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The Reason For My Absence …

Health

I firmly believe that I do not owe anyone rationalization for my life choices. In fact, I firmly believe that we should all try a bit harder to explain our decisions less. And while I completely see the irony in me writing a personal essay explaining my absence from blogging, I also believe that sharing my experience and journey with mental health is important.

While it might seem harmless to nitpick and say, “but why haven’t you been blogging? Just do it,” there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. After all, blogging is a very personal journey that illustrates an individual’s experience as they learn and grow. And I don’t believe that I personally should be cranking out content as quickly and consistently as possible. My journey says otherwise: right now, I’m focusing on myself and who I am on a much more intimate level.

Earlier this summer, I had a harsh eye-opening experience, one that made me realize that I would like to focus on who I am as a person: my health (both mental and physical) and my happiness. While I’m not ready to openly discuss what made me come to this realization, it’s helped guide me and put my life on a new track. And, even though I am the kind of person who always looks after others before myself, this means focusing on putting myself first.

Below, 5 secrets that have helped me become happier and healthier.

  1. Eating healthier.

    I’ve been using Weight Watchers recently. Although my goal is not to lose a specific amount of weight, it’s helped me A LOT with portion sizes and looking at what I put in my body. (Spoiler alert: Frappuccinos are not good for you. Who knew?) Every week, I meal plan for the week and choose new recipes to test out. And, I’m happy to report that my body has responded in the most wonderful way: I feel more energized, less bloated, and excited to take on the day.

  2. Doing what makes YOU happy. 

    For the longest time, I thought that what made me happy was writing. But now that I’ve graduated and writing has become my main career, I have realized that I’m able to do whatever else I please with my free time. I get to write 8 (8!!!!) hours every single day, and that doesn’t mean I have to do that when I get home too. Instead, I’ve found out that there are other activities that make me happy in my free time. Recently, Jorge and I decided to start traveling more. We most recently took a spontaneous road trip to Rhode Island, Boston and Cape Cod, and we’re planning trips to Denver, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and Europe (fingers crossed on that one). On a much smaller (and more affordable) level, I’ve taken it upon myself to spend more time educating kids and teens. As a former dance teacher, I really miss the trade. Starting this fall, I’m going to be an SAT prep instructor and tutor through a volunteer service, and I could not be more excited.

  3. Focusing on mental health.

    In the past, I’ve talked candidly about my struggles with Depression and Anxiety. And while I have a lot of help thanks to my medication, meds don’t solve everything. I sometimes forget that I live in the most chaotic, insane city. In New York, people work hard and play harder. And, to be totally blunt, that’s not who I am. I’ve made a conscious choice to leave my work at the doorstep and to not feel pressured to live a crazy going out New York lifestyle. In fact, in the past few months, I no longer feel as though I have to drink and go out to have fun. Removing myself from that NY mindset has helped extraordinarily.

  4. Embracing the mornings.

    I’ve always been a morning person, but working  9-5 is DRAINING. But mornings are so freaking important; they set you up for the rest of the day (and week!). So that’s why Jorge and I started setting our alarms earlier: we make morning smoothies, drink water, eat avocado toast, watch the news and take a few more minutes to relax and ready ourselves for the day ahead. Obviously some days are easier than others, but I can feel a HUGE difference when I get an extra hour in the morning time to prep. Next step: morning runs. (Any advice?! Comment below!!!)

  5. Spending more time with the people you love.

    This seems like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. As they say, “in order to love others, you have to love yourself.”  And the four little things above have helped me do just that. Now that I’m creating a more positive me, I can give Jorge the love he deserves, call my mom more often, and hang out with the girls I’m so lucky to call my best friends. But that would never be possible if I weren’t taking care of myself in the first place.

My Favorite Products For Banishing Breakouts

Health, Skincare

neostrata glycolic washAhhhhh, adult acne. The wonders and woes of adult acne. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder, “why am I 22 and still suffer from the occasional breakout on my face?!” Whether they’re caused by hormones, inevitable stress, pollution or oils, I continue to find my face plagued with acne from time to time. As I type this, I have four sprouting up on my chin and cheek. And, unfortunately, I know I’m not the only one.

In order to cope with the unfortunate friends on my face, I’ve come up with a system of sorts. Its because of four trusty products that I’m able to say that I’ve drastically cut down on the amount of acne scars on my face, as well as the frequency which I get acne. And, my skin thanks me. Interested in my secret formula? Check it out:

1. Spot Treatment

I have to be extremely careful when it comes to applying spot treatments. Most treatments with benzoyl peroxide can burn my sensitive skin, so when I do, I reserve spot treatments for the acne that’s really bad. I go for spot treatments when I have deeply rooted acne (the kind that’s painful) because those are the times when I really need the medicated treatment to get into my skin and do its thing. Sometimes, I can’t lie, I pick at my face and pop my white heads (don’t we all??). When that happens, I like to use Neosporin on my open acne. Somehow, when I use Neosporin, my face responds really well and the open cut goes away much quicker. Obviously, this might not work for everyone, and I highly recommend spot treating Neosporin elsewhere before putting it on your face where your skin is very sensitive.

 

2. Chemical Exfoliant

I have completely fallen in love with the NeoStrata Resurfacing Foaming Glycolic Wash. This face wash contains 18% glycolic acid, an AHA, that helps to resurface the skin, retexturize and get rid of those nasty acne breakouts. It’s a chemical exfoliant, meaning it strips away the top layer of the skin chemically, rather than with an abrasive physical exfoliant. I love how gentle the wash is, and my skin feels immediately different after using it, never tight or dry like other chemical exfoliants I’ve used. I have to be honest, you have to be careful again and make sure that you’re not over-washing your face. This stuff is powerful; it won’t take more than a pump, and it won’t take long to work its magic on the face. Use it sparingly, only when you’re suffering from bumpy skin or inflamed breakouts, because it’s definitely not an everyday acne wash.

3. Toner

Say it with me: toner is so important. Especially if you’re looking to banish an acne breakout, or prevent one, toner can help a lot. Gone are the days of using toners only to rebalance a skin’s PH level after cleansing. With that said, it’s still so important to use toner to wipe away the water build up (phosphates, fluorides and what not) that might be left on your skin after rinsing it when cleansing. Even more, so many toners offer side benefits to the skin. As I mentioned before, my irritated or acne-ridden skin loves this carrot oil toner from Snowy Owl Cove. But if you weren’t so keen on trying a chemical exfoliant, you can also try a chemical toner, like the Pixi Glow Tonic (it’s personally not my favorite, but a lot of people swear by it).

4. Vitamin C Serum

Say it with me: Vitamin C is ALSO important. Seriously. If you’re not consuming it, or even if you already are, it’s important to apply topically. Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant, so it does well to fight breakouts. It’s also important if you’re using chemical exfoliants with AHAs because your skin will be more prone to UV rays, and Vitamin C protects the skin from inflammation caused by UV rays (still apply an oil-free sunscreen though, just to be extra safe!!!) This one from Lumene is great. I love that it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid so it moisturizers while also killing any acne. I use this one every morning when I’m feeling the need for some vit C!

 

 

Special thanks to Neostrata for sending me their product to test out. This post was sponsored and back by Brandbacker, but my thoughts and review are my own! 

Let’s Talk Post-Traumatic Stress

Health

The only way I know how to cope with my feelings is by putting them down on paper (or in this sense: online). And even though I understand that by writing about my feelings on my blog it puts everything out there and makes me completely vulnerable, I sometimes feel better about it anyways. There are a lot of posts I’ve drafted about my feelings that I’ve never posted because even the act of writing helped me feel better (then again, there are the ones I have posted, including my depression and anxiety story and my feelings following the past election. Both posts were received with mixed reactions from readers). So here I am again to make myself completely vulnerable and share my feelings.

I have to say that I have not been diagnosed with PTSD. I’ve never been a victim of violence, I’ve never lived in terror, or been on the front line of a battle field, and so I could never pretend that the feelings I feel could ever be as intense as those who suffer from PTSD. Although PTSD has been scientifically proven to go hand in hand with both depression and anxiety, I would simply like to describe my feelings as intense and severe stress. I would not go as far as to say I have the same experiences as those with PTSD.

I do, however, have to admit that I went through an experience that was so intense and scarring that I will never be the same. I do not wish to talk about my experience plainly, because I have found that recounting my experience is a trigger for my stress. Instead, I’d like to describe the emotions I have felt since my experience.

 

I dreamed about not being able to talk no matter how loud I screamed.

 

For months, I have had recurring nightmares. It doesn’t matter how much chamomile tea I drink or how many lavender-scented baths I take: the dreams persist. The dreams happen maybe once a week, at the begging, they were more frequent and more violent. I dreamed about getting dragged across the street by my hair. I dreamed about getting chased for miles. I dreamed about not being able to talk no matter how loud I screamed. And no matter what, they don’t go away.

For months, I have thought I heard voices of people from my experience talking, or seeing people’s faces in the crowded streets of Manhattan. And each time, it makes my back ache – that feeling you get when you watch a scary movie and think there’s someone behind you, waiting to attack.

It’s a strange feeling, not being able to control when the feelings come back and plague my entire well-being. Sometimes, I have to fight back tears at work, when I accidentally open my personal email and see old email exchanges that brings me back to my experience and emotionally shake me.

To anyone who has experienced the same feelings, I’m with you. And I’d like to take this blog post to discuss the few things that I’ve found make me feel calmer, better, clearer. During those times when my body tightens, I can’t breathe and my vision blurs, fighting back the tears in my eyes, these are the only things that keep me grounded. These are my scapegoats.

1. Deep Breathing

Almost everything I’ve learned about stabilizing my anxiety, I’ve learned from my mom. She’s an incredibly intelligent person who has a bag full of tricks. And one of the lessons she always instilled in me was to always return to my breath when I felt like I was going to lose control. This has always worked for me – as a child when I had anger management issues (that’s a story for another day), when I suffer from panic attacks and especially when I’m reminded of my experience of traumatic stress. All it takes is a few deep breaths to bring me back to the “here and now.” There are tons of breathing techniques online, and I highly encourage anyone and everyone to look them up. One of my favorite techniques is the 4-7-8 Breathing Method.

2. Snuggling my Cat

This one is easier said than done. Because first of all, you need a pet. There have been a lot of studies showing that the repetitive action of grooming pets is a natural anti-anxiety and anti-stress treatment. If you don’t have a pet, it sounds dumb, but try a fuzzy blanket or grab a stuffed animal and hug it. It might seem childish, but it has made a world of a difference when I’m experiencing a post-traumatic anxiety attack.

3. Drinking warm milk

Again, this sounds funny, but trust me it works. This is a habit I adopted as a child. My mother would aid me to sleep with a cup of warm milk. Pop some milk in the microwave for thirty seconds, or, better yet,  pop some milk on the stove top and use a steam wand when it’s warmed up a little. Top it off with some cinnamon and vanilla (you can even order these at cafes! Just ask for a vanilla steamer). There’s just something magical about warmed up milk that completely calms me down, and makes me understand that everything is okay.