Are you really listening?

“His thoughts were slow,

His words were few

And never formed to glisten.

But he was a joy to all his friends –

You should have heard him listen.” 

Quoted by Wayne Mackey (Oklahoma City Times)

In today’s angst-ridden world of fast cars, fast food, fast everything, few of us have the ability to truly listen.  We “listen,” but only to wait until we can jump in with our own story or opinion.  It is said that hearing is a mere faculty; and listening is an art.  Indeed, it seems that hearing has become a “lost art,” so to speak!

When you study Communication Management, one of the first things you learn is that listening is key in order to have a successful partnership, business and/or career.  “Man’s inability to communicate is a result of his failure to listen effectively, skilfully, and with understanding to another person.”  To truly listen and truly understand, means “the process of receiving, constructing meaning from, and responding to spoken and/or non-verbal messages.”  You must learn to listen, to absorb and to ponder before speaking.  Instead of cutting somebody’s sentences off, learn to wait and be more patient.  Basic etiquette is not to interrupt somebody, but to wait until the person has finished talking – and no, not always done by many of us I’m sure!  Especially if we have something exciting or urgent to tell!

As mentioned before, to be successful, you learn that listening is key.   When studying communication management, you learn how to communicate; but not how to be communicated with.  Communication, as we all know, is not just words.  Whatever is being said will be interpreted not from the words being used, but the way it is being said, and the body language.  More than 70% of our communication is non-vocal – it is body language that we read; not the words being uttered.

In today’s world where we are bombarded with advertisements, noise from traffic, loud music, shouting, and so forth, many of us have learned to “shut down” or “tune out” in order to preserve our sanity and regain some peace and quiet.  The irony is that this created a situation where we think we are listening, but in fact we made up our minds before the person starts to speak.  Why?  Because we are sensitive to criticism, we believe it’s either “our way or the highway,” we have preconceived ideas and beliefs, and in true honesty, we are scared of the truth.  When we have to truly listen, even though the person has different views or beliefs than ours, we have to let down our guard as it were and be honest with ourselves.  Many people struggle to accept other people’s views, beliefs and opinions.  Thus, miscommunication happens.   It is not just what is being said, but the way in which it is said (tone of voice, the way you look at a person, your facial expression, and so forth), that can make or break the conversation and, in the end, even the trust and the relationship!

The sad reality for me, is that people start to mistrust one another, they stop being themselves, they stop sharing their dreams and secrets (even with a friend), for fear of being ridiculed or lambasted.  Maybe it is the modern world we live in – think of the movies we watch, what we hear on the radio or television, what we teach our children.  To give somebody your true, pure attention, is one of the greatest gifts.  Whether it is a child telling you the same story, or an adult who is starting to forget and are repeating things, it shouldn’t matter.  To the person who is talking, it is important.  And to share it with somebody whom that person can trust, is all the more reason to really, truly listen.  No judging, no preconceived ideas, no sarcasm.

Why?  Because it takes courage.  It takes courage to let down your guard and show somebody the real you; it takes courage to speak, just as it takes courage to be quiet and just listen.

Where and/or when do we learn to listen?  In the womb!  Scientists have proven that an unborn can be emotionally damaged whilst in the mother’s womb, when parents argue and fight.  On the other hand, healing can occur when soft music is being played to the developing foetus.  When a mother talks to a baby, for example, she can, at times, feel the baby kicking – why?  Because the baby recognizes her voice.  When we truly listen to somebody and when somebody listens to us, we grow and expand.  Yes, we can learn a lot from internet, books, and other materials, but when we allow a conversation to be one of not just babbling but really listening, we can grow and learn from one another.  No 2 people are the same, so why not accept each other regardless of whether we have the same ideas and beliefs or not?

Have you ever wondered why a powerful speaker is so popular?  It is because he / she truly listens.  They speak to our souls whilst listening, as it were, to our body language.  A good listener is somebody who tries to understand what the other person is saying, who listens carefully with what it is that he / she disagrees with, before speaking.  It takes a unique person to want to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.  After all, one of the basic human needs is to understand and be understood.

Instead of listening to your own inner voice and to decide, beforehand, what you are going to say, listen to what is being said, without your inner voice “chipping in.”

Our whole world and outlook on life can change if we have that one person, a friend, confidante, parent or partner, who takes the trouble to listen; it is someone who is not only popular but well informed.  When you know that the person that you are talking to is a good listener, you will automatically become more at ease, be willing to “open up” and share your feelings, dreams and thoughts. 

Like a camera our human brains also have filters used during communication, for example our experience, education, language, emotions, attitudes, and outside influences.  Knowing and understanding your filters will help you to maximise your communication and listening success.  Words, in the end, have no meaning; it is the person saying it that does.  However, because many people assume that people think or believe the same, misunderstandings can often crop up.  Unfortunately, our sensory mechanisms have been dulled by our parents, environment, our own fears, and the modern world we live in.

However, these mechanisms are not lost; they merely need to be re-awakened!  We have all been blessed with an invisible shield, also known as our aura.  This is like our inner voice works as a guide when we listen; telling us whether the information is true, important or of value.  Think of the saying “put yourself in somebody else’s shoes – “when you, as a listener, is attentive to not just what is being said, but the way it is said and notice the body language, then you are a powerful listener!  Listen not just with your ears, but also with your heart, your eyes and your aura (inner voice).

Looking at life from a different angle

I recently read an article of the Tree of Life, by Wayne Visser, who looked at a tree from a completely different angle.  Humans, instinctively, want to be out in nature.  Our inner self knows that, to be in nature, is not only good for the body, but also for the soul and the psyche.  There is always order in nature; nature is always in balance; and it is this that humans, instinctively crave and love.  Let me take you on this journey that I read about, share with you my interpretation and you can let me know what you think.

The seed or acorn, lies deep in mother Earth’s womb, germinating as time goes by.  Who would’ve thought that a small seed will produce a big, beautiful tree?  The seed, for the writer, symbolizes untapped potential, beginnings and having faith (think of the mustard seed-symbolism in the Bible).  The expression “to plant a seed” is often used when we talk about launching a new project, having a new thought or idea, and believing in our dreams.  Planting a seed deep in the earth can be seen as “digging deep” in one’s own soul, getting in touch with the real (inner) self, or getting in touch with your subconscious mind (your dreams). 

As the seed germinates and the tree has started to grow, roots are developed.  The roots of a tree are what it uses to grip into the earth, to keep it from falling over and to draw up food and water from the earth.  Humans also have roots – whether we call it our religion, upbringing, culture or beliefs.  As humans it is important to have a “root-system,” otherwise life will be difficult and we will not be strong enough when we are blown over or in a storm, so to speak.  Our roots, just like that of a tree, reminds us that we all have internal strength, we just need to tap into it and nurture it.  Our soul, just like that of a tree, needs food; whether the food is quiet-time, a relaxing bath, walking in nature, or meditating, taking “time-out” to connect with our inner strength will make it stronger and help us cope better.

As the branches of the tree grows and reaches toward the sky it can be seen as a reflection of our life; our destiny.  As the branches grow, we go on a life’s journey, learning, experiencing and growing.  Not just physically, but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally.  Our one lesson is to let go of fear and to not let anybody deter us from our journey.  Like the new branches, we are sometimes vulnerable or told we cannot do something, but if we can learn to not listen to the noise and stay connected to our roots (inner self), we can grow and reach our dreams.

When the budding leaves and/or blossoms start to appear, it is a signal that spring has sprung; that a new cycle is beginning; a new life, as it were.  Our life also goes through cycles.  On a physical level we come into this life as a baby, then we grow up into an adult.  On an emotional level, we “grow up” and learn that, throwing a tantrum or 2, is not a way to “get through” life.  On a deeper, spiritual level, we discover that there is a deeper meaning to life.  Just like the budding leaves that come out every season, we can also “turn a new leaf” anytime we want to.  Whether we let go of a bad habit, change careers, change relationships, or anything else, we are constantly “greening” our lives.  After all; what’s the use of having a mind when you can’t change it?

A tree’s trunk must be sturdy and strong in order to withstand the weather.  All of us have gone through a time in our lives when things were ruff, when there was a storm, or when the wind was blowing so hard that we thought we’re going to be knocked over!  However, when we have a secure sense of identity and self-worth, a positive attitude and a strong belief in oneself, then, come what may, we can and will stay strong.  Your inner self can “hold you up” no matter what, when it is strong and looked after.  When we “mature” we know when to bend and when to stand firm.  This is not easy, but it can be taught and will grow with wisdom.  Wisdom is about building bridges and listening with our inner self; knowing when to say something and knowing when to keep quiet.  “For everything, there is a season;” when it is winter, we want to rest more, stay indoors and recharge.  When spring arrives, we start to wake-up, we have more energy and a new lease on life, as it were, to start something fresh, something new.  Along comes summer and we are full of energy, joy and optimism.  Then it is autumn-time; time to slowly slow down, recoup, recount and reflect. 

Our arms are the branches of a tree – it reaches out into the world.  Like the branches, our arms are a place to rest (“rest in your lovers arms”), it is a place to hide when we are upset (hugging somebody), it is a place for a child to find comfort (a child needs a soft place to land) when needed.  Our shadow, like that of a tree, is not something to be afraid of or to dislike.  Our shadow is a teacher that often shows us what blockage (s) we might have in our minds and/or hearts.  There cannot be a tree if we don’t plant a seed in the dark earth.  As humans we cannot become who we truly are if we don’t accept and love everything, and every part, of our being – including our shadow!

There are many beautiful trees that flower and/or bear fruit.  Ask any farmer and he will tell you that, in order to harvest every year, you have to work with nature and not fight it.  Listening to our inner voice, we are guided through our life knowing we are taken care of, no matter what.  Flowers are, interestingly, used for any occasion; whether for a wedding or a funeral!  For the writer, flowers reminded him (the writer of the article) of the colours of diversity and change, of the way one looks at life – are you looking at life through “rose-tinted glasses” or are you looking at life through “dark shades?”

Life is like a tree.  It constantly changes but always remains grounded.  By staying true to yourself and grounded, remember who you are, remember your roots and never give up on yourself or your dreams.  Believe in yourself, stay connected with your inner being and remember that the ups and downs in life is never permanent; seasons come and go.  Life is not a destination; it is a journey!

More beauty tips for hair, make-up and skincare, from the pros

In this blog I’ll be sharing more tips and tricks from the pros and general public, regarding hair, make-up and skincare.

Make-up

Colour will brighten the whites of your eyes.  You don’t have to put a lot of eyeshadow on during the day; even just some mascara and/or eye liner can define and “open up” your eyes.

Using eyeliner on the outside of the top eyelids or just in the corners of the eyes, will make your eyes look bigger.  A line, inside the bottom eyelid, will often make your eyes look smaller; so be careful if you don’t want your eyes to look smaller (tip from the writer).

I put clear mascara on my lashes before I apply black. It helps keep my lashes separated and stops the mascara from smudging (tip from Lucy Smith).

Hide dark circles with a peach or yellow-toned concealer.  These colours neutralise the purple smudges.

I hate using eyelash curlers, so instead I apply my mascara, heat a small teaspoon in hot water, dry it and then use the back of the spoon to gently push my lashes. Hold for a few seconds for the best curl (tip from Sheila Miller).

Do the lines round your eyes look worse after you’ve applied your make-up? Finish off by dabbing a tiny amount of eye cream to your eye area to keep it looking dewy and fresh.

Grooming your eyebrows? The narrower your face, the slimmer the outer ends of your brows should be. If you have a wider face, don’t make your brows too thin or it will emphasise the width even more.

Make your lips look bigger by using lighter colours of gloss. The lip-gloss reflects the light, thus making your lips appear fuller and sexier!

When I’m making up my lips, I apply lipliner and, instead of adding a lip-gloss, I use Blistex (can also use Vaseline or any other lip balm). Not only does it keep my lips super-moisturised, but it also stays on for ages, looks gorgeous and glossy too. Bonus is, it saves me money too (tip from Julia Jukes).

When I’ve run out of make-up remover, a cotton wool pad dipped in cold milk does the job perfectly and it’s gentle on my skin, too (tip from Lesley Urwin).

Keep unruly eyebrows in place by spraying hairspray onto an old, clean, dry toothbrush, then brush gently through your brows — they’ll stay put all day. Or you could try applying the tiniest slick of Vaseline for a gleaming finish.

Prep your lips for lipstick by applying an under-eye concealer first. It evens out the colour of your lips and stops the lipstick from bleeding too.

Heavenly hair

Want loose, natural waves for a night out? Celebrity hairstylist Richard Ward has the answer – “Curls always drop a lot — it’s better to over curl your hair so that by the time you go out it should look just as you want it.”

If your hair needs some TLC, heat your deep conditioner in the microwave for 30 seconds before you apply it. The warmth will help the conditioner penetrate your hair more easily and smoothing any dry ends.

You want to colour your hair at home, but can’t find the exact shade you want? Why not mix 2 different shades?  Expert hair colourist Anita Cox McMillan suggests “mixing two different shade packs together.  It’s a great way to add red tones to brown without it being overpowering, or to tone down a dark shade. But always stay two or three shades within your natural hair colour to avoid mistakes. Anything more drastic should rather be left to the experts.”

Everyone should own a set of Velcro rollers. They make your hair look like it’s had a professional blow-dry as they give natural-looking volume. Just pop them in and blast with a dryer. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then spritz with spray before removing.

I suffer from a dry, itchy scalp when I get stressed, but massaging olive oil onto my head at night relieves itchiness and soothes flaky areas (tip from Anne Clarke).

“Avoid product overload in your hair,’ says Richard Ward. “Rub the product into both your hands like hand cream until it’s nearly absorbed, then apply it to your hair.

Your hair only looks shiny when the cuticle lies flat. So always smooth a drop of serum onto damp hair and blow-dry with your dryer pointing down the hair shaft.

If your highlights are growing out, change your parting. It will give your colour a new lease of life until you have time to get to your hairdresser.

Brushing your hair 100 times a day not only massages the scalp, but it also oils your hair from the roots to the tips as you brush (tip from the writer).

Skincare

“When you’re applying your eye cream, always work from the inner to the outer corner of the eye; gently lifting the skin upwards.  Use your index finger and a small amount of product,” says Geraldine Howard, co-founder of a therapeutic skincare brand. “It helps smooth out fine lines and will drain the area of puffiness.”

“Using an SPF moisturiser all year round, especially on your face and neck is important,” says Catherine de Groot, co-founder of a natural skincare company.

If you want your facial mask to penetrate the skin more deeply, put cling wrap over (keeping your eyes and mouth open), for a few minutes.  If you feel you are beginning to sweat, don’t use any cling wrap.

Facial massage techniques are simple, easy ways to not only lessen the site of fine lines and wrinkles, but also help your skin to look healthy and more radiant.  According to Geraldine Howard, you can do the following:  “Apply a few drops of facial oil and massage out frown lines in an upwards and outwards motion, placing the middle fingers at the bridge of your eyebrows, bringing the fingers firmly up and out.”

Get rid of puffy eyes by popping some used tea bags in the freezer for a few minutes. When they’re chilled, cover your eyes for 10 minutes.  Sliced, cold cucumber can also do the trick.

Soothe an inflamed spot by applying a drop of lemon juice to it; not only will it remove bacteria, but it will also dry the whole area out too.

Use your facial peel or exfoliator on your upper arms as well as your face. It’s a great way to remove those little hard bumps (tip from Sarah Slight).

For a deep cleanse, hold a warm face cloth over your face for 10 to 15 seconds.  The warmth relaxes and softens the pores, so oils and dirt are more easily removed. You will also stimulate circulation, which in turn helps activate cell renewal so that your skin can repair itself faster.  Bonus is that a warm face cloth also helps to relax tired eyes!

“It is good to change your skincare with the seasons.  In winter skin can often dry out, so use products that are more nourishing.  During summer, skin can be oilier due to perspiration and heat, so use cleansers to balance it,” (tip from Catherine de Groot.

Want your make-up to look as if it’s done by a pro?   Make-up artist Melissa Evans share these tips:

Want to look younger? Use cream foundations as they blend more easily and won’t sit in lines and wrinkles. If you need heavier coverage try building up a few light layers.

To make your eyeshadow last, you should always use a primer but, to save money, try using your foundation.  Put a small amount over your lids and blend well.  Then apply some powder before you put on your eyeshadow, otherwise your eyeshadow will cling to wet areas and look uneven!

Cream blush is a must in your make-up bag.  Our skin tone can fade as we age and cream blush adds a really gorgeous glow to your skin.

Think you’re too old to try smoky eyes? Never! Opt for matte shadows and flattering shades such as khaki, navy blue and soft grey. When applying your shadow, lift your brow so you can see the crease line and, to give hooded eyes an instant lift, blend the colour slightly above that crease line so you can see it when you look straight ahead in the mirror.

Never use those terrible sponge applicators you get with your eyeshadows; they won’t distribute the eyeshadow evenly.  Rather invest in some good brushes instead — they’re worth their weight in gold and will save you product wastage too.  For best results, use synthetic brushes for cream products and goat and squirrel or sable brushes for powder ones.

Avoid eyeshadows with too much shimmer — they can highlight creases and wrinkles and you can look older than what you are! 

Beauty tips to keep your body, hands and feet in tip-top condition; coming to you from the beauty pros

There are some beauty secrets every woman should know and, reading through old magazines, I came across a number of great tips, that I’ll share in 2 blog posts.  Here are the first tips for your body, hands and feet.

Fabulous feet and hands

Applying a thick layer of Vaseline or other moisturizing foot cream to your feet at night, then putting on a pair of cotton socks.  When you wake up the next day, those hard heels will be soft and smooth.

Using a buffer to bring your nails to a high shine before painting them. Polish will go on more smoothly and last longer.

When applying your face cream, always dab a little on the back of each hand and massage in to keep them soft and smooth (tip from Jackie Burns).

Smooth over each nail with a cotton pad soaked in nail polish remover before painting them. This removes all trace of oil from the nail and prevents air bubbles.

Apply two or three very thin coats of nail polish rather than one thick coat that won’t adhere to the nail as well.

When your favourite tube of hand cream seems empty, cut off a corner at the bottom and squeeze it from there — plenty more (tip from Jane Price).

Wearing nail polish or a big ring:  research has found that adorning your hands with either nail polish or a big ring (a few smaller ones), makes them look younger.

Body beautiful

If you’ve waxed your bikini line, a nappy rash cream like Elizabeth Anne’s Baby Nappy Rash Cream, will calm any irritation.

Want to reduce scars and stretch marks? Rosehip oil or pure vitamin E cream or oil, can reduce the colour and appearance of both.

‘Citrus scents give a feeling of youthfulness, so people think you’re younger than you are,’ says fragrance expert Roja Dove.

Apply plain yoghurt to mild sunburn — it adds moisture and cools things down (tip from Kathryn Croft).

Keep candles and bath oils in the bathroom ready for that relaxing me-time.

Haven’t got the time and/or energy for some me-time?  Light a candle, even if it’s just for a quick bath or shower.  The candle light will help to relax your mind and, washing with a lovely scented body wash, will bring joy to the senses (my tip).

Discovering, reconnecting with and loving the real you

In the modern world it is, for some bizarre reason, more important to some to take care of their external bodies, but neglect their inner self.  However, as more and more people are becoming aware that our bodies function as a unit, more and more people realize that, in order to live a truly happy, healthy and peaceful life, one has to look after one’s inner self.  This includes your thoughts, feelings, emotions, spirit and soul.

As we know, the mind is divided into 2 parts:  a conscious mind and a subconscious mind.  The conscious mind is the one that is always busy; it can distinguish what is right and wrong, good and bad, and so forth.  The subconscious mind is like the hard drive of a computer; it stores all your thoughts, feelings, emotions, things that you said and were said to you, and so on.  Unlike the conscious mind, the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between right and wrong.  If, for example you are told or tell yourself that you are stupid / fat / ugly, then the subconscious mind will store that thought (words) and you will not only believe it to be true, but “become” it, as it were!

The job of the subconscious mind is also one of “auto-pilot;” you navigate through life, doing things, going places, without really thinking about it.  How many of you haven’t told someone “it comes naturally?”  Our thoughts are powerful; they create our words, our words create our feelings, our feelings create experiences and behaviours, and in the end it creates our beliefs and, ultimately, our reality.

Depression, stress and panic attacks are, unfortunately, on the rise.  As we navigate through this modern life, we don’t take “time-out” to get rid of stress, we might not be eating well and/or exercising at all, and many are sleep-deprived.  Add to the list social media and media in general, that bombard us with negative news, and you cannot blame yourself or anyone else for freaking out!

So, you might ask, what am I supposed to do?  The short answer is:  start by taking one step per day and consciously choose what you think, what you say, what you read, what you listen to and who you engage with.  When you have been told (or told yourself), for example, that you are not good enough; stop the thought in its track the minute it pops up!  Change it by telling yourself “I am good enough.” 

At first it will be tricky, because your subconscious mind will think otherwise, but write it down on pieces of paper that you stick up in the kitchen, on your mirror, in your car, and everywhere else where you can see it throughout the day.  Read it out loud, or say it in your head, but never stop.  The more you do this, the more your subconscious will start to not only believe it, but it can change the negative thought into a positive one.

Add some emotions too – whether you are reading it or saying it, practice every time to put more “happy” emotions into it.  Smile when you say it or read it, say it like you mean it.  If you still struggle, imagine that you are telling your best friend or child this. No, it is not easy; especially if it is something that you believed for a number of years.  However, persistence is key – peeling back the layers takes time. When you can stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eyes and tell yourself “I am good enough, I am beautiful,” and so forth, then you have come full circle and broken down the false narratives that were stopping you from connecting with your true, authentic self!

The first step is to let go of all the preconceived ideas you had of yourself.  Whether you learn how to meditate, journal, or just make time for yourself to be quiet, is a good step in your journey.  Realizing that you are worthy, loved, good enough, and so forth, will help you reconnect with your inner self.  When you listen to your heart and your inner voice, the changes will start.  It is in our hearts where love, compassion, joy, peace and empathy reside, and to get us back on track in this crazy world, we need to reconnect with it.

Our inner self is part of who we are authentically; ignoring it or supressing it will only bring us tears, frustration, stress and loneliness.  After all, if you are not happy to be on your own, then you won’t be happy even if you had someone.  Being happy with who you truly are, on the inside and on the outside, is the key to true happiness, peace, joy and love.

“If you want to change the outside, then change the inside.”  It is never too late to connect with our inner self.  Dr. Phil once said “if you don’t look after yourself first, then who will?”  And it is true:  we must learn and teach others that true love = unconditional love.  Real love begins by loving ourselves and being in touch with our inner self.

So – go on – take the leap, the first step and reconnect with your inner self!

Collagen: the secret to a firmer, younger-looking skin

Collagen is a long, fibrous, structural protein, that gives the skin its elasticity and strength. 

It is an ingredient which you will find in many serums, masks, moisturisers and also in supplemental powders, capsules and liquids.  However, you can also find it in many foods (which I will mention a little bit later).

Apart from aiding our skin’s elasticity, collagen is not only the most abundant protein in the body, but also acts as a supporting base structure for the skin.  This is giving our skin its bounce and plump.  Interestingly, collagen is also found in organs, blood vessels, bones and tendons, and acts to bind tissue together.  Our skin is rejuvenating itself all day, every day.  Not only is it shedding dead skin regularly, but it is constantly making new collagen.

Unfortunately, due to our modern-day life that is filled with environmental stressors, exposure to UV radiation and of course ageing, collagen production starts to decline. This, in turn, causes fine lines, wrinkles to appear and sagging skin.  During menopause collagen declines much more…but no worries my readers, there are many foods you can consume, that will help your body to build and maintain collagen-levels. 

Here is a list of a number of different foods that is full of natural-building collagen:

Bone broth, chicken, fish and shellfish, Egg whites, Soya products, Cabbage, Red Fruits and Vegetables, Beans, Berries, Almonds and Cashews, Avocados, Citrus fruits, Tropical fruits, Garlic, Leafy greens, Tomatoes and Bell peppers.

The abovementioned foods are just a few different sources.  A diet full vitamin- and mineral rich fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich foods (can be animal- or plant-based sources), is a good lifestyle choice to make, to help supply these critical amino acids to the body.  Other nutrients that also aids collagen-production include vitamin C, copper and zinc.  For best results, regardless of your age, cut back on or cut out too much sugars and refined carbohydrates from your diet, as this cause inflammation and damages collagen.

Today there is many different collagen supplements on the market, ranging from powders and shakes, to tablets.  Researchers agree that this can aid your body’s collagen-production and boost skin elasticity, but warns people that it is not closely regulated. 

So before purchasing and using a product; do make sure it is from a reputable provider. Also; don’t forget the wonder of water – drinking enough water will also help to keep your body nourished on the inside, as well as moisturized on the outside!

Pedicures at home

Before you start, make sure you have all the tools you are going to need:  file, nail clipper, nail polish removal, pumice stone (for hard and/or dry skin on the heels), warm water, a towel, and of course, lovely salts / foot soak-oils and lotion.

If you are wearing nail polish, first remove it (try to use acetone-free remover, as this is far less harmful for and less irritant on the skin).  Then dip your feet into warm water, filled with some lovely bath salts / bath oils (many brands, for example Avon, sell the latter).  You can use a pumice stone or a foot file to get rid of any dry and/or hardened skin on the soles of the feet and heels, or you can use bath salts / foot salts to gently exfoliate the whole foot (homemade recipe to follow).

Once the feet are soft, dry it with a towel and, if need be, cut your toenails.  After all the work is done, massage lotion into your feet while it is still warm.  This will help to not only absorb it quicker, but it will also help to lock in moisture.  Now you can choose:  you can either put on some cotton socks and leave it on for the whole day / night, or for a few hours, and then paint your toenails the following day.  Or you can paint it after your manicure and then put cotton socks on.  The socks will help to keep the feet soft while the lotion is doing its magic. 

Here are a few easy-to-make recipes for a nice foot scrub:

A soothing Peppermint Foot Scrub

Ingredients

1 cup granulated sugar

Olive or coconut oil

Few drops of peppermint essential oil

Method

Take 1 cup granulated sugar and pour into a mixing bowl.  Gradually add your olive- or coconut oil and mix together until you have a slightly wet, but grainy consistency. Add a few drops of the peppermint essential oil.  Transfer the scrub to a container and use it to exfoliate, moisturize and soothe your sore feet.

Refreshing Lemon Foot Scrub

Ingredients

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 – 1/3 cup Almond- or coconut oil

6 – 8 drops of lemon essential oil

Method

Combine the sugar and oil in a clean, dry bowl.  Pour the oil slowly until you have a soft, wet-sand consistency.  Add as much lemon essential oil as you like and work it into your feet for 5 minutes, before rinsing it off.

Milk Scrub Treatment for Cracked Heels

Ingredients

1 cup milk

5 cups warm water

4 tablespoons sugar or salt

1/2 cup baby oil

Pumice stone

Moisturizer

Socks

Method

Pour 1 cup of milk and 5 cups of warm water in a foot bath tub or large basin and soak your feet for 5 to 10 minutes.  In another bowl, pour baby oil and sugar or salt in and mix well. Mix it into a thick paste and apply all over your feet, by massaging your feet in circular motions.  Using a pumice stone, gently scrub your dry / callused heels.  Rinse your feet off and pat dry.  Apply your chosen moisturizer and put some cotton socks on (either wear it for a few hours or sleep with it).

Homemade Foot Soak for Achy Feet

Ingredients

Hot water

2 tablespoons vinegar

Epsom salt or sea salt

Method

Fill a foot bath or large basin with hot water.  Add the vinegar and mix in a handful of Epsom salt or sea salt.  Soak your feet for 20 minutes.  Repeat the mixture but use cool water and instead of soaking your feet, soak a towel in the cool mixture.  Squeeze the excess water out and wrap the towel around your feet for 5 minutes.  This can be done several times a day, if you have inflammation in or if your feet is just aching.  The vinegar not only makes achy, tired feet feel better, but it also alleviates inflammation.

If you are low on nail polish, or you want a new colour but can’t find what you are looking for, why not pop over to my previous blog post, where I gave some easy DIY tips on making your own nail polish.

Sit back, put on some good music and/or light a candle, and give your feet the pampering they deserve.  After all, together with your legs, they work hard every day!

Home-manicures

At the present moment, when many of us have to stay indoors, a manicure and/or pedicure is something that can be sorely missed by many of my lady-readers I’m sure!  Nothing makes you feel more fab than putting on your make-up, dressing beautifully and classy, and having your nails (and yes hair) done.  Apart from the situation we are all in at the moment, manicures can be time-consuming and make a real dent in your bank balance!

Have no fear though, because I came across some easy DIY’s for a manicure in the comfort of your own home.  These nail polish hacks are not only easy to do, but will give you the salon-style look without breaking the bank.

The French-tip cheat 

First paint your nails with a base coat.  Once it has dried completely, wrap an elastic band (about a quarter of the way) down your nail.  Use this as a guide for creating the perfect tip.  Now apply the top coat – pastel shades are quite in fashion; or you can opt for the more classic white.

Revive your polish

Has your favourite nail colour become thick and gloopy?  Have no fear – pour a small amount of nail polish remover into the bottle, and shake it well.  This will thin out the varnish. Et viola; your nail polish is good to go!  

Just a tip, from personal experience.  The older the nail polish, the thicker it becomes and you might have to pour in much more varnish.  Sometimes it works but sometimes not.  In that case, rather buy yourself a new nail polish (as the older, thicker one doesn’t last on your nails that long either)!

Tailor-made shades

You can reuse your old, almost finished eyeshadows, by simply crushing them into loose powders and mixing them with a clear polish.  Quick, easy and there you have your own, new, unique nail colour.

Save your chipped manicure

Did you ever have one of your newly polished nails chip?  By adding a cool “dipped in glitter” tip, you can easily hide the chip(s).  Just blob a little shimmery polish onto the end of your nail and then brush it downwards to create a sparkly ombre effect. It also looks great just on its own.

Bye-bye blunders

Painted over your cuticles by mistake?  Just clean the area with an old lip brush or small paintbrush, dipped in nail polish remover!  Cotton wool can also work, but be careful not to use a big piece – and don’t be in a hurry either! 

Quick-dry tip

We all had, at some stage, been in a hurry or “I’m going to be late” situation.  There are a few tools on the market that says it’ll dry your nails quickly, and there are nail polishes that promises “quick dry.”  But, what if neither of it works as promised?  No worries!  Air dry your painted nails for a minute, then simply dip them in ice water for two minutes.

Make it stay

The experts suggest to first paint a base coat onto your nails, before putting on your nail polish.  Not only will this prevent your nails from staining, but it can help the polish to stay on for longer (similar to painting your nails with a top coat afterwards).  However, if you don’t have either one in your cupboard, or you want to try out a new shade first, you can wipe your nails with a cotton pad dipped in vinegar before applying your nail polish. This will strip the nail of any excess moisture that can lead to air bubbles and also helps the nail polish to adhere better.

Preventing stains 

In the beforementioned paragraph, I wrote about using a brush dipped in nail polish remover, to get rid of nail polish on your cuticles.  BUT; if you’re short on time, just rub some Vaseline or aqueous cream around the cuticles before putting on your nail polish, to catch any stray brush strokes.

Glitter polish tip

Some ladies just love sparkly nails.  Making them look great and last longer, however, is another story.  First apply a coat of plain coloured nail polish and let it dry completely.  Once dry, paint a few strokes of your favourite glitter polish onto a make-up sponge and dab it over the coloured coat.  Top it off with a top coat and sparkle! 

Soak off dark colours

Light nail polish colours come off quite easily; it is the darker ones that can be trickier. For the latter, soak a cotton ball or cotton pad in nail polish remover and place it over each nail for 10 seconds. This will allow the nail varnish to dissolve and slide off the nails easier.

Peel off glitter

Struggling to remove those tough-to-remove glitter shades?  Just pour some PVA glue into an old, empty nail polish bottle and use it as a base coat.  When you want to change your manicure, you simply peel off the nail polish.  But remember: don’t bite your nails!

Banish stubborn nail stains

Simply mix a little baking soda with warm, almost room temperature water and soak your hands for 10 minutes. Those nail stains will soon disappear before your eyes!

Whether you want to try out new tricks and colours, or always struggled with nail stains, or not knowing what to do if one of your newly manicured nails got chipped, I do hope that this article inspired you to treat yourself and/or your daughter, to a homemade manicure and some pamper time! 

A few more nutritional-tips to help boost your immune system

Whether there is a virus, cold or flu going around, it is always important to boost your immune system and keep it strong.  Oftentimes, people get ill when seasons change.  This often happens because of sudden drops and spikes in temperature, or being in a cold environment (for example aircon), then going outside into the heat, or being indoors where it is warm, then going outside where it is cold.

Vitamin C

Our good friend vitamin C, is a good helper when it comes to helping the body to defend itself from being infected. One of the benefits of including vitamin C in your diet is strengthening your body’s natural defence. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin; therefore you need to take it every day (preferably on an empty stomach before breakfast).  A buffered vitamin C-powder is a good alternative to the tablets, should you have a sensitive stomach. Alternatively, one large roasted red pepper (preferably organic) and 125ml glass of orange juice (fresh oranges contain a higher vitamin C-dose than juice in a carton) will give you the same amount.

Vitamin A

‘The membranes in our nose and throat are our front-line defence against bacteria and viruses, and vitamin A keeps them healthy,’ says dietitian Nichola Whitehead. You can get the amount you need daily from one large orange sweet potato (excellent baked), or a large handful of spinach thrown into a salad.  Organic veggies are a good option, as their nutritional value is much higher.

Iron

If you’re deficient in iron, your immune system works less efficiently. ‘Premenopausal women need 14,8mg a day of iron,’ says Nichola Whitehead. ‘You can get it by eating 60g of liver.’ Not a fan of liver? Try beef, tofu, clams, mussels or dried apricots. 

Zinc

Zinc is essential for wound healing, blood clotting and thyroid function, and it will also alleviate cold symptoms. We need 7mg a day. Dark turkey meat is a great source (100g gives 5mg), or try a 150g steak. Or take in pill form if you are a vegetarian or don’t eat a lot of red meat.  Just beware not to overdose, as this could lead to liver damage.   

Protein

Without protein your immune system can’t function effectively. According to dietician and nutritionist Susie Burrell, eggs are one of the highest protein-containing foods, with more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals. In general, most women can get all the protein they need by adding a serving of two eggs, 100g cooked chickpeas or 100g meat, fish or poultry to each their meals.

Probiotics

These are live bacteria which help keep your gut healthy. A daily serving of miso soup, natural yoghurt or fermented foods like sauerkraut is all you need. If you can’t manage that, a probiotic supplement is a good idea for boosting your immune system.

A good old cup of tea

We all need a chemical called interferon as it helps us combat viruses. It’s found naturally in our bodies, but the amino acid L-theanine prompts our immune system to make more of the stuff – and guess where you find it? In a good old cup of tea! And it doesn’t have to be special tea: A study showed that everyday tea had the desired effect.

At the end of the day, remember that our bodies can function at an optimum level 24/7.  Stress, eating junk- and processed food, drinking sodas, smoking, and not getting any exercise, will be detrimental to our bodies.  Not just will it be visible on our skin and face, but internally those organs that were made to protect the body against foreign bodies, will stop working 100%. 

So, wherever you are, take a deep breath, open the windows and/or doors to let some fresh air in, make yourself a nice cup of tea, and relax! 

Stress

With everything that is going on at the moment, I thought to change gears, so to speak, and talk about stress. Most importantly; how to deal with it and keep yourself calm and healthy during times of stress.  Stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”  This can be external (coming from the environment, psychological, for example death of a loved one, or social situations).  It can also be internal (an illness or a medical procedure).

When stress kicks in, it initiates the “fight or flight- “response; a complex reaction of endocrinologic and neurologic systems.  It is the way our bodies respond to any kind of demand.

Stress is not always harmful.  For example, when we need to learn for an exam, or go for an interview, the body excretes adrenalin (a chemical that can make your heartrate go up).  This makes you more alert, helps you to concentrate and have clear, sharp focus and thoughts.

Stress, however, can become a problem and can cause harm (more in that in a minute), if we don’t get rid of our stress.  When we “bottle our feelings” up, or don’t take “time out” to relax after a busy day / week at work or school, then the body starts to break down its own immune system to try and cope.

When this happens, and your immune system is low, you are not only more prone to illness and disease, but you will become more and more irritable, angry, tired and even tearful.  What is disease?  Dis-ease is when the body is not happy with how its functioning; there is a dis-ease somewhere in the body.  And the only way, for our bodies to cope, is to let you know (sending out a signal/s) like tiredness, sleepiness, and so on.  When we ignore the signs, then the immune system kicks in.  Alas, when we have depleted our bodies’ reserves, nothing is left for the body but to become ill, in order to not only heal itself, but also to give us a wake-up call, so to speak, to slow down, rest, recover / recouperate and get rid of our stress.

I am sure many of you know that exercise is one of the many ways to help you get rid of stress.  Deep breathing is another wonderful way; when you focus on inhaling for 8 – 10 counts, deeply and slowly, and then exhaling the same way, you not only slow down your heartrate (which spikes when you stress or get angry), but you also calm the mind.  As more oxygen can now flow in and out of the body, your whole body starts to relax; your muscles relax, the areas where you normally carry your stress relax, and you can “think before you speak,” become calm and focused.

It is important to maintain a strong immune system, whether or not you are under severe stress or not.  The stronger the immune system, the better chance you have of either not getting ill, or, if you do, to get over it far quicker.

Vitamins, minerals, omega oil, the type of food you eat and drink, all play an important role.

Vitamin C (found in citrus fruit, parsley, and so forth), Vitamin D (direct sunlight or tablet-form), Vitamin A (yellow and orange fruit and vegetables), Zinc (supplements), and Vitamin B6 & B12 (found in meats or supplement if you are vegetarian), are all important.  Vitamin 12, for example, plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system and it is the first vitamin that the body uses when under stress!

Food sources like Red and Yellow bell peppers, Broccoli, Garlic, Spinach, Yoghurt, Almonds and other nuts, Seeds (linseed, sunflower seed, and so forth), Papaya, Bone broth, Poultry (think of your gran’s or mom’s homemade Chicken soup), Green tea (preferably the organic tea), and spices like Turmeric, Oregano, Garlic, and Ginger, can all help to maintain a healthy immune system.

Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is important, as well as getting enough sleep.  Do make sure that you sleep enough hours, in a dark room, without any lights (natural and artificial), in order to give your body and mind time to replenish, renew, rebuild and heal.  If you have your cell phone next to your bed, or the television is on “sleep,” that can also disturb your sleep, because the brain cannot “switch off” completely.  It is important to “switch off” as this is the only time that your body has to renew and heal itself!

Another tip, which I mentioned in previous blogs, is to maintain a healthy gut.  When the pH-level in your gut is too acidic, it creates a wonderful place for germs and viruses to breed.  If, however, your pH-level is alkaline, the chance of something breeding is minimal; if not zero.

All in all, I would like to mention and even stress, that “that which you fear you attract.”  Instead of “going crazy” take a step back, take a deep breath, go outside if it is possible, and know that, “this too shall pass.”  When you don’t take care of yourself, get rid of your stress either by meditating, exercising, journaling, or relaxing in a hot tub, not only will your body suffer, but also the people around you.

My late grandfather always said “if you worry, you die, if you don’t worry, you might also die…so why worry?”