What have you been doing to take care of yourself this summer? Whether the kids are home or work is in full swing (or both), it’s important to take time for yourself!
This doesn’t have to take long or cost a lot of money. Some self-care techniques only take five minutes are completely free. While it’s nice to take vacations or do spa days, these little things may be more practical.
So, take time now to look at our biggest tips for taking care of yourself, and make a plan for your summer!
Grounding is bringing your awareness to the present moment. This is done through awareness of your body and surroundings. Since most of our worry is about things in the past or things yet to come, this is extremely helpful in dealing with stress.
Simply closing your eyes and paying attention to your breath brings you back to the present moment. Intentionally looking at things in your surroundings or noticing sensory input can be effective as well. The key is the intention and awareness of the action.
For more directed grounding exercise check out the following.
Meaningful social connections are good for your mental and physical health. Positive connections lead to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is often referred to as co-regulation of the nervous system.
So, connect with a friend...
- in person if you are able
- with a video call so you can be face-to-face.
- through a phone call.
- by email and text.
And remember to set some time aside for the people you have in your home. Having a meal together, playing a quick game, reading a chapter of a book together, or going for a walk in the evening can be a great way to connect.
Something you can do to take care of yourself in these connections is having healthy boundaries.
Oftentimes we do not consider what is best for us, simply going along with what others ask of us. This can leave us with little margin; overscheduled and overwhelmed. It can also lead to resentment.
It is important to consider what we are willing to give; financially, physically, and even emotionally. After doing so, many of us will find that we need to learn how to say “no” to others without feeling guilty as well.
Handling Chronic Stress
Reframing the way we perceive stress is another valuable tool in reducing the impact of chronic stress. Shifting your perspective is not an easy thing to do, but it is often possible. This may look like taking the long view of a situation, asking yourself if the thing causing you stress will even matter in five years.
It may mean accepting things the way they are. Acceptance can be extremely difficult, but it can also be a really valuable tool for handling stress you cannot change. Once we recognize the stress is here to stay (at least for a while), we can stop fighting against it. This may involve grieving the fact that things aren't the way you'd prefer, but over time this process can lower stress levels.
You can also try using the techniques found here.
Feeling gratitude is actually good for our brains. It activates the hypothalamus and floods our brains with the feel-good hormone dopamine. Studies have found it decreases the prominent stress hormone cortisol. It also decreases blood pressure, while increasing heart rate variability.
By placing our attention on things that bring us pleasure we can cultivate gratitude in an authentic way.
For more ideas on gratitude check out Creating a Gratitude Practice.
Acknowledging Our Difficult Emotions
The summer can add a level of stress and anxiety, or even frustration that it’s not as you hoped it would be. Whatever emotions you are experiencing, there is a reason you feel the way you do.
Pushing these difficult emotions aside can have a negative effect on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It is important to allow yourself to lean into these painful emotions and accept them without judgment.
Difficult emotions tend to come like a wave. Let them wash over you and then pass on. Resisting them does not tend to be an effective way to handle these types of emotions and can often make them last longer.
The key is learning to lean into these emotions to the extent you are able to without it dysregulating your nervous system. If you find the intensity of the emotions is too much or you stay in these difficult emotions too long, you may want to reach out to a professional for some support.
Choosing things that are life-giving and enjoyable for you is the most important part of self-care. There is no right or wrong; what works for one person may not work for you. Let us know what you are doing for self-care this summer!
You probably know that sleep is important for your physical and emotional health, but how do you know if you are getting enough sleep?
Traditional advice is to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but since every body is unique it can be a little more complicated than that.
Let’s explore how to get enough sleep for your body, as well as how to make sure that you get good quality sleep each night.
A Quick Reminder
Many people promote good sleep hygiene and we will focus on that below, but no amount of sleep hygiene will help if you don’t allow enough time for sleep!
Researchers took a group of people, put them in a stimulus free room for 14-24 hours a day, and monitored their sleep. There were no clocks, so subjects didn’t know when they were going to bed or waking up.
The first couple days of the study, sleep times averaged 12-20 hours per night! This seems to indicate that many of the subjects were sleep deprived going into the study and their bodies needed to catch up from chronic lack of sleep.
Over a few days, the participants' sleep began to average approximately 8 hours a night with some sleeping more and some sleeping less.
How Much Sleep Is Right for Me?
Since everyone’s body is different, let’s look into how you can determine how much sleep your body needs? Reaction times are slower when you are sleep deprived so the following experiment gives you a good picture of whether or not you are getting enough sleep.
First, pay attention to when you typically go to sleep, and the time that you typically wake up naturally, ideally without having to use an alarm clock. Each morning at the same time after waking up, take the reaction time test here.
On the 4th day, move your bedtime up by 30 minutes. Continue with that amount of sleep for 3 days, checking your reaction time each morning. Notice if your score is significantly different with more sleep. Pay attention to how you feel throughout the day. How is your energy level? Is your mental functioning better?
After a few days, repeat the process by moving your bedtime up another 30 minutes. Continue to repeat these steps until you find a bedtime which seems ideal for you based on your reaction times and how you feel.
Once you know how much sleep you need, it is time to move on increasing the quality of your sleep. This is commonly affected by “good sleep hygiene.” Sleep hygiene focuses on what you can do throughout the day and at night to positively impact your sleep. Let’s look at a few of these things.
Exposure to Light - Circadian rhythm and the sleep/wake cycle is strongly affected by light. Most people think this means making sure your room is dark when you go to sleep and limiting blue light in the evening (screens, etc.), but there is more to it than that. Research has shown that getting bright light in the morning is the most important habit in getting a good night’s sleep. The morning light helps reset your circadian rhythm, setting you up for a good night’s sleep. If you are in an area that doesn’t have a lot of natural light in the morning you can use a light machine in replace of the sunshine. It won’t give you all the health benefits, but it is a good alternative when necessary.
Movement - Moving your body throughout the day is another important aspect of getting adequate sleep. In addition to exercise, it is important not to be sedentary throughout the day. Take the stairs, use a standing desk, take time to stretch, etc.
Evening Nutrition - Some people will sleep better with a lighter dinner and some people may find that a bedtime snack helps. Making sure your diet isn’t too low carb or low fat, can help as well. Dr. Kristen Allott recommends keeping a “lizard brain treat” by your bed at night. According to Allott, “A Lizard Brain Treat is a snack of sugar (a quick fuel) and protein (a longer lasting fuel). The quick fuel gets to your brain almost immediately, reducing the adrenaline, while the protein extends the amount of time you’re in your responsive cortex brain, before needing to re-fuel.” For ideas of what a lizard snack looks like, check out her website.
Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption - Having caffeine or alcohol can have a profound effect on sleep. Both of these interfere with your circadian rhythm. Limiting your coffee or soda, especially later in the day will help you sleep better at night, as will limiting your alcohol consumption through the day.
Stress - Learning some stress management techniques will help you handle the stress you are under and set you up for a good night’s sleep. Everyone de-stresses in a different way. Find out if deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or even getting together with friends helps you handle stress in a healthy way. Effectively handling your stress will be crucial when trying to get good sleep.
Environment - Most people think about the atmosphere in their bedroom when they think of sleep hygiene. While it isn’t the only piece, it certainly is an important one. Get a comfortable bed which is used only for sleep and sex. Control the temperature of the room (often a cool temperature is best). And monitor the noise level. Do you prefer soft noise, or do you sleep better in silence?
Do you need to work on the quantity or quality of your sleep? Making small changes is typically the best way to establish new habits. It may seem like making these small changes won’t make a difference, but some improvement is better than nothing. Your mind and body deserve to feel great, so let me know what you try and how it works for you!
Let me introduce you to A Dirty Hoe, one of my favorite places to get toxin-free products locally!
Denise and Sandy from A Dirty Hoe consider themselves mediocre homesteaders. They have chickens, bees, a butterfly garden, fruit trees, vegetables, and maple trees to tap for syrup! They make their own kombucha and yogurt, but what I love the most are their many products for the body and home.
It is hard to find products that are natural and work well, let alone ones that are local. So, I was thrilled to experience the quality of these products. In fact, I liked them so much that we decided to carry them at the office.
Let me tell you some more about them and share some of my favorite products!
Why Natural Products?
A Dirty Hoe recognizes that your skin absorbs everything you put on it. Just reading a lotion bottle or researching what is in your laundry detergent can be shocking. Knowing exactly what you put on your skin and recognizing all the ingredients is really important.
Keeping their ingredients clean is a commitment they have made. Their botanicals are all raised in their yard which are not sprayed with any pesticides or herbicides.
Some ingredients, such as Shea or cocoa butter and essential oils are not certified organic. But this decision was made consciously, recognizing it’s not worth charging more when even organic ingredients are allowed to have chemicals in them. Instead they focus on avoiding preservatives, dyes, phthalates, and other endocrine disruptors.
My Favorite Products
- Laundry Detergent - Your skin is your largest organ and even absorbs the chemicals left on your clothes. A Dirty Hoe makes an all-natural, non-toxic laundry detergent to help keep your body chemical free! This gentle effective detergent uses essential oils for an all-natural scent.
Read more ...
With summer in full swing, it’s important to think about hydration. Getting eight glasses of water a day is the conventional advice, but is it really that simple? Is there another way to look at it?
In their book Quench, authors Cohen and Bria explain that “for many years, we’ve operated with the assumption that the path to hydration was drinking eight glasses of water daily—the picture is actually much more complex.”
Let’s explore what they have to say and see if there is a way to work smarter rather than harder when working on our hydration.
Gina Bria, an anthropologist that studied desert cultures which survived with very little water, got a call from her mother’s care facility. They told her that her mother was suffering from chronic dehydration.
Concerned, Bria decided to delve into her research to see if there was anything that she could learn from the desert cultures to help her mom.
Bria knew that the Tarahumara people of Mexico used chia seeds to aid in hydration. So, she used her coffee grinder to turn some chia seeds into powder, instructing her mother’s caregiver to add it to her mom’s orange juice each morning.
That did the trick, and her mom did not have any more issues with chronic dehydration. After this experience Bria decided to research a form of hydration known as “gel water.”
What Is Gel Water?
In Quench, Cohen and Bria describe gel water, or living water, as a “newly identified phase of water that’s not quite liquid, vapor, or ice. (It is) identified by an extra hydrogen and oxygen atom, so the molecular structure is H3O2.” Gel water exists in plants and can be found in fruits, vegetables, and seeds.
Chia and cacti are full of gel water. In fact, the Aztecs and Incas are thought to have often subsisted on only chia and cacti, actually going weeks without water. This shows how hydrating gel water can actually be.
Read more ...
Summer’s here and the kids are out of school - think parks, picnics, and the pool. But is it all sunshine?
While summer can be the highlight of a kid's year, for parents it can have its challenges. As summer wears on we begin to hear, “I’m bored.” We may even start to countdown the days until school begins again.
But there are some things we can do as parents to set our kids up for a great, creative, and active summer.
Part of the magic of summer happens when we let the kids play without a plan or direction from adults. There is so much to learn while playing uninterrupted. And remember, being bored isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Include Time for Unstructured Play
Let the kids have plenty of free and unstructured play! Many of us spent nearly our entire summer outside playing with friends in the neighborhood. We were responsible for our own fun, and we learned so much through it!
Unstructured play gives children the opportunity to explore their own interests, while developing creativity, and independence. When playing with friends outside, they learn to negotiate and cooperate with others, while often being quite active.
According to Angela Hanscom, author of Balanced and Barefoot, “It is during free play, where children move and challenge their bodies in new ways, constantly testing their limits and getting to the next developmental level. When we take away their time for free play and replace this time with adult-directed exercise, it limits the type of movement experiences these children receive”.
On their own, children are required to develop skills such as compromise, communication, and conflict resolution. Without adults solving their problems, children are forced to work things out on their own. Sure there will be days that someone quits a game and goes home upset, but over time left on their own kids can develop the skills to handle these situations.
This is not to say that adults should never get involved. Obviously little children need to be supervised, but the adults can step back and give them a little room rather than being involved every moment of the time. Some children struggle with social skills and might need a little more direction; this can be true with some older children. And it goes without saying that interference is necessary if there is a true danger to someone's physical or emotional safety.
Read more ...
With the beautiful days of spring and summer ahead of us it’s time to get outside!
Enjoying the weather can naturally lead us to be more physically active, which is good for both our minds and our bodies. Let’s intentionally embrace these opportunities and find pleasure in our movement.
There are ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily life to make it fun, so that it doesn’t feel like work. With so many amazing places to explore, physical activity doesn’t need to be repetitive, boring, or expensive.
Let’s look at some ways to make this a great, active summer!
Incorporate Physical Activity into Your Everyday Life
If you live a busy life and struggle to find time to be active, try to incorporate it into your daily life. You don’t need to set time aside for a long workout when you move throughout the day. Try a few of the following examples this week.
- Choose a parking spot far away from the building when out and about.
- Walk or bike places if possible when running errands, getting together with friends, etc.
- Carry your child or give them a piggy back ride to the car, the lunch table, or bedtime.
- Race up and down the stairs in between other less active pursuits.
- Take the stairs, rather than the elevator.
- Chop your vegetables, instead of using a food processor.
- Talk and walk when getting together with a friend, having a meeting with a coworker, or when taking phone calls.
- Establish the habit of taking an after dinner walk.
Make It Fun
Movement doesn’t have to be hard. Ideally, you should feel energized after physical activity. While you may be a little sore or tired, it should not be something that completely wipes you out or causes you true pain.
Finding movement that you really enjoy will help you to move more consistently. If you find something that is fun you will do it more often. Movement should never turn into something you dread!
First, think about your personality and current needs.
- Do you need some time alone?
- Would you prefer some company?
- Do you need to start small?
- Are you ready for something more intense?
Read more ...