As someone with Chronic Lyme Disease, I’ve become a bit of an expert about how to keep ticks from sinking their teeth into my family. I don’t want anyone I love coming down with this life-altering illness!
It might be easy to assume that I’m hyper-vigilant and a wee-bit-freaked out by the whole tick thing after contracting Lyme, but the truth is, I feel more knowledgeable and empowered now than I ever was before. I refuse to let ticks take another second of joy away from my life, so you’ll happily find me going on hikes in the deep woods and letting my kid roll around in the tall grass. I believe life is too short to live in fear of those tiny bugs.
I’m going to get this out of the way from the get-go: we’ve found the most effective method for repelling ticks are products that contain DEET and other synthetic insect repellent chemicals—bug sprays, yard sprays, bug bombs, treated clothing, etc. They just flat-out work.
However, as someone who has natural leanings, I’m always looking for more “Mother Earth-friendly” ways to accomplish the same tasks, so our barrier methods rarely include the standard synthetic bug-repellent chemicals. There are a few exceptions (read on to learn more about those), but in general, we stick to natural methods for keeping ticks away. Are they as effective? No. Do we have to do more work to get the same result? Yes. Do I sleep better at night knowing I’m not dousing myself and my family daily in a substance that may or may not cause neurologicaldamage? You bet your bonnet I do. Alright, let’s dig into what we have been doing:
Removing the Environments that Ticks Love
This is maybe the most important part of any good tick-repelling strategy, and what I recommend folks do first—remove the places that ticks like to hang out. Ticks don’t jump, run, or fly, but they do have a boatload of patience. They sit around (or crawl around) waiting for a host to brush by. So you want to remove all the places where they happily sit and wait. This includes:
Getting rid of leaf litter each fall (ticks love a good leaf pile).
Keeping any wood piles away from your house.
Keep grass regularly mowed.
Trim any tree limbs that hang down and can be easily touched. This includes limbs that touch the roof of your house.
Move swing sets, sandboxes, picnic areas, etc. away from wooded areas.
If I go looking for yoga on the internet, the images I see look nothing like me or my practice. Thin. Flexible. Standing on her hands or in a deep split. Usually outside, beside water or on a rock. If I go the usual internet routes for yoga information or inspiration, I end up discouraged and defeated.
Luckily, there is a lot more to yoga than a hashtag search on Instagram will show you. I could go on for days about what I have learned about my spirit and my connection to the Divine, but today, let’s talk about what I learned about my body and taking up space our world.
I believe that what yoga has to teach us is both universal and specific. I also believe that in the practice of yoga, we find within ourselves what we most need to learn. For me, yoga continues to teach me about my physical body and how I want to experience the world in this suit of skin, flesh, and bones.
Yoga taught me that I have a body.
Before yoga, I had spent decades trying to ignore my body. With each new diet I tried (and there were dozens of them), I learned to not listen to the voice that told me that I was hungry or tired. With each denial of physical awareness, I broke away a piece of the bridge between my brain and my body. With each cue for hunger or rest that I ignored, my ability to hear and listen to my body became less and less.
Yoga changed that for me. With each breath that I took on my mat with attention and intention, I slowly rebuilt the lines of communication between my body and my brain. I learned to notice when shifting my foot could bring me more stability. I learned how to release tension from my neck. Just a few weeks ago, I became very excited when I felt a new level of release of my seat during the final resting pose. This process of self-knowing doesn’t stop even after years of practice, and knowing that keeps me coming back to my mat.
Yoga taught me that my body is wise.
When steeped in diet culture, my body would sometimes yell at me. But I learned to override it and convinced myself that I needed to overpower it. Several years ago, I was a distance runner and put myself through many runs where my body was unhappy and wanted to stop. I ran through hunger, dehydration, and the need for rest. I was hungry for well over a year. It is no coincidence that I stopped running when I became more serious about my yoga practice. I actually quit running for no other reason than I realized that it didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to do it anymore.
I notice things about my body almost constantly now. Because I give myself permission on my mat to respond to my body, I have generalized that permission to all aspects of my life. I rest when I’m tired. I eat when I’m hungry. I drink when I’m thirsty. I trust that my body knows what is best for me. I have also learned to read and react to my body’s signals of distrust, excitement, and frustration in new ways. Read the post »
In the first part of our series on learning to love your body, we talked about body awareness as the starting point for building a more positive relationship with our bodies. We have to know something before we can start to build positive feelings towards it. The next step in the process of unravelling our negative feelings toward our body is by building body neutrality.
Within our culture, body neutrality takes conscious effort. We see so much on social media that tells us that we need to be different. Better. Less of us. The pressure isn’t easing up. The language may change—it may turn more towards “health” than “weight loss,” but the expectation is still the same. Different. Better. Less.
It is unrealistic to think that we can move from judgment to adoration in one step. Instead, we follow a path. We work through checkpoints. We do the work in manageable pieces.
If your focus has been on negative aspects of your body, it can be almost impossible to change those feelings overnight. Sometimes we add in feeling guilt about not being able to just love our bodies because we get that message too. We get pressure in both directions. Know that you don’t have to be there yet. We will get there step by step.
We will continue this work by embracing feeling neutral about our bodies.
Your Body is Just Fine.
What does neutrality look like? Let’s start with identifying where we experience neutrality around something else in our lives. For me, I feel very neutral about peas. I would never order pea soup or fix peas as a side at home. But if they are in a bag of frozen mixed vegetables or if I get them in a restaurant, I’ll eat them. I don’t like them. I don’t dislike them. They are just neutral to me. They are good enough to sit with and be with and eat. I don’t judge them, nor do I actively love them.
They are just peas. They are fine. They don’t gross me out. They don’t excite me. They are just peas.
Can we extend that feeling towards ourselves? My stomach. My thighs. My anxiety. My insomnia. Not good. Not bad. They are simply who I am. My body and my work are just a part of my experience. And that is just fine. Read the post »
There are some herbs that I think are pretty decent when dried (what's up, sage), but others, like basil, parsley and cilantro, just aren't even worth it to use dried, in my opinion. That is why I try to make sure to freeze up the fresh herbs when they are coming off in the summer to use all winter long. Making minestrone? Toss a couple of cubes of frozen basil in, and BAM, it tastes like August. Same goes for marinara sauce. Having frozen cubes of basil is like a time machine to summer.
A lot of people freeze basil in pesto form, and that's totally fine, but I like the simplicity and flexibility of just freezing basil solo. It's a breeze to do, and you can do as much or as little as you want at a time. Basil plants grow better when you're constantly picking from them—so every few weeks, do a heavy harvest, freeze the bounty, and then repeat until your freezer is stocked with fresh-frozen herbs. Let me show you how to freeze basil, and just how simple it is.
First up, you gotta do some picking. I tend to clip whole stems from my basil plants (seriously, those babies are huge), but you could also just pick individual leaves. If you do choose to clip whole stems, you'll want to pick off all the leaves and then compost the woody stems. If it's one of the thinner, tender stems toward the top of the plant, you are fine to leave it intact.
Don't worry if the leaves aren't in perfect shape. A few brown spots aren't going to hurt anyone. Once you have all your leaves off, wash and dry your basil. I like to just fill a sink with cold water, swish the leaves around, and then dry them in a salad spinner. Get the tutorial »
It happens to me more often than I’d like—I feel an itch somewhere on my body, reach down to scratch, and feel a little lump that wasn’t there before—uh-oh, I’ve got a tick bite! What do I do? How do I remove the tick safely? How do I treat the bite site? In this post, I’m going to walk you through the exact protocol I use when I find a tick on myself or someone in my family.
Before we get started though, an important note: I am not a healthcare professional and have absolutely zero hours of healthcare training (I have a fine arts degree, thankyouverymuch). This protocol for removing a tick is based on what works for us in our own home and was developed from lots of research and trial-and-error. As with all content on Wholefully, this is presented for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of your healthcare professional. You can read our full disclosures document here.
The very first thing I do when I find a tick is take a deep breath. Seriously, I take one long deep breath. I want to do this tick removal thing properly, and I can’t do that if I’m freaking out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Secondly, I ask myself the question: is the tick latched on or just crawling around? If it’s it just crawling around, I pick that jerk off and either flush it down the toilet or smash it with my foot. I’m normally more of a catch-and-release kinda gal, but not with ticks. Kill. Kill. Kill. And yay! I didn’t get a bite! I’m done. Woohoo!
If it is latched on, it’s time to get that guy packing. I grab my tick kit. (You do have a tick kit, don’t you? Nope? Well, you can learn how to make one at this post). Read the post »
We often talk about body love like it is a switch we can just flip. If I’m feeling judgment or anger toward my body, I should just be able to turn that off and instead feel warm and fuzzy about how amazing my body is. Right?
Um, no. As nice as it would be, it just isn’t that simple. Getting to the point where you adore your body starts way before you’re in love (or even in like) with your body. In fact, like most things in life, it’s a process. And in this five part series, we’re going to walk you through each step to get to the point of body love.
But why can’t I just love my body right now?
We all want instant gratification, and one of the most frustrating things for me when I began my body acceptance journey was the feeling that I was so far away from acceptance and didn’t know where to start. I wanted to be on the body love train! Right now!
But I didn’t know enough about my body to accept it. I just didn’t get it. The gap between not knowing my body and loving my body was just too wide. And that’s where the first step of body acceptance comes in: body awareness.
It sounds simpler than it is. We are all aware we have bodies, so it should be easy to be aware of our bodies, right? It wasn’t in my case. I’d spent years ignoring my body.
I had dieted for decades and had learned how to ignore my body’s cues for hunger. I trained for and ran a marathon, which required building even more disregard for the messages from my body. I forced myself to run when I was physically and emotionally tired. Not only did I create a disconnect between my mind and my body, but I also taught myself to choose my mind over my body.
Body Awareness Comes First
The switch didn’t happen for me magically overnight. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I’m going to be body aware now!” No, instead I happened upon this awareness on the yoga mat. One of the biggest lessons I received through my yoga practice was simply the awareness that I had a body and that it had things to tell me. Read the post »
One of the most wonderful things about eating seasonally is that you really don't have to do a whole lot to your food to make it taste wonderful. The flavors are so bright and fresh that a little bit of seasoning and proper cooking goes a long way.
People sometimes think that cooking seasonally can be complicated, but I'd argue that cooking seasonally is actually the simplest way to cook—Mother Nature does all the hard work for you! Just find high-quality veggies, and you're already halfway there.
This sheet pan dinner is the perfect example of the simplistic beauty that is cooking seasonally. I hit up my local Meijer store produce section and looked for what was in-season and local and was able to grab two late-spring/early-summer favorites: fresh, local asparagus and local new potatoes. I love that Meijer focuses so heavily on filling their produce section with products from local, Midwestern farmers.
Meijer really wants to keep it all within the Midwestern family—and you can see that in every Meijer store. They work with over 200 local, Midwestern farmers each year to stock their produce section! Working with local farmers not only is just a good thing to do, but it also means we customers get the freshest, most nutrient-dense produce, since it doesn't have to travel across the globe to get into our shopping carts. It's a win for everyone involved! Read the post »
You notice a little itchy spot on your leg, look down and—oh no!—you see a tick attached to you. What do you do? Well, you grab your tick kit of course! A tick kit contains all the tools you need to properly and safely remove a tick, document the bite, and treat the bite site. It’s like a first aid kit, but specifically for tick bites.
Why do you need a special kit just for tick bites? Well, tickborne illnesses are on the rise across the globe, and while bite prevention is the best line of defense, once a tick has embedded itself into you, proper removal, treatment, and documentation (and possibly testing) is important to keeping you and your family healthy.
You shouldn’t freak out when you find a tick, but it is better to get it off as soon as possible, and the last thing you want to be doing is running around the house trying to find the tools you need. A tick kit keeps it all in one spot. We keep ours on a shelf in our guest bathroom. Easy to grab, easy to use.
So let’s dig into how to make one. Here’s everything I keep in my tick kit. Yours might vary, but this is a good starting point. Read the post »
A drawing salve is an herbal medicine that is as old as time. Certain plants and other natural materials function to physically “draw” things out of the body. You can put this action to good use in a drawing salve to help pull out splinters, pathogens from insect bites, boils, small pieces of glass, and any foreign bodies or substances embedded in the skin.
This salve is based off of an old Amish recipe that uses charcoal as the main drawing agent. I took the original recipe and tweaked it because I specifically wanted a drawing salve to use on tick bites.
Many Lyme-literate herbal practitioners recommend using the herb andrographis directly on tick bites to help stimulate the body’s natural immune response and work as a natural antimicrobial. You can do that through a tincture, but have you ever tried to get a liquid tincture to stay on a tick bite on a four year old? Yeah, ain’t happening. So I decided to instead infuse it into my drawing salve.Read the post »
For the majority of my life, I was a fantastic sleeper. For almost forty years, I slept all night every night without any problem. My life has become a little (or a lot) more stressful over the past few months, and good sleep isn’t as easy anymore. Out of absolute necessity, I am building a toolbox of both evidence-based and anecdotal practices to help me fall asleep and stay asleep.
Before we dig in, one thing that I want you to remember is that all bodies are different. You may try one of these habits on a sleepless night and your problem may be solved. Or maybe you try several different combinations or tips before you find a bedtime routine that works for you. Like most changes in our lives, improving our sleep hygiene habits is a process best approached with curiosity. Try out a few things. Notice which habits make a difference. Repeat what works. Release what doesn’t. And remember that what works for you may not work for your sister or your best friend or me.
To me, the most challenging part of sleep difficulties has been learning how to turn off efforting myself to sleep—you can’t fall asleep when you’re trying to fall asleep. The paradox of getting good sleep is that we have to learn how not to try to sleep. As long as we are trying to sleep, our brain is turned on and monitoring and judging how hard we are trying.
We cannot effort ourselves to sleep, we can only relax our way into no longer trying to sleep. Instead of trying to sleep, we seek to introduce relaxation and maybe even a good dose of boredom. This has been the most successful sleep strategy for me!
First Up: Prepare Your Bedroom For Sleep
To create an environment that is most conducive to sleep, let’s look at your bedroom. I know this is challenging, but consider moving your electronic devices out of your bedroom—or at least make them not reachable from the bed. The jury is still out on how EMF (the waves the flow out from our electronic devices) exposure impacts sleep. But from an emotional standpoint, just knowing that the entire world of information is within an arm's reach can dramatically impact our sleep. If you use your phone as an alarm clock, switch to an analog alarm clock.
Create a space that is physically and emotionally cozy—your bedroom should be sacred space. Remove anything from your bedroom (or at least the space around your bed) that feels like work or effort, including that pile of laundry that needs to be folded. Keep the area closest to your bed clean and uncluttered. Bring in a few photographs, crystals, or other trinkets that create a feeling of comfort. Get your comfiest sheets and comfiest blankets.
Remember that most people sleep best in a cool, dark room, so if you need to adjust the temperature or the light in a room, make sure to do that. Some people are extremely light sensitive, and a sleep eye mask can really help.
Secondly: You Need a Bedtime Routine
A bedtime routine is the way we physically and emotionally trigger our bodies to become sleepy. Back in the day, the sun did this for us—the sun set, our bodies got sleepy—easy-peasy. With artificial lighting and screens, we’ve gotten away from that natural sleep trigger, and we have to intentionally step in and do something to signal bedtime for our bodies.
Your Sleep Routine Starts 90 Minutes Before Bedtime
About ninety minutes to an hour before you really want to crawl into bed is when we can think about turning our screens off.
This change can be really difficult if we’ve been using our favorite show or game as a way to wind down. Even though we may feel emotionally relaxed while watching or playing, our vision and mind continue to be stimulated. Building an effective relaxation routine needs to be both emotionally and physically relaxing. Unfortunately, screens often have the opposite physical consequence. Screens off.
Once our screens are off, we can start introducing intentional relaxation. This is a good time to take a hot bath (using Lavender Bath Salts) or shower. Try to stay in for 20 minutes so that the hot water can raise your temperature. Once you get out of the bath or shower, your body will begin to cool, and it is this cooling that informs your body that it is time to sleep. Although the bath itself helps you relax, it is actually the cooling of our bodies after the bath that physically relaxes us and prepares our bodies to fall asleep. Read the post »