RSS Feed

Category Archives: Wellness

Posts on taking care of ourselves

Decluttering My Vanity…and My Life

Decluttering My Vanity…and My Life

So I thought I would kick off the new year by getting rid of things I have lying around that are seldom used and gathering dust. Makeup, clothes, home decor, and toys were making their way into the “donate” pile. This quickly became an exercise in self reflection.

At first I felt the urge to justify keeping things, thinking, “Oh I’m sure I’ll use this soon.”  But as my stack began to grow, the buzz of having more space and simplifying my home began to kick in.  Before I knew it, I was happily tossing things in. I began to feel more energized, and it occurred to me just how long it had been since I felt that way.

I realized that not only did I need to declutter my house, I needed to declutter my life.  It wasn’t just about “things” zapping my energy.  Unhealthy habits, relationships, and priorities can throw everything off kilter. They steal our time, energy, and quality of life. And just like justifying the keeping of unnecessary things, we legitimize those habits by saying, “It’s not that big of a deal.” We defend unhealthy relationships with family, friends, and partners, thinking, “It will get better.” We excuse skewed priorities with, “I’ll get to it later.” But later never comes.  Not that way.

Later is now. This moment is what we have to work with.  Maybe “it” is that big of a deal.  And how can things get better without correction?  Ask yourself honestly what (or who) needs to go, needs to change. Even if the one who needs to change is you. Change is scary, but what scares you more? Changing…or staying the same?

What will you “declutter?” Leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading.

Advertisements

Toxic Makeup Best & Worst: Urban decay review

Urban Decay's logo

Urban Decay’s logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello, Lovelies!  I’m back with another makeup brand review.  I previously reviewed E.L.F. Cosmetics (to read this review, click here).  This time we are looking at Urban Decay and spotlighting some of their best and worst health rated products.  As usual I use www.goodguide.com and www.ewg.org/skindeep to get these ratings.  Below I have listed current ratings as of this writing.  Don’t forget: product formulations are constantly changing so you may want to double check scores before purchasing.  For Good Guide (gg), 10=no toxin, 5-9=low toxin, 3-4=moderate toxin, 0-2=high toxin so the higher the number the better.  As for Skin Deep (sd), the ratings are opposite of Good Guide; 0=no toxin, 1-2=low toxin, 3-6=moderate toxin, 7-10=high toxin so the lower the number the better.  I included prices if available, but don’t fret, ebay and amazon are always loaded with discontinued makeup.  I included ratings on d/c’d products in case you have them in your stash.  Let’s highlight some of their low-toxin products first.  Urban Decay has quite a few low-toxin products.

The Best:

24/7 glide on lip pencils in all colors except Wicked (gg 7, sd 1 or 2); $19

Lip junkie lip glosses (gg5+); $19

Naked 2 eyeshadow palette of 12 shadows (all shades score well except for Blackout-gg 4; could not find score for Bootycall); $50

Most of their false lashes (gg 8); $15

Urbanglow cream highlight in the shades sin, wicked, and brown sugar (gg 8); $24

Cannonball ultra waterproof mascara (gg 8); $20

24/7 glide on eye pencils in the shades: zero, lust, perversion, ransom, rockstar, stash, demolition, underground, yayo, flipside, gunmetal, graffiti  (gg 6+, sd 2); $19 (some shades are on sale on www.sephora.com for only $6!)

Eyelash primer potion (gg 8) $20

Meltdown Make-Up Remover (gg 8); $24

Lipsticks in the following shades: gravity, trainwreck, jilted, vinyl, voodoo, wanted, buzzkill, requiem, revolution, midnight cowboy, lovechild, hot pants, rush, sellout, naked, apocalypse, peroxide, confession, and gash (gg 6+); *note: these are the old lipsticks, not to be confused with the brand new Revolution lipsticks that, to my knowledge, have not yet been rated.

Ammo eyeshadow box/palette – 10 Shades (gg 7); $34

Eyeshadow singles in the following shades: buck, darkhorse, roach, woodstock, foxy, baked, virgin, zephyr, s and m, smog, loaded, lost, tease, naked, verve, evidence, asphyxia, toasted, freelove, rockstar, blunt, bust, mildew, x, ydk, peace, flash, pistol, fishnet, bender, scratch, snakebite, busted, vanilla, mushroom, gravity, shattered, bordello, height, secret service, half baked, swf, radium, sellout, kush, snatch, suspect, last call, abc gum, psychedelic sister, acdc, twice baked, gunmetal, sin, grifter, midnight cowgirl, chopper, oil slick, stray dog, polyester bride, midnight cowboy, rodeo, midnight cowboy rides again, and the stardust eyeshadows (gg 5+); $18. *Note the older formulations of these shadows have much worse scores

Eyeshadow Primer Potion in sheer nude, eden, and greed (gg 6+); $20 (greed is on sale right now at www.sephora.com for only $10)

De-slick, All Nighter, and Dew Me setting sprays (gg 6); $14-29 depending on size

Revolver fragrance Oil (gg 6)

Guardian angel spray moisturizer SPF 8 (gg 6)

Stardust sparkling lip glosses in andromeda and space cowboy (gg 6)

Midnight cowboy body shimmer lotion (gg 5)

Rollergirl eyeshadow palette of four shadows (gg 5)

Worst:

It would take too long to list all 500 or so poorly rated products, so I’ll highlight a few.

Naked 1 palette of 12 shadows (gg 0); $50

Urban brow styling brush and setting gel  (gg 4); $20

Urbanglow Cream Highlight in the shade Moonshine (gg 4); $24

Many eyeshadow colors (too many to list), here’s an example of a few: cobra, blackout, chase, maui wowi (gg 0-4), $18

Big fatty waterproof mascaras (gg 2-4); $20

24/7 glide-on shadow pencils (gg 4); $20

The black palette (gg 4)

Loose pigments (gg 0)

Surreal skin mineral makeup and Surreal cream to powder foundations (gg 0, sd 3+); $31 and $35 respectively

De-slick mattifying face powder (sd 3); $32

Naked skin beauty balm (sd 5); $14-34 depending on size

Afterglow glide on cheek tint (gg 3-4); $24

24/7 Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner (gg 0); $19

Ultraglide lip glosses and xxx shine glosses (gg 0)

These bad scores are due to ingredients such as silica, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propylene glycol, triethanolamine, and multiple parabens.  These are linked to health concerns such as cancer, organ toxicity, hormone disruption, and cellular level changes.  Overall, Urban Decay health product ratings are 2.8, their social responsibility rating is 3.2, and their environmental responsibility rating is also 3.2 (none too impressive).

So judge for yourself if Urban Decay is the right brand for you.  Most of their low-toxin products, while costly, are highly pigmented, beautiful, and have great staying power.  And remember that not all high-end makeup makes for good health quality products.

What are your thoughts on Urban Decay?  Leave a comment below.  As always, thanks for reading.

“Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the most high, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling for He shall give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways.” Psalm 91:9-11

References:

www.ewg.org/skindeep

www.goodguide.com

Malkin, S. (2007). Not Just a Pretty Face: The ugly side of the beauty industry. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Quilty, D. (n.d.). What Is BHT And Why You Should Avoid It. In The Good Human. Retrieved September 24, 2009, from http://thegoodhuman.com/2009/09/24/what-is-bht-butylated-hydroxytoluene-and-why-you-should-avoid-it/

Overcoming the Plague of Anxiety: Finding your way back to a place of rest

Anxiety

Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

Of all the clients I have seen over the years, one of the most common problems people have come to counseling for anxiety.  According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue, affecting approximately 40 million adults each year.   To a certain degree, anxiety is a perfectly normal reaction to stress.  For example, if you have a big exam coming up at school or an important presentation at work, anxiety and nervousness are natural responses.  However, if an anxiety response causes substantial emotional impairment or distress, a person may be dealing with an anxiety disorder.  For more information on anxiety and how to help ease the symptoms, keep reading.

While anxiety has many forms (listed below), this article focuses on anxiety in the general sense.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes Generalized Anxiety Disorder as extreme and frequent worry that is difficult to control and causes impairment in functioning in at least one area of a person’s life (that is not caused by a medical issue or substance use).  Symptoms can include feeling edgy, cranky, and drained; having difficulty focusing, muscle tension, and trouble sleeping.  Remember that each individual is different so anxiety may not look exactly the same from person to person.  This can be exhausting to deal with for ourselves and our loved ones.  In addition to the mental and emotional response to anxiety and stress, our bodies also have a physiological response to stress and anxiety.

Naturally, our bodies respond to stress by trying to avoid or eliminate the stressor.  The hypothalamus kicks into gear.  The pupils dilate, the adrenal glands drive cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine throughout the body, the heart rate and blood pressure jump, our bodies burn stored fat for energy and constrict blood vessels in certain parts of the body.  This readies us to respond to and survive the threat by fighting, fleeing, or freezing (i.e. the fight-or-flight response).  While these automatic functions in the body are invaluable in protecting us from threats, anxiety can enable them by even a perceived threat.

If we get stuck in an anxious mindset, anything can become a perceived threat.  This can leave our body in survival mode around the clock, when it is only meant to turn on in an emergency.  Operating on this mode all the time can actually have toxic effects.  No wonder you are having difficulty concentrating and sleeping with all of this going on inside your body!  But how can a person get off the anxiety roundabout?  We have to engage our minds and bodies for the solution.

  • It all starts in the mind.  Ask yourself when the anxiety first started.  What was happening at that time?  What were you responding to?  Sometimes anxiety is (and other mental health issues are) a result of something we’ve been ignoring within ourselves that is trying to get out.  We can only stuff it down for so long before it manifests itself.  Identify how you respond to the trigger emotionally, physically, and mentally.  What are your thought responses to stress?  For example, if a teacher or an employer asks to speak to you privately after a presentation, are you assuming that what they have to say is negative?  Jot the answers to these questions down.  Take your time.  If you are having a difficult time answering some of these questions just relax and give yourself a break; you may have to revisit these questions repeatedly, and that is completely normal.  Now that you have identified the stressors and your initial responses, let’s get your body under control.
  • When you feel the anxiety start to creep in, the first thing to do is maintain a low heart rate.  Take slow, deep breaths.   Under stress our bodies want to huff and puff; these shallow intakes can encourage the stress response in your brain.  By maintaining your breath you can cut off the anxiety hormones at the pass.  Relax any muscles that may have tensed.  Try some progressive muscle relaxation; you may be surprised at how many of your muscle groups have been activated.  Participate in regular exercise.  When we sweat it releases many of the toxins in our bodies and leaves our brains and bodies in a much more restful state.  One of the most effective ways to relax the mind and body is through prayer and meditation.  Studies show how powerful these are, as people who identify themselves as religious are less likely to become anxious and depressed.  In one study, 20 out of 22 participants who practiced prayer or meditation to reduce moderate to severe anxiety showed marked improvement after three months.  When we pray and meditate, we use the most advanced part of our brains that is responsible for thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.  These functions are dampened by anxiety from the activation of more primal instincts for survival.  Let’s not underestimate the power of our Lord.  He designed us this way for a purpose.
  • Now back to our thoughts.  Once the anxious thoughts have been identified, challenge and replace them along with any fearful self-talk; exchange them for empowered, positive ones.  Analyze how likely the feared event is to occur.  You see, our fears are like a plant.  They start with one seed, and then we water it by continuing to think and speak fearful thoughts which, many times, are unrealistic.  What can you do to control the outcome of the dreaded situation?  Remind yourself that you are not as helpless as you may feel.  Identify how you might respond to the feared outcome in order to return to a normal level of functioning.  And try to stay in the present moment.  Anxiety is usually brought on by thoughts of the dead past or the imaginary future.  Most of the time we are safe and should not have to feel worried.  This can be incredibly difficult at first, but patiently keep returning your focus to the here and now.  However, if there is a question of physical safety in your life, contact a helping professional to assist you in getting you to a safe place or situation as soon as possible.
  • Have a loved one or close friend to talk with about the anxiety.  Sometimes another person can give us a fresh perspective on how probable a feared event is.  They can also hold us accountable to our coping strategies.  If possible, this person should not have an anxiety problem as anxiety can be contagious; if we are in close proximity to an anxious person, our brain picks up on their elevated heart rate and will send a signal to the body that something is wrong.  This can stimulate an anxious response within us.  Also, exposing ourselves to anxiety-provoking material can do this: reading crime novels, watching disturbing movies or television, etc.

Again, we are all unique so some techniques may work better for you than others.  It can take time to overcome anxiety, so celebrate every small victory you have.  The good news is that anxiety is very treatable.  Continue to educate yourself on the causes, symptoms, and solutions of and to anxiety with many available books on the subject.  If your anxiety is serious, get in touch with a good counselor or licensed therapist.  Trained professionals have many additional resources and treatment exercises to help you reclaim control over your thoughts and feelings.  I am confident you will find freedom from the plague of anxiety and find your way back to a place of rest.

If you would like to see an article about other specific types of anxiety or anxiety in children/adolescents, or for questions, please leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading.

“If any of you are having trouble, pray.” James 5:13

“Cast all of your anxiety on God because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Anxiety types or disorders:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Panic attacks and Panic Disorder

Phobias (ex. Agoraphobia)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Resources: A great workbook to check out is The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne

References
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth ed., Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Anxiety, Prayer, and Spirituality: Clinical evidence to the power of prayer and faith as an antidote to emotional diseases. (2007). In Holistic Online. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/Anxiety/anx_prayer.htm

Facts and Statistics. (2010). In Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

Howard, P. J. (2006). The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday application from mind-brain research (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Bard Press.

Jongsma, A. E., & Peterson, L. (2006). The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2012, June 30). Anxiety: Symptoms. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/anxiety/DS01187/DSECTION=symptoms

Nevid, J. S., Rathus, S. A., & Greene, B. (2006). Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Statistics: Any anxiety disorder among adults. (2013). In National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved July 2, 2013, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYANX_ADULT.shtml

My video on this topic:

 

‘Good’ Looks?

English: Makeup before attendance. Српски / Sr...

English: Makeup before attendance. Српски / Srpski: Шминкање пред наступ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful.” -Ninon de L’enclos

Have you ever stopped to think about what is in your makeup?  Unfortunately we cannot assume that if a product is allowed on the shelves it must be okay.  In fact, it may even be toxic.  Thanks to being born the only girl in a house full of boys, makeup has never been that important to me.  Still, I like to get dolled up on occasion, and I want to feel good about what I am putting on my face.  This post is not an alarmist scare tactic.  Rather, my opinion is that people should be educated about their products so they can make an informed decision.  Below is a list of personal care ingredients that are suspected toxins known as the “dirty dozen,” a brief description of the serious health concerns to which they are linked, and resources for finding non-toxic products.

  • BHA & BHT
  • Parabens
  • DEA-Realated Ingredients
  • Dibutyl phthalate
  • Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
  • PEG Compounds
  • Coal Tar Dyes
  • Petrolatum
  • Siloxanes
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Fragrance
  • Triclosan

While each ingredient affects us differently, some are known carcinogens, linked to organ toxicity, as well as birth defects, hormone disruption, cancer, skin rashes and irritations, allergens, asthma, and reproductive problems for both genders from either direct use or in utero exposure.  I enjoy makeup, but it is absolutely not worth those risks.  Some argue that many of these ingredients are considered low risk in small amounts.  However, people are not just exposed to them in a one-time use product.  Unfortunately, most personal care products contain one or several of these toxins, from lipstick to shampoo, lotion, soap, and more each and every day (not to mention toxins in other products such as food and cleaning products).  I would rather yield to the Precautionary Principle and limit them as much as possible.  It seems inconceivable that these ingredients would be allowed in so many of our products.

“Most consumer products are unregulated in the U.S., so manufacturers are allowed to use hazardous chemicals without demonstrating the safety of the products and without labeling them as toxic.” (Malkin, 2007).  Stronger regulation of cosmetic ingredients would help reduce or eliminate the risk posed by these components from the products that we put on our skin.  As the skin is our largest organ, the majority of what we put on it gets absorbed into our bodies.  Some of the ingredients above help products penetrate more deeply into our skin, causing us to absorb even more.  Many in-depth resources have been written about toxic ingredients and the lack of laws regulating their use, such as the references listed below.  If these ingredients are in so many products, how can they be avoided?

If you are like me, trying to decipher the ingredients list on a package can make your eyes cross.  What’s more, many of these products are listed under multiple names, such as the many types of siloxanes (generally they are listed as words ending in “–siloxane” and “–methicone”). Luckily there are search engines available that provide information on the safety of product ingredients.  I use Good Guide at www.goodguide.com and Skin Deep at www.ewg.org/skindeep. Each site pulls up a detailed rating regarding ingredient safety and toxicity.  Good Guide even has an app for smart phones.  Although I have found the regular search engine works a bit better, it is convenient to have it at my fingertips in the store.  It has enabled me to avoid purchasing a product with a low health rating numerous times.  Before you think this message is all gloom and doom, be encouraged that many products are available with safe ingredient alternatives (both affordable and high end).  And if you are motivated, you can take action.

-Urge your country’s leaders to pass legislation for safer personal care products.  If you live in the U.S., contact your representative and encourage them to co-sponsor the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 (H.R. 1385) here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5500/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13369.

If you live in Canada, go here: http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/cosmetics.

-Support health-conscious businesses by purchasing their products that have safe ingredient ratings.  Do not assume that if a product is labeled “natural” or “organic” that they truly are.  Companies recognize that many consumers are interested in healthier product ingredients.  They are trying to capitalize on that, labeling products as natural and organic which are not.  This also happens due to the lack of regulation.  Also do not assume that just because a company makes certain products with low-risk ingredients that all of their products will have the same rating.

-Reduce the number of products you use each day.  And remember, you do not need makeup to be beautiful!  The times in my life I’ve worn the most makeup were when I was most insecure, which is no good reason to wear it.

-Contact cosmetic and personal care companies and retailers to let them know healthy product ingredients matter to you.  For a form letter to retailers, go here: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5500/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=12309.

-Spread the word so others can make informed choices about their products.

-Stay informed through campaigns such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (http://safecosmetics.org/), Teens for Safe Cosmetics (www.teensturninggreen.org/ ), and the Breast Cancer Fund (www.breastcancerfund.org/), among numerous others (a list of more endorsing organizations can be found on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website).

Don’t be discouraged.  Many companies are making the move toward safer products for their consumers; products that work just as well if not better than the toxic alternative.  It simply takes a little extra time on our part to find them.  Each time we purchase them, we send a message that toxic makeup should be a thing of the past.  Companies will make what people will buy.  Thanks for reading.  Please let me know your favorite low-toxin personal care products in the comments below.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1Peter 3:3-4

References

Malkin, S. (2007). Not Just a Pretty Face: The ugly side of the beauty industry. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Suzuki, D. (n.d.). “‘Dirty Dozen’ Cosmetic Chemicals to Avoid. In David Suzuki Foundation. Retrieved June 4, 2013, from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/dirty-dozen-cosmetic-chemicals/

http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

http://www.goodguide.com/

http://safecosmetics.org/

Watch my YouTube video on this topic:

Forgiveness: Good for Your Health?

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

We can all relate to being hurt by others.  A healthy habit that people may not realize is good for them physically is practicing forgiveness.  We may believe that it is good for us spiritually or emotionally, but physically?  And still others may be much more interested in revenge rather than forgiveness.  Yet there is an abundance of research that suggests just how beneficial the art of letting go can improve one’s overall wellness.  Before getting into the advantages of forgiveness and how to implement it, let us first define it.

I like to think of forgiveness as letting go of a past hurt or injustice to the point where it no longer causes a marked negative emotional or physiological response.  Another definition I like is, “letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment,” (Ponton, 2007).  Forgiveness is not, however, approval of the offense.  So why practice forgiveness?

“[A] Hope College in Michigan study shows a physiological response to remembering past hurts: increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and higher muscle tension,” (Hayes-Greico, 2013).  Studies show that people who practice forgiveness report measurable mental, emotional, and physical benefits such as:

  • lowered blood pressure, stress, and anger
  • decreased depression and anxiety
  • lowered risk of addiction
  • improved immune health
  • healthier relationships

Now that the value of forgiveness has been established, here are steps one can take toward forgiveness.

I will not kid you; forgiveness can be a very long and difficult process at times.  This involves changes in how we think and feel.  We first make the decision to forgive, which may include changes in our behavior (e.g. ceasing to seek revenge).  This is not necessarily a one-time resolution, but rather one that needs to be made and reinforced over and over again.  Forgiveness also requires a change in our emotions; moving away from resentment and anger and instead toward understanding and compassion.  Consider the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.  He does not need punishment, he needs help.  That’s the message he is sending.”

When we put our situation in this perspective, it makes it possible to empathize with the one who hurt us.  Empathy enables us to have compassion for them.  This has been helpful to me in removing the personal sting that comes with being hurt badly and moving toward letting it go.  When we forgive we can heal.  What helps me personally is choosing to forgive and allowing it to happen little by little over time rather than trying to force myself to forgive instantly.

I used to hold grudges very tightly, ruminating over how I was wronged.  I refused to forgive until the person apologized sincerely (and maybe not even then).  So I prayed that God would help me work on forgiveness since I truly did not know how to do it, and He graciously has shown be step by step.  No more ruminating over the injustice, just a releasing of it.  That at times includes forgiving myself for things I have done wrong and making amends as best I can.  It includes putting it behind me and not condemning myself indefinitely for it.  When I have done this I have experienced remarkable personal growth.  As a counselor, I have found that people have tremendous power over their thoughts and feelings simply by making different choices and being intentional.

Forgiveness can be reached with or without continuing the relationship with our offender.  There are times and situations when we may need to cut toxic people from our lives.  We do not have to continue to be a victim to someone who may not seek or want our forgiveness.  We can do it for ourselves.

Forgiveness, while at times incredibly difficult, can be a very powerful practice in our lives.  Forgiveness opens us up to numerous physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits.  Even if the culprit does not deserve our forgiveness, we do.

 

Thanks for reading.  Do you have a personal experience with this you would like to share?  Leave a comment below.

 

References:

“Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness”. (2011, November 23). In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 23, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131

Harris, A. H., & Thoresen, C. E. (2005, March). “Forgiveness, Unforgiveness, Health, and Disease”. In U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Retrieved February 23, 2013, from http://www.chce.research.va.gov/docs/pdfs/pi_publications/Harris/2005_Harris_Thorsen_HF.pdf

Hayes Grieco, M. (2013). “Forgiveness and Health Research”. In Mary Hayes Grieco and The Midwest Institute for Forgiveness Training. Retrieved February 23, 2013, from http://www.maryhayesgrieco.com/forgiveness/research.asp

Ponton, L. (2007). “What is Forgiveness?”. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/what-is-forgiveness/

Tomasulo, D. (2010). “Gender and Forgiveness”. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/06/29/gender-and-forgiveness/

Too Busy to Take Care of Ourselves

Hiking, Tromso

Hiking, Tromso (Photo credit: GuideGunnar – Arctic Norway)

Here in the States, we live in a culture of busyness.  There is work to be done, people with which to meet, activities to master, studying and homework, and families who need us.  What about ourselves?  How well are we meeting our own needs?

This is not to say we should shirk our responsibilities and just do what we feel like.  This is about finding a balance between giving and refueling.  After all, in order to give richly we must have the inner fullness to do so.  My friend Zuri shared with me her experience of trying to manage life without taking care of herself.

“As a child my parents were always emphatic about teaching me that discipline in life will help you accomplish a lot.  I followed this while I was living with my parents: worked out daily, planned my days and my meals.  When I went to college I decided not to plan so much. And that is when I started gaining weight, fell into a depression because things were not going as expected, and it wasn’t good financially.  I hit rock bottom when I found myself 85 pounds overweight.  At that time I realized that not taking care of myself or living an organized life could be fun in the moment, but later I am more stressed trying to accomplish what I need to accomplish and it is even harder.  Turns out my parents were right all this time!  Right now I am working on retraining myself at planning, setting goals for myself, and also finding people that keep me accountable.”

This is a great example of how so many of us today are running on fumes.  We have somehow lost the right to ourselves.  This idea may make some people uncomfortable.  Some may think “Who has time to take care of themselves?  My days are non-stop.”  Others may feel guilty at the idea of taking time for themselves, believing instead they should be doing something “more important.” But how truly fruitful is this approach?   I know that for myself, if I am not taking the time to build myself up in a healthy way, I am less patient with my family, less productive, less willing to help others, and more likely to look for a shortcut to get things done faster.  How effective am I then?

While it may seem counterintuitive, when we take more time for self-care we are more productive and effective. I’ve put together my list of the top 5 things you can do to take care of yourself.  Some may be obvious tips we already know we should be doing; others perhaps less so.

  1. Get more sleep.  There is so much I could say about this that I will likely do a blog post dedicated to this entirely.  Aim for around 8 hours.  When we get less sleep than our bodies need, it negatively affects our mood, appetite, appearance, and cognitive processes.  So if you want to feel better, eat better, look better, and think better, aim for a full night’s rest.
  2. Eat better.  We all know this one, and we all probably could do better at this.  More lean protein for energy and omega fatty acids, vegetables and fruits for vitamins and minerals, and whole grains for fiber.  Eliminate trans-fat, fast food, soda, overly processed foods such as white breads, chips, and frozen meals, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame; greatly reduce sodium and sugar intake.  While this can be hard as these ingredients are downright addictive, your body will thank you by giving you better health.  And be sure to drink plenty of water!  The formula I try to live by is drinking half your weight in ounces (i.e. if you weigh 140 lbs try drinking 70 oz of water, more if you are exercising, pregnant, or breastfeeding).  When we eat better, we feel better.
  3. Manage your stress level.  Negative stress can have toxic effects on the mind and body.  There are many ways to manage our stress, such as maintaining a less demanding daily schedule.  This means occasionally saying “no” and being okay with chores at work sometimes being put off until tomorrow.  Do things you enjoy, such as reading, hiking, prayer, taking a warm bath, spending time with friends, or spending time alone with no noise.  How often in American culture are we able (or willing) to sit quietly with our thoughts without music, cell phones, computers, or television?  Remember to laugh and have fun as this releases positive chemicals in our bodies.  This list is not exhaustive as we all have different ways of recharging our batteries.  Another way to decrease our negative stress is to increase our positive stress.  This leads me to my next suggestion.
  4. Exercise.  This is a type of stress that is good for your body, and also one we probably already know we should be doing.  I’m not saying we should all be able to run a marathon at a moment’s notice, but it is important that we get our hearts pumping, sweat away toxins, burn off fat, release tension, and strengthen our muscles.  Do what you enjoy, mix it up from time to time, and stretch well afterward.  Exercise produces endorphins which are a fancy term for chemicals in our brains that make us feel good.
  5. Be Present.  In each current moment, be there fully.  This sounds simple but for many of us it can be profoundly difficult.  It means really listening to the people we are with, without thinking about what we want to say or what we have to do next.  It means eating slowly enough to taste our food. Taking slow, deep breaths.   Paying attention to our five senses in each current moment helps keep us grounded to the here and now.  As a counselor, I see so many people struggling with anxiety.  What is it that causes us so much unease?  It is often our thoughts of the future which is imaginary or the past which is gone and done with.  Let’s live fully in each precious moment.  By doing this we can enjoy lowered stress levels, improved relationships, and a higher quality of living.

I do not intend to weigh anyone down with more things they “should” be doing.  Start by taking small steps.  What is one thing you can do this week to take better care of yourself?  It does not need to be very time consuming to achieve great benefit.  I recommend scheduling it in and not allowing anything to push its way into that time slot.  Over time gradually add more things.  Tell someone about your wellness goals so they can hold you accountable.  Celebrate your victories, no matter how small.  The time is there, it just needs to be saved for taking care of ourselves.  While this may mean we get fewer tasks accomplished, our quality of work and life will improve greatly.

Thanks for reading.  Let me know in the comments below what your goals and tips are for increased personal wellness.

Check out my YouTube video on this topic:

References:

Donkers, M. (2008, April 23). “The Dangers of Sugars and ‘Bad Fats’”. In Natural News. Retrieved January 13, 2013, from http://www.naturalnews.com/023085_sugar_fats_sugars.html

Howard, P. J. (2006). The Owner’s Manual for the Brain (3rd ed.). Austin, TX: Bard Press.

Jegtvig, S. (n.d.). How Much Water Do You Need?. In About.Com Nutrition. Retrieved January 15, 2013, from http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to Our Senses: Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness. New York: Hyperion.