Enjoy the Snow

The Lake Tahoe area is famous for its clear waters and phenomenal skiing.  Most think of the many resorts that surround the lake from Heavenly to Squaw Valley, but if you want to escape the crowds but still enjoy the snow, try the cross country ski areas instead. Granted, it does have the potential of drawing a crowd on a nice day but go when the weather is a bit colder, breezy, or there are flurries and you’ll practically have the trails to yourself.

But why choose to cross country ski over resort skiing? The biggest seller is it’s super quiet.  You hear things you normally wouldn’t.  I can tell how steep the hill is by how loud my breath gets.  Along the way the snow crunches under my skis as my poles squeak out Chewbacca noises from rubbing against the ice when I rotate them forward. If you stop, a breeze sounds more like a roar as it rushes through the trees.  You can even hear them creek in response.

Besides being quiet, the snow is fresher, ungroomed.  It feels like the trail is yours to blaze. Make it to the top of a hill and enjoy views of the valleys below while enjoying a packed lunch.  Sandwiches are great, but I highly recommend bringing cheese and salami to snack on as well as a thermos of hot tea. Although many of the ski resorts also provide cross country ski trails, I recommend avoid those so you can enjoy more solitude.

To help get you started, here are a couple of suggestions.  First, Camp Richardson is located on the south end of Lake Tahoe.  This would be a good starter if you’ve never cross country skied since the trails are all groomed and not too long. Looking for more options? If you still want the comfort of a groomed trail but the room to avoid the crowds, try Royal Gorge.  They offer over 6,000 acres of trails on Donner Summit and a detailed to identify trails that match your ability.  Once you get comfortable enough to ditch the trails, you can explore the different ridges and lakes that cover the backcountry of Donner.  Another great option are the trails at Tahoe Meadows.  There are no fee’s and no official trails. Just park on the side of the road, enjoy the meadow, and climb the ridge for views of the lake. Know of a good place yourself?  Please share below.

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Know Your Environmental Stressors

Before you can change your environment, you should be aware of your environmental stressors. By identifying what causes you stress, it’s easier to plan to avoid them.  Although there are bigger stressors out there like our work lives or debt, we can reduce one added layer to help us feel a little more calm each day.  First, let’s go over some common stressors.

 

 

Ever try to get to bed on a Saturday night just to find that the neighbor is having a late night block party?  How about showing up to work without long sleeves to find the person controlling the thermostat prefers the office to feel like a refrigerator?  It happens. Noise levels, temperature, crowds,  and pain are some of the most common stressors that stem from our environments.  For instance, wearing uncomfortable shoes in situations that require a lot of walking can be extremely distracting. Maybe the rush hour crowd causes anxiety.  Alone, these may not seem too stressful; however, build them upon each other and you could have quite the stressful day.

 

For the items that bother you, a little planning can help you combat these stressors. For noise levels, unplug unused appliances that could be emitting high pitches.  Even pitches we can’t hear can add increased levels of stress hormones into our bodies. Wear headphones at work if the environment is a little distracting or ear plugs to bed if the neighbors are getting a little rowdy. Layers are the biggest recommendation I can give to fighting the temperature. Leave an extra sweater or jacket in your car if you need to. If you are trying to avoid crowds, plan for when you know there will be less people.  This means leaving for work a little before or after the rush hour.  As for pain, wear comfortable shoes and clothes. If you are going to be sitting for a length of time, take things out of your pockets such as keys that can create pinching. If you have a great technique for battle these stressors, please share below.

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Change Your Environment

When I’m working hard and feeling a bit stressed, I find myself rotating my position often.  This means finding a nook in the library, to a countertop in a coffee bar, or the desk in my home office.  Changing my environment often makes a big difference in my productivity and mood. It’s refreshing to make the move to accommodate my needs for the assignment at hand.  For instance, if I need a super quiet space so I can hear only my own thoughts, the library is great, plus it’s easier to get a window seat to soak in a little sunshine.  But if I’m writing a new blog, sipping coffee and relaxing in a local hot spot is preferred. Out of all the choices though, make time to get outside.

 

Whether it’s riding a bike, walking the dog, or taking a hike, just getting outside can greatly improve our health. The Business Insider points out that even just being exposed to nature photos can provide a mental boost.  Even stress reduction has been linked to outdoor recreation by over 100 studies according to the CRC Health Group. But what about the days where we  have to stay inside?  Bring the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in can have similar benefits.  For instance, I have a small bush with a small pineapple emerging from the top that reminds me of a family vacation to Hawaii that brightens up my living room. Bringing in natural smells is also a relaxing solution.  For instance, a Scentsy can bring me the smells of a warm cackling campfire or an ocean breeze.  Here are some ideas to help you bring the outdoors to your space.

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Knock Out that Stress

I’m not exactly in good shape right now, am I going to be able to do this? What if the people are jerks?  What if the place is packed? Is there a catch to joining?  These were some of the questions I had roaming in my mind when I decided to try out a new gym. That all melted away pretty quick once I got in the front door.  I walked in feeling stressed and came out feeling mentally pumped.

This is not a typical gym but a kickboxing gym.  At ILoveKickboxing, it’s a full hour of intensity. The first 15 minutes covers running, high knees, pushups, burpees, squats, and much more.  Once the cardio section is over, it’s time to stretch, then the fun part. The majority of the class is focused on jabs, punches, and various kicks. Don’t panic, there is a community around you to show you the form. And that’s just it, it really is a community. As soon as you walk in, everyone is smiling.  They are ready to go, ready to have fun, and are happy to jump in to show you how to do a move if you are a little lost at times like I was.

 

 

A word of advice if you are looking at giving this a try, be prepared before you go.  Don’t jump in cold turkey like I did.  Within the first 15 minutes I found myself getting a bit nauseous and dizzy. I hadn’t worked out in some time so my cardio ability was very low. Maybe work on a little cardio at home before your first class.  Drink plenty of water and be hydrated.  Like any workout, don’t be full when you arrive. But that’s all a small stuff to take care of compared to the experience you’ll get in return.

Overall, it’s an amazing experience.  You get to workout in a fast paced environment where you’re pushing yourself to get the most out of that hour.  You’re surrounded by rocking music and fun people. The best part is you get to transfer all that energy and stress that’s been brewing all day to the bag.  Just close your eyes and punch or kick away. What to know more about kickboxing itself?  Check out some items to know before you go here.

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Exploring Hot Springs

Steam piles into the hall from twelve little rooms that line the west side. Each it’s own private oasis. Wood doors hide rooms with a small sitting area and a small pool.  Stairs lead down from the sitting area into the pools .  Benches dot the walls allowing you to sit and soak in the environment. Voices echo in such a way that they almost melt in the steam and become nearly inaudible.  Truly a zenful place.

My state, Nevada, is dotted with hot springs; over 300 exactly.  Some are even built up such as the Carson Hot Springs Resort described above. This one is more of a local hot spot rather than an expensive tourist vacation destination.  Either way you can find anything from just a hole in the middle of the desert to a full service spa.

Bathing under the stars will be the most organic experience; however, if you are a new bather, you need to be smart. A “wild” hot spring is going to be just as it is and that means the water temperature as well.  Some can be dangerously hot. Hot Waters Laughter is a site that covers a few known safe hot springs to explore over 7 states. This site gives updates from visitors, pictures, and general information about a number of springs.  Although these are known springs, still check the water temperature before entering. Gone to a few already? Please share your experience below.

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Explore a Hidden Gem

In the middle of town is an old post office building built in the early 1930’s with an Art Deco style. Driving by you wouldn’t know that it was occupied.  The entrance isn’t clearly marked so you get a rush when you open the door like you aren’t supposed to be there. It’s a stairwell straight to the basement. Once hitting the bottom there are troves of local shops hidden behind every turn.  I have no idea how they all fit in such a small space.

 

It’s always exciting to explore something new but even more so when it feels like not everyone knows about it. But how do I find a hidden gem, you say? Word of mouth is how I find new places but if you are little more high tech, there are apps to help you find some new fun spots in your town. Maybe your new hidden gem is more of an event and not a location.  Try checking local bulletin boards at coffee shops, gyms, and other local hangouts you know about.

Although you may feel like you don’t know how to look or even where to start, the idea is to just start looking. Since you don’t know what the destination is, you can’t really plan for how you are going to get there. Word of mouth, apps, and bulletin board fliers are just guides to help you get started but not the only way or even the best way. When you get comfortable getting out there, just go for it.  Don’t limit yourself. Get out there and find your hidden gem!

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Get Some Sleep: Tips for the Stressed Out

It’s quiet, you’re tired, and your mind is racing. All you want is to fall asleep but your body is at ends with itself. We’ve all been there. Here are a few ideas to help prepare you for a more relaxing night:

1. Stop caffeine by lunch

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Since caffeine is known to sill have effects from 8 to 14 hours after consumption, it’s best to stop early enough to get it out of your system. We all know caffeine is a stimulant; however, it does keep you from feeling sleepy in a scientific way.  It actually blocks the adenosine receptors in the body which promotes sleepiness. So if you want to feel sleepy, ditch the caffeine early.

2. Adjust the lights and sounds

Maybe an hour or so before bed, start dimming the lights. Block out any extra lighting.  Eclipse shades are great and block out 99% of outside light. Like a little noise? Try some of the relaxing music suggestions in Music for Your Life for ideas. If you find music distracting, that’s ok, fans are a good alternative for white noise.

3. Take a Soak

Taking a shower, bath, or spa are all fine options. Our body temperature fluctuates throughout the day and plays a roll in our sleep pattern.  Sleep actually occurs when our core temperature is dropping.  My suggestion is taking a warm bath or shower before bed to warm the body which would help it drop a bit when you are climbing into bed.

4. Set a Bed Time

By setting a bed time we can condition our bodies to adopt a rhythm.  Plus, if you are stopping the caffeine at noon hopefully you can get in bed earlier and not need as much caffeine the next day.  Thus, helping to stop the vicious caffeine cycle.

5. Bust out the comfy clothes

Maybe about the time you are dimming the lights you should bring out those sweatpants and slippers. Try to get a consistent outfit for each season. By creating a habit, we can condition our bodies to associate this change with getting ready for bed and start triggering some sleep hormones.

Although there are many more ideas out there to help you prepare for bed, these are just a few to get you started. Have a relaxation technique or topic you’d like me to talk about?  Let me know in the comments below.

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