Tips to Make your Pocket and Planet Greener

We could all use a few extra dollars in our pocket, and more-so, we could all probably do a little more to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint. While we may not be able to go out and plant trees everyday, there are a few energy and cost effective tips we are happy to share to make our pockets, and our planet, a little greener.

  1. Run your utilities (washer, dryer, dishwasher) between 12am – 8am. Most energy is being used during the daytime, and as a result, this is the most expensive time of day to run appliances. Be a night owl or an early bird and you can seriously reduce energy costs. Some cities/counties require that you actually enroll in this program. If this sounds like something that could seriously help you, then consider calling your energy provider today to inquire about the program.
  2. Wash clothes in cold water. Believe it or not, most washing machines today are highly effective and efficient at washing clothes in any temperature, and the need to wash clothes in warm water is a myth. Washing clothes in cold water not only saves on heating, it also extends the life of your clothes, as cold water is more effective at keeping color and reducing stretch that happens in the wash.
  3. Replace old appliances with newer, more energy efficient ones. New appliances are crafted and equipped to reduce the waste of energy and water. If you have an appliance which is over fifteen years old, it may be time to consider a more cost-and-energy-efficient model. If you live in an area serviced by Con Edison, you may even be eligible for a rebate on your new appliance! Consider choosing Energy Star appliances, which may be more expensive at first, but have the potential to reduce your energy usage from 10%-30%.
  4. Control your thermostat through your phone. If you have air conditioning, whether central or units, you can set your thermostat through your phone, and Con Edison also has a rewards program for it! When you and your pets aren’t home, set the temperature on your air conditioner a little higher so it’s not running for an empty house.
  5. Microwave it! This applies if you have an electric stove, but according to the Consumer Energy Center, your microwave uses 2/3 LESS energy than your electric stove.
  6. Unplug electronics when not in use. Most electronics actually suck up energy even when powered off. Try switching-off your power strip, or completely unplugging electronic devices when not in use to save some energy.
  7. Opt for ceiling fans over air conditioners. Ceiling fans provide a great deal of cool-feeling air and use significantly less energy than air conditioners. If possible, consider flipping on the fan, or even investing in one in a room that gets a lot of use.
  8. Make conventional ice. Using an ice tray instead of an automatic ice maker reduces power and water waste.
  9. Use a dishwasher when there are a lot of dirty dishes. Sounds strange, but your dishwasher wastes less water than washing dishes by hand. But this only applies if you can really fill up your dishwasher; it’s a waste to use it for just a few things.
  10. Wash your hair less. Unless you get super-greasy, or are covered in pool chlorine/beach water, try skipping a hair wash or two. It’s actually better for your hair to skip washes (at least every other day), as it allows the natural sebum of your scalp to moisturize your scalp and hair, and it will significantly reduce the amount of water you use in the shower.
  11. Indulge in a bubble bath. Baths use much less water than showers do! Why not drop in one of our famous mondo bath bombs and take a luxurious bath? You’ll be saving tons of water, and moisturizing your skin…plus, who doesn’t love awesome bubbles?
  12. Vacuum less. Your vacuum uses a ton of energy! Try reducing your vacuuming to once per week, or you can annoy your family and vacuum between midnight to 8am (see tip #1).
  13. Stretch your bleach. Nothing really disinfects and sanitizes quite like bleach, and while this tip is not so much about energy efficiency as it is product efficiency, it’s still super useful. You don’t need to waste money buying expensive cleaners that have bleach in them, but buy conventional bleach and stretch it with water. You’ll get the same results for far less money, and you’ll be saving on plastic waste when you reuse your spray bottle.
  14. Switch to cost-efficient fluorescent lighting. Most light bulbs aren’t halogen anymore, but if they are, consider switching all of your lights to fluorescent bulbs which use much less energy. Or you can save on electricity all together and get some candles!
  15. Invest in a water filter. You can seriously reduce wasted plastic and money by switching away from plastic water bottles and just using a water filter. There are ones you can fill and stick in your refrigerator, or there are some you can attach to your sink.

Do you have an awesome energy efficient tip? We would love to hear it!

Eight Tips for a Healthier Summer

The summer months are upon us, full of sunshine, swimming, barbecues, and hanging out in the backyard. While the days are longer, and our desire to be outside is difficult to resist, it’s important to remember to take care of our bodies and minds during these months.

In this blog post, we would like to highlight a few ways you can take care of yourself, and your family, by offering some sound advice as well as featuring some of our products which can help you stay on track towards a healthier lifestyle.

1.Wear sunscreenTime and time again, it’s so important to remember to not only put sunscreen on once, but to reapply every two hours and after swimming. The recommended SPF is 30, and be sure to check labels to ensure the sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays. Kids should especially be monitored, as they’re often running around and sweating off their sunscreen. If you’re in a situation where it will be difficult to reapply, consider wearing light-colored but protective clothing to detract harmful rays.

2. Watch out for mosquitoes. With the recent highlight on the Zika virus, and previous concerns about the West Nile virus, people are avidly more aware of how harmful mosquito bites can be. We’re proud to feature two limited edition seasonal products, our Don’t Bug Me all natural bug deterrent essential oil spray, and our Don’t Bug Me candle, created with essential oils and soy wax. See a video testimonial about our Don’t Bug Me spray. Read more about deterring bugs naturally.

3. Stay hydratedSummer barbecues are the best! While barbecue foods aren’t always the healthiest option, there are a few ways to combat all of the extra sodium (such as from hot dogs) and sweating, and that’s of course, through drinking extra water. But, you can also up your water intake by eating water-filled fruits and veggies, such as, you guessed it, watermelon! Watermelons are a fantastic option to add hydration to your system (and you can even give a little bit to your dog, just be sure to take out the seeds and don’t let Scruffy over-indulge or he might not feel so well later). Also remember, while you’re indulging in some barbecue fare and maybe having a brew to go along with it, alcohol is a diuretic, so drink extra water to help your liver stay at its best. Another fun summer hydration tip – fuse your water with lemon, cucumber, and mint for some delicious-tasting water and added minerals.

4. Get some rest. It’s so easy to stay out and stay up so much later now that the sun hangs around for extended days, but your body needs to still get a good night’s sleep to help keep everything functioning. Did you know that sleep helps regenerate cells, which can keep you looking younger and healthier? We also have an awesome product that serves multiple purposes here – our all natural essential oil Rest Easy spray. Made with Roman and German chamomile, and lavender essential oils, this delightful tincture can be used as a body spray, a linen spray, a facial toner, and an after-shave. So spray a little on your sheets to help you get a restful night’s sleep, then spray a little on a cotton ball after you wash your face (or shave), and rub on your face to reveal the beautiful skin the night has helped regenerate!

File May 30, 8 18 13 PM.jpeg

 

5. Mind your electricity, gas, and water.  We get so wrapped up in keeping our bodies healthy, we sometimes forget about our wallets (or our environment), and one way to do that it to keep your carbon footprint lower. In a future blog post, I will write about some energy and cost efficient tips for your utilities. (Stay tuned!).

6. Choose to walk. Now that the weather is warming, you don’t have to run from your car to find shelter. If possible, try to walk to wherever you’re going. If that’s not plausible, consider parking a little further away so you get a few extra steps in. Also consider taking the stairs, or taking the elevator one or two flights lower so you can walk a little more.

7. Skip the cheese. I know I’m receiving cheers from all of my vegan pals here, but this one is painful for me, but a must. With so many foods that ask for cheese…burgers, fries, hot dogs… it may seem hard to resist, but skipping it can save a lot of calories (nevermind the ethics of dairy farming). If you use the right combo of fixings, like ketchup, relish, and mustard, you won’t even miss it!

8. Exfoliate your skin! From all the sweating, sun, and pool time, your skin is going to need some saving, and exfoliation is key. Exfoliation washes away dead skin cells and rejuvenates skin, which also encourages fresh cell growth. PLUS, if you want your sunscreen to be effective, you NEED to exfoliate, otherwise the sunscreen is just protecting dead skin. Give our Salt it Off Shea a try for body exfoliation and our Face the Day for facial exfoliation – a bonus with these two scrubs is that you won’t need any moisturizer, because they’re jam-packed with good-for-your-skin oils that won’t clog your pores.

We’ve also made a seasonal combo of scrub and body butter scented in our famous Beach Bumming fragrance to keep your skin soft, supple, hydrated, exfoliated, and smelling absolutely delicious! Check our our Beach Bumming Bundle for sexy summer skin!

beach bundle - body butter and body scrub.jpg

The Guts to Fail: What it Takes to Succeed

I threw out an entire loaf of soap yesterday. In that loaf of soap was thirty-four ounces of coconut oil, palm oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. There were also a few ounces of fragrance, several grams of clays, three hours worth of prep and execution, forty-eight hours worth of waiting, thirty minutes worth of sanitizing and clean-up, and sixty dollars worth of lost sales.

This is not the first time I’ve dumped an entire loaf of soap. I’ve also dumped countless pounds of scrub. I’ve “donated” dozens of sorry candles (mostly to my Dad who doesn’t care what they look like), and my shower looks like the Island of Misfit Bath and Body products. I can’t even begin to tell you the countless hours of time or dozens of non-refundable fragrances (someone please tell me why I ever bought a “Baby Diaper” fragrance oil?) I’ve had to discard. Boxes of forgotten jars, wrong-sized labels, and miscalculated packaging patiently wait in my closet for a purpose to existence.

I’ve spent hundreds…okay, truthfully, probably the low thousands, of dollars on mistakes, mishaps, and never-agains. Have I failed? Yup. Will I fail again? With certainty. Am I going to give up? Not in my vocabulary.

I understand why the diction associated with being an entrepreneur is “building” a business, because it’s passionate work that requires time, planning, and maintenance. As cliche as it sounds, success doesn’t happen overnight, and success is a constant effort. You can’t just ride on success; you have to….to use the house metaphor…fix the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, repair the roof. You can’t be afraid to dump an entire loaf of soap. You can’t pretend that not-good-enough is good-enough.

You have to be decisive. You have to just make a decision, right or wrong, to choose a path. Robert Frost reminds us he “took the road less traveled,” not for us to believe we must make the right decision, but instead, for the right decision at that time. We can use statistics, analytics, and critics to guide our success, but the ultimate road to success is failure and understanding we cannot turn back to move forward, but we must look back to understand forward. 

You have to be ready to dump an entire loaf of soap, and pull out your calculator to fix what was broken.

-And miles to go before I sleep--Robert Frost

The Process of Creating Artisan Soap

Have you ever imagined mixing ingredients together to create a perfect dinner recipe from scratch? You probably consider who will be eating the dinner, if they have allergies or dislikes. You consider what’s already in your kitchen and what you may need to shop for. Then you think about which flavors would work well together, and how they would complement? Crafting a handmade artisan bar soap is not much different.

All before we start to actually craft the bar of soap, we think about the recipe. The process of planning one of our soap recipes all begins with questions, and our questions all really focus on customer needs:

  • Is this soap intended for men, women, or neutral?
    • When considering the targeted gender of a soap, we think about design and fragrance. Anyone is welcome to use any soap, of course, soap doesn’t have a gender, but we consider what scents are “supposed” to be more feminine, masculine, or neutral. We also think about coloring and the type of technique we will use.
  • Will this soap be vegan?
    • For us, that means whether or not we will use palm oil – none of our soaps ever use animal by-products. All of our soaps are vegetarian. We do offer some vegan soaps because we are an overall vegan company.
  • Will this soap be all natural or mostly natural?
    • This comes down to coloring and fragrance, as well. For an all natural soap, we seek to use essential oils and natural colorants, such as spices and clays. All natural soaps are beautiful, but they are also limited. Someone could want an all natural soap scented like strawberries, but there is no such essential oil. Mostly natural soaps use phthalate-free fragrance oils and/or mica colorants. As explained on Brambleberry’s website: “Pigments and Oxides are considered “nature identical” meaning they are the exact same chemical structure as the platelet minerals found in the earth. But they are created in a lab to ensure purity.”
  • What is the main purpose of this soap?
    • This question is important for determining the perfect balance of a bar: Moisturizing, Hardness, Cleansing, Lather. An “ideal” bar of soap would have a perfect balance of all of these properties, but depending on the purpose, some properties outweigh the others.
    • We almost always use olive oil because of the moisturization properties. Sometimes we include avocado oil or sweet almond oil, as these oils are also very softening for skin. We also sometimes use rich butters, such as shea or mango, which increase skin softness. But everything must be in balance – a soap bar made exclusively with olive oil (for example – Castile soap), is a very skin-nourishing bar, but it takes one year to cure, and has little-to-no lather.
    • We always use coconut oil because of the cleansing and lather properties. This is not the same as liquid coconut oil (also known as fractionated coconut oil, or capryl caprylic triglyceride), but 76 degree coconut oil, which is a “hard” oil (meaning it’s solid at room temperature).
    • We sometimes use palm oil because of the hardness factor. After the 4-6 week curing period, the soap bar should be strong, which helps it last longer in the shower. A soap made of purely liquid oils will be slimey to the touch, and will dissipate very quickly. When we create vegan soaps, we have to configure into our formula other hard oils which will create a similar texture of palm.
    • Sometimes we use sunflower oil or safflower oil for their conditioning properties, and sometimes we add castor oil because the thick nature of this oil makes it excellent for lather-boosting.
  • What properties should it have and what additives will help create these properties?
    • If the soap is intended for sensitive skin, we’ll consider adding colloidal oatmeal or regular oatmeal, which is said to help calm sensitive skin.
    • Sometimes we like a bar that exfoliates, so we’ll add coffee grinds, poppy seeds, or flowers, such as calendula and lavender. Depending on the level of exfoliation wanted – the harder the additive, the stronger the exfoliation. For example, we created a coffee soap intended for people who work outside, athletes, or just generally prefer a rougher bar.
    • Clays also offer mild exfoliation, which is great for normal skin.
    • If the soap needs a silky texture, such as a shaving soap, we’ll include bentonite clay, which gives that smooth feeling.
    • Activated coconut charcoal powder is said to draw out impurities, so it’s generally an excellent additive for any soaps intended to be used on the face.
  • How should this bar of soap look?
    • After all of the other factors are considered, we think about the moment we plan on embracing with this bar of soap. Since the premise of our business is based on “scenting” the “moment,” we try to embody and envision how that moment would look in a bar of soap. This is where design is factored. For example, our Beach Bumming Soap (our best seller), we pictured the pink-sands of a Caribbean beach – we use the rose clay to show the dimension of color. The lighter pink is the dryer sand, the darker pink is the wetter sand as you approach the water, and the cosmetic-grade sparkles are meant to glisten as the waves do rolling off the pink sands.

Finally, after all factors are considered, we do our math and calculate our recipe. Then we measure, mix, and mold. After unmolding (which is about 48 hours later), we leave the soaps out to dry for four-to-six weeks.

What does it mean to be our VIP?

Achieving our VIP status doesn’t require spending a certain amount of money, or a certain number of shopping trips (of course, we reward our loyal shoppers – just click “Earn Rewards” at the bottom of our homepage); becoming our VIP means you are taking the extra step to join our secret VIP Facebook group. Why is it so easy to join? Simply, because we believe anyone who wants to actively engage in our group and take time to share their thoughts, comments, and reactions about our products and mission is very important to us. Too much of our world is driven by dollars, and not enough on true engagement, so we want to thank and reward those members who go the extra mile to socially engage with us with special perks.

So what does it mean to be our VIP? It means you will get secret access to special VIP only sales, be the first to learn about product launches, be the first to learn about any program changes, VIP only sweepstakes to win free products, and VIP only access to products which will not go on our website. Plus, you’re free to post requests, comments, questions, and anything fun! Along with all of the special VIP only perks, you will be a part of a community who cares about natural, healthy living, and who cares about saving animals. Sounds pretty awesome, right? What’s the catch? There isn’t any catch – seriously. As a small company comprised of real people, we sincerely care about you. Social media has made the world smaller with our abilities to stay in touch with people from nearly everywhere, and this is our way of doing that.

Since we launched our VIP group in March 2016, we have offered:

  • Two VIP only sweepstakes (with five winners)
  • Two VIP only discount codes
  • Two VIP only free shipping codes
  • Two VIP only not-on-website products
  • First-to-know product launches
  • Some fun discussion on trending topics

We invite you to join our VIP group and share your ideas! We’d love to make exactly what you want, and can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

VIP Secret Group
Join Our VIP Group Now

Making a Bucket List

This blog is a little off topic from my usual posts, but something that has been on my mind very much lately, and I thought I would share it because it may (hopefully) inspire you. I’m 32, I don’t consider myself old, but I don’t consider myself young either. At this stage in my life, I’m not really thinking about “kicking the bucket” (that’s where the name “Bucket List” comes from), but I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever accomplish my goals and dreams.

The first thing to consider when creating a bucket list is discerning between a goal and a dream. A goal is something attainable through hard work, perseverance, dedication, and focus. A goal is “SMART” – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound. A goal has reasonable grounds with pragmatic steps. A dream, on the other hand, falls into the “I wish” category. It’s something we would love the opportunity to have/do, but the likelihood or reasonability doesn’t exist. For example: A goal could be to save money to go on a Caribbean vacation. A dream would be to own your personal island. (I suppose for some people out there, this is realistic, but for most of us, not so much.)

Here’s my Bucket List. I have compiled a mix of my goals and dreams, because why not. I haven’t included anything I’ve already accomplished, because those have already been scratched off the list.  I’m hoping by sharing this list with you, you could gain a better insight into who I am and who I would like to be.

  1. Own my own home
  2. Own a brick-and-mortar store for our products
  3. Travel to Europe (I’ve been to Russia and South Korea, would love to see more)
  4. Retire on a rescue-ranch to save abused and abandoned animals
  5. Pay off my student loans
  6. Become an assistant principal
  7. Have our business be so successful that we need to take it over full-time
  8. Learn how to change a flat tire
  9. Become a PhotoShop master
  10. Publish a novel
  11. Run a full 5K in under 30 minutes

Have you thought about what you want or what you would wish for? It’s important for your future and well-being to visualize yourself completing and accomplishing your goals. You have it in you to do anything you truly want to do; just ask yourself if it really is what you want.

Using Candles to Decorate when Hosting

Hosting people is both exciting and daunting. Aside from the obvious cleaning and purchasing of food and spirits, there are small ways to make your home comforting and inviting, and one of those ways is to use candles. In this blog post we will discuss different strategic locations to place candles to make your house accommodating, and the perfect scents which align for your event and rooms.

  1. The bathroom. Despite its generally small size, the bathroom is one of the most important rooms in any hosted home because it’s an absolute necessity. One lit candle in the bathroom can help deter some unpleasant odors which could make your guests feel more comfortable. We recommend light, clean scents for the bathroom, such as After the Rain, Summer Break, or Cuddly Blankets.
  2. The living room. Depending upon the size of your living room, one to three candles will make a beautiful ambiance and warming experience. Since many of your guests may linger in the living room, you want to use a scent that will invite calming and nostalgia. In the fall and winter months, we recommend seasonal candles, but the classic No Place Like Home warm vanilla is always a favorite. In the warmer spring and summer, Weekend Getaway or Beach Bumming generates the power of the season.
  3. The den and/or “man cave.” Whether you’re having friends over to watch the game, play some video games, or it’s poker night, a scent that’s light, smooth, and slightly masculine will create the perfect environment. We recommend the Black Tie Affair candle, which has the scent of fresh cracked black velvety peppercorn, and when burned, the essence of a neo-classic shave shoppe.
  4. The kitchen. If you’re parties or gatherings are anything like mine, people always end up in the kitchen, no matter how small it may be. You want to create the essence of delicious food and all of the good notions that come with the relaxation of a fine meal. We recommend It’s 5:00 Somewhere for the powerful scent of pina colada; nothing says party quite like a pina colada! We also recommend the Vacation candle because of the decadent mix of chocolate and coconut.
  5. The foyer or entryway. You want your guests to be invigorated when they walk into your home, and  the fresh scent of peppermint in Quiet Kids will create exactly that emotion. Although it’s a limited edition candle, you can be sure this classic favorite will be back around for the holidays when most of us are playing the role of host.
  6. The bedroom. You want a scent which will be light and relaxing and generates the ideas of rest. The calming powers of lavender and chamomile in Unstressed will be your guests at ease and create an inviting atmosphere.

There are so many other ways to use candles to create your moment in your home. Other examples include if you’re in the process of selling or renting your home – you can use candles to give people the opportunity to imagine their own lives in the environment. Candles also make excellent housewarming gifts, giving the new homeowner an opportunity to truly create a home with a small piece of elegant decor.

How to Read Cosmetic Labels

It is the age of transparency and consumer knowledge. With the exponential boom of information available at our fingertips (quite literally with smartphones), anyone can essentially “Google” anything at any time. People want to know what goes into their cosmetics and people have a right to know. This is why in the United States the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has created standards for cosmetic labeling.

There are numerous regulations and sub-regulations which could turn this blog post into a book, and Marie Gale did by writing Soap and Cosmetic LabelingBut unless you are a manufacturer of cosmetic goods, it is pretty simple to follow along with appropriate labeling.

The front label of a cosmetic should list 1) Company name2) Product name3) Product type4) Net weight in imperial and metric measurements

 

The first element is the front of any packaging. The front label of a cosmetic should clearly state: 1) Company name, 2) Product name, 3) Product type, and 4) Net weight in the imperial and metric systems. A consumer should immediately be able to identify what the product is, what it’s used for, and the weight of the actual contents (without counting the jar/bottle). Taking a look at the example of our Butter Me Up above, you can clearly see our company’s logo, the name of the product, the product type, and weight.

You may also notice the small logo in the upper right-hand corner. This is a license we purchased from PETA when our company was relegated as cruelty-free and vegan. While our company is listed under both PETA and Leaping Bunny, because we only purchased a license from PETA, we use their logo. Be mindful to actually look up companies that use these types of purchased licenses to ensure they are actually part of the program.

The back of the packaging (or sides, as you can see above), will list other detailed information, such as 1) Directions, 2) Ingredients, 3) Company name, 4) Batch numbers, 5) Company address.

back or side labels

It’s important to note the directions. The manufacturer should have clear directions on how the product is intended to be used for purposes of safety and clarity. Sometimes with the directions, and sometimes as a separate entity, the manufacturer will also list any possible warnings for safety purposes. For most people, this is truly common sense, but it helps protect the consumer from accidental misuse, and protect the manufacturer from liability.

One of the first points conscientious consumers look for are the list of ingredients. As per the FDA, ingredient labels (for items sold in the United States) must be listed in plain English, in descending order of content weight in the recipe, followed by fragrance and colorant. A manufacturer does not have to specifically list the name of the fragrance (or combination of fragrances) used, as this is usually proprietary information. In the example above, we specifically list that we use lavender and lemongrass essential oils because we believe most of our customers would find it desirable, but it’s not required to be so specific.

While it is not required under the FDA, many companies will also list “batch numbers.” Batch numbers serve to regulate specific batches of product made so the manufacturer will know exactly which grouping (or batch) your specific product came from. Because this is not a mandate, but instead part of generally good manufacturing practices, each business will have its own way of maintaining batch numbers. For example, as you can see above on our scrub sample, we use the date the product was made as our batch number.

Finally, a company needs to list their name and address. Companies cannot use PO Boxes on their labels. However, it is accepted to leave the address out ONLY in the circumstance that the address of the company is publically published, such as in Yellow Pages.

box labeling

Sometimes cosmetic packaging is far too small to list all of the required information directly on the bottle or jar, or sometimes it’s just not aesthetic. Think of your favorite perfume or lipstick. In this case, it is perfectly acceptable to list the required information on the outside packaging, such as a box or container. We do this, for example, on our essential oil roll ons; we list all of the required info on the containing box.

 

balance soap

As mentioned above, not all products require the same regulations. For example, “true” soap does not need to list any ingredients. Even though our soap is considered “true” soap, because we also claim it is fragrant and has moisturizing properties, it is considered a cosmetic, we must follow the same regulations as other cosmetics for our soap.See the example of our Balance Soap above.

Note that if a company makes any claims to cure, prevent, or alleviate symptoms, this is considered a drug under the FDA, and must be filed with the FDA. Be leery of any cosmetic company who claims to “cure eczema” or “act as a sunscreen” that is not filed with the FDA. Their intentions may be good; however, such bad form is a detriment to both consumers and small business.

One of the best ways to stay informed and check the integrity of a company is to see if they follow these rules on their packaging.

Five Ways to Put You First (and why you should)

On this Mother’s Day, we would like to thank and appreciate all of the Moms out in the world. And let’s be clear here, in our opinion, you need not have given birth to be a Mom. We equate “Mom,” or even more generically, “Parent,” to anyone who is a caretaker. As Bessie Anderson Stanley stated: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” So, we salute you: Moms, Dads, Grandparents, Friends, Therapists, Social Workers, Teachers, Nurses, Doctors, Pet Owners, Gardeners, Spouses, Volunteers, Soldiers, the list goes on.

You spend so much of your life taking care of other life, sometimes it’s easy to put your needs second, third, even last. You’re tired. You’re stressed. And you do it in the name of love. And there is no greater gift than to give of yourself, and there is no greater reward than to give of yourself. But while so many cultures value self-sacrifice, it’s important to remember you deserve to put you first. There’s a reason that airline safety guides always tell you to put your own mask on before helping another, and it’s because you cannot take care of anyone (or anything) else if you are not well. Today we discuss a few key ways how you can (and why you should) put yourself first.

  1. Stop feeling guilty. Along with money, guilt is one of the key reasons people report stress. Repeat after us: It is not all your fault. Unfortunate or uncomfortable circumstances are rarely the cause of one person. There are almost always multiple underlying factors and reasons for something to happen. We put ourselves on trial for too many reasons. For one, you probably feel guilty for feeling like you need to put yourself first. This is false. If you are hitting your breaking point, or even if you feel like you just need alone time, this is perfectly normal. You must listen to your heart and body; it’s a perfectly sound system that will guide you to what you need. Guilt for something you need is wrong. Flip the circumstances – If your teenager came home from school and said he/she had a really rough day and just needs to nap, would you condemn him/her? No. Give yourself the same courtesy you give others
  2. Buy yourself something you really want. You probably talk yourself out of hundreds of purchases every month. You may not even consciously realize you’re doing it because you’re trained to value your money (as you should). Yet, constant deprivation leads to depression and anxiety. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a shopping bender and create thousands of dollars of credit card debt, but go ahead and buy that one expensive lipstick, that deliciously calming candle, or even save for the beautiful new handbag. While material items are not the key to happiness, if buying a little something for yourself will make you feel happy, then do it (then refer to point number one).
  3. Learn to just say no. It’s likely you’re pulled in dozens of different directions on a weekly basis. You’re invited here, you should go there, you’re supposed to do that. The feeling of obligation is often created by a combination of guilt and expectation. But whose expectation? If you really don’t want to be somewhere or don’t want to do something, then say no. Even if you do want to do something, but the ability to adequately fulfill the expectation of completing it is causing you some anxiety, then say no. Now, we don’t suggest you say no to everything, and become some type of antisocial hermit, but discern between obligations. Not showing up for your friend’s wedding will probably be very hurtful to your friend, but skipping out one week from after-work cocktails won’t cause any long-term damage to relationships. The key is learning to say no from the very beginning. Don’t try and smooth situations over with a vapid or insipid “maybe” or “I’ll get back to you.” Just politely decline from the very beginning. A few simple, practical examples: “Joan, thanks so much for the invitation to grab dinner this weekend, but I’m going to have to pass; I absolutely need to finish this project I’m working on.” “I would love the chance to sit on the PTA this year, but between all of my current obligations, I don’t believe I will give the position the amount of time it deserves.” Believe us, people will appreciate you politely declining so much more than saying yes and copping out or not meeting expectations — think about it, wouldn’t you?
  4. Ask for help. We always joke that “adulting” is hard…because it is. Between work, family, and chores, even the smallest tasks can become overwhelming. It’s okay to ask for help. Even Atlas became tired of carrying the world on his shoulders, and he was a god. It’s perfectly fine to delegate tasks to help you out. Ask kids and/or spouses to help with chores, or even hire a cleaning service one time to just come in and give the place a good scrubbing. Ask grandma, or hire a babysitter, and go out for an evening. You can even ask for help at work. A real life example – I was teaching a book I had never taught before, it was keeping me awake at night, and finally, I bit the bullet and asked a fellow teacher for help. She was so enthusiastic to share her plans, I realized all of the anxiety I was creating about asking for help was in my own head. Don’t worry about asking for help; it’s all about reciprocity. You would help a friend in need if you could, right?
  5. Schedule an appointment with yourself. When you visit a professional, whether it’s a doctor or salon, you’re asked to make an appointment, and you respect that time. Even working or attending school is the same as keeping an appointment. You need to do this for yourself. Whether it’s once a week to go to yoga class, get a manicure, catch up on your favorite TV shows, or once a day to read your book, go for a walk, or take a bubble bath, you need to schedule a time with yourself when you will not allow for distractions. Be present in that moment and savor it. Even more importantly, respect that time as you would any other appointment. If you kept skipping your oil-change appointments, your engine would eventually fail; your well-being is the same.

So, on this Mother’s Day, and everyday, we encourage you to remember that you are important and you deserve it. Putting you first isn’t selfishness or weakness, it’s quite the opposite – it’s empowering and respecting your health and mentality.