Don’t Get Stuck

It is crazy to think that less than two weeks ago we were just beginning to see the panic due to COVID19 and today most states have enacted a Shelter-In-Place. This has brought the lives of many to an abrupt halt. Some have lost income, others have lost conveniences. Most gyms are closed and people are having to workout at home (and are complaining about it A LOT).

During this time, as things have transformed, I have been VERY quiet. This is how I process things. About two weeks ago, I was beginning to prepare for some more experiments for my thesis work, only to have my lab shut down indefinitely two days later. I could be considered “essential” but, due to the harsh chemicals I have to work with to prepare my samples, that would be very unwise. I also went through a slight slump in my mood. 

I resisted this whole ordeal as safely as I could for as long as I could. When they closed the gym, I just stuck with doing my workouts in my garage gym. I squeezed in one (very cold) open water swim before they closed the quarry indefinitely. We have been practicing our jiu-jitsu at home on some borrowed mats using the videos from Gracie University for our instruction. Other than a few minor inconveniences, our lives have not changed much. Apparently, we live in a continuous state of social distancing for the most part. 

I know we are significantly less stressed than many other families out there because we were very fortunate that Duke did not pause any income for their employees. So a huge shout-out to Duke for providing a quality of life when it wasn’t mandatory. Thank you for doing the kind thing! 

During this time, I have done a lot of cleansing. Not in the form of a juice cleanse or anything. Mainly in the form of who and what I choose to keep in my life. When everything started happening, there were a lot of people that I was following on social media that really were just completely negative and fear mongering. They got unfollowed within the first two days. Then, I started noticing there were a lot of people (self-proclaimed “influencers”) who were just completely stuck in their lives. This is not a shame to them but I just all of the sudden had this realization that when we are all “free” I had allowed these people to make me feel bad about myself and my life because my life didn’t look like theirs or I wasn’t doing as much as they were. I realized what so many try to tell everyone. These people put their “best” selves on social media. They keep very busy, but very few are actually growing and making changes. They make excuses instead. 

What is the most common excuse for people not going after their dreams or desires? Not having time. We have been given the gift of time! If you want to start working out, now is the time. You don’t need anything. Literally no money, no workout clothes. Just a floor and a phone. You can workout in your underwear. Who is going to see you? Literally no one. 

What have you been dying to accomplish but “didn’t have the time”? Read those books, write that book, do that workout, cook. Don’t get stuck. 

Spend time with the people that you care about. Tell jokes. Read stories to your kids. Train your dog (please). Write notes to people that you love. Call the people that you love. 

 

Spring Break Fun

Spring Break is upon us. It has definitely been quite an interesting month. Many schools are extending their spring break due to this recent coronavirus issue. But we might as well enjoy it while we can! Over the years, I have been able to have a lot of fun experiences for spring break.

 

Minot, ND

Two years ago, I spent my spring break in Minot, ND. I flew into a blizzard and almost got stranded in the Minneapolis airport. I am so thankful for the Delta agent who was able to rebook me on a flight that was leaving in about 30 minutes. I showed up to Minot with my schoolwork, but my checked bag arrived a couple days later. I was able to do a fun winter photoshoot though once the blizzard calmed down. 

 

Corolla, NC

A few years back, my mom flew in and we took a weekend trip to the Outerbanks at the beginning of my spring break. We went to Corolla, NC for a few nights. While we were there, we got to go on an expedition to spot wild horses. It was a little too chilly to enjoy the beach while we were there, but I did get a long beach run in one morning!

 

Costa Rica

Last year, I had the privilege of being part of a Duke immersion missions trip through the Duke Chapel. We went to Costa Rica and helped build some additional rooms at a church. It was such an amazing experience to be able to connect with several undergrads as well as many members of the church. I was able to practice my Spanish as well. We had some amazing food while we were there. Our last day there, we were able to stay at the Costa Rica Missions Project HQ. From there, we went to a beach town and spent a day exploring. My friend Olivia and I took a bunch of beach pictures and even went for a run. 

 

Asheville, NC

Another one of my favorite spring break trips was a hiking trip that I took with my friends to Asheville. We were able to hike to this gorgeous ridgeline in the blue ridge mountains. The hike was a tough one but it was 100% worth it for the gorgeous view. We also ate lots of yummy food. A couple of my friends decided to have too much alcohol though. One got sick in the hot tub and one went running barefoot down the street multiple times. Since I was the sober one, I got to clean up after them. 

 

Empowering Yourself

What is holding you back?

Are you telling yourself lies? Are you listening to the lies that society tells you about yourself? 

Are you held back by something that you are self-conscious about? 

Is there anything that you can do about this?

YES!

The First Step: Identify what is holding you back

This is the hardest step sometimes. It requires taking ownership of why you are held back in the first place. Ownership is hard. When you take ownership, you stop projecting the blame outward and you look to yourself for the blame. With a few exceptions, we are often held back by things that we allow, especially in America. You have control over the things in your life, even when it feels like you don’t. Sometimes it requires being willing to stand up for yourself. Sometimes it requires getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new. Sometimes it requires investing in yourself. 

If you feel like someone is holding you back, then you need to evaluate how much they are able to dictate in your life. Why are they able to have so much say over what is happening in your life? Parents are the hardest one in this category because most of the time they have the best intentions, but sometimes even their best intentions are not what you need. In that case, I suggest standing firm but trying to be as kind as possible through the whole thing. You can listen to them, but I wouldn’t argue because that just brings tension. Just let them know that you hear them and respect them. If what they are saying has merit, think about what they are saying, try to come up with solutions. If they are speaking from a series of irrational fears, then let them know you understand their concern but this is something that you need to do for you. No one truly has any say over your life unless you allow them to. If you are financially dependent on them, now is the time to become financially independent of them. It may take time and work but it will pay off in the long run. 

If what is holding you back is an insecurity, then you need to identify why that thing has so much power over you. You are allowing this insecurity to have that power. You are able to do something about it. You have to make that choice.

If money is the major factor in holding you back, then you need to work and save. As you build up your financial stores, you will be able to move forward on what you want.

The Second Step: Act

Once you are able to remove the things holding you back, you need to start making your move.

If you are held back by a fear of starting, then you just need to take the leap. If you can’t identify what is holding you back, it is probably fear and therefore you need to just act. 

Sometimes we are held back by things we don’t even realize and trying new things can be a way for you to push through barriers. I experienced this first hand in these first few months of 2020.

My husband and I started doing Gracie Jiu-Jitsu last fall. We had been taking the combatives class together and I was loving it. My Gracie Training Center also had a Women Empowered course. This course is designed to teach women necessary skills to be able to fend off an attacker and get away using leverage techniques. One of the best things about this course is that it is not based on strength. It is based on using your natural bone structure as a way to get the leverage you need to stop an attack. I had no idea how powerful this would be for me. I, honestly, didn’t even see how things that had happened in my past were holding me back. But through this course, I realized I had not trusted myself ever. I constantly relied on others to tell me what to do. Once I started taking this course, I realized that by myself I was strong enough. I was enough. I was able to make decisions. I was everything I needed to be, just as I was. 

This has been my most powerful revelation and experience so far in 2020. It really empowered me in ways that I didn’t expect. So far this year has been rough but I know that I can make it through.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Medicine as we know it today began with natural herbs and remedies thousands of years ago from what is known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Its main practices include: acupuncture, cupping, herbs, meditation, moxibustion, and tai chi. While there are many benefits to all these practices, I am going to focus on the herbal remedies for this post. The traditional herbs include: astragalus, cinnamon, cordyceps, ginger, ginko biloba, ginseng, and many more. 

Astragalus

Astragalus is a yellow root used in TCM. Its name means “the yellow leader”; there are more than 2,000 species of astragalus. Its main role, according to WebMD, is stimulating and increasing the immune system. Astragalus can also be used to improve heart function, reduce chemotherapy side effects, control the blood sugar, improve the function of the kidneys, and improve seasonal allergy symptoms. 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is commonly known as a spice used for cooking. There are two types of cinnamon: Cassia and Ceylon. Cinnamon has been used as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial. It has also been used as protection from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a fungi, but is very different from our traditional expectation of the “mushroom” fungi image we often assume. It is actually a parasitic spore that naturally attacks moth larvae. It supports antioxidant activity, cellular health, heart health, blood glucose levels, and liver and kidney health. It can be consumed in the form of tablets or capsules. Cordyceps has also been seen to boost exercise performance, prevent aging side effects, slow the growth of tumors, and manage type 2 diabetes.

Ginger

Ginger is a tropical plant with green-purple flowers. For medicinal purposes, we use the root. Ginger is used in both cooking and medicine. It has been used to treat: nausea, indigestion, motion sickness, morning sickness, GERD, IBS, and a variety of muscular and joint pains. Ginger supplements come in a variety of forms, including capsules. 

Gingko Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is an herb that has been seen to increase blood flow to the brain. It can also be used for an antioxidant boost, reducing inflammation, improving circulation and heart health, reducing the symptoms associated with psychiatric disorders and dementia, reducing anxiety, treating depression, and supporting vision. There are a variety of types of Ginkgo Biloba supplements to make consumption convenient. 

Ginseng

Ginseng is a common herb used in TCM. It is said to have “warming” effects which help promote circulation. There are many types of ginseng; however, the one used in TCM is known as Panax Ginseng. It has been seed to improve stress coping abilities. As well as, increase antioxidant production to reduce inflammation, improve memory, boost the immune system, and fight fatigue by increasing energy levels. It comes in the form of a variety of supplements

This list is far from complete on the herbs used in TCM but provides an insight into how natural remedies can be used to treat many common ailments.

 

Love is in the Air

Well we have made it through Valentine’s Day! It seems like 2020 is flying by and summer will be here before we know it! Valentine’s Day always brings about the thoughts of love and finding love or being tied to the old ball and chain, depending on how you view relationships and love. 

My dad makes all kinds of relationship jokes after being married to my mom for 28 years. They got married the day after Valentine’s Day so he can just buy all the cheap candy for her for their anniversary. 

Danny and I actually got to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day together this year! With us having been a military couple out whole relationship, we have not actually been in the same place for a lot of the “couple holidays”. Now that we are finally living together, we are learning how to maneuver life together. 

Over the years, we have used many tools to keep our relationship strong. We used all of the video platforms to be able to talk to each other on a regular basis as well as WiFi chat apps when he was overseas. Our relationship has had its ups and downs for sure but I truly believe that the tough times have made us stronger.

While we were apart, we also worked through books together that helped build our relationship. These were some of our favorites:

  1. Love and Respect: We really like this book because it helps explain what each of us are looking for out of a relationship and what we naturally want to give. It also has helped us understand the “crazy cycle” a lot more and helped us work through communicating with each other better. Sometimes, we know our partner loves us even if we don’t feel it and so we need to be able to communicate that to them.

  2. The Five Love Languages: We really like this book because it has helped us understand how to show love to each other even when we communicate it in different ways.

  3. Preparing for Marriage God’s Way: Our chaplain had us go through this book before we got married as part of our premarital counseling. We really enjoyed going through it together especially because we were spending most of our engagement away from each other.
  4. Power of a Praying Wife/ Power of a Praying Husband: These books really helped during our time apart because it reduced our worry and brought a peace to our marriage that we hadn’t really experienced in our separation while we were dating. These books really brought the focus away from relying on our partner and back to relying on God.

The last two books are more Christian-focused and may not be suited for everyone. But the first two, while from a Christian perspective, present a more neutral relationship perspective that I do believe any couple can benefit from. They’re also great for understanding and interacting with others around you!

 

Surviving Cold and Flu Season On Campus

I feel like right after every major “travel home” break the students bring back all these germs that are foreign to campus and everyone starts to feel sick. Then, one becomes really powerful and gets deemed “the bug” around campus. Young college students often lack the habits that would keep them from getting sick as well. I have some weird habits myself because I HATE being sick. 

  1. I drink lots of tea. There are a lot of teas out there that will boost your immune system, but my favorite is the Enchinacea tea. Tea has a lot of antioxidants and also has a calming effect, both of which decrease your likelihood of getting sick.
  2. I wash my hands a lot and I try to minimize touching high traffic surfaces. I also use Dr. Bronner’s hand sanitizer to keep my hands clean if I can’t find a sink!
  3. I try to get enough sleep. Some studies even show that 30 minute power naps help boost your immune system by lowering stress levels.
  4. I drink fluids high in Vitamin C throughout the day, especially when I start to feel a little sluggish. My favorite is Emergen-C. I love that it comes in packets that are easy to keep in my backpack, mixes easily in water, and tastes great! Another great supplement to incorporate is zinc. Zinc plays a vital role in our bodies’ repair system and when you’re starting to get sick it is often because your body is in overdrive and working at the max capacity to fight off any germs. If you give it a boost, you can reduce your chances of getting sick.
  5. I drink lots of water as well. Staying hydrated is another major way to boost the immune system. Your body uses water to flush out toxins and remove waste from the body.
  6. At the first sign that I think I am getting a cold, I start taking Zicam. It is the one over-the-counter medicine that I do swear by. If I do end up getting a cold, it lasts for about 3 days compared to the typical 5-7 and I honestly believe that it is because of the Zicam. I also don’t see a huge drop in function as far as getting things done because the Zicam relieves a lot of the symptoms that typically make the cold the most miserable.

Getting Sick and Working Out. Don’t.

One of the worst parts for me about getting sick is the time off from the gym that I have to take, but DON’T GO TO THE GYM IF YOU ARE SICK. Working out breaks your body down which makes you more susceptible to germs but also eventually makes your immune system stronger. (Weird.) So if you are sick and you go to the gym and touch everything, you are passing your germs on to everyone else at the gym. You are also making it harder for your body to recover. If you have to workout, do yoga at home. Once you feel better, give yourself one more day to recover. Then, when you go back to the gym, start off light. 1st phorm recommends a light workout and then a day of recovery. Don’t rush back in at full effort or you will probably end up sick again!

 

The No-Poo Life

Over the past few months, I have shifted my hair care routine to significantly less products and chemicals. I wasn’t using THAT many before but now I’m using even less which is cheaper. Plus the products I’m using also cost less than the high priced shampoos and other beauty products out on the market! So here are my go tos…

Shampoo and Body Wash: Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap

I love this soap because you need just a couple of drops to get your whole head and it doesn’t strip your hair of all of its natural oils. It keeps everything well moisturized and clean. I also only have to wash my hair MAYBE twice a week on this new beauty routine.

The soaps come in multiple bottle sizes which makes it easy to stock up but also take it traveling. I took one 2oz bottle over our Christmas travels and I didn’t even make a dent in the bottle the entire month that we were gone! 

The other reason I like using this soap for my shampoo is because I can also use it to wash my body and my face, which means I don’t have to worry about it clogging up my pores like a lot of hair products do. Good-bye backne!

Face Wash: Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap (Again) and Coconut Oil

I also use the Castile bar soap with an exfoliator to wash my face at night. I like the bar because then I don’t get too much! I wet my exfoliator and then rub it on the soap bar. Once there is soap on the exfoliator, I apply it to my face! The one I am currently using is the Peppermint bar which is very calming after a long day. 

In the mornings, I wash my face with a dab of coconut oil and some hot water. I do this because the oil pulls out any microbes left in my skin while moisturizing my skin for the day and providing some natural SPF. 

Hair Conditioner: Dr. Bronner’s Citrus Organic Hair Rinse or Apple Cider Vinegar+Essential Oils

While I love the Castile soap to wash my hair, you definitely have to rinse it with an acidic rinse of some sort to avoid your hair getting grungy. The Castile soap leaves behind a lot of coconut oil which is nice for moisturizing but not so nice for beauty. I love the Citrus Organic Hair Rinse. The instructions tell you to mix one capful with one cup of water and apply to your hair. I use a squeeze bottle because I feel I am able to control the application much easier. You rinse your hair really well after applying this. This rinse leaves your hair nice and light. 

I alternate using the Citrus Organic Hair Rinse with an Apple Cider Vinegar and essential oils mixture in the squeeze bottle. You want a ratio of 1:3 ACV to Water for your mixture. Then I add a couple drops of whatever I’m feeling (usually lavender or tea tree oil) to the bottle. You can also use white vinegar as well; I just like the ACV. One bottle of mixture usually lasts two showers for me and it is super easy to put together. 

Hair Leave-In Treatment: Coconut Oil

I also love doing a deep conditioner treatment on my hair monthly! For that, it is pretty simple. I apply coconut oil to my hair and sleep in it overnight and wash it out in the morning. It keeps the ends nice and moisturized and prevents damage to them.

 

Take a Picture. It will Last Longer.

Photography is one of my favorite art forms to enjoy. I love the feeling I get when I am able to gaze upon a well done print. It has the capability to take my breath away.

Landscape Photography

My favorite prints tend to be landscapes, often of wide open spaces where they go on for miles or of mountains. There’s just something about being able to capture the stillness in a photo to take you there. Ethan Oberst is one of my favorite landscape and farm life photographers. His passion shines through in every photograph he takes.

Learning How to Take Pictures

In high school, I was able to take photography. I took two film photography classes and a digital photography class. I loved film photography the most because there was so much you could do with your picture and it took a certain level of skill to get a good picture. It took even more skill to get a good print. I liked it because I felt as though it was a skill that made me stand out. Being in the dark room and developing your own film is a very unique experience. 

Digital Photography has advanced our ability to share pictures with the world but in a lot of ways it has minimized the art required for great photography. Almost anyone with all the apps available is able to be a good photographer. There are many amateur photographers that are out shooting family photos these days. But the thing that sets an amateur apart from a talented photographer is the translation of digital to print. Anyone can make something look good on a screen. It takes a certain amount of skill to make a print look amazing and prints never lie. If you want a quick tutorial to get you started on your prints, check out this Photo Printing 101 tutorial. 

Be Patient

Developing your skills as a photographer takes time and practice. You’re going to take a lot of bad pictures before you figure out how to take good ones. It’s okay; be patient with yourself. One day you could capture a moment that changes the world. So take lots of pictures but also don’t forget to take a mental picture. 

Food for the Adults

Nutrition is a vital part of my life. As a student and an athlete, nutrition is the fuel that keeps me going. Having my body properly fueled allows me to train hard and focus well on my work. Good food keeps my brain running strong and keeps me energized. Food also helps me to recover well from my workouts.

Why I Meal Prep

Meal prep is one of the best ways to maintain a consistent diet to get fitness results. Getting the proper macros is vital for proper performance and body composition maintenance. Working with a nutritionist is a great way to get your macros in line with your goals. 

My Meal Prep Evolution

Over the years, I have really developed my meal prepping skills to make it as efficient as possible. I have varied from prepping things like quinoa salads to sheet pan meals. When I spent my summer internships in DC, I loved the sheet pan meals. They took less than two hours to prep all my food for an entire week.

That meal prep included salmon with onions and peppers, meatballs with tomatoes, and chicken with roasted root vegetables. I would roast the salmon, onions, and peppers first. While those were roasting, I would make the meatballs and get them ready to bake. Then I would prep the root vegetables while those baked. The entire prep was under two hours; I would make it a competition to get faster each week. 

Twisted Foods

Once my husband moved into our North Carolina home, the meal prep load got a lot bigger. He eats so much food and fueling him and his workouts is a full time job. I did it for an entire year. This year I opted to get our food prepped by Twisted Foods.

We got our first delivery last week. It was one of the best decisions of 2020 already. It saved me so much time this week. My mental health is so much better and it helped me not to worry about what we were going to eat and I knew we would be fueling our bodies with good food.

They mailed our food to us which was amazing. My husband loves the variety of the meals. He also loves the flavors the meals provide. We both feel that our workouts have been well fueled and our bodies feel solid. 

Getting Started

One of the reasons many don’t meal prep is because they feel that it is incredibly overwhelming. If you don’t know how many calories you need or what nutrients you should make sure that you have, there are plenty of resources to get you started. Choose My Plate offers help developing personalized meal plans. You can also take a look at the dietary recommendations for your age and gender which was put together by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 

Fun with Food

As we get older, it is easier to get lost in the monotony and practicality around food. We are taught not to play with our food because it is impolite and it often seems silly to get too creative with our food dishes when all we really want is to get them in our belly. I still find a sense of joy in a beautiful plate. There are also always the food puns that can bring you a giggle. Don’t be afraid to explore your creative side with food.

 

Taking Care of Your Eyes

I have always had good eye sight; I’ve been able to see to the bottom the eye chart since I was a child. My dad was always impressed with how far away I could read road signs and still relies on me to do so when we are navigating a new city.

Danny is near-sighted and it is correctable to 20/20 but I think I’ve got crazy sensitive eyes because even his 20/20 doesn’t pick up what my eyes do, especially at night.

When we were vacationing at the Theodore Roosevelt Park in North Dakota, we went for a night drive; you have to be so careful on the drive though because the buffalo (bison?) are out wandering at night and will just stand in the middle of the road. Our first night drive, we were driving back from watching the sun set and all of the sudden there’s a buffalo walking up the middle of the road! You also are encouraged to turn off your headlights and such because if they get mad they can charge your car. We stopped and it walked by so close to our truck that we could have touched it (we didn’t, they are wild animals).

That night, I begged Danny not to put the rain cover over the tent so “we” could see the stars when we laid down. As we laid down to go to sleep, I was looking up at the stars. I whispered to Danny, “isn’t the sky so beautiful?” He whispered back, “I can’t see anything.” It was probably one of the sweetest moments that I treasure between us. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to see it but humored me any way. It was one of the most beautiful night skies I have ever seen. The sky was littered with stars, and it is the kind of sky that you can only see if you are far away from city lights.

But back to the eye sight.

I’m currently working on my PhD which requires a lot of screen time. I have to process data, read papers, write papers, make presentations, and lots of other crazy things. A majority of this is on a screen.

Studies have begun to show that the increased screen time results in increased exposure to blue light which is not good for the eyes. As a result, several companies have begun making blue-light blocking glasses for people who spend a large amount of time in front of a screen. I personally love my Felix Gray glasses. They are comfortable and don’t give me a headache like another brand did.

 

Supplements

We also know that we can help our eyes with certain vitamins and food. The most famous one being the carrot for the beta-carotene. There are many supplements that contain this nutrient though that might be good to include in your diet in order to promote good eye sight. Astaxanthin is a good source of vitamins and nutrients to support eye health.

 

What sort of things do you do to take care of your eyes?