Balancing Self-Care with a Busy Life

Hayden Howard and Morgana Van Peebles

Hayden Howard speaks with Morgana Van Peebles on balancing self-care with the demands of school and career, the ever-growing presence of digital media, and the drive to make a positive impact in the world.  

HH: Do you have any rules or rituals that you follow in order to protect yourself from the effects of stress and anxiety?

MVP: Living in such busy cities as LA to NYC, I find that over time my approaches to self-care and rituals have to adapt in order to reflect my current workload and stress meter. However, no matter what time or how long the day is, one constant I always have for myself is my nighttime routine. Whether I have time for a facemask and audiobook, or simply just enough time to brush my teeth and wash off my makeup, I always end each day with as much alone time and de-stressing before-bed activities (watching an episode of your favorite show, drawing, writing, reading) as possible. I find that even the smallest amount of effort spent on myself before bed helps me wake up happier and more refreshed for the next day ahead.

HH: How do you engage in self-care and maintain your privacy when so much of life is now made public through social media?


I love this question because, as a generation, this is a balance that we continuously need to check and reevaluate, especially as so much more business and professional life continues to mix with social media, lifestyle, and our presence online.

I myself definitely don’t have the perfect solution and continue to struggle with this balance daily as more of my school work, social life, internship as a photojournalist, and freelance photography work often require me to be glued to a screen. The most effective solution I continue to take is social media breaks whenever possible. Sometimes, I just need to fully shut myself off from the online world, focus on in-person interactions, have a picnic, read, and do everything I never have the time to do when I’m anxiously scrolling through my feed. Of course, the more I take on socially and in my career, the more I find my ability to cut myself off harder and harder, forcing me to implement safeguards such as setting how much time I can spend on Instagram, Facebook, Netflix, and yes, even planning out my essays (something no one ever did in high school), so I’m never stuck to a screen for too long.

Morgana Van Peebles

HH: When you need social support, do online interactions provide you with the same fulfillment as face to face?

MVP: Personally, I don’t think online will ever be able to replace the comfort, sincerity, and support face-to-face interactions provide. Of course, we all have those few people that can brighten our day through text or face time, and sometimes we need that immediate and quick connection that only online can give us, but that should be used as a tool in addition to face-to-face interactions, never as a replacement.

HH: How do you find ways to eat healthy and take care of your body on a college-student budget?

MVP: One of the hardest things I found from living with my parents to alone, is you grow up with a certain lifestyle, one that your parents have worked for all their lives, but has since become normal to you (in fact, it’s all you’ve known.)  But we don’t enter the world as grown adults or as our parents--we enter the world as our own people needing to make our own way, a realization that has caused me to be more conscious of what I buy and consume, as well as more appreciative and respectful of all my parents do and have done.

When it comes to balancing my budget, I honestly just made it harder on myself. Not only did I decide to go to NYC for college (one of the most expensive places to buy anything), but I also decided it would be a great time to go vegan. Now, while I was left flailing nearly my whole first semester in college, I have since been able to create a practical routine that works not only for me,  but for my budget as well. A west coast girl forever and always, my main go-to that has saved my life in college is Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is one of the only places I have found where you don’t need to sacrifice quality in order to save money. They are great at providing healthy and organic food that is accessible to all, while maintaining the same prices state to state.

From food to self-care, I wish I could give you a one-stop-shop for all things beauty and budget-friendly, but this is a field I’ve found myself having to be more creative in. When it comes to face masks and all around bodily care I’ve recently found it more cost-effective to make my own, and have since begun revisiting all the Indian grocery stores my mom would take me to when I was little in order to keep up with my own skin routines on a budget. While a bit more time consuming, I’ve really enjoyed creating my own facemasks, learning what each ingredient and property does, while always being informed and conscious of what I’m putting on my skin.

Hayden Howard

HH: As a college student and an artist, do you find yourself ever having to sacrifice your mental or physical wellbeing in order to actively compete with your generation?

MVP: This is a question I know silently eats away at most of us... not only in our generation, but especially in those younger. In a world where people only post the highlights and accomplishments of their lives, it’s easy to constantly feel like you’re not doing enough or are not good enough at what you do to compete with others you see on social media.

“But it is so important that we continue to put our mental and physical wellbeing first because it is our vital engine from which everything else stems.”

It’s great to have a wonderful creative idea, but if you don’t have the drive, capacity, or physical and mental support to bring it to fruition, then you’ll constantly be producing content you can’t give your all to while running on a tank stuck on empty.

Everyone has their own timelines and paths; it’s important to not always compare our journey to everyone else’s and focus on ourselves and our voice. Of course, this is always easier said than done, but it is a notion and line that we must all find within ourselves. When does inspiration become competition? And when does staying updated with others become detrimental to our own health and wellbeing? While there is no set answer, this is a balance we must all struggle to find within ourselves in order to create and produce content healthily within our ever-changing world.

Written by Hayden Howard with Morgana Van Peebles 

Morgana Van Peebles is a rising senior at Columbia University studying political science and visual arts. Working as a photojournalist at Everystylishgirl, Morgana travels from LA to NYC interviewing and capturing the vibrant personalities of some of the most influential women on both coasts. In between school and work, Morgana spends her time as a freelance photographer, focusing primarily on fashion and street photography. When not behind the camera, Morgana is passionate about acting, often writing and directing her own short films, winning the Ojai Youth Film Festival in 2015. 

Hayden Howard is a junior at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study where he is designing his own area of study that investigates the formation of queer and minority identities through anthropological and psychological perspectives. Hayden uses his position as student senator of NYU Gallatin to spread awareness on issues of mental and physical health; primarily battling the social stigma that surrounds HIV and discrimination against queer individuals in healthcare. He is passionate about the fight for immigrant rights in the US and on college campuses. Outside of the classroom and student government, Hayden dedicates himself to his love of acting, both on stage and for the camera.