How to Find Self Care During the Holidays


According to Psych Central, "there is often an increase in depressive feelings as time and money resources are drained and people struggle with recent or unresolved loss" during this time of year. Although we like to call the holiday season the "most wonderful time of the year", sometimes it can be a little sad and/or stressful. How can you solve that? With a little self care!

The holidays can be fun, but at times, they can also be incredibly busy and stressful. There's all the usual responsibilities, plus if you're in school, you're surrounded with the additional stress of finals. Moreover, you're still trying to fit in a packed social calendar into your life. With all of the fun holiday social events and spending lots of time with friends and family, it's easy to neglect self care during the holiday season.

Here are some ways to add a little self care to your life during this holiday season and take some of the added holiday stress off your shoulders.

01 | feel free to leave early from social obligations.

I totally get wanting to spend time with friends and family, but there are some social events that seem like they've eaten up all of your day and/or go basically all night, depriving you of that much needed sleep. I think that it's fantastic to go to any holiday parties and/or events, but if you feel like you're getting tired or drained being there, don't be afraid to duck out a little early in order to get some alone time and some much needed rest.

02 | don't be afraid to give a gift card.

With the struggle to find the perfect gift, sometimes it can be incredibly stressful. While I usually don't really like giving gift cards because they feel impersonal, when I'm on the receiving end and I receive a gift card, I'm always happy with it. Gift cards may not seem like the perfect gift, but in reality, they are very much appreciated and can relieve some of that stress that you have in searching for gifts.

03 | set boundaries

During the holiday season, sometimes the rules change a little. Suddenly you're deciding to go out to social events more and more, neglecting your usual personal time. Because of that, you might find it nice to set some boundaries for yourself or a limit on everything else so that you can make time for alone time. Additionally, if spending or holiday eating is something that gets out of control, set boundaries on that as well, but remember to keep them reasonable.

04 | find a relaxing creative outlet

Whether it's painting, drawing, knitting, or playing the piano, it's great to find some kind of creative outlet that allows you to step away from it all. Whatever it is, find something that you can just do to unwind and forget about all of your obligations, even if it's just for a short period of time.
Added bonus: if that outlet happens to produce some physical item (ex: knitting a scarf), you can cross a gift off your list and give that to minimize the gift giving stress!

05 | stop and smell the roses

In this day and age, it seems almost impossible to live in the moment. While I don't know much about mindfulness, it can be amazing when you start thinking more about the present than anything else. I remember one moment so vividly from a trip that I went on with my friends, a time where I was just thinking about how perfect and serene that instance is. Take care of yourself this holiday season by stopping and smelling the roses and just living in the now.

06 | be proactive

While you might not listen to this advice, as many times as we hear "don't procrastinate", it usually goes in one ear and out the other. However, I'll still say it, just because you might need to hear it again. The sooner you can get your responsibilities done with (aka gift shopping, exams, etc.) the sooner you can enjoy the holidays and avoid that stress. Be proactive this holiday season because future-you deserves a few things to be taken off her/his plate.


How to Find Self Care During the Holidays
How to Make a Holiday Card Meaningful

To preface this post, I have to start with a little disclaimer. I am the worst at writing cards. I never quite know what to write in them. The thing about holiday cards is that you want them to be meaningful, but authentically meaningful, not like you're trying too hard. At this time of the year, I'm sure that you're sending out quite a few, whether they're to friends or to family.

While I don't think that I'm the best at writing holiday cards, here are a few things that I've learned are best for making a holiday card meaningful. 

make your own card.

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I've mentioned making your own card ALL the time, but that's because I'm such a strong believer that making your own card for the recipient goes a long way. If you're not the best at writing letters, making your own card demonstrates appreciation instead of reciting it. It's like what your English teacher tells you, "Show, don't tell." A handmade card shows the recipient that you are willing to put in the time and effort to make them happy which can go a lot further than just saying "I'm thankful for having you in my life."

Too lazy or too busy to make your own card? Here's a card that takes roughly 5 minutes to make and will definitely make your friends appreciative!

write an anecdote or a story. 

Whenever I have to write cards, I think that writing an anecdote can be particularly helpful. Since sometimes I feel a little pressure to make a card perfect, doing a little storytelling can help me to relax a bit and find my writing flow a little bit better instead of sitting at the table having no idea how to start. You can write a story about yourself, about the recipient of the card, or maybe just a fun story that you think is worth sharing. Writing a little story is a great way to ease into writing a card for your own sake, but it also feels a lot more authentic than following the basic "I hope you are well" niceties.

draw a doodle.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so if you want to write a meaningful holiday card, show it with images. Whether it's just a cute little doodle that'll make them smile or just a scribble that is your way of saying "just for you, I tried", a picture can make a holiday card unique. Instead of the typical cookie-cutter layout of a written card, a drawing can convey your appreciation in a more fun way.

attach a photo. 

Like how the doodle can be meaningful in its ability to capture a message, a photograph can be a great way to remind whoever you're writing to about a meaningful time. For brownie points, you can even attach a photo AND write an anecdote commenting on that time and recalling it. Whether it's a cute photo of you and the recipient during a particularly memorable event or it's a photo of something silly that you want to highlight, a photo can definitely spice up a holiday card.


Need a cute card to show your friends and family that you care? There are 2 free printable handmade holiday cards (the ones pictured in this post) that are available in the Bloomly resource library! Join the Bloomly newsletter to get access to the library + download these cards and other freebies!


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10 Activities You NEED To Do This Holiday Season

The holiday season is officially here! And what better way to get into the holiday cheer than with some fun holiday-themed activities?

01 | have a gift exchange

Whether it's something planned like secret Santa where you can carefully cultivate the PERFECT gift for a friend or a White Elephant gift exchange where you can be lazy and just get fun random gifts, it's always nice to do a little gift giving with your friends!

02 | try cooking a Christmas dish from another culture

Christmas is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world, so why not explore how others celebrate the same holiday? Here's a how Christmas food is in some other countries and I challenge you to try cooking one yourself. It might be a mess, but it also might be incredibly delicious. Additionally, I challenge you to research the cultural context of the dish that you end up making. It's so interesting to see the meaning behind some of the food that we eat and to understand its significance to a culture.

03 | make a custom holiday playlist

There are a million holiday playlists out there, but you can still make your own holiday playlist that is specific to you. Whether you love the classics or like more modern holiday music, everyone has their own tastes and preferences regarding it and you have the opportunity to craft your own.

04 | hit a holiday piñata

Mexican Christmas festivities begin with Posadas, which are nine parties occuring daily from the 16th until the 24th of December. During the party, they celebrate by breaking a star-shaped piñata. Although it was used in a religious context then, it's still fun to hit a piñata and eat a little candy, especially since it has largely lost its religious association and moved towards being symbolic of celebrations and birthdays. Additionally, if you're going to do so, I highly encourage you to consider the cultural and historical meaning of the holiday piñata, since it's something that we usually don't think about.

Read More: What Posadas are and how they're celebrated
Related: My Mexican-American Christmas: Posadas, Piñatas, and Pastorelas

05 | make a holiday piñata

Now that you've recognized the meaning of the piñata to Posadas, if you want to try out making piñatas, it can be a fun activity and also provide you with the opportunity to do #4 on this list. Here's a link to a Christmas tree piñata tutorial which is more taken out of the cultural context and adapted into a more American culture, but if you want to be more true to the historical meaning of Posadas, make a 7-point star piñata (that represents the 7 deadly sins). Here's a closer look on how they're made.

05 | visit a local museum

Whether to you, the local museum is the Met or it's just a tiny little building with a few pieces inside, it's nice to appreciate the local attractions. Additionally, a lot of them have holiday decorations and/or holiday events that you should take advantage of. Most of the time, I definitely don't appreciate the museums and local attractions that are around me, but I think that the holidays is a great time to visit them, especially with the added bonus of special events.

06 | make your own chocolates

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I always see a mountain of various holiday chocolates that are in fancy shapes or packaged nicely. However, you can make your own in those fancy shapes and packaging as a fun activity. Here's a list from Martha Stewart on homemade holiday candy to make that will be interesting to make and also great for giving out as gifts for that added personalized touch that grocery store chocolate just don't have.

07 | make a Starbucks gingerbread cafe (because yes, they exist) 

I love making a nice gingerbread house, but I recently stumbled across the Starbucks gingerbread cafe and although it's a little extra, I'm kind of into it. If you didn't know about them, Starbucks is selling gingerbread house kits, but what's in the kit allows you to craft a gingerbread Starbucks cafe instead of a traditional house. I think it's a cute and creative idea on their part, but if you're not into Starbucks, I think that the idea of straying from the traditional gingerbread house to make something new and exciting can be fun.

Related: Feel so stressed about finals that you feel like you're missing the holiday spirit? Here's how to celebrate the holidays while going through finals!

08 | unusual ingredient holiday bake-off 

Want to make the typical Christmas cookie baking more exciting? Try out a baking show style challenge like where you set out a few holiday themed ingredients (ones ideal for baking and some not so ideal) such as peppermint, eggnog, Christmas ham, figgy pudding, and cinnamon, and challenge everyone to make a dessert combining a few of those ingredients. This is completely inspired by Cupcake Wars' round one where contestants have to put together an unusual mix of foods into a good cupcake, which I think seems super challenging but interesting!

09 | make holiday care packages

Whether you choose to make holiday care packages for your friends, family, or even to give to charitable organizations, care packages are fun to make and also a great way to show your appreciation during this holiday season. For friends and/or family that you might not get to see during the holidays, it's especially nice to send them a little care package personalized for them to let them know that you care.

10 | make handmade holiday cards

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned this before, but making handmade holiday cards is one of my all time favorite holiday activities (next to holiday baking, of course). Making a handmade holiday card is one of the best ways to show your loved ones how much you care, considering all the hard work that goes into card making. Aren't artistic? No worries! I did a holiday DIY post a long time ago that included a super easy holiday card to make in which all you need are some sticks from outside, scissors, a hot glue gun, a star sticker, and a blank card to make a gorgeous Christmas tree card.

Psst! Want printable handmade holiday cards? Subscribe to the email list for two handmade holiday cards that your friends and family will love!


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10 Activities You NEED To Do This Holiday Season


Salted Caramel Mini Apple Pie Roses

Salted Caramel Mini Apple Pie Roses

My friend and I just made these salted caramel mini apple pie roses for Friendsgiving recently and they were FANTASTIC. These are absolutely gorgeous and will definitely impress your friends with their fancy presentation.

Salted Caramel Mini Apple Pie RosesI'll be honest, we were a little bit worried about this recipe since there's a lot going on in it: homemade pie crusts shaped into flowers, caramel sauce, and then getting the roses together with the apples
, but somehow we pulled it off. I think that this recipe is a really nice one if you're planning to go all out for a party or something and you're really willing to commit to a more challenging and time consuming recipe.

It's incredibly satisfying to work on these apple pie roses and then to bring them to a party where people can appreciate the work that you put into them. They're also great for sharing, instead of having a pie where everyone has to share, each person can grab one since they're already in individual portions. Moreover, they're so much more unique than the typical apaple pie and taste less like a pie and more like a tart with the crunchier baked apples.

Since there are 3 main aspects of making this recipe, the prep time for each of them are ordered in order to save time. For example, when the pie crust is baking, the caramel sauce is being made. You can feel free to do it in another order, but I found this order ideal for efficiency.

Prep time: 2 hours
Baking time: 45 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 20 minutes (some baking time + prep time overlaps)
Yields 12-16 mini apple pies

Ingredients

Pie dough

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, leveled
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
16 oz (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup of cold water
Cooking spray

Caramel Sauce

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs water
6 tbs butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tbs salt


Apple Filling

2-3 apples (I used Fuji)
3 tbs sugar
1 juiced lemon

Special equipment

Food processor
Heart shaped cookie cutter(s)
Mandoline (or grater with slicer side, see this grater's side for example)


Instructions


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined to make the pie dough. Add butter and then pulse until butter is not visible, with just a few small pieces of butter left. 
  3. Pour in 1/4 cup of water and pulse until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. If it does not hold together, add more water, 1 tbs at a time until it reaches desired consistency. 
  4. Transfer dough into a ball and flatten it into a disk. Wrap it with plastic wrap. Place in fridge for about 45 minutes or until firm. 
  5. In the meantime, begin making the caramel sauce
  6. Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan at medium heat. Occasionally stir with wooden spoon until all the sugar has melted and has an amber color. 
  7. Once sugar has completely melted, add in the butter and allow to completely melt.
  8. Slowly pour in heavy cream while stirring. Let it sit for about a minute before removing from heat. 
  9. Add vanilla and salt.
  10. Let cool to room temperature. (if desired, you also may refrigerate it.)
  11. After 45 minutes, place dough on floured surface and roll out with a rolling pin to make the mini pie cups. Roll out dough so that it is thin, slightly thinner than when you make sugar cookies but not so thin that it breaks when you pick it up. 
  12. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut hearts out with the dough.
  13. Place about three hearts per cup into a muffin tin. Use the hearts to line the edges of the tin to make a cup shape with the bottom of the hearts overlapping to form a base and the top parts of the hearts on the sides, forming a flower-like shape in the tin. 
  14. Using a fork, poke some holes at the bottom of each of the dough-lined cups. 
  15. Bake for 10-16 minutes, until the pie crusts have puffed up a little bit and have lost their doughy texture.
  16. Using a mandoline or a grater with a slicer side, cut apples in half lengthwise (like cutting apple slices) and remove the core. Slice apples very thin. This is key to making the roses, since the apple will not flexible enough if sliced too thick. Place apples in microwave safe bowl.
  17. Make lemon juice and sugar mixture (for the apple filling) and pour over sliced apples, coating them.
  18. Microwave the apples. Remove after 15 seconds to stir them and distribute heat and then return to microwave for another 15 seconds. 
  19. Once pie crusts have been baked and have cooled, add about 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce into each mini pie crust. 
  20. Using the apple slices, allow them to lean against the inner walls of the crust, curving with the shape of the crust. Continue adding apple slices that curve with the walls in order to make the outer petals of the rose. When the rose is beginning to looking, make a tight cylinder with a softer apple and place in center to complete the rose. 
  21. Return pies to oven for an additional 20-25 minutes.
  22. Remove from oven, let cool, then drizzle with remaining caramel sauce.

Serve and enjoy!




Confession: My Instagram isn't an accurate representation of my life. In fact, sometimes I fake my Instagram posts.

What do I mean by this? There are some times that I go out and purposely take photos (batching, a phrase coined by a blogging advice website that I can't remember) in order to save and post on Instagram when the time comes. While I'm sure that this is something that companies probably do in order to be constantly on top of things, creating these artificial depictions of my own personal life seems a little wrong.

The thing is, as a blogger, my personal identity is part of my brand. Therefore cultivating an authentic (yet likable) image of myself on social media is crucial. However, because of that, I've noticed a lot of bloggers taking these photos of themselves for social media that are high quality, taken with nice expensive cameras, but are clearly posed for the sake of social media, not nearly an authentic representation of their lives.

With the Instagram algorithm, it has become incredibly difficult for bloggers to shine through and get the engagement that we used to receive. It's strange how I'll post a pretty photo that I was positive would have gotten lots of likes on the old algorithm and end up with a quarter of what I used to receive. It's just so discouraging.

However, that has also caused me to become more and more obsessed with cultivating the perfect Instagram post. I'll spend an hour trying to put together a flatlay, saying that THIS will be the thing that will get my engagement back up. And it doesn't work.

Because of that, I'm trying something a little bit different.

I'm sure that you probably didn't notice, but lately, on Instagram, I've been throwing my old rules out the window. I'm not posting everyday or even every other day (something that I only used to do in the past thanks to batching), I'm not spending my free time planning up ten different Instagram posts that I can easily create and photograph within the hour or two, and I'm not really using any Instagram strategy.

While this might be a total mistake in blog promotion, I figured that it can't get worse than my plummeting Instagram stats. It was emotionally stressful enough to see the hard work that I had put into building my Instagram engagement and following fall to pieces, I wasn't about to continue placing that stress on me by worrying about posting daily Instagram posts that are not really accurate representations of my life, as they're staged.

At this moment right now, I still stage my Instagram posts to some extent. I think that we all do, I mean we all want to put our best foot forward. The "staging" is done through the little things: editing the photo with the perfect filter, making sure your hair looks amazing before snapping the photo, or moving around in order to get the best lighting.

While it seems wrong and inauthentic of bloggers and companies to post "fake" Instagram photos that are not entirely accurate representations of what happened, in social media, a little bit of "faking" or "staging" is done to some extent regardless of if you have no followers or millions.

However, instead of sitting down and brainstorming an Instagram post, I'm trying to see where the moment takes me. Maybe I'll take a picture of my actual outfit of the day instead of having a photoshoot of myself in the outfit that I wore last week. Maybe I'll post a picture of something that I was working on during the day instead of something that I planned to Instagram.

Because in real life, I don't carry an expensive camera around everywhere to snap gorgeous photos of my gourmet macarons and specialty coffee (those are super pricey and let's be real, sometimes it's just not worth it) before getting some fresh flowers and walking around the city in my designer clothing.

Those photos are a slightly fake depiction of reality.

My point is, I'm trying to stop faking my Instagram posts and trying to make them more real. I'm trying to find that healthy balance between Instagram and myself. I constantly feel a love-hate relationship with it, so maybe stepping away from it and letting things happen they way they do will help me rediscover how great Instagram can be.

Based off of the last month in which I've been implementing these changes, I think that I have been liking Instagram a bit more. I'm not necessarily gaining more followers, but they're not plummeting either. The same is true for likes. They're definitely not what they used to be, but I'm a little more okay with it.

It's time to start using social media in the way that we used to, just to share moments of our lives with others, instead of cultivating the perfect "aesthetic" and amazing digital life for people to fawn over. 

On my Instagram, you can start looking for low-quality iPhone 5s photos, random photos of food and selfies, and less pictures of pretty aesthetic things that don't mean anything. Take it or leave it. Because this is my reality.





With everyone seeming to say that one body type is ideal, dieting tends to be something to turn to, which doesn't always yield the best results. While dieting can be good for your health if done correctly, it can also be immensely unhealthy due to undereating: a decrease in happiness, a weak body, and damaged mental health due to the rumination over eating.

Here's Caitlyn's story on her difficult relationship with food and past obsession with diets, as well as her current journey towards eating more intuitively.

This series is a part of the Hindsight series. If you don't know what that is, here's a brief summary:

The Hindsight series consists of guest posts from various bloggers sharing their stories on Bloomly about any personal experience that they might have encountered that reflects personal growth, self-improvement, and/or struggles with mental health. The Hindsight series is about looking back on experiences that shaped who we are and have helped us grow, which we only see now with hindsight.

Learn more: About the Hindsight Series 
More Hindsight posts: Read the Series



I’ve always found all relationships to be difficult. Whether they be with my friends, a romantic partner, my family, or even myself, I’ve had hardships with each. But my struggles with relationship extends past just people to also include my relationship with food.

My relationship with food took a dive at the end of eighth grade. I’m not sure exactly what caused it, but knowing the cause wouldn’t help much anyway. All I know is that I believed I was overweight and I wanted to be smaller. At this time I was just getting into Seventeen magazine and they had just released a mini fitness magazine inside of their regular monthly magazine. Inside was a whole four or five week workout program and I started to do it. The thing was, it also had meal samples, but I wasn’t allowed to cook. So I made my own modification according to my very extensive (in all the wrong ways) internet search.

I ended up setting a 1200 calorie goal along with the rule that I had to eat something every two hours. The latter being because I had read somewhere that eating small meals every couple hours kept your blood sugar and metabolism up. I honestly have no idea if that is true. All I know is that both of these things screwed up my relationship with food.

I quickly became the person who obsessively counted every calorie. 

I kept a running total in my head all day long, and made sure to calculate my new total before any snack touched my tongue. I also became that hangry person every two or three hours. If the two hour mark came and went and I didn’t have food I would start to get fidgety. And if three hours past then I’d become awfully annoying and rude and stressed. I needed something to keep my metabolism going - supposedly.

In just about two months I had lost about twenty pounds. My hair started to thin. My nails were brittle and always broke. My period was gone. And yet it never occurred to me at the time that it might have something to do with the way I was controlling my food intake.

It wasn’t until a full year of this awful “diet” that I realized it wasn’t healthy. It was borderline, or maybe it really was, a serious health issue. So I made a promise to myself that I would stop. No more obsessively counting calories or letting my life revolve completely around food.

I stopped counting calories, but this stressed me out so much that I think I ate even less because of it. How was I supposed to know if I was eating too much if I couldn’t count how much I was eating!? Because of this I was always hungry. And I’m not talking that thing every girl tweets. I mean my stomach always felt empty (because it was), so when I went to parties and there were whole tables of food I would gorge myself. My body needed the food. But then I would be so full it would hurt and I’d end up on the bathroom floor crying. Crying because my stomach hurt, but also crying because I had just eaten so much.

I had made little, if no progress, toward the promise to myself.

Two years after making the promise to myself, I found IIFYM (if it fits your macros) from the fitness community. IIFYM is a diet that promises the eating of any food, so long as you hit your target intake of carbohydrate, fat, and protein by the end of the day. It’s actually marketed as being a non-restrictive diet and a way to regain a healthy relationship with food. It did involve counting calories, but it was more focused on my carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake. I felt great while following this diet, but having to count every little calories just flared up my past obsessive qualities too much so I quit after a couple months.

Since then, so for about four years now, I’ve been eating intuitively. And let me tell you, it has been hard as shit. 

But that’s the thing, eating when you’re hungry shouldn’t be so difficult. It should be natural. Because I tried so hard to alter my eating patterns, I’m not sure I’ll ever be fully recovered.

Every month I feel better and healthier than I did the last. But as always, I have my bad days and weeks. I have days that I want to curse myself for eating dessert. I have days where I’m tempting to not eat anything except crackers. Today if anyone ever says they ate too much or they feel bad because they ate like crap I get triggered. I start to evaluate everything I have eaten recently and panic because I think I had eaten more and worse than them. But I don’t give in. I tell the voice in my head to shove it and go on with life.

Now I struggle sometimes to remember what I ate yesterday. No longer can I recall every calorie I ate down to the crumb for the last week.

If I’m having a particularly hard day, I just remind myself of how far I’ve come over the last six years. Yes, I may have eaten a little too much and be uncomfortably full, but I didn’t eat so much that I ended up crying on the bathroom floor at a party. I might have eaten only small snacks all day, but at least I didn’t obsessively count each calorie in my head.

While my past disordered eating still rises to the surface sometimes, I feel so much more in control of my mind and relationship with food than I did during any of the last six years of my life. That’s what matters.

This is a story I haven’t really ever fully told. And this isn’t even the full story, but it still makes me crazy emotional. Eating patterns is such a triggering topic for me, which is partly why it’s taken me so long to tell this story. Just reminding myself of how I used to eat makes me want to try it again while also making me feel ashamed of what I used to put my body through.

This isn’t a sob story. This isn’t a cry for help. This is a call to make a change in our society. We need to teach people that they don’t need to be on a diet to be healthy. That losing weight won’t make you happier and no one needs to diet. Period. Dieting only screws with your eating patterns and emotions towards food, making it hard to have a healthy relationship with such a crucial necessity in life.

We, as a society, need to teach people that restrictive eating is not a solution to being pretty or popular or happy. Food is just food and it has nothing to do with who you are as a person. So instead of worrying about whether you should eat that doughnut or not, focus on being a kind person, because the world needs more of that. And then eat the doughnut to celebrate.



College with Caitlyn
About the Author: Caitlyn Stone
Caitlyn is a college and lifestyle blogger who loves to share advice for fellow college students. She is currently a junior at Northern Kentucky University where she’s studying Mathematics and Computer Science. When she’s not studying, working at the local library, or up in the gym, you can find her watching vlogs on YouTube, out shooting pictures, stalking her latest celebrity crush on Twitter, or crafting the perfect Instagram caption.
Why You Should Stop Lying to Get Out of Social Plans

How many times have you thrown around the "sorry, I can't come, I've randomly come down with the stomach flu" or "I'm busy" in order to avoid social plans that you just don't feel like going to? According to a survey by Yelp's Eat 24, almost 80% of 2,000 men and women ages 18 through 54 said that they've lied or made excuses to avoid hanging out. I'm no exception and you probably aren't either.

I asked you (yes you, the readers!) on Instagram and Twitter to tell me the main reason that they lie in order to skip social plans. About 70% of you said that mental health was the main reason: having a little more "me" time, dealing with social anxiety, etc.

There are some days when maybe you're just not emotionally up for socialization or you just think that lying down in bed alone with Netflix would be a lot more rewarding. And that's completely okay. We all need a little alone time and a healthy dose of self care. It's vital for our well-being. However, it's strange that we often don't own up to it.

Why isn't it normal to say to someone, "Sorry, I can't commit to these social plans because I just need a moment for self care." Why do we need to search for flimsy excuses that are blatantly false?

The thing about bailing on social plans brings up a difficult point. It absolutely sucks to be on the other end. I have been flaked on too many times to count and most (if not all) have been disappointing. It sucks when you're looking forward to something and a friend cancels. However, I have also been the flaky friend probably just as many times and I completely see the reasoning. There are just some times when it's more emotionally damaging to go.

Abandoning social plans can essentially be seen as either selfish and rude, but it can also be the better choice for your mental health. 

Therefore it's a difficult thing to deal with, especially as we have all experienced being the one to cancel as well as the one that gets cancelled on.

Since it can be better for you, but not necessarily for your friend, I think that the best thing to do is to be honest about it. Yes, you may be cancelling on them, but instead of throwing some lame excuse on them that they can see right through, it's better to tell them the truth: it's for your mental health.

If someone was to cancel on me, I would much rather them own up to it and say that it's something that they just need to do for themselves rather than tell me that "they're sick" (which they obviously aren't) or "my grandma came to town" (when she lives in a completely different country).

Giving a fake excuse will only cause your friend to speculate further and jump to conclusions. Is it because they don't like me? Do they not want to spend time with me? According to the surveys that I took on Twitter and Instagram, almost 30% of you mentioned that the main reason for lying to get out of social plans is because you genuinely don't like the person (or people). If you give an excuse and your friend doesn't buy it, they may assume that you don't like them, since that tends to be another big reason for cancelling on social plans aside from mental health reasons.

Just tell them the truth. It's better that you're honest rather then leaving them to speculate about it. Other people will understand. Out of the two recent occasions that I either bailed on social plans or chose not to commit to social plans, I was honest about my reasons — my mental health — and they understood.

In fact, just yesterday one of my friends mentioned that she was considering backing out of our prior plans for a night out. She said that she had a huge workload, desperately needed sleep, and also had a busy schedule that weekend, so she just wasn't sure if she would be happiest sticking to the plans. 

My initial reaction was that I was sad to not be able to spend time with her, but I understood why she needed to say no to those plans, so I felt content with her choice.

Since we've all been the ones to cancel just because we're not feeling it, when we're the ones flaked on, we're a lot more understanding. We see the true reason why: it's not because we're not liked by our friends, it's just because everyone needs a little self care in their lives.


How you should handle avoiding social plans (when necessary)

If you're not sure if you'll be up for those plans, don't fully commit to them.

When we're making social plans as a group, I have this one friend that will often reply "I might come, depending how I feel because I'm flaky". And it's a solid answer. When I'm usually unsure if I'll be up for a party, when people ask me if I'm going, I'll usually reply with "maybe", regardless of whether or not there's actually anything on my calendar, and then confirm a solid yes or no when I'm more sure of my answer. This way, you can try to avoid having to back out after committing.

Give more notice.

Obviously if you find out an hour before the plans that you feel absolutely terrible about going out, it's probably not the most ideal situation. If you feel that you aren't mentally up for social plans, try to give your friend(s) notice about it. For example, let's say that about a week out you're aware that you're going to be super busy that weekend and might need a breather. Let them know, "Hey, I'm not positive that I'll be able to make it". And obviously if you are sure that you want to avoid those social plans, let them know ASAP. It's not the worst thing to get cancelled on a few days out, but a few hours is definitely not the best feeling.

Why You Should Stop Lying to Get Out of Social Plans


I Tried Spending 5 Minutes Every Night to Tidy Up for a Week

Contrary to what many people might believe about me, I'm completely unorganized. Sure, when it comes to blogging and school I can keep everything organized, but when it comes to my room, it's more than clutter, it's just an absolute mess.

I have never been able to keep a clean room for as long as I can remember. I used to have things covering the entire floor with the exception of a tiny pathway to get in and out. While I have gotten better about keeping tidy than I was before, even the improvement is not enough.

My general philosophy for tidiness is "I will keep the common areas tidy, but when it comes to my personal space, I can do whatever I want with it." This means that my room always has a huge pile of clothes on the floor, you can't even see the table surface of my desk, and I move things from the floor to my bed to make room. I never really work at cleaning it bit by bit, but rather do an "all or nothing" kind of thing. Occasionally, whenever I get the random urge to clean (which is rare), I'll clean the entire room thoroughly, but when I don't have that urge (basically 99.9% of the time), I just let it be.

I was reading Gretchen Rubin's book, the Happiness Project, and I noticed something that I found interesting. She says, "Before you go to bed, take five minutes to do an 'evening tidy-up.' Don’t tackle anything ambitious, but just stack up the magazines, put your shoes away, shove the chairs into place, etc. Just a few minutes of tidying can make your house look a lot better, and it’s a calming thing to do before going to sleep. Plus it makes the morning nicer."

See more: Gretchen Rubin's 10 Tips to Beat Clutter in Less than 5 Minutes


Her idea of an "evening tidy up" was interesting to me. It was something that I had absolutely never done before, but it seems potentially doable. If it was going to help me tackle this mess that I live in, I guess that I would try it.

So here's the challenge that I've laid out for myself: Every day for one week, I will spend exactly five minutes to tidy up my room. 

Here's what happened.




Day One: The Beginning

On the first day, I had the impression that this was going to be the easiest day. I set a timer for five minutes and then began to tackle the pile of clothes on the floor. Since it was a simple task, I felt like I could get a pretty decent amount of work done given the amount of time. I found that five minutes felt like quite a long time, not only because I was able to get a decent amount cleaned in that time, but also the feeling. I would check the timer and see that there was one minute left, even when it felt like the time should have already been up. I was beginning to see the benefit in the "evening tidy up". It felt stress free and also productive given the allotted time.

Day Two: Mixed Feelings

The moment that I was standing there by the light switch about to turn the lights off and call it a night, I remembered: the challenge. Honestly, it was a little disappointing after being so ready to get in bed and sleep, but after the five minutes of clean up, I felt pretty accomplished. The room was most definitely looking cleaner (I could see the floor!) and it was all just after two days of five minutes. That day, I felt both the advantages and disadvantages of the five minute tidy up. Yes, it was annoying to have to do when all I wanted to do was crawl into bed, but it was also immensely satisfying to see how much I could accomplish.

Day Three: Satisfaction

The next day, I felt a lot better about the 5 minutes tidy up. Since the previous day, I felt proud of what I accomplished, it made me a lot more motivated to spend that designated time cleaning. I could definitely see improvements, which to me was crazy considering how little time I spent cleaning.

Day Four: Exhaustion

Okay, maybe yesterday was going pretty well, but the next day, I was feeling absolutely exhausted. I was tired, but I still pushed through with those five minutes. While I was still able to clean some things up a little, I felt like I wasn't nearly as productive with that time was as I had been previously since I was feeling a lack of motivation. What I was seeing was that although this could be extremely rewarding, depending on my mood, the success would vary. It was kind of like when I tried bullet journaling for a week. Like in that experience, there were just some days that I wasn't exactly feeling like keeping the routine going.

Related: I Tried Bullet Journaling for a Week and This is What Happened

Day Five: Finding a Way That Works

Since the previous day I was feeling exhausted, instead of doing my five minutes of tidying up right before going to sleep, but instead I decided to do the clean up about half an hour before I planned to go to sleep so that it was before I began winding down. I found that this really helped me avoid the exhaustion that I previously felt and still get my tidying done.

Day Six: Finally Understanding the Tidy Up

Okay, I wasn't as proactive as I was the day before by doing the tidy up earlier so I ended up doing my five minutes literally right before I went to sleep. I'll be honest, I definitely considered skipping it, but I still pulled through because I'm dedicated (ish). That day I had absolutely no idea what to wear and as a result had lots of random clothes on the floor. During my tidy up, I found myself cleaning up that mess but not necessarily getting any further in terms of overall cleanliness, just maintaining it. Therefore I think that the five minute tidy up won't necessarily dramatically change the cleanliness of your room but rather maintain its tidiness.

Day Seven: Embracing the Tidy Up

The next day, I remembered to do my five minutes about half an hour before I actually went to bed. I was able to organize my desk a little bit and even though it looked cluttered, it was still a massive improvement. The five minute tidy up didn't feel so tedious and I was even surprised that it had already been seven days. It almost felt... normal. While I wouldn't call it a habit, it felt like I was getting closer to it.

Would I Continue Doing The 5 Minute Tidy Up?

Actually, I think that I would. I think that just five minutes for seven days goes a long way. If you think about it, that's a total of 35 minutes that I've spent keeping tidy. Although I tend to be a sporadic cleaner, I think that by having the tidy up I can at least maintain general cleanliness of my room so that it's not an absolute mess all the time.

I Tried Spending 5 Minutes Every Night to Tidy Up for a Week
Before and after: taken right before the first day and right after the last day

I definitely saw a significant difference in the cleanliness of my room. While my floor was a lot less cluttered, I also was able to organize my desk a little more. Although there is still a lot of stuff on my desk, I can actually see the surface of the desk and have also organized it instead of just having a pile of assorted items. Throughout just seven days, I have already seen the power of a five minute tidy up. 

To address the biggest limitation that I ran into and was fearful of even before beginning the week, while it was sometimes annoying to have to do a five minute tidy up when all I wanted to do was to go to bed, it can be solved. I think that one of the big things that I've found helpful in keeping up the five minute tidy up is doing it a bit earlier rather then literally right before going to bed. Sometimes I like to do all my before bed prep (brushing teeth etc.) well before I actually plan to sleep so that I have a wind down period, so I think that I would add the five minute tidy up to that time so that I'm not exhausted as I'm doing it.

So yes, I would continue doing the five minute tidy up and I encourage you to do the same. It's amazing what you can do in just five minutes.

Will you be trying the five minute tidy up?



I Tried Spending 5 Minutes Every Night to Tidy Up for a Week
waffles with powdered sugar for breakfast or brunch

I've been seeing the idea of hosting a Friendsgiving brunch online and it's something that I'm kind of jumping on the bandwagon on. It's something that's fun + great to do with friends if you're not one for the traditional kind of Friendsgiving dinner.


Why Friendsgiving Brunch?

01 | it's less stressful and more casual than a dinner

Although it may be equally stressful for the host depending on how far you're taking your Friendsgiving brunch, it can be less stressful overall based off of different expectations. There's just something about a dinner that makes people worried about a formal atmosphere. A brunch makes people more comfortable to loosen up since it tends to be associated with a more easy-going atmosphere than a dinner.

02 | it's something more unique

If you're already going to have a Thanksgiving with your family, it might be less than exciting to have another huge dinner with your friends. Having a Friendsgiving brunch changes the game and makes it more unique than the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Forget the mashed potatoes, bring on the roasted potatoes and hash browns! Forget cranberry sauce, we're having cranberry bagels instead!


Related: Lauren Conrad - 3 Melt-In Your Mouth Friendsgiving Brunch Desserts


03 | you can wear your pjs

Yeah, some of us like to dress cute to brunch, but if you're going to a friend's house, why not make it a Friendsgiving brunch pj party? Instead of feeling the "what do I wear" stress over a dinner party, brunch is a lot more cozy, especially if you tell your guests to wear their most comfortable pajamas.

04 | it's brunch. 'nuff said.

Let's be real, everyone loves a good brunch. Why would you pass that up?


How to make a Friendsgiving brunch happen

create fall takes on the classic brunch foods

Add in some apple, cranberry, pumpkin, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, you know, the usual fall flavors to the classic brunch foods. It's your time to get creative! Currently envisioning pumpkin pancakes, walnut apple french toast, cinnamon rolls with maple icing, and all the fall treats. Look through Pinterest or just craft your own recipe by using a basic recipe for a simple brunch food (ex: eggs, roasted potatoes, waffles, etc.) and then add some of the pinnacle autumn ingredients to transform it into a Friendsgiving essential. 

Related: A Taste of Koko - How to Host a Friendsgiving Brunch


divide up the tasks

If you're lazy, divide up the cooking so that everyone brings their own unique aspect of brunch to the table (literally and figuratively). If you haven't seen my post on how to host a Friendsgiving, the same method can be applied to Friendsgiving brunch in order to ease the responsibility of the host. After all, brunch is supposed to be relaxing, so let's be collaborative to keep things as stress-free as possible.

Will you be having a Friendsgiving Brunch?



cinnamon rolls for Friendsgiving brunch


For me, Thanksgiving as a holiday has never necessarily been the most celebrated day. That's not to say that I don't have my fair share of turkey and potatoes, but unlike all of my friends, who mention their extended family coming over to celebrate, that's not the case for me. Yeah, I spend time with my family, but it's just me, my sister, and my parents. It feels almost no different than any other dinner with them.

Why is that? My extended family doesn't even celebrate Thanksgiving. In fact, they don't even live in America. They live all around the world, but not in America.

I'm a second generation immigrant, so for me, Thanksgiving isn't really a way for me to connect with my extended family considering that they live thousands of miles away. As I'm thinking about it, while I'm sure that some of you might be getting ready to dodge questions from your extended family, I'm sure that there are also some of you that aren't able to celebrate that way for Thanksgiving.

Whether you just can't make it home for the holiday, are an immigrant from another country, or your family isn't around anymore, that doesn't mean that you can't still celebrate Thanksgiving. Here are some ideas on what you can do beyond family dinners:

01 | Volunteer

There are lots of Thanksgiving volunteer events that you can join, here's a quick list. If you already have Thanksgiving plans, you can still volunteer on another day during the Thanksgiving break or even another day following the holiday. The point of Thanksgiving is to be thankful, so what better way to celebrate than continue that thankfulness beyond that November Thursday? Visit a shelter, a school, a food bank, whatever you can find in your area, to celebrate Thanksgiving.

02 | Carve a pumpkin

Who says carving pumpkins is just for Halloween? Make some Thanksgiving themed pumpkins, maybe do a little turkey carving or a cornucopia if you're up for something a bit more difficult. Design your own! Bonus: toast the pumpkin seeds that you remove from the pumpkins for an autumnal Thanksgiving treat!


03 | Make a blanket

Get cozy on Thanksgiving by making a blanket! You can make those easy fleece tie blankets, but if you want something more sophisticated, I saw these simple DIY flannel blankets online and they look so nice you can't even tell that they're a DIY. Spend the day working on this project and if you're feeling the giving part of Thanksgiving, you can give the blanket to a charity: here is a list of charities that ask for these kinds of things.

04 | Knit something

Just like with the blanket, you can spend the time knitting something for yourself, especially when the weather is getting a bit colder, or you can also donate those knit items to any of those charities if you would like. You can knit or crochet hats, mittens, scarves, blankets (if your ambitious), there are tons of things that you can knit. Watch a movie while knitting and get cozy.

05 | Clean out your closet + donate the clothes you don't wear anymore

Don't hold onto things that you don't need anymore, instead give them to people that might actually need them! I don't know about you, but I have lots of clothes in my closet that I never wear and always say that I will. Take the day to go through those clothes and get rid of the ones that you don't really need and donate them to charity. Here are 15 places where you can donate used clothing.

06 | Make care packages

Make a gift for a friend or a family member to show them how thankful you are to have them in your life. Whether you make small little care packages or full blown boxes, for hey will definitely appreciate your efforts. Plus, it's a fun way for you to spend the day.

07 | Invent your own take on Thanksgiving dinner

Make Thanksgiving uniquely you by adapting your own Thanksgiving traditions and getting creative. Who says Thanksgiving only has to be the classic turkey and mashed potatoes? I read this article online on these different immigrant families that have merged their own cultures with Thanksgiving, which I found SO interesting. Regardless of whether or not you are of another culture, you can still reinvent Thanksgiving in a creative way.

08 | Send thank you cards

It's Thanksgiving, so why not let all of your friends and family how much you appreciate them with thank you cards? Write personalized notes inside for them and even make your own if you choose to. I love making my own cards since I think that it's really fun and also makes the thank you a lot more meaningful.

Don't feel like making your own card? I made one that you can use! Unlock the free handmade thank you card that's in the photo at the beginning of this post as well as other freebies from the bloomly content library by joining the email list!


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