Drinking tea on the couch, with socks on

How to Create a Self-Care Routine that Actually Works

As many of us who have ever had social media (i.e. everyone) know, 2019 is all about self-care. And even though many try to disregard its importance, in this day and age, we truly need some time for ourselves, to take care of our physical, emotional and mental health.

We often go about our days just letting the stress accumulate without any regard for how it may impact our lives. When in fact, stress can have a major impact on both the body and the spirit.

That’s precisely where self-care comes in.

However, a lot of people struggle with implementing self-care into their daily lives. Rushing here and there, it remains forgotten among duties of the day. But, fear not, there are ways you can make sure you stick to your self-care routine.

What is Self-Care?

Most people find it tricky to truly take care of themselves. When we truly think about it, not many of us can find too many things that we do in that regard.

How long has it been since you dedicated a day, or even an evening, to yourself?

If you can’t remember, then it’s clear you’re in dire need of self-care.

Self-care includes activities that we do that help our physical, mental and emotional help. Its main purpose is to improve our mood and to reduce anxiety and the accumulated stress of the day. It is also the basis of a healthy relationship towards one’s self and even others.

It’s not selfish, as some may think. Self-care is extremely important if we are to help ourselves get through the stress of our day-to-day lives.

So don’t think you’re selfish if you’re dedicating your time to your well-being. It seems that we’re not doing enough of that as it is. Focus on yourself from time to time and this will lead to a much fuller, happier life.

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – it can include a good book, reveling in the joy of bath bombs, or even playing music. But it is incredibly important to have that time devoted to doing what will make you feel better. 

There are various benefits to self-care, which are, frankly, too precious to count. Here’s what you can expect when you dedicate yourself to yourself:

  • Lowered stress
  • Improved wellbeing
  • Increase in productivity
  • Higher self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Improved health

So how do you create a reasonable self-care routine?

Many of us decide one day that we’ll start treating ourselves better, and that we’ll start our self-care routine this very day.

However, many of us also don’t follow through. Various commitments get in the way and we simply give up on what’s the easiest.

But, with these few tips, you can create your own self-care routine that you won’t abandon when the obstacles arise.

Do the Things You Love

One of the possibly worst things you can do when you’re trying to stick to your self-care routine is to do something you’ve heard is the best, but doesn’t quite cut it for you.

Yeah, yeah, we all know that yoga’s great (and it really is), but if you find that it doesn’t suit you, and you don’t feel too relaxed when you’re doing it, then that’s not something that should find its way into your routine.

Remember, everyone’s different. What works for someone else may not work for you.

And in that case, it’s most likely that you won’t commit to it.

Try to think of a few activities that you love, and some that bring you joy. For instance, you may feel happy when you’re playing the flute, or when you’re building a table. Make a list of activities that make you feel good.

If you’re not sure what you truly love, try a few different things. You may even find something that you’re good at. Why not? Try a dance or a cooking class, or listening to some podcasts, see what interests you and, more importantly, what leaves you feeling a little more content and a little less stressed.

Friends cooking together

Choose activities that are beneficial in various ways

There are truly plenty of self-care routines, but a lot of them do fall into some dimension of wellness. There are six dimensions of wellness: intellectual, spiritual, emotional, physical, social and occupational.

So, if you’re choosing to take care of yourself, choose activities that will be good for you in various ways.

For instance, if you enter a volleyball team, you get the bonus of physical and social wellness. On the other hand, if you join a book club, you’re getting both intellectual and social part of your being taken care of.

Of course, don’t go against yourself. If you feel like the social factor of the activity would not benefit you, choose something else. You can even read a book while you run on a treadmill, there’s nothing stopping you.

The important thing is to choose activities which will satisfy more needs, but that will also suit you.

Keep It Simple

One of the reasons why our self-care routines don’t always work is that they’re too complicated. And it’s not likely that we’ll stick to something too complicated.

In fact, we might just chuck it in the bin right on the first day precisely because of that, believing we can’t keep up with that.

And it’s true, if you go on thinking that it’s just another obligation, it’s probably not going to work. With so many other obligations pertaining to work, and our family/friends, we tend to put our needs on the backburner.

Self-care doesn’t have to be anything lengthy and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The main point here is to fit it into your lifestyle, while also getting to the point where you’re recharged and relaxed.

Create A Plan

Now, when we say plan, we don’t mean a regimen that you simply have to stick to. This is about simply making the time for self-care.

You can start off easy, with 15 minutes in the morning or the evening scheduled for exercise, or reading.

Make sure that you let your family and friends know you’re unavailable at that time.

If you prefer it that way, write a faux timetable and put it on your wall. Sometimes, when you plan ahead, it simply becomes much easier to fit it into your days, especially if you generally lead a hectic life. And, in general, some people simply like planning.

Unknown woman writing in her journal

A good way of doing that is making a plan a day in advance. We’re not often sure what our whole weeks will look like. That is why it is perhaps best to sit down in the evening and map out the next day. That way, there’ll be less chance of something changing and putting a wrench in your plan.

Know When to Be Flexible

Another thing that it’s important is that, while we all lead pretty organized lives, there are times when our routine changes and something unexpected pops up.

Things get in the way, that’s a given.

But the important thing is not to let your plan go completely.

However, you should remember that every day is a fresh start. If you were unable to do your self-care routine one day, do it the next. If you’re unable to do it in the morning, do it in the evening.

After all, this is about you and what you can do at that time. If you choose to do just one thing from your routine because you simply don’t have the time, well, then, you did that one thing. And that’s great. The important thing is not to give up. You can’t always do everything that you’ve envisioned, but you can do at least something.

No two days are the same, so it’s best if you try to adapt. Work around your schedule to see what works best at that particular day or moment.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

A self-care routine will certainly take time to become a way of life. And, more importantly, it’s a process of trial and error.

But it’s okay if your first attempt was not that successful. Through trial and error, you will find what works best.

Another thing to look out for is not to set goals that are too hard. Be realistic when you’re making your plan.

Let’s face it, none of us can go from zero to sixty, so to speak, in a week. Unattainable goals are not what self-care is about. It’s about finding the perfect routine for you and devoting yourself to it. If you want your routine to turn into a habit, being realistic is the best way to start.

Find a Buddy

If you have someone who can fulfil the role, you should find someone who will “hold you accountable,” so to speak. A friend, a family member or even a coworker who will check in from time to time to see how you’re doing.

Also, they can be the person you turn to when you feel like you can’t devote yourself to the routine.

Couple cycling together in the park

When we’re on our own, it’s sometimes too easy to let self-care fall to the background (and in that case, be forgotten), but if you have someone to help you along the way, it will be easier to stick to the commitment you made.

If your self-care routine includes making your diet more healthy, maybe some of your friends need encouragement for the same thing, as well. See if you can be each other’s helpers along this way to mutual wellbeing.

Get Back to Basics

Sometimes the simplest things will help you stick to your self-care routine. There are things that are so simple, yet do so much for our health, that we usually disregard. Here are some of the tips on how to get back to the basics for a much healthier day.

  • Get enough sleep. How often do you get enough hours of sleep? Sleep is incredibly beneficial, but because of our jobs and other reasons, we seem to disregard it as unimportant. But that is simply not true. Our bodies fill up on energy during sleep and they need it like the air we breathe. Even a power nap during the day can help you feel more rejuvenated and more alert. But it is important that you get at least seven hours a sleep a day to be able to go about your day.
  • Maintain a proper eating schedule. As with our sleeping schedule, there are various things that happen to our bodies when we mess up our eating schedule. Make sure to eat three meals and two small snacks every day. This will help stabilize your body, preparing it for the world. You can even implement food into your self-care routine. If you have an affinity for cooking, use that as me-time.
  • Use the free time you have the way you enjoy it. For instance, if you have 15 minutes in the morning before you have to go to work, why not solve a crossword puzzle? Or go to the store on foot. Use those fifteen minutes for something relaxing. If you have the weekend off, try to do some activity that you know will make you feel good – finish that show that you wanted to watch, ride a bike or just meet up with an old friend. It’s essential that your free time is spent the way you will enjoy it the most.
  • Focus on here and now. Many times, when we are doing one thing, our mind wanders, completely disconnecting us from the present. We think about the obligations that we have, or even something that we are planning to do in the distant future. However, self-care flies right out of the window if we do this. For it to work, we need to stay connected to the moment. The more we practice that, the less we will think about unrelated things. And the more mindful we are, the more we will actually enjoy the present and the more effect the self-care routine will have.
Woman enjoying the scent of a palm leaf

How to Use These 9 Scents to Change Your Mood

Whether you’re feeling down and need a slight boost, or you’re feeling on edge and need to relax a bit, you might want to try using your nose.

That’s right, your nose.

Your nose knows.

As incredible as it sounds, our sense of smell can play an incredible part in improving your mood. Researchers have devoted their time to the issue and found that some scents can, in fact, alter your mood to a certain extent.

So, the next time you need a mood boost, you might want to try some of the scents we will list to help you.

Scent and memory – the best of friends

The fact that scent is connected to mood changes is directly caused by the specific “wiring” of our brain.

That is, the olfactory center is connected directly to the parts of the brain that handle emotions and associative learning.

Basically, when we draw odor molecules into our nose, they dissolve and penetrate the mucus. Then they bind with the cilia (projections attached to receptor cells) and create an impulse which travels through nerves until it reaches the olfactory bulb in the brain, where the signals are processed and passed to other parts of the brain.

Many people don’t know this, but processing smell is closely related to the hippocampus, where memories are stored.

So, there’s a reason why you always remember grandma when you smell freshly baked cookies.

Or why you cringe when you smell rubbing alcohol.

Studies have even shown that memories evoked through odor went back farther in time. Also, they were more emotionally charged than memories evoked through words.

And because memories are always connected and intertwined with emotions, when we experience a scent stored in our memory, the brain then usually correlates it with some recollections and emotions present in them. That is why certain smells sometimes evoke strong feelings in us, even if we can’t quite place why that is.

Lemon

Aside from its various health benefits, the very scent of a lemon can have incredible impact on your stress levels.

You might not think it particularly appealing, but the scent of lemon can increase your energy levels, improve your mood and even your ability to concentrate.

Now there’s a reason why you like those lemon-scented cleaning products, right?

In fact, most people would describe lemon as smelling “clean,” which is precisely why it is used in a great number of cleaning products.

It’s used in aromatherapy to help people get rid of feelings of impurity and imperfection. It also serves to boost their confidence.

You can use essential oils to achieve that purpose, or you can simply make lemonade. In fact, whenever you need a concentration or a confidence boost, why not make a glass of fresh lemonade?

Aaand, problem solved. Maybe.

In addition, you can use the calming properties of the scent of lemon when you’re feeling angry, nervous or simply tired.

Orange

It seems like we have somehow found our way to the fruit section. But even though fruit scents may seem simple, their impact can be huge.

According to certain studies, the scent of oranges has a relaxing effect, bringing about positivity and calm in the participants of the studies.

Halved orange with a vial of oil

Also, the scent of oranges has been linked with reduced aggression.

So, whenever you feel anxious and a bit tense, it might be a good idea to take an orange-scented lotion and take a shower.

Also, you can extract oil from orange peels and find yourself with a generous supply of it for future use.

Peppermint

Good news for everyone that likes gum or tea!

The health benefits of peppermint have been widely known since ancient Egyptian times, since it’s been used for medicinal purposes since then.

The scent of peppermint is incredibly useful when you’re trying to concentrate. Also, it has mood-elevating properties which are efficient in combating anxiety and, in some cases, even depression. It’s been proven that it can relieve feelings of sadness effectively.

Peppermint is also useful when you’re feeling distracted when you should be studying or even driving. Some studies have shown that sniffing peppermint can improve typing accuracy and make drivers more alert.

Athletes that smelled peppermint during exercise actually outperformed those who did not.

So, you know what you need to do before you hit the gym next time.

Simply dab a few drops of peppermint oil on your temples or you can burn the oil in an aromatherapy burner for long-lasting effects.

If you don’t have the oil available, making tea or chewing gum can provide you with some relief, as well.

Coffee

Can we all agree that coffee is the best thing that’s ever happened to mankind?

Its power is so incredible, that the mere scent of coffee can affect your brain chemistry.

That is great news for those suffering from high blood pressure, who cannot drink that much coffee on a daily basis.

Even smelling coffee can boost your brain power, a study found. So, if you can’t drink too much of it, you can definitely at least sniff coffee beans.

And we all know how good they smell.

So, the next time you need a bit of a boost before an exam, coffee will do you good. Just make sure you don’t go overboard.

A sniff or two just for you should be enough.

Lavender

Not to sound too New Age-y, but dude, if you need to chill out, perhaps try lavender?

Lavender slows the heart rate and calms the nervous system.

Sounds good?

Yeah, we also think so.

Essential oil experts will tell you that lavender is used in all sorts of ways. Lavender oil can be used to treat insomnia, anxiety and it can even help with nausea. Also, it can help with allergies and menstrual cramps.

It truly is a very versatile oil.

It has quite the soothing effect on nerves and can relieve tension. This is exactly what most modern day workers need. Amid the stress of the working day, you can find a sanctuary in the form of lavender, to help you ease your mind and relax.

So, to reiterate, dude, feel free to chill with lavender.

Another important use of lavender is that it helps people who suffer from insomnia. A study actually found that lavender, combined with sleep hygiene, improved sleep quality for students who had sleep issues. In another study, it was found that the scent of lavender can improve the quality and duration of sleep.

Now, if you’ve ever suffered from insomnia, you know that every little bit helps when fighting the good fight.

That is why you might want to try some alternative routes and hop on the lavender train.

Rosemary

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember;

and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts

This brief line from Hamlet shows that even in Shakespeare’s time, rosemary was known for its link to memory.

But, if we go even further, we’ll find that its benefits were known even in ancient times – ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Hebrews used it to improve memory and even for protection.

It was even considered sacred.

Woman enjoying the scent of rosemary in her garden

The Greeks would wear rosemary garlands around their heads while studying. Now, if you’re a student running out of ideas on how to learn a whole book in a week, well, there’s your answer.

Rosemary garlands FTW, as the young would say.

Several studies have been conducted and proved that there is increase in memory retention when the scent of rosemary is included in the equation. However, not much is known on just how rosemary seems to give incredible results.

The main effects that the scent of rosemary can have include:

  • Reducing stress and tension
  • Fighting mental fatigue
  • Boosting mental activity
  • Encouraging clarity
  • Improving alertness
  • Improving your general mood

Another of the benefits of the scent is that it can boost your entire immune system. It does so by stimulating internal anti-oxidant activity.

In addition, it can eliminate headaches, which will surely improve your mood significantly. Also, if you’re suffering from throat and nasal congestion, rosemary’s your man.

Well, your plant.

It is widely used in aromatherapy in the form of essential oil, but you can also use it in the form of tea in the morning, when every one of us needs a little bit of help to start the day.

Cinnamon

Aside from being great in every possible form of pastry you can imagine, cinnamon also has numerous health benefits.

Have you ever wondered why you feel happier simply by smelling the delicious baked goods full of cinnamon? Have you stopped and simply lingered, letting the scent flow over you and bring you to a simpler time?

Well, that’s the beauty of cinnamon. In all its baked glory.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should start baking (and especially not eating) 10 cinnamon buns a day.

Well, you could, but that wouldn’t be too healthy, now would it?

No, that simply means that there are other ways you can reap the benefits cinnamon has to offer, and one of them is through its scent.

When sniffed, cinnamon can reduce drowsiness and irritability. So it may be your perfect choice when you need that extra pick-me-up during the day.

Especially, and we all know this very well, if your head feels like it’s made of lead and it’s dragging you down for a nap.

A nap you can’t possibly take, since, you know, you’re at your place of work.

Cinnamon can also help you concentrate and perform better, which, in turn, can significantly help you with your job.

It is especially useful during those days, ladies, when your menstrual cramps are proving to be another nuisance on the road to a productive day. It can alleviate certain types of headaches and even various other types of pain.

Frankly, out of all aforementioned scents, cinnamon may be the easiest to use. It does not even need heat to harvest its aroma. You can simply put it in sachets and hang them where there is a slight breeze – for instance, above doorways or near windows. You can even scatter cinnamon powder over the soil of your house plants.

Another, quite useful way to use cinnamon and to get its aroma in a quick way is to boil it. You simply need to sprinkle a bit of powdered cinnamon into uncovered water and let it simmer for a while.

Apple

This might come as a surprise, but the scent of the common apple can be quite beneficial for you.

And this includes the most delicious pastry of all – apple pie.

Simply put, there’s nothing that a good apple pie cannot fix.

But, in all seriousness, apples in general are great for easing pain and alleviating tension.

It’s been proven that green apple scent can soothe migraines and even ease head and neck muscle spasms.

Also, it can reduce general anxiety and stress.

That will definitely leave you in a much better mood than you were before.

Especially if you’ve made pie.

Jasmine

But when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear, that now I’m in a whole new world…

If you haven’t caught that reference, then the pun is pointless and it needs further explanation.

Which brings us to the main benefit of the scent of jasmine – namely, its uplifting capabilities.

You get it?

Jasmine sings a song about flying high in the sky, and jasmine has uplifting qualities?

Well, that pun’s ruined.

But what is not ruined is the fact that the scent of jasmine can produce a feeling of optimism, revitalized energy and a feeling of confidence.

Everything that we need from time to time.

Fresh, blooming jasmine flowers

Aside from that, jasmine can also be used to calm nerves.

Now, it’s a good thing that, due to its sweet fragrance, jasmine is actually used in some of the most famous perfumes, such as Chanel No. 5.

Also, it’s a common ingredient in desserts.

(There’s been too much talk about desserts, but that simply goes to show how much our senses of taste and smell are connected.)

A study has found that jasmine essential oil increases alertness and behavioral arousal. This also means that it can be useful in relieving symptoms of depression, and that it can improve your mood in general.

When inhaled, another study found, jasmine oil could affect brain activity, leaving participants feeling more energetic, more positive, and even more romantic.

So, if you’re trying to create the perfect atmosphere for wooing – you know what to do.

Use that jasmine perfume liberally or simply use a diffuser for a more permanent effect.

Three women clasping their hands together, in a gym setting

9 Easy Yoga Poses for Beginners

So, you’re thinking about taking up yoga?

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by seeing experienced yogis twist this way and bend that way and you’re not sure if you can pull it off?

Well, just remember, they had to start somewhere. And there’s no better way to start than at the beginning. So, take your yoga mat and let’s get going!

There are over 300 positions in yoga, and we’re sure you’ll master them all at some point. But, for now, be content with the simple poses that every beginner should learn. Here is our pick of the best yoga poses for a beginner.

The Benefits of Yoga

In general, and everyone will tell you this – yoga is a way of life. Not only does it help you work on your body, but it also helps soothe your mind. It is a culture of well-being that can truly improve your life in many ways.

Now, this makes it seem like yoga is some kind of superman among various practices.

And you know what?

It kind of is.  

While it can’t, admittedly, fly you to the moon or save you from a villain (unless we count the metaphorical sense), there are great many things yoga can do:

  • Reduce stress.  Many yoga methods are interlinked with meditation, helping you “quiet down” the incessant clamoring of your mind. In turn, yoga relieves stress and relaxes even the most stressed individual.
  • Increase flexibility. One of the main points of yoga is that it gradually stretches your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, increasing the range of motion in your joints. This allows you to practice further poses and, who knows, become a yogi yourself one day!
  • Help with weight loss. In general, while the main purpose of yoga is not to lose weight, it is, however, one of its main benefits. As you balance your mind, you will also learn ways to balance your body, helping you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Improve posture. Because of all of the above, another great advantage of yoga is that now, your abdominal and back muscles can support your weight. As a result, your posture will greatly improve.

Yoga Poses for Beginners

As previously said, when you start doing yoga, your body will start undergoing change which will improve your overall agility.

Agility, that you can later use to increase the difficulty of your yoga poses.

But, for now, here are the easiest ones, perfect for beginners.

The Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Calm woman in sukhasana pose

It makes sense to start here.

The easy pose is great for beginners and, even though it’s easy, it has plenty of benefits. It’s simply divine for your peace of mind and, also, for your back muscles and your spine.

  • Sit with your buttocks firmly on the floor.
  • Cross your legs, but make sure to place your feet directly below your knees.
  • Put your hands on your knees.
  • Press your hips down into the floor and drop your shoulders down and back. Press your chest forward.
  • You should also relax your face, jaw and stomach.
  • Breathe deeply through the nose and hold for as many breaths as you like.

If you have knee or back injuries, you should sit on a folded blanket to remove the strain. In 

general, yoga is recommended for dealing with back pain. If some poses are too difficult, they can always be modified.

Another great way to remove the strain this pose can cause to beginners is to lean back on a wall or, possibly, lean slightly forward.

The Mountain (Tadasana)

Woman in standing pose

This is the basic pose for all standing poses. It is perfect for beginners, because it represents a foray into the point of yoga – learning how to ground yourself.

It may seem easy, but it’s important that you do it right.

While doing the mountain pose, keep the idea of balance in mind, since this is an essential part of yoga.

  • Stand with your feet together, press down with your toes and spread them open. Draw your abdominal muscles in to engage your core.
  • Then, lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down, all the while keeping them relaxed. Drop your tailbone a bit to lengthen your lower back
  • You should always take slow and deep breaths through your nose. Hold the pose for as many breaths as you like.

Precisely because it is such an easy pose to do, you can do it practically anywhere and anytime, whenever you feel like you could benefit from the balance the pose brings.

The Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

Downward-facing dog pose

One of the biggest benefits of this pose is that it strengthens your entire body, while also stretching it. This is easily one of most widely recognized yoga poses.

However, it’s vital to do it right.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Get down on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly below your hips, and your hands should be slightly forward from your shoulders.
  • Spread your palms and turn your toes under.
  • While you exhale, you should lift your knees away from the floor. Keep your hips back and try to straighten your legs as much as you can. If your hamstrings are too tight, keep your knees bent a bit. If needed, you can also walk your hands forward. This will give you additional length.
  • Press your palms firmly on the floor and rotate your inner elbows towards each other.
  • Take long and deep breaths through your nose and, if you can, hold for 5 breaths.

The Tree (Vrksasana)

Woman in yoga tree pose

Another pose which aims at improving the balance of any beginner. It seems fairly simple – standing on one leg, right?

Well, not quite.

Even though it is easy to learn, it can be challenging for your hips, ankles and feet.

That is why you should always do everything at your pace and set realistic goals.

It is said that a good tree pose in the morning does wonder for curbing anxiety and stress, as well as increasing concentration.

  • Start in mountain pose. Keep your toes together and your heels slightly apart.
  • Then, shift your weight onto the left foot. Keep that foot firmly on the floor.
  • Bring your right foot up to the inner thigh and squeeze them together. If you’re having trouble drawing your foot up, simply reach down with your right hand and help it along the way. Toes of your right foot should be facing downwards, while the knee should be turned out.
  • When you’ve found your balance, press your hands together in front of your chest and keep your gaze at a fixed point about 5 feet away from you.
  • You should hold this pose for about 5 breaths, or more, if you have no problem.

If you can’t seem to find your balance at first, place your right foot on your shin, instead of the thigh.

The Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

Woman in seated forward fold pose

Another great pose for beginners, simply because – you most likely already know, at least partially, how to do it.

That is, if you’ve ever stretched in your life.

It is perfect for unwinding after an intense workout, and it is perfect for unwinding after an intense day.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Simply sit on the floor and extend your legs right in front of you.
  • Keep your feet firmly flexed. Don’t turn them in or out. Keep your hands by your hips.
  • Then, lift your chest and bend forward from the waist. Make sure to engage your lower abdominals.
  • Once you’ve bent as far as you can, simply stop and breathe for about 10 breaths. Make sure you are relaxed throughout the pose.

Should you feel any sharp pain at any point, stop. However, if it’s tension that you’re feeling when you bend forward and, more importantly, you can continue to breathe unhindered, your body will gradually loosen up. Tension is normal when doing yoga, but pain is not.

Another option is to keep knees bent, but your feet should remain flexed and together throughout the pose.

The Bridge (Setu Bandhasana)

Woman doing the bridge pose

The opposite of the forward bend is the back bend. This pose effectively stretches the front part of your body, while also strengthening your back.

Again, you’ve probably seen it in some form or another. However, this is a good basis for later, more complicated poses.

  • First, lie flat on your back.
  • Then, bend your knees. Put your feet on the floor, but make sure they’re hip-width apart and that your knees and ankles are placed in a straight line.
  • Your arms should rest beside your body and your palms should be facing downwards.
  • When you inhale, lift your back. Try to roll in your shoulders so that your chin touches your chest. Your arms, feet and shoulders should support your weight.
  • Interlace your fingers. You should also push your hands harder to the ground.
  • You can hold this pose for 10 breaths. Lower your hips then and repeat for two or three times.

The Plank (Kumbhakasana)

Athletic woman in plank position

Let’s face it. Many of us are familiar with the infamous plank pose.

Simply because it’s easy to form, it doesn’t mean it’s easy to do.

When it comes to torture in the form of physical exercise, many will testify that planking is right there with pulling a truck with your bare teeth.

However.

Don’t be dissuaded.

Planking is actually so beneficial, that it should be included in every beginner’s routine. It is also the basis for many other more challenging poses that you’ll learn later on.

Now, some prefer going into plank from the downward-facing dog, while others like to keep it simple.

We’re all about simplicity here. (At least until you feel you’re ready for more.)

So, here’s how to do the plank:

  • Start on the ground, on all fours. Your knees should be directly under your hips and your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the mat. Extend your legs behind you. Your body should form one long line.
  • Keep your palms on the floor and core engaged. Your neck and spine should be in neutral position.
  • If you can, hold this position for about 5 breaths.

Again, while this may seem like it’s too difficult to hold, start small. Begin with 15 seconds and work from there. You will gradually feel your body strengthening and you will be able to increase its duration to 1 minute.

The Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Athletic woman in cobra pose

A simply spectacular pose for beginners. This is when you can feel the stretch, but also give your body a bit of a rest.

The cobra pose is simply perfect if you have a stiff lower back after a day of sitting at the office.

Aside from strengthening your arms and shoulders, it also stimulates your heart, as well as the organs in your abdomen. It also improves circulation of blood and oxygen, which, in turn, has many other benefits.

But how to do it properly?

  • Lie on your stomach and stretch your legs.
  • Then, spread your hands on the floor, but make sure they are directly under your shoulders.
  • Your feet, thighs and pelvis should be firmly pressed into the floor.
  • Lift your chest off the floor, but always maintain your pelvis on the floor.
  • Firm your buttocks and your shoulder blades, but not too much.

Again, you don’t want to push too hard. Should you feel pain at any moment, pull back a bit, you’ve most likely gone too far.

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Woman in child's pose, yoga setting

This pose is effective when you need to take a break between two more challenging poses.

It is also great for digestion, and it’s in general calming for the mind.

It can often be neglected on your road to mastering new poses, but it shouldn’t be! You should never push your body without giving it the proper rest it needs.

Remember, it’s all about balance.

So, while you’re striving for those harder ones, make sure to rest now and then.

  • Kneel on the floor. Your big toes should touch together and you should sit on your heels.
  • Separate your knees to the same width as your hips.
  • On the exhale, put your torso between your thighs. Stretch your arms forward and lower your forehead to the floor. Let your body release.

Since this is such a calming pose, you can do it for as many breaths as you feel necessary.

It is great for letting your body recuperate from the stress of the exercise, but also, the stress of life. 

Woman with a headache

Can Exercise Improve Hypersomnia?

In this hustle and bustle of the 21st century, it almost feels like tiredness is the new normal. That is why it is sometimes difficult to even diagnose disorders such as hypersomnia. Basically, many people write it off as something temporary and something normal, since they have experienced the symptoms of hypersomnia at one point or another.

However, regardless of what modern life tells us, our body’s normal mode is not tiredness. If the feeling’s persistent and occurs frequently enough, it might be time to check whether you have hypersomnia and whether you need professional help.

Also, you might try other ways of alleviating symptoms of hypersomnia.

That is, it might be a good idea to try exercising.

What is Hypersomnia? 

Hypersomnia is a disorder which manifests itself as excessive sleepiness during the day. Also, it can mean that a person is spending too much time sleeping without feeling rested afterwards. If a person is suffering from hypersomnia, they may feel sleepy even after they’ve slept, for instance, ten or even twelve hours.

Now, in general, there truly is nothing wrong with being sleepy from time to time. We have various obligations and duties that simply know how to drain a person.

However, hypersomnia is much more than that.

Hypersomnia is such a pronounced and prolonged sense of fatigue that it almost wears down on your very bones.

Since it mostly manifests itself in constant drowsiness, this disorder may prevent you from doing a number of everyday activities, such as driving, and even your job. It affects not only your energy levels, but also your concentration, making it sometimes difficult to remember even the simplest things.

Some of the possible causes of hypersomnia include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Prescription drugs
  • Depression
  • Head injury
  • Excessive weight

And some other, related issues. It is important to note that, if you believe you may be suffering from hypersomnia, it necessary to see a doctor for treatment.

Hypersomnia can affect every age group, but it seems that it is more prevalent in people between 15 and 30. Sometimes it takes years for hypersomnia to develop fully, with people feeling intermittent symptoms but writing them off as temporary.

If you’ve ever felt the symptoms of hypersomnia, then you know that this is quite a serious disorder. Aside from affecting your day-to-day life, it can, subsequently, affect your mental state and cause a vicious cycle from which it can be a bit difficult to escape.

Nowadays, awareness is being spread about the disorder by organizations such as the Hypersomnia Foundation, which devotes its effort to researching and fighting the disorder in the hopes of finding a cure.

Types and Symptoms of Hypersomnia

There are two types of hypersomnia – primary and secondary. In the case of primary hypersomnia, the only symptom there is excessive tiredness. That is, the tiredness is not connected to any other condition.

However, secondary hypersomnia is linked with other medical conditions, such as those already mentioned.

Also, it is important to note that hypersomnia is different from narcolepsy. While narcolepsy causes people to fall asleep suddenly, people with hypersomnia are able to stay awake, albeit with difficulty. Namely, while they are awake, they still feel tired as though they need to sleep.

Basic symptoms of hypersomnia include, but are not limited to:

  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory lapse
  • Irritation
  • General slowness and sluggishness

Woman yawning at her desk

If the condition is left untreated, it can make everyday life quite difficult. Someone suffering from hypersomnia can even lose the ability to function normally. That is why it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

Is Exercise Effective in Treating Hypersomnia? 

Aside from being good for your body, exercising is also good for your mind. It’s no wonder many people swear by exercising as a panacea. It truly can do everything.

Well, maybe not everything.

But it can certainly help with a lot of things.

There has been some research that proves the link between exercising and reducing hypersomnia. However, while there is a direct link between them, there are also various other, indirect ways in which exercise can help people suffering from hypersomnia.

After all, the benefits are truly vast.

Here are some of the most common benefits of exercising:

1) Helps with Weight Management

Exercise is definitely important in preventing obesity and helping you maintain a constant weight. However, in most cases, you’re most likely to even lose weight which has the added benefit of making you feel better about your body.

Also, by keeping your weight at a constant level, exercising reduces the risk of many weight-related health issues.

Physical activity done on a regular basis actually activates your metabolism in the best way. If you want your metabolism running like a Swiss watch, well – get to running.

Or doing any type of exercise. Your body’s not too picky, it will be happy with anything you can give. Just start and continue, one day at a time.

2) Increases Dopamine Production

Well, while it can’t provide you with total, forever-kind of happiness, what exercising can do, actually, is boost your happiness levels.

Even a small amount of exercising will improve your mood and relax you. And it does all that with the help of endorphins. Also, while you’re exercising, your brain increases its dopamine production.

It makes a difference even for shorter periods of time, let alone if you do it regularly.

You can do all sorts of exercises, like cycling, running. Doing yoga is known for making people feel more at ease and calmer.

So, grab your yoga mat and devote yourself to your body!

3) Helps with Stress Management

Like constant tiredness, it seems like we’ve accepted the fact that stress is a constant in our lives. However, that is not our normal state. Our bodies rebel, and many of its parts seem to simply enter a state of chaos because of that.

Our muscles get strained, our stomachs get upset, our head starts hurting. And that’s just the light problems.

When we’re stressed, cortisol and adrenaline can go into hyper production.

And that, you guessed it, is not good.

Which is where exercise steps in.

Exercise counteracts these hormones with its own, happy hormones. And eases your body’s stress.

Simply put, there’s no better feeling than when you sweat out the day’s stress on a regular basis. Get rid of the excess of those pesky hormones and calm your body down.

Another good thing about exercise is, when you’re physically active, you’re also raising your heart rate and subjecting your body to low-levels of… well, basically, stress.

(But, the good kind!)

And, when you do that regularly, your body will become better equipped at handling other stressors that you may face.

Another good thing is to combine exercise with other things that relax you. If you like bubble baths, essential oils, incense sticks, try them out, as well, often. Enjoying the things that you love will help you deal better with stress.

Woman doing indoor exercises with dumbbells

4) Beneficial for Muscles and Bones 

As we get older, we inevitably lose muscle mass and most people start having bone problems. This, in turn, can lead to various types of disabilities and further stress.

And affect the quality of your sleep in quite a negative way.

Of course, it’s common knowledge that exercise, combined with appropriate protein intake, builds muscles. Also, regular exercise, even slight exercise, is vital to maintaining strength as we grow older.

Also, we bet you didn’t know that exercise can actually build bone density? This is incredibly important when you’re growing. However, it is practically invaluable in preventing osteoporosis when you grow old.

5) Improves General Immunity 

Exercise is known to actually help with a number of ailments.

It even helps with the common cold.

Yes, even with the common cold.

But, exercise can also help with the following chronic diseases:

  • Heart disease. Again, one of the best things you can do if you want to help your heart is to exercise. It is a well-known fact that exercise helps people with chronic heart disease. But, if you suffer from any heart-related illness, make sure to go easy. Don’t overexert yourself.  
  • Cancer. Aside from benefiting people who have had cancer by improving their quality of life, it can also lower the risk of some types of cancer – breast, uterine, lung and colon cancer.
  • Diabetes. It has been proven that physical activity can help insulin lower the sugar level in your blood more effectively.
  • Back pain. With improving muscles, regular physical activity can enhance endurance in your back, helping your chronic back pain.
  • Asthma. Regular exercise lowers the severity of asthma attacks. It can also reduce their frequency.

6) Increases Energy Levels

Research has shown that even 15-20 minutes of low intensity exercise can increase energy levels, making you feel less tired.

If someone who is unaccustomed to exercise starts even a low-level program, that increases the blood flow through their body. This causes more oxygen and nutrients to be delivered to muscle tissue, which, in turn, enhances their ability to produce energy.

Happy woman exercising in the park

That is one of the reasons exercise can help the people diagnosed with primary hypersomnia.

However, as research has shown, exercise can also prove to be counterproductive in these cases. Namely, if people who previously did not exercise at all start doing moderate or high intensity workouts, this can actually further drain their energy levels since they have not developed a good base.

Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

And another thing. This can seem like a huge paradox – but exercising also helps you sleep better. That’s right! It significantly improves the quality of your sleep, making you better-rested.

Now, don’t expect results right away.

The key word here is regular. Regular physical activity is important. However, it is up to you to make your own exercise plan. You are the only one who knows best what your body can and can’t handle.

So, if your regular consists of you hiking two-three days a week, perfect!

If it includes going to the gym four times a week, excellent!

If you’re more inclined to exercise with your family, marvelous!

Remember, everything counts and it is you who sets the pace.

So, Can Exercise Improve Hypersomnia? 

Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care have found out that exercise can, in fact, alleviate excessive daytime sleepiness, i.e. hypersomnia in patients that suffer from depression.

They identified two biological markers for hypersomnia in the blood of the test subjects. Their research actually demonstrated that regular exercise reduces levels of these biomarker proteins, which, in turn, results in reduced hypersomnia.

Previously, researchers had found that sleep, inflammation and depression interact in “a negative loop,” which simply causes the symptoms to progressively worsen. Apparently, their research has shown, exercise can reset the negative loop.

More than 100 subjects between 18 and 70, who suffered from major depression disorder, were assigned to two types of aerobic exercise, since the researchers wanted to see the effects that exercise had on depression. The research lasted for 12 weeks. They examined their blood for four biomarkers and found that reductions in two biomarkers – BDNF and IL-1β – are connected to reductions in hypersomnia.

However, while the reductions in these two biomarkers caused reductions in hypersomnia, the research did not identify any correlation between them and changes in insomnia. That means that different mechanisms are at play in insomnia and in hypersomnia.

So, basically – yes, exercise can alleviate hypersomnia symptoms in patients suffering from depression. However, further research needs to be done in this area, as many parts of the disorder are still unknown.

That said, it does seem that exercise, as with many other things, can have a positive effect on hypersomnia.

So, it doesn’t hurt to try, right?  

How much should you exercise?

Most health experts recommend at least a 20 minutes of exercise every day to maintain the well-being of your body.

It’s enough to do moderate-intensity exercise, and you’re set.

This can include brisk walks, hiking, swimming and even gardening.

But also remember that this is for people who are not that used to exercising. If you’re already a professional, you can simply slightly increase the intensity of your exercises.

You can do moderate to high level exercises such as running, aerobic dancing, even rock climbing.

Every little bit helps and every little bit is significant for the overall well-being of your body.

Happy smiling woman looking at herself in bathroom mirror

How to Boost Your Blood Circulation for Better Skin

It seems like this is common knowledge, but it definitely bears repeating – blood circulation is truly essential for your body.

Look at it this way – the body’s most ardent soldier, the heart, is fighting for your health by sending tiny, tiny blood cells to every part of your body, giving your cells oxygen and helping them to thrive.

But, did you know that great blood circulation is also beneficial to your skin? If you’re looking to improve your skin, you might want to consider boosting your blood circulation, as it will definitely benefit it!

How the Cardiovascular System Works

The cardiovascular system is essentially made up of the heart and the blood vessels that pump blood to the farthest parts of your body. There are basically two types of vessels:

  •         Arteries, which carry blood away from the heart;
  •         Veins, which bring it back.

Now, basically, the heart is a pump that gets oxygenated blood to our organs. Then, de-oxygenated blood returns to the lungs to get its refill of oxygen. This all happens through the pulmonary circulation (in which the blood is oxygenated) and the systemic circulation (in which the blood goes to the rest of the body to deliver the oxygen).Infographic on blood circulation in the body

That way, all the cells get their necessary fill of oxygen.

The Importance of Good Blood Circulation

Good blood flow is essential to our body, and any problem with it will, in some way or the other, reflect on our general health.

Circulation is pivotal in transporting nutrients to cells and transporting waste from them. That means that it is extremely important for nourishment and detoxification. It is also important for maintaining the body’s pH balance and stabilizing its temperature.

Poor circulation can cause a number of issues – swelling in extremities, numbness and tingling, cold hands and feet, cramps, fatigue, digestive issues, skin problems, and even memory loss and problems with concentration.

That is why boosting your blood circulation will not only have benefits for your skin, but for your general health, as well.

And here’s how to do it!

Start with Exercise

This should be a no-brainer, really.

Basically, in order to increase circulation, you simply need to get the “old ticker” ticking faster.

That’s where exercise steps in.

When your heart contracts at a higher rate, naturally, blood will flow faster and improve your general circulation.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should immediately hit the gym and start working strenuously on your pectorals (although that is an option, too!). Simple exercises will do.

In this day and age, it can be difficult to find the time to exercise and we tend to spend a lot of it sitting behind desks. But, that is not good for our overall health. And, as many other parts of our body, our cardiovascular system gets “lazy,” as well.

That is why any movement is – good movement.

Even walks are exceptionally valuable to getting your blood pumping, especially if that’s not something you tend to do on a regular basis. Just 20-30 minutes of brisk walks will do the trick. You don’t even have to do it every day, every other day will suffice. Walking even strengthens your heart and muscles. You can even do all sorts of exercises with your family and it will be incredibly beneficial for your circulation and, thus, your skin.

Happy young family walking in the woods

Also, another good exercise to boost your blood circulation is, in fact – yoga! Stretching, headstands and many other yoga poses, paired with deep breaths, do wonders for your blood flow! Just make sure you do it regularly and you’ll notice changes in your overall health, as well as your skin, in no time! If you choose to go outdoors to exercise, then you’ll also have the added benefit of the sun rays, that is, vitamin D, which is vital for your skin.

Some other types of exercise that can improve your blood flow and, with it, your skin, include aerobics and weight lifting. If you’re unaccustomed to exercise, start slow and work your way up! It never fails to get results!

Dry Brush

Dry brushing basically includes massaging your body with a dry, stiff-bristled brush. And there are truly many benefits to dry brushing. This is mainly done to get rid of flaky skin typical of wintertime and to increase circulation. It also unclogs pores while exfoliating and stimulates the nervous system. That way, you get the added benefit of being energized.

It is best to use a natural stiff-bristled brush with a long handle to reach your back. However, when you’re choosing your brush, make sure to choose the one that will be most adequate for your skin. Some people have more sensitive skin than others and brushing with a brush that is too stiff might cause more harm than benefit.

Brush just before you shower for best effect. After brushing, you’ll be able to wash off the dead skin cells and the flaky skin. Just make sure to use a good soap or shower gel and, remember, after showering, make sure to apply lotion.

The most common way of dry brushing is to go from your feet upwards. Use long strokes to brush from your feet towards your torso. Don’t apply too much pressure, especially not where the skin is sensitive, such as your breasts or abdomen.

In general, you want to be gentle when dry brushing, as the brush will “do its thing” mostly. If you’re too rough, you can cause irritation and even bleeding.

It goes without saying that you should never brush already damaged skin. This includes scrapes, sores, cuts, burns (and yes, even sunburnt skin should not be dry brushed). Also, if you have any areas that are inflamed or already irritated, don’t go over them with the dry brush. The same goes for your face – it’s off limits!

Indulge in Cold Showers

Yes, it may not be something you can try when it’s freezing out. However, take advantage of the warmer days that are coming soon and take as many cold showers as you can.

Cold water aids circulation because it tells your blood to go faster to maintain the average body temperature. In a way, a cold shower “shocks” your body, getting your heart to pump faster.

Another great side-effect of that is that you will also feel more energized.

And that is also the reason why many people prefer cold showers in the morning.

In addition, a cold shower tightens your cuticles and pores, which makes your skin look smoother and your hair more shiny.

Young smiling woman taking a shower and using a luffa

If you’re unaccustomed to cold water early on, go with lukewarm and work your way down, so to speak. That way you can gradually get used to the feel of cold water against your skin. You can also alternate between hot and cold showers. Simply shower with hot water for one or two minutes, and then immediately switch to cold water. Do this four or five times to flush out the skin and oxygenate it.

However, if you’re feeling too overwhelmed with such abrupt shifts in temperature, then this switching is not for you. But don’t worry, you can shower with cold water and your skin will still have incredible benefits!

Try a Face Massage

A regular massage is the best way to improve your skin. This goes especially for a face massage. It boosts blood and lymph circulation, thus enhancing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

A good face massage also relieves stress and helps with PMS symptoms, if you needed any more convincing.

When you massage your face, make sure that your movements are gentle, that they’re not too harsh, as you can irritate the skin that way, and that is the opposite of what you’re going for. Remember, gentle movements are quite sufficient to get the blood pumping for healthier skin.

Before you massage your face, do the following:

  1. Wash your hands with warm water and an antibacterial soap.
  2. It’s also a good idea to steam your face first.
  3. Then, you should cleanse your face before you start massaging.

These steps will prepare your skin for a great, almost professional massage you’re going to give yourself.

Now, there are various types of massages for your face, but your skin will benefit most from the most common massage there is. It’s easy and you can do it any time of day (or night, whenever you have time!). Here’s how:

  1. Massage your lymph area. With the tips of your fingers, massage under your ears down to your throat and up along your jawline.
  2. Using wide circular motion, massage the side of your jaw, past your mouth, and over your cheekbones. It’s good to always push skin up and out. Never push your skin down, as it can cause it to sag.
  3. Then you should massage your forehead, using both hands. Start massaging your temples and move towards the middle of your forehead.
  4. Using gentle strokes, massage around the eyes to deal with puffy eyes.

You should massage each part of your face for about a minute for the best effect.

Ionize with Clay Masks 

You may not have known this, but certain types of clay can boost your blood circulation. For instance, bentonite has negatively charged ions. When you put it on your skin, it attracts positively charged ions, like environmental pollutants and some bacteria.

That’s what makes your blood rush to the surface, causing a temporary redness of your face. But not to worry, together with all those pollutants that need to be flushed out, it also causes a rush of endorphins.

Woman applying clay mask on skin

That is why you should definitely indulge in a clay mask from time to time. It’s easy to use, and the benefits are really multiple!

Try LED Therapy

LED light therapy was initially invented to accelerate the healing of wounds and scars after surgery. However, as in most things in life, there was another, quite lucky coincidence – the rejuvenation of healthy skin.

When the light energy is the appropriate wavelength, cells convert it into ATP, i.e. the fuel cells in the dermis layer use to do their job. These are called the fibroblast cells and their job is to produce collagen and elastin.

And collagen and elastin are the two greatest things for skin in the entire universe.

Collagen gives the skin its fullness, while elastin is in charge of, you’ve guessed it, the elasticity of the skin.

With the help of the LED light therapy, the fibroblast cells “work overtime” and the main result here is – rejuvenated skin.

According to experts that deal in LED light therapy, it doesn’t have any contra-indications. It can be used with all skin types and conditions, and, it’s even safe for your eyes.

Also, because it was initially discovered in order to treat wounds, one of its main uses is increasing circulation. That is, it increases the body’s healing processes, which later, you’ve guessed it, improves the health of your skin!

Check Your Diet

If this proverb were really true, most of us would likely be giant slices of pizza running around our pizza towns, going about our pizza life.

But, thankfully, the proverb is simply meant to point to the fact that our dietary choices are actually incredibly important for our overall health.

And, you may not have thought about this, but what we eat is vital for our blood circulation.

For instance, trans fats and processed sugar are, you might have guessed it, truly awful when it comes to blood flow. And, another thing you can reduce if you don’t want your circulation to suffer is salt.

However, the following foods are super healthy for blood flow and you should eat them on a regular basis:

Whole garlic and garlic cloves on a wooden chopping board

  1. Onion and garlic. We figured we should put the best news first, as it’s a well-known fact that these two friends are the soul of every dish.
  2. Citrus fruits. As you may know, citrus fruits are full of antioxidants and they reduce stiffness in the arteries, thus improving circulation.
  3. Leafy greens. They dilate blood vessels, which allows your blood to flow more easily.
  4. Various types of spices. This includes cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, etc.
  5. Tomatoes. They act similarly as leafy greens, as they open up your blood vessels.

These foods are also great for your overall immune system, so you might benefit from eating them in numerous ways.

Woman looking stressed and bored at work

6 Easy Focus Shifters for a Healthier Mind

There are times when you’re faced with a problem or a period in your life that you cannot deal with. When your mind feels like it’s stuck in a bog, and there’s no way out

That’s why it is very important to know when to press pause. To stop. To refocus.

And how are you to do that?

Well, by shifting your focus.

When you shift your focus, you are able to postpone thinking about the problem that causes you stress. As a direct result your stress levels decrease, helping you cope with the hurdles on your path. When you have done that, when you’ve managed to relax, that’s when you’re capable of dealing with the practical side of things. 

So, here are some ways of shifting your focus that will help you in the long run.

Take A Creative Break

Did you know that stepping back for a while can actually increase your chances of finding the answer to your problem? 

As the old saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest from the tree. It’s blocking your view and your path to the solution. It’s stopping you mentally, as well as physically.

So take a break from the issue you’re currently having and engage your mind in a different way.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas:

  • Organize the bookcase that you haven’t come round to
  • Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom 
  • Take a nap. Research shows that taking a nap is a foolproof way of rebooting your brain
  • Solve a different kind problem, like a crossword puzzle or Sudoku

Many people would call this the art of procrastination, but people neglect how it can be useful, as well. While you’re letting your brain gallivant across unimportant things (except the sitcom! That is incredibly important!), you’re actually allowing it to rest.

The point is to do something mind-engaging that you enjoy. To restart your brain while you have fun. To drag it out of the bog long enough to see that the sun is shining and the bog is not the place for it.

Make A Phone Call 

This is a super easy way to shift your attention to something else. It’s quick and immediately effective. In fact, people do it all the time. But instead of calling your friends and loved ones every once in a while to catch up, why not send them a text whenever you need a break?

Not only will this help you re-focus your attention, but it will also have the added benefit of keeping your friends and loved ones regularly in your life.

Middle-age woman working on her computer in a cafe

Are you unsure of what to say in your text or call?

It doesn’t have to be anything long or specific. Just ask them about their day, how their work is going, and have they seen that last episode of Game of Thrones?

Sure winner, really.

Help Someone Else

Sometimes it’s necessary to get out of our own heads and into helping someone else. Not only does this engage our attention in a completely different direction, but it also gives us some perspective. As it turns out, we’re not the only people with problems after all.

So how should you go about helping someone else?

It can be as easy as turning to your co-worker and ask if they need any help. If you’re aware of the projects they’re working on, offer some ideas or suggestions. You can also offer to make them a cup of coffee, or pack some lunch on your way out.

If you don’t feel like reaching out to a co-worker, why not think about those in your immediate social circle? Is your husband trying to find a gluten-free cookie brand that he doesn’t hate? Try researching some reviews online to see what other options are available. Is your best friend looking for a good book to read? Make a list of five different books you think she’ll enjoy, and send the list to her. She’ll appreciate it!

List the Positives

Negativity has a huge impact on our lives. And yes, some people are naturally more prone to think negatively.

It’s a glass-half-empty type of thing.

But in order to shift your focus, you have to shift the driving force of your thoughts.

Out with the negativity, in with the positivity!

While you’re looking at a problem or, even, your life, on a grand scale, stop and focus on the positive things. 

What are the positive things? Well, start by thinking about what good this particular problem can bring in the future, what you will have learnt and what you’re yet to learn. 

If that fails, there are other foolproof ways of shifting your focus to more optimistic dimensions. Consider focusing on these:

  • Your strengths – is it your sensitivity? your social skills? or maybe it’s your ambitious approach in new projects?
  • Your achievements – this may be closing a sales account sooner than expected, reaching your own financial savings goals, or just finishing three different chores on Sunday
  • The things you love – your dog, your sister, your husband, your kids and the thick forest near your home are all fodder for optimistic thought
  • Your environment – the technology you’re using, the bird outside, the change of seasons

Young woman writing in a scheduler, with her laptop and phone, in a cafe

Optimism can aid you significantly, as you will learn. It will lead to greater success, better overall health and, of course, decrease your stress levels.

By focusing on positive thoughts, you can actually live longerIf that’s not a good enough reason to switch to positivity, well, we don’t know what is.

Get Out and Exercise

Not to get all Latin on you, but ancient Romans did know a thing or two about life. Well, we can only imagine, since so many proverbs remain. And there is one particular wisdom that is incredibly useful when trying to shift focus.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

See? Even the ancient Romans knew that a healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind, its support and enabler. And just like a house is wobbly without a proper foundation, your mind will also suffer without a healthy body.

And one way to change that is to exercise.

Exercising on a regular basis has so many benefits that it is difficult to list them all. And not just when it comes to the physical part.

It is known to reduce stress, to alleviate anxiety symptoms, and even aid with depression. When your body changes and becomes something you consider good, that will also lead to increased self-esteem that can pour into other spheres of life. Truly, the effects of exercising are gargantuan in the long run.

But, did you know that it can also help you at the precise moment you need it?

Let’s go back to the beginning. We mentioned some menial tasks, or even some harder ones, used to relax and shift your focus. Well, exercise can do that, as well. Only here, you also have the added benefit of endorphins making you feel good.

Infographic on endorphins

Once you’re faced with an overwhelming task or an overwhelming period in your life, one of the ways you can shift your focus is to exercise. It doesn’t have to be for too long. You don’t have to slave away at the gym, building muscles. You simply need to dedicate some time to your body.

And your body will show that it’s grateful by providing your mind with solutions and changed perspectives and, simply, contentedness.

Two things come to the fore when you exercise to shift your focus:

  • You step away from the situation, which is, as it has been established, a good thing.
  • You are improving both the state of your body and your mind.

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck, the best idea might be to go for a run or to the gym. Just for a little while, just for a little respite for your mind. Once you return to the problem, your mind will be rested and your body delightfully relaxed.

Act Like It’s Thanksgiving Every Day

No matter what you may think, this is not a utopian idea. And no, it does not include inviting all of your family around to feast every day. Although, that does sound like a nice idea.

In a matter of speaking, Thanksgiving Day is beneficial because it reminds us that we have something to be grateful for. It reminds us to give thanks for having those things. And that is not something we do often.

So, teach yourself to be grateful.

Turning every day into Thanksgiving Day means reminding yourself that life, in all its complexities, is actually an amalgam of many things. Yes, there will be times when there are more bad things. But, there will also be times when you will feel like jumping from joy.

Employ this technique when faced with a hurdle. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, remind yourself that this is just another moment in a sea of moments of varying quality. You’re swimming through a bad one right now, but the good one is just around the corner.

Happy smiling woman looking grateful, with her hands clasped together

Being thankful doesn’t have much to do with anything momentous. It can include something incredibly small, but big to you. You may be grateful that your kid said their first word. You may be grateful that you have a supportive family that helps you achieve your dreams. Or, also, you may be grateful simply because the bus came on time today.

If you want, you can do this on a regular basis. Pick three things that you are grateful for each day and, soon enough, you will see the difference.

Giving thanks gives way to smiles, which gives way to a happier you. And a happier you will be more adept at solving whatever hurdle life has presented before you.

So, change your focus. Clear your goggles.

See the reality of life and its astonishing nature. And that will surely lead to a healthy mind.

Woman feels sick while eating lunch

What’s the Difference Between Wheat and Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten-free and wheat-free diets have become increasingly popular lately, and it is estimated that around 15% of the population is actually intolerant to gluten.

Why have these dietary requirements become so prevalent all of a sudden?

For a number of reasons, such as:

  • Better awareness and diagnostics mean that doctors are recognizing these dietary requirements more
  • Modern varieties of wheat are completely different from the varieties that our ancestors used to grow
  • People are now consuming more and more wheat-based products, many of which haven’t been prepared in a healthy way

So, is a gluten-intolerance and a wheat-intolerance the same thing?

Definitely not. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there are some big differences between the two…

What Exactly Are Gluten and Wheat?

Let’s begin by going back to basics and taking a closer look at what gluten and wheat actually are…

Wheat is a cereal grain that is milled into a flour and then used to make a variety of different foods, such as:

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Cakes
  • Snack foods
  • Sauces

Gluten is a composite protein within the wheat, but can also be found in barley and rye.

Therefore, while all foods that contain wheat also contain gluten, gluten can come from sources other than wheat too.

Infographic on the content of gluten in different foods

What is a Wheat Intolerance?

A wheat intolerance, which is also referred to as a wheat sensitivity, refers to the body creating an inflammatory response when it comes across the proteins (including gluten) contained in wheat.

Symptoms don’t necessarily manifest immediately after the wheat has been eaten…

It can sometimes take up to 72 hours for symptoms to arise, and this can be diagnosing a wheat intolerance slightly tricky.

Wondering what the symptoms of a wheat intolerance are?

They vary between individuals, but often include:

  • Digestive problems – such as bloating, stomach pains or IBS
  • Skin problems – such as acne, eczema and rashes 
  • Neurological problems – such as migraines and headaches
  • Fatigue – a noticeable lethargy and lack of energy
  • Psychological problems – such as depression and anxiety

Is Wheat Intolerance the Same As Wheat Allergy?

A wheat intolerance is an inflammatory response, while a wheat allergy is a real allergy.

If you have a wheat allergy, you will likely experience the symptoms of this either immediately after consuming wheat, or just a few hours after.

Symptoms include:

  • Skin irritations
  • A blocked nose
  • Watering eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylactic shock

As you can see, the symptoms range from quite mild to life-threatening

Fortunately, true wheat allergies are extremely rare. They are most commonly found in children, but most kids grow out of this once they reach the age of five. In some cases, the allergy does continue on into adulthood.

Wondering if wheat allergies are triggered by the gluten within wheat?

They can be, but there are around 30 other potential allergens within wheat too. This means that a wheat allergy could be caused by any of these.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Many people think that a gluten intolerance is the same as an allergy, but this isn’t the case…

While a gluten intolerance is a physical condition, it takes place in the gut.

What causes it?

Sometimes gluten isn’t digested properly, meaning that undigested proteins enter into the intestines.

This triggers your body into treating them just like a foreign invader. This results in an irritated gut lining, as well as flattened microvilli.

What are microvilli?

They are compounds that increase the surface area of each cell, enabling them to better absorb nutrients. When these end up flattened against the wall of your intestines, your body becomes unable to properly absorb the nutrients within the food that you eat.

Symptoms of a gluten intolerance include:

A gluten intolerance is often referred to as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).

What About Gluten Allergies?

Have you heard people mention gluten allergies before?

Well, let’s get one thing straight…

There’s no such thing as a gluten allergy. It is definitely not an official medical condition.

Instead, people sometimes use the phrase gluten allergy to refer to a gluten intolerance, or even to Celiac disease.

Where Does Celiac Disease Come Into All of This?

Just like a wheat allergy, Celiac disease is an official medical condition.

What exactly is it?

It is an autoimmune disorder that arises when a person who suffers from the condition eats wheat. Their body basically creates an immune response that causes it to attack its small intestines, which then damage the microvilli that line the gut.

As you know, the microvilli are essential for the body to properly absorb nutrients, meaning that those with undiagnosed Celiac disease could potentially suffer from some serious health problems in the long run.

Infographic on celiac disease

Wondering how common Celiac disease is?

It is believed that Celiac disease affects about one in every one hundred people worldwide. However, one in eight of these people do not realize that they have it, or have not been officially diagnosed, which would be extremely problematic for them in the future.

What causes Celiac disease?

It’s hereditary, meaning that it would be in your genes and there’s not really much you can do about that.

Is there a cure?

Unfortunately not, at least not yet.

The main treatment for the disease is a gluten-free diet, which will be discussed more further down.

Diagnosing Wheat and Gluten Intolerances

As you can see, the differences between all of the intolerances and allergies mentioned above can be a little confusing.

Think you may be suffering from one?

The best way to find out for sure is by seeing your doctor, so that proper diagnostic tests can be run.

Wondering how these conditions are actually tested for?

It depends on your systems, but it usually goes as follows:

  • Diagnosing Celiac disease – this is usually the first step when dealing with any of the symptoms mentioned earlier. This involves a blood screening, as well as a biopsy of the small intestine. Your doctor will also likely want to see whether your symptoms reduce or disappear if you follow a gluten-free diet for a while
  • Diagnosing a wheat allergy – this is carried out in the same way that other food allergies are diagnosed, with a skin prick test or RAST. You may also need to undergo blind pacebo tests that make use of wheat
  • Diagnosing a gluten intolerance/ NCGS – Celiac disease and a wheat allergy, along with other disorders that could be causing your symptoms, would first be ruled out. You would then likely need to try following a gluten-free diet for a while to see if this helps. If it does, then this may be enough to diagnose you with a gluten intolerance 

All three of these conditions are medically recognized. However, there isn’t a cure, meaning that this is where gluten-free and wheat-free diets come in…

Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Diets

With the only way to treat the above conditions being a specialized diet, and with all of the above conditions on the rise, it comes as no surprise that both gluten-free and wheat-free diets have become so prevalent.

A wheat-free diet does not contain any wheat, but can still contain rye and barley.

On the other hand, a gluten-free diet does not contain wheat, rye, barley, or anything else that contains gluten.

Does that mean that a person who requires a wheat-free diet could safely eat a gluten-free diet?

Not necessarily…

As mentioned earlier, there are around 30 potential allergens that have been identified in wheat, and gluten is only one of these. All of those other wheat-based compounds could still be used to create certain gluten-free foods, so long as the gluten itself is not used.

It works the other way too – a person requiring a gluten-free diet wouldn’t be safe eating a wheat-free diet. Those diets may still contain rye and barley, or even just the gluten from them, and this would trigger a reaction.

Don’t suffer from a wheat or gluten intolerance or allergy, but want to know whether you can still eat a gluten-free or wheat-free diet?

With these diets becoming quite trendy, so many people believe that they are the healthy way to go. They end up following a gluten-free diet, even though they don’t necessarily need to.

Although this isn’t necessarily dangerous, there are a few reasons as to why you may want to think twice about this:

  • Whole wheat is a great source of dietary fiber, and the average American is already deficient in fiber. Yes, it’s possible to get this fiber from other sources, but you would need to put more effort into this
  • Many bread and cereal products are fortified with important vitamins that are difficult to get elsewhere, such as the B vitamins. However, gluten-free and wheat-free products don’t tend to be fortified with these, meaning that you may need to turn to a dietary supplement
  • Truly being gluten-free can be extremely difficult. Gluten is found in so many foods, from flavorings to vitamins to soy sauce, and even in toothpaste and certain medications. You may have to make quite a few lifestyle choices to go down this route
  • Even though these diets are not necessarily any better for you, they will still likely end up costing quite a bit more than your regular diet

If you are just trying to eat in a healthier way, there are plenty of other ways in which you could do this so much better than following a gluten-free or wheat-free diet. 

Ancient Wheat Varieties

Fresh loaf of bread on chopping board

Many experts believe that wheat itself isn’t the problem when it comes to the health conditions mentioned above.

Wheat has been feeding humans for more than 10,000 years, so something must have changed!

Well, there could be some logic behind this thinking…

The wheat varieties grown today are so different from the varieties of wheat that our ancestors used to grow. Ancient wheat is genetically different and has less chromosomes, and this makes it easier for the human body to digest. Ancient varieties have also been found to cause a lower immune reaction than today’s wheat.

While those with Celiac disease would still need to avoid these ancient wheat varieties, those with a gluten intolerance may potentially be able to slowly introduce these varieties into their diet.

Even if you don’t suffer from a gluten or wheat intolerance, ancient wheat varieties could still benefit you, as they have been proven to be far more nutritious. They contain higher levels of minerals, including selenium, zinc and copper, than modern wheat, making it no surprise that so many people now suffer from deficiencies in those minerals. 

Why have the wheat varieties grown by humans changed so much over the years?

It happened quite recently, in the 60’s, with today’s wheat mostly being a form of dwarf wheat. This wheat is basically a cash crop when it comes to the high yields they provide, and this is something that ancient wheat has a hard time competing with.

Can’t find any breads available that have been made from ancient grains?

You can always buy the grains yourself, and then make your own bread.

Key grains to keep an eye out for include:

  • Einkorn – one of the oldest of wheat varieties with the simplest genetic structure
  • Emmer – also known as farro, emmer can be harder to find
  • Spelt – can also sometimes be referred to as farro, and is quite similar to wheat in terms of flavor and gluten content
  • Kamut – originated in Egypt, kamut is quite low in gluten, and has a beautiful buttery flavor 

With gluten and wheat intolerances becoming so much more common, it is always useful to understand the differences between these conditions. If you think you may be suffering from any of their symptoms, it would definitely be worthwhile to pay a visit to your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed.

Focused woman writing in journal, on sofa at home

How Journalling Improves Your Mental Health

While many people keep a diary in their teenage years, this is a habit that so many tend to lose as they progress into adulthood. Although this may be a habit that you have never thought twice about since, journalling can really make a huge difference to your mental health. 

What is Journalling?

Journalling has been going on since ancient times, with the first known journals dating back to Japan in the 10th century. 

To put it simply…

Journalling is the practice of recording your thoughts, emotions and reactions to different events and situations. It differs slightly to keeping a diary, in the sense that a diary is more of a record of daily occurrences, whereas a journal is more about reflecting on life in order to gain some clarity. 

The advantages of journalling have been recognized by many famous faces over the years, with everyone from Oscar Wilde to US presidents choosing to keep a journal. 

In the past couple of years, social media has brought journalling back into the spotlight. Everything from bullet journals and gratitude journals to digital journals and journalling apps (all of which will be discussed in more detail further on) are becoming more popular, but why exactly is this? 

The Mental Health Benefits of Journalling

When you take a look at all of the many mental health benefits that journalling can bring, it is easy to see why this practice is now becoming increasingly popular. 

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are two mental health conditions that can really take their toll on a person’s overall health. 

Chronic stress, along with the anxiety that this causes, can lead to: 

  • High blood sugar and blood pressure 
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart attacks 
  • Depression 
  • A weak immune system 
  • Sleep deprivation 
  • Digestive issues 
  • Fertility problems

People are constantly looking for ways in which they can manage their stress and anxiety levels, and journalling is a great place to start. 

How does journalling help with stress and anxiety?

Well, research has found that journalling enables people to release their worries and anxieties from their mind, rather than suppressing them or dwelling on them.

Not only does this reduce stress and anxiety, but it also frees up the mind and allows it to properly focus on the task at hand. 

Contemplative woman writing in a journal

This works for dealing with your thoughts and feelings about stressful events that have happened in the past, as well as for stressful situations that are coming up in the future. 

It is also a great way to help you to avoid particular stress triggers in the future. 

How? 

By writing them down, you will be able to better identify exactly what it is that is causing your stress, meaning that you can then take steps in the future to avoid those triggers. 

Reduces the Symptoms of Depression

Around 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lives, making this a very prevalent illness that needs to be dealt with as early on as possible. 

Wondering how journalling helps a person to deal with depression? 

In a number of ways, such as: 

  • Perspective and control – getting your thoughts on to paper is a great way to look at a situation from a different perspective. It is also quite empowering, and due to the way in which it will make your problems seem more manageable, you will then feel as though you have a better sense of control over your life 
  • Increases awareness – you may not realize at first what it is that is making you feel depressed, but journalling can help you to identify this, bringing subconscious thoughts and feelings to the surface. This then makes it easier to deal with your triggers 
  • Tracking depression triggers – if you take note of your symptoms each and every day in your journal, it won’t be long before you begin to notice a pattern in the triggers that exacerbate your depression symptoms. This then makes it easier to avoid them in the future and keep your symptoms at a low 
  • Gratitude – regularly reminding yourself of the things you are grateful for you in your life can help to keep depressive symptoms at bay

There have been a number of studies carried out on the connection between journalling and depression. 

What did they discover? 

That those who were suffering from depressive disorders experienced a significant decline in their symptoms after journalling for just a few days, with these effects continuing on for the four weeks in which the participants were required to keep a journal.

Improves Memory

As mentioned above, journalling is such an effective way to reduce stress and clear your mind of all of the negative thoughts and emotions that are running through it. 

How is this linked to your memory?

Because freeing your mind of all of that negative clutter enables your working memory to function much better. It means that your brain does not have to use its cognitive energy focusing on stress or worries, and can instead use this to create memories. 

The fact that writing your experiences down on paper also helps to improve the way in which your memory retention works is an added bonus! 

Combats Sleep Deprivation

The quality of your sleep and the state of your mental health are so closely related. 

Sleep deprivation not only has a negative effect on your mental health, but mental health issues can also lead to sleep deprivation, resulting in quite the vicious cycle.

How does journalling help with this? 

Research shows that those who spend just five minutes before bed journalling are able to relax and fall asleep much faster than those who do not.

Happy woman smiling and sleeping in bed

Think this sounds like an easy way to tackle your sleep deprivation? 

There’s one thing that you need to know if you want to use journalling to help with this…

Rather than journalling about what went on during the day, the improvements in your sleep patterns will only really come about if you journal about tasks that you still need to accomplish. In other words, writing a to-do list for the next day will bring about better results than writing about tasks you have already completed. 

Why? 

Because all of your to-do tasks are the ones that will keep your brain active in the evenings. Writing these down, and therefore offloading them, will then put your mind at ease, enabling your brain and body to fall asleep so much easier. 

The Different Methods of Journalling

Ready to give journalling a try? 

As mentioned earlier, there are now so many different ways in which you can do this, whether you prefer to go old school with pen and paper, or opt for something more high-tech and digital. 

It goes without saying that a blank notebook and a pen is all you really need to start journalling. 

However, if you need some extra help getting started, then you may want to look into some of the other journal types out there that provide all of the inspiration you need to really get your thoughts on paper. 

There are many journals out there that already contain journalling prompts, and these can sometimes make it easier to get started in terms of actually writing something down. 

Want something more high tech than pen and paper? 

There are several digital journalling tools and apps out there to choose from. 

Here are a few of the most popular: 

  • Ohlife – this free service will send you an email each day, asking how your day went. All you need to do is hit the reply button and type out a reply, which can be as short or long as you want. Send your email and then log on to your account to see all of your past replies 
  • Grid Diary – this program will send you eight question prompts a day, laying out your answers in an easy-to-view grid-like format 
  • Five Minute Journal – this app will send you timed prompts, asking you to list different things, whether this may be three things that you are appreciative of or five things that happened that day. This app was developed around psychology research, and is a great one for reflection 
  • Day One – offers a wide variety of features, from being able to add metadata and music information to the way in which you can customize it to send multiple prompts at certain times of each day 
  • Momento – Momento not only gives you the opportunity to jot down your thoughts and memories, but it also draws together all of the information you have posted each day on each of your social networks

What Should You Write About?

If you go for a journal or app that offers up writing prompts each day, then this makes it easy to know exactly what you should be writing about. 

However, going with just a blank notebook and a pen, or even a blank page on your computer, can sometimes leave you with writer’s block. 

So, how do you decide what to actually write about? 

Well, as mentioned earlier, if you want to use journalling as a way to help improve your sleep, then try to jot down a quick to-do list of your upcoming tasks the next day. 

However, in order to gain all of the other mental health benefits mentioned above, you need to delve a little deeper when journalling…

Here are some ideas of what to write about: 

  • Your accomplishments, no matter how small these may seem 
  • Five things that you are grateful for 
  • A recollection of the events that occurred that day 
  • Reflections, meaning sentences that begin with “I want”, “I think” and “I feel”
  • How things are going at work and in your personal life 
  • A bucket list 

Don’t worry about your spelling, grammar or punctuation when journalling. You need to be able to write freely from your mind, without having to worry about any of those things. 

If you don’t really enjoy writing, a bullet journal may be a better option for you. 

What is a bullet journal? 

If you do an online search for this, you are likely to feel a little overwhelmed. So, to put it simply, a bullet journal is basically just like a normal journal, except that you write things down in bullet points and lists rather than sentences and paragraphs.

This is referred to as rapid logging, and you would make use of different symbols to categorize your notes. 

Writing in a journal

It may seem complicated, but this method of journalling can actually be extremely helpful when it comes to improving your mental health. 

Making Journalling a Habit

Many people make the decision to start journalling, and go out and buy themselves an inspiring new notebook or journal, as well as some new pens, to get them started. 

While it may go well for the first day or so, turning journalling into an actual habit can be tricky. 

One of the best ways to do this is by keeping your journal near your bed. Set aside just five minutes each night before you go to bed for journalling. Doing this first thing in the morning can also be a great way to start your day. 

Alternatively, if you would like to let loose and freely write for longer, set aside 20 minutes of journalling time three times a week. If you consciously set days and times for journalling, this will make it much easier to incorporate the habit into your existing lifestyle. 

Keep doing this for a while and it won’t be long before journalling becomes a natural habit! 

As you can see, not only can journalling be so useful when it comes to improving your mental health, but it is also such a fun and creative practice to make use of. Even if you think that journalling may not be for you, give it a try for a week or two, as you will likely witness its benefits for yourself by then.  

Makeup artist applying blush on beautiful woman's cheek

Is Your Makeup Affecting Your Skin?

Do you wear makeup on a regular basis? 

If so, have you ever stopped to think about the effect that your makeup could be having on your skin? 

While makeup in general, when used correctly, does not really cause any severe skin issues, it can still affect your skin in a number of ways, and this is something well worth knowing more about. 

Allergic Reactions

One of the most common problems that people have with makeup products is that they can often lead to allergic reactions. 

When it comes to these reactions caused by makeup, they can usually be categorized into one of the following: 

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis – this is when you experience an itching or burning sensation, and tends to only affect the outer layer of the skin 
  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis – this is a deeper and “truer” allergic reaction, resulting in the allergens triggering an immune response from deep within your skin. This usually shows up as swelling, itching, or even as blisters 

Think you’re safe because you haven’t yet experienced an allergic reaction to any of the makeup products you use? 

Think again…

Both forms of contact dermatitis can arise after years of using the same product. The reactions can be caused by repeated exposure, so you can never be certain that you will not experience a form of contact dermatitis from your makeup.

What should you do if you ever experience an allergic reaction from your makeup? 

Immediately stop using the product, and look for a cream or treatment that contains plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients. A cool compress held against the affected area can also help, but, if your reaction is quite severe, you may need to visit a doctor for some medication. 

You are probably wondering…

Is there any way to prevent these allergic reactions from occurring in the first place? 

Unfortunately, there are so many common allergens often used in makeup products, and this makes prevention quite challenging. 

However, avoiding as many of those allergens as you can can definitely make a difference, especially for those who are prone to allergic reactions. 

Toxic Ingredients

As mentioned above, many makeup products contain allergens and other toxic ingredients that are definitely no good for your skin. Not only can they lead to poor skin health, but they can also have more serious repercussions for your overall health too. 

The list of these ingredients can seem almost endless, but here are a few of the most common ones to avoid: 

  • Parabens – this group of preservatives has earned itself quite a bad rep lately, and for good reason too. Parabens interfere with the way in which your natural hormones function, affecting everything from reproduction to the immune system to the growth of cancer cells 
  • Butylated Compounds – often referred to as BHT or BHA, these ingredients are preservatives that are found in a wide range of makeup products. Not only do they cause skin allergies, but they also mimic estrogen in the body, disrupting hormonal functions while promoting the growth of cancerous tumors 
  • Lead – the use of lead in many different products, such as paint, has been banned, due to the fact that it has been proven to be a harmful neurotoxin. However, many makeup color additives have been contaminated with lead, which can cause havoc to your skin and health. Try using products that have been produced in small batches, and make use of natural color pigments, instead, as this helps to minimize the chance of coming across lead contamination 
  • Fragrance – since cosmetic brands claim that their fragrance formulas are trade secrets, they are not required to disclose the ingredients used to create each fragrance. This means that there are usually hundreds of different chemicals hidden under this label, and these are some of the most common causes of skin reactions

When purchasing a new makeup product, be sure to check the ingredients list to ensure that none of the common allergens mentioned above have been used. 

Acne Cosmetica

If you have noticed an increase in breakouts whenever you wear makeup

This could mean that you are suffering from acne cosmetica. 

Never heard of this condition before? 

It is actually an extremely common type of acne, and is caused when cosmetic products build up inside hair follicles. This leads to clogged pores, resulting in a breakout.

Infographic on clogged pores

How do you know which of your makeup products is causing your acne cosmetica? 

Well, take a look at where your breakouts tend to occur. If they tend to accumulate around the eyes, then the culprit is likely to be one of your eye makeup products. On the other hand, if they are spread quite evenly across your face, take a closer look at your foundation. 

Once you know which product it is that is causing your breakouts, you can stop using it. 

Wondering why these cosmetic products cause acne in the first place? 

It is usually down to the oils that have been used within the product’s formula. 

One way to avoid purchasing makeup products that could potentially lead to breakouts is…

By looking for products that have been labelled as non-comedogenic. This means that their ingredient will not clog up your pores. 

Common pore-clogging ingredients that are often used in makeup products include: 

  • Cocoa butter 
  • Grapeseed oil 
  • Coal tar 
  • Coconut oil 
  • Lanolic acid 
  • Linseed oil 
  • D & C red dyes

Another tip would be to make sure that the skin care products you use are also water-based, rather than oil-based. Adding excess oils to your skin before applying your makeup will only exacerbate the problem. 

Bacterial Infections

Many people don’t realize that the use of makeup can sometimes lead to bacterial infections on the skin. 

How? 

In a couple of ways…

Firstly, cosmetic companies are not required to display expiration dates on their products, although a few still do. While this may be the case, it can be difficult to ascertain when a makeup product has expired, especially when it still seems to be working after a couple of years. 

However, even though it may seem as though that forgotten-about product is still doing its job, what you won’t be able to see is all of the bacteria that is now living in that product. 

To avoid unnecessarily infecting your face with bacteria, follow these guidelines when it comes to throwing out expired makeup products: 

  • Liquid Foundation – 2 years 
  • Powder – 2 years
  • Blush – 2 years 
  • Lipstick – 1 year 
  • Eyeliner – 1 year 
  • Eyeshadow  Powders – 2 years 
  • Concealer – 2 years 
  • Eyebrow Pencils – 1 year 
  • Lip Liners – 1 year 
  • Mascara – 6 months

Of course, those shelf life guidelines will be even shorter if you don’t store your makeup products correctly…

Make sure that you tightly screw on any caps and lids once you are done using them, to prevent the products from drying out and to also prevent the ingredients from oxidizing. Keep your products away from extreme temperatures too, as this will only have an effect on their consistency. 

Don’t forget, the tools that you use to apply your makeup, from brushes to sponges, can carry bacteria too. These need to be regularly cleaned in order to prevent bacterial skin infections. 

How often should you be cleaning them? 

Ideally, give them a quick clean after each use, and then a deeper clean every couple of weeks, or at least once a month. Brush cleaners are available for this, or you can simply use some warm water and a gentle soap. 

Accelerated Skin Aging

While makeup itself does not cause accelerated skin aging, failing to remove it before you go to bed at night definitely does. 

How are the two connected?

Well, each and every day, your body produces thousands of free radicals. These are basically unstable molecules within the body that go around attacking healthy cells, and this includes your skin cells.

Free radicals are created by exposing the body to so many different environmental factors, from the sun’s UV rays to pollution, making them pretty much impossible to avoid. 

What does this have to do with your makeup? 

Well, your makeup actually holds on to free radicals. When you remove your makeup at night, you are clearing away those free radicals along with it. However, failing to remove your makeup means that the free radicals end up causing even more damage than usual to your skin. 

Leaving your makeup on at night can lead to: 

  • A breakdown in the collagen and elastin in your skin 
  • An increase in fine lines and wrinkles 
  • A rough skin texture 
  • Skin dullness 

Of course, leaving your makeup on at night also means that there is more chance of your pores becoming clogged, resulting in breakouts. 

When it comes to removing your makeup…

A simple swipe of a cleansing wipe simply will not do. 

Although these wipes may be super convenient, they only end up smearing your makeup across your face, along with the dirt, oil and dead skin cells that were also on your skin. 

While a cleansing wipe is better than nothing on those evenings when you are just too exhausted to properly cleanse your face, you would be far better off with a proper cleanser for all of the other nights.

When using a proper cleanser, make sure that you massage this into dry skin, rather than damp. 

Why? 

Because damp skin means that the water that is already on your skin will end up diluting the cleanser, meaning that it will not do as good a job of removing every single makeup particle. Instead, massage it into dry skin for about 30 seconds, before adding a bit of warm water and continuing to massage for another 30 seconds or so. 

After that, rinse the cleanser off and follow up with the rest of your skin care routine. Make sure to never leave your skin bare after cleansing, as it is quite vulnerable at this time and will be prone to dryness and sensitivities. 

Young woman washing her face at the sink

One more thing to keep in mind when removing your makeup…

Make sure that you are extremely gentle when handling your skin. It may be tempting to tug at parts of your skin, such as your eyes when removing mascara, but avoid doing this. The skin on your face is so thin and delicate, and any extra tugging and tension will only lead to an increase in facial sagging and fine lines. This is especially the case when dealing with the fragile skin around the eyes. 

Dry Skin

Not only can certain makeup products exacerbate dry skin, but they can sometimes even cause this in the first place. 

How? 

Well, if you have dry skin, then this means that your skin has a lack of natural oils. These help to prevent moisture from evaporating out of the skin. 

Certain makeup products, such as powders, actually absorb the oils on your skin. If you already have a lack of these oils, then losing the little that you do have means that you will quickly experience the symptoms of dryness. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of hydrating powdered makeup formulas available now. You could also try applying a moisturizer onto your skin and then waiting for a few minutes before applying the powder over the top of that. Not only will this keep your skin more hydrated, but it will also give your makeup a fresher and dewier finish. 

In general, creamy makeup formulas tend to be better than powders for those who have dry skin. The creams will be so much more moisturizing and nourishing, and there is little chance that they will cause your skin to dry out. 

For most people out there, wearing makeup will not really cause any skin problems. However, it is always good to be aware of the potential side effects, so that you can recognize the symptoms and deal with them as soon as they start to appear. 

Smiling woman looking at herself in the mirror

8 Signs You’re Not Cleansing Your Skin Properly

With how busy life gets and the number of tasks and responsibilities that keep piling up, it is easy to neglect skin care habits that take some of our time.

There are days where we don’t have the energy to go through even a 5 step cleansing routine and go straight to bed. You probably experience a phase wherein some days you would forget to take off your makeup because you were super exhausted from work and the morning after your skin will feel sticky and greasy. Gross right? As a college student or a working adult, you can definitely relate. 

However,  you will realize the time that costs you a few minutes every morning and every night are an investment making your skin retain its youth. Doing otherwise may sentence you to suffer some consequences such as these: 

1.    Breaking Out

Although acne is a skin condition that both the rich and poor experiences, there is an underlying stigma making people who have it feel insecure and uncomfortable with their looks. Though somehow, having the hormonal misfortune of triggering acne is inevitable, there are some preventive and remedial measures we can take. 

What Happens to Your Skin?

Before going into detail on how to cure and prevent acne, it is best to learn about this skin condition for us to have a better picture. 

The cause of acne is very simple. The pores are like the vents that help our skin to breathe. It helps our skin by disposing some of our bodies’ excess in the form of oil. Pimples then are formed when oil gets clogged in our pores. 

Furthermore, these residues clogged in the pores may be infected by airborne bacteria brought by exposure to external agents such as dust. The bacteria that infects pimples and triggers acne is called Propionibacterium acnes. 

Infographic on clogged pores

Causes of Acne

One prevalent cause of acne is a hormonal imbalance. The main factors that come into play are the hormones known as androgen in adolescents and estrogen in adults. As the level of androgen rises, oil glands under the skin grow. Enlarged oil glands produce more sebum. Excessive sebum causes clogged pores and bacteria.  This hormonal imbalance can be traced from internal bodily processes caused by:

    • Medications and prescription drugs
    • Stress
    • Hormonal changes in adolescence
    • Greasy cosmetics
    • Menstruation
    • Dehydration

What to Do to Prevent Acne?

Types of acne vary. Of course, severe acne will require more intensive medication. But for mild to moderate condition, there are easy and practical ways to go about your everyday skincare routine:

  • Wash your face twice a day: It is best to use warm water, and mild cleansing products made for acne. Try to avoid antibacterial soaps because these products tend to make the skin coarse and dry.
  • DO NOT pop your pimples: Although it is very tempting to do so, please refrain from popping because these will leave marks on your face that may be permanent scars. 
  • Be very selective of your cosmetics: Choose the makeup that is suitable for your sensitive skin type. Also, do not put too much makeup on your face especially when you are still recovering from acne. Chemicals in them may clog the pores and trigger more pimples. 

2.    Your Skin is Super Dry 

The roughness of the skin is due to the low amount of natural oils and lubricants that should keep the skin soft and smooth. Although, this condition is most common among the elderly, dry skin can be triggered by various environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Development of Cracks and Dry Patches

The epidermis, the outer layer of our skin, is made up of lipids and proteins. They prevent skin dehydration and retain moisture. Thus, deficiency of proteins and lipids makes the moisture evaporate quickly leading to rashes and cracks on the skin. 

Xerosis (dry skin) is very common especially during hot weathers. However, leaving it untreated may lead to bacterial infections and severe skin diseases.

How to Treat Dry Skin?

Although in the offset of developing dry skin is usually mild, it is important to take caution to treat this skin condition as soon as possible. Here are some essential tips for your skin care routine:

  • Do not over wash your face.
  • Avoid using harsh soaps and cleansers.
  • Do not over exfoliate.
  • Religiously use lotions and moisturizers especially when going out. 

3.   Your Skin is Too Oily

People with this condition will likely develop acne. For the most part, having persistent oily skin has to do with stress, hormones, and genetics. Having oily skin is practically harmless, but it may sabotage your fresh look and makeup effort when you go out.  

Common Symptoms

Other than the obvious fact that the face looks shinier more frequently than most people, there are a few telltales of having excessive oil production in your pores:

  • Prevalence of whiteheads and blackheads
  • Persistent development of pimples
  • Skin looks rough and thick

These signs may also be caused by various factors such as frequent exposure to heat and humidity which makes your pores get used to producing more oil to hydrate the skin. In time, even in cold places, oil glands may switch to autopilot and generate unnecessary oil. 

How Do I Manage Excessive Facial Oil?

As having oily skin is inevitable for people who are born with it, proper skin care handling might as well be the key to look fresh as much as you can. This includes the right routine with the right products that should be done on an everyday basis:

Woman applying skincare with cotton pad

  • Consider using a toner. A toner is always best used after washing your face for deeper cleansing. Toners have soothing properties for the skin such as natural astringents. For oily skin, the best products to use are those with witch hazel contents. 
  • Facials masks. The facial masks are good deterrents for oily skin. They contain minerals that can absorb oils, sebum levels, and shininess without causing irritation. 
  • Use moisturizers regularly. Some people steer clear of moisturizers because they think these will make their skin greasier. On the contrary, moisturizers are very important in preventing oiliness. As it was mentioned earlier, oil glands tend to produce more oil when dehydrated. Moisturizers act as an external aid to prevent dehydration striking a balance in the body’s processes. 

4.    Redness of Skin

Swollen and reddish skin is often a symptom of acne, seborrhea, and rosacea. It is usually caused by irritation due to too much exposure to dust and the sun. Facial redness comes with itching and rough skin texture that can be very painful.

Things You Don’t Know Causing This Skin Condition

Although facial redness can be the side effect of other diseases such as lupus and eczema, there are certain practices and pet peeves that can trigger this type of irritation:

  • Drinking too much alcohol. Although our faces turn reddish when we are drunk, frequent and excessive amount of alcohol in the body makes small blood vessels to widen in your skin and causes capillaries to break leading to irritation.
  • Using low-quality cosmetics. Beauty products do not need to be expensive to be considered of high quality. Be very selective in buying your beauty cosmetics what use is a great deal if it irritates and damages your skin?
  • Skipping your daily cleansing routine. We are inevitably exposed to airborne chemical agents that are harmful to our skin. These may build up in our skin and cause irritation. Yes, it is tempting to go straight to bed after a hard day’s work, but you should not neglect washing up. It will make your skin look better, and you will be refreshed and get a better good night’s sleep.

5.    Burning and Stinging

Pain receptors are our bodies’ signal to tell us that there is something wrong. These sensations in our skin may entail damage or allergic reactions to external agents we have been exposed to. The same as facial redness, burning and stinging may also be side effects of various skin diseases or irritation from harsh skincare products. 

How to Soothe Your Skin 

To be able to get to the bottom of this, you should first figure out what is causing this irritation. Whether it is allergies or the use of harsh skin care products, it’s better to consult first your doctor or dermatologist for you to know proper remedial and preventive measures that are suitable for your condition. In the meantime, before you visit your doctor, try to:

  • avoid scratching damaged areas (no matter how itchy it may get);
  • use unfamiliar skin products; and
  • always wash the areas properly with mild cleansers only.

6.    Presence of Milia

Milia is a type of acne that is caused by skin disorders such as bullous lichen planus and bullous pemphigoid. These tiny white bumps are nothing to worry about because usually, they disappear after a few days. But of course, it would be better to sport a smooth, flawless skin. 

Types of Milia

There are four types of milia. These are practically the same kinds. The only difference is where in the body does it appear.

  • Primary Milia: The most common and typically appears on the face.
  • Secondary Milia: This can appear anywhere in the body.
  • Eruptive milia: This appears as small white bumps in the neck and head.
  • Milia en Plaque– This is the rarest type, and it appears near the ear and upper eyelids.

Milia are practically harmless but if you notice any abnormalities such as the unlikely size and prevalence to your body, be sure to pay a visit to your doctor right away. 

7.    Peeling

Peeling is caused by other skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and essentially dry skin. It is also called exfoliative dermatitis when the peeling has spread in a large portion of your body. This may cause discomforts such as itchiness and bruises.  Skin can also be rough, patchy and affected areas may be swollen.

Some Effective Remedies

Organic home remedies are always one of the best ways to medicate mild skin condition. Although as much as it is fun to play beauty guru in the kitchen, consult your doctors before trying anything new to treat your skin. 

However, if you do not have time to make organic facial masks, here are some tips that will be useful to heal and prevent peeling:

  • Use lukewarm water in your bath to open up your pores.
  • Use a gentle exfoliator as a facial cleanser.
  • Use soft towels to dry your skin.
  • Apply topical anti-inflammatory cream with aloe vera after cleansing your face.

8.    Signs of Aging

These are those wrinkles and fine lines that will eventually grace our facial features. Having these earlier can be side effects of stress, hormones, genetics and also dry and coarse skin.

Worried woman looking at her face in mirror

Aging, of course, is inevitable and every second that passes makes our bodies older by the moment. It is not a skin condition, but this is what most of us try to delay its telltales. To do so, we must be very particular not just in our skin care routine, but also in our day to day activities. 

Essentials in Fighting the Signs of Aging

Preventing wrinkles and fine lines to show does not only take topical moisturizers and night creams. This goal requires a good and healthy lifestyle. Because what we do to our bodies manifests through how we display ourselves and looking younger means looking healthier and happier. Therefore, here are some tips that you definitely have to live by to achieve that younger looking skin:

Follow these tips and make it part of your daily routine and in no time, you may be surprised to look five years younger!

Taking care of your skin is both a lifestyle and a sacred commitment to your body. It does not only entail your morning and evening cleansing routine but also your diet and day to day activities.  So before skipping that sunscreen, ditching the evening routine to go to bed and neglecting to wash your face because you are already super late for work, think about the consequences that may show in your skin.

Remember, wanting to look good is not vanity, it is simply our right to feel confident with our bodies. So, do things that make you look your best and be kind to your skin, always.