Simple Ways to Create Calm in Your Workspace

Hey friends! This week’s post is a guest blog from Johanna Cider of Musings of Johanna

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Image Source: Pexels

Is your workspace causing you stress? Your physical environment at work can affect your mood, focus and productivity. If your workspace is elevating your stress levels, it’s important to make some changes.

Taking time to create calm in your work environment will have numerous benefits. Ultimately, you’ll feel happier, more relaxed and motivated to get tasks done. Here are a few simple ways to promote calm in your workspace.

Bring in Nature

Exposure to nature has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Most of us spend so much time inside the office that we don’t get enough time in nature. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bring nature indoors. Consider adding a couple of potted plants to your workspace. This will create a calming environment, improve the air quality and liven up the look of your space.

Declutter

Is your desk area surrounded by clutter? Keeping organised is the best way to promote calm and order at work. Taking some time to de-clutter will make a huge difference to your daily productivity. Go through all your documents, papers and items, storing away what you don’t need. Create an efficient system so that you know where everything is kept. Get rid of anything that could be a distraction during your day-to-day work tasks. Prioritise tidying your desk regularly. A clear, organised workspace will result in a clearer mind.

Invest in a Comfortable Office Chair

When you spend all day sitting at your desk, it’s important to be comfortable. Investing in a high-quality chair will do wonders to improve your mood. You will immediately feel more motivated if you feel comfortable throughout the day. You’ll spend less time fidgeting in your chair and more time focused on your tasks. Another option is to get a relaxing chair to sit in during your breaks. Look for a cosy chair in your favourite colour. Having your own relaxation chair at work is a great way to manage your stress.

calm workspace 2

Image Source: Unsplash

Add a Personal Touch

Creating a workspace that you enjoy being in helps encourage calm and relaxation. Plus, an uninspired environment does no good for your creativity or productivity. Try to add little touches of your personality here and there (as long as it’s not overly distracting). For example, you could bring in a couple items that remind you of home, like family photos or artwork. These homey reminders will help you feel at peace during periods of stress.

Adjust the Lighting

Big windows with natural lighting are ideal in a working environment, as the sun is a natural mood booster. If you don’t have big windows, it’s crucial to get the right balance of artificial light. Fluorescent lighting can be harsh on the eyes, making it difficult to focus. Instead, go for soft ambient lighting to create a more relaxing feel.

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Image Source: Pxhere

Bring in Relaxing Scents

The smells around you can affect your mood. Some smells, like lavender, are known to have calming properties. Why not bring some relaxing smells into your office space? Scented candles, flowers or essential oils can help to create a soothing atmosphere. Focus on the scents that make you feel happy and calm.

Keep Water at Your Desk

Many of us forget to stay hydrated throughout the busy workday. This can affect our overall energy and ability to focus. Keeping a large bottle of water at your desk will remind you to stay refreshed. The more refreshed you are, the easier it will be to stay calm in stressful situations.

Author Bio:

Johanna is passionate about home and design and is currently addicted to TV shows about house flipping and home renovation. However, on most days, she is busy crafting articles for blogs and local sites such as Hercules Gazebo. She resides in the laid-back city of Wellington, New Zealand. You can find the best excerpts of her written work on her blog, Musings of Johanna.

 

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To baby or not to baby: The millennial question

Content warning: This post discusses the decision to have (or not have) a biological child. It also touches on childhood emotional abuse and infertility.

baby stuff

Why aren’t millennials having babies?

Trick question — they are having babies! Obviously. Most of my friends are around my age and have kids. However, millennials aren’t having as many children, and they’re having children later in life, which is apparently some sort of crisis. (PS. It’s not).

Teen pregnancy is down (yay comprehensive sex education). People are delaying marriage and children because kids are expensive and we can barely afford healthcare and rent. And some people, despite the pearl clutching from the elder generations, choose not to have kids at all (and doctors won’t sterilize them because “what if you change your mind or your future husband wants kids?”)

This post is the first in an ongoing series about the decisions millennials are making to become parents or to remain child free.

I’m 30 and childless… for now

When I was about five, I happily announced to my dad that I knew where babies came from. I believed that each little girl had a seed inside her body that would grow into a baby as soon as she got married. I exclaimed, “I have a little baby inside me!” and my dad, very concerned with my understanding of human biology, corrected me. Probably so I wouldn’t shout to people in the grocery store that I had a baby inside me. This is fair, I’ve heard stories of kids shouting in the grocery store.

My whole life, I have wanted to become a parent. But I was waiting for the right time.

As my (first) wedding approached, my dad started hinting about grandkids, and I told him we wouldn’t have kids for a couple years at least. We were both broke, had no health insurance, and were patchworking together a livable income from multiple part-time jobs. Dad said, “I give it six months til you’re knocked up.”

Divorced that husband. No kids.

As my (second) wedding approached, my husband and I were already trying. This was it, I was ready. I was timing my ovulation and tracking my periods and knew when I was fertile. We tried for eighteen months. Nada. MAYBE one chemical pregnancy, because I was sure I’d seen a faint line on one of my hundred tests before I chucked it into the garbage can. My dad continued to ask me, “When are you going to start dropping grandbabies?” every time I saw him, and did not take the hint when I said “We’re working on it.” At one point, he told my husband “Get on her!” like I was his prized mare waiting to be bred. It felt disgusting.

During my second marriage, I was doing a lot of processing of my childhood emotional abuse and neglect. I unpacked that part of the reason I had waited until later in my twenties to start a family was because on an emotional level, I was terrified of my kids feeling the same way I did about my childhood. I wanted to make sure I could take care of them the way I wish I had been taken care of. My mother was shaming, cold, and perfectionistic in a way that left me feeling broken and alone, desperate for any love and attention I could get. It was easy to take advantage of me, and I’d do anything to keep a partner happy if it meant they’d love me in return.

As my second marriage came to a close, I remember asking my husband if we could table babymaking while we sorted out our issues and got on more solid ground. And his response was that if I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby with him right now, why was he about to finally go in for sperm count testing? Basically, he made a threat that if kids were off the table, however briefly, then him going to the doctor was also off the table. So if I thought I’d ever want kids with him and wanted him to get tested, I had better be up for kids right that second.

Divorced that husband. No kids.

To baby or not to baby, that is the question.

Now that I’m out of an abusive marriage, living a life I actually love, spending time with people who actually build me up and support me instead of tear me down, and no longer believing that a baby is a must-have for a happy life, I am confused. I know I would make a great parent, but I no longer feel that just because I’d be good at it, I’m obligated to do it.

I honestly don’t know if I want to be a mom anymore. I spent so long feeling called to parenthood that the absence of “the call” feels strange.

At a time in my life when I’m finally paying attention to my needs instead of the needs of others, am I equipped to bring a child into the world and balance my needs with theirs?

At a time in my life when the most I have to do for a weekend away is leave some extra kibble for the cat and water the plants before I go, am I ready to give up the freedom of only being responsible for me?

At a time in the world’s history when everything is a shit show, do I feel good about having a child and leaving them an even more damaged planet to live on?

At a time in my life when I’m sorting through what I really, actually, authentically want for myself, is a baby part of that or is a baby part of the social narrative I’ve been hearing since I thought babies were seeds that grew when you got married?

There is so much to unpack. There is so much to think about.

And, despite the fact that at 30 and society tells me my ovaries will soon dry up and leave me barren, there’s actually a lot of time to unpack and make the best right decision for me. Not the only right decision — I feel like I’d rock parenthood as much as I’d rock a childfree life — but the best right decision for me.

 

 

My body image boss fight

diet culture dinos

Three weeks into my new and improved relationship with food, my resolve was tested. It was the ultimate way for the universe to get right in my face and ask, “Are you sure? Are you sure you love your body right now? You’re not still secretly waiting for a miracle to wake up thinner so you can be happy?”

What happened was that my partner told me he was worried I would reach the upper limit of weight he found attractive on my body.

In the face of this statement, I was shocked, but on some level I also knew it was about him and his own internal and as-yet-unpacked issues about bodies and their worth. I told him that if we got to a point where he was not attracted to me, we’d change or end our relationship so that we both had what we needed.

I was clear about my boundaries: I am repairing my relationship with food, and right now that means that I don’t restrict what I eat or when I eat, and I don’t worry about what I weigh.

I told him I wasn’t going to change to meet his expectations of attractiveness. And he told me he didn’t want me to, but that he had wanted to express his issue before it became a Big Deal in his mind. Which is fair. But also, not super fair. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this issue was not about me. This was not about my body.

This was about diet culture.

Men are not immune to body shame and diet culture. My partner has been as focused on his weight and diet and exercise as I was previously. And the more we talked, the more he realized that he was speaking from a place of weight loss as a life priority, a place of delaying happiness until he hit a certain weight. He told me, “I keep saying I want to get under 200 pounds and then I’ll be able to have a really happy life” and I looked him in the eye and said, “You have a really happy life.”

I bring this sage wisdom to the table after several hours and a good night’s sleep thinking this over. I was scared — not of anything to do with my body, but I was scared because I knew if this became A Thing in our relationship, and he arbitrarily decided that a number on a scale made me unsexy to him, that I’d have to make good on my commitment to myself and break up with him.

There is no room in my life for conditional love or attraction.

But then I realized I was getting way ahead of myself, and we weren’t breaking up. I continued sorting through my feelings and realized that I was a little angry at him. My trust in him was a little rattled.

I had finally shed the giant boulder of shame and self-denigration and disgust with myself after thirty years of snowballing it bigger and bigger. This thing was HEAVY. And then, just three weeks after I had thrown it aside with a resounding, “Fuck that,” this person who I trust and who sees my most vulnerable parts and who loves me… picked it back up and tried to give it back to me.

Did I want to take this shame back, make his attraction to me my problem, chase a pants size to make sure I was pretty enough? Or did I want to slam dunk that giant ball of societal bullshit into a dumpster once and for all?

I am pleased to say that I chose to thank him for his vulnerability in expressing something difficult, but that I would not be changing my lifestyle to make him comfortable, and we would deal with the consequences of that.

After some more space and time to think, we came together again to talk it out a little more. And something that I’ve never experienced before happened: He apologized. Honestly, really, truly apologized. He said that it wasn’t about me or my body, and he was sorry for acting like it was.

After he apologized, something inside me shifted again, and I realized that I had put up a wall between us to protect myself from the same old things I had grown to expect from my ex-husband. A fake non-sorry sorry. An “I didn’t mean to hurt you” that really meant “I would like to hurt you but I don’t want to hear about your feelings when I do.” Being in an abusive marriage will mess up your expectations of other humans a little bit. After so many non-apologies that boiled down to “Well I didn’t mean it like that so you shouldn’t be upset,” I felt heart and loved and valued by a partner.

Where we had once committed to lose weight together and be the “annoying weight loss couple,” we now commit to working on breaking up with diet culture.

 

 

Comfort in my own skin

Losing weight used to be the most important thing in my life. Year after year, it was my resolution each January. And year after year, despite my weight, I still never felt like I had succeeded. If I gained, I had obviously failed. If I maintained, I had not done enough. If I lost, I still had so much further to go.

My highest weight was 300 pounds. I panicked. I felt out of control. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to lose weight.

My lowest weight was 201 pounds. I panicked. I felt unsafe. I changed my diet and exercise habits and started to gain weight.

While I was elbow deep in an MLM company selling shake mix and workout DVDs, I used to collect and share all sorts of fitness inspiration (“fitspo”) graphics and memes in my coaching groups. Slogans like “Eat like you love your body” and “Don’t let food be the boss of you” and “Strive for progress, not perfection” and “In three months you will thank yourself” were my absolute bread and butter (but, like, gluten free, because gluten is evil).

And I strived for those things. I ate salads and raw veggies and superfood shakes because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I avoided sugar entirely, even eschewing condiments, because I wanted to eat like I loved my body. I did three day clean eating cleanses and sugar fasts and Whole30 so that I could be the boss of food, instead of letting food be the boss of me. When I slipped up and ate something off-plan, I tried to remember that it was still progress as long as I didn’t gain weight back — a couple bad days on a diet doesn’t mean utter failure and a life in this fat body. I knew that after three grueling months of breaking my bad food habits, I would be on my way to a toned, lean, fit Pinterest body. All of the fitness memes promised that soon, this lifestyle change (not a diet, a lifestyle change) would become an addiction and I would wake up in the morning and all of the little Disney blue birds would come put my moisture wicking skintight pants on me so I could go run a quick 10k before breakfast. Every day. I looked forward to that day.

I would finally love myself, if I could only overcome my lack of self control. If I could eat right, I would finally love my body. If I could exercise enough, I would finally love my body.

One of the graphics saved on my phone says “I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin.” I was determined to lose enough weight to reach this point. I knew I could become comfortable in my body once I had found the right mix of food and movement to unlock the secret code to making my body get smaller.

I started running. I did 5Ks, and then a 10K, and then a half marathon. The next year, I did another half marathon and signed up for the race that would change my life and make me a true runner. I signed up for a Ragnar relay. Two hundred (ish) miles in two days, sleeping in a van, running on sleep deprivation and cold bagels and the promise of epic satisfaction and pride when I was finished.

But the Ragnar didn’t change me. I felt the same. I questioned if I had done it right. My first leg was partially canceled due to flooding, so I didn’t even run my whole Ragnar. My position had shorter legs, so I questioned the validity and badassness of my Ragnar experience. Did I even do a Ragnar if I wasn’t completely broken by the end of it?

I was still chasing that self love. I was still chasing body satisfaction.

And I thought pain and exhaustion and limitation and control was part of that journey to becoming comfortable in my body.

I started therapy to specifically target my relationship with food just a few weeks ago. On February 1st, my therapist and I identified a target thought process: I am not allowed to eat. I had a very rough night that evening and cried a lot. Processing is hard. But over the weekend and through the next week to my first “reprocessing” appointment (in which we focused on changing the target thought to “I am allowed to eat”), I did a lot of work.

I unfollowed any account on Instagram or Facebook that focused on dieting or thinness. I followed a bunch of real, actual body positive accounts (especially large bodies). I started reading about the anti-diet culture. I pre-ordered “The Fuck It Diet” by Caroline Dooner.

After the reprocessing session, I ate without restriction. And something unexpected happened inside me.

This is going to sound so hokey and silly but I swear, this is what happened.

The space in my mind that previously held all of my rules and need for control had given way to hold contentment and joy instead.

Where I used to ask myself twenty questions to determine how valid a hunger pang was, I now just made something tasty and enjoyed it, then went on with my day.

Where I used to keep a constant inner monologue of comparison to what I had eaten the day before, how fast my dining companion was eating, whether or not I could finish my side of fries without looking like a fatty mc fatty fat, I now just ate what I wanted and went on with my day.

Where I used to look at a large body on Instagram and focus on fat rolls and sagging skin, I now saw what I was after — the look on their faces. The way they held their shoulders back and head up. The way they were comfortable in their bodies… as they were right now. 

Y’all, something snapped inside me.

That is what was missing for me. Contentment with my body isn’t an aspiration. It’s not something that will happen if only I can achieve and limit and drag myself to it. It’s not the reward for suffering. Contentment with my body – becoming a woman comfortable in my own skin – is a right-now thing. Not a someday-maybe thing.

I was obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin. And all I had to do to become her was love myself right now.

The shame was so, so heavy. After over two decades of carrying the burden of hating my body, I put it down. And what rushed in to fill the void was love.

bikini

This. is. what. I’m. talking. ABOUT. 

 

 

No more food restriction

I’ve always chased success and compared myself to others based on restriction. I can lose weight if I don’t eat sugar. I can get more done at home if I don’t watch television. I can be more productive if I don’t use social media.

The best version of me, the one who weighs 150 pounds and works out every day and truly enjoys salad, the one who works nights and weekends to stay ahead at work, the one who cranks out best sellers year after year because she’s a prolific writer… she’s just around the corner if only the me right now would stop baking cookies and going to bed early and talking to her friends online.

Guess what I’ve decided? Screw all that, oh my god.

I’m fine. I am fine right now. I am living my life right now. And it is a really good one. I am happy. I am taking care of myself. I allow myself to rest. I remind myself to wash my hair. And I allow myself to eat anything.

Yes. I eat anything now. Anything I want.

This has revolutionized my relationship with food. I don’t have to restrict. I don’t have to have a sugar ban or never eat bread again. Y’all. I’m allowed to eat. YOU are allowed to eat. I swear. You’re allowed.

Here’s the thing about food: we kinda need it to live. And we have taste buds. And brains. And when stuff hits our taste buds in a nice way, we like it.

And, in complete and utter news to me, this is not a moral failure. Enjoying sweet or salty or fatty or whatever molecule you’ve banned this month in an attempt to lose those “stubborn ten pounds” is not your failure. Because food is not good or bad. Food is food. Food is neutral. You need food so you don’t die. And it’s okay if that food is a cupcake.

I used to think that a minimalist way of eating was a limit on the types of food I eat. Keep it simple, eat whole foods, eat organic foods, eat fresh and raw foods, eat ethically sourced foods, eat food you can make in one pot, eat food you can eat in a bowl, eat the same foods every day, only eat at certain times per day. The more rules I tried, the more I blamed myself for not being able to follow them. But eating is supposed to be easy. Now, I think of a minimalist way of eating as a limit on restriction. As in, no restrictions. I can eat a sandwich or a cookie or ice cream – even right before bed. Gasp!

The truth about food that I can finally see is this: What I eat has absolutely no bearing on my skills, personality, worth, or beauty.

Turning Valentine’s Day Inward: Self-Love Tips

Around Valentine’s Day, we usually send our love outward to friends, family and significant others. While that is valuable love and time spent, it is so important to make a conscious effort to love yourself this Valentine’s Day! Self-love is a gift that you should give yourself every day because often times we way too hard on ourselves.

Loving yourself entails listening to and taking care of your physical, mental and emotional self. In order to access these different pieces, you need to be honest, vulnerable and kind to yourself. Many people are want to embark on the journey of self-love but have trouble knowing where to start. If that’s the case, check out this self-love post and infographic below by ProFlowers. It includes actionable steps and self-love activities to incorporate into your daily life.

This post was created with help from Kiana Mason of Siege Media. 

How to Declutter Before a Move

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I found minimalism in times of change in my life. When I was moving into my own place after spending six months living with my parents post-divorce, I looked around and realized I hadn’t touched any of my stuff that had been sitting around in boxes in the basement. So I went through them all and decided that I actually didn’t feel like moving all that stuff to a new apartment. It was my fresh start, so I overhauled my relationship with stuff.

That’s how this blog started. I maintained a fairly average number of belongings, but some people in my life thought I was extreme. I pared down to four place settings of dishes, even silverware. I got rid of my iron and ironing board because I didn’t use them and didn’t mind if my clothes didn’t look perfect. I didn’t have a dresser because I didn’t need one – all my clothes fit into my small closet and a small plastic set of drawers.

At one point, I sold my microwave. I never bought a TV for myself. Rather than buy a coffee table, I spraypainted a footlocker trunk and used that. I had a small table with a drawer instead of a desk. The apartment came with a built-in table and bench breakfast nook. And I was honestly thrilled.

Then I moved in with husband number two. And all of his stuff. Despite years of trying to get the house to a point that wasn’t driving me batty, the stuff continued. And, worse than stuff, the shoving. When you have so much stuff that you can’t even use the things you own without that stuff falling on top of you because you disturbed its precarious situation in relation to other stuff, you have found my personal threshold for the amount of stuff I can deal with.

After therapy, medication for my anxiety, and finally recognizing seven years of mental and financial abuse, I got out of there and settled into yet another fresh beginning for myself. And, as usual, I have been using writing to channel a lot of my recovery process and encourage others to move on from situations that no longer serve them (at best) or are downright harming their mental or physical health (at worst).

When I first moved out and into the apartment, I hadn’t had the time to prioritize or declutter things. I was stuffing boxes and moving fast. It wasn’t ideal. So I decluttered as I unpacked, but I held onto things like wedding photos and cards, things my husband had given me in better times, and practical wedding gifts that were still in their packaging.

On Moving On (And Moving)

When I moved for the second time in 2018, choosing to move in with a partner, I minimized and downsized even more. One wall of my living room was lined with things I wasn’t taking with me to my new home. I gave it away and donated whatever my friends didn’t take. I even sold or gave away most of my furniture.

And all this has taught me that moving is one of my personal decluttering easy buttons. When you’re moving, you have to decide to pack, move, unpack, and put away every single thing you own. Even when I’m not about to move, one of my decluttering questions for myself is, “Would I pack this and move it across the country if I had to relocate?” If no, then I usually donate.

So here’s my quick guide to decluttering before a move:

  1. Set A Limit: If you know you have more stuff than you actually want to pack up and move, give yourself a set limit of how many boxes or containers you can fill from each area in your home. Do you want your clothes to fit into two boxes? One large suitcase? An entire U-Haul? Whatever your limit is, set it, pack, and when you get to the limit of that box/suitcase/truck, you’re done packing and it’s time to start a donate pile.
  2. Get A Buddy: Having a designated packing buddy can help move the process along. Often times, another person’s perspective can be really helpful in deciding what to keep. At a minimum, the packing will go faster because you have more help!
  3. Don’t Declutter Everything: Save the sentimental keepsakes for after your move, if you can. Sentimental items will just derail your progress and you’ll end up flipping through old greeting cards from your grandma and reminiscing over clippings from your college paper. If you do not absolutely have to downsize to the bare minimum, my advice is to pack these right away into a box to be sorted through once you’re in your new place.
  4. Have a Free Stuff Party: If you have enough notice, invite your friends and neighbors over to shop your donate pile. The price of admission can be that they’ll take a bag or box to Goodwill on their way home, so you don’t have to do it!
  5. Pack in Categories: Packing is best done in chunks. Pack your linen closet. Pack your bathroom stuff. Pack your clothing. As you do this, you may naturally notice that you have a lot of freaking towels and decide to donate some of them. See number one – set a limit. As you work through your categories, set limits for each area!

If you have any other advice or questions about downsizing before a move, leave a comment! I do my best to respond to all comments on the blog within 48 hours.