Kristie Dash on Slowing Down, Spiraling Thoughts, and Living in the Moment

"When I made the decision to leave New York during the pandemic to prioritize family and space, I realized I had tunnel vision for over a decade."

The Simple Things
Kristie Dash on Slowing Down, Spiraling Thoughts, and Living in the Moment

Welcome to The Simple Things, a wellness series dedicated to the routines and rituals that bring a sense of well-being to our daily lives. As the name implies, sometimes it’s not about making seismic shifts in our day-to-day—simple actions can be just as impactful for ourselves and for those in our community. This week, we’re chatting with Kristie Dash, head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Instagram, about burnout, carving out time and space for herself, and more.

You recently shared an Instagram post about moving apartments and there was a line in the caption that stood out to me: “...Now 3+ years later feeling like a woman who is definitely still discovering new parts of herself but feels secure and at ease for the first time.” Can you expand on that?

"In the years leading up to the pandemic, I was burnt out. As a young person living in New York, I was really focused on my career, constantly thinking about the future, and [trying to figure out] what I could do to achieve my dream life. Then I stumbled upon [philosopher] Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earthand his podcast series with Oprah. His teachings are centered on the idea of living in the present moment."

How are you intentional about living in the present?

"It’s not like I’m meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I make sure to remind myself throughout the day not to get lost in my thoughts. I think when people think about spirituality or mindfulness, it's associated with this extremely extensive morning routine that starts at 5 a.m. I think you have to do what works for you and what is realistic for you. Those little moments in your day where you can practice being present are just as important. I’ve always journaled because I do feel I can best express myself through the written word. I freeform journal throughout the day and it helps clear my mind and reset. It’s a place where you can vent about your thoughts and your day, but it’s also a tool. I think it’s interesting to look back on your thoughts when you were going through a big life moment and see how you’ve grown over time."

I think journaling could be considered a form of meditation.

"Definitely. When I was younger, I was constantly thinking about what’s next. What I realized through Tolle’s teachings is that you can’t let yourself be defined by your future goals. All we have is right now, and if you’re always thinking about the future, even in the future, you’ll still be thinking about the future.

You have to separate yourself from the narrative spinning in your head. For example, right now, I’m in the middle of a move, work is hectic, and there’s a lot going on in my personal life. But in actuality, I’m sitting here in a nice apartment talking to you. Everything’s good."

I’m someone who’s goal-oriented, too, and right now, I’m in a place in my life where I don’t necessarily know what’s next and it’s super uncomfortable. Have you felt similarly?

"Oh, 100 percent. In the [Eckhart Tolle and Oprah] podcast, he says if you’re feeling confused then that’s actually a good thing because you’re not letting yourself be fully defined by external roles and titles. When you ask yourself, ‘Who am I?’ it’s important to remember that you are you. I think a few years ago, my answer to that question would’ve been, ‘I’m a beauty editor who lives in New York,’ but is that actually how you want to be defined? We’re so much more than these labels. I think the pandemic forced us to stop and really think about what we want out of life and try to be at peace with ourselves."

How do you maintain that level of self-awareness now that the world is opening back up?

"I think it’s key to set boundaries for yourself and protect your personal space and time. Giving myself the alone time to focus on the things that bring me joy has been so important. It’s really interesting, during the pandemic I realized I was more of an introvert than I’d thought."

I had the exact same realization during 2020, too. I love being alone.

"Me too, and I think I’m fine saying that now. In the past, I don’t think I even fully realized how much time I was spending with other people. Of course, I love all of my friends, but it’s more about making sure I’m carving out time for myself. Now as we re-enter this new normal, whatever that means for you, it’s important to be honest with yourself and others about what you can and cannot make time for. Don’t force yourself to push through the exhaustion because that’s how burnout happens. For years, I was operating without ever allowing myself to press the pause button and figure out what I needed to do to recalibrate."

What did you discover you need to do to reset?

"It was really just reframing my mindset. When I made the decision to leave New York during the pandemic to prioritize family and space, I realized I had tunnel vision for over a decade. I barely left the island of Manhattan for 10 years and although I love the city, it’s kind of sad to think about the things I sacrificed because I thought I needed to grind 24/7 in order to be ‘successful.’ I only saw my family a couple times a year despite being on the same coast. I never cooked my own meals or worked out. I was always too tired to see friends outside of work or even to go on dates. It sounds crazy, but I genuinely didn’t realize I was operating in this way until the pandemic forced me to stop moving 100 miles per hour.

Working from home changed a lot for me. I had more time and energy to devote to my body and my health. I started cooking and working out for the first time in my adult life. I’ve always said I’m not a runner, but I learned to run for the first time—I literally used one of those ‘Couch to 5K’ apps. Not living in New York or having access to food delivery apps, I had to force myself to cook. I became more mindful of my body—this vehicle we have to go out and live our lives."

How have you been able to maintain this very forward-facing career while still placing yourself and your wellbeing first?

"From my own experience this past year, I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder. When I started as an intern and an assistant, I had that mentality of being first in the office and the last to leave."

Do you think interns and assistants today still need to do that to be successful?

"I was watching that Brené Brown series on HBO the other day and she explained the difference between stress and overwhelm. ‘Overwhelm means an extreme level of stress and emotional and or cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function. So I think the big difference is we can function in stress, we really can't function in overwhelm.' It got me thinking about how a lot of really intense career-minded people in New York have somehow found a way to live in this dysfunctional state of overwhelm and the only way to snap out of it is by changing something drastically. For me, I went from NY to a quiet beach town in North Carolina with literally nothing to do but go to the beach, cook, run, and see my family. I worked during the day and found that I was more productive than ever in such a quiet environment, and I looked forward to getting my work done as fast as possible to close my laptop and cook dinner with my mom.

I’m still just as committed to my career as I was, but I think I’ve found that it’s not always about working the hardest, but about working the smartest. When I was more junior, I do think there was this mentality about being the first in and the last to leave. I can’t speak on behalf of assistants these days because I don’t know what the vibe is, but now I almost feel like regardless of your role or level, if you’re always stressed and overwhelmed and the last to the leave the office it’s important to try to figure out why you can’t get your work done within normal business hours and why haven’t you communicated your needs? Or for more senior folks, why aren’t you effectively delegating work to your team?

I think my newfound level of comfort and ease as I turn 30 simply comes from time and life experience. Your 20s are definitely glamorized in the media, but it’s a chaotic time. My mom instilled a sense of confidence in me from a really young age that I’m so grateful for because I know a lot of people don’t get that in their upbringing, so I’ve always been comfortable in my skin, but with age comes less need for competitiveness, and just a general sense of peace. When there’s less spiraling going on in your mind, you have space to figure out who you are and what matters to you."

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