During These Turbulent Times, Here’s How We Talk About Race in Our Interracial Relationship

Tips for turning an uncomfortable conversation about race into an opportunity for growth.
MAPODILE/GETTY IMAGES

The ironic thing about being in an interracial relationship is how rarely race comes up. When my partner and I fell in love, I wasn’t falling in love with a white man, and he wasn’t falling in love with a Black woman. It was just a man and a woman falling in love.

And unlike the groundbreaking show Mixed-ish, portraying a married interracial couple raising three biracial children, not every disagreement that comes up between us is a “learning moment” on cultural sensitivity or ways to fight racism. Discord for us is like most couples: differences of opinion, being triggered by something the other did or said, old emotional wounds, adjusting to 24/7 quarantine togetherness, or just being desperately hungry.

Race so seldom plays a role in our day-to-day lives. However, following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, and the subsequent protests, the whole issue of race became amplified as we grappled with these issues and complex feelings.

Coming from different cultural backgrounds and different ideologies can be a cause for some tense conversations around the targeting of Black people, police violence, and systemic racism.

Here are some things we do to take the heat out of talking about race.

To love, accept, and validate

Years ago we listed things we felt were important in keeping our relationship strong. Those things have become our communication vows: to love and accept each other and to validate one another’s emotional experiences. So rather than rush in to fix a problem, we try our best to listen first, ask questions second.

Without that kind of understanding in place, tough conversations would be almost impossible, particularly those touching on subjects as potentially volatile as race, police violence, and social justice.

The astonishing thing is that by now, these “vows” have become the invisible backdrop behind our talks, so we can fall into a place of listening with acceptance without thinking about it. This comes in handy when one of us voices frustration and the other is just able to take it in without needing to do anything about it.

If this doesn’t come easily for you (and it didn’t for us for a while) you can start with these 7 ways to be more accepting of your partner.

Actively listen

These conversations usually happen when we’re hanging out in our front yard or sitting together on the couch and the subject turns to the following: “So, how are you doing with all this stuff in the news?”

During those times, when we delve into tougher feelings, we aim for being a better listener by staying in the moment. This means putting down the book or the phone, blocking out the distractions of neighbors walking by, and fully giving our attention to the other. Here’s how couples can become better listeners and strengthen their relationships.

Listen to understand the other’s point of view

It can be challenging when we disagree on something we feel strongly about. The way we try to improve our communication at those times is to take a step back and start asking questions to better understand the other person’s point of view. It doesn’t mean that we’ll end up agreeing, but it lessens confusion and defensiveness when we can understand why the other thinks the way they do.

So, as we discuss our reactions to Floyd’s killing and the protests, we may ask the other, “How did you come to think that or feel that way?” And it’s not uncommon that it’s the first time we’ve had to think about how we formed some ideas on a specific issue.

My background of living in predominately Black neighborhoods until my teens and then predominately non-Black neighborhoods thereafter shaped my feelings on how Black people are treated. Similarly, his upbringing of being raised in a predominately Polish neighborhood in an area where different ethnicities kept to themselves, shaped his feelings on how people from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds treated each other.

We both grew up in segregated environments and were exposed to ideas and beliefs about other races that reflected our environments. Some of those ideas we abandoned if they didn’t fit our concept of the world and some we’ve kept.

To hear the other’s perspective, self-reflect on, and challenge ideologies we hold helps us refine our thoughts and see a wider picture of the world.

While it would be a tall order for him to feel what I’ve experienced as a Black woman or for me to feel what he’s experienced as a white man regarding racism, we can show empathy by striving to understand the context within which certain beliefs and opinions were formed.

Don’t worry about being politically correct

Whereas we want to be cognizant of each other’s feelings, playing nice by being politically correct doesn’t work. For one thing, that’s not our style. More importantly, though, being politically correct has no place in a frank discussion about race within our relationship.

We call it as we see it because of our core belief that our relationship is a safe place to be real.

So, when we’re talking about things we’re seeing on the news, there are things that are just unequivocal: These are images of white cops killing Black men or these are images of Black people looting businesses downtown. We don’t dance around the issue.

MAPODILE/GETTY IMAGES

Keep the dialogue flowing even if we hit a sore spot

To say that talking about race doesn’t press some sensitive buttons would be a lie. The worst thing to do, though, is to clam up and stop talking (or stonewall) because we’ve become upset. That can lead to passive-aggression and resentment. Or the opposite: speaking out of anger and saying things you should never say to your spouse or partner.

What we do instead is keep talking until both have stated their point of view and if we can’t come to an agreement, let it go and move on.

What I’ve seen happen in our conversations is that when we hit upon a provocative issue like where to draw the line between social reform and community responsibility (or if such a delineation is even useful), after a couple of turns in sharing our thoughts and hearing the other person out, we’ll eventually get to, “Yeah, I see what you’re saying.”

Be all right with opposing opinions

We have to be all right with the other person having a different opinion because we’ll never agree on everything 100 percent. Since we base opinions on feelings or ideologies and not facts, they can be contentious if we hold on to them firmly.

Knowing that we try to be clear by saying: “This is just my feeling; I’m not saying it’s a fact or that it’s even right. It’s just how I feel.”

When it comes to discussing things like social justice, we both have opinions on what should be done to address the issues, the points that should take priority, and who should shoulder responsibility for what.

And since we are not part of a governing body, but a couple having a conversation on their couch, it’s just better to allow for the fact that we see some things differently.

Build on common ground

Because discussions about race and social justice can be fraught with tension, we’re sensitive to jump on things we agree on. We take some fire out of the conversation and reestablish our connection by taking a moment to acknowledge the points where we overlap and say, “You’re right about that, or I agree with what you just said.” Those moments feel more affirming than the moments of asserting our individual point of view.

An easy point for us to agree on is that the protests are good for raising awareness, propelling social reform, and showing global solidarity against racial injustice; while looting is untenable and deplorable, detracts from the movement, and gives those who already hate people of color evidence to prop up their hatred.

Come from a place of mutual respect

We can easily reduce differences of opinion on race within a group of acquaintances by saying, “s/he just doesn’t get it” and writing the person off. Within a couple, though, where you have history and know this person intimately, you also know the following: 1.) They have a genuine interest in doing the right thing and 2.) Dismissal would be disrespectful and damaging to the connection.

One of the signs that your relationship is solid as a rock, is your mutual respect of each other. One way we show that is in the value we place on our connection and the steps we take to keep that connection strong.

Mind you, these conversations don’t go perfectly every time. We’re human and sometimes we don’t get the words right. However, we know that we’re coming from a place of wanting to understand, to be understood, and to gain a wider perspective.

These could be some of the hardest conversations interracial couples have and as we move through this moment in history together, it’s important to remember that we’re on the same team.

On the macro-level, as we hold conversations across cultures in the United States, the same holds true: We’re on the same team.

Next, read how to support the Black Lives Matter movement and become anti-racist.

For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.

[Article first published on Reader’s Digest.]

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

7 Guaranteed Steps To A Good Night’s Sleep

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels  

You’re exhausted. And you’re counting the minutes until you can just collapse into bed. But when you finally lay down your mind races and you can’t relax enough to go to sleep. 

Why is falling asleep so hard for many of us?

Heightened levels of stress and anxiety can make getting to sleep (and staying asleep) a challenge. But it’s not always about stress. You could just have a lot on your mind left over from the day or already prepping your to-do list for tomorrow. Your room is too warm or there’s too much noise. 

So many factors can play into having disrupted sleep. But there are simple steps you can take to transition into deep sleep quicker and easier. 

Here are seven guaranteed tactics to bridge the gap between you and a solid night’s sleep. 

1. Your Bedroom Should Feel Delicious. 

If you’ve had trouble sleeping a problem could be that your bedroom isn’t cutting it. For maximum somniferous effect you want to create a sleep cave of sorts full of linens and things (pun fully intended) that lull you to sleep. 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine the three things you want your bedroom to be are “quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.” 

The reason for the cooler temperature is that our body temperature naturally decreases during the night. “When you go to sleep,” says H. Craig Heller, PhD, professor of biology at Stanford University, “your set point for body temperature — the temperature your brain is trying to achieve — goes down.”

So you want to create as cool of an atmosphere as makes you comfortable and helps you stay asleep. 

What’s comfortable for each person differs – thus the never ending battle of the sexes for setting the thermostat—but you want to shoot for a room temperature that hovers around 65 degrees

Along with adjusting your thermostat you’ll also want to choose linens, pillows, and a mattress that draw heat away from you. Because, even if you get the room temperature right, your linens and clothes can make you too warm, causing you to overheat during the night. If you naturally run hot, this can spell disaster for a sound sleep.

That means, as much as you may love your memory foam because of how it contours to you, it holds heat. So, buh-bye. Toss ‘em. And replace them with natural fibers that don’t trap heat. 

You’ll want to check out switching your mattress for a cooling model. And for natural sheets—a fantastic and little known natural option is bamboo. Bamboo sheets are deliciously soft and durable. If you’re in the mood for something a bit more luxurious, check out the cotton percale sheets that, because of their tight weave (percale describes the type of weave and not the type of cotton), are so luxuriously soft they earned a spot on our The Best list, which is the definitive repository for the greatest of the great. 

There’s also a new all-natural pillow made from organic cotton and buckwheat that will make giving up that memory foam pillow a painless transaction. Unlike foam or down filling, buckwheat doesn’t collapse under your weight. And you won’t have awake pulling your sweat soaked shirt away from you—the pillow stays cool. 

2: Filter Your Phone Light

We’ve all heard it dozens of times—the light from our phone is bad news as far as sleep is concerned. And we’re like ‘Yeah, uh-huh, scroll, scroll.’ But seriously, when it comes to falling asleep, the light from our phones is doing us more harm than good. 

The problem is that our screens emit short-wavelength blue light that sends signals to our brain that it’s still daylight. A study has shown that this blue light “damages the duration” and “quality of our sleep”. Could be a reason you find it hard to wind down enough to sleep. Just sayin. 

Lisa Ostrin, an assistant professor of Optometry at the University of Houston College, explains, “that blue light prevents special photoreceptor cells in the eye from triggering the release of a sleep hormone.” The hormone she’s talking about is melatonin. Without sufficient melatonin our bodies don’t know to become sleepy.  

Ostrin and a team of researchers conducted a study where they provided participants with special blue-blocking glasses to wear after sun-down. Two weeks after the study began, participants experienced an increase in melatonin production of 58 percent. Not surprisingly, they reported sleeping better. 

But if you can’t really see yourself sporting blue-blocking glasses around your house, then the next best thing is a blue-light filter for your screen.  

3. Be Picky With Screen Time 

Seeing as we’re all on our phones 24/7 telling people not to use their devices before bed is just impractical, lame, and unlikely.

If you’ve done your homework and dimmed your devices with a blue-light filter then the next important thing you can do is choose things to do or watch that you find calming, soothing, or mindless. 

Reason being, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “Using electronic devices before bedtime can be physiologically and psychologically stimulating in ways that can adversely affect your sleep.” To mitigate the stimulation, choose things that are super chill. 

If playing Candy Crush or Pokémon Go are your wind down go-tos, so be it. Or if watching Brooklyn 99 or Parks and Recreation on repeat chills you out, do it. Just hold off on binging Ozark or Breaking Bad until the next day. And skip scrolling through your newsfeed, Facebook, or Twitter feeds which are gloom-and-doom anxiety-inducing mines waiting to explode right before you’re ready to go to sleep. 

Although experts say that watching TV before bed “makes it more difficult to fall asleep”, in my experience, falling asleep while watching a movie is like a no-brainer, it just happens and  it’s a deep sleep. So you do what works for you. 

4. Try Essential Oils. Seriously, They Are (Sometimes) Legit

Essential oils are fantastic for relaxation. Trouble is, certain purveyors of essential oils have been caught making totally unsubstantiated claims about the curative properties of essential oils, telling people to ingest them (please don’t) and claiming they can cure fatal disease (they don’t). DoTERRA, a huge purveyor of essential oils and a multi-level marketing company, was the biggest offender of this and since the crackdown by the FDA has backpedaled and is now training their sales reps not to tell customers that ingesting essential oils will cure their cancer (that’s progress, I guess?). 

Barring the bad name with which quackery sales gimmicks have smeared essential oils, there is ample evidence that scent affects our brains and that essential oils have proven psychological and physiological benefits, as has been shown in numerous studies. One study focused on Intensive Care Unit patients who weren’t sleeping well. After fifteen days of receiving lavender oil through an inhalator the intervention group reported significant improvement in sleep, whereas the control group didn’t.   

Northern California based dermatologist, Cynthia Bailey, MD  explains, “There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils. But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

So bring out all the smell goods—your yummiest candles and your essential oil diffusers—to help you relax into sleep. 

5. Choose The Right Sounds To Unwind 

Remember when people started listening to whale songs, falling rain, or chirping toads to fall asleep? Maybe you even still have that Sharper Image sound maker you got as a gift stored away somewhere, forever buried.  

The effect of sound on our sleep has led to the distinction of various color-coded noises. Stay with me. We all know of white noise—radio or TV static—an unobtrusive continuous hum. But there’s also pink noise, which is akin to those nature sounds mentioned earlier; brown noise—think waterfalls, roaring rivers, or thunder; and black noise—which, weirdly enough is just another word for silence. “Silence” wasn’t a good enough word, apparently. 

White and pink noise have both been shown to help you sleep better. It’s still too soon to say which is better, more research is needed. In the meantime there are plenty of sleep sound machines and apps to help you explore the spectrum of soothing noises. 

Those looking for new ways to wind down are discovering the soothing sounds of binaural beats. The music described as an “auditory illusion” is achieved by layering two different sound frequencies that are allegedly picked up separately through each ear (thus the bi- in binaural). 

Technical stuff aside, listening to binaural beats is utterly calming. There’s nothing there to distract or rile the mind. It’s just chill.  

Another wildly popular option is watching/listening to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos—those softly spoken words or actions, like hair brushing) are great for falling asleep. The effect is quasi-hypnotic. Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Maybe a playlist of ASMR, wind rustling through leaves, and binaural beats will be your magic sleep cocktail. 

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention meditation apps that are also great for getting to sleep. We like Insight Timer—a meditation app perfect for those who aren’t really into meditation. They offer guided meditations of varying lengths. There’s also the Calm app for meditation and sleep. Fun thing about this app, if you’re not feeling meditation, and you’re of the opinion that you’re never too old for “bedtime stories ” or Sleep Stories, as they call them, and I will shamelessly profess that I am of that ilk, then Calm has gently narrated stories to lull you to sleep.  

6. Have Relaxing Night-Time Rituals

A big part of falling asleep easily is tricking the brain into slowing down and readying itself for sleep. Simple night time rituals—things that you probably already do—can flip the switch in your head so that your body detects sleep being near. 

Perhaps the most obvious night-time routine to cultivate is your skincare routine because, unless we’ve just given up completely, we will still wash our faces before bed. Long, tiring days that end in, “I can’t even” notwithstanding. Think of this as time to look forward to, where you get to pamper yourself with all your favorite skin care products like this, and this, and definitely this, and decompress. 

Once you’re all dewy and dulcetly scented drop deeper into relaxation with some gentle stretches. As little as ten minutes spent stretching before bed will ease tense muscles exponentially. 

7. Get The Feels From Sex Or Self-Pleasure

We can’t really do justice to talking about relaxing night time rituals without talking about sex and self-pleasure, the penultimate of relaxation rituals. Much has been written on the topic of how sex improves overall wellbeing. And you don’t need me telling you that reaching orgasm releases a cascade of feel-good hormones, like oxytocin.

But interestingly enough, there is another hormone responsible for that post-coital crash that many slip into and that’s prolactin. You can probably guess by the “lact” that it has to do with producing breastmilk. According to psychiatrist, Sheenie Ambardar, MD, “After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness”

Because prolactin is released after orgasm, any orgasm, you can feel the soporific effects with self-pleasure as well. So, keep your favorite toys nearby, ladies. 

This has been substantiated by a study out of the Appleton Institute for Behavioural Science in Australia, reported that while “orgasms with a partner appear to have the most benefit in terms of sleep outcomes, orgasms achieved through self-stimulation can also aid sleep quality and latency.” 

And, as if you needed more reason to pounce on your partner, another study showed that prolactin production after an orgasm reached with a partner was 400% greater than from self-pleasuring. 400%! Numbers don’t lie. 

So if sound sleep has been eluding you, by taking an intentional approach to ending your day and cultivating habits that will promote better sleep, you create an atmosphere of rest all around you. Sounds dreamy, right? Now go try out that whole prolactin business. 

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

All The Science-Backed Ways To Decontaminate Your House Right Now

SANITIZER WIPES

Each day, the coronavirus finds another way to upend our lives, creating a new normal that we’re still adapting to. As we wrap our heads around life as it is now, so much of our mental, physical, and emotional energy is spent doing all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. And of course, regular hand washing and social distancing are still the top-tier priorities.

But, when it gets down to the nitty gritty of staying safe and healthy, most of us are struggling to parse through all the confusing, conflicting information on the best ways to keep COVID-19 out of our homes and away from our families. What do we do with packages? And groceries? And deliveries? So, we thought we’d save you the hassle of scouring the entirety of the internet for answers.

Here’s a rundown of the most up-to-date info and best practices as prescribed by the CDC and the medical community for disinfecting our homes.

How To Decontaminate Our Homes:

This respiratory disease passes from an infected person through “respiratory droplets” that are expelled when they cough, sneeze, or talk (hence the need for masks). But, a person can be infected and not show symptoms, meaning they can inadvertently pass on the virus even if they don’t feel sick, which is why we’re all #stayinghome.

But, here’s some good news; according to the CDC, “transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented.” This means that no known contamination has occurred from surfaces AND no known cases of COVID-19 have been food-borne (more on that later).

As such, the recommendations from the CDC are intended for those with ill people in quarantine at home, making these the highest level precautions suggested. If your household is COVID-19-free (thank goodness!), use these as general guidelines to ensure you and your family continue to stay safe.

  1. Clean, Then Disinfect: Cleaning with soap and water removes germs, but doesn’t kill them; disinfecting kills them, but only if the surface has been cleaned first. So it’s best to clean, and then disinfect your surfaces. We know— this is confusing and an annoying amount of steps. Also, who knew that “cleaning” and “disinfecting” mean different things?

  2. Wear Gloves: Wear disposable gloves while cleaning and disinfecting, and toss them when you’re done. If you have reusable gloves, designate a pair for disinfecting and use others for general cleaning.

  3. Focus On High-Touch Surfaces: Thoroughly clean and disinfect surfaces your family touch all the time, like tables and desks, chair backs, countertops, doorknobs, light switches, phones, screens, remotes, handles, faucet knobs, and toilets.

  4. Use The Heavy-Duty Stuff: For cleaning and disinfecting, the CDC recommends using EPA-registered disinfectants—household brands you probably already have, like Lysol or… Lysol? Is there another disinfectant?

  5. When In Doubt, Use Bleach: If you don’t have a disinfecting cleaner but you have bleach, you can make a bleach solution using 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of water, or for smaller quantities, 4 teaspoons of bleach per quart of water?

  6. Make Your Own Sanitizer: You can also make a sanitizing solution of 60% Isopropyl Alcohol and aloe vera gel.

How To Decontaminate Surfaces:

A controlled study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Hamilton, Montana, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that SARS-CoV-2 lasts seventy-two hours on plastic, forty-eight hours on stainless steel, twenty-four hours on cardboard, and four hours on copper.

  • Porous Surfaces: For porous surfaces like carpets, rugs, and drapes, wash them like you normally would but use the warmest water setting possible. Or use an EPA-approved disinfectant that works on these surfaces.

  • Non-Porous Surfaces: For surfaces like your tables and countertops, wash with soap and water followed with a disinfectant. Wipe your electronics down with disinfectant wipes or a paper towel soaked with a bleach or alcohol mixture.

Do We Need To Decontaminate Our Clothes?

“The average person should not worry about their clothing,” according to Sarah Fortune, a professor and chair of the Department of Immunology And Infectious Diseases at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. She adds, “If you are a health-care provider and potentially subject to a high density of virus, the answer is different. But for most of us, it is all about our hands and face.”

Dr. Juan Dumois agrees. He’s a pediatric infectious-diseases physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, who said, “sneeze particles with virus are going to last a lot longer on a desktop or countertop than on somebody’s clothing.”

Thankfully, our laundry routine doesn’t need to change much. But if you’re still nervous about an infected person brushing by you in the grocery store, you can remove your clothes when you get home and set them aside or in a bag for a few hours to be washed later.

Do We Need to Decontaminate Food After Grocery Shopping?

According to the CDC, the risk of COVID-19 spreading from food products or food handling is “very low.” They’ve stated that “currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food,” and they don’t suggest extra precautions when handling food other than washing your hands before touching food if you’ve touched your eyes, nose, mouth, or face.

But we know that, for some of us, that’s just not good enough.

We worry that workers on the supply chain— from source to grocer— could have contaminated the product through transport and stocking. And with SARS-CoV-2 hanging out on cardboard for up to three days, it seems possible (though not probable) to bring the virus home.

To allay these fears, a well-intentioned physician posted a video on YouTube that set the internet on fire with some suggestions he made, which went against FDA approved practices (and common sense) for keeping food safe and stopping the spread of food-borne illness. This video recommended leaving your groceries outside for hours or washing your food in soap and water. Please don’t do these things. I REPEAT, please don’t leave your groceries outside, and don’t wash your food with soap.

He attempted to combine medical procedures for disinfection with the CDC guidelines for washing your hands with warm water and soap. The problem is produce is porous and soap contains chemicals that don’t make the inside of body happy, so eating produce washed in chemicals could lead to other health issues like diarrhea and vomiting— which is literally the last thing we want right now.

Plus, the CDC reports that no cases of COVID-19 have been food-borne. It all makes washing produce in soap and water an unnecessary, probably unhelpful, possibly unhealthy practice.

But he did have some good (and safe) tips, like:

  • Commit to buying a product before putting the item in your cart. You don’t want to needlessly expose yourself to the virus by picking up 8 bottles of olive oil before putting one in your cart.

  • Use clean flowing water— it’s really all you need to wash your produce.

Here are some more practical and sensible suggestions for decontaminating food:

  1. Designate an area for unloading your groceries:

    • This area will be thoroughly disinfected before and after use. Have a “dirty area” where the bags will be put down and a “clean area” to place groceries after disinfecting. For those of us who are counter-space challenged, just put your bags down, put your groceries away one by one as you disinfect them, and disinfect whatever surface held the bags afterward.

    • A note on reusable bags: many stores aren’t allowing outside bags anymore, so you will have to get bags from the store.

  2. Wear gloves, or wash your hands: You can wear gloves while unpacking your groceries, or just wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done.

  3. Produce:

    • If in a sealed plastic bag, wipe down the plastic with a disinfectant wipe, or an alcohol- sanitizer soaked paper towel. Do NOT use bleach on your food.

    • If the produce is loose, rinse it in clean flowing water and dry it with a paper towel before storing it in the fridge.

    • Keep in mind that cooking foods kills the virus, but produce eaten raw should be thoroughly rinsed.

  4. Packaged meat and fish:

    • Meat and fish bought at the butcher-counter should be unwrapped and dropped into a clean container to be put away in the freezer or refrigerator.

    • Pre-packaged meat and fish should be wiped down with a disinfecting wipe and stored.

  5. Non-perishables:

    • Canned goods can be wiped with a disinfectant wipe or sprayed directly with disinfectant.

    • Grains and dried beans can be wiped down with disinfectant wipes or opened and put into containers. A great time to decant some things in your pantry.

  6. Plastic and glass bottles: These sturdier containers can be sprayed directly with disinfectant and wiped down.

  7. Cardboard boxes:

    • Cereal boxes can be sprayed, wiped, or opened and decanted into a clean container, or the plastic pouch wiped down.

    • Ice cream containers should be wiped down.

    • Pizza boxes should be discarded and plastic wrap inside wiped down; same goes with frozen dinners—discard the box and wipe down the plastic before putting it in the freezer

  8. ­­­­­­­Takeout:

    • If you’re worried about the safety of your takeout food, keep in mind that heating food to 133°F (56°C) kills the virus, so cooked foods are safe.

    • If you want to feel better about the whole thing, then reheat your takeout in the microwave. The Candidly microwaving your food until you see steam coming off it.

  9. Grocery Deliveries:

    • If you have a mind to use services like Task Rabbit to shop or a grocery chain to deliver straight to your door, all the better—you get to stay at home, social distance, and have someone else run an errand for you. All wins!

    • You’ll still want to practice contact-free delivery, having them leave the groceries at your front door. Then go through the steps of disinfecting each item before putting them away.

Are these steps excessive? If it keeps you sane and your family safe, then no.

(Article first published by The Candidly.)

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

According To Neuroscience, This One Unexpected Thing Will Wildly Improve Your Focus

woman-using-laptop

If it feels like your attention span is getting shorter and shorter with every new iPhone release and Netflix drop, you’re not wrong. Toss in an international pandemic, and most of our ability to focus is out the window completely.

Neurologists have found that we can maintain focus for about 20-minute intervals at best. So while we shouldn’t feel guilty about our wandering minds, we’re also not opposed to seeking out new strategies to help us focus for longer periods of time. Thankfully, neuroscientists have discovered a way to extend our focus, and surprisingly, it has everything to do with sound.

Yes. Sound.

These burgeoning fields of neuroscience and psychology, called auditory neuroscience and psychoacoustics, study how our perception of sound affects the brain, our thoughts, and feelings. And these new scientific fields have spawned the development of something called “streamlined music,” which is thought to help improve cognitive functions, i.e., the way we think, process, and yes, focus.

The Science of Staying Focused

Neuroscientists have extensively studied how our brains take in external stimuli, process it, and focus on a single thing, blocking out everything else. When we’re able to focus on something with laser-like, narrowed concentration, that’s called selective attention.

The process for selective attention is complicated, so I’ll spare you the endless jargon and focus on this one word: norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurochemical transmitter that works as a stimulant— it’s released from your brain stem (at the base of your brain) when you take in external stimuli, and it acts on your decision-making faculties. Basically, it helps your brain decide what to pay attention to, as it’s part of our arousal response of fight, flight, or freeze. For example, if you encounter something dangerous, norepinephrine tells you to pay attention to it.

The neocortex (or frontal lobes of your brain) is also incredibly important for focusing. While the brainstem plays a role in selective attention, the neocortex regulates something called executive attention. Executive attention calls the shots; it can override the selective attention of the brainstem and decides what to pay attention to, and what to ignore.

The last piece of the pay-attention puzzle is habituation, which is when you adjust to your surroundings until they no longer distract you. So, when you’re working from home, and your kids are playing video games, and your partner is listening to NPR, and your dog is barking at the neighbor’s cat— at first, all of this is hugely distracting. But after 20 minutes or so, you might start to drown them out, and they become background chatter. That’s habituation.

When you’re focused and efficient, then all these aspects of attention are working for you. But, at some point you’re going to get bored — remember, we can only maintain focus for about 20 minutes. Your mind will begin to wander, and when this happens, it’s called goal habituation, which means that you’re no longer interested in what you were doing (old goal), and now you want to do something else (new goal). This is when attention and focus can fall apart. If it’s not the noise and clamor of other people in the house distracting you from the task at hand, it’s your own brain, looking for something novel to pay attention to.

We need novelty. Every 20 minutes or so, we need something fresh to engage us, so that our minds don’t trail off into rabbit holes of Pinterest or YouTube videos or Amazon shopping. This is how sound helps.

The Right Sounds Can Help You Stay on Task

Neuroscientists are still studying how and why sound affects mood and our ability to focus, and they’ve found that people who listen to music while they work are more productive and happier. So like DJs in lab coats, neuroscientists have started playing with beats. Monaural and Binaural beats, to be precise.

Specifically, neuroscientists are interested in how we perceive these two types of beats. We can hear a monaural beat with one ear, but we can only hear binaural beats when we listen with both ears.

Beats are measured in frequencies. With a monaural beat, you have two frequencies being played together that the ears are hearing, but as the ears perceive the sound, the sounds either cancel each other out, or they amplify each other. With binaural beats, one frequency is played into one ear, and a different frequency is played into the other ear; from this combination of frequencies, your brain perceives a third sound. That third sound is what makes binaural beats intriguing because no one knows what makes it.

What they do know about binaural beats is that after listening to these sounds for a while, different areas of the brain that were pulsing at different frequencies begin to pulse in synchrony. While the evidence is far from conclusive just yet, this synchronization of disparate parts of the brain could be the reason people are better able to focus.

Participants in experimental studies have been found to have positive reactions while listening to binaural beats, like a slower heartbeat, feeling calmer, and improved focus. According to a study from the University of Southern Denmark, “there is also cumulating evidence suggesting that listening to binaural beats may increase sustained attention.”

To test this out, I played binaural beats as I worked on this article. YouTube is flooded with them— here’s one, if you want to listen. And though I can’t say for certain what helped me focus, I enjoyed the calming tunes and felt more focused overall.

If the number of binaural beats videos on YouTube is any indication of popularity, then it’s no surprise that all sorts of apps offering binaural beats are popping up, including one called Focus@will.

Focus@will has taken binaural beats and the idea of streamline music to create customized beats for its customers, and reports that customers are experiencing “decreased self-awareness, timelessness, and motivation known as ‘flow.’” Sounds good to me.

The company claims that their beats can help you maintain focus for up to 100 minutes straight! And a study they did (which of course, take with a massive grain of salt, because any study done by a company selling a product could demonstrate bias) showed that their clients improved focus by 200-400%. They also tout a pretty solid fan base singing their praises.

To be fair, there are dissenting voices out there that say binaural beats are just a bunch of hype. These writers refer to the sounds as “auditory illusions.” They report that people are being tricked into thinking that they are hearing something they’re actually not and that the beats have no proven benefit. Is it a placebo effect? Maybe. But if you think it helps you focus, then isn’t it helping you focus?

But the bottom line is this; the right sounds can potentially do wonders for your concentration and productivity. Will it work? Try it. At worst, you’ll be relaxed. Which doesn’t sound half-bad right now.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!

COVID-19 Causing You Anxiety Dreams? You’re Not Alone.

Sleeping Woman

A surprise to no one, our anxiety levels are at their absolute highest. And how we each handle our anxiety might differ, but our subconscious minds often cope through dreams. Lately, there’s been a huge uptick in vivid dreams.

“Many people have shared this has been like a ‘waking nightmare’ for them and are having more bizarre dreams than ever before,” says Linda H. Mastrangelo MA, LMFT, a psychologist and professor of Consciousness & Transformative Studies at John F. Kennedy University and Board Director of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). The “dramatic shifts from our everyday routines, not being able to reach for our usual ‘non-essential’ distractions as well as experiencing more sleep and /or erratic sleeping patterns is a perfect recipe for more dream recall, as well as nightmares and recurring dreams,” Mastrangelo, shared.

And while anxiety, lack of sleep, and the massive disruption in our routines are all contributing to our crazy stress dreams, how and why our subconscious psyches are in overdrive is a bit more complex. As it turns out, our anxiety dreams might actually be trying to protect our conscious minds. To understand why, we need to turn to the field of dream studies.

How Anxiety Impacts Your Dreams

With this huge increase in everyday stress, our anxiety dreams are taking on an entirely different character. Themes of intruders in your home, or feeling terrified that someone is trying to hug you, or the very literal fear of actually contracting the virus are all popping up in dream studies right now.

And although dream analysis isn’t a “hard science,” the field of dream studies can offer some interesting explanations for this phenomenon. Dreams help us integrate what happened during the day, what we watched before going to bed, along with our conscious and unconscious realities; so, dreams are integrating the part of you that is totally stressed out about bills piling up, and the part of you that is just outside your awareness— the subconscious one that is desperately afraid of not being in control of your life.

The originator of modern dream analysis, Carl G. Jung, saw dreams as integral to our nature, speaking to us in a language we intuitively understand—symbols—and ultimately leading to a process he called “individuation,” or the pursuit of the psyche to become whole and self-actualized, rather than fragmented. Our anxiety dreams, then, are a method for our subconscious to integrate with the conscious mind. In a very real way, your subconscious is taking the weight off of your conscious mind, helping you process your anxiety while you sleep.

Think of it this way. We live two lives: a waking life and a dreaming life. Dreams work in service of integrating our two worlds and creating wholeness in our psyches. So even though anxiety dreams can unnerve, even carrying over into the day as this uneasy groggy feeling, they are working toward a greater goal of psychological wholeness.

Use “Active Imagination” To Uncover Your Emotions

Marriage and Family Therapist, Isadora Alman, suggests delving into the emotions of our dreams for greater insight into ourselves. However bizarre the dream (why are my teeth always falling outttt), it is the feeling underneath the scene that reflects the real core of how you’re feeling.

“I have found working with dreams can be a gentle yet powerful gateway for healing, especially when it comes to identifying and working with emotions,” states Mastrangelo. She recommends the practice of “active imagination,” which entails assuming that your dreams hold emotional wisdom for you to uncover, and then picking something from your dream to “dialogue” with it. This is best done right when you wake up while the dream is still fresh, and you’re still in a restful state.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Write down everything you can remember about your dream in as much detail as you can. Note the parts that held the most emotion.

  2. Next, select the part that was the most emotional and write about it, imagining that you can give it a voice. So, for instance, if you dreamt of a menacing animal lurking outside your home, you’d imagine that animal could speak to you and tell you why it’s there, what it wants, and what it has to say to you.

Whereas Sigmund Freud, the Austrian neurologist who created psychoanalysis, thought all dreams represented suppressed desires (Freud had a slanted view of sexuality, as witnessed in his Oedipal Complex), Jung saw dreams as representing parts of ourselves seeking fuller development.

Jung suggested that each symbol in our dreams represents an aspect of ourselves. So, by giving a voice to these dream symbols, we are actually talking to different parts of ourselves. Working with your dreams through active imagining is a deeper way into self-awareness.

Four Ways To Ease Anxiety Before Bed

As much as we can use our dreams as tools for self-knowledge, we also want to be able to sleep soundly without waking up in terror-sweats 15 times nightly. So try these 4 strategies for a more peaceful sleep:

  1. Decompress: Give yourself time to decompress before getting in bed an hour or so before bed, have some quiet time, take a soothing bath or a hot shower, read, use a gua sha, watch something soothing.

  2. Write out your worries: during your decompression time, you can also write down all your worries until you feel that you’ve got them all out. (I know this has worked for me when my mind stops generating worries and starts wandering and futurizing.)

  3. Make your bedroom a “Worry Free Zone”: Dedicate your bedroom to sleep, sex, and other pleasant activities, so that just walking into your bedroom puts your mind at ease. That means PUT DOWN FACEBOOK when in your bedroom.

  4. Try out different relaxation methods: Listen to a guided meditation, or a relaxation app (ASMR and binaural beats are hugely popular in helping people relax), do some light stretching, or restorative yoga, or try progressive relaxation exercises.

Carl G. Jung coined the phrase the “collective unconscious.” He used it to describe how we are intimately interconnected through myths and symbols, and how these themes show up in the dreams of people across the globe. We all share the interconnected experience of our psyches being impacted by the coronavirus. This pandemic is a global collective experience. And we’re all dreaming through it, together.

[Article first published by The Candidly.]

~~~~

Tamara Jefferies MA is a freelance wellness writer and holistic counselor/coach based in Long Beach, CA. She has worked in the wellness field since 2005 and holds a Master’s in Somatic Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, several certifications in the specialization of trauma and trauma resolution, and is a certified yoga teacher and holistic practitioner offering transformational counseling to women.

Writing on topics that help women heal, grow, and live fulfilled and happy lives is her passion as is writing for wellness businesses, publications, and brands. She is a regular contributing writer to the wellness brand, The Candidly, and a Brand Ambassador to ADORAtherapy.

Contact her at info@growandthrivewellness.com for all your wellness writing or counseling needs.

Or just fill out the form below.

Be Well!