10 Productive but Fun Things To Do During Holiday Breaks (+Freebie!)

Okay, so a break is a break…but at some point you can’t help but open up your laptop again. Resist the urge to do actual work!! Instead, take the time to learn a new skill or develop your side passion. Sometimes, the best recharge comes from personal development. That sounded super lame, but whatever. It’s straight truth.

Here are some ideas to get you started!

1. Sign up for new blogs, newsletters, and podcasts.

It’s important to stay updated on industry trends, current events, expert advice, and inspirational stories. I subscribe to about ten different newsletters, which are a combination of daily news updates, inspiration, career advice, and creative boosts.

A few places to start:

From there, you can find more outlets specific to your industry! I follow PR Couture, a fashion PR blog, for updates on best practices and industry trends that are specific to my own career.

2. Learn basic coding.

I was always iffy on learning how to code, but then I was like, wait, it would be so badass if I knew how to write HTML and CSS and JavaScript and actually understand what the difference between each of those things is. I could be one of the #GirlsWhoCode!

Enter General Assembly Dash. This website offers free basic coding lessons, with fun projects that you’ll actually want to use, like a blog theme and a website. If it sounds intimidating, it’s because it is– coding was a scary, scary concept to me– but the website makes it super approachable and easy to follow.

3. Read a classic novel you’ve been meaning to read.

Ever tell yourself you’re really going to try knitting a scarf in time for Christmas, or that you’re definitely going to read The Great Gatsby instead of just watching the movie and pretending you’ve read it? And then you just never get around to it? Understandable during the busy work weeks. But no excuses now- you’ve got nothing but time, especially with all the plane flights and car rides of holiday travel. Do yourself a solid and read up!

4. Try a DIY project, be it a recipe, beauty hack or fashion trend.

All those projects you’ve been wanting to try but never had the time for? Now’s the time. Distress some jeans. Make your own homemade body scrub (like this coffee scrub that I recently tried!). Attempt one of those recipes you’ve seen on a Facebook video loop. Craft a letter board from a Pinterest tutorial.

5. Work on building your personal brand: Your website, portfolio, LinkedIn, blog, social media, any and all of the above.

Your personal brand is always a work in progress, but it won’t develop unless you put some thought into it. It’s easy to let your LinkedIn profile take the back burner when you’re not actively searching for a new job, but you never know when you will be, or when someone might approach you first!

Freebie alert:

I created a personal branding checklist that you can print out, to help you stay focused and get that shiz done.

Download the checklist here!

Personal Branding Checklist.png

6. Write letters. Not emails.

I love a good old-fashioned handwritten note, and these days, there’s nothing like getting an actual card and not an e-card. Plus it’s fun buying pretty paper from a pretty paper store. Don’t judge me. Just get yourself some nice stationery like the grown person you are, and write letters to people that you care about. It will make their week.

Pro tip: If you don’t already write handwritten thank-you notes after job interviews, you’re doing it wrong. Send the email only as a backup for the real deal!

7. Get the ball rolling on a new sport or hobby.

Always wanted to try kickboxing or knitting? Now your whole schedule is open. Once you get in the habit of a new sport or hobby, it will be something you can continue even when you get back to the regular routine. I started boxing over Thanksgiving break, and kept it up in classes twice a week at my campus rec center when I returned to school. Pro tip: Don’t let going back to work give you an excuse for stopping a hobby. It’s not hard to block off a couple hours a week for something that energizes you!

8. Go to the museum or zoo for some cultural experience.

The whole family can even come along: Go visit the new polar bear or the Monet exhibit. Museums and other cultural destinations are some of the best places to clear your head and feel inspired. Many creative and business-minded people get their best ideas from wandering around an art gallery or a theme park. It takes you out of your usual mindset, and gives you new ways of looking at the world. Plus it’s entertaining and just plain fun.

9. Clean out your closet.

Once winter rolls around, you start to figure out which sweaters you actually wear and which ones you can chuck. I like to sell my clothes at local vintage stores, and use the money to update my wardrobe for the spring. When I can’t sell, I donate. It’s great for your closet and for the environment, and possibly great for your wallet. Everyone wins.

10. Do some soul-searching.

Take yoga classes, start journaling, watch some TED talks. This is a good time to get to know yourself better, when you’re not distracted by the chaos of everyday life. It’s a lot easier to focus on mindfulness when you’re not busy answering emails or thinking about work projects. Once you focus on yourself, you’ll be able to better focus on others. Maybe you’ll find that you want to dedicate more time to volunteering this spring, or maybe you’ve realized you want to make a change in your career. Self-discovery sounds all New Agey, but it’s a real thing and it’s just as important as your “real” work.

I hope you feel more inspired to pursue different things this winter, and enjoy being semi-productive this season!



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!



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!


Why the self-care trend shouldn’t be just a trend

We Millennials get a lot of smack for talking about “self-care” and its importance, while spending money on face masks, Netflix, yoga, crystals and candles that will promise to heal our souls. This NPR post recently described the Internet obsession with self-care, with increased Google searches in the past year.

I say, bravo. Because not only has the self-care trend increased the understanding of mental health, but it also gives us permission to take time for self awareness and happiness (not that we should even need it in the first place). In a world where we’re constantly under pressure to work our butts off while looking perfect on social media, we feel guilty for putting our lives on pause to watch TV at home and eat Chinese takeout, when it’s a super normal thing to do. We feel ashamed for doing something selfish, doing something that makes us happy. Why are we so upset over doing what makes us happy?! Since when is it a bad thing to do what we want?

Unfortunately, the flip side of a trend is that there are a lot of BS self-care tips and products out there, so it’s important to understand how to apply it to your life without getting duped into thinking a magical(ly expensive) body oil will do the trick. After lots of research, experimentation, and digging through my Instagram feed to figure out the difference between brands that actually care and products that have nothing to do with my well-being, I came up with my own version of no-BS self-care tips:

Self-care can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.

Practicing self-care doesn’t necessarily mean doing yoga every ten minutes and eating spinach for every meal. You don’t have to adopt a whole new lifestyle– but you can, if that’s what you need.

Try new things to see what works.

It might take some trial and error to understand what you benefit from. Going to a concert or getting drinks with a big group would definitely count as self-care if you’re extroverted and you need more of those times in your life. If you’re more on the introverted side, maybe you need to try spending an extra hour on yourself. If you’re active, a new fun workout class could be it. If you’re a workaholic like me and want a way to relax “productively,” watch Ted Talks or listen to podcasts.

Or maybe none of these help and what you really need are cupcakes. Point is, you won’t know until you try it. Good excuse to eat cupcakes.


There’s a difference between indulging and over-indulging.

“Self-care” doesn’t equal “not doing my dishes.” Even if you think math problems are detrimental to your mental health, your algebra professor will probably not enjoy “I was practicing self-care!” as an explanation for “I didn’t do the homework assignment.” Self-care habits should be productive to your mindset, instead of an excuse for procrastinating on things you just don’t want to do. **ALSO: Self-care is not a replacement for seeking professional help if you need it!**

Don’t get marketed to.

Speaking as a PR professional, I totally get why brands are jumping on the health/wellness/self-care trend…if they’re relevant and could actually help someone. But I don’t believe in trying to make a buck off someone’s well-being if you’re just trying to get Instagram likes and not being truly beneficial. Think before buying the overpriced oil. Is it your thing? Does it fulfill a need? Does the brand seem like it actually cares? Don’t let self-care lose its meaning by buying into an ideal, as this article reminds us.

When it comes to spending money, though, don’t be afraid to spend a little on yourself.

Buy yourself flowers for once. Or Lollapalooza tickets, in my case.


Make it personalized.

Don’t just take self-care tips at face value from BuzzFeed, or even this post. What might make some people happy might not work for others, and you need to try different things before you see what’s best for you. I personally have no use for “be one with nature” during allergy season, but “try yoga once a week” has actually worked wonders in clearing my mind and giving me positive energy. As dumb as that sounds.

Long story short: If you think crystals are New-Age nutso, ditch them for a face mask and call it a night. You do you.

That said…

What does your version of self-care look like?


My version of self-care looks a little like this:

  • Go to as many concerts as financially possible
  • Find an excuse to get dressed up for something
  • Play video games and drink beer with my guy friends
  • Watch rom-coms and drink wine with my girl friends
  • Sit in a hot tub
  • Buy a coffee instead of making it at home (shocker)
  • Embrace my inner nerd and do homework on a Saturday without feeling like a loser, because getting homework done relieves my stress during the busy week
  • Grab Panda Express for dinner, because even though it isn’t the healthiest thing, it makes me a lot happier than it should. And that’s okay.
  • Put in 20 minutes on the yoga mat by watching a Yoga With Adrienne video
  • Catch up with someone I haven’t talked to in a while
  • Stop by an Ulta Beauty and buy a fun new lip gloss or highlighter
  • Use a minute to think about all the positives happening in my life, because it’s easy for me to get dragged down by small things
  • Take the world’s longest, hottest shower, and then wear a face mask while watching really terrible videos on YouTube

Honestly, sounds amazing right now. I think I’ll go get Panda Express, buy new mascara, and watch Sex and the City while wearing a face mask.