May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Let’s talk about mental health. With anxiety disorders affecting more than 40 million adults nationwide, it’s important to keep an open dialogue on the topic, rather than brushing it under the rug out of discomfort. Mental health plays such an important role in our physical health, but in our go go go culture, we often neglect that aspect of wellness in favor of doing more and shoving our feelings aside until we can’t ignore them any longer.

IMG_8611.jpeg

Of course, we know from research that anxiety, depression, and even loneliness can take a toll on our physical well-being. According to Mental Health America, “being lonely can cause the same amount of damage to your lifespan as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more dangerous to health than obesity.” Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

I was excited to learn that Mental Health America offers a variety of resources to help, whether you struggle with mental illness or you are simply trying to make small, positive changes in your life. Their #4Mind4Body Challenge pertains to several areas of mental health, including fitness, mindfulness, sleep habits, and more. I have not yet participated, but I’m excited to incorporate some of these into my life as needed, especially with my Happiness Project nearly at the halfway mark. They also offer an online toolkit that you can download with other resources that may be helpful for you, as well as free and confidential screenings online to check your symptoms (especially if you’re dealing with chronic illness).

No matter what you’re struggling with, please know that you are not alone. You are a light in the world and you matter. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support regardless of what you’re going through. Someone is always there to help.

I write a lot about self-care on my blog, and wanted to point back to a few previous posts that may be a helpful resource.

Lessons For My 21-Year-Old Self

IMG_0096.JPG

Left: 21-year-old Val enjoying a cup of gelato in Rome. Right: 28-year-old Val at an MBA brunch.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading through some of my older blog posts. For those of you who are new here, I actually joined the blogosphere in 2010 as a freshman at UCF, with my blog’s focus more heavily geared toward relationships and college advice. It has been fun to look back at my earlier posts and think about where I was at that particular stage in my life and what was important to me.

One of my favorite posts I came across was a list of lessons I wrote to my 16-year-old self, courtesy of my 21-year-old selfIt feels like a lifetime agoand yet, I can remember vividly who I was dating, which friends I spent the most time with, what my struggles were, and where I hoped I would be someday. A lot has changed in the past 7 years — I’ve graduated with my BA and my MBA, I’ve been working in community engagement for several years, I’ve gone from hosting theme parties in the dorms to hosting baby showers, and the list goes on. Because of all the changes that life inevitably brings, I’ve decided to revisit my old post with some lessons to my 21-year-old self from my now 28-year-old self.

  1. You won’t completely forget the one that got away, but you’ll look back on the relationship with fresh eyes.
    At 21, you knew that your high school crush was ancient history, but the guy you fell for in college? That’s another story. You’ll be heartbroken when the relationship inevitably ends, and rightfully so — he was your first real love. You’ll also find yourself in some not-so-sunny relationships in your twenties, and start to look back at that college relationship through rose-colored glasses. But with time comes perspective, and you’ll start to remember the cracks in the foundation: the arguments you had, the tattoos you hated, the fundamental differences that pulled you apart. And then, something miraculous will happen: you’ll realize that you were, in fact, the one that got away.
  2. Making friends as an adult is a lot harder than it is as a college student.
    Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends for life (or at least until age 28 — jury is out on what happens next!). However, as everyone parts ways for graduate school, career moves, and relationships all across the country, those friendships will require a lot more TLC. Be open to meeting new people and exploring new friendships, which will be harder as an “adult” but still important for maintaining your sanity and quality of life. Talk to people you meet at work functions, go to places and events that interest you, and continue to be authentically yourself.
  3. Social media will stick around longer than you think.
    You may now split your time between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the occasional Snapchat, but your pictures will survive online for a lot longer than you realized at 21. Now, you’ll not only laugh at what you wore or how you styled your hair, but even more so at what you posted and how you captioned it. Embrace this and be kind to your younger self — college was a weird time. 🙂
  4. You still don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up.
    Don’t pigeonhole yourself. There are jobs that exist that you aren’t even aware of right now, so it’s important to keep learning, be open, and build your relationships. You’ll grow into whatever you end up doing, so my best advice is to say yes to the things that interest you, challenge you, and scare you, as long as they fit within your values. Learn to say no when you need to, and set boundaries when the situation arises.
  5. You won’t fit every expectation you had for yourself at 16, at 21, or at 25.
    At 28, my life is not what I pictured in high school or college. It has evolved in ways I never expected, and that’s great! As a college student, I never imagined that I would be invited to public speaking engagements, attend blogger events, or do half of the cool things I get to do today. Life will always be full of surprises. Embrace the unpredictable and keep saying yes to the things you love.

What would you tell your 21-year-old self?

April 2019: Happiness Project Recap

I say this every month, but it’s honestly crazy to think that we are already at the end of April! I gave a quick recap of my month in last night’s Link Love post, but for those of you who are just catching up, April has been overall a whole lot better than March in terms of my happiness project. 🙂

If you’re new here, a quick summary: For the year of 2019, I decided to embark on a 12-month long happiness project, inspired by habits and happiness author Gretchen Rubin. Each month follows a different theme, and at the end of the month, I share my results and findings. January focused on boosting physical wellness, February focused on decluttering and creating outer order, and March focused on practicing mindfulness. You can click the links to follow along and find out how I did!

My April theme was a little different: Slow Down and Lighten Up. This goal was, in part, inspired by hyggeor the Danish concept of contentment through coziness and comfort. This month, I incorporated the following practices:

  • Enjoy a cup of tea in the morning.
  • Light candles or diffuse essential oils after work.
  • Under-react to a problem.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Laugh out loud.

April 2019: Happiness Project Recap | Wellness & Wanderlust

So how did I do? While I fell short on some of my goals, I really enjoyed the month of April! I found myself in the practice of brewing a hot cup of tea to settle down and unwind (not always in the morning, though!), and I really enjoyed the ritual of drinking my tea and doing a little reading at home or outside when the time allowed. On days when life was busier, I stopped in the break room downstairs at work for hot water and drank tea at my desk, but I tried to incorporate that as a calming tradition as much as possible and it really did stick. Prioritizing those few minutes to unwind and refocus was truly a lifesaver in a month that otherwise included its share of burnout. I also loved incorporating aroma into my day, whether I lit a candle in the evenings or diffused some lavender or peppermint.

The other three items were a little harder, especially #3. Under-reacting to a problem felt terribly counterintuitive, but on the days I did it, it really did help. This is something that will take some practice for me. Laughing out loud and taking time to be silly were not always high on my priority list, but when things got hard, looking at a funny Instagram page (hello, Obvious Plant!) or watching an episode of Family Guy definitely helped distract from the seriousness from it all and allowed me to take a step back.

This month’s practices were much needed, and I’d like to continue focusing on lightening up and slowing down throughout the remainder of the year. One great way to do that will be through May’s theme of making time for friends, which will consist of the following:

  • Practice “reverse gossip.”
  • Remember birthdays.
  • Show up.
  • Be generous.
  • Bring people together.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

Link Love April: I’m Sorry to Bother You

Image Credit: The Breeze (breezejmu.org)

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small compensation.

I can’t believe we are roughly a third of the way through the year! With the month of April coming to a close, I’m pleased to share that it will end on a happier note than March did. This month, I:

  • Accepted my university’s 30 Under 30 award for outstanding alumni. (Go Knights!)
  • Spoke to a sold-out crowd of students about my career and my company’s new brand.
  • Experienced my first on-camera media interview — I will see it live on TV tomorrow!
  • Booked flights for an upcoming vacation. (It’s about time!)
  • Had an impactful psychic reading in Cassadaga (read more about the Psychic Capital of the World here).
  • And more!

As always, I’d love to share some interesting links from around the web on this month’s Link Love. Share your own in the comments section below!

What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments!

Psychic Capital of the World: Your Guide to Cassadaga

Psychic Capital of the World: Your Guide to Cassadaga | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

Want to know what the future holds? Central Floridians don’t have to travel far to pursue these answers. Nestled in the heart of Volusia County is the unincorporated town of Cassadaga, best known as the Psychic Capital of the World. Cassadaga was founded in the late 1800s in true Florida fashion, as its founder George Colby was guided by a vision to travel south to Florida. He formed the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, and the rest is history.

Flash forward to present day, and the town has exactly the eclectic, quirky vibe one might expect. The perfect place to begin your visit is at the Cassadaga Hotel. Whether you’re an out-of-towner looking for a place to stay for the night or you’re simply visiting for the afternoon, step into the historic hotel and enjoy the beautiful interiors, grab a cup of coffee, do a little shopping in the gift shop, or schedule a reading. The hotel has several in-house psychics and mediums, and throughout the year, offers classes in reiki, tarot, and more.

Psychic Capital of the World: Your Guide to Cassadaga | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

No trip is complete without a psychic reading. In the times I’ve visited, I’ve gone to two separate places and received very different readings. At The Purple Rose, I had my tarot cards read a few years ago and things were looking pretty bleak (you don’t have to be a psychic to know that the Three of Swords is not a happy card to pull from the deck). However, I enjoyed my reading (I kept it short at about 15-20 minutes, but you can choose a longer session) and a lot of what the psychic told me later did come true. They also offer couples readings and sell metaphysical items like crystals.

On my most recent trip to Cassadaga, I received a crystal ball reading at the Cassadaga Spiritualist Psychic Center, which also offers tarot card and palm readings, astrology charts, numerology reports, and more. I’ll keep the details of this particular visit to myself, but the reading was incredibly relevant and brought up some very specific things in my life, so I will wholeheartedly recommend this psychic center!

Psychic Capital of the World: Your Guide to Cassadaga, Florida

If you’re looking for something fun to do after your reading, DeLand is no more than a hop, skip, and a jump away. DeLand’s historic downtown is home to countless antique shops and other cool businesses. Grab lunch at Byte Bistro or The Table before hitting the stores. For a more comprehensive guide to Downtown DeLand, check out my recent post here.

Whether you believe strongly in psychic mediums or simply want to try something new, Cassadaga should be on your list of places to visit!

Have you been to Cassadaga? Share your experiences in the comments!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida

Happy Earth Day, fellow earthlings! With cooler temperatures gracing our area since the weekend, it feels like a crime to spend Earth Day working indoors. Here in Central Florida, we are blessed to live in such a diverse environment, with a variety of wildlife and terrain in every direction. The longer I live here, the more beautiful places I discover and fall in love with, and I consider myself lucky to call this weird and wonderful place my home.

In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing five unique places to experience nature and wildlife right in your own backyard. Please feel free to share your own local favorites in the comments section below!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Ways to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net1. Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Maitland, FL)
Nestled just off the main roads in Maitland, the Audubon Center for Birds and Prey is a rehabilitation facility for raptors. The organization brings in hundreds (if not thousands) of hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey who are sick or injured each year. For $8 per adult and $5 per child, guests can visit about 50 of the center’s permanent residents and learn about each individual bird. Don’t forget to visit the tiny raptors on the back porch, including my favorite: Tony, the eastern screech owl! You can also watch a video inside to learn more about rehabilitation and release efforts, and how the center does its part to protect these amazing species. The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey also hosts various events throughout the year.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

2. Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park (DeBary, FL)
Whether you prefer to hike or bike, the Spring-to-Spring Trail is a must-visit on a beautiful day. The trail will eventually span 26 miles out to DeLeon Springs, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a more leisurely stroll from Lake Monroe to Gemini Springs. The route is paved and goes 3.15 miles one way.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

3. Green Springs Park (Enterprise, FL)
True to its name, Green Springs Park is home to one of Florida’s few sulphur springs. The color has to be seen in person to be believed — and yes, it really is that ethereal. You can access Green Springs Park via the Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park if you’re looking for a longer hike, or simply drive up to the outside of the park and take a walk around to explore the 31 acres of paved and natural trails that comprise Green Springs.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

4. The CARE Foundation (Apopka, FL)
I fell in love with The CARE Foundation a few years back, when the Apopka-based wildlife sanctuary took in Lucious, a sweet young lion who suffered from hypovitamiosis. Although Lucious ultimately passed away from this condition, his story went viral and introduced many to The CARE Foundation, which rescues both exotic and domestic animals. Home to lemurs, foxes, big cats, a bear, blonde raccoons, reptiles, and many other critters, The CARE Foundation offers private tours, as well as open houses throughout the year to welcome the public. I have visited The CARE Foundation for their open houses, but a private tour with a small group is on my list for the future!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

5. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (Winter Park, FL)
Just off Park Avenue, hop on a boat to explore the chain of lakes and canals that make up Winter Park. For just $14 per adult and $7 per child, Scenic Boat Tours take place every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are the perfect way to cool down as the weather heats up. Throughout your tour, you’ll visit three lakes and two canals, and the guide will share the history of Winter Park while introducing you to the local flora and fauna.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature in Central Florida? Sound off in the comments section below!

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Chinsegut (noun): The Inuit word for “the spirit of things lost and regained.”

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

For all of my Orlando readers who want to make a quick road trip getaway, look no further than Brooksville, Florida. Located in Hernando County in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area, Brooksville is hardly more than a hop, skip, and a jump away — about two hours west. I was introduced to the area by the lovely Diane of NatureCoaster, a fellow blogger who had contributed to my Hidden Gems of Central Florida post back in January, and couldn’t wait to visit Florida’s Nature Coast.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

Our first stop was the Chinsegut Hill Manor, a historic home last owned by social activists Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins until the mid-1900s. In fact, who better to lead our tour than Margaret herself? 🙂 Visitors can receive tours from costumed guides and reenactors, adding even more magic to the Chinsegut grounds. With two wraparound porches, beautiful original furnishings, and a gorgeous landscape, history enthusiasts will love touring the manor house. Tours are just $5 and are offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill Retreat

After our tour, our group congregated on the porch to sample some of the best wines the Nature Coast has to offer from the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery. Each bottle tells a different story about the family who owns this winery, and in addition to your traditional reds and whites, they also offer blueberry and currant wines. My favorites were the Honeymoon Wine, a muscadine honey wine (not to be confused with mead) infused with grapefruit and apricots, and the Sicilian Punch, a peach/orange sangria and overall crowd pleaser. Take a trip to their tasting room to try all of these delicious flavors! As an added bonus, the winery often houses food trucks and local bands for a fun day or night out.

Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatIn the evening, we trekked over to the Chinsegut Conservation Center just down the road for a guided night hike with Gina, the center’s director. During our tour, we learned about the various native wildlife, and had the opportunity to learn about the area’s bat population. Bat houses are located on site, and are home to roughly 250 bats per home. At dusk, we watched the bats fly out of their houses and into the night sky. I had never seen so many bats in my life! The conservation center hosts tour groups almost monthly, as well as various classes and events throughout the year.

IMG_8465

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay during your time in Brooksville, check out the charming cottages at Chinsegut Hill Retreat, on the same grounds as the historic manor house. Each cottage has four bedrooms with two twin beds each, along with their own private bathrooms, a kitchen, and communal living room area. Our group stayed in the cottages and enjoyed s’mores and popcorn by the campfire just outside on the grounds. Take time on the porch in the morning to enjoy the breeze, relax, and restore.Adventures on the Nature Coast: A Day at the Chinsegut Hill RetreatI truly can’t wait for my next trip to Chinsegut and to explore more of the Nature Coast!

What’s on your Florida travel bucket list? Share your adventures in the comments section below!

March 2019: Happiness Project Recap

Happy April, friends, and welcome to spring! I’m excited to begin a new month and a fresh start, as March ended on a heavy note for my family and me. Keeping up with the blog was more of a challenge in March, but I’m looking forward to bringing you some fun new content and sharing some happier adventures with all of you.

Speaking of happiness, I haven’t forgotten about my happiness project! As I mentioned in my earlier posts, January’s focus was on boosting physical wellness (which I successfully did!), while February’s theme was creating outer order through decluttering my home and life (which I also did!). I had high hopes for the month of March, which was focused on practicing mindfulness, and planned to incorporate the following daily goals:

  • Write down the happiest moment of my day.
  • Meditate and use positive affirmations.
  • Turn complaints into happiness.
  • Create my list of personal commandments (and follow them).
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques.

March 2019: Happiness Project Update | Wellness & Wanderlust

I used my resolution chart as always, but this time around, I had trouble keeping up. Although I included a lot of tried-and-true practices in my happiness project last month, I quickly learned that you can’t put mindfulness on your to-do list. As someone who is very task-oriented, I found it much harder to make time for meditation and incorporate breathing techniques into my every day.

In February, it was easy to squeeze in 10 minutes to de-clutter if I hadn’t done it already, but getting into the right mindset to meditate (or even remember to meditate!) was a lot more challenging for me. I did practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques when possible, and while I still struggle with this particular tenet of happiness, I find myself focusing on my breathing a whole lot more. I also did a fairly good job of turning complaints into happiness when it came to the little things, but once I began focusing on the larger themes of unhappiness in my life, it became a lot harder to look at the positive.

March 2019: Happiness Project Update | Wellness & Wanderlust

My favorite aspect of Month 3 was writing down the happiest moment of my day. Admittedly, I wasn’t always perfect about physically writing it down (maybe closer to 50/50), but I often found myself reflecting on even the hardest days and thinking about the moments that didn’t suck. Often on the bad days, there were still some pretty great things that happened, and when I was able to remember those specific examples, I ended the day on a much happier note.

The month of March taught me something important: I need to slow down. When I make the time to meditate, even for only a few minutes a day, I feel better. When I take deep breaths, my brain does a much better job of focusing. Writing down my happiest moment allows me to take control of how I end my day, and it gives me the ability to decide for myself – was it a good day, or was it a bad day? I will make an effort to focus on these practices in April at my own pace, incorporating them over time rather than merely squeezing them into my schedule.

For the month of April, my theme is to Slow Down and Lighten Up. This month was somewhat inspired by The Book of Hygge, which focuses on contentment and comfort, but also incorporates a lot of other practices I really need to follow:

  • Enjoy a hot cup of tea in the morning.
  • Light candles or diffuse essential oils after work.
  • Underreact to a problem.
  • Take time to be silly.
  • Laugh out loud.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

February 2019: Happiness Project Recap

As I mentioned in last night’s post, it feels like February was over just as quickly as it began! It has been a whirlwind of a month, but I’m proud to share that my happiness project is still going strong.

In January, I focused on boosting physical wellnessand a lot of those habits carried over into February. Although no longer on Whole30, I’ve been eating more mindfully and  continuing to see a difference in how I feel (along with how my clothes fit!). The concept of tackling the nagging tasks was a huge part of my February as well. By facing those annoying little to-dos head on, just a few at a time, I have alleviated a lot of anxiety and now feel way more capable of #adulting.

My theme for the month of February was creating outer order by decluttering both my home and (on a much grander scale) my life. To do that, I incorporated the following daily goals:

  • Follow the one-minute rule. (If it can be done in less than one minute, do it right away.)
  • Spend 10 minutes tidying up before bed.
  • Beware of freebies.
  • Spend time each day de-cluttering problem areas of the house.
  • Tackle the nagging tasks.

Of course, I brought back my handy resolution chart and broke out the stickers.

IMG_8097.JPG

How did I do this month? Well, my friends, I think I did great! 🙂 Following the one-minute rule made me much more productive and allowed me not to let the little things fall to the wayside. In addition, spending just 10 minutes to tidy up before bed took a huge strain off of me in the mornings. Nearly every night, I set a timer for 10 minutes, and used that time to wash any pots and pans in the sink, put things away, and tidy up anything I’d left out in the kitchen or living room. My apartment is still not where I want it to be, but at any given time, it is significantly tidier than it was a month ago.

A strong focus of mine was on de-cluttering the problem areas of my apartment. At the end of 2018, I dreaded returning from the holidays because of all of the clutter. Over the years, I’ve accumulated so much junk, bought clothes in nearly every size through weight fluctuations, inherited unwanted items from former roommates, and more. I had two closets completely filled to the brim, drawers that wouldn’t close, and no rhyme or reason to where my stuff was placed.

kondo-1.png

I hadn’t realized until then that my clutter was truly a source of unhappiness for me, so I knew that would have to be a major focus for 2019. Although I still have a ways to go, I’m pleased to share that I have organized both closets, my guest bathroom, my dresser, nightstands, and a few other areas of the apartment. I now have logical places for things to go, and am confident that soon I will even have a few empty drawers and shelves. Hallelujah! 🙂 In my line of work, I come across a lot of freebies at events, so avoiding freebies was another way to keep the clutter levels down.

For the month of March, my theme is Practicing Mindfulness by implementing the following goals:

  • Write down the happiest moment of my day.
  • Meditate and use positive affirmations.
  • Turn complaints into happiness.
  • Create my list of personal commandments (and follow them).
  • Practice 4-7-8 breathing techniques.

What goals are you working toward? Are you doing a happiness project? Sound off in the comments below!

Link Love February: Cookie Monster, Mr. Darcy, and the Florida Everglades

Does anyone else feel like February came and went in the blink of an eye? This month has been an especially busy one for me, with a weekend vacation to Tampa and St. Pete, a day of park-hopping at Disney, a Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed dinner, the Orlando Apollos launch game, and a trip to Wonderworks, along with a two-week bout of laryngitis. My happiness project is still going strong, and I’m excited to share my recap of Month 2 on tomorrow’s blog. 🙂

What links are you loving this month? Check out my latest favorite reads below and share your own in the comments!

ACS_0532.JPG

What links are you loving lately? Sound off in the comments!