Crystals 101: Gems Can Be Powerful, Not Just Pretty

(Image Credit: trinetuzun)

(Image Credit: trinetuzun)

Curious about crystals? Maybe you’ve seen some lovely selenite towers in the window of the local New Age store or a lovely picture of crystals on Pinterest. (There are plenty.)  Precious stones have been a source of mystery and belief for eons, appearing in the healing and worship rituals in cultures from the Americas to Asia. Here’s your step-by-step guide to entering the world of crystals.

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Is Your Sunburn Cause for Concern?

SCFCThe sun’s effects on our skin can range from some seemingly innocent freckles and a healthy glow to blisters and pain. It can be difficult to know when to let it go and when to freak out. Although all exposure to the sun is damaging and can cause skin cancer later in life, there are some warning signs to look out for when you get sunburn. Continue reading

The Importance of Good Sleep and How to Get It!

(Image Credit: Rachel Titiriga)

(Image Credit: Rachel Titiriga)

Today I want to address a problem which is definitely an issue for many people in their day-to-day life (including mine!). Sleep. Sleep is essential for life; it allows our bodies to recuperate, it gives us the energy for the next day, and it gives our brains time to process all of the information we absorb each day.  Plus we tend to feel a bit under the weather and start getting snappy when we haven’t had enough. Most sources suggest that not getting enough sleep for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental to health – it can leave you with extra stress, lack of energy and even weight gain. But getting enough sleep, and satisfying sleep at that, is easier said than done. Continue reading

5 Tips for Good Gym Etiquette

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There seems to be an unspoken “gym etiquette” code that some gym goers understand, while others seem to have missed the memo. But what are some of these unspoken rules? Continue reading

Is Your Computer Making You Sick?

(Image Credit: Ray Smith)

(Image Credit: Ray Smith)

We are living in a technology-obsessed society. Even those who argue they aren’t obsessed, I bet they won’t deny they need their gadgets. These days, phones and tablets are doubling as computers as everyone is on the go, trying to get their fill of information and entertainment. But what some don’t know is how much these devices are turning into vices, as they are beginning to affect various parts of our health. Continue reading

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

What to Do When You Have a Panic Attack

The first time I had a panic attack, I thought I was dying. I’d gone to see a movie with some friends one Thanksgiving night in high school, and I ran into an ex I’d had a messy breakup with and thought I’d never have to see again. Continue reading

Prioritize Your Smile: Learn From My Mistakes

(Image Credit: Aleksandr Doodko)

(Image Credit: Aleksandr Doodko)

These days, it’s common for the majority of pre-teens and teenagers to have braces or some kind of orthodontia to straighten their teeth. I’d wager there are many more young adults who have had braces than who haven’t, especially in countries like the US where straight teeth are clearly the ideal, and dentists are eager to refer kids to orthodontists if their teeth are even the tiniest bit out of whack, even if it’s not medically necessary.

I am one of those teenagers who had braces, but my experience with them was different than most. I had a bit of crowding in my top middle teeth, but rather than referring me to an orthodontist, my dentist offered to give me braces at a discount if he did them for me. My parents were eager to save some cash on the expensive procedure, and they trusted my longtime, smallish-town dentist to get the job done right.

Rather than giving me a full mouth of braces, my dentist placed braces only on the teeth he thought needed it – the eight teeth in the top middle part of my mouth. Because of this, I dealt with wires snagging the insides of my lips constantly, but hey, like anything else, you get used to it. My dentist seemed to know what he was doing, and he gave me bright colored rubber bands, which is important to a 16-year-old. I wore my braces for about a year, then was fitted with a retainer.

At first, my teeth were straighter. I wore my retainer faithfully for a few months, then sporadically for a few more, before I stopped wearing it entirely. Yes, you know where this story is going. My teeth eventually shifted back to their original uneven position. Here’s the thing, though – my dentist never explained to teenage me how important wearing my retainer was. It seems obvious now, but I didn’t understand that the effect of the braces wasn’t permanent if I didn’t keep wearing my retainer.  So there’s problem #1.

Problem #2? Well, since my teeth have shifted back to being uneven, I’ve had additional orthodontic consultations. Turns out there isn’t just a problem with my top middle teeth – my entire bite is off. There’s no way my eight braces could have truly fixed my issues fully, even if it did make my front teeth appear straighter. Even if I had been diligent with my retainer, there would still be problems that need fixing. I should point out here that my dentist was successfully sued for malpractice just a few years after he did my braces. It was major vindication, but small comfort.

So here I am, an adult with crooked teeth. And, as much as I try to ignore it, I can’t help but feel extremely insecure about it. There is a stigma with having crooked teeth, whether we openly acknowledge it or not. I’m always self conscious about smiling for photos, and I worry that my first impression on people is skewed by my teeth. I hate to be so hung up on a superficial thing, but it’s hard when I so rarely encounter other people with crooked teeth like mine. It’d be one thing if they were just a little crooked…crooked in that slightly imperfect and endearing way. But sadly that is not the case, and I can’t seem to get over it.

As I mentioned, I’ve looked into additional orthodontic treatment to fix the issues. I’d love to try something like Invisalign, but braces and Invisalign are comparable in price, and both are quite expensive, especially if you’re an adult. Insurance companies are much more likely to cover a significant chunk of the cost for braces or Invisalign on kids, but you’re lucky to get even a couple hundred dollars toward them if you’re over 18. Even if I use a provider with a generous payment plan option, I’m still looking at $200+ a month. It feels selfish to add $200 to monthly costs for what is ultimately a superficial procedure, especially when there are more pressing things like rent and student loans to pay.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably never get my teeth fixed, but that doesn’t make it easier to live with. So here’s my point: if you’ve been recommended orthodontic treatment, or maybe have had braces but are slacking with your retainer usage, take action. Visit an orthodontist for a treatment plan. Make a point to pop in that retainer at night. If you’re an adult who has considered orthodontia and can afford it, make an appointment and get the process rolling. Trust me when I say it will be worth it and you will regret it if you don’t. It is no fun to be self-conscious about your smile.

‘Plus Size’ Celebs and the Obsession with Labeling Body Types

(Image Credit: Bravo Media, LLC)

(Image Credit: Bravo Media, LLC)

Everywhere we turn, women’s bodies are being judged. Everyone is either “too skinny” or “obese,” and figures on both ends of the spectrum are “unhealthy.” This judgmental behavior has become so popular that people seem to feel the need to put a label on all shapes and sizes.

Earlier this year, Glamour magazine put out a special issue in conjunction with Lane Bryant focusing on plus-size women. The beautiful Ashley Graham graced the cover, and women such as Melissa McCarthy, Adele, and Amy Schumer were featured.

As a woman who fluctuates from sizes 6 to 8, Amy wasn’t pleased that she was featured in this particular issue. She shared a post on her Instagram page letting her fans know that she doesn’t want “[y]oung girls seeing [her] body type and thinking that [it] is plus-size.” Because if a size 6 is overweight, then what is acceptable?

Friend to the comedian, Jennifer Lawrence, spoke out in light of the controversy in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. She said that she doesn’t like that people consider her body type to be normal; she puts way too much work into her body for it to be normal, but we’re so accustomed to seeing underweight women that we think it’s the norm. This, in turn, makes us think of a normal body type as being a curvy but thin one.

Why are we so focused on judging other women? Social media makes it far too easy to do this publicly (and anonymously). If you go to any woman’s Instagram page with a large number of followers, you’re bound to see negative comments strewn about regarding her weight.

When did this become acceptable?

Another famous actress who has made it clear that she doesn’t want the focus to be on the size or shape of her body (ironically also featured in the Glamour plus-size issue) is Christina Hendricks. In an interview with the Sun-Herald, Christina’s “full-figured” body is referenced not once, but twice, and she is clearly displeased by the comment both times. Why would any highly-regarded actress want to be interviewed not about her incredible talents or current roles, but instead about her figure? Why does size matter to us so much?

In this era of body scrutiny, the lingerie company Aerie has tried to make a stand. They’ve stopped using standard “models” for their ads, and instead opt to use “real” girls. This means there are sizes being featured above a 4, stretch marks make appearances, and no airbrushing is done.

Until the real normal becomes the media’s definition of normal, it doesn’t seem girls will accept each other’s bodies or their own as being beautiful. We need to stop acting like the Kardashian waist-to-butt ratio is attainable (or like it’s anything that anyone should aim for) and start encouraging each other’s healthy, natural figures. More companies and influential media outlets need to stop allowing women to be placed into “skinny” and “fat” classifications and encourage all women to be proud of how they look, regardless of their weight.

Simple (and healthy) ways to boost your energy levels!

Simple (and healthy) ways to boost your energy levels!

Energy, is something that we all wish we had more of. Some days it can be ridiculously hard to pull yourself out of bed, others you start flagging in the afternoon. Often you find yourself reaching for a third cup of coffee for the day just to keep going. We all know those annoyingly energetic people, the sort that have an endless bounce to their step and always seem to get everything done and are still raring to go at the end of the day. I can’t give you the secret to these people’s gusto in life, but there are ways to boost your own energy levels. Just a follow a few small tips to hopefully improve your ability to make it through the day and make life a little bit easier! Continue reading

Meditation for Stress Relief

(Image Credit: Daniella Segura)

(Image Credit: Daniella Segura)

What’s the one thing people always tell you not to do, but seems impossible not to do? Stress. Stress seems to be an inevitable part of daily life that many people cannot overcome. Although stress seems unconquerable, there are remedies to lessen daily stress, such as meditation.

As far back as prehistoric times, meditation was used to deepen people’s understanding of higher beings in life, but has since transitioned into a common way to practice relaxation and stress reduction, according to Mayo Clinic. A simple definition of meditation is that it “consists of simply sitting quietly, focusing on one’s breath, a word or phrase… [and] a meditator may also be walking or standing,” according to Psychology Today.

Some studies have proven that there is a link between meditation and stress levels, such as one conducted by researchers in China and at the University of Oregon, according to Science Daily.

The study consisted of a control and an experimental group of undergraduate college students. The control group received five days of relaxation training, while the experimental group received five days of meditation training. In the experiment, stress was induced by mental math. Although the two groups both released the stress hormone, cortisol, the experimental group, or the one with meditation training, released less of this hormone and also showed “lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue.”

Overall, the study found that there is “a measurable benefit that people could achieve through body-mind meditation, especially involving an effective training regimen, but larger studies are needed to fully test the findings of this small, short-term study,” according to a researcher quoted by the Science Daily.

Although everyday stress reduction is the prime benefit of practicing meditation, there are also other benefits linked to meditation. According to Jaan Suurküla M.D., because practicing meditation can lower the amount of cortisol that your body releases, this may in turn help to lower the chances of chronic stress.

Other studies have also found that meditation may both prevent and treat cardiovascular disease.

Some forms of meditation include: guided meditation, mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, qi gong, tai chi and yoga. Each of these practices has different elements and levels of difficulty, which helps make meditation a practice that is accessible to anyone.

So the next time someone tells you “don’t’ stress,” remember to take a deep breath and meditate.

Originally posted July 14, 2013
Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

The Unhealthy Quest for a Thigh Gap

Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

Thigh Gap (Image Credit: Rui Santos)

It’s becoming more and more apparent that “the gap” is the root of all evil in the beauty industry. Not the clothing store Gap (although some may actually feel that way), but rather, the absolutely insane new obsession with having a “thigh gap”. For those unfamiliar, a “thigh gap” refers to exactly what it sounds like, a gap or space between your inner thighs.

Back in my day (I’m 21), girls got braces to fix gapped teeth and cursed their bowlegged thighs because they walked like an old school western cowboy.  Fast-forward to the present, and these same girls want to surgically separate their teeth and have rail-thin legs all for the sake of a gap.

Victoria's Secret Models (Image Credit: Victoria's Secret)

Victoria’s Secret Models (Image Credit: Victoria’s Secret)

Excuse me, but when did this become acceptable?  And why is it even a thing? When is the last time you heard someone say, “Yeah man, I love a girl with a nice ‘thigh gap’.”? The whole idea seems totally irrelevant to what makes someone attractive or not.

The most celebrated women in the world don’t even come close to having a space between their legs (think: Beyoncè, Christina Hendricks, Sofia Vergara), and it doesn’t stop anyone from calling them “beautiful”.  To those who have a natural “thigh gap”, that’s fantastic.  If you are like most of the female population that experiences the occasional thigh chaffing, who cares?  You’ll work a space into your thighs only to find that next season’s trend will be something equally ridiculous like “thigh friction”. You’ll be screwed then, huh?

The feminist in me wants to try and relate the “thigh gap” to the idea of a woman having her “legs open”, but it’s fairly apparent that this isn’t the case.  Instead, the “thigh gap” seems to be a satanic child of designers like Victoria’s Secret and Chanel who limit their runway models to women with a space down the center of their bodies…from their teeth to their thighs.

Beyonce (Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Gucci)

Beyonce (Image Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Gucci)

Maybe you’re thinking that guys have similar predicaments, what with the ideal of a “six-pack” and all that.  The difference here is that for a man to be in shape (by society’s standards), they need to be healthy.  “Six pack abs” don’t magically appear unless Photoshop is involved. They are actually a reward for having proper nutrition and exercise ethic.  Women, on the other hand, are pressured to have ridiculous features like “thigh gaps” which usually come with physical malnourishment and mental stress.  Just like there are tons of men who aren’t meant to have a six pack, there are millions of women who were not put on this earth to have a “thigh gap”. Add in the fact that a good majority of women, no matter how much they diet or work out, are physically incapable of having a “thigh gap” due to their anatomical structure and the ideal becomes even more ludicrous.

It’s a relief knowing that the “thigh gap” obsession will likely pass, along with the Sir Mix A lot-induced booty infatuation and the Pamela Anderson-esque breast fixation.  We know by now that when the fashion industry, or pop culture in general, focus on one part of the female anatomy… it’s likely to explode into an international plague of copycatting.  I suggest rubbing your thighs together loud and proud, because in reality…no one cares about a stupid space between your legs unless it’s a guy or girl trying to get in it and even then, if they’re not happy with what you’ve got, screw them (not literally, kick them to curb and find someone who appreciates your beauty).

Originally posted August 29, 2013.

5 Struggles Only Impatient People Will Understand

(Image Credit: Syda Productions)

(Image Credit: Syda Productions)

We’ve all heard the saying: patience is a virtue. As true as it may be, some of us are just flat-out incapable of developing that quality. Life isn’t easy when you’re impatient, and other people tend to think that you’re unreasonably tense all the time. For those of you who don’t quite get this way of life, or for anyone who needs to know that they’re not alone, here are five struggles that only impatient people seem to understand.

  1. Online shopping is painful

Any inconveniences that are avoided through online shopping are almost immediately outweighed by the pain of waiting for the purchase to arrive. Instant gratification is our best friend. This means that the order status page will be refreshed at least 500 times before it gets delivered, and don’t even get me started on the horror of sites that don’t provide shipping status updates.

  1. Laid-back people are kind of terrible sometimes

It’s great that you’re so relaxed, really, but could you maybe try to be just a little more considerate of us timely folks? If I have plans with someone at 3:00, I expect them to arrive at 2:59. If I ask you a question over text, I’d love a reply within 5 minutes or less, ‘cause I know you have that phone in your hand at all times. That way, nobody has to get the “where are you?” phone call or double text, and I don’t have to break out in hives because I can’t wait around for another minute.

  1. Lines are dangerous

I’m not kidding. I’ve probably made some enemies in lines due to my impatience. It’s great to be friendly and all, but an ultra-chatty cashier is the absolute worst when I want to get in and out of somewhere in a hurry, and if you’re going to use coupons, do us all a favor and get them ready before you’re at the front of the line. I’m not willing to sacrifice my time so that you can save ten cents on your toothpaste.

  1. Waiting for your food is torture …

A hungry, impatient person whose order is taking forever to arrive is not someone you want to mess with. If I’m hungry, I need to eat right now. I physically don’t have the ability to enjoy myself until my meal is in front of my face. Until that point, you can find me watching the waiter like a hawk, and don’t bother with conversation.

  1. … and traffic is just as bad

The thing about traffic is that it’s unpredictable and out of anyone’s control. Maybe you’ll be caught up in the same spot for 30 seconds, or maybe you won’t move for another 30 minutes. Either way, you can’t do anything about it. If you’re stuck, you’re stuck. All the screaming and banging on the steering wheel won’t get you where you need to be any faster than if you were cool, calm, and collected (but everyone knows that’s impossible).

If you’re pestered by a hungry restaurant patron or hear a loud sigh behind you in line while you take your sweet time to pay, don’t take it personally. Impatient people can’t help it! We do what we can to not let things get to us, but it can’t be avoided every time. Just take any bad attitude with a grain of salt, and do what you can to keep us on time and running efficiently. Trust me, it will be appreciated.

Out-of-the-Box Resolutions for the New Year

(Image Credit: BartPhoto)

(Image Credit: BartPhoto)

Each December 31st, millions of people put themselves through the stale process that is resolution making. They can’t help it; they’re pretty much brainwashed into it by the dozens of ads for gyms sporting their new exclusive new membership deals, magazines with headlines screaming “A NEW YEAR, A NEW YOU,” cooking shows trying to undo the damage of their holiday specials with lighter menu options, and Pinterest telling you to create a resolution bored.

In years past, I’ve always made resolutions, and by March, I was always disappointed in myself for failing to meet the standards I had set for myself. Last year was the first year I successfully met my resolution -sort of. I had planned to complete one piece of art I was proud of a month. The monthly plan hadn’t happened, but by December I had finished 12 pieces I was extremely happy with. What made keeping that resolution so much easier than the hundreds I had come up with in that past was that it was already something I loved to do – not something I disliked that I was trying to force myself to do because the new year dictated I do so (eh hem, going to the gym).

It wasn’t until the second day of 2016 that I realized I had failed to make a resolution this year. I had gotten back on the band wagon of exercising regularly in the first few weeks of December and had started eating better (ok, slightly better) after Christmas, so the pressures of finding a healthy routine to follow once the New Year started weren’t really there. With that in mind (and please know I am not knocking those of you who made health related resolutions!!) I decided to come up with a few out-of-the-box resolutions those of us who are tired of the same old might enjoy too.

Visit at least three states I’ve never been to before

While I would have loved to have said countries, I don’t really have the money or time this year. (Here’s hoping for a pleasant surprise!) Instead, the idea of hitting up a few more states is both more doable and wallet friendly. There are several surrounding states I’ve yet to visit, and at least one (Louisiana) that I’ll definitely be hitting up in April. States work well because, depending on your location, a trip could require as little time as one day. It’s easy to forget the U.S. is a huge country with ample travel opportunities.

Try at least TWO new recipes a month

Some of us love to cook, and some of us just need to add a bit more variety to our standard menus of pasta, eggs, and sandwiches. With the ample amounts of materials available to us (cooking channels, Pinterest, food blogs, tutorial videos, etc.) there’s really no excuse not to test the waters a bit. You don’t have to go for the recipes that takes hours to make either – try one of Rachel Ray’s half hour meals! Or if you’re feeling up for a challenge, learn how to make macarons. Something a bit more exotic? I recently tried this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe from Aarti Sequeira and it is seriously amazing.

Make space

Putting away my gifts from Christmas this year made me realize how much extra stuff I have lying around my house. My goal is to start with my room and to fill at least two boxes with stuff I no longer need/like/want. It’s amazing how quickly collections of things can build and take up our space. If you’re feeling a bit cluttered, go through your stuff and play the “Does this make me happy? Does it have a special memory? Does it fit? Would I miss it if it were gone?” game and clean out your closet, drawers, and space beneath your bed. Either sell your stuff to thrift shops or donate it to a local charitable organization.

Take at least one class in an area of interest

I know, time is valuable. But is there one thing you’ve always said you would like to learn, but have never had the time to actually do so? Well, pick one random day and carpe the diem out of it. For me, it’s salsa dancing. I’ve always wanted to learn the basics, and I am vowing to take at least one class this year. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to throw clay or improve your singing voice. Maybe you’d like to shoot a bow and arrow, or learn how to make your own lip balm. There are a ton of options out there! And for all of you who would like to take an actual class on a topic like religion or nutrition, there’s no time for the present! For flexible scheduling and FREE tuition, check out all the great things EdX has to offer.

Put the technology away more often

Recently, I caught my father talking about me to my mother right in front of me after trying to talk to me. “She’s always on her phone!” he shouted. Shoot. He was right. I’m so guilty of an unhealthy connection to the damn thing. So. I’m going try to do something about it and put it down way more often than I do. Challenge yourself to sleep your phone away from your bed, leave it in your purse or pocket when you’re out with friends, leave it in a safe spot for a few hours each day while you focus on other stuff full-heartedly, etc. I know our phones are supposed to help us to be more tapped in, but what are they causing us to be tapped out of? Distance, my friends, let’s try to distance.

Instead of signing up for that $1 deal at the gym, these are the resolutions I’ll be trying to keep this year –  I’ll let you know it went in 2017. In the meantime, let us know what you think of them and what your personal resolutions for the New Year are. Cheers!

5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap

(Image Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds)

(Image Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds)

Napping is a time-honored tradition in kindergarten classrooms. After that, it usually falls by the wayside, but it definitely shouldn’t. Napping can be just as effective for adults as it is for children, and it comes with a ton of benefits including improved memory and mental stamina. With National Napping Day coming up in the next few months, it’s time to start practicing now.

Need some more convincing? Read on for the top five reasons you should take a nap today. You’ll be glad you did!

Mood-Booster

Napping can help improve your mood, especially when you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. If you find yourself tired, irritable and upset, it’s time to take a nap. After all, people put kids to bed when they get cranky, so why wouldn’t that work for adults? A nap can give you a more positive outlook on a situation and help you cope better with anxiety, leaving you feeling better about a situation in just a few short minutes.

Nix the Caffeine

A lot of people use coffee, soda or some other source of caffeine to help us get through the day, which isn’t always a great idea. Next time you find yourself reaching for a coffee boost, try a nap instead. Catching a few minutes of sleep can help you power through mid-afternoon grogginess, and it’s even more effective than caffeine. Plus, the alertness from a nap lasts much longer than a temporary caffeine high.

Stress Reduction

There are some days where everything seems to be going wrong, and it’s those days when you need a nap the most. Stress produces hormones that naps can help alleviate, and napping also gives you better emotional control over negative emotions like frustration and impulsivity. When you’ve gotten some sleep, it’s easier to complete draining tasks, not only because you feel better but because the reduced stress from napping makes everything seem more manageable.

Work Smart

Next time you’re staying up late to work on a project, make sure to take some time for a little shut-eye. Though it may seem counterintuitive to drop everything for half an hour or so, when you wake up from a nap, you’ll be able to get more things done. Napping can increase endurance and focus and get you ready to finish a project. Besides, pushing yourself to get the work done doesn’t help. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to make mistakes.

Just Do It

But honestly, the only reason you need to take a nap is the fact that you want to take one. I know that you’ve been taught napping is something only little kids or lazy people do, but don’t listen to that. Napping is sleeping, only for a shorter time, and everyone sleeps. Denying yourself the nap you want is only to going make you more tired and upset. All the great benefits of napping are just a plus!

So, you want to start taking naps? Great idea! You should know that it’s recommended that naps last no longer than an hour, and you need to keep your sleep schedule in mind. Typically, if you take a nap too close to bedtime, it makes it harder for you to fall asleep. Try napping in the early afternoon for about 30 minutes to experience the full benefits of naptime.

Then, once you’ve set up a nap pattern that works for you, you’ll feel better and more productive before you know it. Sweet dreams!