Life Coach Blog

Dreams, Actions, and Patience

As featured on the Well Core Network.
By Aja Uranga-Foster

“Follow your dreams,” is a saying we have all heard. As kids it’s an inspirational phrase. As teens, doubt about this statement begins to creep in. And as an adult, many experience complete disillusionment regarding this topic as bills pile up, obligations cram the calendar full, and the grind of life takes hold.

But this is no reason to give up on your dreams. It just means some adjustments to your timeline may need to be made, and your expectations may need to be broadened. Case in point: Priscilla Sitienei of Kenya.

Ms. Sitienei always dreamed of going to school but was not able to when she wanted to as a young person or a middle-aged person. Now as a 90-year-old great grandmother she is living her dream, attending primary school and learning to read. One of her academic motivations is to be able to someday read the Bible.

She attends school with her 10- to 14-year-old classmates, including her great, great grandchildren. And while there are many ideas one could come up with for why she should not attend primary school– worry of what others might think, thinking she is “too old,” etc– she choose to not consider those ideas, and instead focused on her dream to get an education. She opened up her heart and her mind to accept a longer timeline than she may have originally set for herself. And she opened up her expectations to move beyond the “should have” and into the “I can and I am.” And now her story has touched millions around the world and in her community, and serves to inspire others. Read more about her by clicking here.

The grind of life, lack of resources, family obligations… these things can catch us up like a tidal wave and carry us far into the future, far away from where we want to be or think we should be. Maybe even many decades beyond. But don’t despair. Take a breath, and open your heart and your mind to the mysterious way that life allows your dream to unfold. Perhaps on a longer timeline, perhaps in unexpected ways. Checklists and plans are great to help us get focused on what we need. But more important is handling unexpected events with grace, and patiently stepping forward with purpose– including stepping around the roadblocks– to make our dreams into reality.

Photo credit: https://twitter.com/ajrileyrocks

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Overcoming Winter Sinus Troubles

Hello winter! It's a beautiful time of year. But for many people this is a time of sinus trouble. Dry heater air, cold outside air, and the ever-present seasonal cold and flu can result in some serious sniffles. A runny nose and the often resulting cough from post-nasal drip can make us feel run down and bummed out. Here are my top tips for overcoming sinus-related troubles:

1) Neti Pot sinus rinse. Use morning and evening, or up to every 2 hours when your nose is seriously clogged up. Neti Pot is a doctor-recommended device that can be purchased at most local drug stores, or ordered online. Neti Pot kits include safe-to-use saline packets and a plastic Neti Pot for around $10. Some are more expensive if it is a pot made of metal or other heavier material. Mine is the simple drug store brand, and it works great!

It is VERY important that you read and follow the instructions that come with your Neti Pot. Most importantly, NEVER use regular tap water-- only sterile or previously boiled (at least 1 minute) water. Also, only use the designated saline packets, do not make your own.

An example of instructions about using your Neti Pot is available here.

Many people are able to reduce their sinus and allergy medications with regular Neti Pot use.

2) Aloe vera gel. Look for brands that are as natural as possible-- reliable brands can be found at natural foods stores, Whole Foods, etc. If you make your own, research proper storage and preservation so it doesn't go bad. Aloe is a skin healing gel that can be used around the exterior of irritated nostrils. Also great to dab around your nostrils after a Neti-Pot rinse. Hydrate dry hands and feet by slathering on and sleep with gloves and socks. And you can add into lotion as you apply each day. Speaking of lotions, remember that your skin absorbs what you put on it. Look for lotions that use naturally-derived ingredients. If the ingredients sound too scary to eat, think twice about putting it on your skin!

3) Hydration. Drinking plenty of water isn’t just for summer. All the heated indoor air is dehydrating to our bodies and irritating to sinuses. If you choose to sip hot drinks during winter, remember that caffeinated drinks will cause your body to release water (as urine). So reach for non-caffeinated drinks. An example of a great non-caffeinated energy supplement is available here.

Steam from hot drinks is great for sinuses. Avoid drinking too much sugar in your drinks as this lowers your immune functioning. And remember, artificial sweeteners are chemicals, not food!

4) Decongestant medication and cough suppressants. There are many brands of over the counter medicine, and prescription options. Everybody’s body is different, so one type of medication may not work the same for everyone. Be patient and take note of which one works best for you. Some medications, even common ones such as pseudoephedrine (a.k.a. Sudafed), can cause mental changes in some people, so take note if your thoughts or mood change substantially. Contact your doctor with questions. Always talk to your doctor before taking new medication.

An important note about decongestants, cold/flu medicines, and allergy medications: many brands choose to blend their formula with acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol). While acetaminophen is marketed as a friendly, easy to use pain-reliever, it is also a very toxic substance in doses not much more than the recommended dose. The FDA reports, “In some individuals, taking just a small amount more than the recommended total daily dose of acetaminophen (4 grams per day) may lead to liver injury. Acetaminophen has a narrow safety margin. This means that there is little difference between the maximum recommended daily dose and a potentially harmful dose.” Read the full report here. More info from the FDA here.

This means it is up to you to protect yourself from over consumption of acetaminophen. It is a handy medicine for short-term use for temporary pain relief or lowering a high fever. But other than that, why stress your delicate liver with it? Be smart with your medication purchases and look for brands that relieve only the symptoms you have. Save your liver and don’t over-medicate your body with acetaminophen. Look at the dose of each medication you are buying, and ask your pharmacist or doctor for recommendations.

5) Immune system boosters. Yes, just like your mother said, eat your vegetables! A diet with lots of colorful and dark, leafy veggies is the best way to keep your immune system boosted year-round. There are also helpful supplements, such as Immunoguard which contains Epicor (a yeast blend), immune-boosting vitamins, and mushroom extracts. Talk to a holistic doctor or complimentary medicine professional about helpful herbs, oils, teas, and therapies such as acupuncture that can help boost your immune system. And as always, talk to your doctor before starting any new lifestyle changes or supplements.

Happy holidays, and be well!

Photo credit Sam Edwards via Getty Images

Struggles >> Strength

There are seasons of life, and some seasons just plain suck! If you are in the middle of a "winter" or season of struggle, take a step back from the hurt, the uncertainty, the worry. Take a deep breath and realize this: you are alive, you are full of feeling, of being, of life. What a gift to be alive, to feel this profoundly, to know how powerful your soul and body are, that you won't be broken by this, but will grow and become stronger. It is ok to hurt right now. Don't worry, it won't hurt like this forever.

And through this struggle you are being conditioned and strengthened like a warrior or an athlete to be even better and stronger than the day before. You may not feel it right now, you may feel weak or beaten down. But take some extra rest, take care to eat good food and hydrate, and bring new energy into the new day. Expect for things to get better. Things WILL get better.

Seek opportunities to make things better. Use the resources around you in this vast world. Ignore negativity and seek positivity. What hashtags are you searching on Instagram and Twitter? Does your Facebook feed need some cleaning up? What TV show topics are you filling your mind with? Listen to your conversations-- what are your word choices? How else could you describe what you are talking about? Consider whether reaching out and helping others might help to shift your perspective.

Work hard to focus your attention on the good that is happening-- the smile from a friend, your favorite song on the radio, the sunshine on your face. Don't let doubt and negative talk take control of your thoughts-- push those thoughts away and continue to work hard to focus your attention on opportunities for hope, for little glimmers of happiness.

Bit by bit, minute by minute, day by day, focus your energy on moving forward one step at a time to a new season in your life with more light, more joy, and a stronger version of YOU!

Follow on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/MightyMindBody/daily-wellness-ideas/
and Instagram: http://instagram.com/MightyMindBody

Mung Beans to Balance Energy

Do you crave comfort foods? At some point we all do. When we talk about comfort food, decadent foods tend to come to mind. 3-cheese macaroni, chocolate layer cake, brisket pot roast, and apple pie were top contenders for favorite comfort food in a poll by homecooking.about.com. These foods tend to be very high in calories and high in fat or sugar. Not great for comforting your healthy goals!

Wouldn't it be great if there was a comfort food that was nutrient-dense but low in calories? Well, there is! Say hello to mung beans. When cooked, they are similar in texture to lentils, but with a slightly doughy texture. They are great in stews and taste amazing with even the slightest additions of butter or ghee, salt, pepper, and other spices. When cooled, they add satisfying protein to a salad. And a warm cup of mung bean stew does wonders to comfort the soul.

In my one of my guest blog articles a couple months back (featured in the July 2014 Well Core Newsletter, and in the June 2014 Cast Images blog) I discussed the importance of having “fuel” (healthy food) for your body’s “furnace” (metabolism and energy) in order for you to get the most out of each day. To elaborate on that article-- proteins, fats, sugars, and carbs tend to get all the glory when we talk about food and nutrition. But there is more to the story than just these elements. Micronutrients and minerals in foods affect our bodies, such as our digestion quality, and even affecting whether we feel peaceful or agitated. 

Mung beans have a unique blend of micronutrients, fiber, complex carbs, and protein which are known in cultures around the world for balancing the energy in the body. And there is growing evidence that mung beans also help to balance blood sugar.

So if you are feeling askew or out-of-whack, mung beans have a unique blend of properties and micro-nutrients to help your body get back into balance. Add mung beans into your meals for a few days, and even try substituting a meal or two with some mung bean stew. Talk to your health professional about ways you can integrate foods such as mung beans into your life. Food is so much more than our daily energy source-- enjoy discovering food’s healing properties. As Hippocrates said: “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.”

Resource links:

http://www.wikihow.com/Cook-Mung-Beans 

http://lifestyle.iloveindia.com/lounge/health-benefits-of-mung-bean-7144.html

Buzz About Sunblock and Sunlight Exposure

Image source

By Aja Uranga-Foster

Do you get enough sunlight? Do you get too much? How do you get healthy doses of sunlight, and how much does your body need?

There is buzz in the media this season about the potentially harmful effects of popular packaged sunblock ingredients on our bodies. As a wellness coach, I've heard from several concerned clients wondering what sunblocks to use. And I’ve seen online posts from people talking about whether or not to use sunblock at all anymore, and whether the perceived danger from sunblock is just hype.

The sunblock discussion is centered around 2 main points:

1) Whether the chemical ingredients are carcinogenic. The Environmental Working Group identifies oxybenzone and retinyl palminate as the main ingredients to avoid.

2) Whether reduced sun exposure from wearing sunblock leads to potentially harmful vitamin D deficiency.

Interesting facts about our skin:

1) The Harvard School of Public Health (and other health/wellness orgs) recommends 15 minutes of unprotected (no sunblock) sunlight each day for the most vitamin D benefits, without the risks of negative effects. Real sunlight, NOT tanning bed "sunlight."

2) Your skin is your biggest organ. It is an effective barrier to protect the body, but it absorbs any molecules which are small enough to move through the skin. Transdermal delivery of medicine through the skin via "patches" is an example of this. Research is showing some ingredients in many sunblock brands are small enough to pass through the skin's barrier.

Thus, it is clear we do need sunlight daily, but not very much of it. Also, it’s important to be aware that your skin can absorb chemicals just from touching them.

If you have a job or hobby outdoors that requires daily sunblock to avoid sunburn, the sunblock discussion can be frustrating. But don’t despair! Use the information to your benefit, and find the best course of action for yourself. There are a variety of sunblock ingredients available from different brands, so do your homework to find which is best for your lifestyle. To get your research started, an example of a natural sunblock you can make at home is at WellnessMama.com, and the link mentioned above for Environmental Working Group lists examples. Talk to your health practitioner or dermatologist about all the options.

Getting sunlight through food:

There is one more very important way to get your daily dose of sunlight. Through your mouth! When you eat plant foods, especially raw ones, you are eating sunlight that has been processed by the plant to become edible. So much variety, so many leaves, so many colors.



Conclusion:

So, load up your plate with plants, and make an informed decision about how much sun to get and what kind of sunblock is best for you. And do your best to get around 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day to support adequate vitamin D3 production. Enjoy the sun this summer!

Other references:

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-d/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700785/

http://www.webmd.com/beauty/sun/sunscreen-safety-labels-ingredients

http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/16/health/sunscreen-report/index.html

The Teenage Brain

By Aja Uranga-Foster

Working with Above The Fray continues to highlight the importance of understanding the teenage brain for family wellness. It is vital for long-term wellness that adults facilitate the best brain development for pre-teens and teens.

But how?

Teens are often described as "reckless", "over-emotional," and "rebellious." This can often be said in frustration, which is understandable. But with more information, a better understanding of the Why and How of the teenage brain comes to light. And from this space of information and understanding, the best ways to foster a teen's brain development can be implemented.

PBS produced a comprehensive series about the teenage brain packed with great knowledge. View more by clicking here.

You can also watch the episodes below.

Have questions about family wellness? Want to book a family wellness presentation? Contact Wellness Coach Aja at 916-800-3866 today.

Fuel for Your Body

By Aja Uranga-Foster

A client came to me with the goal of improving her overall wellness, which included losing weight. We went over our plan. 

“Wait,” she said, “so I have to eat to lose my excess weight?” 

Yes!

It is important to understand that the human body uses calories all day long, whether we are running around or sitting. Yes, your body uses more calories when you are moving around or exercising. But this does not mean your body uses 0 calories if you are being sedentary. 

You may have heard about Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR (similar to Resting Metabolic Rate) back in biology class. This formula approximates the calories your body needs just so it can perform its basic functions: pumping blood, firing electrical signals through the brain and body, breathing, processing food through the intestines, repairing wounds, etc.   

You can search online for Basal Metabolic Rate or Resting Metabolic Rate calculators. Here is an example of one at www.myfitnesspal.com/tools/bmr-calculator 

For an average female 50 years old, 5’6", and 150 lbs, her BMR is approximately 1,300 calories. Calories are a unit to measure energy, specifically energy used by the body. Keep in mind, this is an approximation. If the individual has above average muscle mass, their BMR may be higher because muscles burn more energy.

Any activity beyond lazing in bed all day will require more calories than the BMR of 1,300 for the individual above. Remember, that is the number of calories required to just stay alive and healthy.

So, what happens when you restrict your calories to your basic BMR or less? There are obvious problems such as having nutrient deficiencies and loss of energy. But other problems also begin to happen after extended periods of calorie restriction, binging and purging, or “yo-yo” dieting.

• Digestive problems happen as the gut slows down to conserve energy. 
• Metabolic dysfunction happens as the body hoards calories and slows down all of the body functions to try to conserve energy. 
• Concentration and mental functioning decreases.
• Heart and other organ malfunctions begin to occur.

A mentor of mine describes the human body’s metabolism with this helpful analogy:
Imagine your stomach is a furnace, and your body is a house where it is always winter outside. Inside this “house,” your organs represent a family. Everyone in this family will freeze if it’s not a steady warm temperature inside the house. Food is the “fuel” for the furnace. Your job is to keep the furnace at a nice, steady temperature. Doing so keeps everyone in the family happy.

Food is not the enemy. Food should not be the center-point of a daily restraint challenge. When people starve themselves, they are damaging their body in ways that can be permanent. Food is a gift. Whole, nutrient-rich food is nourishment for the intricate and amazing machine of your body. 

If you have challenges with food and your weight, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Life is not about calories and weight. It’s not about antagonism and stress about your body and food. Life is about being nourished so you have the fuel to be your best.

Peanut Butter Jelly Smoothie Recipe

By Aja Uranga-Foster

This delicious smoothie recipe brings the satisfying taste of a PB & J sandwich and the health benefits of veggies and high-antioxidant berry fruits. This a great option for an on-the-go meal. Approximately 500 very satisfying and filling calories, including micro-nutrients, protein, whole-food carbs, and non-animal fat.

The natural ingredients in this drink will separate over time. Be sure to drink from a container with a lid so you can shake it up every few minutes, or stir it with a straw every few minutes. 

You can use any berry juices you like. Organic is recommended. In this example I used an organic juice blend of pomegranate, mulberry, dark cherry, and red grape.

Ingredient list:

-1/2 cup mixed berry juice (as stated above) 
-Approx 10 red grapes
-1 handful spring mix (lettuces). Avoid arugula and cabbage, as the peppery and bitter flavors won't mix well here.
-Approx 4 TBSP dry rolled oats 
-1-2 TBSP Natural peanut butter (chunky or smooth both ok). Natural = salt and peanuts. No added oils, preservatives, etc.
-2-3 TBSP unflavored hemp protein powder
-Cinnamon powder to taste, approx 1/4 tsp
-Approx 1/2 cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk

-Optional: 1-2 handfuls of crushed ice

Organic is recommended for all of the above to protect you from pesticides, etc.

1) Combine all ingredients in your blender. I used the tall cup for my Nutri-Bullet blender.
2) Blend approx 30 seconds until all ingredients are liquefied.
3) Enjoy! Sip it slowly over the course of about 20 minutes, same as you would for a meal if you were chewing it. This will give your body time to process all the nutrients you are consuming.

Let It Go

By Aja Uranga-Foster

Mind and body balance is what wellness is all about. One of the cornerstones for achieving this balance is being able to "let it go." This can mean enacting forgiveness. Or surrender. Or patience. And more.

I had a powerful meditation earlier today pondering this idea of "let it go," and the realization of the temporary nature of things rushed into my mind after several minutes. Ephemeral reality, transition, fluidity. I came out of my meditation feeling thankful, relieved, and humbled.

Close your eyes in silence and ponder the statement "let it go" for 5-20 minutes. Repeat it silently to yourself slowly and gently with each slow and gentle breath. Allow the words to move throughout you. What realizations come to your mind?

Moving Mountains Within

By Aja Uranga-Foster

A Very Important Question

A client asked me the other day, “I feel like I’ve been making progress, but now all of a sudden I don't feel so good. What's going on?”

It was a few days since our last appointment, during which she had a major breakthrough about how to change her life for the better. And just a couple days later brings us to today, and she is beginning to feel ill. Nothing specific, just kind of “down” with a “foggy” feeling overall, to use her words. 

This is vague and sort of ill feeling similar to the beginning of a cold or flu is not uncommon after major metaphysical breakthroughs are reached. My client’s identity in this example is safe because I’ve had many clients ask me the same question! And it is a very important question.

(Key word-- Metaphysics: Things that exist but cannot be seen or directly perceived by our 5 senses.)

Big Shift Within

This vaguely uncomfortable feeling is common after a metaphysical breakthrough because the entire being-- your mind, body, and spirit-- is beginning an important shift. Think back to an earth sciences class. Remember learning about how topography (mountains) move? Lots of earth-quaking happens when these big physical parts of our environment shift. And similar “earthquakes” happen within us metaphysically when we make a big shift in the mind and body. 

I explained to my client she is going through a holistic shift that will change her life for the better… if she allows it to happen.

If she allows it to happen. This is the most important part of any healing and growth process.

(Key word-- Holistic: Evaluating or related to the complete system rather than individual parts only.)

Clearing Out the Garbage

Her proverbial mountain had begun to shift. From the work we had done together in sessions so far, the blocks and obstacles in her life were beginning to dislodge from her subconscious and be removed from her being. 

The old, negative clutter in her mind was beginning to be processed and removed on the subconscious level. Such an exciting time. And at the end of our most recent session, she had said she felt “hope” and felt “liberated” for the first time in many, many years.

These good feelings indicate the negative metaphysical clutter is dislodging and processing. To use an analogy: No one likes to take out the nasty garbage from the kitchen. But it has to be done in order to clean up the kitchen, right? And a clean kitchen is happy kitchen. Same idea here.

Decision Time

There is always that critical moment in the metaphysical healing process—to choose a new path to healing, or fall back into familiar pain and cover it up with pills and things.

Things and pills are nothing more than a mask if we are not living in a healthful way, which includes being true to our authentic self. Real healing takes work.

In my client’s case, she chose to work through the discomfort and step into her new growth process.

Within a couple weeks of our continued work together, her vague feeling of discomfort and “fogginess” subsided. Metaphysically, the “moving of the mountain” within her was finished, and now all the new growth was happening. 

couldn't be happier for her, and for everyone who chooses to move forward through the process of healing!

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