April is Street Awareness Month – Are you stressed?

You have all probably seen this list before of the major causes of stress in a person’s life:

Death of a loved one
Getting married
Getting divorced
Losing a job
Moving to a new home/location
Increase in financial obligation or money problems
Chronic illness or injury
Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, guilt, grief, etc)

Pretty common sense things that may cause stress for someone, right? This month, in particular, did you know that April 15 – Tax Day – is also one of the most stressful days of the year? In fact, according to some reports, people are more likely to get into a car accident on April 15 than on another other non-tax day because they are stressed and, subsequently, not focused and paying attention to the road.

At some point, even the most relaxed person will experience stress of some kind. Children, teens and adults will all experience stress and they will often experience stress in different ways. Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I wanted to do a post about stress and offer some healthy ways that you can cope with stress better to maintain better overall health. First, let’s take a look at what stress really is all about.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress can be felt from both positive events like getting ready for a wedding or by negative events like losing a job. Stress is the combination of tensions the body experiences that are physical and emotional. It is one’s reaction to a situation where a person may feel anxious or in danger and can then trigger a “fight or flight” response.

Everyone reacts to and deals with stress differently and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some of the most common reactions to a stressful event(s):

Disbelief, shock and numbness. Feelings of sadness, frustration and helplessness. Fear and anxiety about the future. Feeling guilty.

Anger, tension, irritability. Difficulty concentrating and/or making decisions. Crying or emotional outbursts. Lack of interest.

Loss of appetite. Sleeping too much or too little. Nightmares or bad dreams. Smoking or use of alcohol or drugs.

As you can see, the reactions to stress are both emotional and physical which is why it is so important to have some techniques available that will address both issues ahead of time, making you more capable of dealing with a stressful situation before it happens!

Don’t let life stress you out:

Eat well-balanced and healthy meals that are nutrient rich
Exercise daily – the endorphins help to elevate your mood naturally making stress easier to handle
Get plenty of sleep – when you are well rested, your brain functions more clearly
Talk to someone you trust – sometimes it helps to get things off your chest and share your feelings with someone
Meditate – meditation will help you to remain grounded and focused on what you need to do next
Avoid self-medication – stay away from drugs and alcohol as they both will tend to make things seem more dramatic than they really are
Walk Away/Unplug – sometimes you just have to remove yourself from the source of stress and gain some perspective

The most important thing is that if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress, recognize the signs and ask for help. It is ok to admit that you cannot cope with a situation or situations and ask for guidance. If you cannot find it from family and friends, contact a professional who can direct you to a good resource.

Below is a link to a video put out by the StayingSharp program through AARP:

https://stayingsharp.aarp.org/art/relax/16/brain-on-stress.html?CMP=EMC-DSM-NLC-SPC-SSS-20170412_SS_April_NL_1_Registered_248902_309207-20170412-Body-Watch_Video-Button

For more information on how to cope with stress or if you are in need of immediate help, please contact one of the following hotlines:

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-9454)

Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112

Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453

Love yourself, Valentine!

Love yourself, Valentine!

On this day, February 14, 2017, traditionally known as Valentine’s Day, it is customary to express our love and affection for our significant other and those who are of importance to us. We give each other flowers, candy, jewelry and other expressions of that love as an outward testament of our affections.

Prior to marrying my husband several years ago, I spent a very long time as a single and spent many a Valentine’s Day alone and without someone to share the day and special moments of love. At first, Valentine’s Day was tough and even a bit depressing. I wondered why it was that everyone else I seemed to know had someone special to share it with but me. As the years moved on, I came to realize that Valentine’s Day was not defined by who loved me or chose to show they affections toward me, rather, it became a time for me to take one special day to love and recognize myself! What a revelation.

I learned to really take a moment to appreciate who I was, what I had accomplished in my life and would appreciate me for the woman I had become. I did not need to have a man or person in my life to hand me a box of chocolates and flowers to validate me. I got so excited about my newly found love for myself that I would make myself a nice dinner, have some wine and even buy myself a gift..I worked hard all year so why not. Sometimes it was a great opportunity to invite other friends over to celebrate our friendship or to go out for the evening and celebrate each other.

So, on this Valentine’s Day, I would like to encourage you to spend the day loving yourself. Regardless of whether or not you are also celebrating with your significant other, do something nice, something special today that is just for you. It may be a trip to the nail salon, it may be an extra long walk or yoga class, it may be a quiet hour to read a book or meditate. Whatever you chose to do, make some time that is just for you to be able to appreciate who you are and what you do every day.

I learned this exercise during my studies at IIN and it has stuck with me over the years. Look at the photo below and review the signature strengths that are listed. Think about all of the strengths on this list that you posses and use every day. Think about some new ways you can use those strengths in your life to show your love for either your partner, your family, your job and then commit to using your strengths in that new way for the next week. Get yourself a notebook and keep track of the strengths you use and how implementing them affects you. Share the experience with someone you love or for something you love and see what happens. ENJOY!

International Day of the Girl – October 11, 2016

day-of-the-girl

Today is the International Day of the Girl and, in light of recent comments made by one of our presidential candidates (I cannot even put his name into writing today) this movement should be of utmost importance to girls around the world and to those who are their mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.

Here is an excerpt from the Day of the Girl website about the movement and what it is about.

“Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights”

-United Nations Resolution 66/170

In 2011, as the result of youth advocacy around the world, the United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. Its mission is “to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.” It’s a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere.

Day of the Girl-US is the United States branch of this global movement. We are an 100% youth-led movement fighting for gender justice and youth rights. Our work to dismantle the patriarchy and fight for social justice is rooted in girl-led activism across the country, using October 11th as a day of national action.

October 11 is not just a day; it’s a movement.

A worldwide revolution.

We want ourselves, and girls everywhere, to be seen as equals, in the eyes of others and in our own eyes.

My hope is that girls around the world will not only be seen as equals but that they will be support and encouraged to live their dreams, have goals, be educated, feel safe and not have to worry about being chastised, ridiculed, looked down upon, held back, made to feel bad about themselves, neglected or abused.

My hope is that girls around the world will be held up, treated with respect, be taught to love themselves and others for who they are, be educated, nurtured, loved, encouraged, and reminded on a daily basis that they are as good as anyone else….that they shall all be equal.

Give Peace a Chance

peace-symbol

Today is the International Day of Peace. I cannot think of anything more appropriate or more necessary today than a reminder that we must all work together to achieve peace.

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

It is not just about peace overseas where there is unrest, it is not just about peace between police and those in the community, it also is about peace in our homes and our daily lives because that is where we learn the concept of peace.

I’m not sure how our society has gotten so far away from peace and civility toward one another. It took so many years and so many people who stood up for rights and for peace and we came close. We came close. Then something happened and our society has started to regress again. Black Americans should not ever be afraid to drive in their cars or walk through their neighborhoods with the fear of being shot for nothing. No American should ever live in that kind of fear!

Children in Aleppo should not have to worry about their home being blown up in the middle of the night or fear that they may wake to their parents being dead. No child should ever live in that kind of fear!

Women and children should not have to worry about being beaten by their husband/father because becomes he comes home and is angry about something. No human should ever live in that kind of fear!

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt’s words are so true. We ALL must believe in peace. We ALL must talk about peace. We ALL must work at finding peace. On this International Day of Peace, let’s practice, at least for one day, sharing peace with all of those we come in contact with today and spread the word of peace around the world.

Celebrate National Girlfriends Day!

Relationship and Life Coaching Houston Humble Texas TX

“I don’t know what I would have done so many times in my life if I hadn’t had my girlfriends. They have literally gotten me up out of bed, taken my clothes off, put me in the shower, dressed me, said, ‘Hey, you can do this,’ put my high heels on and pushed me out the door!” — Reese Witherspoon

Today is one of those days that is so much fun to celebrate and I only wish that I was in Chicago right now to be able to spend time with my best girlfriends to celebrate!

Although this day is not a “real” holiday but more of a holiday generated by social media, it is still a great excuse to celebrate all of the women we love and those who get you through the best and worst times in your life.

The quote from Reese Witherspoon resonated with me as I have seen some challenges in my life and it has been my girlfriends (and some of my best guy friends) who have pulled me out of the darkness and back to reality. Most of the time with a stiff martini or a shopping spree but always with lots of love and support.

Did you know that having great girl friends in your life can actually help to relieve stress, boost your self-esteem and even help you to live longer? Having those kind of strong relationships with other women can provide you with supportive, nurturing and empathetic love. When you are lonely, you are more at risk for developing health issues and things that can turn into serious illness with prolonged loneliness. Having the support and love of your gal pals can make you feel happy, loved and fulfilled which helps to strengthen your body and soul and keeps you healthier.

I have been so blessed over the years to have great girlfriends in my life. Some I have known for more than 20 years and some are new in my life. All are relationships that I cherish and you know, there are some friendships that just pick up where they left off even when you don’t see each other for years.

So go out today and call your girlfriends, send them an email or, better yet, schedule happy hour and celebrate all of the bests in your life!

Genetics and Triggers of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a genetic disease. In order to develop DC you would have had to have been born with either the HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 gene. Without one of these genes, it is virtually impossible to develop celiac disease. Now it is possible that you may have a gluten sensitivity or intolerance but not likely to have CD. Good to know.

Since CD is genetic (which means it is hereditary) family members are at risk of developing it as well. Typically it would potentially develop in 1st degree relatives like a mother, father, sibling, son or daughter. This means that you may have gotten it from one of those 1st degree relatives and/or you then can pass it on as well.

If your family decides to get tested and, let’s say, the test comes back negative, it is recommended that testing be done again every 2-3 years or if symptoms occur. Why you ask? well, that is because celiac disease can develop at any time and is usually brought on my some type of trigger. Approximately 40% of people have these genes but only a handful go on to develop celiac disease. Why is that?

Environmental and emotional events such as viral infection, pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, or severe emotional stress can all trigger celiac disease to develop in someone who carries one of the two genes mentioned above. Weird, huh?

In my case, I can pretty much identify the exact circumstance that may have led to the development of my celiac. I had always had a “sensitive” stomach when I was young but never to the point of getting really sick or having any identifiable adverse reaction to any particular foods, until I was in college. While in college, I was caught up in a situation with a young man who was stalking me and subsequently was thrown from a moving car and nearly run over. Once I made it back home, he broke into my apartment, trashed the place and then proceed to beat the daylights out of me. My parents were in Europe at the time and I was home alone and terrified. I was never quite the same and neither was my digestive or autoimmune system. I began to have “stomach problems” that were quite severe and over the course of about 6 years, was misdiagnosed as having IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), colitis
and one doctor said he thought I had Crohn’s disease. All were wrong.

My diagnosis was not discovered until I was in my 30’s so there were many years in between when I suffered with terrible stomach and gastrointestinal pain and discomfort. Over-the-counter medicine did not work, prescription medicine did not work and it wore me out. As awful as the situation was when I was finally diagnosed, I was so relieved to finally have an answer, to finally know why I was so sick. Once I eliminated gluten from my diet completely, I felt as if my life had started over again.

Oddly enough, I have asked both my mom and brother to be tested to see if I can identify which side of the family the gene may have come from.

For more information on this part of my journey with celiac, check out my book Milk. Toast.