Thursday, February 26, 2015

What is Resilience

Have you ever met a person that has been through a tragedy or trauma, and still she keeps going through life with a smile on her face, standing proud, being productive, engaging with or even helping others? And you might think how is this possible? this person endured all this adversity and seems...happy!! Well...that person is resilient. And the good news is that if you feel you aren't that resilient you can learn how to increase it.

It is the capacity to adapt to difficult situations (stress, trauma, pain or even tragedy) and bounce back from them stronger and reassured, the ability to keep going through life, changed, but improved in the most important way: emotionally.

I would say that resilience is the main road to well-being and happiness. It is the capacity WE ALL have to bounce back from life problems. Some people are naturally very resilient others have to work a bit more at it. What's most interesting about this great quality is that we can all learn to be resilient at any age. And did you know that building resilience lowers anxiety?  I wrote a post about 5 tips that help beat anxiety and you can read it here.

According to the American Counseling Association "people who exhibit strong resilience and use adverse experiences to grow also tend to find more satisfaction in life."

When we cultivate altruistic values, compassion, respect and take pleasure in helping others we increase our resilience. Optimism results in resilience. It is about knowing that there will be problems along the way but one can overcome problems. Stress, difficulties and set backs are a part of life. What matters is what we are going to do about it. Resilience is living with the "bring it on" state of mind. It involves nurturing a positive view of the self trusting that we can handle what ever life brings. 

Next post will be about how to build resilience. Would you consider yourself resilient?

P.S. How to build resilience? 8 ways.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 Steps to a Complete At Home Manicure

I have always enjoyed having my nails done at a salon, however since it takes so much of my time I end up going very sparingly. A year ago I started researching and looking for ways to do my own nails at home. It is very calming and relaxing plus I get to test different colors! So here goes my easy way...

1. File your nails or cut them depending on how long they are and how long you want them. I like to keep mine short in order to avoid unintentional scratches!

2. Apply cuticle remover. Sally Hansen´s cuticle remover is a good option since it works fast and gets the job done. Leave it for a minute or two and then push back the cuticles very gently with an orange wood stick or any of those rubberized manicure instruments. Another option is to leave your hands in a bowl with warm water for a while until your cuticles have softened. As you may know, cuticles are important to the health of the nail and we shouldn't cut them. That being said, I do cut hangnails whenever I find them! with a cuticle cutter (see third picture below).

3. Buffing. This is good for when you have any residue on the nail that does not come out with the cuticle pusher which is what happened today! I don't usually buff my nails because they can get very thin and brittle.

4. Use a hand scrub then wash your hands. Massage for about a minute and then wash your hands with soap and water. Or if you don´t have any at home, mix a bit of sugar with hand cream. That should do the trick. This step is optional, I try to do this once a month in order to get rid of dead skin cells. It leaves your hands feeling soft and smooth.

5. Moisturize. Use a heavy hand cream. I sometimes use olive oil which is great for the cuticles and hands. It is greasy but it's so good for my cuticles that I usually put up with the sticky factor for a while and then wash my hands after my nails are polished.

6. Clean your nail bed. Use a damp cotton swab to clean the oils left by the olive oil or the hand cream you applied before. This is very important. We want the nail polish to stick to the nail so we need a very clean nail bed.

7. Apply base coat. A very thin layer is what we need. Revlon's colorstay gel smooth base coat is excellent!

8. Apply two coats of color polish. I used Splash of Grenadine by Essie which I got during my last trip to the U.S. See my travel section where you will find the places we visited. You can have a look at part of our trip hereThese two coats of polish should be somewhat thin. I usually do the three strokes method - paint a line in the middle of the nail, leaving visible nail towards the cuticle, then another line on the right and then on the left - but it hasn't always worked in my favor...having to use other "non-approved methods" such as doing small strokes everywhere in hopes that everything would look acceptable! However, practice does pay off and now it is pretty easy to do. Leave one side of the brush free of polish in order to work with the amount left on the opposite side. Also, I always use a correcting pen to erase any slips of the brush. Sally Hansen sells a good one. Your manicures will look salon-like when you clean the skin around the nail.

9. Apply Top Coat. I've repurchased Sally Hansen´s Insta-Dry Top Coat many times and it is quite shiny and fast drying.

And that's it! Remember it is all about step number 10 and enjoying the process!
How often do you get a manicure? I go through months when I barely paint my nails but then other months I do them every week or even twice a week.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kids Away For a Week

It is summer here and schoolchildren are on vacation now. The four of us had recently returned from our one month long holidays at the beautiful U.S.A. We try to visit our friends and family there, at least, once every two years. I love this country and its people so much that it deserves another post. You can read about our trip to the World of Coca-Cola or how we stayed at Universal Studios Cabana Bay Resort or the visit to the Georgia Aquarium.

The thing is, we returned from this long vacation and my mom and dad were planning on going to Cordoba the week after our arrival. So, I thought how good it would be for my sons to spend a week with their grandparents in the mountains of northern Argentina. 

At first, I was hesitant to ask the boys because I would miss them too much. But then I realized that they are old enough, 8 and 10, and I really wanted to know how they felt about it . As soon as I asked I heard, to my surprise, two yeses. " Yes, I´m going" said the older one and "yes, me too" mumbled the youngest for whom the prospect of being away from his brother/entertainer/object of admiration! for a week seemed unbearable.  

The day my parents picked them up I was already regretting the idea.  However, soon I realized it was ridiculous. They were just going on a road trip with their grandparents. Besides, this is what was really going on there...

So I made a point of enjoying the time without them and boy did I enjoy!! My husband and I had the best time! Is it too bad to say such a thing? We had much needed dinner dates at home, my favorite thing to do! We watched grown up movies that had been waiting for us for a year (true!) We slept without interruptions of any kind, I mean the ones in which you wake up and go to their bedroom to check on them just because you are a parent. It was all good. I missed them but at the same time I had a relaxed week, especially knowing that they were having fun too.

I think these trips without mom and dad are so good for kids. They gain independence, a stronger sense of self and appreciation for the extended family and their own parents. 

As I was on the airplane to pick them up I thought of the African proverb that says: "it takes a village to raise a child" and how accurate it is.

Have you ever done this with your kids? or yourself as a child? How did it feel?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Tips That Help Beat Anxiety

Fear is a response to a direct threat. Our ancestors, I mean the ones dealing with big animals attacking them on a daily basis, felt the real thing! In response to that, they had to fight or flight. Their body was more alert and capable of performing great physical constraints while under feelings of fear. However, nowadays, we usually don´t have to deal with bears waiting for us around the corner.

Anxiety is the anticipation of fear. We experience anxiety when we are under stress. It is the "normal" reaction to different situations. It could be a wedding, an important test or even moving. We all experience anxiety and it is necessary in order to deal with difficult situations.

The problem appears when we start to lose perspective and get into a pattern of thinking that exaggerates outcomes negatively ( fear of death with no real threat) and takes us down into a spiral that leaves us with heart palpitations, shallow breathing, upset stomach, physical weakness and other impairing symptoms.

I am not going to get more into anxiety and the different disorders that stem from it since it can be a very serious impediment that requires specific treatments. I would like to give a few helpful tips that I have used to trick my occasional encounters with this ugly thing called anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks.

  1. Mindfulness: a very simple form of meditation that puts the focus on the present moment and observes thoughts as they come and go. It calls for concentration on diaphragmatic breathing and experiencing the present moment. It is not religious and it is a technique used to calm our body and mind.
  2. Watch those negative thoughts: I mean catch them on the early stages and stop them. Do something else. Change your environment. Get busy, walk the dog, work on your plants / garden, anything that makes you think about something else and then it´ll all pass. Once you master this you will be able to feel as if you were watching a movie where your thoughts are the actual movie and sit back and say: ok so now I am thinking this... hmmm and now this ..... ahaaa... yep no.. time to do something else. Since our thoughts dictate how our body feels, negative thoughts bring negative feelings; positive thoughts bring good feelings and a healthier body (at least one with no palpitations!). Focusing on just breathing could lower blood pressure, just like laughing releases feel-good brain chemicals that lower pain. We should try to feed our brain with positive thoughts as much as possible. I don´t mean going around denying facts and living in a state of unreal bliss! I mean catching oneself thinking and observing objectively if that negative thought is serving any purpose at that specific moment and if it is objectively real. This happy go lucky book called "A Daybook of Positive Thinking" A Blue Mountain Arts Collection, is a nice one to have around.
  3. Try to talk about your thoughts to someone else: the minute you say them out loud you will start to see your thoughts somewhat ridiculous and exaggerated. It is the overdramatic part of the brain (remember  those caveman? we owe it to them!) it is the reptile brain that says: exaggerate, overreact, save yourself!! We don´t need that right at this moment. Thank you very much.
  4. Exercise: simple and we all know it improves our mood. Your body and brain will feel great and your thoughts will follow the mood.
  5. Caffeine: try to limit your daily intake. I love having coffee in the mornings and in the afternoon however if I have a third cup during the day it will definitely NOT help.

Finally, here´s a book that I enjoyed reading recently: "Don´t Sweat the Small Stuff...and it´s all small stuff" by Richard Carlson, PhD.

Oh! and there is a post by A Cup of Jo blog that is very funny which shows comics and there is one called Anxiety Girl . Please, do your self a favor and have a look. It is excellent.

Remember, when negative thoughts start coming around, first become aware of it and then "grab the remote control" in order to change the channel to a positive thoughts one.

Have you ever tried doing this? Do you have any other helpful suggestions? What works for you?

Monday, February 16, 2015

World of Coca-Cola

It´s all about the Coca-Cola!! It all comes down to a fresh, sweet, fizzy, happy drink! 

Sounds like a good plan for kids right? A 4D theater + sugary drinks + more sugary drinks from around the whole wide world. That pretty much sums up the World of Coca-Cola experience. If you are an avid coke drinker/connoisseur, or if you want your kids to have energy for the next five days, then by all means go visit!

During our last vacation in Atlanta this past January, we wanted to take our boys to see the World of Coca-Cola. We had avoided it in our past visits because let´s face it: it is not the healthiest of drinks. But seeing that our kids are old enough to handle the sugar rush we gave it a go. It is located right in front of the Georgia Aquarium (if you are interested you can read my post about it here).

When you arrive to the building you are received by a very amicable guide who explains a bit about the history of the brand and how we all saw it evolve through the decades. It is interesting to see how the ads adapt to our history. After that you go on to watch a short movie in a theatre which is all about the brand. So more advertising for you right there.

Then you can enter and meet the Coca-Cola polar bear or go on to see more short advertising films, or see the Coca-Cola history through a small gallery.

But if you ask me, what made the experience worthwhile was the Taste it! section. I would only recommend going to the World of Coca-Cola if you want to see your kid´s faces beam with happiness when they see all the self-serving stations filled with drinks from around the world - Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Oh, and by the way we drink water at home so you can imagine my kids' enthusiasm for this part of the exhibit.

Have you ever been there? Would you be interested in tasting beverages unique to different parts of the world?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why Visit the Georgia Aquarium.

This past January we visited our very good friends in Atlanta, Georgia. My husband and I lived there for a few years but never visited the Georgia Aquarium. We had experienced the World of Coca-Cola (you can check my post about it if you like here) which is nice but never the Aquarium. Our two boys, who are 8 and 10 enjoyed it so much and took so many close ups of different species of animals that I should be getting an extra hard drive soon!

This is a fun and didactic place to go as most aquariums are. However, did you know that Georgia Aquarium is the number 3 Aquarium in the world? That is according to Tripadvisor. They have an enormous habitat with lots of viewing windows and one of the largest under water tunnels where you can actually SEE a great variety of fish. Don´t mind walking, you can look up and the automatic trail takes you through the tunnel!  Loved that part!

The most impressive fish in the Aquarium are the whale sharks. You can see them swim and interact with manta rays through the biggest viewing window! Actually they claim it is the second largest viewing window in the world. Here is a picture. Notice the people to fish size difference. Whale sharks are the largest fish species!

My kids loved the penguins' gallery also. You can enter a tunnel and pop up in a glass bubble where penguins are hanging out right beside you! Here is a picture.

As you can imagine, they have other activities: 4 D movies, animal encounter programs and education programs. However I feel these are the most impressive facts about this aquarium.

Bye now!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Our Vacations/Review-Universal Studios' Cabana Bay Beach Resort

This was my third visit to Universal Studios. But this time the hotel made a big impact on our stay. Cabana Bay‎ is a new resort located inside Universal which exceeded my expectations with its cleanliness, great decor, and friendly atmosphere. The 1950's style instantly transports you to a time in which all you could watch on TV were Lucille Ball and all things happy. At least, this is what I imagined the fifties were like while at the resort. We loved staying there so much that our boys came up with a song about it. Here are a few pictures of the hotel.

Pools are beautiful!! They even have a lazy river. 

There you can find a Starbucks Coffee...

A Universal Gift Shop...

 And Bowling!! The Galaxy Bowl is so nice. Here is my husband teaching some moves to my youngest boy.

Universal Studios was fun and exciting although after the third day we suffered a Harry Potter overload. This was when we were glad we had the big resort to enjoy.

Finally, these are a few things I got through our stay...hey these are "mementos"...I am allowed to take them home right? Especially if you love the hotel... Come on! they even give you 1950´s-looking Vo5 shampoo and conditioner bottles. Irresistible.

Have you ever visited this resort or Universal Studios?