International Self Care Day: You’ve gotta nourish to flourish

Isn’t that saying so fun but also, like, so true!? You’ve got to nourish yourself in order to flourish. Flowers can’t bloom without proper watering and sunshine. You can’t pour from an empty cup. To be on top of your game 100 percent of the time, you have to spend time on yourself so you are getting all the attention and care you need.

source: Pinterest – Lushome

Today is International Self Care Day, and I wanted to share with y’all ways I find my zen both at home and at work.

At home 

Dealing with anxiety on a daily basis, finding my happy place is absolutely necessary. Here are a few ways I deal with everyday stress to keep myself balanced:

  • Change into comfortable clothes
  • Take off your makeup and wash your face
  • Do a face mask (or two – I have an obsession)
  • Burn incense or light a couple candles
  • Turn all the overhead lights off and only have lamps on
    • The warm lighting helps you relax
  • Listen to a calming playlist
  • Put on your favorite show or movie, but keep the volume a little lower than usual
    • For me, too much noise can cause an increased heart rate and slight anxiety, so if you’re feeling on edge already, it’s best to keep the volume levels at a more comfortable setting.
  • Go for a walk
    • This one is part of my daily routine already because I have a dog, but even if you don’t have pets, make an effort to get outside and take a quick walk – even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Cook yourself a healthy meal
    • Cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies! I love that it’s a non-electronic activity, especially since I work in social media and am constantly connected. It’s a great stress reliever and a semi-mindless task, too.
  • Treat yo self!
    • Parks and Rec style – maybe this is an Amazon order, maybe it’s going to get coffee or ice cream, or maybe it’s finally buying that pair of shoes you’ve been pining for. Retail therapy is real y’all!
  • Play with your pets
    • If you don’t have a pet of your own, maybe you have a neighbor who could use a helping hand and can walk their dog for them.
  • Call your mom
    • Okay seriously – momma always knows best! Just talking to your mom or dad, brother or sister, for a few minutes will relax you. No one knows you better than the woman who birthed you and the siblings who helped get you into trouble!
  • Meditate
    • Mediation beginner? No problem! Two of my favorite meditating apps (that I also use to help me fall asleep at night) are Calm and HeadSpace. They’re free and available in the app store.
  • Take a nap
    • Sometimes when life gets too hard, you just gotta nap. it. out.

Now, I’m aware some of those seem like simple and small activities – and that’s exactly right! Finding your zen and balancing your mind does not take a great deal of effort, rather it’s small steps that keep your heightened senses at bay and relax your mind, body and soul.

Peace Wall, Prague, Czech Republic 2014

At work

Obviously it’s not quite as easy to take time for yourself when you’re on the job. I am very fortunate for having my own office, where I can control the lighting, sound and smell. Most of us work the good ole 9-to-5 and are on a pretty consistent schedule, so I’ve come up with some ways you can decompress while still accomplishing your tasks and pleasing your boss, too!

  • Go for a walk
    • I know I said this on the list above, but it is seriously one of the quickest ways to de-stress and clear your mind. After an intense meeting, a quick lap around the building for about 10 minutes does my mind WONDERS.
  • Grab a coffee or tea
    • Personally, I have a sliiiight caffeine problem, so getting my afternoon tea or coffee is basically a must. But it’s also a healthy pick-me-up, too!
  • Use an oil diffuser
    • Some offices don’t allow this…thankfully, I have my own so I can comfortably diffuse my beloved lemongrass essential oil all day long. For those of you who can’t, keep a roller with your favorite oil combo in your bag and put it on your wrists, neck and behind your ears for instant relaxation.
  • Talk it out
    • Take a quick 10-minute personal call. Whether it’s to your parents, partner, or long-distance best friend, speaking to a loved one even for just a few minutes will help you feel more at home and peaceful.
  • Put on your headphones
    • Just as I mentioned above, listening to a nice relaxing song is great to drown out the noise around you. But – maybe you aren’t wanting a quiet and calm tune. Throw on any old song; sometimes I like to put on some rap and jam it out. Works like a charm.
  • Confide in a trusted coworker
    • Not every work environment is ideal, and some of us are lucky to have more friends at work than others, but surely you have at least one confidant you can talk to. Whether you’re stressed about a project or worried about an upcoming review, talking it out with a trusted coworker will make you feel better, even if it’s just saying your thoughts and worries out loud.
  • Close your eyes and imagine your happy place
    • My personal happy place changes based on my mood/train of thought…but it always is either a fond memory or me with my family and friends, or a beautiful place in nature near the water. The pic below is my go-to image because I remember how salty and fresh the air smelled and how blue and majestic the water looked when I was in Croatia.
Split Harbor, Croatia

Side note: my favorite incense and essential oils are available at Whole Foods! My diffusers are from Amazon (and under $20!) and my roller balls are from TJ Maxx.

Well, there you have it! My tried-and-true methods to reaching inner peace and keeping your zen on, no matter where you are.

xoxo,

HB

 

 

 

What do your tattoos mean?

Oh how I just love getting asked this on a weekly basis…

Well – for those of you who have wondered (and those who don’t give a rat’s ass) – below I’ve laid out each tattoo and its special meaning to me. All three of my tattoos are on my right arm and belong to a theme: places I’ve lived that have impacted me in inexplicable ways.

Tattoo #1 – the key

Oh my beloved key. This one is a tribute to my second homeland: Germany. I first stepped foot in Germany when I was 13 years old. My family and I made the trip across the pond for the 2006 World Cup and I was absolutely in LOVE with the place. People were friendly, but not over-the-top, food was yummy and fresh and the weather was phenomenal – even in the summer, which was a major plus to this southern girl.

My junior year at KU, I studied abroad for a semester in Regensburg. I minored in German Studies in college and had planned on studying in Germany for a semester since I was in high school.

The six months I spent in Regensburg changed me in more ways than one. It was the first time I lived alone, and if you know me, you know I used to hate being alone. I did everything I could to stay busy and be surrounded by people to block out the damaging thoughts going on in my mind. I also first injured my back when I was living in Germany. There was no accident, no fall, just woke up one day with insufferable back pain and a searing burning feeling going all the way down my leg to my toes.

Great. Here I am, in this beautiful country, and I’m immobile. After three trips to the ER, two ambulance rides, three days in the hospital, a creepy male nurse who hit on me while changing my IV (and then proceeded to LOOK ME UP on Facebook from my patient file and BRING IT UP in conversation as if it was NORMAL), tests, MRI, etc. etc., I found out I had two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The doctor told me he wanted to operate on it but I said hellllll no! My family is 5,000+ miles away I am not having major surgery all alone.

Alone. Thats what I was – a 21-year-old American girl in a German hospital with no A/C, no hospital gown, just my three-day old clothes and a book: Eat, Pray, Love. (Shoutout to Elizabeth Gilbert  because her book kept me inspired when I really wanted to crawl into a black hole and never come out.)

Fast forward to pain managed by drugs and several awesome weekends traveling Europe and I still had the most incredible six months of my life that year. Aside from my foreign hospital experience, I learned how to live alone and enjoy it. I learned how to converse with locals in German. I learned how to navigate cities where I didn’t speak the local language. I learned what it meant to truly o p e n  your eyes and take in each and every moment; experiencing foreign cultures wholeheartedly. Once you immerse yourself in a new place, where you know nobody and have no connections, you find out how large our world is and how small you are.

So, why the key? 

Well, Regensburg’s flag is this:

source: wiki commons

But, I knew I wanted mine on the outside of my forearm, so I opted to have just the one key. Here’s mine:
My first tattoo. My tribute to Germany. My reminder that I can get through anything and come out stronger on the other side.

Tattoo #2 – the diamond

The smallest of my three tattoos, but the one nearest my heart. In case you didn’t know, I was born and raised in Arkansas. My grandparents, parents, three of my four siblings and all my nieces and nephews still live in Arkansas. In fact, they’re all within a 3-mile radius of each other. I know…we’re almost annoyingly close as a family. But I LOVE us Barlings for it. 🙂

Arkansas is where I had my first school dance, my first kiss, my first hike, my first soccer game. Putting it shortly: I experienced a lot of life’s big “firsts” in Arkansas. Family means more to me than anything  and my fondest memories reside in the Natural State. My diamond tattoo is a tribute to my childhood, my family, my home.

Tattoo #3 – the sunflower 

“Despite knowing they won’t be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives.” – the sunflower, by Rupi Kaur

Wow. What a beautiful thought and one I like to apply to real life. Most people are here on this planet for 100 years or less and in the grand scheme of things, that isn’t a very long time.

Sunflowers have always been my favorite flower. I hate how over-used roses are and would rather receive a sunflower any day. I’ve always been drawn to them; their bright colors, big “faces”, long stems. They stand tall and regal – proud.

The wild sunflower is also the state flower of Kansas, where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Those four years were a magical time. So many exciting and new endeavors. New friends, new hurdles, new accomplishments. My journalism career exploded at KU and I owe it all to my work at the University Daily Kansan.

Goals were made and reached. My life is forever changed after living in the beautiful hippie town of Lawrence, KS. My sunflower tattoo is my tribute to that stage in my life of constant learning and growing.

Well – there you have it: the meaning of my tattoos. Ultimately, these are for me and nobody else and if you have negative opinions about them I honestly couldn’t care less. 🙂

xoxo,

HB

 

Staying true to myself one bad day at a time

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the simplest way.” – Ernest Hemingway

What a beautiful sentiment. These words have resonated so deeply with me since I first came across them. The Old Man and the Sea was one of my favorite books in high school and I’ve always admired Hemingway for his writing, so when I came across this quote of his, I vibed with it.

While this was written decades ago, I see it ringing true here and now in 2018. Our country is in chaos, the president of the U.S. is the laughing stock of the world and the headlines in news get worse each day so intensely that we’ve become desensitized to horrific violence happening all over our world.

But, back to the quote above.

About a year or so ago, I told myself I would be honest about my feelings and not hide in my hurting anymore. Today, I don’t feel like donning my typical wide-mouthed smile. And that is OKAY. Am I moping around like Eeyore? No. But am I hiding behind a smile and saying “fine” or “good” when people ask how I’m doing? Also no.

Life is hard. It’s hard for everyone in different ways and on different days. On a hard day, the easy way out is to simply grin and bear it and hope for a new day tomorrow. Well – not today, junior!

Y’all know I struggle with anxiety and depression. I’m not shy about admitting it. But, it’s still hard on days when I’m down and don’t want to get up. My typical response is to laugh it off, act extra happy and hope I can convince myself that I truly am.

Well, here’s how I’m feeling today:

  • tired
  • lost
  • in pain

I woke up on Monday with back pain that I haven’t experienced since my surgery (for those of you who don’t know, I had back surgery Dec 2015 on two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine). While my pain level isn’t anywhere near what it was pre-surgery, it still sucks. I haven’t been sleeping very well this week because of the pain and the anxiety this pain is causing.

Broken. Let down. Failure.

That’s how I feel. I’m 25 years old – why the hell am I dealing with 65 year-old health issues?! I get stuck on that question a lot, “why?” or “why me?” But, this isn’t healthy thinking.

Healthy thinking is believing in yourself. It’s staying on task so you feel accomplished checking off your to-do list. It’s working on your full self: mind, body and spirit. So today, I’m letting myself hurt. I’m accepting the back pain I’m dealing with today and challenging myself for a better tomorrow.

I know this blog isn’t quite as strong or captivating as my others, but this is for me. I’m writing down here and now that I am working on myself, for myself, by myself and won’t stop until I feel like I’ve reached the top of this mountain.

                        xoxo,

HB

 

Please vote AGAINST current education reform in Arkansas

As I write this note from my office at the University of Texas at Dallas, I struggle to find where to begin, because the core of my being lies within the world of journalism.

I began writing for the school newspaper in 8th grade. Once I reached high school, I was thrilled to start taking journalism classes. From learning basic writing, editing and photography skills, to designing full spreads in the yearbook and overseeing a staff of 20+ students, my journalism education and experience at Southside High School in Fort Smith, AR, propelled me into my future. My senior year I was editor of the yearbook and really took my future in journalism seriously. The education I received from Southside, and the continued mentorship I have from Susan Colyer, the current journalism advisor, is unparalleled to any other experiences in my life thus far.

Because of my outstanding education in journalism in an Arkansas high school, I went on to work at the University Daily Kansan all four years of my undergraduate career at the University of Kansas. Starting out as an unpaid staff writer, I worked my way up the responsibility chain through various editorial roles and became the Digital Managing Editor by my senior year.

This would not have been possible without my journalism classes in high school.

Because of my experience at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas, I have landed jobs at two different digital agencies and now currently hold the title of Social Media Specialist for the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

This would not have been possible without my journalism experience at the University level, which solely stemmed from my education at Southside High School in Fort Smith, AR.

If this proposed education reform were to pass, it would be beyond hurtful to not only the current journalism classrooms, but also to future students who may never think to explore a career in journalism if they aren’t exposed in high school.

The future of digital journalism and education of such is my deepest passion, and I would be more than happy to discuss this more in depth. PLEASE vote AGAINST this education reform.

Sincerely,
Hannah Barling

Why is it so hard to love myself? 

Most of you who are reading this are probably thinking to yourself, “but she exudes confidence” or “she’s always so bubbly and happy to be here.” And most of the time I am happy to be where I am – I’ve always chosen to take the optimistic approach and try to find the silver linings in life. But realistically speaking, even the more sunshine-y people out there have bad days and question their worth.

Growing up the baby of a huge family, I’ve always tried to be louder (let’s be real, I didn’t have to try too hard to be loud) and get the most attention by nature. Working hard to be the best of whatever my latest venture was has always been my goal. Determined to succeed, I’ve held dozens of leadership roles in various student and non-student organizations since I was 15. I graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class, excelled in the Journalism School at KU, moved to Dallas to work at an international marketing agency, moved back to Arkansas to work at an agency closer to home, and now am once again residing in Dallas and employed by the University of Texas at Dallas, doing what I love.

I’m 25 years old. I have my own apartment, the world’s sweetest dog (not up for debate), live with my amazing boyfriend and have had dozens more experiences than your average 25-year-old.

BUT. For some reason, more often than not I criticize myself, my work and my place in life. The majority of these self-doubting thoughts are along the lines of “why am I not more successful” or “why don’t I have the perfect body” or “why can’t I figure my shit out!?”

And you know what I think is a large contributing factor to my self doubt in this day and age? The brutal culture and expectations modern day America has on people, especially women. Growing up I looked up to all the supermodels and A-list celebs who are all size 0 and wear designer everything. How ridiculous is that? Even when I was in my fitness prime, I still wore a size 9-10, knowing damn well I’d never look like the entertainers on TV.

But instead of looking at my accomplishments and giving myself that much-needed pat-on-the-back, self-criticism trumped all. Comparing oneself to another’s accomplishments or body or life in general is only going to do damage and harm to the soul.

Thankfully, a friend very near and dear to my heart reminded me of my self-worth today and inspired me to write this post. I know I’m not the only one out here who feels like their appearance and demeanor on the outside doesn’t match what’s truly going on inside and felt I needed to share these thoughts with my readers.

Anxiety plays a role in this dilemma for me, but even the women out there not living with mental illnesses struggle with loving themselves daily. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others and instead learn to relish in our accomplishments and be proud of them in a positive way.

After reflecting on this, here is my mantra for the week:

I am strong.
I am beautiful.
I am worthy.

xoxo,
HB

Learning to let go

Hello again, my beloved readers. I know I’ve abandoned you for a couple months and I’m sorry for that, but – life happens.

The last time I wrote I was pouring out my indecisive tendencies and wishy-washy thoughts, concerned I hadn’t made the right life decision. But honestly, like, who ever makes the right “life decision”? Does every moment we witness not contribute to the grander picture of “life”? Anyway, I’m not in the mood to go psycho-analytical right now so I’ll leave that thought there.

By now you’ve seen everyone’s 2018 resolution posts and you’re definitely ~so over~ them already. So I’ll spare you that portion of my blog and get straight to the good stuff. Sometimes life sucks and sometimes it’s beautiful and unfortunately fate is a thing and we have no real control over what happens to us in our daily lives.

The second half of my 2017 in a nutshell: I quit my job in Little Rock, moved back to Dallas to be with my boyfriend, with no new job lined up. So many undecideds in my life, but I chose love and I am forever grateful for that decision. Since the move, I’ve been working as a barista at Starbucks, freelance writing and social media working here and there, but mainly, I’ve been lost. Emotionally, spiritually, physically – lost.

After some major soul searching (which, by the way, I’m still working on) I’ve decided how much I miss having more control over my life. I’ve let my barista schedule run my life, using my days off as an excuse to be lazy, and never giving myself the time and effort I needed and deserved to focus on me and my goals. When I’m not in control is when my anxiety really tries to take over. However, these past few months have been good for me in that struggle. Learning to let go of what is out of my control, while staying focused on what I can control is what I’m working on.

That being said, it’s time I take back control of my life. I was born to be successful. I’m social, outgoing, entertaining and determined to succeed in my personal and professional life. Every day, I’m promising myself to wake up and try my best to be happy and do whatever it takes to get there. I did not work my ass off and graduate from one of the top journalism schools in the country *Rock Chalk Jayhawk!* to be mediocre. One day, I’ll have bylines in magazines or on websites you read all the time.

I deserve happiness and success and I need to remind myself of that more often. Shoutout to my day ones who still cheer me on even while I am lost and confused and feel at a standstill. TRUST – y’all will be hearing from me more often.

xoxo,

HB

Does anyone think in black and white?

Less than 5 hours from now, I’ll be getting ready for another day in the world of Hannah. So naturally, my brain is going a mile a minute and I’m sitting here having lost a debate with sleep.

With too many things on my mind to simply list out, I’ll start with the one weighing heaviest: what the hell am I doing with my life? I know this may seem like a blanketed thought – and it is to a certain degree – but right now it’s more direct than usual. As I’ve shared with you all, I recently made a decision to step back from the corporate world, let my mind decompress and start a new part-time job as a barista.

This may sound like a fabulous beginning to an empowering drama, but sadly, my life is not a film and there’s no winning lottery ticket in sight. The immediate questions that pop into my mind tonight are: Is this going to work out? Am I going to have enough money to make ends meet comfortably and have fun? Did I make the right decision to move without a job lined up?

Different questions, all obtaining the same answer: I don’t know.

Now I’m judging myself for not knowing, because I’m 24 years old and should have a better idea in which direction to go, but then I remind myself I’m not a future teller and need to chill the fuck out. This 30-second thought train (anxiety is fun and may or may not include thinking 12 thoughts at once) has led me to a grander question: Does anyone think in black and white?

I truly want to know, because I’m not sure I’ve ever made a decision I was 100 percent sure of. Envious of those who seem to have a simpler way of decision making, I’m curious to know if anyone else has a dozen questions for each statement or thought that crosses their minds.

Of course, nobody knows what lies ahead because life happens and we can never be fully in control. We must simply ride the wave. But do some of you out there think more in terms of black and white, yes or no, instead of constantly lingering in the grey area? Because if so – teach me your witch-crafting ways.

I realize this blog is far different from my last one, which proudly disclosed my new life adventures. However, I promised myself I would be as transparent as possible, because I am so SICK of people on social media only portraying their good side and making their followers think life is purely happy all the time. So, here I am at midnight writing about my insecurities and second guesses.

What I have to remind myself is that time never stops and even if I never truly grasp this big ole meaning of life, the most important thing is to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, living life with a purpose. And that is what I promise to continue to strive for.