Staying fully present isn’t always easy, though, when you live in a go-go-go society that can make reading alone in a park with your notifications muted feel like a rebellious, or even guilt-inducing, act. “We’re often so focused on doing the next thing that we’re not truly noticing what’s happening in front of us,” Mancao says. “We’re constantly doing multiple things at once, so it can be really helpful for people to practice slowing down and doing one thing at a time, with awareness.”Being present and appreciating what’s right in front of you can be a powerful act, and doesn’t have to take much time out of your day. “The #romanticizeyourlife TikToks I love most are the ones where people post, ‘I have 10 minutes in the morning and I use it to read’ or ‘I take a few minutes out of my day to journal’—small, attainable things,” says Hoffman.It can also reaffirm what you already love to do—and help you enjoy those things more.When the romanticize-your-life trend took off early in the pandemic, many of us were isolated from our larger communities, and activities that had previously shaped our sense of self vanished overnight. A lot of people sought ways to give our suddenly-restricted daily lives meaning, whether that took the form of baking sourdough bread, whipping up Dalgona coffee, or tie-dying…everything.And even though the most intense days of isolation have passed, Hoffman says many of us are still getting reacquainted with ourselves and trying to connect with what brings us joy, which is where focusing on simple pleasures comes in. “There’s still so much going on in this quote-unquote ‘post-COVID world,’ and romanticizing your life is about trying to find those small moments where you can feel good and take care of yourself,” Hoffman says.When looking for ways to do that, Hoffman recommends starting by asking yourself, What do I already do in my daily life that I can turn into a mindfulness practice? “As a therapist, I can tell you that convincing someone to add another thing to their to-do list is tough,” she says. “But if you’re someone who naturally takes a walk, for example, you can turn your phone off or maybe listen to something that really calms you down. Or, if you’re someone who takes long showers, you can think about how the hot water feels against your skin.”It might help you find the magic in mundane moments.In a September 2022 video, TikToker @liebmaple managed to romanticize something most city-dwellers don’t just take for granted, but actively grumble about: Commuting on mass transit.“As a kid, I always dreamed of taking the train every day to work or school because that wasn’t a thing where I grew up,” she says over a video of herself reading while listening to music on a train. “It’s such a simple thing, taking the train, but I’m insanely grateful.”Unable to muster appreciation for your packed rush-hour train trip? We get it. Romanticizing your life as a gratitude exercise is about finding your thing, or things, and cultivating a practice around them. That could be as small as buying a pack of your favorite ballpoint pens and luxuriating in how the ink glides across the page as you write in your journal every morning.In other words, the ultimate goal of romanticizing your life, according to Hoffman and Mancao, should be finding your own ways to stay present, ones that are authentic to you—not the life of another TikToker who is luxuriating in an Italian villa or “noticing” how good it feels to apply their $300 skin care routine. “We can fall into a comparison trap if we look at somebody else’s romanticization of their life,” Mancao says. Instead, “Look at these videos as inspirations, not as rigid guidelines.” Better yet, look around for inspo in your own life. After all, you’re the main character in that romance.Related:
You want to avoid blaming statements that start with “you” or “you always…” too, since they can also put people in defensive mode. “Try to keep it problem-focused, not personality-based,” Wessell says, and do your best to focus on one issue at a time, as opposed to hitting them with a list of complaints, which can, yep, also put them on guard. If you’re in a group-living situation and one person is the main source of the stress, Wessell suggests choosing one roommate to talk to them, because “having an intervention can make someone feel like you’re teaming up on them.”4. Don’t leave a note. Don’t post about it, either.While related to our previous tip, this one deserves its own space: Releasing your roommate rage in a sharply worded Post-it note or Finsta post can feel so satisfying in the moment, but it won’t improve your situation. It will likely lead to eye rolls from your roomie, deepened distrust, and possible mutual-friend drama.In assessing how good of a roommate you’re being (gasp), Mayone says to ask yourself, “Are you doing anything to throw fuel on the fire? Are you being indirect?” Passive aggressive moves aren’t always malicious, of course—they can also stem from shyness or issues with conflict—but they usually just make matters worse, she says. If you’re nervous about speaking up, taking a couple of deep breaths and keeping your complaint, again, focused on the behavior can prevent the conversation from getting too heated.5. Pick your battles.Which mildly irritating human quirks can you live with? You hate the smell of the hazelnut coffee they brew every morning, for example, but does it impede your ability to thrive in school? No. “Learning to tolerate someone that you maybe don’t prefer to be around is an excellent life skill—and one that you’ll have to use in the workplace all the time,” Wessell says.Plus complaints about relatively minor issues can drown out the important ones. This might make your roommate less likely to pay attention (or care) when you have a valid concern, like the fact that they’re always (loudly) FaceTiming with their back-home girlfriend when you’re trying to study or crank out a paper.6. Talk to a neutral third party if you need to.Wessell, who works as a therapist for resident advisors in her role at OSU, recommends confiding in your RA, if you’re living in a dorm, after attempts at direct communication with your roommate aren’t working. “This isn’t your mom or dad, this is not your landlord—it’s a person with lived experience in dorms who’s good at problem-solving,” she says. Your RA may have been in a similar situation in the recent past and could therefore offer you some valuable insight and advice.Wessell adds that if you’re experiencing reportable harassment—say, related to race, ability, sexuality, gender—feel generally unsafe, or if your roommate committed a crime such as theft, your RA can also help get the proper campus officials involved. If you’re living in a campus apartment, you can try contacting your school’s student affairs division for help.
Madeline Brewer earned a 2021 Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Janine Lindo on The Handmaid’s Tale (which returns to Hulu for season five on September 14). While viewers have watched Janine survive one trauma after another in Gilead, the show has also revealed some of the character’s backstory prior to becoming Ofwarren, including the safe and legal abortion she underwent at a clinic before giving birth to her son, Caleb. Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, millions of people across the US have lost their reproductive freedom. This terrifying shift moved Brewer to share via a June Instagram post that she also had an abortion offscreen at age 20. Here, she tells SELF her abortion story in full, as told to writer Samantha Vincenty, and she explains why she’s never regretted her choice.I grew up in a historically white town in New Jersey that was pretty conservative at the time; it had 13 churches within a 2-square-mile radius, so when it came to the residents’ views toward reproductive health, interpret that as you will. But my own parents were very “choose your own adventure” about religion. My mom is one badass feminist, and she instilled a lot of that in me. My view on abortion was always “whatever you need to do for your body.”That said, when I was growing up, I never saw a single TV show in which a person made this decision and the doctor was supportive, in the way we portrayed Janine’s experience on The Handmaid’s Tale. Both onscreen and in the world around me, abortion was a whispered word.I was 20 years old when I got pregnant; at the time, I was attending acting school in Manhattan while living in Queens. I was an emotionally guarded person back then with no clue of who I was or what I wanted, really. All I knew was that I wanted to be an actor.Like so many people, I didn’t even realize that I’d become pregnant until weeks afterward. My boyfriend and I had used a condom the last time we’d had sex. I’d missed a period, but that wasn’t unusual for me: I was in college, stressed out, and dancing five days a week, so my body was already going through a lot.By strange coincidence, I booked Orange Is the New Black on the same day that I got pregnant. Two weeks later, after the greatest night of my life filming my first TV show, I was mugged on the streets of Queens while walking home from the studio. I remember being frightened for my life. But to be honest, I was generally scared of everything in those days. When I look back at myself on that first season of Orange, I think, God, that girl was so lost. And it was during this time that I had to make this huge life decision to terminate a pregnancy.
“After a month or so, if we’ve brainstormed at least one thing they need to get back to doing and there’s still no motivation or change in their mood, that’s when I’m saying, ‘This can’t continue,’” Matthews says. At that point, she suggests exploring further treatment, such as medication. It’s also worth reaching out to a doctor for general health screening to see if the way you’re feeling could be attributed to another health problem that’s potentially making you feel sluggish (like long COVID, if you’ve had the virus in the past).Given that therapy or even a routine physical isn’t financially feasible for everyone, is it possible to self-assess whether you have depression? “It is, but you have to be really honest,” Matthews says, adding that this can be extremely difficult when you’re seeing the world through the thick veil of said depression. It may take an outside party, even if it’s a loved one, to help you realize you haven’t been acting like yourself in more ways than, I just don’t feel like playing tennis anymore.Either way, both experts recommend getting proactive over assuming it’ll pass on its own.This isn’t to suggest that you can gratitude-journal your way out of systemic dysfunction, as solely individualistic solutions won’t lift us out of this languor alone. “The culture hasn’t rebounded yet; institutions haven’t rebounded yet,” Bernice A. Pescosolido, PhD, a sociologist who has studied COVID-19’s mental health impact, tells SELF. “Right now, people are asking what the new norm is.”All of that said, *life is happening to all of us right this minute*. You have the right to all the enthusiasm and joy that it has to offer, and there are ways to rediscover it. Here’s what experts suggest trying when you don’t think you’re depressed but want to get that bounce back in your step.Reach out to people you trust.Research has shown that lack of connection is bad for both your mental and physical health. Even if it feels like your social interaction muscles aren’t what they used to be, “we have to rebuild it—and we have the capacity to,” Dr. Kecmanovic says.On that note, make a point to open up to at least one person you trust about how you’ve been feeling—and don’t wait until things feel dire. Matthews says not everyone is aware that they’re on the path toward a more serious mental health struggle. “Many times when people are depressed, they don’t even know that they’re running on empty.” When you have this conversation, try to be as honest as you can be. That might look like letting your friend or loved one know you’ve just been feeling a bit low, and asking for their support in a way that feels really meaningful to you right now.Take a social media break.You know in your heart of hearts that doomscrolling never helps. “Global issues are weighing heavily on people,” Matthews says. “The hope starts to erode.” If you can’t unplug completely, try to at least limit your exposure to your news feed. Consider tweaking the way you spend time on social media, reallocating that time to taking action in your community or volunteering around a cause that’s important to you, which will connect you to like-minded people—and helping others will likely boost your levels of hope and well-being, too.Ask yourself if you need a new job or other big-ish change.“I’ve seen many of my clients leave their job, or switch jobs, and in a week or two they’re back to their normal self,” Matthews says. Of course, this isn’t always an option for a lot of people, but this may be an opportunity to reevaluate other things—relationships and time commitments—that are draining your energy reserves. It’s really about considering whether there’s something in your life that’s truly making you miserable that you are able to let go of or walk away from.Do something (even when you don’t feel like it).Unappealing as it may sound, doing an activity that you usually find meaningful or pleasurable, even when you really don’t want to—and continuing to do it consistently—is the idea behind behavioral activation, a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skill that aims to improve mood through behavior.
Dr. Nigg explains that the idea that brown noise can help people with ADHD focus aligns with other research on something called optimal arousal theory. Basically, he says, the theory posits that “the reason it’s hard for people with ADHD to pay attention is that they’re not alert enough.” By this logic, then, their brains need a certain amount of extra stimulation compared to folks without ADHD to rouse into “interested” mode. “What the brown noise is supposed to be doing is subtly raising that arousal, thus making people with ADHD more alert and more focused,” he says.There’s also some science that suggests brown noise could help anyone—not just people with ADHD—stay focused. A second scientific concept, “stochastic resonance,” has also been cited in existing research to support the idea that white or brown noise can, perhaps counterintuitively, help a person’s brain muffle diversions in order to concentrate on one thing.Dr. Nigg explains it using an example: Imagine your significant other is talking to you, but you can’t process what they’re saying to you because your TV is blaring. “White noise would solve that problem, according to stochastic resonance theory, by amplifying the signal relative to the noise,” he says. (The amplified signal, in this instance, is your partner’s speech.) “Your brain takes advantage of the noise, making it easier for you to muffle what you’re trying to ignore”—the TV sounds—“instead of what you’re trying to attend to.” That weighted-blanket-on-my-brain feeling just might be stochastic resonance at work.Can brown noise be harmful?Dr. Kraus says that unwanted noise can do more harm than good when it comes to how the brain processes sound. She’s previously written about what she calls the disruptive biological consequences of external noise, pointing, in part, to research on its negative impact on children’s reading comprehension. But Dr. Kraus is referring to rackets that come and go sporadically, such as car alarms, not the steady thrum of a sound like brown noise.What’s more, “our brains are not all the same,” Dr. Nigg adds, meaning, we don’t all respond to certain sounds in the same way—a point that Dr. Kraus agrees with. Going back to that optimal arousal theory, brown noise might be a gift to someone whose brain needs a dash of extra stimulation, while someone who has zero problems sitting down to concentrate may find it distracting.Of course, blasting any sound into your ears at top volume around the clock isn’t advisable. Like some other ADHD coping strategies I’ve tried, brown noise may become less effective over time. “I imagine if you used it every day, all day, the effect could gradually wear off,” Dr. Nigg says, because your brain may get too used to that particular stimulation. It’s a tool, not a one-stop productivity solution.So why, according to me and the many equally convinced #ADHDsquad TikTokers populating my feed, does brown noise seem to work better than white noise for focus? Why did my nose wrinkle in distaste when my YouTube loop autoplayed into a much-tinnier new white noise “song” that I enjoyed much less? “It may be a placebo,” Dr. Nigg offers. “Everyone’s saying it works better, so it works better.”In any case, Dr. Nigg believes that brown noise is reasonably safe to listen to, and if it works for you, it works. “The evidence happens to be very good,” he says. “But even if the evidence was poor, why not do it if it helps you and there’s no meaningful risk?”For me, this possible placebo is delivering results: I’m returning texts within 24 hours and hitting writing deadlines on time (ahem). The whole reason that digital ADHD communities exist on TikTok, Reddit, and elsewhere online is because the behaviors that put each of us on the path to diagnosis can strain every aspect of our lives—from relationships to academic and professional performance—and we’re looking for tools to relieve some of that pressure. I’m gonna bump that brown noise while I’m working for as long as it keeps pushing me forward. Just let me clean a little and google a few things first.Related:
It’s funny because I’m getting this bittersweet relationship that I’ve always wanted with her—but she’s not the same mommy that I knew growing up. But I’m just thankful that she’s here, and that I know that she loves me. Deep down, she knows that I’m here for her too. I’ve asked her, “Do you know that I love you?” She said, “Yes, because of how you take care of me.” That’s all I wanted to hear my whole life.Did your relationship shift pretty quickly because she was in this new, vulnerable situation?Absolutely. A mentor I had at the time told me, “You’ve got to talk to her about the past, even if you don’t think she understands.” We had a really good conversation, where I said, “These things hurt me when I was a little girl, and I don’t know if I hurt you, but I’m sorry if I did.” It was a beautiful, necessary moment of forgiveness for us. I know that I couldn’t have cared for her in a healthy manner, had I not released that.These days she can’t really communicate the way she wants to. But I feel that deep in her heart, she forgives me, and I forgive her for anything we had going on that was toxic. We’re just living in the moment and being grateful to have each other. I’ve never been more proud to be her daughter.We love that your Instagram captures the joyful moments you find together while you’re caregiving too. Has your mom’s decline in language affected the types of things you like to do as mother and daughter?I still take her out. We went to Mastro’s Steakhouse the other day for her birthday! We still have movie nights, we go to the nail salon. She gets massages from a company called Manly Handz—her arms are really tight, but every time they come, all of a sudden they can stretch out. And she loved those men, honey! I try to do things that I know she’d be doing if she was in 100% good health.A caregiver plays many roles—driver, scheduler, shopper, and of course, home health aide. How did you prepare to take on all these responsibilities?My best friend Latrice, the director of nursing at a hospital in Memphis, did CPR training with me twice. Friends who are nurses and doctors taught me how to change a draw sheet [a small folded sheet that can be easily removed from underneath someone or used to help lift them] and explained, “This is how you would turn her and keep her clean,” so Momma doesn’t have bed sores.I would go to hospitals and ask to see their equipment and which type of mattress they used. I’d sit on the bed and examine everything to see how it worked. Then a friend and I would shop around L.A. to find the equivalent. Thank God P-Valley came right in time after the GoFundMe had run out because I was barely eating. I had just enough for Momma to eat, and friends were literally cooking for us and bringing food over.
If they’re showing up emotionally and meeting your needs in real life, though, and you know their heartbreak is fresh, Tierno suggests exercising a little empathy and trust while you’re checking out their socials. “People have a lot to process after a breakup,” she says. “If the expectation is, ‘They must cut off all thoughts or feelings about their former relationship in order to be available for me,’ that’s just unrealistic.”That said, there’s a difference between reading too much into Instagram interactions and ignoring your intuition and/or evidence that the person you’re dating isn’t over someone—like the fact that they’re constantly liking and commenting on their ex’s posts, say (or that they’re exhibiting some of the other warning signs on this list). That’s why it’s important to keep checking in with your own comfort level, Tierno advises, which is the only thing you can control. “You have to be able to set your own boundaries with regard to whether your needs are being met,” she says.8. Or they’re just plain fixated on the ex in general.Do they rehash the pain of their last relationship often? Is there an excessive amount of pictures of their ex around their apartment? “It’s about the frequency and their tone,” Sprowl says. “If they’re talking about that person all the time, it’s obvious that they’re not over them.” You may notice that their ex-related comments drip with the aforementioned bitterness, for example.9. They’re rebounding with a few people but making you feel like you’re the special one.When someone is newly single and not seeking anything serious, there’s nothing wrong with casually dating a few people at the same time. But that’s only if they’re honest with everyone involved and managing everyone’s attachments responsibly, says Dennis.What constitutes irresponsible handling of this situation? “They’re making a person feel like they’re the only one in a way that’s manipulative,” Dennis explains. That might look like telling you they’ve “never felt this way about anyone before” and that they “can see a future with you” on your Tuesday night dates, but then you find out they’ve been using the same lines on someone else on Thursdays. And they get bonus red-flag points if they make you doubt your perceptions: When you bring it up with them, they may make it clear that they’ve never committed to you, Dennis says. Even if that’s technically true, it may feel like an unfair loophole they’re using to get away with that behavior.10. Your sex life seems off.Rebounders also often use sex in order to distract themselves from their pain. An intense physical connection is a normal (super fun) part of many new relationships, of course. But if you feel like you’re being used and there are other warning signs to support your suspiscion, you’re probably not wrong.On the flip side, you might be experiencing a wild emotional connection while freaking out about why you two aren’t having sex. First, it’s important to note that wanting to move slowly after a heartbreak is totally normal, whether someone is over their ex or not. Again, this comes down to trusting your instincts and putting their behavior in context. Have they expressed to you that they’re just not ready to be intimate yet? Or maybe that they rushed into sex in their last relationship and want to do things differently with you? If you feel like your other needs are being met and they’re just exercising understandable caution with their sex life, that’s not necessarily a rebound red-flag. But if they seem distant in other ways, that’s worth paying attention to, according to Tierno. “If someone is still emotionally invested in someone else, they might not be so interested in connecting sexually,” she says. Once again, honest communication can clear a lot of the confusion.11. The end of their recent long-term relationship was a shock to them.As Sprowl explained previously, lots of breakups begin with a slow decline, in which one or both partners have already begun to grieve the relationship and let it go. But if the person you’re dating was recently dumped out of the blue and left reeling, chances are they haven’t had enough time to heal before committing to someone new. Again, pay attention to their emotional availability, as well as your instincts—if it seems like they haven’t processed their pain, chances are, they haven’t (so if you’re looking for someone ready for a long-term commitment, chances are, they’re not).12. They want to act like a long-term couple already.You’ve only been dating for a month or so, but they want to skip nights out in favor of running errands together in sweats. You may even suspect they’re falling back on a relationship routine they had with their ex, and you’ve just been dropped into the middle of it. Though it may be true that they’re using you as a replacement for their previous long-term partner in order to avoid dealing with their feelings about the breakup, Tierno counters that “some people function that way” when they feel immediately comfortable. (And a lot of people who are tired of dating definitely want to skip right into the comfy relationship stage.) If they aren’t exhibiting other rebound red flags, and you suspect that you simply put them at ease, then it’s time to ask yourself what you want out of a new relationship and voice those wishes accordingly.13. Their interest in you runs hot and cold.Does their obsession with you abruptly grow cold? Are they inexplicably moody and then go radio silent on text? That’s, yep, another potential sign that they’re not truly emotionally invested in you—because of a recent breakup or some other reason. Or maybe they’re exhibiting signs of an avoidant attachment style, which doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t care about you. Ultimately, if you don’t like how you’re being treated, the root reasoning for their behavior doesn’t really matter. But if you’re really into them, Tierno suggests that you bring up their hot-and-cold pattern and “stay available and curious to see whether they can explain what’s happening with them.” If they don’t have an answer, their answer isn’t satisfying, or they aren’t interested in even talking about it, that’s a problem—a sign that you may need to look elsewhere if you want to get your emotional needs met.14. They don’t say much about themself (or their life before you).Asking each other questions and swapping stories that speak to what you’ve both learned from past experiences is a necessary part of getting to know someone—so if you notice that they don’t volunteer much in these exchanges, it’s normal to wonder why.