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How to Use The 5 Senses Exercise to Cope With Anxiety and Panic

What is anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Anxiety typically involves intense, uncontrollable terror or dread. Additional symptoms may include increased heartbeat, sweating, shortness of breath, muscle tension, racing thoughts, and stomach ache. Chronic symptoms can interfere with activities of daily living, work performance, and educational progress. Additional problems may arise for individuals who experience panic attacks, which are sudden, chronic episodes of intense fear that causes severe physical and emotional reactions. 

What does anxiety look like? 

While learning about anxiety, several dots that had been scattered throughout my life suddenly connected. Childhood anxiety can include frequent crying, complaining of stomach aches, and quickness to anger, which reminded me of countless memories during which I struggled to navigate the world rationally. I thought back on my first grade teacher, who contacted my mother to discuss her concerns about my frequent crying, stomach aches, and general sensitivity during the school day. In fact, my sister still rolls her eyes when recalling her embarrassment about frequently pushing my sad, sobbing sack onto the school bus. At home, my exquisite ability to throw a sudden, nonsensical temper tantrum earned me the nickname “Little Thundercloud.” 

My experience with anxiety has never had a severe impact on my life, but it has caused me difficult moments of paralysis, shakiness, racing thoughts, heart palpitations, and intense stomach aches. There have even been a few situations where my symptoms escalated to panic, featuring blurry vision, tightness in my chest, and trembling. Those moments left me emotionally exhausted and confused, and when they occurred I knew I had to find a way to address how I was feeling.

What causes anxiety?

When feeling threatened or sensing danger, all animals have an instinctual reaction referred to as fight-or-flight. As a reaction to the detected danger, the heartbeat intensifies, senses heighten, and the body prepares to either run away to safety or fight off the threat. Chronic anxiety and panic disorders are what happen when the brain inaccurately detects danger. An individual could be genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders, or symptoms may be triggered by a traumatic experience. 

In an outpatient therapy setting, I worked with a client who suffered with an immunodeficiency disease. She struggled with uncertainty related to her health and underwent frequent medical testing during childhood. The illness caused frequent long term hospitalizations, requiring her to quarantine to avoid exposure to germs. After finally being diagnosed and starting an effective treatment regimen, she was permitted to be her life as normally as possible. However, she enrolled in mental health therapy after noticing that being in public and near other people caused intense panic about her getting sick, even though her health was now stable.

Mental health typically moves in patterns. Identifying those patterns is a critical step in learning how we can break them. In the example above, my client displayed a pattern. She spent time in public, experienced intense fear, and engaged in avoidance behaviors to limit that unwanted feeling. To break this pattern, we had to determine the first sign of anxiety and put something into place that would help derail the cycle.

How can I overcome anxiety? 

Like most obstacles we discuss here on the blog, to overcome anxiety we have to learn about it. I quickly learned that my own anxiety fluctuates based on my level of depression, and when I feel more depressed I display more symptoms of anxiety as well. This basically means that if my depression is the chicken, my anxiety is the egg. It was important for me to understand where my anxiety was coming from, but it was also important to identify skills that would help me cope with it. 

Grounding techniques can intercept anxiety faster than Troy Polamalu can intercept a football. Grounding activities provide mental distraction that redirect one’s focus onto the present moment. They can help control symptoms of anxiety and panic disorders, and they can serve as tools to increase tolerance of distressing emotions. Now don’t get me wrong, traditional mindfulness skills, such as deep breathing, are incredibly useful. However, grounding techniques may just be strong enough to stop a panic attack in its tracks.

My favorite grounding technique is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise, or the Five Senses exercise. The exercise incorporates all of the body’s senses that pull together to bring awareness back to the present. Personally, as soon as I notice my vision blurring and thoughts racing, this is what I do:

THE FIVE SENSES EXERCISE 

Use this exercise when the first symptoms of anxiety and panic arise.

5: Identify FIVE objects around you. It could be a spot on the wall, a book, anything in your surroundings.

4: Identify FOUR things you can feel. Notice the sensations of your clothing on your skin, the ground beneath your feet, or your hair tickling your face.

3: Identify THREE things you can hear. This can be either external, such as traffic outside, or music. It can also be internal, like the sound of your heartbeat or the sound of your breath.

2: Identify TWO things you can smell. Breathe in the smell coffee brewing or maybe you take a walk and acknowledge the scents of nature.

1: Identify ONE thing you can taste. Maybe you can take a sip of tea or juice and focus on how it hits your taste buds, or maybe pop a piece of gum in your mouth and focus the burst of flavor.

How can I get the best results from my grounding exercise? 

The most important thing to practice during a mindfulness or grounding activity is the ability to focus attention on the present moment, without judgment. The purpose of the exercises are to refocus on things outside of oneself, rather than what is going on in the mind. It is critical that we do this with a sense of open curiosity. 

The best part about the 5 Senses Exercise is that it can be done anywhere. It can be practiced in a park, at home, walking in the community, at work, in a car– as long as it’s safe! If anxiety or panic is persistent, the exercise can be lengthened by increasing the amount of things you identify. One might even draw out the exercise by finding as many things in each category as possible. 

This is an the exercise that I teach clients most frequently, and the feedback from those who have tried it has been consistently positive. I always love to hear about your experiences. If someone out there tries this exercise, let me know how it went for you! What works for some may not work for others, but this one hasn’t let me down yet. 

Your Turn!! 

Do you have other grounding techniques that you love? Leave some or your tips and tricks in the comments to help out our fellow wellness warriors. 

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. As we continue through the work grind, don’t forget to stay grounded and mindful. 

Much love, 

Kel

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Superfoods: What They Are and Why You Should Add Them To Your Diet

It can be easy to dismiss the impact that food has on our bodies, but mindful eating has taught me that unbalanced eating can lead to my feeling sluggish, tired, and unmotivated. When I eat balanced meals, I find that my tummy suffers less bloating and discomfort, my skin becomes clearer, and I have enough energy to maintain my active lifestyle.

I knew that healthy eating is linked to incredible health benefits and disease prevention, but I had no idea that healthy eating would have such a great impact on my daily living. This realization inspired me to research foods that provide optimal health benefits, which led me to “Superfoods.”

What are Superfoods?

Superfoods include mostly plant-based foods with some fish and dairy that are thought to promote health. First and foremost, let’s not be fooled by the marketing gurus of the food industry. There are no set criteria for determining what is a superfood. “Superfood” is a marketing term used to influence food sales, and the term itself has no root in academic research. Foods labeled as “super” are those that provide rich nutrients wrapped up in nice little minimal-calorie packages.

Why are Superfoods important?

Superfoods are dense with health-promoting nutrients, such as antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals. These nutrients and lower risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses, improve energy, decrease inflammation, regulating and improving digestion, and supporting weight management.

So…. What’s the catch with Superfoods?

Superfoods have been highly criticized for many reasons, most significantly due to the use of media and marketing to influence public opinion and boost sales. While foods labeled as “Superfoods” are healthy, the way they are processed may not be. For example, natural green tea is high in antioxidants, where commercially manufactured green tea often contains large amounts of added sugar and is cut with other teas. Long story short: always read the nutrition label, and remember that everything is better in moderation- even so-called superfoods.

Although there is no specific food that acts as the key to optimal health, there are some foods that appear to be worthy of the “superfood” label. Let’s take a look at some of these nutrient-abundant foods and dive into the associated health benefits.

Berries

While blueberries are rated high on several lists of superfoods, it is important to recognize that just about any edible berry is worthy of the “superfood” label. Some include raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and cranberries.

Why they’re super:

Berries are high in antioxidants, which is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and other inflammatory conditions. Berries can also be effective in maximizing the ability to cope with various digestive and immune-related disorders alongside traditional treatment (with routine consultation of one’s medical treatment team, of course).

How to incorporate them into diet:

Every morning I eat a bagel with cream cheese with blueberries sprinkled on top. It is my favorite. However, one can also use berries as added flavor in oatmeal, as a topping for healthy pancakes or waffles or deserts, to compliment a salad or smoothie, or simply for a snack!

Dark Leafy Greens

Not everyone finds pleasure eating dark leafy greens because of their sometimes bitter taste, but finding creative ways to enjoy these beauties is the bulk of the battle in reaping the benefits of these foods. Dark leafy greens may include:

  • Kale
  • Microgreens (immature greens produced from seeds of veggies and herbs)
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet Greens (the leaves of beets)
  • Arugula
  • Bok Choy (a type of Chinese cabbage)
  • Turnip Greens

Why they’re super:

Dark leafy greens contain nutrients including folate, sinc, calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber. They contain potential to decrease risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They are also helpful in acting as an anti-inflammatory.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Any of these greens are great additions to salads, soups, or sandwiches. Lately, I have been eating spinach in stir fries and breakfast scrambles.

Eggs

Eggs have a high cholesterol content, causing debate about whether or not they are actually healthy (which makes this another opportunity to mention that moderation is key with ALL foods). However, eggs are still considered one of the healthiest foods.

Why they’re super:

Despite their cholesterol content, eggs contain many essential vitamins, such as vitamin B’s, choline, selenium, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorous. They are also an excellent source of protein and contain antioxidants that can promote vision and eye health.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Eggs are incredibly versatile. Make them scrambled, fried, dippy, hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side up, over easy/medium/hard, poached, baked, or basted. Eat them on their own or add them to a salad, sandwich, wrap, or stir fry. I love making over medium eggs over a bed of fresh spinach with a teeeeeeeny bit of sriracha drizzled on top for some spice, but the possibilities are endless!

Green Tea

Green tea is a caffeinated tea with a variety of health benefits. However, examining the processing of any green tea is critical. Green tea that is overly processed, such as bottled green teas (I see you, Lipton), may contain high levels of sugar and chemicals that strip green tea of its nutrients. Commercial green tea may also be cut with other teas, minimizing the health benefits even further. A gentle reminder? Scan the label before consuming. Your body will thank you for it.

Why it’s super:

Organically processed, natural green tea is chalk full of antioxidants and micronutrients (AKA polyphenols), acting as a strong anti-inflammatory. Anti-inflammatory agents in green tea is the key ingredient to preventing chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Drink it! Drink it cold, drink it hot, or drink it lukewarm. I like to brew green tea in bulk and chill it in the refrigerator to grab for a tasty, refreshing beverage at any time in the day.

Legumes

Legumes are essentially plants that produce fruits or veggies in pods. Some common types of legumes include kidney beans, cannellini beans, cranberry beans, black beans, pinto beans, soy beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, and lentils.

Why they’re super:

Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous. They are naturally low in fat, cholesterol free, and incredibly filling.

How to incorporate them into diet:

One can utilize legumes by adding them to soups, stews, or casseroles. Pureed beans are also a great base for dips and spreads. I like to add chickpeas to salads or add cooked beans to breakfast scrambles or burgers. I also recently discovered a great recipe for Buffalo Chickpea Sweet Potatoes that is delicious and so filling!

Nuts

Awhhhh, nuts! A personal favorite pre-workout snack. Some of the healthiest nuts include almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts.

Why they’re super:

Nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Although they do contain some saturated fats, nuts are also packed with vitamins and minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis may reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Nuts are a great snack raw or roasted. They can also be chopped or sliced and added to stir fries, salads, or yogurt. I love making nuts the key ingredient when I make homemade granola bars! I also add sliced walnuts to my healthy banana bread.

Seeds

Seeds are way underrated! Some great seeds include flax, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower.

Why they’re super:

Seeds contain essential amino acids and minerals, including calcium, zinc, copper, and magnesium. They also include essential fiber and vitamins.

How to incorporate them into diet:

Seeds are another versatile ingredient. I love adding seeds to oatmeal, salads, yogurt or breakfast bowls. They add a great texture to smoothies and can even be ground to a power to add to flour. (Pro Tip: If you hate drinking water, add some chia seeds and fresh fruit to your water for some awesome flavor and texture.)

Yogurt

Here’s another category that stresses the importance of reading the label. Some yogurts are better than others, and generally one might avoid yogurts with heavy processing, artificial sweeteners and added sugar.

Why it’s super:

Yogurt contains protein and calcium, and it provides important vitamins and probiotics. These are helpful in maintaining gut health, aiding in weight loss, and possibly even preventing diabetes.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Yogurt is a great snack all by itself, but it can also be added to smoothies and smoothie bowls. I love adding some granola and fresh berries for a small breakfast bowl or simple snack.

Garlic

Garlic is considered a nutritional superstar, which may be why it has been long used in alternative and natural medicines. It may be small, but the list of health benefits associated with eating garlic is large.

Why it’s super:

Garlic is loaded with vitamins B and C, selenium, iron, copper, and potassium. Allicin, an oily compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped, offers antioxidant benefits and reduces inflammation. some benefits of garlic include promoting heart health, playing a role in preventing cancer, acting as a natural antibiotic, and reducing swelling and inflammation of various skin conditions (including acne!).

How to incorporate it into diet:

Garlic is another versatile food. I typically add garlic to as many dishes as I can, including veggies, stir fries, salads, and soups. The possibilities are pretty endless with garlic.

Ginger and Turmeric

Ginger and turmeric are other foods that have a long history of use in alternative medicine. They are among the healthiest spices and are loaded with nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Ginger’s main compound is gingerol, which acts as a powerful anti–inflammatory and antioxidant. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. This means that both ginger and turmeric have the ability to help fight infections, treat chronic indigestion, manage osteoarthritis, and treating nausea. They also may help in reducing menstrual pain, managing muscle pain and soreness, lowering blood sugar, lowering risk of heart disease, and lowering cholesterol. Some research also identifies ginger and turmeric as having the potential to prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Ginger and turmeric can be ground into a fine powder to use as a spice, as traditionally used in Asian recipes such as curries or stews. Ginger and turmeric can also be peeled, grated, and added to sauces, glazes, and marinades. There are a number of possibilities. They can even be used to create ginger or turmeric water.

Salmon

It’s hard to find a list of healthy foods that doesn’t include salmon. It’s no wonder these fish are strong enough to swim against the heavy current. Salmon, incredibly tasty and versatile, is loaded with important nutrients.

Why it’s super:

Salmon contains B vitamins, potassium, and selenium. It is also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein. This means that salmon can help fight inflammation, control weight, reduce risk of heart disease, and may even protect brain health.

How to incorporate it into diet:

Baking is one of the most common ways to consume salmon, due to the ability to preserve the vitamin D content in fish. Salmon can also be prepared by grilling or frying. It can be added to curry, salads, or wraps.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes may not sound healthy due to their name, but the nutritional benefits of this root veggie are abundant. Sweet potatoes, considered a healthy carbohydrate, are incredibly filling and contain some important nutrients.

Why they’re super:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C, B, and A. It is also high in the mineral manganese, which helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health. They are a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It is also helpful in regulating blood pressure and supporting weight loss.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I love combining sweet potatoes, eggs, and spinach together to make one awesome breakfast bowl. Other ways to eat sweet potatoes include baking, mashing, or folding sweet potatoes into overnight oats. Another favorite? Slice these babies up and make some sweet potato fries!!

Avocados

Avocados are another personal favorite and considered one of the healthiest fruits. With the rise in popularity of diets such as keto, it is no surprise that avocados have claimed a spot as one of the most popular items to add to your grocery basket.

Why they’re super:

Avocados are a healthy source of monounsaturated fatty acids that contain numerous vitamins, such as A, E, and K. They are also filled with dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Avocados assist in promoting heart health, reducing blood pressure, and minimizing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

How to incorporate them into diet:

I have a habit of cracking these babies open and scooping out the insides with a spoon to eat as a mid-morning snack. However, avocados are also great additions to scrambled eggs, breakfast bowls, salads, or soups. Additionally, many folks find avocados to be a wonderful topping to toast or as a substitute for mayo. I also use mashed avocado as a replacement for sour cream when I make burritos, enchiladas, or tacos.

Chocolate

Last, but certainly not least, chocolate doesn’t just satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth. Dark chocolate is the healthiest sweet treat. Made from the seed of a cocoa tree, dark chocolate is packed with powerful nutrients. But again, moderation is key.

Why it’s super:

Studies show that dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants. Chocolate with a high cocoa content contains copious amounts of fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. Of course, there is a moderate amount of sugar, which reinforces the fact that dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.

How to incorporate it into diet:

If you don’t feel like eating a simply dark chocolate bar, one can experiment with adding dark chocolate to baked goods or as a topping to fruit and other snacks. However, ensuring that dark chocolate contain at least 70% cocoa is the trick to guaranteeing it contains the nutrients that make it super.

What’s the conclusion?

Are “superfoods” a real thing? Who knows, really. The idea that these foods have “super” quality seems rooted in the food industry’s marketing. Regardless of any nicknames or labels, these foods remain high in nutrients and appear to be a welcome addition to our healthy mealtime routines.

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7 Ways To Be Kind To Yourself

Like any reasonable human, I enjoy when things go my way. Gliding through life with ease brings me a sense of peace in knowing that it is all comfortable and smooth sailing. It also impacts the way I view myself and my experiences. During easygoing times, the sun feels brighter, I feel lighter, and it seems that no rainclouds could possibly wipe away my shine. Realistically, I know that life does not always go as expected, and I know that obstacles are a painful, necessary, part of life. As Khalil Gibran eloquently said, “If I accept the sunshine and warmth, then I must also accept the thunder and lightning.” If we had no troubles, would we even recognize our successes?

Although we know that setbacks are an expected aspect of life, it can be difficult to leave room for error and allow opportunity for growth. A vivid memory from my childhood involves opening up a McDonald’s Happy Meal to find a small, plush Ernie doll. My 10-year-old self lit up with excitement and immediately decided that Tiny Ernie needed a Tiny House. I set my workshop up at my family’s dining room table and went to work- hot glue gun in one hand, popsicle sticks in the other.

I spent what seemed like forever at the table, piecing together popsicle sticks with layers of hot, sticky glue, occasionally hearing my mother’s redirections each time I burned myself. When Ernie’s house was finally in one piece, I very carefully took it in my hands. As I attempted to stand it up, it crumpled to pieces. I took a deep breath and dived back in with the hot glue, adding more this time, and pressing the popsicle sticks even harder together. Again, as soon as Ernie’s house was standing, it fell to pieces. Time and time again, with each fall my body heated up and tears of frustration rolled down my face.

My mother attempted to console me. “Kelly, take a break. Try again later,” she said. “Just relax, there is no need to get upset over this.” Her words were useless- I was not giving up. This was for Ernie. Tiny Ernie NEEDED a Tiny house, and I had to be the person to build it. I took another deep breath, tears still rolling. I channeled my inner builder. I was a contractor. I was a sculptor. I was Ustad Ahmad Lahouri and Ernie’s house was the Taj Mahal. After even more glue and more popsicle sticks, I stood my project up for the final time. When it tumbled down yet again, I gathered up my popsicle sticks and dumped them in the trash.

When we experience setbacks, it can cause negative thoughts to swirl around in our heads. “You can’t do this,” they might say. “You’re not good enough.” We might sit with feelings of failure or worthlessness, or we might become depressed or anxious. Maybe we think, “I’m just not trying hard enough.”

I still cry when I’m frustrated, but I’ve learned that entertaining unhelpful thoughts is… not helpful. Giving attention to the thoughts that beat us down may even impact the way we view ourselves and our abilities. Instead of being hard on ourselves during times of struggle, what if we accepted our circumstances? After all, Buddha said if there is good, there must also be bad, right? Here are some tips that can help us be a little gentler with ourselves.

Give Yourself Space to Process

Anyone who knows me in real life knows how uncomfortable I am showing heavy emotions. However, I recently experienced a pretty grueling event that led to some dark feelings. I tried to push the memories and emotions away, but the more I tried the more upset I became. I realized that I needed to confront these feelings and allow myself time and space for processing. Instead of judging my emotions, I observed them without judgment and allowed them to serve their purpose. By giving myself time and space to process that event, I gave myself an opportunity to learn and grow from it. I learned that my feelings were not negative at all- They were allowing me to grieve a situation that I needed to grieve.

Be Flexible

I am my father’s daughter, which means I am one of the most stubborn people I know. Picture doing a puzzle and trying to jam together mismatched pieces- that’s me sometimes. I try and fail and try again, which is not in itself a bad quality. The problem, though, comes with acting along with Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result.” Perseverance takes flexibility and the courage to adapt. When we face an obstacle, we can’t bulldoze through it- we have to find a creative way around it.

Change Your Words

It took me a long time to realize that our words matter, and the way we describe things directly relates to how we view them. Each moment, we have an opportunity to frame something in a positive manner and to strengthen our nonjudgmental minds. Consider the example of personal characteristics. Most of us can identify something that we would like to change about ourselves. Describing those things as “weaknesses” may suggest that they are bad. Instead, using the phrase “opportunities for growth” suggests a nonjudgmental stance that empowers us to move forward toward change. Alternatively, if “failure” became “opportunity for growth,” would we still view it so negatively?

Be Nice to Yourself

For those that may be unaware, I have struggled with depression for several years now. I noticed that sometimes my mood impacts how I treat myself. During my latest bout of increased depression, I found myself making statements such as, “I am such an idiot,” or “I’m such a crazy person.” I justified that by believing that I was making fun of myself, having a laugh, and keeping my humor. Eventually, I noticed that the comments I said in jest also stemmed from negative beliefs I had about myself. When I felt depressed, I truly did believe that I was an idiot, crazy or a bad person. The biggest lesson I have learned throughout my experience with depression is that how we treat ourselves matters, so let’s treat ourselves kindly.

Show Gratitude

It is almost human nature to quickly dismiss positive things and hyper-focus on negative things. Even the news focuses heavily on all of the seemingly bad things in the world and quickly gloss over the good news. Focusing intensely on negative things may cause us to view the world itself as negative. For example, I LOVE true crime, and I could listen to true crime podcasts all day every day. However, if I consume enough dark content, I start experiencing anxieties that tell me the world is not safe and that other people are twisted. I start to forget about the things that bring me joy in the world. By creating a gratitude list daily, I have brought more attention to the fact that good things happen in the world and good things happen to me.

Stop Comparing

Comparing ourselves to others is possibly one of the most unhelpful actions we can do. It places unrealistic expectations on ourselves and creates pressure and discomfort. When we compare our situations to others, we discount our unique personalities and experiences, and it minimizes our strengths and accomplishments. Aside from that, we glorify the lives of others while not recognizing the glories of our own. This may create feelings of anxiety, shame, and guilt. Furthermore, comparing ourselves to others can impact our confidence. Instead, we can recognize that people only let us see what they want us to see. No one is perfect, and we can use that knowledge to focus on growing into our true selves.

Take Your Own Advice

In school, I was taught that therapists do not give advice. Sometimes, though, a client will express their desire for concrete advice or feedback. To them, I say, “Imagine your best friend was going through this situation. What advice would you give to them? Would that advice be helpful to your situation as well?” Alternatively, I might request that the client identify a person whose opinion the hold in high regard, and then I would ask, “What advice do you think they would give you?” Often times we know the answers to our problems, but we feel stuck or discouraged in moving forward. By taking our own advice, we learn to support ourselves with the love and compassion that we do for others.

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HighOh Washable Cloth Pads: Are They Worth It?

High ho….. High ho…. It’s off to…….. making some great attempts to make my menstrual cycle more comfortable and an overall more enjoyable experience.

I love learning new ways to make my life healthier and easier. I have become increasingly passionate about everyday comfort, investing in reusable products, and educating myself on what I put in and on my body. I am slowly transitioning to using reusable, natural products. That’s why I was so excited to be connected with HighOh.

HighOh is a brand started by two sisters who wanted to save money by creating their very own washable cloth pads. These cloth pads are made from a natural bamboo charcoal fiber with a waterproof layer to prevent leakage. The bamboo fiber is eco-friendly and free from harmful chemicals or fabrics.

These washable pads come in different sizes and can be offered as a period kit on High Oh’s Amazon Page (or by searching “HighOh Period Starter Kit” on Amazon) or at ilovehighoh.com. They are shaped as a normal pad and easily placed. They use buttons to fasten around underwear for comfort and ease.

Washing these products is relatively simply. I soaked mine in hot water and laundry detergent overnight before washing regularly in the laundry. One can air dry or put in the dryer.

HighOh is based in Singapore and ship outside of the country to partner stores to ensure that items arrive safely. HighOh recently advertised a charity event during which each purchase will donate one free washable cloth pad to a person in need who menstruates, which makes this the perfect time to check out!

Now, let’s get down to the details about these washable cloth pads.

The Pros:

  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Incredibly Absorbent
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to use
  • Button stays snapped during wear
  • Period Kits come with a convenient waterproof bag
  • Made from all natural materials
  • This company advocates for a good mission and is charitable toward their cause
  • Quick and caring delivery
  • The stitching looks very well done
  • Excellent customer service and quick replies from the business itself

The Cons:

  • There is some slippage and moving around depending on your level of activity while using these washable pads, but I found that a little beauty tape was a wondering solution, as well as noting which underoos did a better job of keeping everything in place.
  • Sometimes these ads seemed a little bulky. If you are smaller, or have a lighter flow, I might suggest a smaller sized pad.

To answer my heading questions: are these worth it? Yes! After searching for a reusable product to add to my menstrual routine (right now I just alternate between menstrual cups), I am happy that I have these awesome pads to add into the mix!

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14 Simple Ways to Help Fight For Racial Equality

When we look at all of the social justice problems that riddle the world, it can be easy to fall into feelings of helplessness. The plague of institutional racism has been persistent, despite efforts of peaceful protesting and advocacy that gained traction in 1955. Dr. Martin Luther King led peaceful protests and demonstrations and acted as a voice for marginalized populations. Still, in the midst of his work in advocating for social change, those who resisted his message arrested him 29 times, criticized him, attempted to assassinate him, bombed his home, attempted to bar his efforts by banning gatherings, etc., and eventually assassinated him.

Even then, there were times where Dr. King’s demonstrations were ended abruptly due to the rise of mobs and police violence against demonstrators. Now in 2020, there is a sense of responsibility to continue to fight for racial equality. Racism, xenophobia, and intolerance are problems that exist across all societies, but every day, there is something that each of us can do to stand up against social injustice. Below are some steps that we ALL can take to stand up to injustice.

  1. Stop Saying “All Lives Matter”

It is widely believed that this phrase completely ignores the point of Black Lives Matter. All lives matter, but “all lives” are not regularly ended by police brutality. Click here to take a look at a great article that explains Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter in 9 different ways. Also don’t forget that in 1820, Thomas Jefferson coined the popular phrase “Slavery is a necessary evil,” and in 1940 the phrase “separate but equal” was widely accepted. The way we use our words matters, and we can leave the phrase “all lives matter” locked in a dark, dark box with the rest of the phrases that choose not to condemn white nationalism.

2. Remember Who We Fight For

We can learn the names of the victims of police brutality that we fight in honor of. Here is a great site with an interactive map that allows you to view victims of police violence and their stories. These people represent the necessity for change, and we should share and respect their stories as we work to facilitate change. I encourage everyone to download and view the full database.

3. Defend human rights

Even if we are not actively engaged in protesting or community organizations, we have the ability to send a message that racism is unacceptable, starting with our personal lives. If we see someone being the victim of racism, we can speak up. If a friend or a family member displays behaviors or makes statements that are misinformed and/or stemming from a place of racism, we can speak up. We can use our voices to ensure that the members of our communities are treated justly and fairly in an attempt to avoid more tragedy.

4. Know Your Rights

In order to fight for and defend human rights, we need to learn what they are first. Here’s a pretty good introductory overview of basic human rights, although let’s strive for learning as much as we can from as many resources we can. Knowledge is power.

5. Educate Others Around You

The world is full of false information, whether based on misguided reports or the unwillingness to acknowledge what is right here in front of us. I like to refer efforts in correcting misinformation with true facts and real statistics as “dropping truth bombs.”

6. Teach Tolerance to Children

Children are the future. We can advocate that our children are taught accurate history lessons in schools, without information being left out or grazed over. We can teach children to celebrate diversity and to respect others, specifically individuals and families that don’t look like them. Here is a great list of books that can be used to educate children multiculturalism and diversity. Here is also a link for Black History Flashcards.

7. Use Your Political Voice

We have the ability to research and vote to put people in power who actively fight for racial justice. We can vote for people who represent the community. Additionally, we can write letters to legislators and representatives and advocate for body cameras to be worn by all officers, for evidence-based police de-escalation training, and for criminal justice reform.

8. Sign Petitions

There are a number of petitions circulating that an easy Google search can give access to (like the ones listed here). Here is also Color of Change’s Petition demanding justice after the brutal murder of George Floyd. Here is also a petition calling for police reform.

9. Donate To:

10. Support Human Rights Organizations

11. Support Social Projects That Demand Reform

12. Protest

We can join others in public demonstrations calling for change. Instead of going out blindly, though, we can learn more about what it means to participate in a protest. Being more prepared and knowledgeable means that we can be of better help. Let’s all check out this link to learn more about the rights of protesters before we head out there. Here’s also a really great image detailing protest roles submitted on Reddit. We can also reach out to protest organizers to see what they need from us!

13. Use Your White Privilege

To assist in combating racism, we can learn about our own privilege and how it impacts others. Here is a great video showing a meaningful exercise about the (sometimes unbeknownst) power of privilege. After we learn about our privilege, we can use it by helping people of color in the fight for racial equality. Using our privilege to intervene could save someone’s life.

This is a list of only 13 things that can be done to combat racism and demand social justice. Let’s all make an effort to do these things and more in the hopes that we can achieve true racial equality.

14. Support Black-owned Businesses

Supporting the Black community means supporting Black-owned businesses. It can seem overwhelming, and sometimes we don’t know where to start. Take a look at this amazing resource that details Black-owned businesses. Website Planet writer Sophia Conti created an amazing list of Black-owned businesses across the United States. Supporting these businesses can mean so much, especially for those impacted by the current pandemic!

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How to Become a Mental Health Therapist

Here is a little video I made detailing the process of becoming a mental health therapist. This was fun to make and hopefully left you all with more information on how to join in on the fight toward mental health awareness and recovery! The Wellness Warrior was designed to use as a platform where we can all start a dialog about health and wellness. That being said, I LOVE engaging with you all, reading your comments, and taking in your feedback. Thank you for tuning in, for visiting The Wellness Warrior and for wanting to be a part of this journey with me! Much love <3

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How To Communicate Effectively

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.

Anthony Robbins

Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important life skills. How we communicate with others strongly influences the quality of our relationships among family, friends, colleagues, romantic partners, and even strangers. When we communicate effectively, we can more easily express ourselves and our ideas while creating a safe space for productive conversation. To communicate well is to ensure that we are understanding and being understood. On the contrary, poor communication can lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and damaged relationships.

Communication is more than what one says. Communication also includes tone and volume of voice, the intention behind the message, the information discussed, and body language used. All of these factors interact to create a conversation, but if we do not consider these details our communication can go awry. Judging others, not being attentive, and not acknowledging the feelings of others can act as a barrier to effective communication.

Communication is something that needs to be practiced. Below are several skills that can help to cultivate an effective communication style.

Practice Active Listening

Instead of thinking about what to say next, practice fully engaging in a conversation by attentively listening to the other person. This can increase understanding and deepen the connection between the communicating parties. It also allows the other person to feel heard and understood, which can lower tension within a conversation. To be an engaged listener, it is important to focus fully on the speaker, avoid interrupting or redirecting the conversation, and show interest in what is being said.

Be Willing to Compromise

When we engage in active listening, we can better understand and empathize with others. When we fully see both sides of a conversation, we can find space to bend a little and find some middle ground that can reduce stress among the communicating parties. It can also strengthen the relationship between two individuals by acknowledging and allowing room for the needs of others.

Notice Your Emotions

During heated conversations, it can be easy to lose control of our tempers or find ourselves stressed. If we communicate through negative feelings, our communication styles can become aggressive and cause the other party to feel attacked or spoken down to. By being mindful our emotions, we can identify when we may require space to calm down before communicating further. Communication is important. If we need a break to regulate our emotions to better express how we feel, we should take it.

Be Assertive

Effective communication involves advocating for our needs. By learning to say no, we allow others an opportunity to compromise and allow us to fulfill our own needs. Where it is important to compromise with others, it is important to recognize when we need others to compromise with us. By utilizing assertiveness, we can better communicate our wants and needs with others in a respectful and effective manner. Using “I” statements can prevent others from feeling attacked while advocating for ourselves.

Be Non-Judgmental

Avoiding judgment can allow us to better empathize with others. By judging others, we cause feelings of being criticized or degraded, and we can irreparably damage our relationships with others. As effective communicators, it is our responsibility to listen and seek to understand– not judge. Allowing others to feel heard without feeling judged can build trust.

Clarify, Summarize, and Offer Feedback

Our role as effective communicators is to offer perspective and support to others. Clarifying involves asking questions to ensure we are understanding the information as the other person intends. Summarizing, or reviewing what we have heard, can allow the other person to clarify and address misunderstandings if needed. Additionally, it can show that we are listening and understanding the other person. Finally, offering feedback can show support and validation to individuals during a vulnerable time. Feedback should be constructive, honest, and respectful.

Okay, peeps! It’s your turn: What communication skills have you adopted that have positively changed the way you communicate with others?

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A Day in the Life of a Mental Health Therapist

Hi there, Wellness Warriors!!

I hope you are all doing well. Here is a little video I made to highlight some ins and outs of therapist life. It includes what a typical day looks like (specifically a day during a pandemic), what a therapy session consists of, and tips for choosing the right therapist. Enjoy!

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Coping with Coronavirus (A Collection of Resources)

The CDC website below gives information on managing stress and fears related to the pandemic. Additionally, further down in the article it offers signs of stress in children and things parents can do to support their children. It also reviews how to reduce secondary traumatic stress reactions in helpers/responders. It is important that during this time we stay accurately informed to reduce stress and panic.

CLICK HERE FOR CDC WEBSITE INFORMATION

Click here to view facts about Coronavirus.

Resources for Adults:

Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation During an Infectious Disease Outbreak

Managing fears and Anxiety around Coronavirus

COVID-19 and Social Stigma

Resources for Parents/Children:

Talking with Children About Coronoavirus

Some printable activities surrounding coping skills for children

Easy Indoor Activities for Children and Families

Khan Academy’s Student Schedule for Keeping Children on Track with Education

Resources for Employees/Responders:

Tips for Disaster Responders

Tips on How Employees Can Support Each Other

A Guide for Clinicians

Psychological Effects of Quarantine

Services Offering Support:

Headspace: offering select free meditations. For healthcare professionals who work in public health settings, the app will be completely free through the end of this year

Calm: offering free tools to assist with managing anxiety and stress

Peloton App: offering a free 90 day trial with a number of indoor and outdoor exercises, meditations, and sleep activities.

CARROTfit: this app that takes an aggressive approach to fitness motivation will be free to download for the next two weeks

Down Dog: offering all of their apps (Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout) completely free until April 1st.

Dark Noise: an app that offers a variety of soothing noises, is currently offering the Dark Noise TestFlight beta for free.

Planet Fitness: will offer a series of live workouts that will be streamed on their Facebook page

ServiceNow: currently releasing community apps and resources to support companies, employees, and government agencies

LinkedIn: opening up 16 of its learning courses for free

Moog and Korg: offering access to music-making tools free on iOS and Android

News Sites That are Currently Offering Information Without Subscription:

Medical Resources:

DocClocker: enables patients to receive wait-time reporting of their medical providers to limit exposure risks.

Orbita: offering a COVID-19 Virtual Assistant to provide easier access to conorvirus-specific answers and screening tools.

Resources for Individuals Struggling with Addiction: (suggested by reader Luis Posso)

The Recovery Village: offers online recovery meetings and a variety of therapeutic services

Anxiety and Addiction | drugrehab.com: provides addiction education, resources, and 24/7 telephonic support. 

Crisis Resources:

Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a crisis counselor.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 1-800-273-8255