Make November Your Self-Care Month!

After all the stress of the last few weeks, a lot of my friends and clients have been playing catch up, trying to get life back to normal. In all the hullaballoo of to-do’s and appointments, the first thing to go is almost always self-care. We invariably spend more time on work and the house and running around from thing to thing than on the one factor that will consistently give us the energy, calm, and presence of mind to get it all done! And then of course we wonder why the weight keeps packing on, or why we’re bloated and frazzled and craving all kinds of god awful, crappy foods. This cycle of craziness needs to stop!

This month, I challenge you to make self-care your NUMBER ONE PRIORITY in life. I know, I know, I can hear you already thinking of all your “but’s” — the bills! the kids! your work! Consider this, a frazzled, tired, stressed out you makes a much worse parent, provider, and employee than a happy, balanced you! You OWE it to your family, your friends, your partner and your co-workers to be better, and the only way to accomplish this is to take care of number one.

Below, I’ve compiled some great resources around the blog for you to start sleeping better (and by better, I mean a full 8-9 hours every single night!!), minimizing stress, and simplifying your life. The less clutter you have in your brain and your environment, the better!

I’ll let you in on a little secret… Self-care is not a luxury only afforded to New Jersey housewives, trust fund kids, and actors. It is a fundamental need that all of us have, as vital to our health and longevity as water, and air. No, you won’t immediately drop dead if you haven’t had some down time, a good night’s sleep, and a yoga class, but the effects of consistently skimping on the lifestyle choices that help you feel calm, relaxed and taken care of add up! Stress and consistent lack of sleep have been identified as among the top contributing factors to higher risk of cancer, inflammatory disorders, hormonal imbalance (including infertility!), premature aging, and a slew of other unpleasant things. So if being happier and more balanced isn’t enough motivation for you, hopefully that will be.

So let this month be THE month. The month you get your act together and start taking care of that phenomenal and complicated machine that is your body. Below, post your favorite ways to take care of yourself, and publicly state your goals and intentions for increasing these activities in your life, even if it means cutting out something that isn’t serving you. And as always, please be in touch if I can support you in any way!

Check out:

How to Sleep Better, Naturally!

8 Ways to De-Stress and Simplify Your Life

Less Stress and More Energy Through Breath!

8 Ways to Simplify and De-Stress Your Life

By: Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

 

It is virtually impossible to prioritize your health, wellbeing, and happiness when your days are filled to the brim with excessive clutter, both physical and emotional.  Taking some steps to simplify your life will do wonders for your state of mind, productivity, and balance, and will allow you to better fill your plate (so to speak) with things that make you happy, healthy, and taken care of!

1.  Say NO!  The biggest mistake overworked, overburdened people make is saying yes to too many things.  Social engagements, play dates, work assignments, favors, the list goes on and on.  We’re all afraid that if we admit that our plate might be a little full, it makes us some sort of colossal failure.  Well, newsflash!  Taking on too much means the things you are doing aren’t getting your full attention, which significantly lowers the quality of your engagement — with your friends, your family, your work, everything!  So stop being afraid to say no.  Pick what really matters to say yes to, and get a raincheck on the rest!

2.  Make your bed.  Guess what?  Momma was right on that one (I know, it kills to admit it!)…  The simple step of making yourbed every morning starts your day off with a little more order, a little less clutter, and a little more mental space for productivity.  Our physical environment is a reflection of our mental and emotional environment, a phenomenon that goes both ways.  Having just a little more neatness in your physical space will contribute to more calm and balance everywhere else… And it literally takes but a minute!

3.  Reclaim your inbox.  Yes, I know it is super duper important that you not miss out on any of the eight billion flash sale sites that you’re signed up for, and that getting newsletters from every single store, travel site, or gallery you’ve ever visited is absolutely crucial to your feeling in-the-know in life, but all that is really just contributing to your feeling of overwhelm and stress.  When you open your inbox every morning to a barrage of (let’s be honest) totally unnecessary crap that you need to sort through to get to the one email from your friend about her upcoming birthday party, your day is simply not getting off to a great start.  Not only is this is an enormous waste of your precious time, but it also gives you the illusion that you are a lot more stressed/busy/overworked/overwhelmed than you really are!  They’re just emails!  They’re not even important!  So go through your inbox and unsubscribe to absolutely everything but the most important, life-affirming, happiness-making content (like my newsletter! Which you can sign up for right over there —–>), or make good use of the Hotmail or Yahoo account from the 8th grade, and change all of your commercial correspondence to be delivered there.  That way, you can check it once a week, or whenever you really feel like a Gilt sale will boost your spirits, and pretend that whole mess doesn’t even exist the rest of the time.

4.  Quit multi-tasking!  Ok, I could hear the collective gasp from everyone reading this.  “But Natasha!  I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life cultivating the skill of reading emails, listening to music, talking to my mother, eating lunch, and finishing my quarterly report all at once!  It’s a defining aspect of my amazing character!”  Yes, I say to you… But how well has that worked out for you so far?  Do you feel like your work, your relationships, and your self-care are all getting the attention they deserve?  Or is everything perpetually getting about 30% of your headspace?  I’ve gotta say, multi-tasking is probably the most harmful and counterproductive trend of the last two decades, and it’s time we put it to rest.  Truly successful, productive, balanced people do NOT multi-task!  They dedicate themselves fully to one task at a time, whether than be work, talking to a friend, eating a meal, or watching The Big Bang Theory.  This allows you to not only get more done (like, really done, not half-assed done), but it also allows to you enjoy what you are doing so much more.  Work on chunking your time into specific task-oriented blocks.  Carve out time for answering emails, calling your mom, eating lunch, relaxing, reading, and exercise and don’t let any of those activities overlap!  I promise you, after a week or two of living this way, your cortisol levels will go down, and your seratonin levels will go up.  Hell, you may even lose a pound or two, or get a promotion!  Everything that you do will be done infinitely better, and more importantly, you’ll feel better doing it!

5.  Write down the five things in the world that are most important to you.  This simple step will allow you to refocus your time and energy on what really matters, and let what really isn’t worth your time fall by the wayside.  Keep your list somewhere handy and read it at least once a day.  Have you done something to benefit, support, or move towards a goal related to the things on your list that day?  If not, schedule it in.  It is way too easy to waste our lives focusing on the minutia of the day-to-day, while ignoring what matters most. But luckily, it is totally up to you whether or not you live this way!  Take control of your life today.

6.  Pencil yourself in.  When you’re looking ahead at your calendar, make sure you have some you-time scheduled in every single day.  This might mean a 1 hour yoga class, or a 10 minute walk in the sun, and anything in between.  Whatever it is, make it something you enjoy that leaves you feeling more revitalized and happy.  Every day.  When you start making yourself a priority, even on such a small scale, it becomes a whole hell of a lot easier to stay in control on your time and your emotions!

7.  Delegate.  This one can be the hardest to do, but yields the highest pay off.  Allow me to let you in on a little secret… You can’t do it all.  This isn’t a criticism, it is simply a fact.  You cannot stay on top of every single little detail in your life and the lives of your family members and expect to stay sane.  It’s just not possible!  So start delegating.  Pick 3-5 of your least favorite tasks that you consistently need to accomplish and delegate them to someone else.  Hate cleaning your house?  Get a housecleaner!  Even once every other week, for $75-$100, having someone get your home into sparkling clean condition is SO completely worth it!  Can’t stand administrative tasks?  Get an assistant, or better yet, hire an intern!  There are so many smart young things out there just dying to get experience doing exactly what you do for very little money, and sometimes just the cost of lunch!  Ask your spouse to wash the dishes or take care of laundry, ask your mom to take the kids to their dentist appointments.  It’s so easy to forget that the people in your life love you and want to help you stay sane and happy!  Whatever it is, figure out who can help you get it done.

8.  Make smarter to-do lists.  Once a week, write down everything you need to get done that week (of course, after having SAID NO, DELEGATED, and WRITTEN DOWN WHAT’S IMPORTANT).  Assign yourself 3-5 specific tasks for each day of the week, no more.  If you can’t fit all your weekly to-do’s into 3-5 tasks per day, you need to go back and read the list above again.  Say no, delegate, write down what’s really important, and cross some stuff off that weekly list.  3-5 tasks per day is really all you can commit yourself to accomplishing well, while still leaving yourself plenty of time for penciling yourself in and taking care of what’s really important.  I promise, this will change your life!

{Photos via Pinterest: Image 1Image 2, Image 3, Image 4}

5 Minute Meditation for Stress Relief

Check out this super potent, stress-relieving yoga nidra from Dr. John Douillard.  You can use this exercise anytime you need to relax, unwind, refocus or center yourself.  Since it’s a seated meditation, you can even put in your headphones and do it at your desk at work!

Try it out, and post what positive results you noted!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGs_Y_-0LoY]

Start Working Out! Now!

Yeah, yeah… You don’t have time to workout. You’re so, insanely busy that you can’t fit in 20 minutes on a mat in front of your tv with your favorite exercise DVD. Blah, blah, blah. Listen, sister, we both know that’s a load of hooey. Time isn’t the issue. Everyone has an extra 20 minutes, or can make room for it. Sometimes it’s a bit of the ol’ laziness, sometimes it’s simply not knowing what workouts to do (or which won’t make you cringe). Often times it’s a legitimate (albeit pretty suppressed) fear that if you just make the time, you’ll be out of excuses for why you’re out of shape, or a little heavier than you’d like to be. You would actually have to start living the most fulfilled and awesome life you can, which takes some work and commitment. Whatever your reasons, make it a point to cut the crap with yourself. Today. Right now. Not tomorrow, or after this weekend, or when work calms down. Now.

Don’t know where to start? A big mistake we tend to make with our health is getting super ambitious, biting off a little more than we can currently chew, and then petering out when we lose interest or focus. How many times have you vowed to start working out 5 days a week, or to cut out sugar completely, or to eat greens twice a day, everyday? How long did that last?

The trick is to ease yourself into big lifestyle changes, that you can then build on until you get where you want to be.  Start making movement a part of your everyday life.  EVERYDAY.. not just on your workout days.  Do some stretches when you wake up, some leg lifts or pliés on the subway platform, bicep curls while you’re on the phone, and walk, walk, walk.  Up the stairs, down the street, walk more, walk always.  Check out 5 Great Mini-Workouts You Can Do Everyday!

Once your body starts to get the hang of regular, daily, intentional movement, it starts to crave it, which makes motivating yourself to work out that much easier.

  • Give yourself manageable workout goals.  Don’t have a gym membership?  Don’t wait until you get one… (that’s another excuse in and of itself!).  Pick up some workout videos or hell, even get on YouTube and search for any workout you like and GET MOVING!
  • If you’re starting at zero, shoot for 15-20 minutes just three days a week, and build your way up from there.  Schedule those 15-20 minutes into your calendar and make it a non-negotiable event.
  • Commit to your consistent routine for a few weeks, and then add on.  Make it 20 minutes 4 days a week, or up your workouts to 40 minutes.

Don’t start by worrying about the how’s or when’s right now.  Just. Start. Moving.  Losing weight, getting fit, eliminating cellulite, aging gracefully and slowly, and decreasing risk of all kinds of illness will not happen any other way.  You owe it to yourself to start today.

Stay tuned for my upcoming series of posts focusing on all things exercise.  The best workouts, videos, and guides out there, sorted for your workout personality!

———

Natasha Uspensky, CHHC

Holistic Health & Nutrition Counselor

How to Get Moving

When it comes to exercise there are 2 types of people. Those that stick with a routine and see results, and those that give up and never see real change. How do you become the former? With a plan!

Exercise does a lot more than promote weight loss. It can help prevent diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression as well as other diseases. It’s no wonder so many people want to exercise, but unfortunately lack of motivation and everyday demands of life get in the way. The first step is to make the decision to get fit, but if you don’t follow through you’ll keep ending up back at square one. Before starting a routine, make a commitment to yourself that you will stick with your routine for NO LESS than 3 months. Think of your new exercise routine as a new lover; you can’t judge it based on the first date!

The following are some helpful guidelines to help you succeed.

  • Be Honest. Honesty is always the best policy, but especially when it comes to exercise. Beginning a routine sucks, to be blunt. You’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone of coming home from work and sitting on the couch with a bag of Doritos. Accept that it’s not going to be easy to get into the habit, but it DOES become second nature once you get past this. Your body wants and needs to work, so it comes down to mind over matter. By accepting the fact that it will not be easy, you’re allowing yourself to deal with the problem before it arises-making your chances of sticking through greater.
  • Be Realistic. If you’re 30 pounds overweight, a realistic goal is not to “look like Heidi Klum by summer.” Even if you give 110% everyday, your body can only handle so much change at once. The more dedicated you are, the quicker you will drop weight and tone up, but you have to be realistic about what your body is capable of. Otherwise, not meeting these goals will make you feel defeated. Examples of ideal goals include to “Drop 8 pounds this month” or to “Go to the gym no less than 4 times a week.”
  • Be Smart. You do not need to run for an hour to lose weight. High intensity interval training is all about giving it all you got for a half hour-45 minutes. The best way to do this is to go all out for 30 – 45 seconds, depending on your exercise level, and then going moderate for 60-90 seconds. When you go all out, on a scale of 1-10, you should be doing a 10, moderate should be about a 6.  Do this at least twice a week, and then spend 2 other days incorporating strength training and moderate cardio. Buying a DVD or going to classes are the best way to stay motivated during exercise. They do the work for you-all you have to do is show up!
  • Show Up. The last tip to keep in mind is just to show up everyday. Sometimes you’re going to have a bad day, when you only give 50%; but at least you showed up. This makes the difference between a winner and a quitter. Tomorrow’s always another day to get it right.
Below is a sample strength training circuit. You can google the moves if you need a visual. This workout is great for your strength training routine because you work different muscles at once which means more calorie burning and toning. Do 8-12 reps of each move with no rest in between. After you complete all moves, rest for 1 minute then repeat two times, so that you’ve done 3 circuits. Use 5-8 pound dumbbells.
Sample Workout Routine For Beginner
 

1. Goblet Squat: 

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell vertically in front of your chest, your elbows should be facing the floor. Push your hips back and bend into a squat, allowing your elbows to come on the inside of your knees. Push yourself back up. That’s one rep. Repeat 8x.
Tip: MAKE SURE YOUR WEIGHT IS ON THE BACK OF YOUR HEEL AND YOUR KNEES DON’T COME IN FRONT OF YOUR TOES. Push back as if you’re sitting on a dirty toilet, with your tush pushing back.
 
2. Squat Shoulder Press: 
Stand with feet hip-width apart again and come down into a squat with your arms at your sides. Push yourself up and at the same time press your right arm straight up so that the weight is directly over your shoulders. Go back down into a squat and repeat 8x. Switch to the left arm.

3. Dumbell Deadlift: 
Hold your weight in front of your thighs, feet hip-width apart, knees SLIGHTLY bent. Bend your hips to lower your torso keeping the weights close to the body. Return to standing, keep the weights close, picture that you’re shaving your legs with the dumbbell.
 
4. Reverse lunge and Bicep Curl:
Stand straight up with weights in hands. Step back with your right foot, keeping the weight in the left heel. Make sure again, that the knee does not pass the toe. Let yourself sink down, while pressing your arms up into a bicep curl. Come up and release the bicep curl. Lower yourself back down, curl your arms up. Repeat 8x, then switch sides.
 
5. Low Plank:

Beginners can start this move by coming onto their elbows and toes and holding the move for 10 seconds, releasing for 10 seconds, then coming back up for 10 seconds. Make sure your body is in a parallel position, with your butt DOWN not up in the air. You should feel your body shaking, since you are forcing your abs to work. Hold for 30 seconds (or in the 10 second increments) and repeat 3x.

———
Cindy Moustafa, B.S., AFAA

Eating Healthy On a Budget

By: Cindy Moustafa

If you’re like most people, the idea of starting to eat healthier comes with the fear that your wallet is going to get as thin as your waist. While it’s true that certain health foods are pricey, due to items like chips and soda being subsidized by the government but not fruits and vegetables, there are ways to not break the bank.

To help I’ve put together 3 easy-to-follow steps. Just remember the 3 P’s : Plan, Purchase, Prepare. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle on any budget.

Step 1: PLAN!

Like everything in life, planning ahead is the key to success.  The first step is to compile a shopping list before going to the supermarket. Assess the fridge and food pantry (hopefully by now you’ve thrown out anything that contains ingredients you can’t pronounce). The list should include foods that you know you need to make healthy meals throughout the week. For example, eggs, peppers, onions, ground turkey, apples, etc. 

You can take this a step further and actually make your own menu. This is helpful to anyone from a college student to a mom of 3. So for example your list may look something like this:

Monday: Baked Salmon, baked sweet potato “fries”,sauteed spinach.
Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with homemade pesto and large arugula salad.

So you would know for Monday and Tuesday you need to buy (wild atlantic) salmon, sweet potatoes, spinach, spaghetti squash, basil, pine nuts and arugula. You just need to adjust for how many people you’re cooking for. When you’re set up for the week you’re less likely to spend needless money in the supermarket or reach for something unhealthy. We like to call this a win-win situation!

Don’t forget to include good foods for snacks on your list. After you complete this, go online and try to find coupons for some of the foods on your list. The days of having to wear a disguise to avoid the embarrassment of using coupons are over. It’s actually becoming trendy-thank you recession! So take advantage and go to the supermarket’s web site or some of the more popular coupon sites and save, baby, save!

Step 2: PURCHASE!

Now that you’ve got the planning down, it’s time to actually go to the store and purchase the foods you need. Make sure not to go to the store when you’re hungry. You’re more likely to throw caution to the wind and a bag of Oreo cookies in your cart. Also, make sure that you stick to your list. Don’t stray!

Once you’re in the store and sticking to the “plan”, there’s ways to save even more. Don’t look at the price of food items, but rather the unit price. The unit price is the price of food per pound, so you will actually save in the long run if one food is cheaper in unit price. For example, if you’re buying brown rice and the larger bag has a $.33 unit price, and the smaller one has a $.55 unit price, go for the larger bag! It’s cheaper and will last longer.

With shelf items such as rice, go with the cheaper brand. However, there are some items you must get used to paying a little extra for. These include items like organic eggs and grass-fed meats. You are only as good as what you put in your body so make sure you’re only putting good stuff in there! Think of this in the same way you shop for clothes. There’s just some pieces that you splurge on because they’re worth it-such as a good quality handbag or the perfect little black dress. Well, people, something like cage-free eggs are your little black dress.  Another place to spend a little more is organic berries, since they have the highest amount of pesticides.

Even though certain items are more costly, the money should even out if you’re doing a lot less waste spending with the 3 P’s plan.

Step 3: PREPARE!

It’s time to put theory into practice and actually take the time to prepare the food. Items like quinoa and rice can be prepared for the whole week on Sunday, which is a time saver. Also, another place to save it by taking these foods for lunch. A good way to extend shelf life is to marinate or cook fish/meats/chicken/turkey. This will help the food stay fresher longer. You can also chop all your vegetables so that you don’t waste time prepping before cooking during the week.  Items like fresh herbs can be put in a Ziploc and can stay in the freezer for months.

Use the preparation phase to help make bringing lunch with you to school/work easier. This is another great way to save money. The average person can spend up to$20 a day on food. That’s $100 for a 5 day week! Put that money in a savings account and buy yourself something pretty instead of a fattening sandwich at your local deli.

Cooking instead of eating out is
the easiest way to save and keep healthy!

Get Your Agrarian On!

Living in Brooklyn, we are no strangers to the burgeoning trends of urban agrarianism (rooftop farms and gardens, beekeeping, chicken coops, pickling, and home brewing are the big ones around here) that are popping up all over the place.  S it was only a matter of time before a place like Williams-Sonoma, that mecca of all things domestic and culinary (and the home of about half our wedding registry) got hip to the DIY scene with their very own line of over 250 adorably rustic products, books, guides, and tools to get you started in whatever your particular agrarian proclivities may be.

Want to raise your own free-range hens, but aren’t quite the barn-raising carpenter type?  Order a charming chicken coop made from sustainable wood, hand painted with low-VOC paint, which will be delivered and assembled for you by Williams-Sonoma’s white glove service.  Don’t know where to start? Pick up a copy of Keeping Chickens, a guide to “all you need to know for a happy, healthy flock.”

Ready to make your own local, raw honey?  Get started with a Backyard Beehive & Starter Kit, featuring everything you need to get your beekeeping on (though courage to face a huge box full of bees costs extra).  You don’t even need a backyard!  Amateur beekeepers all over the city are making do with nothing but a spot of space on a rooftop, and you can too!  I recommend reading up a bit first — Keeping Bees is a great place to start.
The easiest place to start may be gardening, be it in an apartment-friendly window box, a set of charming little pots for the window sill, or a raised, self-contained planting bed made from sustainable, untreated, Western Red Cedar.  Need to start gardening tout suite?  This starter kit features a cedar planter, heirloom seeds, and organic soil to get you from garden to table in no time!  In the humble opinion of this aspiring gardener, half the point of gardening is looking adorably outdoorsy and rustic while doing it, and no one captures that particular look better than Williams-Sonoma, all the tools and accessories you may need, including this ridiculously cool handmade raw denim utility apron (see photo at right). 
Unfortunately, we lack a usable roof… and a yard… so as much as I would love to start my own little chicken posse and bee colony, my own DIY pursuits must be limited to DIY efforts I can complete in my own kitchen.  Though any ol’ mason jar will do the trick for home-canning, preserving and pickling, I have to admit the whole prospect seems a lot more fun with these speciality jars, kraft paper tags stamped with your own personalized embosser, and charming little chalkboard labels.  
But my absolute favorites are the DIY kits (I love DIY kits!!)…  Everything you need to make your own all-natural goat cheese or ricotta, your own apartment-friendly beer (no bathtubs needed!) or kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  I’m especially excited about the at-home sprouting kit and the shiitake mushroom log you can grow inside your home!  A shiitake mushroom log!!  Seriously can’t wait to get that one… It would make a really cool and rustic decorative item as well.
So hats off to Williams-Sonoma for getting on board!  There is so much value is having a hand in where your food comes from and how it is made… anything that might make it easier or motivate us to do it ourselves gets a big A plus in my book.
——-
Natasha Uspensky, CHHC, AADP