Life

create a nighttime routine

Sleep is more than just a time for your body to rest. This is the time when your bodily functions are actually pressing their own reset button. All of your systems slow down and your muscles and organs work to repair and restore themselves. So it’s important that you have the right nighttime routine to prepare your body for all this work it has to do while you’re sleeping.

If you really want to get the most out of your body at rest, do these 10 things as part of your nighttime routine.

10 things to do before you go to bed

  1. Clean the kitchen – You’re probably thinking I’m crazy but this is like making your bed in the morning. It’s just an important habit and should be part of your nighttime routine. Mornings are generally busy as you’re rushing to get out the door or trying to fit in that workout. The last thing you want to worry about is having to take the time to clean the kitchen. Waking up to a sink full of dirty dishes just puts me in a bad mood.
  2. Stretch – Nothing vigorous required here but just like a good morning stretch is important to wake up those muscles, a light evening stretch is important to unwind from the day. Get into the habit of just sitting on the floor next to the bed and doing a few gentle stretches of your legs, back, neck, and arms. I keep a yoga mat and blocks next to my nightstand to remind me.
  3. Wash your face – This probably goes without saying but you’d be surprised how many people don’t wash their face before bed. Even if you don’t wear make-up, think of all the things in the air your skin is absorbing. Nighttime is when I like to use my heavy duty war paint remover, ie. acids, so my overnight anti-aging serums can really soak in. And make me wake up looking younger. Not really.
  4. Take your pm vitamins – I’ve mentioned this before but there are some vitamins best taken in the morning and others best taken at night. It’s important to research each vitamin you take to learn the optimal time of day to take it.  For example, probiotics are best taken at night because of all the activity going on in your gut while you sleep.
  5. Plan for the next day – If you’re not a list person, become one. Trust me on this. Take five minutes to plan out your next day and write out any appointments or events you have scheduled. Also write down things you need to accomplish that are timely, like scheduling that dental appointment or checking the fermentation of your kombucha (that’s actually on my to do list for tomorrow).
  6. Use lavender – It’s proven that lavender has relaxing effects on the body and can help you sleep better. When my mom was in the ICU after a stroke, she was extremely anxious and agitated and we found that infusing lavender essential oil into the room really helped calm her down. I’ve become addicted to it to calm my mind before bedtime; I keep a rollerball of the essential oil next to my bed and I also made a linen spritz with witch hazel (this also works with vodka but who wants to waste vodka on the sheets?).
  7. Fill a glass with water – Keep it on your nightstand. Remember that your body is really working hard overnight and it needs to stay hydrated. Going 8 hours or so is a long time for your body to go without fluid. I’ve actually trained myself that when I wake up at night (for those 3am worry sessions) for whatever reason, I take a big sip of water.
  8. Use hand lotion – If you’re like me, you don’t use much hand lotion during the day. I always end up with it on my keyboard or I go to pick up a glass and it slips through my hands. So I slather it on at night once I’m in bed (when my hands get really dry in winter, I’ll sleep in gloves to let it really soak in).
  9. Journal – I journal in the morning about what I hope to accomplish that day and then again at night to write down my accomplishments. I try to include a little bit of gratitude along with a few notes about what my next day holds for me. It’s just a good way to clear your mind – to avoid those 3am worry sessions.
  10. Turn off your phone – I’ll be the first to admit, this is the hardest one for me. I have two very needy Millennial kids and I always want to be there for them. But the reality is, we’re on different time schedules. We live in the same time zone but we may as well be on different continents because I go to bed early and they go to bed early. So getting a 1am meme text is not unusual for me. One of my biggest fears is my kids needing me and me not being there. But I learned to turn off all notifications and my kids know that they can call if it’s really urgent.
Do yoga to avoid caregiver burnout

Most of you know that I’ve been helping to take care of my mom since her stroke 30 months ago. Those first few months were nothing short of horrendous. I didn’t know the stress I was under and that one of my biggest lessons would be to avoid caregiver burnout.

According to AARP, as many as 41 million of us are caring for our adult family members. It’s not a role I ever planned for so I was completely unaware of the stress created by caring for an aging parent. Thirty-six percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as highly stressful, according to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). No one tells you how to avoid caregiver burnout.

And I’m here to tell you that it is real! I was living on wine and mini Dove bars (if I ate at all). 

My days were spent shuttling back and forth between my mom’s nursing home and dealing with emails and client work. It was incredibly stressful but I was just going through the motions.

It wasn’t until I ended up in the hospital with a panic attack that it hit me like a ton of bricks: In my quest to take care of my mom, I was NOT taking care of myself. So I hired a health coach and buckled down and decided to put my health first. I’ve learned a few things on this unanticipated journey and wanted to share some of the ways I’ve learned to focus on myself.

5 ways to avoid caregiver burnout

1. Morning routine – Trust me, you need one. Before, I was waking up and rushing out the door to feed my mom breakfast. After my little hospital stay, I began taking a leisurely walk with the dog around a beautiful lake just to start the day on my terms.

2. Exercise – No matter what it is, you need to move. Even a brisk morning walk will do wonders for your mind. Being a caregiver definitely takes a lot of mental and physical energy so I’d recommend getting your exercise in early in the day. I enrolled in a morning yoga class and that became my priority. I could take care of myself in the morning and be with my mom for lunch.

3. Clean up your diet and eat light – Sustaining yourself on chocolate and ice cream bars will do a number on you! I just didn’t have the energy or creativity to cook so I began subscribing to a plant-based meal delivery service, Purple Carrot. I’d make one of the meals for dinner and would have enough left over for lunch the next day. This is probably my single most important tip. Eating light and healthy when your body is under so much stress really does make you feel so much better. 

4. Sleep hygiene – This goes without saying. Getting enough sleep is as important for your mind as it is for your body. Sleep is when all of your body’s functions restore and reset themselves. So if your body is not at rest, this doesn’t happen. Make your nighttime routine something special (blog post coming soon on this). Buy fancy new pajamas. Purchase a soothing lavender hand lotion and use it at bedtime. Buy the silkiest sheets you can find. Find the best way for your mind to unwind at night whether it’s reading a book, journaling or watching your favorite cooking show (this worked for me!).

5. Talk it out – I share my frustrations and (rare) triumphs with anyone who will listen, even the checker at the grocery store. Sometimes it just helps to say it out loud, or to get an occasional, “I’m sorry. I hope your day gets better.” I think you’ll be surprised to hear how many people can empathize with those of us who are caregivers. I’ve turned to a friend who was a caregiver for her own mother and can certainly offer me solace and advice. My girlfriends are always there to pull me out of my slump with a night out wine tasting. My kids lift me up when they call and ask how I am. And my (poor) husband, just has to let me vent sometimes.

If you are or have ever been a caregiver, please share in the comments some ways you’ve found to avoid burnout. I’d love to serve as a resource for others by offering more tips and ideas for caring for ourselves first.

How to avoid caregiver burnout
anti-aging secrets from my esthetician

In my never-ending anti-aging quest, I‘m becoming more and more dependent on my esthetician. I’m always tapping her for anti-aging secrets and double-duty products. I recently gathered some anti-aging secrets from an esthetician and asked about the tips and tricks to having youthful skin, so I thought I’d share them here.

I like to read magazines on the beach and I’m always turning down the corner of the page because I come across products I want to try. So what do I do? I jump online and order them. Tighten your chin and neck? Sure. Soft, baby butt skin? Of course. A water additive that makes your skin younger? You bet!

But I’m still not looking 30 again so I’m starting to wonder what anti-aging treatments work and which ones don’t.

I recently scored a Groupon for a derma-plane facial and found this particular esthetician to be incredibly honest in her assessment of some products and anti-aging tips and tricks. I’m sure not everyone will agree with these, especially if you’re a cosmetics producer or salesperson. But for now, I’ll take her advice and see if I’m missing anything in these anti-aging secrets from an esthetician.

Anti-aging secrets from an esthetician:

1. Eye cream (most) are just a marketing gimmick. A lot of eye creams will tout that the skin around your eyes is thinner than on the rest of your face. True. But if you have normal skin and specific eye issues, your regular moisturizer will work just fine. It’s important to apply it lightly around your eyes no matter what. I’ll use up the eye creams I have now and try this to see if I notice a difference.

2. Your body doesn’t need most supplements. I’ve said this before. A lot of research shows that you should be getting key vitamins and minerals from daily life and the foods you eat. So all of these anti-aging supplements for skin, hair, nails, really aren’t doing anything. I am a firm believer in the sun’s provision of Vitamin D (in small amounts) and I do notice a difference when I use a Vitamin C cream on my face. But for now, I think I’ll ditch the dozen bottles of extraneous vitamins and metabolism-boosting teas I’m taking.

3. Say no to neck creams. I recently caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and noticed that my neck was looking particularly raggedy. They say you can often tell a woman’s age by her neck, and I remember my grandmother once telling me that’s why she always wore turtlenecks. Granted, I’ve always read, and been told, to take care of your neck as you do your face, but mea culpa, I rarely cleanse or put any moisturizer on my neck. So I did get sucked into buying an expensive neck cream. But my esthetician says my regular daily and evening moisturizers will do the trick just as well. In the meantime, I’ll keep using my new pricey cream and if my neck outshines the skin on my face in terms of youthfulness, I’ll let you know!

4. Collagen can’t be rebuilt topically. I specifically asked this question because how easy would it be to just put a cream on your face every day and skip the painful, and often expensive, collagen-building treatments like microneedling and lasers. Sigh. But she told me that those topical creams can’t build collagen so far beneath the skin’s layer. I do drink a collagen powder daily mainly for my joints but I do believe it has an impact on my skin and hair as well. 

5. Water, water, water. This is kind of a no-brainer but it is the cheapest and most accessible secret to anti-aging. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and it’s mostly water. So drink drink drink to replenish and retain that youthful glow!

I recommend you actually write down a list of questions to ask your esthetician before your next procedure. I jot down questions on my phone as I think of them and then just run through that list when I’m in her office. These secrets above won’t apply to everyone, and I’m sure there will be much debate, but as long as I’m making an effort to take the best care of my skin daily, I can’t go wrong.

anti-aging secrets from an esthetician
make your own homemade natural bug spray

We moved into a new house recently, our forever home. We picked the house because it’s walking distance to the beach and our particular street is a hidden little enclave where the houses are very private because they’re surrounded by natural vegetation. But in the Florida heat and humidity, that spells B-U-G-S! I can’t even walk the dog without getting a ton of mosquito bites, but I hate those chemically-forward bug sprays so I made my own, homemade, natural bug spray using essential oils.

I got into essential oils some time ago and my favorite way to use them is using an infuser. I especially like eucalyptus for its earthy scent and lemon, for its clean, purifying effect. And I put a drop of tea tree oil in my shampoo each morning because I love the tingly effect on my scalp. So it just makes sense that I use them in my natural bug spray.

Here’s how I made my homemade natural bug spray:

1/4 cup witch hazel

1/4 purified water

1 teaspoon of coconut oil (it helps it stick to your skin better)

10 drops of citronella essential oil

10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil

10 drops of tea tree oil

5 drops of lavender essential oil

2 drops of lemon essential oil

I mix these in a small mason jar, shake it up, and pour it into two small spray bottles that I keep by my front and back doors. Honestly, I love the way this concoction makes my skin smell as opposed to those harsh sprays. And I appreciate that it’s a natural bug spray.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are, quite simply, natural compounds that are extracted from plants. They are the compounds within plants – from the roots, seeds, and flowers – that give a plant it fragrance, but also its ability to attract and repel pests (just like citronella candles, made with oil from the citronella plant, are known to repel mosquitoes). Think about the way a lavender plant smells; that comes from the essential oils within the plant. These oils are extracted from the plants and distilled into a pure product. Some oils can be used in their pure form but there are many that can be quite strong and may burn the skin, so you always need to use them with a carrier oil which can be anything from olive oil to body oil – just something that cuts the stringent quality of the oil.

Declutter to simplify your life

I’m generally a homebody but being forced to stay home during this pandemic has given me an impetus to simplify my life. With my gym closed (and the push-pull to get myself there), I start each day with a long walk, WITHOUT my phone. I use that time to just think, solve problems, and plan my day. It’s my form of meditation. I’ve found that by giving up some of my extraneous routines and focusing on a morning routine, my days are more leisurely. I hope to inspire all of you to simplify your life. 

5 Ways to Simplify Your Life

1. Declutter that cosmetics drawer – I don’t know about you but I have dozens of sample-size bottles of cosmetics, shampoos, lotions and stuff I’m not even sure what it does. So one by one, I began using them up. And tossing some of the older ones – yes, cosmetics DO expire!

2. Amour mise en place – Cooking is a drag, right? Over the past few months, I’ve avoided the 30-minute meals, trying to kill time, opting for the 3-page recipes that allowed me to linger in the kitchen sipping a glass (or two) of wine while I chopped ingredients. And as a result, I rediscovered the joys of mise en place. This term is French for “everything in its place” and it’s the process of getting all of your ingredients prepped before you start cooking.  Every ingredient, neatly chopped (uniformly, I might add), arranged symmetrically on my cutting board in the order it falls in my recipe.

3. Supplements – There was a time (remember that health coach I hired?) that I was taking about 20 supplements a day, from collagen powder to chlorophyll in my water to capsules that promised to speed my metabolism. Yet newer scientific studies show that supplements – except a few – don’t serve any real purpose and honestly, my body can’t tell the difference. If you’re really looking for a way to understand what nutrients your specific body needs, consider visiting a functional medicine doctor. 

4. Au naturale – I’ve gone to the dark side (my hair, that is). Yep, I’ve given up those pesky monthly appointments for highlights as well as for my gel nails. I’m learning to love my darker hair (it’s in a ponytail most of the time anyway) and I’ve discovered a great gel top coat, CND Vinylux, I can use at home that keeps my polish on for a week!

5. Social media groupie no more – This was perhaps the most cathartic of all my simplification activities. Only social media addicts will understand but I belonged to about 25 social media groups, everything from writers groups to cannabis users (research for work, I promise) to pet rescue organizations. Honestly, these groups took up so much of my time and stressed me out. I tried to peruse them daily for FOMO (fear of missing out) and to get work leads (and lost dogs) but it was dragging me down – from a time and emotional standpoint. So I swiped right and discarded almost all of them except the ones that brought me real Marie Kondoesque joy. 

I could go on and on so consider these the starting points if you want to simplify your life. Just think about the little things that clutter your mind and your space and begin ditching them, one by one.

listening to podcasts for inspiration

I’ve become a bit of a podcast junkie. Yep, I’ve replaced my favorite spotify playlist with podcasts for inspiration. I started listening to podcasts to give me ideas for writing and growing this blog but they’ve slowly become my form of entertainment. I’ve done a few (too many) cross-country drives and podcasts are what kept me going, especially binge-worthy true crime series (I’ll share those in a later post).

I listen to podcasts for inspiration when I walk in the morning and when I cook dinner at night. I listen while I’m sitting on the beach and walking the dog. Yep, I’m addicted. Podcasts are incredibly entertaining. And educational. So what am I listening to?

My favorite podcasts

Fresh Air – I’ve always listened to NPR’s Fresh Air but life’s been a bit busy lately and I can’t always catch it on the radio. So I love listening to the podcast on my own schedule. I especially love Terry’s interviews with authors and I’ve been known to buy a book (or 10) because I’m so intrigued by the author. I’m a nonfiction junkie. 

Catch & Kill – This is Ronan Farrow’s podcast on his investigative reporting high-powered and corrupt celebs like Harvey Weinstein and (ahem) others. It’s fascinating reporters and interviews with those behind the scenes who help expose (there’s a pun there) their crimes. 

Splendid Table – It’s not secret. I’m a foodie. One of my favorite pasttimes is reading chef autobiographies but I also love listening to podcasts about chefs and food. I’ve followed The Splendid Table for years and absolutely love the interviews they do in their podcast. It’s great sound to cook to!

Work Party – I do love listening to podcasts to inspire my creativity as a writer and publicist. Create & Cultivate is one of those websites and digital communities that I often turn to for ideas and inspiration. So I loved it when they launched a podcast where they often interview other girlboss entrepreneurs in creative fields. 

Dr. Will Cole – You know I had to have a health-oriented podcast on my list! Dr. Cole doesn’t have his own podcast but he often appears on other podcasts talking about functional medicine, an alternative, holistic approach to health that looks at root causes of issues rather than just covering them up with meds. He’s fascinating! 

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