In today’s post, I cover my go-to self-care podcasts! This is the last post in my Studio Companion Series focused on podcasts. If you’ve missed them, be sure to check out my previous posts in this series: My Go-To “Bigger Questions” Podcasts and My Go-To “Everything Art” Podcasts. In these previous posts, I selected my top two favourite podcasts in the category, and it’s the same this week! After a brief description, I share when I listen, what I love, what I’ve learned, and how the podcasts help me with my studio practice. Enjoy!
Category 3: Self-care.
“Self-care” can be a fraught idea. When understood as a synonym for anything that might be deemed a frivolous indulgence, the term is likely to elicit eye rolls. “Frivolous indulgences” might be considered “extras”: objects or experiences that often come with a hefty price tag and are accessible only to those with the financial means and the time. Self-care is therefore often understood as a privilege and in many ways it is.
At the same time, self-care can also signify something simpler and more foundational. Self-care (the care of oneself) can entail drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, cultivating healthy relationship boundaries, exercising, or at least trying to occasionally stretch. Self-care, at its best, can be a sort of individualized tool kit for each of us: small, achievable activities or rituals that can be worked into our day, five minutes at a time.
For me, self-care is something I was forced to confront at the bottom of a burnout. In the early days, it looked like sleeping a lot and trying not to feel guilty about that. Self-care was asking for help from those around me who I could lean on. It was following some of the best advice I got: to do one thing a day and have that be enough. For me, it involved eating more and slowly building strength through exercise. In general, self-care was getting back to these basics (sleep, nutrition, exercise), which had taken a back seat for too long. Given this experience, I think of self-care as “simply” taking care of myself—whatever that means on any given day: from working in a Jane Fonda exercise routine to the occasional face mask.
The two podcasts I’ve selected for the Self-care category are Forever35 hosted and produced by Kate Spencer and Doree Shafrir and Nothing Much Happens, stories written and read by Kathryn Nicolai.
#1. Forever35 with Kate Spencer and Doree Shafrir
I started listening to this podcast in 2018 and have hardly missed an episode (it’s a commitment—there are three a week!). Their tagline explains that they are “two friends who love to talk about serums” but it is so much more. The first time I tuned in, after reading about it on my favourite lifestyle blog A Cup of Jo, I wasn’t sure it was for me. Doree and Kate, two writers based in LA, were, I believe, discussing outdoor wear—something like the best boots for winter. I wasn’t going to buy the boots, or the other products mentioned and wondered if the self-care aspect was too focused on the shopping therapy variety for me. I kept listening, however, and am so happy I did.
In their mini-episodes, the friends talk about what’s going on with them (juggling parenting, everyday stressors, new product or pop culture discoveries, working as writers and podcasters from home, etc.). Listeners call or write in with questions ranging from the search for the best cleanser to dealing with grief. In the longer once-a-week episodes, the hosts interview an inspiring person and ask about their self-care, career, and life. Guests have included writers, business owners, actors, estheticians, medical and health care professionals, cultural theorists, athletes, politicians, scientists, and more. Products are recommended, advice is given, and fun is had!
I listen to the podcast anytime, anywhere. But when it comes to painting, I listen when I can use a boost from two people who feel like friends. Sometimes I listen when I take my coffee break and sit in my “evaluating my painting” chair.
What I love about this podcast is very much tied to what I’ve learned (see below). In a nutshell, I love that the podcast is a reminder to be kind to myself and to others. Forever35 helps remind me that taking care of one’s own mental and physical health is essential to being able to show up in one’s own life and be able to give to others. Taking care of ourselves might mean doing a five-minute meditation, having a phone call with a friend, or a bigger change, like making a career move or asking for help when you need it. I love how Kate and Doree talk openly with each other about life issues big and small and how supportive they are of one another and of the listeners who weigh in.
What I’ve learned from this podcast… Despite being less interested in the serum side of the show, I have learned a lot about skincare. During the pandemic, with ample time at home, I now have a day and night skincare routine. It’s not complicated and did not break the bank: I cleanse and moisturize and sometimes use a serum, now that I know a little more about what it all entails.
From the interviews, I’ve been introduced to so many inspiring women: I’ve read books, watched shows, learned about health, beauty, and business from a large number of people. From the discussions between Kate and Doree and the input and questions from the listeners, I’ve learned that we are all doing our best. There are good days and bad days, but the best we can do is support each other, reach out, communicate, set boundaries, stay curious, and be kind to ourselves and others. These are easy items to rattle off, but the impact of giving more mental space to these behaviours is immense.
#2. Nothing Much Happens with Kathryn Nicolai
This is a bedtime story podcast, designed to help the listener fall asleep. Kathryn Nicolai writes and reads short stories that calm the mind by helping the thinking mind focus on the story being told rather than on the worries of the day. The podcast is described as “bedtime stories for adults”. I’ve been listening to this podcast for two years. When I first started listening, I was having a lot of trouble falling asleep (see burnout above). After listening to an episode every night for a period of days and weeks, my ability to fall and stay asleep improved greatly. Nowadays, I listen less regularly but on nights when I need a little help, I hardly make it through one episode before dozing off.
Nicolai is a yoga teacher and sometimes leads a short breathing exercise at the start of episodes. Her stories artfully describe the little moments in life. The episodes span themes including the sweetness of lilacs, visiting a farmer’s market, going to pick out a Christmas tree, cooking during a storm, and paying attention to the good moments of the day, to name just a few. The stories are sensorial: the sights, smells, and textures of the scenes are described beautifully and with care. This means the listener is right there in the kitchen, in the garden, or at the cottage with Nicolai. Each story is read twice, more slowly the second time, so the sound of Nicolai’s voice and the repetition of the story lulls the listener to sleep.
I listen to this podcast when I need a little extra help falling to sleep. Unlike the other podcasts that I’ve chosen for the Studio Companion Series, I do not listen to this podcast while in the studio. However, a good night’s sleep is essential to getting to the studio in the first place and bringing my best self. I wanted to share this podcast in the Self-care category because it has really been transformative for me. I cannot count how many times I have recommended this podcast to friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers! I love it and think it could help out anyone looking for a better night’s sleep or simply an extra cozy way of falling asleep.
What I love about this podcast most obviously is that it helps me to fall asleep. But more than that, I love Nothing Much Happens because it is such a treat to be led through comforting, sensory stories by a compassionate guide. The magic of Nothing Much Happens is that it celebrates the joys in the mundane. I don’t only drift off to sleep, I go to sleep with a smile on my face picturing a steaming mug of holiday cider or nearly smelling spring flowers. The stories (whether I hear the whole thing or not) remind me that we live in a beautiful world. I’m ready to rest and later, face a new day.
One of my favourite parts of the podcast is the beginning of each episode. Before the story begins, Nicolai gives an explanation of how the podcast works to help the listener fall asleep. She also give instructions on getting cozy. Nicolai encourages the listener to switch off any gadgets, find a comfortable sleeping position, adjust the blanket around your shoulder and appreciate how great it feels to be safe in bed.
What I’ve learned from this podcast is that grown-ups need bedtime stories too. I learned how my mind gets stuck on my own stories, past and future, and that I can choose to listen and follow along to a comforting, descriptive story that puts my mind at ease. I like the combination of this brain training along with the creative storytelling and the cozy themes Nicolai chooses. In general, I’ve been giving sleep a more important place in my routine and see it as the number 1 self-care activity. I’m currently reading and highly recommend, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker.
Both Forever35 and Nothing Much Happens remind me to take care of myself and others; to be kind to myself and others. Both podcasts have encouraged me to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time and energy and more thoughtfully consider what I ask from myself and from others. For me, painting is both my work and my passion. I need the energy to be able to do it, but it also gives me a great deal of energy. Feeling good mentally and physically allows me to pursue my creativity and pursuing this creativity, in turn, keeps me healthy.
In two weeks, The Studio Companion Series continues with the final installment: the music that gets me started in my studio practice and brings my work across the finish line–stay tuned!
Thanks for reading!
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