Free Self-Care Apps

For the last few days I’ve been exploring the App Store in an attempt to find some free mindfulness, meditation, and journaling apps. I expected that a lot would be limited and offer a more robust, premium option. At first I was thrilled at all the options there were. Then I realized that most of them were disgustingly dishonest. They appeared to be free, at least partially, only to reveal upon download that you had to sign up for a monthly membership to access literally any of the features. After downloading over a dozen different apps only to be disappointed, I decided to share the two I did manage to find.

One – Breathwork: Breathing Exercises

Breathwrk | Breathing Exercises

After seeing the other options out there, I am even more impressed than I initially was by this incredible, completely free, app. This app has a smooth, pleasant, minimalist design. It’s very easy to navigate. There are so many options available for anyone interested in pranayama, whether they be an experienced yogi or a total beginner. I think this app would be great for kids as well! There are short breathing exercises available to help you get into whatever kind of headspace you’d like. There are targeted practices for energy, relaxation, sleep, focus, etc. Each exercise also comes with calming background music and a guided visualization to help you focus on your inhale and exhale and make sure you are extending or holding for the suggested amount of time. It also contains breathwork courses, progress trackers, and reminders. There is a premium version, but it is not pushed on you, nor is it really necessary to experience all the wonderful benefits.

Two – Instar Affirmation Writer

Instar Affirmation Writer App Ranking and Store Data | App Annie

This app is another super helpful tool to have if you are trying to work on becoming more mindful, intentional person. Not only does this app give you a handful of free affirmations and the ability to save them to a catalogue that you can break up into categories, it also teaches you how to craft your own personalized affirmations. As you type out the words, the app will give you general prompts such as, “first person”, and highlight the positive areas of what you’ve written in green and the less beneficial words in red. These might be words we often use without thinking such as: have to, should, must, etc. You are given the option to add a photo and record an audio file of you speaking the affirmation as well. Not only does this assist you in making affirmations that resonate with you and your personal goals, it also helps us recognize our self sabotaging language and be more mindful of the way we speak to ourselves and others. This app allows you to take an active role in reframing your mind.


Given how much time and effort I had to put in just to find these two free apps, I appreciate them all the more. There is nothing more irritating than trying to find support and tools for self-improvement and finding sickening marketing tactics and thinly veiled manipulation instead. I highly recommend you download these two, honest, helpful apps if you are interested in using technology to help you incorporate more mindfulness into your day. Support developers like these that are actually offering a worthwhile service to people that need it, instead of using their vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of someone and make a quick buck.

The Beautiful Absurdity of Life

If you haven’t watched Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special, Inside, you need to go watch it. It is truly a work of art. I haven’t been able to stop singing/listening to his songs for days now. It is surprisingly profound and meaningful while also highlighting the hilarious absurdity of it all. It’s beautifully put together visually and musically. It is the perfect representation of the collective experience of humanity throughout the pandemic. It touches on so many important aspects from mental health to the unsettling advancements of technology to climate change to awareness of social issues.

The best part of the special in my opinion is that just when you start to feel weighed down by some of the heavier topics, he bursts into these little Jeff Bezos songs that absolutely kill me. It’s like, yes, the world is falling apart, your mental health is crumbling, life is full of stress and uncertainty and injustice and death, but hey, Jeffrey Bezos! He’s killing it. He’s doing great. Good for him. It’s too perfect. It’s a reminder that no matter how bad things get, we can still find so much to laugh about. We can still find amusement in the strangest places. We can step back and enjoy the delicious ridiculousness of it all.

Never lose sight of that sense of humor. I’m the first to admit that I have the tendency to take life far too seriously. I struggle to make even the most benign decisions because I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I’ve spent years stewing in anger and anxiety about things that I, ultimately, have no control over. While political and social issues are, of course, important, it’s not worth agonizing over every second. Planning and doing the work to improve your life and take good care of yourself matters, but not if you never actually take a moment to find joy in the simple things.

Above all, most of us want to be happy. We have a lot of ideas about what we need to do to ensure that we are and that we don’t “waste” this gift of life. But unfortunately at some point, we all lose sight of the reason we are doing all the things we do. We forget that while we may start with the best intentions, in the end, we don’t have to do anything to be happy, besides allow ourselves to be. We end up making ourselves miserable with the very things we began with the intention of making ourselves happy.

Despite all the pain and suffering in the world and all of my own personal issues, I still truly believe that joy and happiness are the true essence of life. We are all here to explore, learn, and enjoy. Laughter is one of the greatest gifts that we’ve been given. It would be a shame if we didn’t let ourselves have some every day. So make sure that you find time to laugh today! There are so many reasons to be depressed and anxious and angry, but despite it all, there are just as many reasons to be happy and grateful. It’s up to us where to place our focus. I, for one, want to make an effort to enjoy as many moments here as I can.

Inside,” Reviewed: Bo Burnham's Virtuosic Portrait of a Mediated Mind | The  New Yorker

Perspectives on The Age of Innocence

I love to read classic books, especially ones written by female authors. I just recently finished reading The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This book was, not surprisingly, absolutely heart-wrenching like many other classic novels. It seems like none of the great works of literature ever seem to have a happy ending. Yet somehow that makes them all the more poignant and real. It allows you to empathize and relate to the characters in a powerful, emotional way. When you read a good book, it almost feels like you’re making new friends. Which makes it all the more painful when things don’t turn out as you had hoped for them.

This particular book struck me in a way that a book hasn’t in a long time. I was so moved by this great work of literature that I just had to write about my thoughts. So here is your official spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t read it. While I found this book simply heart-breaking, I understand that not everyone may see it the same way. I found myself swaying back and forth between a couple different perspectives.

To me, this book was a tragedy. I desperately hoped that somehow, against all odds, Newland Archer and Ellen Olenska would be together in the end. At the same time, I found myself feeling sorry for Archer’s wife, May. She was not the wicked woman some books may have written her as. She was a perfectly lovely, respectable woman that certainly didn’t deserve to be abandoned by Archer as I, nevertheless, hoped would happen. And in the end she isn’t. Although it could be argued that his love alone for another woman was a betrayal. Still, he remains faithful to her and their family until the end of May’s life.

Some may think this book did have a happy ending. Instead of cheating or leaving his wife, Archer did the “right” thing. He stayed. He did what society expected of him. He honored his commitments. But at what cost? He really had no good options. Either he abandoned his family and his wife to pursue passionate love, or he sacrificed that love for the sake of others and to live his life as a sham. In the end he chose the latter, and honestly, I’m not sure if that was the right decision or not. I can’t say what I would have chosen, myself. Perhaps his love for Ellen was only so passionate because it was forbidden and out of reach. Maybe if he had thrown everything away for her he would have found only disappointment and resentment rather than true love.

The most upsetting part of the story for me was that I saw my own life within it. It sounds wretched and narcissistic to say it out loud, but I saw myself as Ellen and my ex boyfriend as Archer. (Perhaps in a desperate attempt to console myself for not being the one he chose in the end.) My ex chose to stay with his new girlfriend, as I see it, primarily because they had an accidental child together. Even though he had expressed to me just how much less compatible they are than he and I were. Luckily for me, I’ve found someone else to love and be with. I’m not sure if Ellen ever did. However, my heart broke for Archer as it does now and then for my ex. What a wasted life. What a sad, phony existence, to have sacrificed such a love. I foresee him as an old man some day, filled with regrets and “what ifs.” Then again, who am I to say. Perhaps we are both better off this way.

The Age of Innocence | Book by Edith Wharton, Colm Toibin | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

Tito the Anxiety Mosquito

If you haven’t watched the animated Netflix series Big Mouth, then you need to. Especially if you were a fan of BoJack Horseman. I feel that both of these shows are surprisingly profound and insightful, while also being funny and entertaining. Also the meaningful themes within both shows seem to sneak up on you and catch you with your guard down in a way that really allows them to make an emotional impact.

While Big Mouth is about the trials and tribulations of adolescence, puberty, and growing up, it is also much more than just your every day “coming of age” story. No matter what age you are (hopefully 18 or older if you’re watching this show) you will be able to relate to each character on a personal level. To me, nothing is better than having complex, dualistic characters that truly reflect what it’s like to be a real person. These characters make huge mistakes, they act selfishly, they act cruelly, but they also learn and grow, they have personal struggles that go unseen by the others around them. Ultimately they are just trying, and often failing, to be good people. Just like we all are.

The reason I wanted to write about this show today though is because of a specific new character in the latest season, Tito. In previous seasons we were introduced to Kitty Beaumont Bouchet, the personification of depression. However, in the season four, we are finally given the personification of anxiety. Tito is a nasal voiced, pathetic, buzzing mosquito. He is both portrayed on his own and in a swarm depending on the intensity of the anxiety being experienced.

I am not sure why exactly, but ever since watching this new season, I have been obsessed with and excited by this character. It is one of those things that you see and can’t believe you never thought of it yourself. Tito is the perfect physical manifestation of how anxiety feels. The voice, the behavior, the insect chosen. All of these things are so accurate. Anxiety is just as annoying and persistent as a mosquito buzzing around your head, making more and more itchy little bumps on your skin and driving you insane despite countless attempts to swat it away. From this day forward, I am definitely going to be imagining that anxious voice in my head as Tito the Anxiety Mosquito.

I think that being able to visualize these aspects of ourselves as separate entities can be so helpful. It gives us space between ourselves and our anxiety or depression. It helps us to remember that we don’t have to take it so seriously. I have been getting a laugh out of imagining Tito chomping onto my neck while apologizing nervously. It’s a welcome relief when I am feeling overwhelmed by anxious thoughts.

Ishmael

ISHMAEL An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Daniel Quinn) book | |  Modaville

A friend at work told me about a book called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn a while ago, and I’ve just gotten around to reading it finally. I honestly wish I had done it sooner. This has got to be one of the best things that I have read. It is comparable, in my opinion, with A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I recommend them both highly.

Ishmael is the name of a gorilla. He is highly intelligent and is able to communicate with certain human beings. The majority of the 160 page book is a conversation, or perhaps a lesson would be a more accurate description, between Ishmael and a human he has taken on as his student.

This lesson is all about the idea of human exceptionalism and how it is quickly leading us to our own demise, along with the demise of the rest of the planet. While this book is technically a fictional story, I view it as almost a philosophy book. One that is written in a much more digestible and enjoying way than most. While the main points of the story are things I have believed for basically my entire life, there were still tons of fascinating perspectives and explanations of how things came to be the way they are now.

I won’t give any spoilers or go into too much detail about what is said in the book. However, if you’re at all curious, I encourage you to check it out. It is a very quick read, full of so many enthralling, profound ideas. I’ll leave a link to the free PDF I found of it online.

After finishing the book this morning, I am eager to read more from Daniel Quinn. Let me know if you’ve read this book or any of his other work. It isn’t often that I find a book so meaningful and important. I was so inspired and excited by it that I simply have to share it with as many people as I can. I hope that you’ll check it out and be moved to share it as well!

My Vegan Dog: Food & Treats Review

When I adopted my sweet daughter Sybil in December of 2016, she was basically a sphere. Her plump little body was unstably supported on her short little legs. She could hardly fit in my lap when I first picked her up in the shelter. The shelter workers even seemed concerned about her weight and informed me that her previous owner told them “she loves table scraps.”

Upon her arrival at my home, I assumed it would be no problem getting her to eat. However, Sybil seemed to be totally uninterested in any type of dog food that I offered her. I began to wonder if her previous owner only gave her human food. I knew that dogs were omnivorous and could live and thrive on a plant-based diet. It had been my intention since deciding to adopt a dog to feed it vegan dog food. So I ordered the most affordable brand I could find online.

I could not have been more excited when the Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula canned and dry food I ordered her from Amazon arrived. At first I was skeptical of whether or not she would be accepting of this new food. But since she already wasn’t eating normal dog food I figured it was worth a try. To my surprise and delight, Sybil seemed to love her new food!

After only a few months on her new diet I began to notice miraculous changes in Sybil’s health. She rapidly began to shed her excess weight and is now a lean, energetic, and extremely mobile pup. Sybil also had terrible dandruff when I got her from the shelter. Now her coat is sleek, shiny, and free of that pesky dry skin. It’s hard for me to say, but I can’t help but think she even smells better now.

It is a bit pricier than average dog food, but I would definitely recommend switching your pets onto a vegan formula. There aren’t many studies out there yet surrounding this approach, but from my experience I truly believe it can drastically improve your dog’s health and longevity. Knowing that even the best, prime cuts of meat are detrimental to human health, it makes me shudder to think what the meat byproducts and random garbage ingredients in normal dog food is doing to our pets.

Sadly Sybil’s sister is an obligate carnivore, which means she must eat meat to survive. I try to give her the highest quality cat food I can. However, it can be difficult due to her picky pallet. I hope to one day feed her a natural raw diet, but it will always weigh heavy on my heart that cats require their owners to purchase meat products. Maybe eventually there will be a compassionate alternative. Until then I will do my best to keep both of my babies healthy and happy.

Anti-Anxiety Medication Review: Paxil

i-cant-keep-calm-i-have-social-anxiety

 

Today I decided it was finally time to give Paxil the accurate and honest review it deserves. I, along with many others, suffer from social anxiety and have for my entire life. It is a constant and ever-present burden. Even the most simple activities become daunting tasks that you would do absolutely anything to avoid. I felt handicapped in everyday situations. When you are young, it seems merely frustrating. However, as I matured and began transitioning into the world of adulthood which included, important phone calls, job interviews, and other significant interactions, I found myself unable to lead a normal life.

That is when I decided to seek professional help. I went to my doctor and she prescribed me an SSRI for anxiety and depression called Paxil. At first I was very nervous and skeptical. Online Paxil did not seem to be receiving very positive reviews. The possible side-effects included such horrific things as: Abnormal bleeding or bruising, blurred vision, hallucinations, peeling or blistering of skin, enlarged skin (whatever the hell that could mean), sudden muscle twitching or jerking that you cannot control, and seizures. Needless to say I was hesitant, but regardless of my fears, I decided to give it a try. I couldn’t continue to live in paralyzing fear of the most common situations. 

After about a few months of taking Paxil regularly and having my dosage raised a few times, I began to notice miraculous changes. Neither I, nor anyone else that I met taking Paxil had experienced any of the unsettling side-effects of the drug. We did, however, experience life changing benefits. I no longer feel any type of anxiety in social situations. I am free to be myself in every aspect of my life. I am never sickeningly nervous before or after leaving work. I receive and make phone calls without a second thought. I no longer feel the need to mentally rehearse responses to questions in restaurants or doctors’ offices. I am free to make and cancel appointments without stress. I am even able to ask questions to sales persons or even strangers to gain needed information! I feel more positive and relaxed in every area of my life. I feel confident!

I felt that I owed it to all of the others out there suffering from social anxiety to post a positive review of this medication. It has changed my life and I am thankful everyday. Sometimes it is hard to even remember what it was like to feel so nervous all the time. My life has opened up in so many ways. I never even knew just how much of a burden my anxiety was until it was gone. I highly recommend Paxil to anyone who is suffering from any type of anxiety or depression. I hope that it will help you as much as it has helped me. ^_^