Sleepless in Connecticut: Bedtime meditation

A good night’s sleep is one of the most difficult necessities of life for me to master. For whatever reason, I sleep like a baby five to six times a month, and spend the other nights tossing and turning for an hour or two before I finally pass out.

The majority of my sleeplessness can be attributed to the large collection of screens I stare at (usually housing Netflix and a variety of social media). Unfortunately, the beauty of technology is also ruining our beauty sleep, but what if that isn’t always the case? Don’t be so quick to blame Chandler, Ross, Joey, Rachel, Phoebe, and Monica.

Staring at the ceiling, phone away, laptop off – why can’t I fall asleep? It seems the only thing I forget to shut off before I head to sleep is my mind. My cure? Meditation.

Meditation is an intimidating idea for those unable to clear the mind. What I’ve resonated with in terms of clearing my mind is the use of guided meditations before bedtime. I’ve come across a few that I tested out and would love to share, in hopes they’ll work as well for you as they did for me. Happy snoozing!

1. Jason Stephenson of Relax Me Online put together a relaxation video with a 20 minute guided meditation and 30 minutes of peaceful music. This meditation received bonus points for the Australian accent.

 

2. This next guided meditation comes to you from the Meditation Oasis App. The app carries a wide variety of meditations for rest as well as balance, loneliness, pregnancy, etc. I used the “Relax into Sleep Guided Meditation” (about 18 minutes) two evenings in a row. It was that helpful. If you’re not interested in downloading the app, this content is also available via Meditation Oasis podcast.

3. The final meditation I tried out was from The Meditation Podcast. According to the podcast description, the meditations included contain “binaural beats” which help generate a meditative state by slowing the brain waves. It is recommended that you use headphones with this meditation, which is perhaps why it really didn’t work for me (it also could have been the fact that there was a truck plowing snow outside just as I was getting ready to sleep). The first three minutes of the podcast episode titled “Six – Falling Asleep” were a series of commercial-like promotions for the podcast content itself. I was mildly bothered by this until I realized that had they been at the end, no one would hear them due to the fact that they would be out cold. The nature sounds in this weren’t my cup of tea, but I do recommend it if that’s something you enjoy falling asleep to.

Guided meditations are one of the few ways I choose to wind down after a long day. If these zen moments aren’t really your thing, a little Sleepytime tea or Pandora’s Hawaiian Radio + the Rain, Rain App never hurt anyone!

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Psalm 13

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

How I won the “winter skin” battle

Having grown in up sunny southern California, I’ve never known the perils of winter weather. Any change in the temperature would last for a week and we’d be back to sunny and 75 in a heartbeat – not exactly what I’d call “winter” by any stretch of the imagination.

My first real winter consisted of many adjustments, one of which I wasn’t prepared for: winter skin. IT’S NOT A MYTH. 

The last time my skin was in extremely poor condition was during a post-break up, anxiety-fueled freshman year of college. This led to investing in harsh acne-fighting products which would help my skin, but dry it out something awful. I didn’t notice this major face faux pas until I moved to the east coast.

The weather AND the acne scrubs, toners, and lotions were wrecking havoc on my skin and I began to break out more and more. In addition to a few other acne-causing factors, these products were no longer helping my face – they were making it worse. Fear not, my friends! I have since found a solution.

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Alba Bontanica Hawaiian Oil Free Moisturizer

Little did I know that changing your skin care routine in the winter was so essential! I gave up the harsh toner and moisturizer and replaced them with witch hazel and Alba Bontanica Hawaiian Oil Free Moisturizer: Refining Aloe & Green Tea. This product is available at Target for just under $15 and it is completely worth it. The aloe and green tea leave your face feeling extra fresh after a wash. The even better news is that green tea (both consumed and used topically) does wonders for your skin: Green tea used topically can reduce redness. Not to mention that this moisturizer is oil free, so for us acne-prone folks, this is a major win!

Before I go: don’t forget the sunscreen!

What are your favorite “winter skin” remedies?

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On “Being You”

Well I’ll be darned. It’s been ages, my friends. So great to see you all again – hey, is that a new sweater? Did you do something to your hair? You look fabulous!

After the last post I wrote (which I actually deleted due to its pitiful nature), I took a break from the life of someone who would occasionally blog when she felt a little empowered, a little blue, or a little dance-y.

Alright, so I might be feeling a little empowered at this ripe hour of 1 AM on a Wednesday morning, but I was stuck indoors all day yesterday to avoid a forthcoming let down of a blizzard…so I had plenty of time to think and here we are.

Moving away from family and friends for the second time in my life is something I’m always going to reference when discussing major life changes because it continues to be rather influential. Having spent a lot of time alone my first few months out on the east coast, I discovered a handful about myself that I either a) wasn’t aware of before or b) wasn’t comfortable expressing. While I’ve made great strides in self-discovery since August, there’s a lot of work to be done.

In my opinion, the most wonderful place we can reach in life is when we can finally say – and mean – we’re comfortable with who we are and what we enjoy. This is a place I am quickly approaching. While the setbacks are frequent, they’re not as impactful as they used to be.

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable with who you are from time to time, but it’s important to realize that one of the most under appreciated things about life is that we were all created for a super amazing purpose unique to who we are, so grow to enjoy that! Embrace it. Embrace it reeeeal gooooooood.

I hope your journey to this magical place of self-acceptance and appreciation is rewarding. It’s tough, but man is it worth it. Let me tell ya.

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Braving The Constitution State

Every morning, I wake up to a big, beautiful tree outside of my bedroom window, accompanied by a gentle rustling of leaves. Every morning, I completely forget that I am an entire country away from home.

I’m closing in on my monthaversary as a citizen of Middletown, Connecticut and I couldn’t be happier with how things are progressing – and so quickly! Regardless of the distance from here to California, I’ve learned to call somewhere other than Fullerton, California home over the course of the past four years, and that has made this transition smoother than I assumed it would be – reduced homesickness and a much larger sense of adventure.

That being said, I’m not without moments of loneliness. On days off, I find myself scrolling through various social media accounts wondering what it might be like if I were in California with my family and best friends, or in Arizona with those I’ve grown close to while away at school. Instead, I’m sitting on the couch in my apartment, still trying to organize different parts of my old life into the new one I’ve started.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned in this is that the trials and tribulations that come with leaving the old behind in order to embrace something new, are merely temporary in the grand scheme of life. We trust in what we know, adjust to things we learn, and create a moment telling of a who we’ve become.

Connecticut is the most beautiful place for a lesson in bravery. If you must be brave, be brave in a place where God’s beauty surrounds. Every tree is a reminder that I have a constant source of comfort from a constant source of company.

until next time

Phoenix: the rise

In Greek mythology, the phoenix is a bird that would die by fire and rise again from the ashes of the one before it. In Gabrielle Castillo’s life, Phoenix is the city in Arizona that gave her identity, purpose, and strengthened her for the journey to come.

Preparing for your final days in the place that helped shape who you’ve become over the past four years is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I sit on my bedroom floor, surrounded by white walls, shuffling through old notebooks filled with story ideas, while at the time, I had no idea it was my story I was writing.

I picture the days I spent as a terrified freshman in a new state, without a single friend. The days of comfort and security were burned in the fire I left behind (although it felt like I was living in a fire out here), and when I arrived, I was just a pile of ashes. Months passed, things changed, and I came to terms with my new beginning.

I’ll never forget my first day lugging 20 pounds of camera equipment through downtown Phoenix in the September heat, working in the edit bays until 1:00 am in order to perfect a news package, only to find out the mic was broken, which would result in a barely comprehensible phone call to my mother – in tears, no doubt. Fast forward a couple of years later, I found myself working for and covering two professional baseball teams and making connections with people who would ultimately get me to where I’m going today.

Not only was I learning what it takes to make a dent in the world of sports, but I was learning what it means to be a friend to every sort of person. My sheltered view of humanity was shaken in my first week on campus. Life wasn’t a movie or a television show; life was life and I hadn’t prepared myself for that. Venturing out to Arizona without a single friend put me in the position to meet new people entirely. It took me a while to do so, but the people I’ve met during my time at Arizona State and in Phoenix are people I will never forget. There were those who taught me life lessons, made me laugh harder than I could imagine, sat with me while I cried about finals (and boys), bought me coffee (God bless you), and prayed for me during the lowest times I’ve had. All of you challenged me and, in one way or another, made sure I was going to be the best version of myself at all times.

Once I had school and friends down, I thought that I was pretty much set. I thought wrong. The beginning of my junior year brought challenges in all of the areas I was sure resulted in security. School was taxing, living off campus made it more difficult to see friends on a consistent basis, and I was beginning to feel lost. Everything was going so well, what happened? God called on me one stressful night in October of 2012. He told me that I was okay, am okay, and would be okay. This overflow of love I felt ignited an incredible flame in my heart and all I wanted was Jesus. I had never felt that way before and suddenly I found myself in church every Sunday, spending quality time with God, learning his Word, and loving more than I had ever loved before. Redemption Tempe became a major part of my life in Arizona and I finally started understanding what it meant to live this life God blessed me with, fueled by the love of strangers who became family in Christ. God found me in Phoenix. I found God in Phoenix. My walk with Him began here and it brought me love and community I didn’t know existed in this city. It made everything I was doing beautiful.

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I faced many trials during my time in Arizona. As a result of this, I’ve become a woman who is grounded in her faith, loves unconditionally, opens her heart to new opportunity, and knows how to rely on others when life gives me more than I can handle. Thanks to Phoenix, I’ve risen from the ashes.

Now, it’s time for a new journey – a journey that takes me across the country. Connecticut, here I come.

Joy

“Joy finds us when we feel the elation that comes when we know that we belong – to another, to ourselves, to the world, to the Mystery that is larger than ourselves.” – The Invitation, Oriah

 

Sun, sand, and self-confidence

It’s 4 AM on a Wednesday morning, my roommate introduced me to One Tree Hill last week, and now I’m staring at this computer screen wondering what will become of Nathan Scott and the shady Rick Fox character whose name I can’t recall at this moment. While this plot line interests me, I find myself wishing the reason I’ve been staring at the ceiling the past couple of nights had to do with the kids over at Tree Hill High.

In a few weeks, I’ll be visiting Hawaii for the first time. The idea of vacationing in Hawaii seemed impossible, but it’s happening and I’m pretty darn excited about it. Naturally, with summer right around the corner (it’s been summer in Arizona since February, but for the rest of you), my mind wanders over to swimsuit season and “bikini-ready” bodies. Welcome to the unfortunate nonsense plaguing my mind and robbing me of any sanity for the last two days. It sucks.

As I anticipate all of the pictures that will be taken on my tropical getaway, the more I worry about how toned my body isn’t and I instantly regret all of the delicious things I’ve eaten, wondering why I didn’t have a salad for every meal. The epiphany I carried into the shower this evening inspired this post: Who gives a damnYou’re beautiful.

Two summers ago, I weighed more than ever before and despised the way I looked. This experience was a first for me because up until that year, I wasn’t examining every flaw on my body. A majority of the way I felt about myself was centered around how successful I was in the dating department. Unfortunately, that mentality stuck around for months and I wasn’t happy with what I was seeing in the mirror. I would soon realize that these flaws were simply a product of far too many negative thoughts about who I was based on the most ridiculous ideas of what a beautiful person looks like.

While I’m thrilled to say my mentality on my physical appearance has certainly strengthened over time, the idea of venturing to Hawaii, where I will spend the majority of my time in a swimsuit, concerned me. I put an end to this concern tonight.

My body was created for things I cannot fathom, by God who so perfectly designed it himself. The flaws I’ve created in my mind are merely snide comments made about a masterpiece whose artist is standing behind you, taking in every insult with a heavy heart. When you break it down, we were put on this earth to enjoy the blessings we were given. My body is healthy, I’m going to enjoy that. Food is delicious, I’m going to enjoy that as well. It feels great to workout, go for a walk, dance around, burn some energy, create some more – I’ll enjoy that. Placing an expectation on myself to look a certain way for a vacation is silly. I applaud those of you who are experts at this, but that mentality just isn’t healthy for me.

Elizabeth Gilbert said it best in an excerpt from her novel Eat, Pray, Love:

I am so tired of saying no, waking up in the morning and recalling every single thing I ate the day before, counting every calorie I consumed so I know just how much self loathing to take into the shower. I’m going for it. I have no interest in being obese, I’m just through with the guilt.

I’m through with the guilt, too. I think I’ll replace the notion of meeting a requirement with loving my body (and mind) enough to take care of it. The body is a beautiful creation worth taking care of and cherishing. So, who’s ready for a summer of sun, sand, and self-confidence? I am. We’re in this together.

Personalizing financial goals in the age of numbered lists and generalizations

One of the greatest post-graduation fears is fighting off this crippling debt built up over the past four years (if you’re lucky to have made it out that quickly) thanks to student loans and other college expenses. I will be the first to point out that I found myself in a fortunate financial situation with the support of an academic scholarship and parents who made pursuing a degree possible for me. While they still plan on providing support as I crawl into the big girl job market, I can’t help but feel that it is now my responsibility to take this weight off of their shoulders. After graduation on Wednesday and Thursday, it’s time to be an adult. A real one.

Friends of mine have been adults for years already. They’ve taken care of their own expenses in terms of tuition, bills, rent, groceries, car payments, etc. I admire these friends. With this responsibility comes a great level of maturity that I hope to acquire in the next year or so. I was told by a complete stranger that I’ll learn more about myself in the six months after I graduate than I will ever again. With his lingering advice, I decided that now would be the best time to examine my lifestyle and figure out what sort of budget works for me.

While perusing Refinery29  this afternoon, I came across an article about personalizing your money goals to fit your specific needs:

“One of the biggest reasons we often don’t achieve or make progress on our money goals is that they’re not our own.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Who knows what we need better than ourselves? In an age of internet lists with tips on surviving your twenties both socially and financially, we oftentimes get caught up in needs of the general population rather than what we need today. Identity is important socially and financially – don’t let something so generalized minimize the individuality of your spending and saving.

After reading another article about women who met their savings goals in order to accomplish certain personal goals, it dawned on me that a goal and a plan are what it takes to make things happen. Some wanted to travel, some wanted to ensure they had money set aside for retirement someday – whatever your money goal is, make it about you and not what society would expect from of a person your age. If paying off student loans is a money goal of yours for the time being, then make your saving about your student loans. If it’s not, make your money goals about your interests. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to save your own money.

Paying my own bills is a money goal of mine for the summer. As I look for part-time jobs and internships in order to meet this goal and start making progress in my career, I know I will be challenged as I budget and examine my financial lifestyle. I’m surrounded by friends whose money goals are wildly different from mine and friends who are just working to make ends meet. Through them, I hope to gain an incredible amount of knowledge and wisdom when it comes to budgeting and getting creative with purchases.

Check back for the penny-pinching opportunities I find as I work to reach my money goals and feel free to share yours as well!

God bless.