Body and Soul: 6 Ways to Take Care of Your Whole Self

If you think of health as simply swapping apples for cookies or getting a flu shot, you’re only seeing part of the picture. Complete wellness means maintaining balance in body, mind and spirit -- which is not always easy to do if you’re the kind of person who puts themselves last in line for TLC. “As women, we tend to take on more than we can chew,” says Elizabeth Trattner, an integrative health expert in Miami, Florida. “No one wrote the handbook on how much should women juggle.” Take control of your well-being and care for yourself with these wellness tips.

Care for Your Mind

Focus on the positive: The next time you feel self-defeating about your to-do list or a stressful work situation, try to see things in a positive light. Hard as it may be, give yourself a “this too shall pass” pep talk, then think about something fun. “By focusing on pleasant experiences, we generally have a better outcome,” says Kim Chronister, a wellness expert and psychologist in Los Angeles. “Olympic athletes take ten minutes to engage in positive thinking, so we should, too.”

Make it work by: allowing yourself to acknowledge your negative thoughts. Then let them simply float away and replace them with happier messages.

Take a vacation -- in your head: If you find it hard to break a stressed-out mood, try this. Let your thoughts linger on an upcoming vacation and then sketch out what you’re going to do -- without ever leaving your desk. “What this does is to help you set aside your current worries and replace them with something fun that’s on the horizon,” says Chronister.

Make it work by: adding music to the mix. If you’re dreaming of a weekend by the shore, put your earbuds in and tune in to your summer favorites.

Care for Your Spiritual Side

Get out in nature: To best feel spiritually fulfilled, step outside at least once a day to see the beauty in the natural world. “What happens is that you’ve disconnected from things around you,” says Trattner. “Whether it’s the woods, the ocean, a lake or even a flower shop, by being in nature you’ll feel the powerful effects of harmonizing with nature.”

Make it work by: leaving your electronic devices at your desk -- or at least turned off -- during your outdoor time. You can’t truly immerse yourself in nature if you’re distracted by a screen.

Learn how to meditate: No matter what your religion or belief system, daily meditation can help you connect with your spiritual self. It can also help you find deeper purpose and meaning in your life.

Make it work by: choosing a set hour and space for your daily meditation. This makes it easier to keep to the habit, according to The New York Meditation Center. Plan to spend at least five minutes sitting quietly, focusing on your breathing.

Care for Your Body

Learn how to breathe -- better: Turns out, one of our most basic functions -- breathing -- is something many of us are doing incorrectly. While most of us take upper body breaths, we should strive to take belly breaths that allow for the maximum flow of oxygen. “When you take a breath in, you should feel taller,” says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist and author of Breathe. “But most of us are breathing from our upper bodies up near our shoulders.” Belly breathing can also help restore your energy, lower blood pressure, improve your sleep and even recharge your immune system.

Make it work by: placing one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. As you breathe, relax your belly so that it expands when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. Your hand should rise and fall about an inch as you do.

Find a trampoline (or a jump rope or hula hoop … ): Exercise doesn’t have to be dull or grueling. If you loved bouncing on a trampoline or skipping rope when you were growing up, go for it now! The goal: to find an exercise regimen that’s fun and makes you feel engaged. “We know exercise is as effective as antidepressants in improving mood and having a positive approach to life,” says Chronister. So grab your walking shoes or hula hoop and commit to getting your body moving for at least 20 minutes a day.

Make it work by: exercising early in the morning. You’ll feel energized all day and fall asleep more easily at night. Studies also show that you’re more likely to stick to a morning workout than an evening one.

Easy Braided Hairstyles for Summer

This summer’s hottest hairstyle is the braid -- and not just because a cool swept-away style beats having your hair sweat-plastered to your neck. “Braids are having a moment, because there are so many different types -- and can be done yourself quickly without heat or styling tools,” says Jeanie Syfu, TRESemmé’s lead stylist. Weaving your hair is calming and therapeutic, says model stylist Matt Fugate. “I find it enhances creativity, too.”

Best of all, anyone can do it -- and if it comes out a little messy, so much the better! Here are some easy braided hairstyles that are hot this summer along with plait pro tips for mastering each style:

What: Beach Fishtail

Where: Jessica Lowndes, Downton Abbey’s Michele Dockery and Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna

How: Split shoulder-length or beyond hair into two sections. Take a little hair from the outside of one section and cross it over. Do the same with the outer strands of the other portion. Repeat. The looser the braiding, the more modern it looks. Wrap the bottom with a clear band. For a more glamorous look, start with a high ponytail. Or sneak in a hair treatment by working leave-in conditioner into towel-dried hair before braiding.

What: Side Braid

Where: Brooke Lively and Valentino’s Fall 2013 models

How: Part hair in the middle or to the far side. Pull hair to one side in a ponytail that starts at your nape. Start braiding. Pull out some tufts.

What: Braid-y Bunches

Where: Socialite Nicky Hilton at Coachella and Maria Menounos at the Oscars

How:  Pull hair tightly into pigtails just to each side of the nape, then braid. Use an elastic at the tails’ ends, then wind into a bun. For a looser version, start with a side part, with thick braids starting at the hairline on each side of the part. Add to the section as you move back and down the head behind the ears, with the braid getting looser as you descend. Roll braid into a bun at the nape of the neck.

What: Boldi-Locks

Where: Vanessa Hutchens at Coachella

How: Split hair into six small sections, then weave from the middle down. Moisten pastel hair chalk, and coat the surface of one section moving down the plait for a temporary but fun funky look, suggests Edward Tricomi, stylist and co-owner of Warren-Tricomi Salons.

What: Halo

Where: 20th Century artist Frida Kahlo and Sarah Hyland at the 2014 Golden Globes

How: Towel-dry hair. Create a side part and, if you can, a zigzag part. Start with two ponytails, low at the nape of your neck. Divide ponytails into three or four sections and braid to end. Loosen, then wrap around your head behind the ears and tuck hair under the braids and fasten with hair pins.

What: Boho Braids

Where: Rodarte runway Fall 2013 and on the women of Game of Thrones

How: Part hair in the center, either straight or with a zigzag. Take a small piece of hair at the temple and braid halfway before tying with an elastic. Do the same at the other temple. Join the two plaits at the back, perhaps winding one into a chignon where they meet. Or go loose, as seen at Victor & Rolf’s Fall 2014 runway: Take a section of hair just above each ear. Halfway down, weave them together twice, pin in place, and leave the rest hanging.

Your Cinco de Mayo Menu

No matter what your background, Cinco de Mayo is a fun day to celebrate! Honor Mexican heritage by throwing a party featuring tasty authentic dishes. To get things started, we asked four chefs to share their favorites. So put away the plain salsa and chips -- whether you’re into seafood, steak or veggies -- we’ve got some great Cinco de Mayo recipes to spice up your meal!

Guacamole Sliders

Created by: Chef Arturo McLeod, Benjamin Steakhouse, White Plains, New York

Ingredients

Guacamole
1 Hass avocado
1 small red onion, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1 teaspoon cilantro
Salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped jalapeno (optional)

Directions

1. Cut avocado in half, remove pit and, with a tablespoon, scoop the avocado out of its peel into a bow. Immediately add lemon juice (this prevents the avocado from blackening).

2. Add chopped onions, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper and jalapeno (if desired) and mix with a fork to retain some of the chunkiness of the avocado.

3. Cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Sliders
8 rolls, split and lightly toasted
1 pound ground beef
1 red onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, sliced
8 slices cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Pre-heat grill. Make eight 3-inch beef patties, adding salt and pepper to taste. 

2. Grill beef patties three to five minutes per side, depending on your preferred temperature. Place a slice of cheese on each patty during the last minute of grilling. 

3. Arrange bottoms of rolls on plate. Place a patty on each roll and add a slice of onion and tomato per burger.

4. Scoop approximately 1 tablespoon of guacamole per slider, then cover with the bun top. Pinch each with a toothpick and serve. 

Mini Carne Asada Steak Tacos

Created by Stephanie Allen, co-founder, Dream Dinners 

Ingredients 

Steak and Marinade

Place a bag with six 4-oz top sirloin steaks inside a stable container and fold edges over. Add:

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons lime juice

Salsa

1/2 cup fire-roasted tomatoes (you can make your own by tossing several halved plum tomatoes with olive oil and kosher salt, spreading them on a baking sheet and cooking in a 400 F oven for 40 minutes)

1/4 cup diced red onion

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon lime juice

Rub

2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning

1 teaspoon dried cilantro

1/4 teaspoon cumin

Other Ingredients

2 bags flour tortillas

2 bags low-fat refried beans

Directions

1. Remove steaks from marinade and sprinkle with half of the rub.

2. Grill or broil on medium high for three to five minutes, flip and sprinkle second side with remaining rub, continue cooking two to three minutes (until desired doneness).

3. Let steaks rest five minutes, then cut across the grain into thin strips. Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in foil and place on grill or in oven for three to five minutes. Place refried beans in small saucepan and heat for three to five minutes.

4. Place sliced steak and refried beans in warm tortillas; top with salsa.

Roasted Red Pepper and “Cheese” Taquitos

Created by: Jenny Engel, co-owner of Spork Foods, a vegan food company in LA

Ingredients:

1 roasted red pepper (from jar), seeded

1/2 brown onion, sliced into thin strips

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese

1 package corn tortillas (12 count)

2 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil (refined coconut or safflower) 

Directions

1. Slice roasted red pepper into thin strips. Place in a mixing bowl and add onion, oregano, cumin, sea salt, chipotle and lime juice. Set aside.

2. Place shredded vegan cheese in a bowl and set aside. Using tongs, heat each tortilla over an open flame for about five seconds on each side, to make them pliable. 

3. Place 2 tablespoons filling mixture and 1 tablespoon cheese in center of each tortilla, in a line. Roll into a long taquito (or cigar) shape.  

4. Over medium heat, add oil to a skillet over medium heat and add oil. Cook taquitos seam side down, until golden brown, about three to four minutes.  Flip and continue to cook on the other side for an additional four to five minutes. 

5. Serve taquitos warm, along with your favorite salsa, guacamole or other dips. 

Shrimp Margarita

Created by: Ben Lillard, chef, La Cocina Mexican Grill and Bar in Seacrest Beach, Florida

Ingredients 

Shrimp

1 pound medium shrimp (deveined, peeled and diced)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

11/4 cups jarred salsa

3 tablespoons ketchup

1 cup homemade Pico de Gallo (recipe below)

2 ripe avocados (peeled and seeded)

White rice

Pico de Gallo

3/4 cup diced tomato

1/4 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 minced jalapeno

1 1/2 Tablespoons minced garlic

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Directions

1. Sauté diced shrimp over medium high heat for one to two minutes until shrimp is firm and pink. Season with salt and pepper.

2. In a mixing bowl, add shrimp to your favorite salsa, ketchup and the fresh chopped Pico de Gallo. Dice two avocados and mix in. Serve in a martini glass on a bed of white rice. 

3. Mix together pico de gallo ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste.

Going Back to Work After Baby: Get the Job. Ditch the Guilt!

If you’re a new mom who is going back to work, we’re here for you. Read on as we walk you through some job-hunting strategies, how to smooth the transition once you’ve landed a new job and how to deal with ever-present new mom guilt.

Consider All Your Work Experience

If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, you may not realize what skills you’ll be bringing to the table. Your first step: Make a list of 20 things you’re good at. “Think about all the experience you’ve accumulated since you’ve been home as well as the work you were doing before you had your baby,” suggests Stacia Pierce, a life coach in Orlando, Fla.

Don’t Undersell Yourself

Just because you’re a working mom doesn’t make you less valuable of an employee or less capable of handling all your responsibilities. In your cover letter, emphasize your strengths and your past accomplishments. “Working mothers are known for their capacity for work, ability to prioritize, productivity and their ability to improve team dynamics,” says Liana Downey, executive director of Liana Downey & Associates, a company that offers strategic advice to large governments and nonprofits -- and a mother of two.

Prep for Your Interview

Once you’ve landed an interview, start prepping -- even if you’re exhausted from those late-night feedings. “During your interview, you want to convey that you’re ready to return to work and that you’re excited to get back into the workforce,” says Pierce. To really impress, always take a few minutes to research the person you’re meeting with. “It’s so easy to Google the person beforehand,” says Pierce. “Look at her social media page to see what she’s working on or what she cares about and see if you can add that to the conversation.”

Map out Your Back-to-Work Strategy

Whether you’ve just accepted a job offer or you’re nearing the end of your maternity leave, it’s time to iron out all the details of your now-complicated schedule. “If it’s at all possible, target your start date for four to eight weeks in the future so that you can line up childcare and figure out breast pumping or formula issues,” suggests Lauren Napolitano, a licensed psychologist in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. If you’re pumping, see if your workplace has a mother’s lounge or another quiet room that you can use regularly.

Try Some Test Runs

Even if you’re looking forward to being back in the office, mom guilt is inevitable. To help ease the transition, chat with as many other mothers as you can. “These moms are a great source of information and can tell you how they managed their guilt and anxiety about going back to work,” says Napolitano. Slowly practice spending time away from your baby to get used to your new arrangement. “Try a day out first,” suggests Napolitano. “This full day -- or a few half days -- can help your baby to transition to this arrangement, and it will ultimately help you to adjust to the idea of leaving your baby in the care of others.”

Focus on Polishing

Before that big first day, do a little image enhancement. “In the days leading up to your first day, prepare your outfit, adding an accessory or fresh blouse that makes you feel good about yourself,” says Pierce. “When you wear something new and fresh, it makes you walk taller and feel different. That energy gets across to a new employer.” Just check for spit-up on that new shirt collar before you head out the door.

Hair Dye: Should You Go Organic?

Hair coloring is the “mane” event for three out of four women. But the smell of conventional dyes can be off-putting, and the strong chemicals can be worrisome, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to limit your exposure to toxins.

For women who want to go green with their hair, there are organic options out there, both at-home treatments and dyes available at specialty salons. The colors are plant-based, and instead of ammonia, the products include less-harsh lighteners such as pharmaceutical-grade hydrogen peroxide. Fans of the treatment say it leaves hair looking and feeling great.

However, going natural comes with some trade-offs. Ironically, henna and other plant-based dyes deliver the least natural shades. “Plus they’re super unpredictable, because they usually contain metallic salts that react with other dyes or processes,” says Marcy Harmon, a colorist at Los Angeles’s Plaid Studio who forgoes chemicals whenever possible. “If you hate the color, you have to cut off your hair or risk it turning green from the oxidation.” Vegetable or “direct” dyes are less damaging since they lie on the hair strands’ surface rather than penetrating. But they also tend to fade within two weeks.

“I try everything,” says Harmon. “But a good nature-based hair dye is hard to find, especially if you want a lighter color.”

The other catch is that some so-called “natural” dyes aren’t all they appear to be. “Many dyes claim they’re organic when they’re just ammonia-free, but something has to do the job of ammonia,” explains Harmon. Ammonia penetrates the hair shaft to let the color in; dyes without it may contain other, less effective chemicals such as ethanolamine. “Color makers just change one chemical for another, less familiar one,” says Harmon.

Harmon offers these additional tips to get maximum color with minimum health risks:

Avoid washing your hair the day before your appointment. “Natural oils on your scalp will help protect you if you’ve got sensitivity to chemicals.”

Bring your own. Not sure whether your salon has the type of hair dye you want? Buy your own color and ask your stylist to apply it, suggests Debra Jaliman, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and assistant professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and author of Skin Rules.

Pamper your colored coif. After you leave the salon, Harmon recommends caring for your hair with natural or organic shampoos and deep or leave-in conditioners. “These close cuticles so strands can be shiny again.” Wearing hats and UV-blocking hair sprays will help prevent sun damage.

Test first. Try new products on a small patch of skin (such as the inside of your elbow) and ditch them if you experience any reddening, itching, blisters or shedding.

Space out your visits. “I have patients who dye their hair every two weeks. That’s too much,” says Jaliman. Salons generally recommend dyeing every four to six weeks. Extend time between appointments by coloring your roots with touch-up wands. You can also avoid too many coloring sessions by choosing shades closer to your natural hue.

Don’t relax too often. If you’re truly committed to going natural, your best bet is to limit (or avoid) chemical relaxing, texturizing and straightening treatments. Many contain the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, which is released into the air as a gas when the treatment is heat-sealed with a flat iron.