helped me, and that i hope may help you too, whether you're feeling burnt out now, or simply down for adopting some fun ways to prevent it.

the bottom line? happiness comes first, success follows. not the other way around. i'm still learning this in a million ways, still reminding myself of it, and still making it a daily practice. it's a process...be patient with yourself - be kind.

making stuff is great, yes - we are created to be creators. but it's not the only reason we're here. if we make nothing today, we still live, breathe, and have so much to be thankful for; so much to savor, enjoy, and look forward to. life and work aren't separate...those are just the words and labels we have assigned to them. so let's find joy in all of it. let's allow one to support the other. let them hold hands and harmonize.

you'll thank yourself for it - and so will your creative work.

alright, now it's your turn: what's your one BEST way to prevent or kick creative burnout? comment below and share your thoughts, because i would absolutely LOVE to hear them!

stay stoked!