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aromatherapy
Health, Self-Care

Aromatherapy for Self-Care

Aromatherapy is a practice that dates back many thousands of years carrying on from one civilization to another. Ancient Egypt, China, and India being of the first cultures to bring forward and utilize this form of medicine in a visible way. Plant extracts such as essential oils were highly respected and for much time carried a higher value than gold. Chemists would also agree that plant extracts are in fact the predecessors of modern pharmaceutical medicine.

aromatherapy and self-care

Aromatherapy is often seen as a whimsical or novelty approach in contrast to conventional treatments. Nevertheless, the past few years have proven that the use of plant-based therapies continues to gain substantial mainstream interest. This being said, let us look a little closer at the relevance of aromatherapy as a form of self-care.

Aromatherapy as a Form of Self-Care

Aromatherapy is based on the use of plant extracts like essential oils to stimulate both body and mind. The essential oils themselves are derived from plants of all kinds from all over the world. Through the delicate process of steam distillation or cold-pressed expulsion, specific parts of plants such as leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resins, woods, and rinds are extracted until all that is left is it’s essential oil. These extracted plant oils are as potent as nature can be and are used in a variety of ways to support the physical, mental, and emotional needs of an individual.

In order to understand how aromatherapy actually works with our body, we must first understand our sense of smell.

How Does Sense of Smell Work?

When an odor travels up the nose it comes into contact with a group of nerves that collect and deliver information about the aroma to the olfactory bulb – consider the olfactory bulb to be our brain’s odor processing center. From here sensory information about the odor is sent out to different parts of the brain which will insight various responses. Some parts of the brain will respond by producing new neurotransmitters (chemical messengers), while some will secrete specific hormones. These are responses that will inform your body and mind how to feel.

aromatherapy and your body

When an aroma reaches the Limbic System in our brain it’s of significance because this is the emotional center of the brain. This is why certain smells remind you of your childhood, and can elicit good or bad memories or feelings. Aromatherapy allows us to get very specific about what kind of responses we’d like our brain chemistry to engage with. Certain aromas are very uplifting, some are grounding, while others are highly detoxifying. Depending on what you’re experiencing, the idea here is that there’s an aroma that can deliver information to the body to help remedy it.

The Value of Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is used to treat a wide range of common symptoms and conditions. Popular treatments include:

  • treating insomnia
  • supporting concentration and focus
  • managing indigestion or bloating
  • supporting mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
  • alleviating headaches and migraine
  • soothing muscle aches, soreness, poor circulation
  • steadying energy-levels
  • managing hormonal imbalances
  • supporting mood
  • and countless other everyday ailments.

Every essential oil has its own unique characteristics based on its structural identity. A single oil will have a number of medicinal compounds that ultimately work together to make each other stronger. This is why an essential oil can have antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties all at the same time while co-existing and working in harmony.

2 Key Ways to Use Aromatherapy

Two simple ways to incorporate aromatherapy into our daily routines are through aromatic and topical use.

The most common way to use essential oils aromatically is through a diffuser. Diffusers are easily found online or at your local health food store.  Just a few drops of the essential oil into water and soon the entire room will be draped in the aroma. Not only does this help clean the air of your home, but also supports the function of your body.

If choosing to apply essential oils topically, it’s advised to dilute them with a carrier oil first to not irritate the skin– almond oil, sesame oil, and jojoba oil being a few examples of carrier oils. Topical use is helpful for treating ailments directly due to the skin’s rapid absorption qualities. For example, you can apply a few drops of peppermint to the temples when experiencing a headache, or massage over the belly to support indigestion. Massaging essential oils into the bottoms of the feet is also an incredibly effective method for full body support, since we have access to nearly every body system through the soles of the feet themselves.

Other ways to enjoy aromatherapy from home: 

Baths – apply a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your bath salts for therapeutic effect

Aromatic Spritzers – make a DIY home spray using non-toxic ingredients and essential oils

Body Care – add essential oils to your body lotions, serums, and creams

Shower – add a drop of eucalyptus or peppermint to your shower while it steams to open up respiratory airways

Cleaning Products – make non-toxic cleaning products with essential oils

Quality and Compatibility

Keep in mind that whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into the bloodstream affecting all body systems, so always aim for quality. The reality is that essential oils are not properly regulated, so it will take some discernment in choosing a reputable source. Labels simply do not offer enough trustworthy information, so we suggest looking into the sourcing methods and value systems of the companies themselves. Once you have essential oils that you can trust with your body and mind, the aromatherapy self-care can really begin.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

By Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

helping hand for community
Caring, Caring Action, Unified Caring Association

Putting a Community into Caring Action

A simple social media post from a UCA member put a community into caring action that changed the lives of an entire family in need.

putting a community into caring action

Last December the member posted in one of her local Facebook mom groups to see if anyone knew of a local family in need of baby boy clothing. She had just cleaned out the closet of her nine-month-old and had a TON of baby boy clothes to donate. “Rather than just dropping it off at the local Salvation Army, I hoped to find a family I could help out and continue to help as my little boy grows up and we clear out his closet,” she said. Almost immediately she received a direct message from someone.

The Need that Propelled Action

Hi… i commented on your post i dont really feel comfortable putting our family business on fb so i thought I’d message you my daughter just had a little boy December 4th my 16 yr old was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma a form of bone cancer last month we are going through alot and really strapped tight on money we are actually being evicted due to not being able to pay our rent this month due to my husband taking off of work to be with our 4 other children while me and my daughter in the hospital doing chemo my oldest daughter and my grandson live with us we could really use and appreciate the things you are giving away it would mean the world to us

Initially, the UCA member didn’t know what to think. It all sounded like too many bad things happening to one family. She started communicating with the person who replied right-away and immediately felt a connection.  This family needed SO much help. She started gathering every baby item she had and posted on Facebook to try to get more help from the local mom community.

Rallying the Local Community

Note to Facebook Moms Group:
I need your help! I’m pulling together baby boy items for a local family in need. They have recently fallen into a VERY bad situation financially and have a newborn baby boy. He was born in December and is only 7lbs right now. I already donated ALL of my newborn clothing. Does anyone have any 0-6mo clothes they would be willing to donate? I could come pick them up from you! Also, he’s on Similac Pro Advance if anyone has any formula they’d like to donate. Any other baby items would be appreciated. They literally need everything. I have bottles, lots of clothes (all 6mo +) and an infant car seat covered.

There was an incredible outpouring of support. We were literally able to gather everything anyone could ever want or need for a baby (pack-n-plays, clothing, bottles, formula, diapers, toys, high-chair, car seats, etc.). Over the course of a week people dropped things off at the UCA member’s house (and her parent’s house too) so they all could make deliveries to the family.

In the meantime, she wanted to help this family even more and decided to start raising money to make sure they weren’t evicted. Unfortunately, everything the family in need had been telling her turned out to be an understatement. Their power was scheduled to be turned off the day before Christmas, most of them were sleeping on the floor. They didn’t have a kitchen table or chairs, or couch because they had been renting virtually all their furniture and could no longer make the payments.

An Outpouring from the Caring Community

She was able to secure beds, a couch, a kitchen table and chairs, a desk, a desk top computer, a laptop along with a ton of other necessities. It was truly amazing to see how much people were willing to help an unknown family.  She even convinced Lowe’s to donate and deliver a brand-new washer and dryer to this family.

Ultimately, the community ended up raising over $6,000 in less than a week.  They worked with the landlord and paid the family’s rent for both December and January.  They then called all utilities and got them current on all past due bills.  With the remaining money, gift cards were purchased as well as giving the mother cash to buy Christmas presents for their kids.

It was a remarkable example of a community that truly CARES.  In the end, the UCA member summed up her caring community best: “One social media post kick-started an expression of genuine love.  Now, more than ever, we need to continue to care for one another.  Even those we don’t know.”

We all can easily take a moment to be kind to others, to help when a need shows itself to us, and give to others with urgent needs. Beyond that moment of caring action, our communities desperately need Caring Ambassadors to catalyze a caring movement needed more than ever.

Share Your Caring Story

As the majority of us have had our daily lives altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we invite you to share your personal story. Have you discovered silver-linings in your life or around you? Has something funny inspired you to carry on? Have you learned something great about yourself, family or community that you would not otherwise have discovered? We’d love to hear from you – we encourage the idea of a Caring Community through the tradition of story-telling. As we go through this epic event, it is the perfect time to share experiences that reinforce resilience, demonstrate creative coping and lighten our hearts with humor. After all, sharing IS caring.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Caring, Self-Care, Unified Caring Association

Decorating During Quarantine Times: Pandecorating!

What better way to increase your well-being then to spend time improving your space? Decorating during quarantine times is a great way to practice self-care and to care for your family.

Decorating during quarantine times: Pandecorating!

Decorating during quarantine, making the most of these times.

We have all been impacted by the coronavirus, and have been subject to stay at home orders for weeks on end. This can really impact our well-being . One thing we can do to increase our sense of well-being is enjoy a little pandecorating! Decorating during quarantine times can have a lot of benefits on our minds and emotions, as well as be a really practical project.

Stimulating our visual senses with objects that entertain the eye or bring interest to a room is part of the reason for decorating. In addition to pleasing the eye, practical aspects should be considered, like the function of the room, and of course, comfort. Many people saw the opportunity early on, and redid porches and yards as springtime blossomed. But if you missed this trend, fear not, you too, can enjoy some pandecorating! Maybe you have time and are feeling ambitious, or maybe you want to stick with bite sized projects. Whatever the case, there is a DIY decorating during quarantine project waiting for you.

Some of us have had to redesign our space to conform to new needs, like homeschooling and working from home.

Once upon a time, pre-COVID-19, you had a dining room. Now you have a dining room/office/classroom. There is nothing like the central space of a long table where projects can be done, schoolwork tackled as a family team, and of course, prepare and enjoy food together. While adding functions to a room like this can be just what you need, proper design can help make sure that the dining room table can still be…well…dined on.

Tips to turn your dining room into a multi-purpose room but not lose your dining room!

  1. Purchase a small to medium sized fold-out table to set up any laptop needed for working from home. It helps to have a set up that you don’t have to take down in order to get dinner on the table
  2. Set up a shelf to place homeschooling materials. Kids can grab easily and put back when it is time to clear the table for dinner.
  3. Don’t forget your family’s hobbies! Designate some space on the shelves for crafts and art supplies. Having these available makes being home feel like a creative and productive place to be.
  4. Consider flow and adequate space when adding any kind of furniture to the room. Think about using a chair from the dining room set for your computer table instead of adding an extra chair. Maybe take a chair out of the set and use in a different room to make more space.

Decorating during quarantine time has taught us about appreciating our homes.

We are all a bit tired of quarantine restrictions, yet have also come to know the joys of being home. Many of us are simply grateful to have a roof over ourselves and a space in which to “shelter in place.” The world has been on pause and we have had a chance to go inward and reflect. Part of reflection is self-care, and part of self-care is caring for our space. Our space is an expression of our life, what we like to do. We have been busy at home, and had a chance to see what kind of space we need for our important activities. Decorating during quarantine times can start with adapting to the new functions of your stay at home life.

There are lots of ways to decorate, just use your senses.

Start with your imagination and pick a new theme for a room. Maybe you are dreaming of travelling again. Frame maps and put them on the wall. Does your kid have a globe in their room? Snag it! Paint the walls sky blue and put out objects that remind you of places you want to go. Pick lush houseplants to hang from your ceiling to set your imagination to greener pastures. Try and think of what combination of items will set your imagination free and bring peace to your heart.

Remember, decorating is about creating a safe place to return to your senses, so make sure you pay attention to the details. Place flowers or lemons on a table for their color and also for their scent. Airy curtains over a window can let in light and play on the breeze. Placement of speakers and lighting are also important. Think about the set decorators, lighting experts, and sound technicians in Hollywood. They intentionally set the atmosphere required for a scene. You too, can set the stage for your life at home.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

energy levels scale
Health, Self-Care

Maintaining Healthy Energy Levels

Part of choosing a healthy lifestyle is recognizing which behaviors and habits leave us feeling fatigued, or drained. Without even knowing it, many of us participate in actions that end up robbing us of more energy than it’s worth. We don’t maintain healthy energy levels. By noticing how we invest our time and mental resources, we can begin to set firmer boundaries that will ultimately feel supportive, and nourishing. Becoming selective in this way allows us to have more energy to spend on the people, and things we wholeheartedly care about. 

Feelings of depletion are easy to sneak up on us when we remain unaware of how we’re choosing to spend our energy in the most basic of interactions. Feelings of anxiousness, frustration, short-temperedness, panic, lethargy, fatigue, are just a few symptoms that would benefit from shifting our vitality expenditure. 

Saying “Yes” When We Mean “No”

One major source of exhaustion is commonly found in agreeing to do things that we don’t wish to do – saying yes when we really want to say no. There are countless reasons we do this. From cultivated habits of ‘people pleasing’, to matching our sense of self-worth to how much we ‘do’, to fearing conflict, or not exercising the word no. We end up draining our battery from perpetually bending towards the likes and needs of others, while suppressing our own. 

Not Keeping Our Word

We also lose energy from not keeping our word – from not doing what we say we’re going to do. Think about how good it feels the moment you complete an assignment, or follow through on a promise you made to yourself or someone else. This is because the moment we agree or speak something into existence it’s officially taking up space in our lives until it meets it’s finish. By being clear and intentional with when and how we plan on keeping our word, we will more likely not face depletion. 

Not Enough Personal Boundaries

Another source of fatigue is often found in the quality of conversations we choose to engage with. It’s all too common for people to speak to one another as if they are soundboards, dumping an excess of information or words onto someone else without any awareness if they are even available to receive them. This is especially true with close friends and family members who may feel comfortable enough to unload an entire stream of thoughts or concerns without hesitation. While this kind of trust and intimacy can be appreciated, it’s important to not become too entangled in the ‘problems’ or ‘complaints’ of others if to honor your own energy reserves. Without this kind of personal boundary, fatigue can set in from spending our time worrying about circumstances completely out of our circle of control.

feeling drained?

If you’ve ever ended a conversation feeling completely drained, this is partially why. It’s important to raise our own standards in terms of the conversations we’re choosing to have. By practicing healthy communication skills with one another we become energized from the mutual exchange happening, and we elevate the experience for all people involved. 

Pause to Choose

Lastly, we encourage you to take more pauses throughout the day to anchor and to get clear with how you wish to spend your inner resources from one moment to the next. This way we can prevent ourselves from feeling any unnecessary fatigue or exhaustion, living the day feeling energized. When deciding how to effectively move forward, consider asking yourself this question: Will this give me energy or will this leave me feeling depleted? Then you will be maintaining healthy energy levels.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

By Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Health, Self-Care

Returning To The Senses

It’s said that the average human being experiences anywhere between 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. With so much mental stimulus filtering through our minds every hour by the thousands, it’s advantageous to our overall well-being to manage some of this excess noise. Returning to the senses, our body’s five senses, helps manage through the noise.

Observe Your Body’s Senses

With Covid-19 currently in the picture, the majority of us are spending a lot more time at home. This global event has also opened up an ongoing stream of new information that may be contributing to the overactive mind. As countless people have lost their routines, and their sense of contact with other human beings, we can leverage this as an opportunity to begin observing our own relationship with our senses.

The simplest and most effective way to manage the overactive thinking mind is by returning to the senses. We all know of the five senses – there is sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.

When we are stuck in the mind, it is often an indication that we are disconnected from what’s happening in the body. It’s in these moments that it’s useful to remember that the clearest path out of the mind is back into the body.

This matters because the state of our health is deeply rooted in how we are engaging with our senses. Overthinking is affiliated with numerous physical and psychological symptoms, and conditions. From headaches, depression, anxiety, stomach issues, and more, there is a direct link between the activities of the mind and those of the body.

This all being said, the environments we spend the most time in contribute to how we feel. While the majority of people today are staying home, it’s a good opportunity to start taking inventory of our sensory experiences.

Returning to your senses

SOUND

Start by considering what kind of sounds you welcome into your space. What ambient sounds are most often lingering in the background? Is the television broadcasting news for most of the day? Can you hear any sounds of nature? The sounds that we allow to project in and around our bodies and homes are not benign. They have impact and ultimately give us energy, or take energy from us. The practice here is to be mindful of the quality of sounds we welcome into our space.

SIGHT

Another practice to evoke the senses is by noticing what is directly in sight. Often much of our lingering anxiety and over stimulation is due to excess screen time, use of bright lights at night, and simply being surrounded around too much stuff. Micro-actions such as minimizing artificial light with candles, organizing our homes, and creating boundaries with technology offers our sense of sight more harmony.

TOUCH

Human contact and our touch sense is also essential to our well-being. This is because our body’s chemistry receives bountiful reward through these kinds of interactions. While physical touch in the days of COVID-19 have shifted momentarily, we still have access to the medicine of touch with loved ones we are cohabitating with, with pets, and of course with ourselves. The skin is our largest organ system in the body, and simple acts of kindness towards it supports optimal function. If you don’t know where to start try massaging your favorite oil to the bottoms of your feet every night for 3 nights, and see if you notice a difference. The feet are gateways to all of our body systems, and a simple massage like this will relax the nervous system.

SMELL

Our sense of smell is also an effective way to influence how we feel on a moment to moment basis. This is because the chemistry of our brain literally changes with the information received from the aroma. Keeping this in mind, consider how you feel when you enter a room and smell fresh citrus, versus the smell of stale dust. We can design our moods and our attitudes with something as simple as adding freshness to the home.

TASTE

Lastly, we have our sense of taste. Although we have to eat for nourishment, we often forget that eating can be a vivid experience that connects us to our aliveness. In times of stress or anxiousness, many also have a tendency to turn to food for comfort – it’s in this way that food is a very emotional telltale subject. This being said, paying attention to how we eat is just as important to our health as what we eat. While many of us are accustomed to tuning out from the food in front of us, we can use eating as an opportunity to further explore with the senses. To do this, we must first slow down and create more space between each bite. Only then will we begin to better listen to the body’s messages. 

Now that we’ve traveled through our five senses, we invite you to put some of these considerations into practice. In a world where we exist so predominantly in our minds, let us return to the body by returning to the senses.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

By Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Caring Action, Self-Care

Unlearning What it Means to be Productive

Felt journal to do list

The world has changed. Many of us can’t go to work. Likewise, many of us have lost our jobs. Although some of us are lucky enough to work from home, anyone who has kids is most likely homeschooling them right now at the same time! And probably for the first time ever! Let’s face it, more than just the world has changed, the very basic details of our lives have also changed. It is time to take what we have always thought about being productive, and unlearn it. Unlearning what it means to be productive.

Unlearning is a concept that comes from homeschooling, ironically enough.

It is a method of teaching children that comes from allowing them to cultivate the desire to learn, and then nurturing that. On the surface, it may not look as productive as traditional methods, because traditional methods are all about accountability and completing tasks. Yet, there is something to be said about deeper affect of allowing a child to build their own interests and then learn skills to fit those interests.

So, how do we re-frame our lives around a very different schedule and class of demands?

Some of us are juggling working, teaching, and household tasks all day. What comes first? What is most important? Work? Your child’s education? A clean and sanitary house? Making sure everyone is fed? Some days it may seem like there is too much to do, and you really haven’t accomplished a thing.

One way to start organizing tasks, goals, and objectives is to begin a good old fashioned To Do List.

Or a few To Do lists: work, kid’s school, personal. Try this one! Or this one! Get your thoughts organized about what you want to accomplish on these fronts. Start getting an idea where you are at and where you are headed on a daily basis. But don’t stop there. The next step is crucial. Make a DONE list (also available on some to-do list apps). This will help you see what you have accomplished, help you understand that your day doesn’t just go by in a blur of cooking meals, answering emails, cleaning the house, and putting on your “teacher hat” (or trying to find where you even put that thing).

Don’t omit any tasks you feel any sort of accomplishment over.

No task is too big or to small. You made a phone call! Yay! Put it on the list! You spent an hour and a half getting your kid to write three words! Yay! Put it on the list. Watched some cool YouTube videos that helped you understand how the sun works with your kids? Cool. Totally write it down. Kept everyone in the loop about an upcoming work project? Put it on the list. Everything you do is productive, in one sense or another. This will help you realize that. When you feel a sense of accomplishment, you are more likely to continue in that vein, and you will sleep better at night knowing you have done something with your day, even just one thing.

In fact, we should count ourselves very productive to even accomplish one thing on some days.

We are going through a very strange time on our planet. Many of us are experiencing a sense of loss, emotional turmoil, or just plain old stress. We need to be mindful about how bad news affects our psyche, and our body stress responses. We need to think about what can be done to put more space between what is going on in the world and how we respond to it. So, put that on your To Do list! We at UCA wish you a very productive and peaceful day, even if that means accomplishing 10 minutes of mindful breathing, a taking hot bath, or drinking a good cup of tea. Here are some ideas for self-care to put on your todo list! And click here for some work from home tips.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources and products? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association and our products, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

sunlight for self-care
Health, Nature, Self-Care

Sunlight for Self-Care

It’s an understatement to say that the human body appreciates receiving a healthy dose of sunlight within the first few hours of the day. Sunlight for self-care is possible now that we’ve entered warmer months. Consider taking advantage of the abundance of sunlight by harnessing it as a form of personal care.

By simply offering your body a few minutes of sunlight in the morning, you are inviting a sequence of biological occurrences to unfold. This will ultimately result in more stabilized energy levels, steadier moods, deeper sleep, and stronger bones.

Lack of sunlight has been linked to a number of disorders including infertility, insomnia, anxiety, depression, among countless other conditions that yield poor health. Though it’s wise to be prudent about the amount of sun one is exposing themselves to, healthy doses of sunlight supports the production of Vitamin D, Serotonin, and Melatonin – thus becoming the foundation of our waking and sleeping lives.

How Sunlight Interacts with the Body

When sunlight penetrates into our vision, the information of the light travels through the optic nerve all the way into the brain, and throughout its numerous glands. It is here where the pituitary gland takes the information from the sunlight and begins to produce Serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with states of wakefulness and joy.

When sunlight touches our skin, the body begins to generate a supply of Vitamin D – this is essential for calcium absorption, bone growth, and maintaining Serotonin supplies. Without proper Vitamin D levels, the body becomes ill-equipped to collect the sunlight’s information to convert into Serotonin. This can mean bad news for emotional health. As the lack of sunlight is directly linked to feelings of hopelessness, depression, and a general lackluster for life. There is also a wealth of clinical research linking the proportion of sunlight to cases of suicide.

From a biological standpoint, healthy Serotonin production is important because it’s the precursor to the production of Melatonin – the hormone responsible for nourishing sleep. While natural sunlight stimulates Serotonin, the darkness of night stimulates Melatonin. As the sun begins to rise again, the brain gives orders to halt Melatonin production, and so continues this very synergistic process that is completely commanded by the body’s perception of light.

It’s for this reason that keeping artificial light to a minimum after sunset is important to ensure the body has a chance to generate sufficient sleep hormone. It’s also relevant to note that sunlight filtered through windows does not count as a natural sunlight. This is because the technology in windows blocks UV light from coming in, meaning it’s no longer full spectrum light and behaves differently in the body than direct sunlight would. True unadulterated sunlight is what stimulates these supportive biological responses.

Trust Sunlight for Self-Care

Though there’s a lot of reluctance to trust the sun these days, the evidence in its favor is staggering. From treating physical ailments to addressing emotional well-being, studies are pointing towards sunlight as a supplementary solution. Ample research has indicated that anywhere between 5-15 minutes of sunlight a few days a week is all that’s needed for noticeable improvement.

Ultimately, our goal here is to create an environment that supports wakefulness during the day, and effective downtime at night. With the influx of sleeping problems, mid-day exhaustion, and disruptions to physical health, we have little to lose by turning to the sunlight for self-care and support. Especially when considering that sunlight is a completely free resource, available to all.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Deep Breathing
Health, Self-Care

Deep Breathing for Self-Care

The greatest personal health tools we have access to today are completely free, and as obvious as the breath. Though the breath is a function that literally keeps us alive, we so often move through the day tuned-out from its behavior. Choosing to become more aware of how we are breathing from one moment to the next is a simple, and effective form of self-care. 

The human body is designed to breathe with fullness. We are equipped with a dome-shaped diaphragm that stretches down to the naval, and is intended to be filled with life giving air – filling this space is what it means to breathe with fullness. 

There are many factors that contribute to breathing against our inherent design – stress, lifestyle, and chronic worrying being at the forefront. Even the thoughts that occur inside the privacy of the mind generate stress responses in the body. It’s during these moments of stress, our breath has a tendency to go shallow. Meaning that instead of breathing into our diaphragm, we unconsciously breathe into the throat and upper chest. This is very stressful to the nervous system, and thus compromising to all other body systems. 

By taking in full breaths, we create an opportunity to invite more oxygen into the body. This in itself is incredibly supportive to our energy levels, our cognition, and longevity. Extensive research also credits deep breathing for boosting immunity, helping to manage pain, and improve circulation. 

Beyond physicality, deep breathing helps regulate our moods and responsiveness. This is because taking full diaphragmatic breaths sends out instructions to the brain to release endorphins, our naturally occurring “feel-good” chemicals. From here, the nervous system is able to operate more fluidly by creating a chemical response in the entire body that ultimately feels like more spaciousness, and less reactivity. 

The next time you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed, take a moment to evaluate how you are breathing. Stress is most often accompanied by shallow breathing, so by catching ourselves in its grasp we can utilize the most readily available tool we have – the breath – to course correct, and self-soothe. 

Here is a simple breath exercise that you can take with you anywhere: 

  • Place one hand over your navel, and take a deep breath in that expands your belly outward. 
  • As you exhale slowly, pull your navel towards your spine.
  • Try to make the exhale slightly longer than the inhale. 
  • Repeat this for 5-10 rounds, and note how this feels in your body.

You can practice this exercise while driving, while you wait in line at the store, or even while watching television. The convenient thing about the breath is that it follows us everywhere, making it a feasible, and wildly accessible tool to practice with.

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!

Article by Melissa Aparicio, contributing author

Caring Connections, Resources

Caring for Family in Quarantine Times

 quote-Mike Chen

As a caring community we all are coming together by staying at home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A big part of being a part of a community is caring for our families. A family can be people you are related to, friends, or even your co-workers. During this time, we can all reach out to ask how they are and share caring ideas when someone needs help. Unified Caring Association (UCA) has a Pinterest board that is filled with ideas for fun family activities, tips and tricks for setting up a new lifestyle while homebound, and even suggestions for schooling! We have been researching all of these and have suggestions to help us all as a family and a community that cares.

Empowerment through Health.

Empower yourself instead of stressing yourself out by getting physically active. Exercise can be in the form of walking, building a gym at home with an obstacle course, or routinely doing yoga and dancing. Self-care is a great foundation to build on while staying healthy and at home.

A big part of empowering yourself is eating healthy. Nutritious meals can boost your immune system and fuel a more resilient mind to work from home or help with your kids schooling while homebound. Eating well includes staying hydrated with water, teas, or other favorite beverages.

Routines

Making a routine is extremely important at this time. We are all learning new boundaries, how to work from home, and how to interact with others while staying 6 feet (or 2 meters) apart. Start with getting some good sleep. Create a schedule for yourself  by first deciding when you want to get up and what time you want to go to bed.

When deciding what you are going to fill your day with, take a look at balancing responsibilities with break times to recharge. When will you have your coffee? What time of day is lunch? Make a set time for the end of the work day when we close the laptop, put away school books, and connect with your caring community. During this time we might check in with the news, and try to keep that time in short stints to not overwhelm our brains. But go ahead and fill up on all the positive news you can take!

Be Kind & Have Fun!

It is becoming more apparent that we are needing to focus on being kind to ourselves and to others. Acts of kindness that we read about or do can help promote happy feelings. How does this look? If we are tired, we can take an extra nap or meditate to refocus our brains and boost our energy. If we want to share caring with others, we can create a fun video chat to hangout with others and celebrate our friendship.

One great way to celebrate kindness is to do something creative. UCA has a great way to connect by coloring the stress away and sharing those pieces of art to create a gallery of kindness. Coloring and being creative is a great way to connect and have fun!

Reassuring Children 

Many of us have younger family members or children who are feeling the strain of being homebound. “Encourage children to express their feelings… Provide them with information. Be honest, but be sure to emphasis the positive. And of course, remember that children may need extra love and attention.” (ParentInfo)

It can be hard to remain socially isolated. The additional kindness and communication can assure kids that everything is being done to help them feel safe and they have a community that cares for them as well as every person. If we all follow the rules to stop transmission of the virus together, there is no reason that we cannot beat this sickness together.

Family is a community that cares!

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!

Caring Action, Caring Beyond Borders, Caring Connections, Feel Good News, Sharing Caring

Uplifting Stories from the Frontline of the Pandemic

Uplifting Stories from the Frontline of a Pandemic

There are so many news articles and stories on the internet today that reflect the insanity of the global pandemic. What we at Unified Caring Association (UCA) have seen many beacons of hope, caring, and kindness shining through headlines each day. We decided to compile a few that highlights how business and people are banding together to help support the heroes who are on the frontlines.

Starbucks Partners Bring Coffee & Comfort to COVID-19 Frontline Responders

Cheers to Starbucks

One Starbucks manager’s heart went out to those in his local area, and had inspiration to bring joy and comfort to front line responders. The manager cares for his community, and found ample support in his decision. “Now more than ever, the world needs places to come together with compassion and love…We provide consistency to create a sense of certainty in an uncertain world.” The Starbucks team gathered and filled coffee travelers. Each coffee care package was completed with a personalized note conveying gratitude and encouragement. The manager then delivered these to police officers, City Hall, the fire department, etc. This action inspired Starbucks locations around the world to show their support in the same way. Cheers to all of these Starbucks partners! You all are examples of how a community cares for its heroes.

Tesla is using its logistic network to deliver ventilators to hospitals.

Telsa

With the need for medical supplies, we have been seeing calls for help from those on the frontlines. We are excited to read that Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk announced that the automaker has ventilators. Additionally, Tesla will be using its logistic network to deliver them to hospitals for free. This is just in time, because several hospitals in the US are in need of ventilators to help save patients! Many of these patients are badly affected by the virus, and in need of that support. Tesla cares, thank you!

Officer Gives a Face Masks Instead of a Ticket.

frontlines supporting each other

Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua was pulled over for speeding, and was surprised to receive a facemask instead of the expected ticket. “He went back to his patrol car to look up my license, and when he returned, quite firmly told me it was very irresponsible of me to be speeding, especially since I would not only take up resources if I got into an accident, but would also not be in a position to help patients.” (Janjua) The doctor was let off with a warning. “As I sputtered to apologize and say thank you, he reached in to hand me what I assumed was my license back.” This officer, Brian J. Schwartz, cares for fellow frontline heroes as well as others in the community. To show this support he handed Dr Janjua five new N95 face masks from his personal state-supplied stash. “[He] shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking…The veil of civilization may be thin, but … we are going to be ok.”

Tavern Owner Sets Up Virtual Pub.

Virtual pub, Cheers!

An English lady set up a virtual pub to entertain local townspeople while they are practicing self-isolation to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the regular events are live music, quizzes, DJ sets, open mic, and comedy nights. The virtual pub had been a hit, and she now employs bar staffers to cope with her 14,500 online customers. She has a team of 10  “bar staffers.” This team works together to talk with customers; there are even “bouncers”, who act as moderators and allow people into the virtual pub. ““It’s really nice to be able to bring people together in these difficult times in the most British way possible. It is pretty much like going to a pub, but doing it from your living room or back garden.” (Bowtell) We love the idea of getting together virtually and sharing support in a fun and family friendly environment. And as always, “we’re encouraging people to drink responsibly though. We have coffee mornings as well.”

Restaurants Giving Free Food to Hospital Staff Fighting on the Frontline.

Feeding the Frontlines

Like the Starbucks story above, many companies are helping support frontline heroes with free goodies. “Starbucks will be providing the free coffees to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and hospital employees until May 3rd.” Additionally, on National Doctors’ Day, Krispy Kreme is also offering boxes of donuts to health care workers each Monday. To help protect the frontline heroes feet, Crocs is also giving doctors, nurses, etc. free pairs of shoes through their online site. A fourth company mentioned in the Good News Network’s article is Tropical Smoothie. This smoothie drink eatery has locations giving away 100,000 smoothies to US healthcare workers. We agree with Tropical Smoothie’s comment that, “The 100K smoothie giveaway is a simple, but impactful example of one way we can show our gratitude and bring a smile to their face—one sip at a time.” 

Parents Pooled Money as Thank You Gifts to Janitorial Staff Who Sanitize Schools.

Safe and Clean

Often when we talk about frontline heroes we are talking about doctors, emergency responders, and teachers. There are many more people whose profession and jobs are necessary to support the community and put them on the frontline. The janitorial and sanitation workers have been tirelessly cleaning and sterilizing offices, homes, and facilities so that people can remain healthy. This particular article celebrates the janitors who are making sure school facilities are kept clean and sanitary during the COVID-19 outbreaks. We are moved to hear that appreciative parents have raised thousands of dollars for their district janitors. These parents and communities care for their school custodians who are going the extra mile with each cleaning. “I said we need to recognize that these staff members who are going into potential contamination and a disaster zone, really, and putting themselves at risk… It’s already an under-appreciated job as it is, and not one that gets a lot of respect. It was a feel-good way to get people to recognize that.” (Thomas)

Support from a community the cares!

We are all being called to do extraordinary things for the collective caring of our families, communities and the world in response to the unique coronavirus pandemic. Whether home bound or providing critical services, everyone is stretched to adapt like never before.  All of us are in this together. Now more than ever, caring is what we need most. Caring for our self. Caring for others around us. Life is going to require new routines, resilience and compassion. We invite you to join us in creating a caring movement to respond to local needs.

Would you like to read more about UCA caring resources? We have other blogs on Unified Caring Association, caring in our communities, and caring the UCA way! If you would like caring messages throughout the week, follow us on Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter!