self care

The Perfect Match: Man Cave for Him & She Shed for Her

Move over Man Cave and make way for the She Shed, a place for much needed alone time and a place to read, dream, work on a hobby or catch up on some sleep. Ranging from elegant to something that can only be described as 'functional,' She Sheds offer your own private oasis.

If you don’t want the hassle (and expense) of building an actual She Shed, here are some ideas for alternatives:

Parks –-Escape to a local park to stroll through the walkways or enjoy the sun on a strategically placed bench.  Get fresh air and enjoy some undisturbed time away.

Walks –-Turn off your cell phone and get your steps in.  Fitbits and other wearables can help with motivation and goals. Check out Fitbit Adventures to be virtually transported to Yosemite and the New York City Marathon during your walks.

Noise Cancelling Headphones-– “Just turn it all off!”  In some ways you can with noise cancelling headphones.  Mute the noisy world and enjoy some silence or listening to your favorite music with the volume at a more comfortable level.  A non-electronic hack is to wear protective earmuffs over your ear buds but with the wires looped over and behind your ears – the earmuffs seal better while removing some frequencies.  Your ear buds will sound better (at the small cost of looking like you’ve just come from a construction site).

Hot Bath -– Remember the ‘Calgon, Take Me Away’ slogan?  Still applies.  Bubbles, candles, warm water, add good book.

Gardening -– More outside time.  Flower or vegetable, full blown plot or convenient containers.  Gardening helps you get in touch with nature and if all goes well, reap a reward in the process.  Not sure about your green-thumb’s abilities?  Consider a salsa garden for ease now and delicious payoff in a few weeks.

Museums-–Even the smallest communities have museums. Take a look around and find a hidden gem. Immersing yourself in something new can be a great way to stimulate neurons and escape in the process.

Coffee Shops --Alone in a (caffeinated) crowd.  With the help of Google you can actually see a coffee shop’s popular times throughout the day and plan your latte escape accordingly.  The New York Times noted one study found that coffee shops create just the right level of background noise to stimulate creativity.  Bonus – Check out Coffitivity, when you just can’t get to your coffee haven but need that background noise from your computer.

We’ve listed ours.  How about yours?


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When Anxiety Says No, Say Yes

By Cynthia Cloutier

I wake up every day terrified of something. Whether I’ll meet that day’s work deadline. Whether the last thing I wrote was crap. Hell, I worry about getting the girls to school on time.

You’d think that since I’ve never missed a deadline and never been fired by a client and consistently arrive at school so painfully early that we have to cool our heels in the parking lot so I don’t have to pay extra for before care – you’d think that I’d get over these worries. But history of success is no match for my brain’s ability to envision the worst case scenario.

This is what it’s like to live with anxiety disorder.

I used to crave a day when I would wake up calm and reasonable – what I imagine life is like for people who seem to ease through their days unscathed by worry and fear. But I’ve given up hope of that.

I’ve accepted that anxiety will by my constant companion, my fellow traveler through life. And so I manage it like one might manage diabetes.

With medications, yes, but since the only real “cure” would be to mainline benzos or smoke a ton of weed, I manage my anxiety mostly with thought control.

Over the past two years, since a nervous breakdown left me unable to shower on the regular, what I’ve learned to do is the opposite of what my brain tells me.

Now, if my brain tells me to stay under the covers, to not bathe, to eat Eggos and chips for breakfast instead of real food, here’s what I do instead: I force myself to get up, to make the bed, to wash myself, to fry an egg.

And if my brain tells me to stay timid, to not raise my voice, to give up at freelancing and seek a day job that would be much easier on my nerves than this constant hustle, then I send out more pitches, reach out to more contacts, dive into new projects.

Because to hunker down is to die.

At one point, that death could have been quite literal, as suicidal ideation was my mind’s favorite hobby.

Today, giving in to worry would represent more of a figurative death: Death by letting anxiety keep me from living a bold life.

And in 2017, my goal is to live the boldest life possible.

So I’ve been doing the opposite.


Just this week, fate-like, a friend from twenty years past reached out to me with an offer to fill in for a drop-out on her Grand Canyon rafting trip at the end of March. A trip that will end with me hiking ten miles out of the Canyon with a mile gain in elevation.

I’m not a hiker, not a wilderness camper, and I’ve never rafted. I can’t tie knots, I don’t cook, and I cannot overstate how out of shape I am.

“Irregular yoga” would describe my exercise routine for the past year. As in, sometimes when my back hurts from writing all day at the computer, I’ll do child’s pose on the mat behind my desk for like thirty seconds.

I said yes.

I mean, I have a tattoo on my wrist that tells me to do just that: Say yes. To do things even though they terrify me, even though I absolutely hate doing things I’m not good at, hate the thought of letting people in a group down, cried through a humiliating ski trip years ago with experienced skiers, broke my foot getting out of the bathtub, and passed out at Universal Studios and spent the rest of that vacation in the Disney World hospital recovering from heat stroke.

I said yes. Even though I spend my days anxiety-ridden about the smallest of small stuff, even though I battle imposter syndrome on the daily, even though I don’t particularly like being wet and/or cold, even though I make a thousand decisions every week simply to stay sane.

Because I will not let anxiety defeat me. I will do the things that scare me – the big things and the little things. And I will no doubt wake up the next day still terrified of something, and I will do it all over again.

What You Need is a Sisterhood

By Cynthia Cloutier

You wake up in the middle of the night in a pool of sweat, pajamas and sheets soaked, exhausted but too tired to change the bedding. So you stumble to the bathroom, grab the biggest bath towels you can find, and arrange them under your naked, aging body. It’s 3am in December and you can’t turn the house heat down because it’s 13 degrees outside and your children require warmth. So before you get back in bed, you briefly stick your head in the freezer, then turn the ceiling fan on high and aim the box fan at your face.

Another snapshot: You’re picking up the kids after school, chill winter winds blowing, their faces rosy with cold. But you’re blasting the AC on high because you’re roasting. When they complain, you tell them to turn on their butt heaters and point all the vents at your own sweaty body. At least you’re not opening the windows of the minivan. It could be worse.

The thought of cozying up to a fire with a cup of warm cocoa is far from your mind as you envision coal workers shoveling more fuel onto your already burning body, raising the temperature until you decide it would probably be best for everyone if you just stood sockless and hatless on your freezing porch until the dangers of hypothermia drive you back inside.

And while there are flurries in the air, you’re alone in experiencing this boiling niacin-like flush, cursing the hot flashes that a friend once described as “the off-gassing of our youth.”

It’s perimenopause.

You can’t really explain it to your kids, what’s happening. You’re not even super sure yourself. You read online about how you should mark and celebrate this rite of passage, but you have elementary-aged children and “going through the changes” doesn’t fit your Generation X “I’m still cool” persona.

So you suffer mostly in silence.

Instead of embracing the changes, you endure them.

Instead of plotting some kind of ritual for this big life transition, you dress in layers and find a dusty oscillating fan in the back of the basement storage room to add to your nighttime orchestra of wind.

Suddenly, reality bites in a whole new way. You’re not sure who you are – your daily lunch packing responsibilities suggest that you are still very much the mother in the maiden-mother-grandmother triad, but oh, at night, the grandmother comes creeping in for a preview visit and you aren’t quite sure what to say to her.

Shadows cross the room, the moonlight streaming in to make everything bluish, suiting your mood. It’s lonely then when you’re the only one awake, awash with sweat, and there’s no one to talk to so you can explain: I’m not ready. This is not me.

I’m still young.

What you need is a virtual community – other similarly situated women who can commiserate 24/7 so you don’t feel so alone. What you need is a hot flash sisterhood, available in the wee hours when you aren’t sure who you are anymore, and maybe they don’t know either, but at least you can be together and share in the questioning.

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