Look what just arrived!

When Pete checked the mail this weekend, he brought inside a large padded envelope. Handing it to me he asked, “Are you expecting a package?”

My heart leapt.

The advance copy of my book!

Lupine squealed, found a pair of scissors, and stood beside me (literally jumping up and down) while I opened the envelope.

And there it was. My book! In my hands, for the very first time.

And it was every bit as thrilling as I thought it would be.

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If I’m being honest I would admit to being a bit terrified as well. (What if it didn’t live up to my expectations on some level – the book, my work, or this long-awaited experience?)

But all of that fretting was for naught.

The book is big, beautiful, fun, and inspiring. It blew away more best expectations with how lovely it is! And to see my photos (and our friends!) glowing out at us from every page, well, my heart was in my hands.

Lupine and I curled up together on the couch, and slowly flipped through all 170-plus pages, drinking in the experience of holding our copy for the first time.

We laughed at some of the goofier photos of her, remembered many of the captured moments, and gushed over how lovely it all looked and felt.

My very own book. At long last!

To each of you who has encouraged me along this path, I want to express my profound thanks. To have found my niche and my voice and to bring together my love of herbs, my passion for writing, and my background as an educator–well, it’s a feeling that is difficult to describe.

And you helped me do that, by coming here and reading my words, by attending retreats and summer camps, and by otherwise connecting and encouraging me along. So… thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

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As an aside, for those of you who were waiting to pick up your own copy (or copies for gifts this holiday season), there is a wild and crazy sale running right now on Amazon. The book is just $16, but I’m not sure for how much longer. (If you pre-ordered already, don’t despair! Your price will drop to this one as well.)

You can find that deal right here.

If you’d prefer to pre-order your copy from your local bookshop (yay, you!) you can find one who carries it here by clicking on the red “I” icon next to US, or the appropriate link for your country if you’re not in the States.

Wishing you each Herbal Adventures of the most delightful sort.

 

Home sweet home

20180904-DSC_706420180901-DSC_6415-220180905-DSC_706820180907-DSC_709120180903-DSC_661520180903-DSC_678920180903-DSC_663220180903-DSC_677520180903-DSC_6556We made it! We’re settling in back home after our trip (1/4 way) around the lake. There were quite a few bumps along the road between here and there and back again, but sometimes that’s just how things go. No, we did’t make it all the way around. Yes, there were issues. But there are certainly greater problems we might have faced than car and camper troubles. Don’t you think?

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Today we’re finding our familiar home grove (which involved drywall mud, a stock pot, einkorn flour, and a pressure canner, though not necessarily all at one time), as we watching the color slowly shift on the hill across the creek as autumn quietly announces its arrival.

And we’re savoring the simple pleasures of our own beds, our favorite view, and the rhythm of life at home. Since we returned home one week earlier than we planned, we’re digging in on some major projects here on that farm that have been waiting for years for completion. That’s a silver lining of coming home early!

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The floods, however, were as ruthless as we had heard.

The town our farm is devastated (again) as the photos below testify. It’s heartbreaking. Truly. We’re doing what we can to help, mostly in the form of donated soap, natural insect repellent, and other necessities from LüSa.

If you’d like to help, simply place an order of $25 or more and add a comment of “Flood relief:CLEAN”. For every $25 you spend on your own family’s needs, I’ll donate $10 or more of product to our community relief efforts.

Oh, Canada!

20180904-DSC_6856With our damaged trailer hitch preventing us from circling the lake with our camper in tow, we were still committed to making a trek across the border, and to spend a few days exploring the Canadian lakeshore.

I found us an off-grid cabin on Airbnb, and off we set!

And, well, it was glorious.

The lack of running water, grid power, or an indoor toilet did nothing to dampen our spirits. If anything, it only added to the charm. And to have a bit of space to stretch out in after living for a week in a pop-up, a morning coffee view that was nothing short of breathtaking, and the perfect Northwoods sauna might have just been the sweet spot of our entire vacation.

Every corner of this cabin was it’s own work of art. Every drawer pull, every window sill, every handrail: intricately carved, painted, or otherwise adorned. We were entranced. And the birds just beyond the deck railing bordered on tame, nibbling seeds from Lupine’s hands and delighting us with their antics just a few feet from our chairs.

In short, it was perfect.

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The cabin, situated at the top of Sibley Peninsula, was perfectly placed for us to enjoy the Thunder Bay region and all that it has to offer, without our needing to set foot on the busy city streets.

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Rain! It’s the theme of this trip, I tell you.

But also there was sun. Thank goodness! Sun for hiking, sun for wading in the Big Lake, sun for picking rocks along the shore. And we relished it.

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After a few days across the border, it was time for one last lingering visit to the sauna, to sip a final cup of coffee on the deck, then pile in the car and drive south toward Minnesota once again. We took one more detour through Fort William Historic Park (a place I haven’t visited since I was Lupine’s age), and then rolled back into our friends’ driveway and our awaiting camper just before bedtime.

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This weekend we’ll be wrapping up our last few days of travel. We’re repacking our gear, saying goodbye to our over-the-top generous friends who have hosted us (and/or our empty camper) for the majority of this ill-fated trip, and heading back to the Driftless.

We’ll be home by Monday–one week and one circle tour around the Big Lake short of our original plans.

Plans change. And the theme we established for our first ever month-long road trip back in 2009, remains our road trip motto: “go with the flow”.

And so we did.

Plan G

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Well, hello there! It’s been a while.

Low on data on our cell phone plan and living largely WIFI-free out on the road, we’ve been off-line for most of our trip. It’s been both a treat and a challenge, depending on what’s going on outside of our little bubble that requires our attention.

Mostly it’s been a simple pleasure, like navigating with paper maps for the first time in more than a decade (I know! Paper maps!), and having abundant face-to-face time as a family, without phones or laptops or work to distract us.

Plugged in again today, I thought an update was in order.

20180830-DSC_609720180830-DSC_610520180829-DSC_606720180829-DSC_6083After a soggy few northbound days, we rolled into safe harbor: a friends’ homestead on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We set up camp in their driveway, dried out our gear, and did a few loads of wash.

What a difference dry socks, some home-grown/home-cooked meals, and a hot bath can make!

Pete even found someone willing to weld our trailer hitch back into place, hopefully in the next few days. (Did I even mention that it was breaking? This trip, I tell you. I’ve honestly lost track.)

With a few of our many troubles mitigated, we were able to lace up our hiking boots and take a proper tromp along the shore–at long last.

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A hike, some rest beside the waterfalls, and a touch of much needed sunshine worked wonders! And all the while our family mulled over our next move, contemplating what now must be plans E, F, and G for the remainder of our trip.

The flooding, you see, continues at home. More rain is coming tonight, and the river nearest our home is over the bridge once more. Our house, we hear, is doing fine, but it’s been terrible for so many of our friends and neighbors. We’re feeling the pull to head back much sooner than we originally planned in order to be there for whatever comes next.

I’m afraid I’m rambling a bit. It’s hard to go a week without blogging and know where to even begin! While I ramble, let’s jump here: a birthday just happened as well.

Without want of fanfare, Sage quietly turned 16 while we were on the shore.

The day was spent with friends in a bog (on a bog?), gathering yellow foot chanterrels (and a few pocketfuls of usnea and labrador), casting for trout, and otherwise being in awe of this wet, misty, magical wonderland.

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We arrived home tired, wet (again!), and more calm and centered than we’d felt we started packing for this journey north.

It was a perfect day made even better (because it ended with cake).

I feel so grateful for friends that welcomed our sorry, soggy lot in, help us get dried out and back in proper shape for our journey, share birthday festivities with us, and otherwise help hold our floundering little craft together.

Grateful, I tell you. May I be half this gracious when friends show up in similar shape at our door!

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And then? It’s off to Canada with us! More on that in the coming days…

Until then, stay dry, my friends. We’ll hope to do the same.

Love,
Rachel

The first few days

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 9.20.10 AMWe departed last weekend on what was intended to be a circle tour around Lake Superior.

The theme, in a way, was water, as we circled the largest freshwater lake in the world.

How much the theme would become water had yet to be seen.

Our departure was planned for 10 am last Saturday. Naturally, this means that by the time we finished loading the car and worked out the many bugs of pulling a pop-up camper for the first time, we rolled out of town at 5:30 PM.

Miraculously, everyone was still smiling. A good sign for the (inevitable) future bumps along our journey.

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Despite our late departure, we couldn’t resist a couple of detours along the way, then spent our first night in a free public campground somewhere between home and the lake.

The next morning we drove the final stretch to the Big Lake, and began our circle tour in Bayfield, WI, at a friend’s coffee shop (which seemed a logical place to start).

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We went to the lake for a wade/swim, then started moving westward along the shore.

And then the rains began.

As we worked out way toward Duluth-Superior and our second camping stop, it rained.

And rained, and rained.

We set up camp in the deluge, our rain gear failing, our mattresses damp, and weathered the next two days of flash flooding, as our phones alerted us again and again to “seek high ground” from the storm.

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In that imperfect way that we humans so often do, we saw this as an inconvenience for us, dampening our spirits and soaking our camping gear. It was raining (as it were) on our parade.

In truth, we had it easy.

We received news the next morning that the flash flooding we experienced on the south shore was nothing compared to what was going on at home. The Driftless, which has experienced multiple 100- and 500-year floods since we moved there in 2006, was underwater once again, at record levels even for this flood-prone region.

Our farm-sitter reports that aside from our driveway being rutted by runoff, we’ve faired quite well, but many of our friends and neighbors have not been so lucky.

This knowledge of how things are going at home, paired with our wet camper and wet gear as well as some hopefully minor car troubles that I’ll space you the details of, makes us feel pulled back homeward, perhaps sooner than we originally planned.

As this trip is our plan C already (after the fires chased us away from the Southwest and then the Canadian Rockies), we’re now mulling over the idea of a plan D: going only partway around the lake, then doubling back toward home to clean up from the floods (if we can get home at all, with all the bridges that are gone, that is).

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Tomorrow there is more rain in the forecast.

Today, however, we have sunshine.

So we’re headed back to the lake. To hike, to pick rocks, to regroup, and watch the waves.

Where we go tomorrow has yet to be seen, but we’ll make the most of this break in the clouds, and send dry wishes home to our loved ones in the Driftless.

Off we go!

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Those of you who have been around for a while know that while I am a undisputed homebody, I also love to take long road trips with my kids whenever I can.

When they were just 3 and 7 we spent a month wandering our way nearly 3,000 miles across the country to the Outer Banks and back. When they were 8 and 13 the three of us embarked for another month on the road, heading this time to Vermont and Maine.

And then last September all four of us packed up, boarded our first plane as a family, and spent a month exploring Ireland.

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So, so good. Each and every trip.

And today? My nearly 16 year old, high school-aged kid is continuing his homeschooling path. We’re still together–nearly every day. But in just 2 years he’ll be 18, and Lupine will be high school-aged. Who knows? She many just might opt-in to formal schooling.

That means that than in just a couple short years, these luxurious month-long family road trips may be a thing of the past.

So we’re going for it. This year, and (I hope) every year until someone’s schedule dictates otherwise, we’re taking September and hitting the road.

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As for where we’re bound now, we contemplated a return to Maine, a return to the mid-Atlantic, and a trip to the California coast. Ultimately we settled on the Rockies. I’ll save you the details, but the fires and smoke out west had us change our plans at the very last minute, so instead of points westward, we’re heading North: for a trip all the way around our favorite lake of all. Lake Superior.

We’ll visit with friends, pick rocks, swim in waterfalls, get our kayak paddles wet, and otherwise explore this beautiful territory that begins just a few hours drive from home.

We can’t wait.

As for our digs for the month, Pete spent the summer restoring a pop-up camper that we were gifted. (The little 1990’s RV we bought for our trip to Maine is sadly too small to accommodate the four of us.)

An old and ragged camper in need of some love came into our lives a year ago. Once Pete dug in on the restoration we realized it had moisture issues and wasn’t easily salvaged. Amazingly, a second pop-ip of the same model was up for grabs from my parents, and between the two Pete was able to create one, beautiful new/vintage camper.

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* Before *

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* During *

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* After *

(I’ll share photos of the inside during our trip.) For now, however, I’ve got a car to load, some knitting to cast on, and a lake to visit.

Want to follow along? Subscribe to my blog below. Then I’ll send you an email each time I post about our trip around the Big Lake.  You can find postcards from previous roadschooling adventures here.

See you from the road, friends!

Love,
Rachel

What is your child’s best education?

I have a new blog post over on Happy Healthy Family this morning.

Here is an excerpt: 

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My kids have never attended school in their lives. Nor do we “do school” at home. You’ll rarely find us around the table, pencils in hand, math and science books piled high. You’re more likely to find is in the woods or the creek, the kitchen or the workshop; our curiosity alight and full of a love of learning that was rare in my own childhood but a constant in my life today.

This might make you think that my answer the question above would be: The best education for your child is interest-led, project-based homeschooling! Obviously.

EXCEPT THAT IT’S NOT.

Because this is my family’s right path, right now. It has nothing to do with a singular “best” option or something that’s a good match for anyone else.

AND JUST LIKE HOT SAUCE OR HEAVY METAL, YOGA OR PET SNAKES, IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE. IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO BE.

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I’m over on Happy Healthy Family (the LüSa Organics Blog) talking about choices in education and following your child’s lead and your own heart.

You can find my thoughts here.

 

In the garden

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We planted our first garden in three years this spring.

And to quote Lupine and Sage, we never want to live without one again.

The magic of wandering up the hill to see what we might harvest for our dinner is a delight unlike any other. And the few sunflower seeds we planted on a last-minute whim have kept us (and a few friends) in bouquets all season long. Prolific wild things they are!

I find, too, that heading outside to tend to the garden invites more magic into our ordinary days.

One morning last week Sage headed outside and returned moments later with a barn swallow fledgling that was trapped in our shed. A few hours later Lupine called from the chicken yard for everyone to “come quick!” – she had found a baby snapping turtle!

The turkeys chatter from the tree tops, the barred owls hoot in the forest, and sandhills wing overhead.

It’s good medicine.

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We leave town in a few days for another epic road trip, so our little garden will be on its own. We’re picking all that we can now, but the rest we’ll just let go. Lessons in allowing, I suppose.

Hopefully my chamomile will be busy self-seeding for next season while we are away, and perhaps our farmsitters will make good use the abundance of zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes that these four little beds are still cranking out.

We can only hope.

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As for next year, we’ve learned a few lessons in the garden as well. Like: planting in straight compost means too much nitrogen for peas, beans, strawberries, and so many other plants. (Oh, how I had hoped for an abundant green bean harvest! Next year.)

Also: hay bales compress and break down far more than you expect, and after a month or two your raised beds aren’t quite so… raised. It’s all good. The beds are still ridiculously productive just the same. (Even if we do have to reach down in to harvest.)

We’ll make a few changes next year, add a couple more beds, and give it another go. I can hardly wait.

Because all of these struggles are just a part of learning our way back into gardening. Of making it fun again. Which it is! That giant garden was a chore. This little one is a delight.

For our family anyway, smaller is better.

What a great lesson we have learned: you don’t need to do it all, but life is better when you get out there and do something.

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What are you loving most in your garden this season?

10 favorite family read alouds (ages 10 and up)

I’m over on my other blog, Happy Healthy Family, today sharing our family’s 10 favorite read aloud books. It’s possibly the longest standing request I’ve gotten here at CLEAN: “What books does your family love?” At long last I’ve compiled a list.

If you love this list please tell me! I can share more book lists as well: for parenting, homeschooling, homesteading, coming-of-age/puberty, and more.  Just say the word and I’m happy to share more of our favorite resources.

But for now, let’s start with family favorite chapter books. Pop on over to see what we’re reading now, and what our favorites are that we’d love to share with you.

Find our list of favorites here.

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(That’s not a chapter book. I know. But it’s the only read aloud picture I had!) 

Ten ways to beat anxiety

I’m not sure what it is about these past few weeks. But I’ve been feeling it again. That creeping tightness in core, the prevalent worry loops in my mind. The worse-case-scenario brain.

So I’ve been mindfully slowing down and turning inward, and digging into the tips below. And I can say that for me anyway, these things help. Perhaps they’ll serve you, too.

This is a repost from last year that so many of you found helpful, so I’m bringing it to you once more, to help ease whatever transitions or hiccups you’re facing these days.


Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

Are you prone to anxiety?

Me, too.

I always have been. As a kid I was anxious that I’d get a bad grade or that my house would burn down, that there was a monster under my bed or a murderer on the block. Oh, and tornadoes. Those were really scary.

I spent my college years worrying about school, money, my future, and if my little house in the country had securely locking windows. Then onto motherhood and, well, you get the idea.

When anxiety shows up it hijacks my day, robs me of sleep, and makes it feel like everything is falling apart – though I can almost guarantee you that’s it’s not.

But now, pushing 42, I’m finally getting a handle on it. Anxiety is no longer the order-of-the-day in my world. It’s a rarity, a call to action, an invitation to change.

I finally have some tricks up my sleeve so that when anxiety comes on strong I know what I need to do to get centered again.

And now anxiety has become little more than a great reminder to get things back on track.

Needless to say, if you are in a mental health crisis please seek care with a trained counselor. This is just my way of dealing with the day-to-day of an anxious mind. 

Here’s my remedy. I hope it helps you.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

1. Slow down

No, it’s not always possible to dash off for a beach vacation when you’re feeling anxious or to take a break from your day-to-day busy life. But taking charge of your agenda but cutting some obligations off of your to-do list – even temporarily – can help.

Think in terms of the flu. If your body was sick, what activities would you have to cut?

Find the courage to cancel a visit, reschedule an appointment, or simplify a meal to buy yourself a little space to slow down.

This mindful practice can help you get centered and can put things back into perspective.

Sleep is vital as well.

When I’m feeling anxious I go to bed as early as I can and rest as long as possible. Grab some herbal tea, light a candle, and tuck in (without a phone or computer). Let yourself unwind slowly to welcome sleep.

2. Limit social media

Social media can be a nice way to stay connected with far-away friends and family but it’s also an anxiety bomb waiting to explode.

Disturbing images, sharp comments, and just too much baggage are all easy to absorb when we’re feeling out of balance.

Take a media fast until you feel centered again, or simply create some limits on how much time you engage there.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

3. Cut the caffeine

With apologies to my friends who own the coffee roastery, caffeine is a big contributor to anxiety.

I had another friend once confessed, “I just can’t drink coffee. When I drink coffee I instantly turn into a really nasty mom.”

I get that. When I’ve had too much caffeine I have a shorter fuse and am more prone to anxiety. It also depletes magnesium in the body which has a very direct effect on our anxiety levels.

Cut the buzz.

Wean yourself slowly or go cold turkey. It’s your call. I love homemade herbal chai as a caffeinated tea or coffee substitute. I make a big pot of it every Sunday but don’t add the milk. Then I can drink it for several days without having to make a fresh batch.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

4. Magical Magnesium

This, my friends, has been key in my anxiety management.

After discovering the effect magnesium has on my body, I’m certain that a magnesium deficiency has long been at the root of my anxiety (as it is for so many of us).

More than 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient – thanks to depleted soils, lifestyle choices, diet, and our health. (More on the reasons here.) Getting some absorbable magnesium in or on our bodies can be a game-changer.

I have prefer to get magnesium into myself and my kids two ways: internally and topically.

Magnesium is easiest for the body to absorb when applied topically, but if you are deficient you can use a combination of internal absorption and external application.

Magnesium Calm

We love Calm. For an edible magnesium source it’s absorbable and clean. It’s also pretty sweet-tasting so I’m considering buying an unflavored bottle to cut a flavored bottle with it. Go slow with magnesium! Taking too much will result in epic diarrhea. You don’t want that. And please don’t ask me how I know. (Ahem.)

Homemade or Purchased Magnesium Oil

Magnesium oil is simply magnesium chloride that has been dissolved into an equal part of distilled water. No, it’s not an oil, but it is commonly called that because of its feel of it on the skin.

When you are magnesium deficient the oil tingles, itches, or stings after application as the body greedily absorbs all it can from the application. With continued use this sensation lessons until after a few days it feels simply like oil.

My kids hate magnesium oil. Hate, hate, hate. When they are deficient they can’t get over the tingly sensation and don’t want to have anything to do with it. To remedy this we take Magnesium Calm and apply a small amount of the oil to thicker skinned parts, like the bottoms of the feet.

To make your own magnesium oil simply boil 1 C distilled water and combine with 1 C magnesium chloride flakes. Stir to combine, cool, and transfer to a clean spray bottle. That’s it. For real.

Apply once a day to your belly or lower back.

Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) baths are also helpful, but not as good a source of magnesium as magnesium chloride.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

5. Get outside

Nature heals. Getting outside and away from the overwhelming business of our day-to-day life is a game changer. Biophilia, baby. Carve out even a few minutes to walk and breathe and be in nature and you will find your anxiety taking a back seat to your gratitude.

Whether that means a walk around the block, a visit to a city park, or a hike deep into the wood, find the green. It heals you.

6. Soothe with Scent

The power of essential oils on the mind is profound.

When I was a new (anxious!) mama I created an essential oil blend for my colicky, rough sleeping (read: not sleeping) baby.

I was amazed at how well these essential oils worked not only for helping him fall asleep, but also for calming my anxiety. Enough so that I relabeled the blend for adults and offered it undiluted for diffusers and baths as well.

If you are stocking your essential oil kit for the first time or want to treat your anxiety with something you already have on hand, the following scent are tops for anxiety and can be found at your local coop or natural pharmacy:

Lavender – if you have only one single essential oil let it be lavender! Helpful for anxiety, sleep troubles, and skin issues lavender EO has countless uses.

Tangerine – a wonderfully bright and uplifting oil. Helpful for those prone to depression as well.

Ylang ylang – A complex, rich, floral oil for depression and anxiety. One of my favorites.

Always use essential oils properly diluted on your skin, or put them in a diffuser or bath. Never apply undiluted.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

7. Seek connection

You weren’t meant to do this alone. Not parenting, not keeping a home, not the day-to-day grind of work and bills and life. None of it.

Find your people.

Call your mom, your sister, a friend, a counselor. Seek out like-minded people though a church, art collective, or parenting coop. People were not designed to be solo, especially during difficult times.

8. Face your s**t

Get real about what’s troubling you. Money? Relationships? Impending doom? Sit with it and mindfully focus on what you can control to remedy the situation.

Make a budget. Have a difficult conversation. Ask for help.

Because at the heart of anxiety is usually a specific fear or group of fears for the future.

Saddle up and take it on.

You’ve got this.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

9. Write a different story

Anxiety is usually one big game of make-believe.

It’s our imagination, hard at work, making up worse-case scenarios for the future.

Pull the plug on this self-defeating loop. Write a new story. One that you might not believe yet, but that you want to believe in. And then write it again and again until you begin to believe it.

And then watch it unfold.

Because if your anxiety can use your imagination, so can your optimism. Which story do you want to come true?

And while you’re at it, practice gratitude.

There is so much for us to be thankful for. But when we’re drowning in anxiety it doesn’t feel that way. We see messes instead of magic, lack instead of abundance, a cloudy future rather than a gorgeous sunrise.

Make a habit of practicing gratitude.

While you brush your teeth, while you wash your dishes, while you drive to work. Start with ten things each day that you are thankful for.

Because gratitude can change everything.

Ten ways to beat anxiety like a ninja

10. Just Breathe

Some days there is barely time to get food on the table, much less to meditate.

But slowing down – even for a moment – can be a game changer.

Take a few minutes (before you fall asleep if it’s the only quiet you can manage) to sit or lay silently and focus on your breathing.

Begin with your palms laid across your belly button. Breathe deep and slow into the place behind your hands at the very bottom of your lungs.

Feel your roots and your balance coming back.

Breathe.

Now place your hands across your upper chest. Breathe fully into your upper lungs.

And feel your heart again. Yeah, it might make you cry. But that’s healing work, too.

Be well, friends. Here’s to an anxiety-free future for us all.

Love,
Rachel

Manage your day-to-day anxiety with these ten simple tips. #anxiety #naturalhealth #healthy #healing

Originally published in 2017.