I’m so tired. All the time. Sometimes, it’s a physical exhaustion. Sometimes, as I’ve recently learned, it’s a mental exhaustion that manifests in my muscles and bones, in the haze that sometimes consumes my mind.

I’m so tired, all the time. And sometimes, it feels like nothing I do will help me feel at rest, at peace. At least not fully. Over time, I’ve learned to cultivate my own makeshift compromises.

Sometimes, that means a hot shower and scalp massage; sometimes, that means a good book and my favorite songs, a low hum; sometimes, that means my music loud and earth-shattering; sometimes, that means a deliberate, leaden silence.

More often than not, I find myself returning to my people: the people who form my communities, the friends and confidants I’ve amassed over the years. Over time, I’ve learned that these routinized practices of isolation and return, of participation and withdrawal, are my “balms,” of sorts.

Share on Pinterest

These are the practices that make my breathing a little easier. The practices that make my heart a little lighter. The practices that make my mind less foggy. And so, this ongoing series explores what those “life balms” are — or more dramatically “survival scrolls” — for the people around me, for the people I admire.

How do we carve out our place in the world? And what do we do to maintain their sacredness? Where — or to who or what — do we go to when we need refuge? To what do we owe our continued survival to?

Welcome to Life Balms… …an interview series about the routines that keep us thriving, motivated, and well. Every year is different, that much is certain. But in the wake of a particularly difficult one — personally, professionally, politically — recentering is vital to be able to move forward. “Life Balms,” then, are the things that help us get through the lows: the routines, the regimens, and the practices that drown out the white noise and prioritize the best versions of self.

Published every third Thursday of the month:


Amani Bin Shikhan is a culture writer and researcher with a focus on music, movement, tradition, and memory — when they coincide, especially. Follow her on Twitter. Photo by Asmaà Bana