7 Steps to Slowing Down & Restoring The Balance

Be The Change

While in a bathtub yesterday, I realized how instrumental was my decision last year to slow down and take better care of myself. You see, before then, I’ve been blindly neglecting myself for decades while taking care of everybody else. Cliché indeed.

Frequent baths turned out to be a great solution, an instant relief from the minutiae of everyday, and from any body aches that went along with it. Relaxing in the tub was often the cure I needed after a long, hectic day. Being sans kids, the proverbial cherry on top.

Why did it take so long for me to realize that I matter to, that I can let go and it will be ok, that I need to be kind to myself first?

“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ~Steve Maraboli

I once thought spoiling myself like that was selfish. Now I think it’s reckless.

For decades, I demanded a lot from my body, yet I rarely took care of it in return. Work, get, accomplish, do. Be “on” all the time.

That’s how I’ve been raised. Call it perfection, ambition, or inflated ego maybe.

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.” ~Johan Von Goethe

I don’t remember when the transformation began to happen, but it’s been years in the making. Old ways, and repeat thoughts they come with, die hard.

Now I try to slow down and shut off the barrage of unfinished tasks, constant noise, mindless distractions and thought chatter. I do it regularly, often by taking a long, extra warm bath. And I’m a nicer person for it.

It all started with taking better care of my physical body, then went on to caring for my mind as well.

Below are 7 steps to slowing down & restoring the balance in our lives.

1. Incorporate relaxing activities in your daily life.

This is the first step to reducing stress, unwinding and energizing yourself. Take better care of yourself through relaxing activities such as long baths, massage, yoga, dancing, jogging, or simply being in nature. These calming activities will give you the peace of mind and much needed solace.

2. Develop better sleep habits.

Go to bed earlier, make sure you sleep long enough, read a book before bedtime (no electronics).

3. Be present, be mindful.

Learn to recognize any negativity or anger arising in your body. Breathe and let go, returning yourself back to the “now”.

4. Limit media consumption

Avoid mindless TV watching, web surfing, checking email and social media sites all the time.

5. Meditate, do-nothing.

I take mini-meditation breaks throughout the day, as opposed to a one 20-minute sit down session. It’s easier to incorporate it into my daily life and gives me more mental breaks I need.

6. Find time for creativity.

I try to make art every day by drawing, painting in my art journal, scrap-booking, and writing in my journal regularly.

7. Express gratitude.

Do it both formally (I wrap each day by jotting 5 things I’m grateful for) and informally, by simply noticing the good in others and the world.

“Be gentle first with yourself if you wish to be gentle with others.” ~Lama Yeshe

We all need breaks in our busy schedules, we need beautiful do-nothing moments to unwind, restore our balance, and generate the energy to go forward.

On the surface, it may sound selfish, but taking care of yourself has a snowball effect. Did I mention I’m nicer to be around? Yes, being kind to others is impossible without being kind to yourself first. Those closest to you will benefit the most. And that’s the change I’m happy to make.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”, Mahatma Gandhi once said. Indeed.

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up


Drawing has become a spiritual practice for me. I draw to calm the mind, create a nurturing daily ritual and re-discover the world around & within me. Whether I have 5 minutes or an hour, I put my to-do list aside and head to the loft – my art studio, my sanctuary – to draw, slow down, recharge.

I usually don’t plan much ahead, I just grab the ink pen & pad and with that single mark get started on a new adventure. It is my meditation, part of my WELLth resolution, the time when I get out of my head and enjoy the present moment of spontaneous and mindful creation with my own hands.

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up

Here’s a quick view of what I’ve been up to in January

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek
Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek
Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek

Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up

Finally, my Valentine postcard
Daily Drawing Practice: January Round Up - Joanna Ciolek

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.

Finding Grace in Every Day #17

Finding Grace in Every Day - Joanna Ciolek

My gratitude practice has become an integral part of my daily experience.  Since I journal at the end of each day, it makes me focus on all the good things I might have otherwise not even notice, or simply take for granted. The simple act of writing down the things for which I’m grateful for – as opposed to just thinking about them – makes me more aware of them, deepening their emotional impact.

Yes, sometimes I’m really tired and feel like it’s just another things on my to-do list, but truth be told, I’ve never regretted pushing myself to do it anyway – it just makes me feel good. And it’s great for sleep too. So, onward we go.

Finding Grace in Every Day #17

Today I am thankful for:

  • Crispy winter morning air that makes me feel energized and alive
  • Home made donuts that taste so good you can’t stop yourself from eating “just one more” again and again
  • My new coffee/tea percolator serving me liquid crack love as I work
  • Cozying up on the sofa at the end of each day with the most important people in my life
  • Sunny Sunday stroll in the park with Roxy (it was nearly 70 degrees!!!)
  • Watching kids play street hockey with a local teen – he’s a great role model for my boys
  • Bubble baths by candlelight when the house is all peaceful and quiet
  • Soft snow collecting on the window sill in the morning, then quickly melting away in the midday sun
  • Boys shoveling our elderly neighbor driveway last weekend
  • Starry skies I escape to after I put kids to bed – the best way to quickly relax after a long day
  • Calming yoga practice in the comfort of my own home
  • Booking camping trips for the summer – so excited for a new season of swimming, hiking, and just being in nature
  • Daily fruit smoothies courtesy of my 9 yo budding culinary star
  • Friday night dance parties full of impressive dance moves, ton of belly laughs, and general shenanigans all around
  • Hubby surprising me with a oh-so-heavenly tiramisu cake
  • Getting better at staying mindful in stressful situations
  • Roxy putting her head on my lap while I meditate
  • My middle kid blossoming beyond my expectations in the last few months
  • My new go-to snack, dill pickle sunflower seeds

What are you thankful for?

My Word For 2015: WELLth


I didn’t have a word for 2015 up until the last minute. Of course. I’m a master planner when it comes to business or family matters. But as for self, well, I’m still learning.

But on December 31th, as if on cue, I read an article somewhere that mentioned the word “WELLth” and I knew I had it. All of the things I wanted to focus on in the new year had one underlying theme: health & wellness. This year I’m focusing on the health & well being of the mind, as well as the body – and so “WELLth” feels just right.

So what does WELLth mean for me in practical terms? What habits do I want to make this year?

It’s actually a simple three-step plan: yoga, meditation & everyday self-care. Yes, I know, it’s all about me this year. But you know what, after 30 something years on this earth, it’s about time I placed more focus on loving and taking care of myself more. And that’s exactly what I’ll be doing this year. Not, in a selfish way, but in a caring & tending way, with a goal to look after my well being & happiness.

So this year, I’m hopping on the yoga bandwagon. Not for vanity reasons, or because it’s trendy, but for health reasons. And if you’re a skeptic, like I was up until last year, here’s a little review of the health benefits of a regular yoga practice. No, I’m not joining a fancy studio, buying a mat or super cute yoga clothes that will make people look thin or sexy. Well, maybe. But mostly, since I’m a straight-forward no-fuss girl, all I need is guidance (this is where quality YouTube channels come in), my living room, and determination to practice twice a week.

Meditation is as important to mental health as physical exercise to the health of your body. It improves memory, learning, emotional flexibility, strengthens the immune system, increases resilience and calm, decreases negative emotions, lowers stress and anxiety, helps with ADHD, OCD, depression, and more. I’ve already been meditating a bit last year but it’s not been a simple habit to pick up. There’s still lots of resistance, my mind running places and even lack of willingness to put in the time (because how do you do “nothing” when there’s a million things you really have to do!). Guided meditation worked really well so far, but this year I’m determined to sit for at least 10 minutes each day & meditate all on my own. By the end of this year, I want to be comfortable with sitting for 20 minutes each day.

Self-care can help us feel a sense of happiness, gratitude, hope, and healing. The goals are simple: be good to myself, be gentle and treat myself well, like I would my best friend. Every day, no exceptions. It could mean a bubbly baths, reading good books, slowing down, respecting my boundaries, making art, dancing when I feel like it, taking care of my needs before taking care of others, being mindful about what food I put in my body and what thoughts I put in my mind, belly-laughs, long walks, doing what feels good and right for me as opposed to what I think I should do, and more. The fact is, every day there are endless opportunities for self-care but it’s often the last thing on our mind, way at the end of our to-do list (and often we simply run out of time). Well, this year, I’m making it a priority. No more putting myself last, neglecting my needs & desires, self-criticism & self-doubt. No more inner mean girl!

It took me two years to work out “acceptance” – my goal for 2013. Let’s see how this journey goes.

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up



Last year was full of changes & new beginnings for me – one of them was my daily drawing practice I started in February. What began with simple doodles soon morphed into zentangles, inkpen illustrations & more elaborate drawings I often share on Instagram.

Along the way, I created a dedicated space for making art. My cave mini studio became a place I now escape to when I need some solitude  – it’s become a place I can reclaim my SELF amidst all the chaos that is life.

In essence, art has become my therapy (without the bill!), and I’ve loved every minute of it!

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Here’s a quick view of what I’ve been up to last fall…

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Daily Drawing Practice: Fall Round Up

Do you keep a drawing book, sketchbook or an art journal?

Please share a link to your art – I’m curious about your adventures in art and creativity.