It’s Self-Improvement Month! Here are easy(ish) ways I’m trying to be a better human being

This morning, something made me feel like going on a run. It was a super bizarre feeling, considering I dislike running. I dislike it very much. When I run, all I can think about is not running. But for some reason, this specific morning I woke up and just…felt like running. So I threw on my Nikes and started my playlist and just casually went out the door and did a 5K without even realizing it.

Going on a 30-minute morning run is something that a lot of people do every day without a second thought. But for me, it’s a damn big deal. When I first moved to San Francisco a few months ago, it had probably been at least two years since I had gone on a run- and not like a 20-minute stint on the treadmill before kickboxing class. I mean an honest-to-God run outside where I run with the full intention of doing my best and going as far as I can.

When I moved here, I looked around at the Golden Gate Bridge, at the ocean views, at the beauty of my city, and I knew it would be a crime if I didn’t at least try to become a runner while I can run by the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE. So I started by running for 10 minutes (yeah, 10 minutes, I totally sucked, okay? But like, everyone sucks when they start something, right?), and then for 15, and then for 20. I downloaded the Nike run app for motivation and before I knew it, I got into a rhythm of running 3-4 times a week, and I was getting farther and farther. After just one month in, I could run 5 miles and not die. I legitimately felt like an Olympic champion. And today I got up and ran 5K without even noticing it. In the next two months I’ll probably get to 10K, and then within six months of starting to run I’ll be able to run a half marathon. All this because I just wanted to give it a try.

This all brings us to the whole point of trying to do things like running, which is that we all want to be our best selves. We’re all looking for ways to improve ourselves, whether we want to be better at our jobs, better at our health and wellness, better partners and friends, better learners. This is why there are so many industries dedicated to self-improvement, and you can probably think of a few things off the top of your head that you’ve spent money on for self-improvement- I know I’ve bought a yoga membership to get better at fitness and mindfulness, pre-made meals at Trader Joe’s to get better at spending less money on takeout, and even a subscription to the New York Times, just to do a better job of staying informed from a credible source.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the little ways I can be a better self- not a better version of myself trying to be like someone else (there is a DIFFERENCE people), but just a better me. A better Alex doesn’t necessarily mean better at sports or better at cooking. A better Alex means I take time to read more. I take care of my mental health. I spend more time on the things that are important to me, like my career and my family.

Here are some of the little steps I’ve taken (and that you can take) toward your better self:

Wellness

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  • Download the Headspace app to practice mindfulness
  • Start journaling, even just in bullets
  • Stop obsessing about things that upset you. Let things go. It’s fine.
  • Pick up all of the clutter in your room. All. of. it. Clutter in your physical space causes clutter in your brain.
  • Call your family.
  • If you have a bad headache, take an Advil instead of just sitting there trying to tough it out. You are accomplishing nothing. Take the Advil.
  • Spend more time just listening to new music and discovering bands you like instead of complaining that “there’s no new music that’s good anymore”
  • Reach out to a friend you’ve lost contact with.
  • Go on more walks during the day, even just a 10-minute walk in the middle of a busy workday

Fitness/Health

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  • Go on a run- even if it’s just a short run, it’s better than if you had never ran at all
  • Show up at the grocery store with a grocery LIST and have meals planned out (I have a bad habit of just running in with no plan and I end up making dumb purchases like frozen mac ‘n cheese bites)
  • Switch afternoon coffee for green tea
  • Drink more water. And then drink more.
  • Put at least one vegetable in every meal. No more popcorn for dinner. Or if it is popcorn, at least eat it with carrots?
  • Eat almonds NOT chocolate covered almonds FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST
  • Try a new fun workout once a month, like aerial yoga or hip hop
  • Laugh more! Watch more funny Netflix shows, go to a comedy night at the neighborhood bar, talk on the phone with your hilarious friend

Learning

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  • Learn a new skill in just one day- there are so many fun, free online classes that only take a few hours. Like this one on graphic design.
  • Stop by Barnes & Noble and buy an actual book. Yeah, books are like $15 but also how much did you spend last night on drinks? Okay? Okay.
  • Subscribe to a newsletter on something you don’t know anything about.
  • Go to a museum. Any museum. It can be the Art Institute or it can be a historic vibrator museum for all I care. You’ll learn something.
  • Watch a documentary or a “Netflix Explained” video instead of another episode of Sex and the City or Gossip Girl
  • Take a tour of something in your city that you’d normally ignore. I recently went to Coit Tower in San Francisco, which is a 20-minute walk away from my apartment, and it turns out the tower is full of these incredible historic murals that I never would have seen if I hadn’t decided to “be touristy.” And it was like $6.
  • Play games on the Peak brain training app.

Career

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  • Tell a coworker you appreciate them. It’s literally as easy as sending a quick “I appreciate you” over Slack or Gchat or IM or whatever you use these days.
  • Don’t do any work the whole weekend. Don’t think about work. Don’t try to work ahead. Just give yourself an actual break. (normal people do this anyways but I’m a workaholic so)
  • Raise your hand for a project that is scary and sounds like a pain in the ass
  • Speak up in a meeting, even if you think you’ll sound stupid. You probably won’t sound stupid, you’ll sound engaged. And anyways, why are you so worried about looking stupid? Stop that nonsense.
  • Spend a solid two hours a week just getting organized and doing administrative stuff. Like filling in spreadsheets or getting to Inbox Zero on your email. The stuff you hate and normally put off. This is the best gift you can give your future self.
  • Volunteer to attend an industry event, like a speaking panel or cocktail networking hour, which might sound like hell but actually could make a huge impact even if you just meet one new person.

Style/Beauty

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  • Read an issue of Vogue just like you used to when you were in middle school and high school, and you were excited about the different trends
  • Keep up with your skincare routine instead of getting mad at yourself when a zit pops up (it’s probably because you didn’t wash your face like you were supposed to)
  • Go to the mall more. Yes, go to the mall more. (Another Alex goal, since I have a habit of never letting myself splurge on my wardrobe. Which sounds great, but in reality I need more clothes and I forget how much I love Topshop). It’s okay to buy nice things sometimes.
  • Your eyelashes don’t have to be perfect every day. They just don’t.
  • Keep dressing up for work, even if you work in tech and you’re allowed to wear a sweatshirt. It feels good to look professional and polished.
  • Do your nails more. Plz.

Those are just some of the small things I’ve been trying to do to be a better me! Happy Self-Improvement Month, and holler if you have your own ideas for becoming a better you!

XO,

CC

Decision fatigue: What it is and how to fight it

Every day, we are bombarded with decisions, big or small. If you really think about it, it’s a miracle we don’t go completely insane.

Think about just your morning: You decide whether to get out of bed or hit snooze. You decide what to wear. You decide whether to respond to an email. You decide what bus to catch, or if you want to walk, or drive. You decide what makeup you wear and what hairstyle you feel like putting effort into and then when you get to the office, you decide what task you’re going to tackle first, if you’re not already stuck deciding what to grab for breakfast.

And this is all before 9 a.m.

I am the world’s most indecisive person, no matter what the decision is. I’m such a classic overthinker that I can’t even decide between two colors of a top at Forever 21, and then I end up either buying both, or neither, or I just go with black. So I end up with a lot of black in my closet.

It also means I exhaust myself every day. We all do. We tire ourselves out just from making decisions all day. Judges do it when deciding cases. Quarterbacks do it during games. You just can’t keep deciding and deciding things all day, without it taking a toll. This whole situation is called decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is basically the phenomenon that making decisions all day will eventually exhaust you and deplete your willpower and self-control, so you start making dumb decisions just from being tired of it all. Hence buying Cheetos at the grocery store when you meant to stick to broccoli, or in my case, going with the color black because I can’t pick between blue and pink. We feel overwhelmed because in modern times we’ve got so many choices (as opposed to cavewoman days, when your dinner was what you managed to catch that night, and not one of the million ridiculous concoctions at Trader Joe’s).

The good news is that once you know about it, you can start making your life easier. So, knowing we get tired of decisions, what can we do about it?

How to fight decision fatigue

Never make decisions on an empty stomach.

Research shows that when we’re hangry, we’re more likely to make bad decisions. Glucose levels might actually affect your ability to make decisions (if you’re low on sugar, you’re low on willpower). So grab a Snickers bar the next time you’re not feeling like yourself. Because as Snickers already knows, you’re not you when you’re hungry.

Sleep on it when you’re tired.

If you have a big decision to make and it’s late in the day and you just can’t think anymore…don’t. Just stop and make the decision later. That’s why “sleep on it” is a thing: You wake up each morning with a clearer head and no decision fatigue. And if sleep isn’t an option? Take at least ten minutes for a walk, free of any devices or distracting thoughts. It will give your brain a break.

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Simplify your life where you can.

You know how Steve Jobs famously wore the same outfit all the time, or how Obama only wore blue and gray suits while president? This eliminated that wardrobe decision and they could spend more energy on important decisions. And while you might not be able to show up to work every day in the same outfit, you can at least pare down your choices (hint: start with a capsule wardrobe). Maybe you can spend a little more time meal prepping on Sundays so you don’t have to decide what to do for lunch every day. Or you can decide on a set morning routine so that you don’t deplete yourself within just a couple hours of being awake.

Get organized.

The fewer things you have on your desk, the better you’ll feel. Even if you aren’t a neat freak, it can often clutter your brain just to have physical clutter in your environment. With to-do lists and notebooks and all kinds of paperwork, your mind will just keep turning to those things and flipping the switch too much. Just get rid of it. Clear your space and you’ll be able to focus more on the decisions that matter.

Take away the fear that your decision is irreversible.

99% of the decisions we make are not permanent. If I end up hating something I bought, I can return it. Even for a bigger choice, like moving to a new city, I can always just move somewhere else. We often get stuck thinking that a decision is the end-all be-all, when it usually isn’t at all. Ask yourself: What’s the worst case scenario? What happens if I make the “wrong” decision? If the answer is something like, “I won’t enjoy my lunch as much as I would have if I’d gone with the other restaurant” then you should probably spend like five minutes on that choice, max.

Limit your choices. 

Can’t decide what to get at Starbucks? Tell yourself you can get either an iced coffee or a vanilla latte. Choosing between two eyeshadow palettes? Pick one factor that’s most important to you- like price- and decide based on that one important factor. Writing a blog post and can’t decide on a topic? Put yourself in a box and limit yourself to a prompt or theme- for example, “Self-Care Sunday.”

Paralyzed at Forever 21? Well, I can’t help you there, the place is a madhouse.


More awesome reading on decision fatigue:


Do you feel like you’re affected by decision fatigue? Tell me more so I feel better about my own overthinking brain!

XO,

CC

 

Starbucks + Beauty Pairings: Matcha-needed stress relief

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I’m stoked to introduce my newest series, Starbucks + Beauty Pairings! When beverages and beauty products share the same ingredients, I can’t help but put two and two together.

Today we’re sippin’ on the Starbucks matcha green tea latte, while we use the world’s most relaxing green tea sprays and scrubs. Green tea is an antioxidant, which makes it the ultimate natural skincare ingredient. It not only soothes your skin, but it also has anti-aging benefits, so it’s no wonder that beauty brands put it in products like face masks and lotions and Starbucks puts it in a latte. You can have it all!

I’ve been on something of a wellness kick lately, from going on longer runs to eating actual quinoa. San Francisco is changing me, people. I don’t know what’s happening, but I feel better, so I think it’s good? Anyways, part of my new lifestyle involves more matcha green tea. I always loved the matcha green tea smoothie at Jamba Juice (my tried-and-true hangover cure), but never actually drank green tea on a regular basis.

Now that I’m an Adult with a capital A, working a Real Full-Time Job, I haven’t had the time to take care of myself that I did in college. Or so I thought. Then I realized taking care of yourself doesn’t necessarily mean big life changes- it can just mean making little decisions every day that improve your well-being. Like going on a quick walk just to get outside. Or…drinking matcha green tea instead of my usual coffee.

Pair that with incredible skincare, and you’re on your way to Namaste in no time!

 

Starbucks + Beauty Pairings: Matcha-Needed Stress Relief

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Mario Badescu Facial Spray: This does so many things at once, it’s ridiculous. It can work as a primer, setting spray, and even hairspray. The aloe soothes your face while the green tea works its magic.

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MILK Makeup Matcha Cleanser: If your skin gets red, this one’s for you. The Matcha Cleanser exfoliates and calms redness. It also hydrates, a major plus for the drier fall and winter months.

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Green Tea Matcha Mud Mask: Love me a good mud mask, and this one has all the benefits of green tea: anti-aging, antioxidant goodness. I love doing a face mask at least once a week, and since I have acne-prone skin I’ll do an intense clay mask every other week (to exfoliate the crap out of my pores) and then alternate it with a soothing one like this.

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The Body Shop Tea Tree Face Wash: Tea tree oil is known to help clear up skin- whenever I feel a zit coming on, this stuff usually does the trick. It does a deep clean and leaves your skin feeling less shiny and more refreshed.

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Earth Therapeutics Green Tea Konjac Sponge: A beauty sponge with green tea in it?! Yep! Just use it with warm water like you would any other face sponge. It feels amazing and does double duty since it has K-beauty ingredients like charcoal. This one’s also on sale right now!


 

Hope you enjoyed my first installment of Starbucks + Beauty Pairings! Now go get a matcha green tea latte and pick up some green tea products so you can feel like an absolute wellness GURU without even having to run. That’s what I call happiness.

XO,

CC

 

How I Actually Kept my New Year’s Resolution to Work Out 5 Times a Week

What do ballet and boxing have in common? They both keep you on your toes.

I wanted to do a post about my workouts, and it occurred to me that my workouts are kind of not normal. I do about three hours of ballet a week– honest to God ballet, with pirouettes and all– and two hours of boxing and turbo kick, with a few classes in power yoga, pilates or Insanity to even it out.

But it’s pretty darn perfect, and I’m going to tell you why.

It started with my New Year’s Resolution to work out more. Basic AF but necessary. As a former competitive dancer and cheerleader, I used to be super tough and toned, but now my college years have started catching up to me. I was starting to feel blah this year. Like, panting after walking up stairs blah. And while I normally love my body shape, I was not feeling myself. There’s a difference between self love and body positivity, and realizing your abs got lost somewhere between your first and last frat party over the past four years. 

So I finally got into that “I need to make a change” mindset that most people get in January. But I’m stubborn and I was determined to stay in that mindset through February, March, April, May, June and happily ever after.

So I gave myself a concrete goal (I respond well to concrete goals) and said that I would work out five times a week.

And while it’s only February, I feel like I’ve finally turned into one of those Gym People. I’m like that Workout Person Friend who gets other people to come work out. I’m actually a good influence for once. Other than my transformation into a Morning Person, this was probably the most shocking lifestyle change I’ve ever made.

Here’s the deal, though. You can’t just tell yourself to work out five times a week and then automatically be like, Oh, yeah, now that you say so, I’ll totally go work out five times a week. There are a lot of tricks to keeping your mindset.

10 Commandments for Becoming a Workout Person

  1. Thou shalt not make excuses. This is a common truism of those gym inspiration Instagram posts: No excuses. It’s a truism because it’s TRUE. If you keep telling yourself you have homework or a dinner or you’re tired, it’s the same as telling yourself that your fitness is not a priority. Treat your workouts like you would important dates. Because this is a date with your HEALTH and that’s more important than anything else.
  2. Pick forms of exercise that you actually like. Just because you see someone else on a treadmill doesn’t mean you have to run on a treadmill. Running on a treadmill makes me personally want to cry within five minutes.
  3. Use the power of peer pressure. If you go to a Pilates class every week where the instructor is awesome and knows you, you’ll feel more guilty missing that class. If you bring friends to your workouts, you’re less likely to bail. And if you verbally tell someone you are going to the gym, you will feel more obligated to actually go to the gym.
  4. Do workouts that show results. I started boxing because I can see the physical results of my body getting stronger and more powerful. And also because Adriana Lima does boxing. The first week I started, I was hitting like a total wimp (not hitting like a girl. I don’t know where that expression came from. Girls hit HARD. And they can kick harder). Now, I can punch and kick that punching bag across the room. The feeling of making progress is so satisfying that you will be motivated to keep going to your workouts each time.
  5. Switch up your routine. If you stop showing up to work out, you might be getting bored. This is why I do a lot of different workouts: HIIT, yoga, Pilates, Insanity, ballet, boxing, all that fun stuff. It’s good to have your core workouts, but sometimes it’s good to throw in a fun new thing.
  6. Block out time in your calendar. I have my schedule set up so that I’m going to the same classes each week, so that my friends and coworkers know that I do not joke around with going to ballet every Thursday. If you don’t do workouts in a class setting– maybe you run or you practice yoga at home– you should still be doing your workouts in the same times consistently each week.
  7. If you absolutely must miss a workout, make it up another day. I usually do yoga every Thursday, but things come up, and if I truly have to go to an important meeting or travel, I add another workout in on a different day. Again: No excuses!
  8. Thou shalt invest in cute workout clothes. This is a serious one. I love Victoria Sport and of course Lululemon, but most stores carry cute fitness clothes since athleisure is a thing and it is beautiful. If you spend money on a cute bra and gym bag and yoga mat, you’re more likely to use it. Same goes for buying a gym membership or paying for classes!
  9. Reward thyself. You are doing something good for your body and you deserve to feel good about it. Don’t be afraid to grab ice cream once a week each time you meet your goal. Honestly what’s the point of working out if you’re going to deprive yourself too? Just don’t overdo it on the syrup.
  10. Love thyself. Remember that your fitness goals are all about you and loving you. The more you work out and fulfill your goals, the better you will feel. In the words of Elle Woods:

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Enjoy your endorphins! Have you discovered any secrets to sticking to your workout goals?

XO,

CC

Nailing the Morning Routine

Somewhere between my first year of college and first year of grad school, the unthinkable happened: I became a Morning Person.

I’d always thought Morning People were evil because only the devil could feel so alive at such an ungodly hour.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and last summer I finally had the necessity to get to my summer PR internship bright and early, with a smile on my face, a polished outfit and the ability to jump right into whatever crisis was already happening at 7:30 a.m. So I had to trick myself into becoming a Morning Person. And that was when I realized that Morning People have it MADE. Why? Several reasons:

  • No one bothers you until around 9:30, so you can actually have time to yourself to knock a few tasks out before you get sucked into meetings and new tasks
  • You’re the first one in the office, so you get automatic points just for showing up and being there early. People notice that. They also notice when you rush in out of breath at 9:45 and get to the meeting unprepared.
  • It gives you back an extra hour or two to do personal things like meditate, work out, make a good breakfast, read, or whatever else makes you happy. #selfcare

So it’s obviously beneficial to be an evil Morning Person. But how do you do it? It’s all in the routine. You can’t just start doing these things, you have to establish it as a habit. Just like going to the gym is a habit (a habit that you might even pick up better if you start a morning routine).

A Caffeinated Californian Morning

6:30: Triage: I do a quick skim of my emails to make sure nothing has gone terribly wrong in the day yet, or that there’s nothing urgent I need to respond to. I flag any emails that will need my attention when I get to work. Then I roll back over and go back to sleep for another 15 minutes.

6:45: Beauty: I do my morning skincare and makeup routine, which involves washing my face and brushing my teeth and applying makeup and all that fun hygienic stuff. Then I get dressed– I usually try to pick out an outfit the night before so I don’t have to spend time worrying about what to wear.

7:00: Mindfulness: I meditate for about 3-5 minutes using the Headspace app (it’s amazing) and then make myself drink water, since I’ve needed to get better at staying hydrated and starting with water before I get into the coffee!

7:15: Breakfast Briefing: I make a quick breakfast, like avocado toast or a bagel, and turn on the coffee. Then I sit down and read through all my daily news: The Skimm, New York Times, Fast Company, etc. This helps me know what’s going on from the start and stay updated, so I go into work or class informed.

7:30: Blogging: I do some writing if I have extra time, and it helps me start my day creatively and reflectively. It’s like getting all my creative energy out while I can so I can better focus on my work duties throughout the day.

7:45: Commute: I’ve been lucky enough that my commute has been a walk, whether it was the 20-minute walk to the office in downtown Chicago over the summer, or the five-minute walk to class during the school year. When I’m working, I try to get there around 8 a.m.. My morning walk takes the place of a morning workout, like yoga or stretching, and I do my real working out at night, when my brain is tired of thinking and it just wants to take a break while my body does some working.

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Some tips for creating a routine

  1. Take time for creative outlets. Do you enjoy reading? Blogging? Painting? Listening to music? If you add something you love doing to your morning routine, it will make you actually look forward to mornings.
  2. Be mindful of your health. A lot of people work out in the mornings. Even though I don’t work out, I use my morning to meditate, to take care of a personal health need. I also use the morning to drink as much water as possible (before I start forgetting) and do some stretching to feel physically ready for the day.
  3. Block out time in your calendar. My Google Calendar literally has a slot for “Meditate”, scheduled at the same time every morning. If you don’t defend your morning time as a scheduled routine, you won’t take it as seriously.
  4. Be consistent. While holidays and weekends are different, for the most part you need to get it together and participate in your routine every day. It will suck at first. And then you’ll be shocked at how fast you get used to it.
  5. Prep the night before. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. Fill the coffee maker. Set out your clothes. Make your lunch (I’ve started meal prepping on Sunday nights).

Need more ideas for establishing your morning routine? My Morning Routine is a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for (it’s free), and each week you get a new morning routine in your inbox from a real person in the working world, usually someone successful and productive like a CEO or travel blogger.


 

Have you started establishing a morning routine? How long have you been sticking to it? Is it easier to live your best life? Tell all!

XO,

CC

 

 

Cold temps, hot products: Favorite moisturizers from head to toe

It’s that time of year when I regret my decision to go to a college in the Midwest! But only a little bit. The Midwest is awesome. I just miss being able to walk outside without crying.

There is one positive to negative degree temperatures, though: Beauty. When it comes to cold weather, the beauty industry has you covered. Dry skin? There’s a product for that. Dry hair? There’s a product for that. Dry hands? A million, gazillion, bajillion products that will make you wish for cold weather just so you have an excuse to put on lotion.

So I decided to have my weekly Spa Night with more emphasis on moisturizing everything. But moisturization isn’t just for a spa night: It’s something you should be doing pretty much all day. Which sounds like a drag, but if you get the right products, it’s amazing. Here are my favorites in each category!

And P.S., you get the best results when you combine these products with drinking a ton of water. I mean a TON. Like be a camel.

Okay, here we go:

Favorite Moisturizing Products

Hands

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Hand cream: Victoria’s Secret PINK

When the weather gets cold, my hands are the first to go. Once everything starts to crack, I know it’s time to get it together and start using hand cream. I have three of these Victoria’s Secret hand creams and I keep one on hand at all times– it’s easy to stash in my backpack, purse, nightstand, wherever. They’re gorgeous, they smell gorgeous, they’ll make your hands gorgeous. Or at least, less like you’ve just punched something.

Hair

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Hair mask: Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment

This. This is THE best hair mask I have ever found, and I’ve used it for the past two years. If it weren’t for this magical tub of happiness, my hair would be sad and limp and dry all winter. What makes it so special, you ask? If you use it once a week, it makes an actual difference in moisturizing and strengthening your hair. But the real selling point for me is that it still repels dirt, making it easier for me to go between washes. Hallelujah.

Face

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Moisturizer: Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief

My skin is oily, but it also gets angry and even more oily when the cold dries it out. So I keep my skin happy by moisturizing with an oil-free moisturizer twice a day, at morning and at night. I love Clinique products because I trust the brand and the products on my crazy sensitive face, and the Moisture Surge is luxe AF. It’s more expensive, yes, but it’s something I use twice a day, and nothing makes my skin glow more. If you’re still on the fence, try the travel size for a lot less, and I promise you’ll feel the difference.

Lips

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Tinted lip balm: Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

Chapstick is boring. Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm is not. I’ve been on the hunt for a good lip balm for a while, since my lips are constantly chapped, but it’s tough to find a lip color that looks good and stays on but doesn’t dry you out. Enter Burt’s Bees, champion of all lip balms. They have a tinted lip balm that you’ll actually want to wear year-round, not just when it’s cold. It comes in different everyday colors, and it’s sheer, so you don’t feel like you’re caking your face with the stuff. Plus, you’ll look like a goddess that thrives in cold temperatures when inside you’re really just ready for a day above 20 degrees.

Body

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Body butter: Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Butter

You really can’t beat the classics like body butter. They’re classic for a reason. And Bliss does body butter best. The Lemon + Sage is my all-time favorite, and I’ve made it a habit to put it on every night after I shower. And then I put on my bathrobe and watch Netflix, and I don’t know if there is a time in the day that I feel more stoked on how I’m running my life. Anyways. Buy the body butter. Live your best life.


 

How do you stay hydrated and moisturized when it gets unbearably cold? I hope my suggestions helped! ‘Til next time, goddesses.

XO,

CC

Low-calorie coffee drinks that are still 100% delicious

Coffee is a magical thing, but it’s easy to forget that we love coffee for the coffee, not for all the other stuff we put in it. With drinks coming out like the Unicorn Frappucino, we lose track of what made us fall in love with coffee in the first place, and start racking up a scary 600 calories per drink. I’m not normally one to count carbs, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and it starts to get problematic when half my dietary intake for the day comes from a Starbucks order.

As some of you may know from my Instagram, I often drink my coffee black. This is partly because I don’t always have it together and I run out of milk and creamer. But I also just learned to like coffee better without all the sugar. This has not always been the case for a massive sweet tooth like me. I used to be the biggest Frappucino fan on the planet. There was one point in my life that I got my caramel Frap once a day. I’d grab my grande Frappucino with caramel drizzle on top and head to class, feeling happy and caffeinated and just way too sugar-loaded. It had to stop. So I eventually switched to a vanilla latte, and then a skinny vanilla latte, and finally mostly iced coffee.

I picked up a few tips along the way:

  • Hold the whipped cream
  • Order it nonfat
  • Ask for sugar-free syrup
  • Use skim milk or almond milk (you can also do soy milk but I personally can’t stand soy in much of anything)
  • Order the “skinny” version (e.g., a grande skinny vanille latte at Starbucks)
  • Order the smallest size

General rule of thumb: Remember that the more flavoring and dairy you put in, the more calories build up. Keep it simple!

Okay, it’s time to give you what you came for. So without further ado, here’s how to keep it 100 (and under) in your favorite coffee orders. Please note that these are all approximations!

10 coffees under 100 calories

  1. Regular brewed coffee: 0 calories (boring but effective)
  2. Americano with cream: 20 calories (10 calories without cream…I find that Americanos don’t normally need much cream)
  3. Iced coffee with nonfat milk: 20 calories (60 with classic syrup flavoring)
  4. Nonfat cappuccino: 60 calories
  5. Flat white (a shot of espresso with steamed milk) using skim milk: 70 calories
  6. Iced macchiato (a shot of coffee with milk) using skim milk: 70 calories
  7. Skinny vanilla latte: 100 calories
  8. Cold brew with cream:100 calories
  9. Tall Caramel Frappucino Light:100 calories
  10. Skinny caramel macchiato: 105 calories (technically over 100 but WHATEVER it’s fantastic and deserves to be on this list)

Other resources:

Dunkin Donuts DDSmart Menu

Starbucks Delicious Drinks Under 200 Calories Menu

McDonald’s McCafe Nutrition Summary

Have you discovered any coffee orders that taste amazing without robbing your calorie intake for the day? Please spill the beans!

XO,

CC

The Story of My Skincare Struggle, and the Products That Saved Me

The skincare struggle is real, people. That’s why it’s like, a billion dollar industry. And I am all for it.

I didn’t used to be. In fact, I hated skincare. Absolutely hated it. You know why? Because anything that adds ten minutes to my morning routine is not welcome. No thank you, sir. But then I became a college student, and my skin rebelled. Apparently as an adult, I still have teenage skin, because it is angry and oily and loves to erupt in acne right before important social functions, such as fraternity date parties, and my college graduation. Sigh.

So I got desperate and started trying everything. I tried my roommate’s put-toothpaste-on-it trick, I tried using spot treatments but all over my face, I tried moisturizers, Proactiv, Exposed Skin Care, everything. I kept playing Whack-A-Mole with my face: Every time a pimple popped up, I squashed it, and then another pimple would pop up next to it. Finally I knew it was time to get my butt into the dermatologist.

Taking the bitter pill

At some point, you have to suck it up and do an acne treatment that sucks for a few months before it gets better. I had cystic acne, which meant I had those awful monster bumps deep under the skin that won’t go away. My derm patted me on the arm and said, “We will beat this,” like I had some kind of horrible disease. And then we did. We beat the crap out of it. I knocked the thing out with Doxycyclin, a powerful antibiotic that I was very happy to stop after three months. The bad news: I had to start a skincare regimen. With prescription products. And because one of those products is an antibiotic, if I didn’t do it right, if I wasn’t consistent, the products would stop working. Eek.

The new skin workout

I told myself that I would rather have to take ten minutes out of my day to fix my problem, than face another cystic mountain zit. People face worse things. People have worse health problems with worse treatments. So why was I so frustrated? Maybe because it still felt unfair that I had to deal with this while other girls have beautifully clear skin. Bu that was stupid thinking, because everyone has their thing they need to deal with, and I’m lucky that my thing is skin. Because, hallelujah, I could fix it!

My prescription products include a daily face wash, an antibiotic lotion, and prescription Retin A. Beyond that, I mix it with other products to keep my skin feeling fresh, clean, and happy. No more angry zits.

My current skincare routine, with life-saving products

Some of the products I use are prescription, but for the ones that aren’t, I provided links!

Every day

Morning: I start by washing my face with PanOxyl, a benzoyl peroxide face wash. Then I apply prescription face lotion (this prevents the cystic acne). The benzoyl peroxide kills all the bacteria, which not only helps acne, but also makes sure my skin doesn’t get used to the antibiotic lotion that I put on after.

Sometimes I do see a little pimple starting to pop up, especially if I’ve slacked on washing my face, so I’ll apply a spot treatment.

Next is SPF, the most important step. I’ll put on a BB cream with SPF in it, or a primer with SPF, or I’ll wear a tinted sunscreen moisturizer. SPF is so, so important. Not just for preventing wrinkles, but also for preventing cancer. 

Finally, I’ll usually wear a foundation specifically for acne-prone skin. Lately I’ve really liked Clinique! It gives me moderate coverage with acne-fighting, medicated ingredients.

Night: Remove makeup, cleanse face, then apply Retin-A (well, the generic version of Retin-A). Retin-A is a retinoid, which is basically a vitamin A derivative that helps unclog pores and speed up cell turnover. Mine is prescription strength, but you can find retinoid creams over the counter, too. Whether you have acne-prone skin or not, they’re super beneficial for improving lines and discoloration.

Important Note:If you use a retinoid, only use it at night (sunlight makes the ingredient stop working) and be sure to use SPF in the morning!

Once every few days

At night, sometimes I’ll use a sonic facial cleansing brush (like a Clarisonic, but a different brand) and a sonic face wash to give my face a deeper cleanse. I would never have tried a sonic brush if I hadn’t worked in beauty PR, but now I’m a believer. It’s like an electric toothbrush, but for your face.

I’ll also put on moisturizer every couple days, because even oily skin types need hydration! It’s easy to forget that when your skin gets too dry, it can overreact and start producing even more oil, causing more breakouts. I also have a lot of redness, so moisturizers help calm it the eff down.

Once a week:

I love face masks, and I try to treat myself to one every week. Depending on how dry the weather is and how oily my skin is feeling, I’ll switch up my routine with a mask and put on an episode of This Is Us. And try not to cry the mask off.

I also use sleep masks, which are ideal for dry times. You just put it on, go to bed, and let the mask do the work.

Once a month/Whenever I can afford it and I’m feeling rich:

Occasionally, I’ll get a professional facial! It honestly feels better than a massage. The Dermologica Skin Bar at Ulta Beauty is pretty awesome and inexpensive– you can even get the 10-minute facial for $10, if you’re like me and you’re short on both time and money! But really, it’s worth a splurge, because it’s your skin. And your skin deserves all the pampering you can give it!


There you have it…my skincare story! Have you overcome any skincare struggles? Let me know in your comments, and be sure to share your secrets to success!

XO,

CC

Feeling Uninspired? 10 Things You Should Try to Get Your Spark Back

Sometimes you’re feeling your creativity flow, and other times it seems like all you can do is lay in bed and avoid your emails. As a 20-something graduate student who works in the advertising/PR industry, I can relate. And believe it or not, “more coffee” isn’t always the answer…(just most of the time).

The Caffeinated Californian logo features a lightning bolt for two reasons: (1) It’s a nod to that jolt of energy you get from caffeine, and (2) It evokes the feeling of inspiration. I want to energize and inspire my readers, not just from coffee advice, but also from a serious place of knowledge and creativity.

Also (3) I love David Bowie.

All that said, I’m excited to finally write this post, because I’ve been in a bit of a rut for the past couple weeks. Grad school is no joke, and when I’m buried underneath a pile of papers to write, it’s hard to spend time on my creative outlets. I was spending way too much time watching Gossip Girl on repeat and playing Diner Dash on my phone at 1 a.m. Seriously.

Finally, after a spontaneous road trip to Colorado and some free time to sleep for once, I got my mojo back, and I’m here to help you find yours. Let’s get to it!

1. Give yourself a break.

This morning, I slept in until 11, which always makes me feel like a useless blob, but I’ve learned that you can’t beat yourself up too much for listening to your body and doing what you need to do. Cut yourself some slack and accept that it’s okay to feel less than okay. If you spend your relaxation time feeling guilty about relaxing, it doesn’t help anything. Take a break, maybe even a whole day off. Perfectly okay.

2. Do something for someone else.

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When your work is bogging you down, it’s time to stop and redirect your attention to someone or something else that deserves your focus. When was the last time you sent a thank you note (other than for a job interview or recommendation letter)? When was the last time you complimented a friend (other than on their Instagram post)? I’m guilty of focusing too much on my work and not enough on the people and causes I care about.

We all know the whole “What goes around, comes around” mantra, and we know that doing good things = feeling good about yourself. But I’m still amazed every time all over again how much of a difference it makes in my outlook on everything. When you know you’ve made a positive impact, it comes right back and makes a positive impact on your attitude.

3. Get your thoughts out of your head and into the physical world.

If you’re a writer, start drawing on a whiteboard or easel. If you’re a dancer, stop watching choreography videos on YouTube and start dancing in the studio. Whatever it takes to get ideas into the tangible, tactile world– even if you’re just doodling or striking a pose on the yoga mat. Studies have shown that getting off your computer and getting onto a notebook can make a huge difference. Sometimes, I even start my blog posts by jotting ideas in a notepad.

Side note: My favorite phrase in grad school is “studies have shown.” So vague, and so authoritative at the same time. Everyone just accepts it. It’s magical.

4. Give yourself a beauty treatment.

This one is a pretty typical piece of advice that I give out, and sounds like such a superficial, temporary solution. But this is not the time for making major lifestyle changes. This is a rut. And with ruts, the small steps are what matter. A manicure or facial, or even a ridiculously hot shower, are all things that seem doable when all you want to do is sit in bed.

5. Plan something fun.

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As important as it is to live in the now, getting excited about something in the future can be a powerful way to jump-start your positive energy. The holidays are coming up, and it’s an ideal time for fun get-togethers or getaways. Plan a friendsgiving, or a birthday, or even a weekend vacation. Bonus: You’ll still feel like you did something productive!

6. Connect with someone who inspires you.

For me, it can be one of my professors, a past career mentor, or a trusted older friend. It could be someone you know, or someone you found on LinkedIn. Reaching out can feel kinda scary, but it’s so incredibly worth it when you get crazy good advice. You’ll also be surprised how willing (and even excited) people are to offer their perspective.

I spent today sitting in my living room in my sweats and searching for potential people to reach out for career advice. But guess what? I was networking. Who else can say they were networking on a Friday afternoon with Gossip Girl on in the background?

7. Learn something new.

We live in the age of Google and YouTube, where you can develop basically any new skill you want from the comfort of your bed. This is particularly useful when you’re feeling like a slug and don’t have the motivation to get out of bed. Google Analytics, for example, offers free certifications. Obviously this is on the nerd side, which isn’t everyone’s style, so yoga classes and cooking recipes count too. It can be a beauty tutorial, for all I care. Life skills, people!

8. Create a “smile file” for a self-boost.

I picked up on this tip when I interned at a big PR agency and got overly stressed out every day. Sometimes you feel like you fail ten times a day, and during those times, it’s hard not to feel like you’re doing the wrong thing or you’re in the wrong city or have the wrong career. During these times, you need reminders that you’re killing it, and this is where a smile file is handy: Keep a file on your laptop or in your email (or even a physical folder) with things you’re proud of. Maybe it’s an email from your supervisor telling you that you did a good job on something. It can be a project you enjoyed, a huge challenge you overcame, positive feedback from a customer, or anything else that makes you feel great.

9. Make a vision board or gallery wall.

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I don’t mean on Pinterest. I mean go to Target, get a corkboard and some magazines, and go to town. You might be in a rut because you’re having trouble visualizing a lifestyle that inspires you. Or, if you have a creative project you’ve been struggling with (for me, it’s my master’s thesis), make a vision board specifically for that project. Putting together images that inspire you can help you see for yourself what direction to take.

10. Go outside.

The simple action of leaving your apartment can work wonders. A five-minute walk around your neighborhood, a park, the mall, or your college campus might make a world of difference in helping you feel refreshed and motivated. Even if it’s just a coffee run. One small step for Starbucks, one giant leap for your creative well-being.


What do you do when you’re feeling stuck? Let me know if you have any tricks or tips!

XO,

CC

Fave Five: Spa Night Essentials

When it comes to a night in with Netflix and facials, I have the essentials. With combination skin, stressed-out pores, and a college lifestyle with a questionable diet, it’s not just a luxury to do facials once a week: It’s a necessity. Add in body lotion, nail polish, Chinese takeout, and Gossip Girl, and I’ve got a beautiful night in (that sometimes rivals a night out, TBH).

Self-care is real, people. And Spa Night In is not to be taken lightly.

I’ve rounded up my favorite five must-have products for the perfect spa night in:

spa night in

1) Philosophy Purity Made Simple Pore Extractor: This face mask is the real deal for pulling any gunk out of your pores. The main ingredients are white clay and salicylic acid– the clay extracts your pores, while the salicylic acid helps with acne. It only takes about 5 minutes for the mask to harden, so this is a good one to do on busier nights. I try to do it around once or twice a week, and it’s always my first step on Spa Night In.

2) Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief: After literally scrubbing the crap out of my face, I moisturize with a tried-and-true Clinique product. It makes me feel like I’m at a resort in Palm Springs getting a face massage and I’m all about it.

3) Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Butter: Even though I’ve always thought “body butter” is a slightly weird term, I became a believer when I started using it during the drier months. Body butter is thicker than a regular lotion, and Bliss does it best. My skin gets super dry and even starts cracking once the weather gets cold, and the Bliss Lemon + Sage body butter does the trick to keep my skin soft. Plus it smells like pure stress relief.

4) Living Proof Restore Mask Treatment: Your face shouldn’t have all the fun– give your hair a facial too! The Living Proof mask is luxe AF and lasts a long time. If you use it once a week, you’ll notice the difference, and believe me, I rarely notice the difference when it comes to hair products.

5) Butter London Glazen Nail Lacquer in Rose Quartz: You’ve got the hair and the skin covered, so lastly we’re on to nails! Lately I’ve been obsessed with the shinier rose-gold polish colors as we go from summer to fall, because if the trees are turning gold, why shouldn’t my nails?


Treat yourself to a spa night at least once a week, even if you only take one episode on Netflix to do it. Have other ideas for spa night essentials? Let me know in the comments!

XO,
CC