Why You Should Call Yourself a Feminist and Stop Being Afraid of the Word

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Yesterday I heard a woman (who was giving a lecture at the time) say “Oh, I’m NOT a feminist!” Similar to how one might say “Oh, I do NOT eat fast food!” Here’s why this bothered me. Hang tight. This is important.

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” 

It’s unfortunate that many people equate feminism and being a feminist with “man-hating, non-shaving, violent-protest-engaging, angry women” because let’s be honest, we’ve all heard one of those and at some point might have even thought that automatically when we heard the word.

Negatively associating feminism with those things is like associating all apples as being rotten because of that one time you bit into a bad one or knew someone who knew someone who did.

There will always be radical people, radical situations, illogical events, and so forth, but that does not mean that the definition of a word has changed. We have to continually circle back to the heart of a meaning. Redefine it for our generation and keep going strong.

Why am I so passionate about this? Because feminism IS IMPORTANT! It’s why women are where they are today and it’s what we need to keep moving forward. Name another word that defines the same values and pursuits.

Lastly, everyone should be a feminist. Especially men. Re-read the definition again and tell me where it says you have to have a vagina, you don’t. You just have to agree with the advocacy of women’s rights. And if you’re a really stand up person, you’ll do what you can in daily interactions and situations to show that.

Women need to stop putting down other women for the choices they make, whether it is to stay home with children, work, or both. Men need to do the same and encourage a work place that isn’t biased and chauvinistic, because holy hell, it still happens all the time.

So the next time someone says “I’m not a feminist” I dare you to say that you ARE and explain why. Be the change you wish to see in this world. It will improve your workplace, your life, the lives of those around you, and the world we live in.

Happy Wednesday.

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5 Ways to embrace change: Love where you are and what you already have

How many times have you said “I’ll be happy when…” It could be when you lose 20 pounds, when you buy a house, once you get that promotion, once it stops raining, when I can move, once I can buy a sports car, etc. The thing is there’s ALWAYS going to be a “when” and it’s always going to be in the future, and more times than not, there’s always going to be a barrier to getting it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting something new or better but we often forget to rejoice in the now.

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View from our new townhouse in Maryland

We just moved to a new part of the country – we put down a deposit on a townhouse site unseen. It was nerve-wracking, intimidating, and anxiety-ridden. Luckily, thanks to Google Earth and lots of research, we didn’t do too bad. We have a nice place in a pretty nice neighborhood close to shopping, great views, and everything we need to get by. I can’t help feeling though, constantly even, that maybe we made the wrong choice.

What if there’s a better place that’s closer to base where my husband works?

I wish we were closer to that awesome mall!

It takes us 20 minutes to drive to all these places we like, why didn’t we think of this?!

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Dublyn – helping us unpack

When something big in your life changes, it’s normal to question just about everything you’re doing. We all have moments of anxiety and insecurity. This morning I started thinking about all of these racing thoughts in my head and asked myself “what do you already love about the place you rented?” Ok. I love that it’s something we can easily afford. I love that it’s cozy with tons of space we’ve never had. Then I started thinking deeper about it. 20 minutes to get to that mall or that movie theater is not THAT big of a deal. It’s certainly not a big enough deal to pack up and move again in a year.

My point in sharing this with you is that we live in a society where many of us constantly feel like we instantly need the next big thing. That life isn’t good enough until we have more by putting in less effort – it’s a sense of entitlement that’s brewing a plague of unhappiness.

So how do we stop this cycle and become happy in the now with what we already have?

1. Give yourself time to adapt and be patient. Whenever change happens – moving, a new job, a new group of friends – we might expect ourselves to just snap into it especially when we can anticipate change and know something is coming. The thing is, that’s not how the mind works. There isn’t a switch in your brain to just “get with it.” For any new/big situation give yourself some time and space to think. I remember it took me two full months my first quarter at college to get used to being away from home and family and to embrace all the new changes. Those first two months I felt lost and depressed – but after that? I felt awesome, accomplished, and like a new person!

2. Make a list every day of what you love and what you hate about the change. Sure – we keep hearing “just focus on the positive!” but come on, we have to listen to what bugs us, too if we want to find a solution. The other night I asked my husband “what do you hate about living here?” It took him off guard but then he thought about it and listed a few things. He doesn’t like the aggressive drivers, the barrage of freeways everywhere, that there’s way less craft beer. But after he told me this I could see there was a sense of relief, because acknowledging our feelings helps us move forward. I asked myself the same question the other day and realized that I feel out of sorts because I’m in a totally new environment, I don’t know anyone yet, and I want to get back in better shape. Once I realized what was really bothering me, it didn’t seem so bad. Hey! I thought. I can actually start to change these things! It’s also important to be thankful for the things we already have. That’s why today I’m working on creating a Thankfulness Jar. I’m going to cut out strips of colored paper and every day or anytime I think of it, write down something I’m happy about or thankful for with our new surroundings. Then when I’m having one of those awful mind storms, I can reach in the jar and remember something happy 🙂

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Savage Mill – Savage, MD

3. Realize that “normal” happens faster than you think. I always panic at a new job or a new apartment because I don’t have my barrings yet. Everything feels out of place and nothing is “regular” yet. We’ve been just a little over 2 weeks and already I feel more at home simply because I know how to get to the grocery store without GPS, I know the name of all of the leasing staff, and I’ve figured out what time of day to close the blinds to keep the heat out. All of these little things may seem obvious, but if you think back to times in your life that you felt completely comfortable, it was because you just KNEW stuff.

4. Consider how you would really feel if you had everything you want. While wanting to live closer to all these amenities, I thought about how I would really feel if we decided to move closer to stuff. We’d have to pack up all over again, move all over again, unpack, and then yes, we’d be in this amazing new place but how long would that feeling of euphoria really last? I remember the first time I was looking for my very own 1 bedroom apartment. I was telling my Mom all of my “must haves” including marble counter-tops, pool access, you name it. For a 23 year old at the time with a small salary, it was not only ridiculous but lavish. My Mom laughed but then said something that has always been great advice for life. She said “after a few weeks, you’ll forget the marble counter-tops are there, you will say ‘I can go to the pool tomorrow’ because you know it’s there, but if you find a place that you can truly afford without all the bells and whistles, after a few weeks you’ll also forget that you don’t have marble counter-tops.”  She was absolutely right though. The next time you really want something or a big change from what you just got, think about how you would really feel if you were able to instantly have everything.

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5. Think about what you want to carry with you on your journey and what you want to leave behind. I’ve always liked the metaphor of having a backpack for your life. We all get one and we all encounter times when we have to stuff it full of stuff to take with us. The problem is that each backpack can only carry so much. Sometimes we have to let friends go because they are weighing us down or preventing us from trekking forward. I’ve spent years of my life carrying heavy rock-like feelings because I thought I had  responsibility to hold on to them for….someone else. Once we realize that it’s okay and healthy to take things out and leave them on the trail as we go, we are able to make room for new treasures, thoughts, experiences, friends, and moments. That backpack is YOURS and realizing you can pick up and let go of what you want, when you want, allows you to embrace the journey. Keep it light for those days up the mountains, but fill it up with luxuries when you know you’re close to an oasis.

10 Things I Learned From Driving Cross-Country

Not everyone moves in together, gets married, and then drives across the United States within 4 months of getting engaged. But we did. The Navy lifestyle is already proving to be a wild and crazy adventure full with TONS of ups and downs, and not just from the actual roller coasters we went on. Here are the top 10 things I learned about life during those 7 days on the road…

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1. Real life isn’t Instagram filtered Pinterest goodness. We all know this but it’s easy to forget. The life you see of everyone posting warm-frosted-sprinkle-life-Pinterest-porn pics on Facebook and other social media sites is NOT the life they 10373762_10100892042057620_8381901850397216729_nare living. We all put our best online. Why would we do anything else? It’s important to remember though that we often compare ourselves at our worst to others at their best. Usually it’s when I’m shoving Cheez-its into my mouth with no makeup on and I’m looking at someone who is all dolled up to go out after losing 20 lbs and has abs on top of their abs. WAAAAH. While you’re going to see a lot of those pics on this post, you won’t see the ones of me crying in tears over our spilled cooler or my ugly cry face after my first coaster at Cedar Point. Hell, at least I’m writing about it though 😉 It’s funny that we take pictures of the best but then drive ourselves crazy focusing on the negative sometimes. I definitely got this reminder immediately on the road after I’d spent days pinning shit onto my road trip board. All these pics of well-organized minivans and happy couples and then here I am not able to see out the back of our Sonata and getting pissed because my feet are damp from the cooler that leaked in the front seat.

2. You’re always going to learn new things about yourself and meet parts of your mind you never knew existed. It can be terrifying when you’ve cried more in the past week than you have in the past year. This lesson I learned quickly. It’s that moment when you go “well fuck, apparently Sarah has never done or felt ANY of this before and we have NO idea what’s going on!”  The good news is that emotions are like rivers, they channel through you and the faster you let them go through you and experience them, the sooner your husband will stop freaking out about your face water. And as much as I preach about observing emotions, you are allowed to FEEL them just as much. Sometimes we have to react and cry at a road stop in the middle of Oregon, and Utah…and Illinois when you realize you left your shorts at the last hotel. The point is, we never stop learning about who we are and who we react. And no matter how many times others may tell you about what different experiences feel like, you’ll never truly know what it’s like until YOU experience it, YOUR way.

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Planning our road trip

3. No matter how much you plan and how much you pack, something else will ultimately happen. 10264956_10100890410676920_3397822638891836598_nThis goes back to my previous mention of the cooler that leaked, the books that got soggy, the exits and on-ramps we missed that delayed our travel time, the gas stations we almost missed or had to turn around for, the frustration we had with each other, the lack of healthy road food options, the number of times we had to go to the bathroom but held it for “just another hour” so we could make better time. Shit. Happens. In life it can be advantageous to plan ahead, bring a coat even if its warm when you leave the house, save extra money for those emergencies, but the truth is, stuff will always come up. I learned quickly from this trip especially, that how you decide to handle things will ultimately determine your happiness and your stress levels. Frustration and anger are inevitable. Just like stress, there are everyday and reoccurring emotions we can’t escape. Emotions happen.

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Cute Dino in Little America, Wyoming off Lincoln Hwy/I-80

4. Change is inevitable. Change is good. But change can also rock you, shock you, and make you feel overwhelmed as fuck. We all know that change can be hard but sometimes we’re impatient with ourselves and we don’t really take the time to realize how much we’re taking on. I had this moment (several, actually) both on the road and once we got to Maryland. It all started to sink in. Holy crap! We got married and didn’t have a big wedding, I didn’t even have a dress, I know we’ll do that later but what?! I just quit my 4 1/2 year job in downtown Seattle to travel with the man of my dreams, I just said goodbye to all of my family and friends – the people I grew up with! That takes a lot of guts yeah, but it doesn’t mean I’m not human. I always try to remind myself that it can take around 2 months to truly get acclimated to a new place. To find out where you are, what’s around you, get to know some regular people, even finding the right place to get gas and buy groceries can make you feel at home! So take a deep breath as you encounter those big life changes and remember that sooner than later you’re going to relax and things WILL start to feel normal again – just in wonderful and very different ways.

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My husband fighting off dinosaurs in Nebraska. 

5. Routines make the world go round. Nothing made me more depressed than 10 days without our household goods at our new townhouse in Maryland. Ten very slow days. Ten days to think about every anxiety and worry I had and then some. Ten days to ask myself (and my husband) more questions and then questions about those questions. I have a question – can I ask you a question? What those ten days did for me though was important. It made me realize the importance of routine in our lives. It doesn’t mean you need to have a 9-5 or go to Karate every Tuesday but it does mean that every day you should have something that you regularly do. The day I started getting up, brewing coffee like a normal person and didn’t try to sleep in til 11am was the day I started to calm down and feel a LOT better. It can be hard to establish a routine when you’re someplace new, but it’s important. Even when I didn’t have our stuff, I started exercising every morning, checked the mail, went outside, cleaned the kitchen. Keeping busy can save you a lot of worries and it gives your poor mind a break when you’re already overwhelmed.

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Frog Rock on Bainbridge Island, WA -where I grew up

6. In-Laws are overwhelming but so are ALL people. When you’re newly married in-laws can be mega overwhelming. And it doesn’t matter how welcoming, sweet, rude, irritating, or thoughtful they may be, they are new people in your life that you are now committed to in one way or another and that my friends, is terrifying. It’s easy to deal with our own family because if we yell at them over someone’s birthday dinner, we know deep down how much we love each other and that after a couple of awkward hours/days life will continue on as normal. If anything, we grew from that tussle. But with in-laws, it isn’t quite like that. We suddenly meet an entire new family – OUR new family – and as much as they might annoy us, we can’t just say what we normally would. It can feel like a lot of effort, it can be intimidating, it can make you worry about swearing or saying the wrong thing off-hand about religion or political matters. It can also put us in situations where we might feel overly defensive or judged – even if people don’t mean to come across that way. We’re suddenly trying to prove our self-worth and as normal as that is, it can be self-sabotaging in many ways. I’ve learned that just being yourself, always, is the best way to go. Sure, you’re going to upset people from time to time but so are they. We’re all human. Just remember that your family is just as difficult as his/hers and things affect us all differently.

To share a piece from our road trip – we took two days to stop in Indiana to meet his family. Yes, I’m writing about my in-laws in the interwebs, god save me. Really though, this is funny as hell and if my family doesn’t know I’m a blogger, they will soon 😉 While visiting my husbands grandmothers house I was delighted when she finally decided to speak directly to me in the group of us. Sitting outside on a nice spring day in May with the sun above us and sodas in everyone’s hands. Ah, I thought, here comes grandma bonding time. Little did I know what she was about to say. You see, a few weeks prior I had sent her an email outlining our travel plans, our new address, as well as a link to the apartment website for her to check out. Slowly my grandma in-law raised her head, locked eyes with me and proceeded to announce:

Sarah. I got that email you sent me. While it was very thoughtful of you to think of me and make that gesture, the link took me to a pornography site.

WHAT!?! BAHAHAHAHA. I was speechless and so was everyone else. After pulling my jaw up from the concrete I simply responded “______ there’s no way that’s correct.”

I searched for my phone in my purse. Pulled up my sent email history. Found the very one I had sent her, clicked on the link, anxiously waited for it to load on 3G and BEHOLD…it was the apartment link. This lady now thought I had literally emailed her porn – must have been looking at porn when I emailed her – and sent her the link. When in reality, she most likely had a virus or brought up something someone else in the house may have been browsing. Ugh.

Point is. In-laws are just new people you meet, just like co-workers and people you have to interact with on a daily basis. Just remember to be yourself – even if your new grandma thinks you’re a slutty slut slut who married her grandson.

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The Bean – Chicago, IL

7. Stop and enjoy the view. Life is ever-changing. Sometimes moments happen that change into moments that will never happen again. It’s easy to always say “eh, we’ll do that tomorrow” or to not truly take in a moment, like saying goodbye, or hello for the first or last time. We won’t always know what’s next, what’s last, what’s ever-lasting, or what’s fleeting. So enjoying those moments as best we can is important.

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Lighthouse Point at Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH

8. Appreciate what you already have. I mean this is so many ways. The people you know, the home you live in, the food you get to eat. I had NO idea how amazing Seattle truly was because I grew up there. I have had people my whole life tell me how amazing and gorgeous the Pacific Northwest is but didn’t even REALIZE until I left. I also didn’t realize how great some of the food was. It was also a lesson about not being afraid to try new things, I never knew I’d have the MOST AMAZING nachos of my life in Denver, but I did.

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True Deep Dish Pizza – Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta – Chicago, IL

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The Best Nachos of My Life (thus far) – Breckenridge Brewery – Denver, CO

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Glorious Pie – Farmhouse Cafe – Omaha, NE

Side note: I realized why they call it Omaha because it’s the sound you make when you eat the pie and still have your mouth full trying to say oh my god. “OH-MA-HA”

 9. You can look back from time to time as long as you keep moving forward. There’s nothing wrong with reflecting on your life or feeling nostalgic but often times we are so focused on what we once had that we forget what we have now in the present moment. When you go through a giant change it’s normal to clench onto the past. One thing that helped me though was to really think back to my time in WA and the reasons I was excited to leave. The more I remembered that, the easier it was for me to embrace the new moments and the challenges ahead.

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Maybe Wyoming?!

10. You’re never too old (or too young) for an adventure. Living the Navy lifestyle means we’ll be doing a lot of traveling and moving every 3 years but it’s all about how you look at it. Places, jobs, people – they are all going to have their pros and cons. Adventuring doesn’t mean you need to drive cross-country though. It can mean turning everyday into something new. Cooking a new dish, creating a new recipe, calling an old friend you haven’t talked to in years, going to the library and reading the first book you see, getting up early on a Saturday and driving East until you find a diner to eat at. This is your life!! Get to living it ❤

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Magnum – the roller coaster at Cedar Point that had me in tears #Imababy

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More of Little America in Wyoming (with a population of under 80 people)

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Roadside T-Rex – Dinosaur Museum – Lincoln, NE

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Snake River – Twin Falls, ID

 

 

5 Ways to Make Mornings Easier, More Enjoyable, and Less Stressful

If you’re like me you’ve experienced the barrage of disappointments that come from not getting enough sleep at night.

WHAT!?! I JUST went to sleep! How is it 5am already?!

NO!! OMG NO!

WHHYYYYYYYY!

Well, I just won’t go to the gym this morning.

(40 minutes later) OMG I’m STILL tired!

coffeeThen it’s getting out of bed as slow as humanly possible. Lingering in the perfectly warm blankets, despising my cat for being able to sleep indefinitely yet waking me up with its wet nose and then putting her ass in my face the minute I open my eyes at 3am because maybe it’s time for food yet?! -__-

Cats are dumb.

But luckily YOU aren’t! And there are actually things we can do to make mornings easier.

Besides all of the reasons to get more sleep and what happens when you don’t get enough, I want to focus on the things you can do to make your mornings easier and less stressful.

haikuSome people are able to wake up with mild struggles, take on the day and go throughout their morning with minor stress and anxiety. Well GOOD for them. I am not like this at all. I push it when it comes to listening to my alarm clock, if my phone were a person it would be the equivalent of you trying to talk to me and me constantly pushing your entire face away with my hand. DO NOT WANT.

But this, as we know isn’t effective. It’s also not effective because then I have entirely too little time to get ready and do all the things I like to do to try to look presentable. So what happens next is me rushing into the shower – which is a lot like the Odyssey when Odysseus ventures onto an island and spends like 4 hours on it with Calypso but then on the outside 7 years have actually passed. Yeah, that’s basically the shower. La la la hot water feels so good, it’s clearly only been like 8 minutes…holy $@&% it’s 7:30 already!!! Jesus $#%ing now I only have 15 minutes to eat things and make my face look less like my normal face. Crap!

Then I get angry because “everything” goes wrong. I can’t find where I put the tomatoes, the cat is in the way, the cat is STILL in the way, damn it cat, quit walking EXACTLY where I’m trying to go.

Meanwhile my poor husband is watching from afar probably thinking “good lord where is my wife, I’ve married a monster and I’m afraid  she might stab me with that spatula if I make any sudden movements…”

So after the Xteenth time of this happening, I sat down and thought about what I could do to make my life easier and way less stressful.

1. Take 10 minutes before bed to get shit together – this could mean a variety of things but for me it means the following specifics:

  • Set the coffee pot – I’m a weak person and I need my coffee in the morning, especially since I usually get up around 4:45/5am. I cannot function mentally before I know I have a cup of hot black coffee in my hand. Trying to fumble through the dark kitchen and make this happen at that ungodly hour only makes me more upset that I’m awake. Plus, I usually end up stepping on the cat and it isn’t helping our relationship bloom necessarily.
  • Plan out your outfit – You would think that putting on clothes in the morning would be no big deal. Guys do it all the time, they just…and oh look they are handsome. Yeah no. I don’t work that way. THIS takes a little more effort. Plus I never know when what I was thinking in my head as possibly cute could turn into “oh shit it has holes in it” or “since when did you get extremely bloated in your left leg” – seriously – these things happen. Having one or two SOLID options and more importantly, KNOWING where all those articles of clothing are, is SUPER important.

2. Tidy up the kitchen – There’s nothing more frustrating than waking up tired and then having to clean, load/unload the dishwasher, or move stuff around in the sink to even be able to reach what you need or get a skillet out for eggs. Knowing that everything is ready to go the night before will help you feel accomplished and more ready to sleep. Things I’ll also do will be throwing in a load of laundry, folding any blankets that are lying out on the couch, clearing off any flat surfaces where we’ve piled up junk. A clean neat space = a clean calm mind.

3. Make your bed in the morning! This one really is important and the Thrifty Couple did a great post about it. Making your bed first thing in the morning (or right after you get your coffee) instantly makes the room feel better and look, you’ve already completed something for the day! It doesn’t matter HOW clean your bedroom is, if the bed isn’t made, it looks like a disaster. Plus then when you get home after work you’ll get to walk into a room with a bed completely ready for sleeps!

4. Pack your lunch and prep your breakfast – think there’s not much to do anyway and you can totally do it in the morning? Yeah, so do I most days but I can’t tell you how helpful it is when I’m in a rush and the past me  has already cut up cucumbers and tomatoes and put them in a container in the fridge the night before. We drink a lot of smoothies so even freezing bananas and getting everything together in a bag that we want to blend up the next day can save a lot of time, especially when you have a tiny kitchen and have to keep inching by one another. Even just getting an idea of what you want to make for lunch the night before can save a lot of decision-making time in the AM.

5. Don’t get distracted – this is a big one. I’d love to have more time in the morning but I’m not sure how I could get up ANY earlier than I already do. The time allotment I give myself is fine, except when I start doing something else randomly. When we’re tired and not fully awake yet it’s easy to not choose the right priorities. For example, I will easily spend 10 minutes on my phone looking at Facebook, decide to start clipping my finger  nails, or want to re-organize that desk drawer because I just thought of it. But the morning RIGHT before work or whatever you have to do or get to is NOT the time. Instead, create a system for things you think of so you’ll remember to do them later. More often than not I get distracted and lose track of time because I’m worried that if I don’t do it that very second, I’ll completely forget and it will never get done. Keep a white board or a note pad on the fridge or download the amazing iPhone all, AnyList to keep track of groceries, errands and update it in real-time with anyone you share your lists with.

Now the key is sticking to these! Good luck and happy sleeping!

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Zoning Out

How many days a week do you end up getting into bed feeling like you haven’t had a minute to relax? I know – the shit never ends! And when you do have free time it can often feel like you’re “wasting” it if you aren’t doing anything productive. Just like we make time to get to important meetings, go grocery shopping, and hit the gym, we also have to make time to zone out and for good reason.

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I’m super guilty of never sitting down. I’m the one who will get up during the middle of a movie with my husband to start washing dishes or tidy up the living room. I can’t sit still some days because there is always more to do and it should get done. I always think “I’ll be happy when this place is cleaner” but the truth is that no matter how much cleaning and organizing gets done, I’m NOT going to be able to relax or be happy unless I make time to be. Thought provoking, isn’t it?

We’ve all had those thoughts of

I’ll be happy when…

GET RID OF THOSE. And start being happy now, focusing in on the moment, being mindful and living your life AS it happens. Just like we all need to love our bodies throughout all of our progress and ups and downs, it’s also important to focus on being happy in the moment.

So why is zoning out in important and what is zoning out exactly?

I’m talking about those moments whether its 10, 20, 45 minutes or even 3 hours if you can make the time where you just aren’t doing much of anything. Time to sit down, lay down, throw on some house pants, and not give a fuck. This doesn’t mean I’m encouraging drinking beer and lying in front of the TV, but then again, maybe I am. What is wrong with that?! Mental sanity and happiness is just as important as physical well-being and if you feel well rested and taken care of all around, you’ll be more likely to hit the gym and make the healthy food choices on those harder days.

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Zoning out allows your mind to take a break. I will often ask my husband “what are you thinking about?” and he’ll say “nothing.” This boggles my mind. The thing is, I actually believe him. I think men might actually have the ability to zone out enough to not be thinking about 10,000 things at one time. I, on the other hand, CANNOT turn off my brain like that. If there is something to think about, I’ll think about it, analyze it, destroy it, make it worse, etc. This is something I’ve been trying to work on for years.

Practicing the ability to just observe thoughts, recognize them, and not automatically accept them as a fact has been a major savior in my life. Often times when I’m overwhelmed or anxious I’ll take a minute to just listen to my mind go off in crazy directions, almost like a frantic friend venting about their day. I’ll listen without judgement, then I’ll just observe them and let them fly over my head. From there you can pick out the ones that truly are solid realizations and toss the others that were merely freak outs or stepping-stones of thoughts to get you to a more logical and understandable place. I’m not saying feelings don’t matter but being able to observe them before reacting is truly liberating.

Start off by making time, even just 10 minutes a day to sit down and zone out. Go into a quiet space, lay down on the bed, stare at the ceiling, watch an episode of your favorite reality show and don’t feel guilty about it. Play Plants vs. Zombies on your phone for 20 minutes, read a magazine, do SOMETHING where you’re zoned out enough that your mind gets a break from the chaos of the day.

These moments of self-indulgence will pay off in the form of better sleep, being more in-tune with your own needs and wants, having the ability to start relaxing on cue, and not feeling resentful of other people or errands throughout the day. When you make time for you, the world has to make time for you. Set yourself as a top priority, you’re the only one that will.

What women are taught to ignore and men rarely notice

building-self-esteemWe all know that every day individuals (not just women, not just men) are subjected to numerous images, suggestions, and ideas that show women in sexualized poses, suggestive situations, and compromising ideals of where self-worth and value should lie. And while it should be noted that men are also subject to these situations, this post will focus on women and what we go through on a daily basis.

Before you run off because you’re scared of the word “feminist” hear me out. Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” So if you believe that women should have equal rights and opportunities as men, then guess what, you’re already a feminist! Glad we cleared that up.

Lately people have noticed that more attention is being given to botched Photoshop jobs and how absolutely ridiculous some of the photo-editing is when it comes to women in the media. I’m not going to beat a dead horse over all of that again. It’s important but I want to focus more on the day-to-day little things that most people don’t even notice that play a HUGE (if not even bigger) role in how society views women and how we all treat them and each other.

For those of you that didn’t minor in sociology, the male gaze refers to the bias of presenting films to a male only audience, more or less the assumption that the typical viewer of a film would be a male, and therefore to cater that film and it’s visual stimuli to the male demographic. The male gaze has since crossed over into most media faucets. It’s apparent not only at your local movie theater but also in advertising, on TV, and on the internet. Everywhere you go and look, you will see women displayed in ways that are attractive and enticing to men. But if you look at the definition of “gaze” you’ll note that it has to do with “how an audience views the people presented.” You can read more about this in a great blog post over at Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog.

The issue with the male gaze is that women watch movies and view stuff, too (obviously). The ideals and assumptions of people decades ago still spills over into today’s world. When you think about how the majority of women view themselves, it’s not always through their own eyes, it’s through the eyes of men. It’s thoughts and Google entries like:

I wonder if HE would think this is sexy.

Do men like it when women…

How to tell if a guy loves you.

Outfits your boyfriend loves.

The lipstick shades men find most attractive.

I wonder if HE thinks I look fat in this.

Does my boyfriend think I’m attractive?

Will guys think I’m a slut/nerd or smart/funny/attractive/dumb if I wear this?

I don’t want this to turn into all the reasons why men have it easier and are evil, because you guys aren’t! In fact, I see more and more men, especially in younger generations, fighting back against all of this nonsense. This isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s an everyone issue.

So what is it like to in every day life for women when it comes to all of this?

  • Turn on YouTube and tons of videos you’ll come across will have screen shots of women on them to get viewers to watch. It’s a woman in a bikni, in a sexual pose, it’s just cleavage, just a butt, just a thigh gap, just lips, I could go on…. But rarely do you ever see men displayed the same way, and WHY would we want that, either? It would be just as offensive and objective to do that to men.
  • Constant comments. For every woman that takes care of herself and walks by somewhere, there’s a man starring inappropriately, making comments to another man, or unfortunately, yelling something inappropriate at that woman herself. This effects more than just her. It effects every woman that sees it AND every man. It tells everyone “hey! if you didn’t notice, I think this woman is attractive and feel that it’s appropriate to voice this publicly even at the risk of making her or anyone else feel uncomfortable.” It takes power away from women and subjects them to a vulnerable situation whether they choose to engage or not. And for every person that also participates (or doesn’t say anything about it being inappropriate), they are stating the same thing. That it’s OK for women to be gawked at and judged purely based on their appearance. Now, there’s a difference between noticing a woman’s beauty and admiring it. But every day in the workplace and surrounded by friends, even family, women listen to men making comments about other women. Women listen to men idolizing celebrities they find most attractive, about other women in the office that are attractive or who aren’t attractive and why. Every moment that a woman is surrounded by people who participate in this behavior she is consciously aware that she is possibly being judged, rated, or scrutinized because of her body or because of something her body may or may not have.
  • Friends. Some of the worst feelings in the world are when guy friends or friends of friends say things like the following. As a woman to hear this, it further shows that the value of women is mostly based on our appearance, how attractive we are in comparison to others, and can only aid in cycle of constantly comparing ourselves to others and trying to measure our own self-worth.

Do you have any cute/hot/attractive friends?

Will there be cute/hot/attractive girls there?

Ugh as long as I don’t have to talk to her. She is NOT attractive.

I really wish _____ was single. I’d love to get with that.

_____ is so overweight.

You’re WAY better looking than ______

  • What men choose to buy/watch/participate in. I want to make it clear that it’s not just the man’s responsibility to cater to a woman’s feelings. Women also have to be accountable for the way they feel and what they choose to let bother them. However, when men participate in certain behaviors, their actions send louder messages than anything they might say or speak to. When men go to strip clubs they are saying more with that action than words ever could. While I’m not saying strip clubs shouldn’t exist and that most are probably innocent fun, for the women knowing that the men in their lives are choosing to go there, it’s a completely different feeling entirely. And again, we are told to “just let it go”, “ignore it”, “get over it”, “not let it bother us”. “it’s you they REALLY want at the end of the day.” But that still doesn’t take away the message it sends. The message that I’m okay viewing women this way even at the cost of the feelings of my partner. Whether men are in a relationship or not, these kinds of actions say a lot. When men buy posters of half-naked or sexually provocative women, it’s not that we’re completely jealous, it’s that it’s disrespectful. To bring something into a house, hang it on a wall, and showcase something says “THIS is what I find attractive. THIS is what is hot/sexy/fun/flirty to me.” If women did similar things and bought pictures of Chippendale dancers and hung them up or displayed tons of sex toys in shapes and sizes they deemed favorable, men might start to get the picture.
  • The message we get growing up. As a young girl, I watched my father make comments about women. Take note of who is attractive, and even see images of women that my father had that I knew were idolized in some way/shape/form. When men bring things into a home, it does a lot more than provide visually pleasing stimuli for their own amusement. It sends the message that THIS is what is attractive and as a young girl, it SHOUTS “THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE.” In the movie, What Dreams May Come, (warning: spoiler alert) when Robin Williams is in heaven, he meets a young Asian woman and later finds out it is his daughter in a new form. When he asks her why she decided to look different than the young Caucasian girl she grew up as she simply stated “you always said Asian women were beautiful.” Women grow up wanting to be what their fathers, what the men in their life find attractive. Can women fight against that? Sure. But men can also make sure to not showcase things that are unattainable or unrealistic to the women in their life.
  • True beauty vs. fantasy. I’ll be the first to admit that yes, lots of the Photoshopped and manipulated images of women and cartoon characters and drawings ARE attractive (some really are just gross) but yeah, I get why men fantasize about them. The problem? The more you look at that stuff, idolize that stuff, and find yourself desiring those images, the more you’re pouring in to the entire societal issue. It’s the same issue with watching too much porn. When we focus on something that isn’t realistic, our expectations become flawed. Suddenly there’s a standard deep within our minds that we subconsciously aren’t even aware of. It’s why you might find that anytime you’ve gotten a Big Mac you’re a little let down. It’s because we grew up with perfect (and fake) modified images of what that burger would look like when we took it out of the box and guess what, it’s NEVER like that. The same thing goes for women. Be realistic with your desire for the opposite sex. Doing any differently only puts pressure on who ever you are with and does nothing positive for yourself.
  • Women are expected to ignore all of these things. If you want to be that “cool” and “supportive” and “uber confident” girlfriend or wife, what do you do? You ignore all of these things. You’re expected to act like it doesn’t matter that your boyfriend has bikini posters in the garage where they play beer pong, or that the commercials where women are sexualized doesn’t offend you. It’s not real, you say, it’s just the media. You may even participate and try to be “one of the guys” and not care. The problem with this is that it DOES matter and women shouldn’t have to sacrifice their own feelings, their own self-worth, and their own confidence to let all of this slide. The problem is that the minute women do stand up or do say “hey, I don’t like this and here’s why…” we’re shot down. We’re suddenly “over-reacting”, “insecure”, “not confident enough”, or even “needy”, “clingy”, or “annoying.” There’s not a single woman out there that wants to be labeled that way but her significant other or any of his/her friends.

So what does this giant rant mean? It means that there are a LOT of choices that we all make every day, mostly unaware, that only perpetuate the very issues we are fighting to end. We KNOW men love all shapes, sizes, and colors of women. Let’s just all work together more to prove that.

Managing Stress & Relaxation

We keep hearing ways to stress less.

Just don’t be so stressed.

Stop stressing.

Don’t let that stress you out!

The truth is, stress happens regardless. You are never going to be able to get rid of stress entirely or completely. Sure there will be those blissful moments when we can take a deep breath and exhale all of our worries, but life keeps advancing and we have to learn how to adapt and cope.

There are ways, however, that we can work on how vulnerable we are to stress. Ever find that every little thing some days can completely annoy you? Usually it’s on those days where you didn’t’ get enough sleep, forgot to eat something all day, or have other worries going on deep in your mind.

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Start by taking this quiz from Stress.org to see how vulnerable you already are to stress. Daily habits like not getting enough sleep, eating a poor diet, smoking, and more can make you more susceptible to stressful situations.

Find ways to manage your stress:

  • Take deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Sit up tall with a straight back and relax your shoulders. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out 3 times and tell me you don’t already feel better.
  • Drink some tea – a warm cup of tea can really be relaxing. Find a tea you love or a scent that makes you think of a fond memory. For me Earl Grey and Passion teas are divine and immediately bring up my spirit.
  • Get extra sleep – if you know you’re going through a stressful time or just feeling more overwhelmed, get to bed earlier. Extra sleep will allow your brain to rest up since you are processing a LOT every day. Ever feel mentally drained? Stress can have a lot to do with that. Extra Zzzs will allow your body and mind more time to relax and less time to anxiously worry about all the things you can’t control.
  • Make a list of everything you need to do (and everything you think you need to do) today. Then go through it and prioritize your list. What’s the most important? What HAS to be done within the next hour? Within the next day? What are the things you really don’t have to do right now? Cross those off to save for later.
  • Sweat it out – exercise can sound like the LAST thing you want to do but working out releases endorphins and will calm your mind. It will also leave you feeling motivated, powerful, and accomplished.
  • Take fish oil – fish oil has been shown to balance cortisol levels in your body if taken on a regular basis
  • Drink more water – drinking enough water will keep your body hydrated and keep you from having those awful stress headaches in the afternoon
  • Avoid caffeine after noon – too much caffeine during the day can drastically boost cortisol (the stress hormone). By avoiding coffee, soda, and high caffeine teas in the afternoon and evening, you will have an easier time relaxing once you get home and getting to bed on time at night.

Kelly McGonigal gives an amazing TED talk about how we choose to view stress and the impacts it can have on our health.

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