10 Ways to Up Your Self Care Game

I’ve been thinking about self-care quite a bit these days. I’ve been noticing the different ways people interpret that, how it can look, and what happens when it’s missing.

Some people think self-care means personal indulgences like an entire spa day, extravagant meal, or a pricey vacation. While those things are lovely, I ultimately consider them “special treats” or “rewards”.  Of course, everyone is worthy of a special experience, but rewards are very different than self-care.  Understanding this distinction will allow you to flourish and will prevent you from running yourself ragged. 

Each of us deserves to be nurtured, loved, and tended to with compassion and grace.  You must nurture yourself like a devoted parent takes care of a precious child; love is always present no matter how that child behaves.

Some believe that they are only deserving of self-care when they meet their own self-imposed expectations or expectations imposed upon them by family, friends or even society. If they’ve fallen short, they withhold self-care believing they don’t deserve it. This could not be further from the truth.  

We owe ourselves unconditional, consistent, loving care on a daily basis. No matter what. Below are some ideas to up your self-care game:

  1. Get enough sleep! Plan, prepare, and execute to get yourself to bed at a reasonable hour.  Your body will thank you!
  2. Move your body in pleasing ways.
  3. Drink enough water (yes, I said it!).
  4. Eat sufficient yummy, nutrient-dense foods.
  5. Get a regular massage.
  6. Schedule yourself quiet time. This can include time to think, read, journal, create, and even breathe.
  7. Connect with your favorite people.
  8. Cut out the negativity. Be mindful about what you watch/listen to/read regarding current events.
  9. Lotion your entire body after your shower.
  10. Switch from a shower to a bath. Use this as a chance to cleanse your body, mind, and soul.

The list could go on and on. Give yourself the benefit of your own innate wisdom and ask yourself how you long to be cared for, then implement those things with intention and consistency.

What happens if you aren’t taking care of yourself? Well, if you’ve read this far, I bet you can answer that very easily. Perhaps you feel out of sorts, cranky, moody, depleted, adrift, alone, resentful, maybe even abandoned. You might have headaches, stiffness, body pain. Maybe your digestion is off and you are struggling to find foods that appeal to you. It’s likely that your focus and productivity are suffering, you might be frequently overwhelmed and/or anxious, even easily angered.

If any of those are true for you, don’t wait! Ask yourself what you need to feel cherished and provide that for yourself. There’s no time like the present and no one more deserving than you!

If you would like support in taking loving care of yourself and to regain your sense of peace and pleasure with life, schedule a discovery call here: https://bit.ly/3js1kfs

Life Is In The Contrast

This past month has been filled with contrast here in New England. Scorching hot, bright, sunny days followed by chilly, dim, and rainy stretches. Pollen-filled air so thick that breathing felt hazardous, interspersed with clear, dry air sweet with the scents of summer.

Maybe you long for predictability in all things- including the weather, and not knowing what’s coming has you feeling unsettled, frustrated, or even afraid. Perhaps you are easily agitated when things don’t go your way, and spend time worrying about what could go wrong. How can we embrace the seemingly uncontrollable variety of life and instead see it as something to be noticed and dare I say-enjoyed? Let me reframe contrast for you as something to be relished, appreciated, and even celebrated.

Contrast is most observable in the extremes. Consider the blissful peace that comes after a crying baby has been soothed; or the cozy sensation of putting on warm, dry clothes after hours of being in a wet bathing suit. Once you’re looking for it, you will also see it in more subtle differences like satiated hunger, a smooth road after a construction zone, or the quiet after a jampacked day. When you think about it, we really do like variety. Consider the texture combination of smooth and crunchy, or sweet and salty. It’s the contrast that’s so appealing, isn’t it?

How we interpret change and not knowing what will happen is a choice. We can stew in not knowing what to expect, or get excited to discover what will unfold. For me variety, nuance, and contrast are what excite me about life. It is certainly what inspires me to paint, and it also fuels my days. Having an array of activities planned for the day makes me more willing to leave my comfy bed.

Abraham Hicks speaks often about contrast being the primary way to become clear on what we want. Simply put, once we’ve experienced something we don’t enjoy, we have a greater understanding of what we do want and can therefore steer ourselves in that direction.  The key to navigating towards a desire is to begin talking about the new experience we’d like versus dwelling on undesired past experience. Thinking about our preferred experience aligns us with its vibration and moves it into our reality.

If you struggle to deal with all the unknowns in life or are often aggravated by unwanted circumstances, try a change in your habitual self-talk. This is simple, but not necessarily easy. It takes time to deprogram years of worrying and complaining about what is, so that you may shift into a positive expectation of what could be. Try intentionally and consistently substituting phrases like “what if everything works out great?”, “now, I know what I want”, “it will be fine”, or even “I can handle whatever happens”.  These are simple phrases that can shift you away from your negative narrative.

Choose a positive-outcome phrase to tell yourself when your inner dialogue starts spiraling towards potential disaster. Remember to take a breath and choose again when you feel yourself starting to rant.  The simple act of taking a breath and changing your language will surely bring you towards greater peace. Be curious as you try on different soothing, affirmative things to say to tame your inner drama. Notice how each makes you feel and what it takes to shift your automatic response ever closer to appreciating and embracing the contrast of life!

How to Survive Online Dating as an Empath

3 Ways to Preserve Your Peace

It’s 2021 and dating is still predominately online- at least the initial phases of it anyway, thanks to Covid 19. I know online dating has been around since the mid-90’s, but although I wasn’t single until recently, I still think things have changed over the past year.

The whole aspect of it is very intense, and as a highly sensitive person (HSP), empath, and intuitive, it has some additional challenges. As I navigate through the process, I thought it might be useful to others to share ways I am developing to keep my peace.

One, practicing discernment isn’t the same as judgement. Consider that for a moment and recognize that hitting the “X” isn’t a mark against their goodness. It’s simply exercising an awareness of what aspects of a person are important to you. You are not saying they aren’t a good person, you’re saying they don’t match the qualifications you have decided are essential to you. Even after having communications with them, letting them know that you don’t wish to continue pursuing a relationship needn’t feel as though you’ve dealt them a death blow. You don’t owe them anything other than a polite, respectful, clear, and decisive: “this isn’t going to work for me” or whatever you’ve decided on as a way to say you’re done. Even when they whine, beg or plead that they are really wonderful if you’d just give them a chance. Trust. Your. Instincts.

Two, taking breaks from interacting on the dating apps is important. Giving yourself a specific time window to interact on the apps is a great way to limit the potential for overwhelm. Decision fatigue is real, and it’s especially wearing on empaths since it takes frequent reminders that you can’t choose everyone (obviously, right?), it’s ok to choose “no”, and that doesn’t make you a bad person. Don’t spend more than a few minutes swiping, and set a time for how long you’ll spend communicating with people. Of course once you’ve chosen who to interact with, you need to gain more information to decide whether to continue to communicate or not. It could become a full time job, and since I’m guessing it’s not your job, don’t let it take over your whole life – either in reality, or emotionally. Do other things that bring you joy and remind you that you’re a whole and complete person who doesn’t actually NEED a partner to be happy and fulfilled.

Three, spend time with friends and family who support you. Being around them will remind you of the kind of vibration you’re looking to add to your circle. Look to these healthy relationships for evidence of how you are loved and appreciated exactly as you are, with no need to change anything. Approaching online dating (any relationship really) from a place of abundance, connection, and love is infinitely better than coming from lack and desperation. Practice loving yourself and seeing yourself as those who care for you see you. Be positive, open, and expecting good things and that is what you will find, without fail. Even if it looks different than what you anticipated.

Bottom line, remind yourself of your inherent goodness regularly, continue being kind and considerate, notice when you need to ramp up your self-care, and seek supportive connection with your trusted friends and family. It can be fun if you take it at your own pace.

Good luck out there! I’ll share more tips as they come up.

Kristi

watercolor of Mullaghmore inlet in Ireland

Last Ireland Paintings in this Series

Although these 7 paintings complete the 24 piece series I set out to do for my solo shows in March, I don’t feel like I have said, artistically, all I want to say about my trip to Ireland. I feel inspired to paint a few in a looser style and at least a few with pen and ink. I considered doing that with a few of these, but opted to show my typical style throughout the series with lots of detail, high contrast, great texture and rich color. So- stay tuned for another show in late spring. Details about the two venues to see this series in person- and perhaps choose one to enjoy in your space everyday- are at the end of this post. I hope you can join me!

Oh how I love the ocean! The crisp shadows on the rocks and the contrast of the warm sand with the cool mountains and sea were irresistible. The Atlantic is so fierce there. Strandhill Beach, County Sligo. 20″ x 16″ framed $375

This view captured a fantastic crashing wave and the iconic Ben Bulben mountain. I enjoyed creating the softer shadows as the rocks curve towards the sun. Ben Bulben from Strandhill, County Sligo. 20″ x 16″ framed. $375

I began with a lovely stone building from Glenfarne and then added elements from our drive through that area that appealed to me. Almost Autumn, County Leitrim. 11″ x 14″ framed $265

My favorite things: rich color, striking contrast, diagonal lines, interesting textures. What fun I had enhancing the photo from the day! Green and Gold, Mullaghmore Inlet, County Sligo. 16″ x 12″ framed. $285

So much texture and intense color here, it begged to be painted! Gorgeous geraniums and cascading petunias soften the hard stone and brick. Rocks and Blooms, Aghaboy, County Monaghan. 11″ x 14″ framed. $265

This is one of the first scenes I painted. Here I explore it from a different perspective and slightly larger. I loved building up the texture in all of these elements. Weathered Beauty 2, Aghaboy, County Monaghan. 14″ x 11″ framed. $265

Another scene I couldn’t help doing twice. For the last painting in the series, I picked these great stone buildings with the warm glow of the setting sun. Afternoon Glow, Emyvale, County Monaghan. 12″ x 12″ framed $265

To see the full collection live, I hope you’ll join me at one of these venues: March 13 at Stonehill College or March 15-17 at The Irish Cultural Center in Canton, MA Both events are free and for those dates only. Paintings may be purchased prior to the shows, but must be available for display at the shows.

watercolor of Irish stone building with clematis

Continuing the Artistic Irish Journey

I have happily continued to be inspired by my Ireland photos. I have finished the 24 paintings I planned for this series. Below are 7, the rest will follow tomorrow!

I had to do at least one painting of Ben Bulben, which is iconic in County Sligo. The dark almost vertical marks on the side of this mountain are deep crevasses that people hike. Eek! This one is sold.

This is one of those sweet little scenes that was so common to see along my journeys around central Ireland. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a stone wall and all of that lovely dappled sunlight! Autumn Harvest, Aghaboy, County Monaghan. 13″ x 12″ framed, $245

Don’t you just want to knock on that gorgeous blue door? I thought this lovely home was very inviting with its meandering drive flanked by stone walls. The autumn colors and shadows made it impossible not to paint. Irish Welcome, Clones, County Monaghan. 12″ x 16″ framed, $260

This sturdy stone building in Northern Ireland was clearly built to withstand the fierce winds of the region! A lovely purple clematis had taken up residence and the texture and color drew me right in. Enniskillen Stone, County Fermanagh. 14″ x 11″ framed $265

Its a bit funny to think of islands within islands, but here you are! This is Lough Erne and Boa Island. I loved the contrast between the lush greens and the dark water. Boa Island, County Fermanagh. 12″ x 10″ framed $245

On our way into Newgrange, we spotted these thirsty cows surrounded by all of those wonderfully textured greens. This was one of the scenes I couldn’t wait to paint! Bru na Boinne (forgive the lack of fada) Newgrange, County Meath. 20″ x 16″ framed $375

Purplish clouds against yellow leaves and golden grasses compelled me to paint them. The sturdy building graced by a hardy red rose seem to have withstood untold trials, yet here they are in all their splendor. She Persisted, Blacklion, County Cavan. 12″ x 12″ framed $255

watercolor of rainbow over county sligo Ireland

More Ireland Images

I’ve been painting away and have more images to share with you from my trip to Ireland. I will admit that I haven’t been painting them in the order that I saw them. I am putting the county and town as part of their title so you may find the places that are meaningful to you.

watercolor of Tyrone County

Tyrone County View, 12″ x 18″ framed $375

This scene greeted me at the top of a hill while exploring the Ulster American Folk Museum in Omagh.

Dublin Ivy, 11″ x 14″ framed. $275

The two almost hidden pigeons enjoying a protected perch intrigued me. The crazy variety and colors of ivy adorning this weathered door in Dublin city made it irresistible.

watercolor of Castle Mullaghmore in County Sligo Ireland-by Kristi Johnston

Castle Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo. Approx.20″ x 25″ framed. $400

I shot this amazing view quickly after hopping out of the car alongside a VERY winding road. I love how the sheep are just casually in front of the massive castle and oblivious to the sharp cliff.

watercolor of autumn leaves and iron gate in Emyvale, Co. Monaghan Ireland

Autumn Gate, Emyvale, Co. Monaghan. 10″ x 13″ $265

The colors and textures stopped me in my tracks, and I had to try to capture it in paint. This invitation to step in closer embodies the feel of the place and the people.

watercolor of rainbow over county sligo Ireland

Sligo Rainbow, 10″ x 11″ framed $245

It wouldn’t be Ireland if there weren’t rainbows! After a brief downpour, this one dazzled me on our ride from Sligo and Strandhill. The colors danced in and out of view and played peek-a-boo with the mountains.

More are coming! These are available for sale unless otherwise marked with the caveat that they be available for the upcoming shows March 13-17, 2019. Contact me at kndjnstn@comcast.net to purchase.

watercolor of lake with haybales and sheep in Ireland

Interpretations of Ireland, How it Came to Be

Watercolor of cottages in Ireland Kristi Johnston

“Along the Way” approx. 12″ x 10″ framed $205

*SOLD*

I’m so excited! I traveled to Ireland in September and enjoyed a week of being shown around by a friend who has lived there all of his life and it was AMAZING!! Before I talk about the paintings I’ve made as a result, let me tell you how this all came about. It’s all a result of a childhood connection, Facebook, shared interests and the internet. Here’s what happened….

I met one of my  best friends when I was in second grade in a tiny town in upstate NY. Her name is Kathy and her parents were both from Ireland (sadly, they have both passed away). Kathy’s older sister is Mary and when we were children, I would see her briefly when I visited their home- like most older siblings, she didn’t have much to do with the little ones. The family moved back to Ireland when we were in elementary school, but Kathy came back for our high school years. Like best friendships everywhere, we picked up where we left off, as if no time had passed at all. Unfortunately we then lost touch after college. Then Facebook made the world smaller and finding people easy and I was able to find her through one of her cousins, who was also an old neighbor of mine growing up. Of course, once Kathy and I re-connected there was an opportunity for me to become connected to her sister Mary who had remained in Ireland and married an artist named Nelius. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, Nelius and I were able to enjoy seeing and commenting on each other’s artwork and sharing our professional and family lives. Over the ensuing years, thanks to similar interests and connections, a friendship developed.

When I mentioned casually one day that I would love to see and pint Ireland, Mary and Nelius are such kind and generous people that they invited me to visit and stay with them!! I took them up on that incredible offer (how could I not??!) and that is how I ended up spending a week being shown around by a native Irishman who happens to share my artistic aesthetic and therefore enjoys the same kind of views and scenes that I do! It was heavenly!

Now I’m back and so inspired by the beauty, peacefulness, and ruggedness of the Irish countryside that I have decided to create at least 24 watercolor paintings to share my interpretations of that land. I’m on my way towards that goal and will be sharing the images and their locations here on our Blog.

The one above right is from Emyvale, Co Monaghan. I actually took the photo while riding in the car. I snapped a photo of these cute little cottages on two occasions I liked them so much!  Here’s two more from Emyvale:

watercolor painting of a stone building with red and green doors and a pink hydrangea

“Red Door, Green Door”, approx. 7″ x 10″ framed $180

“Weathered Beauty” approx 71/2″ x 10″ framed $180

You may guess by looking at these that I am captivated by texture and contrast. Ireland was full of these things- I felt like a kid in a candy store!

These two were done from photos taken after Nelius stopped the car and we were able to get out and walk all around. It happens that there were several views of this little area that I am inspired to paint, so you’ll see more from here!

“Bales”, Lough McNean, Blacklion Approx. 14″ x 11″ framed. $245

This one below is of the grounds of a lovely little restaurant called Ambledown in Glaslough.

“Ambledown Door” approx 9″ x 11″ $185 framed

To the right is a sweet scene that is to me the epitome of Ireland: many shades of lush green, gently rolling landscape with dots of sheep. This has the added attraction of hay bales and marsh grasses catching the warm afternoon light.

I have another nearly finished from my tour of Dublin, and another landscape coming hot on it’s heels, so stay tuned!