Intentional Living: Invest in Rest

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

A good night’s sleep is one of the best forms of self-care. It is regenerative for the body, mind and soul, and much to any frugalist’s joy, it is free. Often viewed as an unproductive activity, getting a good night’s rest lies low on the priority list for the majority. On the contrary, I attribute much of my productivity and success to sleep – and a lot of it, too!

Ever since I was young, I was very fond of the stuff. My parents love to tell the story of how I would nod off in my high-chair, often plopping my face down on my food. I was the last to wake up on Christmas morning (well, every morning for that matter) and the first to fall asleep at night. At family get-togethers, one could be sure to find me on the couch, hogging up the sitting space asleep in fetal position. I took afternoon naps until high school and even in college, I was one of the few people who got eight hours of sleep, frequently trading in a night of partying for my warm sheets.

There was a time when I went against my sleeping pattern and took up midnight shifts as an early-morning baker. I noticed the toll it took on my health. Even though I was still sleeping eight hours every night, the fluctuation between night shifts and day shifts every other day really wrecked my body. I started depending on coffee, lost a lot of weight, and had trouble eating. My mind was exhausted and I noticed that I was on survival mode, less productive overall and more lenient about my tasks and deadlines. It only took three months for me to realize the effects, and while I was happy and alive, my body was barely keeping up.

As I gained awareness of my body’s circadian rhythm, I learned that my optimal sleeping time is 9 hours per night. If I receive less than that, it is best if I take a mid-afternoon nap. Now there are groups of people who would argue against the health benefits of this. But every person is different and the range of ideal sleep time is vast. Regardless of what the actual number of hours is, sleep is a crucial part to your overall productivity and here is why you need to make sure you get enough of it.

Reasons to Invest in Rest

  • Sleep is important for memory and processing daily experiences.
  • A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.
  • Sleep clears toxins in the brain.
  • Sleep is the most crucial factor for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function, mood regulation.
  • Even mild sleep reduction has detrimental effects on cognitive function many days afterwards.
  • One-third of working Americans sleep less than six hours a night.
  • Sleep deprivation was declared a public health epidemic by the CDC in 2018.
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, and cancer.
  • Getting consistent sleep is very important to your health.

As a person trying to live an intentional life, I care a lot about sleep. I understand that the long-effects of getting enough shut-eye will outweigh the few hours I lose each day. Investing in rest doesn’t just mean making the resolution to sleep a set number of hours each night, although that is the FREE self-care part of it. However, one must also consider what they sleep on.

I spend a lot of time curating my bed, and highly recommend getting a mattress and pillows that are ergonomically beneficial. Spinal problems caused by having a cheap bed will translate to decreased quality of life and productivity. My personal favorite company is LEESA. We own their mattress topper and pillows, and it has been such a game-changer. I used to have a lot of neck and back pain due to maintaining static postures and craning my neck at the dental office – so much so that I would wake up in the middle of the night from the pain and spend entire Saturdays lying on the couch unable to move. Once we switched to high-quality pillows and added the LEESA mattress topper, the pain went away! After watching my dad undergo three spinal surgeries in the last two years, I knew that I was not going to wait until my own symptoms got worse. If you want to step up your bed game, Try LEESA! Get up to $400 OFF a LEESA mattress this MLK weekend by clicking on my affiliate link. They have a great trial-period guarantee. For those who are wary about making such an expensive commitment to their health, LEESA also offers 0% financing through Affirm for as low as $25 a month, the equivalent of 8 drip coffees! Think of it as getting better sleep and saving on the coffee.

Likewise, I also invest in high quality bedsheets made out of clean fabrics that are good for the skin. I really like Parachute’s linen sheets and have written why Parachute sheets are the only sheets you need to own this post. Since then, we’ve tried a cotton duvet cover from them as well, pictured above, and we love it just as equally.

An alternative for those who wish to have cotton sheets is PACT. Pact is an eco-conscious company who makes clothing and textiles for the home. Currently, they have a sale on their bedding and bath products lasting until January 31, 2021. Simply use the code REFRESH25 to receive 25% OFF. You can access the sale by clicking on my affiliate link here.

Shop Pact Today.

Other rituals I have around my sleep include making my bed every morning so that the sheets stay clean, turning on a humidifier, and putting my phone away an hour before bed. We also wash the sheets frequently, vacuum the mattress, and rotate the toppers and pillows as outlined by my ultimate cleaning list.

Regardless of what you do to make sleep an important part of your day, make sure to prioritize it for the years to come!

Related Posts:

Why A Kitchen Reno Is Not Happening Any Time Soon

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Sometimes, this space is as much for my readers as it is for me – a place where I can store letters to myself or record the reasoning behind this experimental project which I call life. Today, it serves as the latter, although my readers may find the value in it too; A kind note to myself as to why a kitchen renovation is not in the cards in our near future, and why that is perfectly okay.

I toyed with the idea of re-doing our kitchen in December, after visiting a few friends who underwent just that. Their pretty white cabinets and shining appliances made an impression on me and had me stumbling down a rabbit hole of quartz countertops and custom-made wooden doors. In my musings, I mulled over all the flaws of our tiny kitchen space – the creaking faucet that is sure to break any minute now, the super thin metal sink banged up from carelessness, the water-logged floorboards caused by a leak every time we ran the dishwasher left undiagnosed until three plumbers later, the oven that clicks without a fan in the rear, the plastic microwave with its sticky hooded vents, the peeling panels stickered onto the laminated cabinet doors and the crusty chipboard slowly giving up underneath these fake countertops – all the things that my dream kitchen did not have.

My consideration even went so far as physically going to Ikea, planning a kitchen with a consultant, getting quotes from the third party counter-top company and the installation crew, and coming up with a game plan to ensue renovation at a moment’s notice. As usual, my husband gave me pause and we agreed to dog-ear the project and revisit at a later month.

During which, all the things I love about the kitchen re-surfaced. I had already written another note to myself about How to Fall In Love with a Kitchen but forgot it in the midst of celebrating all the newness of our friend’s “new” home. Which goes to show that sometimes, we need reminders of our love, such as that which I hold for my own space.

How it was my own bakery for a year of my life, how I know exactly the way my breads will turn out in this faithful oven of mine, how the light hits the fake-wood and adds a soft glow to my mornings and late afternoons, how the countertops never cause me worry and allow me to thoughtlessly spill sauce that would certainly stain marble and leave hot pans unattended which would certainly burn wood, how the kitchen fridge holds enough food for the three of us, how my dishwasher keeps my hands from drying out in the winter time, how we eat breakfast and prep meals around the free wooden island that came with the house and those fold-up-Ikea chairs, how there is just enough room to store all our belongings, how a cabinet in particular holds the exact dimensions needed for my beloved KitchenAid Mixer, how there is a very specific counterspace wide enough to house our espresso machine and coffee grinder, and how it brings me so much joy to stare at my kitchen from the couch, thanking my lucky stars that we get to call this abode our home.

With all of this recognition for our kitchen’s enoughness comes the flaws of doing a renovation. Redoing a kitchen would definitely put us behind on our loan repayment journey, which serves as our number one priority and biggest goal. Redoing a kitchen would take away time from our daily lives, as well as erase my bakery’s memories. Redoing a kitchen will unlikely bring us lasting happiness, as I continue to spill sauce on new countertops and drop things in a new sink while relearning the workings of a new oven. Lastly and most importantly, redoing a kitchen is not exactly what we are about.

In an effort to practice gratitude for what we already have, to live freely from working 9-5, and to live purposefully and to the fullest, I have decided after much consideration not to tackle the kitchen renovation. And while Instagram will feed me mementos as to why renovation is a must, I will be baking away in this darn kitchen, grateful for it supporting all my culinary endeavors, forgiving my experimental failures, and hosting my favorite people while learning and relearning the beauty in the aging of things and the growing of ourselves.

Other reminders and related posts:

The True Cause of a Spending Problem

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Do you have a spending problem? Are you someone who just can’t make ends meet? Have you found that no matter how much you increase your income, you can’t break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle? Do you find yourself shopping when you are stressed or tired or sad? Perhaps this post is for you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is this:

A spending problem is the result of not knowing who you want to be, or where you want your life to go.

Emotional spending occurs because a void needs filling. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spending itself fails at solving the problem. Rather, it extenuates it by creating a loop cycle that enlarges the void and brings us further from our true goals.

For example, have you ever tried to treat your stress by shopping online? At first, it felt good, but after a while, regret starts to sink in and your newfound purchase falls short of delivering lasting happiness, not to mention instantly decreases in value. Does it sound familiar to you? Because it sure does to me.

Not knowing who we want to be or what we want our life to look like makes it difficult to know what is worthy of our time and money. If we do not have a clear purpose, goal, or ambition, then it becomes easy to fall into the cycle of spending our resources on what people around us promote, rather than what we need. Because what we gain was never truly for us, it doesn’t fill the void at all, resulting in spending again, and again, and again.

If you want to treat a spending problem, my financial advice is to start with you. Define who you want to be and where you want your life to go. At least, that’s what we did and it worked for us. Because I used to be like you, too. I had $30,000 in credit card debt. I had more than half a million dollars in student loans. I went shopping every weekend in my early twenties and bought avocado toast while I was in dental school. I had a serious spending problem, until I realized who I was and what I wanted.

I am a simple person. I enjoy reading books and baking bread. I find joy in quiet time and yoga. My mind is healthiest when I am outdoors collecting rocks on a beach. I wanted a life of financial freedom. I wanted to be able to choose a job to my liking. I wanted the autonomy to work in a way that is aligned to my values. I want the freedom to call my own hours, to choose days of rest, to pursue other passions, and I understood that I couldn’t do that if I chose material stuff, trends, and status symbols. That’s how this all started.

I was lucky enough to find a financial advisor in my early years who delved deeply into what I wanted for my future. It was only then, when I saw the big picture, did I have the motivation to get rid of my spending problem. And if I am being honest, without a clear picture of where I wanted my life to be, I would just as likely have reverted back to my previous ways. It was the clarity that kept me going.

The true cause of a spending problem is not being intentionally clear enough about your life.

Here are good places to start:

Related Posts:

New Year Resolutions for 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

There has been talk that there is no need to write resolutions for 2021, and I get it. People are tired, fatigued from the pivoting we did in 2020, not to mention all the politics and the social conflict. I understand the difficulty in creating expectations that will challenge us further for the year ahead (stretch us past our limits, some will say), but I beg to differ on the writing of resolutions front.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extra-ordinary destiny.”

I have found that the times in my life that have been most tough are the moments right before big change happened. Stead-fastness is what we need during this transition. We need to courage to believe that 2021 holds the potential to be the most amazing years of our lives.

Of course, every individual reacts to trauma differently. Personally, I like to face trauma head on and conquer it (case in point: My Decision to Aggressively Tackle My Student Loan Debt), but even I have challenges that I find difficult to face. However, to give up altogether?! No, that isn’t me, and I don’t think that’s you either.

If you feel like resolutions are a bit too much, just write ONE like I did in 2018, after I went through the most roller-coaster year of my life (which was also the most pivotal!). For the more motivated, try beginning with the end. And for those who really can’t bring themselves to pull out paper and pen at this time, no worries – there is always the opportunity to write resolutions in the middle of the year. Let’s not let the New Year define our opportunities to create change.

I, for one, am excited about what 2021 could bring. My gleaming eyes are looking ahead to a bright future. I’m a dreamer and an optimist, so I wrote a lengthy list of resolutions. 2020 was a year that forced me to slow down. I dissociated myself from my own identity to unearth the real me, an experience that I recently wrote about here.

Each year, I focus my resolutions around a theme. Last year was about self-care in many forms, including taking care of my surroundings and home, focusing on my health, and slowing down enough to give myself time to recharge. In the process, I discovered balance, kindness (towards myself and others), and my place in this world. All of this sets me up nicely for a wonderful 2021.

My focus for 2021 is to make it the year of my most meaningful work.

I feel more grounded in my being that I ever have, and the purpose of creating space the previous year is to fill it as intentionally as possible. This is not to be confused with more work but rather quality work. I am not only referring to professional work either, encompassing work on my relationships, on my home, on my spirituality, and on my self.

In order to set myself up for success, I paired my resolutions with actionable and measurable goals. Maybe you’ll find a few that resonate with you. However, I would highly recommend writing your own first, before allowing someone else’s (mine included) to influence your hopes for the year to come. And if I don’t get around to it, I wish you and yours love and light in the New Year!

My 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Focus on Health
    • Make exercise routine. Focus on the exercises that are enjoyable, like running, swimming and yoga to make it more sustainable. Goal: Exercise 5 days a week.
    • Eat more veggies and fruit. Goal: Incorporate these into meals at least 5 days a week.
    • Eat to be satiated, abandon gluttony. Goal: Aim to only be 80% full.
    • Sleep on a consistent schedule. Goal: Try to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am.
    • Wake up at a consistent time. Goal: Get up when you feed the cat, instead of crawling back into bed.
  • Focus on Having Less
    • Less Instagram. Goal: Limit yourself to 15 minutes per day.
    • Less Shopping for both the self and the home. Goal: Spend only $35 on fun money each month. When you feel the need to buy something new, write the reasons why what you have is enough. Wait at least one month before buying something you want.
    • Less obligation and responsibilities. Goal: Practice responding with “Can I get back to you?” to give yourself the space for consideration.
  • Focus on Creating Your Best Work
    • Prepare each morning for the day ahead. Goal: Meditate each morning to clear the mind. Prioritize your tasks for the day ahead, and delegate or de-clutter as many as you can before beginning work. Put on an outfit and get ready as if you are going into work to create that separation between work and home.
    • Be on time to show respect for other people’s timelines. Goal: Show up to work, appointments and events at least five minutes early.
    • Study dentistry to invigorate a passion towards the profession. Goal: Complete 50 CE units this year.
    • Provide usefulness to others via the blog so that I may make a living helping people virtually. Goal: Create digital downloads, consider intentional living consultations, and work on writing a book on living intentionally.
    • Create the ideal WFH space. Goal: Carve out a dedicated area in the home for work. Make it a sanctuary.
  • Focus on Creating a Good Home
  • Focus on Spirituality
    • Meditate more often. Goal: Use the Tide App 5 times a week.
    • More outdoors time to reduce cortisol levels. Goal: Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking or hiking in nature three times a week.
    • Have more gratitude. Goal: Write the top 3 things the be grateful for each morning. Thank my food and my things for gracing my life.
    • Reflect on a quote each morning. Goal: Find a quote that speaks to where you are in life and share it each day with others.
    • Spread goodness. Goal: Volunteer once a month. Call three friends and family members each week and tell them why you are grateful for them.
  • Focus on Myself
    • Make time to read more books, which will expand your knowledge, perspective, and experience. Goal: Read two books a month.
    • Learn a language or musical instrument. Goal: Learn French enough to be able to have conversation and learn two songs on either piano or guitar each month.
    • Get into drawing again. Goal: Complete two drawings per month.
    • Reserve the evenings for relaxation and rejuvenation. Goal: Put the phone away one hour before bed.

Body Love with Sugar Scrubs

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

In my home, I try to surround myself with objects that act as reminders of care. A candle sitting on the kitchen shelf, a blanket strewn on the couch, hand lotion in my clutch … all of these things add value to my day to day and are strategically placed so that I have a visual aide reminding me to slow down from my over-zealous lifestyle. I am innately bad at making time for myself, which is probably why I spend so much time talking about its importance. But I have found that the system that works for me requires adding small doses of magic in forgotten corners so that I come upon them in my living and am prompted to make use of said magic.

One of the tiny overindulgences that I’ve been obsessed about this holiday season is a jar of bathroom goodness – a new exfoliating sugar body scrub made by True Botanicals. They have outdone themselves with this one! It delivers all the necessary ingredients for everything nice. A blend of natural, nourishing elements – organic sugar, sandalwood, rich camellia, jojoba oils, and kaolin clay – come together in this masque for the limbs. I absolutely relish the stuff, especially after an especially trying yoga workout, or a long day at the bakery or dental office. It provides just the right amount of body love.

The sugar’s roughness sloughs away all that dry, winter skin cells, leaving behind a velvety smooth complexion. I take a handful of the stuff and massage it straight onto the skin in slow circles. The scrub is enriched with emollient essential fatty acids, which nourishes and supports the skin barrier function. Plus, my skin never feels stripped after a shower. When I rinse off with warm water, the scrub simply melts away as a warm and woodsy scent wafts upwards.

Using True Botanical’s sugar scrub is like having a spa day, in the comforts of my own home. I keep the glass jar on the tub sill of my bathroom. I’m not one to have many products in the shower, typically keeping only a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap. However, the addition of this small simple amber reminder has made all the difference to the quality of my baths. I had originally meant to keep it there for special occasions but have found myself reaching for it daily. Honestly, prior this, my showers were quite rushed, just another task that I needed to check off on my to-do list. However, since placing the scrub in the tub, I have been taking longer baths, slower, and with more intention.

True Botanical’s Exfoliating Sugar Scrub sells for only $38, and it has been three weeks and I am about halfway done with the jar. It is vegan, cruelty free, certified non-toxic and sustainably made. It is packaged in a beautiful amber glass jar which can be reused as a container for cotton balls and the like once the scrub runs out, which I’ll pretend to be never.

This post was sponsored by True Botanicals, and any purchase you make using my links above could result in a commission for TheDebtist. Rest assured that all thoughts and opinions are my own. And once again, I thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.

A Consideration for Indoor Air Quality in Our Homes with this Molekule Air Mini Review

This post is sponsored by Molekule and may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

COVID has made me particularly more sensitive to what’s in our air. I already think about this quite a bit as my job as a dentist involves the respiratory tract and airway. We even have an air purifier in every operatory at our dental office to protect our patients. It wasn’t until recently though that I thought to myself, “Why don’t I have this in my home?!” By the time I came across Molekule, I knew that bringing an air purifier into my space was a no-brainer. What I didn’t know was how different it was going to make our home feel.

Owning a Molekule has been a breath of fresh air for me and my family. I can tell that it works because the air immediately smells cleaner. As a cat owner, I always wondered whether visitors can smell our cat upon entering our home. I mean, when Theo uses the litter box, you can definitely tell that we are cat people. But after the Molekule arrived, you can’t even tell when Theo uses his litter box. Which shows me that the Molekule is doing something. Below is my honest Molekule Air Mini review.

What does Molekule do?

Molekule creates professional-grade air purifiers that use PECO technology to break down pollutants at the molecular level. Some air purifiers only trap pollutants in their filters, but Molekule destroys them. Simply speaking, PECO technology uses free radicals to break down VOCs, bacteria, mold, allergens, and viruses. In goes the pollutant, out comes carbon dioxide, water and trace elements. According to Molekule, there is no ozone by-product. PECO technology has been tested for 25 years and currently, Molekule’s FDA approved PRO RX air purifiers are being used in a number of hospitals – another consolation regarding their product’s efficacy.

Which Molekule is right for us?

The version that we have at home is a Molekule Air Mini, which is advertised as ideal for up to 250 square feet of space. To put this into perspective, my entire living space is less than 1,000 square feet. 250 square feet covers a room – either the bedroom or the living room. Molekule does sell two other versions that have higher capacity: The Molekule Air and Molekule Air Pro which stands on the floor and improves air quality of rooms up to 600 and 1,000 square feet respectively. So technically, a single Molekule Air Pro could handle my entire living space. However, as a minimalist, I prefer the Air Mini’s smaller shape and don’t mind moving it to whichever room I am at. The good thing about the mini is that it is easily portable, thanks to a handle fastened at the side that allows me to carry it from room to room. Our space is so small to begin with, so it isn’t a bother to me at all. However, I can see why a two-story home would be better off having a Molekule Air Pro on the first floor and Molekule Air Minis in individual bedrooms.

What has the Molekule experience been like?

The Molekule Air Mini arrived fairly quickly in a box with very simple set-up instructions. First, removal of the top portion of the air purifier was required in order to remove the plastic around the PECO filter inside. The top lid securely fastens by twisting in a clock-wise motion until it clicks into place. It requires a bit of elbow grease to get it closed all the way so I had Mike help me with that. Make sure you hear the click to ensure that it locked. Otherwise, when you lift your air purifier by the handle, you may find the bottom half clattering on the floor!

After the plastic is removed from the filter, it’s a matter of plugging the device in. A cord can be found on the bottom and can be unraveled to length. I like that the rest of the unused cord can stay hidden and tucked away underneath the device. There is a notch too where the cord can exit the bottom so that the device sits evenly. With a press of a button, you’re off and running!

There is a central button on the top of the unit. Pressing it would start the fan speed at level one. You can continue pressing it to go up to level five. I have found that level one is silent as a mouse, but level five is as uproarious as a vacuum. I prefer to keep it at level three during the daytime and turn it down to level one in the evenings, however, I wonder about the efficacy in relation to fan speed. The fan speed determines how fast air gets sucked into the device, hence the whirring sound. I would imagine that the more air gets brought in, the more action, but the sound is just way too loud to bear at level five. I love my quiet space and will likely remain at level three or lower. Holding down the button for a few seconds places the device on stand-by.

Final Thoughts…

The Molekule Air Mini is honestly a wonderful addition to any home. It is modern and minimally sleek. The design is impeccable from the beautiful grey felt handle to the top air vent. It is subtle and quietly does the difficult work.

With more people choosing to stay in, it’s time we focus inward on ways we can keep our homes clean – and that includes the air that we breathe!

Of course, every home is different. We live in a small space so I feel comfortable with having only the Molekule Air Mini. For larger homes, one can purchase multiple air purifiers in bundles in order to properly tackle every corner of the home. Also, if you are unsure of which purifier would work best for you, Molekule has a 30-day trial period. Try the product and if you are unsatisfied, you can always get a full refund.

One thing is for sure: Considering indoor air quality will become a new normal moving forward – whether the concern be due to local fires, pollution, or viruses.

Molekule allows me to breathe easy, knowing that my family is kept safe and our home is kept a sanctuary.

With the advent of yesterday’s Southern Orange County fires and all fires that has plagued the West Coast this year, I wanted to increase accessibility of air purifiers for all households. Readers may use the code thedebtist to receive a discount on their Molekule purchase – $25 off Air Mini, $32 off Air Mini+, $50 off Air, $77 off Air Pro. I think that air purifiers are more important than ever and I want to do my part in making sure we all have access to cleaner air.

This post is sponsored by Molekule, a company dedicated to providing cleaner air in our homes and our businesses. I have had the privilege of trying their Molekule Air Mini in my home and this my review of the product. The links from this blog post are affiliate links which means TheDebtist earns a small commission from any purchases made from this site. As always, thank you for supporting the companies and businesses that support this small space. I can say in all honesty that all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Self-Care Guide for Health Professionals

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I know it’s year 2020 and all, but health care professionals have always had a tough job. Hence, the idea to write a post about caring for the self for health professionals. While I don’t represent all workers in the medical field, I also know many of them can relate to the routine exhaustion one feels in the physical, mental and emotional sense. Not only is dentistry back-breaking work (think hunch-back- of-Notre-Dame), it also requires mental concentration (we are making tenths-of-millimeters-micromovements inside a tiny cavity) and emotional stamina (the minute the patient’s chair leans back, their everyday lives come spewing out). Sometimes I wear the hat of clinician, while other times, I simply play the role of listener. I have to help anxious patients through to the other side of treatment, as well as psychologically support depressed patients through to the other side of life. It’s a fulfilling job, but also a taxing one.

Many times, I come home with no one to fully understand the tolls of my work. Mike wonderfully understands that having dinner ready and giving me space to decompress with yoga is very important. He understands that on some days, I simply don’t want to talk. But he doesn’t really know the why. Sometimes, I feel guilt over acting selfishly, but as clinicians, we need to start removing that word from our vocabulary. You aren’t selfish because you need me-time after giving everyone else their me-time.

This past weekend, I took four days off to vacation with family on the coast of Southern California. My sister-in-law joined us Friday afternoon after her four clients. She also works in health care as a psych therapist. She joined us after a hectic day, and still had a few clinical notes to write. I noted that she looked a bit tired and she mentioned that some of her clients are especially draining, not in the physical sense, but in the mental and emotional sense. She even has one client currently on suicide watch who constantly occupies her mind. We talked of the tiresome nature of healthcare and agreed on the importance of taking care of ourselves first. We also noted that while we are excellent care-takers of others, we usually fail to save room for us.

This is a reminder to all health-care professionals that self-care is key to success. And sometimes, the only person who would be able to give you that space is yourself. If you are a reader who knows of a health-care professional, make sure to check in on them during this time. You might be surprised at their sadness, tiredness, weakness, or loneliness. Below, I wrote a simple guide to taking care.

Self-Care Guide

+ Practice deep breathing in between seeing patients. Deep breathing is something I first picked up from yoga class ten years ago. Yoga itself is a practice focused on returning to the breath, which has been called our “life-force”. Returning to the breath is the last thing on a clinician’s mind. The immediacy of our work and the need that our patients have far exceed our willingness to turn inward and work on ourselves. However, I implore all clinicians to consider deep breathing. This practice was first recommended to me by a wellness coach, Michaela Puterbaugh of Starting from Within and it has been a real game-changer! I would highly advise getting a wellness coach like Michaela (you can book a consultation here), but if that is not your vibe, then deep-breathing is the one thing I learned to do that helped me most with my career. It’s simple. Before running to your next patient, stop by an office or a break-room or a quiet corner and breathe in for five seconds, hold at the top for five seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. Repeat five times, then you’re good to go. I guarantee that your patients will notice and feel the difference in you. (PS: It helps to close your eyes.)

+ Stretch throughout the day. Many dentists end their careers earlier than they would like due to body aches and pains. Hospital workers also suffer from the same. Nurses and physical therapists have to carry and assist disabled bodies and the elderly. To be honest, physical tolls extend past the medical field and also applies to hospitality workers who stand on their feet all day and desk workers hunched in static postures in front of LED screens (blue light blockers for the win!). Stretching simply makes sense; for everybody. I picked up stretching advice from a continuing education course on ergonomics. There are certain stretches especially helpful to dentists, so I would seek professional advice regarding specific careers. For dentists, the upper back and shoulder muscles, as well as the core muscles, will help alleviate lower back pain and that hunched-back-look. Just like deep-breathing, this can be done in between patients or during any break. After work, I make it a point to roll out my Manduka mat and join a CorePower LIVE session to create movement in my body. I even took my mat on vacation with us this past weekend! That’s how important stretching is to me. Not getting on my mat is like a surfer not getting out on the water. Speaking of water…

+ Drink plenty of water. We are constantly moving from room to room and it’s very easy to forget about the water bottle we have sitting next to our desks. But wherever you choose to do stretches or deep breathing, keep a bottle of water close at hand. It also helps to have a habit built around staying hydrated. I drink two glasses right when I wake up and an entire glass before my shift. Between the start of my workday and lunch time, I make sure to finish at least another bottle. The same standard applies between lunch and the end of my shift. Then when I get off work, I drink two glasses straight away. My water bottle from Kinto_USA is quite portable and the tab at the top of the lid makes it easy to take with me wherever I go. If water is not your favorite drink, why don’t you try tossing pomegranate slices into your bottle or dress it up with ice? Check out my thoughts on staying hydrated!

+ Find someone to talk to. I know that Mike doesn’t fully understand everything that happens at the dental office, but it’s nice to have someone to talk to when I come home. It also helps that he is a great listener. My daily recaps help release any negative energy that I take home. But don’t get me wrong – dentistry isn’t ALL bad. Talking to someone is also a great time to celebrate the daily wins and highlights, a time to practice gratitude for a rewarding job. Of course, the person you choose does not have to be the same person every day. It can be different people, too. As long as you schedule a few moments to connect with someone outside of work, you’ll find less tension and stress when you unwind for the evening. (Sage tip: Don’t dwell on your workday alone. There are other things to address in life.)

+ Eat healthy. It’s hard to follow our own mantras of consuming healthy foods when we return home stressed and over-worked. I’d be the first to admit that fruits and veggies are not on my mind after a long day and if it weren’t for my husband making nutritious meals for us every day, I would probably be quick to order to-go foods a few nights a week. However, we must follow what we preach. I try to consume only one cup of black coffee a day (otherwise I’d live from coffee to the grave), and balance it with a cup of ceremonial-grade matcha green tea in the evening. I try to choose dark chocolate (88% cocoa or more) for dessert, and fresh fruits from the farmer’s market for snacks. I use a budget to monitor how often we dine out and we still try to follow our zero plastic diet religiously. Skip the temptation by choosing not to buy those bags of chips – or whatever else that has a gravitational pull during your weakest moments. Shop in such a way that sets you up for success.

+ Wind down the mind. In the evenings, I make it a point to wind down my mind. I try to do yoga after work to enter a calm state of energy. Afterwards, I shower and make myself a cup of tea and spend the evening writing or reading. This is the time I also connect with the people I live with. I check on my plants and move them around frequently, and I follow a skincare routine. I recently discovered The Nue Co.’s supplemental spray called Magnesium Ease, which I massage into my skin to help alleviate muscle tension and to improve my sleep. (Fun fact: 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium!).

+ Get full night’s sleep. Lastly, but most importantly, is sleep. I value sleep more than I value coffee – which is saying something! I make it a point to get at least eight hours of sleep (nine hours is my optimal sleep-time). On weekends, I can sleep as long as 12 hours although luckily, I value my mornings too much to oversleep often. In our home, we sleep around ten in the evening and wake up when Theo meowls for food at six in the morning. I know that many clinicians tend to be night owls due to the nature of our work (late shifts and night shifts are common), but may I suggest abiding by your circadian rhythm? I cherish sleep knowing that I am more helpful to others when I sleep well. For those who have trouble sleeping, you may find these sleep drops helpful!

If you are in the medical field and have somehow come across this self-care guide, I hope it finds you well. For those who need a helping hand with mental wellness, do reach out to a professional. My sister-in-law is practicing in Southern California and is offering video services. I would also like to recommend Michaela Puterbaugh for overall health and wellness coaching as she has helped me balance life earlier this year.

For those curious about the supplements that I recommended, they are from The Nue Co., a company making supplements that you can feel working! Receive 15% off your first order with code NUE15 (affiliate links above). I am really excited about what this company is producing and have ordered the sleep drops for my mom and the magnesium ease for myself. They provide many other supplements that aid with sleep, stress, gut health, and immunity. I would definitely check them out!

Slow Hosting

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

On the heels of my previous post about simple recipes made for slow gatherings, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite tips when hosting a get-together or party. Slow hosting, if I may term it as such, takes upfront planning and work. Intentionality is key when deciding what to do in preparation. You could fall down rabbit holes and never dig your way out when considering what details need attending.

Surely, there are sources out there overwhelmingly filled with styling and decor, recipes of feasts fit for kings, as well as libation ideas invented by only the best bartenders. Perhaps I am alone in this, but I’ve fallen privy to over-thinking, and certainly over-doing, a few of my past parties. It’s easy to fall into that trap. However, it’s just as easy to avoid it, as long as I pay attention to a few details.

There are a few things about myself and hosting that I’ve learned to be true.

  • I would rather be a guest to my own party than a server and maid.
  • I would rather participate in deep conversations, delving into original ideas or passionate opinions, than skim the superficial waters of, “hi, how are you?”.
  • I would rather have a good, relaxing evening rather than stress and worry.
  • I want to care about the important things in life, like friends and family.
  • And lastly but most importantly, I want to have a good time with my husband rather than begrudgingly nitpick over details regarding some preformed, overly high expectation. I’ve found that if I set the bar too high for a gathering, I set the success rate extremely low for us as a couple.

So I’ve gathered a few tricks that keep me grounded when it comes to throwing parties. I hope it preps you for the future, where we will surely make up for lost time, gathering in safety and in peace.

  • Opt for a table cloth to immediately dress up any table. Seriously, after this, I feel like the decor is done.
  • Put down the table setting prior to your guests arriving to reduce work once the party starts.
  • Add simple stems in amber bottles or stick tall candlesticks in candle holders, rather than investing in expensive bouquets.
  • Forgo the place cards. Let guests sit where they like and mingle as they please.
  • Forget hanging up banners and buying party balloons, or other disposable item that will only add to the landfill. Trust that your home is good enough to celebrate in, without the temporary frills.
  • Place a linen napkin out for each guest, to reduce the amount of times you need to get up from the table to grab the paper towels.
  • Opt for glassware that can hold water, wine, beer or cocktail, in order to reduce the dishes you need to set out (and later wash).
  • Limit the amount of food types or drinks available. Sometimes, I have a theme or a set menu so as not to overwhelm the guests, or myself.
  • Choose recipes that can be made ahead of time. I am not only talking about side dishes and salads. I also include desserts and appetizers.I try to keep the main entree fresh.
  • Instead of mixing cocktails (which should really be fresh), opt for sangria or table wine. Also, beer or mimosas. Simple things that get the job done.
  • Clear the table at the very end, but toss all the dishes in the dishwasher (my favorite) or the sink. Do not wash them while the guests are here. There is time for that later. No space? A fellow small-home-dweller actually stashes them in the bathtub, to address after the guests have left, which I thought was genius.
  • Don’t be afraid of ordering food. You’d be surprised how many people favor pizza or Chinese take-out. You’re not a 1950’s housewife who has to prove your worth in the form of housewivery. You’re feeding a group of people who already love you for who you are. It’ll be fine.
  • Avoid white noise. That includes music. I suppose depending on the party. I dislike pausing conversation to lift up the needle on the record player. I also dislike when a playlist stops suddenly and someone has to fumble with a phone. My opinion is that, unless your gathering is focused on music listening, music is a distraction.
  • Don’t plan an itinerary. Trust that as the night progresses, things will naturally fall into place.
  • Ensure that there’s a hand towel and toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Light a candle and set out hand soap.
  • Avoid the goodie bags and give-aways. It requires too much extra work and creates too much extra trash. If you really want to have the guests take home something, opt for consumables. One year for Thanksgiving, we gave away a jar of our favorite enchilada sauce, which we cooked and packaged the evening before. Another year, we baked everyone pastries for the following morning.
  • Finally, let go. Let go of all your expectations. Let go of the pretty Instagram pictures. Let go of your guarded nature. Just be a guest, really.