In this episode of the Feel Good Effect Podcast, we’re talking with Alex Elle about fostering hope, resilience, calm, and self-discovery in daily life. Alex dives into writing as a form of healing and offers an accessible self-care practice for self-discovery, resilience, and of course, feeling good.
A Self-Care Practice for Courage, Hope & Healing with Alex Elle
From poetry to essays
After the Rain is Alex’s fourth book.
Her first two books were self-published, she then was picked up by a publisher who she published a collection of poetry and a self-care journal through.
For her fourth book, she was looking to move away from poetry and deeper into her love for narrative, long-form writing.
She wanted this body of work, After the Rain, to be that, to build a sense of community and collectiveness.
It’s different than her previous work, which will be a pleasant surprise to readers.
Self-discovery through writing
Self-discovery is not really a skill anyone teaches us, yet not knowing ourselves causes so much suffering.
Writing came into Alex’s life by way of therapy and healing.
It was how she found her voice and started the process of healing and self-discovery.
She was searching for herself on the page, leaning into curiosity about herself.
It’s amazing to see your mind on the page, how it looks, feels, and blooms differently; that is really the essence of writing practice and self-discovery.
We can find community as well as ourselves through writing, storytelling, and sharing.
Self-discovery doesn’t just happen with the self, it happens with everything around us, everything we touch, taste, feel.
We’re not victims for sharing our stories. We are brave and we are standing in resilience, even if we have been victimized, broken down, and lost.
In part, the way we are often taught to write in school contrasts this type of free-flow writing for self-discovery.
It’s okay to show up flawed on the page and not have perfection.
We forget that we have our own voice and our own story.
The practice of creative writing is so important, just as is the emotional writing that comes with brain dumping on the page is liberating.
Alex specializes in guided journaling (check out her free writing practices here).
Writing and perfectionism
Alex’s oldest daughter is an artist and a perfectionist, frequently needing a reminder that it’s okay to “mess up”, start over, and have crappy art sometimes.
It’s okay to not get it right. It’s okay to fail because in failures we learn how to try again, get back up, build confidence and we get to gain a sense of finding what our own definition of success is.
Alex encourages her to approach nurturing her creative heart differently than she would approach writing in school.
This approach includes messing up, making mistakes, and starting over.
It’s beautiful to see your children, and ourselves, learn as we go.
You can’t create space for your kids if you have no space for yourself.
Self-care through literature and language
Writing transformed Alex’s life, giving her space to heal and see herself on the page.
Instead of the world seeing her in the way that she wanted, she had to see and accept herself, her truth, and everything else that comes along with that.
That is self-care.
There is so much happening in the world right now that we forget we are floating above ourselves, we’re not present.
Writing brings us back into our bodies and builds community.
Writing allows us to build community care by lifting up one another when we are full.
We should think of self-care as an extension of community building and community care so that when we show up in our communities, in our roles, in our work, we’re able to be our fullest, most intentional, most present self.
It requires us to start at home (home being in our bodies).
Alex started writing affirmations at two pivotal points in her own writing practice journey, one of which when she was 23, single, and looking for belonging.
It dawned on her that she was looking for people to affirm her and fill a void, realizing that it wasn’t going to work that way.
She started writing notes to herself, which turned into her very first book, Words From a Wanderer, a collection of poetry and notes to self.
Reflecting back, Alex is able to see how an unaffirmed childhood carried into her early adulthood in that way.
Her notes to self were self-permission to show up big, as she is, as she wanted.
Affirmations aren’t something you write down and just manifest.
They are working for it while you wait for it, creating a practice of self-positive language, even in your worst moments.
It is easy to self-affirm when life is going well, but what happens when you’re wilting, hurt, triggered?
It’s when we are hurting that we need to reach into our emotional toolbox, pull out our self-affirming words, and remember the truth of who we are and want to be.
The second time Alex found herself leaning into her affirmations was when she was trying to conceive her second child and lean into motherhood ten years after her first.
Affirmations are something she continues to lean on and share as notes to self on Instagram.
Affirmations are so much deeper than, “I am worthy, I am enough”.
“I am worthy” in what ways?
Read the “I am” with “why?” and “how?” to pull back the layers of truth.
We can then explore what our true self is trying to say.
Affirmations are not a means for toxic positivity or bypassing.
The way Alex is approaching affirmations allows the brain to change, changing the way that you think and see the world.
It’s powerful, untapped, free, and available wherever you are at any time.
After the Rain
After the Rain is organized differently than Alex’s previous books.
Each long-form essay is followed by an affirmation and meditation that breaks up and ties into that specific lesson.
For example, after the essay called Change, Alex’s favorite essay in the book, she goes into a gentle reminder: “I understand that every storm that passes through is clearing a path for something bigger, brighter, and more bountiful”.
This is followed by a meditation called Change, which poses questions about how we want to change or shift.
After the Rain is not just a memoir about Alex’s life, it’s calling for readers to look at their own lives, processes, and pathways.
What it really means to be healthy
Being healthy means naming what I need and being intentional in my processes, no matter what they are… and giving myself and my environment my full attention so I can be my most present and intentional self.
Alexandra Elle is an author & wellness consultant living in the Washington, DC metro area with her husband and children. Writing came into her life by way of therapy and the exploration of healing through journaling. Quarterly, Alex teaches workshops and retreats centered around assisting others in finding their voices through storytelling, poetry, and narrative writing rooted in truth without shame. Her mission is to build community & self-care practices through literature & language. She is currently an author at Chronicle Books.
Alex is the author of multiple books and journals, most recently After the Rain, Neon Soul, and Today I Affirm: A Journal That Nurtures Self-Care.
She also hosts the hey, girl. podcast.
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7 Essential Self-Care Habits for Times of Stress