Podcasts I'm Currently Loving

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Hi friends!

I have found some really great podcasts lately and I wanted to share them with you! If you have any that you love, please share with me in the comments because I'm very into podcasts at the moment and would love new recommendations!

In no particular order:

  1. 3 in 30 Takeaways For Moms: This is such a great one for moms! It offers 3 tips each episode that are so applicable and thought provoking and helpful and encouraging and INFORMATIVE! My very favorite episode that I think every single mama should listen to is Episode 023: How To Stop Looking At Your Phone So Much-And Why It Matters
  2. The Skinny Confidential Him and Her: This podcast is pretty entertaining and also has a lot of great business and wellness tips!
  3. Wild + Free: A great one for anyone considering (or currently) homeschooling their children. Ben and I plan on at least trying out homeschooling our boys, and I have found this podcast so informational, encouraging, and inspiring.
  4. The Core Connections Podcast: I love this podcast so very much! The host is Erica Ziel, the creator of the Core Rehab Program (click here for more information) and Knocked Up Fitness (click here for more information) - two fitness programs that I seriously can't rave about enough. The Core Rehab Program helped me to heal my body postpartum, including helping me to close up my diastasis recti (abdominal separation). Knocked Up Fitness is what I'm currently doing - it's a prenatal fitness program and I love it so much!
  5. Babes and Babies: This is just a fun one! If you're a Bachelor fan, then you probably know Jade Roper and Carly Waddell. This is their podcast and they talk about all sorts of topics from motherhood, babies, beauty, health, etc...
  6. How I Built This: This podcast is a popular one! Each episode is an interview with a successful person who has started a well-known company. Some of the episodes include interviews with the founders of Lyft, Lululemon, Minted, Bob's Red Mill, Dermalogica, Wayfair, Stitch Fix, The Knot, Wikipedia....etc... Very very interesting and inspiring!
  7. Super Soul: There's just something about Oprah! I mean, who doesn't love her! This is her podcast and she chats with tons of different inspirational people.
  8. Skimm'd From The Couch: If you've followed me for the past few years, then you know I LOVE The Skimm (click here for more information). I look forward to reading it every morning. It's honestly the only source of news that I consume. The founders of The Skimm created this podcast and they interview successful women. Very inspiring!
  9. The Tim Ferriss Show: Tim Ferriss is one interesting guy. Not to mention, he is a VERY successful business man and his podcast is packed with cool facts, motivation, health and wellness hacks, business strategies, etc... It is such a good one!

Definitely check some of these podcasts out if you're on the hunt! And please share any other recommendations!

Have a wonderful Independence Day tomorrow!!

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What I'd Like You To Know About My Anxiety

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I've been wanting to write this post for awhile, but it's been a hard one to make myself actually start. Whenever I thought about what I wanted to say or how I wanted to approach this topic, I got overwhelmed and honestly, I got anxious. Thinking about writing this post on anxiety gave me anxiety. Ha! The subject is so huge, so complicated, so hard to explain, and so deep that I feared that this post would end up being LOOOOOONG. Too long. So I've just decided to keep it as short and simple and to the point as possible.

When I mentioned recently on Instagram that I have social anxiety, I got a lot of messages and comments from people who suffer from the same thing and who wanted to hear more about my experience. I love the idea of giving some insight into anxiety and hopefully helping at least one other person who may feel the same way. But on a more selfish level, I more want to write this post for the people in my life to read and to maybe have a better understanding of me, why I am the way that I am, why I act the way that I act, etc...

I have no real plan for how to lay this out, so I think I'll just dive in. I apologize in advance if this seems disjointed or unorganized or confusing! And I want to just say THIS right up front:

I'm a happy person! I am totally ok and I love my life and this is not some huge sad thing that negatively impacts my every single day. It's just something I deal with that impacts *certain aspects* of my life, but not to the extent that I am unable to deal. I'm ok! I just want to share my experience in case it is helpful to other people in even the slightest bit! :)

You might think I'm shy. Well, maybe I am a bit. But, really, I just have awful social anxiety. My whole life I've grown up being told that I'm quiet, shy, an introvert. I've believed it. I've felt it. But I also knew that there was so much more to it. Rather than just feeling apprehensive or a bit "shy" around new people, I feel an almost debilitating surge of anxiety.

And not just around new people. Around people I've known for years and years.

Family members, friends, coworkers...you name it. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people that I DON'T experience this with: my parents, Ben, and James. Really. That's it. Every single other social interaction sends me into a nervous, anxious attack of panic - some obviously much worse than others. Some aren't so bad, sure. But sometimes I have BAD attacks.

Here's Some Of What I feel/Experience:

-inability to catch my breath

-surging chatter and noise in my head so I can't focus on the conversation at hand

-choking on my own spit (no really, haha)

-shaking

-sweating

-hot flashes

-completely consumed by analyzing what my face is doing and how the other person is seeing me and what they are thinking while we are talking

-obsessing over which eye to focus on when talking with someone...like, do I stare in between their eyes? Do I focus on one eye? Do I switch between eyes?!?! haha

-complete blanking of anything to say...like...I go brain dead.

-heart racing

-light headed

-dread

-panic

You get the idea.

I used to dread going to school. Yes yes...I know, EVERY kid dreads going to school. But I mean, I used to DREAD it. Like...panic, fear, hyperventilating each and every morning. Over thinking every single step I would have to take to get to my first class, every single person I may have to pass in the hall... I missed A LOT of school because some days I just honestly mentally COULDN'T walk into the school.

Now you may ask, if I am on medication for this. The answer is no. Because, while I have it bad, others have it so much worse. Because I am still able to function. Because I am, in most cases, able to put on at least some sort of a front - a mask - and appear at least relatively calm and normal... relatively. ;) Other people can't. That's when you need medication. I don't want to be on medicine for this and I am able to cope and live and function without it. But, I guess the point of this is that it's hard. Sometimes, it's really hard. The mere idea of a lunch date with a friend, or meeting a group of my husband's co workers, or going to a family dinner sends me into a panic-y attack of stress and anxiety and dread. It sucks. Being social is genuinely HARD for me. haha

Now, here is something I'd like you to know:

The worst...WORST...let me repeat this: THE WORST thing that people do or say when I try to explain how I feel is to say "oh but everyone feels that way!" "I feel that way too in certain situations!" "oh, those are normal feelings!" "everyone feels like that deep down!" and other similar things to that affect...

Because let me tell you this: not everybody DOES feel this way. Anxiety is real. It's a thing. It's a mental thing. It's a medical thing. And unless you have it, you DON'T know what it feels like.

Yes, you may get nervous meeting new people. Yes, you may dread socializing, small talk, chatting, etc... Yes, you may prefer to stay in and watch a movie rather than going out with others... Yes... THAT stuff is normal. But to have trouble BREATHING, SWALLOWING, THINKING, STANDING, FUNCTIONING, FORMING WORDS...to have actual physical symptoms...that's not normal. That's anxiety.

So, the BEST thing to do when someone tries telling you that they are experiencing something like this is to acknowledge how they feel. Accept it. Hear what they are saying. Even if you don't understand it...understand this: something much bigger, deeper, and darker is going on than you could ever fully comprehend. The person telling you these things is suffering and is letting you in on a little of their secret. So...just hear it. Tell them you're sorry, tell them that may be tough. Acknowledge that you don't understand what that feels like. 

But please don't dismiss what they are feeling as less than what it is.

Here are a few things that help me with my social anxiety:

-focusing on my breath

-focusing on happy thoughts

-trying to tune out my own internal commentary when I'm talking to someone or listening to someone

-meditating

-praying

-positive self talk

-being able to laugh at myself and see the humor in it ;)

A few last thoughts:

-This post makes this sound like social anxiety is such a dramatic part of my life...it's not! I promise! Trust me, after almost thirty years of living with this, it really only impacts me to the extent of the situation. So, for example, when I'm living my life, I'm fine, I'm so happy. When I run into someone I know at the grocery store and choke on my own spit and start sweating and babbling and my eyes start darting back and forth between their eyes...it sucks. haha! That's when it impacts me. But then I walk away and I am able to laugh at myself and roll my eyes, and then I'll tell Ben about what happened and we'll laugh and it becomes no big deal. Ben and I are able to joke about it...that's one of the many reasons I love him so much. He makes me feel normal. He makes me feel safe. He makes me feel fine. :)

-I've only recently really started understanding what it is I suffer from, and with that has brought about an immense amount of relief. Now that I know that what I feel has a name and is a legitimate thing and that other people suffer from it to, I don't feel so out of control and weird and dysfunctional. I feel like...I just have social anxiety. So now I can deal with it!

-After giving birth to James and going through a traumatic pregnancy and birth experience, my anxiety skyrocketed. For several months, I suffered from postpartum anxiety and it was very hard and dark to have to deal with that when trying to adjust to being a new mom. But now things have leveled back out and I feel better than ever. Am I nervous that it will get bad again after giving birth to my second child? A little. But I know I can get through it if it does.

So, the point of all of this is not for pity, or to make you think I'm suffering on a daily basis, or that I'm unhappy, or that I'm crazy... haha It's just to give you a little glimpse into my experience. I hope that if you have any similar experiences that you'll share them with me! It's always so nice to know that we're not alone, despite all the crazy weirdness that we each may deal with.

Thanks for reading, friends!

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2017 Gift Guide For Self-Care + Wellness

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Happy day-before-Thanksgiving!! Not gonna lie - I'm stressing out a teeny tiny bit! We are hosting two Thanksgiving dinners at our house this year, one tomorrow and one on Saturday. I keep thinking of new things that need to be done, and I'm not sure when exactly I'm going to do it all, haha. Oh well, I'm just trying to relax and not get too intense about it. What are your plans for this Thanksgiving?

What with all the stresses that inevitably come along with the holiday season, I thought it would be nice to share a few ideas of gifts that you can get for others (or yourself ;)) that help to encourage self-care and wellness. If you haven't seen my Gift Guide For Her and my Gift Guide For Him yet, you can view them here: Click here for the Gift Guide For Her and Click here for the Gift Guide For Him.

First let me say that I have been really enjoying using my essential oils and my diffuser lately to help me stay calm and centered. I love anything from Young Living. My friend Kristen introduced me to it and she is a wealth of knowledge about oils and how to use them (remember her guest blog post about Essential Oils and How To Use Them? Read it here!) If you have any questions about Young Living, or if you want to place an order, you can contact Kristen at kristensuppa@gmail.com. Anything from the Young Living Holiday catalog would make a GREAT gift for anyone on your list!! Shop the Young Living Holiday Catalog here.

I also think that gifting someone a subscription to Bulldog Yoga would be a great idea. I love taking online classes from Bulldog Yoga - it is seriously INTENSE and such a good workout! For anyone looking to kickstart their health and fitness game, Bulldog Yoga would be an amazing gift!! Click here for more information about Bulldog Yoga!

Below some more self-care and wellness gift ideas! You can click on each picture below to shop the item and get additional information on it. Each picture is a link to the item page.

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5 Easy Beauty Hacks

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Hi everyone!

How is your week going? What's new? Have any fun plans that you're looking forward to in the coming weeks? Fill me in! I love hearing from you guys!!

I hope you had a great Fourth of July! Mine was super low-key. Ben, James, and I went to the cabin in Montana over the weekend, which was really fun. We came back Monday night, and Ben had to work on the 4th. James and I spent the day lounging around the house and recovering from the long car ride the day before. James was in bed by 6:30pm, and then Ben and I watched a movie and went to bed early. #parentlife :)

Anyways, I've been wanting to share some easy beauty hacks with you guys. These are things that you can incorporate into your day that will help you to look and FEEL glowing and healthy!

  1. Collagen I have recently started adding a scoop of this collagen into my morning cup of coffee, and also into my afternoon cup of tea. Collagen has SO many benefits, and I'll be doing a whole blog post about it soon, so check back for that, probably next week! Collagen helps to reduce wrinkles, it helps to heal your gut, it helps with joint pain, it's good for your hair, skin, and nails...it's so good. It's such an easy thing to incorporate into your daily routine, and I have seen a major difference since I started using it. I love this one - you can get it here.

  2. Apple Cider Vinegar I love taking an apple cider vinegar shot every morning to help wake up my digestive system. Apple cider vinegar helps with weight loss, it's a mood enhancer, it helps give you energy, it has natural antibiotic properties, it can assist in controlling high blood sugar levels...the list goes on and on! I like this brand (get it here) but any Apple Cider Vinegar WITH THE MOTHER (VERY IMPORTANT TO GET ONE THAT SAYS 'WITH THE MOTHER') will do. I mix about a tablespoon of ACV with about half a cup of pure, natural pineapple juice and a little honey. So good!!

  3. Probiotic Probiotics are good for a NUMBER of reasons. They help with digestive and urinary health, gut health, allergies, stress, immunity...just to name a few things! Taking a probiotic can be ESPECIALLY important for us postpartum mamas. I'll do a blog post about this as well, if you guys would like more information! Let me know. Anyways, definitely talk to your doctor before starting to take any supplements, including a probiotic. I take this one.

  4. Oils I've been battling postpartum hormonal acne for awhile now, and one of the things that has really helped has been using facial oils. I love this one so much! I was sent it complimentary for testing purposes, and I seriously LOVE IT. Get it here. I cleanse my face (morning and night) and then spray it with my Mother Dirt mist (see number 5 below!) and then massage my face with this oil before applying my moisturizer (I use this one). My skin is so much more moisturized and dewy and clear since I've started this regimen. Definitely recommend oils!!

  5. Mother Dirt AO Mist This is a spray that you mist all over your face (and body, if you'd like) that has live bacteria in it (the good kind). The thought is that with all of the cleansers and scrubs that we use in our daily lives, we eliminate the good bacteria from our skin. This spray puts it back. It is said to reduce the need for moisturizers and deodorants, and is made with family-friendly, simple ingredients. I definitely have noticed a difference in my skin since using this. Highly recommend it! Get the Mist here.

What are your ride-or-die beauty hacks? Please share - always looking for new ideas and things to try! :)

Life Lately: Lots of updates!

Hello friends!

Sorry I've been MIA for the past few weeks! So much is going on, and I have been so busy! But things are calming down a bit and I'm back and ready to hit the blogosphere full-force!

I have a lot of super exciting content planned for the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned...here are some topics you can expect to see covered:

  • What I Eat In A Day
  • Workout-Wear Lust List
  • Five Favorites
  • Father's Day Gift Guide
  • Mommy Monday: 10 Month Update
  • Summer Reading List
  • Swim Lust List
  • Green Muffin Recipe

And a lot more! Get excited!! And as always, let me know if there are any topics that you'd like me to cover!

Ok, so ... life! What's been going on in my life. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I've been asking for prayers, positive thoughts, and good vibes the past couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I found a lump in one of my boobies. Needless to say, I instantly was worried and got in to see my doctor right away. He referred me to get a mammogram/ultrasound/biopsy, so I had to wait for that.

But today, I found out that all is well - it turned out to be nothing! Woohoo, praise the Lord! Thank you all for your prayers and sweet messages!! You all are seriously the best and I am so grateful that I can always count on you for encouragement and support when I need it most!

I found another lump a few years ago, which also turned out to be nothing. But let me tell you, now that I am a mom...things are just so completely different. I was SO MUCH more afraid this time, not of being sick or dying or anything, but of not being there for James. The thought of it made/makes me sick. Motherhood brings with it a slew of anxieties and new fears, all based around your child. The thought of something happening to me that would cause sweet little James to not have his mommy there for him...to not have someone care for him in the exact and special way that only I can... it just was devastating to even begin to consider. And at this age...he wouldn't even remember me. Ugh. BUT I'M OK!! haha Thank you, God!!

So, needless to say, that was a bit consuming and I haven't had the head space or drive to do much writing. But, now that that worry is behind me, I'm ready to dive back in! I feel rejuvenated and motivated and excited to write again!!

In other news...we bought a house! It's being built as we speak, and Ben and I are SO SO SO excited!! This is a huge step for us, and we are really looking forward to this next chapter in our lives! I'll be sure to keep you all updated!

Would you guys like to see posts about the home building/buying process?? Let me know!!

I have so many fun projects and collaborations that I'm working on that I can't share with you YET, but I am really excited about what is to come and as always, thank you for following along on the journey!!

How To Dye Easter Eggs Naturally

My Sweater: Nordstrom

This will be James' first Easter and I was SO excited to dye Easter eggs with him! I was interested in finding a way to naturally dye the eggs rather than using the store bought dye kits. I played around with some ingredients, and I am really happy with the results! The eggs turned out beautifully, and James was so intrigued by how colorful they are! :)

Also, his poor little face is chapped in these pictures because he has a cold and his face is so dry from having to wash it and wipe it off so much. Poor baby! But, he is almost all better...it's the tail end of the cold. It is the HARDEST THING EVER when your baby is sick. I just want to make him feel all better. :(

Anyways, here is how to naturally dye easter eggs:

Ingredients

Brown and white hard-boiled eggs - the brown eggs will come out a lot darker and different shades of the colors, so it's fun to do brown AND white! 

For pink:

2 cups of water + 2 cups of chopped up beets + a couple tablespoons of vinegar

For orange:

2 cups of the peels of yellow onions + enough water to fully cover + a few tablespoons of vinegar

For yellow:

2 cups of water + 1 tablespoon of turmeric + a couple tablespoons of vinegar

Here's What You Do:

Bring each set of ingredients (minus the eggs and the vinegar) to a boil, then turn it down and simmer for about a half hour. The longer you let the ingredients simmer, the more concentrated and darker the dye will be.

Remove each set of dye from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.

Strain the dye and then pour it into bowls or mason jars. Add the vinegar to each bowl of dye.

Add the hard-boiled eggs to the dye and let them soak until they reach the desired color. The longer they soak in the dye, the darker and more vivid the colors will be.

That's it! I hope you have fun trying out these natural ingredients for your Easter eggs! :)

Let's Talk About Stress + Controlling Our Reactions

Stress: Something that is an unavoidable and unpleasant part of life. We all experience it, and we all handle it differently.

I am personally not great at handling stressful situations. I get overwhelmed, emotional, and have major anxiety. I also get stressed out really easily - not great.

I tend to get overly worked up and stressed out over problems and situations that maybe don't merit that type of reaction. I am a people pleaser and hate when I feel that someone is disappointed in me, angry with me, or just plain doesn't like me. I'm also a bit of a neat-freak AND a perfectionist (when it comes to some things). All of this leads to me getting stressed out so easily - and quite often.

Luckily for me, I am married to a level-headed, pragmatic man who is so wonderful in helping me work through my stress and see situations for what they really are. I am so thankful for Ben and his calm, loving perspective and advice.

I've gotten a lot better about keeping my stress levels down. You can check out some of my tips for managing stress here.

I've learned that you have control over your reactions to situations - and that's it. You can't always control situations, or problems that arise. You can't control how people feel about you (nor does it matter). You can't control what someone says to you or what deadlines you have or what unexpected event happens.

But you CAN control how you allow yourself to feel about all of it...how you choose to react. A situation is only stressful if stress is how you react to it. A person's words are only hurtful if you allow yourself to feel hurt by them. A problem that comes up unexpectedly is only overwhelming and devastating if that is how you let yourself react to it.

Your reaction to something gives it it's value.

You can choose to react in a level-headed, unemotional, and practical way. You can look a problem square in the eye and choose to stay calm and tackle it in a methodical and efficient way. You can make the choice to not allow what others think or say of you elicit an emotional response.

You can choose how you react to every single situation that you encounter.

Ok, so, this mindset is a bit extreme. Obviously, we can't always have that much control over our natural responses and emotional reactions. But the point is that this is a good thing to strive for... to look at problems, interactions, and potential stresses with a clear, unemotional, and solution-driven mindset.

Easier said than done, but still an admirable aspiration, don't you think?

I've been reading 'The Daily Stoic' this year, and I highly recommend it. It talks a lot about choosing how to react to situations and not letting your emotions get in the way. It talks about staying in the moment and being aware of yourself and how you interpret things. It's good. You can get it here.

How do you handle stress? What are your tips for controlling your reactions? Please share in the comments below!

And be sure to subscribe to my blog, if you haven't already, to be notified whenever a new post goes up!

Mommy Monday: Balancing Exercise, Health, and Motherhood

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Ok, let's be really really honest here for a second: making time for exercise and health as a mom is hard. It takes work and it takes a lot of mind power. Being a mom is such a rewarding and challenging task in and of itself, that sometimes the thought of doing a workout when I could instead be taking a few minutes to relax seems crazy.

But, then I remember how much BETTER I feel - both physically and mentally - when I get in a workout. When I break a sweat, it makes me feel proud and strong and like I am doing something to further my progress towards my physical goals.

It's far too easy to let a day slip by without squeezing in a workout. From there, it is a slippery slope. One day turns into one week...then one month... The next thing you know, it has been months since your last real workout, and your body feels weak and you don't know how to dive back in. Where to start? How to get that strength back? You are so much further from your goals.

Believe me, I get it. I get how it can happen. I've certainly gone a week or two without getting my exercise in, and man, is it hard to get back into a routine. You know what I've found to be the ONLY way to start working towards your goals again? To just simply start. Even if that means a short walk the first day, squeezing in a 30 second plank when you can, powering through 50 squats while your child plays, and then turning on a Yoga or workout video on YouTube during nap time.

Slowly but surely, squeezing in what you can each day, you will start to build up your strength - physical AND mental, because half of it...no, even MORE than half of it is mental.

As mothers, it is so important for us to be healthy...to not only take care of our bodies, but of our minds.

Our little ones see what we do to better ourselves. They watch as we make healthy food choices, and as we meal prep and prepare nutritious food for the week ahead. They see when we spend our free minutes doing lunges or jumping jacks or burpees. They see a woman, strong and proud and conscious of her physical condition and doing something to further her progress towards a goal and towards a healthy life.

I remind myself that it is not just for me that I make the (sometimes very difficult) decision to do a workout rather than sit down and put my feet up. It's for my son. It's for my husband. It's for my mind. It's for what I want to look like and feel like. It's for wanting to be healthy and strong and able to do all the activities that I love to do.

So, one step at a time, little by little, day by day, as mothers, we make the choice. We choose to be healthy. We choose to be an example. We choose to be strong. We choose to eat healthily. We choose to do what it takes. Is it easy? Nope. Important? Very. Worth it? Yes Yes Yes.

What are your tricks for staying fit, strong, and healthy as a mama? How do YOU make time for a workout and for healthy food choices? Be sure to share in the comments below!

What topics do you want to see on the blog? Send any ideas, questions, or comments to info@annamcohen.com! And be sure to subscribe below to be notified whenever there is a new post up!

 

Acupressure Mat

If you've followed me on Instagram (@tiugirlanna) or have been following my blog for awhile, you are probably aware of the fact that I have ongoing back issues...although, I mean, don't we all? I feel like everyone says that - "I have a bad back", etc... But in my case, I have scoliosis. So my back is sore and tight pretty much all of the time. After giving birth to James, my back was waaaayyy out of whack. Pregnancy and childbirth did a number on my already screwed up spine, and I was just a tight little ball of pain and tension. 

So, imagine my joy when I discovered acupressure mats! Oh my goodness, these things are so strange and incredible. Here's what it is, as described on Amazon:

The Acupressure mat and pillow use tiny little sharp plastic acupoints to stimulate the body's pressure points similar to acupuncture but without the use of skin piercing needles. When the pressure points of the body are stimulated, tension in the muscle is released while an increase in blood flow and circulation in the area slowly aids in healing and promotes complete relaxation and well being. In essence, acupressure point stimulation causes the body to heal itself so that it can function optimally.

You basically lay out this mat and the neck pillow that comes with it, and then you lie down on it, shirtless, and let the thing work it's magic for the next 10-45+ minutes. You start out with 10-15 minutes and work your way up to 45+.

How does it feel, one might ask? Well, it hurts. A lot. But only at first! After a few minutes, your back gets warm and tingly and it just relaxes EEEVEEERRYYYTHING. It's amazing. I was on it for over a half hour my first time on it without even realizing how long it had been. If you can make it past the first few minutes (which honestly, the pain isn't THAT bad, more like discomfort) it feels so nice!

I like to lie on the mat while Ben and I watch a show or movie at night. Light a nice candle, pour some kombucha, throw on some eye masks, and get on your mat, and you've got yourself a relaxing evening!

Here is the mat that I have {Click for the mat} and I highly recommend it. But there are A LOT of different brands out there, and they are the same idea, so get whichever you prefer.

Hope your week is going great so far!

Mommy Monday: Core Rehab, Part 1

If you've been following me for awhile on my blog and on Instagram, you know that I have diastasis recti (abdominal separation) since being pregnant with my son.

Diagram of diastasis recti - mine wasn't this severe at all, but this shows kind of what happens with abdominal separation!

Abdominal separation is very common postpartum. However, there is a shocking lack of information out there for mamas who have this. In fact, many women have abdominal separation and aren't even aware that they have it (learn how to check for it here), OR they have been told that the only way to FIX it is by having surgery. Which is NOT TRUE!!

When I was first pregnant with James, I was searching the internet for some exercises that I could do while pregnant. That's when I first came across Erica Ziel. Erica Ziel is the founder of Knocked Up Fitness and Core Athletica Inc.. She is an EXPERT in helping women to strengthen their deep core muscles in order to have a safer and easier pregnancy, delivery, and recovery. 

Erica Ziel

Now, Erica has developed the Core Rehab Program for postpartum mamas! The Core Rehab Program is designed for mamas who are interested in "rehabbing" their cores after all that they have been through with pregnancy and delivery. This includes working on posture, techniques for safely picking things up, and how to properly engage your deep core muscles to strengthen your core and help to repair abdominal separation.

Pregnancy can do a number on a woman's body, especially her core. Muscles and connective tissues are weakened, stretched, etc... It is important to strengthen your deep core and connective tissues postpartum in order to properly heal and to feel better. But, if you're like me, it can be overwhelming and even a little scary because

...where do you even BEGIN??

Erica was kind enough to let me do the Core Rehab Program in exchange for reviewing it. And I certainly hope you all know that I will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS be honest in my reviews. I would never recommend something that I wasn't totally excited about or impressed by or that I didn't genuinely believe in. So, with that said, let me dive right in:

THE CORE REHAB PROGRAM HAS BEEN THE MOST LIFE-CHANGING, GREATEST THING FOR ME. And I truly mean that. 

The program consists of six phases, each broken up into two weeks. I am through the first two phases, and oh my goodness, the changes are so incredible. And I'm not just talking about physical changes, although I've certainly seen some. I'm talking about changes in the way that I feel.

After giving birth to James, my back KILLED me. I have scoliosis, so my back has always hurt me. But pregnancy and delivery just really really messed it up. Plus, being on bedrest didn't help because I basically lost all of the muscle tone that was helping to support my back. Add in the abdominal separation and weakened core, and I was basically a hot-postpartum-mess of pain, discomfort, and consequently - stress

My abdominal separation was minor: just about a finger tip and a half wide, and not very deep (only about to my first knuckle). My doctor told me to just take it easy and refrain from doing core exercises or anything other than cardio for two months or so and it should close up. Well, two months came and went and if anything, when I re-checked, it seemed like my separation had not closed up at all. (Granted, I probably hadn't been taking it as easy as I should have been...) In fact, I think my separation had even gotten a little worse. I was very stressed about this and just wanted my body to be fully healed so that I could get back into my regular exercise routine (exercise is SUCH a huge part of my life!!) and so that I could start building up my back muscles again to help with my scoliosis and pain management. 

I had seen some buzz about Erica's Core Rehab Program floating around the internet and social media and I was really curious about it. Then, I saw one of my friends on Instagram, Kristen Suppa (@well.balanced.home) post something about the program. I messaged her about it, and she connected me with Erica, and the next thing I knew, I was diving into the program with so much excitement and hope. (You can read Kristen's story at the bottom of this post!)

Within the first week of the program, I noticed a difference in how I felt. I was standing taller. I was feeling more supported through my core. I was making changes in the ways that I held my baby and in the way that I picked him and other things up from the floor. I was moving and standing and sitting differently. Even breathing differently!

I finally was being given the tools that I needed to begin to heal myself and FEEL BETTER. 

Now, I've finished phase two and I am so excited to say that when I re-checked my abdominal separation yesterday, I can no longer stick ANY of my finger in AND my separation is less than a finger tip wide, which is normal!! I am blown away with how quickly the program has helped me to heal, and I know that these quick results probably aren't the norm. I also know that I still have a long way to go. I'm going to be continuing to work through all of the phases, and I'll be writing a follow-up blog post once I've completed phase six so that I can update you all, so check back for that in a few months! I can't even imagine how amazing I'll feel once I've finished all of the phases!! 

Again, these are my honest opinions. I am not being paid to say any of this, I just genuinely am so excited about the Core Rehab Program and I want to tell all of you about it in case you are suffering from discomfort, or abdominal separation, or the stress of not knowing where to begin healing your core postpartum like I was. Whether you are three months postpartum or twenty years...Erica shows that it is possible to repair your diastasis recti, strengthen your core, and MOST IMPORTANTLY...feel better. 

The Core Rehab Program opens for enrollment tomorrow, on January 3rd. You can sign up here to receive more information and to be notified when enrollment is open. I don't get anything out of your signing up, other than the joy of knowing that you are going to receive the same loving guidance from Erica that I have. 

If you are a postpartum mama who has abdominal separation, OR even if you DON'T have abdominal separation but just feel like you need some help in strengthening your core, please consider this program, because it has seriously made such a difference for me. I could cry I am so thankful for the Core Rehab Program and Erica Ziel. I want you to feel better too. 

If you have questions, feel free to ask! And follow me (@annamcohenblog), @well.balanced.home and @knockedupfitness on Instagram for more daily updates! 

Here's to taking care of ourselves and to feeling GOOD postpartum!! :)

Kristen's Story:

I'm Kristen, and I'm a Mama of 2 little guys in New Jersey. My oldest is almost 2.5 and my youngest is 10 months. I got pregnant the second time around when my oldest was just 9 months old, and unfortunately I still had some ab separation from that first pregnancy. I was nervous that it would get a lot worse the second time around, and I actually reached out to Erica Ziel to ask about her Prenatal Workouts. She was super encouraging and suggested her Prenatal Sculpt Workout DVD and I was consistent with that (especially the core routine- which is gentle and safe for those with ab separation) throughout my pregnancy. I am thankful for those workouts because I had a very quick labor (3 hours from the first contraction to holding my baby!) and a smooth, easy recovery. As expected, I still had some ab separation postpartum, but I believe it would have been a lot worse (and my labor not as easy) had I not been proactive during my pregnancy and committed to those workouts. 

I ended up having a 2 finger gap from a few inches above my belly button, all the way down to my pubic bone, also the depth of my gap showed that my fascia was weak (something I learned about from Erica's tutorials)- the depth was almost to my second knuckle. I jumped on the opportunity to participate in Erica's newly released Core Rehab Program, and I just finished Phase 4. I am thrilled with how my body is feeling. I am a firm believer in doing what you can when you can and practicing patience with yourself during this season of motherhood where the babies are little and you don't get much time for yourself. Easier said than done (and I'm forever working on maintaining that mindset!), but that being said, it has taken me about 6 months to complete the 4 phases, and I am ok with that! The workouts are all under 20 minutes, and usually there are 1 or 2 videos to do each day, so you can split them throughout your day when you find a pocket of time. You stream them from your phone, iPad, etc. or follow PDF printouts, which is helpful as a busy Mama! I'll be starting the New Year with Phase 5, and I can't wait to see how I feel after I complete the final 2 phases! 

This program did more for me than almost closing my ab separation- it has given me more awareness in my everyday movements and posture than I ever had before, and I'm so thankful for that. My gap is now just localized to about 1 inch above my belly button and right at my belly button, and it is about 1 finger or less in width. Under my belly button, my gap is closed! The depth has improved significantly as well- it is about as deep as my first knuckle at this point and just localized to right around that small belly button area, so I am proof that the program can help to strengthen your fascia as well! Erica gives us so much valuable information in all of her videos and her excellent cueing during the workouts and tutorials that I can now truly connect to my core during activities in everyday life, and I just feel stronger and more intentional with my movements throughout my busy days. Of course, the bonus is how much flatter my tummy is and how much better my posture is. My husband even noticed my posture, so that's a win too! 

My advice to other Mamas and Mamas-to-be is that it is so important to practice self care and find some time for yourselves. Erica's programs are designed in such a way that they're very manageable and they will give you that time for yourself, while giving you your body confidence back! 

I love connecting with other Moms on Instagram (you can find me @well.balanced.home)- we all have SO much in common and can and should lean on each other for support when we need it! I'm so thankful to have connected with Anna through this community of Mamas- her Instagram account and blog always brighten my day! Looking forward to seeing her progress with this awesome program, and hope to connect with some of you as well! Happy New Year! 

 

Social Media Detox

This year, I'm making it a goal to take some frequent breaks from social media. As a blogger and social media manager, this is no easy task. Social media is a huge - I mean HUGE - part of my daily life. It's not only what I do for work, but it's also something that I really really enjoy. 

But, even though a lot of what I do on social media is for work and for my blog, I definitely end up wasting a lot of time on it as well. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter...the list goes on and on. If there's a social media channel, I'm on it. My days are consumed by these sites and apps, and while creating content and managing all of my accounts and my clients' accounts brings me so much joy, sometimes I find myself scrolling aimlessly through feeds when I could be doing something a lot more productive. Basically, there's more to life than what goes on on social media, and I'd like to try to re-capture some of that.

That's why, in an effort to manage my time better, I'm committing to taking frequent social media breaks - a social media detox, if you will. 

Once a month, I'm going to go a full twenty-four hours without checking social media. Now, twenty-four hours may not seem like a very long time for a social media detox, BUT keep in mind that on an average day, I am checking all of my different accounts multiple times every HOUR. So, twenty-four hours off is kind of a big deal, and will actually be somewhat of a challenge for me. 

What am I hoping to get out of this? Clarity. I hope that taking time away will help me manage my stress, will give me time to re-center, connect face to face with loved ones, and work on other projects that I just never seem to have time for. I've heard so many good things about taking time away from social media, so I'm willing to give it a try. 

Have you done a social media detox before? What was your experience? If you'd like to join me in this challenge, comment below. It would be great to discuss!! 

Five Weeks To Fit: Total Body

This is it!! The final week of the Five Weeks To Fit challenge, and we are finishing up with a TOTAL BODY ROUTINE! That's right, let's work that beautiful body from head to toe! This is the time to give your all and finish up the year strong!

Complete the following routine every day this week. Throw in any of the previous four routines for some extra BURN! Comment below if you are IN!! Let's do this!

Follow me on Instagram (@tiugirlanna) so that we can finish this week STRONG together! I'm virtually cheering you on! You GOT this!!

*I am NOT a fitness professional or a doctor. Please consult your doctor before embarking on any fitness journey. Complete the workout routines in the Five Weeks To Fit challenge at your own risk. Anna M. Cohen and www.annamcohen.com are not liable for any injuries that may occur from participation in the challenge.*

Five Weeks To Fit: Lower Body

Week four, here we GO! This week we are working that lower body and toning it aaaalllll up! Complete the following routine every day this week. Five bucks says you see and FEEL a difference in your body.

Want more?? Throw in the abs, arms, and/or booty routine from the previous three weeks!

Are you following me on Instagram yet? Come find me: @tiugirlanna - we can root each other on!

Be sure to check back next Monday for the FINAL routine! 2016 is nearly over...here's to making 2017 the very best yet and starting the year off STRONG!

*I am NOT a fitness professional or a doctor. Please consult your doctor before embarking on any fitness journey. Complete the workout routines in the Five Weeks To Fit challenge at your own risk. Anna M. Cohen and www.annamcohen.com are not liable for any injuries that may occur from participation in the challenge.*

Five Weeks To Fit: Abs

Welcome to the third week in the Five Weeks To Fit series! How's it going? Are you feeling sore yet??

This week, we are targeting those much coveted abs. Work your core every day this week! Throw in the booty and arm routines a few days this week too, if you're up for an extra challenge!

Check back next Monday for the next routine! Be sure to follow me on Instagram for some extra motivation: @tiugirlanna

*I am NOT a fitness professional or a doctor. Please consult your doctor before embarking on any fitness journey. Complete the workout routines in the Five Weeks To Fit challenge at your own risk. Anna M. Cohen and www.annamcohen.com are not liable for any injuries that may occur from participation in the challenge.*

Five Weeks To Fit: Let's Get Bikini-Ready TOGETHER!

ARE YOU READY?

Ready for what, you may ask. Well, to get fit, strong, and motivated!! 2016 is quickly coming to a close. Now is the perfect time to kick-start a healthy, fit 2017!

Starting on Monday, November 28th I'll be posting a new fitness routine every week! Each Monday, I'll post a workout for you to complete every day of that week. Then, the next Monday I'll post the next workout! We will target booty, arms, abs, lower body, and total body.

THIS is your chance to kick your health and fitness goals into high gear as we close out 2016 with a bang! Let's start 2017 feeling fit, toned, and well on our way to being bikini ready! :)

Follow me on Instagram for motivation - we can cheer each other on! (I'm @tiugirlanna ) I'd love to see pictures of you doing the workouts each week! Tag me and use the hashtag #FIVEWEEKSTOFIT :) Yay!

And share the following picture on IG, Twitter, and/or Facebook to hold yourself accountable and let everyone know that you are committing to finishing 2016 healthy and STRONG!

Are you in??? Let's do this!! Check back on the blog on November 28th for your first routine and get ready to sweat!

*I am NOT a fitness professional or a doctor. Please consult your doctor before embarking on any fitness journey. Complete the workout routines in the Five Weeks To Fit challenge at your own risk. Anna M. Cohen and www.annamcohen.com are not liable for any injuries that may occur from participation in the challenge.*

Thankful

This is the BEST time of the year...amIright?!? Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and then it's CHRISTMAS SEASON!! haha I can't wait for the holidays this year. It is going to be so much fun because it will be James' first time experiencing Thanksgiving dinner and then all of the beauty of Christmas! I realize he's still very little, but he is very aware of what's going on and he is just going to have so much fun - especially when all of the Christmas lights start popping up. He LOVES lights!

Anyways, as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself in awe of how blessed my life is. I have SO much to be thankful for this year. I thought I'd go ahead and make a list of just a few of the things that I'm feeling really really thankful for at the moment:

  • my family
  • our home
  • ben's and my jobs
  • baby james
  • that i get to do parenthood with ben
  • my marriage
  • gunner (our dog) and rainy (my parents' dog) and the joy and companionship they bring to my life
  • my health and the health of my loved ones
  • that james and i both made it safely through that pregnancy and delivery
  • that i got to experience pregnancy and carrying a baby to full term and delivering him safely
  • that i live in a beautiful country where i'm free
  • that i get to stay home with my baby
  • that i have a strong, capable body
  • travel and all of the other exciting things in store for next year

As I said, just a few things. I could go on and on, because truly, I am so so fortunate. What are YOU feeling thankful for right now? I think it is such a great practice to write down what you are grateful for. Then, you can look at your list and visually see just how very very blessed you are! :)

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xo, Anna

How To Relax This Evening

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1604786_10203431155011360_4965213623060468996_n As a society, we tend to run on high speed, fueled by packed schedules and deadlines. Stress is a norm in many of our lives. But it is well known that stress is really really bad for you. Stress can have many serious consequences such as stomach aches, headaches, acne, and even life threatening heart issues. It's important to give your body a break from all of the stress and give it time to decompress and relax. So, tonight, I encourage you to take some time for yourself. Here are few ways to relax this evening:

1. Go for a walk. Exercise is a great stress reducer. Going for a nice walk will expose you to fresh air and a little dose of the great outdoors. It will calm your nerves and ease your mind and give you time to think and enjoy the sights.

2. Do something easy and tasty for dinner. Tonight is about relaxing and being happy. Order a pizza, get Chinese takeout, or make something quick and fun that you love. Don't get caught up with carbs or diets - tonight is your night to enjoy yourself, so have at it!

3. Watch the sunset. Sit out on your porch and watch the sunset. Just let your mind be quiet as you take in the sounds, smells, and sights. Allow yourself to just be. Be still. Be quiet. And most of all, be peaceful. Try to think about everything you are thankful for. Try to appreciate the moment and be present.

4. Soak your worries away. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils. Light a candle, turn off the lights, and just relax. Breathe in the hot vapors and let go of the stress and bustle of daily life. Take this time to just be quiet and to listen to your breath and to enjoy the moment. Soak for about twenty minutes to let the Epsom salts and oils do their thing.

5. Give yourself a facial. Find a face mask in the store. St. Ives has a nice oatmeal one, and Freeman has an avocado oatmeal one as well. Or you can make one yourself. There are lots of recipes for home-made facials. I have used one made up of bananas, olive oil, and coconut oil. It sounds weird, but feels nice. Play around with different recipes and find one that works for your skin. The process of making a face mask can be fun and relaxing in and of itself!

6. Read a good book. Let yourself get swept away. Reading is an excellent way to relax and to get your mind off of the million and four things that you have to do. Plus, reading before bed is a much healthier option than scrolling through your Instagram and Twitter feeds. The artificial light from your screen stimulates your brain making it harder for you to fall asleep, whereas reading a book is calming and great for making you sleepy at bed time.

7. Sleep. Sleep is one of the best things you can do for stress. Making sure your mind and body have the right amount of time to heal themselves and rejuvenate is extremely important. Try to go to sleep early tonight. Being well rested helps you to cope with stress better, it makes you look better [bye bye under-eye bags!], and it will help you to feel bright and ready to take on the next day.

What do you do to relax? Please share in the comments below!

 

Summer Time Beauty Hacks

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Summer time is all about effortless, carefree, easy, light beauty. It's about sun-drenched days, and heat that permeates all through the night. It's about going barefoot, living in a bikini [or whatever type of swimsuit floats your boat], and being easy-breezy.

But summer time can do a number on different parts of your body. Here are some ways to keep yourself looking fresh, low-maintenance, and beautiful all summer long.

1. Skin: In the summer time, the heat and the constant cycle of being wet, then dry, wet, then dry can do a real number on your skin. Not only can your skin become dried out, but constantly being wet from swimming can wipe off important good bacterias that live on your skin.

Try this: Since none of us are going to even consider giving up long dunks in the lake or mermaid time in the sea, instead, try shortening your showers a bit. Try to keep the water temperature as cool as you can handle it. Also, find a moisturizer that works for you! My favorites are St. Ives and Ponds. I also have an amazing home made balm that mixes coconut oil, beeswax, vanilla, and a few other natural things to create a creamy, moisturizing dream.

2. Face: Tend to break out more in the summer? That can happen. No worries, there are some things you can try.

Try this: Try eliminating your moisturizer a night or two a week. Or, if you're like me and you can't even imagine not moisturizing every night, then try just limiting your moisturizer to areas of your face that feel particularly dry. Also, try to only wash your face in the evenings. Instead of giving it a good scrub in the mornings, just lightly rinse it with warm water to freshen up before starting your morning beauty routine. Also, make sure you are drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water every day to stay hydrated! There is no better way to make your skin glow!

3. Makeup: Summer time makeup should be easy, natural, effortless, glowy... basically you want to look like you just rolled off of the beach - but still put together. Leave the heavy eyeliner and cakey foundation for the office. As soon as you get home from the office, wipe your face clean with a cleansing wipe, [I like Yes to Cucumbers wipes, available in drug stores], and get your summer face on.

Try this: Start with a clean slate. Then apply a moisturizer with SPF [at least SPF 20, if you ask me]. Next, rub on a thin, moisturizing BB cream. The BB cream offers additional sunscreen benefits, as well as giving you additional moisture, AND acting as a bit of a concealer. It smooths out your complexion and hides any blemishes. Next, add a bid of cream blush to your cheeks and the bridge of your nose. Brush on a bit of bronzer if that's your thing. Swipe on some waterproof mascara, a bit of lip balm, and you're good to go. This should only take about two minutes to do, and you'll look natural, dewy, glowing, and like you're having one heck of a summer. Which you are.

4. Feet: Living barefoot and in sandals all summer can make your feet a bit... less than pretty. Your heels can get cracked and dry, which isn't cute. Keep your tootsies nice a smooth with these tips...

Try this: Whenever possible, try to wear socks and sneakers. Hey, wearing them with cut-off shorts is cute and summery. Or you can rock the "just got back from the gym" look and wear running shoes and yoga clothes. Comfy, cool, AND your feet are safely sheathed in soft socky-barriers. Moisturize your feet at night and try soaking them in Epsom salts or another kind of foot soak that works well for you. Use a foot scraper to remove dead, dry skin every once in awhile. Or get a pedicure.

5. Hair: Hair is exposed to so much sunshine [UV rays], salt, heat, and water during the summer. This can be harsh on your strands.

Try this: Wear a hat whenever possible when you are in the sun. This will protect your hair from harmful UV rays. Also, if you have highlights, guarding your hair from the sun will help to make the highlights last longer. Try washing your hair less - every other day will do. Just use a dry shampoo if your hair starts looking a little greasy. Use a deep conditioning treatment every now and then on your hair to help it stay hydrated and soft. A nice Moroccan oil is my favorite. It keeps the ends of my hair glossy. Also, try to avoid using a hair dryer [because who needs one in the summer time, right?], straightener, or curling iron [rock the touseled, natural mermaid waves], or any other tools that may expose your hair to additional heat.

6. Body: Most importantly, protect your WHOLE body from harmful UV rays and cover up with sunblock any time you will be outside. No one wants wrinkles. Or skin cancer.