3 Ways to Pursue Your Creative Goals When You're Stressed Out & Pressed for Time

Posted by Janelle Martel on


Hobbies and passion projects aren’t just fun, they’re good for us.

Pursuing activities that get us out of our heads, give us more freedom than our day to day work, and revel in some creativity can actually re-fuel us for the other, more taxing parts of our lives.

Even if we know that a little down time pursuing our creative goals will make us happier in the long run, it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to find the time to actually make those goals and hobbies happen.

Today I want to share three of my favorites strategies for making creative and purposeful things happen -- especially when you’re dealing with stress, fatigue and burn out, and the idea of making things happen feels particularly daunting.


  1. Start with 15 minutes a day.

It would be lovely to spend hours and hours a week painting or writing, but if you’re like most people, it can be a struggle to actually make that happen between work, family and some semblance of a social life.

Instead, start with small, regular increments of your favorite creative hobby. Don’t underestimate how a small shift in how you spend your time can help you create the foundation for more creative time in the future.

Pay particular to how you feel after these mini-creative blasts. I bet these periods will leave you wanting more -- which is great! Try increasing your creative periods by 10 or 15 minutes a week as you shift your other responsibilities.

2) Join a group or a class.

In addition to helping you carve out set time each week or month for your passion project, the social component of a group or class can help provide friendship and creative support for both your work and your larger goal of prioritizing this time in your life.

Joining a writing a group helped provide a structure for my own independent writing projects. Instead of creating on my own, there was a shared pattern of creating, sharing and revision that helped move me closer to my goals and prevented me from wasting time over-thinking my work all on my own.


3) Plan your own retreat day.


 because it’s how I built my business while working full time.

A retreat day is an opportunity to create a conference or retreat for yourself. My retreat days often include learning (like a webinar), some must do business tasks, and lots of time for writing and planning content for my readers.

A retreat day consolidates your creative time into a single day or afternoon -- whenever you have a block of unscheduled time that you can take advantage of.

I like to create an agenda (and I share it with my husband so he knows that I’ll be unavailable!) and I make sure I have my favorite coffee ready for a day of creative work.

The most important component of a retreat day is how you approach it. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to perform or produce a huge amount of work, but rather to produce work and really enjoy the process.


I hope these strategies give you some ideas about how you can make time for your hobbies and passion projects, even when you’re dealing with obstacles. Instead of worrying about your creative output, pay attention to how you feel as you create and shift your energy and time to align with your passion.



Jenn Walker Wall is a Career Strategist and the founder of Work Wonders Coaching and Consulting. She helps busy and ambitious people make important career + life transitions and is the creator Pursuit: a 21 Day Work-Life Detox, launching in July 2016. For more tips + strategies, join the Work Wonders Community at www.workwonderscoaching.com.


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Inside the May Box: Spring Awakening

Posted by Janelle Martel on


When I first started thinking about Caring Crate, I immediately knew that I wanted the products in the box to be absolutely incredible.  I put a lot of thought into carefully curating each box, choosing awesome products from awesome companies. Each box has a theme, so I really take the time to think about how the products can work together to create an overall experience.

Our first box was sent out in May, and the theme was "Spring Awakening".  I chose this theme because I think that spring is such a special time!  The sun is starting to come out, and there are so many new things blooming.  Here's what was included in the box:

Mindful Mandala Cards  ($18.99)

Colouring is such a huge, huge trend and I really love it for relaxing!  I absolutely love this kit for several reasons: First of all, a huge colouring book or page can be pretty intimidating for someone who is feeling overwhelmed, is new to colouring, or who experiences chronic pain.  Because these cards are so small, they're easy to pick up and colour for however long you'd like!  I also really love the quotes on the other side, and think these would be so beautiful hanging on your fridge, set in your windowsill, or even framed!  I also love that this kit packs everything you need into a small bag, making it super portable.


Scratch & Grain Coffee Cake & Muffin Kit ($8.99)

Baking can be such a relaxing practice because it's so methodical, and there's really nothing like a fresh out-of-the-oven treat.  These Scratch & Grain kits include 8 individually wrapped ingredients, and you add your own butter, egg and milk.  Because the ingredients are individually wrapped, you can customize the baking mix, and there are plenty of suggestions on the package to mix things up or to customize it so it's lower in fat or is vegan-friendly.  It's pretty much like baking from scratch, but requires less energy and planning, which is perfect if you're dealing with chronic fatigue. It's also certified organic and free of GMOs and preservatives.


Fable Naturals Lavender + Lemon Organic Body Balm  ($12.00)

Fable Naturals is a company based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, that focuses on using natural, skin-loving ingredients.  This Lavender + Lemon scent is incredible, and pretty much says everything I want Caring Crate to be: both calming and uplifting.  This soothing balm is made with cocoa butter, olive oil, beeswax, and a calendula flower infusion, and is great for dry skin, chapped lips, or smoothing flyaway hair.


 Potting Shed Creations Garden-in-a-Bag Lavender  ($10.00)

With the theme being 'Spring Awakening', I knew I wanted to include something that you could grow.  This Garden-in-a-Bag is perfect, because it includes everything you need to grow your own lavender, including seeds, growing medium, coconut tusks for drainage, and instructions.  Just smelling the lavender is relaxing and calming, but you can also use the flowers in tea, baking, or added to ice cream.



Pluck Teas

The May box also included two caffeine-free tea bags from Pluck Teas: Spa Day (a blend of peppermint, hibiscus, chamomile and rose) and After-Dinner Mint (chocolate mint).  These premium teas are blended in Canada in small batches and all the ingredients are sourced from local and ethical small farms. 



 Mint to Inspire

A Year of Boxes

2 Little Rosebuds

The Everyday Warior


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Opening Up About Anxiety

Posted by Janelle Martel on


If you didn't already know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month!  This is a month where many of us who are dealing with mental health issues are sharing our experiences to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Today we're sharing a wonderful post from Catherine from Embracing Kindness about what it she goes through when she experiences anxiety.  




Ever since I was in fifth grade, I’ve suffered from moderate anxiety and depression. (Interestingly, the National Institute of Mental Health notes that the average age at which people begin to suffer from anxiety is eleven years old.) In my case, the depression usually follows an episode of high anxiety.

In this post, I’m going to delve into my own struggles and explain why I (and others) think it’s worthwhile to talk about them. I’ve noticed that there’s been a movement lately to get people talking about mental illnesses, to bring individual experiences out into the light in an effort to remove the stigma. I think that sharing our internal struggles with others is a kindness to ourselves, but is also a kindness to those who may feel alone.


Openness—with a catch

I have found that speaking about my anxieties with my husband, parents, closest friends, and—of course—my therapist is a form of self-care that took me a long, long time to be really okay with. Because these are the people closest to me, I’ve always been fairly open about my issues… but I’ve also always felt embarrassed. The things I worry about are irrational, and I know that. In the rational part of my brain, I understand that the chances of these things happening are incredibly small. I feel embarrassed because I think that “normal” people only listen to the rational part, and I tend to give the irrational part a lot of airtime.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I have to admit that I don’t think even those people listed above truly know the extent of what goes through my head on a daily basis (my fault for not sharing, not their fault at all). As I explained to my therapist, it actually doesn’t really affect my daily life or my relationships externally. I am lucky in that I don’t experience panic attacks and I have not (generally) let my anxieties prevent me from doing the things I enjoy. I’d say that about 95% of my anxiety happens internally and never manifests itself where others can see it.

**Interesting side note: I was visiting one of my closest friends the other day, and the topic of anxiety/depression came up. After we talked for a bit, she—without prompting from me—told me that she knows I go through these things, but until I bring it up, she never thinks of me as someone who suffers from them. This is all after I wrote the above paragraph.

How could talking about my anxiety help anyone else?

I believe that when people open up about their mental struggles, it’s a kindness to others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.1% of American adults have suffered with some form of anxiety for at least twelve months. That’s a pretty high percentage! There are a lot of us out there, and I think most of us feel like we’re the only ones suffering in the particular way that we suffer (if that makes any sense). When one of us opens up, the rest of us begin to feel like we’re not so weird after all. Recently, a close friend of mine described some pretty serious anxieties that she deals with quite frequently. Her willingness to discuss this with me helped me to realize that I’m not alone in some of the awful thoughts that run through my own head.

In their report about self-disclosure of mental illness, the US Department of Health and Human Services (2008) emphasized the positive impact that sharing one’s story can have on others suffering similar conditions. They noted, “The more contact and openness on the topic of mental health in our society, the more people who receive mental health services will be able to avoid the stigma and discrimination” (37). The National Alliance on Mental Illness supports this idea as well: “When more people share stories of recovery, struggle or hope, it lets all of us know that we’re not alone.”

My parents recently opened up about my dad’s struggle with depression and related suicide attempts, as they have so many times over the years (my dad survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge in 1985—it’s been a lot of years now). They explained that they hope that, by sharing his story, they might help others with similar struggles. I know for an absolute fact that when they shared his story back in the 80s, at least one life was saved. This is only anecdotal, but it’s a powerful piece of evidence that sharing our stories is a kindness to others.

Of course, everyone’s experience is different. I am absolutely not advocating that everyone shouts their issues from the rooftops, because some people are uncomfortable with this and some people could actually put themselves at risk by doing so.

While I am nervous about those who know me but don’t know this about me learning this part, I don’t feel that I am putting myself in any real risk by sharing my story, so I will put it out there into the universe. I’m going to share with all of you my personal brand of anxiety. Maybe it will help someone else feel less alone.

So, what’s going on in my head?

Test anxiety was always a big problem for me in school, even though I generally did pretty well on them. This now manifests itself as a general anxiety about the quality of my work, no matter what job I’m doing. It’s the same deal—I get super anxious about having done a crappy job, and then (usually) find out later that I actually did a good job… but when the next project starts, the cycle starts all over again. I never feel confident and I always feel like I’m doing a bad job. No matter what.


Social anxiety was and still is a pretty big part of my life. It’s the only one that has really prevented me from doing things I might otherwise enjoy.

Due in large part to something that took place in middle school (see below), I have a hard time believing that people genuinely want to be friends with me. It makes making friends very, very difficult. I am riddled with anxiety in even the smallest interactions, second-guessing everything I say and hoping against hope that I didn’t offend someone. I try hard to be a good friend, but I never feel like it’s good enough. I feel like, if we’re just beginning a friendship, it’ll never get past the surface level, and if we’ve been friends forever, I’m going to either do something to mess it up or not do enough to keep the person around. This is so exhausting and has caused me to avoid certain situations. Specifically, at my last job, I avoided parties because I just couldn’t deal with the social interaction and the stress that went into it.

And then there’s the weird one, the big baddie. I have this problem where I think about a real-life situation that is going to take place, or maybe something that has already happened, and I play through all the ways it could go horribly wrong. I convince myself that this worst-case scenario is actually what is really going to happen. Because, if my feeling about it is so strong, how could it not be a premonition?

Here are some things that have actually run through my mind, some of which run through my mind on a fairly regular basis. They range from sort of minor to really, really disturbing and upsetting. They also range from sort of possible to highly, highly unlikely:

  • Z hasn’t had any veggies all weekend because we’ve been going out for lunch and dinner. He’s going to get diabetes and be huge and unhealthy and he’s always going to hate vegetables for the rest of his life.
  • I need to be doing more with my life. I’m trying so hard to find a job, but it’s not happening. If I don’t get a job soon, we are going to lose everything. We will eat up our savings, we won’t be able to afford college for Z or his future sibling, we are going to lose our house, I will be out of the market for so long that nobody will want to hire me, etc.
  • My friend hasn’t texted me back yet/seemed weird in her message to me. She must be mad at me. I wonder what I did. What could it have been? Will she be mad at me for a long time? Will she ever forgive me? I bet she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.
    • Let me be elaborate on this one, because it’s a bit different. This, unlike the others, has clear origins. In seventh grade, the group of girls I’d been friends with randomly and abruptly told me not to hang out with them anymore. I never found out why. It was awful and embarrassing, and obviously deeply scarring. Preteen girls can be so cruel.
  • Our phone call was disconnected. What happened to her? Did she get into an accident? Did someone try to mug her? Is she hurt? Oh my gosh, I’d better keep calling back until I reach her again. The phone is going straight to voicemail. She is seriously injured.
  • We got really lucky to get pregnant again when we wanted to. That’s not the way these things happen. Something is going to go wrong. I know it. The genetic screening is going to come back as super high risk of something life-threatening and we’re going to lose this baby.
  • My husband is on his way home from work and I hear sirens going down our street. He must have been in an accident. The sirens are coming closer. It’s the police coming here to tell me my husband is dead.
  • This canker sore in my mouth hurts. A lot. How long has that been there? Over a week? Oh my God. It’s mouth cancer. I know it. Too much Diet Pepsi and too much sugar-free gum, and now I have mouth cancer.

Now it’s all out there. I feel a little sick about it, to be honest. It’s hard to see all that stuff written out and know that I am going to make it public. But I also feel a little free. I don’t know if anyone can relate to any of this, but hopefully this, in combination with the many other stories of anxiety and depression that are beginning to gain traction online, help you to see that others struggle, too. And you probably don’t even know it.

If you are struggling, seeking help is critical. Though, as I admitted above, my network may not always know the full depth of my anxieties, having a safe space to discuss what I am comfortable sharing has been absolutely essential. And for the more troubling, “embarrassing” aspects of my anxiety, I lean on a professional therapist. Please don’t feel alone and please try to find that safe space for yourself!



Catherine is a former teacher and social-emotional curriculum writer, and a current mom, wife, and blogger. She is an advocate of social and emotional development, both in our children and in our own lives, and write about ways we can be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves and each other. Having struggled with anxiety and depression her whole life, she knows how important it is to feel less alone in the daily battle to keep it all together. Catherine believes that speaking up about mental health struggles can help us feel more free, help others feel less alone, and help to reduce the stigma that unfortunately surrounds mental illness. Follow her on her blog at EmbracingKindness.com

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15 Minutes to Better Self-Care: 10 Quick & Effective Strategies

Posted by Janelle Martel on


By: Sara Robinson, MA


We hear so much about “self-care” these days and how important it is to our physical, mental and emotional well-being. It’s easy to become immune to the idea when you hear people talking about it all of the time- it’s almost as if it becomes white noise. You hear people talk about self-care, you probably know that you should practice self-care, but it can feel like quite a task. Putting yourself as a priority and taking time out of your day may not feel as easy as it should be. However, now is the time to quiet the white noise and really focus in on the idea that self-care is critical in everyone’s life, especially if you’re dealing with chronic illness or mental health issues.


So, let’s simplify. Self-care is the act of taking care of yourself. You can take better care of others and the responsibilities you have when you are actively and regularly taking care of yourself. Self-care does not need to be complicated or time consuming. Try these 10 ideas that will take 15 minutes or less.


1)      Read. Just about any type of reading will fit the bill- books, magazines, blogs, whatever! As long as it’s not reading that causes you stress, it counts as self-care

2)      Go outside. If you are able to walk, a short stroll can clear your head, allow you to enjoy nature and get you out into a refreshed place. If you can’t walk, sitting outside and enjoying the day is a great choice.

3)      Call a friend. Texting, emailing and instant messaging have become all-too-common. Take the time to call someone who helps you feel good and who will brighten your day.

4)      Color. There is a fantastic new trend of adult coloring books. Coloring can act to calm you down and clear your mind as you focus on the task at hand.

5)      Listen to music. Choose music that you enjoy; it can be music that energizes you, relaxes you, inspires you- it doesn’t matter. Take the time to focus on the music and enjoy the time to yourself.

6)      Practice mindfulness. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing. When thoughts enter your mind, let them pass through without judgement and refocus on your breathing. When you practice mindfulness on a regular basis you will likely notice feeling more calm in your daily life.

7)      Create a space that is cheerful. Add some flowers to your house; light some candles; use a room spray that you like. Try to create an environment that makes you feel good.

8)      Curl up for a nap. When you’re not getting enough sleep it’s almost impossible to be at your best. If you’re struggling with an illness you may find getting a good night’s sleep is a challenge. Take the time to add to your sleep bank.

9)      Think positively. When you’re struggling personally or in pain it can be very hard to be positive. However, by working to practice positive thinking, we may notice that we begin to feel better and are not as focused on the challenges.

10)  Your choice. Take the time to think about what makes you happy and feel good. Make the time to do it. Be flexible if you need to. Maybe you can’t travel right now but you could look at your photos from your last trip. Or, if you love to ride horses but can’t right now, maybe you can head to the barn for a visit.


Remember that self-care is consciously taking care of your own needs and helping yourself to refuel and recharge. This is important for everyone, but especially if you are dealing with an illness of some kind.  Self-care does not need to be long and involved; short but regular acts of self-care can go a long way to helping improve your mental and physical state.


Share with us your favorite self-care strategies.


Sara Robinson, MA has a degree in Sport Psychology. Through her blog www.getmombalanced.com she helps moms clarify what balance means and provides support to create the balance moms want. Connect with her at www.facebook.com/getmombalanced


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How to Take a Mindfullness Walk

Posted by Janelle Martel on


Mindfulness is something that I'm really passionate about sharing.  I find it really helpful with anxiety and stress relief, and it's also great for improving focus, reducing depression, and boosting confidence. Mindfulness has to do with being present in the moment and noticing thoughts, feelings, and different sensations without placing judgement on them.  One of the easiest ways I find to practice mindfulness is to take a walk.  

When you're walking, it's so easy to get caught up on getting to your destination or get distracted by things like your smartphone.  When you take a walk that's focused on mindfulness, you'll be able to notice the different things around you, which helps you feel more connected to the sensations in your body. Eventually, this also opens you up more to what you're thinking and feeling.  For a mindfulness walk, I suggest going through a park or other natural area first because I find that this is just really calming and much easier to ease into mindfulness, but anywhere works.  You can definitely bring your smartphone along for emergencies, but try not to listen to music or check your phone and instead be present and aware. If you have a dog, this is a great thing to practice during your dog walking time. 


Sight is probably the sense we're used to using most when walking (obviously!).  However, how often are we focused on looking straight ahead of us or even looking down at our feet when walking?  Instead, I encourage you to really look around at your surroundings.  If you're in a place you're familiar with, you might start to notice things that have changed, like somebody painting their house or taking a tree down.  Take time to take in the different colors of everything that surrounds you.


Listening is kind of funny.  It seems like you'd always hear what's going on around you, but it's really easy to tune out and not really notice the sounds around you.  Nature sounds are my favourite to listen to, but just noticing the sounds around you and their repetition can be really calming.  I love listening to the sound of my feet on the ground and the rhythm of my dog's collar.  You'll begin to recognize that there are so many sounds occurring around us.


This one is a little more difficult, because there aren't always discerning scents around or flowers to sniff :)  But, I really love taking a deep inhale of fresh air.  I really focus on breathing in and exhaling, and imagine the air filling my nose and my lungs.


This really helps you to get in touch with the sensations in your body.  Think about how the air feels on any exposed skin - is it cool or warm?  You might also feel the warmth of the sun on certain parts of your body, or rain. I also think it's important to notice how the ground feels beneath your feet.  Is it solid cement, or are you on a rocky or softer path?  Notice how it feels each time you take a step.  Try not to rush through your walk, but instead move purposefully.


As you're walking, you might notice that you have certain thoughts creep into your mind, be it something you have to do later or something you are worried about.  This is totally fine.  The important thing, is to acknowledge that thought but to not put any sort of judgement on it.  This is a time to look at what you might be thinking or feeling without categorizing it as good or bad.  You can do the problem-solving later if necessary, but now is just a time to get in touch with yourself.

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