Finding My Holiday Spirit With Hygge

Depression and anxiety can take the fun out of the holidays. The fatigue, low moods, poor stress tolerance and apathy makes holiday stuff feel overwhelming or pointless. It’s really hard to be excited about decorations, gifts, and songs when it all feels futile.

I haven’t enjoyed the holidays for quite awhile. It’s probably been close to 7 years since I looked forward to this time of year, so it’s a fading memory for me. I really miss that excitement and fun though, and I’m in a better mental place now, so I’m determined to rediscover my holiday spirit.

When I started thinking about it, I tried to place what the base feeling was that I was looking for. “Cozy” seemed to fit best. So much of the holidays centers around that concept. It seemed to me that if I could embrace keeping things cozy around the house it would really encourage me to get into the holiday spirit, and that’s when I started exploring the idea of hygge.

Hygge

For awhile now I’ve seen hygge mentioned around the internet, but never had any interest in finding out more. I had the general idea that it had to do with being “cozy”, but that’s about it. Hygge – pronounced [hoo-ga] is the Danish concept of coziness created when enjoying good food, drinks, and fireside times with friends and family. I’ve decided to focus on four aspects for myself.

Holiday Lighting

We don’t have a fireplace, so I’m needing to make do with creative lighting. Our Christmas tree was the first place we started.

My xmas tree with red and white lights, candy canes, and a red and silver robot ornament

I’m loving the lights C put on the year. It reminds me of a candy cane!

Another set of lights we do each year is our banister. We use some lighted garland here.

multicolored lights on an evergreen garland wrapped around a banister with a wooden shelf with knick knacks, a pink and black painting, and part of a tv in the background

This is something we have consistently done even when I couldn’t be bothered to do any other decorating.

New this year is my living room window idea. We’ve been leaving this ivy/holly garland up year round but I’ve wanted to make it a bit more pulled together looking. So, searching for “hygge” decorating, I saw some pics that gave me this idea.

white lights and ivy garland wrapped around a curtain rod above my window with cream horizontal blinds covering the window

So, I bought this string of white LED lights and wound it around the curtain rod with the garland. This will stay up year round, and I’m loving it!

Holiday Scents

Yummy cooking/baking smells really add to a cozy atmosphere. In fact, when trying to sell a house it is a common tip to bake cookies before an open house.

I like to use wax melts to add fragrance to our home. I own two warmers (in my bedroom and living/dining room) and often have two different scents going at once.

Owl wax warmer with a evergreen and red/black plaid background and an infant picture of my son.stained glass wax warmer with pastel flower shapes on a wooden table. background is blue and white tissue paper

Some of my favorite scents for fall and winter are vanilla, caramel, praline, and spices like cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I prefer the melts from Tuscany Candle and Oak & Rye out of others at the stores local to me. There are different brands you can order online or at home parties, but I don’t like that method of buying them. I like to be able to smell them in person, and grab one or two while I’m already out shopping.

Candles are not used nearly so often in my home, but we do have a few Pet Odor Exterminator Candles we light now and again to help with the pet smell (three dogs and a cat will do that). I recently bought a Pumpkin & Spice scented one from our vet for the holiday season.

Winter Comfort

One of my favorite parts of colder weather is being able to feel snuggly in sweaters and fleece. I have sensitive skin, so I need very soft sweaters. Nothing itchy for me! Leggings are my go-to pant option since they are so gentle for my fibro body. We found some wonderful soft and perfectly warm (not too hot) fleece lined leggings at Wal-Mart this year.

Cuddling up under soft blankets is wonderful also, so we keep our heaters turned just a few degrees lower to make evening snuggles possible. We have an assortment of fleece blankets and also crochet blankets that my grandma and mom made for us. They keep us warm and inspire wonderful memories.

Honeycat curled up on bed
Cooler temps inside encourage pet cuddles too.

Soft, warm socks are another way to feel snuggly, cozy. I love soft wool socks, but they can be hard to find in my size, so I have some fuzzy fleece ones too. Cold feet are never fun, so why not make sure your feet are warm and comfy?

pink fleece socks with white stripes and designs on them

Food and the Holidays

I think most people would agree that cold weather calls for soup, roasts, and other crock pot friendly meals. We eat these year round, but definitely more so during fall and winter.

Crock pot meals are especially nice because they make your house smell yummy much of the day. I love getting the work done early in the day so we don’t need to worry about it later when we are worn out.

Baking is great for making the house smell good too. Also, since the oven usually heats the house up, winter is a lovely time to bake more rather than summer. You could even take this a bit further and bake gifts for friends, family, and neighbors!

With any decision to make a change it is important to not take on too much at once. That’s why I’ve chosen these four hygge concepts to start with. They are easy to add into what we are already doing, and are, in some cases, simply ways to up my self-care game. No pressure, just enjoyment.

What do you like to use to feel cozy?

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

So Grateful In 2017

If you live in the United States, you probably just finished a few days worth of visiting with family & friends and filling up with yummy food. I hope you had a wonderful time! This time of year, as we close in on the holidays, it is common to find yourself thinking about what you are grateful for in your life. 2017 was full of changes and realizations for me. I wouldn’t change any of it, but what am I most grateful for?

Give Thanks

This Blog

More accurately, I’m so glad I was able to find the nerve to start blogging. Writing for my blog encouraged me to learn about blogging, different forms of social media, marketing a blog, video, and much more. It also drove me to look further into the types of self acceptance I want for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time this year examining who I am, why I do things, and how my thinking helps or hurts me. Although I haven’t written anything over the past few months, I’ve still been on my Twitter and Instagram accounts, and I love the people I’ve found there.

So, my blog as brought me knowledge, growth, and community. What’s not to love?

Still life with a white chair in a field with a basket of flowers next to it and a bowl of pears and some orange flowers on it. Grateful 2017

My Doctors

I’m very grateful to have doctors who listen to me and work to improve my life quality. While I still have daily pain, need to work around my dysautonomia, and deal with my anxiety and depression, it is so much better than it was last year. So many people have doctors who won’t listen to them and/or are satisfied with providing a low-level of care. My doctors have worked to find answers for me, and strive to be sure I am getting the care I need to have a good quality of life, not just the bare minimum to get by.

A white plate with a piece of pumpkin pie on it with whipped cream. The plate sits on a wooden table and has three pine cones next to it. Grateful 2017

My Husband

My husband of over 20 years is incredibly supportive. Anytime I have an interest I’d like to explore or expand on, he backs me. His support of me and this blog has been amazing. I can think of a few times I may have quit if it wasn’t for him. He believes in me more than I do half of the time, although I’m working on that.

In addition, the patience, understanding, and willingness to learn about my chronic illnesses that he shows is so appreciated. Dealing with this stuff can be really hard, and a supportive partner makes all the difference. He listens to me on my bad days, and we try to take full advantage of my good days. I’m really glad I have him with me on this journey.

As we head into the holiday season, I hope to get a lot more writing done. My goal is to post more often, but try to keep them short for now. Be sure to subscribe to stay updated!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

7 Electronic Alternatives To A Paper Journal

If you like the idea of keeping a journal on the computer or your phone, you have plenty of options. In fact, you are bound to find a perfect match no matter what your preferences. I was amazed at all the electronic alternatives to a paper journal.

(Wondering why or how to keep a journal? Check out my post 8 Ways to Use a Journal For Self-Care and Beyond)

Electronic Alternatives: 7 Types/100+ Options

I’ve separated the options into seven main categories: on the computer, a private blog, an online journaling site, web apps, note applications, distraction free writing apps, and phone apps. Honestly, many of the options I found span more than one of these categories, but I’m splitting them up to make choosing a bit easier.

Your options on the computer

These are kind of obvious, but I never thought of it. If you want to keep it super simple and just get your thoughts down, the Notepad or Microsoft Word apps work great. You can even password protect the document to keep it super private. The process for setting a password is different for each program, but it is easy enough to look up.

Any office suite works well, and if you are already using one for work, you should stick to it so your stuff is all in one place. If you are looking to install one, there are many choices other than Microsoft Office. That isn’t my specialty, so here is the link to 9 of the Best Free and Low Cost Alternatives to Microsoft Office. I’ll let them cover your options.

I thought of you Apple fans also — The 6 Best Office Suites for Your Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations

Female presenting person sitting on couch with laptop on lab. Hands have painted nails and look to be typing. * electronic alternatives *

You might like a private blog

If you really want to put your journal online, a private blog might be just the thing for you. This option is appealing if you would like the opportunity to selectively share your journal, or enjoy having many choices for personalizing it. Choose from one of these popular blogging sites, and make sure you set the privacy settings to private:

You can also use Twitter (set to private) if you think posting in 140 characters or fewer works well for you. 5 Ways To Use Twitter As An Online Diary has some neat ideas.

Designated online journals

These sites are designed to be a personal journal. A couple of options are Penzu, 750 words, and 280daily. The site that wrote those articles also wrote this one naming some more options . You will find 5 personal journals mentioned in the article 7 Best Free Online Private Diary Sites. The other two ideas listed are blogging sites I’ve already mentioned. I found more ideas at Top10Reviews, which has more specific suggestions. If you want an electronic alternative for a travel journal, food journal, therapy journal, etc., check out their article.

light skinned hands with polished nails look ready to type on a laptop sat on a desk in the daylight. photos are arranged in a grid on the screen. *electronic alternatives*

Web apps

If you would like to have access to your journal anywhere you go, online apps might work better. These are different from the journaling sites in that they are online office suites and used for many purposes.

Google Docs is a good example of this. You can use it on any computer and also on your phone. While Google Docs is well known, there are quite a few other options. PC Mag has a great round up of The Best Office Suites of 2017 which covers both PC and Mac options. If you already use an office suite for work, you might want to also use it for journaling to keep things simple.

Note applications

Another option would be one of many note applications. Evernote is a popular one. I recently started using it, though not for journaling, and I love how many choices it has for input.

A screenshot of my Evernote App showing input options. * electronic alternatives *
Actual screenshot of my Evernote App

Other suggestions would be Onenote and Pocket. I also found this source that has a spreadsheet with about 75 suggestions for replacing Springpad which was a favorite for years. Check out this article from Zapier also– Evernote, OneNote, and Beyond: The 14 Best Note-Taking Apps.

Distraction free writing apps

Something else I found were “distraction free writing apps”. These have nothing else on the page, so you are forced to focus on your writing. Write In Peace With These Distraction-Free Editors covers many options to check out. 9 Minimal Word Processor Apps for Distraction-Free Writing has a nice mixture of paid vs. free and Mac vs. Windows options.

a laptop with a black screen is open on a desk with a blank notepad to the left and a cell phone to the right. a pen sits on the notepad. * electronic alternatives *

Phone apps

A phone app makes sure you can make an entry to your journal anytime and anywhere. There are a bunch of options available for both Android and Apple phones/tablets, but not all of them are worth the download. Mark Krynsky, who wrote the article Top 5 Smart Journal Apps, has great criteria for judging a good smart journal. Check out his article for some solid apps to choose from.

a phone screen with assorted app icons on it * electronic alternatives *

If after all that you still aren’t sure what the right choice is for you, try clicking on one or two from each category until something catches your eye. Give it a try for a week or two and see what you think. It doesn’t hurt anything to keep trying new ones until you find the right match.

And, if you aren’t someone who wants to keep an electronic alternative, stay tuned. I’m working on a post about some great pen and paper options for those who like to keep it old school. Be sure to subscribe so you see when my next post is here!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

 

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Self-Care During High Stress Times

Stress is at an all time high lately. There is so much going on in the world and not a hell of a lot we can do about it immediately. That’s why self-care is even more important now. So how do we perform self-care during high stress? I’ve got 8 suggestions for you below.

Sleep

bedwithbook

I’m not going to rank these, but if I did, I would put sleep first. Getting enough sleep makes a big difference in mental and physical health. You can find sleep hygiene tips in this post. Proper sleep hygiene can make it easier to fall asleep and to get a more restful sleep. The more restful sleep you get, the lower your daily stress levels will be, and that means you will be able to deal with extra stress even better.

Make time to relax

This is the most obvious tip and yet possibly the hardest one to do. When there is so much to do it can be really hard to take time out for relaxation. Don’t let yourself feel guilty though! It is very important to make sure you get down time to relieve stress. Taking even 15 mins a day to do something fun for yourself is beneficial.

Self care is whatever sooths your soul.

Unplug

Being online, we are inundated with so much news. Seeing story after story of bad news is hard on us mentally, so try to either limit your time online, or set aside some screen-free time before bed to allow yourself to unwind. Alternatively, you can filter your feeds and limit the news you are exposed to that way.

Eat regularly

Don’t forget to eat. If you aren’t feeling hungry, be sure to remember to eat at regular intervals anyway get at least 3 good meals in each day or go for 6 small meals if that works better for you

Be sure to not leave out any food groups unless directed by a doctor. If you are like me, and struggle to get fruits and vegetables in, look for ways to add them to your snacks.

Ask for help

Delegate housework, hire out household jobs, etc., and get help in any area you can. Call on your support system, and let them know what they can do to relieve some stress.

Also consider seeing a therapist to help deal with extra stress. A good therapist is wonderful to talk to, and can help you with coping skills.

Check in with yourself

open journal on a desk

Daily ask yourself how you are doing are your needs are getting met? If not what can you do to fix it? You might do this by writing in a journal, or just by making some lists.

If there are needs you are unable to meet right now, recognize it and let yourself know you will address it as soon as you can. Make a note for yourself, so you don’t put it off longer than necessary.

Scale back and prioritize

Does everything on your to-do list have to be done now? Write it all out, and decide what is important and urgent, and focus on that first. Anything less important, but still urgent, try to delegate. Things that are unimportant and not urgent can wait.

Boundaries

Know your limits and don’t let anyone push you past them. Whether it’s emotional, physical, mental, etc., we all have lines we need others to respect and not cross. If you aren’t sure what yours are, I have worksheet here you can check out, or you can go to this website to read more about finding and setting your boundaries.

Do not justify, apologize for, or rationalize the healthy boundary you are setting. Do not argue. Just set the boundary calmly, firmly, clearly, and repectfuly. - quote by Crystal Andrus

In high stress times, you need to increase your self-care efforts, and I hope these suggestions give you ideas on how to step up your personal self-care. Do you have steps your take that I didn’t include here? I’d love for you to share!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

8 Ways To Use A Journal For Self-Care And Beyond

Journaling is a wonderful way to keep track of your thoughts, memories, and many other things. I was surprised at just how many different ways there are to journal. I chose eight of them to share with you here, but there really is no limit to the way you can use a journal.

Gratitude

A gratitude journal is commonly suggested in self-help and mental health circles. Keeping a journal focused on gratitude is recommended for anxiety and depression, as a part of a mindfulness practice, and for anyone looking for more peace and happiness. You can approach this journal in a few ways, but a popular way is to sit down each evening, and write what you are thankful for that day. For more info and ideas try 5 Steps For Creating A Gratitude Journal and The Ultimate Guide To Keeping A Gratitude Journal.

Dream

Tracking dreams is another common way to use a journal. You keep a dream journal next to your bed, and write your dreams as soon as you wake up. Keeping a record of your dreams can help you find a pattern, and perhaps help you understand why you are having those dreams. Check out Why You Should Keep A Dream Diary  and 7 Tips For Keeping A Dream Journal to learn more.

Reading

Are you a big reader? Keeping a reading journal allows you to do more than keep track of the books you’ve read. You can list out books you want to read, reflect on your thoughts and feelings about them, lessons learned, and more. How To Keep A Reading Journal lays out the steps concisely. You can also print out The MMD Printable Reading Journal for some easy customization.

Travel

You don’t have to be a big traveler to keep a travel journal. Whether you keep an ongoing journal for all of your adventures, or just keep one for a single very special trip, this kind can help you keep your traveling memories all in one place. Travel Journal Ideas: How To Hold On To Your Memories has fantastic tips and suggestions to get you started.

Group or Family Journal

This journal is kept as a group. Perhaps each person writes something everyday, or maybe you take turns. 55 Shared Journaling Ideas has a good explanation and lots of ideas, and I love the approach at How Our Family Journal Started. A Communication Journal For Home and Classroom shows how a group journal can be a wonderful parenting tool. Creating A Family Journal has some lovely ideas too.

Use a Journal for Planning

As I’m sure is obvious, this method has a broad use. Like any planner, you can use a planning journal for daily use, weekly, monthly or yearly. You can also use a journal to plan specific events. For examples, check out bullet journals. They have great layouts for daily, weekly, and monthly.

You can also plan out your garden, keeping track of what works (or doesn’t), or the seasonal changes you see in your garden/neighborhood. Why A Garden Journal Is Your Most Valuable Tool goes into wonderful detail. How To Start Your Own Family Adventure Journal shows one take on a nature journal.

Keeping track of any kind of projects (home improvement, crafts, redecorating, hobbies, etc.) is a great use for a planning journal. Having one place to keep track of your ideas, plans, receipts, successes, and mistakes is really handy. In addition, if you need to look back for any reason, you will have everything right there to see. This YouTube video lays out one way to do it and is a nice example.

Specific Time Period

Instead of having an ongoing journal, you can use one for a very special event/time. Some possibilities I could think of were: wedding, birthdays, senior year, college, and pregnancy. Any event, or time period, that you find important enough to record is perfect for this journal.

Bullet Journal

This is my favorite of journal and the kind I keep. A bullet journal can be any and all of these types all wrapped into one with an index to help you find what you are looking for. Bullet Journal is the original site, but lots of people have their own take on it all over the web. The Bullet Journal, Minus The Hype, Is Actually A Really Good Planner and How To Bullet Journal: The Absolute Ultimate Guide have lots of info. Pinterest has oodles of creative ideas for a bullet journal done anyway you could possibly want.

Basically, if there is anything you want to remember or track there is a way to journal it. The only limitations are that of your creativity or searching skills. Feel free to link below if you have written about your own journaling and would like to share. 🙂 I’d love to hear how you use a journal.

Want to keep a journal on the computer or your phone? Check out my post 7 Electronic Alternatives To A Paper Journal.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

 

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HAES And Its Impact On Body Positivity

There are plenty of posts out there criticizing the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement. My problem with most of them is they miss the point of the idea of HAES.

What is HAES?

You can get the full idea of HAES at https://haescommunity.com, however the basic ideas are

  • The movement celebrates body diversity in an intersectional way by honoring differences in size, age, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc.
  • HAES challenges scientific and cultural assumptions and values body knowledge and people’s experiences.
  • HAES encourages compassionate self-care by finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active, and also eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors your body’s signs of hunger and satiety.

Why do I like it?

These basic ideas are what I love about HAES. It has helped many people realize that just because they aren’t losing weight, it doesn’t mean they can’t be healthy. I want to emphasize that, as someone with chronic illness, I understand that “healthy” is not a universal goalpost. Each of us do have our own personal health goals, even if being generally healthy isn’t in the card for all of us. Knowing there is no failure just because an arbitrary number isn’t reached on the scale is a relief to many.

Health At Every Size is not an “excuse to give up” any more than body positivity is one. Do you recall the part where “joy in moving one’s body” and honoring “your body’s signs of hunger and satiety” was mentioned? Yeah, that isn’t giving up; it’s finding what works best for you.

I Stand against the practice of presuming health and fitness based on appearance. HAES

Embracing the HAES basics has helped me to love my body and care for it in the way that is best for me personally. It allowed me to see that while some bodies react to stress and food shortage by losing weight, mine holds on to it. I appreciate that my body is doing its best to care for me, and I love that previously this body would be the preferred type. After all, being able to hold on to weight would help in a famine. It’s isn’t my body’s fault that isn’t the current conditions. Dieting and chronic illness are different stressors with the same results for me as a famine.

So, Health At Every Size has been a wonderful thing for me and many other people. People misunderstanding the movement doesn’t change that fact, or the reality of what its purpose is.

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.

Celebrate Your Strengths To Boost Your Self-Esteem

It is easy to be critical of yourself when you are struggling with self-worth. If asked, you likely can list your shortcomings effortlessly, but I bet if I asked you to name your strengths you would have a tougher time. Being able to not only name, but also celebrate your strengths is a very important step for improving your self-acceptance and self-esteem.

Focusing on the positive can help to literally retrain your brain. It becomes easier to bring the positives to mind, and replace the criticisms that usually are the focus. You can genuinely increase your overall happiness (happiness set point) with gratitude, optimism and self-compassion.

When I was asked to make a list of 50 of my strengths, I couldn’t even think of five. If you have the same problem, maybe the steps I followed can help you too.

My process for finding my strengths

First, I wrote down any strengths that came easily to mind, and then I listed the compliments I remembered receiving. When I couldn’t think of anymore myself, I looked up lists of strengths and read through them for ideas. Anything you are good at – talents, hobbies, etc. – may give you more ideas of your strengths.

Here is a peek at my list:

A partial list of my strengths I wrote out as part of an exercise.
This is a small section of the 50 strengths I was asked to create. Please excuse any spelling errors. Spelling is *not* a strength of mine.

I also saw a tip suggesting that you might find strengths in perceived “weaknesses”. For example: people who are messy tend to be creative, and if others find you boring, perhaps it’s because you are more realistic. Do you consider yourself a doormat? A positive spin makes you generous/giving. Try this with traits you find to be your weaknesses, and challenge yourself to turn as many as you can into strengths. “How to Turn Your Weaknesses Into Strengths” has more examples if you get stumped.

Celebrate your strengths

Using these ideas to help you, try to make your own list of strengths. You don’t have to start with 50, but give 10-20 a try. Keep at it until you meet your goal. Follow up by keeping an ongoing list. Some people do this by dedicating a few pages in their journal. Another great idea I saw on Pinterest was to write compliments about yourself on bits of paper, and put them into a jar. You can either read them periodically, or save them up to read in a year. Even keeping an notebook next to your bed is a good idea.  Whatever method works for you is the right one.

Spending time each day to focus on and celebrate your strengths will slowly help you to change your perspective and increase your self-esteem. Your list will be there to remind you of your positive traits on days you are struggling. It is also a good reminder of all you have going for you even while you may have a few things you still want to improve.

Coming up with a list of 50 strengths was a daunting task, but I was so incredibly proud of myself when I finished. Make up your own list, and feel free to share your accomplishment with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or join us at Growing in Self-Acceptance and share there!

The author's name, Leigh, in red script, to the left with a coffee cup to the right.