Help the Endangered Monarch Butterfly

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It’s official. The Monarch Butterfly is on the endangered species list. There was once billions, now it is millions. And although that sounds like a lot, it’s not. The continued downward trend of their population makes this an urgent post. Along with Monarchs, other butterflies and bees are disappearing too. What a colorless sky we may have.

Where did they go? The loss of habitat (industrialization, commercial farms, over building) is one of the key factors contributing to their population decline. They also lose habitat when we put in lawns and take out native plants like milkweed where they lay their eggs and other pollinator friendly plants. Another reason is pesticides. We are killing them off in both large scale pesticide use in factory farms across America as well as small scale residential usage on our lawns, gardens and weeds. Glyphosate or Round Up as it’s known to consumers is one example of a toxic chemical with adverse effects on our environment, animals and insects including butterflies, bees and birds. Neonicotinoids are systemic pesticides. Often, they are used to coat seeds to protect them when they are planted in the ground. After the seed germinates, the pesticide spreads throughout the growing plant and guards it against nibbling insects. But the insecticide is also present in the nectar and pollen, meaning pollinators get dosed, too. Read more on how Europe has banned them from outdoor use on Beeresponsible.com. Neonic is found to make Monarchs sterile so they are unable to reproduce. Unable to reproduce! We are doing that! Bees are suffering too. They contribute to 1/3 of our food supply and they are disappearing in record numbers as well.

What can we do? I firmly believe; with information comes responsibility.

Monarchs can only lay eggs on milkweed. Plant milkweed like crazy all over your yard. Ask businesses and townships to plant milkweed. Ask cemeteries, golf courses, parks, condo associations, schools, shopping centers, libraries, gyms, community gardens and wherever you have a connection where someone will listen and take action. Maybe you own a business, sit on a board or work for the government where your voice is instrumental in saving these beautiful flyers. We can do this. We can do hard things. People are already taking action by taking out parts of their lawns in favor of meadows with native plants. It looks super cute! It helps pollinators, saves on water (don’t get me started) and you don’t need fertilizer or weed killer. If you can’t do a portion of your lawn, do a corner or small section. See pics below. Here are some images of how it can look.

Boycott pesticides like Neonic and Round Up/glyphosate. Ask your local nursery to buy plants free of pesticides. Support heirloom seed growers. Message these companies on Facebook: Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart to stop selling Round Up and plants with Neonic. Call or email too.

Ask your town or city to stop mowing fields and the sides of highways in favor of flat grass. Animals cannot hide, forage or reproduce without natural habitat. Why are we favoring mowing down beautiful foliage that supports nature? It will save your town or city tons of money if they stop mowing. Money well spent doing other things we actually need.

Spread the word. Share this article. Visit native plant centers online and support their mission. Buy the book Bicycling with Butterflies by Sara Dykman who was the first person to ride her bike alongside the 10,000 mile Monarch migration from Mexico, around USA and Canada and back to their overwintering spot. Her book is a wonderful adventure about cycling, humanity and science. Support Monarch educational and non profit groups whose mission is conservation. Here are two links: Monarch Watch and Monarch Joint Venture. Follow them on social media and $upport in any way if you can.

Where to buy milkweed, native plants and other pollinator friendly kits and flowers. There are many places to start, including supporting local nurseries if they carry natives. They should- so ask if they will. But you can also buy seeds and plants online. The Native American Seed Company, Monarch Watch has resources, Save Our Monarchs and American Meadows are just a few I have found doing great things to support butterflies, bees, birds and other critters.

If you can do one or two of the things mentioned, it’s a wonderful start to save these and other beautiful and important creatures. Let’s color our world with more butterflies!

Years ago, I didn’t understand the bumpersticker I used to see; “I Brake for Butterflies”. Now I realize how truly important that is.

Let’s stay connected on Instagram or Facebook.

Black Cherry Superpowers

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I love cherries. I load up in summer. Sweet cherries have health benefits but the season is short. Off season I drink black cherry juice because it has amazing benefits for my health. Black cherries aren’t as sweet as the store bought cherries we know and love yet the juice is flavorful and yields some surprising health benefits.

Because of their dark color, cherries contain a large amount of anthocyanin. This compound helps reduce oxidative stress as it contains antioxidants. Ingesting antioxidants in your diet play beneficial roles in preventing cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Black cherries also contain quercetin which has gotten a lot of attention during COVID. Quercetin is part of the flavonoid family. It helps reduce inflammation, increases immunity and is a powerful antioxidant. Studies have shown great benefits in people with Rheumatoid Arthritis when they took quercetin. Health practitioners also use it for allergy relief because it suppresses histamine and acts as an immunity booster. It’s also abundant in broccoli, berries, apples and citrus fruits. It can be taken as a supplement as well. The juice can be your post workout answer to soreness too.

Black cherries can help you sleep better too! Yes, you read that right. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in our bodies that helps regulate our sleep. Cherries contain natural melatonin so cherries or their juice is a great way to boost your sleep hormone and catch those zzzz’s.

Tart cherry juice has the same benefits just not as sweet tasting. Either one is highly beneficial. I dilute cherry juice with water. Take 1/4 cup cherry juice and add as much water as you like to adjust to your own level of sweetness. You can also make cherry ice cubes. I buy the silicone ice cube trays and fill them with cherry juice then add the cube to water to sweeten and make colder or I just pop one in my mouth for an icy, healthy pop of sweet. Check out my Instagram post for a visual.

Holiday Gifts to Inspire

Giving a gift that will make the world a better place this holiday season will make your heart smile. Inspirational gifts are thoughtful, kind, cherished and can be sustainable. Most recently in 2020, the volume of scrap plastic exported by the U.S. amounted to 1.37 billion pounds. This is a drop since 2018 but wow it’s still a ginormous amount. Supporting our planet as your intention in your gift giving will spark change and joy. It can be a valuable resource for the receiver who may be exposed to a new idea through you. Here are some ideas to add to your gift giving list this year that you and your peeps can feel good about. You can also use these ideas when someone asks what you would like from them. Don’t be shy; shout it out from the rooftops why you are asking for an inspirational gift and inspire a chain reaction.

Wellness Gifts – Many are on a path to optimal wellness and would be happy to receive an inspired gift for that journey. A massage, facial or Reiki session gives someone the gift of wellness, self care and a time out from chores. A trial or full gym or yoga membership, depending on your budget, is the wellness gift that inspires change and gives all year long. A trial or full subscription to a prepared food delivery service is a great gift for a working person or a guided gift to eat better. Ask for a gift card to Misfits Market, an online food delivery service whose main goal is to eliminate food waste in the US by selling organic and local food at a fraction of the price because it may be “imperfect.” How about something fun like an hour with a pet communicator or psychic? Dance lessons at a local dance studio for a couple you know and love? Or for you?

Artistic Gifts with Little to Zero Waste – Gift an iTunes gift card for downloading music, movies or a new and exciting audiobook. A journal made with recycled paper or FSC certified paper which comes from properly managed forests which provide environmental, economic and social benefits. Journaling can be used to write down memories, daily affirmations or used as a gratitude vehicle to create more joy and manifest positivity. You can use that, so can so and so. A gift certificate for a local artist so you or they can buy a sculpture, painting or print. A gift card to the local movies or for a streaming service for at home entertainment.

For the Beauty Lover – There are so many clean beauty options offering sustainable packaging and healthier ingredients. My faves are John Masters Organics, Eco-Lips, Ilia, Coco Kind, Weleda, Colorganics, Goop, Well People, Dr. Hauschka and Mineral Fusion for hair, beauty and make-up options. Many are available at Whole Foods, local health food stores or online at Credo Beauty and The Detox Market.

For Food Lovers – A gift card to a local restaurant is a doubly good gift because the receiver will have a full tummy but you will also be helping a local restaurant and community where you or they live. How about a home cooked meal? You can say, “For your gift I’d like to make you a wonderful dinner or have you over for takeout and just spend time together!” Then shop local for the meal.

For Nature Lovers – Giving a plant that the receiver can plant in spring is giving back to nature in a way that feels special. You can buy it from the local nursery and deliver it in person with a hug. You can also plant a tree in someone’s honor. There are a few services recommended by the US Dept of Agriculture. If you love and recognize how important the Rainforest is then the Rainforest Trust is a thoughtful option. They received a nearly perfect score on CharityNavigator.org. Oceana.org did too and it’s perfect for an ocean and sea life lover. Check them out and other charities where your gift will be valued and used appropriately.

For the Fashion Lover – Ok, there are some exciting companies out there making awesome and beautiful sustainable shoes out of recycled materials. Shoes made from water bottles, wool, algae waste, sugar cane, hemp and recycled car seat leather are among the materials utilized and saved from the garbage pile. A few are using waterless dyeing techniques too. Some brands to check out are: Munjoi, Rothy’s, All Birds and Saola. Most sell men and womens shoes at a variety of price points and offer gift cards. Looking for beautiful totes, purses and backpacks? Check out mattansnat.com for vegan, cruelty free and recycled bags that are stylish, affordable and eco-friendly.

For Vegetarians/Vegans – Try Happycow.net to find vegan restaurants and stores near them. Most of the above options work too since many companies use plant based materials and ingredients. You can find more info on their sites. Check out PurpleCarrot.com for vegan food delivery. Or a digital magazine subscription to a vegan magazine like VegNews.com.

I hope these options will inspire beautiful and thoughtful gift giving for those that are special in your life. Happy Holidays!

Mushrooms for Our Health

The scientific study of mushrooms is mycology. If you are a mushroom enthusiast then you are a mycophile. My interest stems from the healthy benefits I get when eating or supplementing with them. I feel their magical little powers! In the previous article, I covered some mushroom basics. Here we will learn the benefits of specific mushrooms for our health and well-being. 

Chaga – Grown naturally in the northern hemisphere on trees instead of in the ground. It contains nutrients like potassium, zinc calcium, antioxidants and B vitamins. So in addition to nutritional benefits, it also aids in digestion, supports blood sugar levels and helps to balance the immune system. People use it for autoimmune disease and weight management. It’s been used for years in different cultures as a drink or tea. Nowadays it can be found in powder form as tea or to add to shakes and drinks.

Reishi – The Elixir of Life as it is commonly called in Eastern medicine and has been used for thousands of years as a tonic for many maladies. Because it modulates the immune system, Reishi can be used for allergies, colds and overall immune health as well as autoimmune disease.  Rich in vitamins and nutrients, researchers have also discovered it contains over 400 bio active compounds to benefit health. It also is used for hormonal balance and to support the adrenal system. It shows much promise for the cardiovascular system too and more studies are emerging. It is sometimes combined with other mushrooms for more impact. Wild Reishi is rare so it is cultivated. It has a slightly bitter taste so as a powder supplement it may be preferable to mix it with something else like juice or in a smoothie.

Cordyceps – The athlete’s mushroom. Properties include vitality, endurance and stamina. It improves availability of oxygen in the blood. It’s a clean source of energy for athletes, exercise enthusiasts or for people who need a little air in their tires…busy moms, working stiffs and people on the go. That may be everyone! But it also may be beneficial for sufferers of fatigue, the elderly or people with respiratory issues. Sometimes it’s blended with other mushrooms or you can buy it by itself and reap the rewards it has to offer…energy!

Lion’s Mane – The “pom pom” mushroom is receiving tons of attention because of its cognitive powers. Positive mood, focus and alertness are only some of its benefits. 

Lion’s Mane, affectionately called the “smart” mushroom because of its capacity toward brain function. Not only is Lion’s Mane a superfood but it’s a culinary treat beloved by chefs and people around the globe and can be found in supermarkets who carry a variety of mushrooms. But it is also found in supplemental form because it contains compounds which are nootropic or beneficial to the brain. Promising research is showing benefits such as regeneration of neurons, healing nerve damage, cognitive function and healing effects on brain injuries. Japanese research also had promising results on menopausal symptoms too. All this plus antioxidant, immune and nutritional benefits as well. Lots to roar about here.

Turkey Tail – This is one beautiful mushroom and looks like a turkey’s tail when its all puffed up. Along with its many colors, it has many health benefits too. TT is one of the most studied mushrooms and has been used for thousands of years in Asia for immune health. It’s packed with phenols and flavonoids which combat oxidative stress.  It also has been studied to show improvement with colitis in labs, contains compounds good for gut health and to prevent inflammation. You can also eat this one but its more of an Earthy flavor so people tend to supplement with it. It’s common to find it in teas, powders or pill form.

King Trumpet – Growing in popularity, you can find these in supermarkets to be added to soups and stews or to make veggie sammies because they have a meaty texture and a savory flavor. Studies show these babies have lots of nutritious benefits and also help lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, show promise with breast and prostate cancer and help fight viruses. They also contain collagen which helps maintain the skins elasticity. Find them at the market or in supplemental form in powders and pill form.

There are dozens of mushrooms with crazy names and amazing benefits including ongoing psilocybin studies with hallucinogenic mushrooms to aid in depression, anxiety and trauma. It’s a continuum of what researchers began to discover in the 1960’s.

The world of mushrooms is accessible, promising and magical for all.

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Trending: Do Mushrooms Have Healing Abilities?

Do these little fungi possess powers we are only just discovering? Collectively they contain powerful, healthy nutrients which benefit our bodies and also this Earth. Yet each mushroom type or fungi has its own unique benefits. Chaga differs from Reishi and Turkey Tail differs from Cordyceps. Their reemergence is growing and is gaining momentum proving once again they are magical in ways we know and ways that are on the verge of discovery.

Eating mushrooms from the store or farmers market is one way to power up their magic.

Common forms are white cap, Shitake or Portabella; slightly more exotic are Reishi, Maitake and Chantarelle. Lightly chopped and sauteed in butter or olive oil with a pinch of salt is delish.

But what if you don’t like mushrooms or want to enjoy them as a super food for the health benefits? 

What to Look for in Your Mushroom Supplement

There are important components are found in mushrooms. Mycelium is an essential part of the mushroom that lives underground. Picture it like the tentacles of an octopus or squid. The fruiting body is the cap that we see above ground, the mycelium is under it doing all sorts of important jobs. These roots feed the mushroom but also act like communicators for the whole forest enhancing the ecosystem, ensuring its health. It develops enzymes and nutrients to defend the mushroom and its surrounding environments against environmental stressors, pathogens and other detrimental threats ensuring its ability to thrive. Therefore the mycelium is blessed with vitamins, minerals, prebiotics, polysaccharides and enzymes making the mushroom a superfood. Some mushroom companies provide full spectrum mushrooms that include the mycelium. 

Another important component is beta glucans which are polysaccharides that occur naturally in certain mushrooms. As a soluble fiber they allow carbs to digest more slowly, then you feel full longer. They contain antioxidants and help maintain healthy gut bacteria. They also act as immunomodulators and help a weak immune system or can help balance an overactive one.

Popular Functional Mushrooms

Some of the most popular and health beneficial are Reishi, Maitake, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, Chaga and Lions Mane. Many of which are found in supplement form. Check out my other mushroom article for details about these superfood magical mushrooms and which ones to select based on your own health needs and issues; brain, skin, energy, mood, immune. Mushroom supplements come in powder or capsule form. Some are specific and others are a blend of mushrooms. It depends on what benefits you are looking for. 

Earth Benefits by Their Existence

And as far as Earth is concerned, wild mushrooms and their mycelium play an important role in the soil’s nutrients, water, carbon and communication amongst trees and other plants. They can even take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the soil and clean up oil spills. So let’s not pull out those mushrooms on our lawns or kill them with pesticides. Let them be because they are doing their magic. Check out Fantastic Fungi for more amazing info on that.

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5 Lifestyle Detox Strategies

Our health is everything. Achieving health is multi dimensional. I’ve learned this over the years through experience, education and experimentation. It shouldn’t be a 1,000 piece puzzle scattered on the table with no visible starting point leaving you feeling bewildered. That’s why I wanted to share this valuable information so we can open the puzzle box and slide them together with intention for optimal wellness. When you are well, you are happy and the puzzle pieces will fit together as they should.

Here are 5 strategies you can do now…

Optimize Your Liver – Your liver weighs about three pounds but it does a lot of heavy lifting. Its main job is to filter the blood from your digestive tract before it goes through the rest of your body. That means it’s filtering all you ingest. You can make its job easier by eating food that is more wholesome, more natural, preservative and chemical free. Garlic, greens, fruit and beets are good choices for clean eating. Drug and alcohol consumption have a negative effect of your liver and continued abuse can lead to fatty liver disease among other conditions, some irreversible. There are some great supplements on the market that support the liver with key ingredients such as asparagus, glutathione, alpha lipoid acid, garlic, NAC and milk thistle. Your local health food store is an excellent resource for help plus you are buying local – win/win. Find one here. A blood test from your healthcare professional will reveal how your liver is functioning.

A Healthy Yard – The chemicals we use in our outdoor space can have harmful effects on us and the planet. While we can’t control what companies use, we can protest chemicals and boycott their use with our wallets. What we can control is what we use in our own spaces. No one likes weeds but the toxic sprays that exist are literally overkill. A little dish washing soap in a spray bottle with water does the same thing. Also yanking them out the old fashioned way is good exercise. Most weed killers contain harmful chemicals that our pets ingest, as well as birds, insects and our little reptile friends. The worms and other bugs ingest the toxins and the birds eat the bugs and so on. It’s the cycle of life we need to protect. There are environmentally friendly products on the market now. Germany, Austria and Mexico have already banned glyphosate, an unfortunately popular weed killer used in farming and consumer products. Let’s think about the long term effects of these harmful chemicals on the planet and make better, healthier choices. Jama recently published a study that found lower cancer risk in people who ate a lot of organic food which are not sprayed with harmful toxins. Check out the article on EWG for additional info.

Healthy Digs – Health is comprehensive. Incorporating multiple strategies will create more wellness. Plant based cleaners for home are amazing and I have been using them for years. They clean, disinfect and smell good while doing it; fragranced with essential oils lavender, geranium and citrus. Plus the ingredients are safer for the planet, create better air quality within your home and are safe for pets and children. They kill 99.9% of bacteria, are free from phosphates, ammonia, DEA, dioxane, triclosan and chlorine. Think about all the chemicals that go down the drain when we clean and the residue they leave on floors and surfaces. What not use chemical free ones and breathe easier? I like Ecos, a family owned brand since 1967.

Mindfulness – Detox our brains from stress, negativity, anxiety, past trauma and future worries? Is it possible? Yes is the short answer. Problems won’t go away but how we deal with them can help us in our well being journey. A few minutes a day can create a more harmonious self, feelings of peace and increase happiness. According to studies on meditation, people who meditate for a few minutes a day feel happier and more peaceful. It’s emotional detox. If you’re convinced and need a starting point, there is a great Netflix series by Headspace that guides you through different meditations for achieving certain goals like awareness, anxiety and better sleep. Visit their website to learn more or get the app. Need more info before you delve in, visit the Mayo Clinic page on meditation. There are a variety of meditation techniques and it is a skill; practice yields optimal results and you will get better at it over time. Give it a try before you read on. Take 5 breaths now, in through the nose and out through the mouth, eyes closed, sitting.

C’mon let’s sweat – …Like the 1990 song says. Perspiration is a great body detox. When we sweat we expel toxins. You can do this a few ways. Exercise is one of the best ways because it has multiple benefits; cardio for your heart, weight bearing for body strength and bone density, agility, balance and endurance. Plus working out with others has social benefits which, according to blue zone studies, help achieve longevity. Add in some yoga and you get a side of mindfulness too. The other way to sweat is in a sauna. Infrared saunas use light to generate heat and raise the body’s core temperature. Many gyms and wellness spas have them or you buy a small one for your home. They even have infrared blankets now as a less expensive option.

These are a few wellness choices to get started. Enjoy the journey and start putting the puzzle pieces together for a beautiful result.

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Your One True Love – Your Heart

Valentines Day and Heart Month bring to mind chocolate, candies, champagne, romance, right ventricle, left atrium…huh? February is also Heart Month, a chance to reexamine how we treat our hearts and know how important they are.

There are multiple ways to help our heart health which add up to wholeness.

Diet

Try a Meatless Monday or a Vegan Weekend or Vegend which incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet by taking away animal products. Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils which have a negative impact on our heart’s function. These are prominent in processed foods. Check labels for the most wholesome ingredients which are easy to pronounce and come from nature not a lab. Quick Fix – Eat oily fish like salmon or cod 2-3 times per week. Replace a handful of chips with nuts or berries.

Reduce Stress

Ha, easy to say – harder to do. While we cannot control other people’s behavior, we can control how we interact and react. Limit or cut your time with toxic people who don’t serve your greater good. Also, make peace with saying no to things you don’t want to do and overcommitting your schedule which will free up time to enjoy the things you like. Quick Fix – Try a deep breathing technique when you feel overwhelmed. Take 5-10 deep breaths while you count to 5 on the inhale and exhale to slow your breathing down. This does wonders for stress which puts strain on your heart.

Exercise

We know it by now that moving on a daily basis is good. Recent research says that moderate exercise for 10-20 minutes twice per day is just as good as a 30+ minute daily workout. As long as you are raising your heart rate, it works. Try to do something you enjoy like walking, biking, yoga, swimming or dancing to your fave tune. Then it doesn’t feel like a chore. Quick Fix – Do one minute of each of any of these for ten mins: skip, dance, march in place, lunge in place, squat in place, arm circles, sit ups, twist in place, fake hula hoop, jumping jacks or mountain climbers.

Love and Social Circle

Having a sense of community makes you live longer and feel more fulfilled.

Own a pet. Studies show pets reduce blood pressure and cat owners had a 30% reduction in heart attacks according to a Minnesota study.

Live with purpose. Having something to look forward to or helping another person is extremely rewarding. Plan a post COVID trip to see a friend or visit another place. Volunteer or donate money to help a stranger or a homeless pet. Repaint a room in your house a fresh, vibrant or relaxing color. What did you love as a child? Do that! Quick Fix – Forgive. Forgiveness results in empathy and compassion which reduces anger and puts us on path to heart health.

Rock Star Supplements

Most diets are deficient in some type of nutrient. Plus mass production farming reduces soil nutrients so adding a few vitamins is beneficial. What’s good for the heart? Fish oils are proven winners for coronary benefits reducing stroke and lowering triglycerides. L-carnitine transports fats into the mitochondria for energy production and heart function. Magnesium helps cardiovascular function. Low magnesium is related to hardening of arteries and high blood pressure. CoQ10 is in every cell of our body and as we age we make less. Statins reduce CoQ10 as well. Garlic is delicious but has medicinal benefits too. Studies show promising results in treating high blood pressure and heart disease. Quick Fix – Drink green tea which is packed with antioxidants and theanine which helps promote calm.

Chocolate

Since it’s almost Valentines Day, I need to mention this little gem loaded with antioxidants and heart healthy flavanols which increase circulation. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate per day has cardiovascular benefits so enjoy!

Check with your healthcare professional about diet, exercise and supplements.

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What I learned in 2020

The past year has been a master class in sociology. By definition sociology is the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings. Behavior stands out to me in the definition. We can learn a lot about ourselves in how we behaved during this pandemic. Under stressful times, we learn who we are, what we are capable of and of course a lot about others in our lives. The collective behavior of organized groups of human beings being the last and one of the most important aspects of the pandemic – the essential workers. There is no doubt this group pulled together into subgroups and made all our lives better. We have much to be thankful for.

In my log of early 2020, my friend in California sent me messages about a virus going around China and I should prepare for this; I wasn’t sure what to think. She’s not a whacko, paranoid or a conspiracy theorist. But she was working in hospitals and researching what was going on around the world. I paid attention and soon after the reports were flooding the news. Looking back, it seems like ages but also just yesterday. How is that even possible? The ship set sailed and we lost sight of the horizon so quickly.

Now at the end of 2020 and on the threshold of global vaccination, I’m trying to process all the waves of change during this time; politically, financially, socially and of course personally.

My feeling is that we are on the brink of great change. Historically there has been substantial pain during times of evolution. My hope is that when historians of the future look back to this time, they will see a modern renaissance in life and how we began to really move forward toward equality and unity. That all the events, bad and good, that occurred in 2020 were catalysts for change and toward equity. We are setting the course.

Personally, I learned a lot about myself. I conclude that I miss dining out and traveling yet I can also appreciate my home and my blessings there. I read more, watched some awesome TV, cooked delicious meals, did A LOT of dishes and balanced work and downtime. I learned how to publish a book, use social media better and unleashed pent-up creativity that was aching to swan dive from a cliff. It’s what happens when you slow down. Life ends with a breath but also begins with one.

I witnessed some relationships appreciate; yet some depreciated. The year 2020 forced off shore stormy emotions to finally erupt. Spending or not spending time with another forced us to peer into the looking glass and behold the lore.

I learned that I can get pretty creative with meals, workouts and at-home lounge wear. I also learned it’s all about eyes and brows in a masked up world and You Tube has great tutorials for that and just about anything.

I learned that you can be alone and still feel connected to your friends, family and the world through social media, apps and Zoom. But I also learned that people need people. We are social and thrive best when we are together building something meaningful, helping others and having fun collectively. When this is over, I will never take that for granted again. To see another, hug another, dance with another, cry with another and share with another will be the best gift of 2021.

Who will I be when I emerge after 2020? I will be part of the biggest sociological experiment the likes of which civilization has never recorded before. I hope we leave an imprint, a brochure, a playbook of how to be a better person; a kinder human. A future page in a study of collective human behavior that will astound even the most skeptical of humanity. The Captains log 2020 is filled with unchartered experience and is the page in history waiting to be read, scrutinized and astonished.

Bon voyage 2020.

Sleep Better!

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I used to hate to go to bed when I was little. We used to have family game nights where we played Sorry, Clue and Monopoly. Since I was the youngest, I always had to hit the hay the earliest. I wasn’t having it so I would either have fake coughing fits, whine or sneak into the hallway where I would try and steer my way back into the game. I don’t remember it ever working. These days I value my sleep. I aim for eight hours per night otherwise I’m not able to keep my energy level up. Anything less than seven, I’m shot. There are several ways to help achieve falling asleep and staying asleep.

Don’t drink caffeine after 4pm. This includes coffee, soda, hot chocolate or black tea. A cup of green tea before 7pm may be ok but you should test that out.

Complete any strenuous workouts before 8pm. Exercise gets your energy revved up and stimulates the body and mind.

Eliminate anxiety inducing activity. For most of us, scary movies, social media and confrontations with family and friends will keep you up and worrying. Try watching an old classic movie, a comedy or reading which calm the mind and hence the body.

Dim your lights 2-3 hours before bedtime. This will help induce melatonin production, a brain chemical which helps us sleep. Get plenty of sunshine and fresh air during the day.

Supplements may help. Melatonin is available in supplement form. I like the gummies because you can keep them on your nightstand and no water is necessary. 2-4 mg is ideal depending on age and body weight. CBD can help with sleep as well. It comes from hemp and acts as an adaptogen; it creates stabilization of the physiological processes in our body. Check with your healthcare pro.

Bye-bye blue light. Devices which emit blue light are known to bother our eyes and may keep us up. Avoid these or try blue light blocking eye glasses.

Drink calming or sleep inducing teas which contain natural ingredients like chamomile or valerian which are excellent to promote restfulness. Some teas contain lavender and lemon balm which reduce stress and anxiety as well.

Don’t nap more than 20-30 minutes per day. Too much napping or late day naps hinder your sleep later at night.

Watch your food intake. Don’t eat too late or too much spice or sugar. Too much alcohol can cause sleep disruptions and awaken you in the middle of the night. And avoid going to bed hungry that won’t help matters either.

Finding balance in life can be a challenge. Choosing the right mix of what works for you will help achieve falling asleep and staying asleep. Nighty-night.

Drug-Free Stress Relief

When I was twenty years old, I decided to teach exercise classes. I had been going to a local Lucille Roberts gym and was a dedicated class member. The manager there would try and recruit me once per week, “Come on Kristin, you’d be a great instructor.” The truth of it was that I couldn’t envision myself leading and motivating other sweaty people especially wearing body-hugging attire. Fear kept me from moving forward and trying something that I felt I’d be good at so I began mirroring the instructor in class and practicing at home. After a while, I “auditioned” for the manager and got the job. The gym was part savior and part teacher, providing me an outlet for stress and a platform to combat stage fright. It introduced me to my body and brain chemistry and how the two are interconnected and react accordingly to what they are being given. 

Over the years, I realized that a collective effort to combat stress, anxiety and the winter blues from natural sources was the path that I found effective and well suited to me. Like most natural remedies, they take a little longer to work and there is usually not one magic thing. But an adjustment in lifestyle along with a few supplements can work wonders.

Along with any type of exercise, here are my top picks for drug-free stress relief.

CBD. The oil was all the rage two years ago. It has slowed a bit because not everyone got the effects they wanted.  CBD in liquid form doesn’t always work on people with certain saliva chemistry. That’s where pills or emulsified CBD can work wonders. If you didn’t feel relief from CBD for its intended purpose, that could be the reason. Try pills or a liquid emulsified option. Barleans has a lemon or chocolate mint one that is delicious and priced well. CBD oil is from cannabis but lacks the THC so you don’t get the “stoned” feeling. CBD acts as an adaptogen and creates stabilization of the physiological processes in our body. It calms, alleviates inflammation, is good for minor to moderate pain and has an overall balancing effect. 

Omega-3 Fish oil contains EPA and DHA which nourish the brain. These naturally occurring acids help the brain with memory, depression and anxiety. It works best when taken daily or a few times per week. Carlson brand is mercury tested and high quality.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an amino acid and a key inhibitory neurotransmitter, may help support a calm mind as well as muscle relaxation. It comes in pill form. Great in stressful situations to promote calm and feelings of well being.

L-Theanine is an amino acid found to have calming effects. You can buy it in supplement form or it’s naturally found in green tea. This leads me to urge you to not have more than 2 caffeinated drinks per day (tea, soda, coffee). Excessive caffeine makes us jittery and anxious.  Swap out a coffee or soda for green tea daily and see the results.

Herbal teas are soothing and have medicinal properties. There are calming blends to help with nerves or sleeplessness. Chamomile is great for stress and anxious feelings. Sleepy time tea is good for a restful night sleep.

Meditation. I know, here comes the eye roll. But science shows it’s effective and so do humans all over the planet. Ten minutes per day brings peace and calm. Use an APP and just work your way up to ten minutes. No one is judging how long that takes. 

Deep Breathing has calming effects on our bodies. When you feel stressed, take 5-10 long breaths in and out, pausing in between your inhale and exhale. Feel it?

In my book The Butterfly Promise I write of walking meditation. Instead of being plugged in and powered up on your walk or run, unplug once or twice per week and just pay attention to the world which surrounds you. Take notice of the color of the sky, the clouds, trees or a bird in flight. Feel the ground, smell the air and just be present. This type of meditation is great for beginners and those who just want to be present in life and feel calm and connected. Who knows what or who you will connect to.

Life is challenging. Stress is cyclical. Great health is a collective effort. Nothing is impossible with the information and tools. Consult your healthcare professional. Shop your local health food store. Now take 5 deep breaths….