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It’s an age-old question: is it possible to thrive, not just survive, in the face of adversity?

Countless of best-selling books and blockbuster movies have been made about unexpected heroes, people who succeeded despite the obstacles in their way. But how exactly can you flourish when you’re living with chronic illness, financial troubles or strained relationships?

For decades, the field of psychology focused mostly on preventing and treating mental health problems. But when you’re trying to fix problems and reduce suffering, by definition you’re working to get people to a neutral state, to “zero”. It wasn’t until twenty years ago that renowned psychologists started to investigate how you can lead a good and happy life – how you can get from a mediocre “5” to a blooming “8”.

Flourishing means you’re living in the optimal range of human functioning, where you experience positive emotions, find fulfillment and accomplish meaningful tasks, most of the time. It’s not the same as simply being happy. When people are asked how satisfied they are with their lives, their answer depends strongly on their current mood. But a ‘good’ life depends on more than fleeting feelings of happiness.

In his book ‘Flourish’,  Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology, states that you need 5 elements for optimal wellbeing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. This PERMA-model is a good template for how to flourish in life, but how do you put these pillars into action, especially during tough times?

Have a look at these 32 actionable strategies from the world’s experts on how to flourish.

How to Flourish in the Face of Adversity Cultivate Positive Emotions

Like all emotions, positive emotions such as joy, hope, love and inspiration arise from the way you interpret events. This means you have more control over your feelings than you might think. So how can you purposely generate more positivity?

  • 01. Find the good in every day. See the world with new eyes. You can notice the beauty in any situation if you turn your attention to everyday sensations: feeling the sun on your face, sipping a sooting cup of tea, hearing the birds chirping.
  • 02. Practice the art of savoring. Relish the moment and engage all your senses during pleasurable moments to create a vivid memory.
  • 03. Do the “What-Went-Well” exercise. Research proves that practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to feel happier. So each night, write down three things that went well that day, and why they went well. The more you focus on the positive things in life, the more you start noticing them.
  • 04. Smile. Did you know that we don’t just smile because we’re happy, but that the reverse is also true? Studies showed that putting a smile on your face can actually make you feel cheerful. Of course, genuine joy is still best, so make time for laughter: watch comedies, catch up with fun friends and look for the humour in everyday situations.
  • 05. Sprinkle simple pleasures throughout your day. Boost your mood by doing more things you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be a big outing; tiny moments of bliss work just fine.
  • 06. Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation. This meditation exercise helps you develop compassion towards yourself and others. That sounds simple, but according to science, doing loving-kindess meditations lowers stress, decreases pain levels and improves relationships.
  • 07. Bring playfulness back into your life. We tend to see play as the fun activities that kids do, but according to dr. Stuart Brown, grown-ups are also designed by nature to flourish through play. Playing fuels your happiness, connection with others, creativity and problem-solving abilities. So try to cultivate a mindset of play, even – or especially – on bad days.
  • 08. Embrace the entire spectrum of emotions. Anger, sadness, frustration and jealousy are normal parts of life, not something you should avoid or suppress. When there’s a healthy balance of negative and positive feelings – the famous 3:1 positivity ratio – you build the necessary resilience to bounce back from difficult times.

Read more topnotch research on creating an upward spiral in ‘Positivity’ from Barbara Fredrickson.

Image by Adam Stones Find New Meaning

The wildly-popular article from The Atlantic ‘There’s More to Life Than Being Happy‘ describes how leading a rewarding life isn’t the same as being happy. Happiness is a fleeting feeling, but meaning, on the other hand, is enduring: it connects the past to the present to the future.

When negative things happen to you, your happiness drops but your sense of meaning grows. Studies show that people who have a clear purpose in life reported higher life satisfaction, even when they were feeling bad, than those who don’t have a higher goal. But how can you craft a meaningful life when you’re struggling and in pain?

  • 09. See the silver linings. There’s no denying that having problems blows, but facing adversity can have some positive side-effects too. In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell documents how people who face significant disadvantages in life can develop unique strengths that later provide them advantages. Maybe your difficulties could lead you to get in touch with your emotions, learn to listen to your body, strengthen friendships or give you valuable insights.
  • 10. Find new ways to make a positive contribution to the world. You don’t have to work a socially responsible job or donate money to do good. Even when you’re broke, sick or sad you can put your qualities to use towards something bigger than yourself. Spread a little joy with (random) acts of kindness. Adopt a new eco-friendly habit. Start a blog with helpful tips about a topic you know inside out. Send loved ones in need a comforting post card of care package. The simplest things can have a significant impact on others.
  • 11. Rewrite your story. How you became the person you are, isn’t just the sum of the facts of your life – it’s your own meaningful interpretation of events. You can choose to write a new narrative, by framing your past of your personality in a more constructive way.
  • 12. Turn your wounds into wisdom. Share what you’ve learned from going through your problems. Everybody has their own struggles with different circumstances, but getting information, helpful tips or support from someone who understands what you’re going through is so valuable.
  • 13. Contemplate your higher purpose. You don’t have to strive for world peace or a cure for cancer – a purpose serves as a guiding principle in your life, something that transcends your day-to-day actions. Your higher goal can be anything that has a positive impact on your life and the world: raising confident and caring children, dedicating yourself to your job or working on your recovery from illness.

Read more on finding fulfillment in life in ‘The Power of Meaning’ by Emily Esfahani Smith.

All other images by Maria van Doorn | Despina Design Build Strong Relationships

We are social beings, who crave connections, love, emotional bonds and physical interaction with other people. Having close family and friends you can rely on in times of trouble proves to be a good buffer, supporting your overall health and wellbeing. Here are some ways to build and foster positive relationships with the people in your life:

  • 14. Be kind. Because like the saying goes, everyone is fighting their own battles. It’s easy to get irritated by annoying people, but if you automatically assume that everyone has the best intentions or a reason for their actions, than both you and them have a much more positive experience.
  • 15. Make high-quality connections. You don’t have to be a social butterfly to have strong relationships. When you’re short on time or energy, regular short but sweet interactions will do just fine. Try to mix in-person contact with online socializing. Our voices say so much more than just the words coming out of our mouths.
  • 16. Really listen. Let’s be honest, we don’t always give our partners in dialogue the attention they deserve. Next time you’re meeting your mates, try to talk less and listen more. Ask genuine questions and read between the lines. Be understanding. Put yourself in their shoes. We all long to be heard.
  • 17. Don’t isolate yourself. When you’re bed bound, depressed or ashamed of your problems, avoiding contact with your family and friends may seem like the best (or only) option. But did you know that the pain centers in your brain become activated when you feel lonely or socially rejected? So even on bad days, when all you want to do is hide under the covers, make an effort to reach out and stay in touch with family and friends.
  • 18. Practice compassionTuning into other people’s feelings and taking action to help them improves relationships, boosts your resilience and gives you a more optimistic outlook on life.
  • 19. Ask for support. It’s ok to turn to others when you’re struggling. You may feel awkward, but it helps to be specific about what you need: practical help, emotional support, information or advice… And don’t just think about reaching out to the people in your life: medical professionals, social workers, support groups and peers going the same problems can be a great source of help too.
  • 20. Expand your social circle. Meeting new people and making new friends as an adult isn’t as easy as when you were younger. But it all starts with simple interactions: saying hi to your neighbours, having a chat with the regular faces in the coffee shop, joining an interactive class or signing up for a buddy system.
  • 21. Combat loneliness. Loneliness isn’t just about being alone, it’s about feeling alone, like no one really understands you. Being chronically lonely literally hurts – and it hurts your health too. So make a plan to fight the mental and emotional patterns underlying your loneliness. Reach out to your loved ones or get professional help. You are not alone.

Read more on building relationships in the timeless bestseller ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ from Dale Carnegie.

Redefine Achievement

Having meaningful goals to pursue gives you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction when you finally achieve them. Putting the effort in to accomplish your ambitions helps you thrive. But when you’re sick, achieving goals becomes much more challenging. Have a look at how to flourish in the face of adversity by redefining the concept of ‘achievement’.

  • 22. Redefine what ‘success’ means to you. Our society focuses so much on getting good grades, working prestigious jobs and living the white-picket-fence fantasy, that it’s easy to forget that ‘being successful’ has many faces. What matters to you? Maybe you care about being a compassionate person, leading a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle or becoming financially independent. Given your situation, how can you live your best life, one that’s in line with your values, interests and talents?
  • 23. Focus on your strengths, not your shortcomings. When you’re chronically ill, you’re constantly faced with everything you can’t do – and feeling bad about that. So list your strong points instead, and come up with ways on how you can use them to cope with your problems.
  • 24. Set new goals within your possibilities. Ok, so maybe your health struggles or money problems stop you from traveling the globe like you dreamt. But who says you can’t explore the world in a different, doable way? You could save up for a budget trip, make a list of the (accessible) nearby cities, museums and national parks you wish to visit, camp out in your own back yard, do a house swap… You get the idea. Give old dreams a realistic spin and find creative solutions to reach your goals.
  • 25. Concentrate on the work itself, not the end result. Like William Penn said, “To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals – this alone is worth the struggle.” You won’t always succeed in what you do, but knowing you’ve tried makes it easier to accept that things don’t always work out.
  • 26. Pick your priorities. No matter what the Superwoman Syndrome will have you believe, you can’t do everything, at least not at once. So shape your schedule with intention and impact. Don’t just write down all your to do’s, but also make a not-to-do list – things you won’t waste any more time on.
  • 27. Make a ‘reversed bucket list’: a track record of all the things you’ve already accomplished in life. Whatever the future brings, no one can take that away from you.
  • 28. Write down what makes you you. Because you are not your illness or your problems. Yes, it’s a big part of your life, and intrinsically linked to your identity, but it’s not the only thing that defines you. You are also a daughter or a husband, a proud American or a down-to-earth Dutchman, a feminist or an environmentalist, an avid book reader or outdoorsy sports guy.

Engage Yourself in the Present Moment

Do you know that feeling when you’re entirely absorbed by what you’re doing? This state is called ‘flow’, and being completely engaged in an activity for it’s own sake like that focuses your mind, stretches your skills, produces positive emotions and increases your coping abilities. So how can you reach that state of flow?

  • 29. Do more activities that make you lose track of time. That sounds like a luxury, especially during tough times, but doing things you enjoy is a powerful antidote against feelings of depression, anxiety and rumination. Maybe it can even let you forget our pain and worries for a little while. So whatever pleasurable activity takes up all of your attention – painting, running, playing chess – carve out time in your busy week to do it.
  • 30. Practice active forms of meditation. Who says you have to sit in lotus in order to meditate? Embrace mindfulness in motion: do a walking meditation, lose yourself intuitive dancing or practice slow movement like t’ai chi, qigong and yoga.
  • 31. Get in touch with nature. Being outdoors is a powerful way to engage all your sense and live in the moment – and great for your health too. So if you want to flourish in life, get your daily nature fix.
  • 32. Keep challenging yourself. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading expert on flow, flow is most likely to happen when your skills are fully involved in a rewarding activity that’s demanding but doable. In order to thrive, you should occasionally wander the edges of your comfort zone, to grow your talents, skill set, creativity and mental muscles.

Read more about achieving this optimal state of consciousness in the classic ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. 

When it comes to flourishing in life, always remember: what you water, grows.

That doesn’t mean you have too smile and be in a good mood all the time. But by focusing your attention on cultivating positive emotions, finding meaning and purpose, fostering strong relationships, creating your own definition of achievement and engaging yourself in the present, it is possible to thrive in tough times.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

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The post How to Flourish in the Face of Adversity appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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It’s one of my daughter’s favourite activities: having a picnic.

It doesn’t really matter where – in the park, the garden, or even in front of the TV on cold winter days. Because what’s more leisurely than lounging around with a variety of foods you can eat with your hands?

Now that the weather’s warming up, it’s time to round up some outdoor-friendly recipes that are easy to pack up. Some days a simple sandwich with snacks and refreshments will do just fine. But if you’re looking for something special to turn a sunny afternoon in the park into a mini vacation, check out these 14 vibrant dishes and drinks!

What to Pack for a Healthy Picnic 1. Lemonade & Iced Tea

Summertime Sun Tea from Thirsty for Tea

Sparkling Cucumber Basil Lemonade from The Broken Bread 

Pineapple Ginger Iced Tea from The Kitchen McCabe 

2. A Hearty Sandwich

Vegetarian Muffuletta Picnic Sandwich from Yummy Mummy Kitchen

Chicken Caesar Wraps from I Heart Naptime 

Spinach and Basil Smoked Salmon from Cooking Melangery  

3. A Colourful Salad

Our Favourite Picnic Salad from The First Mess 

Chopped-Vegetables Tabbouleh from Martha Stewart 

Strawberry Avocado Pesto Pasta Salad from Half Baked Harvest 

4. A Snack to Nibble On

Watermelon on a Stick from Domino

Rainbow Fruit Skewers with Vanilla-Honey Yogurt Dip from The Comfort of Cooking 

Easy Antipasto Skewers from The Mediterranean Dish 

Green Goddess Veggie Dip Cups from The View from Great Island

Fresh Mango Salsa (with Tortilla Chips) from Cookie and Kate 

5. Picnic Essentials

For a leisurely day in the park or at the beach, a good outdoor blanket and picnic basket come in handy. We’re a fan of the funky cooler bags and picnic blankets from H&M Home, but a classic hamper also works. Don’t forget to bring napkins, unbreakable cups and drinking bottles. And a great tip from Domino: put cupcake liners over your glasses to prevent bugs from getting into your lemonade.

Depending on your mood and company, bring a ball, book or travel games for a good time. So gather your family and friends, pack up and head to a relaxing spot for a healthy picnic. Enjoy!

What are your favourite recipes for a healthy picnic? 

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The post 14 Fresh Recipes for a Healthy Picnic appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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When you’re diagnosed with chronic illness, is there anything you can do to improve your health and happiness? Can you (fully) recover from persisting health problems, and if so, how? In this first interview on recovery, Zoe Emma from Heal Chronic Fatigue shares her story. 
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello! I’m Zoe B. C. Emma and I’m a Complementary Medicine Practitioner based in Edinburgh in Scotland. I was diagnosed with ME/CFS in my early twenties.
When did you first get sick?
As a student at the University of Aberdeen, I experienced a variety of stressors which seemed to snowball until I developed ME/CFS. I had a history of anorexia, anxiety, and abuse as well as other physical issues like an unhealthy diet and lack of sunshine, fresh air, and access to nature. I also felt emotionally trapped in a situation which I did not want and didn’t know how to get out of. There came a point where my coping mechanisms with these problems began to fail and that’s when I noticed the first symptoms of ME/CFS.
I felt the kind of bizarre overwhelming fatigue that most others with ME/CFS experience, which didn’t get any better with rest or managing my physical activity. I also experienced depression, aching limbs, swollen glands, brain fog, and a return of anorexia and anxiety. It took me eighteen months from the initial symptoms showing up to get a diagnosis from my GP as I was tested for a great variety of other illnesses. At this point, I could barely walk and sometimes would have to be spoon-fed food, as I was unable to move my jaw and was afraid of choking.
What happened after you were diagnosed with CFS? 
My GP said there wasn’t much they could advise apart from resting in bed and gradually increasing my physical capability much like someone with a broken bone going through rehab. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work for most people with ME/CFS, but other approaches weren’t known to my GP.
I was seeing a counsellor for the emotional side of things, but I still felt like there was something missing. I was relieved to have a diagnosis to be able to explain to unsympathetic friends and family members what was going on – but I felt frustrated at the lack of knowledge, understanding, and treatment available.
What were the first steps you took to start your healing process? Did you take any medication that helped? Which lifestyle changes did you make to support your healing? 
I started to do my own research to see if there were natural ways to heal ME/CFS. As I learned more about holistic methods of healing, I realised that there is no ‘magic bullet’ which can quickly and easily cure specific illnesses. In our society, we tend to view medication in this way, popping pills and expecting to be returned to perfect health without having to do any actual healing work. It was at this point that I changed my focus from “healing ME/CFS” to “healing myself”. I focused on my diet, beliefs, behaviours, and how I processed emotions. Interestingly, I didn’t focus on physical exercise, intuitively knowing that I needed to rest and address other areas of health first.
The area which was most effective at eliminating my specific ME/CFS symptoms was definitely cognitive health. This involves looking at your beliefs and how they affect your behaviour in subconscious ways. There are quite predictable patterns that people with ME/CFS have become stuck with which actually create physical fatigue and a whole host of other symptoms. Once I really began to sort these beliefs and behaviours out, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders and the bizarre overwhelming fatigue never came back. However, I wasn’t 100% healed just yet.
Did you have any psychological breakthroughs that helped you further on your road to recovery?
Absolutely. Like many other illnesses, ME/CFS is a mind-body illness and psychological breakthroughs are common in healing from it. Personally, I did a lot of work on assertiveness, boundaries, and self-worth.
How long after you started working on your health did you start feeling better? Was it a straightforward process or did you have setbacks along the way?
Once I started working on my cognitive, nutritional, and emotional health I actually experienced very few setbacks. Setbacks were common before that point, when I didn’t really know what I was doing. I often thought I was getting better, but it was more like a brief interlude between episodes of severe symptoms. Within a few weeks of starting the cognitive work, I noticed my ME/CFS symptoms had almost entirely gone. Within a few months, I was convinced they had gone for good (and they were!). However, it took several more months to process the emotional consequences of letting go of old patterns. I would say that my symptoms disappeared quite early on but it took almost a year to really feel healthy again – better than I’d ever felt before.
How did you overcome the obstacles on your way? Where did you find the courage, hope, and determination?
There were certainly low moments, but I never gave up because I knew, deep down, that I was going to get better and that any suffering was only going to be temporary. I had absolutely no patience with the view that ME/CFS is incurable – in fact, this made me even more determined to prove them wrong! When a very low moment strikes, it’s good to have an action plan, such as having blankets and cuddly toys ready, a nice DVD, or lavender essential oil (which I found to be quite relaxing). Reaching out to someone you trust, while it can feel uncomfortable or scary to be that vulnerable, is actually one of the best pain-relievers. Other than that, I made sure to focus every day on what I wanted to do – what I would enjoy. An inspirational teacher called Robert Holden talks about ‘following your joy’ which basically means doing what makes you happy right here, right now. This helped me a lot!
How would you define ‘recovery’? 
Recovery to me means noticing that your symptoms are easing and having the sense that you are on the right path towards health. I do not believe that you are ‘in recovery’ forever from ME/CFS. If your symptoms are gone and you are in better health than you were before you developed the illness, you most certainly are completely cured. After all, if we don’t have the symptoms of a cough or a cold any more, we don’t say we are ‘in recovery’ from the cough forever. We have it, we heal, and then we move on.
What would you like to tell others who are diagnosed with CFS?
First and foremost: It is 100% possible to completely heal yourself from ME/CFS. If you are like me, you will already have heard many people express the opinion that this disease is incurable. You wouldn’t be reading this unless you believed that there was a possibility to heal from ME/CFS, so follow your instincts!
I felt so strongly about this issue – that people believe ME/CFS is incurable – that once I was better, I trained to become a Complementary Medicine Practitioner with a view to creating an online course for people with the illness to learn the methods I used – cognitive, nutritional, and emotional – to completely heal. We have had extraordinary successes on the course so far! Every day I am thankful that people are realising that they have the capability to heal from ME/CFS and it is a privilege to be able to support them along the way.
If you have ME/CFS or you know someone who does, please take a look at the course website: https://healfatigue.teachable.com/p/heal-chronic-fatigue It has all the information you need and if you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to get in touch with me to talk things over. It is my joy and purpose to see people feel better and begin to get their lives back!
My contact information: zoe@zoebcemma.com
Note from The Health Sessions: ME/CFS is complex disease that affects multiple systems of the body. Although the cause is still unclear, it’s possible that various factors play a role, from genetics to infections and stressful conditions. Not every patients has the underlying psychological issues described in the interview above. However, by sharing different personal experiences with illness, we can learn new ways to cope better and support our health. 
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

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It’s the one feeling parents with chronic illness struggle with the most: guilt.

Because it hurts when you can’t take your kids to the park or the playground because of your health. Especially when you see the disappointment in their eyes. It hurts when your kids are missing out on experiences because you can’t take them everywhere. Not to mention the guilt you may feel about overburdening your kids with extra responsibilities or worries about your chronic illness.

In theory, guilt is a useful emotion that forces us to contemplate what we’ve done ‘wrong’ and how we can ensure a better outcome next time. But in reality, you can easily develop a negative self-image, depressive feelings or anxiety when the situation you feel guilty about is beyond your control.

No parent with chronic illness wants to miss their daughter’s sports games or son’s school play. We all wish we could pick up our kids from school, go on bike rides and read bedtime stories each night – but that’s not always possible.

So how do you deal with the guilt of parenting with chronic illness?

Honestly, I don’t have all the answers. Ever since my first pregnancy, my health has improved enough for me to keep up with my children’s development so far. So fortunately I don’t experience that much more guilt than mom and dad – healthy or not – feels from time to time.

But here are some thoughts that could help you deal with the guilt of parenting with chronic illness.

How to Deal with the Guilt of Parenting with Chronic Illness 1. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Did you do the best you could given the circumstances? Somehow, knowing I’ve done all I could, makes it easier for me to accept that things don’t always work out as planned.
  • Did you make the right choice, even if it wasn’t what you’d hoped to do? Earlier this year, my one-year old son was briefly hospitalized – and I didn’t sleep by his side, my husband did. I felt so guilty, cried my eyes out. But after spending days and nights up with him at home, sleeping on a rock-hard couch in a bacteria-filled hospital room would definitely lead to a serious health setback. My mum reminded me that my boy would be asleep most of the time and that his loving dad would take care of him. I knew that in the long run, staying at home (with my daughter) was the better choice, so I pulled myself together and did what I could do: I packed their overnight bag, sat by my son’s side when he fell asleep and made sure I got a good night’s sleep so I could look after him when he got home again.
  • How would you judge your best friend when he/she did what you had done? We can be so hard on ourselves. Don’t be your worst critic. Look at your actions without drawing conclusions about your personality or your life.
  • Is there anything you can do to get a more desirable outcome next time? Good planning, managing your energy wisely and having a back up plan can be useful tools to get things done with chronic illness. But sometimes, that’s just not enough.

“Guilt is a weight that will crush you whether you deserve it or not.” – Maureen Johnson, Girl at Sea

2. Enhance your problem-solving skills
  • Focus on what’s most important to you and your kids. Despite what our modern-day culture suggests, even healthy people can’t do it all. So choose which activities matter the most to you and your family. Your kids may not care about having homemade meals every night, but do look forward to sharing their stories over dinner. You may not be able to drive your children to weekly practices, but you can attend game nights and performances. Set priorities – both practical and emotional – and don’t feel guilty about letting go of other expectations.
  • Find solutions for recurring problems. When I asked parents with chronic illness what they struggle with the most, one reader mentioned she hated the days she was too sick to even read her son a bedtime story. Recording her reading his favorite book or buying an audiobook could work for them to still have that ritual on bad days.
  • Involve other important people in your kids upbringing. Especially moms think they have to do and be everything for their children, but dads, grandparents, extended family or even your best friend can play a positive role in their lives. Maybe your spouse loves sports and can bring your daughter to swimming lessons. Or perhaps their grandma loves doing crafts with the kids. Like the African saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, for both chronically ill and healthy parents.
  • Build your own rituals. Show your love in ways that are doable for you. There have been times I was so exhausted, we ordered takeaway, had a picnic in front of the television and watched nature documentaries together. What started as an ’emergency measure’ has now become one of my daughter’s favourite family rituals. So develop your own happy traditions that are suitable for your situation.

“Acts born of necessity can become a beautiful new family tradition.”

3. Adjust your mindset
  • Put things in perspective. Every parent struggles with guilt from time to time: for working full-time, for not having enough money for their kids to participate in hobbies, for not spending much time together after a divorce. Don’t be so focused on your own limitations and shortcomings that you forget that there’s no such thing as the perfect parent.
  • On that note, stay real. Of course you don’t want your kids to hurt, struggle or worry. But you can’t shield them away from reality. And part of their reality is having a mom or dad who has a chronic illness. Life isn’t always easy, and every child will have to learn how to deal with sadness and disappointment.
  • See the silver linings. Having a parent with chronic illness can also teach children positive things: how to empathize and care for loved ones or how to accept people for who they really are, with their flaws and imperfections. Even on bad days, you’re an excellent role model for your kids, showing them the power in vulnerability and what it truly means to be resilient.
  • Remind yourself that wallowing in guilt doesn’t get you – or your family – anywhere. Feel the emotion without judging yourself, learn what you can from the experience and then let your guilt go.

I’d love to hear from you: how do you deal with the guilt of parenting with chronic illness? Which mindset or problem-solving actions help you move past the sadness and disappointment? 

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

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If you’ve been living with a chronic illness for a while, you’ve probably heard of the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. For someone who’s seriously sick, each day starts with a limited amount of “spoons” of energy. They carefully have to decided how you can best spend each one, knowing that even mondain tasks like taking a shower or making lunch costs you precious spoons.

The Spoon Theory is a helpful analogy of what it’s truly like to live with chronic illness or disability. But how does it work in reality? How do you decide how to spend your spoons? What do you do when you have no spoons left but still half a day ahead of you?

In my experience, there are two broad strategies: pacing and push-and-crash. 

I used to be the queen of push-and-crash cycles. At the time, it really was the only way to get things done: resting up and preparing before an event – going to school, necessary shopping trips, hanging out with family and friends – putting every last drop of effort into getting to and through the event and then… crash. Hard. It meant my symptoms would exacerbate and I couldn’t do much else but rest the next day(s) to recover from that activity.

When I was younger, this strategy worked fine – thanks to the help from my parents. Sure, it was far from ideal, but what part about living with chronic illness is? So I pulled all-nighters to finish my thesis, because I was going to feel horrible from a normal day’s work and would need to recover the next day anyway, so why not push a little harder to actually get some results? Once in a while I would push my body to its limits to dance, go on a trip, do the things that make life exciting.

But then I landed an internship and part-time job, with a long commute. Suddenly I had to get better at managing my energy wisely so I’d make it to work the next day again with a reasonably clear mind and functioning body.

Suddenly I had to get better at conserving enough energy to appear on the job with a reasonably clear mind the following day. That was a challenge. I didn’t know all the little energy-conserving ‘hacks’ yet that make life with chronic illness easier.

And then my kids came. There’s just no escaping it: no matter how exhausted you feel, you have to be there for them again the moment they wake up the next day – which, in my children’s case, is at the crack of dawn.

It was time for a different approach.

 Pacing: The Practice of Managing Your Energy

A few years ago, my husband said something important: “It’s ok to have some energy left at the end of the day”. That was a major light-bulb moment. I was so used to having to give every activity my all – because otherwise even the simplest things wouldn’t get done – that, now that my health had gradually improved, I still spent it every last drop. Of course, my must-do list had grown with every new responsibility, but not everything has to get done today.

Like Bruce Campbell puts it, pacing means finding the right balance between activities and rest for your personal situation. You can do that by purposely planning your to-do’s for the day, including breaks and the buffer-time you need to switch from one activity to the next. The goal is to try to get meaningful things done, even on bad days, and to avoid overdoing it when you feel good, only to pay for it later.

So what does pacing look like in daily life?

What pacing means in practice depends on your lifestyle, current health status and activity level. But here are some guidelines to help you manage your energy wisely:

1. Know yourself – and your boundaries 
  • What are the specific warning signs you’re pushing yourself too far? Do you feel dizzy, out of breath, where does it hurt? If you have a hard time sensing when you’re reaching the point of exertion, you could consider wearing a heart rate monitor to track how fast your heart beats right before the energy drains out of you.
  • What time of day do you usually feel at your best or at your worst? Maybe it takes a while for you to get going in the morning or you’re sensitive to the midday slump. To plan a productive day, it helps to know when you’re most likely to feel fit and focussed and when it’s time for a break.
  • Which activities cost you a surprising amount of energy? Have you ever been puzzled over how doing seemingly insignificant things can make you feel worn out? For example, nowadays I have little trouble walking moderate distances, but changing clothes still makes me tired. If you’re unsure which activities drain you, you could keep a log or bullet journal to pinpoint your personal energy vampires.
  • Find a metaphor that represents your energy management. I like to think of energy management in terms of a battery: “I woke up with 75% of energy, doing my everyday routine takes up about 45%, meaning I have some energy left for one big cleaning tasks before I need to recharge…”. Maybe the famous spoon theory works great for you. Whichever metaphor you come up with, having an analogy of how you spend your energy can be a useful tool for pacing.
2. Schedule activities and breaks 

Predictability may sound boring, but for spoonies, it’s vital. Having a regular routine – not a strict schedule – helps you save precious energy because you can do returning tasks on autopilot. It also ensures you alternate activity with rest, to avoid push-and-crash cycles.

I could write an entire chapter on planning with chronic illness – and one day I will – but in short: use a planner, set priorities, keep your daily to-do list short, and develop routines.

3. Take breaks, even when you don’t feel tired yet.

The whole point of pacing is stopping before you become (too) exhausted. That can be hard to notice: if you’re like me, you might unconsciously shut off or ignore signs of your body to get through the day.

It can help to visualize ‘zones’:

  • The comfort zone, in which you feel reasonably good;
  • The uncomfortable zone, when you experience symptoms, mild pain or fatigue within your ‘normal range’;
  • The danger zone, when you’re pushing your body to it’s limits and risk relapse or deterioration of your frail health.

When you live with serious illness, the line between the uncomfortable zone and the danger zone is thin. But listen to the warning signs and take pre-emptive rest when possible. In my experience, spoons aren’t really transferrable to the next day, but your body will notice the difference when you don’t constantly spend more energy than you have.

4. Alternate between different types of tasks

When you’re a high-functioning spoonie or you simply have a lot to do, one way to pace yourself without resting is to switch between physically, mentally and emotionally-demanding activities. For example, after making breakfast, taking a shower and getting dressed, you could sit down and do something mentally stimulating, like reading, writing emails or making important phone calls.

The reverse also works: when you need a short break from studying or working, it helps to do something physical – stretch, walk, get a cup of coffee – to restore your brain power rather than browsing social media or news sites.

5. Rest effectively 

You might think that because you spend a lot of time lying in bed and sitting on the couch that you’re resting enough. But being physically inactive is not the same as high-quality rest. Binge-watching Netflix offers a welcome escape from reality, but it doesn’t activate a relaxation response in your body the way that yoga, meditation or a warm bath do.

And real rest doesn’t have to cost a lot of time or energy: you can recharge yourself within minutes with mindful micro-breaks or the 4-7-8 breathing technique.

6. Have a back-up plan 

There will be times that you’ve run out of spoons before the day is over. To keep yourself from pushing-and-crashing because you simply have to put food on the table or get the kids into bed, make sure you have a loose back-up plan for exhausting days:

  • Stock the freezer with nutritious meals you only have to heat up when you’re too tired to cook. You could also master a few low-effort cooking tricks to put a healthy dinner on the table.
  • Try these short-term strategies to survive your workday when you feel exhausted.
  • If you’re a parent, have some stickers, coloring book or educational videos stashed away for ‘special occasions’ (read: sick days). It also helps to have a list of low-energy activities at hand to keep your kids entertained when your symptoms flare-up.
  • Save a fresh set of clothes, underwear and pajamas in a special drawer. That way you always have something clean and comfy to wear even if you’re unable to do laundry that day.
  • In that spirit, keep a back-up supply of essentials like soap, toiletpaper and over-the-counter drugs.

Having supportive systems in place helps you get through bad days without getting trapped in a negative spiral.

“Remember, slow and steady wins the race.” – Ieyasu Tokugawa

Pacing seems logical and easy to do, but the unpredictability of living with chronic illness can still make it challenging. In times when you have a lot on your plate or your symptoms flare up unexpectedly, you can’t always avoid pushing yourself too far. When  you’re paying the price for not pacing, take a moment to get back on track again. First, make sleep and rest a priority. Next, do less activities than you could, to ‘collect some spoons’ to restore. And finally, create a realistic plan of action to bounce back and prevent another push-and-crash cycle.

Do you need to pace to get things done with chronic illness? Are you good at it and if so, what are your best tips and tricks?

* Top image source 

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There’s no denying it – our beautiful planet is in trouble.

On top of the much-discussed climate change, planet Earth is threatened by air pollution, scarcity of water, deforestation and animal extinction on a large scale.

And the environmental changes are affecting your health – through the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the soil that grows your fruit, vegetables and grains.

Now I’m not a no-waste eco warrior who only eats organic produce from the veggie patch. Just like many of you, I have a limited amount of energy and resources to get everything done. But recently I have started taking tiny steps into a more environmentally-friendly direction. Because it matters – not just to the earth and its future residents, but to my family’s health today.

Let’s have a look at why being a green god(dess) is good for your health and which eco-friendly actions you can start taking today to make a positive impact.

6 Eco-Friendly Actions for a Healthier Body and Planet 1. Reduce Your Exposure to Toxins

You may not be aware of it, but cleaning and beauty products contain small amounts of toxins and chemicals. Not only do these toxins put a burden on your body, they also affect the (indoor) environment.

For example, scented candles and air fresheners hold phthalates, chemicals that increase your risk for asthma and endocrine problems. Phosphates from laundry and dishwasher detergent even find their way into rivers and lakes, harming aquatic life.

I don’t want to sound like those doomsday articles saying your deodorant or food staples are slowly killing you. There’s only so much about your surroundings that you can control, and getting stressed over potential health hazards won’t do your wellbeing no good either. But here are some things you can do to reduce your exposure to everyday toxins:

  • Have a no-shoe policy at home. With shoes on indoors, you track in harmful things like germs, coal tar, pesticides and hazardous particles from artificial grass.
  • Use natural fabrics on your body and around the house. Some synthetic fabrics are treated with chemicals like flame retardants. Choose more organic cotton, wool, linen or hemp instead.
  • Depending on the quality of the tap water where you live, consider a water filter for your home.
  • It’s a popular saying on wellness websites: “If you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.” The skin is the largest organ in your body, and it’s highly permeable. Studies suggest that we absorb roughly 60% of everything we apply topically, from soap to sunscreen lotion. As a fervent user of body lotion, that statistic is pretty confronting. I won’t start making toiletries from scratch any time soon, but it’s worth it to start reading labels and checking out more natural alternatives. Hello Glow, for example, has an entire DIY section on how you can make natural beauty products with a few ingredients.
  • Instead of using artificial fragrances, freshen up your home with flowers, lavender sachets or homemade potpourri.
  • Switch to natural cleaning products to improve your indoor air quality. Wellness Mama has some excellent tips to get you started.
2. Eat Less Animal Protein

I don’t follow nor do I advocate a vegetarian or vegan diet. But eating less animal protein proves to be good for your body – and the planet.

According to Babette Porcelijn, author from Hidden Impact, consuming (red) meat has the second largest impact of our daily lives on the environment. It takes 15,000 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef – the equivalent of 300 days of showering. When you also counter in the negative effects of the use of fertilizers, deforestation and greenhouse gas, eating beef makes up 30% of the impact caused by individuals.

Cutting back on meat, even if it’s just once a week, has numerous benefits for the environment and your health. By consuming less unhealthy fats, salts and preservatives from (red and/or processed) meat, you lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. Have a look at how you can start consuming less animal protein:

  • Limit your intake of red and/or processed meats. According to the World Health Organization, eating processed meats like ham, sausages and chicken nuggets puts you at risk of developing cancer. Consumption of red meat is also classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, which means its likely to cause cancer as well. So keep your portion sizes small.
  • Adopt Meatless Monday. If you’re new to eating vegetarian, start with one dinner a week. Instead of trying to replace your meat with alternatives, choose veggie dishes that taste great as they are: risotto fungi, gado gado with boiled eggs and peanut sauce or pita bread with falafel.
  • You could also do the reverse: only eat organic meat and sustainable-caught fish on 1-3 days a week. Make veggies the stars of your meal and supplement with (plant-based) proteins like egg, toasted nuts and seeds, fermented soy and quinoa.
  • Swap your regular dairy products for plant-based alternatives on occasion.
  • For more recipe inspiration, check out the tasty vegetarian cookbooks from Green Kitchen Stories, My New Roots or Nutrition Stripped.
All images by Kat Jayne via pexels.com 3. Choose Human-Powered Transport When Possible

We all know that flying and driving are bad for the environment. The car exhaust fumes and particle emissions pollute the air, leading to an increased risk of lung disease and heart attacks. Not to mention that the earth is running out of fossil fuels.

Walking or cycling to school, work and the shops isn’t just a green way to get places. It builds your aerobic fitness levels, tones your legs and most of all, it’s fun! Even on cold and wet days when I really don’t feel like jumping on my bike, I feel invigorated and mentally refreshened afterwards.

Here are some ideas to fit walking and cycling into your daily schedule:

If muscle-powered transport isn’t an option due to your health, safety reasons or travel distances, you could also consider eco-friendly solutions like taking public transport. Research shows that people who take the bus, train or tram walk 8 to 33 minutes more each day than car drivers do.

4. Surround Yourself with Green

Don’t you just feel mentally and physically recharged after a hike in the woods or a stroll in the park? Your intuitive feeling that being in nature is good for you is backed by science. Spending time in natural surroundings lowers your blood pressure, calms your nervous system, eases brain fatigue and reduces symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. In fact, green spaces are so powerful for our wellbeing, that even just looking at pictures of natural landscapes helps lower anxiety and pain levels in hospital patients.

Trees and plants play a vital role in supporting life across the planet, by producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. But as a result of large-scale agriculture, forests half the size of England are cut down each year. This deforestation destroys the homes of wildlife and drives climate change.

And it’s not just the quality of outdoor air you should worry about. Studies from NASA have shown that indoor air is usually far more polluted than outdoor air. Another good reason to surround yourself with more green!

Try these eco-friendly actions to make your personal living environment a little greener:

  • Adorn your living room with air-purifying plants. If you don’t have green fingers (like me), Greatist has listed 9 air-cleaning houseplants that are almost impossible to kill.
  • Plant veggies in the garden. Or if you don’t have an outdoor space, grow fresh herbs and cress in a window box. They give a nutritional and flavour boost to any meal. And it doesn’t get more local than that.
  • Create a bee-friendly garden. The saying goes,“if the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” So welcome bees into your garden by choosing flowering plants.
  • Get your daily nature fix, even if you’re chronically ill, housebound or living in a concrete jungle.

5. Use Less Plastic

It’s a tragic sight: the plastic soup in our oceans. According to The Independent, there are 500 times more micro-plastic particles in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy. The remaining plastic waste ends up in landfills, where it could take up to 500 years to decompose, and potentially leak pollutants into the soil.

That’s why in 2017, the United Nations declared a war on ocean plastic. Here’s what you can do to help:

  • Bring your own reusable bags when you go (grocery) shopping.
  • Stop buying bottled water and use a BPA-free water bottle instead.
  • On that note: get a reusable coffee cup and pack your lunch in dishwasher-safe sandwich bags.
  • Whenever you buy something, see if there’s a version that’s not wrapped in plastic.
  • Shower gels and body scrubs can contain microbeads, particles so tiny they don’t get filtered out by wastewater treatments plants and end up in rivers and oceans. Check your beauty product’s ingredient list for common plastics like polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polymethyl methacrylate, polylactic acid, or nylon. Next, look into more natural alternatives, like Lush’s handmade cosmetics with ‘naked packaging’.
  • Support The Ocean Cleanup, an admirable initiative from a then 18-year old Dutch student, to remove plastic waste from the world’s oceans.
6. Go Analogue – Occasionally

It might sound like a bit of a stretch to connect your digital life to the environment. But the manufacturing of computers and cell phones put a heavy burden on our natural resources. According to Hidden Impact, the mining of raw materials like cobalt, graphite and tin contributes greatly to the pollution of the Earth. What’s more, electronic devices use up precious energy in our always-connected world.

And as much as I love the Internet, modern technologies also have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. We’re facing an unhealthy increase of inactivity and obesity, mood disorders, strained eyes and shorter attention spans – and our love for our smart phone is partly to blame.

I’m not saying that paper is necessarily better for the environment, but occasionally unplugging is good for your wellbeing in many ways.

  • Put your smartphone on airplane mode one hour before bedtime to save energy and a good night’s sleep.
  • Have no-screen Sundays. Head outside and leave your phone at home (if your health and safety allows). Connect with family and friends without being distracted by notifications.
  • During empty pockets of time like waiting in line, recharge with a mindful micro-break instead of scrolling social media.
  • Delete apps you don’t often use. They don’t just drain your phone’s battery, but also clutter your brain.
  • Replace ‘bad’ digital habits – constantly checking your phone, binge-watching TV – with activities that truly reenergize you. Take up an old hobby, read books that lift your spirit or practice restorative yoga.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan

Are you a green god(dess) by nature or are you just starting out with a more green lifestyle? Which eco-friendly actions will you be taking for a healthier body and environment?

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The post 6 Eco-Friendly Actions That Directly Impact Your Health appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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This is an article by James M. Gregory.

50 – 70 million.

That would be the answer if the question were, “How many people in the US have a sleep disorder?”

That number might seem innocent on its own. So people don’t sleep well, no big deal, right? You might shrug it off if you don’t dig deeper and look at the ominous statistics about fatalities and injuries related to sleep deprivation (as reported by sleepassociation.org):

  • 1,550 fatal and 40,000 non-fatal injuries directly caused by drowsy driving alone
  • 100,000 fatal outcomes related to medical errors caused by sleep deprivation
An issue with the stats

There are gaping flaws in the statistical model we’re using today. Any sleep therapist with a modern approach could probably write an essay on all the things the stats can’t tell you.

The topic is beyond the scope of this article, but let us takes a moment to point out 3 obvious problems:

  • What constitutes a sleep disorder?
  • How many people are diagnosed vs. how many are suffering in silence or don’t even know they have a problem?
  • How many people involved in the sleep-related accidents or medical errors will be open about it?

You see a pattern here – most of the stats we have are subjective. To be honest, the issue of subjectivity is tricky and there isn’t much we can do about it. Furthermore, statistical models have a way of improving on their own as science moves forward and we tweak the models.

Bigger fish to fry – The core of the problem

In my humble opinion, we have a more serious problem on our hands than statistics. It cuts to the very core of what we define as “sleeping well.” In those terms, we’re stuck in the Industrial Revolution. To put it simply – we still rely on a crude, outdated 8-hour-based model, when we should have moved on decades ago.

It’s not that the science isn’t there – the first book describing the physiology of sleep was published back in 1913. Written by a pioneer in sleep research, Henri Pieron, it’s titled “Le probleme physiologique du sommeil”. Roughly translated, the title means “The physiological problem of sleep” and it’s the foundation of the modern, cycle-based approach to sleep deprivation.

Back to the topic at hand – Sleep Restlessness 

I might’ve strayed for a moment in the analysis above but, trust me, it was necessary.

Chronic insomniacs are not the only people whose heath is compromised by the lack of proper sleep.

Think about it like this – if you laid in your bed for an hour trying to fall asleep and then got your 8 hours, you probably won’t give it a second thought. We shrug it off as non-issue and, ergo, no solution to pursue.

Here’s why that’s wrong – an occasional hiccup of restlessness might not be a big deal. It becomes an issue when it interferes with your sleep cycles, especially deep sleep.

There are no controlled studies (that I know of) examining the connection between restlessness, night-time anxiety and the balance of sleep phases. Having said that, this is what I’ve seen in my practice – people with chronic anxiety issues are about 70% as likely to suffer from imbalanced sleep.

Image above via pexels.com

By this point, it might sound like it’s all too complicated. You have the kids, the work, the deadlines… If you can relate to this, bear with me just a bit longer, it gets simpler.

Everything we said above can be addressed in two steps:

  1. Calming your racing mind before you go to sleep
  2. Measuring if what you’re doing works

Enter the weighted blanket. 

It’s the 21st century and we do have the technology to address these problems – one of my favorites here is the weighted blanket.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about it, it’s not new or a fleeting fad. You might also know it as a sensory or gravity blanket (the latter is just a brand that repackaged the concept and presented it in a different way). A weighted blanket is one of those products initially envisioned to address a narrow niche – ADHD, autism and similar sensory conditions – but quickly outgrew the concept.

Here’s what I mean by that. It was patented back in 2009 and the wording in the patent is precise – “spectrum of autism and hyperactivity disorders”. It wasn’t long before people realized what a weighted blanket can do in a much wider arena – sleep.

The science behind it – why does it work?

The chemistry in the mind of a restless sleeper is similar to that of a person in danger. The response of our body to danger is known as “fight or flight”. Your brain secretes cortisol (also known as “stress hormone”) and adrenaline. This prepares you to either fight or flee.

With the stressful lives we live, our brain can easily short-circuit and secrete cortisol when we don’t need it. If you find yourself lying in bed with your mind racing, skipping from overdue bills that to that time your high school crush went to the prom with the captain of the football team, there is a high chance that cortisol is the culprit.

Brains of people suffering from depression, anxiety and phobias are more susceptible to cortisol imbalance that might interfere with sleep patterns.

A weighted blanket works because it promotes secretion of calming hormones that can cancel out the effects of cortisol – serotonin and dopamine. Simply put, the added weight acts as a cocoon of sorts, sending signals to your brain that you’re not in danger.

My personal take

I’d like to take a moment here to offer a second explanation about the calming effect of a weighted blanket. If you ever slept in a particularly cold room covered by 3, 4 or 5 layers, take a second here to evoke the feeling. It wasn’t just about the cold, was it?There’s something soothing about the extra weight. It’s not easy to capture the feeling with words but it comes down to feeling safe.

It’s a primal instinct. It’s not a coincidence that a depressed or troubled person will curl up into a fetal position. Our brain remembers the safety of a womb. A weighted blanket evokes those buried memories.

The caveats of choosing

First things first – how heavy should it be?

The rule of thumb is 10% of your weight plus a pound or two.

Not all sensory blankets are created equal.

Choosing a good sensory / weighted blanket goes beyond the weight. There are a few other factors to be accounted for. Let us look at the two paramount points.

  1. How high you can go with the added weight without feeling trapped?
  2. How well is the blanket crafted?

Choosing a weight that works for you

Sensory blankets are intricate to make and they don’t come cheap, so it’s important to take your time when choosing.

To determine what weight works for you, experiment with the regular blankets you have by adding or removing layers. Once you find the weight that feels “just right,” measure it. This should give you a good idea about your sweet spot.

Craftsmanship

For the blanket to do what it’s meant to, it’s crucial that the weight is properly distributed and there’s no shifting between the chambers. If the craftsmanship is sub-par, the inner stitches can break. When that happens, the weight will move towards the corners, which defeats the very purpose. The better ones will be double-stitched to prevent shifting.

What to expect

For kids, it’s smart to keep a sleep diary and share it with a professional. That should give you an idea of how well it works.

For adults, it should be simpler, for two reasons:

  1. You can easily measure the benefits by tracking your sleep cycles
  2. If it works, it shouldn’t take long to feel it. You’ll be waking up more easily and feeling energized for the day ahead.

As per TheSleepStudies.com, 9 out of 10 adults using a weighted blanket saw an improvement, both in sleep quality and lowered levels of anxiety. You can see their research results & blanket recommendations for adults here.

Taking control

It’s mind-boggling to see how many people talk about their sleep improving after going vegan or gluten-free. If you’re a health-conscience person, you’ve probably seen it more than a few times. To talk about sleep only as a secondary benefit of other lifestyle changes is a causation-vs-correlation mistake at best and downright wrong at worst.

The sooner you wake up to the importance of sleep (pun intended) and the fact that you’re in control, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.

Autor bio: James M. Gregory is a writer-turned-blogger on all things sleep. Born, raised and aged in Fairbanks, Alaska, James is a father of two and grandfather of three. He’s been quoted on sleep-related matters in reputable publications like Forbes & Entrepreneur.com.

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This is a guest post by Monica Henin from Addonkitchen.com.  

If you are one of those coffee lovers who drink in order to get that extra kick in the morning, then you will be surprised to know that coffee is actually a healthy food. Coffee is seen as a drink that will ruin health, but actually, it is a health booster.

People just need to drink it in the right way and in the right quantity – coffee is a stimulant so it may be less beneficial for those sensitive to caffeine. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, which help fight against a number of body ailments. On top of that, coffee tastes great, so there is no reason to avoid this amazing beverage. Those who are following a healthy diet can also enjoy coffee, given they buy organic coffee beans.

They can grind coffee beans at home in Gaggia Accademia coffee maker and make themselves a nice cup of coffee every day. But, isn’t a plain cup of coffee boring? I mean especially if it is consumed every day, 365 days a year, it surely is going to become boring someday.

To avoid this boredom, I will share five coffee recipes that can be enjoyed by everybody including those following healthy diet. But, first let me share some prominent health benefits of coffee:

  1. Coffee is a powerful antioxidant, and our body requires large amounts of antioxidant.
  2. Coffee helps reduce the risk of type-II diabetes.
  3. Coffee protects against liver diseases, including liver cancer.
  4. Coffee reduces the symptoms of Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease.
  5. Coffee is a mood elevator and helps reduce depression.

These were some of the top health benefits of coffee, but there are many more, which you will get to know about after you start drinking coffee. In case, you are fond of coffee, then you are certainly going to like what follows.

While drinking an optimum amount of coffee helps prevent a number of diseases, drinking too much coffee could lead to the invitation of certain medical problems as well, therefore, the right balance needs to be maintained.

5 Healthy Coffee Recipes

The Basic Fatty Coffee

The coffee you were drinking in Starbucks or any other coffee shop for all these years was damaging your body more than providing any health benefits, so you need to avoid drinking that coffee. The reason Starbucks coffee is bad is because they mostly prepare dark roast, which is their trick to mask the poor quality of beans.

This ‘Basic Fatty Coffee’ is the right type of coffee that you need to get going in a smooth manner every day. For this, you need a mug full of freshly brewed coffee, which could be French Press or Aeropress, a scant tablespoon of butter and MCT oil. Blend the coffee in a blender and enjoy the coffee while it is hot. You can’t wake up to a better drink than this, so you must try it.

Junior Mint Mocha

Have you ever eaten those girl scout cookies that kids usually dunk in the milk? If yes, then this coffee drink is going to remind you of those cookies. The rich and smoky flavor of chocolate with the blend of cool mint is definitely going to blow your mind.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups French press coffee.
  2. 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter.
  3. 1 tbsp. raw cacao powder.
  4. 1 tbsp. MCT oil.
  5. 1 tsp peppermint extract.
  6. 2 tbsps. heavy cream of full-fat coconut milk.
  7. A dollop of organic dairy whipped cream or coconut whipped cream.
  8. 1 packet raw stevia.

Method:

  1. Brew organic coffee followed by pressing a pot in the French press. Take a pitcher and pour two cups into it. Connect the pitcher to a powerful blender.
  2. Add MCT oil, coconut milk, stevia, grass-fed butter, peppermint extract, cacao powder and coconut milk. Blend all the ingredients together in order to obtain a creamy mixture with a decent amount of froth on top.
  3. Finally, add some whipped coconut cream or heavy cream on top, and then, sprinkle cacao powder.
Top Shelf Cappuccino

If you consider yourself a profound thinker who likes to sit on a chair and discuss intense things with your partner, then this coffee recipe will suit you the best.

Ingredients:

  1. Double shot of espresso.
  2. 1 tbsp. MCT oil.
  3. 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter.
  4. ¼ cup almond milk (unsweetened).

Method:

  1. Start off with pouring the espresso shot followed by transferring the espresso into a large pitcher.
  2. Add MCT oil and grass-fed butter now.
  3. If you have a handheld frother at home, then bring that into use. Skim just below the froth surface. Submerge the frother twice in order to mix the liquid below.
  4. Take a cappuccino cup and pour the entire mixture into that cup.
  5. It’s time to heat almond milk using the steamer wand on the cappuccino machine. Let the almond milk heat for a few minutes on 170 degrees Fahrenheit and then, lift up the wand of the machine. You will have to create a thick layer of foam for which, you will have to skim just below the surface of the almond
  6. There will be more foam than milk at this time. So, pour the milk into espresso that you made earlier, but don’t let the foam get into the espresso. After pouring all the milk, spoon the foam over the top of the espresso. Finally, sprinkle some cinnamon powder and enjoy this amazing drink.

Café De Manana

This is a traditional coffee redolent of traditional Mexican coffee. The taste of this coffee is totally different to the coffee you and I are habitual of drinking. This a spiced coffee in which cinnamon flavor is infused to further enhance the taste. Drinking this coffee will make you feel full for a significant duration of the day because of the presence of cinnamon.

Ingredients:

  1. Two cups French press coffee.
  2. 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
  3. 1 tbsp. grass-fed butter.
  4. 1 tbsp. MCT oil.
  5. Cinnamon powder.
  6. 1 packed raw stevia.

Method:

  1. Add coffee to the French press depending on how many cups of coffee you want. Add one tsp of cinnamon into the French press.
  2. Now, add two cups of boiling water into the press and steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Take a pitcher and pour the coffee into it. Attach the pitcher to a powerful blender and add grass-fed butter, MCT oil, and Blend the entire mixture until you get a smooth and creamy coffee with some froth on top.
  4. Pour the coffee into the coffee mug and dust with cinnamon.
Coconut Whipped Cream

If you’d ask me about my favorite drink, then I will rate this one as the best. This drink won’t just refresh your body, but your soul as well. Let us find out how this coffee drink is made.

Ingredients:

  1. One 15 oz., can full-fat organic coconut milk.
  2. 1 tsp liquid vanilla stevia.

Method:

  1. Start off with flipping the can of coconut milk upside down, then, leaving the can in your refrigerator overnight.
  2. In the morning, flip it back over and then, open the can.
  3. You will see cream on the top after you open the milk can.
  4. Scoop the cream into a bowl and add 1 tsp of liquid vanilla.
  5. Whisk the mixture until you get a light and fluffy cream.
  6. Take an airtight container and store unused portions of the coconut whipped cream in it. Put the container in the refrigerator for 5 days.
  7. There is one more method of making this recipe, which involves pouring the can of coconut milk along with vanilla into the whipped cream maker. Shake and squirt, but make sure that the coconut milk that you use is at room temperature.

Tip: You need to keep in mind that the coconut cream is properly mixed prior to putting it into the whipped cream maker. If you find the cream is getting separated, then run it through the blender before putting into the whipped cream maker.

All images via Pixabay.com Additional Tips for the Best Healthy Coffee

You can add your own twist to these aforementioned recipes if you want. The main motive for you is to have a refreshing beverage to drink.

The reason for adding MCT oil instead of normal oil that is available at a much lesser price than MCT oil is because MCT oil is easier to digest and is considered to be a good source of energy. It improves gut health and immunity.

I have used grass-fed butter instead of normal butter because butter from grass-fed cows is much healthier than the butter from buffaloes or cows that are grain-fed. Grass-fed butter consists of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K2 in high quantity, which you will not find in grain-fed cows.

I will also recommend using organic coffee instead of normal coffee that is available all over the market because organic coffee will give you a better taste and aroma. Use natural and organic products in order to get excellent flavors.

Author Bio: Monica Henin is the author of this amazing post on coffee drinks made for those following a healthy diet. If you want to know more about the author and her work, go check out Addonkitchen.com. She has created hundreds of posts on healthy recipes and food tips in the past, which are published on reputed websites all over the web.

The post 5 Amazing Coffee Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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The number one advice when you’re tense, frazzled and overwhelmed is to minimize your exposure to stress. But when life’s tragedies hit, that’s not an option.

Living with chronic illness comes with unavoidable stress. On top of unpredictable symptoms, pain and insomnia, you’re also faced with anxiety about the future, identity issues and new relationship dynamics. Even worse, you may have to deal with losing your job, financial problems or marital troubles. Not to mention the mountain of paperwork you have to sort through to keep track of medical records, insurances and social security benefits.

When stress can’t be prevented or escaped, there’s only one solution: finding effective ways to best deal with the uncontrollable stress.

The Process of Stress Appraisal – And Why It Matters

When something distressing happens, your brain quickly analyzes the situation. Is this incident a threat to my wellbeing? Could that stressor hurt my health, my goals or my beliefs about the world? This intuitive evaluation is called cognitive appraisal.

If your mind interprets the event as a threat, it automatically starts assessing if there’s anything that can be done to improve the situation. Can you make any changes, ask for help or simply leave? When the answer is yes, your primal control coping mechanisms get activated, which comes down to doing something to solve the problem.

The way you perceive a potentially stressful event influences your experience and your health.

But what if there’s nothing you can do to fix your problems? Not even run away from them? For example, if you’re nervous about undergoing surgery, problem-solving strategies like receiving a clear walk-through from your doctors and getting support from family can take some of the stress away. But in the end, you can’t escape your body when the procedure scares you. That’s when secondary control coping comes into play: adjusting yourself to the circumstances. Instead of solving the problem, you need emotion-focused strategies to deal with the uncontrollable stress.

Now there are constructive ways to cope, and not-so-good coping strategies. Worrying, emotional eating or self-medicating with alcohol and drugs give some temporary relief, but in the long run, these behaviours do more harm than good. So how can you deal with inescapable stress in a healthy way?

Images by Kat Smith via pexels.com 11 Emotion-Focused Ways to Deal with Uncontrollable Stress

There are two broad approaches for dealing with stress: reducing those agitated feelings the very moment you’re experiencing them and a more preventive plan that focuses on minimizing the impact of the stressful situation. Let’s have a look at 11 healthy coping strategies for the short and long-term.

Short-Term Strategies for Coping with Uncontrollable Stress
  • Positive distraction. Distracting yourself with your favourite series takes your mind off your problems. But distraction works best as a temporarily solution. Constantly pushing away your problems and losing yourself in gaming or browsing social media can be harmful to your mental health. So try more constructive forms of distraction, like seeking the company of loved ones, moving your body or engaging in hobbies.
  • Seeking support. Who hasn’t turned to their best friend for a hug or a good cry? Reaching out to loved ones for support is one of the most natural ways to handle hardship. But when it comes to coping with chronic illness, you can also get tailored advice from your physician and other medical professionals.
  • Reappraising the stressful situation. You don’t have to put rose-coloured glasses on when life clearly sucks, but seeing events in a more positive light can help you cope better. Give a new, more helpful meaning to what’s happening. For example, doctor’s visits can be physically and emotionally draining, but they hopefully lead to a diagnosis and/or treatment.
  • Engage in self-soothing activities. Kids tightly hug their beloved stuffed animal when they’re scared and sad. You can comfort yourself in similar ways, by mindfully engaging your senses. Listen to calming music, sip a cup of tea, burn some incense or give yourself a relaxing foot massage.
  • Foster an encouraging internal dialogue. Thoughts are powerful. The way we talk to ourselves about stressful situations and our ability to cope with it, has a real impact on how we experience the distressing event and our wellbeing. You can learn to replace negative thinking patterns with more helpful self-talk or you could quiet your racing mind by practicing mindfulness, meditation or prayer.
  • Use stress-reduction techniques. You might not be able to change your stressful situation, but you can control how stress affects your body and mind. So no matter how busy and tired you are, make time to physically relax, quiet your mind and calm your emotions. Deep breathing, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation are well-known ways to release tension from your body, but a warm bath, dancing it out and going for a walk in nature work just as well.

“When we are no longer able to change the situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

Long-Term Coping Strategies for Uncontrollable Stress
  • Try proactive coping when possible. When you live with chronic illness, you know you’ll be facing your fair share of challenging situations. And isn’t it ironic that the times when you experience the most stress, are the exact times when you are least capable of dealing with it? Luckily, there are things you can do before stressful events happen so you’re able to cope better when they do. Take a more preventive approach by identifying recurring stressors – hospital appointments, your daily commute, childcare on flare-up days – and anticipate. Is there anything you can do differently to make things easier? For example, have a back-up plan ready: healthy freezer meals for sick days, a packed hospital bag, ‘rainy day activities’ for the kids.
  • Purposely cultivate positive emotions. In her book Positivity, professor Barbara Fredrickson describes how we need 3 positive emotions for every negative one to stay emotionally healthy. So counteract the stress of living with chronic illness by creating ‘positivity portfolios’ with items that spark joy, gratitude, hope or love. You can also make a list of things that make you happy and actively sprinkle those simple pleasures throughout your day.
  • Build routines and use energy-conserving life hacks. Doing things on autopilot reduces physical stress and mental overload. Combined with ‘buffer time’, setting priorities and planning, you’ve got the essential ingredients for good energy management.
  • Create a coping box. We can all use a little support when we feel anxious and overwhelmed. Having a box with soothing items not only calms you down on bad days, but can also build resilience over time. So gather some comforting things to help you cope better with distress.
  • Work on acceptance. Accepting that you’re chronically ill is a long and difficult process. Just like coping with stress, it’s about learning to deal with an uncontrollable situation and the negative thoughts and feelings that come with it. Feeling less upset about having to live with long-term health problems can be an important way to reduce your overall stress levels.

How do you deal with the uncontrollable stress linked to living with chronic illness?

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like:

The post How to Deal with Uncontrollable Stress appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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This is a guest post by Trysh Sutton from Pure Path

The use of essential oils is an underrated, natural approach to dealing with the symptoms associated with many chronic illnesses. Individuals who go this route are usually able to save money on medication and reduce side effects that come with them.

But what are essential oils?

Essential oils are extremely concentrated, organic compounds that are in liquid form and sporting many of the benefits of certain plants without the need to have an unusual number of these plants physically available. As an example, it takes over 240,000 rose petals to create just 5ml of rose essential oil and almost 3,000 lemons to create 15ml of lemon essential oil.

How to Use Essential Oils

One way you can apply essential oils is through skin application. Since our skin is absorbent, the active chemicals in essential oils can go through our skin and into our body where they work their magic. You can put the oils on the stomach, arms, neck and hands.

You can also inhale essential oils. When you inhale the oils through your nose, they are absorbed by your olfactory system and activate (or inhibit) certain hormones to achieve desired results.

Finally, you can also ingest the oils, but there are certain precautions that should be taken by consulting with an aromatherapist or your doctor.

The oil and administration method you choose to use will depend on the symptoms you’re looking to address. For example, some popular oils that are massaged into the problem areas to manage pain are ginger, frankincense, lavender and peppermint. On the other hand, stress and anxiety is usually addressed by inhaling oils such as lavender, bergamot or roman chamomile.

To get an understanding of how to use essential oils for your health and wellness, consult an essential oils reference guide.

Evidence Supporting the Use of Essential Oils

For centuries, essential oils have been used as health remedies and aids, but we are now in the age of information where it’s important to separate effective remedies from placebo. This is why, over the past few decades, hundreds of studies have been carried out to discuss the effectiveness of essential oils for various uses.

Some of these studies are discussed below:

  • In 2014, a Taiwanese study was completed to assess the efficacy of a 3% essential oil cream on participants with chronic neck pain. The study included a control group to reduce the influence of placebo and it was found that the essential oil cream did indeed reduce neck pain in those who used it. The oils used in the cream were marjoram, black pepper, lavender, and peppermint.
  • In 2005, researchers from the College of Nursing at the Catholic University of Korea found that aromatherapy was an excellent intervention technique for reducing pain (and depression) in arthritis patients. The oils used in the study were lavender, marjoram, eucalyptus, rosemary, and peppermint.
  • Many individuals who suffer from chronic illness also have associated symptoms or disorders such as anxiety or stress, or at least an increased sensitivity to these conditions. Several studies have shown positive results for managing these conditions using essential oils. Some of the most recent ones were completed in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
  • In 2006, JH Hwang from the Department of Nursing at Geochang Provincial College in Korea, performed a study on hypertensive individuals which suggested that essential oils could be a useful intervention for reducing psychological stress responses and blood cortisol levels in patients, as well as reducing their blood pressure. This does not mean that essential oils cure hypertension, it instead suggests that they are useful for reducing the stress associated with hypertension.
    Another Korean study produced similar results.
  • Even the byproducts of essential oils have been shown to have huge benefits. For example, one study with end stage kidney disease patients showed that inhaling rose water (a byproduct of rose essential oil) significantly reduced anxiety of the participants. Anxiety is a common mental disorder that develops during the end stages of kidney disease. The conclusion of the study was: “Inhalation of rose water can improve the patient’s emotional and spiritual condition during hemodialysis treatment.”
Final Word

Chronic illnesses are hard to deal with but you can rest assured that essential oils can help you to cope by reducing symptoms such as pain, stress and anxiety. Furthermore, essential oils are all natural and don’t present noticeable side effects for most people.

Trysh Sutton is a wife, mother, strategic leader and teacher. She runs a website called Pure Path, which is a naturopathic wellness site that promotes healthy living and healing through the use of essential oils and sustainable living. You can follow her on social media to learn more about the benefits of essential oils, and healthy living practices.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Youtube | Google Plus

The post Using Essential Oils to Cope With Chronic Illness appeared first on The Health Sessions.

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