Content Roundup - April 24, 2023
I'm kicking off your week with a roundup of content I've found really valuable over the past two weeks! The last roundup was a hit so I am even more excited to share a bit of what has been filling my content plate recently.
Always feel free to drop a link to your favorite article, podcast, or post you "saved" this week. I would love to check it out!
Black Maternal Health Week - Posts & Resources
Black Maternal Health Week was 4/11-4/17 so I wanted to first and foremost highlight some of the resources related to the topic. The Womb Room, a Baltimore based perinatal support center, shared a post on Instagram that pointed out so harrowing statistics about maternal mortality rates for black mothers. This post serves as a somber reminder of the disparity in healthcare and the importance of bringing awareness to this issue. The post doesn't just share WHY we need to care, it also shares specific ways that you can make an impact. We shouldn't just wait for this week to occur to bring awareness to this issue. This needs to be at the forefront of our minds constantly until changes are made. This article on The Every Mom from a couple years ago is also very helpful if you are looking for a deeper dive into the disparities in Black Maternal Health and some suggested ways to help.
Addressing Healthcare Inequity with IBD Advocate @kimberlymhooks
Kim and I are both part of the American Gastro Association Patient Influencer Program. That is how I discovered her content and have been finding everything she puts out to be so helpful. She is a great follow for those in the IBD community. She shares a lot about her life with IBD and the advocacy work she is doing all with an incredibly positive attitude.
78% of the Mental Load Falls on Mothers with @mamapsychologists
Mental load is a hot topic right now and rightfully so. We are finally putting a name to all of the extra work that moms do and recognizing that work. It's not just magic behind the scenes, there are hard working mom's making life happen. This post really spoke to me as I recently recorded a podcast episode about the mental load of traveling as a mom.
Podcast: Skimm This: State of Women... and Society
My last pick of this week is a podcast. The Skimm just launched Skimm This Special Edition where they are diving into different issues impacting women in America. The first episode called State of Women... and Society was one of the best podcast episodes I have ever listened to. It so eloquently described the social landscape we are facing as women and even had the author of Fair Play on to weigh in. The Fair Play card game has been a game changer in my marriage after having kids so I was thrilled to hear more about how this tool can help other women. The second episode of the mini series dropped a few days ago and it is at the top of my queue to listen to while working this morning.
I want to share my experience, not to provide a solution, but to provide an honest perspective that maybe you can resonate with. For years I have been interested in the correlation of digestive diseases and eating disorders, specifically the lack of dual diagnosis holistic treatment options. Throwing pregnancy into the mix is a whole new game that has me digging even deeper based on my personal experience. How do we deal with the mind fuck of weight gain and body changes while in recovery from an eating disorder? On top of that, how do we manage dietary restrictions or triggers from a digestive disease in addition to the restrictions and symptoms already brought on by pregnancy? Again on top of that, how do we deal with the emotional triggers that are drudged up by these changes and the added pressure of supporting a new human life? There are a lot of questions I want to explore, but right now what I have is my story and how I have navigated it thus far.
A struggle for me in my pregnancy has been eating, specifically what to eat and how to eat enough. My background doesn’t provide the best foundation for a great relationship with food in general, but because of that I’ve worked my butt off to get to a good spot. For those who haven’t read my other posts,I struggled with an eating disorder and then on top of that my Crohn’s diagnosis fueled additional struggles and triggers. I remember in eating disorder treatment, being there with other women who were struggling with how their bodies changed during or after pregnancy. When I thought of having kids, I always braced myself for this new reality.
When I figured out I was pregnant, all of my healthcare professionals who knew my background immediately began asking me how I felt about the weight gain and my body changing. It was so early on I really didn’t have any issues, plus, I hadn’t gained any weight.
During my first trimester my digestive system was a complete wreck. I had nausea that would never go away. I would try to force myself to eat and just ended up gagging instead, unable to get anything down. My new growing baby was messing with my intestines which brought on some new Crohn’s symptoms. Things were a mess, but it was trimester one so I figured it was par for the course.
At my 12 week appointment, my OB brought up that I had lost a significant amount of weight. I was pretty caught off guard by this since I try to refrain from weighing myself at home, as that is a trigger for me. I also didn’t understand how I had lost so much weight when the only things I could stomach when feeling up to it were gluten free cupcakes and Lucky Charms. We talked about it, but it wasn’t a huge concern yet since I was hopefully going to graduate out of the nausea soon. As I left the office I remember feeling a pang of guilt because was actually proud to have someone concerned about my weight loss. That brought me back to the time when that kind of feedback fueled me. I didn’t necessarily feel guilty for having this thought. They happen and you live with them and move on. I felt guilty because I wasn’t trying to lose weight. I was doing everything in my power to give my baby all of the necessary nutrients to grow. I felt like I was failing and having these thoughts made it worse.
My doctor seemed pretty confident that my body would sort itself out over the next few weeks so I tried to push the worry from my mind. The main struggle I was having was the food that I was craving, I know I couldn’t have because they would trigger my Crohn’s. Things like donuts, waffles, and sandwiches are always a no go for me because of the gluten (yes you can get them GF but no where near the same). I worked to find gluten free options but a lot of those are heavily processed though so that brought in more concerns of messing with my digestive system. I also felt shame for relying on processed foods since I was supposed to be giving my baby the best nutrients. I felt like no matter what I did, I was doing something wrong. Everyday I woke up in a stress fog of what the fuck do I eat today… what the fuck CAN I eat today. I also was balancing the regular pregnancy restrictions on top of those to save my digestive system. For example, I was disgusted by meat and could only stomach seafood, but I had to limit how much seafood I ate. I was seriously struggling to get enough protein.
During this time when I was going through my food crisis, we were also going through a global pandemic. Over these weeks I just mentioned, I also had to relocate from my house, live apart from my husband, and wasn’t able to go out in public to grocery shop for myself. This added a whole new layer onto the problem. I know this part of the situation is not relevant for everyone, but I felt it worth mentioning because it had a big impact on my life at the time. I was out of my routine, I was stressed, and I was just trying to get by. This triggered some increased Crohn’s symptoms to even further complicate things.
When I saw my doctor again, she brought up the lack of weight gain and actually more weight loss. I walked her through my struggles and she basically told me to just eat whatever I can. The baby will be fine if its McDonalds fries or a vegan smoothie bowl. He just needs to get fed. This made me feel better about what to eat, but didn’t change the fact that I rarely felt like eating. (Quick side note here: my doctor did prescribe me anti nausea medication, but it made me so drowsy I could only take it in the evenings. I would pass out immediately so while it is great for sleep, I can’t eat while I am sleeping.) Another issue I had was my natural reaction to not eat when I was having Crohn’s symptoms. Over the past however many years, it is like I have been conditioned to avoid that pain. My stomach hurts, naturally I stop wanting to eat to avoid the pain. In those situations I revert back to liquid or soft diets until my inflammation improves. I knew my child would not be okay if I spent the next 6 months eating chicken broth and popsicles. I mean I would not even be okay if I had to do that. The discomfort I was feeling also just caused me to not feel hungry almost ever. I never thought I would be this person, but I had to remind myself to eat. I think this was escalated by me working from home and being in an environment where there was no designated lunch hour where everyone is grabbing something to eat together. I could work through the day and not even think about lunch.
I worked with my doctor to come up with a solution of supplementing my diet with Ensure shakes. These were easy for me to get down and digest, plus they would help with my protein intake. Now I want to pause here for a second. I know there are people reading this that will be mentally shaming me for not choosing a natural option or not creating a protein smoothie for myself at home, blah blah blah. Look, this is what worked for me and my life so that is that. These have been a lifesaver for me throughout this pregnancy. Of course, I don’t just drink Ensure, but knowing I have that as a safety blanket has allowed me to relax and listen to my body more on what it actually wants. It is pretty funny to me that I have seen Ensure as such a helpful tool. When I was in eating disorder treatment it was the bane of my existence. I would (not electively) drink four of these a day on top of my meals to get back to a healthy weight. I swore I would never touch them again after treatment, but now look, they are helping fuel my pregnant body and help my baby grow. Oh how the tables have turned.
My nausea and discomfort subsided a bit for the latter part of my second trimester and a quick bit of my third, but are now back in full force. I also am feeling the effects of being off of Remicade this trimester so that has added some more turbulence to the situation. I am struggling to identify which symptoms are a result of pregnancy or a result of Crohn's. Right now the cause isn't necessarily my worry, it is how I am going to make this work for the rest of the pregnancy. I have gained weight which my doctor was pleased with and it really hasn’t bothered me as much as I was worried it might. I haven’t gained a ton of weight, but enough to be on track. I am told I should feel “lucky” that this is the case. Yeah, I guess I feel lucky, but I also feel ashamed that this has been and continues to be such an uphill battle. I can’t help but wonder, how would I feel if this wasn’t the case and I did have a normal weight gain during this pregnancy? Would things feel easier or would other feelings be triggered?
To be really honest, I have had countless breakdowns crying on my sofa frustrated about food over the past 8 months. I’m in pain, but I need to eat, but I don’t want to eat and everything I actually might want will make me sick so then I’ll feel worse, but then baby needs nutrients but if I’m sick that hurts him too so what the fuck do I even do. There have been lots of tears and lots of my sweet husband showing up with ice cream, one of the only things I can almost always stomach. He doesn’t understand necessarily what I am going through, but he makes the effort to help in any way he can which is more than enough for me.
It is difficult to unpack all of the emotions that are a part of this journey. I reflect daily on how I am doing and have an honest check in with myself to make sure I am not drudging up old patterns of thinking. It’s hard, but I am confident in the work I have done and the strength that I have. This situation has forced me to revisit painful thoughts and walk through guilt and shame and I’ve decided that is okay. Pregnancy is not a mutually exclusive event and we are still handling other things, physically and emotionally as we go through it. At the end of the day, I think we need more answers on how to support pregnant women in these situations but I don’t know if those solutions are coming anytime soon. This highlights even more the importance of taking care of your own mental health as you prepare for and go through pregnancy. Find others who are going through the same thing, see a therapist, rely on your support system; do whatever you have to do, feel what you have to feel, and most importantly know that it is okay.
f you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please check out the NEDA website for details on resources and treatment options.
Sephora Insider Sale on a Budget
I wanted to post a quick follow up to my Sephora Sale Pregnancy Must Haves that went live yesterday. I got a few questions about how to sift through all of the recommendations and decide on just a few products that you can order so you don't break the bank.
I put together a few suggestions that will give you some great products while sticking to a reasonable budget. One of the things I love about Sephora are their mini sizes which allow you to try new products before investing in the full size versions.
The Acne Trifecta
When hormonal acne hits, this trio has been what has worked for me. In my original post the spot treatment I recommend is the Belli Acne Control Spot Treatment which is pregnancy approved. This is what I am currently using but I have used the Umbrian Clay Mask by Fresh as my go to spot treatment before I was pregnant. I actually ran out and figured out I was pregnant before I had a chance to restock so I went with a new one from a pregnancy brand. After doing some more research, I believe the mask from Fresh should also be pregnancy approved (still double check for yourself, I'm not a doctor!). If you aren't pregnant, no worries then and you should be adding this amazing gem to your cart right now. You can also get The Deep Cleanse from Tatcha and the ACV Peel that I recommend in mini sizes to try out. You can get all three for under $50 during the sale!
Best Bang for Your Buck
For under $100, you can revamp your whole skincare routine with The Littles set from Drunk Elephant. This set contains 8 products from the line that are total game changers. It contains the Marula Oil, Protini Cream, and Umbra Sheer Physical Sunscreen ,all three of which are on my master list for pregnancy. According to Drunk Elephant's website, all of the other products are pregnancy safe but I have been shying away from the Glycolic Night Cream due to the salicylic acid. You can always save that for after your little bebe is born or if you aren't pregnant than you don't have to worry!
Top 3 For Glowing Skin
You can get these three items (all on my favorites list) for just a little over $100. These are the perfect combination of products to achieve glowy skin and if you were going to only invest in three basic products, these are what I would recommend. The duo from Drunk Elephant gives you their bar cleanser and exfoliant (both of which I love). These you can start with in the mini size since a little really does go a long way. The Water Cream from Tatcha I would go big on from the start. You will be lathering this everywhere morning and night. Last is the Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer from Charlotte Tilbury which I have been living in instead of foundation during quarantine.
This post was super quick and I just wanted to get it out there to answer some questions! If you have any other questions I didn't answer or additional suggestions, just drop me a message!
My Picks for Best Pregnancy Safe Skincare/Beauty Products (Just In Time for the Sephora Sale!)
In quarantine I have been capitalizing on every little exciting thing that is happening, making it something big to look forward to. Well this week I don’t have to create my own hype because the excitement for the Sephora Insider Sale is REAL. For VIB member is starts on Tuesday, April 21st and I am ready.
Swapping out your regular beauty routine for pregnancy safe products can be expensive so this is a great time for mamas to be to stock up. Just digging through the crazy advice on the internet to decide what you are comfortable with ingredient wise is a hassle enough, at least when actually buying the products you decide on you deserve a break.
I’ve went through my fair share of products as I’ve experimented through these first 18 weeks of pregnancy so I want to share with you all what has ended up actually working for me. Unfortunately not only have I had to make the usual pregnancy product swaps, but I also was blessed with some crazy pregnancy skin. I had the “pregnancy glow” for maybe two weeks until it turned into hormonal acne and stretch marks, so don’t worry, I have products for those too.
I know going through a list of all of these products can feel overwhelming, but remember I am a product junkie so I love trying new stuff and budget each month for it. Don’t feel like you need everything at once. Try a few that feel most relevant to what you need and go from there. This is by no means a list of things you MUST have, just a list of things that have worked for me. I also am not a medical professional so always check with your doctor if you are unsure about a product or ingredient. These are the products I have choose to use based on my research and conversations with my doctor. There are enough crazy mommy blogs out there shaming you into spending $500 on a new beauty routine so you don’t “harm your baby” (and most of those are bullshit in my opinion). After almost falling victim to that myself thanks to all of the guilt I started feel, I have made an effort to be super careful about how I word these posts. I want the takeaway to be, “here is what worked for me, hope this helps” because none of us are experts and even the actual experts have conflicting advice! The best we can do is make informed decisions based on our research, so I hope my trial and error can help you narrow down what you may want to purchase, and keep you from wasting money on products that don’t get the job done. I also have to say, a lot of these products I was using even before I was pregnant and based on what ingredients I am okay with, they passed the test to be used during pregnancy as well. I didn't decide, oh I'm pregnant, lets buy new everything. That is totally unrealistic, so I urge you all to take a look at the products you already have and see what you can make work. I'll say this again for the people in the back, these are just recommendations for the swaps you do want to make or when you are out of a product and looking to restock!
As I am super excited for the Sephora Sale, not every product I love can be found at Sephora, so I have included links to those too. Most are not super expensive so won’t break the bank even without a sale ticket price. A lot of these products can also be purchased in mini sizes so if you want to try them out before you invest, these are prefect. I find out about most of my favorite products through sample sizes and purchasing the mini versions. This is also a great way to stick to your budget if you want to try a few things at once instead of splurge on one big item.
This Tula Purifying Face Cleanser Is a product I used before I found out I was pregnant and luckily could continue to use into my pregnancy. I love Tula products because they are formulated by a gastroenterologist and the line focuses around probiotics. This cleanser is gentle but gets the job done so it is perfect for everyday use.
In pregnancy I have limited my chemical exfoliants big time so I started to notice more build up on my skin. Especially as I started to break out more, I also noticed these tiny bumps on my face, neck, and chest that could only be remedying with some good, old fashioned, physical exfoliant. The JuJu Exfoliating Bar from Drunk Elephant has become my 'go to' because I feel like I can really feel it making a difference. It leaves my skin feeling noticeably smoother but not irritated. I use it on my face and down to my chest.
Moisturizers are where I will spend the big(ger) bucks. I am a true believer that the right moisturizer is a game changer. After trying so many, these three have really stood out as hero products since I've been pregnant. The Protini Polypeptide Cream from Drunk Elephant is my usual night time moisturizer. I will layer the Virgin Marula Oil from Drunk Elephant under it when I need a little more love in the hydration department. My favorite daytime moisturizer is The Water Cream from Tatcha. It is so light weight and soothing, plus it really makes a difference on how makeup lays on your skin. For a while I was wondering if Tatcha was worth all of the hype and the price but after trying a sample size and falling in love, I have to admit, it is worth every penny.
Drunk Elephant's Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser is the easiest way to remove makeup. With a little bit of this stuff, your makeup will just slide off of your face. No pulling or scrubbing and it works really well on stubborn mascara too. I first discovered this product in one of Drunk Elephant's mini sets. I love these because you get to try multiple products for less than $30 and decide which ones you like. In this case, I ended up also falling in love with the moisturizer that came with it. The Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer is one of my favorite moisturizers, so you can try out two of my favorites for only $22. I am always surprised with how long these tiny products last for too. Tip: Even if I end up purchasing the full size product, I save the tiny containers so I can refill them for traveling.
These Josie Maran Bear Naked Wipes are so soothing and are prefect for lazy nights when you can't imagine leaving your comfortable bed to get up and wash your face. I leave these in my nightstand for convenience. These wipes are my favorite because they slide smoothly over your skin so you aren't pulling or rubbing to wash the day off.
Pregnancy fatigue is NO JOKE. I looked in the mirror when I was about 8 weeks pregnant and it looked like I hadn't slept in three months. Well I know I'm only going to get MORE tired once baby gets here so I'm locking this in as a long term staple in my skincare routine. While mamas to be may have to limit their caffeine intake, that doesn't mean we can't use a little on our skin. The Rose Glow & Get It Eye Balm from Tula is a savior. It is cooling, brightening, and moisturizing. With a mixture of caffeine, hyaluronic acid, and rosehip oil (nature's retinol) this eye balm helps to treat your tired eyes while making them immediately look better.
Even though I have been more acne prone during my pregnancy, I still also have issues with hydration. I love the Jet Lag Mask from Summer Fridays because it is hydrating without making your skin feel oily. This is a must for me to have whenever I fly and during the cold winter months. This is another product I used prior to being pregnant so I was thrilled I would be able to continue using it through my pregnancy.
Another hydrating favorite from Summer Fridays is their new Lip Butter Balm. Hydrating, not sticky, pregnancy safe, pretty self explanatory.
No chemical sunscreen was the first pregnancy skincare rule that I learned. Basically every product I had for daytime, whether makeup or skincare, had chemical sunscreen in it. I would say the chemical SPF was the number one reason for many of the makeup products I had to swap out. I am big on sun protection so I needed to find an alternative quickly, especially since in my first trimester I was vacationing in Hawaii for two weeks. The Physical Defense Protection from Drunk Elephant is the best physical sunscreen product I have found so far. I put a little on in the morning mixed with my moisturizer for everyday use. For serious sun exposure I use this on my entire body. It is light weight and didn't make me break out, which is always a big concern for me when it comes to sunscreen. There was a bit of a learning curve when applying it because it is a lot thicker than my usual formula. A little goes a long way with this stuff!
I know there are mixed reviews when it comes to getting spray tans during pregnancy. I decided against it based on the conversations I had with my doctor. As someone who religiously was getting sprayed, I was desperately searching for a comparable option. My search for these products was also escalated due to my first trimester trip to Hawaii. Both of these products have exceeded my expectations in delivering a bronze glow. I usually add the D-Bronzi Sunshine Drops from Drunk Elephant into my moisturizer to use on my face and neck. I use the Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops in Dark for the rest of my body. I mix these in with my daily body moisturizer for easy application. I've also used the Isle of Paradise drops on my face which worked out perfectly fine as well. The Isle of Paradise drops pack more of a punch in delivering an immediate and darker tan, so I used these on my face while we were in Hawaii and will probably start to do so more in the summer. The color lasts about a week so you really only have to apply once a week which is super convenient. The D-Bronzi Drops are better for daily use in my opinion since they have more of a subtle, buildable color.
The Acne Trifecta
Pregnancy acne is NO JOKE. At first I thought a few little patches of hormonal acne would be no big deal. I was used to some weird break outs that corresponded with my Crohn's flares so I thought I was prepared. Well, I wasn't. I realized that the heavy hitters I was using to knock out my breakouts before were not safe to use in pregnancy. This lead me on quite a journey to identify what the heck I could actually use and what worked. I finally feel like I have things under control and I have seen a big improvement.
First off I had to bring in a bit of a heavier exfoliant to use every other day. The Deep Cleanse by Tatcha has really helped with the tiny bumps I have been getting and has been especially useful along my jawline. All of my usual peels were off the table, as were my spot treatments so I had to really get creative here. My doctor recommended trying to stick with benzoyl peroxide products for acne treatment but BP always does a number on my sensitive skin so that was not going to be good for me. Instead I use the Volition Apple Cider Vinegar Peel Resurfacing Pads once per week, specifically concentrated around where my hormonal acnes is occurring. Every other night I use Belli's Acne Control Spot Treatment. Belli is skincare specifically formulated for pregnancy and this specific product uses sulfur as the acne fighting ingredient. This spot treatment works great, but can be a bit drying, hence why I am using it every other night. The other nights I make sure I am focusing on hydration and usually layering my Murula Oil under my Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer.
So far Palmer's Coconut Oil Body Lotion has been my 'go to' for hydrating and trying to fend off stretch marks. I know they are pretty inevitable which was proven as over the past three weeks, despite my struggle to gain weight during my pregnancy, new stretch marks have made themselves at home on my sides. I am on the hunt for another product to add into my routine in conjunction with this body lotion, but nothing can replace this tried and true staple. This is also great to mix your tan drops in with and it smells like a vacation.
I've really paired down my everyday makeup routine thanks to never having to leave the house. This has made making my routine pregnancy safe a lot easier since I've eliminated a lot of steps. These products are the ones I have been wearing when I do wear makeup. This is all you will see me wearing on Instagram these days as well. As much as I love getting glam, I am holding off until I have somewhere to be.
Nail Polish (What I Have Been Using in Quarantine)
Last, but not least -- nails. I won't lie to you all and say I was going to stop getting my SNS Dip manicures while I was pregnant. I stopped getting them because I am in quarantine and can't leave my house. If you know me, you know my nail tech, Tracy, is an angel of a woman and has been doing beautiful things to my nails since 2017. I have consistently seen her every 3-4 weeks since July 2017, until now. I am a little lost and on my own since it has been a while since I've painted my own nails (first world problem, I KNOW). I remembered that one of the brands I loved when I was DIYing my nails was Deborah Lippmann. Well, not much has changed and the products are still great. As a plus they are also a lot safer when it comes to ingredients and they don't require UV exposure. I also am very horrible at painting my own nails and I can actually make them look decent with this kit. I recommend the Deborah Lippmann Gel Lab Pro base and top coat as your initial investment. You can purchase full size Deborah Lippmann polishes from Sephora, but I really like the set of mini polishes since I rarely ever use a whole bottle anyway. These have been the six colors I have had on rotation since the beginning of quarantine.
I know this was a long one, but I hope it helps! I have really been so excited to share these products with you all because I know how challenging it can be to find advice on what to use during pregnancy. The Sephora Sale was just the icing on the cake to make this post that much sweeter since that makes a lot of these amazing products more affordable.
I am also working on a post detailing new items that I want to try and purchase from the Sephora Insider Sale and a post breaking down the best combination of products to get on a budget.
As always, let me know if you have any questions and I can't wait to hear what you all buy from the sale this week!
Coping During COVID
Woah… how things have changed since my last post less than a month ago. Things have quickly escalated and I am writing this now from my 13th day in quarantine. As we go through this challenging time, I’ve been sharing updates along the way on my social media — some about the positive things this self isolation has brought and others focused on my frustrations around how my fellow humans are handling this pandemic. I’ve been trying my best to remain positive and manage my anxiety as much as possible as life has continued to evolve. I decided this afternoon, after my remote therapy/meditation session, that I wanted to use my platform to share some ways I have been coping with #quarantinelife.
I know this time is difficult, especially for those who struggle with anxiety or depression. Isolation can be very triggering as can living life without a set routine. In a time where it can be easy to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, it is more important than ever to be ready when those feelings come up. This has been a common theme in the chronic illness community, not just during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in everyday life. Due to health conditions beyond our control, sometimes we are forced to isolate. I have been able to live an active lifestyle in the past few years, but unfortunately, not all who are suffering from a chronic illness are so lucky. Now the world is getting a taste of the loneliness and fear those with chronic illnesses suffer with everyday. It makes me so sad that more people have to experience this, but we are all in this together. When I think about my darkest days of suffering and being sick, the online community of those in similar situations was one of the things that got me through it. I am hoping now that our fellow humans can now see the incredible benefit of coming together, sharing vulnerabilities, and lifting each other up during extremely challenging times.
I am no expert, but I have three habits I am implementing to help control my anxiety during these unprecedented times. The habits I am sharing are ones that are a bit out of the norm from the usual stuff you will read — exercise, meditation, walking outside — those are all things I am doing, but these dig a little deeper if you are ready to go there.
1. Different rooms for different things
I noticed myself spending all of my waking hours in my living room. My desk and computers are in there, my sofa and main tv are in there, my dogs like to be in there. It is the hub of our house, but spending so many hours in the same place day after day can be agonizing, especially when there is no separation of work and relaxation. I am making a conscious effort to have activities happen in various rooms. For example, when I meditate in the morning, instead of doing it on my sofa, I can do it in my master bedroom. When I take conference calls I can take them from my guest room. When my husband and I watch a movie, we move to the basement. If you don’t live in an environment where it is feasible for you to move around, at least try changing your space. Light a candle or put on different background music to switch up the vibe. You can even just move your chair to a different location or change the seat you usually pick to sit at on the sofa.
2. Set your intention for the day
When I was talking to my therapist, I was explaining that working from home is normal for me and I can do it well. I explained that actually being at home is comfortable for me, so I am fine with that. The anxiety inducing feeling that is coming up for me is not knowing what my purpose is each day. I have my ‘to do’ lists for work and I am knocking them out, but things are admittedly different. The world seems slower, which can be a good thing, but for someone who feels the need to always be in maximum production and self improvement mode, this is dangerous. My therapist suggested I included setting an intention for my day in my morning meditation. Basically I decide what I want to get out of the day and own it. Somedays it is going to be, my intention is rest and I want to lay on the sofa and cuddle with my dogs while we watch Netflix all Sunday….and that is okay. It can feel okay because I am choosing to set that as my intention and owning it. I realized that I naturally do this at the beginning of my work day, but my personal priorities seem to slip from my intentions when work is the focus. Now I will focus on what my intention will be outside of just being a productive employee. Will my intention to be more mindful and take an half hour break to enjoy tea on my back deck? The intentions I set will be around larger feelings than just completing daily tasks. By focusing on these intentions everyday, I can feel accomplished in my own way. I hope that this is a habit I can form and carry on once we resume regular life.
3. Do not feel guilty about sometimes focusing on the trivial things
I have so fallen victim to this mentality. These are really sad times. People are suffering, the world is in an unprecedented state, and yeah, things are really scary. I feel guilty allowing myself to think of trivial things like painting my nails or ordering something online during a time of such tragedy. I realized that this is not helpful and has caused me to just become more of an anxious mess. In order to take care of myself the best I can, I need to make sure I am preserving my mental health. Life hasn’t stopped just because of COVID-19. It is okay to laugh with your friends (via FaceTime) or order some new nail polish to boost your spirits. I cannot punish myself for what the world is going through or take on the pain of everyone else. There are folks who aren’t taking this thing seriously and who actually need to focus more on the gravity of the situation, but is you are taking the time to read this, that probably isn’t you, and you are a self aware gem just trying to cope.
I will provide more frequent updates on this COVID-19 journey via my Instagram. I hope that some of the content I share helps you through this time. As I’ve checked in with other spoonies around the world who I have met, I am heartbroken by what just the domino effect of this virus has done for their lives and health, but at the same time I am so inspired by their strength and positivity that never fades. That is why, even when it is easier to put my head in the sand and try and wait until this passes, I want to put myself out there to be vulnerable about what is going on and offer support to you all in this time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are struggling. We are all in this together.
Getting Real Uncomfy With This One...
This post is about something I am super uncomfy talking about. I want to put it out there and get more comfortable because whenever I’ve shared things with this community it has lead me to more connection with other amazing ladies, often going through something similar. I mentioned this briefly in a previous post, that I took the leap and started talking to my doctors about fertility. Matt has wanted a baby since the moment we were legally married (and honestly before that) and I have been the master of excuses to push it off. Through a bit of self discovery I came to terms with the fact that I was actually truly terrified to be a mom. I had spent so much time focusing on just trying to get things stabilized to get through life, that it seemed such a distant possibility that me, myself, my body, could handle actually bringing a life into this world and then taking care of that life. To be honest, as soon as Matt and I started seriously talking about the potential of becoming parents, it triggered my anxiety to an ALL TIME HIGH. It is like every insecurity I ever felt about my body physically or emotionally bubbled to the surface, trying to convince myself that I would be a horrible mom and I was not qualified in any possible way.
I’ve been working through this for the past few months. As both a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, the thought of having a little being that I am responsible for and could potentially totally mess up feels absolutely terrifying. I mean, I am already crazy about caring for my dogs, how will we throw a baby human into this mix? Everyone keeps telling me, “You’ll figure it out”. And, yeah, I know we will. I’m resourceful and have basically played the figure it out game most of my adult life. What worries me is my body being on the same page as my brain.
As much as I know that rationally this thought is not healthy, I feel like it is my responsibility to bring children into the world for our family. I haven’t gotten this pressure from anyone else, but my own feeling guilty brain. No matter how many 'green lights' I get, somehow I still feel self conscious that something is wrong with me. Ever since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I have been told that pregnancy was going to be harder for me. I was also threatened with that when I was 18 years old suffering from an eating disorder. I will never forget hearing “If you keep doing this to yourself, you’ll never get pregnant and you’ll never have babies”. I get that those telling me that were worried about me and trying to scare me into ‘getting better’. Now it rings in my head every time I visit the Obgyn or see a baby in the grocery store.
I’m scared of ‘failing’ my family because my body isn’t ‘good enough’. The thing is, if a friend were to spill this situation to me, I’d tell them this way of thinking is totally irrational and they are being so incredibly mean to their beautiful body and hard on themselves. But when the dialogue is directed at yourself, somehow things always are narrated a bit differently, huh?
How do you get past the fear of ‘failure’? How do you believe in your body when you feel like it is out of your control? How can you trust this body to bring the most precious gift into the world when it is hard to trust it to make it through the work week.
I’ve been working on positive self affirmations. I’ve been living by the mantra, “You are doing the best you can”. I’ve been making lists of all of the amazing things my body can do. And I’ve been praying to the universe. It’s hard to share these fears with those close to you, because they are all so hopeful and they are the people you don’t want to let down. I’ve been following along with the journeys of strong, inspiring, and truly amazing women on Instagram. Some of them I have the pleasure of knowing and some of them, just strangers, who are brave enough to share their stories with those who need to hear it. I know that my story has barely begun and it might sound crazy to those who have been through so much that I am so initially paralyzed by fear. But this is how it is, and I’m working to be okay each day with just doing the best my body and mind possibly can.
Got a little real on this one, and I hope to feel inclined to continue to do so. Please drop me a message if you are a fellow spoonie, member of the chronic illness community, or struggling in a similar situation. Let’s stand by each other.
Photo by Jade Nikkole Photography
The Dehydration Situation
Okay, so if you read my most recent post on my health update, you know that I recently started seeing a new primary care doctor. So far she has been great and I am super positive about my switch. One of the things I really like about her approach, is that she really strives to see the bigger picture, instead of just focusing on all symptoms separately. This is so critical when you are dealing with autoimmune diseases since they manifest so differently in everybody and their symptoms can be tricky to pin down. I wanted to share a conversation that we had because, number one, I really liked how she approached it, and number two, this advice may be able to help other IBD sufferers. Full disclosure, I am not a medical professional, or qualified to give any medical advice. What I can do, is share my experience in hopes that it may inspire you to have similar conversations with your doctor.
Our main discussion was around a few concerns I have had over the past few months, related to weird symptoms I was experiencing. I couldn't tell if these were related to Crohn's symptoms, medication side effects, or some other issue entirely. I had been getting headaches as well as spikes in my blood pressure pretty frequently. Usually my BP runs pretty normal and stably, I've been hooked up to vital machines every six weeks for the past four-ish years so I know. I had exams, blood work, EKGs, the whole nine yards done, but no one could figure out what was going on. Everyone was assuming these were due to my anxiety, which could be the case some times, but honestly I feel like my anxiety has been more in control over the past few months than it has ever been. Things weren't adding up.
My new doctor and I started having conversations around this and we uncovered the almost annoyingly simple answer. In my frustration I ranted about how my Crohn's symptoms being better the past few months, obviously not gone entirely, but things have been under control. I went on about how conscious I was about taking care of my body when my symptoms were bad and how I don't understand why something else seems to be wrong now. Then the question of how much water I was drinking came up. Of course I make sure to stay hydrated! When my Crohn's is bad I actually HAVE TO pay attention to my hydration at all times to make sure I don't end up in the hospital. Things started to click together as I explained my diligent hydration routine. I realized that since my Crohn's symptoms have been better, my avoidance of dehydration had slipped to the back of my mind. When I was doing a physical activity or out in the sun I was always careful to pack a DripDrop packet and track my water intake, but as far as day to day, for some reason I guess since I wasn't losing as much water due to my symptoms, all was well. This is NOT THE CASE. My symptoms aren't gone completely so I am still at a higher risk of dehydration, but I was acting like this wasn't even a factor anymore.
As we pieced this together I honestly felt like an idiot. She explained how your blood pressure can be seriously impacted by dehydration and I needed to make sure that was a priority even if I was seemingly feeling fine. She was convinced that the chronic dehydration I had recently been unknowingly experiencing was the cause for my blood pressure spikes. I was cracking myself up with how crazy this sounded after I went through all of these tests and freaked myself out to no end. "I have a partnership with the best Oral Rehydration Solution company out there. I drink them whenever I work out or am outside or am sick." I was literally yelling at myself in her office. "Well start not just drinking them when you think you 'need' to. Start drinking one per day at least and two in the summer." My doctor literally just prescribed me DripDrop to fix my BP and headache issues.....
Over the past six weeks or so, I've been taking her advice and making sure I am being way more conscious of my water intake and making sure I am adding DripDrop to my water at least once per day. I also have been diligent about the one glass of champagne to one glass of water ratio rule, which I am very proud of. Go. Me. Miraculously my headaches have improved and my blood pressure has been way more normal. Wow.
So what did I learn from this story and why am I sharing it. One, I am thankful I have a doctor that actually thought of chronic dehydration instead if just trying to prescribe me an unnecessary pill. Two, sometimes the seemingly more simple answer is the right one. Three, just because you are feeling okay doesn't mean you can slack on your usual care and precautions. Last thing, I was really excited to share this story because DripDrop genuinely has helped me so much. I know I talk about DripDrop often and how it is a product I am proud to be a partner to. But I also know in the world of social media where bloggers are promoting products all the time it is hard to tell what is authentic and what isn't. I like being able to share a story like this, where you can see how DripDrop truly is a part of my health protocol. It isn't just part of an Instagram post, or a blog post. This isn't just a lifestyle product I am taking cute photos of (although, yes, I think they are very cute). This is a product that changes lives and saves lives. And I am very proud to work with them.
With nice weather (finally) upon us, I have been jumping at any chance to get outside more. Whether its taking the dogs for an extra walk, parking farther back in the parking lot for a few extra seconds outside, or when I’m able to work remote, doing it from my backyard, I have been taking every opportunity I can get. Usually the nice weather means Matt and I trade some gym time for activities that let us enjoy the outdoors. We are lucky enough to have a hiking trail right near our house which is probably our favorite outdoor workout replacement to do together.
Another one of my favorite ways to get active outside are with local studios that host outdoor classes and events. My barre studio has these at least every month or so when the weather is nice. I love it because you mix up the location so instead of working out in the studio you are outside on a restaurant patio or a brewery, something like that. It definitely breaks you from your routine and, not going to lie, it motivates me way more to get up on a Saturday for an early class.
This morning, my mom and I went to a “Crunch & Brunch” event at a restaurant which was right on the water in the harbor. We got to do barre in the fresh air and it was SUCH a beautiful morning. Of course, when you are opting for an outdoor workout, you have to make sure you are prepared with some extra items. Of course if you need a yoga mat or resistance bands, you remember to bring those but, I’ve rounded up the items I always take with me for an outdoor class that may not be a part of your regular gym bag.
1. Sunglasses - These are a must for me! Some people hate working out with sunglasses on but if it is bright out I need them. I want to be focused on the workout I’m doing instead of squinting to see what the instructor is demonstrating. I have specific ones from MVMT that I like for outdoor activities. They are matte and non reflective so I don’t get any extra glares. They also are a little smaller than my usual pairs and sit on my face securely so they don’t fall off mid-downward dog.
2. Hat - Number one, this will protect your scalp from the sun while you are outside. Two, it helps keep your hair out of your face. And three, if you choose to forgo the sunglasses, a hat should do the trick of keeping the sun out of your eyes.
3. Sunscreen - I think this one is pretty self explanatory but no matter what you are doing outside, lather on that SPF. My favorite are the Sun Bum sprays. They are so easy to put on and don’t stain your clothing at all. I have one that sits near my front door for us to spray on before we head out for an activity. It also smells SO good. I also like the face stick from Sun Bum because it’s easy to throw in your gym bag to touch up sensitive areas like your nose and cheeks, or other areas that get extra sweaty.
4. DripDrop - We’ve all been there. You’re in a workout class and you’re like I might throw up or pass out because I am sweating out my whole body weight. You’re dehydrated so you chug water and lay in child’s pose until you feel like you won’t puke all over your mat. I can’t be the only one? RIGHT?! Working out obviously puts your body at a higher risk for dehydration and when you mix that with a workout outside, under the sun, when its 80+ degrees… game over. I highly recommend packing DripDrop ORS packets to bring with you. Usually I drink one on my way to class/during and then if I need to I have another one afterwards. Especially if you are waking up early to go to a class or go on a hike, these are a game changer since your body is already in need of some morning hydration. I always pack some extras too incase there is that poor girl suffering in child’s pose who needs a dehydration savior to help her out.
5. Towel - Usually studios will provide towels so if you are offsite it is a given that if you want one, you’ll bring your own. Even if you don’t usually grab one while you’re in a studio workout, I highly recommend bringing one to an outdoor class. A lot of times these classes can be on cement or other hard surfaces. If you are on your wrists, knees, or forearms a lot this can get painful. It is nice to have a towel that you can roll or fold up for some extra cushion if you need it!
If you are looking for outdoor workouts near you, check Facebook! If you don’t have a studio that you get regular updates from, Facebook events are a great place to see what exciting things local studios are doing near you. You can also find local workout groups, charity runs/walk, and events to bring your kids (or dogs) to, if you want to get active and more involved in the community.
Let me know, what is your favorite kind of outdoor workout?
The incoming of summer sunshine reminded me that I was overdue for my annual dermatology appointment. I made an appointment to be seen this Friday and have a nice skin check up to make sure all is well. I never used to put much thought into skin abnormalities because the chances of it being skin cancer seemed so far fetched to me. This was seriously naive behavior considering both of my grandfathers have a history of skin cancer and in college I was visiting the tanning bed like it was my second home. Bad. Idea.
As I took more of an interest in skincare I realized how horribly I was ruining my skin by baking it in the sun. I started lathering up with SPF instead of tanning oil and called it a healthier lifestyle. Once I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, my awareness of the risks of skin cancer heightened. The more research I did, the more I understood the link between Crohn’s and skin cancer. The immunosuppressants us with Crohn’s are often on, can highly increase the likelihood of skin cancer. While the exact reason for this link is not 100% explained yet, the correlation can’t be ignored.
I started lathering SPF 50 all over my face, neck, and hands on the daily. I started covering up my scalp while on walks with my dogs. And I started spending a whole lot more time under the umbrella while on the beach. The risk of skin cancer is not worth a balmy glow I can easily get from a bronzing lotion. Even if you are not at a high risk for skin cancer, the sun is the most damaging thing to your skin. Is it worth getting prematurely wrinkled? I vote no.
All things in the table here, I am a firm believer in regular dermatology evaluations, especially if you have an autoimmune disease/ are on immunosuppressants. No matter how much you do to protect your skin now, you can never be 100% immune to the dangerous effects of UV rays, and sadly, the damage you have done can contribute to problems you may face now or in the future.
Obviously none of us are perfect. There have been days I forget my SPF and there are days I’ve spent too much time in the sun in favor of a good time with friends. I’m not saying you can never allow your skin see the light of day because, let’s get real, that’s super unrealistic. What I am saying though, is that you can do your best to 1. protect your skin and 2. do your due diligence with check ups.
Hopefully I’ll be reporting back after my appointment tomorrow with good news of no skin concerns. Until then, I wanted to leave you all with a few kick ass sunscreen recommendations. These are a few of my favorite products that infuse my love of skincare with the responsibility of protecting my skin.
Drop me a comment and let me know your SPF loaded product recommendations. I’m always in for a good new product to try.
Photo by: Madison Short
It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about me. I talk about what trips I’m going on, products I’m trying, recipes I’m cooking. But, it has been a while since I’ve pulled back the curtain and given an update on what is going on behind the scenes of social media perception. Honestly, when things are feeling crazy in my life, it is a whole lot easier to keep my content light and airy. It is an escape from having to deal with the hard stuff. The thing is, the reason I started this blog in the first place was to talk about that hard stuff. The outfits, beauty products, vacations, and shopping recommendations are an added plus. Through feedback I’ve gotten, I know it is the hard stuff that makes the most impact and means the most in this community. It is also Mental Health Month so... what better a time than now?
The past two and a half years have been a total whirlwind. I bought a house, I got promoted, I bought a new car, I moved into my house, I got engaged, I got married, I planned another wedding, I had a big wedding, I planned a honeymoon, I went on a honeymoon, I finally feel like I got my health under control. And last fall I freaked the fuck out. It was literally the weekend of our first wedding anniversary I had an anxious meltdown. I had done so much and checked so many things off my list over the past two years, what do I do now? I thought it was just me being affected by the season change and feeling a little more down in the dumps. But, as I continued to have overwhelming anxiety week after week I called my mom because I knew I couldn’t keep being that miserable.
When I talked things through with her, it really made me realize what was going on. For the past two years I had been going, going, going. It had been great. I had been achieving goals and conquering huge life events. I had been in a constant state of planning, working, and productivity. I was at a point where I had so many big things planned, that once they were done, I was lost. I’ve always been someone who need to feel constantly productive and if I can’t be I pretty much lose it and shut down. Don’t worry, I’ve been in therapy for this for a long time. I also love and crave the stability of always knowing what is next and having a plan.
So here I was, coming out of my first blissful year of marriage, not knowing what is next. People were asking me left and right when I was going to have a baby, as if that were the only logical next step in my relationship. Was I a horrible person because I selfishly wanted more time to spend with just my husband? I came out of busting my ass at work only to find I don’t know what my next step is or what I am working towards. I was happy in my house, with my dogs, with my family, with my life. But I felt so, so sad and hopeless. For absolutely no apparent reason. My anxiety was back in full swing and my OCD that I struggled with as a child was back and terrorizing me. This also truly didn’t make sense to me because my Crohn’s was the most under control it has been in years and everyday was no longer a fight. But what do I do when I’m not just fighting to get by? Its like I had no idea how to function in a calm world.
I started up therapy again and I have gotten medication to help with my anxiety and OCD. Its a work in progress to simply be happy with how things are instead of always chasing the next achievement. I am getting there day by day and I’m also being a lot more open with what I’ve been going through. I was reluctant to share how I was feeling before, because I felt ungrateful. If I was sharing how anxious and unhappy I was when I was blessed with so many things in life people would 100% think I was a selfish, crazy, asshole. Turns out, that is not the case and the more I share, the more I realize there are a lot of other women (and men) out there going through the same thing or who have gone through it before. Its like you have an emotional hangover that you can’t get rid of. It can happen after a big life event, after achieving a goal that you’ve been working towards, or coming back from an amazing vacation. I just listened to The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast episode with Mark Mason and they were literally talking about exactly this. For those of you who don’t know, Mark is the insanely successful author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. If he feels this emotional hangover and is so wildly successful, that in a weird way, made me feel even more validated in my feelings. The fact that he shared his experience so openly AND wrote his next book about it too, is a testament to his vulnerability and drive to help others. I recommend for everyone to listen to that podcast episode because it may make things click just a little more. It might make you feel like you’re not alone and it is valid what you are feeling. Or maybe this post will do that for you too. Who knows?
I think we all have our own “why’s” behind why we get this dark, heavy feeling. I haven’t figured out my “why” yet because, truthfully, this is always how I’ve been, and it's probably going to take years for me to unravel the root cause. Over the past 5 months, I’ve been working on balancing being happy with the now while still moving forward to whatever “next” is. Its been a test of my patience, self awareness, and mindfulness. While it hasn’t been easy, I feel so much better and more equipped to deal with life in general. My anxiety can still be crippling some days. I might have meltdowns about stupid shit. But, hey, at least I am owning it. I don’t know what is next for my family, my career, or pretty much anything else in life. Do we ever really know? Instead of focusing on the unknown I’ve been focusing on embracing that wild freedom of the universe and appreciating it for what it is.
I know this post got a little deep, but I feel like it needed to happen. I’ve been focusing inward so much the past few months and if you have noticed or not, I felt it would be beneficial to provide some context. As you all know, mental health is something I am very passionate about, whether it is in relation to chronic illnesses or a stand alone battle. It is something that impacts me, my family, my friends, pretty much everyone I know, in some type of way. Whether it be for fear of being judged or other reasons entirely, a lot of us suffer in silence. In today’s world that seems absurd. We are sharing what we have for every meal on Instagram but we aren’t addressing something that has such a large and painful impact in our lives? I hope moving forward we start sharing more about the real shit.
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.
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