And sometimes, it’s just time…

Creating a self care practice is not about sugar coating a miserable situation.  It’s about helping you see more clearly what you need and acting on it.  And sometimes that will mean making the tough decision to leave a place that no longer serves you.

Your employer also has a big hand on how you feel as an employee based on the way they treat you.  Do you actually get a lunch break or is that strongly discouraged.  Do you have to eat at your desk and call that “lunch?”  Do  you work with toxic people and nothing has been done about it?  Do you have any agency in your job?  Do you wake up every day with a knot in your stomach because you have to go to work?  Do you have vacation time but they never let you use it?

There will be major clues that it might be time to leave.  And if you haven’t been paying attention to yourself lately, ask those around you how you appear.  There’s nothing quite like the wake up call from loved ones telling you you’ve been a miserable human to be around.  Believe me.

I totally understand that it may feel like an insurmountable mountain to climb.  But 9 times out of ten, the hardest part is making that decision that it’s time to go.  It does require the mental energy to come to that decision and act on it.  And sure it’s scary, but pay attention to how you feel in the process.  If there’s even a hiccup of excitement or joy coming back to you, embrace that.  Picture yourself waking up excited for the day. Visualize yourself not spent after a day and having energy for other things in your life.

If you’ve been miserable for awhile, you may think that there’s no hope and that all jobs will essentially be like the one you have, so you might as well just stay.  That is misery talking, not reality.  Would you want that for a family member or friend?  To remain miserable? NO!  If you are the this stage, push through your misery and make a plan.  If you are bad at keeping plans, enlist someone to keep you accountable and check in.

My first nursing job was ROUGH.  I had a lot of time off, but was miserable once I got there.  And unfortunately my time off was spent dreading going back in.  There was a job that I had my eye on but I was convinced I was too “new” of a nurse to get it.  However I pushed through that fear and misery and applied anyway and thankfully got the job.  Whenever it’s time for me to leave a place and I’m convinced I can’t do it, I remind myself of that first job and how I surprised myself with my ability to leave and head towards a much better quality of life.  (In fact, I learned how NOT to live my life because of that job.)

Chances are you have had a similarly bad situation that you left.  Whether it be work related or something from your personal life, remind yourself of it and gain strength and courage from your own abilities.  You’ve got this.

You are not your job, and this is the life you’ve been given.  So if it’s time to go, then go on and git!

Take care of YOU.


Creating “hygge.”

I was introduced to the word “hygge” (pronounced HOO-gah) last year, though I never really explored the word or concept until this month.  I was able to spend a WONDERFUL weekend in a cabin with friends and they kept commenting how “hygge” everything was.  (To my Scandinavian friends, I am no doubt not using “hygge” correctly in a sentence so please bear with me!)  I loved the coziness of the cabin and so I wanted to get more info on hygge.  Pinterest was helpful but so was the book, “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking.

So let’s get right to it, what’s the translation of hygge?  While apparently it’s hard to directly translate according to Meik Wiking people consider it “cozy togetherness”  or “taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things” or “cocoa by candlelight.”  Still confused?  It’s basically creating a cozy atmosphere that you want to be in, surrounded by folks you care about. As I understand it, it could mean dinner parties by candlelight (no cell phones allowed).  Or cozying up with a book, drinking hot cocoa in a special mug, wearing your favorite comfort clothes (you would never wear outside) surrounded by soft light.  Apparently twinkly lights or lamps without harsh light, and lots and lots of candles are a must. So far so good, right?

Have you ever seen a cafe or restaurant that’s instantly made you want to go in?  Even if you’ve had your quota of caffeine that day, something in there will feel so tempting.  The lighting is warm, they have comfy chairs and you know you will be able to write a pulitzer prize winning book in there, simply because of the atmosphere?  Those places have hygge.

What I especially love about hygge is it doesn’t involve you spending any money.  You can create a cozy atmosphere with the stuff you already have.  Like using that mug you love so much and filling it with hot cocoa and loads of marshmallows.  Going to the library and stocking up all types of books.  Embracing your favorite comfy clothes and (if you’re in a cold climate) wearing some warm wooly socks.  Leaving twinkly lights up even though the holidays are over.  Lighting candles when you have dinner, making it feel special even if you’re eating hot pockets.  Having cell phone free times, when you make a conscious decision to be present and not distracted by your phone.  Having people over for potlucks or game night even if your house is not as tidy as you wish it was.

Hygge is permission to get cozy.  I often hear people say, “I was so lazy this weekend I didn’t do a thing.”  In a society that likes to check things off lists and prides itself on how much we can squeeze into a day, let’s give ourselves permission to get cozy.  Notice I am not saying “lazy” but cozy.  Creating coziness is an act of self care.  What would happen to our mindset if we saw those moments when we were feeling like curling up as good for our soul rather than a reflection of our lack of motivation.

I also think something powerful happens when you are deliberate about creating coziness, it makes it special.  When you have a weekend where you don’t do anything, if you want to create hygge, time isn’t getting away from you the way it does when you binge watch TV.  Because while binge watching can have it’s merits, you can lose a whole day and not even notice because you weren’t present in the time you were inhabiting.

I don’t think hygge needs to be reserved just for the weekends either.  This week I encourage to bring a little coziness into the other places you inhabit.  It may be as simple as bringing a special tea to work, along with your favorite mug.  Or switching off the fluorescent lights and turning on lamps instead.  Or if that’s not an option creating some coziness after work when you get home.

Either way, the Danish are on to something.  They’ve been consistently ranked as one of the world’s happiest countries for many years in row now.  Here’s to a more hygge filled life!

Take care of YOU.


Wing it!

Sometimes you just need to wing it.  Yes there is value in being prepared, researching things, and getting all the information you need.  But I don’t think people talk enough about the value of winging it.

There are going to be times when an incredible opportunity presents itself. Inevitably you will start to hear everything that your fears want you to believe.

“It’s too soon.”

“I need more time.”

“I’m not prepared.”

“I haven’t had proper training.”

“I’m too young/too old.”

Don’t let those “reasons” win.  In the words of Tina Fey, “Say yes and figure it out afterwards.”

Years ago, I worked at an apple orchard.  I was trying to figure my life out, and it felt like the perfect seasonal job for me.  They wanted me to drive a tractor with a wagon attached, carrying happy apple pickers through the orchard.  Are you kidding me?  Can you think of anything more joyful than that?  I wanted this job bad!  However there was one requirement…you had to be able to drive stick shift.  I could not.  However, when I saw that requirement in the ad, I called them anyway and to my delight they set up an interview.  I did well at the interview and was hired.  He confirmed that I could drive stick and I confidently told him he had nothing to worry about.  Of course as soon as I left I realized, “Crap, I better learn.”  That weekend, I did learn (thanks to the patience of a very dear friend).  And I ended having a lovely stint as a tractor driver at an apple orchard.

Apply for things even if you don’t meet all the requirements, because here’s a tip, very few people meet ALL the requirements.  In order to move forward in life, you have to stretch yourself, and see what you’re capable of.  Surprise yourself with your audacity.  Prior to getting that job at the apple orchard, multiple people had attempted to teach me how to drive stick.  Nothing motivated me quite like having to be able to drive a tractor in just 3 days for a paycheck.

You also have to just pick something.  Sometimes your gut won’t be able to guide you.  We are always so afraid of making the “wrong” choice.  You want to know what the wrong choice usually is?  Being so terrified or waiting for the perfect thing to come around, that you pick NOTHING.  Are you worried it won’t be perfect?  I promise it won’t be.  Boom, there you go.  Now pick and move on.

I like to read and re-read certain quotes when I’m feeling fearful.  Here are some of my favorites:

“If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.” -Margaret Atwood

“We have to be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  -Kurt Vonnegut

You’ve got this.

Take care of YOU.







Moving from “change is hard” to “change is exciting!”

A new year is upon us!  What a relief. A lot of people are feeling the momentum that a new year gives us.  Clean slate, new start, new intentions, new goals, new beginnings etc.  I love that about the new year.  It allows us to hit the reset button, take inventory on our lives, throw out what didn’t work and keep what did.

Today I want to focus on the “throwing out what didn’t work” part.  We are complicated individuals.  What motivates you, may not motivate your best friend, partner or co-worker.  So don’t beat yourself up, if their form of motivation doesn’t suit you.  For example, if your friend has a morning routine that you envy, give it a try.  But if you aren’t a morning person, and after giving it a shot for 3 weeks you feel more exhausted than refreshed, find something that works for you.  Maybe your inspiration or routine needs to happen at night.  Pay attention to how you tick, and what motivates you.

I have loved having Monday’s off, and for 4 years that has been my normal.  I have to say its been mostly WONDERFUL.  But recently I noticed that my energy was so low by Wednesday night after working two back to back doubles, that I wondered if it was really worth it in the end.  And because I have had Einstein’s quote, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” in the back of my head, I am making a change.

Starting in 2 weeks, I am back to a 5-day work week.  It will no doubt be quite the adjustment.  However one thing I know about myself, is it’s vital I mix things up.  Even things that seemingly appear small, often have an overriding effect on my whole being.  Giving myself the room to change up my “normal” starts to free me up a bit.  It allows me to think outside the box and look at some others areas in my life where the patterns aren’t working in my favor.

People always say that “change is hard.”  Well it will continue to be so if that’s what we keep saying about change!  What if instead we said, “Change is exciting!”  (Granted, this can’t work in all instances but it can for many.)  It’s common to brace ourselves for the worst with each new change.  What would it be like instead to anticipate the best that could happen?  Or look forward to the unknown blessings that will come from mixing it up?

If you look at change as a negative, dare yourself to find the positive in it in 2018.  It may require looking really really hard.  But do it anyway, because I promise you will positively benefit from focussing your energy on the good.

Take care of YOU.




Another year goes by, thanks for reading!

Next Monday is Christmas so this will be my last post of the year.  First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you.  It’s been a real pleasure to hear your feedback in person, in personal emails, and also in the comment section.  I’ll admit I’m always so shocked that people read this.  I sometimes forget this blog is not my own personal journal!  But your encouragement has helped more than you know.

At the end of each year, I like to re-evaluate my commitments and determine if they still hold value and importance to me.  I personally think we should always give ourselves the room to see if our perspectives have changed or evolved before we blindly commit to something.  All this to say, I remain committed to this blog for another year.  I will continue to write because I love doing it.  My schedule may change next year, so my writing day may also need to adapt, but I will keep you all posted on that.

So as the final weeks of 2017 approach us, I think it’s so important to reflect on what we’ve learned.  And because we are not all together right now sitting by a fire, drinking hot cocoa and snuggled in blankets, I guess I’ll go first.  Although I encourage you to take some time to yourself before the end of the year and give yourself time to reflect.

The main thing I got from this year, is the importance of paying attention.  In my case, this refers to literally every aspect of my life.  When I stopped paying attention to what my body was telling me, it literally revolted on me.  When I started paying attention to what interested or excited me, I discovered I quite like being in the kitchen, baking!  When I noticed that my “to-do” list and the stress I got from it was my own making, I was suddenly freed up.

The reality is, for the sake of our well-being and the well-being of others, we have to pay attention.  And it’s not enough to just observe what it happening, we need to act too.  This year I’ve heard countless folks talk about how they feel so exhausted by the news or the state of the world.  I totally hear you.  It’s been a lot.  It’s been triggering and traumatic.  And if you were not personally effected by it, you are in a privileged group, and that group needs to be bending over backwards to help their brothers and sisters of the human race.  So rest up friends, because paying attention requires you to act.

This year I could have been tempted to put my head in the sand regarding the blatant racism, islamophobia and sexism spewing from the president’s mouth. Well, I might have been too frightened as a child to stand up to bullies, but as an adult I will never again allow bullies to get a pass based on my own fear of speaking up.  A lot of my own courage came from the massive number of women that spoke up about their personal history of sexual harassment and/or assaults.  There is power in numbers.  I know what it’s like to not be believed, and I will continue to applaud and gain strength from those with the courage to raise their voices.

This year I learned that anger doesn’t have to scary, especially as a woman.  We can be so afraid of our own anger.  But the reality is anger is powerful.  But we must use that anger for good. To give a voice to others, to hold space for others, and to take a stand against the many injustices our nation is facing.  Anger has forced me to act, instead of remain complacent.

The last thing I learned this year while attempting to pay better attention is that we are all just trying to figure it out and heal. We have different ways of attempting to heal, some mask their pain with bravado, others by filling up every inch of their life with activities, or with substances, or by shopping, or by eating or by numbing out on TV.  But we are the same.  And when we pay better attention to that person who is taking too long at the ATM, or in line at the grocery story, we might see that they are struggling too.  They are also just trying to figure it out.  When we are able to look at our neighbors with compassion instead of irritation, we notice we aren’t that different.

So as 2018 fast approaches, I feel nothing but gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned and the many I’ve yet to learn in the coming year.  It’s been a pleasure to have you with me on this journey, and I look forward to what comes next!

Happy New Year!

Take care of YOU.








Our bodies are literally aching for us to listen to them.

This weekend I went on an incredible retreat that helped me hit the reset button.  One thing I became aware of over the weekend, was that somewhere along the line I stopped listening to my body.

One day last week, I had a migraine so bad I was throwing up at work.  I mean projectile vomiting, like in ‘The Exorcist.’  I knew my body was telling me to STOP!!!  But the next morning I woke up and with my head still pounding and nausea hitting me hard I thought, “I can’t do this to my coworkers, I can’t call out.  We are already so short.”  I thought about all the times I’d written about the importance of sick days, and how I’d reminded others the world would still go on without them.  And then I thought, “Yeah, yeah I know but in this case, I need to be there.”  And then I got so nauseous I couldn’t move.  My body officially took over for my mind, and I called out.  And guess what? Everyone survived!  The world continued to rotate on its axis, and I got well.

Our bodies cannot be ignored and more importantly they are telling us so much, but we have to listen.  If we have a headache, we take pills.  We don’t investigate why we have a headache, we just “take care of it.” A couple of months ago, I went through a bottle of extra strength Tylenol in record time.  I didn’t notice I was going through the bottle until it was empty.  I wasn’t paying attention to why I needed this medication so often.  I was just taking it and ignoring all the signs.

This does not mean we need to be concerned or hyper aware about every ache and pain, but we can learn from what our bodies are so desperately trying to tell us.  For the majority of us, I believe the message is SLOW DOWN.

After my sick day, when I got back to work I made a decision. I wasn’t going to run anymore.  (I don’t work in an ER, so rarely do I need to run.)  I wasn’t going to multi-task, and I wasn’t going to stress.  Somewhere along the line, we were told stress was a given.  But I wasn’t having any of it!  I was also going to say NO if we didn’t have the staff, instead of begrudgingly saying “yes” and trying to make the impossible happen.  And lastly I was going to take a lunch.  I had been very protective of everyone’s lunches and now it was time to protect mine as well.  And guess what?  Again, everyone survived.  And I got lunch.

The thing is, when you stop paying attention to your body, you also stop noticing other things too.  Because when you’re overworked or experiencing burnout, you’re pretty much in survival mode.  And survival mode doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything else.  Like noticing the magic moments that are happening all around us.  So this week, I encourage you to join me in this new quest of paying better attention.

Take care of YOU!

Alright people, time to get unstuck.

Yesterday I reconnected with a friend and we reminisced about a time in our lives when we felt stuck.  We recounted the stagnation we felt and the inability to move on any decisions because we were fearful.  It felt good to recount those memories, because we are no longer the same people we were.  Also it was important for me to notice my growth.  Things that seemed so hard for me to overcome back then, are no longer as hard now.

Why am I bringing this up?  Right now I know a lot of people, who feel stuck.  And when you are feeling stagnant you can convince yourself that you will always feels this way.  That’s the power of stagnation, it tries to convince you this feeling is your new normal so “get used to it!”  But don’t you dare.  What you are feeling is temporary, (repeat after me, T-E-M-P-O-R-A-R-Y) and if you don’t believe me think back to a time in your life when you had to make a hard decision even though you were terrified.  You see?  You are capable of pushing through your own resistance.  Give yourself some credit!  You’ve gotten through hard times before.  And you can do it again.  Change feels hard.  And when you are stuck it can feel impossible.  But, it isn’t.

Don’t wait to feel motivated to act.  Stagnation will tell you if you don’t feel motivated something is wrong.  It will say, “See, you have no energy to deal with this.  Abort mission.  Stay in the same place.  Don’t make any sudden moves.  Maybe something easier will come along!”  Nope.  Don’t buy it.

One of my favorite motivational authors Mel Robbins writes, “If you only ever did the things you don’t want to do, you’d have everything you’ve ever wanted.”  I find comfort in that quote.  It reminds me (another quote from Mel Robbins) “I’m never gonna feel like it.”  Don’t wait to “feel” like making a change, it’ll never come.  You just have to act.

Look to your own past to remind yourself of your strength and power.  You are capable of growth.  You are capable of making changes for the better, and grand adventures await you.

You’ve got this.  Take care of YOU.



Following the clues…

Today I baked bread from scratch.  This is a bit of a milestone for me, as I have traditionally preferred to bake from boxes.  You know, just add an egg or two, oil, mix and you’re all set!  But this time I wanted to give baking bread a go.  I watched a few videos, got the ingredients and baking pans I needed and set off on my baking adventure.  Turns out there was very little physical work that needed to be done, and instead it mostly required having the patience to wait for results.  Ahhh good ‘ole patience.

I’ve watched every episode of “The Great British Baking show,” (this show is a delight, and I highly recommend it) and yet until today I didn’t own a bread pan.  But, as you’ve probably gathered, I’m a big believer in continually reinventing yourself.  A couple of posts ago, I talked about paying better attention to what excited you.  To not let the constant influx of social media or noise distract you from paying attention to what gets you excited or intrigued.

So this month I followed my intrigue.  I decided to discover if it was just the show I enjoyed or if I might enjoy baking too.  I started small, by baking some cookies.  They weren’t bad, and I enjoyed the process. Intrigued, I then moved on to scones and biscuits.  They weren’t all winners but it turns out that even if they were “meh” I still felt satisfied and incredibly delighted by the process.  I was simply following a clue I had discovered about myself and seeing where it took me.

Aren’t we fascinating creatures?  There is so much to us, and yet we often get lost in the mundane.  What interests you may not interest anyone else around you.  Who cares!  Follow that clue and see where it takes you.  My clue isn’t making me want to open a bakery, but it has created a new self care activity I am pumped to continue exploring.

Follow your intrigue.

Take care of YOU.


Life lessons of a 39-year-old (or the first 20 that popped into my head).

Last week I stumbled upon a number of articles of life lessons from our elders.  They all had a common theme, that human connection is what it’s all about in the end.  I’ve always been fascinated by the clarity of “what life is all about” that people gain towards the end of their lives, or when given a terminal diagnosis.  Why does it take years or devastating news for us to wake up to what matters in life?  Because we think we have time.

So today as I was thinking about those lists, I wondered what it would like to create my own list of life lessons now at 39.  In fact, I wondered how my list at 39 would differ from one I might have created at 29.  We are ever evolving beings and while we can look at the life lessons of someone who has lived 100 years (and you really should), we also carry wisdom within us based on our life experiences and years on earth.

So today I’m going to share some of my life lessons, but honestly they might not resonate because it’s based on my own experiences.  If you like, take this idea and run with it yourself.  I should add that I haven’t taken a lot of time to compile this list, and it might even differ tomorrow.  So for today, these are my thoughts.  I’d love to hear yours!

  1. Being vulnerable with another who creates a safe space for your vulnerability is a true gift.
  2. Try and have at least one belly laugh a day.
  3. Surround yourself with music, play it, sing it, dance to it.
  4. Write in a journal what you are feeling, don’t edit it, and don’t judge it when you look back on it years ago.  That was you then.
  5. You will not be everyone’s cup of tea, and vice versa.  Nothing wrong with that.
  6. Say yes to the things that scare you in a good way.
  7. Set boundaries early with energy vampires.
  8. You’ve been given a voice, use it.
  9. Don’t be afraid of your anger.
  10. When emotions surface, let them surface.  If you push them down they will always resurface with double the intensity.
  11. Therapy is a gift for yourself.
  12. Don’t deny yourself a piece of cake or you will end up eating a whole cake when no one is looking.
  13. Don’t let chances pass you by, act now.  Now is all you know you have.
  14. Not everyone is good at traditional schooling, but don’t let that determine your worth or intelligence.  It’s one style of learning.  Continue to be an avid learner of life.
  15. Don’t be enticed by overtime.  It’s a bad habit.
  16. You do not have to engage with someone who gives you the creeps.
  17. If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, trust it.
  18. Just because someone asks you a question, you do not have to answer it.
  19. Don’t overthink it.
  20. Practice self care every day.  All day.


Take care of YOU.


Why cultivating assertiveness is essential to your self care!

Years ago I took an assertiveness training course.  I was working at my first nursing job and was finding I had a hard time giving instruction/direction without ending each sentence with, “Is that ok?” or “Do you mind?”  This extended beyond just my work life and into my personal life as well.

These questions were an attempt to encourage goodwill between myself and the CNA’s (certified nursing assistants) that worked with me.  It was not successful.  Now some of the CNA’s took pity on me and said, “Esther of course it’s ok, it’s my job.”  But others took my questions as an “out” and were able to avoid doing certain aspects of their jobs because I had given them room to do so.

This began my quest to become more assertive.  I started paying more attention to how I came off to others.  I starting observing others and noticing what they did or didn’t do that got them respect and results.

One of the first things I worked on was removing “Is that ok?”  from my directives.  My attempt at being “everyone’s friend” had backfired and I now had to start from scratch and reassert my authority.  (While it’s harder to incorporate boundaries after you’ve known someone for awhile, it’s not impossible and it can be done.)

I also started looking at how I wrote or responded to emails.  Was I writing with strength or was I trying to hide my strength with disempowering sentences? Was I apologizing for things that required no apology? This took me a LONG time.  And even now I sometimes have to re-write emails when I’ve noticed I’ve defaulted back to a more passive style.

So why am I spending so much time on the power of assertiveness?  Because it’s an act of self-care.  Instead of feeling walked all over, being assertive encourages you to prioritize yourself in a way that often doesn’t feel natural for caregivers.  For instance, when I asked the CNA’s to do certain tasks, I was doing a disservice to my patients and myself by not asserting myself in the situation.  By not ensuring that folks were during their jobs I ended up doubling the work for myself and the CNA’s on the next shift, and meanwhile essentially giving the patients less than adequate care.


If you struggle with this like I did, here are some things you can look out for and work on that will help you start to cultivate your assertiveness.

1.) Notice how you end sentences.  Are you ending sentences seeking approval?  Even if you’re not actually saying, “is that ok?”  Is your tone implying that?  Is your sentence sounding like a question even though it’s not one?

2.) Give your opinion.  It can be as simple as stating what type of food are you in the mood for.  If you are tempted to pass that question off to someone else, resist the instinct and say what you want!  Get in the habit of giving your opinion and not just listening to everyone elses!

3.) Don’t apologize for things that don’t require apologies.  I notice many women say “sorry” when someone bumps into them!  Don’t apologize for existing people!  Apologize when it’s appropriate and only then.

4.) Take compliments.  When someone compliments you, take the compliment.  Don’t minimize or dismiss it, take it.

5.) Practice saying “NO.” Remember you can also say “no” without apologizing.  Often we think we have to give multiple reasons why we can’t do something.  It’s actually disempowering to do that, and also probably none of their business.  Be thoughtful about your response and firmly say NO.

6.) Think before you answer a question. I used to respond immediately to texts or requests to do things without looking to see if I had prior commitments or if I actually wanted to do what was being asked.  While we live in a culture that demands immediate answers, you are not required to follow that pace.  Think before you respond.

Here’s to being a more assertive you!

Take care of YOU.