On self-care during quarantine

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Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash
Note: This is a guest post by my dear friend, Kafui Mensah.

As we all know, it can be challenging to practice self-care in the midst of everything that grabs at our attention on any given day.

Whether you’re juggling a career and a social life, or school and hobbies, or just trying to make it to bed at a decent hour, the busyness of life is often not conducive to the development of a self-care routine.

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The things you do every day grind on you

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Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Earlier this week, my partner shared with me a post he found online that really spoke volumes to both of us. A part that stood out to me the most was the things you do every day grind on you.

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The demons hate fresh air

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Taken by my sister on her way to work

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I’m reading Keep Going for the second time, a short book on 10 rules for staying creative in good times and bad. 

Austin Kleon is definitely one of my favourite writers and bloggers. When I discovered him earlier this year, I read his blog all the way back to 2012 and four of his books.

His work is terrific and inspiring.

I came across the quote, demons hate fresh air, in Keep Going and it has stuck with me ever since.

No matter what time you get out of bed, go for a walk and then work, [Ingmar Bergman] would say, because the demons hate it when you get out of bed, demons hate fresh air. 

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Happiness is other people

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Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

For the longest time, and I mean for a really long time, I full-heartedly endorsed the famous quote from Jean-Paul Sartre, hell is other people.

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So much so, I wrote it on a dry-erase board and hung it in my room. I scribbled it in my journal. I recited it in my head occasionally to remind myself that all my emotional anguish was caused by other people.

Inspired by the happiness industry, the idea that happiness is your own personal choice, and if you work on yourself enough you’ll find it, I embarked on the pursuit of happiness solely focused on me, myself and I.

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The opposite of addiction is connection

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is
connection.

— JOHANN HARI

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In a podcast episode by Your Undivided Attention, titled the Opposite of Addiction, Johann Hari makes the case that addiction, among other mental health issues, is a symptom of a deeper problem of a disconnected society (a must listen!). 

In other words, the issue of internet addiction isn’t the internet itself, but rather the void it helps us fill.

In other words, addiction is escapism.

Continue reading “The opposite of addiction is connection”

make yourself prone to happiness

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Photo by Okwaeze Otusi on Unsplash

Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it… And, once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must  Never become lax about maintaining it.

— Elizabeth Gilbert

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Am I basic for quoting (and really loving) Eat, Love, Pray? I read it at the beginning of the year and fell in love with it.

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My best mental health tip— take a break

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I’m currently on a three-month-long, and ongoing, hiatus from the adulting world. It is funded solely with my F**k-Off fund, and living back at home with my parents.

I’m loving it!

It has been over two years since I took a break to recharge, revaluate and rejuvenate, a practice that began circumstantially back in 2015 and has since become a cherished ritual.

The best times of my life have come right after taking a break from it all.

Long Term Breaks

Growth is never by mere chance.

— James Cash Penney

If you can afford to, financially and otherwise, a long term break from adulting can be an amazing experience.

A long term break could range anywhere from a month to a year, or even longer.

What really matters is that during the break, you remain free from work, obligations, responsibilities, and plans that create stress and anxiety in your life. Instead, you create the space to rejuvenate and regroup so that you can make decisions that better align with your needs and desires moving forward.

It might be scary at first, especially if your identity is heavily tied to your job, being a student, or any other societal metrics of success. Once you overcome these mental hurdles, however, you could go one to have one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.


My first long term break happened after the third-year of my undergraduate degree. After returning back to my parents’ for summer, and unable to find a decent summer job, I decided to take a break.

After being in school and/or working for most of my adolescent years, it was hard not to be doing neither of those things. It is hard to define yourself in our society if you’re not working or in school. 

It made me feel very insecure. I soothed my ego by telling myself I got the rest of my life to work and be a real adult.

Following that summer break, I had one of the most productive, successful and rewarding years. I did extremely well academically, worked two jobs, had two volunteer positions, and even managed a decent social life. In addition, with encouragement and support from one of my professor, I applied and got accepted into graduate school.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized how important that summer break was.

Taking a break, and spending a lot of time resting and contemplating what I wanted out of life, ended up being a catalyst for my success the following school year.


Short Term Break

Often times, the daily hustle and grind mean taking a long term break can seem too idealistic, or be outright impossible. If taking a long term break isn’t feasible, a short term break can be just as refreshing and rewarding.

Short term breaks are a lot more palatable to most. After all, taking a week or two off to recharge sounds appealing and is doable for most people.

It is, however, very important that we actually dial back and take a break during this time. Take time off from work, obligations, responsibilities, and plans that create stress and anxiety.

The first semester of graduate school and everything else that was going on at that time broke me down emotionally. Undoubtedly, it was one of the worst times of my life.

Luckily, right after finals, we had two weeks off and I gave myself permission to take a break. I made zero plans and disregarded goals and commitments. For two weeks, I allowed myself to sleep in, eat junk, and waste time on whatever I wanted.

No planning for, nor worrying about, the future.

When I returned to school, I was feeling very refreshed and motivated.

I was super focused on school and work, created routines and structure to manage my schedule without feeling overwhelmed and started working out regularly. My mental health improved so much, which fuelled me to be even more focused and productive. I graduated, found a job within my field and my relationships flourished.

Taking two weeks off to myself was all I needed to recharge and recover from a very challenging time in my life.


These past three months have brought many changes and I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to take another extended break. 

I have been super focused on taking care of my physical and mental health and planning for future career and life goals.

My break will be over once I get back from a month-long trip to Vancouver in mid-November.

I am actually really looking forward to getting back to the hustle of adulting, knowing a little more about myself, a little more sure of what I want, and feeling super rejuvenated.

Whether you take a long term or a short term break, it’s important to take some time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate.

There are so many resources online on self-care ideas and activities that you can use to recharge. I also recommend reading psychological and philosophical books, articles and literature to learn more about being human. It is a game-changer.

Take a break, and do not feel guilty about it. It is the best mental health tip I have found.

Until next time… 🙂


Laugh or log off

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Photo by Dan Cook on Unsplash

Once upon a time, when a fan accused Rihanna of being insensitive for a meme she shared on her Instagram, Rihanna responded with, ‘laugh or log off.’

Discovering this gem a few days ago reminded me of another one from Tyler, The Creator. He tweeted,

Hahahahahahahaha How The F**k Is Cyber Bullying Real Hahahaha N***a Just Walk Away From The Screen Like N***a Close Your Eyes Haha.

— Tyler, The Creator.

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Without minimizing the issue of cyberbullying, Tyler, The Creator had a point that completely changed the way I viewed my relationship with social media.

Continue reading “Laugh or log off”

Write for your life

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Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

I was inspired to write this post after listening to a podcast episode by Chris from Old Cove Road titled Write for Your Life.

In the episode, Chris explores the necessity of telling our stories, writing being one medium, to break down the stigma and misconception surrounding mental health and mental illness.

I loved the phrase; write for your life.

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I have mused about the importance of writing for self-exploration in a previous post.

Writing can be utilized for many purposes, and in many formats, to support our life’s journey. It is a great tool to help sharpen our capacity to think and communicate. Good writing can help a us discover our voice, and our voice defines our authenticity, which in turn defines our influence.

Formal writing, such as academic papers, can help us formulate and organize an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about a given topic.

Informal writing, such as journaling, can help us practice self-introspection and increase our self-awareness.

As Jordan Peterson put it eloquently, “the best way to improve your thinking is to learn how to write.”

We should make writing part of our daily routine by figuring out what style of writing works best for our needs, and what we want to accomplish through this endeavour.

Below are some ideas to accomplish that task.


If you want to grow as a person, keep a daily journal.

Writing is a great tool for self-exploration.

It brings a wandering mind to attention by moving us from passive thinking to actively engaging with our thoughts. 

Journaling can be used to process our emotions and increase our self-awareness. Thus, keeping a journal can help manage our mental wellbeing by giving us a healthy outlet to unpack our feelings and emotions.

If you want to cultivate a passion, start a blog.

Blogging can be incredibly valuable and beneficial to both our personal and professional growth. However, starting a blog isn’t enough to enjoy its benefits.

You must write, even if horribly at first. Then, ask people for their opinion about your writing. Let them critique your work.

A friend of mine once told me my blog was directionless. Not using those exact words but that was the gist of his critique. His actual advice was, however, this: figure out your intentions, identify your target audience, and communicate truth in simple terms, with words a 12-year-old can understand.

At first, I was defensive about his feedback and doubted my ability to write. Even so, I knew it was a well-intentioned constructive criticism I needed to hear, and I completely restructured my blog. It was the best decision and I really enjoy the streamed content I share on here.

If you want to get out of your head, write fiction. 

I recently participated in a 5-week creative writing course, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

I usually shy away from fiction because it requires the writer to take full accountability for the story. There are no footnotes or references to back up your story, to point the finger towards someone else.

However, taking the course taught me that the ability to tell a story without having to prove its validity might a good reason to take on writing fiction.

Although fiction is often derived from our imagination, it is also often based on facts and real-life scenarios. As such, it can be a creative way to share our thoughts and ideas with the world.

Tell a story.

Tell your story.


A guide for writing more

Everyone, including myself, wants to know if there is a magic wand or a potion that can help us write more. Unfortunately, there isn’t one, at least one that I’m aware of.

I find the process of writing, especially formal writing, to be extremely tedious.

Sometimes I write a full page, and by the time I go back and edit it, it is completely devoid of its original contents.

However, I find nothing else more satisfying than sharing my thoughts and ideas through this medium so it’s worth the process more often than not.

If you want to write, and love to write, then write. Write every day, whether it’s in your journal, blog, or making lists for ways to be more organized, you must write. Write a page. A sentence. A 10-page essay. 

A writing routine can also be useful. For inspiration, you can read about the daily routine of writers here.

Writer’s block doesn’t exist when you’re disciplined.

READ. A LOT.

The best writers read a conspicuous amount of books.

Read materials that you enjoy and find inspiring.

Read novels that you think about when you wake up the next day, and cry when you have to depart from the characters on the last page.

Don’t settle for books.

READ: Jordan Peterson’s Guide to Writing Properly (PDF), or check out a simplified version of the guide, Jordan Peterson’s 10-step process for stronger writing.


 

Self-medicating with art: A guide

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Self-medicating can be defined as a behavior in which an individual uses a substance or any exogenous influence to self-administer treatment for physical or psychological ailments.

Most of us self-medicate to some degree to manage our emotional needs.

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Continue reading “Self-medicating with art: A guide”