Each week we’re exploring how busy, badass, and creative women are taking time out of their lives to relax, treat themselves to a girls’ night in, and spend meaningful time connecting with others. This week, we talk to Katie Zhu, a Product Manager at Medium who shares how she views self-care, what her routine looks like, and which women inspire her. Come back next week for another profile.
Tell us about yourself.
Hi, I’m Katie. I’m 25 years old, I live in Oakland, CA, and I work as a product manager at Medium.
What does self-care mean to you? Why is it important?
For me, self-care is about living my best life. It’s time and space for me to be with myself, make sense of my thoughts, to just be. There are days—well, basically every day now—where I don’t know how to deal with the world and the things happening in it.
Self-care is free of judgment or thinking that I’m doing something wrong, or I’m not on the right trajectory, or not doing enough fast enough.
Self-care is important for me to be the best version of myself, which allows me to do my best work, to be the best sister/daughter/partner/friend to those I care about in my life. It’s a way to strengthen myself for when life comes at me fast. And it’s a good reminder to be less hard on myself, which is basically my default mode of operating.
What does your self-care routine look like? What do you do to recharge or have a relaxing night in?
The most important aspects of my self-care routine are working out and eating well. When I don’t do those things, I spiral really easily into an abyss of negativity and self-loathing. In the morning, I journal—sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on how many times I snooze my alarm.
For my relaxing nights in, I love to either curl up with a good book or watch hella TV. I am deeply obsessed with Shonda Rhimes and all her shows…basically all dramas, particularly those with a “Strong Female Lead.” It’s nice to escape to a different world where the characters have worse lives than you and deal with all this intense shit and ridiculous problems…like my shit might be real but at least I don’t have an inoperable tumor (as basically everyone on Grey’s Anatomy does).
Do you have any specific products you recommend (beauty, home, books/movies, clothing, food/wellness, something you’ve splurged on recently)?
Ohmygosh so many things…my “live your best life” mantra has a lot of overlap with the “treat yoself mantra” so I have a bit of a tendency to splurge. As far as beauty products go, I bought myself a boob mask because why not. If you’re supposed to moisturize your face then give your boobs the same love. Also get your life upgraded and buy a bottle of Diptyque perfume, it will make you feel like a straight princess. For food, I’ve been obsessed with açai and poké bowls.
How do you maintain a self-care routine on the worst days -— like the ones where you’re traveling, or your schedule is particularly packed? What are your non-negotiables?
I have to exercise. Anytime I skip the gym, especially if it’s a busy day at work, I end up being less focused and feel shitty. When I’m traveling, I make sure to give myself a good hour of me-time before bed for either reading or catching up on Quantico. 😉
What do you think you need to improve in terms of your self-care practice? What are you excited to possibly incorporate?
I need to slow down. I’m always in a rush, a lot of the time even with self-care I’m like, “Ok, gotta do legs at the gym today and focus so I can have enough time to shower and read before the next place I have to be at.” Actually, I almost killed myself at CHIPOTLE by eating too fast (you can listen to my boyfriend’s account of the story here) and I was like damn…I cannot be the girl who goes out at Chipotle, cause that would just be pathetic. So I’m excited to find more slow activities, meditate more, and just take my time with things.
I also need to be better about limiting my screen time especially before bed…and not comparing myself to everyone on social media.
What have the important women in your life taught you about self-care and putting yourself first?
My mom taught me that you’re the only one who’s going to take care of yourself. If you don’t do it, no one else will. She put everyone before her for years and years. Growing up, she’d take my sister and I to all our extracurricular classes, cook all our meals, make sure my dad had his shit together for work, go to school, and work full-time. Recently, she’s been taking time for herself and prioritizing her needs and making life happen.
My sister reminds me every day that I am enough.
In this especially troublesome time, have you found that you’ve needed to adjust your habits of news consumption at all?
Hahahahahaha fuck Twitter. It’s just this endless stream of terrible thing after terrible thing, and it paralyzes me into inaction. It’s definitely a hard balance—staying informed but also you know, staying sane—but I’ve found that going to news organizations themselves has provided a small sense of order to everything that’s happening. But I need to put my phone and computer on “Do Not Disturb” during the work day, because with every news alert, I have to go through a mini mental cleansing before being able to focus back on work.
You started a podcast called Sweet & Sour FM with your sister Nicole. What prompted that? Do you find that exploring identity is a form of self-care?
It’s something we’d been talking about for a long time, this general idea of Asian-American representation in the media. It was something we would lament together, and then one day got to the point of being like, hey what if we did something? And then we did. We started it when we were both home for Thanksgiving, I think both of us were ready to take on a creative endeavor that we had more control over.
Absolutely, exploring identity is a deliberate practice of self-care, carving out time for something I’m deeply invested in. Getting to create and having purity in the execution of our creative vision is invigorating. ALSO a chill thing about doing a podcast is the notable absence of hate mail and trolls. I suppose it’s still early. But I think it’s really hard to hate-listen to a podcast, like that’s a serious upfront investment for very little return.
Which women (or woman, singular) are/is inspiring you right now and why?
Well, Beyoncé, obviously. Ok, that’s a cop out answer. Stacy-Marie Ishmael, for always speaking truth to power. Coleen Baik, who’s my creative inspiration. Elizabeth Ford, for always standing up for what she believes in, taking action, and holding me accountable. And my sister Nicole (~nepotism~ haha jk), she’s just my rock in everything, for all the dumb shit to the big exciting things, and she’s also always casually doing intense projects (like reading 52 books every year and going to the library) and I’m like, how do you have time I don’t understand. Really I’m blessed to be surrounded by such amazing, inspiring women, because there are about ten others just off the top of my head.
As told to GNI, February 2017.