Self-Care Guide for Health Professionals

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I know it’s year 2020 and all, but health care professionals have always had a tough job. Hence, the idea to write a post about caring for the self for health professionals. While I don’t represent all workers in the medical field, I also know many of them can relate to the routine exhaustion one feels in the physical, mental and emotional sense. Not only is dentistry back-breaking work (think hunch-back- of-Notre-Dame), it also requires mental concentration (we are making tenths-of-millimeters-micromovements inside a tiny cavity) and emotional stamina (the minute the patient’s chair leans back, their everyday lives come spewing out). Sometimes I wear the hat of clinician, while other times, I simply play the role of listener. I have to help anxious patients through to the other side of treatment, as well as psychologically support depressed patients through to the other side of life. It’s a fulfilling job, but also a taxing one.

Many times, I come home with no one to fully understand the tolls of my work. Mike wonderfully understands that having dinner ready and giving me space to decompress with yoga is very important. He understands that on some days, I simply don’t want to talk. But he doesn’t really know the why. Sometimes, I feel guilt over acting selfishly, but as clinicians, we need to start removing that word from our vocabulary. You aren’t selfish because you need me-time after giving everyone else their me-time.

This past weekend, I took four days off to vacation with family on the coast of Southern California. My sister-in-law joined us Friday afternoon after her four clients. She also works in health care as a psych therapist. She joined us after a hectic day, and still had a few clinical notes to write. I noted that she looked a bit tired and she mentioned that some of her clients are especially draining, not in the physical sense, but in the mental and emotional sense. She even has one client currently on suicide watch who constantly occupies her mind. We talked of the tiresome nature of healthcare and agreed on the importance of taking care of ourselves first. We also noted that while we are excellent care-takers of others, we usually fail to save room for us.

This is a reminder to all health-care professionals that self-care is key to success. And sometimes, the only person who would be able to give you that space is yourself. If you are a reader who knows of a health-care professional, make sure to check in on them during this time. You might be surprised at their sadness, tiredness, weakness, or loneliness. Below, I wrote a simple guide to taking care.

Self-Care Guide

+ Practice deep breathing in between seeing patients. Deep breathing is something I first picked up from yoga class ten years ago. Yoga itself is a practice focused on returning to the breath, which has been called our “life-force”. Returning to the breath is the last thing on a clinician’s mind. The immediacy of our work and the need that our patients have far exceed our willingness to turn inward and work on ourselves. However, I implore all clinicians to consider deep breathing. This practice was first recommended to me by a wellness coach, Michaela Puterbaugh of Starting from Within and it has been a real game-changer! I would highly advise getting a wellness coach like Michaela (you can book a consultation here), but if that is not your vibe, then deep-breathing is the one thing I learned to do that helped me most with my career. It’s simple. Before running to your next patient, stop by an office or a break-room or a quiet corner and breathe in for five seconds, hold at the top for five seconds, and breathe out for eight seconds. Repeat five times, then you’re good to go. I guarantee that your patients will notice and feel the difference in you. (PS: It helps to close your eyes.)

+ Stretch throughout the day. Many dentists end their careers earlier than they would like due to body aches and pains. Hospital workers also suffer from the same. Nurses and physical therapists have to carry and assist disabled bodies and the elderly. To be honest, physical tolls extend past the medical field and also applies to hospitality workers who stand on their feet all day and desk workers hunched in static postures in front of LED screens (blue light blockers for the win!). Stretching simply makes sense; for everybody. I picked up stretching advice from a continuing education course on ergonomics. There are certain stretches especially helpful to dentists, so I would seek professional advice regarding specific careers. For dentists, the upper back and shoulder muscles, as well as the core muscles, will help alleviate lower back pain and that hunched-back-look. Just like deep-breathing, this can be done in between patients or during any break. After work, I make it a point to roll out my Manduka mat and join a CorePower LIVE session to create movement in my body. I even took my mat on vacation with us this past weekend! That’s how important stretching is to me. Not getting on my mat is like a surfer not getting out on the water. Speaking of water…

+ Drink plenty of water. We are constantly moving from room to room and it’s very easy to forget about the water bottle we have sitting next to our desks. But wherever you choose to do stretches or deep breathing, keep a bottle of water close at hand. It also helps to have a habit built around staying hydrated. I drink two glasses right when I wake up and an entire glass before my shift. Between the start of my workday and lunch time, I make sure to finish at least another bottle. The same standard applies between lunch and the end of my shift. Then when I get off work, I drink two glasses straight away. My water bottle from Kinto_USA is quite portable and the tab at the top of the lid makes it easy to take with me wherever I go. If water is not your favorite drink, why don’t you try tossing pomegranate slices into your bottle or dress it up with ice? Check out my thoughts on staying hydrated!

+ Find someone to talk to. I know that Mike doesn’t fully understand everything that happens at the dental office, but it’s nice to have someone to talk to when I come home. It also helps that he is a great listener. My daily recaps help release any negative energy that I take home. But don’t get me wrong – dentistry isn’t ALL bad. Talking to someone is also a great time to celebrate the daily wins and highlights, a time to practice gratitude for a rewarding job. Of course, the person you choose does not have to be the same person every day. It can be different people, too. As long as you schedule a few moments to connect with someone outside of work, you’ll find less tension and stress when you unwind for the evening. (Sage tip: Don’t dwell on your workday alone. There are other things to address in life.)

+ Eat healthy. It’s hard to follow our own mantras of consuming healthy foods when we return home stressed and over-worked. I’d be the first to admit that fruits and veggies are not on my mind after a long day and if it weren’t for my husband making nutritious meals for us every day, I would probably be quick to order to-go foods a few nights a week. However, we must follow what we preach. I try to consume only one cup of black coffee a day (otherwise I’d live from coffee to the grave), and balance it with a cup of ceremonial-grade matcha green tea in the evening. I try to choose dark chocolate (88% cocoa or more) for dessert, and fresh fruits from the farmer’s market for snacks. I use a budget to monitor how often we dine out and we still try to follow our zero plastic diet religiously. Skip the temptation by choosing not to buy those bags of chips – or whatever else that has a gravitational pull during your weakest moments. Shop in such a way that sets you up for success.

+ Wind down the mind. In the evenings, I make it a point to wind down my mind. I try to do yoga after work to enter a calm state of energy. Afterwards, I shower and make myself a cup of tea and spend the evening writing or reading. This is the time I also connect with the people I live with. I check on my plants and move them around frequently, and I follow a skincare routine. I recently discovered The Nue Co.’s supplemental spray called Magnesium Ease, which I massage into my skin to help alleviate muscle tension and to improve my sleep. (Fun fact: 80% of Americans are deficient in magnesium!).

+ Get full night’s sleep. Lastly, but most importantly, is sleep. I value sleep more than I value coffee – which is saying something! I make it a point to get at least eight hours of sleep (nine hours is my optimal sleep-time). On weekends, I can sleep as long as 12 hours although luckily, I value my mornings too much to oversleep often. In our home, we sleep around ten in the evening and wake up when Theo meowls for food at six in the morning. I know that many clinicians tend to be night owls due to the nature of our work (late shifts and night shifts are common), but may I suggest abiding by your circadian rhythm? I cherish sleep knowing that I am more helpful to others when I sleep well. For those who have trouble sleeping, you may find these sleep drops helpful!

If you are in the medical field and have somehow come across this self-care guide, I hope it finds you well. For those who need a helping hand with mental wellness, do reach out to a professional. My sister-in-law is practicing in Southern California and is offering video services. I would also like to recommend Michaela Puterbaugh for overall health and wellness coaching as she has helped me balance life earlier this year.

For those curious about the supplements that I recommended, they are from The Nue Co., a company making supplements that you can feel working! Receive 15% off your first order with code NUE15 (affiliate links above). I am really excited about what this company is producing and have ordered the sleep drops for my mom and the magnesium ease for myself. They provide many other supplements that aid with sleep, stress, gut health, and immunity. I would definitely check them out!

Restore ______.

This post is in partnership with Restore _____., a nail polish company focused on raising awareness on current social issues, especially those pertaining to women. This polish company donates a portion of their proceeds to non-profit organizations centered around these issues. Their subscription model ensures that monthly donations to multiple non-profit organizations are being made. If you’d care to learn more about this awesome company, read on. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. And thank you for supporting the companies that support this space. 

If you could restore one thing in your life right now, what would it be?

Health.

Hope.

Peace.

Love.

Freedom.

Faith in a better tomorrow?

We’ve all been through tough times. During these moments, we experience different degrees of loss. Sometimes, it’s enough to just survive one more day. Currently, I just try to survive the news.

But what if we knew that there was a community holding us up? What if, during the tough times, there are people who have our backs? Wouldn’t that make it easier somehow? What if, instead of facing things alone, we face them united?

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Restore _____. was created with that in mind. Painting nails seem like such a frivolous activity, but adding meaning and purpose behind this simple act is something we can all get behind. The concept is as follows: we paint our nails a specific color during a particular month of the year to stand in solidarity against current social issues. The founder, Natacha Cabrera, wanted to grow support while raising awareness, especially around issues that affect women. The themes include pregnancy and infant loss, sexual violence, body image, mental health, women’s history, infertility, adoption, and motherhood.

A portion of the polish proceeds goes towards funding a non-profit organization related to the theme of the month. This allows people to donate towards a cause while doing their usual shopping. The clever idea of having a monthly subscription option means that monthly donations are being made to a number of different organizations. You may want to secure your spot, however, since there are only 100 monthly boxes going out per month. If you like surprises, you can also opt for a mystery box which comes with three different nail polish colors.

As far as the paint itself, it’s amazing. First, the polish is seven free, vegan, and cruelty-free. It is also made in the USA. Lastly, it paints on very nicely. Two coats is all it takes, and the polish is quite fluid which allows an even layer. I absolutely get bothered by globby nail polish that paints on bulky and bumpy. Painting with Restore ______. is a breeze.

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I, myself, chose the color for my birthday month – June. June was focused around mental health, which was also my own personal theme for the month of August. Painting nails is a way for me to force focus on one thing. It is a pause from the constant musings of my mind. Consider it a breather. It may seem strange to hear, but I set aside time specifically for this activity once a week. As in, I pencil it into my planner. It’s also one of the few ways in which I show myself care. I am not an overtly fashion-centered gal, but having neat, trimmed nails makes me feel put together even when my outfit of choice is a pair of scrubs.

I think that restoring that bit of time for myself was something I’ve struggled with my whole life. That’s the over-achiever in me. Perhaps that’s my word for the month. I am focusing on mental health, after all.

Restore self.

What about you?


FACTS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

  • 1 in 5 Americans has experienced some form of mental illness.

  • 29% of Americans say they’re embarrassed to speak to people about mental health, even to medical professionals preventing them from seeking help.

  • 800K suicide deaths occur globally each year, with over 41,000 in the U.S. alone. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide for 15-29 year olds.

  • 70-90% of people who seek proper treatment for mental health disorders witness a significant reduction in symptoms.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

For information on mental health and treatment services in your area, call the Treatment Referral Hotline:

1-877-726-4727

Intentional Living: Vitruvi

The world’s been pretty topsy-turvy. The trees outside the bedroom window have assumed their once-a-year summer blooms. Bright pinks and yellows littering our skyline, but I haven’t had the time to notice. I teeter-totter between slow-living and stress, which makes the time pass with such speed. I haven’t taken the time to stop and ask, but now I do.

“How are you?”

Are you coping like us? Is there suffering? What can I do?

During this time, I hope you are finding time to focus on wellness and mental health. I know I haven’t had as much as I would like, but I sure as heck try. It’s all we can do, anywho.

One of the things I’ve been attempting is simply breathe.  Essential oils by Vitruvihelp to set the mood I need to get through one more day. Or rather, one afternoon after an especially trying work day.

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I don’t have a fancy humidifier by any means. I have a plain white bulky thing that I purchased about a year and a half ago using a Nordstrom gift card which I received from my father-in-law. It was a gift for turning thirty. I think the humidifier is meant for babies. Either way, it works.

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I add a dash of Vitruvi essential oil blends to get me in the right mindset. I prefer the blends because it simplifies my life. Of course, if you’d prefer you can order the essential oils separately and mix your own potion.

I love turning on the humidifier and using the SLEEP blend right before bed. Think fresh linens and soft florals. It runs until I wake in the morning. It is also a good choice during a soak in the bath, or while reading in bed. Other great evening blends are NIGHTCAP and DUSK.

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In the wee hours, after I’ve had my morning coffee, I switch to the BOOST blend by Vitruvi. Notes of Juniper, Grapefruit, Bergamot and Lime really liven me up as I write a long list of things I want to get done. If you are struggling to face the day, perhaps switch out the task manager with a list of things you are grateful for.

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Point is, scents have the special ability to take us to places we are fond of. There’s a blend for all your needs.

Dreaming of vacation? Try RETREAT.

Wishing you were outdoors? Reach for GROVE or PACIFIC.

Hoping to get some deep cleaning done? Turn on CLEAN SWEEP for inspiration.

I know it isn’t much. But during times like these, anything that helps us breathe easier and experience life better is absolute gold.

This post is in partnership with Vitruvi. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Getting to Know: Michaela Puterbaugh, Founder of Starting from Within

Michaela Puterbaugh is a health and wellness coach based in Cleveland, Ohio, guiding people towards the balanced, healthy lifestyle that fits their needs. She followed her passion and opened Starting From Within, her own coaching program, in May 2019. Her emphasis on an individualized program deviates from the normally structured rigidity of other wellness programs that can sometimes suffocate the motivation needed to succeed. Health and wellness looks different for everybody. Likewise, the path getting there can also be different. Her program focuses on creating simple, everyday habits catered to your lifestyle that will promote life-long health benefits. Not only does she focus on a nourishing diet, but she also emphasizes the importance of lower stress levels, daily movement, and a good night’s sleep. Her belief in everyone’s own ability to heal themselves is what empowers so many of her clients.

I must admit that, in the year 2019, and for the majority of my life (barring 2018), when it came to choosing myself over other things, I was always the first thing to go. Between the bakery and sleep, my clinical patients and my posture, the dogs that needed sitting and my own cat, other people’s needs and my wants, the latter in all of those is what I gave up. I acknowledge that I am very bad at saying no, am very motivated by a desire to be perceived as good and successful, and am very much overwhelmed, stressed and tired at all times. I recognize now that, in much the same way that I needed help in developing my frugal muscles and honing in on the skills needed to set my finances up for future success, I also need guidance in doing the same for my own well-being.

I met Michaela online, randomly, like kindred spirits drawn to each other despite miles of separation. I loved her content at Starting From Within’s Instagram and her positive personality (good vibes welcome). I knew I had to share all the good things she is doing! I interviewed Michaela to share with you guys a little bit about what attracted me to her coaching style.

I also signed up for SFW’s health and wellness coaching program, as a gift to myself for the New Year and the New decade. Now that we’ve graduated from Certified Financial Planning services, it’s time to redirect those resources into continued learning elsewhere. If you’ve been interested in doing the same, now’s the time.

Here’s a bit about what Starting from Within has to offer.


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Tell our audience a little bit about yourself.

My name is Michaela and I am originally from Canton, Ohio but now live in Cleveland with my partner Sam and our dog Arthur! I graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies but decided to follow my passion– health and wellness. I ended up enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and received my health coaching certificate in May of 2019! Upon graduating, I started my own practice called Starting From Within where I coach people individually, lead workshops, and teach wellness programs!

What inspired you to start your health and wellness coaching business, Starting from Within?

I have always been amazed by the power of nourishing foods and healthy lifestyle habits and their impact on overall health. I do not think enough people realize that their small daily habits matter when it comes to living a healthy life and preventing disease. I want to be a support resource for anyone who is trying to eat healthier, manage stress levels, incorporate daily movement, or sleep better. I do believe that each person is entirely capable of healing themselves if given the right opportunity which is why I named my practice Starting From Within 🙂

What are the services your future clients can look forward to?

I love to work with people through an individualized approach. People all have different needs, so I try to honor that individuality and not just apply a one-size-fits-all approach. I offer one on one, bi-monthly sessions (in-person or virtual) to get to know each other, set clear goals, and break those goals down into manageable steps. I always provide resources that align with my client’s overall health vision such as recipes, books, journal prompts, grocery lists, handouts, podcasts– you name it!  My mission is to help people improve their diet and lifestyle in a way that works for them.

What is your philosophy regarding health? Worded another way, what does being healthy mean to you?

To me, “being healthy” encompasses the state of our mental, physical, and social well-being. How we feel, how we think, how we move, how we eat, how we sleep, how we deal with stress, how we treat ourselves and how we treat others is a huge part of it. I think being healthy is about finding that balance between all of those things while living out our life’s purpose.

In what ways do you lead by everyday example? What are your daily health habits?

I love cooking with whole foods and creating delicious, easy plant-based meals for myself and my family. I also love exercising and try to incorporate some form of that into my days such as spinning, lifting, or running. I’ve learned that exercise for me clears my mind, gives me energy, and helps me sleep better at night. On a deeper level, I have been trying to get more in touch with my intuitive self through journaling and meditation each morning. I find that those two things are not only helpful in managing stress, but also great ways to get to know myself and my mind a little better.

On Instagram, you share numerous recipes for healthy eating. I love that your recipes are simply made and am very grateful that they hardly require a long list of ingredients. In terms of ingredients, what is your top advice when it comes to sourcing food?

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Local, seasonal, and organic is ideal! Growing your own food is even better. However, not everyone can do that or is able to afford organic produce all the time. So I would recommend checking out the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen lists to know which fruits and veggies are heavily sprayed with pesticides and which aren’t.  I love buying produce from farmers markets because a lot of the local farmers grow their crops without pesticides even though they don’t have the organic certification.

My #1 advice for anyone is to try to eat food in its most pure form. So cooking with whole fruits and vegetables and avoiding things that have been heavily processed. With a little olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder you can make anything taste good!

I think that people get lost in all the fads when, in actuality, the best solution is to eat simply. I am a pretty big believer in eating what we have historically allowed our bodies to adapt to. The food industry is changing so quickly these days, and I believe that we are putting our bodies through a roller coaster ride, making it hard for our bodies to keep up with all the changes. What are your thoughts on that?

I completely agree. I think as a society we are actually really confused on what to eat, how much we should eat, when the best time to eat is, etc. Admittedly, it can get tricky since big companies and brands fund a lot of research and since food advertising is everywhere. I think that if we block out the background noise and really try to get in tune with our own bodies, the answers become a lot more clear. Each one of us has a completely unique biology, so I don’t think it is ever helpful to follow these fads or trends. By adhering to certain diets, we actually lose touch of our innate hunger and fullness cues and ignore what our bodies actually really need. This brings me to the concept of intuitive eating which involves rejecting the diet mentality and healing the relationship with food. This disconnection is an issue I see a lot in my practice and believe it is a bi-product of our diet-obsessed culture.

You probably expected this question, but what are your thoughts on the gluten-free fad? I am working with farmers preserving ancient heritage grains that are nutritionally beneficial to our bodies (freshly-milled prior to mixing). I try to adhere to traditional sourdough making processes in order to make bread more gut-friendly. I am worried that gluten substitutes will be part of the rapid changes that make up the roller coaster ride. What is your honest opinion?

I love the work that you are doing to ensure that your bread is made with quality ingredients! I really wish that our food industry was made up of more people like you who truly care about what they are offering to consumers. I personally am not gluten-free and don’t believe that everyone should be on a permanent gluten-free diet if they do not have celiac disease. The most important thing is making sure that the food we eat is made from quality ingredients. That goes for bread too. The typical bread laying on the grocery store shelves for weeks is usually loaded with preservatives, ultra-processed and yes, very inflammatory. However, so much of the gluten-free substitutes that are out there now are also super processed and made with a whole list of ingredients that aren’t any better for us. Whether you eat bread or not, make sure that whatever you are eating is made from high quality ingredients!

What are your top five staple ingredients to always have around in the kitchen?

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Sprouted oatmeal
  • Some type of cruciferous veggie (cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage)
  • Japanese sweet potato

What foods are best for energizing the body? How about the mind?

Any fruit or veggie in its most whole form nourishes the body and mind at such a cellular level. Knowing where your food comes from such as your local farmers market or your own garden also adds such an energizing quality to it because it was most likely grown with love and didn’t have to travel far to get to you. The way we eat also affects how we digest foods and use them for energy. For example, when we sit at a table, un-distracted and relaxed, we are creating the perfect environment for our digestive system to do what it’s exactly supposed to do. When we feel stressed, our body feels it too and can divert the blood flow away from our digestive system. That stress affects the way we digest food and absorb certain nutrients which can lead to gas, bloating, and indigestion. So back to your question– I believe that eating in a relaxed state and eating whole fruits and vegetables is the best source of energy for our mind and body!

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Do you believe in foods that nourish the soul? For example, I know that coffee is sometimes considered unhealthy. But it enriches the soul in so many ways (mine anyway!). We think of health as a part of the physical world, but can health perhaps be a part of the spiritual as well? I don’t need coffee to be productive, but it sure warms me up from the inside.

I am so with you on that! Coffee often makes me feel very jittery but I love it because I am usually drinking it with good company in a cozy spot 🙂 I absolutely believe in certain foods that nourish the soul such as a grandmas old recipe or even a favorite childhood restaurant. My biggest piece of advice on that is to be completely present and fully enjoy whatever it is that nourishes your unique soul even if it’s not the best quality or the best for you. Connecting with food in that way can seriously go a long way for someone’s health!

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I know your work mostly revolves around food, but real briefly, would you care to share some thoughts on exercise? If you had to choose between healthful eating and exercising, which would you prefer?

Oh gosh I don’t think I could pick between the two! They are both necessary components in my overall vision of well-being. I love exercising and believe it is super important! As I mentioned earlier, regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep and mood, increase energy, enhance cognitive function, and so much more! There are so many different ways to exercise but the most beneficial type is the one you LOVE to do. If it is something you love doing or if it makes you feel empowered, you will stick with it.

What is your favorite detox regimen?

I don’t necessarily believe in detox regimens or juice cleanses because our body does it naturally for us. However, I do think there are ways that we can support the natural detoxification process by getting quality sleep each night, drinking lots of water, eating cruciferous veggies, and drinking green tea. I also like to start my mornings with a big glass of warm lemon water which may also support detoxification.

These days, I hear more frequently that the cause of certain symptoms (such as skin problems) is stress-related. We live in a fast-paced world. In what ways do you show self-care?

Yes I really do think stress manifests itself in so many ways in the body. It also shows up differently for different people. I think it is more important than ever to find ways to manage stress and practice them regularly. For me, I love to have a consistent meditation practice. I also like to limit my time on technology to give my mind a break. Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive or look a certain way– getting outside, breathing fresh air, exercising, laughing, playing with my dog, having meaningful relationships are all forms of self-care in my book! We shouldn’t look at self-care like it’s a luxury, instead we have to view it as something that is completely necessary to our well-being.

I love that last thought on self-care as a necessity rather than a luxury. Lastly, in honor of the New Year, out with the bad and in with the good. How do you suggest we start anew?

I think realizing that at any moment, we have the opportunity to make a change so why wait until New Years? People put a lot of pressure on New Years resolutions and if they don’t end up working (which many don’t), they view themselves as failures. Instead, I would advise picking up a small habit that is aligned with a larger vision and start today! Starting out with small steps makes a bigger goal much more attainable and likely to happen. Always remember to treat yourself with compassion, be flexible, and view it is a learning process.

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Favorite books: 

  • Intuitive Eating (to reject the diet mentality)
  • Deliciously Ella (a delicious, super simple plant-based cookbook)
  • In Defense of Food (to rethink our food industry)
  • A Monk’s Guide to Happiness (if you are new to meditation)
  • City of Girls (just a fun fiction read 🙂

This post is not sponsored by Starting from Within. All recommendations are truly from the heart and from experience. I have signed up with SFW’s health and wellness coaching program myself, in an effort to focus more on a balanced and healthy lifestyle. If you wish to look into what she can offer you for the new decade, set up a free 30-minute consultation here