Monday, November 23, 2020

my favorite new podcast: smartless


After a day spent with our toddler, doing crafts and dancing and reading oh so many books, at the end of the day, my favorite new way to unwind is with Jason Bateman along with Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. Their podcast, "Smartless," is clever and witty and precisely what I need to feel like I'm engaged with other adults. 

The concept is simple. One of the hosts invites a surprise guest on the show and discuss a variety of subjects. Past guests include Paul McCartney, Stacey Abrams, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Melissa McCarthy and Kamala Harris. My favorites so far have been Kamala and Neil. I feel smarter, and more connected just listing to them. 

If you need some inspiration in the guise of three funny guys, this just might be your new favorite podcast too. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

what to do when you're anxious


I couldn't sleep at all last night. While I typically have insomnia, last night was something different. I laid awake after putting Waverly to bed and I wondered what today would be like. Would there be unrest, protests, a call to arms? I started reading articles about election predictions and I had to stop. My mind reeled and I felt my heart racing. I stared at the ceiling for most of the night. 

I've always had anxiety and I can usually manage it well by rationalizing best and worst case scenarios. Some days (or nights) though, I need to really focus on my coping mechanisms. This morning I wrote down the things that I do to help me achieve a calmness or at least what brings me to a state where my heart isn't pounding. If you're feeling anxious today too, here are some things you can do to help calm your anxiety. (If you do have anxiety that is not event driven, I highly recommend seeing a therapist. Some of these coping techniques below are courtesy of my own therapist.)

If you are having debilitating thoughts or extreme anxiety, call or text someone. Don't do this by yourself. I checked in on a friend this weekend who was in the midst of an anxiety crisis but she was afraid of reaching out because she didn't want to burden people who were already worried about the pandemic and their own issues. Please don''t do this. Reach out. You aren't a burden. You are loved and this is a time of extreme stress. It will get better. If you are having thoughts that scare you, call 800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

How to Stop Anxious Thoughts From Taking Over

1. Stay away from social media. Delete the apps if you have to. I have had SO many conversations with friends lately who tell me that social media makes them feel emotionally empty. One friend who has been in the house with her kids and husband for months on end broke down on a call last week. She said she thought something was wrong with her because some of the influencers she follows on Instagram look happy and well rested in their posts about happily quarantining with their families when she feels like she is barely hanging on. Don't compare yourself to anyone else. You're the star of your own show. 

2. Write down what is making you feel anxious. What is the worst that could happen? What is the best outcome? Leave it in your notebook. Stop thinking about it. The more you run through the what if's and ruminate how awful a situation may be, will just cause those neuropathways to become stronger. Running a situation over and over in your mind will make any strong person break.

3. Get outside. Change your environment. Go for a walk.

4. Pet an animal. 

5. Get under a weighted blanket. 

6. Write down five things you are grateful for.

7. Take a shower. (Showers bring me such clarity. I find that a good cry in a hot shower is cathartic. I come out of the shower feeling like my anxiety has swirled down the drain.)

8. Watch videos that make you laugh. I love watching videos of my toddler when she was a baby and just waking up from a nap. She was so dopey and sleepy that I can't help but be happy in those moments. 

9. Avoid television shows that don't make you happy.  When we were in the midst of our fertility treatments, my doctor actually said to me "Watch happy things on TV. Watch comedies. Don't watch the news or dramas."

10. Bake something. I made an apple pie last week that made me so happy. 

11. Learn the Navy Seal Box Breathing Technique which allows your system to calm the fight or flight response and gain back composure. 

Breathe in for four seconds from your diaphragm. 
Hold that breath for four seconds while focusing on a mantra "The universe is working for me/ I am resilient / I am in control"
Exhale for four seconds
Hold your breath for four seconds without air in your lungs. 
Start again for a total of five counts. 

12. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and while you may achieve the numbness you're looking for, it could backfire on you and exacerbate the anxious feelings you are having. 

13. Shut your phone off or leave your phone in another room and do anything else. Color, rearrange your closet in ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet), do a puzzle but shut down your addiction to your phone. What will shock you is how often you will reach for your phone when it isn't by your side. 

14. Try the plank pose. I love this yoga pose lately because it takes all of my focus and I feel like I accomplish something when I complete a two minute hold. If you do this pose, nothing will occupy your mind other than focusing on the fact that every single muscle in your body feels engaged in this move.

15. Prepare your favorite meal from childhood. For me, that means tuna noodle casserole. There is no food on this earth that could make me happier. 

16. Engage your sense of smell. Burn a candle or turn on a diffuser with a calming scent. I am currently running our diffuser with a balsam scent that reminds me of the Four Seasons Spa in Los Angeles. 

17. Call someone and ask how they are doing.  Really listen without talking about yourself. 

18. Do something nice for someone else. Donate to a cause. Send someone a dinner delivered to their door. 

19. If you can, change your sheets, crack open a window, take a shower and climb into a cool bed. Go to  sleep earlier than usual. Turn on a sound soother and practice the Navy Seal Box Breathing technique. 

20. Whether it's to God or the universe, hand your troubles, your worries and your thoughts over to someone else. In my therapy sessions, my therapist would walk me through a technique where I close my eyes and imagine a bubble above my head. In this shimmering bubble, I was to put my thoughts, my fears and my worries. Then this bubble rose into the sky and floated away. I still do this technique when my. mind jumps from one negative thing to another. It works. 

I hope that whatever is causing your anxiety dissipates soon. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Happy Things: The Diffuser That Makes Our Home Smell Incredible

If you had stopped by our home before Waverly was born, I think you would have liked our vibe. We always had a great playlist (Nantucket Beach House Sunset, Sunny Summer Mood, Breezy Summer Soul Weekend. . .). The Palomas flowed and a Tapas-style meal would be languid and lovely as our favorite candlelit scents wafted up the night in our ocean, dream and enchanted glassybaby votives. Even now, if I just take the top off the Kringle Candle Aqua votive, I'm drawn back to balmy evenings with friends. It's such a good memory.

Let's talk about scents + memory for a minute. In his novel, "Rememberance of Things Past," Marcel Proust said that when he bit into a madeleine dipped in tea, he experienced an exquisite pleasure and vividly recalled memories of his aunt giving him this sweet before mass on Sundays and thus spawned 3,000 pages of recollections in seven volumes. See, your sense of smell is closely linked with memory and often a trigger for a past event.  When your nose detects a smell, the scent travels along the olfactory nerve to the brain and limbic system which controls memory, emotion and behavior. This is why when you smell the cologne your first crush wore, your stomach probably makes the same flip-flop giddy thing that it did when you had your first dance. It's also why realtors sometimes warm chocolate chip cookies in the oven when they host an open house. This scent makes you feel happy, cozy and at home. 

Now, here in our home in the present day, the music is still pretty chill (thank goodness Waverly, now three years-old likes Yacht Rock), we've turned to rechargeable evie tealights for our glassybaby votives and we're more into seltzer and quick dinners before bath time. The one thing that hasn't changed is our desire to have our home smell inviting and happy.  For safety reasons (a toddler in the house), we still burn our favorite candles when Waverly has gone to bed or on the kitchen island when I am preparing meals but during the day, we now use a diffuser. 

When I decided to buy a diffuser, I had five requirements: 

-  The tank would be over 200 ml, enough so that I could let it go all day
-  The diffuser had to fit into the decor since it would be placed on the console table, the first thing you see when you walk into our home
-  It had to be under $40
-  It needed to have a light feature
-  It would need to be easy to clean with little possibility for mold

As I do for most purchases, I started with an online search for best diffusers. My first choice for product research is always Wirecutter. Their reviews have never led me astray.  In this case, Wirecutter's #1 recommendation was the Urpower 300 ml Aroma Diffuser ($23.99) but while the tank was a good size, I couldn't get past the basic white plastic design that reminded me of a clinic. Also recommended was the  Vitruvi Stone Diffuser which I discovered in a number of recommended diffuser lists. I loved the clean lines but the tank only held 90 ml and I just couldn't justify the $105 price point. It also didn't have a light.

I did more research and stumbled onto the one I ended up purchasing, the Aroma Outfitters Diffuser ($35.99). I've been using it every day for two weeks and here is why this diffuser makes me so happy:

- The 230 ml tank lasts all day
- The LED light allows the user to change the color to your preference or no light at all
- The stream of ultrasonic mist is adjustable. We have an open floor plan so we set it to high and the scent wafts through our entire home
- It's beautiful. The exterior cover, which fits over the white plastic tank, looks like marble in shades of white and cobalt blue 
- Bonus! It comes with a remote!
I also researched essential oils and I bought several essential oils from Aromatech, including Love Affair The Hotel and Ocean Breeze . A 10ml of Aromatech essential oils is $29.99. It's an investment but the bottles are a generous size and you only need a couple of drops to scent your home for the whole day.   I also picked up organic eucalyptus, balsam and orange essential oils from Whole Foods.

Using this diffuser is easy. At 6am,  the first two things I do before I wake up Waverly is make an iced espresso and prepare the diffuser for the day which is really just rinsing our the tank, drying it gently and refilling it with water and a couple of drops of whatever essential oils I am in the mood for that day. (It isn't essential to rinse the tank out each time you use it. However, because I run the diffuser for most of the day, I like to start each day with a fresh tank and a new scent.)

Since we started using the diffuser, every morning when I wake Waverly up and we toddle together, hand-in-hand downstairs, she looks up at me and says "Mama, it smells SO good in here." That is all I could ever hope for - that when she is older and she passes by night-blooming jasmine or she bites into an effervescent orange that she is reminded of how very much we laughed and loved in our home. And someday, when we have friends and family over again, I hope they feel the same way too. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

happy food: Trader Joe's Rustic Apple Tarte

All summer long I am a coconut gurl. Coconut flavored creamer in my coffee, dried unsweetened coconut flakes as a snack,  coconut cream pie. . . Then literally September first arrives and I become an apple girl. Spiced cider, cold crisp apples to bite into, warm apple crumb pie, apple bread pudding and French toast with warm apple butter. Especially this fall, all I want to do is get cozy with the scents of apple and pumpkin wafting through our home. 

As I was stocking up at Trader Joe's this week, I picked up a package of their Rustic Apple Tarte, a fall staple at Trader Joe's for at least the last five years. I baked it last night  while we enjoyed Cacio E Pepe for dinner and even out three year-old asked "What IS that cooking?" If you want your home to smell like a cozy home in Vermont, pick up this tart which is a heavenly meld of apples, cinnamon, cream cheese, almonds and sugar baked into a flaky, buttery crust. 

This seasonal $4.99 tart is found in the frozen section and is a no-effort dessert (350 oven for 20 minutes). Serving size: 1/4 pie at 370 calories/slice.

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