Monday, April 4, 2016

5 Steps to Better Sleep

Do you ever struggle to fall asleep? Perhaps you've tried counting sheep or breathing exercises, but nothing seems to do the trick. Here are five ideas to put you on the path toward a full night's sleep. If all else fails, I'll try to make this post a total snooze so you can just read this each night and it's a win-win. You'll fall asleep effortlessly and I'll get a bunch of blog hits.

1. Don't Read in Bed

Many sleep experts recommend reading to relax before bedtime — as long as you don't devour that page-turner in bed. According to the American Sleep Association, reading in bed associates your brain with wakefulness. Or, y'know, you associate reading with sleepiness and fall asleep reading emails or at work if you're a magazine editor. Worst-case scenario, you read something crazy like Gone Girl and then you definitely can't sleep.

2. Don't Drink (Too Much) Coffee (in Bed)

As often as those trendy blogger-girls drink their coffee in bed, I can only assume they spend their sleepless nights dreaming up their next Instagram post. That's because they're likely not doing any real dreaming. A study found in Psychology Today urges you to stop drinking coffee by 2 p.m. to ensure that it doesn't affect your slumber. (Sidebar: Does anybody else feel really silly ordering either tea or decaf at coffee shops in the afternoon and evening hours? I always want to stand up and say, "Hi, I'm Ana, and caffeine adversely affects my sleep" to the 19-year-old barista who just chuckled to himself that grandma over here ordered a mint tea.) Back to the point at hand: If people think reading in bed associates the bed with wakefulness, then drinking coffee in bed certainly seems like a bad idea. And yeah, I'll probably still do it, but now I'll feel like some self destructive, rebel-without-a-cause cool chick when I do.

3. Turn off the Electronics

Back to those Instagram posts — it turns out ending your day by mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds is a bad idea. The National Sleep Foundation explains how light—even a small amount of light produced by a cell phone—can negatively affect our circadian rhythm.

4. Buy Cute Pillows

Buy cute pillows. It's not scientifically proven, but I think you sleep better if you're happy in your environment. On that note, buy cute pillows and clean your room.

5. Be Mindful

A lot of the advice out there on how to sleep better just starts with being mindful of triggers that may prevent you from a good night's sleep. If you have a tendency to overthink or worry at bedtime, chances are that you struggle with that during the day, too. Consider setting aside intentional time for prayer or meditation before bed instead of running through the next day's to-do list. A bedtime routine  could include shutting off technology early, drinking a cup of herbal tea or even yoga to calm yourself from a long day and prepare yourself for a long night of sleeping (instead of tossing and turning.)

P.S. Only take sleep aids (including melatonin) as a last resort, otherwise you might become totally dependent on them to sleep and then what happens when you go on a camping trip and forget your melatonin and you're awake all night and there might be bears and ...?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

31 Signs Spring is On its Way

For this post I’m working with 31bits, a socially conscious jewelry company that gives displaced women in Northern Uganda an opportunity to combat poverty through fashion. All of their pieces are handmade using “bits” of paper, and the ladies who make them are part of a 5-year program that teaches the skills they need to begin their own businesses. I absolutely love this company, both for their look and mission, and I hope you check them out!

This is the time of year when I get extra anxious about the arrival of spring. Anybody else? I’m eagerly monitoring every sign of birds chirping, blossoms blooming, and things growing. The good news is my favorite season isn't too far off! Here are a few signs spring is on the way:

1. The groundhog said it was going to be on time this year (finally!)
2. You’re painting your fingernails every bright color you can get ahold of
3. ...and you finally remembered to paint your toenails
4. People care about college basketball for one month, and one month only
5. You’re trying to memorize choral music for a Good Friday service (just me?)

6. You just looked up a recipe for detox water (#beachbody)
7. And Peeps are finally on sale
8. ...but you can’t eat them because they’re not part of your Lent diet
9. This week’s forecast shows rain 6/7 days
10. You just got a great deal on snow boots, and you can’t decide if you hope it snows so you get to wear them, or if you’d rather it never. snow. ever. again.

11. Sunrise is at 6:33 a.m.
12. ...but you can’t decide if you’re happier the sun is out or if you resent it waking you up before your alarm
13. You shaved your legs for the first time in 4 months
14. You make an excuse to go to the greenhouse every weekend just to soak in the vitamin D
15. Your boyfriend thought it would be a good idea to try out Whole30
16. ...and you’re ecstatic that you can still eat deviled eggs for Easter

17. You can’t decide if you’d rather spend your hard-earned cash on new clothes for cold weather or new clothes for warm weather
18. If you live in the Midwest, you know tornado season is on its way
19. It’s about to be prime petting zoo season (BABY ANIMALS, PEOPLE)
20. Pastel season is officially upon us — although that’s all year this year

21. You’re sick of wearing all the sweaters in your closet
22. ...but most days, you still need a sweater
23. So you google “transitional weather outfit ideas,” and buy jewelry instead.
24. You might be taking a spring break trip
25. ...or you might be watching Snapchats of your college-aged friends taking spring break trips and sighing to yourself as you slave your days away inside working a 9-to-5 job

26. You reminisce on every vacation you’ve ever had and begin to plan your next
27. You can finally cancel that gym membership you never used and go for outdoor bike rides
28. You have an unexplainable craving for Skittles (again, just me?)
29. You’re feeling inexplicably happier and a little less SAD

30. Your playlist instantly switches from Bon Iver to Spice Girls, or something equally embarrassing
31. Daylight Savings Time is less than a week away — YOU CAN MAKE IT!

Let me know what you’re doing to celebrate the beginning of spring! The official start is only 11 days away, yesssss.

Photos by Austin Elliott of Locke + Stache Media.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

You Should Go and Love Yourself

Got big Valentine’s Day plans? It’s just around the corner, so naturally there are a zillion resources available to you on topics such as “The 10 Sweetest Valentine's Day Dates of All Time.” Others will mourn the yearly rotation of “Singles Awareness Day” — it's OK, I've been there too. Regardless of whether V-Day marks your one-year anniversary with a special someone, your 8-year anniversary of never going on a date, or something in between, we would all do well to give ourselves a little attention this season.

Self-care can be both physical and psychological in nature, and I think both are essential to maintaining a healthy livelihood. It can be easy if (or when) you enter a relationship to neglect “you” time — but you have to both know and care for yourself before you can show the same attention to another person. Here’s a few suggestions for how to care for yourself this Valentine’s Day, whether you plan on spending the day alone or with a date.

Self Care for Valentine's Day

1. Cut the Chocolate

It seems counterintuitive to say “cut the chocolate” in a Valentine’s Day post, but it’s more of an everyday suggestion. An essential part of self care is considering your health — it affects so many other parts of your life. So while eating 12 boxes of Russell Stover might sound like a great idea at the time, prioritize your long-term health in your daily decisions (easier said than done, I know).

Engagement Ring and Coffee

2. Journal

I’ve written about the benefits of journaling here, but if you’re not into pouring your feelings out to a piece of paper, at least confide in a good friend. If you’re single, you’ll need a good sounding board — we weren’t meant to do life alone. And if you’re in a relationship, your boyfriend or girlfriend shouldn’t be the only person you’re vulnerable with. Should you trust them? Of course. So much that theirs is the only name in your email inbox or message queue? Not at all.

Angeline Bradford and Michael Bradford

3. Schedule a hair appointment

Or, y’know, go for a long drive. Get your nails done. Take one of those trendy bubble baths all the Instagram girls can’t get enough of. Adopt a kitten. Read a book. Get a massage. The theme here is treat yo self. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, you should treat yourself kindly. Small mood-boosters can go a long way to ensure proper self care and self image. You deserve it!

Michael and Angeline Bradford

4. Unplug

If Instagram is a competition, Valentine’s Day might be the playoffs. Women and men alike post photos of significant others, romantic date nights and extravagant gifts — and that’s ok. But if come February 14 you find yourself alone (or not alone, but feeling jealous), it might be hard to scroll by dozens of roses and teddy bears. And that’s OK, too. There is nothing that says you have to engage in social media, and if seeing others’ posts dampens your spirits, feel free to unplug for the night.

Sometimes self care sounds selfish because it’s so focused on our own wants and needs. But as we learn to treat ourselves well (it’s a process!), it enables us to make even more of the time we spend with others. Go and love yourself — even if that means spinning guilty-pleasure pop music, like Justin Beiber or something…

You won’t regret it.

Photos of my BFF/college roommate taken by me and Austin Elliott of Locke + Stache Media.