2
Jan

Creating a Sleep Sanctuary

by Tiffany in Health & Healing

create-a-sleep-sanctuaryThis article is part of my 12 month new year’s health challenge. I have used one word as a catalyst for my life in the upcoming year: HEALTH. That may seem like a rather broad goal or resolution and it absolutely is. This is why I am breaking down this lofty goal…to reclaim my health, into 12 monthly challenges.

I plan to completely immerse myself in one aspect of health each month and establish new products and practices into routine before I move on to others. It is said that it takes at least 21 days before a lifestyle change becomes habit. We also know that if you bite off too much at one time you can end up losing momentum. A 12 month challenge will give me 21 days of focus and less chance I will burn out trying to do to much.

This doesn’t mean I plan to completely ignore other aspects of health I am just giving myself permission to be a bit relaxed about it while I concentrate most of my focus elsewhere. Focus on exercise for instance will not be making an appearance in this challenge for a couple of months but that does not mean though I will be a couch potato until such time. It just means exercise will be secondary and a source of no stress or guilt while I work on other parts of me and my life.

Let us begin…the first monthly challenge is all about SLEEP.

Why sleep? I believe that sleep is the secret ingredient. It is the foundation for good health or lack thereof. There is no aspect of your life…physical, mental, or emotional that is not directly impacted by the quality of your sleep. Sleep is when your body regenerates, builds, heals, grows, balances your body systems and hormones, and generally repairs all the damage you do it to it during the day. And frankly some of us do a lot of damage with bad diets, prescription drugs, sedentary jobs, high levels of stress, and so much more. When you do not get enough sleep or when the sleep you do get is low quality due to lifestyle choices and modern conveniences you are crippling your body’s ability to perform and thrive.

So what is my issue with sleep? Well, I get about eight hours a night of sleep by design and I stick to that fiercely but the quality of my sleep is not great. I often have a hard time falling to sleep. I wake multiple times each night. I toss and turn and I do not generally feel refreshed when I wake up. I know that the quality of my sleep is lacking and the first month of this challenge is all about how to change that. Here are my plans to create the ultimate sleep sanctuary:

Comfortable Relaxing Atmosphere: For awhile now I have been wanting to make my bedroom a more relaxing and appealing place to be, more like an upscale hotel. I plan to get a couple more sets of my favorite super soft bamboo sheets from Cariloha. They have deep pockets and they are the softest and most luxurious sheets I have ever felt. I also ordered a luxurious sherpa and velvet comforter. I will hang some art, clear some clutter, and generally create a room that makes me happy to walk into.

No Pets: Having my dog in my bed really impacts my sleep in a negative way. She likes to sleep right up on me and takes up half the bed until I am uncomfortable and about to fall off. I am sick of struggling for room and for covers. She has go to go! She has a dog bed but it is uncomfortable and she hates it. I plan to get a different one or perhaps even a futon or chaise since we have a big enough bedroom. Then I can reclaim my bed.

Blocking Artificial Light: Sleep quality is best when there is total darkness. Artificial light throws off our circadian clocks and throws off our natural melatonin production. This is a big problem! Not only does melatonin help with our sleep cycles it has also been shown to have a hand in improving our immune system, improving thyroid function, and balancing blood pressure. To block outside light I am replacing my curtains with blackout curtains. I have them in other areas of the home but not in the bedroom where I need them most.

Blocking Harmful Blue Light: Blue light from our TVs and devices (tablets, computers, phones) really alters sleep quality and quantity. This is why it is often recommended that you not have a TV in your bedroom and also that you not watch TV or use your devices within two hours of bedtime. In fact use within 2 hours before bedtime has been shown to significantly suppress nighttime melatonin levels.

I plan to try and reduce my nighttime use of electronics but frankly I think I may be setting myself up to fail because this is really the only time I have available to watch a little TV and catch up on shows I missed. I enjoy this time. Even so, I plan to make a couple nights a week device free and then use blue light blockers other nights. You can watch TV or use your devices with blue light blocking glasses, which I have. And you can block the light with apps such as f.lux. I have this amazing app installed on my phone, computer, and my TV. Booyah!

Protection from EMFs: All electronic devices emit electric and magnetic fields called EMFs. Eelctric fields can often be blocked by walls but magnetic fields can pass through walls and buildings with ease. This is bad because they can dissrupt communitcation between cells in our bodies which can cause big issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B carcinogen and recommends that everyone find ways to reduce their EMF exposure.

I plan to turn off and unplug as many electronics in my home/bedroom as I can each night and this includes my sleep number bed. I plan to put my wifi router on a timer so it shuts off when everyone is alseep. I plan to use EMF protection sleeves for our phones since we use them as alarm clocks and I am going try putting my phone in the bathroom instead of right next to my head.

Beneficial Exposure to Light: Sunlight is really beneficial for our health and for our sleep. I wake up at 4AM though when it is dark, dark, dark. I am going to break out my happy light and use it while I drink my morning cup of tea and check my emails. I am also going to try a wake up light that simulates the sunrise with gradual light. It is also an alarm clock so maybe my phone could then go downstairs. I am also going to try and sit outside for 30 minutes each day when I come home. That should help with vitamin D levels too.

Magnesium Oil: I used to use magnesium oil every day and it really helped with aches and pains as well as sleep. Why I got out of the habit is beyond me but in general but I am bringing it back. Magnesium is responsible for maintaining muscle and nerve function, brain health, building bones, and immune support. This is the fuel your body needs to do its job at night and since magnesium is most readily absorbed through the skin, an oil is the best way to get more magnesium. Spray it on your body each night and let it air dry.

Exercise: Physical activity makes you happy and it ultimately helps with sleep. My goal this month is just to start to move more each morning. I plan to spend 5-10 minutes doing tabata exercises such as squats, dumbbell presses, kettlebell swings, Russian twists with a medicine ball, or wallballs.

Nightime Tea: I plan to enjoy a hot cup of Yogi Bedtime tea each evening as part of a bed time ritual. Hopefully it won’t mean I have to wake up to pee in the night!

Essential Oils: I love my essential oils and they really help with just about anything that ails you. To promote sleep I plan to diffuse chamomile, vetiver, or jasmine in my room each evening just before bed. I also have a roll-on that stays in my bedside table with lavender, cedarwood, roman chamomile and coconut oil. I may also use a spritzer for my pillow.

So this is my plan and it starts today. I plan to focus and get this sleep thing under control! Do you have any advice to offer or tricks that have worked for you?

Must Read Book List:

Sleep Smarter – I recommend the audio book version and the author’s podcast is a MUST!!!

The Magnesium Miracle

Overpowered: The Dangers of Electromagnetic Radiation

 

30 Day Follow-Up!!

Okay, checking in thirty days later. How did I do?! Amazingly well!

I am not going to say that every night I slept like a baby because I have to keep it real but my sleep quantity and quality did improve by huge leaps and bounds. My journey with finding better sleep is by no means done but all the work I did and all the hacks I implemented are now habit. I feel more energized during the day, I am falling alseep faster, and I am dreaming way more.

The biggest props have to go to magnesium oil, blue light filters, EMF blockers, a bed and bedroom that now look and feel like a posh spa-like hotel, no dog in my bed, using essential oils topically and diffused each night, and also an unexpected surprise. I started taking Thyromin capsules for thyroid and adrenal support and a happy side effect is deep, deep sleep.

I am excited to tackle the next month’s challenge on the right foot!

31
Dec

Make This Year Your Healthiest Year Ever With a 12 Month Challenge

by Tiffany in Health & Healing

It is the time of year for resolutions, goals, and promises for the future. I have made them myself and often posted on this blog about plans and resolutions for the upcoming year. I managed to accomplish some of what I wanted and at the same time I lost momentum and gave up on other plans. I think the biggest obstacle is that we write a list of resolutions or goals and then try to tackle them all pretty much simultaneously. We end up running out of gas because we didn’t break things into smaller more manageable goals.

For instance if you want to lose 50 pounds this year why not set the goal to lose 4.5 pounds per month instead. And to break things up a bit more why not plan to start January and February with a better diet plan and wait to address the fitness aspect until March or April. That way your eating plan becomes habit before you jump into another difficult transition, such as weight training or exercise.

I am going to go this route myself this year and instead of making a list of goals I am going to use one word to guide my journey this year…

HEALTH

That one word has resulted in a 12 month plan of action that will work harmoniously to help me reclaim my health after a few really rough years.

A couple years ago I went through some tumultuous changes. I was a happy stay at home mom who was at a healthy weight and doing crossfit 4-5 days a week with my husband. I could strict press 115 pounds over my head and deadlift 250 pounds. I loved my life and daily routine.

Things began to change though when I made the decision to take an outside the home job. Being self employed brought me happiness but it it was also stressful to keep my income at a certain level, especially since we were paying quite a bit for CrossFit and paleo food. I thought getting a “real” job would help with that stress. It helped with income but brought a whole different set of issues. I was not able to work out with my husband in the mornings anymore. I had to work out in the late afternoon and I hated it. Not only was I tired from working a full day, I disliked the huge crowds of people that were at the gym during those hours. The morning hours had lots of moms and professional men getting a workout in before work, usually no more than 10-12. I liked the people and the atmosphere. The afternoons were full of 30 or more college age athletes (some professional) who put as much energy into looking hot and hitting on each other as they did their workouts. It just wasn’t a place I liked to be anymore.

Plus, I was starting to struggle physically for some reason. Thyroid issues that I had previously gotten under control came back with a vengeance. My vitamin D and B12 levels were in the tank. I started to gain weight no matter how healthy I ate and how dedicated I was to working out. It wasn’t long before the eating habits started to slide and I stopped doing CrossFit altogether. It was just to hard to manage after work and I now hated the environment I once loved. To drop a grenade in an already bad situation my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer…a type so deadly that she was given only a 4% chance of survival.

Fast forward to a couple years of working two jobs…my day job and my home business. Much of my time off was spent with my mom and dad, who lived in another county. Since we were away from home we ate out a ton and I would spend my days laying on a couch next to my mom. She eventually went into hospice and passed and I was left struggling with depression.

Mid 2017 will mark the two year anniversary of her death and I think that also makes this year a good time to get back on track with my health, mental and physical. It may seem like a very broad goal and that is why I am breaking it into twelve steps, one for each month of the year. And none of those monthly themes will include losing weight (even though I need to) because that will hopefully be a happy side effect and not the outright goal. Better overall health is the goal.

Each month will address a different aspect of my healthy transition and it all starts with January 2017 which will address…

SLEEP

Look for a new post this week about why I need to get better sleep, why I think that is the most important first step, and how I will create a sleep sanctuary. By the time February rolls around I will have hopefully established new habits and be getting much better sleep so that I can conquer my next goal with a solid foundation.

I hope you tune in every month to see where my journey takes me!

healthy new year

16
Nov

My Favorite Car of 2016 – The Hyundai Elantra

by Tiffany in Green Cars

2017-Elantra-Electric_Blue

I usually do a roundup of cars I tested throughout the year and highlight my favorites. This year I did not review as many cars or I simply reviewed newer models of the same cars. In lieu of a roundup I decided to highlight my new favorite…the Hyundai Elantra.

I’ve had a fair bit of time to get to know the Elantra line this year. If you recall I drove an Elantra Eco for over a week and even had the pleasure of driving it off the line in Alabama and road tripping across the country with my husband. It was an amazing trip…I fell in love with Tennessee and I really developed an appreciation for the Elantra.

This month I also got to road test the regular Elantra (not the eco version) for a week. It felt like home…like my car was brought back to me. While I do prefer the eco and its fuel efficiency, the Elantra has has pretty good fuel efficiency too, 32 city / 40 highway. With a few exceptions it is the same car and I recommend both heartily. While touring the Hyundai facility in Alabama I came to appreciate the company and also the retained value of these cars. The depreciation on cars bothers me quite a bit as a Dave Ramsey follower. This is the only car that might tempt me to buy new…if I wasn’t such a die hard fan of used.

For 2016, the Hyundai brand was named a winner of the annual Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own Awards, recognizing new vehicles with the lowest projected ownership costs. The annual award takes into consideration depreciation, expected fuel costs, finance and insurance fees, maintenance and repair costs, and state fees. I can say with confidence that someday an Elantra will be mine.

2017-Elantra-Gray_Leather

I love the sleek exterior and amazing colors (electric blue I am talking to you). I love the interior and all the features including the 7-inch display Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I love the door handle approach light, Bluetooth hands-free phone system with voice recognition, heated seats, and proximity key entry with push button start.

You don’t have to buy a bigger, fancier car just to get the advanced safety features you want either. Elantra makes them an affordable option. Available features such as Lane Departure Warning with Lane Keep Assist and Smart Cruise Control give you the support to be a safer driver.

I feel good about naming the Elantra as the favorite for 2016.

13
Nov

Driving the Toyota Yaris

by Tiffany in Green Cars

toyota yaris

I adore small cars. I guess I just don’t buy into that typically American ideal that bigger is better. I prefer a small sleek car that whip in and out of parking spaces in flash and maneuver through traffic easy. Small cars usually have better gas mileage and they are more enjoyable for me to drive. And while I do prefer small and compact, the Toyota Yaris is sporty looking as well. It doesn’t scream ‘small because I couldn’t afford a real car’ it yells ‘small because I love sleek, compact, and sporty’.

Oh and the price tag for small and compact cannot be beat. I will probably never ever drop 30 grand on new car. I just don’t think I could do it. Unless it can drive all my kids around on auto pilot, its not ever going to be worth it. The Yaris comes in at 15 grand and that is an amazing deal in my mind and frankly the companies making cars with reasonable prices deserve to be supported.

This particular car has a lot of safety features for those who feel “less safe” in small car. It has nine airbags: a driver and front passenger advanced airbag system, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, driver and front passenger seat-cushion airbags, front/rear side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.

It also has an available Pre-Collision System helping you to avoid a potential frontal collision with a forward-facing laser radar and camera that scan the road ahead. If a potential collision is detected, you are alerted with audible and visual warnings. If you don’t apply the brakes and the system determines that a collision with another vehicle is extremely high, the system may automatically apply the brakes. The Yaris can also be armed with lane departure alert. When you start to drift out of your lane, you are notified. And another cool feature is automatic high beams for safe night time driving. It detects the lights of oncoming cars and switches to low beams as you pass oncoming traffic. Pretty nifty!

I don’t personally feel less safe in small car but I know that some do and this car should should alleviate some of that. Toyota has really paid attention to safety.

yaris-interior

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

2 Comments on Driving the Toyota Yaris

11
Nov

Frugal Friday – The Rebate Shopping Game

by Tiffany in Frugal Green

the-rebate-shopping-gameLast week I started to make some gift purchases. I knew I wanted to maximize every dollar by playing with rebates and cash back offers and so far it has been quite profitable.

I started with my Amazon wishlist where I had been keeping the long list of the stuff the kids had mentioned wanting over the past few months. I created a general budget $600 or $200 for each child. I used Amazon to collect the wishlist items but I also shopped around at other places to compare prices and make sure Amazon was actually the best deal, sometimes they are not but usually they are.

I eventually decided that I would need at least $500 for Amazon purchases. Rather than add the items to my cart and spend the money immediately I went through a couple steps to ensure the most bang for my buck.

I checked my Benefit app to see what the rebate was for buying a gift certificate (GC) through them (3% or $15 cash back). Just by going through them and buying a GC first I save $15. Not bad right? Well, I also decided to do the math and see what I would get back if I bought the GC at Giant Eagle or Kroger. The rebate would be fuel and not cash but if it was more savings than its a no brainer since buying gas to run my car is kind of essential. Giant Eagle came out ahead. If I bought the GC there than I would get $1.00 in fuel perks. That $1.00 can used for up to thirty gallons of gas so that is a $30 rebate.

So 3% with benefit or 6% with Giant Eagle? I chose 6% with Giant Eagle. Also the 3% with Benefit is contingent upon you using your checking account via direct draft and not a credit card. By going with Giant Eagle I was able to use a rewards credit card with 1.5% cash back. I don’t carry a balance so the cash back is just butter on the biscuit.

So….now I am up to 7.5% (or $37.50) off my $500 purchase just because I took 20 minutes to go to the store to buy a gift certificate. But the story does not end there. Now I am ready to make my purchase and there are options for earning rebates there too. Ebates offers up to 7% back and there are a host of other sites that offer options like this. You simply go to Amazon through their link on their site and they earn a commission on your purchases which they then share with you…usually 50% of the commission.

What I tend to do is use Hubpages for my Amazon purchases. I have a number of articles I published to the site and whenever someone clicks on the affiliate links I get 50% of the commission generated and this counts for my own clicks and purchases as well. I just got a check this month from them for $56 and quite a bit of that was cash back on my own purchases made in the previous three months. I use Ebates or Giving Assistant for other online stores.

So far I have only ended up spending $446 dollars of that $500 but by going through my hubpages account to make the purchases I earned $21.86.

Here is the breakdown:

  • $30.00 earned by getting a gift certificate
  • $7.50 earned by using a cashback credit card
  • $21.86 earned by shopping through a source that offer rebates or commissions

I got that $500 gift certificate for $433. Booyah!