I get unnecessarily stressed about moving so I was already dreading this week. But then came a kitchen leak followed by no running water or internet and other fun home surprises, and it turned out to be a doozy.
While it’s been nice to be back in my own bed for the first time in 5(!) months, the bags under my eyes are bridging on more extreme than the average New Yorker’s of the before times. I’m afraid I’ve run out of spoons to give so I’m skipping the essay this week. Instead, I’m dishing up a longer reading list, and sharing a watch and listen that made me feel good recently in hopes they’ll do the same for you, because we sure need it.
“Before the pandemic, one in four to five people in the U.S. experienced a mental health disorder at some point in their life, it’s now one in three,” Headspace Chief Strategy and Science Officer Dr. Megan Jones told me in a recent interview.
To be honest, I’m not surprised. The world may be opening up, but the mind and body doesn’t bounce back so easily from a pandemic. A year of people feeling left in the dark when it comes to their health, has brought a boom for the wellness industry—meaning there are now even more products to choose from. I rounded up the brands best suited to our current moment.
Here’s what I’m using to get my life together this spring:
Oura Ring — For tracking my sleep habits. NBA stars use it do determine whether they’re healthy enough to get back on the courts. Prince Harry uses it because… he’s Prince Harry. It’s seriously worth the hype.
Komuso — For reminding me to breathe. 17th century Japanese monks used flute breathing as a form of meditation, The Shift necklace borrows from the tradition with a pretty steel necklace that doubles as a breathing tool.
Headspace — For meditation. I first turned to Andy’s soothing British accent back in 2014 to manage my caregiving stress. In recent years, I’ve used it mainly for sleep (pretty sure I’ve fallen asleep to their sleepcasts every night for the past two years). Now, I’m excited to get into their new mindful eating programming with Whole Foods.
Care/of — For a vitamin regimen. My supplement addiction is OUT OF HAND. So I need a routine, Care/of’s subscription service is easy and the has supplements tailored to my needs (like sleep and stress!).
Poo-Pourri — For sweet-smelling bathroom visits and toxic-free spring cleaning. It was at a recent virtual essential oil workshop led by wellness guru Suzy Batiz, the CEO whose successful toilet spray has made her one of America’s richest self-made women, that I realized—essential oils for household cleaning are totally underrated.
On Asian Identity:
🙏 This perspective from a Korean scholar of religion.
“The Asian woman who is American is a ghost, invisible, unknowable, stripped of her identity, making her both desirable and expendable. The days after the shooting, I walked through the world in a haze of anger and despair. All the moments I’d kept hidden for years suddenly rushed to the surface: the attacks, the looks, the vandalism, the endless stream of questions: Who are you? Where are you from?” -Mihee Kim-Kort.
📚 And this anti-Asian racism guide, packed with good reads. (Seriously, Minor Feelings changed my life).
📺 But pop culture lists aren’t enough.
🙅🏻♀️ R.O. Kwon wrote a letter to Asian Women for Vanity Fair, but it feels like it’s meant for everyone.
“The silences this week ring loud, in the texts we haven’t received, in the absences on social media, as the people who say they deeply love us, who have heard us talk about this, fail to wonder if we’re okay, fail to see if in this time of great collective sorrow it might be a good time to offer us some of that love.”
🦋 A beautiful piece on puddles and butterflies and racism.
“If a puddle can be a body of water, can even smaller bodies of water be considered significant? What about dew, a sweat drop, a tear? I wonder now, what can my tears feed? Who can they nourish?” - Sabina Imbler.
🍵 And another on the significance of bubble tea, what Jiayang Fan calls a “snacky sanctuary of belonging; a ubiquitous, Instagram-friendly accessory for a new generation of upwardly mobile Asian kids.”
“Part of being Asian-American is the fear of being judged for losing one’s Asian-ness while failing to earn acceptance as a real American. Assimilation is an impossible process of pouring oneself into another while holding onto a sense of self. It is tricky to judge from the outside a transformation that largely takes place within.” - Jiayang Fan.
✊ Are we having an Asian Spring?
“The slurs have always been there, and the violence too—but the impunity and lawlessness feel new. And so does the response, both here in the United States and abroad: Just as the Burmese in Yangon have forged a new cultural identity for themselves, so too have Asians in America.” - Alex Wagner.
🇺🇸 One of my go-to journalists Jay Caspian Kang on what the recent spa shootings mean for race relations in the U.S.
“The answers to the question ‘Why does nobody care?’ has unearthed a series of contradictions that always lurked right beneath the surface, unmentioned in polite company: We are not white, but do we count as ‘people of color’? These questions are not new, but the attacks have placed them in a discomforting, sometimes maddening, context and heightened their urgency.”
🤳 For an uplift—find some Asian joy on TikTok.
On Pandemic Life:
👭 Our bubbles may be opening up, but which friends do we actually want back?
“The narrower social circles we inhabited might be more instinctively human than our promiscuous networks of “friends” fuelled by social media.” - Alex Williams
🎥 I don’t miss much about pre-pandemic life, but I really miss going to the movies. Will it ever be the same?
“It’s like someone turned the black light on and showed you all the spots and human stains in your bedroom and now you can’t ever go back to feeling completely comfortable there.” - Brandon Taylor.
On Mental Health:
🧼 Speaking of cleanliness, anyone else not looking forward to people going back to being gross adults? Imagine how people with OCD must feel.
🛋 I’m totally guilty of calling my cleanliness obsessions ‘OCD’—I’m not alone, therapy-speak has become totally casual (think, ‘triggering’ or ‘holding space’).
“The words suggest a sort of woke posturing, and show how the language of suffering often finds its way into the mouths of those who suffer least. The problem with armchair therapy, or what we now might call “Instagram therapy,” writes Katy Waldman, is that it can, as Lori Gottlieb says, ’transform a nuanced, contextual process into something ego-directed.’”
😩 Can we please bring back the nervous breakdown? Centuries ago it was culturally acceptable to have one.
“The nervous breakdown was not a medical condition, but a sociological one. It provided sanction for a pause and reset that could put you back on track. But as psychology eclipsed sociology, it turned us inward to our personal moods and thoughts—away from the shared economic and social circumstances that produced them.” - Jerry Useem.
On Food & Wellness:
🥩 Restriction can provide a sense of order in a world of chaos—but at what point does restriction become a disorder? This girl I went to high school with has become semi-famous for her all-meat diet, what does it tell us about human nature?
🧘🏾♀️The diet and body image double standards Indian women face because of globalization.
“The decade after we were told to cut out ghee, it would re-emerge twice, validated by Hollywood as the new superfood. Same with yoga, which we were told to trade in for Soul Cycle, only to be the ones signing up for twenty dollar Ashtanga classes a decade later.” - Meher Varma.
🌮 And how machismo culture affects what Latinx women eat.
🌎 Duolingo for Decoding Racist Dog Whistling.
📱 Imagine if social-media apps were parties. Facebook’s would look like showing up extremely early and watching out for drunk old people with opinions and Twitter’s would involve name-dropping NPR and The Daily.
When Lady Bird was released in 2018, I was totally oblivious to the controversy over claims that it stole from Real Women Have Curves (Crave)—the 2002 American comedy directed by Patricia Cardoso, based on the play of the same name by Josefina López. Not only are the plots and themes similar, they even end with the same scene. And yet, Lady Bird received award recognition, and Real Women Have Curves went unnoticed.
But it shouldn’t have. The under 90 minute film captures the summer between high school and college for Mexican-American Ana, played by America Ferrera. She’s smart and has been dreams to go to Columbia University, but her working-class Mexican family wants her to work at a local clothing sweatshop.
Like many coming-of-age stories centered around a mother-daughter relationship, Ana defies the expectations of her parents, but here, those expectations explore race, feminism and body image. It’s Ana’s unapologetic embrace of her intelligence and curves that makes this one stand out from the rest.
As a bitter cynic, I fiend the argument that positivity doesn’t, despite its intentions, make us happy.
“When people have a goal to be happy, they become less and less happy over time, because happiness is not born out of chasing some happy goal or a narrative, happiness is born out of living life in ways that feel concordant with your values and being grounded in yourself” says Susan David, Harvard-trained psychologist and author of Emotional Agility, in this episode of TTFA.
Instead, David suggests leaning into our emotions—the good and the bad.
“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life,” she says. “Uncomfortable emotions (grief, anger, sadness) often appear as a cloud, it can be so dense, we start to think we are the cloud. But we’re the sky, the cloud is passing through. Recognizing this isn’t resiliency, it’s emotional agility.”
So how do we become more emotionally agile? Not becoming the feeling; categorizing it or assigning it value. David suggests interpreting emotions as data, not directives (it’s why Darwin described our emotions as functional).
“It’s natural to want to be happy. But the pain comes out eventually. We’ve watched hundreds of years of pain come out in America this year, we’ve seen powerful actions from people recognizing the validity of their emotions, the alignment of their emotions with their values. This year has [seen the] recognition of a reality that is painful and difficult. No amount of positive thinking or denial can keep that kind of pain contained. Society is begging us to become open to the whole of us. If we raise our children to only be happy, and tell our boys not to cry, we are incapacitating a generation.”