Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part Two: Make Time Each Day for Simple Pleasures

Happy Wednesday!

We are well into our second week of a brand-new year, and it seems that 2021 has taken on a ‘hold my beer,’ persona. You know what? It’s fine. We are all fine. You know why? Because the only person who can make or break your day is you. If you’re focused on your fear and living in your negative space, you just have to find the power to stop. New habits take 21 days to manifest, and we’re already 13 days into the new year, so we’re more than halfway there.

Today, on our second part of the stop living in fear series, we are discussing just how important it is to find time for the simplest pleasures in life. I’m fully aware that what makes me happy may not be what makes you happy and vice versa, but there are plenty of small things, gestures, habits you can invite into your everyday life that make your life so much better…and you don’t even need to put much effort into any of it.

Start your day with sex

Because what’s better than being woken up by the person you love who wants to show you first and foremost before the day starts that he or she loves you? My husband is a big fan; and so am I. It’s impossible to have a bad day when you start your day this way.

Read a book

You don’t have to read an entire book, but why not sit down with a good book and designate 20-30 minutes to reading? It’s such a pleasurable escape, and it’s good for your brain. I’m convinced that the reason I became a writer and I can spell anything correctly (damn autocorrect, though, am I right?) is because I’m a reader. I’ve been an avid reader my entire life, and it’s just plain good for your brain and your soul. On the flip side; I also know it’s next to impossible to only read for 20-30 minutes. I swear I’m going to every single time and before you know it, it’s been hours.

Get Outside

Yoga on the pool deck. A walk with my husband and the kids. Lunch on the lanai. A glass of wine on the front porch rockers when the sun is setting. It’s all good. Trust me.

Move your body

Y’all already know that exercise is so good for you, but it doesn’t have to feel like exercise. Move. Dance. Have sex (again…because more than once a day is my other favorite). Take a walk. Do yoga. Whatever. Just move your body.

Get in the kitchen

Try a fancy new recipe. Bake something amazing. Get into the kitchen and focus on the task at hand. It’s such a welcome distraction, and the end result will always bring you pleasure (or take out, if we are being honest).

Play a game

Our kids love playing games, and we have the best time with them. What’s more fun that playing games with little people you can beat? Really…it’s good.

Organize something

As a self-proclaimed OCD neat freak over here, nothing is more amazing than something clean. Since everything in my house and cars are always clean, I find my pleasure in organizing things. Okay, okay…I take my pleasure in throwing things away and getting rid of stuff. The running joke in my family is that if you can’t find it, Tiffany/mommy probably threw it away. #andiprobablydid

Break routine

I’m also a self-aware routine-oriented schedule lover, and I’m not ashamed of that. But, there’s also something so innately powerful and exciting about breaking schedule and routines and doing something spontaneous. Lunch with a friend. A spur-of-the-moment date night. Whatever it is, do it.

Do something for someone else

We make a lot of happy memories in our household, but one of my favorite annual memories is not a vacation or a big deal or a huge accomplishment. It’s our annual Friday-before-Christmas date night with our best friends. We might not remember how many years we’ve been doing it, but we always go to the same restaurant. My husband picks up a stack of gift cards for the restaurant and we pass them out to people as they dine to cover their dinner checks. It’s SUCH a good feeling to see their excitement when they realize someone did something for them. We have our waiter/waitress pass them out for us so we remain anonymous. Our best friends spend the entire dinner making offers on the Christmas headband our waitress wears, upping the offer every single time until she gives in and lets them buy it (you should see the Christmas headband collection…). On top of leaving with an exceptionally large Christmas tip from all of us, our waitress leaves every single year with an empty head and another $100 profit on her headband. Doing something for someone else that makes them smile, brings them peace, or makes their life a little easier is always a good feeling – you can’t live in fear if you’re busy making people smile, you guys.

Wake up earlier

There is something very special about being awake before anyone else. You get to enjoy the quiet, you get to take some time for yourself. A quiet, relaxed start to the day is always the best start to the day.

Get dressed

If 2020 gave the world one thing collectively, it was the lack of desire to put on real clothes, wash your hair, or apply makeup. Sure, that can be nice, but guys…no one ever feels their happiest and best when they look like shit. Wake up. Take a shower. Shave something – at least your armpits by also your legs if you’re really feeling good. Put on some makeup. Wear some killer outfit that makes you feel like a million dollars. It makes a difference. Trust me.

You’re never going to feel capable of letting go of the fear you’re living in if you don’t find time in the day to do things that bring you joy and happiness. Find the time. These are just suggestions; you can do anything you want to bring joy to your own life. Just do it. It’s easier than you think.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: Learning to Recognize and Minimize Your Fears

Happy Thursday!

Scrolling through social media is eye-opening. I have so many thoughts as I scroll through my feed and read the posts of those around me. While it can be fun and enjoyable, a fun way to connect with loved ones far away and to keep in touch with people who were part of your life at some point, it’s also a place where there’s a lot of sadness. It’s hard, sometimes, to scroll through my feed and see the negativity. The complaints. The fear. The people who are constantly complaining. The people who live in the past all the time. The people who feel the need to tell us all about how they don’t live in the past yet that’s all they talk about in a way that conveys the saddest need for attention. The people who are going though something and share every aspect of it. The people who are just plain miserable.

Social media can be draining. I don’t even watch the news or listen to the news and deleted every news app I have more than six months ago, and I can’t even imagine how I might feel if I read the MSM’s doom and gloom in addition to every couch-reporter’s rendition of ‘the world is a dark and ugly place,’ on a daily basis. Honestly.

My point is this: Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is evident almost everywhere you look. It’s evident in the subtle cries for attention or help people post on social media. It’s evident in the eyes of those whose smiles never quite reach them. It’s evident everywhere in our world right now, and it all plays into my January theme of living your best life in 2021 by no longer living in fear. You see the fear in Americans terrified of what might happen politically following the 2020 election. You see the fear in those who feel they’ll catch COVID and die (according to stoppneumonia.org, 2.5 million people died worldwide of pneumonia in 2019 and according to Wikipedia, 3 million people died of pneumonia in 2016 officially making it the 4th leading cause of death in the world, yet no one ever walks around talking about how terrified they are of pneumonia, do they?).

We get it. The media, politicians, your mom, your neighbor’s mailman’s sister…they tell people to be afraid, and they’re conditioned to be afraid. I’m not here to judge anyone for feeling how they feel. I feel how I feel, you feel how you feel, and no one will ever be shamed for their feelings by me. Teased relentlessly, yes…but never mocked or made to feel shameful (at least not intentionally). What I am here to do is remind you tha you cannot live in fear. What kind of life is it to live in such a constant state of fear that you lose out on everything good in life?

For example, those fearful of leaving their home have now spent nearly a year locked up, not seeing their families, not enjoying the time that they have with loved ones, not living…for the better part of a year. I, personally, don’t know anyone who has passed from COVID (and I’m thankful for that) nor do I know anyone who has social distanced or changed their way of living since it all started. I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent every single holiday with my parents and my in-laws, my friend’s and their parents, friends, friends of friends, etc. While we know plenty of people who have tested positive for it, almost none had symptoms and those who did had very minor symptoms and would have assumed they had the same common cold they’ve had a million times had it not been for the test. In fact, I know several people who have tested positive for COVID despite never actually going and getting tested for COVID.

One such person who recently tested positive and exhibited symptoms felt like they had they flu, and they have every single underlying health condition possible. They have cancer, they have had multiple open-heart surgeries, they have high blood pressure and cholesterol…you name it, they have it. And they haven’t stopped living their life because they understand that life is meant to be lived freely and with open arms and not in fear.

Will I feel guilty if someone close to me is affected by COVID because we spend time together? No, because every single person who chooses to spend time with us knows the risks and they accept them as their own.

My point is this: We cannot live in fear because it is not living. My grandmother was born in the midst of a pandemic, so she’s been around a century or so, and she is one of the strongest, most agile, most intelligent people anyone has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her thoughts on living in fear of a virus? I’ll quote a text message she sent me recently. “I’d rather spend my days with my family and know that at the end of my life I got every hug, kiss, and cuddle I could than to be isolated to the point I die of loneliness. That’s not life and fear is a wasted emotion,” and she’s not wrong.

**I am not a medical professional, and I believe you should what makes you most comfortable, what makes you feel safest, and what makes you feel as if you are doing the right thing for you and those you love**

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can take your first steps to overcoming your fear and no longer living in it – whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of rejection or failure or anything else – you can overcome it.

Write down your fears

It’s a small thing, really, but it’s helpful. It won’t work overnight, but it’s the first step in overcoming your crippling anxiety caused by fear. Write it down. Write down what has you afraid. Just make a list. No matter how big or small the fear is, write them down. Write until you cannot think of anything else that you fear.

When I was pregnant with our second daughter, I lived in a state of crippling anxiety. I’d already lost two babies, she was diagnosed at 20 weeks with an echogenic intracardiac focus and we were given paperwork outlining a late pregnancy termination because it was most likely Downs Syndrome and we ‘had another baby at home to think about,” according to the medical professionals we met with. It was three long weeks until we were scheduled to have a level 2 ultrasound at Shands, and it lasted 200 years. Thankfully, she was perfectly perfect and it was just a little calcium buildup. But, it was too late. I just knew something terrible would happen. I knew it. I was horrified, terrified, scared, and in fear every single day the rest of my pregnancy.

I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling like I was a failure and keep a baby healthy and growing inside me without traumatic situations – it never once occurred to me I’d already done just that with our oldest. I couldn’t feel my baby kick without wondering if it was the last time I’d feel it. I couldn’t think about welcoming her into my life without thinking of everything that could go wrong instead. I perpetuated my own fear on the internet googling things and reading about the experiences of others.

I did the same thing two years ago when our son had an unprovoked grand mal seizure. I lay awake night after night for damn near a year paralyzed with fear that he’d be gone in the morning. It’s impossible to live in that kind of fear. I enjoyed nothing in my life. How could I when I was terrified I’d lose my son? I derived no pleasure in anything for a year despite my best efforts as faking it til I made it.

You know what helped? What helped was sitting down and writing it out. What was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid I’d lose a baby or my son? Why? Because things weren’t perfect. What was the likelihood in all reasonable manners of speaking that this fear would come true? Well, no more likely than it happening to anyone else at any given time. Why was I still afraid?

Write what you’re afraid will happen as a result of your fear

Now that you can see your fears in a tangible situation, what is the point of being afraid of them? What are you worried about? What will happen? Most likely, your fear is not reasonable. It’s blown out of proportion and made to feel much worse than it is. However, if there is some validity to your fear, make a list of what you can do to minimize it.

For example, if you are afraid of dying, ask yourself what you can do to minimize your chance of that happening. You can get healthy. Being active and eating well and getting fit all minimize your risk of developing health issues, it builds and strengthens your immune system to better fight of things like a virus, and it improves your overall quality of life – and prolongs it. There’s literally nothing better you can do for yourself.

You can do this with literally anything, anytime, for the rest of your life. By taking your fears and making them tangible, you can figure out what it is you’re afraid of, how reasonable a fear it is, and you can work on overcoming it by seeing in writing just what is going through your mind. Try it.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: No More Living in Fear

Happy New Year!

It’s the first week of a brand-new year, and I think I speak for many (if the statuses I saw all morning on social media are any indication of how people feel) when I say that it was nice to begin the new year on a Thursday evening so that it all turned into one long weekend. That week between Christmas and New Year when the world is literally just a blur of sleeping late, being very lazy, organizing your life, saying goodbye to Christmas, and just trying to figure out why there is always so much new stuff to open/assemble/put away is a lot. We are all exhausted from the five months prior. Honestly, though; it’s hectic non-stop from the time the kids go back to school and fall sports begin to the Halloween celebrations and the Thanksgiving celebrations and the Christmas celebrations. Try as we might, we never have a free evening or weekend from August to January due to all the fun that we have going on in our lives.

I’m not complaining about that, of course, but I will say that it’s exhausting. By the time January 1 is here, my body is in shutdown mode. I’m run down, tired, exhausted, running on fumes…you name it. It’s a lot. Thankfully, January is the slowest (read: most blissfully boring) month of the year, and also the time I like to keep my calendar clear and my plate empty. February starts our other season of so busy we can’t breathe (all the way to June), and I like to take this month to just be. Relax. Sit. Sleep a little late. Read some books. Recharge my creative juices. It’s a good month.

January is such a great month to look back, too, over the course of the last year. 2021 is my 38th year on earth, and I’m still amazed at how much can change without anyone even noticing in the course of one year. So much can change – and does change – and it’s such a good time to point out just how simple it is to change your life 180 in a year. On that note, I won’t pretend 2020 was a bad year for us. It was a delightful year. I’m sorry for those who didn’t have a good year, but people have bad years all the time and that shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling guilty about not having a bad year. It doesn’t dull my sparkle, you know? Perhaps that sounds callous, but I also don’t like to dwell in negatively or borrow trouble. Sure, my heart is sad for those who lost someone in 2020 (just as it is sad for those who lost someone any year of their lives, ever). My heart hurts for those who are without jobs, without income, those who are unable to open their own businesses back up, those who are struggling. My heart always hurts for those in trouble.

2020 wasn’t a normal year. At times, it sucked. But, I can promise you that I can look back on 38 other years and tell you that while there were times each and every year that sucked, the sucky parts are far overshadowed by the many good things that happened. I’m a Floridian. With the exception of the first few months of the pandemic when the world was terrifying and scary and we didn’t know what was happening and everything shut down and the future seemed very uncertain, life has been pretty normal around here, and that’s nothing I take for granted.

That said, I know a lot of people are currently living in fear – and I’m here to tell you that you cannot do it. You cannot live with a dark heart and a dark mind and negative thoughts. Fear is your imagination running wild, and it’s no way to live. In fact, the term living in fear is nothing but an oxymoron because you aren’t living if you are in fear. That’s no way of life. Perhaps you don’t realize it, but choosing to live a life of fear is the same thing as choosing to life an unhealthy life. Fear affects more than you realize, and it’s bad, bad, bad for your body, your mind, your soul, your quality of life.

Aside from missing out on living a happy, fulfilled life of abundance, here’s what you’re doing to yourself by choosing to live in fear.

You’re weakening your immune system

If ever there was a time in which you want your immune system to work at its highest capacity, it’s now. However, you’re weakening it by living in fear. Fear causes an increased chance of cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, IBS, fertility issues, and you age faster. Honestly, you’re making yourself sick living in fear.

You’re causing mental health issues

No one wants to suffer from mental health issues, but living in a chronic state of fear does just that. Your fear can increase your chance of developing depression, and it can even cause PTSD.

You’re killing your sleep schedule

Everyone knows by now that you need a good night of sleep to function at full capacity the next day. If your fear is keeping you up at night, you’re killing yourself. You’re making your metabolism work slower, you’re causing fatigue, you’re lacking energy, you’re in a bad mood, and you’re brain isn’t functioning properly.

You’re ruining your brain’s ability to process and react

I’m a chronic over-reactor. I react, then I think about it (I apologize a lot). Chronic fear, however, takes your brain’s ability to process new information and form appropriate reactions and messes it all up. Your brain then fails to regulate your emotions. You lose the ability to take social cues and other non-verbal cues. You no longer make logical decisions, and you’re more likely to react impulsively.

You’re ruining your own relationships with others

At the end of the day, you’re not really doing a good job of maintaining relationships and healthy boundaries when you live in fear. You’re more likely in a bad mood all the time. You’re probably negative. You probably react without thinking first. You probably come across as irrational and out of control more often than not. Essentially, you’re pushing people away from you. You’re alienating yourself, you’re becoming lonely, and you’re left wondering what’s wrong with you. Now you’re stressed, and we all know what chronic stress does to the body.

You cannot live in fear

You cannot do it. You cannot allow fear to control your life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious or that you should ignore danger when it’s present, but it does mean that you must stop living in a place of fear. Take back your own health and your own mental stability and stop. I’m not a medical professional (there isn’t enough money in the world to make me ever want to work in public heath or education, to be honest), but I know that there are people you can talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed, fearful, or you’re not sure how to get over these feelings of fear. What I also know is that you have to make it a priority this year. Your health, your life, your quality of living, and everything in between is counting on you ending your fear and living your best life.

Bye, Negativity

Happy Wednesday, loves!

How many negative thoughts have you had this morning? Hazard a guess. I’ve probably had dozens already, and it’s first thing in the morning. Honestly, it’s so hard not to find negative thoughts creeping in these days. Any day, really, but these days it’s almost impossible not to feel negative more often than you’re accustomed to.

Let’s face it; the world is an ugly place. No matter your personal beliefs, your political affiliation, your stance on current events in the world, it’s an ugly place right now. Most people are in a mood…and it’s not a good one. You already know I’m not that much of a people person, but I’m so much less of a people person these days. It seems everywhere I go, more and more of the people I encounter are in a bad mood.

The news is filled with negativity. Newsfeeds are filled with negativity. I’ve taken to using social media to post my photos to share with my grandmother and other family members, and then I’m out. I haven’t scrolled my own Facebook feed since the beginning of July. I can’t. It’s so negative. People can’t have their political beliefs without shoving them down the throats of everyone else. People who don’t speak up about current events are suddenly the problem. People who don’t speak up soon enough about current events are the problem. People who speak up about current events but not in a timely fashion are the problem. People who speak up about current events but disagree with your opinions about current events are the problem.

April Stock Photo

You guys…we have enough problems. What’s with all the negativity? Everything is so negative anymore, and you know that this kind of negative consumption is feeding our brains and our hearts nothing but garbage. I’m done with it. I am so careful in so many areas of my life to choose positive people, positive influences, things and people that bright me joy and happiness, and I’m not about to let the fake, fear-mongering news and social media and everyone else’s opinions ruin all that hard work I put into leading a happy life.

To quote that one woman that one time (can someone remind me of the exact event, please?), “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

So, how do we stop these negative thoughts from sinking in and becoming our prevalent thoughts? It’s not easy. We are hardwired to have negative thoughts simply because we are more sensitive to negativity. But, it’s possible to (I’m sure I’m quoting my mother, here) ‘turn that frown upside down,’ and have positive thoughts.

2

Get Rid of the Phone

Social media, the news, our emails, all of it. It’s killing us a moment at a time. How many times a day do you dread checking your email because you know that you’re going to get an email or a text from a client, a coworker, a friend, a family member, a company, someone who needs a favor, wants to add something else to your plate? How many times do you check social media and find yourself annoyed by the posts you’re reading?

Get off the phone. Stop checking. Turn off your notifications. Set aside a few minutes a day to check the important stuff, and stay off social media and the news sites you’re so accustomed to inhaling and absorbing each and every day. This is especially important in the morning when you wake up. Don’t start your day with that nonsense.

1

Write Down Your Feelings of Gratitude

You already know that this is helpful, but let’s start actually doing it, okay? Pick up a notebook today while you’re out. Write down three to five things first thing in the morning that you are grateful for and that are good in your life. They can be big, small, whatever. Just write them down, then read the list. Then add a few more things to that list at the end of the day that are specific to that day. Keep this up. You’ll be amazed how quickly you are able to turn your negative thoughts into less frequent visitors. For example, this morning I am grateful for these things:

  • Watching the sunrise over our backyard from my spot on the lanai while it’s still quiet at home
  • Being able to be home with my kids to make memories and be present in their lives
  • Listening to my sweet twins read books to me out loud
  • Family dinners and game nights
  • A whole cup of coffee consumed in absolute silence while the sun rises
  • Front porch rocking
  • Being married to a man who kisses me every single time he walks by me

4

Shut Down Your Thoughts

When negative thoughts come to mind, make it a habit to literally tell them to stop. Literally, say it aloud. Say, “Stop, right now. Stop this train of thought, right now,” and keep that going. Every single time a negative thought comes to mind, tell yourself to stop. Out loud. Where you can hear it. It’ll help.

1

Write Down Your Negative Thoughts

Okay, Tiffany, tell us again how we are writing down things we are happy for and then telling ourselves to physically stop thinking negative thoughts, yet you have us writing down our negative feelings and thoughts on a piece of paper?

I realize it seems counterproductive, but it’s not. Now that you are working on getting rid of negative thoughts, take a moment to write down what bring you these thoughts. Your negative beliefs. Your negative feelings, etc. For example, if I were writing down my own negative beliefs right now, my list would look like this:

  • People are so negative
  • No one bothers to use their common sense anymore
  • The world is so divided
  • Kindness suddenly seems gone from the world
  • All I see are bad things all day, every day

But, that’s not true, now is it? People aren’t all negative. Some are, but not everyone in the world is negative. Some people lack a lot of common sense, but most don’t. The world is not as divided as the mainstream media wants us to believe. Kindness is everywhere; it’s just not as visible because it’s not nearly as newsworthy. All I see are bad things everyday because I’m seeing news stories and opinions online, and I’m not focused on the good things that surround me all the time.

You see? I just debunked – to borrow a term from mainstream media – all the negative thoughts in my mind. They look a little silly when they’re on paper, don’t they?

1

Just Relax

What’s going to happen is going to happen, and worrying about it and thinking about it and feeding it your constant negative attention is not going to make a difference. Let life unfold before you, and don’t perpetuate fear and uncertainty in your own mind. It’s not helpful.

13

Detox Your Digital Life

I’m not an advocate for unfollowing people or pages that don’t fit your narrative or simply because you don’t agree with their outlook, but sometimes you have to do it. Let me be very clear; don’t go unfollowing people because they have different beliefs than you. Do unfollow them if they bring negativity to your life or your feed. For example, unfollow someone who name calls or belittles or says hurtful things. Or, even more simply, detox your pages so you’re only seeing things that bring you joy and happiness, even if that means unfriending your mom and only following pages filled with kittens and puppies and donuts.

1

Take Care of You

I feel like a broken record because I say this all the time, but that should really make it obvious how important this is. Take care of you. Don’t put yourself last. Don’t tell me you don’t have time to work out or eat healthy – nothing is further from the truth. I see you – and I hear you – saying you’re so busy and overwhelmed and you don’t have time to go to the gym or work out or eat a healthy diet, but I also see you sharing dozens of memes and articles and commenting on every political post on the internet each and every day and talking about binging your favorite shows every evening when the kids are in bed. You have time; you don’t have the right priorities.

Get up. Take a walk. Go a quick breathing exercise. Work out at home. Download a workout app. Go for a quick run. Do some squats or crunches during commercial breaks. You have time, but you have to make it a priority. Meal prep. Or, if you’re like me and you cannot fathom the idea of eating leftovers (I cannot eat anything that’s been put in the fridge and then taken back out to reheat), order a meal service so the hard work is done. We love Hello Fresh. We love their calorie smart and vegetarian meals, ironically (we are not vegetarian). They’re quick, flavorful, and so easy.

Drink more water while you’re at it. If you’re not hydrated, you’re not living your best life. It’s really that easy. Take care of yourself. Eat right, make yourself a priority. It’s easier to feel good when you actually feel good, you know?

1

Focus on the Good in Your Life

The best things in life really are those small moments. Of course, you’ll always remember the big ones and the amazing ones, but those little ones are what make up your entire complex system of happiness and fulfillment. You find your joy in those little moments. Focus on those. Look around you. Focus on what little things you do each and every day that bring you so much joy.

For me, it’s when the kids laugh and giggle and climb all over us in the pool. It’s doing cannonballs and letting down my hair – literally – to jump in the pool in the pouring rain not caring how I look. It’s simple Saturdays talking about life and laughing about every-damn-thing with the people we love most. It’s Saturday nights laughing nonstop with some of the most hilarious people around. It’s the excitement on the kids’ faces when someone rolls a Yahtzee during game night. It’s the moment my husband makes eye contact with me during the eyeroll-inducing 3908 questions Carter asks during every. Single. Movie. Night. Ever. It’s his excitement when we watch a movie about tornadoes. It’s mornings when my husband’s alarm goes off and he snoozes it for 9 minutes so he can cuddle with me a little longer. It’s Wednesday night traditions. It’s sitting on the lanai with my coffee in the morning. It’s Sunday dinners. It’s the way Addison is so sweet with her sisters and her brother. It’s Ava’s quick wit and smart mouth. It’s Charlotte’s sugar-sweet kindness and love for everyone. It’s Carter’s quick laugh and sweet “I love you, mommy,” and the feeling I get when my husband reaches for my hand when we are walking anywhere.

It is so many small moments that, when you put them together, create such a beautiful life. Even when the world is a shitshow of WTF all around us, it’s those moments you can turn to and know that you are living your best life even if you momentarily forgot all about it.

Quick Tips When You’re In A Funk

Happy Friday, loves!

Do you ever find yourself in a total funk? It’s like a weird place where you’re present in life, but you feel almost as if you’re looking at your life unfolding before you from up above; almost like a dream, if I’m putting it into a tangible concept. You can’t put your finger on the issue that’s causing your funk because you don’t really have anything to complain about. You don’t really have any issues, but yet you don’t know what the problem is that’s got you feeling as if you’re watching life unfold before you.

I spent the better part of the end of June/beginning of July in a funk. Some might say it’s because it was almost ‘that time,’ (ladies, you know), and I won’t disagree. Some months are just more difficult in that specific timeframe than others. However, it’s just not uncommon for me to find myself in a funk more often than not in the summer months.

You guys, I don’t like being hot. Rich, I know, coming from a Floridian. In all honesty, I feel as if I go through bouts of seasonal depression this time of year. it might not be truly ‘depression,’ so much as it is bouts of just blah feelings that don’t bring me much joy. I certainly don’t want to minimize the severity of seasonal depression, but I do want to bring attention to the fact that much like those who do go through that feeling in the cold winter months (not in Florida!), I feel some of the same things on a much less serious level in the summer. Why?

  • The long days are not my favorite
  • The afternoon sunlight – from about 1 pm to dusk – during summer is such an unattractive color that bothers me endlessly
  • The heat is stifling
  • The humidity is nothing short of oppressive
  • The way it feels so sticky following the rain is so gross
  • I hate sweat
  • I don’t like to feel hot
  • I don’t like that it’s just so gross outside the kids can’t even play outdoors and enjoy themselves because it’s miserably hot and dangerously humid

I know it’s the unpopular opinion, but I’m simply not a summer fan. Don’t get me wrong – I love summer in that it’s such a time of freedom and relaxation. I love that there is no responsibility in summer. I love the feeling of easiness and slow enjoyment summer brings. I love that the kids are so relaxed. I love afternoon thunderstorms – they give me so much life and so much joy – and river house days and pool days and summer nights. I love the Fourth of July. I love so much about summer except for summer itself. I love the summer mornings and the way the morning sun looks pouring in our doors and windows. I love the mornings in summer. It’s just that darn afternoon sunlight that brings me down. I can’t explain it. I just feel blah in the afternoons during summer, and sometimes I find myself in a funk if we have endless days of sunshine. My funk immediately disappears when the sun is gone and the rain comes in the afternoon. Which, I believe, is why the end of June and beginning of July were funk weeks for me – too much sunshine and weeks without a cloud in the sky.

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I’ve already got my countdown to the official fall season (which begins September 1st in my house). It brings me life and endless good moods until June rolls around again. Honestly, I might as well be useless for three months from June through the end of August. But, in in all honestly, I want to be transparent and honest. This is not a good time of year for my attitude, and I know that. I know it every year. I don’t know how to change that, so I just do my very best to focus on finding small ways to help improve my blasé attitude in the afternoons throughout summer.

Maybe this will help someone who has the same issue. Maybe it will help someone who really doesn’t live their best life too often. Maybe it will help someone who has the same guilt and feelings of ‘what is wrong with me?’ that I deal with off and on for the three longest months of the year. I know I have nothing to complain about. I know I have nothing to worry about. I know I have nothing to stress me out. Yet, I find myself really down sometimes for a few hours in the afternoon.

So, here’s what I’ve been implementing this year. I’ve asked my doctor for suggestions, I’ve asked around, I’ve done my research, and there are a few things that have really minimized my ‘summer afternoon seasonal down-ness’ significantly this summer.

I check in with myself

At the beginning of the week, I do a quick check-in with myself. I do this Monday morning prior to doing anything else (save for hitting snooze once or twice and then making a cup of coffee and meandering into my office). I sit down with my journal and write down the following:

  • My priority for the week
  • What I want to do less of this week
  • What I want to do more of this week
  • How I want to feel this week
  • How I can make sure I feel this way this week
  • What I’d like to remember in moments of ‘down-ness’

Throughout the week, I check on that list to make sure I’m doing what I can to make it as realistic as possible. It’s important for me to remember that this is not a list of major goals. It’s a simple priority list. What I need the most that week is my priority, and it doesn’t matter if it’s big, small, minor, simple, life-changing, etc. It’s just the priority I need to focus on any given week.

Change negative thinking

I’m not immune to negative thoughts. No one is, if we are being honest. However, I try hard to make sure they don’t linger. I try to stop them in their tracks. It’s not always easy for me since I’m a creative person by nature, and my mind tends to run away quickly and efficiently a thousand miles a minute (writer’s hazard, I suppose). I don’t even notice when my mind turns to the negative until it’s been there a few moments, but I’m learning to recognize, realize, and refocus quickly.

Trust me – it’s a habit that takes time to develop.

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Breathing is what helps me most. I learned in my favorite yoga class to try five count breathing when I need to slow down my racing mind (and heart) and refocus myself. Sit quietly, close your eyes, count to five slowly while inhaling, hold your breath for a count of five, exhale slowly for a count of five. Repeat until you find yourself at peace. It helps rearrange your thoughts and refocus your feelings. Trust me, it’s effective.

Write down happy thoughts. This is another helpful tool. Writing down a few things that bring me joy is a quick and simple way to change my pattern of thought. Again, this doesn’t have to be a long list of beautiful things that make you happy. It can be the simplest thing. The only rule is that it must be something that brings you joy.

Stop and do something else

There are times when I’m feeling myself in a funk, and I just need to stop what I’m doing in that moment. Sometimes this means putting things to the side and leaving the house. Maybe a family dinner out. Maybe a family walk. Maybe a quick game of cards or Yahtzee with the kids. A second workout for the day. A conversation with someone I love. Sometimes, the best thing I do for myself is put down what I’m doing and make my way into the office to sit down on my husband’s lap and interrupt his work for a long hug. I mean, what’s better?

Write

You don’t even want to know how many rambling thoughts I have written down. In notebooks. On pieces of paper I find in my desk. On my computer. On my iPad. On the notes section of my phone. In email drafts. The best therapy is a writing session. Don’t worry about grammar or form or function or readability. Just write. Write what’s on your mind, what’s on your heart, what’s in your life. You don’t even have to know what you are writing. The simple fact that you’re able to take those thoughts and put them somewhere outside your brain is a kind of release that is literally freeing.

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Remember that it’s okay to feel less than perfect

It’s hard, I know, to fully comprehend that everyone goes through down days. It’s not easy to remember that you are not alone. It’s not easy to remember that most people keep their bad days to themselves. You are not alone. You are not by yourself in this. Everyone has off days. Just look at me – I have off weeks during the summer because it’s just hot and miserable and not my favorite. But, the good news is that you can change that. You can easily turn a blah day around, get out of a funk, and focus on far better things. It’s easier said than done, but it’s going to become habit to quickly turn your thoughts around.

***Also, please remember that while a funk might occasionally be a normal thing to feel, and having a bad day or a grouchy day, or a PMS-y week might be totally normal, feelings of absolute darkness, despair, dangerous or harmful thoughts, and the inability to find the joy in anything are indicative of a major health concern; please call your doctor if you experience any of these feelings. He or she can help you figure out what’s going on, run tests to see if there is anything going on in your body you cannot see, and they can help you work through this. I am not a doctor, I do not have experience with serious mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety, and my suggestions are not medically based in any capacity.

10 Quotes and Verses to Help You When You Feel Out of Control

Day 12

Honestly, I have no idea what day we are on quarantine-wise. The official timeline for us was on March 16, so we are just sitting here 12 days in and really trying to make the most of a horrible situation. Family walks. Long runs. Lots of power yoga at home. Lots of FaceTime conversations and virtual happy hours. Happy hours on walks with the family. Lots of books, lots of work, lots of arts and crafts, lots of card games. Lots of take out. Lots of baking. Lots of swimming. Lots of playing outdoors. Lots of online shopping.

It’s day 12. This situation is one that’s still going to get worse before it gets better – and that’s just how it is. We are making the most of our time at home, but our new normal isn’t quite normal yet. Week one was all about being lazy and relaxing and embracing it because real life really does make us tired and we welcomed that ability to rest). Week two has all us rested and basically antsy. We are bored. We are such an active family that it’s hard for us not to have a trip to go on or a place to visit or the ability to go to the gym or have fun or do anything.

We are handling it all right, but we have our moments.

That said, I’m not here to share with you any hints or tips or sales or tricks or whatever (though Lilly Pulitzer is offering 30 percent of certain items through today – and that never happens outside of the APS twice a year…so get on that).

I just wanted to share a few of my favorite quotes and verses that might help. I know that I go back and forth appreciating this time with our babies and my handsome husband and worrying about every single thing. Our sweet Ava was diagnosed with asthma when she was 15 months. She hasn’t had an episode in which she’s needed her inhaler in so long that we almost forgot she had it until about six months ago when she had an asthma attack. I lay awake at night wondering if she’s immunocompromised and at risk. Same for Carter, our sweet little man with his one and done grand mal seizure 13 months ago. Does that make him immunocompromised? I don’t know, but I worry.

And when I worry, there are few things that make me feel calm. Number one, always, is my husband. He always knows when I’m stressed or upset, and he always knows how to make it right. The kiddos help, too. And so does reading a few of my favorite quotes and verses for strength and hard times. So, in case you need them.

  1. When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you are responding to what’s happening. That’s where the power is.
  2. God sometimes takes us into troubled waters not to drown us, but to cleanse us.
  3. You’ll drive yourself crazy trying to control something that isn’t yours to control. Let go. Free yourself. Allow your mind and energy to focus on something positive…to build something beautiful. – Steve Maraboli
  4. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
  5. The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming. – Romans 8:18
  6. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. – Isaiah 43:2
  7. Do not grieve. For the joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10
  8. May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears. – Nelson Mandela
  9. Be still and know that I am with you. – Psalm 46:10
  10. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

This, too, shall pass. Let’s allow it to pass with grace.

Blessings in Disguise Amid A Global Pandemic: Find the Good

Day 5

Today marks the fifth day we’ve been in the midst of our social distancing operation. No school, no cheer practice, no gym.

Those are the big changes during the week. Otherwise, not much has changed. My husband and I both work from home and always have, so we aren’t adjusting to any new schedules or interruptions. The kids being home is not an interruption. We do this every summer, thanksgiving, Christmas, spring break, and long weekend. All six of us are familiar with that change.

In actuality, our kids are at good ages. They entertain themselves with books, playing outside, playing with one another, playing with their tablets, and snacking every 8 to 9 minutes so they don’t starve to death. They play well together without too many disagreements. They don’t make too much of a mess, and they don’t interrupt us during our ‘scheduled’ hours. My day is flexible since I work for me. Craig’s is not since he works for someone else. He’s in our office from 8 am to 5 pm.

I like to be in the office before anyone is awake, coffee in hand, creativity at full force. It’s actually a lot easier for me to work when the kids are home because they get to sleep in, our nephew isn’t here to go to school with us, and we don’ have to get dressed and get out of the house by a certain time. Rather than putting my morning on hold at 8 am, I’m able to get up at 5, work until 9 or 10, and pretty much call it a day after that. I work out, hang with the kids, manage the household, etc.

I’m still in my office working off and on throughout the day, but only when I have the time and only because I want to get ahead and not because I need to be in here. It’s a really laid-back, relaxed, chill sort of vibe. That’s what I like about it. So, not much has changed during the day in our house. This is what we do during summer, Christmas, etc. The only difference is that we aren’t going out to lunch. We aren’t running out for breakfast. We aren’t going to the gym. We aren’t gong out to dinner.

The big problem is going to show up tonight when it’s Friday night and the kids want to know where we are going for dinner. We will still order something out and enjoy it at home (because we are doing every single thing to support our community and local businesses) but we won’t be going out. It’ll be even crazier tomorrow morning when they wake up and want to know if we are going to a party, or if we are going shopping, or if we can go away for the weekend, or why we aren’t going on our spring break trip. That’s what will rock their world in the least positive manner.

They have no problem at all being home during the weekend because we keep jam-packed weekends, and they love the rest and the relaxation the week brings. But, when the weekends are just as relaxed and laid back and no one leaves the house except to go outside or take a family walk around our neighborhood, what is there? The kids are going to lose it. I know this. They know this. We know this.

But, even in light of all the craziness that is going on, I am a firm believer that all things are a gift. All things, as bad and heartbreaking and horrible and life shattering as they may be, bring a gift of some sort to our lives. Even the darkest days and the most horrible losses bring with them the most beautiful gifts. Maybe not right now. Maybe not in the foreseeable future. Maybe not this weekend. But, eventually. Eventually, we see the gift. The positive change. The better outlook. The lesson. It’s all going to make us stronger and better – eventually.

So, while it’s hard to see that the COVID-19 social distancing world shut down pandemic from hell is going to one day show so many of us the gifts it brings amongst the chaos, I dare you to look for the good in this.

If you need help, I’ve got you.

Rest

We are overworked, overscheduled, over committed, over everything. Literally, we are so over everything in our house that we’ve all been counting down the days until it’s all done and over with. Now, we aren’t. We are all getting good nights of sleep. We are all rested and relaxed beause we are unhurried and we aren’t rushed. It’s nice.

Time

The gift of time is perhaps the most beautiful of all. It’s something you can’t get easily, and you never get it back when you lose it. We have it now. We have the time to get into the kitchen and create a new recipe with the kids. To take a family walk. To sit down and eat family dinners together. To watch that movie. To sleep in a bit. To read that book. To start writing that book. To call that friend. To organize things. We have time. Time with our family and our kids and our spouses. Time is the most precious gift.

Say Goodbye to Toxicity

Unfortunately, we all have a toxic person or two in our lives, and now is the perfect time for us to bid adieu to that asshole. We have to stay home. We have to distance ourselves. We have to do our part, and that means avoiding people. The more time that negative Nancy is out of our lives, the more peaceful they become. And, guess what? The world is not going to be close to the same on the other side of this, and that might make you feel good about making that a permanent change.

Getting Back to Basics

We are five days in, y’all; we haven’t even touched the surface of back to basics yet but life is about to get really, really basic. If it’s not already, it’s about to be. You’re back to cooking for yourself. You’re back to sending the kids outside to play and make up games and use their imagination. You’re about to be your own parent.

Learning With and About Our Kids

Listen, we can all be very honest here and admit that being homeschool teachers is not for all of us. I don’t want to teach. If I wanted to teach, I’d be an educator. I’m not. It’s not my jam. It’s not how I want to live my life, though I do have the utmost respect for those who do make education their life. Educators are very special people with very special gifts that I simply don’t have (like patience and people skills and really strong immune systems and patience. Did I say patience?).

But, the thing here is that we are all about to learn more about (and with) our kids. We are all about to see how our kids learn. What works for them. What doesn’t. How they respond, what the teacher was talking about. What frustrates and confuses, what motivates and inspires, what bores them to tears, and just how very little of what we learned growing up actually stuck with us as adults, and just how absolutely unintelligent we actually are as adults. But, the good news is that we get to know our kids better, and guess what? That’s about to make us all better people. We will come out of this better able to help our kids and help our kids’ teachers. We are about to become educated, and I’m not just talking about our kids.

More Adult Time

Oh yes. So our lunch time bedroom dates might be a little more difficult to mange with four kids home, but now we aren’t out late every night, so we get to go to bed earlier and enjoy that time. The kids aren’t waking up early, so we get to enjoy that time. You guys, we are all going to have a much better attitude about all the things by the time this is said and done – and maybe some people who are struggling will find their groove again. This is good, good news.

Healthier Living

That’s largely hypocritical to point out as we all shove our social distancing snacks down our throats in rapid stress-eating force, but you know what I mean. We are now cooking most meals from home, so we are automatically healthier. We are taking more family walks, playing more games outside with the kids, getting more sun, benefiting from those walks and baseball games in the yard. We are all going to be healthier and more energized before much longer.

Appreciation

You know those small things we all take for granted every single day? Date night? A quick trip to Nordstrom? Birthday parties? Family vacations? Packing up and heading to a favorite resort for the weekend? Yeah, those things we can’t do anymore? Guess what? We are all about to learn to appreciate the little things. And the big things. And the things in between. We are all about to appreciate every single little thing in lives a lot more than we did before.

I have a long list of a million more ways that I’ve seen this social distancing/quarantine situation become a blessing in disguise, but not all of the things I’ve seen are my stories to tell. So, I’ll leave it at that. This is a tragedy, and it’s terrifying, and it’s just unknown and uncertain, and it’s fostering a lot of fear. But it doesn’t mean there is not good. Look for it. Be it.

Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

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I won’t start with my typical Happy Tuesday because I’m aware this is not a happy time for most. In fact, it’s a terrifying time for many. For those who are susceptible to COVID-19 – or the Corona Virus – such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. For parents who fear the concept of homeschooling their kids (because the good Lord knows I’m not qualified at ALL to homeschool kids), small business owners unsure of the future, hourly employees who work for tips whose jobs are shut down, kids who don’t fully understand the fear and panic around them.

Especially kids.

I’m going to avoid discussing adults as a whole because we all already know how I feel about the general population, but I’m happy to talk kids. I have four of my own. I was once one. I have a bevy of kids in and out my front door on a regular basis. I know kids. I listen when they talk to me. I listen when they’re talking to one another or my husband. I observe their body language, and I hear the fears they might not have the bravery to speak out loud.

Kids don’t know what’s going on. Sure, right now, they’re all happy that they have an extra bit of time off school, but we all know that this little bit of time might become months. It might become distance learning and virtual schooling and homeschooling. Soon, they’ll be bored of being home. They’ll want to know why vacation was cancelled. They’ll want to know why we can’t go to their favorite resort for the weekend, or their favorite restaurants for dinners and lunches, or why we can’t go to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday for art supplies, or why we can’t go to the movies or Hammer & Stain, or why we can’t go to church anymore.

If they’re not already asking questions, they will. The excitement of cancelled school and events and extracurriculars that result in late nights doing homework and early mornings and long weekends of travel to places they have no desire to visit and finally having some free time will lessen, and they’ll want to know what’s up. I won’t lie and pretend I’m not excited for all the free time right now. I won’t act like I’m upset that things have been cancelled and we have the opportunity to get back our time and control of our schedules, and that I no longer have to stress about how I’m going to accomplish my work with so many interruptions on any given day. I won’t pretend I’m sad that I actually had the time to sit down and write a blog post for the first time in months because my work day isn’t chopped up by getting kids ready, taking them to school, going to practices, traveling for events, picking them up from school, working on homework, etc.

Social distancing isn’t something I’m unhappy about. The reason behind it, well, that’s less than ideal. But, it’s reality right now. We are fresh off a weekend trip to Miami to celebrate the twins’ sixth birthday and Ava’s 9th birthday – and it was exactly what we needed. Of course, we were a day into our trip when we got word of school closings and Disney closings, two days before social distancing was introduced and cruises were cancelled, and home before cities and towns began shutting down their restaurants and bars and clubs and movie theaters.

We had the best weekend on the beach and by the pool. There were plenty of people out and about, but the sunshine and fresh ocean air and al fresco dining all weekend was exactly what we needed before heading home to a completely different reality. Instead of spending the evening of our return passed out .2 seconds after our heads hit the pillow at bedtime, we spent that time talking about how we will answer our kids’ questions and how we will handle things as they change and as we approach the unknown.

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How will we answer the kids’ questions?

Honestly, but without inciting panic or fear. There’s no reason to hoard toilet paper or eggs, and we refuse to teach our children to approach life with a panicked mindset. We will be honest and open, but hopeful and concise. We will also answer them on a case by case basis. The twins’ questions will not be answered in the same manner as we’d answer them if it were Addison who asked. We will use common sense, but we will also maintain a level of honesty.

  • Talk honestly
  • Make sure they know the facts and the dangers
  • Remind them – again – of the importance of good hygiene
  • Encourage them to ask questions if they’re confused
  • Don’t let them watch media reports

How will we explain how life is changing?

Thankfully, there’s not much changing in the lives of the Raiford kids. I’ve worked from home their entire lives, so they don’t know any different there. Craig is approaching four years of working from home, so it’s their everyday life. Our everyday routine Monday-Friday will not change because of this, because I have my business to run and my husband has his job to do.

Weekends and evenings will be where the change is most noticeable. There won’t be any dinners out or any trips while we social distance for however long this is necessary. But, we will make life as sweet and comforting and familiar as possible by sticking to bedtime routines and everyday schedules. Kids love structure and routine – the Raiford kids LOVE structure and routine.

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How will we make life less scary for the kids?

Easy – we will have fun. These are uncertain times, but we will certainly spend a lot more time outdoors playing games. Baseball and football in the yard. Bike rides. Family walks. Dinner on the deck. Sunsets on the front porch rocking chairs. Breakfast on the lanai. Roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. Playing on the kids’ playground equipment. Ava asked if we could pick some summer nights to lie on a blanket on the deck and watch the stars, so we’ll do that. Family movie nights. Family game nights. Family dinners around the table outside. Setting up their art station on the deck. Playing card games. Read books. Write stories. Write great-grandma letters and draw her pictures. Laugh a lot.

We may not be able to travel – and that might be hard on our kids who are accustomed to it and love it on a regular basis – but we can have our regularly scheduled fun. We’ve got this.

How will we get through this?

For one, we pray. Second, we stay home. Honestly, we don’t get nearly enough time home, and our kids often ask us if we can plan time to stay home and be lazy. Well, now we can. We can sleep later. Nap if we want. Relax a bit. Go unhurried. We can get creative in the kitchen trying new recipes for once since we usually don’t even have time to cook the ones we already know. We just spend quality time together, and we keep our attitudes in check.

What can I teach my kids during this time?

I’m not worried about math or science or ELA or whatever. I’m worried about the important life lessons our kids will get out of this. Such as learning to stay calm and cool in a scary situation. Learning to spread kindness instead of ugliness. Learning to give back. Want to teach your kids something important? Teach them to give to others.

  • Buy a gift card for the grocery store in which you’re shopping and give it to the person in line behind you
  • Buy gas for someone at the gas station
  • Send flowers so that someone’s day is brightened and so that a small business owner gets some revenue
  • Buy some gift cards to use late
  • Wipe down your shopping cart before you use it and again after you use it
  • Share your resources if you have them (I’m talking to you TP hoarders)
  • Buy dinner for another family who is picking up their to-go meal at your favorite restaurant
  • Way over-tip (I’m a fan of 50% or more)
  • Be kind
  • Keep your opinions to yourself
  • Be quiet if you can’t be helpful or nice – this also applies to pre-and-post social distancing, y’all.
  • Ask an elderly friend or neighbor if you can pick up their groceries and deliver them safely to their doorstep
  • Do what you can, even when you think you can’t

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What if I’m scared?

Anyone who is not a little scared right now is a liar. It’s all right to be afraid. This is nothing we have ever encountered in our lives. It’s terrifying, and it’s uncertain, and many people are left fearful and desperate and feeling as if nothing will be okay.

It’s okay to be afraid. Look – approximately a week ago, we were planning our March Madness brackets and shopping for our spring break trips. A lot changed in that week. A lot can change this week. Keep that in mind. Anything can happen on any day – and that means there is always, always, always hope. It’s all right to be afraid, but don’t let that talk you out of also being hopeful.

I am SO happy to finally have the time to sit down and blog again, and I’m going to share a few posts a week. I’d like to keep them helpful and informative, but without being your news source. I just want to share what I know, what I’m familiar with a what applies. So, here’s to social distancing (or as I call it, my life because I like a handful of people and find the rest absolutely ridiculous) for the coming weeks, doing our best to help when possible, and staying safe.

 

A Beautiful Smile Made Simple with Smile Brilliant

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Growing older is exciting, and I should know. I just turned 36, and I’ve never felt more confident, happier, or more beautiful in my life. Growing older doesn’t scare me, but that’s because my grandmother – who is as beautiful as ever even after a century of living – taught me that there are two things that make you beautiful no matter how old you get.

Your smile and your attitude.

Attitude is easy; be kind, be grateful, and seek the good in life.

My smile is just as easy; brush, floss, visit the dentist twice a year, and find the right toothbrush. Finally, after 36 years, I’ve finally found the perfect toothbrush to give me the most beautiful smile. It’s the cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush from Smile Brilliant, and it’s everything. What makes it different from all the other electric toothbrushes on the market is that I actually love it, it doesn’t make my sensitive gums hurt, and I didn’t bleed even once (you guys, I can make my own gums bleed brushing my own teeth with a regular toothbrush).

Why I love it

An electric toothbrush that throws 40,000 vibrations at you every minute is amazing. Not only that, but this is one electric toothbrush that works for you by pausing momentarily every 30 seconds to ensure you know it’s time to switch areas in your mouth. Every area gets the same time, attention, and fabulous cleaning with this helpful feature. Oh – and did I mention the battery lasts 30 days when it’s fully charged? This is great for someone like me who doesn’t like clutter on the bathroom counters and forgets to charge it every night (out of sight, out of mind, right?). It was also a relief when my husband and I spent four days in New York City this past weekend I realized I never put the charger in my carry-on!

My favorite thing, however, is the five brush modes. I’ve tried them all – several times – and my favorite is “White”. I promise you I can see a difference in the mornings after I’ve had three cups of coffee and brush my teeth before I walk out the door to take my littles to school. The other four modes include:

  • Clean
  • Massage
  • Gum care
  • Sensitive

I love all four, but what I really love is that I find I don’t need the sensitive mode as much as I thought I would. With such sensitive teeth and gums, I worried I wouldn’t use any of the other modes because I’d need the sensitive mode, but it’s not true for me. I can use all of them with the same great feeling, less stress, and no sensitivity. Every mode is amazing, and you might find yourself wanting to keep brushing just to use all of them at the same time!

It’s professional teeth cleaning from home (please continue to see your dentist every six months or sooner, if necessary, to ensure your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible). Even better, though, is that I can multitask by brushing in the shower when I’m running behind – I do have four little ones, you know – because the cariPRO is completely waterproof.

I’ve used a few electric toothbrushes in the past, but I’ve never been overly impressed. My teeth are sensitive, and the other electric brushes I’ve used caused bleeding and additional sensitivity. I never felt I was getting any more of a ‘clean’ feeling than I did with the brush my dentist gifts me at the end of every appointment, so I always used them, put them aside, and moved on from them. The cariPRO, however, has changed the game for me. I’m excited to brush my teeth every day, and I’m not worried about hurting myself or causing additional stress to my mouth. It’s such a refreshing change! And it’s affordable, too, starting at only $119 ($199 for a set of two if you and your spouse both want to have the best smile…it makes for great kissing!).

Oral Health Care is so Important

Now that I’ve shared with you the million and one things I love about my new cariPro, I wanted to make sure you know that your oral health is the most important thing you can pay attention to as you age. Now that I’m 36, I get what my grandmother was saying. Being happy and having a beautiful smile keeps my looking youthful, but it also keeps me healthy.

Good oral health care is directly related to good overall health. Using the cariPRO and visiting my dentist every six months helps me improve my chances of living a long, healthy, youthful life that extends far behind just having a beautiful smile thanks to my healthy, white teeth. Good oral health care decreases my risk of developing periodontal and gum disease. Did you know both of these oral health problems can cause an increased risk of developing certain health issues, such as cancer, endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications such as low birth weight and premature birth?

I don’t know about you, but having a beautiful smile and a decreased risk of developing serious health problems as I get older is all I need to know to keep me brushing, flossing, and visiting my dentist. It’s also why I am so excited to partner with Smile Brilliant to offer one of my readers/followers a chance to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush! Here’s how to enter my giveaway to win your very own cariPRO Ultrasonic electric toothbrush.

The winner will be randomly chosen and notified shortly!

If you don’t win your own cariPRO Ultrasonic, don’t stress – you can get 20% off your own by visiting https://www.smilebrilliant.com#tiffanyraiford and entering promo code “20TIFFANYRAIFORD” at checkout.

For more information about my new favorite toothbrush, visit https://www.smilebrilliant.com/frequentlyaskedquestions#tiffanyraiford to learn more.

PS: I’ll be sending Santa my promo code so he can make sure everyone in my house gets their own cariPRO in their stocking on Christmas morning…what better gift than the gift of a beautiful smile and a healthy life?

Monday Motivation: Five Ways to Get Motivated Any Day of the Week

Happy Monday, loves!

It’s so hard to find motivation sometimes, right? I go through off and on periods where I’m super motivated to do all the things, and then there are days that I don’t want to do any of the things. But, there are a few things that I’ve come to notice about my own personal motivation. Let me back that up just a minute and explain.

I am hyper-aware of my feelings. As an adult, I’ve become very mindful about how I’m feeling, what’s making me feel that way, and how I can channel those feelings into something more productive. I am very in tune with my body and my mind, and I’ve learned when to walk away, when to get busy, and when to shut it down and take a break. Trust me, it’s not always convenient, but there are a few things I know I can do to help me feel more motivated. And there are a few things I can do when I’m not feeling motivated to get out of that situation and fix the issues.

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Start on Sunday

The single most important thing I can do for myself is get started with a motivated week on Sunday. Church always motivates me and helps me feel invigorated, happy, and motivated. I feel so good when I leave there, and I feel so ready to tackle the week. I also like to get my calendar in order on Sundays. I prep the things I need to do workwise, and sometimes I get a little bit of a head start if everyone else is busy doing their own thing.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that if I go into Monday with things to do that I didn’t do on Sunday, I’m in for a stressful day. I will let that stress get to me and bring me down for the week, too, on occasion. So, I can almost guarantee that if my Sunday allows for me to go into Monday with nothing left on my checklist, I can have a productive, awesome week.

Work Out

I don’t have a lot of free time because of my business, kids, marriage, house, life, you name it. So, I tend to find myself sometimes looking for a way to give myself a little more time, and that often makes me feel unmotivated. I might assume I need to skip the gym to find the time to get things done, but that never works out for me.

I never regret time spent at the gym. I always regret skipping the gym. I find myself so much more motivated and energized when I leave the gym. So, I find time to work out. Even if I don’t have much time on a crazy day, I won’t spend my usual hour working out. I might give myself 30 minutes to run or do something that gets my blood going, and it’s always worthwhile.

Stop and Do Something Fun

You can’t force creativity. You just can’t. Sometimes, I have to stop and do something fun. I have to call a friend and tell her she’s got to get dressed and go get coffee or lunch with me. I might leave and go shopping. I might read a book or lay out in the sun or just do something that I’ve been thinking of doing. I always find that I’m more motivated after giving myself a much-needed break.

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Cry it Out

I’m emotional. I feel things really hard; especially when I’m unmotivated and feeling as if I can’t get things together. Overwhelmed is a good description. And, you guys, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when nothing seems to be going my way. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is give in and take some time to cry it out. It’s like a refreshing way to clear out all the junk in my mind and on my heart, and it’s a good time to pray and to feel cleansed and renewed. It might be messy – hello mascara and makeup – but I always feel so much better after I cry. Always. There is no sometimes in that one. So, don’t be ashamed to cry. I’m not.

Go With the Flow

I like things routine. Scheduled. On my terms. My way or the highway, we might say. But, sometimes, I’m most motivated after I’ve just gone with the flow. After I’ve made an impromptu decision to do something not on my radar. Going with the flow sometimes reminds me that life is not all about getting things done and it’s more about enjoying the things I’m doing. So, if you need some motivation; stop. Go with the flow. Don’t force anything. It’s better that way.

What do you do on a Monday morning to motivate yourself for the day and the week ahead?