Tuesday, 11 December 2012

“Feeling blue” days survival guide

I consider myself a fairly positive and energetic person but once in a while I get into miserable mood due to external factors like bad weather, inability to afford to buy something uber expensive, a rude cashier in a grocery store or unexpectedly high cell phone bill. Things happen and frankly can make one’s mood to fluctuate from happiness to sadness. Another day I was feeling blue for no apparent reason: I was snapping at people around me and hating myself for not being able to fit into size 6 dress. In the middle of my self-pity loathing session I realized that my negative thinking is clouding my judgment creating a “snow ball” effect of “problems”. I got to snap myself out of this “poor me-my life is not as good as I want it to be” mood I thought to myself. What are the ways? I am not the one to go look for a shoulder to cry on -I am not a fan of nagging personas myself. So what takes? A few simple changes in a routine as I discovered can elevate the mood and serve as a temporary pick me up strategy.
  • Start moving! Go for a walk. Yes, regardless of the weather- bundle up if it’s winter and spend 30min-60min strolling in a residential area or better so on the trails/forest. There is something enchanting and soothing about walking solo in the forest away from busy streets with its annoyances. Take a deep breath of a cool, fresh air and pick up a pace: brisk walk will break a sweat and energize you!
  • Try meditating. There are numerous techniques and practices in yoga that promote the state of “thoughtless awareness” and relaxation. Some involve gentle stretching and static poses, some call for a foot soak accompanied by calming music. I usually just lie down on the bed or carpet, close my eyes and let everything go.  Doing just that feels exceptionally good considering most of us are in a constant motion and have hard times slowing down let alone laying still for 20min. So give a few meditation techniques a try and you can discover what works best for you.
  • Write a journal entry. Put your thoughts on paper: your worries, concerns, moods. If you are feeling exceptionally creative- try writing possible causes and solutions. It’s sort of a “cleansing” act that allows you to rid your brain of “unhealthy” thoughts. It works. I have found some of my older journal entries recently- it was an amusing read!:)
  • Do a quick workout- a 30min circuit of body weight exercises accompanied by a funky beat is the best pick me up method for me! During exercise, our bodies naturally release “feel good” hormones serotonin and dopamine. Any kind of exercise will do the trick be it running, swimming or punching a heavy bag- depending on your fitness level and personal preference.
  • Cuddle your pet (if you have one!). It might sound silly at first but it is a proven fact that our furry friends have healing powers and might just be the cure for those “feeling blue” days. So go ahead and spend some time playing or just relaxing with your dog/cat and harness some of their boundless affection!

Here you have it. Next time the “blue days” hit you will be well equipped to fight back!;)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Let's talk money!

I think the first time I started budgeting my money was when I graduated from college. Money borrowed from the government for educational and “miscellaneous” purposes were spent at an alarming rate during 4 years so it was a perfect time to educate myself about basic finance. And a good choice it was! By making right choices and saying “no” to many material possessions that I “wanted” not “needed”, I was able to pay off my hefty student loan in 3 years and put some money away for travels. Yes, I was fortunate enough to live with my family and do not pay rent but let’s admit there are plenty of young women and men who manage to accumulate debt even when they are given an opportunity to get ahead financially- in this case living at home. Having said that, I strongly believe that in today’s world you won’t be able to get ahead financially without knowledge about personal money management including a proper budgeting.

Set goals for your savings. For instance calculate how much you need for that long planned trip to Hawaii and see how much you have to put aside a week/month to reach your goal! Maybe you have a home renovation project in mind? It’s a lot easier to save if you can visualize your “destination”.

Create a budget and stick with it if just for a month or two. This is the best way to get a clear perspective on your financial situation and figure out what are your spending habits.

Set a direct deposit- if you don’t see it you won’t spend it! I discovered it when I was on the salary job at the bank. The money was deducted the same day my salary was deposited into my account. I didn't miss the money and I was pleasantly surprised to see accumulated sum after a few years!

Don’t be a “scrooge” instead learn how to spend your hard earned cash wisely.  Always think twice before making a purchase. Invest in good quality things- buying cheap clothes/shoes rarely pay off. Decide for yourself where you can splurge and where you can save. For example I will never buy cheap jeans or jewellery but I will do my own manicure/pedicure.  Dining out on a regular basis is a habit of many but it can also be quite depleting on your wallet.

Spend money on “experiences” including travel. If you have a choice- try to spend a good chunk of your savings on “experiences” rather than material things. It is a proven fact that we get a longer lasting happiness from actually experiencing life be it an adventure travel, a sporting event or a cooking class. Plus experiences create memories for many years and we rarely regret it unlike some impulse purchase at a department store.

Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Our desire to buy is constantly fueled by media/promotions/advertisement. We are being tricked into believing we need something to look and feel better. Moreover, we often try to keep up with neighbors or co-workers forgetting that it is an infinite race. Everyone should follow their path in life when it comes to spending money: there is no “one fits all” scenario.  

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Congratulations! You have decided to start working out. Excellent idea! We all have been there: starting something new is never easy. But with the right approach and a positive mind set you can make changes in your life and inspire others to do so. Below are few tips for newbies!

Identify your goals. What is it that you want to accomplish? Shedding a few pounds before the wedding? Training for a 5k? Becoming stronger/leaner/faster? There is always a reason why we start to work out in the first place. Health concerns can be a reason or simply a needed change of a lifestyle. Hopefully the desire to achieve a specific goal will help you to foster a healthy, balanced lifestyle for years to come. Monitoring your progress is important so write things down to see what works and what does not.

Pick a sport/fitness regimen that you get excited about. It is important to start something you will be able to stick with for a while( I am not saying long term because I believe in variety as every routine will eventually get stale and boring!). It can be running, dancing, swimming or martial arts. If you are unsure- give all of it a try! Too many novices get a gym membership as the first step of a new workout plan but there are so many other ways to have a productive workout and positive experience! In warmer months make great outdoors your playground as there are hundreds of exercises that do not require any equipment.

Join the group (not necessarily a gym)- social aspect of working out cannot be underestimated especially when you are just starting. There are running clinics and small boot camps for people of different fitness levels out there. Instantly you will be surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar goals. A lot of friendships are forged that way! You won’t find motivation and support working out in your living room in front of TV! Achieving goals together is a priceless experience.  Living on the coast in Sydney gave me a new perspective on group work outs. It helps to see working out as a social activity as oppose to a daily chore. So if you are feeling confident why not to start your own fitness/running group in your area?

Re-think your diet. Start a food diary!  I know, most of us simply don’t have time to record all meals on a daily basis but I suggest doing it just for a week or two. You will be amazed what findings can come out of it! For instance I discovered that I was eating very little protein and way too many carbs and sugar. There are amazing tools available online. I personally like www.sparkpeople.com for its user friendly interface and large library of foods to choose from. Once you identify what nutrition you are lacking or eating in excess you can plan your menu around it. 

Let your family/peers know about your fitness goals and intentions. Again, encouragement is essential for a long term commitment. Make your friends and family members aware about your goals and share your progress as you move forward. Maybe someone will decide to join you along the way! Nothing but good can come out of your “bragging”!

Don’t forget Results take time and commitment: think positive and be patient!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Runner's nutrition basics

Out of all seasons I think I like early fall the most. Mild sunshine and crisp air is perfect for lacing up those sneakers and heading out for a jog/run. And of course it is important to “fuel” yourself for this activity. Even after reading numerous articles on runner’s nutrition I am still puzzled and confused about what to eat before and after in order to have a productive workout and a proper recovery.  What really are those snacks that contain the right ratio of carbs/protein/fat? I decided to compile a list of foods that are recommended for runners by dietitians, sports nutritionists and athletes themselves.

  • A snack that’s high in complex carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, beans, peas or potatoes. Those are complex carbs and are better before a run because they break down more slowly and provide a more constant source of energy.
  • Another good pick is a trail mix that includes omega-3 rich walnuts, thiamin rich sunflower seeds, iron rich raisins and almonds.
  • Energy bar is a decent choice if nothing else is at hand. Just read the label and make sure there are no processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners. There are plenty of choices on the market! You can even make you own bars using good quality nuts and seeds. http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/1457/homemade+muesli+bars
  •  My personal favorite is banana+peanut butter combo. Bananas are high in fiber (keeps you full) and potassium (may prevent muscle cramps and aid digestive system). Keep peanut butter portion fairly small though (1-2 tablespoons) since it is high in calories.

Post workout:

A snack should contain more protein than carbohydrates.
  • Greek Yogurt +berries (can be blended in a smoothie or eaten as a yummy desert). Greek yogurt with its rich consistency beats regular low fat yogurts any time of the day! Greek yogurt can also be substituted by cottage cheese. 
  • Surprisingly decadent pick- Chocolate milk! It has the optimal carb-to-protein ratio and some nutritionists say it’s a better way to replenish energy than sports drinks.
  • As a savory snack try Hummus+Vegetables (celery, cucumber, carrots, red peppers). Hummus comes in variety of flavors and has high protein content and veggies make a perfect “dipping sticks” and pack lots of fiber.
  •   Apple slices+almond butter make a sweet-savoury crunchy snack. Richness of nut butter is offset by crispy and light fruit.

Well, we got the nutrition part down, now it's time to clock in those km's!:)
Barefoot running on Bondi Beach in Sydney.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

How I did it: Down Under (Australia) edition.

Going to Australia for a working holiday was by far the best thing I have ever done in my life. It was also the hardest decision to make. Leaving a cushiony job, a comfort of family home and just going somewhere so far seemed a bit crazy at a time.  I will be honest I had my doubts before committing to the trip. My problem is I like to sit in a comfort zone. I am one of those people who don’t mind some mild changes but prefer to have a stable, predictable lifestyle. It’s neither good nor bad but it gets boring. So I decided to act- do something drastic. I quit my banking job, announced my decision to my very surprised parents and started packing bags (lots of them!).   Time flew by and before I knew it we were a few days away from saying good-bye’s to our families and friends for at least 6 months. Quite naturally my internal worries peaked at that exact moment.  Yes, I was 26 and yes I was going with my boyfriend of 2 years, there would not be much of a culture shock and I have purchased a return ticket, yet “Did I make the right decision?” question was loudly buzzing in my head…..

Fast forward almost a year and I look back with a smile. I am in Canada and miss Sydney immensely (who wouldn’t?  the beach, the ocean, fit people, yummy food, great weather… the list goes on but it will be a separate blog entry!)Only now I am starting to realize that at the time I fiercely  grabbed  an opportunity by the tail and didn’t let my hesitancy  to stop me from doing something I would regret not doing for the rest of my life.  It was a wonderful journey of self-discovery. I learned how to grocery shop on a budget, cook, live in a tiny room, make sophisticated coffee beverages (while working at the coffee shop) but most importantly I learned that it doesn’t matter where you are: it is who you are with what matters.  And I got lucky.  I couldn’t have wished for a better “partner in crime”, a person to share my new experiences, sadness and happiness with. I actually believe that long distance travel is a great “bootcamp” for partners (before marriage)- learning how  to survive in new surroundings and make things work together is not an easy task to accomplish( especially if you never lived together before) but doable if both are willing to compromise, listen and adapt.

The moral of my story is simple and is well summed up in this good quote I like: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.  We shall take chances more often and say “Yes!” to things that might seem unrealistic and wrong- it will all be good and worthwhile at the end! 
Sydney, Australia

Monday, 3 September 2012

The importance of a.m routine or how to optimize your time in the morning

Mornings can be as blissful or stressful as we make them. I have personally tested the theory/quote 'Rise and shine. The early bird gets the worm'. Well, perhaps not all of us are fans of rolling out of bed with the sunrise ( especially in the winter!) but properly organizing your time upon waking up can have a positive impact on the whole day ahead. If you, like myself, have a luxury of having "me" time ( read: no babies, young kids) in the morning try following these simple steps and hopefully the notion of "bad morning" will be a thing of the past:)

-Upon waking up smile and tell yourself something positive: "it's a beautiful, sunny day out" or "i am going to rock this day/presentation/interview..", " i am so lucky and grateful for having a person who loves me beside me in bed"... Don't underestimate a power of self-talk!It does work:)

-Do yourself a favor and put aside that laptop/ipad/remote control and read a book instead! Yes, a good old paper book. On a topic that is related to your career. You will actually get some knowledge since most of the time we are bombarded with useless and unrelated to our lives "information". Allocate a certain time slot of uninterrupted reading and stick to it. Self-education is a choice of a few but I think it is well worth it.

-Now, that you have nourished your brain it's time to get physical! Choose whatever you prefer: strike a few yoga poses, go for a swim or power walk/jog- any activity that will start you blood flowing! Trust me if you have time to work out in the morning- do it! Quite often you will come up with tons of excuses not to do so later on in a day! 

-Time for a GOOD brekky! Personally, breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and for a good reason: it is in the morning when our bodies need the most food. So go ahead and have a big bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with cinnamon and crumbled walnuts, egg frittata with vegetables of choice or peanut butter toast with a banana! Try to avoid items high in sugar/saturated fat ( make those yummy croissants or danishes an occasional indulgence rather than a norm). I am hooked on Earl Grey tea in the morning but it can be green tea, freshly squeezed juice or a glass of milk. 

-Last but not least....Before you leave for work/school don't forget to give a big hug to your loved ones and tell them a few nice words! Who doesn't like affection?;)

Happy Morning!!

A short intro...

I am thrilled to "dip my toes" in the world of blogging! The main purpose of my new blog is to spread my knowledge and share ideas on topics I am passionate about such as travelling, fitness, food and design. All articles and sketches reflect my personal opinion unless otherwise stated.

Travelling. I have recently caught a "travel bug" and even though I can't quite call myself a Globetrotter yet, I visited a few nice countries and will post photos and suggestions of my favorite spots. My quest for new discoveries is never ending hence you will also see my dream destination and travel plans!

Fitness. Now, I am not a professional fitness trainer... But I have been working out for over 10 years now and know a fair bit about exercising, nutrition and motivation. I am also an avid runner so stay tuned for fitness-related articles!

Food. I love food. My attempts to "diet" fell through profoundly so instead I eat what I want in moderation. I also like experimenting with different recipes and new ingredients. Eating out is also a part of my life but I try to keep it for special occasions- that way it feels more special and is easier on the wallet!;)

Design. Ever since I was a little girl I was into arts&crafts. I made my own doll house with furniture and sew clothes for my Barbies. As the time went by I started taking interest in interior design/product design and decorating which is probably why I hold Bachelor Degree in Industrial Design. Expect to see some articles about innovation in design and architecture around the world and more.

Career. Since I am in transition of changing careers ( from ID to Ergonomics) I am becoming more and more involved into human factors topics. In hopes of making my readers aware of many facets of ergonomics I will publish informative articles and pictures.