Breaks are so much more than a vacation or long weekend off. They’re also the little ways we listen to our needs throughout the day. In “Ready, Rest, Reset,” we asked the most online people we know to share how they make space for that.
Nearly every day, I wake with the sun. A noisy alarm clock is an unpleasant way to wake up, and I think about getting one of those expensive alarm clocks that wake you with light rather than sound, but, again, expensive.
So I wake up in my eucalyptus bedding — an expensive purchase informed by my Instagram scrolling. It makes me feel cool and snuggly, especially given the presence of my girlfriend and our two cats.
When I finally get up, I try to center myself. I look for this warm center that I feel when I’m really, truly happy (a rarity), and I try to replicate that feeling every morning. It doesn’t always work, but I try. If I can’t find it, I move forward in the day with the intention to take greater care of myself.
Here’s what that looks like.
While I’m still in a semi-dream state, before I brush my teeth or do anything else, I do yoga. That, and the fact that my co-workers largely work on Pacific time (I’m on Eastern), is my secret to working out and starting a morning ritual.
I spend the next hour listening to my “alt yoga” playlist, which is mostly Haim, Lany, and Umi, while I do the motions that have soaked into my brain from yoga classes with my mom when I was a preteen. If she calls while I’m in Downward Dog, we’ll chat.
Once I’ve worked out, I go wash up. Everyone in the skin care groups I’m in swears by simple tap water in the morning. I spend extra time brushing my teeth to make them feel nice and minty and fresh, a different feeling from this gross toothpaste I use to prevent cavities at night. I also floss a lot, so I floss.
I like to dance — not a slow, sensual thing but a nonsense, silly thing — while I scroll through TikToks with one hand and brush with the other. I practice throwing it back. I make my girlfriend cheer me on when I succeed.
While I hate alarm clocks, I like becoming alert to a cacophony of sounds in the morning. TikTok is loud and obnoxious and the energy I need. It pushes me out of the dream state and reminds me of the house I grew up in, with loud younger siblings and barking dogs. I’ve always found comfort in noise.
My mom is a big part of my morning routine. In my dream world, we would have coffee together every day. We’d live down the street from each other or in the same building, and we’d have coffee in our favorite mugs and talk about movies and books and our pets.
In real life, after I shower and make coffee, we have a quick chat. She tells me about her dogs, Olive (who I call Miss Olive) and Henry (Henrold), while she takes them on their morning walk. I tell her about Dr. Yang and Baby Belle, my cats. She tells me to call her later, if I want, and I tell her I miss her.
I love my job: I love writing, editing, reading, and catching up on trending television shows. Most days, given the endless information to be consumed, I feel overwhelmed, but I also feel motivated by the speed of it all. My job makes me feel really plugged in, which is why breaks are important — to stop my brain from turning to mush.
I alternate my workdays, writing on some, editing on others. I open many Google Docs, and I dive in.
I love to cook. I’m not especially good, but that’s why I like it. At work, and in my writing, I’m horribly embarrassed every time I ask a question, make a mistake, or need anything from everyone. Not because of my job or what I do, but because of who I am as a person: a perfectionist. So, imperfect cooking is a break I give myself.
For lunch, I steam whatever vegetables are going bad in my fridge. I add peanut butter and top it with red pepper flakes and sesame seeds. I pretend I know what cumin is.
I’ve been increasingly interested in spices, especially now that I have a stable enough job to comfortably buy them. It seems silly, but spending $4 on something that doesn’t really do anything unless paired with three other $4 things is absurd to me, even though I will happily spend $10 on a coffee.
After I throw the entire thing on rice, I’ll stand at my kitchen counter to eat. I try not to eat at my desk, and it’s nice. The quiet and the vegetables and the spice of it all. Sometimes I’ll scroll through TikToks and mindlessly dance before I go back to work.
I tend to hit a wall at this hour. My mom says it’s nap time. She actually naps. I take a brain break.
Behind my desk, I have a large print of a pink apartment and its various inhabitants. I like to imagine their little lives. It makes me feel more creative and calls to that part of me that is less research-oriented. This helps me get focused with crafting moods for the pieces I edit and write.
During my brain break, I turn to the window to my left, pull my knees to my chest, and sip a lavender latte (I’m on a two-coffee-a-day kick, and I kind of love it). This designated time helps me re-ground myself, not unlike the yoga I do in the morning.
I watch birds sit by my windowsill (and my cats attempt to get to the birds) and listen to construction (I’m used to it) and just breathe through it. I live near the beach, so we normally go from sunshiny mornings to rainy afternoons and sudden storms and back to sunshine until late. I hate the summer, but I like the way it looks.
My girlfriend and I like to spend our evenings together. We’ll watch television or eat dinner on the balcony. We’ll read next to each other and ignore each other in that kind of perfectly lovely silence.
I burn a lavender candle and we do dishes together. We play with the cats. They make us laugh with their giant jumps and their little wiggles and the way they sprint through the apartment on a loop.
Normally, I would go to the pottery studio and spend time playing in mud, or be with friends, laughing. I’m trying, so hard, to see the life in my own apartment and to appreciate it. It feels so rare and so endangered now. Things are so awful, in so many places.
On my best nights, I meditate.
I have, embarrassingly, been trying to imitate Aang from “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” You know how he sits and imagines himself across from himself? Or you know how Steven on “Steven Universe” sees himself, finally, and hugs himself? I try to imagine that: seeing myself and honoring that. When I’m able to do this, I enter a state of calm, though it does sometimes make me emotional and cause me to cry. When I go to sleep on days like these, I feel very much myself.
Being happy to see and know myself, it doesn’t always happen, and it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the self-deprecating part of myself is just all there is. When I go to sleep on days like that, I feel stressed and frazzled, like I’ve failed myself. On these days, I know that, the next morning, I’ll need more: more yoga, more pauses, more lavender, more chats on the phone with my mom and cat cuddles.
But sometimes there’s this softer part, that mirrored image saying everything is OK, and on those days I know that, in the morning, I’ll be able to push myself to do and be more. Either way, eventually, I go to sleep.
Rachel Charlene Lewis is a senior editor at Bitch Media. She has written for publications such as Teen Vogue, Self, Refinery29, Catapult, and more. Reach out to her on Twitter.