Working Toward Self-Love

beyourself

This comes from the heart and I hope it reaches out to two types – struggling teen girls who think it will never get better, and women who lived through this and came out better and stronger.

For the four years I was in high school, I had a classic case of “teen angst” – I was very often depressed, suffered from my first panic attacks, had terrible self-esteem, felt insecure and invisible.  I was overweight, wore braces, was awkward, unfashionable, didn’t have a boyfriend, and to add to my nerdiness, was a really good student and loved to write.

Ugh, that poor girl was actually me – but she stands in the shadow of the woman I am now.

As a teenager, I felt a deep loneliness and was terribly worried I would never be strong enough to be happy.  I was convinced a kind, attractive, smart man would never, ever love me.  Hell, I was convinced no man at all would ever love me.  I didn’t love myself.

I was in high school a little over ten years ago and though I can’t speak for what high school is like now, I can assure you that there were cliques and drama and judgment of all sorts.  I won’t lie – I desperately wanted to feel what it was like to be pretty and popular, with perfect hair, and nice car, a cute boyfriend, and lots of girlfriends.  But wanting what others had only caused me to suffer more.

Can I be blunt?  High school was a big ball of shit, and though I made my own experience worse due to very low self-esteem, I was also young and weak and didn’t have the tools and resources I needed to become strong and confident..  High school was a cruel place where you were nobody unless you were somebody, and that is shit.  High school was good for the people it treated well – like a society that pampers its wealthy and aristocratic and shuns its poor peasants – that was what high school felt like to me.  I felt like a peasant.  And I hated it.

So what happened?  Well, that’s a story long enough for a full-blown autobiography.  I can tell a shortened version.  The shortest version is that although I am still a work-in-progress when it comes to self-acceptance and love –

 I am truly the girl I hoped I would become and living a life that I could have only dreamed of as a 16 year old.

I’m not rich and I don’t have tons of friends and I don’t live on the beach, but my life – though just as full of set-backs, frustrations, pain, and challenges as anyone else – is amazing and full of happiness.

I am where I am today because I’ve had over a decade to get here.  That’s a lot of time to work on yourself and become stronger and more confident.  I am not afraid to speak up anymore, which is one of the best things age has given me.

One of the hardest and yet easiest things to do – something that has made a big difference – is not having people in my life that bring me down, make me sad, or don’t have my best interests at heart.

I learned to like myself, and to be myself – not hiding who I am, not trying to be like other women, not agreeing with everyone else to fit in, not trying to keep up with anything because it’s hip.  To hell with all that.  I am me and I don’t care what everyone else is doing.

I got healthy at 19 and lost weight on my own terms and that gave me self-esteem I’d never had.  I finished college and had a fantastic learning experience in more ways than one.

I followed my heart, which led me to a relationship that is beyond explanation.  I am deeply happy and content with my long-term boyfriend and our relationship.  We have a dream relationship (it’s not perfect but it’s amazing).  If my teenage self could see me now, she wouldn’t believe it.

I have had to work very hard to grow and still do every day – to learn, to accept things I can’t change, to change the things I can, to take care of myself, to make hard decisions, to follow through with things I need to do – nobody handed me my happy life.  I got fed up with being unhappy, came out and grabbed my happy life by the tail.

If you are an unhappy teenager, I was you, and I am you still, in a way, because my past is a part of me.  But there is so much more ahead of you, no matter how bad you think it is, no matter how out of reach something may seem – it seemed out of reach to me, too.  But it isn’t –

You build up the walls in your own mind and you must be the one who tears them down.  Get a hammer and tear down the walls of unhappiness until the light starts pouring through the cracks, damn it.  All the happiness you dream of is just on the other side of your own self-imposed limits.  And the truth is that nothing can stop you but yourself. You are the only you in the world, own your unique beauty and love yourself.  Go claim your happy life!

 

Trying New Styles of Yoga

myyogamatThis is my much loved yoga mat.  I won’t replace it until I have to, because I’m frugal like that.  For me, mat work is the most rewarding and loved form of exercise I have ever done.  It can be challenging, fun, therapeutic, calming, mindful, and very rewarding.

I was all about Pilates until I had surgery in September and I turned to Yoga in the interim.  I am not new to Yoga, but it had been a while since I’d practiced.  I decided to try something low impact and opted for Yin Yoga, which focuses on long held poses that encourage relaxation.  This was a fantastic form of Yoga for me to practice close to bedtime as it felt good physically, but was also meditative.

I also tried Kripalu and Kundalini, which were new to me as well.  As I understand it, Kripalu, a gentle form of Hatha yoga, focuses on meditation, breath-work, and relaxation.  Kundalini includes breathing, chanting, and meditating.  This is just a very basic explanation of these forms of yoga, and to understand them better, I encourage you to do some reading on the different types of yoga. There are quite a few varieties.  I only scratched the surface of these three forms of yoga, drawn to them because they were described as being on the more gentle, healing, meditative side, which sounded perfect.

Although I enjoyed all three forms, my favorite by far is Yin Yoga.  For me, Yin Yoga has been an amazing discovery, as it not only is good for my body, but it is the most meditative and relaxing mind-body fitness I’ve ever come across.  I find it theraputic to practice Yin Yoga at night, as it is excellent to help unwind from the day and truly meditate while in the poses.  I hope to continue to explore Yin Yoga and understand it more thoroughly.

What forms of yoga do you enjoy the most?

My Current Morning Skincare Routine

morningskincareI’m always changing up my skincare routines, tweaking them to fit the season and my skin’s needs.  I love to try new products, but I also will stick with products that work great for me.  One thing to note is that I try to keep most of my products in the mid-price range: no, my skincare products aren’t the cheapest, but they certainly aren’t the most expensive products out there, either.  These are the products I currently use in my morning routine.

HollyBeth Organics Chamomile Foaming Cleanser – I just love this as a morning cleanser.  My skin isn’t dirty in the morning, but I still want to “wash” – and this cleanser is perfect because it is mild and incredibly hydrating due to all the wonderful oils it contains.  Not only is this a very affordable clean skincare product, but one pump is all I need so it will last a while.

Root Science RS Youth Serum – I am just smitten with my sample bottle of this gorgeous serum.  It has a stellar list of ingredients (including prickly pear seed, tamanu, and sea buckthorn oils), smell wonderful, and is perfect consistency for layering under makeup.  I really want a full-size and this is one of the few high-end products I actually want to buy.  I’m trying to make my sample last long enough to hopefully buy a full-size with a discount code.  Crossing my fingers, because this serum is amazing.

Acure Organic Argan Oil – Argan oil was my “gateway oil” and I still think it’s a fantastic basic oil.  Acure’s version is fairly easy to find and affordable compared to some higher-end brands.  I add a drop or two of this to my skin along with the RS Youth Serum in the morning.

One Love Organics Brand New Day Scrub + Masque – I wrote a post about how I use this with manuka honey when I want a calming face mask on the weekends.  This is a lovely, gentle scrub and the smell is tropical fruit heaven.

Acure Brightening Facial Scrub – I use this dark green scrub about twice a week when I’m in the shower. This contains argan stem cells, chlorella growth factor, and green clay.  It is a nice, affordable exfoliator that smells nice, works well, and isn’t too rough on my skin.

100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Eye Cream – This is a lighter eye cream, so it is better for layering under my makeup in the morning.  I keep reading that people say this smells like coffee, but to me, it smells like an amazing vanilla buttercream frosting.  A bonus is that my tube is lasting forever, making it even more wallet-friendly.

Heritage Store Rosewater Mist – I use this after cleansing and before I put on my serum, and then again to set my makeup.  It smells like a fresh bouquet of roses.  I really love the way this sets my makeup and gives a nice glow to my skin.  It’s like it helps the makeup to really set better on the skin, which makes it look more natural.

Are there any morning skincare products you can’t live without?  Do you use any of these products?

 

Teaching Children About Recycling

recycling

Easy items to recycle include metal cans, most plastics such as yogurt cups, cardboard, aluminum cans, and glass.

My daughter has grown up watching her mother recycle, so it’s no big deal to her.  However, she is still learning about recyclable materials and she is also still working on remembering to recycle items.  Because she doesn’t have as much opportunity to learn about recycling outside of our home, I am her primary teacher when it comes to this subject.  She needs to be reminded sometimes to recycle, although other times she remembers on her own.

My goals are to teach her:

  1. Why it’s important to recycle
  2. What can be recycled
  3. What can’t be recycled
  4. Learning personal responsibility through recycling

I think all children, regardless of age, should at the very least be exposed to the concept of recycling and why it is so important.  If you feel you can’t find the right words, an internet search for “child-friendly recycling diagrams” is a good search.

Recycling is part of the bigger REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE phrase that is so well known but often overlooked.  These actions are listed in their order of importance.  First, reduce the amount of consumption.  Second, reuse items if possible.  Finally, recycle if the first two do not apply.

I also love that I can use recycling to not only teach my daughter about taking care of the earth, but about personal ownership and responsibility.  If she ate something from a plastic container, she is responsible for placing it in the recycling bag because she used it. Sometimes she asks whether an item can be recycled or not, and we talk about this as well.  In time, she will know enough about recycling to determine what items get recycled, which are reused, and which are thrown away.

We also talk about litter on the roadways, to which my daughter will inevitably reply, “That’s not good for the earth.  That person should have recycled.”  Which, needless to say, warms my heart!

Teaching these principles to children helps to ingrain an eco-friendly mindset, which will hopefully result in an eco-friendly, responsible, insightful adult.

Have you ever taught children about recycling?  What method of teaching worked for you?

 

Dealing With a Beast Called Anxiety

anxietybeastAnxiety is a monster that is created in the mind of an individual, only able to hurt and torture that individual, fed by the individual, and can only be stopped by the individual.

Anxiety is a horror that I have tried to flee from via sleep, loud music, or staying busy.  I wouldn’t wish anxiety on anyone.  No one.

The definition of anxiety is basically a feeling of intense worry and nervousness about something that might happen in the future or something with an uncertain outcome.  For me, anxiety can also lead to panic attacks and hyperventilating. I’ve also lost unhealthy amounts of weight in a short amount of time due to acute anxiety.  It’s a terrible way to lose weight – trust me.  It’s a fear – a fear of the unknown, a fear of “what will happen?”  And it’s scary.  It can be downright debilitating.

Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was in junior high school.  It comes and goes, sometimes it comes for a few days or weeks and leaves again, sometimes it stays away for a month or two or more.  But the question has never been, “Will I have anxiety again?” but “When will I have anxiety again?”  I don’t focus on it but I have accepted that it will happen – and oddly enough, accepting the inevitability of it actually makes it somewhat easier, because knowing it will happen helps me focus on it less.

For me, acute anxiety is an episode that is so intense that I can function on a basic level, but not enough to work or be a good parent. There are a few ways I’ve learned to deal with acute anxiety.  

In the past, I have had to use prescription medications to help ease my anxiety, and they truly were needed.  I am not currently on any medications, but if my anxiety ever got to the point where I couldn’t function for a longer period of time, I wouldn’t hesitate to get the help I needed.   I also had helpful counseling and therapy during my most intense period of depression and anxiety (this period was when I was in the middle of a divorce and had lost my home and my car). This is obviously an area where talking to a doctor is best to determine the needs of an individual.

With an isolated episode of anxiety, the number one thing for me is time.  It takes time for the episode to pass.  Sometimes an hour, sometimes several hours.  Accepting that it takes time helps me to feel less frustrated.

The second thing is surrounding myself with peace and quiet.  I’ve found that the less noise there is, the better I can deal with anxiety. I also enjoy listening to meditations or calm instrumental music.

The third thing is realizing the impermanence of life.  And this is a big one.  Basically, I remind myself that everything changes, nothing ever stays the same.  By reminding myself of this, I know that whatever it is that is causing my anxiety will not last forever.  Situations are always changing, and I’m always growing.  So…either the situation causing the anxiety will eventually change, or I will eventually change and grow to better accept it.  One of these two outcomes is inevitable.  And that gives me hope and strength in difficult times.

Lastly, I gently remind myself, “It is OK – I will be OK.”  I’ve been working on being more emotionally self-reliant and telling myself it’s OK as opposed to needing someone else to tell me.  I have lived this life many years, and life hasn’t broken me yet.  These are the things I do to help myself through anxiety.

If you have ever dealt with anxiety, what coping strategies help you the most?

 

Homemade Cold Remedy Cider

coldelixirThis stuff packs a punch.  But since I actually enjoy strong flavors, including vinegar, taking a shot of this all-natural cold remedy is completely do-able.

I first stumbled upon a recipe like this a year or two ago on the internet.  There are lots of variations on the internet for old-fashioned cold brews like this.  The thing is, this remedy actually does some good in our house.

This natural cold remedy is not just a bunch of healthy hoo-ha that talks a big talk – for me, this cold remedy truly walks the walk.

Last fall and winter, we regularly pulled our jar of this out of the fridge and took a shot whenever we were feeling a cold or sniffles coming on.  And the real kicker for me was when I had an infection in late winter, and drank enough of this stuff that I was able to get over the infection without using antibiotics.  Now, I am my own guinea pig, and I would never suggest someone diagnose themselves or try to heal infections with only homemade remedies as each person is different and what works for me may not work for you.  That being said, we drank an entire batch of this over the course of last winter, and I recently made a new batch for the current fall and winter, because it truly helps.

It’s very easy to make:

  • 1 quart organic apple cider vinegar (with the mother)
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped head of garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated horseradish
  • 2 T turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup manuka honey (I like to use a combination of honey, but use what you have available)
  • 1/2 cup organic local or raw honey

The first step is to combine the vinegar, chopped onion, garlic, horseradish, turmeric, and cayenne in a bowl and transfer it into a lidded jar.  Let this mixture set untouched for about a month on your countertop – don’t refrigerate! You can see from my photograph above what it looks like before it is strained – the chucks of onion, garlic, and horseradish float at the top and the mother and spices settle at the bottom. This is normal.

After a month, strain the mixture well, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Discard the solid pieces and retain the liquid.  Mix in the honey and rebottle.  Taste it.  Be prepared for this concoction to kick back – but drink it knowing that it is full of healthy benefits.  Keep refrigerated.  Shake well and take approximately a shot glass full whenever you are dealing with cold-like symptoms.

What are your favorite all-natural remedies for winter colds?  Have you ever tried a cold remedy cider?

Perfect All-Natural Blush for Autumn

lipcheekstain I added this lovely little pot to my online shopping cart during a recent purchase.  Having never heard of it before, I still snapped it up for a couple of simple reasons – it was a great price and the ingredients sounded great.  This is the vegan Aster & Bay Beet Root + Hibiscus Lip Stain and I love it as the perfect natural berry blush for fall.

In the past, I was terrified of any oils or excess moisture on my face, fearing it would clog my pores or make me look greasy.  Thankfully, I’ve cured myself of that nonsense and now I love moisturizing makeup with ingredients that double as skincare.

The longevity of this as blush was very nice, but it isn’t going to be a 10-hour long-wear blush, and that’s ok with me. The effect?  It’s natural, sheer, gorgeous berry color makes my cheeks look luminous.  It is buildable as well.  Keep in mind I have fair olive toned skin, so I don’t know how this would work on darker skinned ladies.  The clementine and blood orange oils give this a nice scent.  All in all, I am in love with this as a cold-weather blush.

Ingredients: Rosa rubiginosa (rose hip) seed oil*, ricinus communis (castor) seed oil*, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil*, mangifera indica (mango) seed butter, hibiscus sabdariffa (hibiscus) flower*, alkanna tinctoria (alkanet) root*, beta vulgaris (beet) root*, sambucus nigra (elderberry)*, candelilla wax, punica granatum (pomegranate) seed extract*, citrus reticulata blanco (clementine) oil, citrus sinensis (blood orange) oil. * organic

My Current Haircare Routine

haircareMy hair is naturally dark ash blonde, not color-treated for about a year and a half now, fine textured, with oiler roots and drier ends.  If you have hair like this, you know how difficult it can be to have hair that is hydrated but not flat.  I have tried quite a few natural shampoos and conditioners, usually with lackluster results.  Admittedly, I have never tried any higher-end natural haircare, so I can’t comment on some brands, but for now I have found a combination of a few products that work fairly well for my hair type.  I’m always on the lookout for the absolute best products for my hair type.  There are definitely some brands I would love to try, but prices make me trigger shy, so hopefully I can snag some samples in the future.

One product not on this list that I’m searching for is a conditioning deep treatment to use about once a week.  Because these types of all-natural hair products aren’t usually wallet-friendly, again, I’m trying to get samples first and find one that works.  I’ve used coconut oil and avocado oil as a deep treatment and it works pretty well, but makes an oily mess in the bottom of the shower, so a less greasy alternative would be nice to find.

Acure Pure Mint + Echinacea Volumizing Shampoo – I’ve tried Acure’s shampoo and conditioner for normal hair as well, but I think this version has a slight advantage for my hair type.  It smells fresh, suds up wonderfully for an all-natural shampoo, and allows me to go 2-3 days between shampoos.  Also, it’s easy to find and affordable as far as all-natural haircare goes.

Acure Pure Mint + Echinacea Volumizing Conditioner – This works great with the shampoo.  It is moisturizing without being heavy – which is critical when you have fine hair.  I’ve tried other conditioners that left my hair too dry, and others that were too heavy and made my hair flat and limp.  This is, as Goldilocks would say, “just right.”

Yarok Feed Your Ends Leave-In Conditioner – I am in love with this product.  I’m not one to buy expensive products lightly, so that is a testament to how well this conditioner works (although I did buy a full-size with a coupon code so I got a great deal).  It is heavier than other leave-ins but not so heavy that my hair looks greasy.  Plus, it smells fresh and lemony.  It helps keep my ends from looking dry, which is going to be more important as well the weather gets colder. When my hair is still wet from showering, I spray this from the middle of my hair down to my ends, and comb through.  Sometimes, I even mist a little on my dry hair if it looks like it needs it.

DIY Dry Shampoo – Because I’m not yet willing to fork over money for dry shampoo, I’ve been making my own with great results.  I plan on posting my DIY “recipe” soon, but whatever your preference, you should try a natural dry shampoo, whether you buy it or make your own.  Using dry shampoo has been an epiphany for me.  I’ve been able to go from shampooing 6-7 days a week to just 2-3 times a week.  I dust a little dry shampoo on my roots and the hair around my face, brush through after a minute or two, and my hair is good to go. Fantastic!

What are your absolute favorite natural haircare products? If you use higher-end products, do you feel the results are worth the price?