7 Important Steps for Breaking Unhealthy Habits

Habits usually start out as slow steps or small choices that lead to actions becoming a part of our daily routine. Before we know it years can go by as unhealthy habits can be our safe place, our crutch, our sense of sanctuary. We may not even realize we are performing some of these habits, they become part of our subconscious operation. Like most challenges in life, breaking old cycles and creating new ones in our habits and coping mechanisms requires a thoughtful holistic approach.

1) Identify the Actual Root Cause

It’s vital to not only identify what the habit is, but WHY you even perform this action in the first place. I can’t say I’ve ever met a smoker who claims to use tobacco products because they enjoy coughing or raising their cancer risk. Smoking is typically bore from the need for calm and stress relief, until it becomes a physical craving and need. Stress can manifest in a wide array of behaviors such as nail biting, over-eating, angry outbursts, smoking, drinking, I’ve even met people who had slowly removed their eyelashes from plucking them during stressful times. Stress is just one variable in unhealthy habits. Understanding why, can help you identify a plan of action.

Some examples of Root Cause of habits: 

• Overeating due to equating food with love and safety

• Smoking related to stress and seeking relief from our bodies nicotinic receptors

• Nail Biting, Hair pulling, Skin Picking due to anxiety

• Excessive Consumption of Sugar/Carbs can change your Gut Flora to naturally crave them more

• Excessive Screen time on TV or Phone as a need to escape reality

• Being a Pack Rat of items out of a fear of loneliness or loss

2) Identify Triggers

After Identifying the Root Cause, you want to prepare for urges by recognizing what triggers your habit. It’s easy to say you will rely on your will power, but if we’re not prepared for the moments of weakness we become easy prey to mental chains of comfort and habit. You can identify triggers by reflecting on what is going on when you perform the habit and journaling is a powerful way to keep track of and identify triggers. For example, maybe you pick your skin when you’re nervous, so you create a plan by buying a stress ball instead. This will keep your hands busy. Ideally, you can remove the trigger from your routine or environment. However, if you cannot entirely avoid the trigger you can create an action place for alternative steps to take. This leads to point number 3..

3) Replace the Habit with a Healthier Alternative

The Quitting “Cold Turkey” Approach to breaking a habit is often unsuccessful for many, and It’s not due to lack of willpower. If you look into how the human brain works we operate on complex systems, connections, and subconscious workings that direct all of our choices big or small. Willpower has nothing to do with it. By simply stopping a bad habit, you are creating a void in your routine and coping mechanisms that leaves room for over indulgence of said habit or you may even replace one habit for another. For example, folks who quit smoking may be prone to snacking to replace the time lost in their routine and lack of another healthy alternative. It’s true, we’re not actually “Breaking Habits” but what we are actually doing is exchanging harmful behavior for a more constructive one. If you love soda, consider seltzer or flavored water in replacement. Instead of smoking you may find relief with the oral fixation and (especially if you like menthol) chewing gum or mints for the minty shock to the taste palette.

4) Enlist a Support Person or Group

Enlist anyone you trust to be a support to you while you’re making changes in your lifestyle. Sometimes we indulge in our habits when nobody is watching, and this can make the indulgence even sweeter. However, if there are loved ones helping you hold yourself accountable for your behavior it becomes a little harder to mentally push aside the consequences of our actions. You can’t depend on another person to be your only motivation, but It does help to have a trusted shoulder to lean on to avoid temptations and celebrate our victories.

5) Small Goals are Much Less Daunting

I’m guilty of wanting results FAST. If I don’t see big change or the (often unrealistic) goals I set for myself I feel like giving up entirely. However, this isn’t the best way to be kind to yourself or create a long term plan! For example, if you are trying to find healthier snack alternatives but don’t like many fruits or vegetables start with slow and subtle changes. My guilty pleasure is potatoes!  And who doesn’t love a fresh cut French fries (or Chips for my UK Pals!). I allow myself to have them every once in a blue moon, but without self-restraint I could indulge in them multiple days a week. Instead of frying them you can consider baking them in the oven or air fryer with delicious seasonings. You’re still getting the potatoes, but it’s prepared in a better way by being baked rather than fried in grease. Small Steps for the win! If you wish to get more exercise, start small with only a few days a week at home rather than signing up for a gym, making extensive exercise regimens, and starting slow can prevent injury. Moral of the story here is, small changes are much easier to face than massive life upheavals. Humans naturally enjoy routine, changing the routine too fast can lead to failure.

6) Give Yourself Grace and Patience

Remember as I said at the beginning of the post, our unhealthy habits can form over or sustain themselves for many years. These habits may even feel like part of our identity. Celebrity Model Ashley Graham is a perfect example of this.  A few years ago, she was shamed online and in social media by many folks claiming her choice to lose weight meant she wasn’t an advocate for full bodied women. You may feel a loss of identity with you let go of certain habits. These habits that likely formed over many years of experiences, environmental factors, and maybe even forces outside our control will not go away overnight. If they took years to form, they will take time to break and replace. If you stumble and give in along the way, recognize even though it is a setback, it’s NOT the end of the line. Forgive yourself, be kind to yourself, as you would if you were supporting your loved one in your shoes.

7) Recognize When you Need Professional Help

It’s important to recognize that sometimes a habit is more than just some bad choices or behavior. If your habit has taken control of your routine to the point where you cannot function in daily life without it, you may be faced with an addiction or an issue such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. With an addiction or diagnosable disease you will require some form of support and need tools for coping and manifesting a healthy lifestyle. All the steps above are helpful, but they will not be sufficient for dealing with a serious condition such as addiction. It sounds cliché, but it’s very true that the first step to change is being able to recognize that you have a problem. You wouldn’t let your loved ones suffer in silence, so why would you do that to yourself?

Lewis Ginter Gardens Lego Exhibit

Since all you hear about is Covid and it’s a little hard to travel I’ve decided to post about an adventure I had a year 1/2 ago (I was just starting my blog and wasn’t an “adventure” sharer then). This place was amazing and beautiful!

There was a lego exhibit that I couldn’t wait to get too. I know, I’m a big kid at heart. Who doesn’t love legos!? ..unless you step on one..

I decided to take my mom so she could tag along. We love going on adventures together, not only do we see neat stuff but we also get to spend time together.

The garden that hosted the LEGO exhibit had a map like a scavenger hunt for the LEGO masterpieces. There were so many and scattered around the garden, which was beautiful in itself. 

The exhibit we scheduled was in August and it was HOT, we in fact had 2 snow cones in one day! Hot weather and I are not friends, HATE the hot weather. During the winter at least I can bundle up and take off layers when I get hot but that’s frowned upon when you get too hot. 

I’d been working on my freelance business a lot and I felt I needed a weekend away to recharge, so I even left my laptop at home! Yes, left it at home. Miracles do happen. 

As I remember we walked around 6-7 miles in a couple hours in this hot weather. I hurt my knee a few years ago running a marathon (my first so far) so it really gave me problems when we got back to the hotel room and were relaxing watching the I.D Network (if you’re not familiar with the I.D Network it’s a network that only shows crime scene, FBi, and other forensic shows.), what can we say – we love catching killers.

The 3 days we were there checking things out we were exhausted to say the least so when we got back to the hotel room we ordered DoorDash (which I love by the way). We weren’t being lazy but it was dark and we didn’t know the area so we didn’t really want to get out and get lost even though ya know GPS. Don’t judge, ya know.

The exhibit findings and other gorgeous photos, I actually took these with my iPhone. I was impressed with myself. ☺️

You can tell Lego photos because they look pixelated, another thing I think It looked pretty cool. The geek side of me is showing!

I hope you enjoyed this little venture as much as you could. We had a lot of fun and learned a lot about the gardens too.

7 Ways To Recharge Everyday

Everyday is different for everyone, some days are just too much to take though. Relaxing eases stress, helps relieve anxiety, depression, and sleeping problems. Some of us don’t recharge enough or destress enough to get the full results of the act.

When I get home I have a nightly routine (not so much a morning routine, I’m not really a morning person) and I don’t know what I’d do without it, I’d be totally lost. If you don’t have an evening/night routine I highly suggest you look into it.

(This post contains affiliate links, you can read the full disclosure here)

Anyway, when I unwind I watch a movie, paint, or read. I don’t check emails, scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or do anything that can be done during “business hours” by doing this I keep a work life and home life balance. I keep things simple. Some nights I’ll have a lemon tea because it gets colder at night and you’ll find me huddled up on the couch with my fleece blanket.

Why Recharge Everyday?

Recharging isn’t just for electronic devices and cellphones, this tiny little habit may help you live longer as it reduces stress. You’ll feel better, you’ll be more creative, and another added bonus is it’ll help strengthen your immune system. 

It’s important to keep your focus and mind right everyday, wether you need to read a book, take a bath, or do a brain dump (such a weird phrase), or just watch a few episodes of your show. 

I personally listen to lo-fi tunes when I am trying to relax in the evening. The sounds are all different and you never know what will come out next but they’re interested and keep my mind occupied instead of running through my to do list for the next day or the things I’ve done today.


7 Ways To Recharge Everyday:

  1. Take a drive – it doesn’t have to be hours on end just a short 15 or 30 minute drive may help soothe you. I wouldn’t recommend doing this in the middle of rush hour though,
  2. Somedays you just need a day to recharge, ask your boss if you can have a mental health day. Most companies will let you use a vacation day for this but I am not too sure about a sick day.
  3. Turn off your cellphone! This is a huge one for me. Whenever I’ve had too much social media, drama from the social media and friends (Facebook) I like to turn off my phone for a few hours (yes I said hours) the silence is relaxing and it stops the need to be present in every single conversation, which is also a relief.
  4. Journal – I know this is so cliche but hear me out. You get all those thoughts that are rolling around in your head on paper so they don’t bug you anymore. You can look back later at maybe you’ve actually solved a problem for yourself without even knowing. 
  5. Lazy Sundays – I LOVE a lazy Sunday! I can do whatever I want with no rush, hassle, or urgency of any sort. I do meal prep on Sunday but that to me is relaxing, just in the kitchen for a few hours; just me and my glass(s) of wine. 
  6. Take a nap – if this is possible it always helps me, I usually wake up better than I went to sleep. This might include a power nap of only 20-30 minutes. I wish I could do power naps but my naps are like 2-3 hours long. Naps also help in creativity too. So it’s like a two-for one!
  7. Color – yes that might sound childish but adult coloring books are on the rise these days. I have several. Over Christmas my boyfriend surprised me with one of the picture from the trip we took to West Virginia a few months ago that just so happens to be a paint by number! How cool is that, he did good! There are about 29 different colors to work with but at least everything is numbered and yes some of them are microscopic so I may cuss a little but it’ll be worth it.

The trick is to find something that resonates with you, if one of these suggestions stresses you out then take a bath rather than coloring or go for a walk rather than taking a nap. That’s a plus too because you’ll be getting your steps in as well (sorry I recently got a new FitBit and I am a little obsessed with my steps and heart rate at the moment).

Luray Caverns, Luray Virginia

We had such a good time checking out Luray Caverns. I’d never seen one myself and it was just breathtaking really.

It started on a whim that the boyfriend and I decided to take a weekend trip (which turned into 4 days of adventure in Virginia & West Virginia but more on that later). I wanted to explore, discover, and get out of my comfort zone.. then I found the Luray Caverns!

Luray Caverns, Luray Virginia

I enjoy learning so it was neat that it was a self guided tour around the cavern. There was even a wishing well all the way under there!

I’d like to share a few things that made the trip more manageable, these are my favorites to take along on any outing. They’re comfy, convenient, and practical.

(*The following links are affiliate links, here you can read the full disclosure.*)


You can see more pictures below this post but I wanted to share a little information about the caverns, so consider this your history lesson for the day ☺️

4 Million Centuries in the Making…

Luray Caverns is the largest caverns in the eastern United States, yet walking through feels more akin to an unearthly experience.

Paved walkways lead visitors through cathedral-sized rooms with ceilings 10-stories high, towering stone formations, and natural wonders at every turn.

Wishing you were here?

Enormous chambers are filled with towering stone columns, shimmering draperies and crystal-clear pools. The National Park Service and the Department of Interior designated it a Registered Natural Landmark.

This is the largest body of water in the caverns. However, its deepest point is not more than 18 to 20 inches. This sparkling lake reflects a myriad of fantastic forms and creates a mirror image of the abundant stalactites hanging from the ceiling.

You Won’t Believe Your Ears

Can stalactites sound as unearthly as they look? They do at Luray Caverns. The Great Stalacpipe Organ is the world’s largest musical instrument. It literally makes stalactites sing by gently tapping them throughout three acres of the caverns. It’s a musical masterpiece that can’t be found anywhere else in the world … or under it. Hear the organ playing here.

More photos from our adventure!

Behind The Scene Of 2020

I’m not one to make New Years resolutions because I have a hard time sticking to anything longer than a few months. If I don’t see progress in 2-3 months then I usually move along to the next thing.. like crocheting, how on earth is it done?!

2020 was full of surprises and threw us all some curve balls in some of those we’ve not recovered. Just as long as we do the best with what we can that’s all we can do.

Adventures

After the crucial lockdowns, curfews, and loss of work I didn’t manage to have a little fun it i did have some fun. I tagged along on my first ever trail ride & rock crawl, we hiked the gorgeous Catawba Falls Waterfall, with a few other adventures that were had (you’ll see more of those in later posts).

Self Care

I’ve had a lot of time to think with being out of work and my freelance writing business pretty much non-existent now I was drowning in stress and anxiety.

I had plenty of time to search, read, and figure out ways to help with my anxiety and stress (I’ve decided to write an ebook for stress. You can preorder now and the ebook will go out the first week of January.)

I thought I’d share how I deal with stress, and had a wonderful guest blogger to share the 6 ways you can find confidence.

I’ve shared my bipolar story with the world as a way to relate to other mental health bloggers. I got a lot of blow back from that saying I shouldn’t be sharing my personal life online. Isn’t that what a blog is all about in a way though? 

Food

I’ve actually done a ton of cooking and baking over the last few months last year. I’ve been making a meal plan and cooking for my boyfriend for the passed 2 months. Although cooking 3 meals in one day is a little chaotic so I didn’t take photos of all recipes and if I did they came out looking like crap so I didn’t use them or publish the recipe.

I made some peanut butter protein bars which were good but what I absolutely loved making {and eating} were the chocolate strawberry boxes

I made for a dessert. Everyone that tried them loved them. I do think I’ll make the top layer of chocolate a little thinner as it was a little hard to crack open. I want to leave out the strawberry and try it with chocolate and orange which is one of my favorites too.

As for 2021 I think I might try something different and pick a word, I’ve put a lot of thought into the word I’d pick as I want to thrive along with that word this year.

The word I picked was abundant because that’s what I want. In everything I do I want there to be an abundance.

You might think it’s silly but I think I’m excited to try and fulfill my word. That would mean new opportunities all around the board. I thought it was a great idea since I don’t make resolutions. I could set goals but as I said I don’t really do well with those.

I think having a word will help because if at least one thing goes according to plan and turns out abundant I will be motivated to try the next and it’ll be one thing I can be proud of.

What’s your take on 2020?

10 Ways To Cope With A Loss Over The Holidays

I lost my dad almost 3 years ago to liver cancer and it’s still hard everyday. I’ve had to learn a few tricks over the years to not spend Christmas in the bathroom crying.

My dad loved Christmas, we both liked looking at the Christmas tree lights. It was calming in a way. I never imaged he’d be taken away so soon and so fast. Within 3 months of the discovery of his cancer he passed away. It’s so hard to talk about.

I’ve got a few things I do to help me cope with the loss of him and other loved ones during the holidays though. It doesn’t make the pain go away but it does help to remember a time when they were here.

10 ways to cope with a loss over the holidays

What is grief?

“Grief is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical”. 

Why is it important to deal with the loss of a loved one?

There is no wrong or right way to deal with grief, some grieve differently than others. Grief is a natural emotion so it’s important to let yourself feel it, often times the pain of a loss can be overwhelming. Remember the grieving process will take some time. 

How to cope with loss over the holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge the holidays will be different without the person around.
  2. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
  3. Decide if you’re going to have the holiday in the same place. The place you’ve been celebrating may be too much for you to handle while still coping with the loss.
  4. Keep in mind not everyone grieves in the same way, so just because someone isn’t in the same boat as you doesn’t mean they’re not hurting too.
  5. Include a favorite dish your loved one liked, this will keep the memory light.
  6. Buy a gift you would’ve bought a loved one and donate it to a charity of your choice or of one in which your loved one passed away. I do this with the liver cancer foundation.
  7. Be honest with family and tell then exactly what you do and don’t want to do for the holiday, if it’s just too much I’m sure they will not fault you for your absents.
  8. Send a holiday card to the loved one who passed away if not one of your parents. I do this with my best friend who lost her dad too.
  9. Pull out some old photos with family and friends and listen to the stories that pour out of their memories.
  10. Find a grief group if you need a little extra help and you feel you can’t talk to family or friends. There is no shame in seeking outside help.

I hope these tips will help you get through the holidays while grieving the loss of a loved one. Remember to just take it one day at a time no matter how long it has been.

How do you spend time with your family during the holidays?

Self Care during the holidays: 2020 edition

Congratulations! You made it through Thanksgiving. Your turkey was beautifully cooked and the sweet potato casserole was a hit with the kids.  Now it’s  time to sit back, relax and… oh wait. The holiday season is just getting started. 

If you are anything like me, the stretch between the holidays usually feels like a whirl of last minute preparations. As an elementary school teacher, I find these 3 weeks to be some of the hardest to navigate. The “Santa is coming” vibe hits my students the moment they leave for Thanksgiving break. For adults, this block of time can be more stressful than it is exciting. Is my shopping done? What do our travel plans look like? Do I really want to get into another debate about current events with my cousin over dinner if they come?

With all that in mind, let’s talk about some ways you can practice self-care this year during the holidays. 

1) Pace Yourself 

Unfortunately, our normal to-do list does evaporate during November and December. Looking at everything you want to get accomplished by a certain date in one shot can be overwhelming.  Grab your calendar and divide your to-do list up to no more than 3 or 4 holiday-related tasks per day. Managing your tasks this way will also help you prioritize the things that will need to get done sooner than others (e.g., taking family photos for the yearly Christmas card or sending gifts through the mail). 

2) Don’t completely neglect your routine

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, our routines can quickly be swept to the side. Try your best to keep to your routine as much as you can. Keep up with your yoga when possible or take your afternoon strolls through the local park. This sense of normalcy will help to keep you in the right state of mind, which brings us to our next tip. 

3) Make your mental and physical health a priority

This is imperative during these trying times of the  COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s ok to not see your family in person this year for the holidays to exercise an abundance of caution. Both my husband and I are at high risk of complications if we were to contract the virus and thankfully our circle of loved ones understands this. Virtual family meet ups are still a great way to connect with your loved ones this year while keeping yourself safe and well. 

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of  lengthy – and possibly heated- conversations with relatives whose views do not align with our own. 2020 will likely be no different it comes to uncomfortable dinner table talk.  If you know your Uncle Jim just won’t be able to contain himself, you are not obligated to engage with them. It is alright to give yourself the space that you need to be mentally secure. Prioritizing your health is not a luxury; it is a part of being a thriving human being. 

Here is one if the most important tips I can give:

4) Don’t forget to have fun!

 Even though this year will most likely not be a typical Christmas, there is still plenty you can do to get into the holiday spirit. If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where it snows, please make a snowman in honor of all those who cannot (a small request from an incredibly envious Floridian). Put on a cheesy Hallmark movie while you are wrapping presents to send through the mail or doing your online shopping. Make plans to drive through a neighborhood you know goes all out with Christmas lights and wave to the residents. Plan a virtual Christmas movie night with the friends and family you won’t  be able to physically see this year. 

Stay safe this year and God bless!

Clari Maldonado runs the blog The Married Spoonie. Her blog is a place to share about her life living with chronic illness not only as a patient but as a caregiver to her husband, Anthony. Follow their journey on Instagram and their website. 

Refreshing Night Time Routine

I loooove night time! Day time is a time to get things done but night time is my absolute favorite because it’s my “me” time.

It’s a time I can retreat into my bedroom, turn on my diffuser, and light up my Himalayan salt lamp.

Before I hop into my cozy sheets for some Facebook scrolling, Pinterest pursuing, and Netflix binge I take a shower and wash my face.

Refreshing Night Time Routine

It’s strange to say but washing my face at night makes my day feel complete. I can only use Lush products because they don’t break out my super sensitive skin.

I couldn’t take bubble baths until I discovered their bubble bars (Bewitched & French Kiss are my two favorites).

Why A Night Time Routine?

For me it’s a time to help me wind down from the day. To let go of all the stress I’ve been carrying around for the day. A time to be myself, listen to my thoughts and sort them out, have a cup of lemon tea and rewatch an episode of Gilmore Girls for the 1000th time.

These three products are my go to’s for my nightly skin care routine. They make my face feel so fresh, soft, and clean.

Angels on bare skin – is a gently-exfoliating cleanser with a light herbal-lavender scent that balances both oil and dryness to leave your skin feeling soft, supple and comfortably clean.

Breathe of fresh air – gives dry skin a little pick me up with soothing aloe vera and rose spritzer with hints of cleansing rosemary and mineral-rich sea water.

Cosmetic lad – not only for the lads, but it works well to combat the irritation and redness that can follow regular shaving. Soothing ingredients make it ideal for all sensitive skin types.

Refreshing Night Time Routine

 

By the way, none of these links are affiliated. I’m not an affiliate of Lush, I just love their products and wanted you to check them out for yourself if you’re interested.