Love Yourself

destress-unplug-relax

When we’re stressed, our bodies create hormones, like cortisol, that run through our systems. This creates a natural “fight or flight” response, where our heart rates go up and we start breathing heavier. This response is innate because we used to use it to protect ourselves from predators back in the day; now, it comes up quite often in much less dangerous, but still serious, situations.

The problem is, many of the things that might instigate that response in you – work, a stressful call from a family member, a picture on Facebook of your friends out without you – come at you all day every day, particularly through your phone and computer. Because we have these devices on us at all times, stressors literally follow us around – it can be increasingly difficult to get a break from all the stress.

The holidays – from Thanksgiving through the New Year – can be an especially stressful time of year, with more demands (work, family, friends, parties, cooking, shopping, and more) taking up even more of your time. While this time of year is supposed to feel joyful, it can sometimes feel as though you’re always preparing to get to the joy – and never truly getting there.

That’s why it’s become extra important in this plugged-in era to take some time to unplug and de-stress. It can sound nearly impossible, with the demands on your time coming in from all sides, but remember: everyone deserves a break. Make a pact with yourself to take an hour a day during this holiday season to unplug and unwind. But how can you ensure that you stay away from your devices?

relax-destress-unplug

While the holidays can certainly be an incredibly busy time, it’s vital to fit in daily fitness as a means to focus on you. Exercise boosts endorphins and releases stress – studies show that only 20 minutes per day can provide you with these benefits. Turn your phone on silent and let the music bump through your headphones; then jam the time away in an exercise class, on the treadmill, or in the yoga studio.

In other healthy strategies, take some time to cook yourself a delicious, wholesome meal. Truly focus on the act of cooking, smell the aromas, and listen to the boiling, sizzling goodness. Make sure it’s a wholesome one; healthy food, balanced with protein, fiber, and carbs, ensures your mood stays level, rather than spiking with a sugar intake of cookies and chocolate.

Get crafty. Activities like knitting or doing a puzzle are repetitious ones, which can be soothing while also ridding your mind of intruding, stressful thoughts. Pick one of your favorite ways to get crafty and let your mind wander.

relax-destress-meditate-unplug

In even more soothing fashion, hop in the bath tub. Light some candles, grab a book, and read the hour away soaking in warm water. You literally can’t be tempted to bring your phone in with you (or it may get soaked – not worth the risk). Instead, let your mind wander into the whole new world of a novel.

If sitting inside makes you anxious, head out for a walk. This can be a particularly effective technique when you’re in the office, as it allows you to step away from the computer and clear your head. Don’t take your devices on your walk; instead, take the time to notice the world around you. Take stock of the leaves, the snow, and the beauty in the every day. We promise it will help take your mind off all those perturbing stressors.

How do you de-stress and unplug during the holidays? Send us your ideas using the comments below.

5-reasons-why-SO-TIRED

This past Sunday, we set the clocks back all around the country, providing an extra hour of much-needed sleep and some extra time to revel in the coziness of Sunday morning relaxation. Setting the clocks back generally feels marvelous on the day of. But as the week goes on, that change can mess with your sleeping patterns and daily routine, particularly because it gets darker one hour earlier each night.

If you’re having trouble sleeping this week, it may have something to do with your body adjusting to the seasonal change. However, if you find you’ve been extra tired for quite a while, don’t just attribute it to the time change – there might be other factors at play.

There are many reasons for daily sleepiness – not getting enough sleep, of course, is the primary target. But other, non-sleep-related factors can also get in the way of your daily vivacity and liveliness… and some are pretty simple to combat. So what other factors might be contributing to that “I-literally-can’t-keep-my-eyes-open” attitude?

  1. You’re dehydrated. Water makes up the majority of our blood and bodies. Even a little dehydration can cause the blood to thicken slightly, making the heart pump harder and causing your body to feel overtired. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day is the general rule of thumb, but every body is different. On top of your H2O intake, eat plenty of fruits and veggies – they’re filled with the stuff.
  2. Your sleep schedule is all over the place. Staying energized during the day means keeping up with a consistent sleep schedule – that means getting up around the same time every day (within 1-2 hours at least), even on the weekends. If you don’t have a 9-5 job, you might wake up at different times daily, which doesn’t allow your body to get into a routine. Set an approximate bed time, follow a ritual each night that cues your body to enter sleep mode (read a book, listen to calming music), and set your alarm for around the same time each day. It will help – we promise.
  3. You don’t shut off your screens. As you may know, our phones and computers emit blue light that set off a signal in our brains that it’s time to wake up. When you’re on one of your devices right before bed, it can be difficult for your brain to settle into sleep mode. Turn off devices one hour before bed and entertain yourself with a magazine or book as you get ready to snooze.
  4. You’re stressed. When we’re stressed (whether because of work, family, friends, or even the holidays), our body undergoes a fight-or-flight response, activating our brains to defend and stay active rather than settling down to relax. Stress can make it extra hard to fall asleep at night, leading to fatigue the next day, and can also tire your body out as the day goes on. If you’re feeling stressed, talk it out with someone close to you or dedicate some time to doing those activities that relax you.
  5. You aren’t eating right. Some foods – like those rich in fiber and protein – enter your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace, giving you sustained energy, while others – like high-sugar carbs – enter your body quickly and provide you with a jolt of energy. If you’re tired quite often, take note of your energy patterns – do you feel super high energy for short bursts of time, then find yourself teetering off fairly quickly? You may be eating foods that are high in sugar rather than those that keep you full for long periods of time. Opt for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats throughout the day to keep you energized for hours on end.

How do you counteract sleepy feelings during the day and turn around your low energy levels?

november-recipes

Happy November! The beautiful fall season is in full swing: if you live in certain parts of the country, the leaves have changed into their gorgeous colorful glory, decorative pumpkins align doorsteps and sidewalks, and sweaters, chunky scarves, boots, and vests litter our seasonal wardrobes.

With this season, as with all others, comes the emergence of delicious fall produce. The deeper we get into the colder seasons, the heartier our fruits and veggies become. And that’s great news, as we crave thick, warm meals that fill us up and warm us up during chillier weather!

The depth of fall – November in particular – is encumbered by a variety of fresh veggies and fruits that you’ve probably already seen littering the stands at the farmers market. Apples and pears are the highlight fruits for this season… no wonder apple pie is such a great Thanksgiving staple! You’ll find a wide range of apples lining the supermarket shelves and farmstands – from Gala to Honeycrisp to heirloom varieties, November is a perfect time to try them all (whether raw, in pies, soups, salads, or stews).

Hearty, filling vegetables really shine in November, particularly those with an orange or green hue. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and butternut squash are perfectly sweet this type of year and make for a great weeknight side when roasted with a bit of rosemary. Pumpkin is a classic November choice, found in every recipe from our breads to our soups. On the green side, tough, leafy greens like kale and chard shine in the fall and don’t break down as quickly as their cousins spinach and lettuce. This makes these greens great for baking – and who doesn’t love having the oven on in November to warm things up a bit.

White veggies also come into play – potatoes and cauliflower can add a little edge and chewy goodness to nearly any meal you make this time of year. Chop up a few potatoes and throw them in your favorite soup – whole or pureed – to add some texture and to keep you satisfied for hours on end. Cauliflower is delicious roasted or sautéed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Believe us when we say it: November is absolutely amazing when it comes to fresh food. If the reasons above didn’t prove it to you, try whipping up one of these delicious recipes this weekend. Complete with a wide variety of the aforementioned fruits and veggies, these meals are absolutely guaranteed to help you enjoy fall in the best way possible: through delectable, healthy, satisfying food!

  1. Turmeric Cauliflower Steaks from the Kitchn
  2. Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich with Apples, Pesto, Kale, and Blue Cheese from Two Peas and their Pod
  3. Healthy Carrot Muffins from Cookie and Kate
  4. Smoky Pumpkin and Black Sesame Seed Hummus from Vegetarian Ventures
  5. Kale Chickpea Stew from Naturally Ella

What are you dying to cook this November? Let us know in the comments below!

training-plan

What leads you to be healthier mentally and physically, lessens your stress load, and improves the strength in your muscles AND bones? No, this isn’t a magic supplement. It’s running!

Jogging is an amazing form of exercise for many reasons. First, you can do it practically anywhere – no special equipment or machinery needed. It allows you to explore cities new and old, get lost in the beauty of nature, and lets you feel free in your surroundings. Studies show that running helps fight fatigue, gives you a boost of energy, strengthens everything from your core to your calves, and makes you mentally tougher.

Running is also one of those activities that lends itself to goal-setting. Experts say that people who set and meet long-term fitness goals (for instance, signing up for a 5K or half marathon) end up being more satisfied with their workout routine – and their lives more generally – than those who work out sporadically, without goals, or not at all. It turns out that the feeling you get when you cross an accomplishment off your to-do list has some real benefits!

When it comes to setting goals, of course, you need to plan out a way to get there. When running is concerned, it’s critical to have a training plan.

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While you may prefer to accomplish your goals in a more free-spirited manner, hear us out on this one. There are so many benefits to following a training plan… and they aren’t solely confined to running. These training benefits apply to any fitness obstacle – climbing a particular mountain, swimming a certain distance, or lifting a specific amount of weight.

To start off, training gives your workout a whole new meaning. While the general goal of “being in shape” can get stale, working towards a concrete distance, speed, or date gives you the little bit of pressure you need to truly improve. Circle that final date on your calendar and schedule in your runs or workouts accordingly. Check off each one as you accomplish them – you’ll love the feeling.

Training also forces you to try new things. One day might call for speed work (while you typically lean towards relaxing, longer jogs) while another might call for cross-training in the form of swimming or spinning. Your plan might force you to give your body a break from the running grind with a bit of yoga or foam rolling to stretch out your muscles. No matter where your plan takes you, know that you’ll never be bored!

As you move through your training, you’ll find a common theme – a training plan always emphasizes improvement. While it can be easy to get in a rut doing the same workout each day, training ensures you’ll always be pushing your body towards its breaking point and into the zone of self-betterment.

In this way, training helps you realize how strong you truly are. It turns out that you don’t have a limit – you can always keep improving! While you may have thought a 4-mile jog was your maximum at one point, your training teaches you that you can conquer – and exceed – a much higher mileage.

With all these benefits, now seems like the perfect time to pick a goal and train towards it. Remember, with any training plan you choose, you don’t need to conform to it completely. Use it as a guideline, always improve, and above all else, enjoy! You’ll feel like your best self – we promise.

Do you enjoy training for races or other milestones? How do you accomplish your best feats? Let us know in the comments below.

5-steps-to-PROPER-RECOVERY

Being active is absolutely key to living a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re a walker, jogger, sprinter, swimmer, skier, dancer, or basketball player, having a form of exercise you’re passionate about is essential to staying happy, healthy, and energized.

Running and walking are easy to fit into your everyday lifestyle – no special equipment needed – and therefore constitute some of the most popular forms of regular fitness. They increase your heart rate, build muscle, and decrease stress – an absolute win.

We give you major props if you fit in regular runs or daily walks, making fitness a lifetime priority. But even the most advanced runners forget a vital part of maximizing the positive effects a run can have: recovery.

Proper recovery is essential for your body to come down from a run or walk. It helps your muscles return to their normal state from an active one and allows your heart rate and breathing to go back to normal. Without proper recovery time, your body will inevitably feel sore, tired, and even a bit achy a few hours after your exercise session is over.

But what is the most effective way to properly recover after a workout session?

  1. Cool down the right way. Crossing the finish line or completing an hour-long spin class doesn’t mean you’re done with your workout: you should still fit in a cool-down to jumpstart your recovery process. A cool-down can include stretching, a slow walk, or other drills that help bring down your heart rate and stretch out your muscles.
  2. Water up. No matter what type of exercise you pursue, chances are you’ve released some serious sweat. Sweating releases fluids from your body, and water or organic sports drinks help bring those fluid levels back up. Hydration prevents achy muscles and even potential dizziness, so drink up!
  3. Refuel. You just spent time burning some serious calories – now it’s time to replenish them. You may not be starving right after your workout – and that’s okay. Try refueling with a portioned blend of protein and carbohydrates (think: eggs and toast, peanut butter and an apple). These nutrients will help your body repair any damage your muscles endured during your sweat session (muscle damage – not injury – is normal… it means you’re getting stronger!).
  4. Active recovery. While stretching is key to decreasing the potential for sore muscles, active recovery can also be useful; working out is never an excuse to stay on the couch for the day. Head out on a walk with a loved one, do a few errands, or go out with friends. The more active your muscles stay during the day, the less likely they are to feel sore.
  5. Self check-in. How do you feel after your run? Are you mentally and physically stable and happy? If not, reevaluate your exercise regimen: are you going too hard? Are you not challenging yourself enough? Reevaluating your progress is key to always improving and becoming your absolute best self.

All in all, a proper recovery is key to making the most of your exercise routine. How do you like to effectively recover post-run? Let us know in the comments below. 

When your spine, bones, joints, and muscles are aligned into good posture, they’re less likely to break down over time. Breathing becomes easier and deeper as you open up your airwaves. Having proper posture helps improve circulation and even digestion, as your insides are allowed to move freely rather than being constricted by your improper body position. Poor posture over long periods of time can even lead to spine and nerve injuries as long-term constriction pinches the nerves in your back.Posture 2

How often do you think about your posture? Chances are you don’t think about it all that much. Your days at the computer desk, hours running errands, or time spent with your kids all seem to fly by, and you might not have any idea how your posture looked and felt during all those days of activity.

We’re here to convince you that your posture is something you should be thinking about – each and every day. Not only does a good posture display a confident image, it provides immense physical benefits as well.

Of course, the first step in improving your posture is acknowledging that you need to start thinking about it. First step: complete! The next step is a bit trickier: finding and understanding your ideal posture. Ideally, having proper posture means your muscles are being held in a natural and neutral position. While some picture good posture as having a stiff back, that isn’t necessarily the case. A neutral spine is best for maintaining consistent, healthy posture all day through.Posture 1

Once you feel the neutrality, imagine there’s a straight line through the top of the middle of your head heading down through the center of your hips and into your ankles. With feet shoulder-width apart, feel this natural stance in all its glory. If you tend to sit all day, make sure the computer screen stays at eye level, your feet are flat on the floor, and your forearms are parallel to the ground – then practice that neutral spine.

Set a timer to go off once per hour on your phone or computer as a time to check your posture. Chances are it will take a bit of time to get used to your proper, healthy posture – and that’s okay! The timer helps you check yourself to maintain a neutral spine the whole day through.

Take advantage of the benefits good posture has to offer. You never know what health issues it might solve… or how much happier it might make you!