Category: Transformation Tuesdays

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Why You Need to Stop Skipping Your Lunch Break

This article brought to you by The Everygirl!

Unless your office strictly enforces lunch breaks, you might have fallen into the unfortunate habit of skipping your lunch break in order to squeeze in a little extra work. Or maybe you quickly scarf down a yogurt in the dimly lit break room to save time. And you aren’t alone! Only one in five office workers reports taking a lunch break. But taking time to step away from your desk to eat and recharge is hugely important for your productivity.

EMPLOYEES WHO TAKE BREAKS THROUGHOUT THE WORKDAY HAVE MORE ENERGY, MORE MOTIVATION TO RETURN TO WORK, ARE ABLE TO CONCENTRATE, AND MANAGE THEIR STRESS LEVELS BETTER.

Employees who take a break during the workday have more energy, more motivation to return to work, are better able to concentrate.

Psychologists have found that people actually work best in 90 minute spurts with a break in between, so taking a substantial break halfway through the day can do you a lot of good. Studies show that this break helps you to re-group, prioritize, and manage your stress levels better.

In fact, a lunch break will help you accomplish more than if you work through lunch and skip a meal in favor of a quick granola bar. The longer you are at work, the more important it becomes to step away from your desk because creativity is stifled if you don’t change environments. Creativity and innovation are fueled by a change in environment, especially if you head outside. Which means both you and your company will benefit from you taking a lunch break.

Employees who take breaks throughout the workday have more energy, more motivation to return to work, and are better able to concentrate. Workers who take breaks also have fewer symptoms of common workplace maladies such as headaches, eyestrain, and lower back pain when they return from a break. 

Sometimes a lunch break can feel like an extra hour of work just tacked onto your day simply because you are not at home. But by looking at your lunch break as personal time (which it is!) and not professional time you might start to really enjoy that hour!

Here are a few tips on how to use your lunch break to your benefit.

Stretch your legs.

If the idea of spending a whole hour eating lunch sounds like a waste of time, eat quickly then get moving! Physical activity can improve concentration, sharpen memory, quicken learning, prolong mental stamina, enhance creativity, and reduce stress.

Full hour: Working out may seem impossible on your lunch break but if your office has a gym or if there is one nearby, it is doable. You can squeeze in a high intensity thirty-minute workout and still have time to freshen up.

30 minutes: No time to make it to the gym? Or is the desire to sweat too much? Skip the gym and take a brisk walk outside. On top of the exercise, a little vitamin D will boost your mood and do you a world of good, as will the fresh air.

Quick 15: If you are on a real time crunch, do a few quick stretches and feel the tightness in your back and neck melt away.

Step away from the screen.

While you may be tempted to scroll through social media on your phone, try to break away from the screens at lunch. Too much time spent staring at a screen can leave your eyes feeling dry, irritated, tired, and out of focus. You may also suffer from head, neck, and back pain. These symptoms are a result of “digital eye strain,” which nearly 95% of Americans are at risk for and more than 60% experience.

Full hour: Escape into a fantasy world or get caught up in a non-fiction book on your lunch break. How many times have you said you wish you had more time to read? Your lunch break is the perfect time to retreat with a page turner.

30 minutes: Not enough time to get invested in a book? Flip through your favorite magazine or newspaper. If you frequently complain about the demise of print, this is your chance to put your money where your mouth is!

Quick 15: If you don’t have enough time to read, at the very least, eat lunch away from your screens and give your eyes a much-needed break. And if you know you will be tempted to look at your phone during lunch, leave it at your desk and high tail it to the break room.

Call a friend.

As much as you love your coworkers, sometimes you need a little break from them and on a particularly hard day you might feel like you really need your best friend. On those days, see if your pal is available for a lunch date.

Full hour: Treat yourself to lunch at your favorite restaurant with a friend and it will be the highlight of your workweek, we promise.

30 minutes: No time to escape the office? Call a friend, your mom, or your partner for some catch-up time. With everyone’s busy schedules, it might be best to plan a call in advance, which means you will have something to look forward to all day! Bonus if you do it while walking the block.

Quick 15: Send a few texts to your nearest and dearest saying you are thinking of them and want to see them soon. And actually say when. See if anyone is available for after-work drinks or a weekend hike—just the act of planning something fun will brighten your mood.

Don’t worry about work.

While sometimes you need a good venting session with co-workers, try to avoid talking about work too much on your lunch break. You need to escape your workplace worries during lunch and by talking about work you may end up even more stressed about office drama or a looming deadline.

Full hour: Stop in the cute boutique you drive by every day and have always wanted to check out, treat yourself to a latte, or find a peaceful park to sit in and enjoy nature.

30 minutes: If you can’t leave the office, spend your lunch break getting to know your co-workers on a more personal level. You’ll end up having more interesting things to talk about than how no one ever cleans the break room microwave.

Quick 15: Between all of the phone calls, water cooler chatter, and emails sometimes you just need a few minutes of quiet where no one is asking you for anything. Sneak out to your car for a few minutes of solitude if you can’t find a quiet spot to retreat to.

Run errands.

We know what you are thinking: Running errands sounds like work, not a break! But hear us out—you will have to do these errands after work when you are tired or on the weekend when you would rather be doing something fun anyways. By doing them on your lunch break, your free time will become a lot more free.

Full hour: You’d be surprised what kind of tasks you can accomplish on an hour-long lunch break. Need to wax a more discreet area like your underarms? It will only take fifteen minutes! Pack and ship that present to your grandma, drop off your new jeans at the tailor, or take your car to the car wash.

30 minutes: Stop by the pharmacy or dry cleaner so you can head straight home after work without stopping. As a bonus, you will avoid waiting in long lines with the after work crowd.

Quick 15: Make any phone calls you have been putting off (such as making doctors appointments or those dreaded calls to your cable company).

Do something totally mindless.

If your mind is on constant overdrive during the workday, try and shut off after you finish your lunch. Do something fun that requires little thought, but will keep you distracted from the work waiting for you after lunch.

Full hour: Tackle a project like knitting a scarf, sketching, or anything that will get your creative juices flowing. You will have to focus, but just enough to stop you from thinking about work.

30 minutes: If you had thirty minutes to kill at home you could find something fun to do, so why not at work? It can be time for a quick crossword puzzle, to practice a foreign language with an app, or to listen to a podcast.

Quick 15: Lean back and close your eyes or try meditating for a few minutes. Checking out during your lunch break will help you feel rested and ready to tackle the rest of your day.

 

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The 6 Rules of Shopping Organic

This article brought to you by The Everygirl!!

Almost every time I stand in the produce aisle at the grocery store, I have the same thought: Should I buy the $3.99 carton of berries or splurge on the organic one for eight bucks? I know that organic is better in terms of fewer unnecessary chemicals and hormones, but it is hard to put my money where my mouth is. (Literally.)

The same goes for home cleaning products, beauty items, and much more. Which organic purchase is really worth it? Where are my dollars actually making a difference? And what natural (or green or clean) items are truly better for my health, our community, and the environment?

Turns out there’s not one comprehensive list of all the things you should buy, but it’s clear that some choices are indeed better than others. Here’s the breakdown:

1. Decide why organic matters to you.

The struggle is real. Many of us want to be conscious, ethical consumers, but we also know these decisions come with a hefty price tag. Organic basically means you are likely not ingesting unnecessary chemicals or hormones, but motivation to buy organic likely differs depending on budget, background, and general preferences.

“I encourage my clients to think about what matters to them in terms of sustainable purchases,” says Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN of Whole Green Wellness. “There are usually three core reasons that motivate people: a desire for food safety in terms of pesticide residue, a need to support local farmers and communities as well as the general environment, and an interest in perceived health benefits.”

Source: Camille Styles

2. Make peace with what you can afford.

Most nutritional experts recommend going all organic as much as you can, particularly when it comes to food. My own personal rule of thumb is that if it goes on or in my body, I tend to invest in organic.

“For produce, I aim to buy organic for fruits and veggies where I eat the skin,” said Anne Mauney, MPH, RD of the blog fANNEtastic food. “Regarding organic food, I try to buy organic meat and dairy products whenever possible because I know that ensures the animals and the land are treated kindly and sustainably. From a nutrition standpoint, grass-fed meat (and dairy) also have a higher quantity of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.”

Of course, on the months when extra costs arise or my checkbook is feeling lean for whatever reason, this isn’t always feasible. That’s when I rely on the “dirty dozen,” a catchy phrase popularized by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which refers to the top 12 fruits and vegetables most commonly treated with pesticides. The idea is to spend your money on the organic versions of the “dirty dozen,” and stick with conventional in terms of the “clean dozen.”

For 2016, the EWG “dirty” list includes: strawberries, apples, nectarines, peaches, celery, grapes, cherries, spinach, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. The full lists can be found here, and serve as a great reference point if you’re unsure where to spend your extra cash on organic versus conventional. Or, you can generally stick to fruits, veggies, dairy, and proteins for organic and non-organic for items like nuts, oils, grains, and canned beans.

Source: Pinch of Yum

3. Know the difference between organic and “Natural.”

Think of the old math saying that goes, “Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.” Similarly, everything organic is natural, but not everything natural is organic. I mean, as much as I want to believe that the “all-natural” label on the bag of cheese puffs is truth, I know it isn’t—but apples marked organic are pretty straightforward.

Organic and natural are two very different things. The former is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and requires strict certification, which often explains the related price hike. The word “natural” is a food package term, also regulated by the FDA, but mostly refers to foods that are not altered chemically or synthesized in any way as well as derived from plants and animals. However, that doesn’t mean a natural item is a plant or animal.

The bottom line? Watch out for fancy packaging claims of something being “natural,” and stick to the words and labels that specifically say “100% organic,” “organic,” and “made with organic ingredients” as well as the official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic green seal.

Source: Amber Interiors

4. Prioritize the ingredient list.

Be mindful of other frequently used terms such as paraben-free, phthalete-free and sodium- or sulfate-free—which are primarily used in relationship to beauty products like shampoo, moisturizer, or makeup—and make sure you understand exactly what these words mean.

“Cosmetics and cleaning products are regulated entirely differently than food, so in these markets, your best bet is to ignore the front of the package, where all the marketing happens,” Wolfram suggests. “Look at ingredients list on the back instead, which should all be recognizable or easily researched.”

5. Educate yourself and use reliable sources.

Even though I’m happy to do a little Googling to understand what’s in my laundry detergent, I’d also love to be knowledgeable about what brands are better than others in terms of organic options. However, like many of you, I usually don’t have that kind of time. Nor am I a dietician or nutritionist—and that’s exactly why it is important to utilize reliable sources that do the legwork for you.

“Depending on your location, some people don’t have access to farmers markets, farmers, or building those local relationships, but ideally that’s the first line of purchasing produce. Beyond that option, try to purchase organic sources from companies who have integrity,” says McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN of Nutrition Stripped. “A quick search on their website and you can learn a lot about how they produce, manufacture, etc.”

Additional recommended resources include:

Source: White Gunpowder

6. Remember that a little is better than none.

Buying a little organic is better than nothing at all, and you can start slowly. Pick a few things to prioritize with every grocery shop in terms of food, and when you run out of a beauty or household cleaning item, consider replacing it with an organic equivalent.

“Wash your produce with running water. See what’s available in your market: Maybe the locally grown item is a better choice for you versus something organic that’s flown in from California and out of season,” says Wolfram. “There are so many variables—like the bath bomb from Whole Foods produced in a factory compared to the homemade body wash on Etsy from a random mom in Brooklyn.”

The point is to be conscious of your choices, and know that one organic purchase can go a long way in redefining your consumer habits for health related or environmentally friendly benefits.

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How to Travel More with a Full Time Job

I get it. I really, truly do. You have a plan, long-term goals, and a career to keep in mind. You intentionally navigate the course of day-to-day life but with a heart that yearns to chase the wind with wild abandon. You work to live, but you also live to travel.

I’ve taken a month’s leave to backpack Italy, spent a week touring the Irish countryside, earned some freckles after a few days in Puerto Rico, and traveled for ten days exploring the coast of Croatia—all while maintaining a 40-hour work week (that kept me in a cubicle) back home. Hear me in this: I don’t say that to gloat. I say that to grant hope. You don’t have to be a professional travel blogger in order to see the world. You can be a responsible adult who pays her bills and shows up on time while still flourishing in the bohemian spirit you love so much. In fact, you just might be better off for balancing both.

Here’s what to keep in mind so you do.

Get creative.

Source: Leone Niel

First off: If you’re aiming to see the world while maintaining a positive relationship with your employer, get any travel comparisons out of your head. We’ve previously discussed the necessity of planning travel to your own tune, but it bears repeating. So many people think that having a full-time job in a non-luxury field suddenly eclipses their ability to, say, spontaneously book a ticket to London. And that’s just not true. You can! But your trip just might not look like someone else’s who has time—or a leisurely attitude—on their side.

Sometimes, when you’re an adult, you can’t always get the trifecta of cheap, easy, and enjoyable in the voyage department. Getting creative with travel, while also honoring a full-time job, means you’ll have to think outside the box and you’ll probably end up sacrificing in one of these three areas.

The sooner you’re OK with that, the sooner you’ll begin to notice unexpected adventures pop up. Maybe it’s a photography workshop in New York, or a wine-tasting festival in Portugal. Perhaps it’s a friend who wants to visit another friend studying abroad. When you comes across something that strikes you, give it a second thought.

If travel is important enough to you that you’re wishing you did it more… then sometimes it’s as simple as first giving yourself permission to believe you actually can.

Be strategic.

Source: To Vogue or Bust

That said, permission to travel more doesn’t come with carte blanche to be irresponsible. There is some “strat-e-gery” involved with working and wandering. The best place to start is to look at your work or company’s calendar. What holidays do they grant off? What three-day weekends can you take advantage of? (Side note: Working for a university or in an academic setting typically observes more holidays than most corporate jobs. Win.)

– Look at the year and block out where it would make the most sense to take two or three PTO days off together.

– Have some calendar dates in mind, then watch for deals.

– Exclusively (and responsibly) use a credit card that will earn you mileage points.

– Sign up for flight alerts.

– Try taking two days at a time when straddling a weekend or a holiday. It tends to yield the best return on travel, especially when you’re able to get on a red-eye after work the day before. Sure, it’s not the most desirable flight, but once you’re away on vacation it won’t matter how you got there.

– Research conferences or volunteer opportunities that you could work into a perk of validating your career credentials.

A key point on being strategic here also has to do with finances. Since you’ll most likely be traveling on limited time, don’t feel like you have to blow your budget or cram your schedule whenever you get where you’re going. Limited travel can bless an agenda, meaning if you only have a few days let those days be simple and sweet. Three days renting an apartment in Budapest, for example, making your own meals and enjoying the city through one neighborhood’s lens can be infinitely more memorable than frantically trying to tour five major European cities in the span of a week. A good traveler prioritizes perspective.

Be understanding of your co-workers.

Source: Steffy’s Pros and Cons

Truthfully, I wouldn’t have been able to take a good portion of the trips that I have if I didn’t first build a relationship with my coworkers and superiors. No one wants to give a break to someone who hardly works.Even if your job is the absolute worst—a stepping stone, a learning experience, something that’s merely enabling you to live where you do—don’t let those that you work with know you feel that way. Show up, be reliable, act considerately, and develop positive professional relationships so your coworkers will want to champion your travel interests instead of criticize you for having them.

– Be honest with your manager instead of trying to be sneaky or “call in sick for a week” when you’re really in Aruba. Though not always easy or comfortable, explaining to a superior why a trip is important to you can earn more leniency—especially if you need to take vacation days in advance or you can prove that your time off won’t limit your value or commitment to the company.

– Be willing to work harder and longer, making it easier for someone to fill in for you while gone.

– Go the extra mile when someone else is on vacation. What goes around, comes around.

– Don’t automatically think that a pre-planned trip could cost you a promotion or being hired for something new. If it does, maybe question if such a work environment would really be right for you in the long run.

We’re all humans at the end of the day, not robots. We need time away from what we do so our creativity can be stretched and our spirit restored. A full-time job shouldn’t keep you from living a full and adventurous life. If anything, it keeps you from stressing about where to find that next freelance gig or contract client once you’re back.

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Man Crush Monday: Vaughan

This week, Vaughan is our Man Crush Monday!!

Vaughan just completed a 16 week fitness challenge and killed it!! When he first started, he was pretty unhappy where he was after a vacation and and an injury. now, he is over the moon with how far he’s come and it will only grow from here!

Great job, Vaughan!!

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Woman Crush Wednesday: Kim

This week Kim is our Woman Crush Wednesday!!

After Kim was injured and unable to do any high impact training, and 2 big trips overseas where she ate and drank anything she wanted she gained a large amount of weight. She was also feeling bloated, tired and felt unhealthy! She knew she had to make a drastic change.

She is only partway through her journey in nutritional rebalancing, and as a result has lost several pounds and inches. She feels lighter, her clothes feel looser, and overall she feels amazing.

Amazing job, Kim!!

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7 Very Simple Things You Can Do For The Best Workout Of Your Life

This article brought to you by Self!

Giving it your all during a workout will help put you that much closer to your fitness goal, whether you’re looking to build muscle, improve your health, lose weight, gain skills, or boost your confidence. But sometimes all you’ve got is nothing at all.

Not every workout is going to feel post-this-stuff-on-Instagram level stellar—that’s to be expected. However, there are a few things you can do that require very little effort, but will help add thatoomph to your training session. We asked trainers to share their best workout tips for getting in the zone, so you can walk away feeling energized and accomplished after every session.

1. Take a minute to breathe before you get started.

The first step to an awesome workout is getting in the right mindset. “Before a workout, I focus on my breathing to reduce any stress from work or my commute that may be sitting with me, giving me negative feelings before hitting the gym,” says Equinox trainer and martial artist Phoenix Carnevale.

2. And intentionally send yourself some ~good vibes~ with positive self-talk.

Once you’re dialed in, remind yourself that you’ve got this. “I start with positive self-talk to prevent myself from giving up or being overly critical,” says Carnevale. ” I tell myself, it’s my time now. Put the to-do list away and focus on the workout.”

Angela Mader, trainer and founder of Fitlosophy, also suggests taking a few minutes before your workout to journal about something you love about your body and what it can accomplish. Maybe it’s that your strong legs are capable of squatting like a boss, or your upper body is getting closer to being able to do a pull-up. Whether you jot it down in an actual journal or just the Notes app on your phone, it’ll start your workout on a grateful, positive note.

3. Listen to songs that will get you pumped up.

Positive self-talk isn’t the only way to get in the right mindset. “It always comes down to music for me,” says Amelia DiDomenico, C.P.T., master trainer at Crunch Gyms. (One of her top workout tips is that she’ll repeat her favorite tracks a few times during her training session.) “Sometimes I watch motivational videos on YouTube that are inspiring and get my mind in the right zone,” she adds.

4. But put your phone on airplane mode.

Avoid distractions by putting your phone on airplane mode, says Carnevale. “It can be super tempting to respond to messages and emails or check social media, but it wastes a lot of time and causes people to lose focus. Be selfish! Your workout is the time where being self-absorbed is a good thing, so focus on you for that hour.”

5. Walk into the gym with a plan.

“A clear plan is your secret weapon—knowing what you’re doing and why is half the battle,” says Jared Kaplan, founder of Studio 26. Having a plan of action for what to do when you get to the gym will help you feel prepared for your workout and on-track, because wandering around aimlessly wastes time. Wondering what to do? We’ve got you covered with these effective workout plans.

Carnevale also suggests having a good idea of the gym layout, so you don’t have to spend time searching for kettlebells when it’s time to do some swings. If you’re starting out at a new gym or just haven’t explored much, set aside extra time before one workout to get familiar.

6. Start with foam rolling.

Foam rolling helps break up ‘knots’ in muscles that can inhibit full mobility,” explains DiDomenico. This is also known as self-myofascial release, because you’re ‘releasing’ tightness and knots in your fascia, or connective tissue.

This is important for improving mobility, and the better your mobility, the better your workout is going to feel (and the better your results will be, too). Improved mobility also means you’ll be able to get deeper into exercises like squats and lunges. By getting deeper, you can make sure you’re using proper form and that the right muscle fibers are firing, giving you the progress you’re working for.

7. And don’t allow a crowd to ruin your training plan.

Your program says it’s time for bench rows but the crowded gym says those benches won’t be free for some time. Rather than standing around waiting for one to free up, move on the next part of your workout and come back later. The same goes for cardio equipment. “Stair-climbing machines all busy? Find a flight of stairs or hit the treadmill on an incline,” says Mader. Have a plan, but be flexible.

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10 Meals for Health Conscious Hungry Girls

This article brought to you by The Everygirl!!

I have a confession to make: I am a hungry girl. I always have been from childhood (I was the friend that kept asking you when dinner was) and I always will be (I’m currently counting down the minutes until lunch!). I’m that girl that is literally always down to eat.

I do make an effort to eat the right foods for my body so although I love eating, I think it’s important to be conscious of what you’re putting into your body. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for us health conscious hungry girls who just want a satisfying meal. Here are 10 colorful, nutrient-packed recipes that will satisfy your hungry girl cravings.

1. Quinoa Black Bean Tacos


Source: Cookie and Kate

Quinoa and black beans are great sources of protein, which will leave you feeling full and satisfied throughout your day.

2. Mexican Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad


Source: Half Baked Harvest

This colorful healthy salad will offset your lunchtime hunger because it’s packed with nutrients from all the yummy ingredients.

3. Healthy Kale Salad


Source: The Blonde Pantry

This salad is easy to make and adapt to your liking. Tip: Add your favorite meat for extra protein.

4. Avocado Pesto Tortellini Salad


Source: Port and Fin

The smooth, creamy avocado pesto sauce pasta salad will have you wanting the leftovers…now.

5. Tempeh Chili


Source: The Delicious Balance 

Settling into fall means you can incorporate more hearty soups into your meal rotation.

6. Pulled Crock Pot BBQ Chicken Sandwiches


Source: Haute and Healthy Living

Anything that has lots of sauce and made into sandwich automatically makes a delicious meal. And the sauce in this recipe is homemade so you know exactly what you’re eating.

7. Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad (with shrimp)


Source: Because Food is Life

One of the greatest things about salad is that no matter how many ingredients it has, they usually all compliment each other and taste amazing—just like this one.

8. Tex-Mex Turkey Burgers


Source: Spicy Southern Kitchen 

These burgers are the perfect fit for turkey lovers.

9. Make and Freeze Slow Cooker Veggie Tortilla Soup


Source: Oh My Veggies

This delicious, southwest inspired soup is perfect for veggie lovers and is easy to make. For meat lovers: Add in pre-cooked shredded chicken if you’d like!

10. Wheat Berry and Cherry Tomato Salad


Source: Green Evi

This salad is the perfect meal to eat in to escape what’s left of the hot summer heat.

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5 Ways to Make the Most of your Next Mental Health Day

This article is brought to you by The Everygirl!

We all need one every now and then—a self-proclaimed mental health day to pull back from the daily grind and recuperate. No matter how much you love your job, family, or life, sometimes you simply need a break from it all. In fact, taking a mental health day from time to time may be just the thing you need to kickstart your productivity and ensure you’re presenting your best self, day after day.

If you’re feeling burned out, it can be tempting to use the day to stay in bed and catch up on shows and movies. That’s your prerogative! But lounging around all day is more likely to leave you feeling lethargic than rejuvenated. When the stars finally align and you’re able to take your next mental health day, make it count. Here’s how:

1. Take back your morning

Source: Tessa Barton

Turn off your alarm and sleep in, letting the light wake you naturally.

TODAY, YOUR DAY CAN START ANY WAY YOU WANT IT TO.

Or, wake up early and spend your morning meditating, reading, jogging, enjoying a big breakfast, or anything you feel will prepare you for a great day ahead. How your morning begins can affect your mindset throughout the day.

So often, our mornings are frantic or routine. We are online as soon as we wake up, already thinking about the day’s to-dos as we drag ourselves out of bed, into the shower, and out the door. Today, your day can start any way you want it to.

2. Get outside

Source: @rachel.rosenbloom

How much of your life do you spend indoors, breathing in the same, stale office air day after day? Do you get enough sun and fresh air, or do you find yourself gazing longingly out of every window you pass while at work? If the weather is nice, take some time to be outside when you might normally be stuck at a desk. Bring a book to read or journal to write in, have a picnic, or bring a camera along to capture shots of the world around you. Or, just bring yourself and enjoy wandering outside without the stress of a timed lunch or rushed commute. Remember the bigger picture—there is more to life than the various sets of four walls you operate within on a regular basis.

3. Catch up on the ‘for pleasure’ stacks

Source: The Everygirl

Do you have a list of books or articles you’ve been saving to read or podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to? Take some time to catch up on all the things you’ve been interested in but haven’t had the time to explore–articles you’ve come across on Facebook, books recommended by friends, podcasts that have piqued your curiosity. Usually after work all we have energy for is dinner with a heaping helping of Netflix and shows that allow us to zone out for a few hours. Today, catch up on those things that will help you feel better informed and aware.

4. Reflect

Source: A Fabulous Fete

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS—AM I HAPPY? AM I DOING WHAT I WANT TO BE DOING? IS THERE SOMETHING THAT’S BOTHERING ME MORE THAN I PREVIOUSLY REALIZED?

I don’t know about you, but when I find myself most in need of a mental health day is about the same time I realize I haven’t checked in with myself in a while. The days start to blend together. We spend so much of ourselves focusing on the work that needs to be done or people who need to be tended to that we push our own thoughts and feelings to the side.

One of the most important benefits of a mental health day is that it gives us back time to remedy this. Draw a bath or pull out a journal and ask yourself these questions—Am I happy? Am I doing what I want to be doing? Is there something that’s bothering me more than I previously realized? It is important to set aside time to ask yourself specific questions, and writing down your honest responses will help you work through your current state of mind at a given moment. Count your blessings. Express gratitude. Feel yourself come alive again.

5. Pamper yourself

Source: @unistella_by_ek_lab

What mental health day would be complete without a little pick-me-up? Choose at least one special thing you can do for yourself on this day that you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe you cook all the time and want to go out or order in instead; or, maybe you never have time to cook and want to make yourself a fresh meal. You could get a massage, take yourself to a movie, book a home-cleaning service—the options are limitless. Weave in a treat or activity that will boost your happiness and relaxation vibes, allowing you to hit the reset button and feel fully charged before you resume your typical day-to-day.

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How to Maintain Your Workout Routine While Traveling

This article is brought to you by Cupcakes and Cashmere!

It’s hard enough to stick to a consistent, or even semi-regular, workout plan when you’re living your daily life at home. Throw travel into the mix, and it can feel near impossible to keep at it. But traveling can provide some of the best opportunities to work out, like a reason to explore a part of a city you wouldn’t have otherwise visited and an excuse to get to know locals. Here are 10 tips for maintaining your workout routine while traveling:

Many workout apps have programs now that mimic the results you’d get from a personal trainer. Apps like Skyfit ($9 per month), which is marketed towards frequent travelers, provide guided workouts that require as little as a treadmill or even just your bodyweight. Alternatively, you can invest in an app like Yoga Studio ($4.99) which has so many guided yoga videos you’d have to travel for years to get through them all, or set up a training program with Nike Training Club for free.

A huge part of getting to your workout is mentally preparing yourself for it. Before even leaving for your trip, take out the question of, “Should I work out this morning?” by writing it into your itinerary. In other words, squeeze in that “3-Mile Run” before (or on the way to): “See the colosseum.”

If you frequently travel within your country, consider investing in a package of classes from a studio with locations in multiple cities. In the United States, some of these studios include Pure Barre, Soul Cycle, Fly Wheel, Exhale, and several large chain yoga studios. That way, no matter the city you’re in, you know exactly what to expect from your workout and if they’re more expensive than a class you’d normally buy, consider them a travel splurge. If you get tired of doing one workout, consider investing in a month’s subscription to Classpass, an app where you pay a flat fee (currently starting at $60 for 5 classes per month) to attend classes in any of the cities they’re in, which is most large cities in the U.S.

When you’re booking your lodging for travel, consider some basics: Does the hotel come with a gym? Is your Airbnb situated in a good area for running? Is it in a central location, close to workout studios? Answering these questions and making adjustments before you arrive will make you all the more likely to get your heart pumping while you’re there.

Travel is less predictable than daily life and that’s part of the beauty of it—you want to be able to make a last-minute decision to go to the bistro across town for dinner, and your exercise shouldn’t get in the way of that, so get it done first thing in the morning and you’ll have the whole day to enjoy other things.

Often, exploring on foot is the best way to see a city. Plan your runs so that they go through neighborhoods you’ve wanted to visit, then plan a fun endpoint, like a coffee shop, and take a cab back to your hotel once you’ve had a croissant and a cappuccino (everything in balance).

If you’re visiting a coast, take a surf lesson or rent paddle boards; if you’re near nature, go for a hike. Incorporate the environment of the place you’re visiting into your workout to enjoy an activity unlike anything you’d do at home.

You don’t have to bring dumbbells to get a good hotel room workout in. Plenty of effective equipment is also practically feather-light, so go ahead and pack a resistance band, TRX, or sliders without worrying about overweight baggage.

Assuming that you’re traveling to somewhere you don’t visit often, it’s the perfect time to take full advantage of the deals studios offer to new clients. Flywheel, for example, offers their first class free, and many yoga studios offer $30 for a week of unlimited classes. Think of it as your traveler’s special.

The website Meetup has a function where you can search for exercise groups so you can join a group of people you’ve never met and play flag football on the beach to get your heart rate up while enjoying yourself and meeting locals. If you’re not a fan of meeting strangers, sign up for a Nike Run Club outing, which is available at Nike stores across the country, or even sign up for a race if it lines up with your stay to get a locals’ experience in a brand-new place.

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Fun and Free Workout Ideas

This article brought to you by Amy Roberts of Refinery29!

If you buy into the hype about the latest must-do boutique fitness class all the cool people on Instagram are doing (or if you lust after the gorgeous facilities you can see through the window at the new, expensive gym in your neighborhood), you might think that the more money you spend on exercise, the better shape you’ll be in. The good news is, that’s definitely not true.

While we don’t have anything against paying for a class or a gym membership you love if it fits into your budget, we’re not into the idea that you need to spend money to get a good workout, for a few reasons.

First of all, there’s a chance that whatever you’re paying for actually isn’t a great fit for your exercise preferences or your lifestyle. Maybe cardio machines totally bore you. Maybe you find the weight room intimidating and uncomfortable. Or maybe your gym or studio is simply too inconvenient to get to, so you hardly ever actually go. Yet you’re paying for that fancy membership anyhow. By forcing yourself to aim for the gym- or studio-rat life (and failing to actually do it) you’re not only wasting money, you’re also not doing your health any favors. What’s the point of paying for the perks of a membership if you don’t really like it, or worse, rarely go?

And on the flip side, if you really think you need a class or a gym to work out, but you straight-up can’t afford it, this can lead you to skip exercise altogether.

The bottom line is that a good workout is simply one that you’ll actually do. So, whether you’re looking for cheap ways to get fit, or just seeking out fun, new ideas for supplementing your routine, all you need is a little creativity. Not sure what to do? We’ve got you covered. Click ahead for seven great ways to break a sweat without opening your wallet.

Make It A Game

One of the main benefits of hitting up a class is that you have a set agenda to get through, so it’s much harder to stop in the middle because you’re tired or bored. You can deal a little fun (and structure) into your workout with a deck of cards.

Assign an exercise to each suit and do the number of reps that comes up on the card. The exercise possibilities are endless: Go more cardio-focused with moves such as jumping jacks, or boost your strength with moves like lunges (front, reverse, and side) and walkouts. Or “HITT” it big-time with high-intensity, full-body moves like mountain climbers. Aces are low in this scenario, so just do one rep for those. If you draw a jack, do 11 reps. For a queen, do 12; for a king, do 13.

You could do: spades for squats, clubs for alternating side lunges, diamonds for jumping jacks, and hearts for burpees (because who doesn’t love a burpee?). Challenge yourself to get through the entire deck.

Build A DIY Home Gym

If you’re one of those people who loves the weight room, but hates the slog of actually making it to the weight room, you can bring the gym to you with equipment you have around your house.

That sturdy coffee table and that couch without cushions can become a bench or a step. A wooden chair can become a multi-use fitness tool. (In fact, here you’ll find 30 days of chair workouts.) A full gallon jug of water or milk weighs about eight pounds and can be used as a free weight or even a kettlebell. A duffel bag stuffed to the gills with towels can become a makeshift sandbag for loading squats or lunges or doing bent-over rows (hold the duffel from where the long shoulder strap connects to the bag), military presses (hold the bag close in right above your chest before you press it overhead), or chest presses (cradle the duffel in your hands, shoulder-width apart).

Find Some Stairs

If you’ve got a flight of stairs (or even better, several flights in an apartment or office building), you’ve got a fabulous lower body and cardio workout.

Make it total body by building in intervals: Run up, walk down, do 10 pushups (elevate your hands on whatever stair tread you need to in order to put your body on the incline necessary for good form).

Next time, take the stairs two-by-two on the way up, walk down, then do a set of 10 frog jumps (start squatted down with your arms between your knees, then jump up, throwing your hands into the air) on the landing at the bottom. You can also play with taking the stairs sideways (lead with one leg onto each tread, and follow with the second). Other great body-weight moves to throw in: squats, walkouts, planks (front and side), and plank step-ups.

Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of work, total — the number of rounds will depend on how many stairs you have, and how fast you go!

Run For Fun

You don’t need to be a “runner” to get a good cardio workout using your own two feet. Try an interval run/walk or even speed-walk/easy walk, fartlek-style, where you make it a game as to when you accelerate and when you slow down.

Choose landmarks such as mailboxes, telephone poles, or blocks, and vary your pace as you go from one to the next. Or use them as stations for integrating body weight exercises for a strength-training kick where you stop to do body weight exercises (squats, lunges, pushups, etc.) in sets of 10 or 15. It doesn’t matter how far you run or walk in each interval, as long as you challenge yourself and make it to your next landmark. A good session will last in total 30 to 45 minutes.

Watch It On TV

Or on your laptop. Bring the swank studio to you with fitness classes via your Roku (try channels Free Fitness Videos and Daily Burn). Or you can use Amazon Prime Video; just search “fitness” for tons of options like Kundalini yoga and HIIT workouts from Lumowell.

Online, you can stream great yoga options onGaia.com, and pretty much everything else onFitnessBlender.com. YouTube can also be a source of endless fitspiration: BeFit andBlogilates are good places to start.

Or Turn Your Phone Into A Personal Trainer

While there’s no real substitute for in-person one-on-one coaching, apps like Nike+ Training Club and JEFIT offer not just individual workouts but customized programming to help you reach your goals — and hold you accountable if you skip your sessions.

Make It A Date

Feeling a little less-than-motivated? Schedule an activity date with a friend or yoursignificant other, so you can socialize and sweat in one go. Rent bikes (or dig yours out of storage) and pedal the waterfront or local Rails to Trails paths. Take a hike at a nearby scenic trail. Check out the local rec department for fitness-oriented events. Or, sign up for a one-off fitness class at a local studio as a way to get ideas for your solo workouts — this is a fun activity for you to do together, and it’s much cheaper than a membership. Another idea: Make your date with someone who has free guest passes to a gym! Hey, it’s not mooching if you’re good company.