The Six Wellness Alarms You Need to Program Into Your Phone Right Now

The Six Wellness Alarms You Need to Program Into Your Phone Right Now

I was at dinner with some friends when my phone alarm went off at 8:00 p.m.; it has rung at the same time for the last 14 years. People look at me strangely, and sometimes it has been awkward, but that alarm has saved me from myself, reminding me that I have to take an incredibly important medication at the same time every day.

Since the dawn of the industrial age, some people have criticized and villanized technology, most recently the use of smartphones. But the purpose of all technology has always been to improve lives, and if it’s used as a tool and not a substitution, it can be especially useful for our health and wellness.

You already probably track your steps and/or your food with your phone, and I’m sure you use it to wake you up, but you can use it to be proactive for a multitude of healthy behaviors.

Here are the six alarms I want you to program into your phone TODAY to remind you of your health and wellness.

  1. Any medications that you take! Program your phone to remind you to take your medications. Almost all medications are the most effective when taken at the same time every day. This is especially useful if you have to be mindful of being on a full or empty stomach.
  2. An hourly reminder to take a deep breath. Deep breathing helps to calm and relax you. This can also be great if you’re using an aromatherapy spray, such as Rest Easy; your deep breathing can be filled with lovely essential oils!
  3. An hourly reminder to stretch or take a quick walk. So much of our lives requires us to sit down, especially with the American work-through-lunch mindset, that a quick reminder to get up and keep the circulation moving in your body is healthy and rejuvenating.
  4. Call/Text a friend or family member reminder. The best way to keep your spirits up is by maintaining happy and healthy relationships. Setting a phone reminder is a great way to make sure you’re doing your part to show the people you care about that you’re thinking of them.
  5. Set a water reminder. This is best done in the middle of the day. Once you set your water intake goals, a reminder in the middle of the day can help you remember you should be about half-way to your goal.
  6. Bedtime reminder. The new iPhone actually has a bedtime feature which allows you to program how much sleep you need and reminds you to go to bed. This is really helpful to ensure your body is getting enough rest and maintaining a regular schedule.

Utilizing your phone (which has become an appendage for most of us) as a tool for wellness is yet another way you can ensure you’re taking the best steps towards a healthy life.

What alarms do you set on your phone?

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Introducing Twenty Paws Rescue: Our New Charity Organization

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Frank and I had been thinking about adding a dog to our family for a long time.  We were waiting for the right moment…pun intended.  When we first got married, we lived in an apartment that wouldn’t allow pets, so it was out of our hands. But when we finally bought our house this past August, it was only a matter of time.

I admit I was hesitant at first. I LOVE dogs. I’ve raised two dogs in my life: Rocky, a lab-beagle mix, and Daisy a pit bull mix, but I was living with my parents and completely aware of how much help they offered. Dogs need tons of love and attention and working two full-time jobs and one part-time job, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to give enough of myself.

And then there was Lucy.

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Frank and I saw this little “pocket pittie” (as she was described by Twenty Paws Rescue) and fell in love. Her bio read she was good with other dogs and kids, perfect for us since we have a niece and nephew, and tons of other dogs in our neighborhood. We put our application in, and after a rigorous interview by Rachel and her team at Twenty Paws, we drove to the Upper East Side of Manhattan on May 6th to pick up our Lucy, who had traveled all the way from North Carolina.

After a visit to our vet, we learned that little Lucy, who is only two (and shares the same birthday as our niece…which is also our dating anniversary, April 17th), was used for breeding purposes. She had also suffered from Lyme Disease (cured now). This poor baby had been through so much.

Now coming into our fourth week with Lucy, she is vibrant, alive, and not a pocket pittie anymore, but very much a full, healthy girl at around 58 pounds.

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Lucy loves her walks! We take her on three a day and hire Wag to take her on a fourth while we’re at work.   (Disclosure: Click the link for Wag to get a free week of walks for your dog and a free week of walks for Lucy!)

So, after many conversations, we decided that it would be most beneficial for pups to make our priority charity Twenty Paws Rescue, a not-for-profit Brooklyn-based charity focused on emptying shelters and saving dogs. We loved our time with Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue and hope all of our donations have served them well, but we are moving forward to help rescue the dogs now.

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A portion of all of your purchases from here on in will be donated to Twenty Paws Rescue and we are so excited to begin this new partnership in honor of all the good they do for dogs, and in honor of our Lucy.

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When You Need a Moment to Step Away

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I haven’t blogged in two weeks. I haven’t made soap in over a month. I only stepped into my lab twice in the last two weeks. I haven’t even logged into my business social media accounts to maintain them. The normal joy I feel from crafting was, strangely, just non-existent. Luckily, since the business is mine to run, I can choose when I want to work and when I don’t, but because the business is almost solely my responsibility, if I choose not to work, my sales plummet.

I try to be open about my anxiety and clinical depression. But we all know there is still a stigma and shame to those of us who suffer from depression – why can’t we just “snap out of it” or “get over it.” Believe me, and I think I can speak for most of us, I wish it were that simple. My whole business was born from my depression; my needing a moment to step away. To take me down from a panic attack, I would light candles of fragrances that would remind me of happier moments in my life….like my wedding cake.  So I started making my own, and the rest is history.

But this blog isn’t about my depression, per se; it’s about recognizing when you need to walk away from things. It became obvious to me that I needed to walk away from my business and concentrate on different moments of my life when we adopted our rescue pup, Lucy. What started as a rushed chore to get home and take her out for a walk became my half an hour of peace. It was just me, Lucy, and the pavement. I didn’t have to worry about posting the right thing, or finishing something up, or some order; I had the perfect reason to put all of it aside and just be present with Lucy.

I’ve been torn about my feelings because I love my business and I’ve worked incredibly hard to grow it, but I couldn’t ignore my visceral reactions of flooding tears, overwhelming trembles, constant migraines, and persistent illness. Walking with Lucy, I felt a little freer, a little less trapped to my home office, a little riskier with my money. I specifically remember thinking that “I can’t be buried in my money, so they can bury me in debt” as I was walking. I felt like Atlas on a coffee break – alive, weightless, impermanent.

Unfortunately, this need to let go doesn’t always work so easily. For example, my day job as a teacher wouldn’t just let me walk out because I didn’t feel like it that day. So, we persevere and continue to push ourselves beyond breaking points causing irreparable damage.  I started to feel damaged…like the sunken hole I was in had gotten so deep I couldn’t pull myself out of it. If I didn’t act in my favor soon, I would have crashed and burned. Lucy was a big proponent to this since I could not longer hide behind my screen all day.   I had to make a choice, and I chose me.

I always preach that people should just learn to say “no,” and yet I always find myself in the corner of an obligated yes. I do believe that true friends will understand whatever you go through, but that can only go so far when all you want is to say no all the time. You can’t be depressed and a good friend.

The real trick is to listen to yourself before it gets to the point where you want to run and hide from all things in existence. Do things for yourself everyday. Light a candle, take a bath, go for a walk with your Lucy. I wish I would have listened to my signs before I felt broken.

Secrets to Feeling Younger at Any Age

Secrets to Feeling Younger at Any Age

I’ve felt incredibly old these last few months. Not because of my age, but my general well-being. I’ve felt extra tired, overworked, and this extraordinary guilt anytime I wanted to do something fun because there was either some responsibility I should be attending to, or I couldn’t justify spending the money because of some bill I should be paying.

I decided I couldn’t live this way. I can’t change how much work I have to do because once I commit to something, I must give it my all (or there will be other unhappiness). Nor could I change how much income I have flowing in. So, I woke up this morning with a goal to be mindful about feeling young.

  1. Spend one hour a day doing something just for you. Whether that hour is spent getting a manicure, reading, taking a bubble bath, cooking, being crafty, I will do something just for my enjoyment.
  2. Step away from the TV. While I love television shows and getting wrapped up into their storylines, watching TV is doing nothing for my brain or my waistline. When I get home from my day job, I am exhausted and want nothing more than to go watch TV. But, I’ve decided I could spend that time being productive.
  3. Sing! I was stuck in traffic for three hours with my husband yesterday; it took us that long to drive 50 miles (gotta love New York City). We were both getting frustrated and started snapping at each other. So, I plugged in my phone, and started blasting tunes we both love. We started singing together and suddenly the ride wasn’t so bad.
  4. Eat at home. People who eat at least five home-cooked meals a day are 47% more likely to live an extra decade¹.  I feel like I never have time to cook, but I know I can come up with something quick and much healthier than what I order if I just plan ahead.
  5. Self-acceptance. I’ve always struggled with my weight. It’s a vicious cycle, really; I feel depressed about my weight and don’t want to leave the house which turns into overeating. I realized if I accept who I am where I am, I will naturally make better choices. Anything worthwhile takes time. Listening to Hamlet, if we learn to weather the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” we are sure to live a longer, happier life².
  6. Choose to Feel Younger. Don’t let yourself be controlled by three things: people, money, and past experiences¹. We can make the conscious choice to let go to actually gain control and feel younger.

Sources:

¹ Life Hacks by Keith Bradford

² Reader’s Digest, May 2017

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The Power of Positivity: Fight Off Toxic People

The Power of Positivity- Fight Off Toxic People

In the natural beauty world, there’s an overwhelming fear of “toxic” chemicals. The more I learn and grow as a chemist and person, the more I have discovered that chemicals are not the toxicity to fear, but toxic people are.

toxic person is someone who draws out your positive energy. They’re always negative and they try to draw you into their darkness, or they try to make their darkness surround you.

The old adage is true; misery loves company. The bigger problem with toxic people is not that they exist, but that they use their parasitic negativity to feed on doubt and self-consciousness.

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We’ve all experienced these kinds of people. Sometimes they are trying to bring us down with them and sometimes they’re just trying to knock us down.  Whatever their motivations are, and it’s usually their own lack of stability and doubt, we must push forward beyond them.

  • Feed your cheerleaders. For as many toxic people that exist, you will find your cheerleaders, as well. Focus on those people who are cheering you on.
  • Listen to criticism, but ignore critics. True constructive criticism is pivotal and necessary for all of us to learn and grow. No one is perfect. But people who spend their time criticizing without any constructive purpose are toxic and should be ignored as white noise.
  • Get yourself out of toxic situations and relationships. The best way to make a parasite die is to no longer give it a host to feed on. When someone is toxic, excuse yourself from the conversation, and if it’s a long-standing relationship, just continue to make excuses to get out of being with him/her. Don’t try to argue – this just feeds them.
  • Become a rubber ball. For as much ignoring as we can do, sometimes we absorb negativity and start doubting our own self-worth. This is when you have to be a rubber ball and make it bounce off of you. If you’re working hard and doing the right thing, do not allow that negativity in; trust your value.
  • Carve out your roads. Toxic people cling to those who they believe lack direction and focus. If you create a clear path to your goals and vision, then there is no time to stop and allow naysayers to veer you off the road.

When in doubt, just keep putting positivity into the world. The right people will always be in your corner and the negative ones will run from your light.

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The Chemistry and Creation of a Facial Bar Soap

The Chemistry and Creation of a Facial Bar Soap

Our faces are the first introduction we have to the world. Before people look at anything else, they look to our faces. Our faces offer a vast array of information: Our age, our disposition, our mood, our history. Because of how much is attributed to our faces, it’s clear why we need to take extra-special care of how our face appears.

Understanding the psychology behind the face was the first step to planning the recipe for our latest bar soap. The second step is understanding the chemistry.

The ingredients: Aloe Vera Juice, Olive Oil, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Organic Argan Oil, Dead Sea Mud, Activated Coconut Charcoal, Lavender Essential Oil, Geranium Essential Oil.

Aloe Vera Juice – I chose this ingredient because of the long-standing understood moisturizing properties of the aloe vera plant. I used this juice in lieu of the water that normally goes into a bar soap.

Olive Oil – Olive oil is one of the most moisturizing oils that can be used in cold-process soap. It produces a bar rich in essential fatty acids which creates a creamy feeling and skin-softening properties.

Cocoa Butter – Cocoa butter creates a strong, solid bar of soap while also contributing to great moisture. Used for centuries, cocoa butter is known to soften the skin.

Coconut Oil – In cold-process soap, 76-degree coconut oil creates big, fluffy bubbles while also contributing to the hardness of the bar and natural cleansing properties. While the other ingredients create great moisture, coconut oil ensures that the bar soap is also washing away impurities.

Castor Oil – Castor oil makes amazing fluffy lather in soap. Though in its natural form, castor oil is thick and sticky, in bar soap, it makes an extraordinary lather which helps with cleansing and moisturizing.

Organic Argan Oil – This exotic, rich oil is chock-full of nourishing properties for the face. It’s naturally rich in vitamin E and essential fatty acids which help soften and moisturize the skin without any greasy feeling. Argan oil is liquid skin gold (which is why we also use it in Evanescence.)

Dead Sea Mud – According to WellGal, “Dead sea mud is high in minerals, such as sodium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium, so it nourishes the skin. It also naturally softens and moisturizes, so it dramatically improves the appearance and health of your skin leaving it more tone, even in texture, and clearer.”

Activated Coconut Charcoal – This type of charcoal is different from regular charcoal. Triple-purified activated coconut charcoal is pH neutral and it bolsters the same effect in cold-process soap, helping to balance the pH of the skin. Its gentle exfoliating properties help to sludge off excess dirt, clear pores, and dead skin cells.

Lavender Essential Oil – Is there anything lavender essential oil can’t do? Seriously, lavender is the most versatile essential oil because it smells beautiful, is great for skin toning, and creates a calming feeling.

Geranium Essential Oil – Geranium EO is said to also create a mood-elevating feeling from the uplifting fragrance. A little lighter than rose, geranium is flowery without being overwhelming and has a slightly greener scent. It’s also said to have astringent-like properties, which should create a more youthful, toned skin appearance.

This new facial bar of soap will be ready in the beginning of May 2017. We can’t wait to offer this amazing face-loving bar to add to your beauty routine!

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(Watch a Facebook Live of me creating this amazing bar soap.)

 

 

 

 

Bring Spring into Your Home and Spirit

Bring Spring into Your Home and Spirit

The calendar says it’s spring today. The heaping mounds of snow sitting outside my window demonstrate differently, but I won’t let that stop me from letting spring into my soul.

By birth, I am a winter baby, but I absolutely hate the cold, dreary days of winter. Nothing brings me greater joy than to sit out on my front porch with a favorite book, a tall glass of ice-cold unsweetened lemon tea, and of course, my Don’t Bug Me spray.  But until the weather decides to catch up with the calendar, I have to bring spring into my home and spirit.

Bringing Spring into Your Home

The first spring steps I take are a little cliche, but it truly helps me to find peace and sanctity: Spring Cleaning. Frank and I go through all of our closets and fill up bags of clothes to donate to our local veterans association.

We do a deep clean of all the nooks and crannies of the house – you know, the parts that go ignored (for us, that’s behind the fridge and the coat closet). We always find an inordinate amount of plastic bags stuffed in the coat closet and we make it our point to repurpose them. We use them as shipping stuffing, a way to store our gloves and hats, whatever we can figure out, but we never throw them into the garbage.

I clean up all of our winter candles and store them away, then bring out the spring candles! My personal spring favorites are Weekend Getaway and After the Rain. I love evoking the scents of freshness and renewal for spring, and those two particular candles remind me of some of my favorite moments.

I try to start changing my diet. With the warmer weather, some of my favorite fruits and vegetables come back into season. I do my best to buy farm-fresh and locally-sourced produce, so I take advantage of this time to stock up on what’s in season.

Bring Spring into Your Spirit

Spring is a time for renewal, so instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I look at this time of year as the time when I actually make commitments to betterment. This year’s goal is to make time for a walk every day. What I’ve learned is to not make lofty goals that I can’t commit to (like five miles a day), but once this snow melts, I will absolutely get out there and walk, especially through nature.

Since I teach English, I am always immersed in books, but they’re usually books I’ve read before but rereading to gain a better perspective on teaching. This spring, why not join me in picking up any book for pure enjoyment? I especially love series because this allows me to get completely enraptured into a new universe and commit myself to characters – I’m open to suggestions!

I like to change up the fragrances of my soap for the spring, as well. What brings me true moments of spring joy are clean, bright scents, such as Balance, and soothing scents, like Cuddly Blankets.

Spring as a State of Mind

In whatever way you choose to embrace and celebrate spring, remember it’s all about your state of mind. That means releasing negative energy, waking up each day with a positive outlook, and reminding yourself to find gratitude. Let go of what you cannot control and work to make small positive changes every day.

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Take a Moment to Slow Down

Take a Moment to Slow Down

I work two full-time jobs and one part-time job. For most of my life, I have thrived on deadlines and pressure. I unintentionally built my reputation around my ability to get-the-job-done. When someone wanted it done precisely and fast, I was called in. I took great pride in this acknowledgment but after nearly twenty years of this pressure, I learned one major lesson: You need to slow it down.

In 2011, I went on a two-week exchange with my students to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia. As I was running around trying to keep itineraries, passports, visas, and everything else organized, I stopped into a Starbucks for a cup of coffee to grab and go. There were no to-go cups. I was initially annoyed, but I looked around and noticed people sipping their coffee and chatting; only one person had a laptop and a few were just reading. Having a cup of coffee in Moscow is not a jolt to get you rushing through your day, it’s a way to bond with your friends or to meditate.

When did we all get so busy? Between work, school, families, and everything in between, it’s easy, but isn’t it a tad ironic that the technologies of today that have made multi-tasking so much easier have somehow made us so much busier? I have to set a reminder on my phone to remind me to slow it down.

What’s key about taking a moment to slow down extends far beyond the physical benefits of reducing stress into mental well-being. As I started to learn to manage my time better, I started adopting new mantras. After a large event, instead of allowing the stress of all the minor issues to overwhelm me, I would simply laugh: “Hey, nobody died.” Success. Before beginning an overflowing to-do list, I ask myself: “What will explode if I don’t get this done today?” Granted, my mantras are a bit maudlin, but you get the point: it’s all about perspective.

There are simple changes you can make in your life to take a moment to slow down. Here are a few ideas to start with:

  • Take your lunch break. It’s included in your day for a moment of respite. Relaxed and rested workers are more effective. You will be better if you give yourself these 30-60 minutes just to eat your lunch.
  • Pick a time to log-off. This means everything from email to social media. Only answer your phone if you have to. Unwind by shutting down.
  • If possible, try walking to work. If not, park a little farther or get off the bus/train a stop earlier and use that walk as some time for just you and your mind.
  • Take an actual coffee break. Follow suit with the Europeans and go sip your coffee in a real mug in a coffee shop.
  • Set a real bedtime and stick to it.
  • Skip out on some activities that feel more like obligations. Saying no is slowing down.

What are some suggestions you have to rest easy and take a moment to slow down?

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Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Short List of Influential Women

March is Women’s History Month and I am especially proud to celebrate this month as a woman entrepreneur. Women have made incredible strides over the course of history, despite the continuous influence of global misogyny and patriarchy. Fighting our way to every career path, showing our strength, intellect, and fortitude, we have not allowed stereotypes to make us culpable. As William Shakespeare (one of my favorite feminists) writes in Much Ado About Nothing, women continue to “have patience and endure.” Yes, we endure because we

Yes, we endure because we have always needed to. We are resilient. I am constantly in awe of the women around me, but that is for a different post in this series of celebrating women. Today’s post is going to focus on women in history who have influenced my growth and perception of women. A list, in no particular order:

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Medusa – While Medusa is a Greek mythological character, I cannot think of a greater example of historical misogyny and misrepresentation. Medusa was originally one of Athena’s virginal high priestesses, blessed with incredible beauty. Poseidon was enamored with her beauty and though Medusa took her virginal vow to Athena, Poseidon raped her anyway, disregarding Medusa’s vow and Athena’s “ownership” of Medusa (Medusa was not a slave; she was a priestess by choice). Athena was incredibly jealous after the rape and punished Medusa by turning her into the monster everyone understands as the Gorgon. Forced into isolation, Medusa was unable to control her ability to turn people to stone as she traveled to isolate herself. Raped because of her beauty, punished for her rape, isolated for her punishment, Medusa is one of the most misunderstood women in (mythological) history.

Henrietta Lacks – Thanks to the incredible scientific memoir by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksI was able to learn about the invaluable contribution of Henrietta Lacks to the modern scientific community. Now known as the HeLa Cell, Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells were the only known human cells the actually live and duplicate outside of the human body, allowing for the creation of numerous vaccines and the unveiling of disease. Though she never lived to see her gifts to modern science, she will, as Skloot beautifully phrases it, forever be immortalized through her undying cells.

 

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Image from Amazon.com

 

Billie Holiday – Known for her haunting voice and contribution to the blues, Billie Holiday stands out as an influential woman far more than her gifts to music. She was also a fierce advocate for Black rights, singing the ever-famous song, “Strange Fruit,” which highlights the pain and degradation of the lynchings of the Jim Crow era of a vicious country who refused to accept Civil Rights. Her advocacy came from her personal pain, as her father was hit by a car and left dying in the street because he was a Black man. While she struggled, and eventually could not overcome her own demons, the power of her music and the lyrics still transcend time.

 

 

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Image from Biography.com

J.K. Rowling – The phenomenal author of the Harry Potter series is one of the greatest stories of following your dreams. Always wanting to be an author, and struggling financially, Rowling sold the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, for a meager advance of $3,000 after numerous rejections. Well, as we all know now, there is faith in following your heart, dreams, and literature, as Harry Potter is not only a common household name, but taught in universities worldwide.

This list is truly meager compared to the number of women in history who have influenced me, and I almost feel selfish for needing to publish this post without mentioning at least a few more: Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, Bessie Smith, and Marie Curie. It’s not about politics, but about fervor, dedication, and refusal to allow the stereotype to hold them down.  Cheers to women!

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A Mantra Moment: You Are Enough

A Mantra Moment: You Are Enough

I sincerely believe the universe listens to us. Whether this intervention is cosmic or divine, maybe both, I don’t know, but over time, I have realized that somehow we are given the right messages at the exact moments we need them if we just listen.

In the last week, the mantra “You Are Enough” happened to arise from two of my favorite bloggers. Donna DeRosa wrote about it in her recent blog, “A Love Letter to You,” and Dr. Sharon McLaughlin launched a new motivational workout line through her Healthstreet Journal blog which shared the same sentiment.

When I initially thought about the idea, I honestly just dismissed it as a nice motivational concept. “You Are Enough,” I thought, what a great way to get people to feel good about complacency…but Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones” continued to resonate in my mind: “That’s just not the way the world is, baby.” You Are Enough could never apply to me.

I am never enough. I am always just too fat, just short of a real promotion, missing one great moment to create a deep friendship, a few sales behind being profitable; I am always one broken something behind stasis. I push, I strive, I try, but I am never enough. Yet, what a beautiful mantra it is, I still thought.

Then, as I was driving home tonight, staring at the bright lights of my beautiful big New York City, one of my favorite songs pops on my playlist, “Live Like a Warrior” by Matisyahu. There’s one particular line in that song which deeply resonates with me. He says, “Today live like you wanna, let yesterday burn and throw it in a fire – live like a warrior.”

In ancient Greek mythology, the Phoenix is a fire bird which lives for an indeterminate number of years until it has fulfilled its purpose, and once it has, it burns itself up in a fire, and from its own ashes, it is reborn. The Phoenix understands that it is enough. That we must throw the mistakes of our yesterdays into a fire to be reborn.

I realized today that You Are Enough is I Am Enough because I was misunderstanding the purpose of the concept all along. It’s not about achieving stasis. It’s about accepting and respecting our climb. And the line I had forgotten in Paul Simon’s “Hearts and Bones” is “Why won’t you love me for who I am, where I am?” You see, You Are Enough is us appreciating who and what we are right here and right now.

And you know what, you are enough, and so am I.

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