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Planks and Peanut Butter

A college girl's guide to healthy living

Chamomile Tea: The Secret to Sleep

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It’s midnight and your body is exhausted, but your brain is still buzzing with thoughts about the intense confrontation you experienced at work today and the American Government essay you have to write tomorrow. When Netflix just doesn’t do the trick to calm you down, there’s an easy, tasty solution: chamomile tea.

Other than its smooth, natural taste (sweetened with a bit of raw honey), chamomile tea has many benefits:

-It reduces anxiety, which can be extremely helpful when you’re lying awake at night, thinking about every little thing you’ve ever done wrong or ever will do wrong…

-Chamomile tea increases the amount of glycine (an amino acid) in the body, which can help reduce menstrual cramps (woohoo!).

-The American Chemical Society has found chamomile tea to be effective at fighting bacteria, leading to fewer colds and viruses.

-Chamomile tea, when used abundantly as mouthwash (4 to 6 times a day) can help heal mouth sores.

What else? Studies have shown that holding something warm in your hands makes it easier to fall asleep (as well as wearing warm socks).

If you get tired of the taste of chamomile tea, there are many variations on the original: lemon jasmine chamomile, echinacea chamomile, and honey vanilla chamomile. So the next time you’re struggling to fall asleep after a long day, fix yourself a cup of chamomile tea and welcome the ZZZs.

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Spring Break that won’t Break the Bank

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Spring break is always a mix of emotions for college students: joy at not having to go to classes for a week; concern over how much money they’re spending; exhaustion when they realize they may have had just a little too much fun with their friends.

It’s tempting to book a hotel on the beach or plan a trip to Disney, but there are many inexpensive options that can be just as enjoyable.

Airbnb: This site has thousands of apartments and houses that owners rent out to travelers for days and weeks at a time. Some are lavish apartments in L.A., others are remote ski lodges in northern New Hampshire. Wherever you’re looking to travel, Airbnb most likely has a house or room nearby. If you’re looking to save some money this trip, many owners rent out suites or single rooms in their home (rather than the whole house), which can cost as little as $20 per night. There’s a vast amount of options, so start exploring at https://www.airbnb.com/.

KAYAK searches hundreds of sites for the cheapest flights, and it lets you input a range of dates and airport locations. It’s easy to understand and navigate and is a great resource if you’re looking to travel abroad this spring break. To explore your travel options, visit https://www.kayak.com/flights.

Hostels: Although not as luxurious as a Hilton or Marriott, hostels are a great way to save money and meet fellow travelers. Depending on the location, you can book a night in a hostel for as little as $6. If you’re traveling to a new area, the owners and other travelers can help you find the best restaurants and local attractions. Check out http://www.hostels.com/ for thousands of hostels, worldwide.

Couchsurfing: This is a free app that lets users stay the night with hosts all around the world, who open up their homes to travelers looking for a free place to stay. It’s perfect for people who want to immerse themselves in the area’s culture and meet locals who can show them the best sights and attractions. Visit https://www.couchsurfing.com/ for more info on how the app works.

National and state parks: Once you’re in your spring break destination, it’s easy to get carried away by theme parks and excursions. However, museums and state parks are a great way to save money on your trip because they are usually inexpensive and offer hours of entertainment. Parks maintained by the government are almost always clean and have ample signage and parking, and most offer activities like kayaking, snorkeling, biking, and grilling. Many museums offer student discounts, and with enough internet research prior to your trip, you can sometimes snag a free pass online or through your local library.

No matter where your spring break destination is, it’s not difficult to save some extra dough by planning ahead and exploring what the locals have to offer.

The #1 Hiccup Remedy

Hiccups can be brought on by a multitude of scenarios:

Maybe your friend just complained about her “obnoxious, stuck-up” professor when he was standing right behind her.

Maybe your roommate walked around all day with her shirt on backwards.

Or maybe you ate that barely-edible (and mostly non-toxic) campus food just a little too quickly.

Whatever the reason for your hiccups, they can be annoying and seemingly last forever — which  isn’t super convenient when you have to give a class presentation in five minutes.

But there’s a foolproof method to getting rid of the hiccups that has never failed me before. It’s simple, harmless, and should be doable for most people trying to earn their college degrees.

Here’s how it goes:

Step 1: The hiccup-er fills a large glass or water bottle with water.

Step 2: The assistant places their thumbs or pointer fingers behind the hiccup-er’s ears, in the soft crevice directly behind the ear lobe. They should apply some pressure, but not push hard enough so that it hurts. It may feel a little weird for the hiccup-er at first, but don’t let this stop you.

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Step 3: The hiccup-er should take small sips of the water bottle or glass of water until it is empty (they should aim to complete this step in around one minute; not gulping or chugging, but not taking any breaks).

By the time the hiccup-er finishes the water bottle, their hiccups will be gone (as long as they weren’t laughing or taking breaks during the process).

This hiccup trick has worked for my friends and me every time, so comment below any of your successes or failures!

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Feeling stressed or sluggish after a long week back at school? Taking a break to enjoy nature can refresh your perspective and fuel you to stick to your goals, day by day.

FOMO: It Can Be Beat

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We’ve all done it: we’re hanging out in our PJs on the couch, perfectly content with a plate of freshly-baked cookies and a new reality TV show. During the commercial break, without thinking twice, we reach for our phones and start scrolling through social media.

Molly’s at a concert.

Garrett’s having dinner with a group of friends.

Kailey’s seeing the new Marvel movie.

Suddenly, our happy plans for the night don’t seem so great anymore. We’re anxious now, thinking about all the events we’re missing and texting our friends to see if we can join in on the fun.

This behavior is known as FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. It describes that feeling you get when you see all the fabulous things your friends are doing on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, making you feel like your plans are inadequate or that you’re missing some epic memories.

In this busy world of always-doing and always-needing, it’s important to acknowledge one fact: you can’t always be everywhere and do everything your friends are doing. It’s not possible, and it’s not physically or mentally healthy to constantly be on the go.

So whenever you start to get that anxious feeling that you need to be part of every social event, try these coping tactics:

  1. Get off social media – clicking on the Facebook app can become a habit when boredom arises, but try something else: call someone in your family, organize your bedroom, or create an ideal stay-at-home evening, whether this includes making brownies and watching your favorite Disney movie or planning a future vacation.
  2. Tell yourself it’s okay not to do anything sometimes. For all the type-A go-getters out there, remember that your body and mind need to rest sometimes in order to maintain your overall health. Next, remind yourself of all the interesting or amazing adventures you’ve been on in the past, or plan an adventure for another day – there’s always tomorrow.
  3. Remember: social media isn’t reality. Many photos on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook feature the most exciting moments of people’s lives, and oftentimes they can be staged or edited. Although it can be difficult, try not to compare your life with others’; instead, focus on doing what you enjoy.

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Don’t let fear of failing slow you down — it’s time to kick those New Year’s resolutions into gear!

Alone and Stress-Free

 

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New year, new you, right?

This is a common saying that people repeat, but don’t always focus on what it says. Being a new you can mean different things, but oftentimes, it’s about stepping out of your comfort zone to make yourself a better person.

When there are people around us, it’s easy to be distracted by their activities and lose focus on our own goals. While monks, yogis, and writers have practiced alone-time for centuries, others are starting to understand what kind of impact it has on one’s health.

Spending time alone can increase creativity and have a positive influence on your mental health, reports a study by the University of Buffalo. By putting aside electronics and making time for solitude, people are forced to generate activities on their own. Most of the time, this means engaging in creative interests like journaling or making crafts.

Creativity is beneficial because it helps the brain work efficiently and release dopamine, since we use problem-solving skills and different ways of thinking. This subsequently reduces stress, which is valuable for numerous parts of the body.

Oftentimes, being constantly surrounded by others isn’t conducive to creativity, so it’s smart to carve out some alone time in your day to work on a fun project. It’s important to recognize that this is different from being antisocial, which is when someone avoids social contact in a deceitful or destructive way. But for people who choose to spend a healthy amount of time alone, creativity and peace of mind often follow.

Other than taking a break from people, going without social media for a period of time can also be cleansing. Many of us are reliant on our phones to provide us with information, and putting down these taxing devices for a while can compel us to use our creative thinking skills and enjoy a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Drawing, listening to music, painting, stretching, and making origami are all great ways to exercise your creativity.

Celebrities Acknowledge Their Struggles with Mental Illness

 

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At the start of every year, many people have resolutions to feel healthier, inside and out. There are numerous ways to do this, and improving your mental health is a good place to start.

Society has started to acknowledge mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and the more these topics are talked about, the more comfortable people will feel sharing their own personal stories.

Many people are afraid to talk about mental illness. They don’t want to be labeled or treated differently. The way to defeat this mindset is to encourage discussion about mental illness and get rid of the stigma associated with it.

Celebrities are doing this by going public with their struggles and assuring others that it’s okay to not always be okay. Here’s a list of famous people who have opened up about mental illness:

Michael Phelps: In May of 2017, Phelps talked publicly about his struggle with depression and encouraged others to go to friends for help: “For me, getting to an all-time low where I didn’t want to be alive anymore, that’s scary as hell. Thinking about taking your own life, I remember sitting in my room for four or five days not wanting to be alive, not talking to anybody. That was a struggle for me… For me, I reached that point where I finally realized I couldn’t do it alone… I want people to understand that there are times that you are going to have to reach out.”

Elle King: King, who signs “Ex’s and Oh’s,” posted on her Instagram page about dealing with PTSD and depression: “But today, while working through my PTSD with my doc, I felt that door inside of me open up just a little bit more. It used to be covered in caution tape and red lights flashing DO NOT OPEN. But I felt a cool little breeze and it wasn’t as scary peeping through.”

She learned to cope with her mental illnesses and work to end them — when she was having extremely difficult days; “In those times all I had to do was refocus and take back control of MY OWN MIND,” King said.

“Today, if presented with two options, I will CHOOSE the one that is most beneficial and happy for me right then and there. I’ll make some healthy choices. Today I’ll drink water and say something nice about myself. I brushed my teeth sooosososo good too. I might even hug myself. But I’m definitely going to love myself.”

Emma Stone: After suffering from anxiety when she was a child, Stone found treatment in the form of therapy and theater. “I started acting at this youth theater, doing improv and sketch comedy… You have to be present in improv, and that’s the antithesis of anxiety.”

Amanda Seyfried: Seyfried experienced anxiety as a result of having OCD since she was a teenager, but she eventually received help and encourages others to do the same. “[Mental health] should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there… Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.” Seyfried has gone on to act in dozens of films, from Mean Girls to Les Misérables.

Many celebrities encourage their fans to talk to a professional about getting help for any mental struggle they’re facing. Talking among friends about anxiety and depression can help people realize there are many living with mental illness and that it can be overcome. We are all human and we all face difficulties sometimes — what’s important is how we dedicate ourselves to overcoming them.

Sunshine in a Bowl

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Whether it’s a relaxed Saturday or a hectic Monday, a Sunshine Bowl is the perfect way to start your day. Some plain Greek yogurt on the bottom, sliced fruit next, and a drizzle of honey or peanut butter will satisfy your sweet tooth and fill you up.

Greek yogurt is full of protein, calcium, and probiotics — just read the label to make sure there are no added sugars. Switching up the fruit on top (strawberry and banana to mango and peach to kiwi and pear) results in a variety of tastes and vitamins. Try topping with a sprinkle of granola for a yummy crunch.

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