Self-Care Tip: Get Uncomfortable

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Step out of your comfort zone

It’s time to make a point of stepping outside your comfort zone and getting comfortable with discomfort! Dare yourself to do something different today. Go on, try that red lipstick you’ve been meaning to try but too afraid to. Have some fun. You might actually discover red is your colour!

 

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Self-Care on the Daily

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Self-Care on the Daily

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To celebrate International Self-Care Day, I’ll be posting a series of positive messages that I created to hopefully inspire you to do something nice for yourself once in a while! You’re worth it!

Sincerely,

Cass McD.

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Self-care​ Day: Solo Ste. Anne’s Spa Day

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Ste. Anne’s Spa Getaway

I have created this beautiful garden where many people will come to be healed” – prophecy given to Ste. Anne’s by Jay Rawlings

“You went to the spa by yourself?” This was the reaction I got from a couple people when they found out that I recently went to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario for a much-needed self-care spa day. What’s up with that?! Why is it that people think it either impressive or unusual that one should do things alone? Anyhow, that is a subject for another post, I’m sure! But today is International Self Care Day so I wanted to share my recent solo girl’s spa day getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa

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Coal and Canary Scented Candle

Riding Solo for this Self Care Day

It hadn’t occurred to me that it was unusual to go to the spa alone. I mean my idea of relaxation and pampering involves me riding solo and being left alone to just kick it, in silence, preferably with a good book and in beautiful surroundings! What can I say?!, I love my own company! Embracing solitude is simply another equally rewarding way to make the most of a spa experience, isn’t it?!

I no longer drive so I was excited to learn that Ste. Anne’s can arrange for Via Rail train tickets and provide a shuttle service as part of my spa package! Woot-Woot!

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Ste. Anne’s Spa

My initial trepidation about this solo selfcare spa day was, “what the heck was I gonna do all day by myself?” I had the whole day to myself.  I had nothing to worry about of course. Ste. Anne’s Spa took care of everything for me, including booking my train tickets and providing shuttle service to the spa. They even sent my itinerary with suggestions of what to pack for the day. All I needed to do was pack my things and show up!

I began my day with breakfast, followed by the most amazing Eucalyptus Body Wrap (with a facial and head massage! h.e.a.v.e.n.) that left me feeling lighter and all kinds of relaxed and rejuvenated! I also did a Gentle Yoga wellness class that was enjoyable and the perfect way to wind down.

I had a stress-free, super relaxing time wandering the beautiful, spacious grounds, listening to the birds sing, feeling the sun on my face and the soft breeze on my skin.  I strolled slowly, aimlessly, and completely at ease.

I got excited to find little gardens dotted around the property where you could sit, quietly and listen to the rhythm of the flowing water against the rocks and the faint, soothing melody of wind chimes being softly kissed by the wind. Peace and tranquillity are the only words I have to describe the experience.

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The only time I realized how many small groups of people were at the spa was during lunch and afternoon tea while I was in the dining area. Otherwise, I was pretty much left to walk and chill out in peace and enjoy the serenity of the place.

Solo Spa Days are Awesomeness

Would I do it again? Absolutely! By myself, yeah, or even with my besties. The one thing I wish I had done, however, was to learn to sit still a little longer, close my eyes and just be in the moment. I struggle with that at home but taking this small step outside my comfort zone and to have this experience is enough for now. 

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peace. out

Cass McD.

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Midlife Traveller: Iceland Travel Guide – 7 Things-to-Do in Reykjavik

 

 

Iceland_Landscape_Houses_HR-17Photo: Cassandra McD.

We travelled to Iceland in May and I’ve been meaning to share some of the highlights and low points of the trip with you, so here you go! (WARNING: This is a long post so grab your coffee, settle in and enjoy!)

The Outdoors for the Not-so-Outdoorsy

First things first, I’m not at all an outdoorsy person! I mean, I think I went camping once, in maybe 6th grade – I’ve blocked it out of my memory so I’m not even sure that really happened! So, this trip to Iceland, with the vast landscapes, waterfalls, sheep and spots where scenes from Game of Thrones was filmed (ok, so I was totally looking forward to that part), was going to be well outta my comfort zone, for realz. But, that’s what this year is about, finding small ways to step outside my comfort zone and get comfortable with discomfort.

Iceland_Landscape_mountains_HR-6Photo: Cassandra McD.

I didn’t anticipate what awaited me on this trip. What awaited me you might ask? White Walkers!!! Kidding! But honestly, there might have well been when we found ourselves on a mountain in a snowstorm and visibility was zero. We couldn’t see who, or what was coming along the trail.

Iceland_Hiking_Snow_DeePhoto Credit: Jerome Clark

Something to keep in mind is that Iceland weather is truly unpredictable, even during their summertime. Pack appropriately with options of layers for warmth and protection from the elements!

Where we stayed

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My cousin was in-charge of the accommodations. To save costs we stayed at an AirBnB in the City Centre and bought groceries at a local supermarket called Bonus. We were told by a local, it’s where the locals’ shop and better bang for your buck than other places. Also, a burger and fries at a restaurant could easily cost about $30 CAN so buying a sandwich at the supermarket was our better option!

Where we ate

Well, given that prices were exorbitant for everything in Iceland we bought groceries at the local grocery store. We did visit a Thai restaurant and had pizza! Well, because we love pizza and burgers and fries!

What we did

Because there were three of us we had planned ahead of time that each person would provide a list of three things they wanted to do while in Iceland and then we would narrow the list down based on costs and time.

Luckily for me I travel with some awesome family members who, like me, are fairly easy-going and we didn’t have any issues selecting things to do that we could all enjoy as a group (well, ok, I was not too keen on the horseback riding – I was terrified of that tour but I was out-numbered on that so I decided to feel the fear and do it anyways!“)

The tours we took were well run. We did a Citywalk tour, GoEcco hiking tour and Ishetar Icelandic horseback riding tour. When we weren’t touring we spent some time walking around Reykjavík, checking out shops and a couple museums.

The weather served up some real doozies and stole the show in terms of vacation memories. Even the locals remarked that the wonky weather was unusual for May. We experienced rain, strong winds gusts that made an umbrella useless, then came periods of hail and snow all within minutes and daily throughout the entire trip.

Although the weather made for limited exploring we agreed we would have loved to do more walking around the city for sure.

Here is the list of most of the activities we did during our 5 days in Iceland (links to websites included to learn more about each activity):

  1. Blue Lagoon Iceland Geothermal Spa

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Photo: Blue Lagoon, Jerome Clark

  • Liked: Shuttlebus straight from the airport and return trip that dropped us off minutes away from our accommodations. A place to store luggage and opportunity for some cool photos.
  • Didn’t Like: The facilities were not well heated. It was freaking freezing outdoors but when you were inside, it was not that warm. It’s also pricey.

2. City Walk Reykjavik – Walking Tour 

 

  • Liked: The tour was 2-hours and “free” but you could make a contribution at the end of the tour if you choose to. It was a great way to meet fellow travellers (met another Canadian),  learn about the Iceland history and about Reykjavik.
  • Didn’t Like: Nothing bad to say about this tour at all. It was a great way to start our trip and to get insider tips on where to eat, shop, or what other things to do on your trip. The fact that it was two-hours and free was awesome as we got to set our own budget for donations.

3. GoEcco Volcano and Hot Spring Hike 

 

  • Liked: Our Guide – he clearly had a passion for the environment and was very knowledgeable. The hike was an easy one to do for non-outdoorsy types like us!
  • Didn’t like: the snow-storm that rolled in and left us covered in snow and with frozen fingers and toes. Thumbs down!

4. ishestar Horseback Riding

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  • Liked: That they had rain gear that you could put on. Also, I got to ride an Icelandic horse for about an hour ( I’d never been on a horse before so this was quite the experience)
  • Didn’t like: We picked the wrong tour. Although this was presented as something even for people who had never been on a horse, I felt the group was too big and the instructions to minimal for our liking and with our nerves, well, we probably should have done more research and signed up for the Meet the Horse tour.
    • I had never been on a horse, close to a horse or even knew how to fix the straps on my helmet. So, when I was put in a line then handed the reins with a massive beast attached and told to “Go!” I was a bit shocked and very uncomfortable. This was followed by a not-so-cooperative horse that I ended up exchanging for another!
    • This experience deserves a post of its own so to keep this short, I survived but I think next time doing the Meet and Greet with the horses might have been more appropriate.

5. The Perlan Museum (the Pearl)

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  • Liked: The architecture and The staff. We had the best chat with the staff there about Canada and a random conversation about Trapped – an Iceland drama I watched on Netflix. Don’t ask!
  • Didn’t Like: The weather ruined the views from the observation deck. We braved it for a few minutes but hurried back into the warmth of the indoors.

Photos: Cassandra McD.

  • Liked: It was free to simply walk around and admire the stunning architecture. The gift shop had some cool merch as well. It was worth a quick tour even if we were not seeing a show or buying any merch.
  • Bonus: There is a free bus that takes you from the Harpa to the Pearl.

 

 

  • Liked: You were able to get some cool shots of the exterior, interior and panoramic views of the city.
  • Didn’t Like: That I took me basically the entire trip to feel comfortable pronouncing the name and knowing full well that I still ain’t saying it right!

5 Travel Takeaways: 

  1. Location, location, location – the AirBnB my cousin booked was a prime location and given the weather was so awful, it was nice to be able to walk a short distance to do grocery shopping.
  2. Timing is everything…sort of – Apparently July and August would have been a much better time to visit. It’s their summer and the most likely time to get decent weather.
  3. Thermal underwear is a lifesaver – Pack extra layers, including socks and thermal underwear! Also, if you happen to bring pjs, they also make for a good added layer of warmth.
  4. Waterproof things, one of the best inventions ever! Buy some. A pair of waterproof hiking boots,  waterproof outer layer shell jacket and phone carrying case to slip your phone in.
  5. Having a positive attitude is the best carry-on. The weather sucked but we were able to find lots of laugh about and have wonderful conversations with people we met during our stay. We had bad weather but made good memories!

Lastly, what I absolutely loved about Iceland

My favourite thing about the trip was the people! Hands-down. Everyone was really friendly and helpful.
My suggestions for those of you who more city travellers and non-outdoorsy but who want to get a little outside your comfort zone and stretch yourself a little bit without going all into a full-on camping and outdoor adventure, then Iceland is a great option to consider.
One thing we wished we had the opportunity to do but didn’t because of the weather was renting a car and doing a day trip. Tours can add up so renting a car would have been a great option to see a bit more. That being said, I would love to go back and experience Iceland in better weather! Perhaps a stop-over may be in my future!
Cheers,
Cassandra

 

 

 

 

 

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How migraine headaches impacted my life and what you should know

Migraine and Headache Awareness

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June was National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, and I was happy to be able to share my migraine journey as a part of the #MoreThanAMigraine campaign to help raise awareness.

My Story: The Migraine Struggle is Real!

Migraines and me, well we’ve have had a long, tumultuous relationship. My earliest memory of migraines was when I was 11. At the time I had no idea the debilitating pain, vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise, all common migraine symptoms, would be something I would be living with for most of my life. I simply believed for a long time I had headaches.

The stuff that other people say

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If you suffer from migraines you probably can relate to having well-intentioned people give you unsolicited suggestions about causes and advice on potential cures even though they have never suffered from migraines or rarely had headaches.

  • “It’s just a bad headache” – my mom used to say this. She’d give me over- the-counter pills for headache pain relief and tell me to sleep it off.
  • “You read too much!” – this may have been partly true because I eventually did need glasses.
  • “Take magnesium, iron or calcium.”
  • “It’s probably you’re diet. Go gluten-free!”

Incidentally, lack of knowledge plays a big part in why migraines go undiagnosed for years, as mine did.

Set it Off: Migraine Facts and Triggers

After being diagnosed with migraines in my 20s, I set out on what I think is typical for people who suffer from migraines, trial and error methods of trying to identify what the triggers were.

Some of my triggers include scents like vanilla or lilac, and many perfumes, red wine, too much caffeine, and certain types of soft drinks. Then there are the triggers I have zero control over, like hormonal changes that happen during PMS (yup, every month) or changes in weather. I live in Canada, so you know, that’s pretty much every day!

My Life Interrupted

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I’ve learned through my experience and meeting others with migraines that we have different experiences with migraines.  I’m guessing the one thing we may have in common is that migraines, whether episodic or chronic, can severely impact on our quality of life, including missing days off school or work and affecting productivity and time with family and friends.

One time I was asked to photograph someone for their website, my first paid gig as a freelance photographer. On the day of, however, I was hit with a migraine. I showed up, put on my best smile and barrelled through the shoot like it was the best day ever while in pain and feeling nauseous the entire time. The client couldn’t tell that I was not at my best. It made me angry, frustrated and questioned whether I could do freelance work at all if migraines were going to be an issue.

My migraines are episodic, meaning I have them less than 15 days each month (sometimes they can last for days). I met a woman who has chronic migraines, which are ones that happen for 15 or more days per month. She told me she had migraines every single day. It blew my mind that she was able to hold a job and live while in pain every day. But she told me she has a system of pain management in place that works, and that is routine for her.

Suffering from migraines, regardless of the type, just straight up sucks, 100% for the individual and their loved ones. Having to miss the championship game for your kid’s basketball team, or piano recital or awards ceremony because of a migraine can be painful for the parent and the child.

Ain’t No Cure for These Migraine Blues

Since there is no cure for migraines, when it comes to migraine treatments, one size does not fit all.  Before my particular course of treatment, my migraine would typically last for 14 hours. I would be curled up foetal position on the bathroom floor, in the dark, cellphone in hand, crying and wondering when I should call 911 for help. I felt like death.

Pain Management

After trial and error, I’ve found a combination of preventative and alternative treatments that work for me.

Migraine Management - InfoGraph

I’ve managed to cut the duration down to about 7 hours on average. I take less time off work, get to spend more time with friends and family and don’t stress out as much about going on vacation.

We have to find treatments and ways to manage the pain that meet our specific needs. For some, it’s preventative measures, like migraine-specific medication, therapeutic options like BOTOX for chronic migraines (yes, that’s right, BOTOX was approved in Canada in 2011 to be used to treat chronic migraines. I have no experience with it but consult your doctor for more details). Alternative options such as acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments may also work for some people.

I still experience debilitating migraine headache days,  sometimes migraines that last for up to three days, but these are infrequent now and for that, I am very grateful.

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, check out www.mychronicmigraine.ca where you can take a simple quiz to determine whether you might be a chronic migraine suffer and learn more about chronic migraines.

Cheers,

me

 

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My Morning Routine: How I Start the Day Mellowed Out

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Part of Recovering from Burnout 

How I start my day has changed considerably when I was forced to cope with chronic pain that left me unable to sit or walk for months. Then I suffered from burnout which left me feeling mentally, physcially and emotionally exhausted. To say it was a rough year is an understatement.

Burnout threw me off my game and I needed to take back some control, in small ways and switching up my morning routine was one way I was able to do this successfully.

Now getting up and starting my day off in quiet before I get my hustle on is essential to me. It’s been my lifesaver.

I also read a Fast Company article If you want some general information about how successful people start their mornings, Fast Company article on how successful people start their mornings which was helpful in reinforcing the notion that how we start the day is so important for wellness.

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My Old Morning Routine – FAIL!

What were my mornings like before? Well, I would get up at 6:00 with the alarm, usually after a restless nights sleep, groan loudly and curse, and immediately start to think about work and all I needed to get done that day.

One of the big issues for me was being super hydrated and waking up with headaches and for a migraine sufferer, this only added to my crappy morning mood. Here’s a Reader’s Digest article about some of the implications for dehydration while sleeping.

1. Distraction Mode

Once I was out of bed, I would get into distraction mode.

  • I turn on the television to take in the morning news and immediately sit there, like a zombie, watching the highlights and maybe even getting a little depressed at the not so happy news stories.

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2. Had to have my Social Media Fix

  • I would eventually make turn my attention to charging my phone. Naturally, I would stop to check emails and a quick look at Instagram.

3. Handlin’ the Hygiene

  • Then I would absentmindedly take a shower as I continued thinking, stressing, about the day ahead of me.

No More Sleepwalking Through My Mornings

Basically, I was kind of sleepwalking through my mornings. Sometimes I was so lost in thought I wouldn’t remember getting dressed or recall the journey into the office. Sound familiar?

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Drowning in the emotional and physical quagmire of burnout forced me to try some new things in hopes of taking back some control over my life and feeling like my old self again.

I created an info-graphic to highlight my new mellowed out morning routine that has truly resulted in awesome benefits:

5 Awesome Health Benefits of a Morning Routine

  1. Sense of control
  2. Calm and more focused self
  3. Time-saving (more organized and less distracted)
  4. Reduced stress levels
  5. Happier, smiling me (even before coffee!)

Morning Routine - InfoGraph - FINAL

What ways do you find to get your day off to the right start?

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