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October Unprocessed 2016: 31 Days of Real Food – The Results

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The Results

This year was my 4th attempt at this October Unprocessed “real food” challenge.  I certainly did not stick to this challenge 100% of the time, but I feel like I did better than my previous 3 attempts at the challenge and I learned more than ever this time around!  I also participated in a few Clean Eating challenges throughout the month, so that helped me to stay on track.  My weight did not change at all as a result of this challenge, but I didn’t expect it to and that wasn’t one of my goals, so that is completely fine with me.

I did find myself feeling exhausted a few weeks into the challenge because I was having to make 2 completely different meals much of the time – one for me and my husband, and then something completely different for the kids.   The last few weeks of the challenge, I just decided to compromise and make something I knew the kids would eat, and then I would make a healthier version for me to eat (for example, when the kids had tacos in taco shells, I just had the taco meat over rice.)  I let go of my need to have everything 100% unprocessed for simplicity (for example, the first time I made our favorite meatball recipe this month, I modified it to use oats instead of breadcrumbs.  As a result, the kids didn’t like it.  I didn’t feel it was worth the effort to make it 100% unprocessed and have the kids not eat it, so the next time I made it, I used the usual breadcrumbs, and I ate it.)

This year, my husband decided to join me in the beginning of the challenge, and that made it so much easier because he wasn’t bringing unhealthy foods into the house.  I think the first step to clean eating begins in the grocery store.  If you don’t buy it and you don’t bring it into the house, then you’re not going to eat it.  If you can get other family members on board, then that is a huge help, but I am not a believer in forcing anyone to take the challenge with me, especially the kids.  I believe they will learn by example and be more open to trying new foods the more they see me eating them.

This year, I’m in no rush to go back to eating junk food.  I actually WANT to continue on with the challenge and continue to find some new, healthy recipes.  Right now, I don’t even crave the Halloween candy that has filled my kitchen, and that is a big deal for me and my sweet tooth.

What Did I Learn?

I found some AMAZING new recipes this month, and I’m so excited to add them into our meal rotation and share those recipes in this post!   Continue reading

October Unprocessed Challenge 2016: 8 Days of REAL Food

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We are almost halfway through the October Unprocessed Challenge (eating only REAL food for the entire month of October)!  This is my 4th year taking the challenge, and I am still learning so much every day!

My greatest accomplishment so far this year was finding a recipe for taco seasoning that my whole family loves!!  Taco Tuesday is so much better now, and I feel great knowing exactly what is in the seasoning!  If I get nothing else out of this challenge, I will be happy about my new taco night discovery! 🙂

This year has seemed the easiest so far of all the years I’ve attempted the challenge (last year I only lasted a few days, and then I gave up!).  This blog is what is keeping me accountable this year, and knowing that I’m going to post everything I eat is one of the main reasons I haven’t given up.  Although it seems easier than previous years, this challenge is still a LOT of work and takes a lot of planning and prep, since I often have to make 2 meals for dinner since my kids will not eat some of these new foods (although I do make them try everything.)

Below is a list of EVERYTHING I have eaten for the first 8 days, along with links to many of the recipes.  It’s not 100% unprocessed (chocolate chips are my weakness), but I am happy with my progress so far.  I am surprised that I have not really had any cravings for sweets, and I have not felt hungry at all.

For more real-food recipe ideas each day, check out the Journey To Complete Wellness Facebook page.

If you have any favorite real-food recipes, please feel free to share them in the comments on this post or on the Journey to Complete Wellness Facebook page!  I’ll take all the help I can get! 🙂

October Unprocessed 2016

Saturday, October 1

Breakfast: Omelet with Peppers, Onions, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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Snack:  Grapes ,cashews, raisins
Lunch: Salad (Romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, raisins) w/balsamic

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Dinner: Honey Balsamic Sheet Pan Chicken

This is delicious!  I will be making this again (maybe a few more times this month)! 🙂

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Sunday, October 2

Breakfast: Gluten-Free Banana Pancakes

I love these, and my 12-year old daughter does, too!

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Snack:  Celery Stick, Raisins, Grapes, Cashews
Lunch: Leftovers from Dinner and  Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

The soup is so tasty!  My 13-year-old daughter loves it as well!

Dinner:  Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

This was good, but my family was not crazy about it.  I had a lot of leftovers that I froze in individual portions to use later in the month.

 

Monday, October 3

Breakfast:  Chocolate Avocado Smoothie

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Snack: Plain Greek Yogurt w/1 T honey & 1T chocolate chips, Popcorn
Lunch: Leftover Chili
Dinner: Mozzarella-Stuffed Slow Cooker Meatballs

This is a favorite in our house!

 

Tuesday, October 4

Breakfast: Leftover Banana Pancakes/Kiwi/Slice of Boar’s Head Deli Turkey
Snack: Fuji Apple, 5.3oz Greek Yogurt, ½ T Honey & 1T chocolate chips
Lunch: Leftover Chili
Dinner:  Taco Meat w/Jasmine Rice, Lettuce, Tomato. Taco Seasoning

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Wednesday, October 5

Breakfast: Leftover Banana Pancakes with Grapes
Snack:  Grapes, Chocolate Chips
Lunch: Raspberry Peanut Butter Green Smoothie (I used grape juice)
Dinner:  Slow Cooker Chicken Tortellini Soup (w/brown rice noodles)

 

Thursday, October 6

Breakfast: Scrambled Egg w/Diced Tomatoes;grapes
Snack:  Peanut Butter Cookies, cashews

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Lunch: Leftover Chicken Soup
Dinner:  Pate Chinois

 

Friday, October 7

Breakfast: Leftover banana pancake, PB cookie
Snack: Yogurt w/honey & cc; apple; cucumbers,celery,dip,chips,salsa
Lunch: Leftover Tomato Soup
Dinner: Leftover Pate Chinois

 

Saturday, October 8

Breakfast: Leftover chicken soup
Snack: Kettle corn; Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Lunch: Strawberry/banana/yogurt/milk smoothie
Dinner: Baked Haddock,rice pilaf, and Roasted Broccoli

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Each Morning to Help You Live Intentionally and Create Your Ideal Life

Do you want to live a more intentional life?  Do you want your days to be happier?  More exciting?  More productive?  More meaningful?

To achieve our ideal life, we must first recognize that each of us is the creator of our own reality and we are responsible for our own happiness.  In each moment, we have the ability to choose love and happiness.  Although we are not the master planners of our life, we have the opportunity to create our lives through intention and our daily practices.

intention leslie schwartz

Each morning, I begin my day writing in my journal.  This practice brings me a peace that I have never experienced in any other way.  When I write, I connect with my soul and I feel a deep connection to God. Writing has helped me to realize that the answers are ALL within us. We do not need to look to others or look outside of ourselves for the answers.  We just need to allow ourselves to be silent and to listen.

When I do not begin my day writing, I often feel scattered and rushed, and my day often feels unproductive.  When I do write and set my priorities for the day, I find that I am able to stay focused throughout the day. Throughout my years keeping a journal, I have discovered that there are a few things that I write about each morning that set the tone for my day and get me off to a great start. Specifically, there are 5 questions I find myself answering each morning:

1. What am I most looking forward to today?  Life is short, and we need to make the most of each day we have here.  If you want your days to be exciting, you need to make that happen.  There should be something in the day ahead to look forward to every single day.  Something other than your alarm clock should be getting you out of bed each morning.  If nothing comes to mind right away, be intentional and come up with something to be excited about for the day.  Maybe you could plan to do an act of kindness that will brighten someone’s day.  I guarantee that will make your day as well!

2. What are my top 3 priorities today?  List the 3 things you would most like to focus your attention on today.  If you are looking to make your days more productive, I would definitely recommend setting your top priorities at the beginning of the day. I have found this practice to be especially effective in my own life.  When I do not set my priorities at the beginning of each day, I find myself feeling scattered and often running around in circles.  When I do set my priorities, I feel more focused, and as a result, I get much more done.  Do recognize that life and distractions do happen, and even your top 3 priorities may not get completed.  I find that it happens often that I don’t accomplish everything on my list, especially with it being summer and my kids are home with me.  I have found that it is important to remain flexible and to think of these things as a guide for my day rather than a rigid task list that must get completed.  Also, I have learned that it is important to recognize distractions as a gift, because they are.  It’s great to set goals for our day to help us remain focused, but ultimately, we need to recognize that we are not the master planner of our lives.

3. What am I most grateful for right now?  I personally believe that gratitude is the secret to happiness, and it is essential to spend some time in gratitude each day.   It is so important to stop and recognize all of the blessings in our lives each day.  We are ALL surrounded by so many blessings.  Many of us take so much of what we have for granted, and we often don’t recognize the gifts in our lives until they are gone.  I try to come up with something different each day, and I try to include those things that I often take for granted. (i.e. a warm bed, the cool breeze of a fan on a hot summer day, etc.)

4. What would I like to learn today?   I love to learn new things!  I think life is so exciting, and there are so many things to explore and learn about.  We all learn new things each day, but every morning I choose something that I would like to intentionally learn how to do, or something I would like to learn more about. (YouTube makes this very easy.)  I have found that this practice makes my days more exciting.

5. How could I spread love into the world today? / How may I serve?  We are here on this earth to love one another and to help one another.  We were all born with unique gifts and talents.  They were given to us so we could use them to serve and to help make the world a better place. We need the help of others to survive, and others need us and all of the gifts we have to offer.  Our actions do not need to be complicated to be effective.  A simple offering of a hug or a compliment can make someone else’s day and have more of an impact than you may know.

Other ways to phrase this question might be:

  • What are some acts of kindness I could do today?
  • What are some things I could do to help others today?
  • How could I use my natural gifts and talents to make a positive difference in the world today?

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”  ~Rabindranath Tagore

If you begin your day after answering those five questions, your day will be off to a great start!

If you would like to start your days with these questions but find yourself intimidated by a blank page in front of you, I have created a Daily Planner and Journal that will ask you each of those questions. You simply need to fill in the blanks.  (It is currently available on Amazon for only $3.99)  This daily planner and journal prompts you to answer the 5 questions each morning so you can live your days more intentionally and more productively.  It also provides a nighttime review to help you review your day and to keep a log of some of the activities that are essential in living a healthy, balanced life.  Click the book cover image below to find out more about the Daily Planner and Journal.

August 2016 Daily Planner and Journal Cover

Click cover image to learn more

 

May all your days be filled with love, excitement, learning, living, laughter, kindness, and all things good!

Peace, Love, and Blessings

Stacy

Recipe: Avocado Smoothie

avocado smoothie jtcw

I love this smoothie!  To be honest, I did not expect to like this the first time I tried it.  I had an avocado that I wanted to use up, so I searched the web for a recipe, and I found this Avocado recipe from Allrecipes.com.   To my surprise, it was creamy, cool, and delicious!  Since then, I have made a few modifications to suit my taste and preferences, and it has become one of my favorite smoothies.  This smoothie is a nice change from my usual smoothies that contain banana.  My other recipes usually use at least one frozen ingredient, so ice is not necessary, but I think this one is perfect as is with the ice.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of avocado, I think you may be surprised.  Give it a try and let me know what you think! 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 6 oz. strawberry yogurt (or flavor of your choice)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 8 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to blender.  Blend until smooth.  Enjoy! 🙂

 

12 Ways to Use Essential Oils

12 ways to use essential oils jtcw

“…And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” ~Revelation 22:2 NIV

Essential oils are a wonderful gift that nature has provided!  I was first introduced to essential oils when I started to take an interest in making DIY personal care products a few years ago.  I used them once in a while in my fabric softener and for cleaning, but I never REALLY started using them until just a few months ago when I took an Essential Oils 101 class and learned about their wide variety of uses and health benefits. Here are some of my favorite ways to use these gifts of nature:

  1. Aromatherapy.   Put your favorite oils in a diffuser (this one is my favorite), and enjoy the healing benefits of the oils through your sense of smell.  This is a great way to help ease stress. Lavender and Stress Away are great oils for this.  Diffusing oils is also very effective at removing odors in the home.  I love to run Purification whenever I am cooking fish for dinner, and it really does take the fish smell away.  Purification is also great at clearing the air and keeping the germs away when someone in our home is not feeling well.
  2. All-Purpose Cleaner.  Fill a spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar.  Add your favorite essential oil (mine is lemon.)  Clean away without worrying about exposing your family and pets to harmful chemicals! 🙂
  3. Removing Stickers.  Lemon oil and Orange oil are both excellent at removing glue, stickers, etc.  I use it in place of WD-40.
  4. Toothpaste.  Add a few drops of peppermint oil (or orange or clove oil) to 2 tablespoons of coconut oil.  Brush and feel how clean your teeth are!  Orange oil helps to whiten them, too!  Just keep in mind that this toothpaste does not taste or feel like a traditional toothpaste (it will not foam), so it may take some getting used to!  But it’s a great feeling to not have to worry if I (or my kids) swallow some of this.  Young Living also sells toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash that my daughters and I have used.  My daughter went to the dentist in early January and they said she had a cavity.  She began using this toothpaste daily.  7 weeks later, she got her braces off and went back to the dentist for an x-ray.  The cavity did not show up on the x-ray, and it was nowhere to be seen.  I can’t say for sure whether it had anything to do with the toothpaste, but it was sure good to hear that her cavity was gone and she doesn’t have to go back to the dentist until her next cleaning.
  5. First Aid.  I’ve used lavender oil on cuts and scrapes, and sometimes on burns as well (although coconut oil is usually my go-to for burns.)
  6. Get Rid of Lice.  Unfortunately I did have the opportunity to test this one out recently.  With three girls and a “super-lice” outbreak hitting my town in recent months, I knew it was just a matter of time.  I mixed tea tree oil with olive oil, rubbed it on their scalps and combed through their hair, covered with a shower cap and let it sit for several hours, and then combed through thoroughly with a lice comb.  Luckily this happened over a school vacation week, so we had plenty of time to take care of it.  This procedure worked beautifully, and I was happy I didn’t have to put dangerous chemicals on their heads!
  7. Internally.  I don’t recommend taking oils internally unless you have done your research AND you use an oil from a reputable brand that is meant for internal use.  The only oil I have used internally and have given to my family to take internally so far is Lemon from Young Living.  Some people take this every day, but I reserve the use of this for when we are not feeling well.  I gave my daughter 1 drop of lemon in 4 oz of water when she had a sore throat, and the next day her sore throat was gone and she felt much better.  My husband and I have also had similar results taking lemon internally.
  8. DIY Personal Care Products.  There is no limit to the amount of personal care items you can make with essential oils.  From homemade shampoos, soaps, deodorant, toothpaste, face wash, bug spray, and much, much more.  Check out this post at Homemade Mommy for some wonderful DIY Beauty Recipes using Essential Oils.
  9. Fabric Softener.  Add white vinegar and a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the fabric softener dispenser of your washing machine for an excellent, natural fabric softener.
  10. Headaches.   I have personally used peppermint oil for tension headaches, and it works wonders!  I simply applied a drop to my temples.  Just be careful because it is very strong and will make your eyes water.  Headache relief is just one of the many benefits of Peppermint oil.
  11. Pain Relief.  In the Essential Oils 101 class I took, we made a Pain Relief cream.  In a small glass jar, we mixed together 1/2 cup coconut oil, 5 drops Valor, 5 drops Panaway, 5 drops Peppermint Oil, and 5 drops Copiaba Oil.  Rub it on the bottom of the feet or the area of the body that is in pain.  It works great!
  12. Cold/Flu Relief.  Combine 5-10 drops of Thieves or Fighting Five with 1 Tablespoon Coconut oil.  Apply to the bottom of the feet to help boost the immune system.

There are many, many more ways to use essential oils.  The ways I listed above are the things I have personally tried in just a few short months.  Frankincense is also an amazing oil with wonderful healing properties, and I have heard some wonderful stories of how it has helped cancer patients.  I personally mix it with coconut oil and use it as my daily moisturizer.  I have also diffused it, but my family did not care for the scent.

What is your favorite way to use essential oils?

How Our Attitude Affects Our Health

by Amanda Collier

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It is a true honor to introduce our very first guest blogger on Journey to Complete Wellness.  Amanda Collier is a writer and blogger with a public health background.  She has been at the helm of Murray Insurance Agency‘s Blog for the last 10 months.  Amanda is a talented writer with some very good advice, and I think you will like what she has to say.

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We’ve all heard the saying “attitude is everything,” but we rarely think of this in relation to our health. It is generally accepted that illnesses and injuries are something that happen to us, regardless of our attitude. Research and data is beginning to discount this outmoded belief, however. With the backing of studies, it is coming to be more widely accepted that attitude actually has a huge impact on resistance to disease, healing abilities, longevity, and overall wellness.

Attitude and Lifestyle

Your attitude has a direct impact on your lifestyle, but this may not be easy to see when you are living through it. If you feel positive about the day ahead and see yourself as competent enough to handle whatever comes your way, you may be more likely to engage in healthy habits. Walking, working out, drinking water, eating healthy, all of these behaviors seem possible and easy to do when your outlook is positive. A negative outlook may make these activities seem overwhelming and impossible.

Coping with Challenges

The way that we perceive challenges and the way that we choose to cope with those challenges can be improved by facing obstacles with a positive perspective. People tend to improve quicker and see better results when facing health challenges like illnesses and injuries with a positive outlook. While an optimistic approach can have some benefits in itself, people that have a positive outlook also tend to be solution focused and more committed to treatment plans.

Dealing with Emotions

It is impossible to bottle up emotions and stay positive. Freely expressing emotions can be therapeutic and can help individuals to live with a strong positive outlook. In some cases, it may be helpful to see an emotional counselor in order to work through difficult emotions and regain a bright outlook. Emotional counseling may sound like something that is out of reach, but many health insurance plans now help pay for these services because of the indisputable link between emotional and physical health.

Focus on Improving Attitude

A positive attitude is something that can –and should – be cultivated. Shifting to a positive outlook takes thoughtfulness and diligence, but can have lasting benefits on all areas of your life. Over time and with practice you may eventually find that you default to positivity, your first thought in any situation is a positive one.

The following are a few ways that you can work to shift to a more positive attitude:

  • Be conscious of your immediate thoughts and whether they are positive or negative
  • Identify some things that you think negatively about, such as body image or your job, and work on engaging in more positive thinking about those areas
  • Exercise regularly so that your excess energy does not turn into internal stress and negativity
  • Eat healthier so that your body feels better and your mind does not have discomfort to dwell on
  • Banish negative self-talk and work on replacing it with positive self-talk
  • Socialize often and make sure that your circle is filled with positive people

20 Ways to Love Yourself More

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Taking time for your own self-care is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself, for those closest to you, and for your community.  Once you are able to love and accept yourself unconditionally, that love eventually pours out to others in an authentic and loving way.

In the case of an emergency on a plane, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask first before you assist others.  That is because you will not be of any help to anyone else if you run out of oxygen.  The same is true in other areas of life.  Loving yourself is the first step to loving others.  When we care for ourselves first and make our own needs a priority, we are better able to help those around us.  Here are 20 ways to love yourself more:

  1. Make sleep a priority in your life.  Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, or the amount of sleep your body needs to wake up refreshed.  If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, here are some tips to help you get the sleep you need.
  2. Drink more water.  Water is required by every cell of the body and it keeps every part of your body working properly.  Do you get the amount of water your body needs?  Guidelines for the amount of water you should drink every day are controversial and vary depending on the weight, gender, and level of activity of each individual, but the old standby of 64 oz per day is still a popular recommendation.  One tip that I find helpful:  Fill up your water bottle at the beginning of the day and write times down the side of it to guide you throughout the day.
  3. Take a yoga class.  Yoga is a fantastic tool to help improve your health in body, mind, and spirit.  In addition to improving your flexibility, building muscle strength, and perfecting your posture, yoga can help you in so many different ways.
  4. Go for a walk outside.  Go with a friend, go with your dog, or go by yourself.  What is important is that you get out in the fresh air and reap the benefits of nature.  Nature restores health.  From the sun providing you with Vitamin D to the minerals in the rocks on the ground and everything in between, everything in nature is medicine!
  5. Observe one day of rest every week.  On this day, you will do no work.  Instead, you will take the time to slow down, relax, live in the present, enjoy time with your loved ones, and be grateful for all of the blessings surrounding you.  Personally, I feel this practice is the best thing I have ever implemented in my life.  It is not easy to do in this world that promotes busyness 24/7, but the rewards are many!  Give it a try, and see what happens.
  6. Plan time for creativity.  We were put on this earth to create.  Whether you want to believe it or not, you ARE an artist.  We all are.  Whether you like to paint, sew, draw, write, take pictures, or create music, it is time to honor that artist within you and make the time to let yourself create.  Ideally, it would be great if you could set aside some time every day, but if that is not possible, schedule time at least once a week to let your inner artist come out and play.  Don’t worry, those things that you think you “should” be doing instead will still be there when you have finished.  Try it.  Schedule time on your calendar right now.  You will thank yourself later.    “Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.” ~Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
  7. Embrace your uniqueness.  Accept yourself exactly as you are.  Recognize that you were born with the personality traits needed to help you fulfill your purpose here.  Nobody else is here for the same exact purpose as you, so there is no need to compete or compare yourself to anyone else.  Although our society praises some traits over others, know that your personality traits are not weaknesses.  Learn to accept and embrace what society defines as your “imperfections,” and use the natural gifts and talents you have to help make the world a better place.
  8. Take a Real Food Challenge.  You will be surprised at how much energy you will have.  100 Days of Real Food is a fantastic resource for some great real-food recipes!
  9. Practice Gratitude.  View every encounter and experience as a gift.  Even the seemingly bad situations are a gift in the end.  Try to recognize and appreciate these gifts every day.  Think of three things you are grateful for RIGHT NOW.
  10. Move your body.  In any way you wish.  Find something you love to do, and do it!  The important thing is that you are up and moving.
  11. Surround yourself with those who love, support, encourage, and inspire you.  Be kind to everyone at all times, but spend the majority of your time with like-minded, positive people.  Let go of draining friendships, stop hanging out with people who are negative or those who spend their time gossiping and complaining, and do not tolerate disrespect from anyone.
  12. Practice doing one thing at a time.  Do not multitask.  Do one thing at a time, give it your all, and be fully present in everything you do.  Heaven on Earth happens in the moments when you are fully present.  I know this isn’t easy to do.  Especially if you are the primary caretaker of a young child who requires your care 24/7, I recognize that you NEED to multitask.  I’ve been there.  But even a few minutes of focused presence can make a big difference.
  13. Learn something new.  Make the time to learn something new that interests you.  Were you always interested in learning how to decorate cakes or Irish Step Dance, but you never found the time?  You need to MAKE the time.  Take one step toward that today.  Get a book at the library, watch a You Tube video related to your interest, or sign up for a class.  Get out your calendar now and schedule some time to do this.  You will thank yourself later! 🙂
  14. Keep a journal.  You may be surprised at some of the insights that go into it.  The wisdom is all inside of you.  You just need to take the time to be still and let it flow.  Writing in a journal can also be very therapeutic and help you to release some of your worries and fears.
  15. Forgive.  Let go of all bitterness you have toward others.  It is not hurting them at all.  It only hurts you, and the longer you hold onto it, the longer it eats away at you.  If you don’t let it go, eventually those emotional issues can manifest into physical illness in your body.  Choose to set yourself free and forgive everyone now, including yourself.  Remember, everyone is just doing the best they can with what they have in the moment.
  16. Practice Mindful Eating.  How often do you eat while doing other things?  If you’re like me, it is most of the time.  I find myself eating while I work or while I drive to save myself time and increase my productivity, and as a result I end up eating more than I realize because I’m busy doing other things.  I think a lot of health issues our society faces today are due to an unhealthy relationship with food, and I believe mindful eating could help with that.  When you eat mindfully, this means you are sitting down at the table and doing nothing else but focusing on the food you are eating.  The television is not on, you aren’t working or checking your phone or e-mails.  If you want to appreciate your food more and enjoy it more fully, give mindful eating a try.
  17. Say no.  And don’t feel guilty about it.  When you do anything out of guilt or obligation, that is not acting in a loving way.  Be honest with yourself and others.  Your time is precious, and it must be guarded fiercely and spent only on those things that are important to you.
  18. Spend some time alone every day.  Meditate.  Pray.  God speaks to you in the silence. Recognize that downtime is never wasted time.  Downtime is necessary to help you to develop your most important relationships of all – with yourself and with God.
  19. Stop trying to be perfect.  There is no such thing as perfect.  Just do the best you can, have a positive attitude, and view every mistake as a learning experience.  Every mistake you have ever made in your life has helped to shape you into the person you are today.  Recognize that as a gift!
  20. Plan your days, but not your life.  Remember, you do not set the master plan for your life.  Make daily to-do lists to help keep yourself on track and improve your productivity, but stay flexible.  Embrace distractions and view them as gifts.  Everything is happening in its own perfect time, so stop trying to rush everything.  Stop trying so hard and just let go and allow God to work through you.

BONUS idea:  Take a Self-Love challenge.  Get to know yourself, recognize your accomplishments, and learn to identify your goals and priorities and what is important to you at this point in your life.   Learn to honor your time and achieve the balance in your life that you have been looking for.

For more ideas on how to love yourself more, or if you would like help implementing some of these ideas into your life, check out my book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge.  The book expands upon many of these ideas and provides step-by-step guidance to help the readers implement them into their lives. 🙂

For more self-care tips and inspirational stories and quotes, please like my Facebook Page, Stacy Rancourt

What is YOUR favorite self-care tip?  Please leave a comment below.

Recipe: Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

 

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8 pancakes

If you love pancakes and bananas, but you're trying to cut down on white flour and white sugar, I think you are going to love this recipe. These pancakes are healthy and delicious! I love that they are very quick and easy to make and the ingredients are all real food ingredients. I put all of the ingredients in the blender, and the batter is ready to pour within minutes! Enjoy! 🙂
Ingredients
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ripe banana
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Coconut oil or butter for coating pan
  • Maple syrup (for topping)
  • Berries (for topping, optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine milk and vinegar in a cup or small bowl. Set aside for a few minutes to sour.
  2. Combine baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and oats in a food processor. Grind until smooth. (A NutriBullet works well for this.)
  3. Add milk mixture, eggs, banana, and dry ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  4. Heat coconut oil or butter in nonstick skillet over medium-low heat (or use a griddle pan at 300 degrees). Pour ⅓ cup batter onto the skillet for each pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until bubbles form around the edges of the pancake. Flip and cook for an additional 90 seconds. Continue with the remaining batter.
  5. Top with maple syrup and/or berries (if desired)

Can’t Sleep? Here are Some Tips to Help you Get a Great Night’s Sleep

Along with eating right and moving your body, getting the proper amount of sleep is an essential part of healthy living.  We spend a third of our time in bed.  If we are able to sleep well during that time, when we wake up, our minds and bodies will be refreshed and renewed and ready to begin the day in a positive way.  Getting adequate sleep can have a positive impact on every area of our lives, especially our health.

It’s important to get to bed early enough so you will get the proper amount of sleep you need for your body.  Everyone is different, but in general, adults usually need about 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and children need even more than that.

I love to wake up feeling refreshed in the morning, so I have realized the importance of making sleep a top priority in my life.  I try to be in bed by 10 pm most nights.  To help me get to sleep each night, I usually read.  I often don’t get many pages into a book before I am out.  On the occasion that I do wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep, I keep a notebook by my bed to write down any thoughts that come to me that I don’t want to forget.  If I can get my thoughts on the paper, I am then able to allow them to get out of my mind, and I can usually fall back asleep after that.  Those are some of the tips that work for me, but I realize falling asleep isn’t always that easy for many people.

If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, I have discovered a great resource from Casper,  a company committed to helping others sleep in more ways than their mattresses, that includes some helpful tips to help you get a great night’s sleep!  Check it out:

CAS_CantSleepLRG (1)

Do you have tips and tricks to help you fall and stay asleep?  Please leave a comment below and let me know what works best for you!

11 Tips and Tools to Help Ease Your Worries and Fears

worrying peace

Anxiety is something many people live with every day.  Did you know that most of the things we worry about never happen?  Even though we may know this, many of us worry about them anyway. At some point, we have all experienced anxiety in our lives in one way or another.  If you suffer from anxiety frequently, I want you to know that you can overcome it and find peace in your life.  There are many tools and tips available to help you turn those fears into love and peace, and in this article I will share those that have worked best for me.

I suffered with anxiety as a child.  As I look back on all those years of living in fear and self-induced stress, I realize how unhealthy it was.  But I also realize it was a gift.  I needed to go through the process of dealing with it to get to where I am today.  By the grace of God, I was able to find some tools that have helped me to overcome all of my fears and find lasting peace in my life.

There are an unlimited amount of tools to help you deal with anxiety, and your job is to find what works best for you.  With each problem you experience, there are many possible solutions.  What worked for me may or may not be helpful to you.  Here are 11 tools and tips that I have found to be useful for easing the worries and fears in my own life:

  1. Exercise – Virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever.  Get your body moving in any way you enjoy.  Exercise does not have to cost money.  You can simply go for a walk, garden, clean the house, or engage in any exercise that you enjoy.  Make it fun, but most importantly, just get moving!
  2. Get Outside – Everything in nature is medicine!  From the light of the sun to the minerals in the rocks on the ground, and everything in between.  When I am feeling stressed, one of my favorite things to do is to go for a walk out in the fresh air (sometimes with my dog, sometimes with a friend, and sometimes by myself.)  When I walk alone, I focus on enjoying and appreciating the nature all around me, and I give gratitude for nature and all of the things I have been blessed with.  Another of my favorite things to do is take a deep breath in, look up at the sky, and say a silent prayer of gratitude.  It only takes a few seconds, but my stress is often instantly relieved when I do this.
  3. Meditation – Even 5 minutes of meditation can help bring your awareness to the present moment and help you to ease your fears.  Here is a 5 minute guided meditation I have found to be very calming for me.  If this particular video doesn’t work for you, there are many others out there.  Simply search the internet for “5 minute guided meditation.”
  4. Keep a Journal – I personally find writing to be very therapeutic.  In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron introduces a practice that can be very beneficial in helping you to reduce anxiety while improving your daily productivity and regaining your creativity.  This practice is called “morning pages.”  Morning pages consists of writing 3 pages in your journal upon waking each morning.  Write whatever comes to mind, and do not worry about spelling, grammar, etc.  Simply write without stopping until you have filled up 3 pages.  When I decided to challenge myself to writing morning pages daily for 30-days, I experienced many unexpected benefits.  I found that my days were more productive, I gained clarity on what my priorities really were in life, and I gained some valuable insights about life that led me to write my book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge.  Another benefit of morning pages was that it helped me to let go of some of my worries.  If “morning pages” seem too much for you, simply consider starting a journal and just writing your worries in there whenever they come up.  You may be surprised how therapeutic and helpful that can be!
  5. Turn off the News –  If you struggle with anxiety, one tip I strongly recommend is that you turn off the news.  You do not need to know about every fire, murder, or car accident that has happened in your area each day.  I do not watch the news at all, and I am easily able to keep up to date with everything I need to know through the headlines on-line and through my local town page on Facebook.  I simply click on those that I feel I need to know more about.  There is no need for me or my kids to see visuals of fires, murders, or accident scenes to add to our list of everyday stresses.  Instead of filling up your time with the local news, try replacing that time filling your mind with inspiring stories.  Do this and watch your attitude about the world shift from one of worry and fear to one of love and peace.  This advice is reinforced in my favorite bible verse:  “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~Philippians 4:8 NIV
  6. Yoga – I personally practice yoga at least once a week, and I have found it to be a very relaxing experience for me in body, mind, and spirit.  It helps me to focus on the present moment – something that is often very difficult to do in this day and age, especially as a mom.  According to Yoga Journal, just one of the benefits of yoga is that it relaxes your system: “Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure, and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs—comprising what Herbert Benson, M.D., calls the relaxation response.”  Check out the article 38 Health Benefits of Yoga to learn about more of the benefits of yoga.
  7. Reiki – Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.  I am a certified reiki practitioner, and I have witnessed the calming effects this technique has had on my family members and clients.  If you are interested in finding out more about reiki, you may do so at Reiki.org.
  8. EFT Tapping –  EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Tapping is another method that has proven to be highly effective in helping people to overcome their fears and phobias.  Tapping is a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology.  As you tap your fingers on specific points on your body, you acknowledge your fears out loud.  This helps you to become in tune with your feelings, and then it allows you to fully experience them so you are able to let them go.  I know from experience that tapping really works!  When my daughter developed some physical health issues last year, it caused her a great deal of anxiety.  After many doctor visits and tests and many school days missed, the doctors and specialists could find nothing physically wrong with her, but she insisted that the symptoms still existed.  Her anxiety grew, and fears began taking over her life.  She became afraid of going to school.  She was even afraid to go to sleep at night!  We began tapping on these issues and discovered some underlying fears that were contributing to these bigger fears.  We tapped on these issues every night.  Within a few weeks, all of her fears were gone and all of her health issues were completely resolved and have not returned.  Tapping is wonderful because it is a tool that you can use anytime and anywhere, it doesn’t require the assistance of anyone else, it is absolutely free, and it is very simple to learn!  If you would like to learn how to do it, visit The Tapping Solution to watch free instructional videos and to download some very useful tapping sessions to help reduce stress.
  9. Change Your Thoughts from Fear into Love and Gratitude -Just as light and darkness are opposites and cannot exist simultaneously, love and fear work the same way.  When you shine a light into a room, the darkness is removed.  Similarly, when you focus your thoughts on gratitude and love, worry and fears dissolve.  I recently had the opportunity to practice turning my fear into love and gratitude.  When I chose to do so, my worries vanished and I was overcome with peace.  My youngest daughter recently broke her arm and had to have a procedure done with anesthesia for the first time.  When she was 20 months old, she became very sick due to a reaction to a vaccine.  Since then, I have been fearful of vaccines, medicines, and putting anything unnatural into our bodies unless it was absolutely necessary.  Needless to say, I had a very difficult time dealing with her having anesthesia, and it caused me much anxiety and worry.As I sat in the waiting room while she was having the procedure done to fix her arm, the fears came rushing to me.  I kept thinking, “What if she doesn’t wake up?”  Finally, after worrying myself for several minutes, I made the decision to stop worrying and to turn my fears into love.In that moment, I closed my eyes and sent love to everyone in the operating room with my daughter, and I gave thanks for all of them.  I envisioned the room filled with a white light, and I sent love and positive thoughts to everyone involved.  Then, I gave thanks for the one thing that was causing me the most anxiety – the anesthesia.  I thanked it for helping this to be a positive experience for my daughter, and I tried to focus on all the good things about the anesthesia.  Because of it, she would have no pain during the procedure.  She would also have no memory of it, so it would not be a traumatic experience for her, and it would not cause her to develop new fears that she would have to deal with for the rest of her life.  When she woke up, her arm would be back together in a cast and on its way to healing properly.  Choosing to focus on the benefits of anesthesia and turning my thoughts from fear into love and gratitude helped me to calm down immediately.Within moments, the doctor emerged and he let me know that everything had gone smoothly and my daughter had done great.  I was taken to the recovery room to wait for her to wake up.  When she opened her eyes, I was right there by her side.  The first words that came out of her mouth were, “I’m bored!”  Right then, I could tell that she was her usual self, and it gave me a great sense of relief.  For the rest of the time we were there, everyone was fantastic with her.  The nurses were all so attentive, and I could feel the love that I had sent out being returned to us.When I decided to change my fears into love and gratitude, everything changed.  I saved myself many moments of unnecessary worry when I took the opportunity to look for the good in the anesthesia and give thanks for it.  That is just another reminder that everything in life can be a gift if you look for the good and focus on that! ~from The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge: Day 17.
  10. Let Go of Perfectionism – Learn to accept yourself exactly as you are.  Accept others just  as they are without judgement.  Recognize and appreciate the unique gifts you have to offer as well as those that others have to offer.  Let go of your desire to fit society’s definition of perfect, and also let go of your desire to control others to fit your expectations of perfect.  Nobody is perfect.  If we were, then there would be no opportunity for growth.  One of the reasons we are on this earth is to grow and to learn from our mistakes, and to help and teach others as we grow and learn along the way.  If we can recognize that we were not meant to be perfect and we allow ourselves to make mistakes in everyday life once in a while, we will take a lot of stress and pressure off of ourselves.  Stress is not healthy, and perfectionism is generally not healthy (unless you’re a surgeon or in a profession where perfectionism is necessary…then by all means, please keep your high standards.)  But in everyday life, we all make mistakes.  Many of us try to live up to the expectations of our society, and that is very unhealthy.  There is so much pressure to be the perfect parent, raise a perfect family, live in a perfect house, hold a perfect job, all while having the perfect body.  Guess what?  Perfection does not exist.  I have finally come to realize that, and life is so much easier and enjoyable without all that added pressure.  I believe one of the reasons I suffered with anxiety as a child is because I could never live up to my expectations of perfection.  I excelled in school all the way throughout my college years, but now I look back and ask myself, “why?”  Why did I put so much stress and pressure on myself to be the perfect student?  I do believe there is a reason for everything, and maybe the reason is so I can teach my kids that it’s ok not to be perfect.  It’s ok if you don’t get A’s on everything.  It’s ok if my house is not spotless 100% of the time.  It’s ok to try new things.  It’s ok to make mistakes.  It’s ok to be myself and do things my own way.  We are all growing and learning, and it’s ok if we’re not perfect all the time (or even most of the time.)  Nobody is.  How boring life would be if we were perfect!  There are so many ways to do everything, and each of our jobs is to find what works best for us.  A perfect life is an authentic life…it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
  11. Surrender -I have discovered that the best way to a life of peace and serenity is through surrender.  We must remember that we are not the master planner of our lives.  Events are going to happen that are out of our control, and some of them may even be traumatic.  Sometimes we will be distracted, and things are not always going to go the way we plan.  When these things happen, we are presented with two choices:  we could feel sorry for ourselves because things aren’t going as we planned, or we could embrace the distractions and unfortunate situations and recognize each one as a gift and an opportunity to grow.  Sometimes these traumatic events may lead us to develop fears, phobias, or limiting beliefs.  The first step to overcoming any of these is to recognize them and decide that we want to overcome them.  Sometimes it feels safer to hang on to our fears, but that only prevents us from achieving our dreams and it does not allow us to grow into the person we were meant to be.  When we decide to let go and let God take over, we surrender control of our lives and decide to put our complete trust in God (or the universe, the process of life, or whatever you personally call it).  We then realize that everything happens in its own perfect time and for a reason.  We come to the understanding that we will receive everything we need at the perfect time, so there is no need for worry.  This realization and trust will provide us with a deep level of peace.  After living with anxiety for many years, I have finally experienced the deep peace that comes with surrender.  Once you find this peace, you are able to tap into it at any time.  I don’t believe there is any greater gift than that! (This excerpt was also from my book, The 31-Day Self-Love Challenge: Day 17.)

These are just a few tools you might want to try to help you relieve your worries and fears.  There are many, many more I could list, including music, aromatherapy, and the list goes on and on!  If none of these tips work for you, keep searching and trying new things.  Don’t give up!

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?  Please leave your favorite tip in the comments.