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Mental Health Awareness Week + Ways to Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

Physical health receives a lot of attention, especially in the midst of a pandemic (hello, COVID-19). It feels like mental health continues to be stigmatized and take a back seat in comparison. For instance, here in 2020, there is a LOT of concern about catching/spreading COVID-19, and significantly less attention is being given to the mental illnesses that can take hold in a time like this (depression, addiction, etc.)

Mental and physical health go hand in hand. We can’t have sustained physical health without being healthy mentally. Let me start by saying, if you are going through something and battling your mental health, you are not alone. I am always available to chat with anyone in need! And in some cases, I would recommend seeking professional help. This is not something to be ashamed of – I sought therapy for help getting through two occasions so far in my life and could not recommend it enough.

My husband and I saw a marriage counselor together prior to getting married to help me navigate my relationship with my parents, who did not approve of us living together before marriage. I was keeping a lot of who I was bottled up inside and keeping secrets from my parents to avoid confrontation. Seeking therapy helped me break this cycle, and Colin coming with me helped him learn how to best support me through a difficult time. This was a HUGE breakthrough in my life. Colin and I couldn’t move forward and start our own family until I was honest with my family.

I also sought therapy after moving to Charlotte. About 6 months in, I was really missing my friends, not loving my job, and questioning our decision to move. I was unable to sleep at night and crying regularly because of the stress of it. Seeking therapy helped me learn to trust myself, fall in love with this city, connect with local friends, and get back into the fitness community. If I hadn’t gone to therapy, I would probably be back in Syracuse (loving time with my friends and family who I miss!) but not on the growth path that I want for my life.

Neither one of these situations lead to a “diagnosis” — it doesn’t need to. Therapy is for everyone and anyone who could benefit from it. But if therapy isn’t in the cards for you right now, there are still steps you can take to improve your mental health (not a replacement for therapy, just some daily practices that I have found helpful in my own life to keep my low-level anxiety at bay).

Practices for Mental Health

  • Meditation. You knew this was going to be on here. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard about the benefits of meditation by now. I used to think meditation was just sitting silently for a period of time (which sounds sooo not fun). This isn’t the most helpful for me – my mind wanders and I am easily distracted. This is why I prefer guided meditation using an app. I like insight timer for free meditations for a variety of purposes, but I loved headspace when I was struggling through my sleep issues. The sleep course gave me my sleep (and life) back.
  • Get enough sleep. Set a bedtime routine and schedule and stick to it. If sleep is hard to come by, might I once again suggest the headspace course I listed above? I also found blue light blocking glasses make a big difference here, or even reduced screen time. Which brings me to my next point..
  • Reduce screen time. Set app limits or try a digital detox. There is SO much noise and distraction out there and it can lead to comparison syndrome and overall just be so draining. I took a 24 hour break from social media a couple months back and felt great, which reminds me, I should schedule another one!
  • Exercise. This is another one you knew would be on here, and if you don’t know where to start, might I suggest HIIT at Home, Get Strong at Home, or Virtual Personal Training?
  • Gratitude journaling. I have been gratitude journaling for close to 2 years now, and it’s amazing to me all the little things I can find to be grateful for. It really helps me see the good in every day and in my life overall. I credit my journal for keeping me sane when quarantine first began and every day started to feel like a “waste”. I found joy in the little things like more money saved, more time for my morning routine, working from my screened in porch, etc. It’s a quick practice to write down 3 things I’m grateful for every day and it helps me start my day on the right foot.
  • Connect with those around you. In COVID times, there’s a lot of shaming for people spending time together in person, but this is absolutely VITAL to my mental health. And it turns out, having strong mental health can boost your immunity. Please keep that in mind next time you are judging/shaming people who are meeting up in person. Anyway, a strong sense of community and connection is great when it comes to support. Meet a friend for a hike, give them a call, or hop on FaceTime. It makes a world of difference, and feels sooo much better than texting, I promise.
  • Set boundaries. This can be uncomfortable in the moment, but in the long run, it’s important and impactful to say no to what doesn’t feel good for you. That means saying no to people who aren’t supportive and keeping your priorities straight. For example, if work is always bleeding over into your family time, is that really what you want? Find a solution that stops this from happening (offload some of your work, find efficiencies, or find a new job).
  • Make time for fun. When is the last time you played, or did something just for yourself that makes you smile? Put on your favorite song and dance along. Carve out time for a hobby you’ve been neglecting. Life is too short to not emphasize joy.
  • Go outside. It’s amazing what a little fresh air and sunshine can do. Even if the sun isn’t out, you could kill two bird with one stone and “make time for fun” on a rainy day by splashing in the puddles.

These are just some of my favorite ways to take care of my mental health. What are some of your practices/what’s missing from this list?

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How (And Why) To Switch To Natural Deodorant

About a year ago I started exploring natural deodorant options to limit the amount of chemicals I’m putting on my skin. I had read about how traditional deodorant/anti-perspirant combos could interfere with hormones and decided it was worth it to try something new. I wish I had continued my research a little further, because then I would’ve also seen that there are steps to take to make the transition easier. Instead, I went cold turkey on my Secret deodorant and swapped it for a natural brand with some not-so-successful results. A year and multiple brands later, I can say I am very happy I made the switch. So don’t let the bad bits I start off with discourage you–read on, this story has a happy ending, I promise!

What’s Wrong with Regular Deodorant?

Most traditional deodorants are a combination of deodorant and anti-perspirant: designed to stop you from sweating and mask odor. Problem one is that you should sweat. It’s a natural function of the body, and to limit it can prevent the proper elimination of waste. In addition to that, some of the ingredients are questionable.

  1. Parabens. These preservatives used in deodorant may interfere with estrogen production and regulation. Given how close the armpits are to estrogen-sensitive tissue in the breasts, this was a risk I didn’t want to take, even without conclusive evidence.
  2. Aluminum. There have been similar links to aluminum deodorant and breast cancer, although again, without conclusive evidence. While waiting for that research to come in, it seemed worthwhile for me to switch.
  3. Phthalates. It’s suggested that Phthalates may be an issue among pregnant women as it can impact fetal development. Research has linked phthalates to lower IQs and higher rates of asthma.

While most of these are anecdotal and lack conclusive evidence, there is still a risk factor that I felt better mitigating. So, what did I find as problems when I pursued the natural route?

Hesitations About Natural Deodorant

  1. Initial skin irritation. After years of conditioning your skin to expect aluminum and parabens under your arms, it can take awhile for your skin to detox. That detox presents itself in the form of skin irritation, which happened to me. Read on for ways to combat this!
  2. Continued skin irritation. Just because ingredients are natural doesn’t mean your skin will agree with them. My skin had irritation/rashes well beyond the initial transition phase when I tried love, beauty, planet. This may work for you, but something in the ingredient list did not agree with me.
  3. Not as strong/doesn’t last as long/you may smell. Some varieties of natural deodorant wear off quickly or don’t mask B.O. as strongly as you may be used to. I found this issue with Native, and living in a climate where it is often hot and humid combined with working in the fitness industry.. this was less than ideal.
  4. Pricier. In this case, I think of it as an example of you get what you pay for. If you want something made with quality ingredients, you should expect to pay a little more for it (and when it comes to things I put in and on my body, I am willing to pay that price). Also–keep scrolling and you’ll see a discount for my favorite brand!

While these hesitations sound like a lot, I still felt better about using a safer option. So, how do you make this transition smoother?

Ways to Ease the Transition

  1. Detox your pits. I didn’t try this myself, but I trust anything Laurie Christine King recommends. See her detox recipe here.
  2. Don’t apply deodorant right after shaving. Some people shower and shave at night then apply deodorant in the morning. This was something I tried when I had continued skin irritation that I called out above. Broken skin that has just been shaved tends to react more harshly to anything applied to it. Ultimately, this wasn’t the solution for me and I now use a brand that I can apply right after shaving.
  3. Try different brands. I tried love, beauty, planet, then Native before ultimately trying Primally Pure. I had heard great things, but I’m conditioned to convenience and free shipping, so it took awhile for me to accept heading to a website other than Amazon to purchase–but I am SO glad I did.

Why Primally Pure?

A few months ago I tried Primally Pure charcoal deodorant and haven’t looked back. I have had 0 skin irritation since trying it, and it lasts all day without wearing off. I also love that it doesn’t have a strong scent attached to it. When I used to use regular deodorant, I often felt like the fake scent coming from my deodorant was as overpowering as B.O. would’ve been. Rather than a scent that “masks” B.O. I find I just don’t smell at all, which is quite a feat when fitness-ing in North Carolina.

I wasn’t sure if I had found something that just worked for me, but since making the switch and sharing my experience, I’ve heard from multiple people who were compelled to try it and had the same experience. After seeing how well it’s worked for me and friends, I reached out to become an ambassador (my first time approaching a company vs the other way around) and now you can get a discount with code STODDS at checkout.

If you decide to make the switch, I hope you learn from my mistakes and have a much smoother, shorter journey!

Do you use natural deodorant? What brands have you found success with? If you haven’t made the switch why not? What questions do you have about making the switch?