Do it now, part deux!



(Tree is decorated, that’s about it!)

Is anyone less stressed this week? I hope you are, but I am honestly just as stressed this week as I was the last time I posted. I’m still buying some last minute gifts, nothing is wrapped, I haven’t baked anything, and many plans are still up in the air for the holidays. All of this makes me crazier than usual. Last post I wrote about some things you can do to relieve stress like taking a relaxing bath, listening to music, drinking a glass of wine and cuddling with a loved one. I’ve got a few more stress relievers for you, and I sincerely hope they help you (and me!) through this last push before Christmas.

  (Post walk exhaustion!) 

1. Take a walk- This sounds so obvious and I’ve discussed many times in past posts how good for you walking is, but more so when you’re stressed. Lately I haven’t had time to walk my dogs as regularly as I usually do, and we are all suffering for the absence of our outdoor time. The last few days I’ve forced our walk time back in and I feel better, and I’m sure my dogs do too. The walks have been shorter than they used to be, 15 minutes versus 30, but it’s better than nothing for all of us, and it makes me feel better mentally that I took the time to do it so that’s a double bonus! 

(Great, quick meditations in a booklet our church provides for us each Advent season. Perfect for a fast bit of morning prayer and reflection.)

2. Prayer time/meditation time/quiet time- whatever you call it, this is something really important to me, and unfortunately something that is so tempting to cut out when time gets tight. These last few days I’ve made sure I put my prayer time back on my morning agenda, and I’ve felt a lot better because of it. I won’t be excluding it in the future. 

3. Cry- this seems strange to be included and it’s not something I’m very good at, but there’s something so cathartic about a good cry. I don’t cry very often at all but when I do it makes me feel better. Here’s why, emotional tears, you know the kind you produce when sad (or happy), have ACTH in them which is known to be present in the body during times of increased stress. ACTH is present in our tears because our tears help wash away some of it, and that’s why we feel less stressed after we cry. Pretty cool, huh?!! I am going to work on crying more often than once a decade and see if it helps!

(Some of my favorite people to chat with, home for Christmas!)

4. Talking/venting- this one is very helpful for me. Everything starts to build up and sometime the only thing that makes me feel better is to talk/ vent (rant!) to a caring person in my life, usually my sister, my mom, my roommate from college or my daughters. I am BLESSED to have these loving ladies to listen and care about me. Having an emotional connection with someone is critical for our psychological wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that people with close friends are less likely to commit suicide, more likely to survive cancer, have lower heart disease risk and actually live longer than people with few or no close friends. When women are stressed they produce oxytocin which causes us to “tend and befriend”, this actually encourages us to turn to our friends, and then the act of chatting causes us to produce even more oxytocin, which in turn calms us. Wow that’s complicated but I really like it!

So there you have it! Four more ways to reduce your stress, not just during the holiday season but at any stressful times in your life, which are numerous, aren’t they?!! I wish all of you a stress-less Christmas and worry free new year. Walking, praying, crying and venting will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

You should be doing these things right now!


Hello, friends! Tis the season to be… Stressed out, frantically busy, exhausted, out of gas, and definitely no time to recharge the batteries. I find this time of year to be the most difficult. I feel stressed because I want to get the perfect gifts for my loved ones that reflects how much I love them, frantically busy as I decorate the house, buy the gifts, wrap them, bake cookies, plan, shop for and make the Christmas Eve meal, spend meaningful time with the kids, go out of town to visit family, and all the holiday obligations. This year it’s even more difficult because we are going through renovations on our new house. Life in the “Reno Zone” is difficult and stressful, which adds to the holiday burnout. 

My college student readers are going through similar experiences with studying for finals, writing papers, completing projects, giving presentations and finishing their semesters strong. My conclusion is that we are all STRESSED OUT these days. 

My goal with this post is to help give you ideas about how to de-stress and take care of yourself during timeframes when you have precious little time in which to do this. You can do little things that don’t take long, but will help you recharge your batteries and give you the energy to finish this year strong. I’ve got so many ideas for you that I will split it into two posts. Here we go!


 1. Take a replenishing salt bath– my new passion is bathing. There is nothing more luxurious than laying in the bathtub with the lights dim and soothing music playing. Here’s a way to take it up a notch, add bath salts, in particular pink Himalayan sea salts. Salt baths have been utilized for thousands of years as a way to detoxify the body, and salt in the bath actually ADDS moisture to your skin. Himalayan salts are also high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium and chloride which can be absorbed while in the salt bath. If buying pink Himalayan salt and adding it to your bath seems like too much work, there are ready made products out there that do the work for you. One product I like in particular is from a company called Me! Bath. They have “bath ice creams” that are all natural and contain oils, minerals, fragrances and salt, so you just have to drop one into your bath tub and get in for a nice, relaxing soak. Ahhhhh!

2. Glass of wine– This one works well in combination with number one, because having a glass of wine while soaking in the bath makes it even better. Wine (in moderation) is one of the healthiest ways to wind down after a long day. It contains potent antioxidants that are heart healthy and protect from many heinous diseases. Champagne is getting good press these days because it contains polyphenols that help lower blood pressure, natural trace elements that help boost your mood, and at 78 calories per 4 ounce pour it’s one of the least caloric alcoholic drinks in which you can indulge- in moderation of course. 

3. Listen to your favorite music– again works well in combination with the first two items on the list. Music helps you focus because it causes changes to the brain that help with attention and storing events into memory, makes you feel more cheerful due to the release of dopamine caused by listening to certain songs, and can calm you down by listening to soothing music during stressful events due to decreased cortisol levels . I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stressed and listened to one of my favorite playlists on my iPod which cheered me up immediately. Music can also rev you up and give you the energy you need to complete a challenging paper or project, because listening to up tempo music actually helps you use oxygen more efficiently, which can also get you through a tough workout as well. 

 LOL, Danielle took this picture of me while I was sleeping and cuddling with my Chewbacca! 
4. Cuddling with loved ones, furry and non– I’ve written about this in a previous post but think it bares repeating, physical touch, in particular hugging, is one of the best things we can do for good health. When you hug a loved one your body releases oxytocin, which is a neuropeptide which makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. It promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding. Hugs can also lower blood pressure. This happens because sensory receptors on the skin trigger the vagus nerve which is responsible for lowering blood pressure among other things. Hugs can be a potent destresser because when we hug we immediately reduce the amount of stress hormone cortisol produced in our bodies, which releases tension and sends calming messages to the brain. There is nothing more soothing to me than cuddling up with my pups and loved ones. Truly one of the best things in life!

 This is a picture I took at my local nail salon that serves wine while getting a manicure or pedicure. That’s a win-win to me! 
These are some of my favorite ways to recharge during busy times. What are yours? Living a calm, stress free life is a goal I’m always striving for, it will help you live longer and healthier too. So please my friends, luxuriate in the bath, drink a glass of wine or champagne, listen to music and hug your loved ones. Doing these things will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

Do this every day for the BEST health!



Hello my friends! I hope your fall is going well. I’ve got some good but stressful stuff going on around here. We are moving into our forever home this week and I’m exhausted from all the minutiae of moving. It will all be worth it though when we are safely tucked into our new home but now- whew, it’s crazy!

The old days, awww!

The old days, awww!

So this will be a quick post, but it’s still super important because I’m going to tell you a really easy way to live longer (and happier). Are you ready for this? It’s by giving (and receiving) hugs. This is appropriate for me right now because due to the stress of moving I’ve needed lots of hugs. My mama is on her way to me right now, and I’m sure I will get some good ones once she gets here! My significant other will be relieved that he’s off duty for a while.


Now, you may say, “Are you serious about this? How can a hug help me live longer?” I’m going to tell you all about it right now. First, when we hug someone for 20 seconds oxytocin, known as the love hormone, is released. It gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling inside. it is a neuropeptide, which promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding, and lays the biological foundation and structure for connecting to other people.


Also, hormones released in the body after a hug help your physical health by lowering blood pressure among many other things. Hugs reduce worries and fears, including fear of mortality or dying. Even brief physical touch helps people deal with their concerns.


Your heart benefits from a hug too. In a study done by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, people who didn’t have anyone to hug had an increased heart rate compared to those who had someone to hug.


Very old days!

As we age, hugs become even more important because loneliness, particularly as we age, can increase stress and have adverse health effects. Hugging decreases feelings of loneliness.


Hugs are particularly effective stress relievers. When we hug we reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies immediately. Hugs also help release tension and send calming messages to our brains.

My babies hugging each other!

My babies hugging each other!

If you’re feeling stressed, hug a baby. It will be good for you as I communicated above, but it will also benefit the baby. An Emory University study in rats found a link between touch and relieving stress, particularly in the early stages of life. The researchers concluded the same applies to humans and their development.


In conclusion, hugging is good for us in many different ways, for our hearts, blood pressure, and stress levels. Hugs are super for seniors and babies, and everyone in between, so all ages can benefit from hugging. It’s free and easy to do too so why not try to give and receive more hugs? Hugging can help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

A Furry Stress Reliever!

Lap time with Chewie makes me happy! And I'm not the only one- read on!

Lap time with Chewie makes me happy! And I’m not the only one- read on!

Hello friends! As I said in a previous post I’m a brand new empty nester and am still adjusting to this new phase of my life. It is very gratifying to see how well my daughters are doing, and in particular my first time college student! So it’s all good for them which definitely helps my adjustment process, but it’s a process and I have moments in which I kind of look around like something is missing. Well, in this case it’s two SOMEONE’S who are missing, and as I tell people it’s just WEIRD. That’s the word that best describes my feeling about this new phase.

My first dog, Princess, with my girls when they were little! They loved cuddling with her!

My first dog, Princess, with my girls when they were little! They loved cuddling with her!

So anyway, as I go through this process of getting used to life without my girls I find that I am getting a lot of comfort from my dogs. That’s not unusual for me, I’m a crazy dog lady after all, but I have been comforted by their presence even more than usual. Just looking at them helps me to feel better. I was surfing around on the internet the other day and I came across an article in Dr. Becker’s newsletter that talked about that very topic. Dr. Becker is a holistic veterinarian who has teamed up with Dr. Mercola (a holistic doctor) to dispense advice and sell products. In fact I highly recommend both doctor’s newsletters! Dr. Becker’s article talked about the emotional benefits of owning a dog and here they are!

Still getting comfort from her dog, in this case our current Golden, Delilah!

Still getting comfort from her dog, in this case our current Golden, Delilah!

1. Dogs relieve our stress- Dr. Becker mentions how many hospitals now have dogs come in to visit with patients, and schools that bring dogs in during finals to help relieve stress associated with both hospital stays and exams in schools. Last spring Purdue University had dogs and their handlers come in during finals week for students to come and pet/cuddle. Jacqueline went over and spent time with the dogs and she said it really helped her feel better and less stressed. She got straight A’s last semester so clearly the dog cuddling time helped her rock her exams!

My dogs encourage me to keep moving!

My dogs encourage me to keep moving!

2. They encourage us to exercise- Dogs need more exercise than just letting them out to do their business and wander your backyard. I don’t care how big or small they are, and how many other dogs or cats they have to run around with, they still need to exercise or they will become overweight and bored. Our little dog, Chewie, is a perfect example of that. He started to gain weight over the winter when I wasn’t walking him as much, but worse than that he got bored. Now, for Chewie boredom is NOT a good thing. He started to chew on things, get into things he wasn’t supposed to, and in general he became a nuisance. I learned that I HAD to take him on a walk each day to really wear him out so he wouldn’t get into trouble. The benefit of that was that I got out and walked with them, because they obviously can’t walk themselves. Now, if walking isn’t your thing you can throw a Frisbee with your dog, throw a ball, run, swim, and pretty much anything active that you like to do your dog would LOVE to do with you. If your dog moves and you move with him/her, it’s a win-win!

Chewie loves to cuddle with his sissies!

Chewie loves to cuddle with his sissies!

3. Dogs increase our “happy” hormone- Dr. Becker quoted a study in which they tested dog owner’s amount of oxytocin when they looked into their dog’s eyes. Oxytocin is the hormone that increases when we kiss or hug a loved one. It’s also stimulated during breast feeding, sex, and giving birth. What they found in this study was that the amount of oxytocin in dog owners continued to INCREASE the longer they gazed into their dog’s eyes. No wonder I like to look at my dogs all the time!

My mom even enjoys her cuddle time with my dogs!

My mom even enjoys her cuddle time with my dogs!

4. Dogs have the ability to heal us- Dogs are known to be helpful in those suffering from PTSD, depression, autism and various disabilities. Therapy dogs are utilized to aid those with various ailments. The number of illnesses that dogs can bring about healing for hasn’t been fully explored yet, and new ways dogs can help heal us are still to be discovered. The bond between human and dogs is very complex and in some ways deeper than the relationship between humans. I could’ve told you that!

They are definitely buddies!

They are definitely buddies!

5. Dogs help us in our relationship with other humans- A study showed that when you bring your dog along with you to different places, you are more appealing to others. It showed that 95% of study participants found people in the company of their dogs to be more approachable to members of the opposite sex. Guys did you hear that? Bring your dog along if you want to meet girls! I always meet people when I’m out walking with my dogs in the neighborhood. In fact, I just met a nice woman and her bichon this morning on our walk and we exchanged numbers to go on future walks together. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my dogs with me. Thanks Chewie and Delilah!

So anyway, the upshot is that dogs are a great source of comfort and love for us, especially when going through stressful events. If you’re going through some stress, gaze into your dog’s eyes and feel your oxytocin levels rising! Also, just a 10 minute walk with your dog can ease your stress and give you some exercise too! Enjoy your dog, get some exercise, ease your stress and live a life of vitality- like Valerie!