RSS Feed

Tag Archives: somethingtoconsider

Pros and Cons to Making a Snowman with Your Kids

Snowman

Snowman (Photo credit: stevegarfield)

My husband and I love to engage in the winter tradition of building a snowman with our children.  The snowperson is carefully constructed and decorated with love.  Afterward we head inside for some hot cocoa by the fireplace.  Lots of laughter and love, right?  This year, however, has shown me that there actually can be unforeseen consequences to this family fun pastime.

Pro: Quality family time engaging in a fun-filled activity with your kids.

Con: Accidentally building the colossal snow person in front of your picture window.  At night it gives the illusion that a creepy weirdo is standing outside your window ever so still and watching you.  Causes mini-myocardial infarctions each time you pass the window at night.

Pro: The look of sheer joy on the children’s faces at the process and finished product of something they created with you.

Con: As Mr. Frosty melts and refreezes, he starts to look like the person in the Edvard Munch painting The Scream.  The snowman stays in this state exponentially longer than he did Frosty.

Edvard Munch - Geschrei - The Scream - 1895 - ...

Edvard Munch – Geschrei – The Scream – 1895 – dithered color, close-up (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

Pro: The pictures and memories that will last long after your children have grown.

Con: You unintentionally build the snowman where the mail carrier likes to take a shortcut through your yard to get to the next house.  The mail carrier proceeds to kick or shoulder check Frosty each time he walks past.

Pro: The strengthening of the family bond by continuing the season’s tradition.

Con: The children’s stunned faces when they see the neighbor’s dog urinating on Mr. Frosty.

Pro: Allowing your children the creative space to decorate the snowman on their own.

Con: They decided to decorate it with his face parallel to the road.  What you have failed to consider is that from across the street/roadside view, the snowman’s arm looks like a penis.  Seriously, the neighbors have made comments…

The moral of the story?  Well of course we will continue to build snowmen with our children in the years to come-although the majority of these cons could have been prevented by building him in the back yard.  Totally worth it.  Happy building!  Please commiserate with us and share your snowman fails in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

 

Cute Valentine’s Day Nails

Cute Valentine's Day Nails

Cute Valentine’s Day Nails

In the spirit of the day of St. Valentine and the holiday of love, I thought I would post a nail tutorial that is simple and adorable for the 14th.

cute valentines day nails

Cute Valentine’s Day Nails

What you will need

  • Base coat to protect your nails
  • Pale pink polish of your choice
  • Hot pink polish of your choice
  • Top coat
  • Dotting tool, toothpick, or tip of a bobby pin
  • The suggested colors are just that, a suggestion, so if you would rather use a different color combination, go crazy

Directions

To watch the video of the application, see below.  I first applied the base coat to my nails.  Next I applied the pale pink shade on all of my fingers except the accent nails (1-2 coats, enough to give it a smooth look).  Next with the hot pink shade I lined the tip of the nails (again except for the accent nails).  If you like the look of lighter tips, invert the colors.  For sharper lines at the tip, you can place tape over your nails as a guide (just be sure the bottom coats are dry).  If your nails are short you can skip the lining of the tip and leave the nails pale pink or add a different accent such as a stripe down the center.  For the accent nails, I applied 2 coats of the hot pink polish.  After allowing them to dry a bit, I dipped my dotting tool (or instrument of your choice) into the pale pink shade and made 3 dots in a V shape at the top of the nail.  Then continuing with a dotting motion, I filled in the V to make the heart.  Allow to dry for a few minutes and apply your top coat.  If you like the look of more hearts you can reverse my pattern.

Play around with the design and have fun with this cute, flirty look.  If you try it let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

Cute Valentine's Day Nails

Cute Valentine’s Day Nails

Check out my YouTube video tutorial:

DIY Exfoliating Scrub

Brown sugar examples: Muscovado (top), dark br...

Brown sugar examples: Muscovado (top), dark brown (left), golden brown (right) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a recipe for my all-time favorite exfoliator.  Seriously, I love this better than any drug store or high end scrub that I have purchased.  It is super easy, affordable, and leaves the skin feeling amazing.  You only need two ingredients.

Ingredients

-Brown Sugar

-Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions

You will need 2 parts brown sugar for every 1 part olive oil, depending on how much you wish to make.  For example, for a smaller batch you would use ¼ cup of brown sugar and 1/8 cup olive oil.  If you wish to make a larger batch, double this.  Place the ingredients in a bowl and mix together until well blended.  Rub this all over your face and body (avoiding the eye area) and rinse with warm water for an excellent moisturizing exfoliator.  I use this once a week at night so as not to expose the new layers of skin to free radicals, as well as to give time for the olive oil to penetrate and moisturize my skin.  If you have very dry skin you may want to exfoliate less frequently as your skin layers are already thin.  This does not need to be refrigerated and it keeps for ages, just remember to stir it up before each use.

Why These Ingredients?

The fine brown sugar particles gently scrub away dead skin cells and unclog pores without damaging the skin as some scrubs with nut shells may.  The olive oil nourishes and hydrates the freshly revealed skin.  Remember to use cold pressed olive oil as this type of olive oil has the maximum amount of nutrients and antioxidants.

What If I Have Oily, Acne-Prone Skin?

No worries, so do I!  I have used this exfoliator many times and it has never caused me to break out.  This exfoliator is great for most skin types.  I always recommend those with highly sensitive skin to ask their dermatologist before trying a new skin care regimen.  After rinsing this scrub you will notice some oil stays on your skin, though it shouldn’t be enough to make your clothes stick to you.  I would not wipe this off.  Overnight your skin will absorb it and be left feeling very soft-not oily.  This also shrinks up my pores (which are very large)-bonus!

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment below if you try this or have other facial scrubs you love.

Check out my youtube video on this:


 

Am I Seriously Considering Cloth Diapering?

My Cloth and Biodegradable Diapering System

My Cloth and Biodegradable Diapering System (Photo credit: po1yester)

Amazingly I find myself sitting here, very pregnant and contemplating cloth diapers for my soon-to-be newborn.  This is something I have given only the briefest consideration in the past.  Sure I was aware of some pros to going cloth.  But there was one factor I just could not get over: dealing with the poop.  So here is my story of how I came to consider this seriously.

First of all I should let you know that my dad worked in environmental safety as his professional career.   Why is this important?  Let’s just say I was raised with a heavy awareness on how we as people affect the environment and the importance to taking care of the planet (to put it mildly).  My father is very passionate about this, and I was fortunate enough to have this passed on to me.  Obviously, using disposable diapers and wipes takes a nasty toll on the ecosystem.  It is estimated that a child will contribute 8,000-10,000 disposable diapers into the landfill before becoming potty trained.  This does not include the use of swim diapers or disposable potty training pants (which, let’s face it, are basically just diapers that go on like underwear).  And then it takes hundreds and hundreds of years for these diapers to decompose.  But this is something I have known for years, and while it gave me an occasional twinge of guilt, did not sway me to use cloth diapers.  Next is the issue of cost.

It costs roughly $2000 to diaper one child for 2 years with disposable diapers.  This is not including disposable wipes.  It costs approximately $300-400 to diaper a child for 2 years with cloth diapers (of course this number can be much higher or lower depending on the type and material of cloth diapers you wish to use).  Again, this is something I was aware of, no surprise there.  This still wasn’t enough to sway me.  But here are some things I did not know previously.

Have you ever read the directions on a package of disposable diapers?  If you are shaking your head thinking that is the dumbest question you have ever been asked, I understand completely.  I never had either until recently.  But if you check it out, the disposable diapers give the direction to dump fecal matter into the toilet before disposing of the diaper.  What?!  I thought I was using these to avoid dealing with the poop as much as possible?  It turns out I was supposed to be dealing with it all along.  There goes my main reason for avoiding cloth diapering.  But that is not the factor that tilted the scale for me.

Now maybe you are much smarter and up on things than I am and this will be no surprise to you.  I was completely shocked to learn what chemicals are in disposable diapers.  Some such chemicals are dioxin, sodium polyacrylate, Tributyl-tin or TBT, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and fragrance which contain phthalates.  While the threat of each chemical differs, some are carcinogenic known cancer causers, known to disturb hormones, known to disrupt the endocrine system, known respiratory irritants, and known for potentially causing skin irritation.  These are products that are sitting on our children’s most private body parts for hours at a time.  Once I learned this, it was a done deal.  My aversion to inconvenience could in no way trump the health of my child.  Then I began the long process of researching different kinds of cloth diapers and alternatives to disposable wipes.

While I was tempted to beat myself up for not going cloth sooner, at least I am doing it now.  And I am not alone.  More people seem to be considering cloth than have in decades.  I must admit, when the initial box of cloth diapers came and I actually took them out and looked them over, the reality of choosing cloth sank in deeper.  This is no longer a great idea on principle.  I am actually going to have to deal with the poop and the washing of the diapers.  But when it comes to my child’s best interest, it’s a no brainer.

Are you a terrible parent if you choose to use disposable diapers?  Of course not; it takes much more time and up-front cost to use cloth.  I hope you will at least consider it.  Do some research, using the references listed below and others (there are many) before you come to a conclusion.  Thanks for reading.  Please leave me a comment below with your thoughts on this topic.

References:

Lehrburger, C. (1988). Out of Sight, Out of Mind: The disposable diaper myth. In Library of Awareness. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://libaware.economads.com/ddiapermyth.php

Sharratt, A. (2010). Disposable Diapers: Are they dangerous?. In CBC News. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2010/05/28/f-disposable-diapers.html

Why Choose Cloth Diapers?. (2012). In Real Diaper Association. Retrieved February 8, 2013, from http://www.realdiaperassociation.org/diaperfacts.php

Organix Hair Mask Review

Organix Hair Mask Review

I had been in the market for a new hair mask last fall, and was planning on trying the Macadamia Deep Repair Masque on my next trip to Ulta.  While I was at Walgreens one day picking up a few random things, the Organix Macadamia Oil Intensive Moisture Mask caught my eye.

The Brand

Organix is a brand that boasts of sulfate free, paraben free, glutten free products for your hair and body.  These products are not tested on animals, but do contain some animal by-products such as egg white proteins and naturally extracted silk.  These features were incredibly attractive to me, as was the price.  I picked up an 8oz container for only $7.99, compared to an 8.5oz container of the Macadamia brand mask for $33.00.

The Results

I have long, oily, fine hair and I have a lot of it.  My hair is not color treated or heavily heat treated.  The hair mask smells great and it left my hair feeling incredibly soft and silky without weighing it down.  My hair was not left oily or greasy after use.  Those are the main issues for me when it comes to hair products due to my hair type: does it weigh my hair down leaving it limp and lifeless, and does it leave my hair looking greasy?

organix argan maskI was so please with this mask that I eventually purchased the Organix Moroccan Argan Oil Intense Moisturizing Treatment mask (also $7.99 for 8oz).  I love this product as well.  I have been using these for months now and they work great and are so much cheaper than high end masks.   And above all that they are free of some nasty chemicals and do not test on animals.  Additionally they are safe to use on color treated hair.  I highly recommend this brand and am eager to use more of their products in the future.  I cannot say if it works as well or better than the Macadamia brand masks as I have not used them; however, at this point I am pleased with the results of the Organix products and currently have no plan to purchase the Macadamia brand mask.  Bonus: last I checked Walgreens was offering Organix products buy one get one half off!

Have you tried Organix or Macadamia products?  Let me know how they worked for you and your hair type in the comments below.  Please note I am not affiliated in any way with the brands or stores mentioned.  I purchased these products with my own money.  I just want to pass on my experience with great, natural products at an affordable price.  The information on Organix was obtained from their website http://www.organixhair.com/

Thanks for reading!
Check out my YouTube video on this:

Can Your Calling Change?

A year ago, I was content in my phase of life.  I spent most of my time raising our young children.  I worked part-time as a counselor in a very

Two Paths Diverged in a wood

Two Paths Diverged in a wood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

fulfilling job.  Life was good; I was living out my calling.  Little did I expect the rug was about to get pulled out from under me.

It began very subtly.  I had a small but nagging sense that it was time to leave my job.  Whenever this would occur to me, I quickly shrugged it off for many reasons.  The hours were flexible, I saw a diverse client base which kept work interesting, I was making decent money, I loved what I did, and it felt very meaningful.  Yet I still sensed that I needed to move on.  Shoving that notion to the back of my mind soon got costly.

The environment at work quickly and unexpectedly began to change.  My caseload was growing exponentially to nearly that of a full-time therapist.  Pressure was building to work more hours.  While my sessions with clients were still challenging and fulfilling, the office culture was rapidly becoming a toxic breeding ground for burnout.  I finally accepted that I needed to leave.  Then I had to figure out what I would do next.

This decision consumed me.  There were myriad options; however, none of them felt right.  I had offers to interview for other positions, but they were full-time.  I was committed to only working part-time while raising my kids so this was not a route I was willing to take.  Other part-time positions that were available were very limited, unchallenging, farther away, or worked with a population I was not as passionate about.  I considered going into private practice.  This seemed like the “right” answer.  I had plenty of referral sources and contact with other therapists in private practice who explained in depth the process of starting and maintaining a practice.  But all I could think about was the stress of owning my own business: getting paneled for insurances, finding an affordable place to practice, paying rent, buying accounting software to manage expenses and taxes, and so on ad infinitum.  Plus there was the guilt I felt over leaving my current clients.  At the end of every day, I felt fried with anxiety over making the right decision.  But none of the options before me brought me any sense of peace.  I started praying about the situation, hoping to gain some guidance.   God answered in a way I never expected.

I felt exceptionally impressed that I needed to stay home with my kids.  This possibility had not once occurred to me.  Never did I see myself as a fully stay at home mom.  I had felt called to become a counselor since I was a teenager; a calling that was undeniable for many years which God confirmed time and time again.  I had obtained three different licenses that needed to be maintained.  I loved counseling and had not entertained another future for myself in years.  I was (hopefully) helping people.  How could leaving this be the right answer?

I continued praying about this, convinced that I had misheard God.  I kept coming back to the notion that I needed to spend more time raising my children.  Plus my husband and I had begun the process of becoming foster parents, hoping it would result in adoption.  I struggled with and fought this choice for months.  Over time the path before me became clear: even though I did not want to hear it, this was the only option that gave me peace.

While I did not fully understand it, I decided to trust God in His leading.  I left my job and now hold a small pro bono caseload.  This transition was not easy, but over time I began to see God’s plan unfolding before me (including a surprise pregnancy, but that’s a story for another day).  Initially I was like Samuel mourning over Saul in 1 Samuel 16; God was calling me to something new, but first I had to let go of the old.  Letting go of a calling can be painful and difficult.  I did not realize how much of my identity had gotten wrapped up in my career.  And I was learning that just because something is “good” and right for one season does not mean it’s suited for me forever.  As I walked in obedience and adjusted my attitude, I was opening myself up to the blessings God had in store for me that I never could have conceived.  If we trust Him we can trust that He is leading us to something just as meaningful and fulfilling.  God is calling you.  He is a God of new things and wants you to join in the adventure.

Have you had a similar experience?  Leave a comment below!  Looking for resources on the subject of calling?  Below are a couple of books I highly recommend.  Thanks for reading.

The Call by Os Guiness

The Missional Mom by Helen Lee

Pura Vida: Vacationing in Costa Rica

Pura Vida: Vacationing in Costa Rica

As I sit on my couch sipping hot cocoa on this frigid January day in the Midwest, my thoughts keep drifting back to my trip to Costa Rica last May.  I was asked to speak at a conference, and you can imagine how quickly I accepted the invitation.  My husband came along as well.  I thought I would write about our trip for anyone who may be considering a vacation to Costa Rica.

A common motto or phrase in Costa Rica is “pura vida,” meaning pure or full life of peace and satisfaction.  This is definitely the vibe you get while in Cosa Rica.  Not just because you hear it spoken often as a greeting or an answer to a question (i.e. “How’s it going?”  “Pura vida!”), but you feel it in the culture itself and the people.  My husband and I found Costa Ricans to be overwhelmingly warm, friendly, and laid back.  They even have been without a military since 1948, which is proudly displayed on many souvenirs.

We went as the wet season was about to begin, and it lasts through November.  This is a fantastic time to go as the tourism rates drop dramatically after April.  During our trip we experienced very little rain, so the discount in my opinion is definitely worth it.  Also the beaches and resorts are much less crowded this time of year, and the rainforest is especially verdant.   Although if you are wanting to do some traveling around the country, which is easy to do in such a small nation (less than 20,000 square miles, roughly the size of West Virginia), you should be advised that many of their roads get washed out and treacherous during the wet season.  So if you want to safely cover a lot of ground there, you may want to opt for the dry season.

We mostly stayed at The Hilton Doubletree, an all-inclusive resort on the Pacific side of the country in Puntarenas.  Our experience there was excellent.  Room rates range from $178 up to $500 per night, depending on what amenities you are looking for.  The food was amazing.  From authentic Central American cuisine, excellent sea food, rich desserts, to pizza and burgers, there was something for everyone.  The main dining area is buffet style with many different stations.  For anyone who does not enjoy buffets they also have other restaurants at the hotel that are by reservation only (these are not included in the all-inclusive package so this would be an additional cost).  Plus they have many snack bars, wet bars, and a fruit bar.  Basically a guest there can eat almost continually as the only time of day there is not food available is from 1am-7am.  We tried the food at all but one of the restaurants and found everything satisfactory.  Luckily the resort has a gym, plenty of pools, and of course the ocean to help you work off all of that consumption.  The resort also provides several great entertainment options.

Activities for young children and teenagers occurred daily, as well as group games, dance lessons, exercise classes, and beach parties.  A variety of shows were performed each night, including musicians, fire eaters, and dancers.  The resort provides a schedule of such events; however, the events did not always take place.  If you are someone who likes to stick to an agenda, keep this in mind and try to go with the flow.  The events that always followed schedule were the evening shows.  While all of this is enough to keep you busy during your stay, there are myriad attractions in the area for you to enjoy.

My husband and I spent a day zip lining over small and large waterfalls, and this was certainly one of the highlights of our trip as we were able to see the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  We also went hiking, horseback riding, visited Poas Volcano and La Paz Waterfall Gardens.  There are also many other brilliant attractions and things to do, such as a visit to the Arenal Volcano and Tabacon Hot Springs, Manuel Antonio National Park, Jaco Beach, Tortuga Island, white water rafting, surfing, and plenty of relaxing beach time.  We did not visit the Caribbean side of the country which has white, sandy beaches (as opposed to the black sand of the Pacific beaches).

Overall I would unquestionably recommend Costa Rica as a travel destination.  It’s an excellent place for couples looking for a romantic getaway, groups, or families looking for fun.  There are attractions for both those who want to experience adventure or just unwind by the water sipping a Miami vice.  The charm of the country will stay with you long after you’ve returned home.

Have you been to Costa Rica or are hoping to go?  Leave a comment below!  Please note that I am not affiliated in anyway with any of the businesses I mentioned, just wanted to share our experience with you!  The above photo was taken by me in Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

DIY Oatmeal & Banana Face Mask

English: Oatmeal Русский: Овсяныехлопья

English: Oatmeal Русский: Овсяныехлопья (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a quick and easy recipe for a do it yourself face mask that will leave your skin feeling hydrated and soft.  Why spend a ton of money on store bought masks that have harmful chemical ingredients that your skin absorbs?  For this you only need four ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen.

What You Will Need:

  • 1 medium sized ripe banana
  • ¼ cup of rolled oats (preferably not quick oats)
  • Approx. 10 drops of almond oil
  • 1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract (not imitation)
  • Blender or food processor

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in your blender or food processor until well blended and oats are ground.  You can adjust the thickness of the mask by adding or subtracting oats.  I prefer the consistency to be quite thick as it spreads on easier, but do what works for you.  Start with a clean face either just after a bath or after steaming your face to open up pores in preparation for the mask.  Use your fingers to spread the mixture relatively evenly over your face.  Note that this mask is a bit messy and should be done over a bowl, at a table, or in a shower with a drain catcher.  Store any extra mask in the refrigerator (toss out after a week or two).  Let sit for 10-20 minutes and then rinse with warm water and a wash cloth.  If you have dry skin you may want to moisturize afterward (for oily, combination, or normal skin this most likely will not be necessary).

Who is This Mask For?

This mask is great for most skin types, including dry, normal, combination, oily, and some sensitive skin types.  While oatmeal has many calming properties, if you have highly sensitive skin you may want to check with a dermatologist before trying this mask.  If you have very oily skin (or if you live in a very hot, humid climate) and you find this mask too hydrating, try reducing the amount of banana used.  This mask is great for winter months when everything is drier.  If you have acne-prone skin, do not be afraid to try this mask.  I have oily, acne-prone skin that is more combination during dry weather and I love this mask.  It leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated but not oily and it has never caused me to break out.

Why These Ingredients?

  • Banana-very hydrating for the skin!
  • Oats-soften, trap in moisture, calm the skin
  • Almond oil-moisturizes, removes dead skin cells, has anti-aging properties
  • Pure vanilla extract-an antioxidant

Thanks for reading.  Please leave me a comment below if you try this mask with how it worked for you and your skin type.  Also let me know what masks you enjoy using!

Check out my YouTube video on this where you can see my friend Ruby apply her mask 🙂 :

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.

Becoming a LUSHie: My Pursuit of Natural Hair & Skin Care

Lush

Lush (Photo credit: Pip)

The more I learn about the harsh chemicals in everything from food to shampoo, I’m tempted to move to a commune.  I’m not entirely joking.  We could raise grass fed animals, use natural ingredients for homemade products, and reduce our carbon footprints.  This is not a “scare blog” that is going to list how toxic and terrible everything is, causing you to run away to live in a cave.  Rather I want to highlight a brand I discovered last year and have loved using based both on how the products work and what the company stands for.   That company is LUSH.

Lush Cosmetics, or LUSH, is a UK-born company that makes products for hair, skin, and bath.  While that is nothing special, what the company stands for is: making safe and effective products that are truly natural and organic.  You don’t have to worry about their products being overly processed, genetically modified, or filled with enough preservatives to keep them good until the next millennium.  They care about the impact their company has on the environment and those who work to collect the material they use in their products, also known as ethical sourcing.  They care about animals, too.  LUSH does not test their products on animals, and they will not purchase any products from suppliers that test on animals.  Not only does the company believe in these things, they campaign for them.  They only use vegetarian ingredients, and many of their products are vegan.  As I got to know more about LUSH, the skeptic in me thought this sounded too good to be true.  I wanted to know what the downside was.

One aspect of the company some may see as a negative is their policy against unnecessary packaging.  While this has the environment in mind, some consumers may find it to be a bit of a turn off.  For example, when an item is packaged minimally there is higher risk of it breaking or getting damaged.  This does happen from time to time, especially since some of their products are more fragile.  For people who are environmentally conscious, this likely will not be a deterrent.  Another potential drawback, and perhaps the biggest one, is the cost of the product to the consumer.

While I wish I could tell you that their products are just as cheap as any you would find at Wal-Mart, I cannot.  Due to the ethical standards they uphold, their ingredients are more expensive than most anything you would find at the drugstore.  But why shouldn’t it be?  Doesn’t it make sense that this type of business model would create an increase in cost both to the business and the consumer?  I would rather spend more money on products I can feel good about than on a name brand department store product that is loaded with questionable ingredients made by a company apathetic toward their effect on the world.   LUSH products range anywhere from $1.95 to $89.95 (and higher for certain gift boxes).  Many of their products are affordable, and they have something for every age, gender, skin type, and hair type.

Just to be clear, I do not work for LUSH, am not affiliated with LUSH in anyway, nor do I receive any compensation whatsoever for writing this.  I’m just a die-hard LUSHie (i.e. consistent consumer of LUSH products that loves and raves about them, or as urbandictionary.com likes to describe us-“obsessed”) who wants to spread the word about their products.  The goods I have tried from there have had amazing results for my skin and hair, and I can use them in good conscience.

What do you think?  Leave a comment letting me know if you are pro natural/truly organic ingredients or if you think non-organic products are just fine (or if you are a fellow LUSHie!).  Interested in learning more about LUSH products, the company, and where you can find a LUSH near you?  Visit http://www.lushusa.com/  Thanks for reading.

Check out my YouTube video on some of my recent LUSH products