Category Archives: Health

Six Positive Things to Do for Yourself This Holiday Season

This is known as the most wonderful time of the year—and for good reason! We all look forward to holiday events, traditions, gatherings, and more. But as you decorate your home, cook for your family, shop for your loved ones, and attend celebrations in your community, it can be easy to forget about something very important—yourself.

Instead of stretching yourself so thin that you’re running on fumes by New Year’s Eve, remember to give yourself the gift of kindness by spending time and energy on your own well-being throughout the coming weeks. When you nurture yourself physically, emotionally, and socially, you’ll be able to enjoy a holiday season that reflects your values while emphasizing gratitude and joy.

Here are six things I do for my own well-being and nourishment over the holidays. They help me to savor the season instead of feeling stressed—and I hope they can do the same for you!

Find peace before starting each day. Each morning, I spend a few quiet moments getting grounded and focusing on all of the goodness in my life. Before embarking on a busy day, it is so calming to breathe in and out as I consciously place my focus on all of the things I’m thankful for and remind myself of my priorities and values. I’ve found that this small investment of time can create a positive, peaceful mood that lasts all day.

Celebrate friendship with time together. The best gift we can give to our closest friends isn’t something that can be placed in a box and wrapped. That’s why I make sure to plan a lunch or event with my best friends that doesn’t include the pressure of exchanging gifts. Instead, we’re able to enjoy each other’s presence as we celebrate life and our friendship.

For instance, my friend Donna and I have a holiday tradition we fondly call the “Christmas Walk.” We meet in front of the tree at Rockefeller Center around 5:00 in the evening and watch the light show across the street at Saks, which repeats every 15 minutes. After we’ve enjoyed the display, we take a selfie in front of the tree (or ask someone to photograph us), and then start our walk. We check out holiday window displays and always enjoy shopping at Henri Bendel because of all the small gift items on the first floor. We end the evening at a fun restaurant. It doesn’t matter how cold or stormy it is…Donna and I take our “Christmas Walk” every year! It’s always a special treat and a great way to savor our friendship.

Make plans to pamper yourself. Especially during a time of year when our social calendars tend to be full, it’s important to schedule some quiet time for yourself. (And no, locking yourself in your house to catch up on laundry and cleaning doesn’t count!) I’m talking about something that you’ll find restful and rejuvenating—perhaps a massage, facial, or manicure/pedicure. Think of it as a holiday gift to your mind, body, and spirit!

Let yourself off the social hook occasionally. No matter how much you love your family and friends, too much social interaction can be taxing or overwhelming. When that happens, give yourself permission to (as my dear friend Rick says) “change the channel” for a few minutes. For instance, instead of forcing yourself to paste a polite smile on your face and make small talk for the third hour in a row at your extended family’s get-together, take a walk around the block or go into another room, close your eyes, and breathe for a minute. Or if you’re hosting guests for several days, leave the house for a few hours and see a movie. When you rejoin the festivities, I promise you’ll feel much fresher.

Give yourself the gift of good health. This time of year, I find that it’s easy to overindulge while neglecting healthy routines. So, plan ahead to make sure that your well-being doesn’t fall by the wayside. If you can give your body a rest from unhealthy food and liquor for a day before and after a big feast, that will be a real gift. (Personally, I’ve found that drinking green juices and lots of water is a big help in allowing my body to heal and rejuvenate.)

Maintaining your exercise routine is also very important at this time of year. I know I always feel so calm and peaceful after a workout, and I’m more energetic during the day. Even a long walk is effective if you can’t get to the gym! So clear some time on your schedule for physical activity, and don’t forget to pack that workout gear when you travel. Both of these strategies are great ways to ensure that you don’t have to face the dreaded “diet” in January.

Hydrate throughout the holidays. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, this last piece of advice won’t be new to you, but it is very important: Drink lots of water! (This is something we all tend to forget during the colder months.) Water keeps your organs and digestive system functioning properly and your skin looking radiant. It also gives you energy and can help stave off headaches caused by dehydration. I’m not saying you have to avoid tasty beverages altogether, but when you find yourself reaching for coffee, hot chocolate, or a cocktail, ask yourself if water might be a better choice. This time of year, I make sure to carry a bottle of water with me on all my errands.

While there is no “right” way to celebrate the holidays, taking care of ourselves is something we should all prioritize! So don’t (as I blogged about last year) overdo it—and do focus on honoring yourself. You have more control over how you feel during this hectic time of year than you may think! Here’s to a season that’s full of love, joy, peace, and friendship.

 

What I’m Loving Now: 16 Products to Get Your Face, Skin, and Lips Ready for Spring

The snow that has fallen during this abnormally chilly winter has been absolutely beautiful to watch…but if you’re like many women, that’s where your enjoyment of the season stops. Between the polar vortex and artificial heating, the odds are high that your skin is dry and your lips are chapped. And that’s not even taking into account the havoc winter may have wreaked on your immune system.

But take heart. While you may not be able to change the weather forecast, you can choose how to deal with its effects. As I’ve battled this particularly harsh New York City winter, I’ve made it my mission to find the best ways to soothe my skin and keep germs away. I know from experience that when your skin is dull and itchy, your lips are chapped, and you’re feeling run down, your self-image will suffer no matter how stylish your wardrobe is.

Here are 16 products that have helped me to refresh and revitalize my skin (and stay healthy in general!) over the past few months. I’ve also included Amazon links in case you’d like to learn more about them yourself.

Face It 

Aside from the chic boots, scarves, and other cold weather clothes we all love, not much about winter is glamorous. In particular, your face really suffers as it’s continuously exposed to wind, dry air, and constantly changing temperatures. If you’re suffering from dry, tight, chapped skin, these four products can make a world of difference.

  • Clarins Double Serum. Amongst other states, New York has had an especially harsh winter, but Clarins Double Serum has kept my face looking and feeling good. During a makeup night at Bloomingdale’s, a makeup artist used this product on a friend, and I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. I decided to try it later and am so glad I did! Apply this serum all over your face, except around your eyes, for a look that’s luminous without feeling greasy.
  • Clarins Super Restorative Tinted Cream. If you really want to go the extra mile, this product is great to use in place of your normal foundation. The tint looks very natural, and as a bonus, has an SPF 20 rating—which is still important even in the depths of winter! The combination of these three Clarins products leaves a beautiful finish.
  • RapidLash. You may not have ever considered the effect that winter can have on your eyelashes. But cold temperatures can dry them out, just as much as they do the hair on your head. The good news is, you can cultivate longer, more luxurious lashes without breaking the bank, and they’ll help your entire face to look brighter and more youthful. I have been using RapidLash for about two months and I can really tell a difference. You apply a thin line every night along the base of your lashes, the same way you’d put on eyeliner. It doesn’t burn, it’s not oily, and it really works!

Dry Skin & Brittle Nails

Two of the most irritating effects of cold weather are dry skin and weakened nails. No matter how much lotion or cream you slather on, nothing you do seems to make a difference for long. But that’s about to change. These seven products will keep your skin and hands feeling fresh and moisturized all day long.

  • Nailtiques. Having trouble keeping your nails looking good between manicures? Look no further. Nailtiques is the go-to for cuticle care oil. A friend who has been using this product for about six months recommended it to me. I have seen improvements in both my nails and cuticles in just one month of use, despite the awful temperatures and wind!
  • Curel. For body moisturizing, Curel is my reliable go-to. I’ve used Curel on my feet since it was recommended by my podiatrist and I love it.
  • CeraVe Body Cream. CeraVe body cream was recommended to my husband by a top dermatologist in New York. It’s thick, soothing, and extremely moisturizing. Best of all, one application lasts all day.
  • Aveda Hand Relief. I’m sure you know how it feels when your hands are so chapped and rough you just want to scream! Well, that’s a thing of the past with Aveda Hand Relief. It instantly soothes my dry hands and keeps them feeling moisturized throughout the day.
  • Aveda Foot Relief. This foot relief cream has peppermint in it—my favorite. When you’ve been on your feet a lot, it’s so cooling and refreshing to smooth on at the end of the day.

All About Lips 

Spend five minutes outside in these temperatures, and you’ll probably experience dry, cracked lips—which are unsightly and uncomfortable. Here are two products that will help you find lip bliss in the midst of winter:

  • Aquaphor. Aquaphor is an incredible product that you can pick up at your local drugstore. I usually put it on, then use a clean towel to buff my lips. The dry skin comes right off, leaving my lips smooth and soft.
  • Young Living Cinnamint Lip Balm. I also apply this daily. I’ve used it for years, and it always gives me great results. The peppermint oil in it, which is absolutely wonderful, gives my lips a warm little tingle.

Immune System Support

Flu and cold season is in full swing, and it’s crucial that you take care of yourself. Aside from trying to avoid those who are sick, you can use these three products to keep yourself healthy.

  • Young Living Inner Defense. Young Living Inner Defense, which comes in pill capsules and contains health-reinforcing essential oils, is exactly the boost your immune system needs. I take one to two capsules per day as a preventative measure, and so far, so good! If you feel a cold coming on, you can take up to five per day.
  • Young Living Thieves Oil. To some, sanitizing everything in your house on a fairly regular basis might seem unnecessary, but to me, it’s just good sense. That’s why YL Thieves Oil, which has a 99.99 percent bacteria kill rate, is a must-have household item. I diffuse the oil in our apartment, which makes it smell and feel clean.
  • Thieves Household Cleaner. I also depend on this product to keep my house germ-free. It is non-toxic and has replaced most cleaning products in our home. We use it to clean the counters, all mirrors and glass, and the floors. I also spray it on a paper towel and use it to wipe down glasses, phones, and iPads—places that are usually skipped over during a cleaning spree but house a ton of bacteria! This household cleaner smells good, is safe, and gets the job done for a reasonable price. I recommend mixing about two capfuls with water in a spray bottle for cleaning.

When you succeed in keeping the cold from negatively affecting your face, skin, and immune system, you’ll be surprised by how much more bearable winter seems. Choose the products you need to put a spring in your step, and before you know it, spring will actually be here. And in the meantime, don’t forget to drink lots of water—it really does help to hydrate your hair, skin, and nails!

’Tis the Season for Excess: Seven Areas in Which You Shouldn’t Overindulge

For most Americans, the weeks between now and New Year’s are some of the busiest of the year. When we’re not shopping, cooking, or decorating, we’re socializing, eating, or traveling to the next event on the calendar. Yes, we mean well when we cram our time so full of activities and obligations: We want to have fun. We want to spend time with loved ones. We want to celebrate, eat good food, and look our best at every event.

But often, we end up overdoing it. Instead of savoring seasonal cheer, we find ourselves irritable, stressed, and exhausted as we fall more and more behind on our to-do lists. In multiple areas, it’s easy to inadvertently cross the line from “healthy” to “too much,” leaving ourselves inadequate margins of time and energy.

One thing I’ve learned during my career is that balance looks and feels different to everyone. There isn’t a magic formula for staying within healthy boundaries. That’s why it’s important to take your temperature in several key areas as you move through the next few weeks. Yes, going overboard might be tempting and easy to rationalize, but not at the expense of your well-being. When you stay focused on honoring your needs and values, you’ll stand the best chance of creating a fulfilling holiday—and of beginning 2014 in a good place physically and mentally.

Here are seven key areas in which you should be careful not to overindulge:

*The calendar crunch. Cocktail parties. Potlucks. Gift exchanges. End-of-year company celebrations. Concerts. Fundraisers…and the list goes on. These events are staples of the holiday season because they’re supposed to be enjoyable. And they can be…but only if you curate your schedule. Try to avoid going to too many events or attending the wrong ones. As you pencil things in on your calendar, ask yourself: How much time do I need to recharge between events? How much time should I set aside to complete personal tasks? Will spending time with certain groups of people energize me or drain me?

*The parade of requests. Since seasonal events don’t plan themselves, chances are you’ll be asked to pitch in with your time, talents, energy, and money. As the requests come rolling in, resist the urge to automatically say yes to everything. Trust me: You don’t have to plan your company’s holiday party just because you did so last year. You don’t have to stay up till 2 a.m. baking cookies for your child’s class. You don’t have to host every member of your extended family for a holiday dinner. Keep your limits in mind and practice saying “no.” Don’t give away so much of your energy that you have none left to enjoy this time of year!

*The commercial frenzy. There are a million and one things that Americans spend money on over the holidays. The problem is, as you walk through crowded malls and watch endless streams of red-and-green commercials, it’s easy to get carried away with your wallet. Keep in mind that no purchase is worth the anxiety that a larger-than-expected credit card bill can bring. And especially be wary of overspending on clothing, shoes, handbags, and other items that are on sale, but that you don’t need. When shopping for clothes specifically, I recommend looking at the garment first and the price second. And above all, remember that the best holiday memories won’t involve “stuff.” Instead, they’ll feature the people you love. So don’t be afraid to create a budget and stick to it.

*Decking the halls. Decorations are a time-honored staple of this season. And with each year, glossy magazine spreads, television specials, and (most recently) websites like Pinterest up the ante. As a result, I think that many of us have mistakenly gotten the impression that our homes need to look like Martha Stewart paid a visit. But the truth is, it’s okay if your tree looks a little scraggly. You haven’t dropped the ball if you didn’t make each decoration by hand. As you deck your halls, ask yourself, Am I doing this because I’ll really enjoy these decorations, or am I doing it so that other people will be impressed? Remember, the most important thing is that you enjoy being in your home.

*Buffets, potlucks, and finger foods. (Oh my!) The holidays are known for good food, good drink, and lots of it. It’s tempting to partake until you’re stuffed, and then continue partaking regardless. You may not want to hear it, but the truth is that you’ll feel better physically and emotionally if you limit your intake to a reasonable level. Be sure to drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and avoid gorging on treats at every opportunity. I also recommend getting in some light exercise, even if you can work in only a short walk a few days a week.

*Daydreams of perfection. Does this sound familiar? Every year, you say to yourself, This year everything will be different. The holidays will be perfect. No arguments, no disagreements, no awkward silences. But then, Uncle Tim makes inappropriate remarks at the dinner table, your teenage niece storms away from the table in a huff, and you can practically see your spouse’s blood pressure rise as your mother makes critical comments. Ultimately, you’re unreasonably disappointed. I’m not suggesting that you put up with blatantly bad behavior, but do manage your expectations. You’ll be much happier if you don’t ask your imperfect—but still valued—loved ones to reenact a Hallmark commercial.

*Virtual reality. During the holidays, the impulse to share every little moment with your social networks might be even greater than normal. But before you update your status or post a photo for the 749th time, take a moment to consider whether the Internet really needs to know what you’re sharing. You don’t want to run the risk of missing out on real life because you’re so focused on your virtual one. Experiencing some things with your family and friends without screens and keyboards is important.

Over the next few weeks, I hope you’ll take a step back and intentionally design a celebration that is meaningful to you. Remember, there is no “right” way to celebrate the season. Don’t feel bound by what your friends, the media, or our consumer culture tells you that you should be doing. At their heart, the holidays are about love, fellowship, faith, and values. If you’re focusing on those things, you’ll stand the best chance of having a holiday that’s truly filled with joy.

What I’m Loving Now: Holiday 2013 Edition

As the days get shorter and temperatures fall, our schedules tend to get busier and busier. Between your holiday schedule and the general end-of-year crunch, you may be spending less and less time on yourself—and feeling increasingly stressed. As you rush from errands to events to the office and back again, I encourage you to stop for a few minutes, decompress, and spend some time and energy on your own well-being.

The good news is rejuvenation doesn’t have to be difficult. Even a little bit of indulgence can go a long way towards helping you feel revitalized as you continue to tackle items on your to-do list. Here, I’ve put together a list of products that I’m currently loving—and that I hope will help you feel pampered, renewed, and indulged this season:

Button Pant Extender: Say goodbye to uncomfortable pants. As you spend time in fitting rooms trying to find the perfect pair of jeans, do you consistently find that pants fit well through the legs but are too tight in the waist? If so, you’ll understand why I was so excited to discover the Button Pant Extender. It’s a clever little device that adds one inch to your waistband by looping over the existing button—no sewing necessary. And since the Button Pant Extenders come in packages of five, you don’t have to switch the extender each time you wear a new pair of pants. You can purchase Button Pant Extenders here on Amazon.com.

Leopard Print Pants: Put some “fierce” in your fashion. In the cold gray days of winter, wearing a standout outfit can really put some pep in your step. If you’re looking for a style that’s eye-catching and unique, yet completely classy, I recommend purchasing a pair of leopard print pants in cream, buff, and black neutral tones. I bought my pair from Worth New York during autumn and find myself reaching for them again and again when I go into my closet to put together an outfit. I wear them with a low boot or flat, and pair them with a chocolate jacket and chocolate t-neck, camel t-neck, or an orange or red sweater if I want a pop of color.

Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer: Soothe yourself while smelling great. For most women who are trying to combat the drying effects of cold weather, lotion is a winter staple. This year, elevate this daily ritual to a spa-like experience with Epicuren After Bath Kukui Nut Coconut Moisturizer. I use it every morning after my shower, and I love how soothing this wonderfully rich formula is. As an added bonus, it smells so great that people often ask me what scent I’m wearing. I don’t even wear perfume these days and still receive compliments well into the afternoon! I purchase this product from Leslie Sloane, who can be reached at (818) 348-4646.

Fresh Sugar Acai Age-Delay Body Cream: Feel younger in your skin. Here is another option to help you stave off the dreaded winter dryness. This product is not only super-moisturizing; it also firms and conditions skin to help it look and feel younger. A friend bought me a tube of this cream as a gift, and I loved the way it made my skin feel: soft and supple. My only problem is not using a whole tube in a week! According to my friend, though, a little goes a long way, so I’m trying to use it sparingly.

Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment: Say hello to brighter eyes. While purchasing a favorite lipstick at Saks, I was introduced to Tom Ford Intensive Eye Treatment. The saleswoman told me that many of her clients loved this product so much that they had given up their La Mer eye cream for it. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. I tested the Eye Treatment under one eye and thought I saw a difference, but decided to ask my husband’s opinion as well. He immediately pointed to the eye under which I had put the cream and said it was less puffy. That was good enough for me! Because of the price, I use this product only once a day in the morning.

Juice Press: Cleanse yourself. Chances are, you’ve heard of juicing (extracting juices from fruits and vegetables) and its benefits. Juicing is a great way to get more fruits and vegetables into your diet, to absorb nutrients, to cleanse your body, and to give it a break from digesting food. Juicing can even help you lose weight if you prepare juices with the right proportions. (Beware, though—adding too many sweet ingredients like cranberries and apples can actually make you gain weight!)

If you don’t want to buy an expensive juicing machine or don’t want to spend time preparing the juice yourself, using a juice bar is a great alternative. I go to Juice Press in New York City. I love many of their juices—particularly the green ones, because they contain so many enzymes and antioxidants—and have done Juice Press’s six-juices-per-day cleanse. I highly recommend searching for a juice bar in your hometown if you’d like to clean up your diet! 

The Time in Between: Get lost in a fantastic book. When life gets hectic, diving into a good story can give you the respite you need. If you’re wondering what should be next on your reading list, I recommend The Time in Between by Maria Duenas. It’s the story of a courageous Spanish seamstress who becomes an undercover Allied spy during World War II. It’s clever and full of suspense. My book group recently read it, and we all loved it. If you’re anything like me, you won’t want to put The Time in Between down.

Inner Defense: Stay healthy from the inside out. From one of my favorite companies, Young Living, this natural supplement offers health-reinforcing essential oils in a pill capsule. I always keep this product on hand, but I’m especially diligent about using it in the winter to keep my immune system strong. You can take one pill a day as a preventative measure, and up to five per day if you feel a cold or flu coming on. I purchase Inner Defense from Lucey Harley, who can be reached at (610) 641-1116.

CellPower Super Silica and Good Nutrition: Defy the weather with great hair (and overall health!). It’s no secret that winter isn’t kind to hair. Harsh weather, cold temperatures, static electricity, indoor heating, and more combine to make our manes extra dry, dull, and brittle. And that’s not even taking into account the everyday damage we inflict through poor nutrition, hot styling tools, hair ties, brushing, and more. The problem is so widespread, in fact, that the Today show recently noted that many women are cutting their hair into shorter styles because of damage. To rejuvenate your hair (and your health in general), I have two tips:

  • You may be focusing on healing your hair through external means, like deep conditioning treatments. While those methods are helpful, I’ve learned that the biggest changes occur not because of what you put on your hair, but because of what you put in your body. So first, I recommend using CellPower Super Silica, an easy-to-use supplement that can be taken in water. Since I started using Super Silica, I have noticed a big difference in how strong and shiny my hair is. And best of all, Super Silica’s benefits extend well beyond the hair: It can also strengthen nails, increase bone density, boost energy levels, and more.
  • Secondly, I suggest meeting with a nutritionist to see what your individual body needs. Nutrition is far from a one-size-fits-all proposition. My nutritionist, Dr. Jairo Rodriguez, told me I needed to take omega-3 oils for my joints. A nice side effect, he said, is that omega-3 oils contribute to healthier hair! Dr. Rodriguez is certainly worth the trip to New York City if you’d like to meet with him specifically.

So often, it’s the little things that take life from “humdrum” to “enjoyable.” No matter how busy you are this winter, don’t forget to earmark a little time and money for yourself. I hope that these suggestions will help make your life a little more comfortable and pleasant!

Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Stress

Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life.

I can sympathize. I’m going through a rough spot myself. Due to several different factors, I have been extremely busy over the past few months. When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel “wired,” meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.

After one particularly crazy day, it occurred to me that I should take my own advice. I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.

In this blog post, I would like to share a few taking-care-of-myself strategies that have been helpful to me the past few weeks, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize that things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life. Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on, and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective. This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd a first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).  Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day.

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make. That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and if you’re anything like me, you start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better. If that sounds familiar, stop! Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations. Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you. You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically. To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.

In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them. Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!

Your Spring Awakening: Mind, Body, and Soul

As the temperatures rise and the flowers start to bloom, do you catch the spring cleaning bug? If so, you’re not alone. If you’re anything like me, when the bright, warm rays of spring sunlight begin to finally stream through your windows, you feel the urge to make sure everything in your home is fresh, shiny, and dirt-free.

This year, I encourage you not to stop with sponging the baseboards, dusting off the shelves, and washing your windows. Take this opportunity to clean out your life, too! Think about it this way: Just as it’s easy for dust and clutter to accumulate (relatively) unnoticed during the short, dark days of winter, it’s also easy for bad habits, poor outlooks, and unhealthy relationships to pile up in your life. If you don’t make a conscious effort to detox, they’ll continue to hold you back and weigh you down. And what better time than during the renewal of spring to refresh your mind, body, and soul?

Read on for six ways to breathe some fresh springtime air into your life.

Clean your closet. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life. For many people, a reluctance to change something as simple as the contents of a closet is a symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe you’re afraid of change and what the future holds. Maybe you just ended a romantic relationship and are clinging to the past. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your life overall and don’t feel ready to take the initiative to change it. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Decluttering the spaces in your home will help declutter your life. I promise, there’s something really refreshing about walking into a clean, organized closet. It will make your mornings less stressful by cutting down on the time it takes to rifle through and find the perfect outfit for the day. And when you look good, you’ll feel good.

First, get rid of any clothes that are old or worn, that don’t fit, that you never wear, or that don’t honor you and your lifestyle (ask a friend for help if you want an outside perspective). Then, organize what’s left, and treat yourself to a few new pieces that embody the blooming spirit of spring. This is also a good time not only to give your closet a good scrub down, but also to evaluate your wardrobe. Your winter coats, wool scarves, and other cold weather items should be packed away until the fall to make room for floral prints and pastels.

Get some fresh air. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a location where it’s balmy all year round, you’ve probably been cooped up inside during the cold, icy winter months. Welcome the sunshine and springtime air by taking a walk (or run!) outside a few times a week. Not only will this help you clear your mind and make you feel more energized, it will also aid in shedding some of those unwanted pounds we all put on during the cold winter months. And as a special bonus, if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful colors of blooming flowers and trees will put you in a great mood for the whole day.

Do some weeding. I’m sure you know how a few weeds can ruin the beauty and health of a flowerbed…and also how quickly they can spread. Well, people are the same way. Individuals who are critical, mean-spirited, jealous, or just plain negative can spoil your own happiness and even infect you with their poor outlooks. It won’t be easy or enjoyable, but it is important to evaluate the relationships in your life.

Think especially about your friends: Are they supportive or snide? Do you feel energized when you spend time with them, or drained? Are compliments genuine or backhanded? If your friendship with a certain person isn’t enriching, back away. Choose to spend time with people whom you genuinely like and who make you feel good. Life is too short to spend time with people you don’t enjoy.

Set healthy boundaries. Moving away from toxic people is a good start when it comes to filling your life with healthy relationships…but don’t stop there! With everyone in your life—even with people who make you feel good and who have your best interests at heart—it’s important to set healthy boundaries. In other words, you need to be clear about what you need and what you expect from others.

For example, let people know what’s important to you. (“My birthday is something I really look forward to, and it’s important to me that we celebrate it as a family.”) Learn how and when to say no. Don’t let yourself be bullied or guilted into overcommitting and overextending yourself. Lastly, stop making excuses for other people; for instance, I’ll overlook that comment—that’s just how she is. If you don’t set clear boundaries like these, even good relationships can turn sour and become weighed down by resentment. But when you’re up-front about what’s best for you—in a kind way, of course—you’ll enjoy more authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.

Get rid of bad habits. Chances are, you can name several of your bad habits off the top of your head, and some focused thought would probably reveal a few more. Maybe you’re always running late or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

The truth is, we all have bad habits. And here’s the good news: You can change them! You can consciously improve your reactions, change your routines, and become healthier (mentally, emotionally, and physically!). For this spring cleaning project, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, bad habits really aren’t that difficult to change. Summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Plant yourself in something new! If you want a flower to bloom as beautifully as possible, you make sure it’s planted in nutrient-rich soil and placed in a spot with just the right amount of sunlight, warmth, and water. The same principle will hold true for you, too. You’ll blossom when you’re doing things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. As the days get longer, take this opportunity to finally sign up for that art class you’ve been dying to try, for example, or attend a hot yoga session with a friend.

Overall, as you work to spring clean your life, I advise you to simply be aware. Be aware of what feels good and what doesn’t, of what’s healthy and what isn’t, of what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Try to pay attention to areas of your life that you normally take for granted, and ask yourself, Is this working? Does it honor the person I am right here and right now? You may be surprised by how much dead weight has been holding you back…and by how quickly you bloom when it’s gone!

Jackets, Scarves, and Boots, Oh My!: Ten Tips for Updating Your Cold Weather Closet

It’s official: the cooler temperatures have arrived, which means autumn is here and we are well on our way to the winter season. As the temperatures on the thermometer continue to drop, you’re probably considering updating your look to include the rich colors and fabrics of the season in an effort to stay warm while still looking fresh.

If that’s the case, get excited—because there are plenty of ways for you to transition to the season of bright-colored leaves and pumpkin spice (and on into the oncoming winter weather) without breaking the bank.

Over the next few weeks, anything that screams summer—from your head to your toes—needs to go, if it hasn’t already. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to change up your clothes, accessories, and overall look by shopping your closet, purchasing a few versatile new pieces, and paying special attention to your beauty regimen.

If you’re ready to, well, fall into fall fashion, then read on for ten tips to make your transition smooth from head to toe:

On Beauty…

Treat yourself to a good facial. It’s true—everyone is looking for ways to save money these days. But there are some luxuries that are well worth your money (and that you’re worth, too!)…and a good facial is one of them. As you start to plan for the upcoming holiday season, perhaps, or as you oversee your family’s hectic daily schedule, you’ll appreciate this relaxing treatment. And your (possibly) sun-baked skin will thank you, too.

Polish up your nails. Over the summer, your fingernails and toenails may have sported a number of bright shades, including coral, tangerine, turquoise, seafoam, or a classic pink. But just as your clothes are likely to exhibit a range of darker, richer colors during the cooler months, so should your nails. Look for dark reds and purples especially. They’ll blend well with traditional fall hues while still making a trendy statement.

Give your hair a good conditioning. If you’re like many Americans, you probably spent a lot of time outdoors during the previous season. And after experiencing the sun’s bleaching rays and the drying effects of chlorine, your hair may be feeling and showing some wear and tear. Make sure to include some good deep conditioning treatments in your beauty regimen so that your frizzy locks don’t contrast in all the wrong ways with the rich fabrics you’ll be wearing. And since you are transitioning into different types of clothes, this is also a good time to think about updating your hair color, too.

Don’t skimp on the H20. Yes, everyone knows how important it is to stay hydrated during the scorching months of summer. But just because the temperatures are dropping doesn’t mean you can leave your water bottle behind! Cooler weather can dry out your skin very easily, so make sure to replenish that moisture by drinking water throughout the day.

On Fashion…

Throw out the old rules and keep those white jeans. Yes, that’s right—the old “no white after Labor Day” rule is a thing of the past. So if you enjoyed pairing your white jeans with breezy tank tops over the summer, leave them in your closet and start wearing them with a cashmere sweater and flats. Another way to make a stylish statement is to pair white jeans (or corduroys!) with a white cotton turtleneck, t-shirt, or sweater to create a column, and then top it off with a luggage (in other words, camel) or chocolate leather or suede jacket. Finish the look with a pair of coordinating flats. Very Ralph Lauren!

Cool it down with dark cottons. As you’re shopping your closet or your favorite store, pay special attention to dark cotton pieces. Navy, taupe, brown, and olive green are wonderful for fall, and they pair fabulously with other dark colors as well as with leather jackets and boots. I recommend wearing a black or olive shirt with khakis, cream pants, or a cream skirt to achieve a transitional feel. Another winning look can be achieved by starting with a white or cream t-shirt and topping it off with a darker cotton sweater, cotton or linen jacket, or even a leather jacket. And if you want to branch out to a heavier material, look for tropical-weight wools. They are comfortable to wear for nine months out of the year in most climates, so you’ll get a lot of mileage out of the investment.

Say farewell to flowy dresses… It looked great on the beach and did an admirable job of keeping you cool, but it’s time to retire your favorite flowy dress or skirt until next summer rolls around. This season is all about cleaner, more structured lines. And what about sundresses? Well, you might consider pairing a sleeveless sheath or A-line with a cardigan or cropped jacket; just be careful. Remember, your rule of thumb is to say goodbye to anything that screams “summer.”

…and say hello to scarves. What’s not to love about scarves? They’re always in style, they can take an outfit from average to amazing, and as temperatures get cooler, they’re functional, too. The thing to remember about scarves is that the pattern really needs to tie in with what you’re wearing. An of-the-moment look I’m loving right now is a silk gauze scarf in a color that works with a leather jacket—the scarf is a great connector piece! Also, a brighter scarf can add “pop” to an outfit that might be dominated by darker colors.

Add in some tights. Like scarves, tights are another accessory that can be stylish and functional. The thing to be careful with here is to make sure that your tights work with your outfit instead of dominating it—especially considering all of the styles and patterns out there! For instance, thick tights don’t work well with thin dresses since they create visual dissonance. On the other hand, an example of a classic look that is never a faux pas is to extend a slim black skirt with a black tight and chunky black heel. It will move through the season well, and you can even add a leather jacket for some extra punch.

Don’t forget your feet. Last but not least, let’s look at what is many a woman’s very favorite accessory: shoes! Finally, it’s time to start sporting closed-toe pumps, flats, and ankle-and-other-length boots. Some of my perennial favorites include subtle animal-print flats, which can work as a neutral, as well as nude flats in camel and pinkish-beige, which are fast becoming season-less. And if you’re looking to incorporate an of-the-moment trend into your wardrobe? Crimson patent leather—in pumps, flats, and even handbags—is very popular. I recommend using these accessories to accentuate an otherwise simple outfit—perhaps one made up of blacks or navies—since the color is so strong.

Here’s one last piece of advice to consider as you start putting together autumn-appropriate looks: Make sure you are always honoring who you are right now. Just because a trend is out there doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Make sure your clothes, accessories, and personal style reflect your personality and place in life. The bottom line is, if you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, your confidence and happiness will be your greatest accessories of all.

 

 

Want to break a habit?

Whether it’s mindless snacking, sitting on the couch instead of exercising, sleeping with our makeup on, or biting our nails, we all have bad habits. I think that most people know when a particular habit isn’t good for them. But they continue to stick to their less-than-ideal routines because forming new habits is just too time-consuming or frustrating, or because other tasks take priority. (I know I’ve been guilty of this!)

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the seemingly little things have a big impact on your overall quality of life. Say, for example, that you habitually run late in the mornings. On the surface, it might not seem like that big of a deal. After all, you may be rushed during your commute, but you usually make it to the office (more or less) on time. But what if you allowed yourself an extra ten minutes to get ready? You would be so much less stressed while getting dressed. You might have time to eat a quick breakfast. Your blood pressure wouldn’t shoot through the roof every time you hit a red light. And you’d feel calm when you sat down to begin your work day.

Trust me, it’s almost always worth the time and effort it takes to break habits that aren’t enhancing your life. The key to making it work is to figure out what the payoff is. In the example above, the payoff would be smoother, less stressful mornings (very important since mornings can set the tone for your whole day!). I’ve found that if you can explain to yourself why a new habit would make your life easier or better, you’ll have the motivation you need to follow through with real change. Here are some examples of changed habits that have happened in my family recently:

  • Whenever a restaurant brings out a starter, like bread and butter or chips and salsa, it’s so easy to eat it mindlessly while waiting on your meal. But really, wouldn’t you rather save your appetite and calorie intake for the entrée? My husband, Barry, and I have recently started sending the bread away so that we can savor what we order. The payoff is that we can eat our meal without feeling overly full, and without feeling guilty about all of that mindless eating. We have also started ordering peppermint tea instead of dessert.
  • Barry’s blood sugar tends to get low in the afternoon. In the past, though, he was often so absorbed in his work that he ignored the way he was feeling. Recently, he has set up an alarm on his computer that goes off mid-afternoon and asks, “Do you want an apple?” That’s Barry’s cue to eat an apple and take a short walk around the office to talk to employees. He feels so much better, and he’s more productive afterward.
  • I really love my job! And sometimes, I’ll stay on my computer late into the night. (I suspect I’m not the only one.) Now that I am married to Barry, though, it’s important to me to spend quality time with him. If I get caught up in work after hours, he’ll remind me to come watch a show or drink a glass of wine with him. I’ve found that my career hasn’t suffered…but my personal life has really improved.

Make a short list of habits that you would like to break, and then figure out what the payoff for doing so will be. I look forward to hearing how your life has changed for the better!

 

What I’m Loving Now: Summer 2012 Edition

We’ve all heard the saying that “life’s about the little things,” and to a large extent, that’s true. Sure, we do—and should!—enjoy the dream vacations, the new cars, and the purchases for which we’ve saved for months. But the truth is, we don’t earn those big rewards for ourselves frequently. In my opinion, that’s why it’s so important to fill our everyday lives with the so-called “little things” that allow us to enjoy ourselves, our surroundings, and our time.

I know from years of experience that you achieve everyday happiness and fulfillment by paying attention to your mind, body, emotions, and yes, appearance. Taking good care of yourself isn’t selfish at all. You have to be comfortable in your own skin and in your own environment in order to share your best and most authentic self with others.

With that in mind, I’d like to share seven things I’m loving right now in hopes that one or more of them might help you to enjoy your life a little more, too.

Thieves Household Cleaner. Chances are, you view cleaning products as one of life’s necessary evils, or at best, as a means to a desirable end. If that opinion sounds familiar, prepare to be very pleasantly surprised by Thieves® Household Cleaner! This product (which is available through Young Living Essential Oils) will clear out a lot of space under your sink and save you a lot of time and money.

Thieves Household Cleaner is meant for multipurpose use, so it can do everything from degreasing cookware to cleaning floors and upholstery. Even better, it kills germs while remaining safe for the environment. It also contains several essential oils, which means it smells great and makes you feel great. If you’re interested, you can order your own supply through my personal essential oils guru, Lucey Harley, by emailing her at luceyharley@aol.com or by going to her website: www.luceyharley.com.

To purchase on Amazon.com, click here.

Bumble and bumble. Hair Powder. If you aren’t familiar with hair powder, here’s a crash course: It’s a product that adds volume, texture, and style-ability to your hair while reducing the appearance and feel of oiliness. These properties mean that hair powder is ideal for perking up your look between day and evening. It can even help you to go longer between washes and styles without feeling gross!

I recommend Bumble and bumble. Hair Powder for several reasons. Not only is it salon-quality; it also comes in several different colors, which will cover up gray at the hairline. At $35 a can, it’s a good investment that will last several months and get you from one color to the next without noticeable roots. And I love that it washes out easily!

To purchase on Amazon.com, click here.

Paul Mayer flats. I have long been a proponent of flats as a shoe staple because they’re versatile, stylish, comfortable, and available in so many styles and patterns. Right now, I’m loving chic flats from Paul Mayer’s collection especially.

These handmade shoes have rubber soles, and while they’re oh-so-cute, they’re also workhorses! I walk a lot and have back issues, but I can wear my Paul Mayer flats all day with no problems. My personal favorites are made of a camel-colored quilted material with a black patent toe. (For more information, visit www.paulmayerattitudes.com.)

To purchase your own pair of Paul Mayer flats at Amazon.com, click here.

Wrinkle Prevention Pillow. Did you know that something as common as a pillow can contribute to the appearance of wrinkles and puffiness under the eyes? That’s why I highly recommend the contoured Wrinkle Prevention Pillow, which allows you to sleep comfortably without your face touching the pillow.

Sooner or later we all age, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do so gracefully…or slow down the process! In addition to helping you stay wrinkle-free, these pillows can also improve the quality of your sleep. And on the fashion front, you can get a beautiful satiny pillowcase in a variety of colors. If you want to buy your own, visit www.wrinklepreventionpillow.com. (If you choose to order one, you can use the coupon code leslies22 for a discount!)

To purchase on Amazon.com, click here.

Odoardi Savuto. Whether you prefer to enjoy your wine with a delicious meal or slowly sip a glass to unwind after a long day (or both!), it’s always a pleasure to find a vintage you know you’ll be coming back to again and again. My husband and I had that experience with Odoardi Savuto, an Italian red that we first tasted several years ago and have recently rediscovered.

Savuto is a blend of different varieties from southwest Italy. My husband and I have really enjoyed the bottles we’ve bought from the Odoardi winery. It’s smooth with low tannins—great for drinking. If you’re a wine lover, treat yourself to a glass (or two) soon.

To purchase on Amazon.com, click here.

Worth pants. The Worth Collection of New York City is a luxury womenswear company that sells directly to customers (not to stores!), by appointment, from the company’s impressive midtown showroom. Specifically, I recommend Worth’s tissue-weight bi-stretch wool pants, which are available in several different cuts for different body types.

Most of Worth’s styles are available in many colors, including winter white, black, navy, tan, and bisque. I own several colors in my favorite style, the Keira, which has a narrow thigh, no pocket, and a “flat” silhouette. I love Worth’s pieces so much that I became a consultant for the company, and I always tell people that these are truly “money in the bank pants.” That’s because they’ll hold up exceptionally well over time, and in most climates they can easily be worn for nine months out of the year.

Mally Lip Fence. We all love that extra something special that the perfect shade of lipstick can bring to an outfit. But all of lip color’s beauty benefits fall by the wayside if it smudges or bleeds. And that’s why I have such high praise for Lip Fence from Mally Beauty.

One of my clients recommended Mally Lip Fence to me. It’s a clear lip liner that keeps your lipstick from bleeding—we all need that!—and helps it to wear longer. Plus, at around $12.50 a tube, it’s very affordable, and it can be purchased online at a variety of websites including Amazon.

To purchase on Amazon.com, click here.

I hope that my recommendations have introduced you to quality products that will enhance your style, comfort, and enjoyment of life. Remember, spending a little money and time on yourself every once in a while isn’t selfish—it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and those you love!

 

Quinoa with Lemon and Zucchini

One thing I always stress as an image consultant is that if you want to look great, you first have to feel great. And a big part of how you feel derives from what you eat. It’s so important to fuel your body with healthy, nutrient-rich foods that give you energy. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt when these foods taste great, too!) That’s why I want to share one of my favorite recipes with you: Quinoa with Lemon and Zucchini.

I make this dish year-round for my family, and it’s also one I frequently email to friends. I first came across it in a publication by Whole Foods Market, and it can also be found on their website here in case you’d like to print a version formatted for a recipe card.

If quinoa isn’t a staple in your home, I encourage you to give it a try! Quinoa is a very healthy grain, and this dish in particular simply feels clean as you eat it because it’s the perfect blend of grain, veggies, and cheese. Plus, it’s very easy to prepare since it’s a one-pan stovetop meal. I have added my own comments in italics to the original recipe below.

Quinoa with Lemon and Zucchini

Active prep: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Serves: 6

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium zucchini, halved and thinly sliced

1 ¼ tsp. fine sea salt  I start by using only ¾ tsp. of salt, then add more when I’m eating if needed.

1 ¼ cups quinoa, rinsed for 1 minute under running water

2 ½ cups water

Zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbs. lemon juice  I love that I can use multiple parts of the lemon: the zest and the juice!

Lots of chopped fresh dill  I normally use an entire bunch.

Crumbled feta (optional)  Feta is very tasty with this dish. More often, though, I use goat cheese. It blends wonderfully with the other flavors and is a little healthier than feta.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until zucchini is crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove zucchini from the pan and add quinoa, water, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is tender but still chewy and a white spiral-like germ appears around each grain, about 15 minutes.

Toss quinoa with zucchini, zest, lemon juice, and dill. Serve warm or room temperature, topped with feta cheese if you like. I typically serve it at room temperature.

Make it a meal: Toss with peeled, cooked shrimp. I have never tried this option, but if you do, please let me know how you liked the addition of shrimp!

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If you and your family don’t eat the entire batch of quinoa, save the rest and eat it the next day for lunch. The leftovers are easy to transport in a Tupperware container, and I’ve found that the flavor combination is even better after the ingredients have had more time to blend. I hope you enjoy this good-for-you (and great-tasting!) dish as much as my family does.