Mindfulness 101 // First Aid for the Mind

Hi hi!

There is a side to me, a huge side, that I don’t discuss very often but I think now might be a great time to re-introduce that I am a school psychologist. Many of you may be wondering wtf a school psychologist is and basically, I provide school based psychological services to students in grades K-12. I do a little bit of counseling, some consultation with teachers, and also a lot of psychological assessment (IQ tests, Achievement tests.. etc etc). Through my job, I have been afforded the opportunity to learn about a variety of counseling techniques and practices. None, though, have impacted me as much as the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness has impacted my work life, my students, and my personal life. It is the one thing I have learned about that I feel like is 100% useful to 100% of the people I talk to about it. It is really. freaking. cool.

Okay, so a few weeks ago, a girlfriend of mine was talking to me about how stressed and anxious she had become in the last year or so. In her defense, she is a married mom of two children under the age of three. If I were in her shoes, as I know many of you are, I probably would have curled up in a ball and cried like 409038398 times a week. While I look forward to having kids, the thought of keeping the kids alive and healthy is really daunting and scary. Anyway, my friend explained that the anxiety she was feeling over the tiniest of things was becoming debilitating and she had sadness because she was worried that how she was behaving was going to affect the relationships in her life. As she was explaining this to me, my first thought was MINDFULNESS! Then a few weeks later, a friend of mine and MJ’s talked to me about some work stress going on in her life and she wanted to know how to deal. Again, Mindfulness! I figured these ladies cannot be the only ones feeling overwhelmed and so I thought I could give you all a rundown of what Mindfulness is and how it can help everyone. I’ve linked some websites below if you want to learn more on your own. As always, feel free to ask me any questions at all. I love talking about this stuff 🙂

The long and short of it is – Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique –that’s the first thing that pops up in google when you type in “what is mindfulness” . I could not have said it better myself. For me, Mindfulness is accepting the thoughts and feelings that I have without judgement. The bigger idea being that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in any given moment. YOU are NOT your thoughts or feelings. Thoughts and feelings change but you will always remain yourself. Does this sound crazy? I hope not. For me, being more aware of how I feel about even the tiniest things, helps me handle the big messes in my life.

When I am feeling totally insane, I try to take a moment, wherever I am, to just close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I don’t do “deep” breathing or “try” to breathe, I just pay attention to my how I am currently breathing. I notice that my belly gets bigger as I breathe in. Sometimes I will place my hand on my chest and just close my eyes… but essentially, I’m just noticing my breath and letting it be. Since I am also focusing on being “mindful”, I will spend a few moments listening to the sounds around me, paying attention to how my body feels, and also note any smells or other sensations I notice. Thinking about my surroundings for a few minutes helps me clear my mind of all things stressful. It’s really easy. Try it.

Something else I do when I’m feeling like a psycho is to try and systematically relax my muscles. You can do this anywhere, without anyone knowing. For example, while sitting at your desk, you can close your eyes and begin to tighten and relax groups of muscles. I like to start at my toes and work my way up. You would curl your toes, hold it, and then relax your toes, clench your calf muscles for a moment, then relax. Do this, working your way up your body, until your holding your eyes tightly and then opening, hopefully feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day again. I do this at night sometimes to try and help me sleep. Sometimes I think I am totally relaxed and then I find that I am tensing my back muscles. I have to think really hard about relaxing those muscles and then it’s funny, I sink another inch or so into the bed. Try it.

When I would lead counseling groups based on Mindfulness, we would do a lot of exercises to help people become “one” with their thoughts. My favorite activity, and one that I feel like could immediately affect your day-to-day life, is being mindful while eating. The exercise we practiced with our students was to have them close their eyes while we fed them different foods. The students were instructed to truly take notice of how the food smelled, tasted, and felt. Taking away their site made them focus on the details we sometimes take for granted. It was a really fun exercise that I try to practice daily. With each bite of food, I try to be mindful of every feeling, taste, and smell. When I am being very mindful of my food, I eat less and feel more satisfied. I feel, at the end of the meal, that I have truly appreciated what I was eating instead of just feeling like “I ate because I had to.” I mean think about it, how many times a day do we just throw stuff into our mouths without even really appreciating it? 

I encourage you all to try this for the next week or so. It is easier if you can try it first when you’re by yourself. For me, that’s usually lunch. Let me know how it goes! If you’re interested in more ways to be more mindful and centered, I would love to talk to you more about it in later posts.

Good luck 🙂 Remember, you ARE enough. Everything you are doing in this moment is just right.

Six Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today

Breathing Exercise

The Bigger Person

I recently ran into an old friend turned enemy. The encounter was unbelievably awkward. While we were cordial to one another and it was not an unpleasant interaction, I was left flooded with old feelings that just reminded me why I stopped liking this person and why I no longer wanted to be her friend. I struggle with feelings like this because, well, I’m a collector of friends. Did you know that? I am good friends with just about every person I have ever called my “best” friend… with the exception of only this person. While I don’t make new friends often, when I do make friends, I make them for life. It is incredibly difficult for me to include people in my life and when I do, I expect them to be there for the long haul. It was hard for me to accept that fool’s gold exists.

Why am I writing this? Because…ew. Seriously. I wanted to write this because there are people in our past who we hope will never grace our present….or our future. The word “ew” is honestly all I can think of to describe the situation and I know we all have been there. For me, it’s this ex friend. For you, it might be an ex boyfriend. Whoever the vile person may be, they can tend to have a certain power over us and my interaction with this Holy Horror has made me reflect on what I did to move on after the toxic relationship. We all have our ways of healing, but I thought I’d share some tips that helped me move on from this gross relationship and many others too.

Tip #1 -Don’t stay in touch

For realsies! Block the person on all social media, unfriend them…whatever you have to do. Do it! It’s NOT mean. It IS cleansing. Blocking the asshole will help you resist the urge to contact them in the future. Delete their phone number too. Duh!

Tip #2 – Connect with positive people

I mentioned that I collect friends above. The one common all of my friends throughout the years have, is that they are an incredible positive influence in my life. I may not be equally close with all of my friends at any given time, but I know that I can reach out to them for positive and healthy advice just about any time. The Girl mentioned above, She was NOT that person for me. Realizing that just about everyone else in my life is a ray of hope and beacon of light compared to Her, really helped me move on. Why did I want to be around that Crazy in the first place??? Ugh. Your real friends will build you up and celebrate your successes. They will never bring you down. Remember that.

Tip #3 – Reflect on your role in the nasty relationship

This step is really difficult but very important. When I go through tough times, I like to journal by hand. Yup! Old school handwriting for me. The reason I like to hand write things is because when I type I have a tendency to have word vomit because I can type so fast. When I hand write things I am more mindful and reflective. In my friendship with the Enemy, I was so enabling. I allowed this Girl to treat others horribly and I never told Her how uncomfortable it made me. For instance, we were in Miami once and She got us kicked out of a cab because She was so unbelievably rude. I have never been kicked out of anywhere, let alone for being rude. My friend Alix would always say to me, “You would never tolerate this behavior from anyone else, why does She get a pass?” The answer…. I was scared of Her. I knew how mean She could be and I didn’t want to be a part of Her mean streak. I was scared. Now, in relationships, I actively choose not to be friends with people who have a nasty side. I can honestly say that 99.9% of the people in my life are genuinely good people.

Tip #4 – Focus on the good that can come of it

In the heat of a breakup, be it a friend breakup or a lover breakup, it is difficult to focus on the good that can come form riding yourself of negative energy but it’s an imperative step to moving forward in your life. When I cut the Crazy out of my life, I was able to get very close with my cousin and she and I became inseparable for many many years. Without cutting ties from the other girl, I don’t think I would have been able to forge such a strong bond with my cousin. After getting rid of Nut Job, I was able to create thousands of amazing memories with others.

Tip #5 – Time heals all wounds

For years, when I would hear Her name, my heart would jump and I’d feel uncomfortable. I even had nightmares about seeing her in public and it being a big scene. I used to fantasize about all of the things I would say to Her if I did run into Her. It took awhile, but those feelings stopped over time and when we did run into each other, it wasn’t nearly as intense as imagined it to be. I still don’t like Her. I still think She is a horrible person. But ya know what? I was so confident when talking to Her because I have grown and changed in so many awesome ways since we were last friends. It was a really great feeling and ultimately, it gave me great closure. I walked away from our encounter and thought about how lucky I am that She is out of my life and that I have not chosen to have friends like Her ever since…and I never will.

Ultimately, I am thankful to the Crazy for teaching me the lesson that good people do not finish last. Surrounding myself with funny, caring, smart, and loving people has made my life so much more fulfilling and I have Crazy to thank for that.

If you’re in a bad relationship, remember that you are worth so much. You deserve people in your life that will build you up and never break you down. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to break ties with an asshole, I hope my tips will help you get through it. I know it is hard but I also know you can get through it and be stronger and happier for it.

Good luck 🙂 xo

 

 

Allergies Be Damned Part II

Hello again! If you read my last allergy related post then you know I was knocking on deaths door (sarcasm) with the worst allergy attack of life the other day. My nose was a faucet, I could not stop sneezing, and my eyes look like I had done like 12 lines of coke and lived to talk about it. Horrible. In my original Allergies Be Damned post, I talked about things to do to help you WHILE you’re having an allergy attack but now that my misery has passed, I thought I would share some tips on things you might need to do AFTER the attack has run dormant.

For me, I can’t stand the feeling of a runny nose so while my allergies are going nuts, I am blowing my nose like crazy. As a result, after it has all calmed down, my nose is bright ass red and raw. It’s horrible. It ends up feeling like a sun burn and eventually peels. Yup…my nostrils will peel. I can’t be alone in this. Right? Okay, so when my nose peels and gets all dry and gross, I HATE wearing makeup because my foundation just clings to the dry patches and it looks horrendous. I can’t always avoid wearing makeup though, for instance, after my last attack, I had a wedding to attend that weekend. BLAH! Anyway, I’m rambling…but the bottom line is, I know that peeling will happen so I try to prevent it as best I can by of course using tissues with lotion infused while I am in the middle of the attack. Right after things have calmed down, I use all types of calming face products and heavy moisturizers. At night I will gently wash my face with a cleansing balm (see here for some of my favorites) and I am careful not to scrub my nose area at all. Following my cleansing routine, I slather on something like Skinceuticals Epidermal Repair cream. This cream is amazing as it nourishes the skin and helps with redness. It is really think and creamy so a little bit goes a long way. Use this cream anytime you do a heavy exfoliation or when you feel like you maybe overdid it in the sun or something. I then carefully will do the rest of my skincare routine without touching my nose area. I avoid all alcohols or anything else that could sting or irritate my skin. At this point it is all about cozy cuddles to the skin that is irritated. I have also used my Bobbi Brown Extra Eye Repair on the area too because that is such a thick cream that I find it lasts a really long time and the flakiness dies down faster while using something really moisturizing.

When my allergies act up I also end up with bags under my eyes and puffiness in that area. I HATE bags under my eyes… it is so aging and unattractive. At night time, I will use an eye mask like the skyn ICELAND Hyro Cool Eye Gels. These are so great because they are cooling which really helps with puffiness. They also stick on really well so I don’t feel like I need to lay down while I have them on. Life can resume. After that, I slather on a thick eye cream (like the Bobbi Brown one above) just to soothe the area but in the morning I really tackle the bags first by chugging a shit ton of water. Allergies can leave us dehydrated and as I talked about in my Travel Skin Care post, dehydration leads to big time puffiness. Before applying any makeup, I use a depuffing eye gel like the Benefit Puff Off one since it has the metal cooling thingie at the tip. It will help keep the puff down a bit throughout the day.

Eye redness got you down??? I feel you. My favorite eye drops for soothing redness post allergy apocalypse are the Innoxa ones. They are hard to find but just google “blue eye drops” and you should find them rather quickly. These are only to be used on rare occasion. Did you know that if you use eye drops meant to reduce eye redness regularly, that your eye can build up a defense against them and cause even WORSE redness?! BAH! I honestly use these in emergencies only. Visine also has a good redness reducer one but the Innoxa ones are definitely best.

I mentioned in my last allergy post that I use the Neti Pot when I am having issues with my sinuses and allergies. I continue to use the Pot for a few days after my attack just to make sure everything continues to flush out of my system. It has really helped keep things under control. Obviously, I also make sure I never skip my Flonase EVER AGAIN and then I might even add in taking Zyrtec to my routine for a little bit.

How have your allergies been??? The last few weeks I’ve been exhausted because my body is trying to stave off another attack so I am really hoping that whatever is causing the increase for me passes out of the environment quickly. I have an appointment with my asthma and allergy doctor next week. Dreading it because I am due for another round of allergy testing. WAHHH! Not excited at all. Wish me luck!!!! xo

Allergies Be Damned

I write this while I sit in misery because of my allergies. I have been able to stave off ALL of my allergy symptoms for over 6 months now but I got a little lax with my “anti allergy” regime and they have attacked me with a vengeance today. Do you suffer from allergies too? How do you deal?

What I like to do is focus on prevention since it is SO hard to treat allergy symptoms once they have appeared. For me, the best thing I’ve added to my war on allergies has been Flonase. Doctors tried to put me on a nasal spray for years and I thought it was dumb so I refused. Big mistake. Since Flonase has hit the shelves without needing a scrip, I have been addicted to it. I went from having 4-5 allergy attacks a month to ZERO. NONE. NADA. How crazy is that? Problem is, you have to stick to it every single day or you’ll go right back to the sniffles. That’s what I’m dealing with right now…. sniffles. My nose is RAW from having to blow it so often and I c.a.n.n.o.t stop sneezing! BAHHHH!

Anyway, I wanted to write about it because I know I’m not alone. Like I said. prevention is key, but if you effed up and forgot your meds, now what? Here are some of my favorite “Allergies Have Taken Me Hostage” feel better tricks.Allergies Be Damned

  1. Cozy tissues — when you your nose is running you can either snarf it all back up or blow it all out. I try my best to blow it all out.. is this tmi? oh well, Anyway, I have to blow my nose a lot when my allergies are awful so it is best to pick up the coziest and softest tissues of life, otherwise you’ll end up with a raw nose that will likely peel in the following days. My favorite tissues are Puffs Plus Lotion.
  2. Eye drops — one of the worst parts about having horrible allergies is that most people don’t understand how debilitating it is. I often tell my husband that I would rather have the flu than an allergy attack because at least people would understand how horrible I feel. Point being, an allergy attack rarely means that you can take the day off so you need to suck it up and go about your day. This is where great eye drops come into play. Dry, itchy, and red eyes are a common allergy symptom and my favorite eye drop to combat all of these issues is Zaditor Anihistamine Eye Drop. They are really refreshing and they don’t burn either! Woohoo!
  3. Caffeine — This might be something that only works for me, but once an allergy attack hits, one of the only things that makes me feel instantly better is some caffeine….I’m not sure why. Anyone else? Bueller?? My favorite way to get caffeine in a healthy way is through a nice cup of tea. My favorite tea of the moment is the Twinings English Breakfast Tea but for nighttime I cut the caffeine and really like Teavana Peach Tranquility. I also add a little honey because my allergies can make my throat dry and itchy too. Allergies are the worst!
  4. Essential Oils — Yes, I like to go the hippie route sometimes. Whenever my mom knows I’m having an allergy attack, she sends me essential oil recipes to whip up at home. I either apply the blends topically or diffuse them in the air. My favorite diffuser is the doTERRA Aroma Lite Diffuser and my favorite blend is Lemon, Peppermint, and Lavender. If you’re going to apply topically then be sure to use a carrier oil as essential oils are super potent but I trust that you’ll read up on them before messing with them.
  5. Neti Pot — That infomercial is LEGIT! No joke! Whenever I have sinus issues, related to my allergies or not, I bust out the good old Neti Pot and start draining the grossness away. I don’t understand the science behind it, but it freaking works. GET ONE!
  6. Common sense — Avoid your allergens like the plague and rest if you can. You’ll feel better if you’re able to take it easy. Let your significant other or mom dote on your for a second. If anyone questions how terrible an allergy attack is, punch them and then show them this article. Allergies blow.

Alright… I need to lay down. If you’re suffering today like I am, then let’s virtually hold hands and get through this together. All I know is, I will never skip a dose of Flonase again. xo

The End of My 24 Day Challenge

I wish blogs had sound effects.

Go ahead and put on the Rocky theme song in the background. It sure as hell is playing in my head right now. It would make the mood right. Go ahead and do it. Do it. Done? Okay, read on.

Let’s recap. Twenty five days ago I started the Advocare 24 Day Challenge. I have to admit, I did little to no research on the product before purchasing because it was just at that point for me. You know, that point where enough is enough?! I was there. I needed help structuring my diet and I needed it all to happen in a short time frame. Why? Because everything seems easier with an end in sight. Will I stop eating healthy now that this is over? Not a chance in hell. I am soooo committed to the clean eating band wagon again and I feel really comfy saying, I’m a changed freaking woman! Do I have Advocare to thank? I mean, kinda… thanks for giving me the jump start I needed, sure…but really, I have ME to thank. I committed to clean eating and with the exception of half of a slice of home made cheese pizza, I did not cheat once. NOTTA ONCE!

Go ahead and read this blog post and this blog post to get caught up on what the challenge is and also my Day 11 results.

So, how did I do? Overall, in 24 days, I lost 11 pounds and a total of 17 inches.

Here is a photo of my progress. Encouraging comments only as this was incredibly tough for me to post. I am posting these because I want to help others who may be in a similar boat, overweight and feeling yucky. The picture on the left is from Day 1 and the picture on the right is from this morning, Day 25. Comment all you want on how awesome my PJ pants are.

24 Day Challenge Results

How do I feel?! PUMPED and PROUD!

Tonight MJ and I are going to go see Jurassic World. I am SO excited. I am also going to have my first not so healthy meal in 25 days! We are going to go to Shake Shack before the movie but then will enjoy organic and butter free popcorn in the movie. I smuggle it into the theater in my purse. Judge away. What will I do tomorrow? Go right back to my goal of eating a whole foods plant based diet. In a few more weeks I may have another “treat” meal, but that’s okay because the next meal or snack will be back to delicious and clean food that nourishes my body. I am excited! Really, really excited! For the first time in my life I feel like I know how to eat and I appreciate my food so much more. I honestly feel like I will always love the taste of fresh strawberries over a Snickers bar any day. This is only the beginning my friends. 🙂 I told MJ this morning, both of the pictures above I consider to be “before” shots. I will keep on working hard and show you my progress again soon.

Questions you may have:

1) What did I eat? Did I ever feel deprived?

Click here, here, and here to see examples of what I ate during the challenge. As for deprivation, no! Sure, I wish pizza was healthy for me, but it’s not so instead of pizza, I filled myself with good foods and I didn’t worry about calories.

2) What parts of my body was I measuring?

I measured my waist at the belly button, hips at the fullest part, each thigh, my shoulders, my chest, my neck and each of my calves. I measured and weighed myself on Day 1, Day 11, and Day 25.

3) How many inches did I lose from each body part in the 24 days?

Hips: 2 inches lost
Waist: 5.5 inches lost
Thighs: 2 inches lost from left, 3 inches lost from right
Shoulders: 2 inches lost
Calves: .5 inches lost from left, 0 inches lost from right
Neck: 1 inch lost
Chest: 1 inch lost

**I really wish I would have measured my forearms and biceps as I can tell a big difference there as well. boo **

Total inches lost: 17

4) How many pounds did I lose in Days 1-10 *cleanse phase* compared to Days 11-24?

I lost 7 lbs during Days 1-10. I lost an additional 4 lbs during Days 11-24.

I worked out three times during Days 1-10 and only three times during Days 11-24. Time got away from me this past week so I have’t worked out in over 7 days now. Yuck.

5) Did I follow the Advocare plan perfectly?

Nope. When eating clean, I do not believe in calorie restricting on fruits/veggies. Other than that, yes, I did everything as I was supposed to.

On the internet you will find alternate versions of the 24 Day Challenge. Things that other people have made up to adapt the challenge to best fit their needs. I was added to a Advocare support group on Facebook that used some weird version of the challenge and they heavily restricted fruits. The whole thing was more complicated than it needed to be. I noticed that there was some bad information going on in the group. You need to do your own research before following the advice of randoms, including myself. Anyway, for example, everyone in the group was super pumped about finding Mrs. Dash’s taco seasoning in the grocery store. I almost chucked my phone when I saw the posts and excited comments. That stuff is NOT good for you. Its first two ingredients are yellow corn starch and maltodextrin. Maltodextrin has a high glycemic index (over double that of table sugar) which can spike blood sugar super fast. If there is nothing for the blood sugar to do, such as repair muscles or provide energy for exercise, it will be stored as fat. Not sure who is fueling up for exercise by eating tacos…so yeah. I was just so bothered that no one was talking about proper nutrition… it was just about finding easy replacements for foods they already loved. You can make good taco seasoning yourself without all the added crap.

They were also into PB2..the powdered, reduced calorie peanut butter. Read THIS article about why you should stick to the real stuff.

Bottom line: I followed what my body told me and I did not limit fruits or veggies. I also left that facebook group. My body told me to do so 🙂

6) Would I recommend the Advocare 24 Day Challenge to others?

Yes, if you’re not as concerned with processed sugar  (see question #8) as I am now and you need a kick in the ass like I did, then go for it! My advice would be to ignore the people out there who tell you to limit fruit. Eat clean, eat whole foods, and you’ll get healthier. It may take me longer to get to my healthy goal weight, but that’s okay as long as I never put the weight back on, ya know? If you don’t need a kick in the ass, then no, I wouldn’t recommend it. Just eat well and be active. It’s no secret.

7) Am I glad did the 24 Day Challenge?

Yes! I needed help and I got it. I am on the right path and things will only get better from here.

8) Will I continue to use their products?

My goal is to listen to my body and eat a clean, whole foods, plant based diet as often as possible. I won’t change overnight, and that’s a-okay because I was this to be a life long HEALTHY change. I know I won’t be using Advocare’s meal replacement shakes ever again. One of the top ingredients in the shake is crystalline fructose. Ugh. How is a company that is telling me to limit fruit, going to also tell me that it’s okay that their breakfast shake has sugar in it? Nope. Sugar from a whole fruit (apple, watermelon, etc) is always better than refined sugars. Always!

As for other products in the line, I haven’t decided yet. I really LOVE the Spark drink that everyone raves about. It has caffeine in it, about as much as a cup of coffee, but other than that, its ingredients are pretty okay. I always try to limit caffeine and was totally off of it for over a year. I don’t know guys, the jury is still out.

I also do not know if I will continue to use the supplements because before Advocare I was using vegan, non gmo supplements/vitamins/probiotics that worked just fine for me and I felt better knowing that the ingredients were organic, vegan, dairy free, yada yada yada hippie hippie hippie.

Alright, any other questions, let me know!! For those of you who liked my “What I ate…” posts, I plan to keep those up, so don’t be sad.

Have any of you tried Advocare? How did it go for you? For the rest of you, what is your healthy living trick? How do you stay healthy and active every day? I need tips for the long term 🙂