Soothe Back-to-school Anxiety

Whether your child is off to kindergarten or college, the first day of school is often fraught with emotion. Moms and kids alike are flooded with excitement, anxiety, fear and anticipation. So it’s no wonder there are plenty of tears -- and often a few meltdowns – when drop-off time comes. But there are strategies, like knowing what to expect and how to handle the feelings in advance, that can help ease the anxiety of the transition.

For kids, the classroom can mean pressure to make friends and excel. And with the unknowns of a new teacher and classmates, they can express their emotions through tears, clinginess and resistance on the first day. To help your kids adapt to all of these changes and reduce back-to-school anxiety, get a head start with these moves:

1.     Talk about how both of you are feeling. A few days before the big day, discuss your emotions with your child, and ask if they feel the same way. Say, “I wonder if you’re feeling a little scared/nervous/excited too.”

2.    Incorporate a special tradition. You can make the first day of school something the whole family looks forward to. Sit down with your kids and decide how you want to celebrate -- whether it’s making a special breakfast or going to a favorite restaurant for dinner.

3.    Be optimistic. Kids absorb their parents’ emotions. If you’re anxious, fearful or apprehensive, your child will start to believe that the first day of school is something she should dread. By staying positive (“first grade is so much fun!”), she’ll understand this is a natural part of growing up.

4.    Practice new experiences. Much of children’s fear is rooted in not knowing what’s going to happen next. Prepare your kids by discussing what they should expect, such as who their teacher is and how their day will go. Also practice classroom protocol, such as raising hands and asking permission to use the restroom. The more experience they have, the more comfortable they’ll feel.

It goes without saying that you’ll be experiencing a few tissue-worthy emotions too. Acknowledging that your child is growing up can make you long for days past. It’s perfectly normal to shed a tear or two in the days leading up to the first day of school. To mentally prepare yourself, keep a journal of your thoughts and speak to your spouse or friends about their own experiences and feelings. And save your tears for after your children are asleep -- kids work to protect their parents’ feelings, and seeing you cry may make them feel guilty about starting school.

Armed with these tips, you and your kids will be well-prepared. But on the morning itself, remember that every kid is unique and displays emotions and anxiety differently. Here’s a few tips to help ease the transition:

· Fight the urge to compare your child to others, such as classmates or siblings. If your child isn’t showing signs of apprehension, don’t ask yourself why.

· Don’t drag out the goodbye if your child is upset. Instead, make it clear you will see her at the end of the day, and leave with a quick hug and kiss.

· Remember the tissues. Stash a few tissues in your purse and your child’s backpack to have on hand, for your kids or yourself after they’ve said goodbye.

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Massage Away Allergies: 6 Expert Moves

Without a doubt, allergies can make you and your little one miserable -- not to mention wipe out your tissue supply. Fortunately, it's possible to reduce the congestion, stress and headaches with the right touch: Massage can relieve these symptoms by improving circulation, lessening anxiety and releasing muscle tension.

Case in point: Researchers from The Ohio State University found that allergy sufferers had more severe -- and lengthy -- attacks under stress. That's where touch can help:

According to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,  massage lowers stress hormones like cortisol and stimulates the immune system.

But there's no need to book a massage every time you're stuffed up. By gently pressing on your acupressure points, or on those of your child, you can safely ease allergy symptoms and return to your usual sunny-day activities within minutes. In other words, in about the same amount of time as it takes to blow your nose. Just follow these six expert moves:

Massage to Ease Allergy Congestion:

1.    Place the tips of your index fingers where the inside corners of your eyebrows meet the bridge of your nose. Use gentle pressure, and either hold until you feel a release or massage in slow, small outward circles.

2.    Place the tips of your middle fingers just to the side of your nostrils, at the edge of the cheekbone. Hold with gentle pressure or massage in easy outward circles.

Massage to Ease Allergy Headaches:

3.    With your middle and index fingers, lightly massage temples (outside corners of your brows, above your cheeks) in a circular motion toward your ears. It’s actually an instinctual reaction to rub this point, and for good reason: It melts away pain.

4.    Locate the points where your neck muscles meet the base of the back of your skull, and hold with moderate pressure. Press in an upward direction until the muscles release.

Massage to Ease Stress:

5.    Squeeze the fleshy part of the hand between the thumb and index finger. The thumb of the squeezing hand should be on the top side of the hand being squeezed. Hold with moderate pressure and then stroke for a few repetitions, gently pulling out (in the direction away from the wrist).

6.    Place your index, middle and ring fingers at the tops of your shoulders and hold. If massaging your child (or another adult), you can also gently squeeze the muscle or rub it along the fibers toward the outside of the shoulder (versus upward, toward the neck).

For all points, hold or massage for 20 seconds to two minutes or until there is a release. The pressure should feel good -- not acutely painful.

One warning: If you or your child has a fever (and congestion from a potential virus or infection), steer clear of massage of any kind, as it increases circulation and could actually worsen the illness. The same goes for inflammation and skin irritations, like a rash.

Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

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Create an At-home Spa: 4 Simple Herbal Recipes

You're in serious need of a pampering day at the spa, but you're short on time and money. The solution? Transform your own bathroom into a sanctuary. At the Lake Austin Spa Resort, I teach classes on how to turn common kitchen and garden ingredients into luxurious skin scrubs, bath salts and more.

The key is using herbs and flowers. Certain aromas have a powerful effect on the nervous system, leaving you feeling relaxed or energized. I recommend using the following ingredients for their scents:

  • Lavender: This soothing, antimicrobial herb has been shown to help you relax and get a good night's sleep. Wesleyan University conducted a 31-person study and found that when people sniffed lavender before bedtime, they got more slow-wave (or deep) sleep and reported feeling more energetic in the morning.
  • Eucalyptus: Developing research suggests this woodsy scent may help break up mucus and stop coughs, according to the National Institutes of Health. And a study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine shows that eucalyptol, the active ingredient, has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mint: Perfect for hot days, spearmint and peppermint are cooling and refreshing. And a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy also found that applying menthol to the skin increases blood flow.
  • Ginger: When grated and added to a bath, the spicy root provides an invigorating sensory energy boost. It can be mixed with coconut oil for a mildly exfoliating scrub.
  • Rosemary: This herb has a refreshing, stimulating effect.
  • Rose Petals: Pluck them from your own garden to add a sweet fragrance to any bath or body treatment.

Once you've chosen your herbs, mix them up with one of the following recipes. With a few household ingredients, you can go from stressed and tired to relaxed and glowing:

Basic Bath Infusion

  • 4 cups fresh herbs (or 2 cups dried)
  • 4 cups water

Boil water in a large pot; add herbs. Stir, cover and remove from heat. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and pour into a hot bath.

Soothing Bath Bag

  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried herbs
  • 10 drops of essential oil

Stir together all ingredients and place in a muslin bag (or several layers of cheesecloth); secure with a rubber band. Add to hot bath and steep for several minutes. Open the bag and use the softened herbs as an exfoliating body scrub. You can also seal unused bags in a glass jar for several months.

Energizing Coffee Body Scrub

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup coffee beans, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons bentonite clay (found in health food stores)
  • 3 tablespoons oil, such as olive, grapeseed, coconut or avocado
  • 3 drops each of rosemary oil and grapefruit or peppermint oil

Combine sugar and rosemary in a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Pour into a medium-sized bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Use the scrub on skin; shower off. Moisturize with additional body oil.

Skin-Softening Bath Blend

  • 1/4 cup rolled or instant oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup herbs of choice
  • 10 to 15 drops of essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons body oil

In a food processor, combine oatmeal, milk powder, sugar and herbs until coarsely ground. Pour in bowl and combine with essential oil, honey and body oil. Place in muslin bag and steep in a hot bath for a few minutes. Use cold tea bags (green tea or chamomile) over your eyes as you enjoy your bath.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

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Stay Positive in Stressful Times

When everyone in your family is down for the count with colds and the flu, you're often the one who continues to be the family cheerleader. But keeping a positive perspective can be tough under some circumstances. 


“Being upbeat during stressful times is difficult," says Dr. Eva Ritvo, vice chair of the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "To stay positive, you've got to work it."

What's the best way to maintain an upbeat attitude? Ritvo offers these useful suggestions for rising to the challenge, no matter what you're up against.


1. Sleep on it.
Busy moms know from experience -- observing their own children -- that getting enough shut-eye helps banish blue moods. So why not apply the same principles to yourself? "As adults, we forget about these things," says Ritvo. "It's difficult to stay upbeat when you're working with a sleep deficit. For a positive outlook, getting a good night's sleep of at least eight hours as many nights as you can is really important."


2. Fuel up.
The right diet is as crucial to keeping a positive perspective as getting enough sleep. If you're not eating properly, you're stressing your body, and when your body is doing all it can just to function, a happy-go-lucky attitude is hard to obtain, says Ritvo. "Avoid things that send your blood sugar rising, like alcohol, diet soda or candy. You're not going to have a positive outlook if your basic nutrition is not attended to."


3. Get moving.
Experts agree that regular exercise can boost mood thanks to the feel-good endorphins it releases. "Our bodies were designed for a lot of movement," says Ritvo. "Exercise makes you feel good, helps circulate your blood, gets rid of toxins, maintains your weight and stimulates your brain." It does so many things that are essential to everyday happy functioning. Try to work in at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, whether it's a power walk, a bike ride or Pilates.


4. Try something new.
To keep a positive perspective, introduce variety into your daily routine. A study conducted at the National Institute on Aging found that the novelty of performing new activities has wide-ranging positive effects, including extending your life.

“Do something you haven't done before, which is very stimulating for the brain," says Ritvo. Make a new friend who doesn't fit the mold of your old friends. Take a language class if you've never spoken a language. Take an art class if you've never done art. Give yourself the opportunity to grow in different ways. That's very energizing.


5. Pair up.
Looking to change your perspective? Surround yourself with positive people. "Everybody knows someone who is the life of the party and looks at things in fun ways, so put yourself near them," suggests Ritvo. "Ask them out to dinner. I like going to a book signing where everyone is excited to be there, or a sporting event where people are excited to be. Be around positive energy."


6. Set aside time for yourself.
“It's very easy to attend to people all day or attend to work and neglect ourselves, but that doesn't work for creating a positive outlook," says Ritvo. "It doesn't matter what you do, but be sure to honor yourself and allow yourself to be in a space that works for you." Ritvo suggests setting aside time for a bath, reading for half an hour or meditating to pump up your attitude.


7. Talk about it.
Sometimes, using positive language is all you need to shift your perspective. Ritvo suggests talking with a friend and making a pact to share with each other the things that you're grateful for each day. "Tell each other two things, such as "I'm grateful for my health,'" she says. "Or 'I'm grateful that I could walk up the nine flights of stairs today without being out of breath.'"


8. Put your best face forward.
As the old saying goes, when you look good, you feel good. You don't have to compete with a fashion model, but do try to look your best whenever you can, says Ritvo. To be sure you do this even on your busiest days, set up a quick beauty station by your front door. Just place a basket with a mirror, mascara, eyeliner, blush and lipstick near the door so you can stop and quickly primp before you exit. Don’t forget to tuck a pack of Puffs facial tissues into your bag for touchups later. "Beauty can be an instant boost, and it matters," says Ritvo.


9. Have faith.
Having confidence in yourself and your ability to tackle any challenge is key to keeping a positive perspective. "I like to call it a "faith lift,'" says Ritvo. "Tell yourself that you can survive these things, and it will come true. Having faith is very important. For some people, it might be a religion, for others it might be spirituality or just an inner confidence. Tell yourself you're valuable, and the world will see it too."


10. Practice being positive.
To make a positive mood a part of your permanent psyche, try this experiment: Ritvo suggests challenging yourself to pinpoint one appealing thing about everyone you encounter in a day. "One person might have a beautiful smile, and another a kind word to say," she says. "Train yourself to zero in on positive things (even if it's just one day a week), and (in time) you'll see a change in your overall perspective."

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

9 Best Time-Saving Tips for Busy Moms

Ask any busy mom what's on her wish list, and "more time" inevitably comes up. Turns out those extra hours may be right under our noses: Too many of us waste our precious minutes rounding up the kids, scrambling to pull together dinner and sorting through our email inboxes.

We asked the experts to give us their tips for streamlining daily routines. Try incorporating a few of these suggestions and you may actually find yourself with a little "me" time at the end of the day!

1. Start your day with mommy-and-me time.
Have a designated day of the week for each of your kids and wake him or her up 15 minutes early, says Tonia Tomlin, a professional organizer and the author of Chaos 2 Calm: The Moms-of-Multiples' Guide to an Organized Family. That way, you both know you'll have some special bonding time, no matter how hectic things get.

2. Take stock of your kitchen.
Each month, take a quick inventory of your pantry and do one big grocery shop to stock up on essentials. Even if you can't get to the market one week, at least you'll have the basics to whip together a few quick meals. (Consider using an app like Coupons.com, which keeps your list online.)

3. Invest in a slow cooker.
It's a mom's secret weapon: Toss a few ingredients into the pot in the morning, and your family can sit down to a home-cooked dinner with minimal prep in the evening.

4. Divide and conquer.
Delegating chores to every member of the family will save you time and stress. To keep everyone accountable, create a chore chart that everyone can check off, and put it up on the fridge, says Tomlin. Kids can tackle age-appropriate tasks, like helping to put away the dishes, feeding the dog, picking up toys and hanging up coats. “I also like to give incentives,” says Tomlin. “I schedule a special date with my daughters if the chore chart is completed at the end of the month.”

5. Take control of the calendar.
Keep a reusable wipe-off monthly calendar in a central place so everyone knows exactly what's going on and there won't be any miscommunications.

6. Have laundry day.
Designate a specific day of the week to do laundry so the load won't sit in the dryer and get wrinkled, suggests Tomlin. When you get it all done in one day, you won't have to dread coming home to a huge pile of clothes. Make the chore more fun by scheduling phone dates with family and friends.

7. Place trash cans strategically.
Children are notorious for leaving trash in the car (snack wrappers, water bottles), so keeping a trash can by the driver's side door can save you from having to clean out the car every week, says Tomlin.

8. Have a place for everything.
Getting out the door in the morning is no easy feat when your kids are hunting for schoolbooks and you’re rushing to get your makeup done. Designate an exact place by the door for your kids' school supplies, jackets and lunch bags so they won't go missing when you're leaving for school. Also set up a mommy beauty station at the same place: Simply hang a mirror and fill a basket (ideally out of reach to your kids) with beauty essentials, including a hairbrush, dry shampoo, concealer, blush, lipstick, mascara and a box of facial tissues for quick touchups.

9. Prioritize your inbox.
We all get way too much email, says Tomlin. Consider sorting your messages into simple categories like "To do today," "Follow up by week two," and "Unsubscribe from this email chain." Send email replies to only those who need them, and avoid hitting "Reply all" -- unless it's necessary.

Photo by Xavier Mouton Photographie on Unsplash

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