Movement as Medicine – Move Your Body a Little

Movement as medicine and trying the Feldenkrais method. 

At 10:30am on a Saturday morning Brenton willingly accompanied me to a dance studio. Why? So we could try a Feldenkrais class. Feldekrais method is a movement class focused on moving your body in the most natural way. I highly recommend starting your day with a class like this if you can; it was so relaxing. 

This class, which revolves around small movements and lying on the floor, triggered a breakthrough for my relationship with movement. Little movements are just as important so we can use movement as medicine for our bodies and minds. Want to reap the benefits of movement? Carry on reading! 

Movement as medicine for the body. 

I have chronic upper back pain. What started as a tweaked shoulder at 18 has turned into years of massage therapy, doctors visits and tiger balm. I’m not a doctor, but I did notice my pain increased anytime I stopped working out completely. After doing a little research I’ve discovered that 80% of adults will experience back pain. According to the ACA one of the best ways to combat and prevent back pain is to move (“Motion is Lotion” is my new favorite catch phrase from this research). While lying on the floor in our Feldenkrais class the instructor reminded us that our movements did not need to be big, they needed to feel smooth and natural. I love the imagery this provides. When you move your body in a way that feels smooth, and only to the point where it is easy to return to your starting point, you are providing lotion to your tight muscles and joints. 

Not only is there some valid commotion about motion and our joints but there’s also validity in the importance of movement and our immune systems. According to this study as little as a 20 minute walk can boost your immune system. What I love about this is that it proves that small and slower motions are beneficial for the body. You don’t have to run a half-marathon to reap the benefits of movement in your body. 

The Feldenkrais Method

During a Feldenkrais class you dive in to the fundamentals of movement by laying on the floor and being lead through small movements, starting with the neck and moving down to the soles of the feet. The instructor had us go from moving one segment of the body to moving multiples at the same time. An example of this would be laying on the floor with your feet planted and your knees towards the ceiling, then moving your head one way and your legs another. With each movement we were told to focus on how our bodies felt; was it easier to move our legs and head to the left or right? How far over could we take our knees before we had to start using extra force? We built from there but the premise was the same, small, natural movements. 

Movement as medicine for the mind. 

Focusing on movement has changed my physical body significantly but it has changed my mental health even more. I find slow movement, like this Feldenkrais class or Yin yoga, excruciating at times because I JUST WANT TO WIGGLE AND MOVE. The small movements force me to live presently, and notice the smallest changes in my balance and focus. Classes like this are meditation for those of us who struggle to sit still. It’s amazing for my nervous system and creativity. 

My one true movement love will always be high intensity exercise. Whether its weight lifting, HIIT, or plyometrics creates dopamine, serotonin and all the happy hormones. This is amazing for my mental health because as Elle Woods said “happy people don’t kill their husbands”. 

Let’s move! 

So, have I convinced you? Assuming you have the privilege of being able to move, try moving! Go for a run, a walk, or just stand for 5 minutes in your house. Do it if you can and let me know how you feel! 

But Really Though Goes Nuts – Allergen Safe Grocery Store Brands

I hate being hungry, but having a peanut allergy can making snacking on the go difficult. Add in a dairy sensitivity and a minor soy allergy to that and it makes it almost impossible. Luckily, there is helpful information out there to help me avoid dying while snacking. Allergen warnings are listed on everything from cookies to pre-packaged salads. Even with these listed warnings, brands like Whole Foods won’t serve anyone with peanut allergies at their deli. It’s a hungry nightmare out there if you are not prepared. I usually carry an Emily safe snack on me at all times but occasionally I end up somewhere new with nothing to eat. In those rare instances I need to find the nearest grocery store, I look for a snack from one of the following brands.

Brands that state they are complete peanut free:

Enjoy life

Enjoy Life is my chocolate chewy bar lifeline. Everytime I crave a soft chocolate snack I pick up a package of these. They have everything from chocolate chips for baking to cake mixes to seed power bars. According to their website all of their foods are free from the top 8 major allergens. I can attest that none of the allergens are missed after taking a bite out of their snacks.

Daiya 

Craving pizza but terrified that the pizza parlor may use hidden peanuts (an actual thing, trust me)? Thats where this pizza comes in. Daiya makes delicious pizza’s that are vegan, gluten free and top 8 allergen safe. I’m a huge fan of the roasted veggie! Daiya also makes allergen friendly cheese, burritos, dressing and mac n cheese. The alfredo mac n cheese with peas is a staple in our pantry. Its creamy, filling and doesn’t leave me with the bloated tummy I get from real cheese.

Follow Your Heart 

THIS IS THE BEST TASTING VEGAN CHEESE BRAND IN MY LIFE. According to their website Follow Your Heart does not use peanut, tree nut, dairy, fish, eggs or Gluten. Vegan cheese usually does not melt well…or at all..but somehow Follow Your Heart not only managed to make a cheese that melts but it actually tastes like cheese. I am a huge fan of the pepperjack or gouda but the soy free veganaise also gets an honorable mention in my kitchen.

Amy’s

According to their website Amy’s does not use any peanuts, shellfish or eggs. If you have a tree nut allergy they claim they use good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contamination (I am always leery of those statements but I am not a doctor so don’t listen to me). Amy’s is perfect for a microwave dinner, quick burrito fix or a frozen pizza if you don’t have a dairy sensitivity. I’m a big fan of the broccoli pot pie on a cold day. 

And one honorable mention for safe manufacturing practices:

Ben n Jerry’s 

Occasionally I just want a classic pint of Half-Baked Fro-Yo to unwind after a long day. Luckily for me Ben n Jerry’s claims that they have a thorough allergen awareness process and sterilize all equipment after contact with any major allergens. So far I have not had a peanut reactions toeating pre-packaged pints from Ben n Jerry’s but I ALWAYS CHECK THE LABEL just in case there was a formula change on my favorite pint. I also never order from any of their scoop shops since they cannot guarantee that cross contamination does not occur.

Featherbottom
Mrs. Featherbottom was right!

There are quite a few allergen friendly online brands (my personal favorite chocolate resource is No Whey!) but the above should help anyone in the face of hunger bordering on hanger. As always, I am not a doctor, but I advise you to PLEASE READ THE LABEL before eating ANYTHING if you have any food allergies. Brands change their recipes over time and the last thing anyone wants to do is use an epipen.

Please let me know your favorite allergen friendly brands in the comments!

Post Grad Problems: How to Take Your Life Back

As grad season approaches I’ve taken some time to reflect on the emotions I felt this time two years ago.

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I could have been best described as terrified, stressed and very lost. I picked a very broad major, English, and had no inkling as to what I wanted to do career wise. I had a part-time job but I was terrified I would never find a full-time position doing something I didn’t hate. I panicked. I took almost any interview and position presented at me and I became an unorganized mess.

Once I got a temporary full-time job the panic continued. Not only was I at a company that I was unhappy with, but I also hated sitting in an office for eight hours a day with limited mental stimulation. I was bored and worried which created a whole new level of chaos in my life. I also struggled to adjust to spending 40 hours a week doing the same thing. In hindsight it doesn’t seem that difficult, but at the time I rejected everything about working the typical office job.

If panic stricken Em had known then what she knows now she would have never worried. Now I have a job that I love at a company that treats me like the magical human that I am and I know I can handle anything thrown at me.

How did I go from stressing about this giant change to cool and collected?

By getting organized. I have always been an orderly person but the chaos of college had caused me to forget about the joy I get in ticking things off my to do list. Once I got a temporary full-time job and the fear of starving to death out of my mind (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, baby) I was able to channel the girl who used to make a pro/con list for everything and pull my life together.

Here are some of the ways I started taking my life back from my post grad panic.

  1. To-Do Lists with attainable goals. I made a new list everyday with everything I needed to do on it. This included things like washing my hair, buying groceries, calling my Grandmother and exercise. If I didn’t accomplish everything on my list I didn’t beat myself up over it, I just moved it to the next day.
  2. Prioritized my mental and physical health. My panic phase took a toll on my body. I gained weight, stopped exercising and my skin broke out like crazy. I ate horrible things, remember my dominos lover from my earliest exercise posts. This is where getting organized really kicked in. It is one thing to say you are going to eat healthy and exercise, it is a whole different beast to actually accomplish these things. So I started slow. Read this post if you want the intimate details of my starting place. I wrote down monthly goals like “add one Blogilates workout to my yoga schedule” or “swap out takeout for a homemade Chipotle bowl” and allowed myself to slowly adjust to my healthier lifestyle. This took the majority of 2016. It was hard work, but it is so worth it to look in the mirror, or hit that new yoga pose or run 3 miles without stopping and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. My current workout schedule looks like this but that was not my starting point. Don’t try to start in the middle.
  3. Practiced leaving work at work. When I go home for the day, unless something absolutely absurd happened, I try not to think or talk much about work. I love my job and the people I work with but after spending 8 hours a day somewhere I don’t want to focus on it anymore. This takes a lot of mental strength and patience but now that I’ve got the hang of it it is so nice. (This will also help you ease those Sunday Scaries we all get).
  4. Prioritized finding happiness through hobbies. Stress happens. Life gets hard, but once I took a step back from my freak out frenzy I realized it was going to always be there…maybe not as heavily but anxieties will arise and I have to be able to cope. The best way for coping with stress it to create your own happiness, which is why I am so keen trying to find joy, it’s also why I started this blog.Starting a blog may seem like more work, and it is, but I love reading my finished posts and looking at the work I’ve created. You don’t have to start a blog though, but if you do send me your URL I would love to check it out,  hobbies like journaling, coloring, painting, doodling or reading all relieve stress and bring joy. Find what makes you happy and make time to do it.

Those are the ways I combatted post grad panic. It look a while, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come since then.

What are some of the ways you combat stress from big changes in your life?

Early to Bed, Early to Rise: How I Fall Asleep Before Midnight

Unfortunately, the internet is right about sleep.

If you Google healthy sleeping habits you will find that screens, late night snacks, lack of exercise and stress all contribute to the neverending sleep struggles. The sleep struggle is a vicious cycle of being too sluggish to get good habits forming during the day and then not tired enough to get enough shuteye during the night. The body is a fickle monster when an average person is having sleep struggles.

Many people attribute their sleep struggles to mental health issues (me), external stress (me) and their sleep location (me, I hate those fucking birds on my roof). Not getting adequate sleep can take a slightly stressful situation from manageable to crying in a bathroom. Here are my tips for becoming a morning person…or just sucking a little less at mornings.

 

  1. No snooze button… I know, I know, it’s the most tempting button in the world but it is HORRIBLE for you. The snooze button let’s your poor sleepy body, who stayed up way too late last night eating Hot Cheetos while googling meal prep ideas for your #healthy life, think that it can get another REM cycle when in reality it just gets a little relaxed and then BOOM GET UP GET UP WE ARE UNDER ATTACK…oh..that’s just the alarm again. Stopping the snooze is hard but not impossible and the best way to stop the snooze is to get enough sleep…vicious cycle.
  2. To help you stop the snooze the best thing you can do for your body is put it on a bedtime routine. I have established a bedtime routine that consists of drinking hot tea or a Calm packet (magnesium is wonderful as a sleep aid), climbing into bed and turning off screens by 9:30, trying to fit in a meditation with my Calm App and reading until I am sleepy. As a bookworm this can be dangerous so I often set a 30 minute time to make sure I’m checking in with myself by 10pm to see if I’m sleepy. I also like to turn on my sea salt lamp and diffuser with a relaxing scent like eucalyptus or lavender. Making bedtime a cozy time that I look forward to is most of the fun.The toughest part of this comes in the morning…even if I’m awake until 3am panicking about work or listening to the drunk neighbors yell at eachother I always get up around the same time. I never let myself sleep one hour past my normal wake-up time of weekdays or two hours past on weekend. Not oversleeping has helped shake that sluggish feeling that prevented me from waking up for my morning workouts.
  3. I wake up a lot throughout the night due to noises and changes in light. That’s why I highly recommend buying a sleep mask and some cheap earplugs to keep around.
  4. Habits throughout the day. I have two strict rules, no caffeine after lunch and no staying stagnant all day. Even if it is just a walk I have to get some form of exercise in to wear myself out. If I stay caged inside all day and don’t at least do a yoga or PIT28 video I struggle to go to sleep at night. An object in motion does not always stay in motion; sometime’s she stops moving and sleeps like a baby instead.
  5. Don’t put pressure on yourself to get it right the first time or everytime. Some nights my routine and lifestyle changes work perfectly, sometimes I stay up until midnight pondering the meaning of life (literally, what the fuck are we doing here). The important thing is to not stress over the inability to fall asleep…the stress will just keep you up even later. I love using my Calm App when I can’t sleep. I turn on a 35 minute deep sleep meditation and let the app take me the sleepy town.

There are so many ways to create and maintain healthy sleep practices but the most important thing is determination, faith in your body and a little discipline. Having health sleeping habits is just one of the many ways I have learned to prioritize myself and practice self-love and gratitude. Sleep is my way of thanking my body for making it through the day.

What are some of your sleep struggles and how do you combat them?