I am a passionate singer-songwriter. I dream of lyrics, melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. I grab my phone in the middle of conversations, walking on the street, on the subway, and jot down lyrics or musical thoughts.
I am also a plastic surgeon, wife, and mom of three kids. I found my way to music through a jumbled journey, with stops and starts, but here I am at 50, feeling energized and excited about my music and all that is ahead of me.
No one in my family was at all musical. I grew up in Manhattan, in an apartment where there was never really music playing. I had a record player in my room, and would sing along to albums I bought at the local record store. Yes, these were the real deal vinyl, and that was all there was then. No streaming, MP3, or any other form of hearing music. Just vinyl and the radio. My mom, a die-hard NYC girl, was born and raised in the Bronx. How she became a country music fan, I am not sure, but that was all that she played on the radio in the car. I grew up a Jewish girl on the Upper East Side of Manhattan listening to songs like “Dropkick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life.” Yes, I still remember all the words.
At around the age of 10, I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I read a book my grandfather bought for me called “The Making of a Woman Surgeon,” and was obsessed with the TV show M*A*S*H, which was about three army surgeons. I dreamt of being a surgeon one day and followed that dream to where I am today. So my journey through medical school, residency, and fellowship consumed my life, and along the way I met my husband and had our first child. I knew I wanted to work for myself, so with determination and hard work I opened my own practice and over the past 20 years have built it into one of the premier plastic surgery practices in New York City.
So, back to the music. While I was in medical school, I learned to play the guitar by ear and wrote about ten songs. My fellow med school student and neighbor taught me all the open chords on the guitar and I somehow strung together chord progressions and sung melodies to lyrics I wrote. At the time this was pure therapy. I performed in our med school “talent show,” but that was the extent of my musical career. After med school, the guitar collected dust and I was busy with work and family. About ten years ago when I was looking into piano lessons for my kids, I decided I wanted to learn to play the piano and write music.
Fast forward ten years and music has become my passion. Over the years I have met so many wonderful musicians, teachers, and mentors along the way. It feels sometimes like I have two lives. One of the surgeon, mom, wife and the other as a singer-songwriter. I hustle, I play open mics, I send my music around hoping that someone other than my friends and family will hear my songs. But for me, the joy has been in the journey and the friends I have made along the way. Learning to express myself through song, through lyrics, through melody -- that is the essence for me.
Jessica Lattman is a plastic surgeon based in New York City. She started writing music in medical school when her neighbor taught her how to play the guitar. She took a bit of a break from music to grow her surgical practice and her family. Jessica came back to music about 10 years ago, formally learned to play the piano, and is now a passionate singer-songwriter who can be heard at open mics and small venues around NYC. She regularly mentors women medical students in her Manhattan office and supports organizations that help develop the musical voices of women in NYC.
Hailing from Los Angeles singer/songwriter, producer and dancer Shyra Sanchez teamed up with Traig to release a new dance single “Universal Love” on Friday, June 28th in honor of Pride Month. “Universal Love” is a real anthem for global unity and acceptance. With lyrics like:
“No one’s gonna tell us who to love or why to hate
They’re livin’ in the past; it’s time to celebrate
Universal Love, Universal Love”
“Universal Love” promotes a real sense of community.
It is no surprise that Shyra would put out a track with this message as she started her initiative, STAR Academy in 2016, as a way to give back to young artists and entertainment professionals to succeed in fashion, film, modeling and other performance arts. We here at #TheCrush are happy to endorse our fellow women in music who advocate for creative communities & are excited to share this track with our #WomenCrush Music community.
Shyra first connected with dance music fans with the hit single “DJ Love Song” in 2012, which peaked on Billboard’s Dance Chart at #28. The song caught the eye of award-winning film director John Singleton, and he placed the song in his action thriller film, Abduction.
The single and several remixes were released as part of the Traig Feat. Shyra Sanchez “Universal Love” album in two volumes: Volume One (published June 28th, 2019) and Volume Two will be released shortly after on July 26th, 2019.
As Pride Month draws to a close, we should remember the struggle for equality in all its forms is still ongoing, and “Universal Love” is what we should all be striving to achieve.
You can stream the song here:
To keep up with Shyra, you can follow her on her socials at @ShyraSanchezOfficial on Facebook, @shyrasanchez for Twitter & IG.
Ashley is the Founder/Executive Directress of #WomenCrush Music, full-time creative influencer by day & soul-flowing artist by night. Connect with her on Twitter & IG at @ashleykstoyanov.
Portland pop R&B artist Courtney Noe isn’t afraid to take you there. Her lead single, “Woman On The Prowl,” off her upcoming EP Bad Attitude, is just the right amount of sassy, pop/rock, and unabashed sexuality to keep you satiated until Bad Attitude’s release.
Courtney Noe is an authentic artist through and through- she knows what she wants and how to get it. Noe’s been in the professional music game since the release of her first EP Invisible Crown in 2016. Her bio- which is admittedly “under construction” on her website- details facts about her that makes her all the more relatable: she loves corgis, she has constant resting bitch face, she designs her own costumes, and she’s all for girl power and saving the environment. She describes herself as “quick-witted” and “sassy” and based on “Woman On The Prowl,” I’d whole-heartedly agree.
“Woman On The Prowl” is an unapologetically sex-positive track that narrates Noe’s desire for a one-night stand while at a bar. Much like her message of encouraging women to assert their agency, especially sexually, her raw-edged, cutting vocals are equally assertive, telling listeners “I walk in the bar and I pick you out/ ‘Cause I know what I want and I have no doubts.” Her rich, full tone and the pulsing synths, in contrast with more stripped-down moments where she belts in her higher register, gives the song the right amount of sex-appeal and mystery.
Make sure to add “Woman On The Prowl” to your “going out” playlist or when you want to hype yourself up to be bold, make that move, and be “on the prowl”.
Listen to “Woman On The Prowl” on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music. Keep up with Courtney and the details on the release of Bad Attitude on Courtney’s website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Review by: Anna Sejuelas
Anna Sejuelas is a New York-based LGBTQ+ writer whose work has been published in This Bitch Magazine, Her Campus, College Candy, Medium.com, and FLURT Magazine. The way she writes and sings is the way she wears red lipstick and leather jackets: classic and with a purpose. You can read her work here and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
It’s June! In the words of Manrepeller's Leandra Medine, it’s just about time to #lovesummerhateeverything else. I, for one, cannot get on board with this sentiment. I live in New York City; a muggy sweaty mess of a city that is basically unbearable the second the temperature hits above 70. What I can get on board with this June is New York Music Month, an entire month dedicated to the thriving local music scene, with both industry and public facing events for amateurs and professionals alike. Music Month boasts everything from panel discussions, festivals, and live shows all around the city reflecting every genre of music and the creators who make it.
This year’s Music Month kicked off with an encouraging announcement from the NYC Mayor’s Office. A few weeks ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) announced that it would be dedicating $500,000 to grants for local female-identifying producers, composers, engineers, solo musicians, ensemble bands and orchestras. Creators can be given up to $20,000 to put towards recording a previously unreleased body of music or visual including albums, EPs, and music videos. Recipients of the grant will be announced in March of 2020.
Anne del Castillo, the newly minted commissioner of the MOME, said that this grant was motivated at least in part by a USC Annenberg report that found just 10% of Grammy nominees from 2013–2019 were female. This doesn’t come as a shock, seeing as how the Grammys have been unable to avoid criticism surrounding this topic in recent years. In fact, this sort of criticism probably lead to Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy and Resident Mansplainer, being replaced by Deborah Dugan as of July of this year.
Let me start by saying I love hearing news like this. There’s enough nonsense in the world that often makes me cringe at even the idea of checking the news, and I was pleasantly surprised when this news story appeared at the top of my feed in my morning perusal of Billboard. The fact that the disparity in recognition for women creators is being acknowledged on this high of a level is reassuring. I do, though, have to say that monetary support is not the only answer to this problem. Monetary support has to be followed by actual action and recognition for women creators shouldn’t be reserved to one month out of the year. My hope is that actions aimed to balance out this type of gender disparity in the music industry (and let’s face it, all industries) are eventually unnecessary, but for now let’s celebrate this small victory.
Do you live in NYC? Is there a NYMM event I shouldn’t miss out on? Is there a female-fronted band you think I need to know about? Hit me up on socials or comment below! Happy Music Month to all.
PS: I would be remiss not to mention that June is also Pride! So happy Pride to all my LGBTQ+ friends and allies. Celebrating you today and every day.
#TheCrush Report is a monthly recap of what's happening in the biz by music publicist Chloe Cardio. You can follow Chloe onInstagram and Twitter.
The music industry can be a rough world on your own as a musician. Without a team of branding and marketing specialists getting the word out about you and your, assuming awesome, band, it can be one of the most difficult hurdles to jump. However, below is a step-by-step process of how an independent band can brand and market themselves, including tips on brand vision, audience, assets, and the necessary evil, social media. The music industry has changed dramatically in the past few years, and now more than ever has it become a great time for independent musicians to find success in today’s music industry. Read below to learn how you can give you and you’re a band a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Create A Personal Brand Vision for You Or Your Band
Some of the most successful bands in history have a very distinct image that they have created as their vision. The Beatles with their matching haircuts and Boy Band appearance. The Spice Girls with their multiple yet cohesive personas. Beyoncé with her general awesomeness -- enough said. This vision is the first step to creating your personal brand and should help organize your thoughts. Like the artists above, this brand vision should reflect how you want yourself to be perceived by others, specifically your target audience. Here are some questions to consider for help with this step...
· What are the themes of your work?
· What values are most important to you as an artist?
· What inspires you?
· How would you describe your personal style?
· How do you want your audience to describe your live show?
Connect With Fans
If you’re a people person, this is the fun part. Building a bridge between you and your fans is important for success as an independent artist. This is where social media -- Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. -- come in handy. It allows constant access between you and your fans at all times and free publicity on your upcoming shows, albums, meet and greets, etc. It also allows a chance for you to interact with your fans. In other words, if a fan compliments your track or album or show, thank them!
But also, the old school approach of playing live as often as possible takes the cake. A killer live show is a great way to gain new fans and keep the ones you have happy. It’s all about first impressions with this one, so hit the pavement and busk in cities you have never been to and put yourself out there...
...which brings me to my next point. Many young musicians have been discovered on YouTube -- Justin Bieber, Jasmine Thompson, Shawn Mendes, to name a few -- so if you have a little stage fright or are just starting out, YouTube is a great option to dip your toe in the water. But even if you’re fully submerged in your music career, a popular YouTube channel can be a great -- and cheap -- platform to launch yourself on. All you need is the internet and a camera and you can dazzle everyone with your talent.
Streaming sites is a huge controversy in the music industry today. Some artists have reservations about putting their work on streaming platforms, but it's a huge tool that can help raise your profile and reach new fans. Getting your songs on a playlist with some well-known artists on Spotify or Apple Music is an extremely useful, and free, way to get your music out there. Did I mention it was free?
Connect With Mentors
Consistent learning and growth is one key to success. Mentors are great assets when building your personal brand and are also just great for advice in general for when you need that little extra push. You can learn the tricks of the trade so to speak from someone who has experience in the field. Also, connections are everything in the music industry. It’s a community and you never know what doors may open with a new friend and mentor. Plus, it’s always nice to have a new jam-sesh buddy who gives you advice on music too.
I know, as cheesy as it sounds, it is true. You or your band are unique, so don’t build your brand trying to be the next Beyoncé because, let’s face it, there is only one Queen B. Figure out what your strengths are and what makes your brand particularly unique. That is what will set you apart from the rest.
This has been a guest post written by Charlotte Kohlberg, a recent graduate of Art History from New York University. After working at a publishing company, she realized her affinity for writing when she had to write weekly newsletters on authors and podcasts. She started her journalism career contributing for online media and entertainment source, The Knockturnal. Currently living in New York City, Charlotte enjoys going to concerts and art museums and mixing cocktails for her friends.
Success comes from hard work, networking, dedication, talent and a little bit of luck. Something that makes a huge impact on each one of those things is your mindset.
Your mindset should be positive, uplifting and attracting success. This will, in turn, make you confident in every aspect of your life and will affect your success in music.
An example of how your mindset can affect your success in music can be the following: Picture this, you have an important gig coming up that you have worked hard for. You’re trying to psych yourself up but you keep having these anxious thoughts of “what if I mess up?” “what if no one likes my music?” etc. That’s thinking negatively and having that mindset can damage your chances for success.
Instead, here are some tips to help you improve your mindset to positively affect your success.
Step 1 Choose something you want to have come into your life. It could be something like a publishing deal, a manager, a sale on your song, an artist cutting a record you wrote or something else you really desire.
Step 2 Focus on what you desire. Really visualize what it would feel like to have this thing in your life. Think about the emotions you would feel towards it. If it would make you happy focus on that feeling. It takes 17 seconds to start creating momentum for manifesting something. So you want to focus for at least for 17 seconds on the thought.
Step 3 Write out yourself having it in the present. Try using ‘I Am’ statements. So if you wanted to manifest or bring into your life a manager you could say:
I am working with an amazing manager.
I am recording an amazing album.
I am a grammy winner etc.
Write it out many times. The more times the better.
Step 4 Write a gratitude statement about having it. Here are some examples:
I am so grateful for getting my first record deal.
I am so grateful for winning my first grammy.
I am so grateful for finding the perfect guitarist for my next song on my album.
Step 5 Move on! You don't want to focus on it too much or you'll introduce resistance. Go have fun! Do things that feel good so you can keep your vibration up and have faith. This is always the hard part! Waiting but you must have patience.
Want to learn more details? Check out our program where we teach musicians how to manifest your wildest dreams here: www.artistpluginprogram.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dani is a music entrepreneur as well as singer/songwriter outside of Philadelphia. She is the Founder of the Artist Plugin Program the online course to help artists with mindset, networking, branding and monetizing. She also is the Founder of Music Industry Mastery a music consulting agency to help artists with branding, promotion and content creation. She is also the co-author of In The Spotlight: Over 100 Voices in Music a book that features advice from over 100 indie artists, producers, publicists and more. Her passion is to help artists connect with the right people. She is the master connector. She plugs artists into the right people, resources and opportunities.
Coachella: the Mecca for trendsetters and music stans alike. But why? Who deemed the Indigo, CA festival the intersection for all things popular music, boho-chic fashion, and creative expression? Perhaps it was Vanessa Hudgens, dubbed the Queen of Coachella, who has been a fixture at the festival since what feels like its inception. Maybe social media is to blame (or thank?) for bringing the festival to the mainstream due in part to its insta-worthy grounds and flocks of celebrity attendees.
I, for one, have never been to Coachella. This is not a product of me not wanting to go; you definitely wouldn’t have to beg me to go to a weekend-long festival in beautiful weather among beautiful people and great music. In a way, I feel like I see all I need to of the festival thanks to social media posts and live streams of artists’ sets online. Half of the allure for me personally is the fashion; every year post-Coachella I stalk the pages of my favorite fashion websites for photo diaries of festival-goers in various states of undress or in outfits so elaborate I wonder how they slink themselves through the crowds and the heat without doing damage to themselves or others.
Every artist can tell you that performing for a crowd is a form of pure release -- a form of creative expression that can’t be replicated or fabricated. I believe this is the role fashion plays for many festival attendees. Fashion in and of itself is a form of creative expression, personal and specific to each individual, and similar to performing in that the feeling you get from putting together a great outfit is similar to the satisfaction a performer gets when killing a set in front of a great crowd. When thinking of it this way, the outrageous festival fashions make sense.
One of the best things about any festival is the feeling that everyone there is truly just living their best life. And you’re all there for the same reason! The community vibes are always there and I’m here for that! Next time you can make it to a festival, whether it be Coachella or its equivalent in your neck of the woods, take advantage of the truly spontaneous and judgement-free environment and live it up, dress to EXpress, and have a great time.
#TheCrush Report is a monthly recap of what's happening in the biz by music publicist Chloe Cardio. You can follow Chloe on Instagram and Twitter.
Sam Creighton is no stranger to the stage -- she's been part of theater programs in both middle school and high school and performed with her college a capella group, Northeastern University’s The Nor’easters, at the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella in 2015. Since graduating, Sam’s been on a roll in her solo journey as a singer, creating and releasing singles with messages of female empowerment, self-love, relationships, and saying bye to fuckboys. She sat down with us to talk about her badass new single “Smile" (which calls out catcalling!), give advice about finding balance between your passion and your work life, dish on her upcoming music, and offer words of wisdom for women singer-songwriters in the industry today.
How did you get started with music?
I started singing when I was around 2 years old. My grandfather has a vast musical history with songwriting, piano, violin, and choral singing, so he took me under his wing from a very young age! He would prop me up on his lap at the piano and teach me how to harmonize with him. My favorite memory is singing a duet called “What’ll I Do” with him! After that, I just never stopped. I took voice lessons in elementary school, joined the theater program in middle and high school, sang in choirs and school talent shows -- it was never-ending. Music became ingrained in who I am as a person.
I read that in college, you were studying behavioral neuroscience and were also part of The Nor'easters, a competitive a capella group on campus, which was featured on a reality TV show called Sing It On, produced by John Legend. What was the catalyst that led to your becoming involved with The Nor'easters? Did you feel lost without music?
When I had to make the tough decision between following my dreams in higher education or taking a more practical route, something pulled me toward the safe decision. I can’t exactly say what it was, but I’m grateful for it -- because had I not gone to Northeastern to study Behavioral Neuroscience, I would have never felt the emptiness of not having a musical outlet in my life, and I would have never searched across campus for different musical clubs that ultimately led me to The Nor’easters. It only took two weeks of college to realize that I couldn’t be without music, so I guess, in a sense -- yes, I do feel lost without music. Once I auditioned for the group and started rehearsing with them, my whole demeanor shifted. I became myself again. It was a lovely break from the monotony of Organic Chemistry at first, but it quickly took over and I spent more time in the rehearsal room singing than I did in the library studying. Can’t say I regret it though!
What would you say to people who want to follow their passions but default to making a different, "socially acceptable" career choice for the sake of financial stability? Is there a balance that can be achieved?
I think there is definitely a balance. Listen, at the end of the day -- we all have bills to pay. It’s an unfortunate reality but it comes with the privilege of being alive in modern day society. Most people (including myself) that I know in LA have at least one or two side hustles that we work to pay our bills and the rest of our free time is spent honing our craft and working to make our passion into our livelihood. If anyone out there is contemplating following their passions instead of a more “socially acceptable” career choice, I have a few words of advice. Do you want to settle for a job that only somewhat fulfills you, just to be able to retire peacefully and comfortably? Will you look back at the end of your life and say, “yes I did everything I wanted to do, working the same job day in and day out”? Or will you agonize over the idea of “What if I had just tried? What if I had just gone after it and potentially have lived my dreams?” That thought alone gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and take the leap into music. I may not know what my life is going to look like, what the outcome will be, or what level of success I will reach, but I know one thing. I know that I can look back and be proud of myself for choosing to be courageous and trying to make my dreams a reality while I am still young and able.
Your previous single, "After Midnight," which you released last fall, was the ultimate Say No To Fuckboys anthem. When you came to that realization of "I'm not anyone's booty call, I'm my own person and I will be treated with respect," did that change not only your approach to loving yourself and to dating, but also to the industry and how you write music?
It certainly changed my perspective on myself and dating. That song was written after a Tinder experience. I only ever download Tinder when I am heartbroken and coming out of a relationship or feeling lonely. The relationship broke me down and made me hate myself, and leaving it had the opposite effect. Leaving it gave me the strength and power to see my own value and worth. He literally hated me into loving myself. He didn’t deserve a song, but funny enough, I was so inspired by this one Tinder experience. I wasn’t upset or saddened by it -- if anything, I felt bad for him, because he was about to get the wrath of a new, self-loving, self-respecting powerful WOMAN!!! This feeling was so familiar to me, but my reaction to it was so new. I was almost shocked by my own self-respect, and that deserved a Fuck You anthem! As for writing music and being in the industry -- I saw how my music with a message could alter and change people’s lives -- and there is no greater feeling. So, with that, I think I stopped chasing the “hits” and started writing my own personal stories in a way that people can relate to them and feel inspired the way they were inspired by songs like “After Midnight."
You have a new single out now called “Smile" which takes aim at catcalling and at a situation that very many women can attest to being in: being told to “smile more” by men who are, frankly, gross and disrespectful of a woman’s space. Was this song inspired by that general situation or was it something more specific?
This song is inspired by a specific situation that happens so frequently that it became general! Does that make sense? I hope so, haha. How sad is that? Being a woman, especially in the city -- it’s almost impossible to escape misogynistic remarks and cat calling. I literally don’t wear dresses anymore because the chances of being objectified when I’m in a dress literally shoot up at least 50%. That’s not a factual statistic, but it FEELS like that much of a difference is made based solely on the clothes I choose to put on my body. I’m so sick of women being looked at as lesser than. I feel powerful, I feel singular, and I feel strong, so why can’t men see me as that as well? It’s 2019. Women are humans. We are not dolls. We don’t have to smile. And we don’t owe you anything.
Anything you can tell us about upcoming music?
Oh, the music I have coming up is my favorite. There is this weird curse with artists -- we’re always a step ahead of ourselves. So when one song comes out, chances are we’ve moved past it and are already ready for the three songs that come next. Of course I am proud of the art I’ve released so far, but the stuff I have coming is just a different level of vulnerable and personal. It will be scary to share it because it’s not my bitchy, powerful, stand-up-for-myself side; it’s my vulnerable and courageous side. That’s scary! But so exciting.
What advice would you give to the rising women songwriters in our community?
I would tell all girls, all women, all female-identifying humans -- keep going. You have something to say. You are important and your story deserves to be shared. Stay honest and stay powerful. I see you and I am with you. Also, LET’S WRITE TOGETHER!!! You’re the only ones welcome to “slide into my DMs”. Go away boiz!!! Hahaha.
“Smile” is available on all streaming platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, and YouTube. Keep up with Sam on Instagram and Twitter!
Interview by Anna Sejuelas
Anna Sejuelas is a New York-based LGBTQ+ writer whose work has been published in This Bitch Magazine, Her Campus, College Candy, Medium.com, and FLURT Magazine. The way she writes and sings is the way she wears red lipstick and leather jackets: classic and with a purpose. You can read her work here and find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Words have enormous power. They can uplift us and cheer us up; they can cast us down and make us wail and whine as soon as we hear them. Their power is so strong that they should not be underrated when writing songs. Let´s see why lyrics matter!
1. Connection: The lyrics of your song can build a bridge between the author and any listener who identifies with them; common ground is immediately established in the light of shared feelings. This song-to-heart relationship is a precious jewel to be cherished indeed.
2. Memorability: A catchy, moving, soulful chorus can work miracles! It can make you stand out in the sea of dull, hollow, repetitive songs -- a few appealing lines may bring you to the limelight as the author of a hit... and the prospective writer of another hit down the line.
3. Inspiration: If your lyrics are heartfelt and based on personal experience, they are bound to strike a sympathetic chord. They can inspire listeners who are going through a rough patch; they can brighten their days and help them move on. You can become a part of their lives in a most meaningful way -- being the helping hand of an unseen friend.
4. Quotability: Your lyrics, if carefully polished, can be a source of memorable phrases to be quoted. Think of fans who wear tattoos with their favorite lines or brands who choose a tagline for their commercials or even merchandise featuring famous phrases. Just imagine your own words making that impact!
5. Uniqueness: Last but not least, your lyrics tell all about you: who you are, what you believe in, and what you stand for. They highlight your uniqueness; your personal and individual outlook. They tell your story in your own way. The truth about yourself is poured forth in every line -- the message you and only you can sing. Your lyrics are as singular as your own voice.
As we can see, the power of lyrics should never be overlooked when creating a song. If you want your lyrics to be really effective, just let your heart dictate and write on.
This has been a guest post by Argentinian music consultant, musician, and writer, Mariana Dayan. You can connect with her on Facebook or shoot her an email!
You cannot pour from an empty cup. You must fill your cup first.
Has your cup ever been empty? No? You are one of the lucky few ☺
In the fall of 2017, my cup was empty. I felt drained by the constant support I gave to my fiancé’s community choir, where I was also a board member and singing member, to the point where it was affecting our relationship. Ironically, what began as a lifelong passion for singing and music, and brought us together, was turning into an obligation and burden. I felt apathetic about practicing between rehearsals, and bitter about actually having to go to rehearsals since I would spend hours every week working on other administrative tasks to keep the organization going. And this was just my hobby. Professionally, my job had become a dead end for me, and I was the odd woman out in my department. My coworkers excluded me, withheld department info and processes from me, and even bullied me. It was so subtle that even my boss had difficulties trying to identify and address it.
By August 2017, I began to struggle with depression and anxiety. In reality, I had been struggling with depression for several years, but ignored warning signs and felt like I could manage it without medication. Developing anxiety along with the depression practically made me implode. I could barely eat or sleep, my hair and skin were dull, and my skin crawled almost nonstop. The feeling of wanting to escape from my own skin, yet somehow observing all this from overhead was completely overwhelming. My fiancé was so worried about me that he’d get up to go for neighborhood walks with me at 3:30am, just so I wouldn’t be alone (he’s a keeper, for sure). Walking seemed to be the only thing that gave me a feeling of calm.
Flash forward to February 2019, and I look back on this time with mixed feelings. It was a difficult time, but now I feel happy, healthy, and eagerly look forward to work, and coming home to my husband (see how I did that? ☺). My glass is full again, and when it dips below a certain level, I rely on self-care to restore it.
So, what steps did I take to go from an early 30’s empty glass crisis into a much more settled, fulfilled woman? This is where self-care came in, and when my cup finally began to refill. My employer had begun to embrace the self-care concept, but didn’t really provide adequate tools for explaining what self-care was and how we as employees could incorporate it into our daily lives. If self-care is defined as the practice of taking an active role or action to preserve or improve one’s personal health, where do you start? Here is how I started my journey:
Reach out and ask for help
The turning point for me was November, 2017. I knew I needed help, and I couldn’t continue plodding along on my own. I finally made an appointment with my primary care provider to discuss medication therapy. My brain was out of whack, and needed that chemical help to reset, and grow. Prescription for a mild antidepressant in hand, I felt stronger knowing that I had something supporting me from within. I also began to see a therapist, someone whom I could talk to that wasn’t a friend, and could give me honest, sometimes hard advice. This combination of medication and therapy was the foundation for getting myself well, and for sustaining me when things got even harder in February 2018 (a topic for another day). Once this foundation was established, I was able to focus more on the self-care that I had been hearing so much about, but hadn’t been able to put into regular practice.
Take time for yourself
I enjoy a glass of good red wine, and I would use it as a reward for getting through my work day and not coming home in tears. Usually I’d crawl in bed with a glass and watch an episode or two of Sex and the City. It was one of those little things that took very little effort and time, but felt like a guilty pleasure (I never felt guilty, actually). If my fiancé was home, I’d probably stay in the living room and watch it from the couch.
Another thing I love to do is give myself 10 minutes to meditate in the morning (more on that below). This gives me the opportunity to check in with myself, which I have found to be very beneficial, as it starts my day on a positive, focused note.
Exercise and sweat are amazing endorphin boosters, and I work out seriously 3-4 times weekly at the gym. I decided to join Planet Fitness, and I absolutely love it there. It’s very relaxed, no pressure, no judgment. I still continue with my walks, enjoying that time with my husband when he is able to join me, as well as with friends. It was so pleasant to catch up and chat outside, rather than always meeting at bars and shouting at each other over the music. Summertime is hiking season, so hikes usually replace walks for a few short months of the year. I do give myself rest days because I need them, but I love burning off that excess negative energy, and knowing that I committed to myself and pushed myself every time.
I had mildly dabbled in meditation techniques in college, mostly due to a theology professor who made us begin class every day with breathing exercises to focus and calm us. Once the anxiety crept in, I turned to meditation to help calm myself. I have meditated every day since October 2017, and I love it. I mostly use meditation apps downloaded to my phone. The first is Meditation (white square with blue circle inside). The guide is female, which is awesome because so many of them have a male voice with an ambiguously British accent. They have 7, 14 and 21 minute single meditations across a wide variety of topics, and 7 day programs to further enhance your meditation experience. Additionally, I also like Calm, which has a great Instagram page with small entries that take 30 seconds to 1 minute to complete. Headspace (yellow-orange icon) is another great app with countless options for meditating, although I haven’t utilized it to its full potential.
I also think nutrition plays an enormous part in how we feel on a daily basis. While I’m sure many of us could write novels on the diets we’ve tried, I think small changes can have a huge impact. For me, I try to eat a larger breakfast, a good lunch, two snacks and finish my day with a smaller dinner. I also try to keep my dinner heavier on protein than carbs and fat, as it helps avoid that uncomfortably full feeling, and I swear helps me sleep better.
Ultimately, your self-care priorities might be vastly different from mine. However, my biggest piece of advice to you is to not wait for a problem to arise before you start practicing self-care, and start small. A few minutes here or there can pay huge dividends over time. By refilling my cup, I was able to begin helping others fill their cups without sacrificing my own well-being.
By: Susan Tower
Susan is a nonprofit executive, based in Missoula, MT. Until last year, she had been actively involved in school and community choirs for almost 28 years, but decided to take a break to focus on self-care and being a newlywed. In addition to her passion for nonprofits and choir, she loves to travel, and believes deeply in self-care, and the magical power of koalas. Some of her travel musings can be found on her blog, kimchiintheoutback.com.
Note: The contents of this article relate the experiences of the interviewee for informational purposes and should not substitute for professional psychological advice. Always consult a qualified mental health provider with any questions you have regarding a medical disorder.
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