How to Continue Living with Ease after Trauma | SMart Choice Lifestyle

There's this moment right after the diagnosis, when you are in need of answers. You want to know what's happening and most of all, you want to know how to make things better. 

WHERE TO START?

"Is there a possibility to continue living even after receiving a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis? Can I resume my goals and dreams and live the life I want, even faced with the unpredictability of relapses and possible disability? Is there anyone out there who has been through this and can give me some advice?"

These were most of the questions that went through my mind as I was beginning my research on all things Multiple Sclerosis. As a newly diagnosed 28 year old in the summer of 2014, I was angry. Upset at life for throwing this at my face, when I hadn't even began to live the way I wanted. I felt alone, as nobody was able to tell me more than some small details about how to handle this. Nothing about prevention methods, how to deal with all the emotional baggage. I felt really alone.

One thing I knew for sure: I was willing to fight this and get my life back the way I wanted. Life was going to be on my terms, and nothing was going to stop me. I am going to help at least one person not feel as alone as I did when first faced with Multiple Sclerosis.

LIFE HAPPENS

Then anxiety and rage came laughing at my face. They made me more irascible and snappy. But I still held on to dear life. "I am the boss here, I have the rules,  I know best. I, I , I... !! " This was just the fear of losing all that I knew I was. Fear of losing myself in the process. And as all people in distress do, I began looking for support outside of myself. I looked for something to soothe my inner soul, the one that was shaking like a leaf in the face of uncertainty. 

WALKING THROUGH THICK FOG

Who was I losing? Who was I really? How can I cope with all of this? What's the worse that can happen? I immersed myself in studying all that I could, ranging from brain anatomy, healthy living, psychology, introspection, journaling,  blood test markers, treatments and exercise

Yeah! Exercise seemed very interesting, as MS is known to go after one's mobility. But I wasn't allowed to get my body to heated. What could I do in order to move but not force too much? YOGA! Such a good idea!

And Yoga was a great idea for more than a year. As I learned the poses, breathing and routines, I also began to discover how my body worked. Little by little, I found out how my mind worked. It all went together. At the same time, my spirit was turning even more so to God. 

For a long time, I had an eclectic spiritual philosophy going on, one made out of Christian belief, universal energy and accepting the flow of things and connecting to the higher power through prayer and letting go of my Ego (the "I, I, I, I!!" part of my mind that kept being afraid and angry).

ACHIEVING CLARITY

As I got closer and closer to God, I decided to read the whole Bible for the first time in my life. And from January this year, there was no turning back. I slowly let go of Yoga, as my focus shifted. I have always been a faithful person. Being raised in a Christian Orthodox family that was very open to religion, that encouraged learning about Jesus and the stories of the Bible, I grew in perfect acceptance of a higher power and in fascination with the story of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Little did I know back then that this seed was going to prove to be my salvation. The thing that will help me out of the crash and burn of my Ego and internal fears and demons. To keep it short for this article: LOVE is the ongoing message of Christianity, the silver lining that goes through all of us and is at the bottom of all joy and inner peace. When you understand this, it all becomes crystal clear: the so called fear of God is in fact the love we have for Him. All love implies respect and obedience. We strive to please the ones we love. It's that simple!

This is my perspective on things, as I was born and raised a Christian. But whatever your belief, this still applies: LOVE is transcending all creation, it's the unifying energy.

CLARITY PUT TO WORK

But first, I had to become humble. To understand that if I had been given this burden was because I needed to learn a lesson: to love myself more, to love and give others more, to do what I love, to be more compassionate and kind to others

There really is power in suffering and what it brings out. God doesn't play around. He gave me a harsh wake up call, a personal trauma to wake me up to the purpose we all need to have: love one another! Get my head out of my own... and start living in harmony with the people around me and with my own self. Multiple Sclerosis was the most personal lesson I had to learn. I had other lessons but failed to go deeper and become aware of their teachings. I wrote more about them and why following your heart is crucial, HERE.

Nowadays, I live my life with the knowledge that my life has a purpose. I know that all fear fades away in the face of God. I know that the only one that truly understands and accepts me is Jesus, and the kind of relationship we have with Him will mirror the way we treat ourselves and the people around us. 

I know that when I surrender my Ego and accept my faults, when I am humbled by my mistakes, I grow, I become the best version of me possible. It's my personal choice. I continue reading the Bible every morning. It's part of my routine, along with breakfast and my daily Copaxone injection.

HOW CAN ALL THIS HELP YOU?

Simple! Here are three things you could do starting today, that will bring you closer to living with ease after going through a traumatic experience. Little by little, the pain will subside and you will continue living.

1. Allow yourself to go through the emotional pain
We are made to feel both happy and negative emotions. When we're happy, we accept that wholeheartedly. The same needs to happen with suffering. We need to feel that pain in order to get passed it. Otherwise, it gets repressed, we numb or ignore it and then the damage is longer and harder. Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, afraid and all that. 

2. Daily journaling 
A practice that will benefit you in many ways than one. You could say that when you suffer, you don't feel like writing, you don't have the energy. A journal is the most important tool you'll ever have.

It allows you to brain-dump all your suffering without complaining that you whine to much or you should stop. It only asks the questions you write. It allows you to objectify your thoughts and feelings. As you write them down, you become aware of them and the rational part of your brain kicks in and analyzes them. Maybe not at that moment, but on the long run, you'll see. It's the perfect tool for self-awareness and getting in touch with who you are deep inside.

3. Give more of yourself to others
Make helping others your goal. Look for opportunities to help your family and friends with whatever they might need. If you're going through something traumatic, they're probably affected to. Helping them would be just simply sit down and hear them out, listen to what they have to say. Let them pour their heart out. Be their journal! 

Move outside your close circle: look for causes that you can join, or start your own. That's how SMart Choice Lifestyle began: I wanted to help others make the best decisions for their life, even if they were going through hard times. And that's still my goal. It's the reason you're reading this article.


Liked this post? Subscribe HERE, to be sure we stay connected. Let me know if you’d want me to write a more extensive piece on this topic, or on smaller topics from it. Would love to hear your opinion on this! Leave your comments down below.

P.S. Listening to Chopin proves to be amazing for my focus when writing :)) What's your concentration trick (if you have one)?

Sincerely,
Denisa






5 STEP PROCESS TO ACHIEVE CLARITY FOR YOUR CAREER & PERSONAL GOALS | SMart Choice Lifestyle

I've always had an eclectic way of seeing things. I draw my inspiration from an incredible array of sources, time periods and industries. It's like I'm building a never ending vision board for my life and career. 

AWARENESS FIRST

Thankfully I had a constant throughout: thinking in pictures. I draw out the way all my ideas are going to look, act and what purpose are they going to serve and need are they going to take care of. The natural outcome was that I ended up pursuing a creative career, dealing with images and stories. Hence, I decided that I am a visual storyteller. 

Becoming aware of your talents and the skills that can help you move forward is essential if you want to grow a career out of just a passion. "Passion" is such an emotion-filled word. "What you're naturally good at and enjoy doing" sounds better. But for the sake of word economy, let's continue naming it "passion".

Being multi-passionate and loving to do many things can become confusing if you don't spend time working out the bits and pieces that will help you understand what career should you really follow. Most of us finish school and immediately get a job. "That's the safe thing to do!" common sense tells us. Sounds fair, and for many of us, it ends up being their road in life. And that's completely fine and normal. It's their choice and if it makes them happy, go for it!

MY DREAMS AND MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS

I was the other kind. The one that had the regular 9-5 job, but had her mind on creative projects almost all of the time. Given the situation, I kept the things I loved to do as hobbies and tried my best to integrate them into my daily work tasks. Every time I got the chance to do one of them, I felt happy. That feeling went away when I got back to whatever I was working on.

For a long while, I thought it to be normal. We all have jobs that get us tired and hobbies that help us refresh and get us back on track. And so a few years passed and while I was working, I always thought of starting my own thing on the side. The dream of building my own business doing what I loved never left me. 

The decisive moment that completely shifted my actions was the 25th of July 2014, the day the neurologist told me that I had Multiple Sclerosis. In less than 24 hours, all my thoughts pointed to living my life the way I always wanted and making my dreams a reality. Even more so, wanting to continue working equaled pursuing my passion. My time was limited. Nobody knew by how much or less. The illness is unpredictable, so I have to hurry! 

There was no turning back after that. After just a week back at the office, I listened to my gut and left. It no longer provided me with anything rather than monthly pay. I chose my health over money. And so I started my sabbatical. Taking time to clear my head after the diagnosis, learn as much as I could about the disease, find ways in which to keep it inactive and most of all follow my dream career.

Do you know that feeling of liking so many things that you can't really decide which one to really pursue? Or, if you had narrowed in down to two or three areas, it's still difficult to start because for each one there are SO many things that you can say or do? Welcome to my world!

The funny thing is that I already know what I want to do (and I kindda knew it for more than 7 years now), but there's always something left to do, improve or wait to be the right moment for. Up until a few months ago, I thought it to be fear of failure. But no. Failure doesn't scare me for quite a while now. I mean, what's the worse it can happen? I already have an incurable disease! (*smiling ironically here*)

The fear of not being good enough isn't it either, as I managed to get passed peer pressure too. The thing is I find it difficult to decide. And that's so funny, because the blog is named SMart Choice, so technically, I should have mastered the decision making process by now. But not in the things I hold dear to my heart.

And so my one year sabbatical became two years, and the more I learned and the more ideas I had, the worse I became at deciding to start. I had it all planned on paper, all organized, but no action. Constant learning. An eternal student. I like learning, but I also like to be productive. 

The biggest lesson that I've learned these past two years is that you can't work on your dreams if you don't know the dreamer. Meaning that you first have to come back to knowing who you are and then see what you can do for work. 

HOW TO ACHIEVE CLARITY FOR YOUR GOALS - 5 STEP PROCESS

That's why I came up with this 5 step process that you can also take to get in touch with your true self, or at least with your inner motivations and ideas that make you uniquely you, helping with your career goals.

So, without further adue, here are the steps that get you closer to yourself. You'll need a piece of paper and a few minutes to write things down.

1. DEFINE THE CONTEXT
Find a picture of yourself as a kid. Look at it and try to remember who you were back then. Asses your current lifestyle choices, the things you're naturally good at, the skills you've learned throughout the years and see where you stand. What's the thing (or things) that have remained a constant? Note them down and move on to the second step...

2. WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR AND WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR LEGACY TO BE?
Note down your core values (limit yourself to just 5, the most important ones). After a life spent working, what would you like to be remembered for? What are the most important things that you leave behind as a professional?

3. ALIGN GOALS TO PERSONALITY AND VALUES?
Make a list of goals that you want to achieve during this lifetime. Be specific in naming them. No matter how big or unimportant they seem, they are part of your vision, so note them down. Given the values and legacy that you've decided upon already, how do you plan to achieve those goals? Define a short strategy. What choices will you need to make in order to achieve those goals?

4. DAILY ACTION PLANNING
Achieving mastery or anything in life means discipline and work. All the people that got somewhere with their lives and careers have to (and most still are) work hard to get their goal. You'll need a plan. Make it simple, actionable and daily. Think of the bigger picture and then narrow it down to what are the daily tasks that you need to do in order to get where you want to. Start with the first goal on your list and go from there. Then act upon that plan, but...

5. FOLLOW-UP AND REVIEW
To know how far you've came, you need to do regular reviews and measurements. Nothing fancy, just, for example, see how much of Project X is done and what's left to do. You need to know what you need to do, in order to plan your day and efficiently dose your energy, especially when living with Multiple Sclerosis.


Liked this post? Subscribe HERE, to be sure we stay connected. Let me know if you’d want me to write a more extensive piece on this topic, or on smaller topics from it. Would love to hear your opinion on this! Leave your comments down below.

Sincerely,
Denisa

Creative Choices: Three Mindful Tips to Clear Overwhelm in the Creative Mind | SMart Choice Lifestyle

When was the last time your mind felt overwhelmed by lots and lots of thoughts? Mine is doing that as I write this blog post. Just started another draft because the previous one talked about three topics at the same time, and that really brought no value neither to me writing it or to you reading it. 


So, I decided to approach things more like documenting the experience of feeling overwhelmed. You probably had many great ideas throughout your life, but not many of them got to see the light of day. It might have been for lack of time, lost interest, or resources.

If you're like me, and you overthink things, this might be the reason you have all these great ideas but no actual result with any of them, because you constantly feel the need of adding or remodeling something. It's a mix between overthinking and perfectionism, the mother of all anxiety for creatives.


HOW DOES OVERWHELM HAPPEN?

You start with a simple and great idea that makes you happy. Then begin to add to it, making it more refined. But when the adding doesn't stop, you find yourself in overwhelm land and can easily give that idea up or save it for later because it got too complex.

A creative mind is contradictory and most of the times a puzzle even for the creative person. Plus, we NEED to do a thousand things at the same time, because our interests go far and wide and we "can't just do one single thing". Add this to a thirst for learning and reading, and you find yourself in my shoes. 

The funny, ironical things is that I have a very clear vision and outlined plan of what I want to do, but my mind keeps wanting more information. It finds that it doesn't know enough, and the more I know, the better the plan will be. The truth is the more info I consume, the more time I lose, and get further and further from my original idea. And it becomes exhausting!

The more I learn, the more I get the impression that I really don't know anything for sure. It never ends! But the truth is that all knowledge is smoke if we don't use it, if we don't act upon it. What use is there to know a lot of things if you don't share it with others? 

But here comes another issue! Every idea I once had wants to come out in first, and be written on this blog, for you to see and be helped by. It's like my mind has a... mind of its own! What's really happening is that my mind is overstimulated by all the information I bombard it with daily. If I keep on filling it and take little out, of course the lack of  "mind space" will get to my nerves (and yours as you read this, I will get to the point in just a minute, promise!).

Lots of ideas and no... idea where to start from? Pick one and go do it. Overthinking leads to inaction, and nothing ever gets done.

"What's this have to do with me?" you're probably asking. Well, here are the three key-things I learned about how to calm down any overwhelming situation, before acting on each idea at a time.

1. Clear your mind on paper. 
Making space for thinking has proven do do wonders. Whenever I feel cluttered up inside my mind, I take out a simple notebook and a pen and dump all of my ideas and thoughts on paper. You might think that you're not good at writing or don't have the time to do that. But do you have time of being stuck between thoughts and ideas that keep you from creating and / or doing whatever you were supposed to do that day? No? OK! 

Then the next time when you feel that your mind is bubbling up ideas and a neverending web of thoughts, write them all down, let that weight down on paper. You might end up with some pretty usable stuff, or... with a bunch of nonsense that didn't belong inside your mind to begin with.

Choose all the good info and prioritize it. Having things written down brings more clarity and space, helping your mind deal more easily with ideas and creative processes. Remember to also let go of the ideas that are no longer relevant to your current situation. That doesn't mean you abandon them forever, you just save them for later. 

2. Have "no info consumption" pockets of time.
Have morning and evening rituals that don't involve any social media, screens or work. Allow yourself to relax into and after your day. Build habits like doing some light stretches, taking deep breaths, taking a shower and then a light and healthy meal. Use these pockets of time even for doing the "brain dump" I was talking about before.

Get outside and take a brisk walk to clear your head. Spend time with friends and family and take your mind off your work for a few hours. Whenever you force a machine to work, it brakes down. The same is true for your mind and brain. Give them a rest and come back to your projects feeling refreshed and ready to work.

Giving your mind a rest is proven to help you relax and actually be more creative. You have time to unwind and take care of yourself, your relationships and your body. When the mind races, the body suffers, because it gets tense and not used to its highest potential. Witch brings me to number three...

3. Stand still, be mindful, and pray***
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Become aware of that avalanche of thoughts and steer them away gently one by one. Focus on deep breathing and on gradually relaxing your body, beginning with your legs and going up towards the head. It will take some practice, but it will gradually pay off all the effort you might have invested into it. It can get frustrating and even impossible at times, but the trick is to commit to it and do it daily. 

Our brains work in synergy with the mind. In fact, our minds are a complex web of neurocircuitry made out of synapses, connections between brain cells (neurons). The more we use our minds and the more information we consume, the more neural connections we create. The more of those, the more our minds grow and learn patterns. These patterns are memorized and hard to brake as they become habitual thinking ones.

It takes some effort to replace them with other, more easy / useful habits to what we need in our new contexts. We can't just snap our fingers and create a new mindset. Our current one is the product of all we've learned, done, heard, smelled, tasted, spoken and felt throughout our lives. The more we repeated a pattern, the more it stuck. Transformation needs to be gradual. We need to replace some thoughts with new ones, and that takes time.

(***more details on my perspective in a future article to be linked here)

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Why You Need to Follow Your Heart. Time Waits for No One

As I'm sitting here with my late-time cuppa, cloudy weather and writing in English, my inner reality couldn't be more different than what's really happening outside this room. But that's what dreamers and idealists do. Or at least that's what I have been told.

I always loved escaping into words and daydream. When I was a kid, it was all productive and such, as it was my job to have an imagination an develop interesting worlds and stories. The worlds I was constructing had strong visuals and fierce heroes. But that was back to the time of dinosaurs. Kids today are technology-bound, well adapted to a world of gadgets and science.

But what about one's soul? What about one' purpose?

My generation lived mostly in its head and thoughts. This generation lives more in its social media pages or apps. Things change and there's nothing wrong with that! It would be pretty hypocritical of me to criticize tech, as I'm writing this from a wireless-connected laptop, as I just finished a mini-browsing of my Facebook and Instagram.

All that I'm saying here is that we need a return to ourselves, to our inner beings, to our hearts. We are so connected, so informed, so skilled, so prepared nowadays, that we forget to stand still and often find ourselves on autopilot. Mostly like a machine.

It all comes back to the soul. To the heart. To the purpose.

For the past 7 years, my life has been like the one of a hamster on a treadmill. That's the typical image of a 30-something in this century. I was doing all of what society and peers were expecting of me, yet I wasn't fulfilled. "Things can't always be perfect!" I kept telling myself in order to soothe that restlessness I had inside. Over and over again.

Numbing life with life and getting smacked down by life.

Ironically enough, our minds are not the masters of the lives we have. We might... think we have control over what's happening, but if we don't take conscious choices, if we don't stand up and fight for what we believe in, it all happens to us. And then it leaves us with a lesson to learn and a question to answer: "Will you follow your heart?".

Again and again, life decided to give me some "subtle" pokes. 

As a storyteller, I dreamed of becoming a movie director, to be able to tell stories through image, sound and words. Life happened. Peer pressure made me give up because "There's too much competition! You'll lose precious time! Take the safe path!". Ended up studying Sociology for four years instead. 

Yeah! Like this proved to be the "safe path". Either way, it was my choice.

Finished Uni, got admitted to a Master's programe, got my first job as a Life Insurance Consultant (the irony of selling life protection when mine was going to be tumbled down!). 

Life happened. My mother got breast cancer

That marked my first meeting with chronic disease and full-on regret. Feeling sorry for all that I made wrong, for all that I should have or shouldn't have said made me realize that we always have a choice to how we act. We always have a choice to do or not to do something. I chose to be strong for her and look for stability. I wasn't living for myself. I was now living for her. 

So I changed jobs to a place that in other conditions I never would have looked at. 

But I ended staying there for two and a half years. I learned how mean and double-faced human nature can be, and how damaging stress can be. Looking back, this experience also taught me to be humble and serve others, despite of their behavior. I was beginning to learn life. 

At the end of those years, I chose me above all else, and quit. The pressure on my emotions was too big and wanted to brake free. I give my praise to God that my mother recovered and is still a part of my life. It made me begin to lose Ego.

Got another job in sales and vehicle management coordination, and felt at ease. I was beginning to get back to myself bit by bit. But after only seven months, and having the past experience of feeling trapped in a place I didn't belong, I chose to leave and pursue my own thing (once more) in graphic design. 

I had just finished a beginner's course and was preparing for my final exams, Steve Jobs just died and made me become aware of my own limited time. I compulsively watched his Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech until it became engraved inside my mind. 

Although it was a normal consequence of life, death still scared me and put some anxiety all over my actions. Do things now!

So I did! Got the best results at the Graphic Design exam, and went into planning mode to pursue my dream. The focus was mostly on myself and on what I would achieve.

In came life again. Because, you know, shit happens! My grandma died

At the beginning of that year, the woman who was one of the pillars of my personality and the one that I drew much of my inspiration from was gone. Leaving me with an inflamed Ego and a big regret that I wasn't more time there for her.

Time doesn't wait for anyone. Life goes on even without your input. I needed to choose once again. I thought of her, and what would she want me to do. 

I just started a Photography course, as it was the closer that I could get to telling visual stories. Given the death of a close family member, many would have stayed at home for some days, grieve and then go back to their activities. But I chose to be strong once more and go to my course. 

So, that night I stayed at her wake, went to sleep at 7 am, rested for 4-5 hours, and then went to class. Nobody knew, nobody saw anything on my face. I kept it to myself. Once more, I chose to be strong for my family and do the right thing. There's a whole other story about this experience, but I'm not going to cover this now, maybe in a later post.

All these experiences were bringing me back to God

I always been like this. I grew up an Ortodox-Christian, not actually a church-goer, but passionate about all those stories in the Bible and God's goodness and protection. In my deepest despair, He is the one I turn to, He is the one my soul needs. Nothing else. Even if I do it unconscious, when I get afraid, I pray.

That year I prayed to be happy. I let my soul in His hands and prayed for it to be soothed. 

And it was. That fall I began a relationship with my best friend, a guy I've met at my Graphic Design course and that quickly became my go-to person. He is similar to me in so many ways (good and bad), that I really couldn't have asked for a better match. I wouldn't had known what to ask for! Our relationship grew stronger as months went by. We had our ups and downs, but it was all fine in the end. 

Life resumed its course. I got a job as a Shop Manager for a telecom retail company, got passed some of my limits, learned a lot about me and people once again. But something felt off again. Stress was much higher than my inner feeling of fulfillment. It ended up putting great strain on me, and I came to work only to wait anxiously to get back home to my plans, peace and quiet. So I left. It didn't feel right. 

As I felt myself calming down, I began to see things clearly and once more planned starting my own thing. 

Guess what?! Once more it didn't happen right!

I planned to get a job in order to raise money to start my own photography business. Found a job in sales, advertising space and client relationship. All good, all stressful as always, but it was comfortable. Somehow, my dream got postponed, as I never felt quite ready. I was scared shitless, to be honest!

Life grew bored with my behavior and decided to give me one more "poke". Into my right eye. On a Friday.

The time when it happened was just right, as I once more grew to comfortable into being pushed and pulled by life and not listening to my intuition. Whenever that happened, fear took command and made me settle, going totally against my dreams of always going for what it feels right.

I told the story of my multiple sclerosis diagnosis here. The thing that I would like to add to it is that as I write this story, I understand that our lives are empty without doing something with purpose, without really using the gifts we have been given. 

I have always loved to write and tell stories. I was always able to leave myself aside in times of great distress and turn to helping others.

Now you tell me. What do you choose: a life that happens to you, or one designed by choice? 

Because things will always happen, go well, go bad, get stuck, or anything else. But what really matters is what you do with the cards that you have been dealt, and how you use them to serve others? 

For me, that's what life is all about: smart choices. God knows what He's doing. Always!

Liked this post? Subscribe HERE, to be sure we stay connected. Let me know if you’d want me to write a more extensive piece on this topic, or on smaller topics from it. Would love to hear your opinion on this! Leave your comments down below.


Sincerely yours,
Denisa


How to Avoid Skin Oversensitization? The Microbiome and Excessive Body Cleaning | SMart Choice Lifestyle

The smell of fresh cut grass and home-baked bread, followed by a delicious breakfast with hot cocoa, raspberry or rose organic jam, a soft boiled egg that was steaming when you opened it and dipped a bit of bread crust into that perfect orange yolk. And then off to play outside for the rest of the day, or until lunch. This was most of my childhood spent at grandma's!


If you have memories like these, you also remember that the outside world wasn’t our enemy, like it’s often portrayed today. We glorify interiors, houses and running water. Those are fine, trust me! Living without them would be manageable, but certainly not a pleasure. As we have all these comforts, we also develop many products with which we can keep it all clean and sanitary.

As time goes by, we drift further and further from nature, living in aseptic environments that keep us safe from all the germs and bacteria outside. Infections and especially bacterial ones are nasty, even life threatening if left untreated. But there’s another side of the coin that we usually tend to miss: too much cleaning and sanitizing actually could damage us even more.

How’s that?

Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did not have access to the vast array of personal hygiene and house cleaning items that we do now. I’m not saying that it was an extremely healthy environment in most cases, but the irony is that fewer people got sick or even fewer had allergies from a young age. People were more able to work with their surroundings, instead of against them.

Our bodies are custom made for living in nature. They adapt to the environments we’re in and develop immune tools to keep us safe from illness. That’s their main goal: survival. For ages, humans have been living in synergy with the natural world, taking care of it and reaping its fruits in return. People lived according to what nature provided them and our bodies adapted according to what we had to deal with on a day to day basis.

Bacteria isn’t all bad. Actually, the microbiome as it is called, helps us stay alive. It protects us against germs, breaks down food to release energy, and produces vitamins. It “consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut”. The human microbiome is in constant exchange  with our environment, human microbes flow freely onto the surfaces we interact with on a daily basis. Microbial communities are constantly being transferred between surfaces, our bodies being constantly adapting to the place we live in.

Thus excessive sensitization via all kinds of disinfectants, antibacterial soaps and personal hygiene products is similar to the effects that antibiotics have inside the body. Too much consumption and that good microbial barrier is disrupted, making way for opportunistic bacteria that can damage the skin or our body’s health.

Our body’s default defense mechanism, called the immune system, has the power to regulate all these little armies of good bacteria and to keep them in tune with the rest of our bodies, while keeping a careful watch on foreign pathogens. When we disinfect to often, our immunity overreacts, and begins to think everything's a threat. Given the fact that our environments are so clean, the simplest nasty bacteria that once had no impact over our body, begins to have one now.

For people living with Multiple Sclerosis, things are even more... sensitive. Given the treatments that we need to take, our immune systems are lowered, already putting the body at risk to infections and other damage that might occur.

I'm not saying that it's a must, but we need to be even more cautious and help our health as best we can. Over-sanitizing or under-sanitizing are neither the best way, as they are extremes. Taking care of your personal hygiene and house cleaning shouldn't go there. Keep it simple, keep it basic.

But first, let's go back to nature...

There are three things that you can do to minimize the impact, all under the same umbrella: progressive desensitization to the natural world. For a person that has been living indoors most of her life, going wild with these tools seems a bit out of place. This is a process, and you should only do what makes you feel comfortable and what suits your lifestyle. But do try the following:

  1. Reduce toxic load from your personal hygiene products and house cleaners. The safest way I found to do this is to replace one nasty chemical with a more natural choice. Only a couple of examples: use regular hand soap for your day to day hand wash. Only use antibacterial ones when you’ve worked with other chemicals or if you’ve been to the hospital; the same goes for hand sanitizers: you don’t need them at home, where it’s supposed to be clean); use sodium bicarbonate to get rid of nasty smells in your refrigerator (and try to clean the entire interior once a week, using a solution made of 1 part apple cider vinegar and 3 parts water).
  2. Go out in nature more! Walking around in fresh air and being around trees and grass not only is beneficial for your fitness, but also for your mind. It can be a powerful destresser and a good time to relax. Depending on where you live, plan small or large trips to classic destinations like the local park, the nearby forest or a weekend to the mountains. No matter what you choose, nature will always pay back tenfold! Of course you have to protect yourself from falls, bees or other dangers, so make sure you learn a thing or two about how to take care of issues like these if they arise.
  3. Take up urban gardening. Depending on where you live, you can create a small or a large one. Either way, it could only be just some pots you have on your balcony, but the goal is to allow yourself time to think and work with your hands. To allow yourself to get back in touch with good bacteria in nature. I personally recommend gardening without any chemicals, letting the plant grow on its own terms, while I tend to its needs and help it on the way. Great activity to bring nature back in the city!

These were my three ideas on how you can begin to bring your body back from the aseptic world and right into the natural one. Bit by bit, you’ll adapt. It’s a process. You have to have patience! But more about that in another article.

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Sincerely yours,
Denisa


Three Reasons to Simplify Your Lifestyle | SMart Choice Lifestyle

Let me tell you a story. Imagine the lead act in the most important circus in the world. He’s a famous juggler, who’s known for all his amazing balance, focus and dexterity. He adds so many new tricks to his act, that they all see him as a genius performer.


But he begins to feel tired. The more things he has to juggle with, the more difficult his focus gets. His mind is now the one which plays tricks on him. His performance will suffer and so will he. Too much to handle. He blames himself. He’s a bad performer. He feels angry and ashamed. He no longer has the will and drive to do his best and to constantly grow his act.

He eventually settles with being a clown. An act that just makes people laugh. At least they won’t all laugh at him. When he takes of his mask and looks in the mirror, his reflection is sad, overwhelmed. Day in and day out, every evening, he plays the clown. He makes people laugh. But he cries inside. He wants his purpose back.

The next day he opens the chest where he stored his juggling equipment and only takes out the three spheres and the balancing board he used to love so much. He goes outside and steps on the board. His hands instinctively begin to throw the spheres into the air. Bit by bit, his act gets better, faster. A smile comes back to his face and more and more people gather around, cheering him on. He’s the famous juggler again.

But what if he always was the lead act? What if he made it harder on himself by becoming overwhelmed instead of keeping it simple? That’s what made him happy after all, isn’t it? He loved juggling and sharing that with people. Now, when the people laugh, he laughs with them.

The juggler is in fact all of us. The many things added are the ones we constantly add to our life. Those things that got piled up into our lifestyle and now make our lives miserable, tense and sad. We need to go back to basics, rediscover what made us smile and what we did with joy.

Make conscious choices about what’s relevant to our lives and what are the things that are essential to our happiness and wellbeing. Personal and professional. Integrate. We are the same persons who do them all. Choose our spheres and balancing board carefully.

Here’s three reasons why:

  1. Better mental health
We are constantly bombarded with information, messages, emails, things to do. It never ends. When we take time to declutter, our brain thanks us and refocuses all that energy into making us healthier and more alert. Our neurons are constantly working throughout the day. We need to learn to relax and do one thing at a time. Which brings me to reason number two...
  1. Better focus
Our brains cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking is just another word for overwhelming your mind. You have a limited amount of energy and time everyday. Choose the three most important things that you need to get done today and two chores. And that’s it. Do those to the best of your abilities. Use the rest of your time to learn, rest and connect with loved ones. Here’s reason number three...
  1. More time for what’s important
As much as we would like to think that relationships can wait for us to send that important email, that’s not true. The most important things in life are the people we surround ourselves with. We are wired for connection and need human closeness. The real, old-fashioned one. The one without a screen in between. The one where we actually have a normal conversation, and be totally present in that moment, not on our phones. But that takes space, energy and knowing our priorities.

We live our lives by choice. What decisions we make and what things we pick is up to us. We each have a certain life, we are all unique. But one fact is universal: simplicity keeps our minds healthy and our relationships stronger.

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Sincerely yours,
Denisa