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  1. 5 Summer Reads for When It’s Too Hot to Actually be at the Beach

    July 3, 2018 by Andrea

    Even when the weather makes it too unbearable -- and too much of a crisis risk -- to bask in a chair seaside, you can still enjoy all the latest beach reads from the comfort of your air conditioning. Put your meditation app on calming beach waves, and settle in with a mocktail and one of these page-turners: 

    1) Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Barnes & Noble ($12.19)
    If you love all things Octavia Butler, you've got to grab your copy of Tomi Adeyemi's debut novel. It follows the character Zélie Adebola, as she seeks to avenge the death of her mother and restore magic to her homeland.

    Photo courtesy of publisher

    Photo courtesy of publisher


    2) Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, Barnes & Noble ($19.45)
    This one goes out to all the mystery/thriller lovers out there. A tale of a mother's search for her long-missing daughter, this plot-twisty novel is a must-have for your summer reads list.

    Photo courtesy of publisher

    Photo courtesy of publisher


    3) An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Books-A-Million ($17.24)
    Of course, no summer reads list is quite complete without at least one Oprah's Book Club pick. And in this one, two newlyweds have their lives changed in an instant when one of them is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit. He returns home five years later, but can he and his wife really just pick up where they left off?

    Photo courtesy of publisher

    Photo courtesy of publisher


    4) Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey, Target ($22.90)
    A self-proclaimed "accidental activist," Franchesca uses humor to discuss everything from race to gender to social justice to identity and everything in between.

    Photo courtesy of publisher

    Photo courtesy of publisher


    5) The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Barnes & Noble ($9.89)
    Lo thought a dream assignment aboard a luxury cruise ship would be just what she needed to level up at the travel magazine where she works. But when a woman on board goes missing -- and all that surrounds her is water -- Lo's dream quickly turns into a nightmare.

    Photo courtesy of publisher

    Photo courtesy of publisher

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  2. 5 Ways to Unwind When Your Only Have a Few Minutes

    April 24, 2018 by Andrea

    unwind

    You already know how much we believe in self-care and relaxation. It helps reduce stress, which in turn can lessen the occurrence of a crisis and the complications that come with it. But what if you don't have an entire day -- or even an hour -- to devote to such calming techniques? No worries, we're bringing you a whole host of ways to unwind, even if you only have a few minutes.

    1. Treat yourself to a scalp massage.
    When you don't have the time, or the budget, for a full-body massage, grab a scalp massager, and spend five to ten minutes stimulating all those nerve endings on your head. Your brain will receive messages of relaxation and enjoyment, and your well-being will thank you.

    2. Get your cuddles.
    Whether it's with your S.O., your child, or your pet, cuddling is a great way to calm any stressors going on in your life. In fact, cuddling releases oxytocin into your body and can even help lower your blood pressure, making you feel nice and relaxed.

    3. Laugh out loud.
    As the old adage goes, "Laughter is the best medicine." It's more than just an empty platitude, too. Laughing can actually relax your muscles, release endorphins, dismiss feelings of anxiety, and more. So, use your few minutes to watch an amusing meme or video, listen to your favorite funny radio host, or call up a friend who always makes you chuckle.

    4. Bask in the sun.
    Escape the dimness and stress-inducing environment of your workplace by stepping outside for a little while. Just feeling the warmth and light of the sun on your skin can boost your mood for the better.

    5. Listen to some music.
    There's music to match any mood you're feeling or trying to feel, and when your brain hears a certain style of song, it reacts accordingly. For example, a fast one with sharp lyrics can help you address and move on from anger; an upbeat tune can send messages of happiness to your brain; and smooth jazz tracks can elicit feelings of calmness.

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  3. Self-Care Must-Haves for the Sickle Cell Warrior

    March 19, 2018 by Andrea

    self-care

    As a sickle cell warrior (or the friend, family, or caretaker of one), sometimes it can feel like you're always in fight mode -- fighting a crisis, fighting stress so it doesn't become a crisis, fighting for your life. Battling it out all the time is exhausting, and that's why self-care is so important. Recharge your self-care practice with these must-haves: 

    1) TheraBox
    Founded by an actual therapist, this subscription box delivers "fresh, new ingredients of happiness straight to your door every month." Examples of goodies in past boxes include journals, stress-relieving facial masks, tea, bath salts, mugs, and more! 

    2) Noise-Cancelling Headphones
    Whether you need to unwind with a proper Netflix binge-watching session, embrace complete focus during meditation with your favorite app, or simply take a nap in true silence, try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, so all those background noises can fade into the, well, background. 

    3) Coloring Books
    Adult coloring books exploded on the scene as a way to cope with stress and anxiety a few years ago. Of course, children's coloring books are always available for them, as well. "Coloring is a highly creative and meditative activity that can have powerful therapeutic anti-stress and relaxation benefits. It activates the brain's right hemisphere, reducing stress, and promoting a relaxed, meditative state," the book's creator Kathy Weller writes in the overview of this particular one. 

    4) The Little Book of Mindfulness
    Boasting that it only takes 10 minutes a day to live with "less stress" and "more peace", this (non coloring) book, written by Dr. Patrizia Collard, is packed with quick exercises to help you manage anxiety and live well. 

    5) Body Lotion Candle
    For a double dose of self-care, burn this French Fig and Amber candle for its aromatherapy property, and then, use the melting candle itself as a moisturizer. Yep, as the candle burns, it liquefies into a lotion. 

    6) Self-Care Index: A Pocket Guide for Remembering the Things You Like to Do
    With pages that read, "Unplug for 1 hour. Right now.", "Build a blanket fort", "Put on a record", and even "Google 'Corgi butt'", this book is sure to take your mind off any pain or stress you may be feeling for awhile.

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  4. Three 30-Day Challenges Sickle Cell Warriors Can Embrace This Year

    January 8, 2018 by Andrea
    CreateHer Stock

    CreateHer Stock



    It's easy to sit down and write a list of New Year's resolutions, but without an actual plan of action, more than likely, the goals on that list will barely even begin to be reached. That's why we've rounded up three 30-day challenges that can actually help you reduce stress and increase overall wellness -- things that are known to help limit the occurrence of crises.

    1. Goalcast's 30-Day Growth Challenge
    If you're looking to learn how to let go of the past, become more productive, increase knowledge, and reduce stress, among other things, try this action plan. The creator even emphasizes the importance of not striving for perfection when it comes to its completion, rather focus on doing your best and finishing the tasks that are most meaningful to you.

    2. Sparefoot's 30-Day Decluttering Challenge
    When you aren't feeling your best, the last thing you want is to be surrounded by a space that's messy and disorganized. Stay ahead of the game with this challenge, which will lead you through cleaning out your space one area at a time, because let's be honest, conquering clutter all at once is way too overwhelming.

    3. Odyssey's 30-Day Journal Challenge
    Not up to cleaning, exercising, or leaving your warm bed in general? You can always journal. Writing your feelings down is a proven method of decreasing anxiety and boosting creativity. With 30 prompts, you won't run out of inspiration.

    Are you participating in any 30-day challenges this new year? Tweet us @xicklerbc and let us know!

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  5. How Writing Poetry Can be Therapeutic for Sickle Cell Warriors

    December 19, 2017 by Andrea
    poetry

    Photo: CreateHer Stock



    Sometimes, there are things you want to say that others may not be willing -- or ready -- to hear. Whether that's because they can't handle the emotion of the moment, are too busy, or something else is preventing them from truly being present with you, you'll need to find another outlet for your pain. Writing is one option.

    There's  a reason experts often suggest writing to express feelings -- it can truly be therapeutic. "This is much more than simply trying two write pretty sentences," states an article from Psychology Today. "It is about singling out experiences, events, and people that contributed to one's life. Seeing cause and effect, understanding psychological processes can significantly increase self-understanding." Even better? Your writing doesn't have to come in the form of a long essay or memoir. Short poetry has been a go-to coping strategy for generations of people. 

    A very introspective form of writing, poetry can help people process and come to terms with their life experiences.  According to this article in The Telegraph, "The act of writing about personal experiences has a cathartic effect because it inhibits parts of the brain linked to emotional turmoil and increases activity in the region to do with self-control." The article continues, "The mere action of writing about an emotion [is] a way of calming down the brain and re-establishing mental balance." 

    The next time you need to center yourself, try letting your feelings flow through verse. Here's a little inspiration to get you started (reading poetry is good for you, too!): 

    Sickle Cell Warriors Poetry
    Power Poetry
    Poetry Soup


  6. 3 Benefits of Being Thankful All Year Long

    November 20, 2017 by Andrea
    Photo: CreateHer Stock

    Photo: CreateHer Stock



    It's Thanksgiving Week here in the United States, and in the midst of prepping to travel, welcome arriving family and friends, and/or cook up an epic holiday feast, gratitude is foremost on everyone's mind. But gratefulness should be a priority year-round. In fact, science even says that it can improve your overall health -- something that's especially important for sickle cell warriors. Here are three benefits of maintaining that spirit of thankfulness all 365 days.

    1) It can reduce anxiety and depression.
    When crises occur, it can be difficult to keep a positive outlook. And while finding something to be thankful for during times of pain, worry, and sadness can seem almost impossible, working hard at doing just that has been proven to actually rewire your brain, leading to more feelings of happiness in general.

    2) It can improve your immune system.
    As a sickle cell warrior, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible is paramount to avoiding illnesses, such as the flu, as complications requiring hospitalization can arise much more easily than in people without SCD. One recent study by researchers at the University of Utah and the University of Kentucky found that people who consider themselves to be optimistic actually had more disease-fighting cells in their bodies.

    3) It can make you more resilient.
    Being thankful helps lessen cortisol levels caused by stress and also helps people become better able to surmount traumatic obstacles in their lives. According to Forbes, a 2006 study revealed that "Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."

    To discover even more ways expressing gratitude is good for you, check out this infographic created by CBS News.

    How do you plan to practice thankfulness this holiday season and beyond? Tell us in the comments below!

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  7. 11 Movies and TV Shows to Bingewatch on Those Sick Days

    June 6, 2017 by Andrea

    You stay on top of managing your sickle cell -- you're always hydrated, you avoid extreme temperatures, you take your supplements, and you maintain an healthy diet. Sometimes, though, triggers like stress creep in and send you into a crisis. As you recover, it's important relax, so to help you settle in to full-on rest mode, we're bringing you a list of the best feel-good movies and TV shows to bingewatch on those sick days:

    1. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
    "A woman who is rescued from a doomsday cult starts life over as a nanny for an Upper East Side socialite in New York City. Armed with just a backpack, light-up sneakers and a couple way-past-due library books, she takes on a world she didn't think even existed anymore."



    2. Masterminds
    "Along with a group of half-brained criminals led by Steve Chambers and an absurdly faulted heist plan, David manages the impossible and makes off with $17 million in cash…only problem is he foolishly hands the money over to this wild group of double crossers and has been set up to take the fall."


    3. Queen of Katwe
    "Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion."



    4. The Mindy Project
    This show "follows a skilled OB/GYN navigating the tricky waters of both her personal and professional life, as she pursues her dreams of becoming the perfect woman, finding the perfect man and getting her perfect romantic comedy ending." - Hulu



    5. The Secret Life of Pets
    "The quiet life of a terrier named Max is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray whom Max instantly dislikes." -IMDB



    6. Superstore
    "From the bright-eyed newbies and the seen-it-all veterans to the clueless summer hires and the in-it-for-life managers, together they hilariously tackle the day-to-day grind of rabid bargain hunters, riot-causing sales and nap-worthy training sessions."



    7. Zootopia
    "Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything."



    8. This Is Us
    "A smart, modern new dramedy that will challenge your everyday presumptions about the people you think you know." -Hulu



    9. Hidden Figures
    "The incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson—brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation’s confidence, turned around the Space Race, and galvanized the world. The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big."


    10. New Girl
    "An ensemble comedy centering on a free-spirited young woman, her three male roommates and her best friend, as they navigate modern relationships and end up forming a charmingly dysfunctional – or strangely functional – family." -Hulu


    11. Black-ish
    "Anthony Anderson stars as a father who begins to worry maybe his family have assimilated a little too much into their suburban lifestyle."


    Have any to add to this list? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!


  8. How to Keep Your Sickle Cell Awareness Team Motivated with a Retreat

    March 23, 2017 by Andrea
    retreat

    Photo: Stocksnap.io



    From fundraising to marketing to speaking engagements, and more, you and your team do a lot to raise awareness for sickle cell disease. And while you encourage other warriors and their friends and family to manage stress effectively, you don't always take that same advice. It's imperative, though, that you and your team rest up, too, so you can successfully maintain the momentum of spreading the word about SCD. A team retreat is one of the best ways to do this. Here's how:

    1) Ask your team for input.
    Where would they like to go? What kinds of activities are they interested in? How long should the retreat last? Are there any areas that should be avoided due to medical reasons? (For example, it would be a good idea to avoid places with extreme temperatures for any warriors on staff.) Giving your crew a chance to offer feedback on retreat plans will ensure that they feel a part of the preparation, giving them the sense that this is their event, too. When people feel included, they are more likely to attend and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

    2) Choose a theme.
    Remember, a retreat should be a relaxing respite from the typical daily grind. Think about a theme that embodies this idea, and create an agenda packed with activities that support this, as well. For inspiration on things to do, check out this post from JustWorks.

    3) Stick to a budget.
    Team getaways can be expensive, but they don't necessarily have to be -- and all of the expense doesn't have to fall on your company, either. Start by selecting venues that you can financially afford, such as those you find on Airbnb, rather than traditional hotel spaces. To help offset other costs for things such as travel, food, guest speakers, and spa services, find sponsors to provide funds.

    Have you ever hosted a team retreat? How did it go? Tell us in the comments below!

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  9. Essential Oils: 5 Picks Every Sickle Cell Warrior Should Add to Their Self-Care Routine

    March 13, 2017 by Andrea
    Photo: Honou via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Photo: Honou via Flickr/CC BY 2.0



    Self-care is important for everyone and especially important for sickle cell warriors, as stress can lead to painful episodes. For millenia, essential oils have been used to combat stress and infuse surroundings with peace and calm. Here are a few to include in your self-care routine:

    1) Mimosa
    This essential oil is known to improve overall well-being, as it has a relaxing effect on both the mind and the body. Place a few drops in your bath water, and indulge in the calming aroma of its sweet, floral scent.

    2) Lemon Verbena
    Not only can this essential oil calm stress and anxiety, it can also help ease pain in the muscles and joints. Add a bit to your favorite massage oil and benefit from less muscle tension and less stress in general.

    3) Rosewood
    Described as having a spicy and sweet floral aroma, this essential oil is known for its ability to help you center yourself, which can, in turn, help calm your overall emotions and stress.

    4) Cypress
    The perfect post-workday remedy, this essential oil helps lift moods and create feelings of positivity. Add a few drops to a warm or cold compress, and place it on your head or anywhere else you're feeling tension.

    5) Vanilla
    Vanilla doesn't have to be relegated to baking only. Its essential oil can also fight off negative feelings and ease stress and anxiety. Place a few drops into a decorative diffuser or oil burner, and enjoy the sweet aroma of relaxation.

    When choosing your essential oils, be sure to select ones that are pure, rather than synthetic -- synthetic oils smell just as good, but do not have any therapeutic benefits. Neal's Yard Remedies, the publishers of Essential Oils, recommends the following methods for choosing quality ones: Check the company's credentials and ensure the botanical name also appears on the label.

    Enjoy this new addition to your self-care regimen and let us know how it works for you in the comments below!

    *Source: Essential Oils: All-natural remedies and recipes for your mind, body, and home

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