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!

Winter is Still Here….

Winter is Still Here….

There are still 39 days, 6 hours and 17 minutes left until Spring 2017 is officially here. So, that means we still have a lot of time to deal with winter in many parts of the country.

I’m very fortunate to be living in Texas where it is 86 degrees and sunny so I already feel like spring has arrived. But, that can change at the drop of a hat around here and I know that in places like Chicago, Minneapolis and in many other cities, it is cold, blustery and the rhythms of winter are still if full force.

How do you stay balanced through the remainder of winter? What can you do to make the most of the season, protect your health keep from getting the winter blues for the next 39 days? There are some great Ayurvedic techniques you can adopt that will help you throughout the winter season and help you to flourish and not just cope with the days ahead.

Ayurveda blossomed thousands of years ago when the world was much different than it is today. People functioned more closely in tune with nature and their surroundings and slept and were awakened by their circadian rhythms and not by terrifying alarm clocks signaling the time to get up for work!

Ayurveda is based on the notion that there are three main doshas, vata (the energy of movement), pitta (the energy of digestion or metabolism and kappa (the energy of structure and lubricatio). The practice also says that every human body is in tune with one of these dosha and they correlate to the seasons with vata being winter, pitta being summer and kapha being spring.

That being the case, winter is the cycle of vata and by standing in harmony with the natural cycle of winter, you can help to build your health, energy and the ability to fight off cold and disease during the winter. How can you do that? By adjusting what you eat, the type of exercise you are doing or any type of herbs or supplements you may take can affect the way you feel during the winter months.

Here are some hints to make the remaining part of winter a bit easier to handle!
* Wake up a little bit later than in other seasons (extend your sleep by 30-60 minutes if possible)
* Have a warm cup of water with lemon first thing in the morning to get your digestive system moving
* Treat yourself to an extra long shower and towel scrub before work
* Add in some yoga or meditation before getting the day started to open the chest, throat and sinuses
* Eat a nutritious breakfast of oatmeal or grains like quinoa and add cinnamon for heating but sweet spice
* Drink tea instead of coffee and add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a pinch of clove to increase digestion
* Exercise regularly to increase blood flow and circulation when we naturally tend to be more sedate in the winter
* Get some sun! If you don’t want to walk out in the cold, sit by a nice window and soak up some rays. The vitamin D helps with mood
* Eat foods that are warming and nourishing like homemade soups, steamed veggies and add spices to them.
* Avoid dairy as it increases mucus and congestion which can already be a bother in winter when we are closed indoors
* Enjoy a glass or two of sweet or dry wine with dinner to help with digestive fire, improve appetite and circulation
* Get plenty of vitamin C, add ginger to tea if you feel a cold coming on. You can also add to a warm bath along with baking soda
* Use natural saline solution in your nose to keep your nasal passages moist and clear during the dry winter months
* Bundle up! You really do lose more than half your body heat through your head so wear a hat and keep warm.

The other thing I love to do is get out a calendar or print one out from your computer. Keep count of the days leading up to Spring’s arrival and plot out all the things you would like to get done prior to then. We all know that “Spring Cleaning” is on everyone’s list so begin with yourself and write down all the things you would like to “clean out” before

Berry Chia Seed Pudding

If you are anything like me, I was a little hesitant to try chia seeds a few years ago as all I knew of “chia” anything was the commercial for the Chia Pet I saw on late night infomercials. Well, chia seeds have come along way and these teeny seeds are huge in the area of nutrition as they are full of super nutrients like potassium, fiber, magnesium, protein, calcium, manganese, phosphorus and Omega-3 fatty acids!

Chia seeds come from the Salvia Hispanic plant which is native to South America and is related to the mint plant. Chia means strength in the Mayan culture and that is so true of this little seed based on its health benefits.

An extra bonus is that chia seeds are considered to be a whole grain and are typically grown organically, they are gluten free and usually non-GMO.

What can you do with chia seeds? Well, I started to sprinkle them on my salads and to incorporate them into my homemade gluten-free breads. They are also great in muffins and you can either add them to other seeds like poppy or sunflower seeds or use the as a substitute. They are great to add to smoothies in the morning as they help to thicken your smoothies and shakes and they are great for making pudding. I love pudding and since I began making my own dairy-free/gluten-free pudding, this one is really easy to make and very versatile. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com you can add just about anything to the recipe that you like to give it really flavor and interest. I adapted this recipe to be dairy-free but the original recipe came from sjeffery8045:

Berry Chia Seed Pudding

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (I used Silk Coconut Milk)
1 cup vanilla fat-free yogurt (I used Blueberry Coconut Yogurt)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup fresh blueberries (can use any fruit you like)
1/4 cup toasted and chopped almonds

Whisk milk, yogurt, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, vanilla, and salt together in a bowl until blended; add the chia seeds, whisk to incorporate and then let the mixture set for 30 minutes.

Stir the chia seed mixture to redistribute seeds that have settled throughout the mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours to overnight. Top with fruit and nuts/seeds of your choice and you can even drizzle with more honey or syrup but I feel it is sweet enough already for most. ENJOY!

Principles of Clean Eating

This morning I had the opportunity to speak to a local Women’s Club about Clean Eating and why it is important for overall health and wellness.

You have probably heard the term Clean Eating as it has become somewhat of a new trend among celebrities and others, much like going gluten free did a few years ago. Clean eating is really a very simple concept and an easy one to follow as you do not have to count calories or order special packaged foods, in fact, all of that is discouraged when you eat clean!

Clean Eating really means that you “crowd out” all processed foods by adding in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish and healthy fats. Sounds pretty easy, right? The reason that there is such a focus on clean eating is that many processed foods are pre-packaged for convenience so that they have a long shelf life and can be prepared quickly. Often times, they contain large amounts of hidden sodium, sugar, artificial ingredients and low food values which are always bad news.

Healthy statistics support the need for better nutrition and eating habits when you see the statistics and risks of having a poor diet:

* 160 million Americans are overweight or obese
* More than 1/3 of kids and teens are considered overweight or obese
* Over 29.1 million Americans have diabetes (8.1 million of those folks have not yet been diagnosed)
* More than 86 million Americans (over the age of 20) are pre-diabetic
* The 7th leading cause of death in this country is diabetes
* By 2050, if the trend in the US continues, the number of people with diabetes will double or triple!

So, it is crucial that everyone makes the effort to focus on better eating habits and better nutrition. Clean Eating can help to reduce risk and to prolong your life. Here is what else Clean Eating can do:

* Increase your energy level by providing lots of nutrients and vitamins
* Leads to weight loss
* Improves mental health
* Helps you to sleep better
* Puts you in a better mood/mental state
* Leads to a longer life (for more on this, read Blue Zones by Dan Buttoner)

What are the Principles of Clean Eating?

* Buy whole, fresh foods – those that occur in nature and not in a manufacturing plant
* Cook for yourself – you will have better nutritional value from your food and you control whats in it
* Eliminate refined carbs and sugar
* Eat smaller meals more often to stabilize your blood sugar
* Aim for lean proteins, good fats and complex carbs at each meal

Additionally, here are some other helpful tips you can follow:

* Shop the perimeter of the grocery store for the best whole food options
* Sit down to eat – turn off the television, cell phone and focus on your meal and family
* Drink more water
* Eliminate gluten and dairy
* If you cannot pronounce it, don’t eat it!
* Focus on eating the RIGHT foods for your body and not calories

In keeping with the theme of Clean Eating, I took with me to my presentation a delicious batch of
Gluten Free, Dairy Free Berry & Oats Breakfast Cookies. I found this recipe a while ago but am not sure where. Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup gluten free one-to-one flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup soy margarine (I use Earth Balance) softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups gluten free oats
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries (can also use dried blueberries or other dried fruit)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first 5 ingredients together to blend. Add in oil, margarine, eggs, honey and vanilla and then mix by hand or with a standing mixer for about 1 minute. Add in the oats, about 1/2 cup at a time and mix well. Fold in the nuts and berries until well incorporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then place a 2 tbsp ball of dough onto the sheet pan and space them evenly (they don’t spread much). Bake for 12-14 minutes. ENJOY!

For more information on Clean Eating, feel free to contact me at heidismith@integrativewellnessstudio.net

2017 Promise to Myself

As 2016 came to a close, I started to think about what it is that I want to accomplish in 2017. What is it that I want to do, experience, thrive at. What kind of impact do I make on the world next year. Sometimes, I tend to overthink things. I am sure that many of you may do the same.

I have a credo hanging in my office that was shared with me when I was a student at IIN. This is credited to Marilena Minucci from QuantumCoachingMethod.com. I love the sentiment in this credo and I have decided that for 2017, I am going to adopt the wisdom from this credo into my daily life and really live it!

I have never been a big believer in the concept of New Year’s resolutions as most of them get broken. I prefer to make a promise to myself of something that is tangible and meaningful. What is your promise to yourself for 2017?

“In this moment….

I choose to lighten up on my path to enlightenment,

I choose to not add one more thing to the burden on my shoulders

I choose to not say I am not good enough one more time

I choose to say I am doing the best that I can and

that I am perfect in my imperfection.

I choose to let in the light…and know that every way in which I thought I was broken is in fact a blessing that will bring in more light…that to be creaked wide open is the way to late in as much light as I can.

I choose to accept that it is my right to be here not because of what I do or produce but just because I am. God and the universe need nothing more from me than simply to be me. I choose to give back all the negative vibes and critical thinking that keep me small. It is an illusion I once bout into but no longer.

I am over being small and know I deserve to dream big because I am a child of the universe.

And I choose to stay connected to the energy and light of those that journey with me and who hold me to my highest.

And on days I may falter…I will remember this light and energy and the promise of all that is to be received and is on its way to me now.”

I hope that your 2017 is off to a great start and that you will accomplish all you set out to do this year and in the future.