Simple Steps to a Healthier Life

A friend says, “Hey, how are you doing?”

“I didn’t sleep well last night, but I’m good.”

Another acquaintance asks, “How have you been?”

You reply with a genuine smile, “Busy, tired, but who isn’t?”

You find memes about coffee and caffeine being your daily fuel to be all to relatable. I mean, they are funny, but it kind of concerns you that your body doesn’t have the energy for your day without a stimulant like caffeine.

Or your body is so sensitive to caffeine that a simple cup of coffee too late in the day will wreck your night of sleep with a panic attack.

This has been the story of my life for the last few years. My 30’s haven’t been very kind to my body. Of course, I haven’t really been all that kind to my body most of my life. I guess turnabout’s fair play, huh? I think I’ve been due for a few simple steps to a healthier life to correct things for a while now.

With my panic attacks and some issues that come around (or not, ha) on a mostly monthly basis, I’ve finally found a regimen of supplements (herbs, vitamins, and minerals) and essential oils that I find extremely helpful, but they haven’t had near the impact that I’ve seen with tweaking my diet and adding more movement to my day. If you are interested in reading about my supplements and oils, let me know in the comments and I will find a way to tell you about them that doesn’t get me in trouble with the powers that be regulating. 😉

Simple (I Promise!) Steps to a Healthier Life - Vicki-Arnold.com

Simple Steps to a Healthier Life

You may have picked up from the above paragraph that my simple steps have to do with food and movement. Before you roll your eyes or feel exasperated because you’ve tried this before, hear me out.

I’ve tried being intentional about exercising daily, I even made it about 6 weeks with this goal last fall. I’ve tried just about everything you can think of for cutting or reducing sugar in my diet because, frankly, I’m a bit addicted. None of these have stuck, but this spring, I think I have found a few simple steps that will stick.

1. Drinking a glass of water before anything else in the morning. I tend to not drink a lot during the day. I had days where I would get to dinner and realize I hadn’t drank any water that day. Not really helpful for my body. This way I have at least 16 oz. of water (one of our drinking glasses) in the morning. I usually take my supplements with this so it’s easy to get it all down.

2. Focus on veggies at lunch. I try to have a salad for lunch each day. As much as a creature of habit I am (I typically have the exact same salad), I also fight routine like nobody’s business so it’s ridiculous how hard this can be some days.

I’m not focused on specific items, just aiming to have vegetables. Previously, I’ve actually had days where I hit dinner and realized I hadn’t had a vegetable all day. Yeah, you can see why simple steps needed to happen for me.

3. Stop striving for perfection. This simple step has probably been the hardest to implement. I tend to be all or nothing and this often leads to a lot of nothing because who really can be “all” perfectly? Not me, that’s for sure.

What this looks like for me is that when I do great a few days in a row and my mind starts making all these grand plans of how I’ll get it right and do it EVERY.SINGLE.DAY from here to eternity, I tell myself to shut up. Well, not exactly, I just stop and take some deep breaths. Then I thank God that I’ve managed to do something right for a short consistent time because I know that isn’t me.

Then, when I miss a day or two, I don’t stress. I simply make a mental note to pick up where I left off or start again right then, depending on what it is. I’m aiming for every day, but realizing that isn’t always going to happen. For a lot of reasons.

4. Prepping vegetables and other items as I can. One of the things that annoys me about vegetables is all the chopping it takes to use them. I don’t have time to chop lettuce, broccoli, onion, shred carrots, etc. everyday for a salad. So I don’t.

I keep a large, covered Pyrex bowl in the refrigerator with cut up lettuce. Then I keep a sandwich size bag each of broccoli bits, chopped red onion, and diced bell peppers in the deli drawer. I buy my carrots pre-shredded. I shred hunks of Tillamook cheese that we get from Costco and keep it in a gallon size bag, also in the deli drawer. I only have to do this once every 4-5 days, depending on who else eats salads.

I used to think that I needed to have a set day to do this in order for it to be an official routine, but I’ve let go of that and just do it when it needs done. That’s routine enough.

5. Front load my day with productivity. This is the step I actually do the worst with, being intentional about getting the productivity wheel going each morning. I am NOT a morning person in the slightest and so it takes me a while to get going in the morning, and no, a cup of coffee doesn’t help this.

My productivity often looks different each day. I have days where I try to get a one mile walk in before breakfast. Some days it is reading my bible and reading an actual book for personal growth. Other days it is specific homeschool group work done before lunch. Some days it is dishes and laundry.

It really doesn’t matter what it is, just something that needs to be done and that doesn’t involve a screen. Screens are a big, time-sucking rabbit trail for me.

6. Whenever possible, exercise before breakfast. For me, this is my one mile walk. It takes me 15-25 minutes, depending on who ends up going with me or if I get to go alone. I have short legs and walking at 3.5 miles per hour is really moving for me (I know this from walking on a treadmill). This walk isn’t meant to do anything other than get me moving early, out in the fresh air, and clear-headed, so I walk at a relatively leisurely pace most of the time.

The point is movement early in the day, not a super sweatfest. If you want a super sweatfest, then have at it. It’s just not me yet.

7. Making breakfast very protein-heavy. This is hands down the simple step that has made the biggest impact for me. Sometime in March, I started focusing on protein for breakfast. Being the creature of habit that likes to think she doesn’t like routine that I am, this is fairly consistent in content, too. Typically it is 3 breakfast sausages (fully cooked, frozen ones from Costco that have no msg, nitrites, or preservatives), 1-2 eggs, and a few berries.

Sometimes I will sauté some veggies in the pan and then crack my egg over that, just to get more vegetables in my day. This doesn’t happen often because it adds to the time it takes to make my breakfast since I only use one pan for my breakfast because, hello? Dishes.

Previously, I didn’t get much protein in my day either. At this point you may be wondering what the heck I ate and drank since veggies, protein, and water were often lacking from my diet. I’ll give you an example: breakfast would be cereal, oatmeal, or a bagel; lunch would be mac and cheese or pancakes (kids can make these); and then dinner would be some sort of pasta, which would have some veggies or protein usually. Add in there my sweets and snacks of pretzels, crackers, or such and you have a very carb-heavy day of food.

This is why the simple tweaks of a veggie-heavy salad for lunch and a hearty, protein-packed breakfast make a huge difference in how my body feels. And it really is hugely different. On the days I get all seven of these things in, I feel amazing. Like conquer the world amazing. I can definitely use more days like that, how about you?

Last week, after #7 being the only simple step that I had maintained consistently for a month, I realized that my mid-section was significantly less fluffy. My husband noticed it the next day. I haven’t stepped on the scale to see if those numbers have moved and my clothes don’t fit a ton better, but there is a definite improvement in my waist comfort of my pants. It’s enough to keep me headed in this direction.

One of the other results that I have noticed when I implement these simple steps to a healthier life is that I actually don’t crave sugar as much, and there is simply less time for me to eat it so I am naturally eating less sugar. I’ll take it!

If you are looking to make some improvements to improve your overall health and energy, be encouraged that small changes really can make a big difference. While I look forward to a day when all seven of these simple steps feel easy and natural, I am thrilled that even one makes me feel so much better. Give it a shot.

If you are the type who needs more direction, try them in this order – 7, 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6. Keep #3 in mind the whole time and knock them off one at a time. You really can do this, trust me. If I can, you can. Tell me in the comments or shoot me an email and let me know that you started and I will pray for you and root you on!

Simple (I Promise!) Steps to a Healthier Life - Vicki-Arnold.com

Redeeming Anxiety

It’s been a long not-quite-two years for me. After weaning our fourth child, my hormones took a dive and it has been a long, long uphill battle with panic attacks and ridiculous anxiety. My nights just weren’t the same.

I’ve since made my way to a routine that works well for me and my hormones are recovering. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time, and the most persistent issue of anxiety is slowly waning.

Today I wanted to share one of the tricks I’ve found to be particularly helpful when I’m fighting anxiety and why I believe it is so effective for me.

Redeeming Anxiety - One simple change that made a big difference for me.

For me, anxiety usually hits at night when I’m trying to fall asleep. If I am not careful, it can creep into full on panic attack. I’ve figured out a bunch of physical triggers for my panic attacks and know how to watch for those so I don’t trigger one.

But the mental ones are the ones that always catch me off guard. It can literally be one sentence a few hours before bed that will start one. The most recent one was on my husband’s birthday.

We were driving home and I asked him if he had a great birthday. He said yes and I said good…but my brain finished the sentence with “now I can die happy.”

Seriously.

It came out of nowhere and stuck with me all evening. By the time I went to bed, I was in full pre-panic attack mode. It was a rough night.

So what helps?

Prayer.

Now before you write me off with an “I already pray about this all the time,” please hear me out. I get it. I know what you mean. I have been there.

When I changed what I was praying about, I saw a difference. It was a simple switch. I simply went from praying about what was going on and asking God to change/stop it, to praying about the specific worry or concern that I had in a way that was bigger than myself.

An example: One of my biggest fears is losing my husband or one of my children. It is a big trigger for me. Before, I would pray and thank God for my husband and children when I feared losing them.

This was not a bad thing at all, but it was not particularly helpful. The last time this happened, it was triggered by hearing of the death of the 15-year-old daughter of someone I didn’t even know.

Now, when I find myself anxious about someone dying (or anything), I pray for those who are currently walking through it. I do this for any anxious thought that tries to come at me. If I don’t know anyone by name who is walking through whatever is making me anxious, I pray for those that I don’t know, knowing that God knows.

The reason this works for me is that what I’m dealing with isn’t reality. It is fear of something that MIGHT happen. It really isn’t logical. And I know this, but it doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with in my head.

By turning my attention from me, I take the power of the fear away. I usually get lost in praying for those who ARE going through the loss of a loved one, a sick child, or <insert fear here> and my fears are replaced with compassion.

So, that’s it. My little trick is basically to stop thinking of myself. It works for me and, if you are dealing with anxiety, I hope you can find some comfort in it, too.

Household Items You Can Replace With Essential Oils

Essential oils are natural, potent, and very useful. We have used them in our home for well over 10 years now…doesn’t seem like it is possible for it to be that long. My favorite thing about them is the ability to lessen our family’s chemical load.

Today I’m sharing ways you can do the same.

Household Items You Can Replace With Essential Oils | Vicki-Arnold.com

Household Items You Can Replace With Essential Oils

  • floor cleaners
  • disinfectant sprays
  • air fresheners
  • candles
  • dryer sheets
  • furniture polish
  • bug repellant
  • garden pest sprays
  • mold removal sprays

How I Use Essential Oils in Our Home

Floor Cleaners – I have a spray bottle that I fill with water and then add 20 or so drops of Purification. I simply spray our hardwood and linoleum floors and run my small mop over the floors. I personally love this bright, fresh smell more than Thieves. Thieves is more cinnamon and cloves smelling, which may be want you want.

Air Fresheners – I have actually used the same spray for my floors by spraying it into a stale room. You can use any other essential oil single or blend for this. More recently, I will pop some oil into our diffuser and diffuse something like lemon or orange.

If we are dealing with sickness, I’ll use something like Thieves, ImmuPower, or RC.

Disinfectant Sprays – Remember how I said essential oils are powerful? I will take the Thieves spray bottle and spray down door handles, light switches, and other common touch surfaces and wipe them down with a rag to get rid of the nasties.

Bug Repellant – We use a few different oils to try and keep bugs like fleas out of the house. With a dog that is both inside and outside, it can be ongoing in the summer months. We usually mix up our own dog wash (…my husband does it) and include various oils in it. This last time we used lavender.

We tend to use essential oils more for body care, but they are helpful in the home, too. I’ll cover body care in the future. Today I chose to go with the household items you can replace with essential oils because I am a part of a blog hop (yes, I’m doing quite a few of these lately, but that’s because they are fun!) put together by Kara from ALLterNATIVE Learning.

She has organized a huge collaboration for the month of April with a lot of bloggers because this is the month Earth Day falls in. It’s about raising awareness and helping families reduce their chemical exposures, teach children about good stewardship of the planet, and simply putting good resources into your hands.

She also has a great giveaway going on, so be sure to check that out!

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

What does a panic attack feel like? One perspective at vicki-arnold.com

You can probably guess that this isn’t a typical post around here. I started having panic attacks in October 2013 and it’s been a long journey to sort things out ever since.

One of the things that I kept looking for in the beginning was someone else’s story. I desperately needed to know I wasn’t alone, but I couldn’t find anything. At that time, I knew I would write about this someday, but it has taken almost a full year for me to be able to do that.

This post wasn’t easy to write by any stretch of the imagination. Reliving one of the worst nights of your life never can be. However, I know that God has purpose for this. For whatever reason, He has allowed these to touch my life. On this side of things, I have some ideas of why, but that is not for today nor do I pretend to have it all figured out.

Today is for sharing what it is like to have a panic attack. To help that “random” person searching on the internet for “what a panic attack feels like” to know they aren’t going crazy, because I was there not terribly long ago.

To help those who think they know how to fix people having panic attacks, but have been fortunate enough to never have experienced one, to have a glimpse of what it is actually like to go through one of these.

As a final disclaimer, I am not saying this is exactly how EVERY panic attack feels like. I can’t know that. I am simply telling you what my first regular attack felt like. So here goes nothing…and everything.

What a Panic Attack Feels Like

My eyes are closed and I am starting to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, I feel a rush of energy and my eyes literally pop open. I am suddenly frantic as adrenaline surges.

My heart starts to pound and my breathing is picking up speed, as if I’ve just ran a mile. I head to the bathroom, where I can turn on a light, the darkness is palpable.

I can’t quite figure out what I’m doing. My hands are shaking and my feet are cold. I can’t stop moving, even little movements help.

I remember that this happened once before and try to tell myself that I’m being irrational. If I can just calm myself down, I can get through this.

It’s not working.

I grab my Bible because I know the Word of God is alive and powerful. I take my waterproof copy to the shower because water has always been soothing to me. I am in the shower for less than two minutes because I can’t sit or stand still.

I feel like I should cry, but can’t. I am pacing and shaking.

I open to the book of Psalms and start reading. I want to read out loud, but my mouth doesn’t feel capable of moving at this point. I keep reading. My heart still pounds and now there is a feeling of being strangled creeping up from my chest to the base of my neck.

“Jesus, help me.” is all I can manage to mutter as I start to feel as though I am surely dying. My stomach starts to turn in knots. I’m now doubled over, but this doesn’t help my breathing so I straighten.

I can’t make my eyes focus on the words anymore so I set it down and begin to sing Revelation Song in my head.

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, Holy, Holy is He.”

Every part of my being is crying out to him. And then it starts. The whispered what ifs, they start small and I can handle them.

“What if you wake your husband up? He has to get up early…”

It’s ok, he’s sleeping soundly.

“What if this is a heart attack?”

No, I tell myself. No. But, wait. Why are my arms numb? No! We’ve been here before. This is a product of my struggling adrenal glands and the resulting hormonal mess that is my body right now.

“Did you check on the baby? What if he isn’t just sleeping soundly?”

No. He is sleeping soundly. Safely. He is fine, I will not wake him because I am a mess.

They start coming faster and more furious. I rebuke them just as quick, but the fear persists. I rebuke. I cast out. I cut off. All in Jesus name, the name above all names. I believe with all I have. I know this is nothing bigger than He. The funny thing about panic is that it is anything but rational.

Then, quietly, the next wave starts.

“Ah, ye of little faith…faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains. Just how small is your faith?”

And this attack leaves me scrambling because I don’t know how to answer. Because the truth is, the truth I know with all my heart is that I am nothing without Him. I am weak, it is only through Christ that I have any semblance of strength. It has never been more clear to me than at this moment. I control nothing.

And right now, I’m exhausted. I’ve not cried any tears, but I feel as though I’ve spent hours doing just that. My eyes want to close, but the moment my eyelids drop, my body goes into fight-or-flight mode. I bring my Bible back out and focus on Psalm 3.

“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.”

My racing heart is slowing and my breathing is steadying.

“Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Worship His holy name.”

I am able to stop pacing, but my body is humming with energy. Step by step, I work my way to bed. I try sitting. I try laying down, but my heart and mind start to race. I get back up.

Finally, I am able to lay back in a semi-upright position, with my Bible open on my chest and allow my eyes to close off and on.

The last time I see the clock before drifting into a fitful sleep, it is a full three hours after I first got up.

“Lord, I need You. Oh, I need You. Every hour I need You. My one defense, my righteousness. Oh, God, how I need You!”

This song was what finally brought the tears…three days later.

—————————————————————————————————————————-