Family

I practice self-care 11 simple ways every day, and it's not always pretty.

Practicing self-care is harder than it looks in this messy life.

The bathroom is my special place. When I sit on the toilet and read articles about 100 ways to change my life, I feel empowered and ready to shake my world upside down.

Then I lock my iPhone and leave the bathroom … and I fall right back into wishing I could just sulk in a corner.

Especially as the adult child of an alcoholic, a lot of people advise me to figure out how to put myself first. Family, friends, and professionals want me to learn to love myself in ways that I didn’t learn during all the years when caring for an addict took precedence.


"Close your eyes in the steam of hot lemon water. Sink into your warrior pose while reflecting on the ocean’s tide. Just take deeper breaths and count to 10 to conquer the world’s pain."

Photo via iStock.

I know the authors of these articles mean well, but sometimes I don’t think they understand how hard it is to make self-care a priority. Most days, grabbing hold of my "self" feels like trying to grab fistfuls of air, not breathing as calmly as an ocean tide.

Instead of drawing a bubble bath or lighting a candle or writing down my thoughts and dreams in a journal, I’m more focused on making baby steps in caring for myself. Here are a few:

1. Getting up on the right side of the bed is a big deal.

Most days, I don’t want to cuddle a kitten. On the days when it’s easier to smile, it’s a really good day. Sometimes my self-care is cherishing those days.

2. Instead of dreaming of all the things I'll get around to in my next life, I have to pick one small thing a day.

Waiting for the next cymbal to crash wipes me out. In my next life, I’ll color 50 shades of happiness in my adult coloring book. And then I’ll hang it on my fridge to show off to all my cheerful dinner guests.

But in this life, faking Pinterest-style perfection is exhausting. Instead, I’ve started getting to know my personal energy levels and choosing my daily activities based on how much "gas" is in my tank. I want to be a hustler and say yes to everything, but I have to know if today is a day where taking care of myself also means taking a nap.

3. I'm great at telling someone else, "Go love yourself." Now I need to take my own advice.

I could have written those articles about 100 ways to change your life. I might even inspire you to learn to love yourself because I’m a champ at doling out expert advice. But taking my own advice is an entirely different game.

Whenever I feel like stuffing my emotions away with dozens of Oreos, I remind myself that I’m committed to living out what I write.

Photo via iStock.

I want you to read who I am on the screen and then meet the same person in real life.

4. I'm addicted to someone else’s addiction. I probably need to implement my own recovery plan.

Honest moment: I’m afraid of what my life would look like without the rush of implementing great recovery plans for someone else, like my dad who struggles with addiction.

But truthfully, I know that self-care starts with putting my whole self first. I’m learning how to make my own recovery plans, including a rush of adrenaline while working out to the perfect pump-up playlist.

5. "It is what it is" helps me move forward.

I picked up on this phrase as a little girl, and for me, it became one of those sayings your kid repeats in the backseat so many times you wish they'd never heard it.

Believing in change requires a huge shift in my stale and stubborn mind, but remembering that "it is what it is" allows me to recognize what I can’t control and then focus on what I can.

6. I will learn to trust that good things can actually stick.

This is kind of the idea that every good book comes to an end. I always wonder: Why should I fall in love with these characters when they’re going to leave me on the last page anyways? I think this has a lot to do with my dad’s story and growing up with an alcoholic parent.

Instead, I have to work on trusting in chapters of goodness, like when joining a book club is fulfilling and reading a book gives me happiness in the moment — it’s not just a countdown until our relaxing times together end.

7. I’ll figure out how I like my eggs or other little things about my identity.

In the movie "Runaway Bride," Julia Roberts’ character has a father who drinks too much. She lost her identity in the process of trying to save him, so she always just likes whatever kind of eggs her boyfriend at the time liked.

Photo via iStock.

Self-care requires knowing what would help me. I can’t love myself if I’ve never taken the time to figure out who I am. It turns out I like my eggs over easy. Like my grandma always said, "Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it."

8. Life doesn’t have to feel so serious.

I picked up a briefcase around the age of 10, and the weight of the world felt comfortable in my little hands. I made myself grow up too quickly, mostly so I could stay out of the way and not make any more waves.

But I think I missed the step where you roll down the hill and get grass stains, so sometimes it’s hard as an adult to kick back and get a good belly laugh. I forget that life is more than filing my taxes while sitting up straight in my leather chair. When I know I need a deep laugh, I go out to dinner with a friend who knows me to my core and can pull out a memory that leaves me sculpting those six-pack abs.

9. I've made it a habit to expect the worst. And, you know what they say: Old habits die hard.

I’ve come to expect disappointment to walk through the door. Hearts have this crazy power to shape habits. And broken hearts have this bad habit of wanting to stay broken.

Sometimes I think that stories about miracles and people overcoming adversities are only written about other people, and quotes that tell me to OVERCOME just annoy me. That’s just not me. Making it a habit to expect good things to happen will start with believing with my whole heart that I actually deserve good things. For me, I go for a walk and listen to audiobooks that encourage me and keep my mind from wandering to self-destructing places.

10. I’ll stop waiting for someone else to bring me flowers.

This past year, I had a roommate who nurtured her plants every day. This felt completely foreign to me. But when someone told me to go buy flowers for myself and make it a habit to care for those flowers, I started thinking about it differently.

Image via iStock.

In fact, this is one of those cliches that actually kind of works for me. I never realized how much I was sitting back and waiting for someone to knock on my door and deliver beauty on a silver platter. Inviting beauty into my daily life takes effort and patience and persistence. But one day at a time, I’m learning how to water these flowers and watch them grow.

11. Learning to love myself will require repetition over time to make it a new daily habit.

Over time, I’ve caught this heart bug where I tell myself I’m not worthy of a life where I love myself and love my life. I want to check off every single item on the list of 101 ways to change my life instead of trying to make one new self-care habit that I can actually stick to.

So my advice? Just do one thing. Because one small thing — not 100 — can help change one day. And one day at a time, that’s enough.

I want to learn to love myself and make self-care a priority.

I want to be addicted to love, like the good kind of habits and the real kinds of love.

For today, though, I’ll reflect on taking one little step at a time while reading on the toilet. Realistically, that one step for me is probably dancing to a new Katy Perry song: "I won’t just survive. Oh, you will see me thrive."

Don’t judge :)

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

A group of around 20 moms gathered at a Boston area high school to vent their frustrations loudly.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but there are certain groups of people who have faced particularly intense challenges these past two years. Healthcare workers? For sure. Teachers? Definitely. Parents? Um, yes.

Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

Keep Reading Show less

Police arrest man suspected of scamming an elderly woman.

There has been a rise in scams against the elderly during the pandemic. According to the FBI, American seniors were scammed for $1 billion dollars in 2020, up $300 million from the previous year.

To stay connected with friends and family during the pandemic, more seniors joined social media, opening them up to new avenues for fraud.

“The combination of online shopping and social media creates easy venues for scammers to post false advertisements,” the FBI report said. “Many victims report ordering items from links advertised on social media and either receiving nothing at all or receiving something completely unlike the advertised item.”

But when scammers came after 73-year-old Jean Ebbert in Long Island, New York, they had no idea they were dealing with a law enforcement veteran. Ebbert is a former 911 dispatcher, so she knows exactly what a scam looks like.

Keep Reading Show less