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How We Took Care of Our Mental Health This Week

Short breaks that had a big impact.

I think we can all agree that this week has felt about a year long. Between obsessively watching the news, refreshing social media feeds, and waiting for updates, it's never been more important to take care of yourself and carve out time (even an hour!) away from the election news and endless scrolling. Below we've shared a few of the ways we took care of our mental health this week, in the hopes it reminds you to do the same this weekend: 

Name - Emily

I found myself refreshing Twitter several times a minute on Tuesday (and Wednesday and Thursday...), and at a certain point, I realized I needed to back away from my phone and distract myself with something productive. I headed into the kitchen and decided to make a classic coffee cake. The process of measuring ingredients and listening to music gave me a sense of control, and having the entire house smell like cinnamon and sugar was such a comfort during an incredibly stressful day. I dropped off a portion at a friend's house and loved knowing that, at the very least, we'd both have a nice breakfast to eat the next morning. 

Name - Leslie

I had ample distractions from obsessively checking the news on Tuesday, thanks to a surprise wakeup call from our movers to tell us they were here a full week early! After the initial chaos, I dove headlong into unpacking and nesting. Jonah and I had made previous plans to join friends for a masked, rainy hike in Forest Park, and it was actually a welcome diversion to drop everything and spend an hour in nature, sans phones, polls, or cardboard boxes. While I was able to unpack everything Tuesday night and could have thrown the pantry together, I decided to "save" it for Wednesday morning. When I woke up, I brewed myself a cup of coffee, turned on the heater and folklore, and took my time setting each item into its place and making a list of what we needed before diving into the news. The process of organizing was therapeutic, and I also reaped the benefits when I was able to easily access ingredients for making a big pot of this soup that night! 

Name - Jess

I felt a bit frantic when my alarm went off on Tuesday morning, but was relieved to remember that I had two hours of text banking for Biden ahead of me. Channeling that nervous energy into conversations with voters in PA and AZ wound up being pretty empowering and put me in a much calmer headspace (plus, Kelly and I FaceTimed each other for moral support!). After putting away my devices and picking up a book for an hour, hopping on the Peloton for a ride that aired on World Mental Health Day felt like the right call but wound up making me a bit more anxious, so I went back to my favorite room in the house: the kitchen. I'd prepped the chocolate chip cookies from Claire Saffitz's new cookbook, Dessert Person (#onbrand), on Sunday since they require 48 hours in the fridge, but that didn't stop me from doubling down on dough and testing out her Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies as well (they're indeed chewy, have a crunchy exterior from the demerara sugar, and aren't overwhelmingly spiced). I've only been making a few at a time, which means freshly baked cookies at least once a day (highly recommend if you're also a stress-eater). I've adjusted my exercise to be slower and less aerobic with Beth Cooke's Anti-Anxiety Flows on Obé, which help ground me quite a bit, and have brought out a new candle to light in the evenings (the scent of Burning Rose from Byredo is currently filling my house as I write this!).

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Image from iOS (3)

I started election day by taking a long walk to Starbucks and lots of deep breaths in the cool morning air. After text banking and working out with Jess, I spent HOURS finding exactly the right recipe to make that would keep me busy while I listened to the news in the evening. I knew that pasta was the right choice, and finally landed on Jon & Vinny's Fusilli alla Vodka recipe, which comes highly recommended from many people I know and love. It was exactly what I needed to help calm my nerves on election day (I accidentally made the full recipe which is probably enough for six people, so I've been eating the leftovers every day since!). I turned off the TV around 8 PM and made some major headway in my current read: a mystery/thriller called Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Reading is a form of self care for me, so I've been making sure to carve out some time to read every day this week.

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I hope this photo of my pup brings you as much comfort as he brought me this week.

I hope this photo of my pup brings you as much comfort as he brought me this week.

I was anticipating Election Day all week but the time difference here in the Philippines gave me a good little buffer. On Wednesday morning my time, I knew there would be some election updates but nothing final. I spent a lot of time in bed cuddling my dogs and reading on my Kindle. When the impulse to check Instagram was especially strong, I redirected it to YouTube where I knew I'd feel less bombarded by election updates. Later that evening I put on "My Octopus Teacher," a documentary on Netflix that Raven and Lauren (who you may have met on @shopcupcakesandcashmere!) recommended to the team. The ocean has always been like a comfort blanket to me so from the opening scene I knew I had made the right choice. Most of the film is underwater footage of the narrator tracking an octopus and its interaction with other sea creatures. The combination of the cinematography and narration made for a very soothing watch. My evening ended as the work day in LA started so I hopped on a call with the rest of the marketing team. It felt so good to have a safe space to check in with each other and talk about how the past day had affected us. Just talking through things helped diffuse a lot of my tension and was a welcome reminder that we're all going through it.

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I'm usually pretty good at spacing out when I check news updates and scroll Instagram throughout the day, but the past few days have been a huge exception. I gave myself a headache refreshing different news sites; who has the most up-to-date information? Who has the results that give me the most hope? Like most of my coworkers and friends, I ended up doing what has helped me through the lockdown the past 8 months: I went to the kitchen. Time in the kitchen in the morning is my favorite way to set off my routine; make coffee, then a simple breakfast, and clean up after. I perfected the coffee's golden ratio to our preference during the last two days, which furthered my focus away from stressful news updates. For dinner, I opened a cookbook, which I rarely do (I typically get recipes online or from referrals), and made Gjelina's Roasted Acorn Squash with Hazelnuts, Brown Butter and Rosemary. We are begging for a Fall day here in LA (hello, 91 yesterday), so this cozy recipe was an attempt to put me in the mood. I find comfort in this season, so cooking in that direction was helpful to the past few days' anxiety. 

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