Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

mental health

Sometimes I get…

Sometimes I get:

Frustrated at always being on a budget

Disgusted with my wardrobe

Jealous of people who can travel anywhere, anytime, free from obligations, money worries, or any other constraint

Annoyed that my house is never as clean as I’d like it to be

Angry that I had a miscarriage and even angrier that it’s so damn hard for me to get pregnant

Overwhelmed at all the adulting I need to do every day

Tired of making choices and decisions


Sad about past hurts and angry at how they’ve changed me

Irked with myself for not having enough hustle and discipline

Wistful for all the books I’ll never get around to reading and the places I’ll never get around to visiting no matter how hard I try

Disappointed with myself 

Unnecessarily irritated by bad grammar, poor manners, and terrible driving

Caught up in comparing myself to other people

Embarrassed to have people in my home

Homesick for New York even though it’s been almost 20 years since I lived there


Discouraged with blogging and writing

Irrationally enraged at small things like chipped nail polish, zippers that won’t close properly, stains that appear on my clothes after they’ve gone through the wash, and pens with light ink

Distracted from what’s important

I don’t deny myself feeling any of these. I think it’s normal to feel any or all of these at some point and if you say you don’t ever feel any of them, or something not so wonderful that’s not on the list, I don’t know that I believe you. No one feels 100% happy and perfect all the time. If you do, you need to share your secrets. Honestly. You can make 80 billion dollars off of that.

It’s important to me to own my emotions, whatever they might be, and deal with them. And after I deal with them, it makes me realize that my life isn’t really that bad and I get over myself and move on (except being appalled by poor grammar, bad manners, and terrible driving. And laundry stains. Seriously. Why are stains appearing on my clothes after they’ve been washed?)

Because while I’m spending time and energy focusing on all the things that are wrong, it’s time and energy I’m taking away from focusing on what’s right. adding


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I hadn’t planned on writing this post today but after my conversation during a 2+ hour lunch with Steph yesterday, I decided it’s necessary. It might get convoluted and circular, and I apologize in advance for that.

I am not okay.

In fact, I am the exact opposite of okay. I’m a disaster. A mess. 

I have unpaid bills. My house is decidedly less than clean. I have errands to run, emails to answer, calls to make, jobs to apply for, a gray streak in my hair I need to dye, blogs I need to catch up on, and plans that I desperately want to cancel yet I do none of it. I want to smile and mean it, laugh and feel better, and understand that it is okay to ask for help. But it takes all my strength to get out of bed and brush my teeth each morning and there’s not much left over for anything else. I sleep like shit when I actually do fall asleep. I have no motivation to do anything except sit on the couch and play endless games of Rummikub on my iPad or read books. I’m still grieving my miscarriage. I’m still unemployed. My depression is at an all time high (low?).

I feel like an epic failure.

I tell you all this not for sympathy or pity or anything other than I want to share the fact that, despite the humor you might read in a post or a cute picture you might see on Instagram, there’s more going on behind the scenes. My life is not a beautiful, staged on a white background array of sunshine and rainbows. My life, at times, is ugly and awful and not at all enviable. And I tell you that because I know that someone, somewhere, feels like she (or he) is the only one with ugliness in her life. And I want that person to know she’s not. 

We all have darkness. We all have moments when everything feels like it’s falling apart and will never be put back together. We all have moments of shame and sadness and messiness and absolute wretchedness.

Bloggers don’t often do a good job of conveying that, although some are spectacular at it (think The Bloggess, Allie Brosh, and a couple of others I follow with quasi-regularity). But there’s more who hide the ugly than share. And I think that needs to stop. Bloggers have a reach that other people don’t, and you never know how your words can affect someone. Which is why, bloggers (and nonbloggers), I’m encouraging you to share your ugly. Whether it’s a picture or post or tweet or whatever, share something with your readers that isn’t shiny and perfect. I’m not talking a picture of you sweaty after a 10 mile run or epic leg day at the gym. No one looks good after that. I’m talking about showing about a failure in the kitchen. A stain on the rug that you hide with a piece of furniture. A huge zit you cover up with makeup. Something, anything that strips away, even for one small minute, any delusions of perfection your readers and followers may see. 

Our words and images are powerful. We never know who we’re reaching or who’s touched or impacted by what we say. It’s a hard thing, reading blogs and only ever seeing perfection. If that’s what people are using as a basis for comparison, it’s an impossible standard to achieve and can do more harm than good. 

So tell your story.

Divulge your scars.

Discuss your battles. 

Show your ugly. 


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I spend a lot of time in my head and this is what comes out

I often spend time thinking about ways I can improve myself. Not just intellectually but as a person overall. Someone who’s more compassionate, more tolerant of things like stupidity and drama and bad grammar, volunteers more and works harder to accomplish my goals and spends less time binge watching Netflix, thinking of ways to eat peanut butter, or obsessing over what book to read next.

The danger with thinking, though, is that the more time I spend in my head, the more negative thoughts I have that are unrelated to what I initially started thinking about (I’m still trying to figure out how this makes sense but I suppose when you battle major self-esteem issues like I do, the mind is like a deserted island and when you’re alone with yourself too much, you start making things up that might also be a little true). Thoughts like:

I’ll never lose the weight. I’m destined to be fat forever. 

I’ll never finish my book. I’m a terrible writer. Who wants to read what I write anyway?

I’m very unlikable. Perhaps this is why I have so few friends and don’t get invited places.

I’ll never get a job. I’ve been out of work too long and I have no skills left.

I’m not a good mother/wife. I’m incredibly lazy and contribute nothing to my family. 

Most days, my head is not a fun place to live. 

One of my main problems is that I often interchange the thoughts listed above with traits like the fact that I will never be tall. I will never need a Wonderbra. I will never have blue eyes without the assistance of contacts. I will never be bald (although the amount of shedding I do daily seems to indicate otherwise). I will never be able to stand the smell or taste of oranges. I will never enjoy the feel of satin. I will never be an early riser. I will never be tan, even with spending hours in the sun.

Did you notice the difference between the two lists? How the things on the second list are physical characteristics? And how the things in the first list are thoughts and personality traits? Totally different from each other. Yet I struggle with separating them. Because to me, who I am and who I am are completely intertwined. Like being short and having brown eyes somehow makes me a bad writer or unemployable. 

I know. 

Something my idiot therapist did teach me is that my mind maps all point the wrong way and I need to get reoriented so I follow the right path. The problem comes with the fact that I have always had a poor sense of direction. It takes me a lot of wrong turns before I get to where I’m going and while I’m not 100% sure exactly where I am now, I do know that finally acknowledging the difference between what I can change and what I can’t is a huge step towards the self-improvement I crave.

Cognitively, I know what I think about myself is ridiculous. For starters, it’s mostly untrue. Then there’s the undeniable fact that there’s absolutely nothing I can’t change without motivation, desire, and hustle. And hard work. All of which I’m ready, willing, and able to do. Assuming I can get out of my own way. 

I’m a hell of a roadblock.

 How about you guys? Are you able to get out of your own way or do you get stuck?




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Nothing to do when you’re locked into vacancy? Here’s some ideas.

I’m pretty sure those of you who live in warm climates are sick of hearing about this but here in the Northeast, it’s motherfucking cold. Not like the cold in a movie theater (seriously, why do they do that?) or a conference room during a business meeting (again, why do they do that?) but so cold your fingers and nose and ears burn at even the thought of going outside, 45 layers won’t keep you warm enough, and your heater is slowly approaching temperatures only found at the equator.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s Canada cold. Or Alaska cold. Or Midwest prairie cold.

It completely sucks and kudos to those who live in places where it’s regularly like this. 

Anyway, because it’s turn your tears to icicles cold in my part of the world, I’ve been stuck inside. Which doesn’t really bother me because I’m as close to a hermit as you can get without people being worried but still, after awhile, even I contemplate going outside. Which I then think better of because frozen tundra. And then I’m left wondering, after 4 straight days with close to no hope of leaving any time soon, what do I do next? 

So I sat down to make a list. Because of course I did. Because I love lists. And since I love to share my lists, here’s what I came up with of some of the things to do when you’re locked into vacancy:

    • Read. Did you doubt this would be first? There is nothing better to do than read. And if you’re stuck in the house, the best way to escape is through a book. This is the perfect time to tackle the stack of unread books on your nightstand, pour through the dozens of links and blog posts you’ve been hoarding saving, dive into that extra long book you’ve been keeping for the day you can finally get to it, plow through the stack of magazines or clean up your eReader. There’s never any shortage of reading materials. And this can keep you busy for hours and hours. Especially if you combine it with naps.
    • Watch TV. I know those who are adamant that TV is a waste of time will disagree with me but I believe you can still be productive even with the television on. When you’re in the house, why not go through your DVR’d shows, start that show on Netflix you’ve been meaning to check out (here’s a helpful list if you need suggestions), or take some time to watch a classic movie or rewatch one of your favorites. Like books, TV and movies can be a good escape.

    • Be creative. Tired of reading and watching TV? I get it. It happens. And when it does, why not take an hour or so to color or paint a picture, write a short story or blog post, knit or crochet, try a new makeup look or hairstyle, sew, put together a scrapbook page, choreograph a dance, cook a new recipe, have a whole conversation in movie lines or song titles/lyrics, anything else you can think of that will get your creativity flowing and keep you busy. Keeping your mind occupied is a surefire way to stave off boredom and forget that you’re confined to your home.
    • Move. I mean, not your home or possessions but your body. Spending all that time on the couch or in a chair, while comfortable, can sometimes make your cranky and achy and kind of fussy. I know it can for me. So, when that happens, why not take 30 minutes to exercise? You can do a workout DVD, following along to a YouTube video, find an at-home workout on Pinterest, have a dance party or even make up your own. Just get yourself moving a little bit. It’ll help stave off boredom, keep your mood lifted, and you won’t feel like a big sluggish lump. And then you’ll also feel less guilty about the 230436 cookies you ate because your winter weight is helping to keep you warm, dammit. PSA: don’t forget to do this with your pets as well, especially if you have dogs. They’re most likely used to a couple of daily walks and when it’s this cold, they can’t get that activity either. Try playing a game of fetch with them indoors, if you have the space or just find some way to help them burn off some energy.

    • Spend time with your family. If you live with people, why not use your home confinement as a way to bond with them? You can have a family game night, do Mad Libs, have actual conversations, tell stories, take some of the creativity you exercised earlier and have a showcase (talent show, art gallery, etc) where you all get dressed up and pretend it’s fancier than it actually is, sit down to a meal together, or whatever it is that your family likes to do. If you live alone, you can still connect with your family and friends via all the available methods like Facetime and text and phone calls. Just stay connected. Or, if you hate your family, you can figure out all the ways you can creatively avoid them.
    • Plan. One way I get out of my own head and away from the misery of subzero temperatures is to plan all the fun things I’ll do when it’s warmer. I like to plan our spring and summer day trips and vacations, check out which baseball games I’ll buy tickets to, who I want to be sure we visit, what we’re going to do to the outside of the house (flower beds and outside lighting and the garden and what our patio is going to look like once we build it) and doing some online window shopping for spring and summer clothes. Thinking about the warmer weather, and indulging my fantasies about it, makes the ice age I’m living in that much more bearable.
    • Chores. Okay, so this is last on the list for a reason. Chores suck. But if you’re stuck inside, this is a great time to dust and vacuum and do laundry and pay bills and sort the junk mail and put away the dishes and organize the pantry and write the grocery list and menu plan and go through your closets and all the other things we wish we had time to do but other things are more fun to do when you have free time. This is a great time to get this stuff done and not have them hanging over your head so when the weather improves and you finally escape your imprisonment, you won’t feel guilty doing everything else.

 I’m curious–what do you guys do when you’re stuck in the house with no end in sight?


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4 ways to use your smartphone for self-improvement

Some time last year, I posted a link to an article that talked about having a decluttered iPhone (I can’t find the link now. I’ll share it on Facebook when I do). I fell in love with that idea and when I got my new phone a few months ago, I decided to take the challenge. I realized that my phone was starting to take over my life 

While my phone isn’t as clutter free as it could be, it’s way better than it was. With the exception of Instagram and Goodreads, I removed all social media apps. Then I removed all news outlet apps (CNN, Huffington Post, etc), deactivated all push notifications, and set the do not disturb time frame. Next, I decided not to install any games except for a couple for my daughter. YouTube made the cut but that’s also more for my daughter’s sake than mine. I left Spotify because I’m borderline obsessed with it and I listen to music constantly, and a few other apps like MLB and my library and bank. Stuff I genuinely need and use.

Once I decided to declutter my phone, I also decided I would start using it for good instead of evil. So, when picking which other apps to add or keep, I felt that they needed to have a productive purpose. As in, stuff I can use to make me better instead of worse. To that end, here’s how I’m using my iPhone as a weapon for self-improvement instead of self-destruction:

smartphone self-improvement

Duolingo. If you want to learn a new language, Duolingo is the perfect place to start. I first heard about this app from my daughter’s Spanish teacher, which worked out well because I’d long been wanting to brush up on my French and I can do this for free, on my own time. You can choose from about 8 languages, how much you want to practice each day, it grades you instantly, the app tracks your progress, and even if you have zero knowledge of a language, you can use it. It has a game-type feel that makes it fun to learn and keep you interested.

Podcasts. Podcasts are sneaky little learning tools. My husband has long been a fan of them but they never did it for me. Then Serial happened and now I’m a fan. Rather than simply listening to entertainment-based ones, I’ve been trying to learn by downloading business-type podcasts from Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins, Book Riot’s podcast, and also Criminal, which is short, investigative reporting episodes, all related to crimes, old and relatively new. The criminal justice nerd in me rejoiced upon discovering this one. Not into criminal justice? I’ve seen one for self-improvement, science, money management and personal finance, religion, and dozens of others.

Exercising. Use your phone and create a gym in your pocket! (I’ve also written before how you can use your smartphone to achieve your fitness goals if you want more information on that). As someone who doesn’t love exercising, I’ve had to find ways to keep it interesting. After a 4 month lapse, I’ve started workingout again using my T25 videos but as an alternative, I downloaded a yoga app and a workouts app (literally. That’s what it’s called. Workouts. And Yoga). There’s a free and paid version for each. I recommend the paid version because you get more options and longer workouts. I use this in conjunction with my Couch 2 5K app (that’s more of a springtime app since my basement isn’t finished and it’s fucking cold down there) and with this combination, I barely miss my gym membership.

Gratitude journal. Lots of people recommend keeping one of these so I thought I’d give it a try since it seems like a simple enough effort to improve my mental health. After looking through lots and lots of apps, and not really wanting to pay for one, I settled on one called Grid Diary. What I like about it is that you can set up as many questions or prompts as you want, either by choosing from a library of questions or making up your own. It automatically reminds you at a set time every day to write in the journal so there’s no excuse not to. It’s a quick and easy, something you can do during a commercial. I think I might upgrade to a paid app at some point but for now, this one is just fine.

I’m also starting to use iBooks a bit more, particularly while I’m waiting on the school pick up line or for an appointment, and I have a few store cards loaded onto my phone. I have the Disney app on my phone that my sister and I are using to coordinate our vacation to Disney World this spring so we can be clandestine and surprise the kids. And finally, I’ve taught my mom, sister, and mother-in-law how to use the photo sharing option so we can trade pictures without sending 2340832 texts. 

I’m sure, if I wanted, I could pare down my phone even more but for now, I’m okay with the way it looks. And I can tell you that by removing many of the negative influences from my phone, it’s not only improved my state of mind but it keeps me more present and focused when I’m out and about. 

Which is really the most important thing.

How are you using your phone for self-improvement? What should I add to my arsenal?


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