Self Care Rituals

Invest in Yourself. Reap the Rewards.

Stamina is everything for the modern woman, but if we want to be our most productive, it starts with taking care of ourselves the way we’d take care of others. So, why is it then, that so many women struggle when it comes to investing in me time? Whether it’s because we don’t value ourselves enough or we simply are so busy that every second counts, if you’re not at your best, you can’t do your best. With that in mind, here are some simple self-care rituals that will get you on the road to feeling fresh, looking alive,  and kicking butt across the board.  
Morning meditation
Sure, it can be hard to take time for yourself, especially if the entire point is to sit still and breathe, but setting aside just 10 minutes a day to meditate has been proven to work wonders. Clearing your mind will help you better focus throughout the day and decreases your stress levels by improving your oxygen flow. An added benefit? You’ll look and feel calm, rested and ready to take on anything…from a screaming threenager to a difficult client to a significant other who needs a shoulder to cry on. 
Helping hands
Getting your nails done can seem like an indulgence, but the results can’t be overstated. Ignoring the fact that our hands are quick to show signs of aging, (which makes caring for them paramount), dedicating yourself to having pretty hands – no matter the length of your nails is an easy and inexpensive way to pamper yourself. Whether you go to a salon or do the job yourself, the ritual of a weekly steam, deep-moisture treatment and cuticle cutting (with or without the polish)  goes a long way in making you feel good every time you catch a glimpse of your digits, whether on your steering wheel, on your smart phone or on your partner!
Shed your skin
Had a rough day? Start the week feeling fresh with a full body scrub that will boost your physical and mental state of mind while it enlivens dull skin and sheds dead layers of skin to reveal your inner glow. Just note that too much scrubbing can do damage, so  don’t overdo it. The solution? A weekly sloughing performed as a self-care ritual. Make your Sunday night or Friday morning shower all about your favorite exfoliator and give your entire body a good scrub, focusing on knees, elbows and any problem spots. Then, cream up with your favorite luxurious moisturizer and voila – a whole new you! 

Is Your Smartphone Aging You?

Put down the device and step away from the screen

Ever since smartphones became commonplace, people have been questioning their impact on our bodies. Do they cause cancer? Can the radiation impact our brains? Are they actually addicting? And while none of the studies conducted thus far have gone on for long enough to offer conclusive evidence, one definitive truth about the impression they’re making on us physically has come to light.  Our smartphones may be aging us.
How you ask? The answer is three-fold.
The Bacteria
It’s already well-documented that our phone screens carry germs. In fact, they’re said to be even worse offenders than dirty everyday objects like money and keys. That’s because the screens can be cleanser-resistant, so even our best attempts at maintaining germ-free PDAs is a huge fail. But how does bacteria make you age? By irritating your skin, of course. When fingers go from screen to face they transport germs to whatever they touch. This can lead to redness and extra oil, which can cause blemishes of all kinds (including acne) and all kinds of irritation. Repeat offenses take their toll and the wear and tear causes irreversible damage.
The solution? Keep your phone as clean as possible and try to avoid touching your face. Or maybe, just put it down.
The Sleep Issue
Who doesn’t keep their phone next to the bed these days? Smart people, that’s who. It’s been proven that the light from cell phones, tablets and computers makes it harder to fall asleep and leads to lighter REM cycles. Experts suggest putting the devices away two full hours before turning in to avoid this. But if you’re like the masses failing to heed this advice (no judgments – we’re all guilty much of the time), you’re sleeping less and not as deeply. Hence, you’re more apt to looking tired and wrinkles are bound to set in even faster, which brings us to the final way technology makes us look older, faster.
The Wrinkles
According to dermatologists, lines and creases are apt to develop if you spend a lot of time texting or otherwise on your smart phone. It doesn’t matter whether you’re glued to the Facebook App or emailing with your colleagues 24/7, staring down at a device in your hand keeps your head tilted, and that repeated downward gaze can lead to more lines forming in the neck than would otherwise form. Hence, your face may not suffer, but a prematurely creased neck will lead to making smartphone addicts age more rapidly. The horror!
One answer? Remember the Michelin Tire Man (all rolls and creases) the next time you’re compelled to stare at the phone – it just may be enough to stop you!

Sneak More Nutrition into your Diet

Tried and True Tasty Ways to Eat Healthier

There’s a theory in psychology called the white bear theory, also known as the ironic process theory. It simply means that if I tell you not to think of a white bear you’ll be hard-pressed to think of anything but a white bear. It works with your diet as well. Tell yourself you can’t have a certain food and the only thing you’ll want is that food, or at least that’s how it’s worked for me when I’ve tried it. Now I take a different approach. Instead of eliminating “bad” things from my diet, I try to see how many great things I can pack into it. That, plus the fact that I love a challenge is the reason why I am constantly on the lookout for small ways to boost my daily nutrition. Here are a few of my recent favorites:
  • Power smoothie. A smoothie is the easiest way to get a lot of green. I blend  a small handful of fresh spinach, a handful of power greens, a banana, a handful of frozen strawberries and a cup of orange juice. Experiment with this one, because the truth is you can add pretty much any greens to juice and frozen strawberries and it will turn out well.
  • Spinach-chocolate milk anyone? This, by far is the best way to get my 5 year old to eat greens. Blend a cup of low-fat milk, 2 tablespoons of Ovaltine, and a  handful of spinach. Make sure to blend well, so you don’t see small bits of spinach. Don’t be too concerned with the green tinge this drink has, because  it tastes great. Make sure to serve in an opaque cup with a lid if your little one is picky.
  • Avocado toast. Skip the jam and spread half a mashed up avocado onto your toast instead. Next, sprinkle your toast with cumin and top it with a hard-boiled egg for an even more interesting breakfast.
  • Double-fiber bread. Some nutritionists say the definition of junk food is any low-fiber food, so I always aim to pack fiber into my diet; that’s why I’ve switched from whole wheat bread to double-fiber bread. Double-fiber bread tastes nearly the same as regular whole wheat bread, but packs in about 4-5 grams of fiber per slice. My suggestion for bread on your next shopping trip is Rudi’s, Nature’s Own, Trader Joe’s or Oroweat double-fiber breads.
  • Add trail mix to oatmeal cookies. Okay, so cookies aren’t exactly health food, but it doesn’t hurt to add some extra nutrition to this dessert. I cut the sugar by one-third in my oatmeal cookie recipe, and then throw in trail mix that has nuts, seeds, cranberries and raisins.

The Book Report: Best Novels for Women

Fiction Books Women Will Love

Last month, I posted about my favorite non-fiction books for women. This month I asked a bunch of my writer friends to send me their suggestions for fiction novel must-reads for every woman. Here are some of the novels that made the list. Read them all, and then buy your favorites as gifts for your women friends!

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston is a classic and powerful Southern love story. One friend told me that Janie (the protagonist) is still one of her literary heroes. Another friend told me that she first read the book in a college literature class, and she’ll never forget when she encountered the passage about the peach tree blooming.

Housekeeping, the inaugural novel by Marilynne Robinson is about family drama, loss, longing, loving and loneliness. Also read Robinson’s later novel Gilead, which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Written by Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye is a meditation on beauty and conformity. Also read Morrison’s Sula & Beloved. Quite simply, you can never go wrong with a Toni Morrison book.

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood is set in a fictional near-future where women aren’t allowed money, jobs or knowledge. This novel is a satire and warning. More importantly, it’s a must-read. For those of you who like Twitter, you can also find Atwood there where she tweets often and is every bit the writer-activist, even with only 140 characters.

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison is a heart-wrenching story of a poor family in South Carolina. Women I know who love this book say it’s nearly perfect.

For those of you who appreciate the unusual, read Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison. It’s a story of a middle-aged working mom who struggles to keep it together despite her grown kids’ problems and her own. This novel is constructed out of fragmented paragraphs, which reads dark, funny and crazy – kind of like real life.

Written by the same author as the The Color Purple, Alice Walker, The Temple of My Familiar is a love story, a fable and a feminist manifesto all rolled into one riveting read. What could be better?

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