As you may know, I’m a big fan of essential oils. They’re like little bottles of elixir that can heal every health and beauty need you can possibly imagine.
Now you might also know that I’ve been experimenting with mosquito traps and repellants. As promised, I’m sharing the ways that work and dismissing those that won’t.
Essential oils is just one way, and by far the best one IMO. This is because these plant concentrates are so versatile that you can use them to your advantage: Inhale the fragrance using a diffuser, ingest the essence with a dilution, and directly applying the oils across your skin.
My favorite way is the last – using them topically. It’s not your room or your internal organs that’s concentrated with the aromas – it’s every inch of you where mosquitoes can bite. All the places they can suck blood is tainted, and this ultimately makes mosquitoes hate you. Just remember not to overdo it, because we’re going full-on undiluted with volatile oils here. But trust me, it works.
For the untrained nose, patchouli smells like your granny’s clothes. But the musky essence is my go-to scent whenever I’m looking to calm my mind or just looking to ground myself. In ancient Asia, silk traders used to pack patchouli leaves with their silk cloths to prevent moths from laying eggs, while in the 60s, patchouli was the rage when it comes to incense. Some even use it as an aphrodisiac, but I’m afraid you perfumed with patchouli could repel both the mosquitoes and your boyfriend (true story).
Based on this 2005 study, patchouli was one of the 4 fragrances that provided 2 hours of complete repellency from mosquitoes (along with clove, citronella, and makhwaen). While I haven’t tried makhwaen before, I can testify that citronella also works, but patchouli is better when you’re easing yourself to sleep. Citronella is for when I’m out playing tennis and sweating, and we all know all that heat and sweat and CO2 are evermore delicious for mosquitoes.
Alternatives: Citronella, catnip, thyme
This scent you’ll associate most with cough syrups, medicated oils, and Fisherman’s Friend. If you’re a fan of minty freshness, then eucalyptus is your friend, only much stronger. Contrary to popular belief, eucalyptus does not belong to the mint family. It belongs to the myrtle family, from where other woodier scents such as cajeput, clove, guava and allspice also belong.
I have a theory on why cloves are so warm and spicy: They have the highest antioxidant capacity of most, if not all plants (1,078,700 µTE/100 g) on earth. I found this fact when I found the ORAC chart from the USDA Database, so if you’re looking for the most powerful antioxidant activity from the inside-out (and in this case, vice versa), go with the cloves. The spice remains an important commodity in the trade from ancient times till today, and as an Indonesian I’m proud to say the myrtle plant is native to Indonesia.
Today, aside from cooking, people are also using cloves as mouthwashes and for overall dental health. Not to mention that of all the essential oils we’ve covered so far, clove oil worked the best on me to keep myself free from mozzie bites all night. Based on the study we mentioned earlier, clove oil provides the longest time of 100% repellency, up to 4 hours compared to the 2 hours of other oils (as well as the other oils in this 1999 study). Bottom line: Clove oil’s efficacy against mosquitoes is proven legit. So start hauling the spice before food and drug companies mark up the price.
Alternatives: Fennel, vanilla, garlic
Still not convinced? Try going one night with any one of these oils to sleep. Rub just 1-2 drops of the oil on your face and neck. Not only are you going to sleep tighter, the nasty midgets are going to flee from you all dusk and all dawn.
We’re still in the season of resolutions-making, so I thought it fitting for me to share some of the things I do in the morning. The more I grow older, the more I realize it’s easier to make changes if we take things one day at a time. While some aren’t a daily habit, I’ve been pretty consistent that most of them have become second nature:
But first, water
I simply can’t get up without sipping H2O. Every morning I wake feeling dehydrated, and I guess that’s a no-brainer for someone who guzzles about 4 liters a day. You actually lose more than a pound of water weight during sleep, so it’s important to replenish the system after it’s lost so much.
As to why I have a kiddy water bottle, it’s because my previous 2 Rubbermaids spill easily even after I secured the cap. They were fine the first few months I got them. And then after that they’ll drench everything in my bag, on my car seat, and then over my clothes some more.
I bought this 1-liter bottle from a Toys Kingdom store. It was pleasant a surprise – you won’t expect to find quality water bottles here (out of all places). For months I’ve looked for something to replace my Rubbermaid. I’d go hardware stores and dishware stores – nothing. At least, not one 1-liter BPA-free water bottle that’s durable. I was looking for something along the lines of those from Camelbak, so it’s great to find that my kiddy bottle was perfect: It’s made from Eastman Tritan copolyester, meaning it’s really 100% BPA-free and not just labelled “BPA-free” for marketing reasons.
And yes in case you wondered, I’ve been ridiculed quite a few times, but who cares? Safety first. Honestly, the chillaxing frog is also part of the reason why I picked this up from Toys Kingdom. If only they have pigs.
Read the Word
I’m so guilty for not reading the Word every single day even though I have an incredible app for that (DailyBible). But aren’t we all like that? When everything’s fine and going well in our lives, we stop talking to God – not even when worry. Only when trouble comes then we find God for help and ask for “miracles”. The verse today resonated with where I am today as well as where I am in my life right now. I wouldn’t have the ability to type these words if He didn’t sculpt my fingers and my brain.
Have a fruit
Longtime readers, you know I was force-fed with an apple and a boiled egg every single day. It wasn’t that hard with eggs because I love dairy, but with fruits, my mom had fought a long but worthy battle: She tried slicing it, juicing it, sneaking it in my lunchboxes and so on. Now that I’m a full-grown woman, I cannot start a day without an apple. I even have apple cravings.
Recently, I was hit with a fever and a diarrhea (January 1st to be specific … depressing, I know). The fever part got away quickly with some prescriptions from the doctor, but for someone who’s easily a fruit queen, this means I haven’t had any mangoes or papayas or kiwifruits in the last 5 days. The only fruit I was allowed was apple, because pectin. So far it feels like a newfound appreciation for the fruit, and Fuji’s juiciness has become an indulgence.
So if you only have 1 serving of fruits today, make it an apple.
Make a to-do list
I never understood productive people who functions without a list: How do they do it? Even if they’re not using the easiest-possible-to-use app on their mobile phone, they must have some kind of a pen-and-paper post-it somewhere in their pocket.
Over the years I’ve been doing just that – doing a brief rundown of all the things I have to do that day and ticking them away as the day goes by. It gets messy because I had so much paper waste. Now I just make a private list on the go on this social list-making site because I don’t want others to know that I’m this OCD when it comes to making lists … but now you do.
Okay. Another private list that I keep is a weekly mileage that will compound to so much in a year. The fact that can I see how many miles I can run in 50 minutes this year and last year (as well as the previous year) itself is a motivation to get some serious sweat. As to why this habit doesn’t feature a gym selfie, it’s because I tend to avoid the mirror during a sweat sesh (and also, read this). It can make or break your workout, depending on your personality. My tendency is going Sherlock with every imperfection I have on the image, so you get the point.
Though you will not get the caffeine kick from teas immediately, anything red, green, and white works excellent to keep my energy up and stabilize my mood all day. If you’re not as tolerant with caffeine like I do, you may already be drinking teas, and black tea might even be your exception like it is for me. Black tea (ceylon, english breakfast, lapsang souchong) is the tea variety that’s most oxidized and therefore contains the most caffeine. I actually suspect the diarrhea came from drinking this Chinese black tea I’ve had in my cupboard for months, as the tin still got about 2 ounces of tea leaves left. It’s the first black tea I’ve downed in ages … and I shivered like I do with coffee.
What about you? Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Is there a healthy habit you’re trying to cultivate this year? Tell me how you’re planning to change your habits in 2015 in the comments section below.
The last time I covered on adaptogens, I posted about how I try to take ginseng and jiaogulan on a daily basis. They’re also 2 of TCM’s most beloved herbs up to this day for a reason, so I suggest you take a look at the post before reading more on this. Right now I’m going to delve into the 2 adaptogenic herbs I promised at the end of that post that boosts overall mood and energy levels: Licorice root and cordyceps.
In most Asian households, meals are often prepared with herbal ingredients that have long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Mine was no different – while as a kid I used to hate the weird dates, the black chicken essence and all those bitter roots in soups she prepares, I eventually learned to love them since I started cooking. This soup was one example, but there are many more herbs in the Materia Medica that I now ingest regularly. The following are just the 2 I try to take everyday.
I’ve always done this ever since I was little. I would lose myself into the pages of Harry Potter for hours as I watch my inhales and exhales, witnessing how the story affects them from moment to moment. I guess it’s a way to remind myself that I’m still living in a muggle world. Otherwise, it soothes me to whiff the smell of fresh print and feel the grainy textures of paperback. I never knew until recently that this is considered meditation.
Thing is, you don’t have to find a specific place of total quietness to start meditating. Heck, you might already be doing it without knowing it.
Meditation is simply a state of consciousness where you place your attention onto something. While you’re at it, you consciously shift from the immediate and random thoughts that arise, observe how they fleet, and come back to that something. This usually involves focusing on your breath – inhaling slowly, belly rise, exhaling even more slowly, belly falls. Don’t think about your muffin top – just breathe like you don’t exist and it’s just you, your breath, and your spirit.
Another way to meditate is just walking. It’s something I love to do everyday while I was living in SF. You just sync your footsteps with the rhythm of your breaths and, if it makes you feel better, take pleasure in visualizing yourself catwalking on a VS runway.
For me, the easiest way to meditate is to let yourself feel the brief tingles, gentle rubs, and other little sensations of things that are presently around you. It’s convenient because you can sense things anytime, anywhere, if only you truly attend yourself to the present moment. Even in the most humid forest your skin can feel where the tiniest winds is blowing, and buried in the sandiest beach you can still sense the cool air each time you lift your feet.
As a Christian, I know that that inner calm in me is actually the Holy Spirit2, so to me meditation isn’t about “emptying the mind”. In fact, it’s the opposite: You let things come as they are and learn to become compassionate about it. Out of surrendering and letting the spirit overflow you you become more open, more accepting, and less judgmental. Out of contemplating its presence as a lifestyle you just get better at keeping calm and carrying on, because you know there’s always someone who has your back.
But I digress. Back to the point: Meditation is really that simple, so simple that it’s almost unbelievable to see that it can transform well beyond your daily habits – it changes your very being.
To get into that Zen-like state right now, there are a few places to start:
Focus on your breath. Count it, watch it from afar, realize that it’s deep within you. Judgment comes, criticism comes, let them be. Observe them without your own judgment or criticism. Gently return to your breaths again and count. Keep on it for as long as thoughts arise – watch the thoughts in the air and always come back to your breath. Inhale … exhale. Distractions will always be around, but you don’t have to be consumed by them.
Walk steady, perhaps slower than usual; pace yourself and absorb your surroundings. Listen to the faint, clacking sound of your heels in the midst of the bustling city. You smell the onions of a Subway sandwich somewhere, you overhear someone’s getting a divorce near a cafe, you see a kid coming toward your direction that’s about to fall, and you’ll instinctively know how many footsteps it takes to hold the boy’s hand so he doesn’t fall. #truestory
While driving, turn off the radio/music player. If the road is clear, drive at a steady speed and at every turn, feel the engine pulling your body from side to side. If the road is congested, come back to your breathing and watch the surrounding cars, trucks, buses, and motorbikes passing each other by. Even if you get angry about it, you’re still stuck in that position. Accept the emotion inside, detach yourself from the voice that says it’s a wrong emotion, and realize that you don’t have to express that anger. Thoughts can only be things if you allow the substance of it to take shape.
While in the shower, breathe in and breathe out as you lather your featherlike soap against your skin. Exhale long and deeply under the warm rush of water. Feel it, get lost in it, let it run all over your body and soothe you.
While you’re about to eat, take a few deep belly breaths. Then eat. How fortunate you are to be able to eat such nice things. Savor every bite, let every taste you can sense titillate your buds, and swallow. A new Facebook notification pinged your phone, and all that taste from your food vanishes the instant you’re about to check your phone. Don’t. It’s most likely not the end of the world, and you’re having a serious foodgasm. Notice your default reflex to check your phone every time there’s a new notification, realize how easy it is now for things steal your attention like this, come back to the delightful taste of your food, and continue chewing its colorful textures.
Mantras. Recite them in your heart, repeat, match the syllables of the words with your strides. Keep running.
It’s the most essential element of life, but we often overlook its healing powers for our overall health. Instead, we go out of our way to seek out exotic cleanses and expensive pills to replenish ourselves.
I’m one of those girls who cannot completely forgo my six-inch platforms for the modest flats. Despite my 5’6″ stature, sometimes I just want to get my head in the clouds like a wandering giantess, or a runway model, floating effortlessly among the sea of well-heeled strangers. In the name of fashion, every girl who’s gone through a glitzy evening in heels would understand this.
Lately, though, I’ve grown into a habit of limiting myself to wearing heels of any height, from half-inch loafers to sky-high stilettos, to a maximum of twice a week.
In general, I believe women want to give that illusion of long, beautiful legs (plus the pronounced buttocks and angled torso) to feel more confident in our stature. The truth is, men don’t even notice the difference; and above everything else, they look for a pair of happy feet first thing in a woman they see as mate potential.
There’s a lot to tell bystanders about you just by how you take care of your least noticeable parts, or at least what you think are the least noticeable parts, such as your hands and feet. I am guilty for one, as I move around in a pretty ugly (and often painful) pair of feet. I’ve been torturing my tootsies since puberty with super-tall pairs of footkillers at least four times a week. Before I knew it, I was walking around with the regular foot pain.
For one thing, driving around in high heels is, quite literally, a pain in the butt. Ever since I received my black Civic last October, I’ve learned to keep a stash of heels in the backseat while steering in a glam dress for some glam event. Look beyond the car window and you’ll see I’m actually hitting the brakes in a pair of Havainas flip-flops. Then I’d heave a deep sigh as soon as I reached my destination. Lest the fashion police catches me, I’d switch to a Manolo to go with the gown I’m wearing.
The way I see it, I don’t want to put up the enormous pressure any longer. At least, not as often as I’d like.
Here’s the cold hard truth, girls: Whenever you’re strutting your stuff with the extra height, you are essentially putting your entire body weight on the two little bones sitting underneath your big toe – just as it is shown on the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH)’s recent x-ray video above.
I know right. Why in our right minds do we put up with that amount of pain and discomfort in the first place, much less for the whole day?!
“If a woman wants to wear really high heels on weekends or a night out or even at work because they make her look good, she’s going to wear them,” said Ohio State’s podiatrist Alan Block to Today. “Fashion is going to win, so I think the message needs to be just don’t wear them all the time and for everything that you do.”
Podiatrists have warned us girls about the hazardous effects of wearing high heels for years. As much as I hate to admit it, I was always quite ignorant about this. The moment I think of Victoria Beckham, I convinced myself that walking in heels is just like anything else I can come close to perfect – you just have to practice. But since I’m pretty active and running a lot, some weird stuff have came up over the last five years since I’ve taken up the sport. I thought tight hips, ankle sprains and ingrown toenails just mean I don’t stretch enough post-workout, but the leading cause behind these conditions is my habitual wearing of super high heels.
Here are some of the other related conditions Dr. Consuelo H. Wilkins, M.D. listed on her article for The St. Louis American:
Corns and calluses. Thick, hardened layers of skin develop in areas wear the shoe and foot rub. Painful rubbing can occur from wearing a high heel that slides your foot forward in your shoe.
Hammertoe. When your toes are forced against the front of your shoe, an unnatural bending of your toes results. This can lead to hammertoe — a deformity in which the toe curls at the middle joint. Your toes may press against the top of the toe box of your shoe, causing pain and pressure.
Tight heel cords. If you wear high heels all the time, you risk tightening and shortening your Achilles tendon — the strong, fibrous cord that connects your calf muscle to your heel bone. Over time, the Achilles tendon shortens to the point that you no longer feel comfortable wearing flat shoes.
Stress fractures. Tiny cracks in one of the bones of your foot, stress fractures, may result from the pressure high heels place on your forefoot.
Why it’s a big deal
A quarter of ALL the bones in the average human body rests in the feet, so naturally, any form of foot issue means serious business.
Women’s Health also covered the skinny on wearing heels yesterday, which I think is a must-share since we’re on the topic. Turns out you’re not just inducing foot pain, but pretty much the rest of your body as well:
• Normally, your feet act like spring-loaded, weight-distributing shock absorbers, cushioning your skeleton from crazy amounts of pounding. Jam these engineering marvels into high heels and … ouch. You’ve shifted much of your mass onto the balls of your feet and your tiny, delicate toe bones.
• The higher the heel, the bigger the impact: One study found that four-inch stilettos can up the amount of pressure on the front of the foot by 30 percent or more.
• Your heel-to-toe transition becomes abrupt, forcing you to swap your natural stride for a staccato walk. Strutting like this all the time could usher in bone and nerve damage (not to mention blisters and ingrown toenails).
Ankles and Calves
• Wearing heels forces your ankles to bend forward, a movement that could restrict circulation in your lower limbs. If you’re a perennial high-heel wearer, this could eventually spell spider veins.
• Walking in heels also stiffens your Achilles tendons, which anchor your calf muscles to your heels, causing your calves to bunch up. If you’ve had your tall pumps on all day, you might have trouble walking naturally when you first kick off your kicks. (You can work to offset this stiffness by flexing your feet—shoeless—several times throughout the day.)
• Over time, stiletto devotees can develop chronically taut (and shortened!) ankle and calf tendons, making walking—even in flats—painful.
• Another pro shock absorber, the knee is the largest joint in your body. It’s built to take a licking, but frequent high-heel use can put extra stress on the inner sides of the knees, fast-tracking the wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis.
• To keep from keeling over in stacked shoes, you have to thrust your hips forward, arch your back, and push out your chest. That familiar sexy stance works the outer hip muscles and tendons hard (and not in a good way).
• In order to sashay around in heels, your spine needs to sway unnaturally, a process that stresses your lumbar erector spinae muscle. Result: sore lower back.
• As with your other body parts, your back needs a break. If you wear high pumps one day, don cushioned flats the next. Or save your spikes for special nights out—and never walk around in them for longer than a few hours at a time.
With all things considered, my vanity is still keeping me from throwing away all the heels in the cupboard. Some of them are really comfortable to walk in for up to a whole day, particularly the chunky pumps and wide-toe platforms. The rest I just can’t bear to throw away, even though I never wear them anymore (that’s three or more years of collecting dust). The one thing I changed after I had my most recent fallen toenail, which I’ve experienced about ten times now, was placing my loafers and flip flops right by my doorstep.
It’s just logic: A solid foundation is a prerequisite to a healthy body, and for the record, uncomfortable shoes and activities just don’t mix. I learned the hard way (a really bad back pain and lots of blisters later) that if my base of support isn’t happy, then the rest above won’t be.
How to deal
Since I didn’t fully trade comfort over style (and I believe you’re not ready to toss out all your heels from the shoe rack as well), I have no choice but to show my foot a little extra TLC while keeping my toes on those extra inches on a regular weekend. It took time for me to discover the practices that work for me to ease the pain, because there’s actually plenty of solutions to foot problems other than the following four I’m sharing. In any case, I hope you find them useful:
1. Get a regular foot and body massage.
Massages work like magic, especially for pain relief, tension release, and an overall sense of wellbeing. Aside from getting pampered by the pre-massage foot bath, (only available at selected parlors), I usually get out from my two-hour sessions feeling a lot lighter. Traditionally, the Chinese believe that pressure points on the foot directly stimulates specific parts of the body, much as the tDCS technique affects nerve cells. So whenever you get your fix at the reflexology parlor, you’re essentially stabilizing blood flow all across your body. Excellent blood circulation is the foundation to fluidity in your strut, so book a session at your local parlor right now.
2. Adopt a yoga routine.
Some months ago I felt a terrible pain on the back of my foot, even when I was only wearing ballet flats. The same thing happens during my runs: My calves were so tight and every stride felt heavy. When striding forward was supposed to release stress, it became quite stressful – thanks to my wearing high heels regularly and flexing the muscles I don’t need to contract. Since then I realized how important stretching is to balance the body’s energy. Even though I’ve had no professional guidance to yoga, certain poses, such as the Pigeon and the Cobra, do feel orgasmic when most of my daily hours are spent on stressing specific musculature of the legs. The goal of yoga here is to increase your range of motion so that when you walk or run or swim, you’re really using every part of your body as effectively as you can.
3. Make your flats a statement piece.
Lately I’ve been investing more on comfortable flats that would go with anything I wear, which is usually a set of basics and adorned with little-to-no accessories. Arguably boring, I know, but no matter what kind of simple look I styled myself up, the first thing people would notice is usually these ultra comfortable yellow flats by Aldo. Initially I just thought these would be the perfect pair to go with the usual T-shirt and jeans. I even remember it was an impulse buy. But over time I realized the pair fits almost anything I wear, not to mention they’re much less boring than the standard nudes. The best part of all? I can even run on them and still look good.
4. Rely on a healthy body image.
For years, girls have always had a ranging degree of trouble with their body image. Today, thanks to mass-media brainwash, it’s as if the pressure to look and act and behave a certain way is so strongly embedded within our collective unconscious that we don’t second-guess to “edit” ourselves. Somehow we listen to others’ opinions more about ourselves than maintaining our own stance, for approval or otherwise.
While I don’t claim to have a consistently healthy body image, I believe that ultimately we have more power over ourselves than others do against us. I admit I wear heels often because I want to do the whole fake-it-till-you-make-it thing so I can feel less insecure. After all, forcing yourself to stand up straight does make you look at least five pounds lighter and a hundred times more confident than you really feel inside. But hey, I never felt good refusing to eat pork just to get along with a certain social circle, or the countless times I pretend it’s effortless to walk in stilettos even though I’m excruciating inside. To be brutally honest, I do have a desire to live up to the modern alpha-female expectations – perfect job, perfect body, perfect household and perfect everything – which obviously no one can measure up to because the word ‘perfect’ does not exist within the human vocabulary, much less in the distorted images made up by human beings.
At some point there is a line you have to draw that says, “Enough is enough.”
Let go, stretch out, and make your statement instead. No one is telling you that you need heels to look good.
Hello everyone~ If you haven’t already know, today is the official World Suicide Prevention Day, an eventful day annually held during the last decade through an effective collaboration among the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the World Federation for Mental Health. Every year in September, a day is chosen to help raise the awareness of the increased number of victims worldwide who are struggling to fight against their demons.
This year, IASP have set their focus on combatting the social stigma attached to suicide among families and friends who have lost a loved one, addressing that it’s a huge barrier to break down until the isolated can feel the comfort of opening up about their pain. At large, the pressure of being alienated by society prevents those who are at risk from discussing their problem and seek help, and statistics only keep showing higher rates of suicides around the world (with more lives lost than war and homicide combined) that can very well be prevented if each one of us play our part in encouraging a non-judgmental environment and embrace our differences.
Let me confess: I’ve done a little write-up for this post and moved it to the trash can on the subject earlier, but later decided I should do this before the day ends. I was inspired by “Prison Break” star Wentworth Miller’s openness when he told TMZ about his personal experience, and thought that in reality, celebrities and everyday people alike are equally vulnerable. Here’s what Miller shared about his experience:
The first time I tried to kill myself I was 15. I waited until my family went away for the family and I was alone in the house and I swallowed a bottle of pills. I don’t remember what happened over the next couple of days but I’m pretty sure come Monday morning I was on the bus back to school pretending everything was fine.
I felt compelled to share my experience by Miller’s revelation because I realized somebody else of another social status have experienced the same thing I have experienced. To write this post, I was also driven by one of my life’s most inspirational figures, Saddleback Church founder and author of 2002 bestseller “The Purpose Driven Life” Rick Warren, who took four months off to cope with the loss of his youngest son, Matthew Warren, as well as the stigma that followed before he started preaching to his 20,000-member congregation again. His comeback sermon heralded his newfound hope in his life and his conviction to remove stigma of mental illness, as he brought people back to the heart of Christianity: “God knows what it’s like to lose a son.”
What I want to say out of this post is this: It can happen anytime, to anyone – but you don’t have to do this.
Growing up, I used to think that people who take their own lives are just plain stupid. Life was freely given for us to fully enjoy, and it’s just stupid to kill your own joy because there is not one good enough reason in the world for you to do that.
Flashback to a couple of years ago, and that killjoy is the person I’m facing in the mirror everyday.