Living a Balanced Life

Particularly in our fast-paced society, finding the balance between our home and work responsibilities, and our commitment to our own wellness, can be difficult. Yet, finding that balance is vital for our health and happiness. Perhaps not surprisingly, a 2017 piece for The Telegraph describes our current “stress epidemic” in detail, noting that four out of five people admitted to feeling stressed throughout the week — nearly everyone! The article goes on to explain that much of this increased stress level comes from the overly connected world in which we live.

There’s no question that technology has changed our world in both positive and negative ways. In fact, the Internet and smartphones can actually help us to be more mindful, more aware, and more positively connected thanks to blogs, dedicated apps, and more. However, since it seems nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket these days, this constant connection also means that the workday never really has to end. We can so easily continue to take phone calls, check email, complete assignments, and basically never shut-down at the end of our allotted work time. This extra stress carries over into our other responsibilities, from cleaning the house to caring for the kids.

Without balance, our health and relationships can begin to suffer. Our work life can also slip through the cracks, as never having a break actually damages our productivity. Our brains and bodies need opportunities to refresh and reset in order to be the best that we can be in all of these meaningful aspects of our lives.

Finding Balance at Work and at Home

Whether you work from home or you go to an office, you must allow yourself proper time to recharge. No matter how strong the temptation, don’t allow your workday to continue into your weekend. This may be especially difficult if you work from home, as you are literally surrounded by your work environment. Regardless of your work responsibilities, make a realistic schedule for yourself and follow it. Remember that you’ll actually be less productive if you never give yourself time away from work.

During those off hours, resist the urge to respond to work-related matters, and instead, engage in a hobby or activity that you enjoy. Spend time with family and friends. Maybe take the kids on a hike or go for a walk solo. Both exercise and spending time in nature are time-proven ways to reduce stress and calm the mind.

You might also want to participate in activities that have been shown to have a strong impact on stress reduction. Reading, for instance, is not only good for the mind, but an excellent meditative and relaxation practise, as well. For something a little more physical, consider a class in Tai Chi, a workout that strengthens the body and re-focuses the mind.

Don’t minimise the impact of healthy eating and proper sleep, as well. If you have trouble sleeping, try adding specific, sleep-encouraging (and clean air promoting) plants to your bedroom.

Incorporate Wellness Into Your Entire Life

As you start to shift your life towards a focus on wellness, one of the first emotions you might feel is guilt. When we hear our phones ping with the receipt of another unanswered work email on the weekend, or when we go to an exercise class without folding the laundry first, it’s easy to feel like we should be doing these other things instead. But, ideally, wellness should be incorporated into your entire life, and it is this devotion to your health and well-being that will make you better at all of life’s responsibilities. So, allow yourself that time, and remember that no one functions at their peak when riddled with stress.

If you’ve ever spent time on Pinterest or Instagram, you may have come across “mood boards.” Mood boards are collages filled with quotes and photographs that inspire. Surrounding ourselves with messages that resonate with us can help keep us focused on our wellness goals. I love this simple art piece that reminds us, “Life is a beautiful ride — it’s all about balance.” Indeed, putting our mental and physical health first allows us to give much more fully to our life responsibilities.

How do you maintain a work-life balance? Are there certain mantras or quotes that uplift and inspire you?

I regularly post tips and insight into finding balance on Facebook. Give me a follow and let’s work together to create a life of balance and harmony.

The Surprising Benefits of a Foot Spa

There’s no question that our feet take quite the beating from day to day. We typically take them for granted until something goes wrong, like breaking a foot after a fall or that terrible feeling when a toe collides with a piece of furniture. Otherwise, our feet usually go unnoticed as they continue carrying us through each day, and this makes their health another important piece of our overall wellness.

You see, our wellness toolbox, so to speak, is filled with an array of seemingly simple tips and tricks that, when put together, add up to a healthier, better feeling you. Just like  mindfulness and meaningful exercise, the care and keeping of our feet is another small, but effective way to improve our health  — and it has an impact on both of these practises.

Treat Your Feet with a Foot Spa

While a hot soak in the tub is certainly soothing for body and mind, there are many benefits to investing in an actual foot spa. These machines range in price, design, and special features, but all offer a host of benefits that may surprise you.

Foot Spas Increase Circulation

Most foot spas involve some degree of vibration and/or massage, which stimulates an increase in circulation throughout the feet. The heat of the foot spa also increases circulation. Good quality circulation is important for all aspects of your physical health. While physical activity is an ideal way to boost your circulation, a foot spa is another addition to your health regimen that can make a difference.

Foot Spas Help with Injury Healing and Prevention

If you’re a runner or participate in other high-impact sports, foot spas give your feet ample time and space to rest and recover. Proper recovery from activity is a key way to avoid injury. If you’re already injured, a foot spa can potentially provide healing heat to reduce soreness and reduce distress. Of course, you’ll want to be gentle when using the bath with an injury, particularly when it comes to any massage aspect of the machine. Don’t continue to use the machine if you experience pain, or play around with the features so that the bath is only interacting gently with your foot.

Foot Spas Can Help Manage Certain Medical Conditions

Foot spas have been shown to provide benefit for people with a variety of conditions that can affect people, including arthritis, the painful condition plantar fasciitis, and even diabetes. Foot spas also make a difference for people with arch differences or who are prone to calluses, as they reduce pain and soften the feet.

As always, make sure your GP gives you the go-ahead before incorporating a foot spa alongside your prescribed pain management therapies, but these devices have shown to be considerably helpful. With diabetes, for instance, the boost in circulation that is received from a foot spa can potentially be extremely beneficial for the body. For people with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of a thick tissue band that runs across the bottom of your foot and is common amongst people who spend a lot of time on their feet, a foot spa can provide welcome massage for the pain.

Foot Spas Decrease Stress and Promote Positive Mental Health

Many foot spas provide a small case or other way for you to add essential oils that have been shown to benefit mental wellness. Oils such as jasmine, lavender, and ylang ylang are just a few of the oils that have been studied for their potential to calm and relax. You can also often add salts, such as Epsom, which is actually magnesium, and a vital mineral for stress reduction, as well as for pain. Other oils, such as peppermint oil, can be helpful for reducing inflammation. Be sure to closely follow the directions included with the foot spa of your choice, and to read descriptions thoroughly before purchasing.

As you experience your foot spa, you might consider using this time to practise aspects of mindfulness, focusing on the feeling of the warm water or the vibrations against your feet. You may also choose to read, another meditative activity. All of this will have the added result of reducing your blood pressure and calming your mind.

Other Tips and Tools for Feet Care

After your foot spa, you may also choose to carefully use a pumice stone or other product to exfoliate your feet, particularly if you tend to suffer from calluses. This would be a great time to apply your weleda arnica massage oil or similarly healthy lotion, and give your feet one final pressing. Many foot spas will come with a foot care kit, such as a toe nail brush, nail clippers, and even a stone. This entire experience can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Make sure to follow all instructions regarding the operation of your foot spa, particularly in regards to its cleanliness. The last thing you want is for your relaxing foot spa to become a breeding ground for infection. Your foot spa should come with instructions for properly cleaning and maintaining the device.

Achieving a Physical and Mental Health Balance

Wellness isn’t focusing on any one part of the body or mind. Wellness includes everything from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, and tending to that which carries you through your days can result in a happier, healthier you. Don’t forget about other important parts of foot care, too, like replacing shoes when they are worn. This is especially important for runners, as wearing shoes that are worn-out can result in injury.

Have you given thought to splurging on a foot spa this year? Are you surprised to learn of the benefits that come simply from respecting our feet? Share in the comments and on Facebook, where you can learn more about my tried and true techniques for mind and body wellness, as well as stay up-to-date as I prepare to launch my upcoming mindfulness book.

How Plants in the Bedroom Can Help You Sleep

We live in an age of stress, where fatigue and even total exhaustion are common complaints. So many of us are actually chronically sleep-deprived, and this lack of sleep creates a cycle of more stress, which leads to even less sleep, and a host of issues that stem from improper rest, including moodiness, less ability to focus or concentrate, and a severely lessened overall wellbeing. Good sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. So, what can you do if turning out the lights just results in a rush of thoughts you can’t turn off? What about those mornings when you wake up groggy, feeling ill-prepared to take on the day?

You might be surprised to learn that filling your bedroom with living plants is a simple, natural way to calm your mind and induce a restful sleep. Plants improve air quality and have a major, positive impact on our moods. Studies have even shown that plants help stressed students lower blood pressure by calming the sympathetic nervous system (the creator of our fight-or-flight adrenaline response to stress and anxiety), improve employer focus while on the job, and generally contribute to a more productive and healthy environment.

As human beings, we are inherently drawn to nature, so while all plants will certainly  provide physical and mental benefits, there are a select few that have been studied and used more than others for their ability to promote relaxation and sleep. Some, in particular, were studied by NASA back in the late 80s for their ability to detoxify air.

Here are a few of those commonly researched plant suggestions to help you start the new year healthily rested and ready for what each day brings:

The Snake Plant

If you’re afraid of snakes, you might not think that a plant with snake in the name would be particularly soothing (it’s also known as the mother-in-law’s tongue plant!), but the snake plant’s large leaves make it ideal for air purification, and it’s general hardy nature means that even the most inexperienced gardener can keep this plant thriving. Just water your plant when the soil is dry. Check out this snake plant available on Amazon, already potted and ready to be placed in your home.

The Spider Plant

From snakes to spiders, the spider plant is another greenery that has been shown to promote cleaner, clearer air and promote sleep. These plants are well-adjusted to artificial lighting; in fact, too much direct sunlight can actually harm them, so they’re perfect for an indoor environment.

Jasmine Blooms

If you’re seeking something a little more flowery, jasmine is a beautiful plant to have at your bedside. Jasmine is a scent often used in aromatherapy to calm and soothe, particularly for people with anxiety, making it an ideal choice for a goodnight’s sleep. Interestingly, a 2010 research study found that jasmine, as well as another plant — gardenia — was as effective as strong anxiety medication in non-human research subjects.

You can also enjoy jasmine in additional ways, like in a relaxing tea before bed.

Gardenia

Gardenia is a beautiful plant with a lovely scent and a long history of encouraging relaxation. That being said, this special plant is also one of the more temperamental on this list. If you’re interested in purchasing a gardenia, you’ll want to read up a little on the care and keeping of this flower. Gardenias are tropical plants, so they enjoy much more sunlight than a snake plant or a spider plant. However, they also need just the right amount of shade. While it may take some time to figure out the best plan for your gardenia, the trouble will be well worth the effort, as gardenia has such soothing and air clearing properties.

Gerbera Daisies

Another equally beautiful choice is a gerbera daisy. This plant was one referenced in the NASA study for its ability to purify air, and it’s also safe to keep around animals. If you have pets or children, this is important to note. It’s always best to research what plants may actually be toxic if consumed, so that you can place those plants in locations where they can’t be accessed by your little ones — or, so that you can choose a different, safer plant altogether.

Lavender

Lavender, like the jasmine and gardenia plants, is a kind of wonder plant, with a fragrance that has been shown in numerous studies to help with anxiety and promote a more refreshing sleep. Lavender is also found in everything from essential oil to bedtime teas, so a natural lavender plant in your bedroom could potentially do wonders for establishing a healthy sleep and calmer mood.

Nature Improves Our Overall Wellness

Having plants in the home not only makes for a more soothing, restful environment, but caring for the plants provides further opportunity for practising mindfulness. Make sure you read any care tags or booklets that come with your plant, or seek out information online, so that you’re aware of the best way to keep your plant alive and growing, as well as any information you might need to know regarding your pet’s or child’s access to the plant.

Do you have plants in your home? Have you found them beneficial for your rest and wellbeing? Interact with me on Facebook, where I share more thoughts on daily wellness, or leave your own thoughts below.