Friday Favorites: Summer Essentials

If you weren’t sure if we were going to have a typical summer in southern Indiana this year, this week definitely confirmed it for you: 100 degree days with 200% humidity. Great days to enjoy some Netflix and chill in the AC. (Literally chill, guys.)

Today I’m going to share a few of the things I’m loving this summer + a few of the things that I feel like are saving my life. The bugs. The heat. Sigh.

I’m also linking up today for Friday Favorites, so be sure to check out all the other posts today! ❤

Bug Stuff

You guys, the bugs are insane this year. I think it has something to do with how warm it was all winter—things didn’t die as they were supposed to as part of the circle of life. I am particularly susceptible to mosquito bites, and my legs look like those of a child who has been playing outside all day (minus being tan, because I’m in an office all day). These are the products I’m relying on to help with all the bugs.

Badger Anti-Bug Shake & Spray

I love pretty much anything put out by Badger Balm, but this bug spray is pretty legit. You will smell like citronella. But I think this natural bug repellant is much more effective than some of the other hippie ones I’ve tried.

Witch Hazel

I’m convinced witch hazel will cure anything. But this is one of the ONLY things I’ve found that actually relieves the itching/pain from bug bites. I put some on every night after I get out of the shower.

Badger Balm also has an after-bug balm that works nicely, although I think witch hazel is a little better. Also, I’ve tried lavender oil to repel bugs a few times, and it worked pretty OK. It’s nice in a pinch if you would like a more natural bug spray.

Sunscreen

Speaking of Badger Balm, I’m a big fan of their sport sunscreen.

This is a zinc-oxide (HAY) based sunscreen, so it goes on pretty white—I recommend applying it with a mirror nearby so you can see what you’re working with. It’s waterproof for up to 80 minutes, which I think is a nice bonus. I definitely miss the convenience of the spray-on sunscreens, but I’m getting used to this natural option.

Sandals

I splurged on 2 pairs of sandals this year, and I have no regrets. My first purchase (which was technically this spring) was this pair of Birkenstock Mayari sandals.

I wanted these sandals like whoa last summer, but you couldn’t find them anywhere by August. So I got on it this year and ordered them in April. Sizing was a little challenging—I ordered a size down, and think I really should have gotten them in narrow, but I was sick of ordering and sending back and reordering at that point. Anyway, I tightened the straps and have never looked back.

Next up is this pair of Chacos.

First off, the style is called Dorra, so how could I not get them?? They are probably the most comfortable sandals I’ve ever owned right off the bat—no breaking in necessary. I also love that they are really functional, but could also be worn with a summer dress or out for a nicer occasion if needed.

Drinks

I got this Healthy Human stainless steel cruiser tumbler a while ago, but it has been a life-saver this summer.

The “keeps cold for 24 hours” thing is legit. I bring my iced coffee in it to work every morning, then on lunch will stick the tumbler out in my car for the rest of the day. In the 100 degree heat. In my car with black interior. And there is still ice in there when I get in at the end of the day to go home. It’s magic.

Also, this nettle tea from Republic of Tea.

I read an article earlier this year about how nettle tea can provide allergy relief, so I figured I’d give it a try. I don’t know if it has really affected my allergies, but this tea is dang delicious—it almost tastes like cake.

Fresh Fruit

Specifically, cherries.

I’ve never bought cherries before, mainly because they are $$$ at the grocery. This year I’m splurging on them every week and cannot get enough. They are the perfect amount of sweet and so refreshing.

Much thanks to Erika, Narci, and Andrea for hosting today’s linkup—be sure and go check them out!

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Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

As I was typing up my first post in a while, I was thinking about what kind of things I wanted to share on here. I started keeping a note in my phone with possible topics. Because while I love reading “day in the life”-type posts on blogs, they get kind of repetitive. Even more so when you’re a creature of habit, like me. Posting the same breakfast, lunch and snacks plus work synopsis would wear pretty thin pretty quickly.

One of the first ideas that popped in my head was tips on packing your lunch, because that is something I kind of have on lockdown. Packing a lunch bag for work (or school or whatever your current life situation is) is one of the most effective things you can do to make healthier choices throughout the day AND save some money. So here we go!

Tip 1: Get Your Shit Together the Night Before

Pardon my French, but this is THE most important thing when getting my lunch (and life, for what it matters) together. I am not a morning person (which if you know me at all, you know that about me), and I can think of the instances when I’ve actually packed a good breakfast + lunch + snacks the morning before work on like, one hand. So now I make it a point to put everything together the night before—and honestly, it usually takes no longer than 5 minutes. Then I can snooze in the morning and not worry about having nothing to get me through the day at work.

Tip 2: Get a Really Nice Lunch Bag

I got mine at TJ Maxx for less than $20, but you can find it on Amazon here. I love it because it’s big enough that I can get A LOT of stuff in there, but small enough that it can still fit in the fridge at work without taking up an obscene amount of space. It also has some nice outer pockets where I keep utensils, stuff that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, etc.

Tip 3: Invest in a Few Reusable Containers

(I didn’t have any clean containers, so I used the ones with my lunch in it for tomorrow. Cooper was pretty interested haha.)

For years I used Gladware or other plastic containers, but I recently got a set of 4 Pyrex containers so I don’t have to worry about anything leaching into my food, especially if I put it in the microwave. I can’t find the exact set I got online, but here’s a similar one: mine has a 4-cup bowl, a 2-cup bowl, and two 1-cup bowls. I got them at Target for less than $20 (and they seriously go on sale all the time). I also got a set of these 4 ounce Ball jars, which are perfect for dressings or dips.

Lunch is usually a salad that I put in the largest bowl, and then I bring berries or some other fruit in one of the smaller bowls. The 4 bowls in this set plus the 4 ounce jars are basically all that I need. And, pro tip: If you are able, wash your containers at work, so you’ll have them clean when you get home—just throw everything together for tomorrow and you’re done!

The other thing I’ve started using recently that I really like are these reusable zip bags (like Ziploc, but you can reuse them). I used to use a TON of Ziploc baggies, and I started getting really convicted about how wasteful that was. I found this set of 5 online (3 sandwich size, 2 snack size) and am in love with them. They are BPA-free, freezer-safe, and I just wipe them out with some soapy water and a paper towel, then air-dry them overnight.

Tip 4: Overpack Rather Than Underpack

So ideally, pack the right amount of food, but I would much rather bring too much and then bring it home with me or leave it at work for the next day than not bring enough and be hangry all day or looking for change to use at the vending machine.

Most days, I bring my breakfast, lunch, and then a snack for midmorning (which I sometimes skip) and a snack for midafternoon. Breakfast is usually turkey sausage with a banana and almond butter (which I buy in pre-portioned packets, so I don’t go overboard with the AB), and lunch is either leftovers or a salad. I try to bring snacks that are healthy, filling, and portable. Most days I bring 2 cuties, a sandwich bag of baby carrots or some other fresh vegetable, and a Larabar. If I know I won’t be heading home right after work, I might have some grapes or jerky to hold me over till dinner.

This is based on years of research, fyi. Figuring out how much food to bring, plus what kind of food is filling without making you feel miserable, is a lot of trial and error.

Tip 5: Extras and Nice-to-Haves

OK, now we’ve basically covered what I consider are the essentials of a good packed lunch. Now we arrive at the things that are nice to have, but really up to you. A couple things I really love:

  • A good water bottle. I actually bring 2 big water bottles to work every day (each 32 fl oz) to cut down on buying bottled water from our vending machine (I’m really into recycling right now, guys). I still usually have to buy maybe 1 or 2 bottled waters each day, but it’s much better than before.
  • Reusable utensils. I came across these bamboo utensils while I was poking around online and they look pretty neat. The ones I keep in my bag are just plastic, maybe Tupperware. Honestly, I mostly use them when other utensils are not available—I should stop doing that.
  • Coffee tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold. I am obsessed with this Healthy Human tumbler I got. It for real keeps drinks cold for 24 hours (or after an entire day in 90 degree heat, in the sun, in a car with black interior). Plus it’s so pretty.

And that’s all I got! Let me know if you guys have questions or would like to see more of these types of posts. Oh, and have a happy and fun long weekend! ❤

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WIAW: Leftovers Galore!

Hi and happy November! Seriously, how did we get to November already? Although the weather in southern Indiana doesn’t seem to have gotten the note—it’s been in the 80s the last few days.

Things around here have been pretty calm—I’ve been getting a lot of stuff done at home and have spent a lot of time watching TV lately haha. I’m currently typing this post up as I’m watching Game 6 of the World Series (go Cubs go!). I’m also watching lots of episodes of Last Week Tonight via HBO Now, and I finished The Jinx on Sunday. If you were a fan of Making a Murderer and have access to HBO on demand, do yourself a favor and go check it out.

Enough about my TV guilty pleasures—let’s get to another WIAW.

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This looks like the most unappetizing breakfast. I didn’t realize that until I looked back at my photos. But it was so good, thanks to Justin’s maple almond butter and these turkey sausages that I’m still loving. I grabbed a banana because they were looking like they were almost done, and picked up an iced coffee on my way to work.

Lunch was leftover chicken fried rice that I made Sunday night for dinner.

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This was white rice, onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, peas, chicken, and pineapple. Plus lots and lots of coconut aminos.

And an apple on the side for dessert.

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I was feeling really low motivation at work, so I went to the gym on my lunch break. I’ve been really trying to throw my gym bag in the car every day, just in case I get the chance to go. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes I skip. I made up this quick functional workout before I left the office and really enjoyed it!

15 min functional workout

I warmed up with 10 minutes on the elliptical, completed this quick circuit workout, and then cooled down with some stretching. I’ve been really interested in functional workouts lately—I might do a longer post on this in the future, but here’s a quick overview here.

After lunch, I got back to work and had some afternoon snacks: an unpictured Larabar (peanut butter cookie) and baby carrots.

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Plus some leftover food from our office Halloween party on Monday: a fun size Kit Kat, 2 bites of cookie cake, and a handful of this puppy chow I made. Beware of the puppy chow, it’s so good, but you have to buy a jar of Biscoff…which if you’re me, means you’ll gorge yourself on spoonfuls of it until you get yourself together and throw the jar out. And then take the trash out. Because who knows—you might be crazy enough to get it back out of the trash and finish it off. (Kidding.)

Dinner was leftovers from Monday night.

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Lettuce tacos (filling was ground beef, tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, mushrooms + spices) with some corn tortilla chips.

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And a strawberry popsicle for dessert. Because why not?

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That’s it for this week’s installment. Thanks so much to Peas and Crayons for hosting these weekly WIAW gatherings. I hope you all are having a wonderful week filled with lots of good things! ❤

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Thursday Things + Food Journaling 101

Hello there! And happy October / Fall Festival week for those of you in southern Indiana! I have not actually made it down to the festival yet, but there ARE still 2 days left—who knows what could happen? The world is my oyster!

The last few weeks have been jam-packed with a ton of stuff, and on top of that I have been feeling run down.

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First and foremost, the boyfriend and I went to Notre Dame 2 weeks ago for their game against Duke. Sadly, the game was kind of a bummer, but we still had an amazing time. The campus is incredible and it was so fun to be part of a football weekend.

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The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a really great time hanging out with our friends and spending time on campus.

In addition to our trip, life has just been keeping me busy. I was trying to think of specific reasons why I’ve felt so blah, but there’s not one thing in particular. There are just some seasons of life that are like that—between work and friends and relationships and running errands, it just goes by super quickly.

Health-wise, I’ve been feeling a little off for the past few weeks. I have issues with my neck and shoulders, so a family weekend at Holiday World (riding the Scrambler in particular) left me in a lot of pain. Which turned into a migraine after an appointment at the chiropractor. I’ve also been experimenting a little with my diet, which leads me into what I want to write about today: food journaling, or why I think we should all be doing it.

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I have been a user of MyFitnessPal for years. I actually did a project involving it for one of my classes in school.

MyFitnessPal is both a website and an app you can download to track your food and beverage intake, physical activity, and progress toward goals. It can also sync with other apps you may be using, like Fitbit or MapMyRun.

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You can also connect with other users for accountability or motivation (don’t worry—you can choose what information is viewable to others, like weight, food diary, etc.).

So MyFitnessPal is one of the most popular food diary apps because it’s really user-friendly and has a really really large database of food and drink. Seriously, I can find almost anything I’ve eaten, including particular brands and specific entrees at restaurants. It also saves recent entries and recipes, so it’s very easy to track your food if you, like me, tend to eat a lot of the same things.

OK, this is probably starting to sound like this post was brought to you by MyFitnessPal, but it’s NOT. I just think it’s a really great app and a useful service. I personally use it to track my food and exercise, but I specifically love being able to see nutrient and macronutrient intake. If I’m feeling really hungry one day, I can look back and see I’ve eaten 70% carbs and very little protein—and this helps me know what changes I should be making in my diet in order to feel my best.

The other form of food journaling that I find useful is a good old fashioned notebook and pen.

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I started keeping a notebook and pen on my nightstand a few months ago, mainly to see if my diet affected anxiety and stress in my life. You can make this as detailed or as brief as you’d like, but generally I include:

  • What I had for each meal plus any snacks (again, this doesn’t have to be in-depth—simply writing oatmeal and coffee for breakfast will suffice)
  • How much water I drank that day
  • What my energy levels throughout the day were like
  • What kind of activity I did (how many steps I got, if I worked out, foam rolling, etc.)
  • What my moods were like
  • Any other major differences (was I exhausted all day, bloated, bad headache, etc.)

It can be tedious at first, but like most new habits, once it becomes part of your routine, it feels natural. And I can’t stress enough how helpful this has been. Like that really bad stomachache I had a few weeks ago? I can look through my notebook and find that I had a similar one 2 months ago, and both those days I had eaten X. Or if I’m feeling really good one day, I can see that I drank a ton of water and had 3 meals with a good amount of protein in them.

If you are trying to meet a weight-loss goal, have been having digestive issues, or just haven’t been feeling like yourself lately, I encourage you to give food journaling a shot. Even if you don’t include every single thing you ate every day (which I usually don’t), it is so helpful for both accountability and information. Knowledge is power, people! Especially in regards to your health.

I hope this post was helpful! If you have questions about food journaling or would like me to explain anything I forgot, please let me know. I hope you all have a wonderful week and a sweet weekend. 🙂

Workouts Lately

Hi there! Happy Wednesday and happy almost-fall. The weather here has been all kinds of nice lately, minus some mosquitoes that I guess won’t go away until the first freeze.

With school done and my crazy-busy summer almost over, I’ve been trying to get back into a routine that includes my old healthy habits. It’s a work in progress, and I’m trying to learn how to prioritize all the things. The last time I really was able to eat clean and work out on a consistent basis was like 3 years ago, and I was also living alone and hopelessly single. Translation: I didn’t have a lot going on, so I went to the gym every day and cooked all my own meals.

Right now, my plan of action is to go to the gym during my lunch break. Here’s the deal: I get a 1 hour break for lunch each day. I work in a pretty laid-back office, so we don’t have to look 100% profesh all the time. (Read: If I come back from lunch with a red face and sweaty hair, no one’s going to yell at me.) My gym is near my work. I have exactly enough time to get to the gym, change into workout clothes, work out, stretch, change back into work clothes, get back to work. No time for showers or any workout longer than 30 minutes.

Here are 2 workouts I’ve done recently during my lunch hour, plus a yoga video that I love so much and had to include.

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This is a little weights circuit I put together that includes some of my favorite moves. Do each set 3 times, rest 1 minute, and then move to the next set.

Exercise demos: bicep curls / squats / bent-over row / straight-leg deadlift / standing overhead press / standing tricep extension / stationary lunge / supine chest flydonkey kicks / leg pulse

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This is a cardio circuit I did when I had forgotten my headphones (hence the name). Normally, this would be an excuse to just head home. But since it was my lunch break, I had already eaten and didn’t have time to do anything else, so I toughed it out. I did 3 quick mini-circuits on different cardio machines to keep me from getting bored.

Finally, this is a really beautiful yoga sequence that I did after work yesterday. I have been craving lots of yoga lately, and this video was absolutely perfect. (Check out her channel on YouTube for lots of good videos each week here.)

Note: I am not a certified personal trainer. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning or making changes to your fitness routine. Honor your body and modify as necessary.

WIAW: Tuesdays That Feel Like Mondays

Hi! I hope you all had a lovely long weekend (if you were lucky enough to get a long weekend) and are feeling rested and ready to go! My poor friends and boyfriend hear this all the time, but I’ll say it here too: When you have a Monday off from work, the week feels longer. Fridays off, the week feels shorter. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

In true Tuesday/boosday fashion, my day started off with me sleeping through my alarm. I’m an avid user of The Rock Clock, but I think its service to me is over. This is the third time in the past week that the alarm has TURNED OFF because I didn’t turn it off first. Because I didn’t hear it! The Rock Clock, this is a failure. How can you call yourself an alarm if you turn off after X amount of minutes?

So the day started off on a bad foot.

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All of my bags. Minus my gym bag, because I foolishly thought I would work out at home after work. Ha! Didn’t happen.

Miraculously, I got to work relatively on time. But breakfast was a drive-thru classic: oatmeal and iced coffee.

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Eaten at my desk + half a pack of Justin’s almond butter to give the oatmeal a bit of staying power. FYI, my iced coffee order is just iced coffee with skim milk. Perfect.

I eat lunch every day around 11am. 1. Because I’m usually hungry at that time and don’t have a morning snack. And 2. Because I have been using my lunch breaks to go to the gym (minus today, when I went home and hung out with my dogs). I can’t work out on a full stomach—I feel like I want to hurl the whole time (TMI, sorry!).

Today I had my classic lazy-girl lunch: An Amy’s vegan, gluten-free burrito over some greens to give it some color, plus a big ol’ handful of red grapes because I can’t get enough of them lately. Pro tip: Buy a few lunches every week that will make it easy to throw in your lunch bag. I know there will be at least a couple days where I’m too lazy to meal prep or I’m out too late at night, and throwing one of these healthy-ish burritos in my bag makes life so much easier. No shame.

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My lunch held me over reasonably well, so I waited to have my afternoon snack until around 3pm.

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A peanut butter cookie Larabar with baby carrots and hummus. (I didn’t eat the plum because it was suspect. Sadly, I think plum season is over in southern Indiana.)

I work until 5, and when I got home I was pretty hungry. I was flying solo on Tuesday night, so I whipped up an old standby: scrambled eggs with pepper and hot sauce with an Ezekiel English muffin and cream cheese on the side.

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At home we eat mostly paleo-ish (I’ll talk about this in a future post), but I’ve been eating vegetarian for breakfast and lunch lately. My boyfriend is not a fan of breakfast for dinner (break my heart, why don’t you!), so I never get to have scrambled eggs in the PM. 😦

Dinner was quickly followed by a strawberry popsicle while watching The Mindy Project on HuluPlus.

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After dinner, I did some stuff around the house and then met up with a friend at my favorite local watering hole for a drink (or 2). Vodka sodas with lime FTW.

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I was out later than I planned, but we had a really good time catching up. As soon as I walked in the door, I had a handful (x2) of these amazing vegan chocolate chips.

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I then took care of the doggies and sat down to type up this post. And now I’m ready for bed! The glamorous life of a 30-something who works full-time, right?

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If WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday, for the uninitiated) is up your alley, as it is mine, you can check out the post link up here.

Have an amazing Wednesday, all! We’re halfway through this week already! ❤

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How Stress Affects Your Weight

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An alternate title for this post could have been: “How I Managed to Finish a Degree in Food and Nutrition and Gain 30 Pounds While Doing It.”

The last 2.5 years have been really really good but also really really crazy. I started going back to school in January 2014 on a part-time basis. At the time, I was personally unhappy, work was crazy busy, and I was trying to fumble my way through a chemistry class (the only class I almost failed in high school, FYI). I eventually shifted my work and school schedules around to try to make things easier, but as you know, life tends to do whatever, regardless of if it’s what you’re needing or not.

So I wanted to talk a little bit today about stress and the body—what’s going on when we’re stressed out physically, what can we do to help fix it. Our culture basically thrives on stress—we feel constant pressure to be the best, to do the most, to constantly improve ourselves. We work a ton of hours, try to fit in time with family and friends, and still want to have extracurriculars. And all the while we’re looking for life balance, and even more frustrated when we can’t seem to achieve this.

The Stress Response

Our body activates a stress response to a situation via adrenaline, or epinephrine. This is the whole “fight or flight” thing people talk about. Our heart rates increase, blood pressure increases, you know what I’m talking about. Once the stress response is activated, our friend cortisol kicks in to regulate the response. All our unnecessary body functions go on hold until the stressful situation ends.

Now, this response is not a bad thing—it’s critical to our survival. You can think about the classic example of meeting a lion in the wild—your body has to activate a stress response so that you are primed to respond. Once you’ve gotten away from the lion, your body returns back to normal.

The thing is, in our society, our stress response is activated all. the. time. It’s like our bodies think we’re constantly interacting with lions every day. And a lot of bad things can happen as a result of this. Elevated stress hormones can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and weight gain. Cortisol in particular is associated with weight gain, especially in the abdominal region of our bodies.

On top of that, constant stress is known to affect our self-control, which explains stress eating, drinking, and sedentary behavior. Moderation takes discipline! And discipline is something I definitely lacked while I was chronically stressed.

Unfortunately, this all becomes a vicious cycle. Chronic stress is known to impair sleep, and poor sleep quality is associated with higher BMI. When you’re tired you lack self-control, plus your hunger hormones are screwed up and you crave more high-sugar, high-fat foods. See what I mean?

Assessing Stress

So what do we do? Just give in and accept that we’re going to be constantly stressed and unhealthy?

If you are going through a stressful time, there are a few things you need to assess. Determine what the source of stress is and how you are going to deal with it.

For me, it was school. And fortunately, there was a light at the end of that tunnel. I’m done with my degree and feel a TON better. And now I have time and energy to devote to things I love. But maybe the source of stress in your life is a job or a new baby or finances. Things that aren’t going to go away soon. What do you do then?

Prioritize sleep. Sleep is so incredibly important for your body, mind, and emotions. If you do nothing else, make sure you are getting enough sleep (or as much as you can). If thoughts or worries are keeping you up, try praying or meditating. I’ve been using this lavender sleep balm for a few months and LOVE it. Do some stretching before bed. Try to find a restful nighttime routine that signals to your body that it’s time to unwind for the day.

Secondly, try to manage the stress in your life as best as possible. Find a healthy way to relieve stress, and if possible, one that involves getting some healthy movement in. Again, mindfulness and prayer are key to this. Find social support—maybe through coworkers or friends or family members. It may mean making some changes, maybe some hard or scary ones. The thing is, your health has to be just as important to you as getting everything done. This is the only life and body that you get, and taking care of it is a privilege.

Lastly, give yourself some grace. Accept where you’re at and move on. For me, it’s with an extra 30 pounds. Am I thrilled about that? No. Am I going to beat myself up over it? No. I did a lot of incredible things over that past few years, and to me, that is more important than how thin I am. I am moving forward, looking at each day as a fresh start and way to make different, better choices than I was able to over the last few years.

Dealing with stress is such a difficult topic, and I by no means have all the answers. I’m just muddling my way through like everyone else. But I think this is a good place to start, and I hope this little post has been helpful, even a little bit. ❤


Please note: The opinions in this post are my own and are not meant to substitute for professional medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes involving your health.
Information was obtained from the following sources:
Berset M et al. Does stress at work make you gain weight? A two-year longitudinal study. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2011;37(1):45-53.
Brand S et al. Influence of mindfulness practice on cortisol and sleep in long-term and short-term meditators. Neuropsychobiology. 2012;65:109-118.
Harding JL et al. Psychosocial stress is positively associated with body mass index gain over 5 years: evidence from the longitudinal AusDiab study. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;22(1):277-286.
Rudenga KJ et al. Acute brain stress potentiates brain response to milkshake as a function of body weight and chronic stress. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013;37(2):309-316.
Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. Accessed August 23, 2016.