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self-care

2017: The Year of Self-Care

Happy New Year, everyone! As 2017 commences, I’m sure many of you are doing what I’m doing: trying to mindfully come up with a tangible wellness goal. My usual go-to is “I won’t drink any alcohol in January!” or “I will work out every day no matter what!”

But you know what? Those goals usually become stressful because they may not be realistic. And when your new year’s resolution doesn’t come to fruition, it can be depressing. Which starts the cycle of feelings of failure and disappointment!

Ugh.

So instead, this year, I’ve decided to focus more broadly on self-care. This means no hard rules, but it encourages me to remember that being mindful about all facets of my health is important. Here are 5 ways in which one can focus on self-care (and this is my personal plan; what I’ll be doing):

Eats

The first thing most of us think of when adopting a self-care routine is a diet tweak. And fair enough! I mean, you are what you eat, right? The fuel we choose to put into our body directly correlates with mood, behaviour, weight, aging, and more.

So what should we be eating?

I think the trick is to not be strict and deprive yourself. (Because most of us can’t stick to an all-or-nothing plan.) Instead, a healthy balance is optimal. In general, tons of fresh vegetables, lots of whole grain carbohydrates (like yams and sprouted grains), and lots of plant-based or lean protein.

Basically, anything that makes you feel good and gives you energy and lends to quality sleep and rest is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new healthy cookbook, try Vegetarian Comfort Foods!

Drinks

Water, water, water. That is all. (Haha…) Here’s the thing: we know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and affect mood. We know that sodas and juice contain way too much sugar, which spike our blood sugar and then leave us feeling sleepy after.

And more recently, I’ve discovered my go-to non-alcoholic drink of choice (club soda with lime and cucumber) makes me bloated because of all the carbonation. So I’ve come to the conclusion that water and herbal teas should definitely make up the bulk of what I drink during the day and night.

To find out how to make your own herbal teas, check out The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea!

self-care

Movement

Movement is so essential to our bodies and growth and development, and yet we forget to move! Most of us intentionally schedule in time for movement (which is great), but ideally, our bodies should be moving a lot more. Small ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives, include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking on the outskirts of the parking lot so that you’re forced to walk a little more, getting up from your desk and stretching every 45 minutes, and so on.

Think about what you can do to incorporate more movement into your life, and your body will thank you for it.

Sleep

Fresh off of reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (which I mentioned in a previous blog post HERE), I’m really beginning to understand (and I mean REALLY understand) just how much we should all be appreciating and emphasizing better sleep.

Our culture has somehow evolved to think of being busy and sleep-deprived as something to be celebrated or respected, and yet, being sleep deprived is basically the same as being intoxicated. Would you go to work drunk or drive home from a business meeting while under the influence?

I hope not, and yet we all do it in the form of being exhausted. Let’s start NOT doing that. Let’s just remember to place appropriate emphasis on sleep, and celebrate what it feels like to not be tired!

Mental

As in mental health, that is. Although everything that’s listed above contributes to better mental health, we can a couple more things to really give a final push.

  • Meditate.
  • Be grateful.
  • Say thank you.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Love yourself.
  • Try aromatherapy.

And that’s it. By committing to general improvements in your own self-care routine, you become more in tune with parts of yourself that you can’t possibly reach when you’re not as well as you could be.

Happy New Year, friends! Cheers to self-care, and to living life with intent and grace. Give yourself a break, and tune into YOU!

You deserve it. xo

New Year Goals

New Year, New Goals

As we approach a brand new year, many of us are taking some time to figure out how we can improve our lives in a healthy and productive way. After all, a new year is a great jumping off point for new focus, new aspirations, and new energy.

I’m so pleased to introduce a guest writer for this post; Cassie Brewer:

Build a Stronger and Healthier You this New Year

Our plans to completely transform our bodies, our habits or our lives are often too ambitious at the start of the new year, leading most of us to fail by giving up on our resolutions soon after we get started.

Rather than overhauling your whole entire life by simply listing goals, you can try to adopt lifelong habits this new year, so that you can become a stronger and healthier version of yourself, without having to resort to extremes like crash diets or end up suffering from severe exhaustion.

There are several things you can do to turn your life around and be the best version of yourself this new year and for the years to come, but the following are the top five habits to adopt:

Eat When You’re Hungry

If you’re ending the year emotionally exhausted from yo-yo dieting, then think of turning a new page this new year by foregoing dieting, and instead, choose to listen to your body. Rather than figuring out the best diet for you, try to understand why you are hungry. Do you really need to eat something or is there an emotional issue that you want to forget with food?

Don’t make 2017 another year where you use food as a crutch.

new year meditation

Adopt a Meditative Ritual

Unless you live on a farm with no Wi-Fi, then chances are your life is bound to get busier. Adopting a meditative ritual such as meditation first thing in the morning or yoga a few times a week will help you to find stillness despite your busy life. Download an app to guide you through meditation or chant the mantra you feel most connected to.

When it comes to yoga, you can join a class or even do the poses at home — no matter how hectic life gets, you can always sneak a few minutes of yoga to de-clutter your mind.

Find a Skincare Regime (that works for YOU)

Skincare is not something that you start worrying about later in life when much of the damage has been done. It is essential to find a quick but effective skincare regime with high quality products that are right for your skin. While the regime will vary, depending on your skin type, there are certain products our face will always need, such as sunscreen (even on winter days!) serum, eye cream and a good moisturizer.

Tap Into Your Creativity

We all have our versions of what creativity is, but most of us tend to lose this trait because of an overwhelming work/life schedule. Creativity is essential to drive us to be better at work and in life, so it’s important to go in search of inspiration throughout the year. Read books that challenge you creatively, learn something new, or go back to doing something you used to do when you were very young and let your mind find its way back to being spontaneous and perceptive.

Go Offline

Finally, learn to switch off and take real breaks. It has become the norm to be constantly on and having something to do, but doing nothing has its many benefits, too. Go for long walks in nature, have tech-free weekends and start your morning without checking your phone. Only by quieting the noise of the online world can we understand what is going on inside our mind, so we can understand what we are doing, how we are feeling, and where we are going.

“Just as good sleep hygiene was the hot topic of 2016, digital detox plans will be trending in 2017.” –Jennifer Browne

Happy New Year! Cheers to a new and improved you, and an amazing 2017. xo


About the Author

Cassie Brewer is a makeup professional in Southern California. In her free time, she enjoys writing about her passion (makeup of course!) and everything beauty related. Nothing makes her happier than helping other be the best version of themselves they can be. You can read more at cassiebrewer.weebly.com and follow her on twitter @Cassiembrewer.

 

Better Sleep

The Unanimous Cry for Better Sleep

We Need Better Sleep

A while ago, I read a blog post titled “Yoga Doesn’t Take Time; It Makes Time.” At the conclusion of my read, I remember thinking that it sounded like it made sense, but in literal terms, to do an hour’s worth of yoga meant that an hour was taken away from my work day.

So how could yoga ‘make time?’

Flash forward to yesterday. I was completely exhausted but I had a ton of work to do, and although I don’t ever nap (it’s been years), I fell asleep for about 90 minutes.

The result was this: instead of being tired and dragging my feet until bedtime, barely getting anything done due to my exhaustion, I woke up around 5 pm and did everything I wanted to do. I had renewed energy for every task I charged myself with, and it was because I let my body rest and restore.

So lately, there has been a huge movement towards publicizing the absolute need for better sleep. Pioneered greatly by Arianna Huffington, this cry for better sleep is becoming more and more relevant as we, as a society, try to take on way too much. (Her book is called The Sleep Revolution; I currently have it ordered from Amazon.)

Her theory is that sleep deprivation “has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.”[1] Arianna writes “Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.”[2]

I, for one, am fascinated. We insist that our children slow down before bed and get enough sleep to sustain them throughout the day. But what about us? Why don’t we place the same importance on rest, restore, and repair for ourselves as we do for our children? We forget that sleep is a necessity. Not unlike shelter, food, and water, proper sleep is not a luxury; it’s a basic need.

How to Get Better Sleep

So tonight, try to prioritize sleep. Some ways to help you get a better sleep include:

  • Read a book for an hour before bed; don’t replace that time with the TV and internet
  • Meditate
  • Take a bath with calming essential oil
  • Keep your bedroom clean, dark, and cool
  • Don’t eat or drink a lot in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Practice conscious breathing
  • Try light yoga, but not vigorous exercise
  • Don’t consume anything alcoholic within 2-3 hours before bed, or caffeinated within 10 hours before bed (try herbal tea)

Good luck! xo


References

[1] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

[2] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

Better than Botox: 10 Hacks for Younger-Looking Skin

Beauty Skin Care

Maybe I’m writing this because my birthday is today. As each year goes by, I notice more and more fine lines on my forehead and grey in my hair. I also swore I would NEVER get botox, but I’ve caught myself staring into the mirror on more than a couple (or a hundred) occasions, physically pulling the skin on my face taut in order to see what I’d look like if I did have it done.

And not that this is even related to this post, but WHY do men only get better looking as they age? (Grey hair? Wrinkles? No problem–it’s hot!) Wtf?! Ugh.

Aging skin can be depressing, but here are 10 hacks that can make a massive difference to the youthfulness of your body’s largest organ, sans chemical peels, injections, and/or other invasive procedures:

Cucumber Water

  • Drink a TON of water. It goes without saying that hydrated skin is happy skin. It’s able to detox better, and people who stay hydrated experience less acne and dry skin.
  • Limit alcohol. Because it’s dehydrating. See how that works? Alcohol starves your skin of oxygen, and makes your face appear swollen and unhealthy the day after a bender. Consistent use can make your skin grey and listless, and enhance the appearance of wrinkles, tiny blood vessels, and permanently ruddy-looking cheeks.
  • Exfoliate your face twice a week. This is to remove dead skin cells, which is important for proper skin regeneration. If old cells don’t get whisked away, new ones are produced more slowly and then tend to build up under the old ones, which causes acne and a dull appearance.
  • Steam once a week. Your skin loves this! It forces the detoxification process, and results in healthier, glowing skin.
  • Use cold gel masks. This hack reduces swelling and tightens pores. You can also use cold cucumber and tea bags on the eyes for 4-5 minutes—it reduces puffiness in all the right places.
  • Don’t get sunburnt. Sunburnt skin is damaged skin, and damaged skin looks like crap. Just sayin’. I hate promoting sunscreen, because there can be a lot of crazy shit in there, so I’m just to advise against getting burnt, instead.

Beet Juice

  • Eat (or drink) your vegetables. Vegetables contain water, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that your skin loves. They also encourage waste removal via the colon, which keeps the entire body healthy, including your skin.
  • Make use of herbs that contain silica. Horsetail, rosemary, sage, and yarrow are all amazing herbs for your hair, skin, and nails. You can take them in capsule form, or make your own tea from them.
  • SWEAT regularly. Again, sweating (via regular exercise) encourages the detoxification process, which leads to healthy, younger-looking skin. It also increases circulation, and gives your face that healthy glow that fit people generally have.
  • Get lots of sleep. This is more important that most people realize, but it’s easier said than done. Your body repairs and reboots when you sleep, and adequate sleep is vital to your health. Because stress and other factors may impede great zzz’s, it’s imperative to prioritize de-stressing and hitting the hay for at least 8 hours a night. Reading, meditation, and sex all help to power your brain down before you close your eyes.

So there you have it—hack away to younger-looking skin in no time. Happy Meatless Monday! xo

5 Common Triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today’s post was inspired by a series of realizations I’ve had oven the course of the last year or so. For those of you who don’t know this about me, I used to struggle with awful IBS symptoms that impeded my life every single day. This gut-wrenching story (see what I did there?!) has a happy ending, though. I managed to figure out the sources of my discomfort, and reap the rewards that come with a calm, happy, healthy gut.

BUT…everyone who has ever suffered from a chronic health issue, knows that from time to time, there are circumstances that cause these types of conditions to rear their ugly heads.

Here are, in my opinion, the top five offenders that just LOVE to make my bowel (and perhaps yours) irritable:

Yoga for stress

  • Stress. This is seriously the number one cause of any IBS flare-up I experience, nowadays. I can eat as clean and regularly as I want, and exercise, and sleep well, but your brain doesn’t care. If you’re stressed, IBS becomes more imminent. Some ways to relieve stress, include meditation, yoga, conscious breathing, and exercise.

Dairy

  • Dairy. This “does a body good” mammal secretion (I write with pure loathing) does not do anybody good. It sucks. It’s for calves, not for adult humans. Dairy acidifies our bodies and clogs up our bowels. It sparks spontaneous allergies, and is loaded with fat and sugar. If you have IBS, please refrain.

pink slime

  • Meat and processed food. Both of these foodstuffs are so chalk full of crap that our bodies silently scream in protest, but we don’t pay attention. Unless you have IBS, and then you’re pretty much forced to. In addition to this, meat is also full of saturated fat, and acidifies our bodies like dairy. (That’s “pink slime” above, if you were wondering. You should totally Google it.)

Working Out

  • Stagnancy. That is, not exercising. Everyone needs to move their bodies every day in order for vital bodily processes to occur. (Circulation, digestion, proper respiration, muscle building, calorie burning, etc.) When you don’t move, it throws your entire body out of whack, and when you have IBS, your digestive system is beyond touchy. It’s one sensitive son of a bitch, and I can assure you, it’s in your best interest to keep it happy.

Lack of sleep

  • Lack of sleep. This might be related to stress, but lack of sleep is my worst nightmare. (Irony—and pun—intended.) In order to sleep very, very well, I would definitely advise you to take everything I’ve written above to heart. You sleep better when your stress level is down, you’re eating good, clean, whole food, and exercising your body on a regular basis.

Here’s a summary:

Stress, animal products, processed food, lack of exercise, and inadequate sleep are all BAD for IBS.

Reduced stress, whole food, lots of vegetables and water, daily exercise, and great sleep are all GOOD for IBS. 

Happy Healthy Gut

It’s all about the routine, and the lifestyle you choose to implement for yourself, but I can assure you, IBS can be tamed. For a full 272 pages on EXACTLY how this is possible, check out Happy Healthy Gut. For a recipe book full of delicious, tummy-taming concoctions, check out Vegetarian Comfort Foods.

Vegetarian Comfort Foods

Have a great rest of your weekend! xo

5 Signs of Good Health: what “healthy” truly looks like

Healthy woman

The definition of “healthy” is different for many of us. Some people believe health is what is attained once you’ve cut out carbs, and others feel that they’re healthy if they’re abstaining from processed sugar. But health is a broad term. Are you healthy if you aren’t currently diagnosed with a chronic disease? Does veganism equal health?

What exactly does is mean to be truly healthy?

Happy children sitting on green grass outdoors in summer park

The following points are what I’ve come up with, both during my own observations and experiences, as well as asking others this question. Here are what I consider to be five signs that you are really healthy:

  1. You consistently get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, and wake up feeling refreshed. Great, consistent sleep is a fabulous indicator of good health. It means your body is regulated, your cortisol levels and core body temperature are normal, and you have the ability to let your mind rest peacefully, which indicates low stress. If you can achieve amazing sleep, congratulations! If you fall into the category of those who can’t sleep, I can assure you, I’ve definitely been there. For me, there are 3 things that I’ve identified as being culprits here: alcohol consumption (if I have more than one glass of wine, sleep is up in the air), stress (overthinking things), and excitement (not calming down enough for your body to rest). Other things that can lead to bad sleep include eating right before bed (your body will buzz with the energy t takes to digest that snack), sleeping in a warm room, and too much light.
  2. You have energy throughout the entire day. No 3pm slump for you! How does one obtain this? Aside from having a decent sleep, it’s with food. Good food. Food that contains proper energy sources and the correct balance of nutrients to assist your body in lasting happily throughout the entire day. Real food—not a chocolate bar. A good tip: eat a light, healthy lunch (lettuce wraps or salad with wild salmon), and then grab a snack around 3 o’clock. A smoothie, homemade granola bar, or boiled egg with salsa and avocado are great examples.
  3. You’re moving your bowels in a healthy way at least once a day. Now, when I specify “healthy” here, I mean that your movements are effortless, quick, significant, and normal-looking. (Not loose.) If you’re feeling empty after visiting the washroom, that’s good. To achieve better bowel movements, try tracking how much insoluble fibre you ingest (you need this to sweep your colon clean), and make sure you’re drinking enough water. Foods that can make BMs subpar are dairy, too much heavy meat, heavy breads (especially if you’re sensitive to wheat or gluten), and too much sugar. For more information on how to obtain better digestive health, check out Happy Healthy Gut.
  4. Your skin is clear, and your hair and nails look good. Your skin is your largest organ, and what it looks like says a lot about your health. Same goes for your hair and nails. Dry, brittle nails and hair can signify dehydration, and peeling problems can represent vitamin deficiencies. For better skin, hair, and nails, try drinking more water and eating more vegetables. Cut down on processed sugar, and begin to look at your food as fuel for your body.
  5. You’re happy. Honestly, consistently, truly happy. Happiness is directly correlated with good health, and people who can honestly call themselves happy are typically healthy, too. The mind and body are completely connected, and a clear, calm mind will usually be accompanied by a healthy body. To achieve better happiness, try and make a list of everything that is in your life that makes you upset and stressed out. Either let it go (meaning get out of that unhappy relationship or find a better job), or make clear strides to improve the situation. Do it NOW—don’t wait.

Beautiful healthy Young Woman lying on the green grass

What I am trying to get at it this: you don’t have to weigh 120 pounds or love the Paleo diet or declare veganism as your new diet of choice to be healthy. Health is a complicated thing, but the points above will hopefully lead you in the right direction.

 

Sleeping Like a Baby: Not what it’s cracked up to be

Sleepy young woman in bed extending hand to alarm clock at home

The old adage “slept like a baby” always confused me. Is this phrase only used by people with no children? Because if you have kids, you must know that babies don’t sleep.

(Well, only in inconvenient times. Never when you want them to. )

I’ve been having trouble with staying asleep lately, and by “lately,” I mean the last year or so. I’ve kind of turned into a total insomniac, actually. I have no problem falling asleep, but I never seem to get into that deep sleep that everyone raves about. In fact, I’m exhausted just typing this. *Yawn…

My five-year-old daughter still wakes me up almost every night to chat or climb into my bed, or just relay some fun fact about yesterday’s goings-on (yesterday she saw an eagle, because that’s what you think about at 2am). She’s one of the reasons my sleep is so interrupted, but it’s interrupted even if she’s not there to wake me up.

I’ve tried things like Melatonin (gave me a crazy sleep hangover), taking warm baths before bed, making sure my bedroom is dark and cool. I’ve tried not eating before bed, not drinking caffeine after noon, and exercising regularly. I’ve tried stretching, meditation, and more. These are all normal suggestions for anyone suffering with sleep issues.

But here are some more, and these make up my latest list of things to try. (I’ll keep you posted.)

  • More magnesium. Up to 80% of North Americans are magnesium deficient[1], and this is directly related to sleep problems. (Fun fact: people with digestive issues often don’t absorb as much magnesium as they need to.) Juicing greens, and eating a varied whole food, plant-based diet can help greatly. Since I already do those things, I’m going to begin taking a supplement just to be sure. I also have a laboratory requisition to fill that will measure my magnesium and Vitamin D levels. Which brings me to:
  • Increased Vitamin D. This “vitamin” is actually a hormone, and is totally correlated with sleep. If you’re deficient (like most North Americans), it can lead to insomnia. You get Vitamin D from the sunshine and green leafy veggies, but you can also buy it in supplement form.
  • Going to bed later. You heard me: later. I’m so tired by nine that I usually crash a half-hour later. But if I’m planning on sleeping until 7am, I really should try and push my adolescent bedtime back to 10:30ish. I don’t need 10 hours of sleep—just better quality sleep.
  • Putting the kybosh on alcohol. (God, I love that word. Kybosh, not alcohol.) Alcohol, despite what people may think, is both a stimulant and a depressant.[2] It may make you feel sleepy, but it also increases your heart rate. This speedy effect makes it very hard for your body to regulate itself into a good sleep. So, bye-bye wine. (Yes, I’m THIS desperate for sleep.)
  • Cutting back on screen time. I’m an iPhone, iPad, laptop junkie. Apple loves me. But all that screen time can have a negative effect on sleep, because it suppresses melatonin.

For more tips on how to sleep better, visit HERE. In the meantime, let me know if you have any suggestions. 🙂

References:

[1] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/08/15/nutrients-better-sleep.aspx

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21560041